Can women exercise religious leadership among Hindus?
Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles
Read more from
Women’s roles in Hindu tradition have varied enormously over its long history. During the Vedic period women apparently participated directly in many major rituals and exercised exclusive leadership in some. As the Brahmanic priesthood rose to prominence, women had fewer opportunities for official leadership. But women have continued to play major roles in many religious rituals outside the Brahmanic system. They often lead women’s groups in communal prayer and song in gatherings connected with local observances. Some Brahmin women have functioned as itinerant preachers in rural areas. Others have become specialists, called pandits, in ritual and lore. Perhaps the best known are the women whose role as gurus has attracted seekers and devotees, often from great distances, to “take darshan” (that is, to be in their presence) and benefit from their counsel.