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Nearly all rituals and ceremonial worship performed in the public realm have been the exclusive domain of male priests in India. It is important to note that there are no scriptural injunctions against women performing fire ceremonies and other forms of worship. In the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, we see figures such as Goddess, Sita, Tara, and Ravana’s mother performing homas by themselves. The Upanishads are also full of examples of women who were highly respected for their erudition. Despite this, well-entrenched patriarchal and social taboos against women chanting the Vedas or performing priestly functions have prevented women from even considering priesthood as a vocation until recently.

About a decade ago, in the city of Pune, Maharashtra, women began breaking these age-old stereotypes. A few women studied mantras and kalpaśāstra (the art of rituals) and started to work as priests. Although they were initially greeted with skepticism, they were able to make a name for themselves in the community.

  Over time, they started training programs for women priests. Now, women priests performing rituals and sacraments, such as marriages or baby-naming ceremonies, although rare, are not unheard of. Arsha Shakti Foundation is happy to partner with programs which specifically foster women’s leadership in religion.

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We solicit your creative ideas, cooperation, and funds to sustain programs that enable women to emerge as leaders in the realms of religion and spirituality, and contribute towards a healthy and equitable society.  

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