Dr. Trichur S. Rukmani, Ph.D., D.Litt.
Professor & Chair of Hindu Studies (Concordia University, Montreal)

Speaker at Gandhi Jayanti celebrations
in Ottawa, Ontario on October 4, 2008.
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Synopsis of the Talk “Gandhi & Women"

This is a topic that has engaged the attention of almost all Gandhian scholars and whatever their differences may be they are all agreed on the fact that Gandhi was primarily responsible for enabling women to shed their traditional inhibitions and come out into the open engaging themselves in many activities both social and political. And the trend started during Gandhi’s times only led to women participating increasingly in all fields of activity both within and without the home so much so that today, in India, women are practically part of all occupations. There had been reformers in the past like Ram Mohun Roy and others who drew attention to individual issues like sati, widow remarriage etc., but the thought that these individual issues were part of a larger problem of the inferior status accorded to women in society as a whole had not made its impact. Gandhi emphasized the fact that women were not to be reformed by others but were to participate in the programme of self improvement by themselves. He thus instilled confidence in them by making them aware of their own dignity as equals of men in all spheres. That perhaps was one of the most important contributions of Gandhi to women’s emancipation i.e. making them shed their complex as inferior human beings and restoring to them their dignity as humans equal to men. He spoke fearlessly against enforced widowhood, purdah, dedication of girls to temples, prostitution, early marriage, the dowry system, the economic bondage and marital slavery of women. He advocated the formation of women’s organizations to fight these evils and felt that these organizations should be run only by women as their distinctiveness is only understood by women”. It must also be recognized that even though Gandhi was a very progressive individual in his recognition of women’s oppression in society he was also a figure of the historical times he lived in. Gender bias had assigned different roles to both men and women and the Gandhian models for the possible choices for political and social roles for women were constructed from that received perception . This presentation will examine the manner in which he dealt with women’s issues in different spheres based on Gandhi’s own works as well as his life experiences.

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About the Speaker:

Dr. T.S.Rukmani has had a distinguished academic record and has been teaching and researching mainly in the areas of Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta and Sankhya-Yoga for the past 40 years.

She joined the Department of Religion, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, as Professor and Chair for Hindu Studies in 1996. Was the first Chair for Hindu Studies and Indian Philosophy at University of Durban Westville, Durban, South Africa before taking over her post in Canada.

Since the establishment of Delhi University 80 years ago, she is the only academic in its Department of Sanskrit to have been honored with the highest degree of D.Litt. Rukmani also has the distinction of being the first woman, and the second person, to receive a Ph.D. in Sanskrit from the same University. In addition, she obtained the double distinction of gaining first position in the University, both in her MA and BA degree examinations and was awarded a gold medal for her MA achievement.

In 1972, she was awarded the Ida Smedley International Fellowship to work as a post-doctoral fellow on comparative philosophy, under the guidance of the world-renowned philosopher, the late Prof. BK Matilal, at Toronto University. .

Amongst the many awards that Rukmani has won are: Award by Mandakini, Sanskrit Research organization, for excellence in Sanskrit Research (Vidyavacaspati) at the Tenth World Sanskrit Conference, Bangalore, 1997; Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla, India in 1989 and 2003; and The Delhi Sanskrit Academy award for Sanskrit scholarship in 1993.

Her four volume work on Vijnanabhiksu’s Yogavarttika and her two volume work on Sankara’s Yogasutrabhasyavivarana have been widely acclaimed in scholarly circles as significant contributions to the furtherance of Yoga Philosophy. Both are published by the well known Indological publishers Munshiram Manoharlal in Delhi, India. She has also written and edited six other books dealing with different aspects of religion and philosophy and has published many research papers in academic journals, both in India and in other parts of the world.

After her tenure in the Indraprastha College at Delhi University, India from 1964 to 1981, she took over as Principal of Miranda House the only University college for Women of Delhi University. She held this post for over ten years before she went to South Africa to take up her assignment as the first Professor of Hindu Studies and Indian Philosophy in 1993.

Besides her deep commitment to academics, Rukmani has been active in “Women’s Studies” and programs connected with women. She was President of the University Women’s Association of Delhi for two years and was a member of the International Federation of University Women’s Fellowship Committee in Geneva (Switzerland) for three years. She is at present on the Consultative Committee of the International Association for Sanskrit Studies.

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