Hijab (Ghoonghat) In Hinduism

1. Introduction

The word “hijab” finds its linguistic roots in the Arabic language, stemming from the verb “hajaba,” which translates to “to conceal” or “to cover.” In the context of Islamic attire, the hijab refers to a veil or covering worn by Muslim women to conceal their hair and maintain modesty. The hijab, a form of modest dressing for women, carries profound importance in both tradition and contemporary society. Beyond a simple garment, it symbolizes dignity, self-respect, and cultural identity. In today’s diverse world, the hijab stands as a powerful assertion of a woman’s autonomy over her body and personal choices. It defies stereotypes, challenging preconceptions about beauty and worth, emphasizing that a woman’s value extends far beyond her physical appearance. As a symbol of empowerment, the hijab promotes inclusivity and respect for individual choices, contributing to a global narrative of acceptance and understanding. In embracing the hijab, women assert their right to define their identity in a world that increasingly recognizes the importance of diversity and self-expression.

2. Hijab (Covering) as an Obligation in Hinduism

📚Rig Veda 8.33.19📚
O man, O woman: Keep your eyes down on the earth, not up on the sky. Walk on with both the feet together (as the two wheels and the two horses draw the chariot together), Let your lower feet be not bare and exposed (cover them). Let woman be the high priest of the home yajna.”  (source)

📚Valmiki Ramayan 6.111.63-64📚
O Lord! Are you not indeed enraged, in seeing me on foot in this way out through the city-gate, unveiled and come on foot in the way? 0 lover of your consorts! Look at all your spouses, who came out, with their veils dropped off. Why are you not getting enraged in seeing this?”’  (source)

The verse below (Valmiki Ramayana 6.116.28) suggests that, women can never be unveiled unless a calamity strikes, or in periods of wars, or in the context of marriage.

📚Valmiki Ramayana 6.114.28📚
A woman becoming visible to public in times of a calamity is not condemned in difficult situations, nor in battles, nor in self-choosing of a husband by a princess at a public assembly of suitors, nor in sacrificial ceremonies nor in marriage-functions.”  (source)

Women are even prohibited from standing near doors or windows to prevent men gazing at them,

📚Vishnu Smriti 25.11📚
Not to stand near the doorway or by the windows (of her house).”  (source)

Men are prohibited from sitting alone with their mothers, sisters, or daughters to prevent inappropriate thoughts,

📚Manusmriti 2.225📚
One should not sit alone with his mother, sister or daughter. The powerful host of sense-organs overpowers even the learned.”  (source)

2. Examples of Women Covered in Veil in the Hindu Scriptures

📚Valmiki Ramayana 4.6.11-12📚
Seeing me along with my four counsellors stationed at the hill, she dropped down her scarf and her ornaments. All these, O Raghava, I have taken and kept with me. I will bring them. It behoveth thee to recognise them.”  (source)

📚Padma Purana 1.43.128b-135📚
Joining her lotus-like hands and concealing her face the beloved of the Mountain saluted the sage, a heap of lustre.. Then the respectable daughter of the Himalaya mountain, whose mind was amazed, saw the sage Narada of wonderful form. The sage also addressed her with (these) affectionate words: ‘Come, O daughter’. But embracing the father, she sat on his lap. The mother said to the respectable girl: ‘O daughter, salute the revered sage, blessed with penance. (Thereby) you will obtain a husband of your liking’. Thus addressed by her mother, she, having covered her face with her garment and with her slightly trembling, did not utter any word.”  (source)

📚Mahabharata 1.210📚
Hearing of the Rishi’s arrival Draupadi, purifying herself properly, came with a respectful attitude to where Narada was with the Pandavas. The virtuous princess of Pancala, worshipping the celestial Rishi’s feet, stood with joined hands before him, properly veiled, The illustrious Narada, pronouncing various benedictions on her, commanded the princess to retire.”  (source)

📚Devi Bhagavatam 9.19.2-94📚
She then got up and with smiling countenance began to look on his face with a steadfast gaze. The king Śaṅkhacūḍa then attracted his dear Tulasī to his breast and took off the veil fully from her face and began to look on that, next moment he kissed on her cheek and lips and gave her a pair of garments brought from the Varuṇa’s house…”  (source)

📚Shiva Purana📚
Then, O sage, afflicted by the cupid and delighted in the heart of hearts, I lifted her veil and stared into the face of Satī. I looked at the face of Satī many a time…”  (source)

📚Devi Bhagavatam 9.18.1-26📚
O Nārada! Seeing Śaṅkhacūḍa coming near to her, Tulasī covered her face by her clothing and she, with a smiling countenance…”  (source)