What Is a Hindu Nun?

Hindu nuns devote themselves to deities like Shiva.
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Hindu nuns, also called sanyasini, sadhavi or swamini, practice a monastic life of religious devotion by living simple lives of study and prayer. Some nuns seclude themselves in Hindu communities while others wander from place to place spreading the teachings of their faith. Hinduism teaches followers to respect these nuns for renouncing material things.

1 Monastacism

Becoming a Hindu nun, just like becoming a Hindu monk, is contingent upon renouncing material goods and living a simple monastic life. Nuns eat simple foods, wear simple goods and avoid selfishly pursuing anything that would contradict the principles of Hindu modesty. To do this, many nuns seclude themselves in Hindu ashrams and other religious communities where they can be free from the distractions of the outside world. Hindu nuns also pledge celibacy and forgo marriage and any form of sexual relationship.

2 Duties

Hindus who pursue a monastic lifestyle devote themselves to the study of Hinduism and the worship of Hindu deities. Because Hinduism lacks a central authority or single authoritative religious text, many Hindus learn their faith from gurus or other Hindu followers, such as nuns, who have devoted themselves to studying Hinduism. Therefore, a nun's duties also include passing on the information they learn from reading the holy Vedic texts and studying under other members of their faith.

3 Worship

Hindu nuns also worship deities through prayer and meditation. Chanting mantras is an important part of Hindu worship that involves selecting lines of Hindu scripture and focusing on the meaning of the words. A nun may also receive her mantra from the head of her order. Nuns have also traditionally practiced intense physical devotion through yoga, which unites the nuns' minds and bodies into a combined focus on the supreme Hindu god Brahman and all of his various manifestations.

4 Status

Nuns occupy a sometimes contradictory status within Hinduism. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Hindu nuns are some of the only female monastics to have achieved a status equal to monks through their intense religious devotion. However, in many cases, such as the Naga religious order in India, female members have often been forced to comply with the demands of monks and have only recently won the right to autonomy and their own separate community.

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.