The Duties of a Woman

Volume: 21 Roudra year- Chitra, Vaikasi April, May- 1980
Issue No. 3, 4

The duality of man-woman was created right at the beginning of the creation of the universe. Certain qualities and certain actions are naturally associated with every creation of the Lord. We should not interfere with this principle of creation; rather we should act in accordance with it. All actions that go against these principles, though they may seem to be successful in the beginning, turn pernicious later.

Man and Woman, who are a part of creation, are endowed with certain qualities common to both and certain others unique to each gender. For example, “sthyaayathi garbho asyaamithi’ – Motherhood is unique to women. This cannot be changed, nor is womanhood to be considered inferior because of this. The Vedas refer to the mother first – “Maatru Devo Bhava” – and only then refer to the father – “Pitru Devo Bhava. The Vedas also show how a woman, who enters into a big family (consisting of relatives such as mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law) after marriage, should lead her life: “May you be the Empress, the Protectress of all your kin, such as the father-in-law, in your marital home.”

            Samraajnee shvasure bhava – samraajnee shvashruvaam bhava
Nanaandari samrajnee bhava samrajnee adhidevrushu||

It may even be appropriate to claim that the Sanaatana Hindu Dharma accords more importance and honour to a woman than to a man.

The life of a householder (grihasthaashrama) is like a chariot. The husband and wife are its two wheels. Women have a greater role to play in the performance of the rites of a householder. “Yatra naaryastu poojyante ramante tatra devataaha|” (The Gods rejoice in the household where women are venerated.) “Piturdashagunam gauravenaatirichyate|”
(The mother is more worthy of respect than the father.) The house is called “graham” after the ‘grihini’ who is the Lakshmi of the household (Grihalakshmi) and the deity of the household (Grihadevataa). (Na gruham gruhamithyaahuhu grihinee gruhamuchyate.) The smrithis say that the husband is to earn the money for the upkeep of the household and hand it over to the wife. The wife must spend it appropriately. She is responsible for saving some of it for future use, and for using it to do charitable deeds, to provide peace and comfort to the husband, and to entertain guests. It is also her duty to provide and safeguard the materials needed to maintain the grihastaashrama.

Arthasya samgrahe chainaam vyaye chaiva niyojayet|
Shauche dhamai annapaktayaam vaa parinaahasya chekshane||

When one studies the lives of chaste women such as Sita, Mandodari, Damayanti, Nalaayini, Savitri, Sushenai, Gaargi, and Maitreyi, one can understand the greatness of the Sanaatana Dharma, of the Hindu dharma, through their achievements, their glory and the status accorded to them.

When Rama is unable to bear the separation from Sita in the forest, he laments her loss recollecting how she had always stood by him and assisted him at various junctures in life: “She was like effective medicine during sickness. She was a delightful companion at play, an able wife when I performed dharmic rituals like the Agnihotra, a valorous associate when I fought with enemies, an efficient disciple when I performed duties to be discharged with reference to Gods and my dead ancestors, and a companion in times of distress. It is such a Sita that I am separated from today.”

Aadhau siddhaushadiriva hitaa kelikaale yasyaa
Patnee tretaa yajanasamaye kshatriyaanyave yuddhe|
Shishyaa devadvijapitru samaaraadhane bhanduraarthau
Seethaa saa me shishiritamahaakaanane kaa na jaataa?

Does this not go to show that a woman was not treated as an object of pleasure but as a companion and associate in all aspects of life?

The greatness of women has been extolled thus in the Sanatana Dharma, in Hinduism. Our Vedas and Shastras hold not merely that a woman is equal to man but rather that a woman is greater than man.

Without a proper understanding of all this, we are influenced by what foreigners, who have a mere nodding acquaintance with our culture, say and people from our own community find fault with our culture.

Here is an excerpt from what a woman has said in a recent issue of a Tamil magazine: “All our laws regarding the rights of women are based on the Sanaatana Hindu Dharma. Where is equality in this Hindu dharma? It is in our blood, in our culture to oppress and enslave women.” In response to this, Thirumati Ramaa Venugopal has brought out the greatness of our religion clearly and lucidly. If one understands the lines from the Vedas and the smrithis quoted in this article and also other such utterances and ideas in our religious texts, one will be able to understand the pre-eminent position accorded to women in our religion. It is only because there is a faulty understanding of these principles and ideas that there are such perversions in our country today. Whenever we talk of rights we must also remember responsibilities. Those should not be forgotten. Our ancestors have laid down clearly the roles and responsibilities of everyone. All our problems have stemmed from the fact that we have ignored this and have begun to act as we please. Issues, thus, become complicated.

All these days, there were several instances of evil deeds such as murder, robbery and looting in our country. These do continue to occur. What has been added in recent times to these is the molestation of women. These acts of molestation, as reported in the news, are particularly gruesome and violent. It was our country that showed to the world the power of chastity. It is the land where meritorious women such as Kannaki, Thilakavathy and Meera lived. The deeds that are done now in this sacred realm of ours are enough to make us ashamed of ourselves. The cause for all this decadence lies in the neglect of our culture. We live a life of atheism, we speak, write and live in depraved ways and also showcase these in our movies. If this state of affairs continues, doubtless our future would be steeped in darkness. All virtuous people should make efforts to avert such a disastrous eventuality.


Translated from Tamil by: Sri. Ganesh, Sr. Deepa & Sr. Latha, Devotees

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