Compiled by London Swaminathan
Date: 23 October 2016
Time uploaded in London: 6-53 AM
Pictures are taken from Facebook and other sources; thanks. (Pictures are used only for representational purpose; no connection with the current article.)
This article is available in Tamil as well
Sir Moiner Williams gives the following translation of the definition of a wife as found in the Mahabharata :
A wife is half the man, his friend;
A loving wife is a perpetual spring
Of virtue, pleasure, wealth; a faithful wife is his best aid in seeking heavenly bliss;
A sweetly- speaking wife is a companion
In solitude, a father in advice,
A rest in passing through life’s wilderness,”
The woman is part of her husband and so she worships through him; what he does, she does.
The “Yajur Veda says
“The wife is half the self of her husband”.
Ardhova esha atmenoyatpatnii
Upon this there is a comment by Brihaspati, some what as follows:
“It has been said that the wife is half the self of her husband, and in consequence she shares equally with him all the good and evil done by him.”
A Passage on this subject is quoted from the Padma Purana:
The husband is the beloved of the wife
He is more to her than all the gods. Herself and her husband
Be it known are one person.
Without the consent of her husband
Any kind of worship she must not perform.”
Patireva priya striinaam
Atmaananca svabarataara mekapindamaniisayaa
Bharturaaknjaam vinaa naiva kinchitdharmam samaasaret
With the consent of her husband a wife may go on short pilgrimage without him when he is unable to accompany her, but this is very seldom. Strictly with his consent, she may also perform and keep vows for instance, to do without salt in her food for a stated period or to abstain from milk or various of eatables for a given time. All this is one the object of obtaining for herself or some on to her something desired- wealth, or children, or deliverance from disease.
Tamil Poet Tiruvalluvar also says,
Even the clouds will obey and pour out rain at the bidding of a wife
Who prefers to worship her husband rather than any other God
There is also a most touchingly beautiful piece in the Ramayana to be found translated into English by Ward (History of the Literature and Mytholoogy of the Hindus (Vol.II, page 408)
It purports to be the address of Sita to her husband Rama. Rama was banished by the king, his father Dasaratha, at the instigation of his third wife Kaikeyi, who wished the succession for her own son, Bharata. He was doomed to perpetual exile in the forest, and his wife expresses her determination to go with him.
As a beautiful expression of tender affection I cannot refrain from quoting the piece at length. It serves to show that the affectionate nature of a true woman is ever the same, despite its surroundings.
“Son of the venerable parent! hear,
‘Tis Seeta speaks. Say art not thou assur’d
That to each being his allotted time
And portion, as his merit, are assign’d
And that a wife her husband’s portion shares
Therefore with thee this forest lot I claim.
A woman’s bliss is found, not in the smile
of father, mother, friend, nor in herself:
Her husband is her only portion here,
Her heaven hereafter. If thou, indeed,
Depart this day into the forest drear,
I will precede, and smooth the thorny way.
O hero brave, as water we reject
In which our nutriment has been prepared
So anger spurn, and every thought unkind,
Unworthy of thy spouse, and by thy side,
Unblam’d, and unforbidden, let her stay.
O chide me not; for where the husband is,
Within the palace, on the stately car,
Or wandering in the air, in every state
The shadow of his foot is her abode.
My mother and my father having left,
I have no dwelling place distinct from thee.
Forbid me not, for in the wilderness,
Hard of access, renounce’d by men, and fill’d
With animals and birds of various kind,
And savage tigers, I will surely dwell.
This horrid wilderness shall be to me
Sweet as my father’s house and all the noise
Of the three worlds shall never interrupt
My duty to my lord. A gay recluse,
On thee attending, happy shall I feel
Within this honey-scented grove to roam,
For thou e’en here canst nourish and protect
And therefore other friend I cannot need.
To-day most surely with thee I will go,
And thus resolved, I must not be deny’d.
Roots and wild fruit shall be my constant food
Nor will I, near thee, add unto thy cares,
Not lag behind, nor forest-food refuse;
But fearless traverse evr’y hill and dale,
Viewing the winding stream, the craggy rock.
And, stagnant at its base, the pool or lake.
In nature’s deepest myst’ries thou art skill’d
O hero– and I long with thee to view
Those sheets of water, fill’d with nymphaas
Cover’d with ducks, and swans, and silvan fowl
And studded with each wild and beauteous flow’r
In these secluded pools I’ll often bathe
And share with thee, o Rama, boundless joy
Thus could I sweetly pass a thousand years
But without thee e’en heav’n would lose its charms
A residence in heaven, O Raghuvu,
Without thy presence, would no joy afford.
Therefore, though rough the path, I must, I will
The forest penetrates, the wild abode
Of monkeys, elephants, and playful fawn.
Pleas’d to embrace thy feet, I will reside
In the rough forest as my father’s house.
Void of all other wish, supremely thine
Permit me request-I will not grieve
I will not burden thee refuse me not
But shouldst thou, Raghuvu, this prayer deny,
Know, I resolve on death-if torn from thee.
The main question is whether a woman can have any worship at all apart from her husband; she has a kind of daily worship of her own.
At the time of her marriage, at the marriage of her children, and at certain other periods and at some festivals, the wife must sit with her husband during the time he is engaged in the performance of certain acts of worship, though she seems to be there only as a kind of complement of her husband takes no and active part in the ceremonies. If a man has lost his wife, he cannot perform any sacrifices by fire (oupasana) which shows that the wife has some indirect connection with the ceremony, and also in part accounts for the anxiety of a widower to remarry.
At the midday service when the man per forms the ceremonies before taking food, the wife may attend upon him and hand him the things used by him, but she can take no real part with him. The woman is not a twice-born (dvija) nor does she wear the sacred thread (which is the mark of the second birth (upanayana). She cannot read the Vedas, or even hear them read, nor can she take part in her husband’s sacred services.