I shall start where I had left…
In part one of Decoding Manusmriti, I had mentioned of the two most important aspects in which Manusmriti is often criticised, defamed and abused too, caste system amongst Hindus and position of woman in Hindu society as told by Manusmriti. Part one I tried to cover whatever I could about the various verses which prove that Manusmriti has never spoken about caste based on birth and why this classification of society is important. Part two I will be attempting to cover how Manusmriti defines the role and position of a woman in Hindu society.
Manusmriti is probably the most grossly interpolated and misinterpreted text of Hindus. Reading the original text will itself lead you to many questions. I shall put below few verses from the original text along with the meanings, and they are bound to make you sit back and think, if this is what the scripture says then how can it ever be labelled anti-woman.
Verse 3.55पितृभिर् भ्रातृभिश् च-एता: पतिभिर् देवरैस् तथा ।
पूज्या भूषयितव्याश् च बहुकल्याणम् ईप्सुभि: ।।
A father, brother or husband should keep their daughter, sister, wife happy through gentle words and respectful behaviour, that makes the family prosper.
यत्र नार्यस् तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्त् तत्र देवता: ।
यत्र-एतास् तु न पूज्यन्ते सवार्स् तत्र-अ-फला: क्रिया: ।।
Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards.
शोचन्ति जामयो यत्र विनशयत्याशु तत् कुलम् ।
न शोचन्ति तु यत्र-एता वर्धते तद्ध् हि सर्वदा ।।
A family where women remain unhappy due to misdeeds of their men is bound to be destroyed, and a family where women are always happy is bound to prosper forever.
जामयो यानि गेहानि शपन्त्यप्रतिपूजिता: ।।
तानि कृत्याहतानि-इव विनश्यन्ति समन्तत: ।।
A family where women feel insulted or discriminated against and curse their menfolk, is destroyed in same manner as poison kills all those who consume it.
स्त्रियां तु रोचमानयां सर्व तद् रोचते कुलं ।
तस्यां त्व् अरोचमानायां सर्वम् एव न रोचते ।।
A person who does not keep his wife happy causes misery for entire family. If wife is happy, entire family appears as happiness incarnate.
काले अ-दाता पिता वाच्यो वाच्याश् च-अन् – उपयन् पति: ।
मृते भतर्रि पुत्रस् तु वाच्यो मातुर् अरक्षिता ।।
Reprehensible is the father who does not marry his daughter to a deserving groom, a husband who does not respect his wife and a son who does not care for his mother
अर्थस्य संग्रहे च-एनां व्यये च-एव नियोजयेत् ।
शौचे धर्मे अन्नपत्तयां च पारिणाह्यस्य वेक्षणे ।।
Husband should provide his wife autonomy and leadership in managing finances, spiritual and religious duties along with management of home like keeping the house clean and cooking etc
प्रजनार्थ महा-भागा: पूज-अहृा गृहदीप्तय: ।
स्त्रिय: श्रियश् च गेहेषु न विशेषो अस्ति कश् चन ।।
Women give birth to the next generation. They enlighten the home and bring fortune and bliss. They are synonymous to prosperity. Hence there’s no difference between women and goddess of fortune.
कामम् आ मरणात् तिष्ठेद् गृहे कन्या-ऋतुमत्यापि ।
न च-एव-एनां प्रयच्चेत् तु गुण-हीनाय कर्हि चित् ।।
It is better to keep the daughter unmarried and in father’s house, all her life, than force her to marry an undeserving person
प्रजनार्थ स्त्रिय: सृष्टा: संतानार्थ च मानव: ।
तस्मात् साधारणो धर्म: श्रुतौ पत्न्या सह-उदित: ।।
Man and woman are incomplete without each other hence religious duties shud be performed by both together
अन्योन्यस्य-अव्यभिचारो भवेद् आ-मरणान्तिक: ।
एष धर्म: समासेन ज्ञेय: स्त्री-पुंसयो: पर: ।।
Husband and wife shud remain together till death. Polygamy is a sin and they shud not commit adultery. This is the Dharma of humans
यथा-एव-अत्मा तथा पुत्र: पुत्रेण दुहिता समा ।
तस्याम् आत्मनि तिष्ठन्त्यां कथम् अन्यो धनं हरेत् ।।
A daughter is equivalent to a son, how can anyone snatch away her right over property
These verses clearly prove that manusmriti talks about
1- Respect of a woman
2- Rights of a woman
3- Importance of a happy woman
4- Equal participation of woman in family and society
Also it tells us about her marriage, prohibition of dowry and polygamy as a sin.
Like every other Hindu scripture, manusmriti too is based on the principle of duality, where male and female are two different identity, two principles, yet they are inseparable and complementary. In fact this Universe holds within itself the two aspects of duality- consciousness and energy. And this should be kept in mind while reading any ancient Hindu scripture. It reduces the probability of misinterpretation. Because manusmriti was written way back when neither the society nor the family structure was as it is now, hence there are certain points which have become irrelevant today and one can say senseless too. But what’s important is the core, the basic principle, the essence- like talking of women’s rights and equality, something not available even in this modern age in few societies.
Nietzsche had said in The Will to Power Vol- I, “Put down the Bible and pick up Manusmriti”
Catholic Encyclopaedia says “Yet, with all this (restrictions on women etc), the ethical teachings of the Laws of Manu is very high, embracing almost every form of moral obligation recognised in the Christian religion”
About the Author: Sona Roy (@Sona2905) is Strong believer in right wing ideology, avid traveller, photographer, occasional writer, interested mainly in history, architecture and studying ancient Indian scriptures.
Picture Credit: www.hindi.webdunia.com