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Chapter 146

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Narada said, ‘Having said these words, the puissant Mahadeva himselfbecame desirous of hearing (instead of talking), and with that view hequestioned his dear spouse who was seated by his side and she was fullyinclined to act up to his desire.’

“Mahadeva said, ‘Thou, O goddess, art conversant with what is Supreme andwhat is not.[576] Thou art acquainted with all duties, O thou that lovestto reside in the retreats of ascetics. Thou art endued with every virtue,possessed of beautiful eyebrows and hair ending in the fairest curls, Odaughter of Himavat, the king of mountains! Thou art skilled in everywork. Thou art endued with self-restraint and thou lookest impartiallyupon all creatures. Divested of the sense of meum, thou art devoted tothe practice of all the duties. O thou of beautiful features, I desire toask thee about something. I wish that, asked by me, thou wilt discourseto me on that topic. Savitri is the chaste wife of Brahma. The chasteSachi is the wife of Indra. Dhumrorna is the spouse of Markandeya, andRiddhi of (king) Vaisravana. Varuna has Gauri for his spouse, and Suryahas Suvarchala. Rohini is the chaste wife of Sasin, and Swaha ofVibhavasu. Kasyapa has Aditi. All these regard their husbands as theirgods. Thou hast, O goddess, conversed and associated with all of themevery day. It is for this reason, O thou that art conversant with everyduty, that I desire to question thee about the duties of women, O thouwhose words are always consistent with righteousness. I desire to hearthee discourse on that subject from the beginning. Thou practisest allthe duties of righteousness with me. Thy conduct is exactly like mine,and the vows thou observest are the same that are observed by me. Thypuissance and energy are equal to mine, and thou hast undergone theausterest penances. The subject, when discoursed upon by thee, willbecome endued with great merit. Indeed, that discourse will then becomeauthoritative in the world. Women, in especial, are the highest refuge ofwomen. O thou of beautiful hips, among human beings that course ofconduct which thou wilt lay down will be followed from generation togeneration.[577] Half of my body is made up of half thy body. Thou artalways engaged in doing the work of the deities, and it is thou that artthe cause of the peopling of the earth, O auspicious lady, all theeternal duties of women are well-known to thee. Do thou, therefore, tellme in detail what are the duties of thy sex.’

“Uma said, ‘O holy one, O lord of all created things, O source of allthat is past, present, and future, it is through thy grace that the wordsI am uttering are taking their rise in my mind. All these Rivers (thatare of my sex), O god of gods, endued with the waters of all the Tirthas,are approaching thy presence for enabling thee to perform thy ablutionsin them.[578] After consulting them I shall discourse on the topic named,in due order. That person who, though competent, is still free fromegotism, is rightly called a Purusha.[579] As regards woman, O lord ofall beings, she follows persons of her sex. By consulting these foremostof Rivers, they will be honoured by me. The sacred Saraswati is theforemost river of all rivers. She courses towards the ocean and is trulythe first of all streams. Vipasa also here, and Vitasta, andChandrabhaga, and Iravati, and Satadru, and the river Devika, andKausiki, and Gomati.[580] and this celestial River who has in her all thesacred Tirthas, viz., the goddess Ganga, who having her rise in Heavenhath descended on the Earth and is regarded as the foremost of allstreams; Having said this, the spouse of that god of gods, that foremostof all righteous persons, smilingly addressed all those Rivers of hersex. Indeed, the spouse of the great god, devoted to the performance ofall duties, questioned those individuals of her sex about the duties ofwomen. Verily, those foremost of rivers having Ganga for their first areall conversant with the duties of women.’

“Uma said, ‘The illustrious god has asked a question relating to theduties of women. I desire to answer Sankara after having consulted withyou. I do not see any branch of knowledge on Earth or Heaven that iscapable of being mastered by any unaided individual. Ye rivers that runtowards the ocean, it is for this that I seek your opinions! It was inthis way that those foremost of Rivers, all of whom were auspicious andhighly sacred, were questioned by Siva’s spouse. Then the celestial RiverGanga, who worshipped the daughter of the prince of mountains in return,was selected for answering the question. Verily, she of sweet smiles isheld as swelling with diverse kinds of understanding and well-conversantwith the duties of women. The sacred goddess, capable of dispelling allfear of sin, possessed of humility in consequence of her intelligence,well acquainted with all duties, and enriched with an intelligenceexceedingly comprehensive, sweetly smiling, uttered these, words, ‘Ogoddess, thou art always devoted to the due performance of all duties.Thou hast favoured me highly by thus questioning me! O sinless one, thouart honoured by the entire universe, yet thou askest me that am but ariver. That person who, though himself competent (to discourse on atopic) yet asks another, or who pays a graceful tribute to another,certainly deserves, I think, to be regarded as righteous-souled. Verily,such a person deserves to be called learned and wise. That person neverfalls into disgrace who asks such speakers as are endued with knowledgeand science and as are well-conversant with premises and inferences. Aproud man, even when enriched with intelligence, by speaking in the midstof an assembly otherwise (that is, by relying upon his own powers aloneand without reference to or consultation with others), finds himselfuttering only words of weak import. Thou art possessed of spiritualinsight, Thou art the foremost of all denizens in Heaven. Thou hast takenthy rise accompanied by diverse kinds of excellent merit. Thou, Ogoddess, art fully competent to discourse on the duties of women! In thisway, the goddess Uma was worshipped by Ganga and honoured with theascription of many high merits. The beautiful, goddess, thus praised,then began to discourse upon all the duties of women in full.’

“Uma said, ‘I shall, according to the ordinance, discourse on the subjectof women’s duties as far as they are known to me. Do ye all listen withconcentrated attention! The duties of women arise as created at theoutset by kinsmen in the rites of wedding. Indeed, a woman becomes, inthe presence of the nuptial fire, the associate of her lord in theperformance of all righteous deeds.[581] Possessed of a good disposition,endued with sweet speech, sweet conduct, and sweet features, and alwayslooking at the face of her husband and deriving as much joy from it asshe does from looking at the face of her child, that chaste woman whoregulates her acts by observing the prescribed restraints, comes to beregarded as truly righteous in her conduct. Listening (with reverence) tothe duties of wedded life (as expounded in the scriptures), andaccomplishing all those auspicious, duties, that woman who regardsrighteousness as the foremost of all objects of pursuit, who observes thesame vows as those that are observed by her husband, who adorned withchastity, looks upon her spouse as a god, who waits upon and serves himas if he is a god, who surrenders her own will completely to that of herlord, who is cheerful, who observes excellent vows, who is endued withgood features, and whose heart is completely devoted to her husband somuch that she never thinks even of any other man, is regarded as trulyrighteous in conduct. That wife who, even when addressed harshly andlooked upon with angry eyes by her lord, presents a cheerful aspect tohim, is said to be truly devoted to her husband. She who does not casther eyes upon the Moon or the Sun or a tree that has a masculine name,who is adored by her husband and who is possessed of beautiful features,is regarded as truly righteous. That woman who treats her husband withthe affection which she shows towards her child, even when he (thehusband) happens to be poor or diseased or weak or worn out with the toilof travelling, is regarded as truly righteous in her conduct. That womanwho is endued with self-control, who has given birth to children, whoserves her husband with devotion, and whose whole heart is devoted tohim, is regarded as truly righteous in her conduct. That woman who waitsupon and serves her lord with a cheerful heart, who is always cheerful ofheart, and who is possessed of humility, is regarded as truly righteousin her conduct. That woman who always supports her kinsmen and relativesby giving them food, and whose relish in gratifying her desires or forarticles of enjoyment, or for the affluence of which she is possessed, orfor the happiness with which she is surrounded, falls short of her relishfor her husband, is regarded as truly righteous in her conduct. Thatwoman who always takes a pleasure in rising at early down, who is devotedto the discharge of all household duties, who always keeps her houseclean, who rubs her house daily with cowdung, who always attends to thedomestic fire (for pouring libations upon it), who never neglects to makeofferings of flowers and other articles to the deities, who with herhusband gratifies the deities and guests and all servants and dependantsof the family with that share of food which is theirs by the ordinances,and who always takes, according to the ordinance, for herself, what foodremains in the house after the needs have been met of gods and guests andservants, and who gratifies all people who come in contact with herfamily and feed them to their fill, succeeds in acquiring great merit.That woman who is endued with accomplishments, who gratifies the feet ofher father-in-law and mother-in-law, and who is always devoted to herfather and mother, is regarded as possessed of ascetic wealth. That womanwho supports with food Brahmanas that are weak and helpless, that aredistressed or blind or destitute, comes to be regarded as entitled toshare the merit of her husband. That woman who always observes, with alight heart vows that are difficult of observance, whose heart is devotedto her lord, and who always seeks good of her lord, is regarded asentitled to share the merits of her husband. Devotion to her lord iswoman’s merit; it is her penance; it is her eternal Heaven. Merit,penances, and Heaven become hers who looks upon her husband as her all inall, and who, endued with chastity, seeks to devote herself to her lordin all things. The husband is the god which women have. The husband istheir friend, The husband is their high refuge. Women have no refuge thatcan compare with their husbands, and no god that can compare with him.The husband’s grace and Heaven, are equal in the estimation of a woman;or, if unequal, the inequality is very trivial. O Maheswara, I do notdesire Heaven itself if thou are not satisfied with me. If the husbandthat is poor, or diseased or distressed or fallen among foes, orafflicted by a Brahmana’s curse, were to command the wife to accomplishanything that is improper or unrighteous or that may lead to destructionof life itself, the wife should, without any hesitation, accomplish it,guided by the code whose propriety is sanctioned by the law of Distress.I have thus, O god, expounded, at thy command, what the duties of womenare, Verily, that woman who conducts herself in this way becomes entitledto a share of the merits won by her husband,’

“Narada continued, ‘Thus addressed, the great god applauded the daughterof the prince of mountains and then dismissed all persons that hadassembled there, together with all his own attendants. The diverse tribesof ghostly beings, as also all the embodied Rivers, and the Gandharvasand Apsaras, all bowed their heads unto Mahadeva and departed forreturning to the places whence they had come.”

Chapter 145
Chapter 148


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