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Chapter 38

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O best of the Bharatas, I wish to hear theediscourse on the disposition of women. W omen are said to be the root ofall evil. They are all regarded as exceedingly frail.’

“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection is cited the old history of thediscourse between the celestial Rishi Narada and the (celestial)courtezan Panchachuda. Once in ancient times, the celestial Rishi Narada,having roamed over all the world, met the Apsara Panchachuda of faultlessbeauty, having her abode in the region of Brahman. Beholding the Apsaraevery limb of whose body was endued with great beauty, the asceticaddressed her, saying, ‘O thou of slender waist, I have a doubt in mymind. Do thou explain it.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Thus addressed by the Rishi, the Apsara said untohim, ‘If the subject is one which is known to me and if thou thinkest mecompetent to speak on it, I shall certainly say what is in my mind.’

“Narada said, ‘O amiable one, I shall not certainly appoint thee to anytask that is beyond thy competence. O thou of beautiful face, I wish tohear from thee of the disposition of women.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Hearing these words of the celestial Rishi, thatforemost of Apsaras replied unto him, saying, ‘I am unable, being myselfa woman, to speak ill of women. Thou knowest what women are and with whatnature they are endued. It behoveth thee not, O celestial Rishi, to setme to such a task.’ Unto her the celestial Rishi said, ‘It is very true,O thou of slender waist! One incurs fault by speaking what is untrue. Insaying, however, what is true, there can be no fault.’ Thus addressed byhim, the Apsara Panchachuda of sweet smiles consented to answer Narada’squestion. She then addressed herself to mention what the true and eternalfaults of women are!’

“Panchachuda said, ‘Even if high-born and endued with beauty andpossessed of protectors, women wish to transgress the restraints assignedto them. This fault truly stains them, O Narada! There is nothing elsethat is more sinful than women. Verily, women, are the root of allfaults. That is, certainly known to thee, O Narada! Women, even whenpossessed of husbands having fame and wealth, of handsome features andcompletely obedient to them, are prepared to disregard them if they getthe opportunity. This, O puissant one, is a sinful disposition with uswomen that, casting off modesty, we cultivate the companionship of men ofsinful habits and intentions. Women betray a liking for those men whocourt them, who approach their presence, and who respectfully serve themto even a slight extent. Through want of solicitation by persons of theother sex, or fear of relatives, women, who are naturally impatient ofall restraints, do not transgress those that have been ordained for them,and remain by the side of their husbands. There is none whom they areincapable of admitting to their favours. They never take intoconsideration the age of the person they are prepared to favour. Ugly orhandsome, if only the person happens to belong to the opposite sex, womenare ready to enjoy his companionship. That women remain faithful to theirlords is due not to their fear of sin, nor to compassion, nor to wealth,nor to the affection that springs up in their hearts for kinsmen andchildren. Women living in the bosom of respectable families envy thecondition of those members of their sex that are young and well-adornedwith jewels and gems and that lead a free life. Even those women that areloved by their husbands and treated with great respect, are seen tobestow their favours upon men that are hump-backed, that are blind, thatare idiots, or that are dwarfs. Women may be seen to like thecompanionship of even those men that are destitute of the power oflocomotion or those men that are endued with great ugliness of features.O great Rishi, there is no man in this world whom women may regard asunfit for companionship. Through inability to obtain persons of theopposite sex, or fear of relatives, or fear of death and imprisonment,women remain, of themselves, within the restraints prescribed for them.They are exceedingly restless, for they always hanker after newcompanions. In consequence of their nature being unintelligible, they areincapable of being kept in obedience by affectionate treatment. Theirdisposition is such that they are incapable of being restrained when bentupon transgression. Verily, women are like the words uttered by thewise.[271] Fire is never satiated with fuel. Ocean can never be filledwith the waters that rivers bring unto him. The Destroyer is neversatiated with slaying even all living creatures. Similarly, women arenever satiated with men. This, O celestial Rishi. is another mysteryconnected with women. As soon as they see a man of handsome and charmingfeatures, unfailing signs of desire appear on their persons. They nevershow sufficient regard for even such husbands as accomplish all theirwishes, as always do what is agreeable to them and as protect them fromwant and danger. Women never regard so highly even articles of enjoymentin abundance or ornaments or other possessions of an agreeable kind asthey do the companionship of persons of the opposite sex. The destroyer,the deity of wind, death, the nether legions, the equine mouth that rovesthrough the ocean, vomiting ceaseless flames of fire, the sharpness ofthe razor, virulent poison, the snake, and Fire–all these exist in astate of union in women. That eternal Brahman whence the five greatelements have sprung into existence, whence the Creator Brahma hathordained the universe, and whence, indeed, men have sprung, verily fromthe same eternal source have women sprung into existence. At that time,again, O Narada, when women were created, these faults that I haveenumerated were planted in them!'”

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