Written by Hirday N. Patwari
The Manusmriti also known as Manav Dharam Shastra, is the earliest metrical work on Brahminical Dharma in Hinduism. According to Hindu mythology, the Manusmriti is the word of Brahma, and it is classified as the most authoritative statement on Dharma .The scripture consists of 2690 verses, divided into 12 chapters. It is presumed that the actual human author of this compilation used the eponym ‘Manu’, which has led the text to be associated by Hindus with the first human being and the first king in the Indian tradition.
Although no details of this eponymous author’s life are known, it is likely that he belonged to a conservative Brahman class somewhere in Northern India. Hindu apologists consider the Manusmriti as the divine code of conduct and, accordingly, the status of women as depicted in the text has been interpreted as Hindu divine law. While defending Manusmriti as divine code of conduct for all including women, apologists often quote the verse: “yatr naryasto pojyantay, ramantay tatr devta [3/56] (where women are provided place of honor, gods are pleased and reside there in that household), but they deliberately forget all those verses that are full of prejudice, hatred and discrimination against women.
Here are some of the ‘celebrated’ derogatory comments about women in the Manusmriti :
1. “Swabhav ev narinam …..” – 2/213. It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; for that reason the wise are never unguarded in the company of females.
2. “Avidvam samlam………..” – 2/214. Women, true to their class character, are capable of leading astray men in this world, not only a fool but even a learned and wise man. Both become slaves of desire.
3. “Matra swastra ………..” – 2/215. Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.
4. “Naudwahay……………..” – 3/8. One should not marry women who has have reddish hair, redundant parts of the body [such as six fingers], one who is often sick, one without hair or having excessive hair and one who has red eyes.
5. “Nraksh vraksh ………..” – 3/9. One should not marry women whose names are similar to constellations, trees, rivers, those from a low caste, mountains, birds, snakes, slaves or those whose names inspires terror.
6. “Yasto na bhavet ….. …..” – 3/10. Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known.
7. “Uchayangh…………….” – 3/11. Wise men should marry only women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace/gait like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.
8. “Shudr-aiv bharya………” – 3/12.Brahman men can marry Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaish and even Shudra women but Shudra men can marry only Shudra women.
9. “Na Brahman kshatriya..” – 3/14. Although Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaish men have been allowed inter-caste marriages, even in distress they should not marry Shudra women.
10. “Heenjati striyam……..” – 3/15. When twice born [dwij=Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaish] men in their folly marry low caste Shudra women, they are responsible for the degradation of their whole family. Accordingly, their children adopt all the demerits of the Shudra caste.
11. “Shudram shaynam……” – 3/17. A Brahman who marries a Shudra woman, degrades himself and his whole family ,becomes morally degenerated , loses Brahman status and his children too attain status of shudra.
12. “Daiv pitrya………………” – 3/18. The offerings made by such a person at the time of established rituals are neither accepted by God nor by the departed soul; guests also refuse to have meals with him and he is bound to go to hell after death.
13. “Chandalash ……………” – 3/240. Food offered and served to Brahman after Shradh ritual should not be seen by a chandal, a pig, a cock,a dog, and a menstruating women.
14. “Na ashniyat…………….” – 4/43. A Brahman, true defender of his class, should not have his meals in the company of his wife and even avoid looking at her. Furthermore, he should not look towards her when she is having her meals or when she sneezes/yawns.
15. “Na ajyanti……………….” – 4/44. A Brahman in order to preserve his energy and intellect, must not look at women who applies collyrium to her eyes, one who is massaging her nude body or one who is delivering a child.
16. “Mrshyanti…………….” – 4/217. One should not accept meals from a woman who has extra marital relations; nor from a family exclusively dominated/managed by women or a family whose 10 days of impurity because of death have not passed.
17. “Balya va………………….” – 5/150. A female child, young woman or old woman is not supposed to work independently even at her place of residence.
18. “Balye pitorvashay…….” – 5/151. Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.
19. “Asheela kamvrto………” – 5/157. Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands.
20. “Na ast strinam………..” – 5/158. Women have no divine right to perform any religious ritual, nor make vows or observe a fast. Her only duty is to obey and please her husband and she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.
21. “Kamam to………………” – 5/160. At her pleasure [after the death of her husband], let her emaciate her body by living only on pure flowers, roots of vegetables and fruits. She must not even mention the name of any other men after her husband has died.
22. “Vyabhacharay…………” – 5/167. Any women violating duty and code of conduct towards her husband, is disgraced and becomes a patient of leprosy. After death, she enters womb of Jackal.
23. “Kanyam bhajanti……..” – 8/364. In case women enjoy sex with a man from a higher caste, the act is not punishable. But on the contrary, if women enjoy sex with lower caste men, she is to be punished and kept in isolation.
24. “Utmam sevmansto…….” – 8/365. In case a man from a lower caste enjoys sex with a woman from a higher caste, the person in question is to be awarded the death sentence. And if a person satisfies his carnal desire with women of his own caste, he should be asked to pay compensation to the women’s faith.
25. “Ya to kanya…………….” – 8/369. In case a woman tears the membrane [hymen] of her Vagina, she shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off and made to ride on Donkey.
26. “Bhartaram…………….” – 8/370. In case a women, proud of the greatness of her excellence or her relatives, violates her duty towards her husband, the King shall arrange to have her thrown before dogs at a public place.
27. “Pita rakhshati……….” – 9/3. Since women are not capable of living independently, she is to be kept under the custody of her father as child, under her husband as a woman and under her son as widow.
28. “Imam hi sarw………..” – 9/6. It is the duty of all husbands to exert total control over their wives. Even physically weak husbands must strive to control their wives.
29. “Pati bharyam ……….” – 9/8. The husband, after the conception of his wife, becomes the embryo and is born again of her. This explains why women are called Jaya.
30. “Panam durjan………” – 9/13. Consuming liquor, association with wicked persons, separation from her husband, rambling around, sleeping for unreasonable hours and dwelling -are six demerits of women.
31. “Naita rupam……………” – 9/14. Such women are not loyal and have extra marital relations with men without consideration for their age.
32. “Poonshchalya…………” – 9/15. Because of their passion for men, immutable temper and natural heartlessness, they are not loyal to their husbands.
33. “Na asti strinam………” – 9/18. While performing namkarm and jatkarm, Vedic mantras are not to be recited by women, because women are lacking in strength and knowledge of Vedic texts. Women are impure and represent falsehood.
34. “Devra…sapinda………” – 9/58. On failure to produce offspring with her husband, she may obtain offspring by cohabitation with her brother-in-law [devar] or with some other relative [sapinda] on her in-law’s side.
35. “Vidwayam…………….” – 9/60. He who is appointed to cohabit with a widow shall approach her at night, be anointed with clarified butter and silently beget one son, but by no means a second one.
36. “Yatha vidy……………..” – 9/70. In accordance with established law, the sister-in-law [bhabhi] must be clad in white garments; with pure intent her brother-in-law [devar] will cohabitate with her until she conceives.
37. “Ati kramay……………” – 9/77. Any women who disobey orders of her lethargic, alcoholic and diseased husband shall be deserted for three months and be deprived of her ornaments.
38. “Vandyashtamay…….” – 9/80. A barren wife may be superseded in the 8th year; she whose children die may be superseded in the 10th year and she who bears only daughters may be superseded in the 11th year; but she who is quarrelsome may be superseded without delay.
39. “Trinsha……………….” – 9/93. In case of any problem in performing religious rites, males between the age of 24 and 30 should marry a female between the age of 8 and 12.
40. “Yambrahmansto…….” – 9/177. In case a Brahman man marries Shudra woman, their son will be called ‘Parshav’ or ‘Shudra’ because his social existence is like a dead body.
The Status Of Women As Depicted By Manu In The Manusmriti
Written by Hirday N. Patwari