Kautilya Arthashastra

by R. Shamasastry | 1956 | 174,809 words | ISBN-13: 9788171106417

The English translation of Arthashastra, which ascribes itself to the famous Brahman Kautilya (also named Vishnugupta and Chanakya) and dates from the period 321-296 B.C. The topics of the text include internal and foreign affairs, civil, military, commercial, fiscal, judicial, tables of weights, measures of length and divisions of time. Original ...

Chapter 3 - The Duty of a Wife

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Summary: The Duty of a Wife; Maintenance of a Woman; Cruelty to Women; Enmity between Husband and Wife; A Wife’s Transgression; Her Kindness to Another; and Forbidden Transactions.

Women, when twelve years old, attain their majority (prāptavyavahārā) and men when sixteen years old,[1] If, after attaining their majority, they prove disobedient to lawful authority (aśuśrūṣāyā), women shall be fined 15 paṇas, and men twice the amount.

(Maintenance of a Woman)

A woman who has a. right to claim maintenance for an unlimited period of time shall be given as much food and clothing (grāsacchādana) as is necessary for her, or more than is necessary in proportion to the income of the maintainer (yathā-puruṣaparivāpam vā).[2] If the period (for which such things are to be given to her with one-tenth of the amount in addition) is limited, then a certain amount of money, fixed in proportion to the income of the maintainer, shall be given to her: so also if she has not been given her śulka, property, and compensation (due to her for allowing her husband to re-marry). If she places herself under the protection of any one belonging to her father-in-law’s family (śvaśurakula), or if she begins to live independently, then her husband shall not be sued (for her maintenance). Thus the determination of maintenance is dealt with.

(Cruelty to Women)

Women of refractive nature shall be taught manners by using not even such expressions as “Thou, half naked; thou, fully naked; thou, cripple; thou, fatherless; thou, motherless” (nagne vinagne nyaṅge’pitṛke’mātṛke ityanirdeśena vinayagrāhaṇa). Or three beats, either with a bamboo bark or with a rope or with the palm of the hand, may be given on her hips.[3] Violation of the above rules shall be liable to half the punishment levied for defamation and criminal hurt. The same kind of punishments shall be meted out to a woman who, moved with jealousy or hatred, shows cruelty to her husband. Punishment for engaging in sports at the door of, or outside her husband’s house shall be as dealt with elsewhere. Thus cruelty to women is dealt with.[4]

(Enmity between Husband and Wife)

A woman, who hates her husband, who has passed the period of seven turns of her menses, and who loves[5] another, shall immediately return to her husband both the endowment and jewellery she has received from him, and allow him to lie down with another woman, A man, hating his wife, shall allow her to take shelter in the house of a mendicant woman, or of her lawful guardians or of her kinsmen. If a man falsely denies his intercourse with his wife, though it be proved by eye-witnesses (dṛṣṭiliṅga)—or through a spy, he shall pay a fine of 12 paṇas. A woman, hating her husband, cannot dissolve her marriage with him against his will. Nor can a man dissolve his marriage with his wife against her will. But from mutual enmity, divorce may be obtained (parasparam dveṣānmokṣaḥ). If a man, apprehending danger from his wife, desires divorce (mokṣamicchet), he shall return to her whatever she was given (on the occasion of her marriage). If a woman, under the apprehension of danger from her husband, desires divorce, she shall forfeit her claim to her property; marriages contracted in accordance with the customs of the first four kinds of marriages cannot be dissolved.[6]


If a woman engages herself in amorous sports, or drinking in the face of an order to the contrary, she shall be fined 3 paṇas. She shall pay a fine of 6 paṇas for going out at daytime to sports or to see a woman or spectacles. She shall pay a fine of 12 paṇas if she goes out to see another man or for sports.[7] For the same offences committed at night, the fines shall be doubled. If a woman goes out while the husband is asleep or under intoxication (suptamattaprayrajane), or if she shuts the door of the house against her husband, she shall be fined 12 paṇas. If a woman keeps him out of the house at night, she shall pay double the above fine. If a man and a woman make signs to each other with a view to sensual enjoyment, or carry on secret conversation (for the same purpose), the woman shall pay a fine of 24 paṇas, and the man double the amount. A woman, holding out her hair, the tie of her dress round her loins, her teeth or her nails, shall pay the first amercement, and a man, doing the same, twice the first amercement. For holding conversation in suspicious places, whips may be substituted for fines. In the centre of the village, an outcaste person (caṇḍāla) may whip such women five times on each of the sides of their body. She may get rid of being whipped by paying a paṇa for each whip (paṇikam vā prahāram mokṣayet). Thus transgression is dealt with.

(Forbidden Transactions)

With regard to a man and a woman who, though forbidden to carry on any mutual transaction, help each other, the woman shall be fined 12, 24 and 54 paṇas respectively, according as the help consists of (i) small things, of (ii) costly things, and (iii) of gold or gold coin (hiraṇyasuvarṇa); and the man, at double the above rates.[8] With regard to similar transaction between a man and a woman who cannot mix with each other (agamyā), half of the above punishment shall be levied. Similar punishment shall be meted out for any forbidden transaction with any men. Thus forbidden transactions are dealt with.

* Treason, transgression and wandering at will shall deprive a woman of her claim not only to (i) strīdhana, some-form of subsistence of above 2,000 paṇas and jewellery, (ii) and āhita, compensation she may have obtained for allowing her husband to marry another woman, but also (iii) to śulka, money which her parents may have received from her husband.[9]

Footnotes and references:


M. 9, 94; N. 1, 35-36.


N. 13, 52.


M. 8, 299, 300.


The text is corrupt here. The T. M. Com. bases the wife’s jealousy on her husband’s connection with a prostitute.


The T. M. Com. reads “who does not put on her ornaments.”


N. 12, 90.


M. 9, 84.


N. 12, 62, 66-68.



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