The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1970

This page relates “description of the duties of the chaste wife” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 54 - Description of the duties of the chaste wife

Brahmā said:—

1. Then the seven sages spoke to the lord of the mountains—“O mountain, make arrangements for the journey of your daughter today itself.”

2. O great sage, on hearing these words and knowing her pangs of separation, the lord of mountains was greatly affected by his love towards her and remained silent for a short while.

3. After some time, the lord of the mountains regained his consciousness and said—“Let it be so”. He then sent the message to Menā.

4. O sage, on hearing the message of the mountain, Menā was both delighted and sorry. She immediately set about arranging for her journey.

5. O sage, Menā, the beloved of the mountain, made arrangements for all kinds of festivities in accordance with the tradition of her family and the injunctions of the Vedas.

6. She bedecked Pārvatī with twelve kinds of ornaments and good silken garments of nice border. All kinds of embellishments befitting her royal state were made.

7. Realising Menā’s inclinations a chaste brahmin lady instructed Pārvatī in the duties of a chaste wife.

The brahmin lady said:—

8. O Pārvatī, listen to my words with love that accentuate righteousness, that increase the pleasure here and hereafter and afford happiness to those who pay heed to them.

9. A chaste lady sanctifies the worlds, destroys sins and is blessed. None else is so worthy of respect.

10. O Pārvatī, she who serves her husband with love and considers him her sole lord, enjoys all pleasures here and obtains salvation hereafter along with her husband.

11-13. The chaste ladies—Sāvitrī, Lopāmudrā, Arundhatī, Śāṇḍilyā, Śatarūpā, Anasūyā, Lakṣmī, Svadhā, Satī, Saṃjña, Sumati, Śraddhā, Menā, Svāhā and several others whose names are not mentioned lest the list should be too detailed have attained adoration from all people by their virtue of chastity. They have been honoured by Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva and great sages.

14. Lord Śiva, benefactor of the depressed, worthy of worship and the goal of the good shall be served by you always.

15. The duty of a chaste lady is very important and it has been mentioned in the Vedas and Smṛtis. No other duty is so admirable as this.

16. A chaste lady shall take food only after her husband has taken it. O Śivā, if he stands, the woman too shall remain standing.

17. When he sleeps she can also sleep. But she must intelligently wake up before him. She shall do what is beneficial to him. She shall love him without any sort of deception.

18. O Śivā, she shall never show herself unembellished to him. If for any important work he is on exile she shall never adorn herself.

19. A chaste lady shall never mention her husband’s name. If the husband scolds or rebukes her she shall not abuse him in return. Even when beaten by him she shall remain glad and say “I may even be killed, O lord. Be kind to me.”

20. When called by him she shall leave the work she is engaged in and approach him immediately. With palms joined in reverence and love she shall bow to him and say as follows.

21. “O lord, be pleased to say what I have been called for.” Whenever ordered by him to do any job she shall do it gladly.

22. She shall not stand near the entrance for a long time. She shall not go to other people’s house. She shall not take his money, even though it be a little, and give it to others.

23. Without being told she shall arrange the necessary requisities for his daily worship. She shall wait for the opportunity to do him a timely service.

24. Without the permission of her husband she shall not go even on pilgrimage. She shall eschew the desire to attend social festivities.

25. If a women wants holy water she shall drink the same with which her husband’s feet have been washed. All holy rivers are present in that water.

26. She shall partake of the leavings of her husband’s food or whatever is given by him saying “This is thy great grace.”

27. She shall never take food without first offering due share to the gods, the Pitṛs, the guests, the servants, cows and saintly mendicants.

28. A gentle lady of chaste rites shall always be clever to manage the household with limited requisites. She shall be averse to spend unnecessarily.

29. Without being permitted by her husband she shall not observe fast and other rites. Should it be so, she will derive no benefit. She may fall into hell in other worlds.

30. While the husband is sportively engaged or seated comfortably she shall not worry him to get up under the pretext of attending to some household work.

31. Whether he is impotent, distressed, sick or senile, happy or unhappy, the husband shall never be transgressed.

32. During the three days of her monthly course she shall neither show her face nor speak to him. She shall not speak within his hearing till she becomes pure after her bath.

33. After her bath she shall see her husband’s face and not that of anyone else. Or after thinking on her husband she shall then gaze at the sun.

34-35. If a chaste lady wishes for the longevity of her husband she shall not forsake turmeric, vermilion, saffron, collyrium, a blouse, the betel, the necklace, ornaments, brushing and plaiting the hair bangles and earrings.

36. A chaste woman shall never associate intimately with a washerwoman, a harlot, a female ascetic or a fallen woman.

37. She shall not talk to any woman who disparages or hates her husband. She shall not stand alone anywhere nor shall she take bath in the nude.

38. A chaste lady shall never sleep on a mortar threshing rod, a broom, a grinding stone, a machine or on the threshold.

39. Except at the time of sexual intercourse she shall never show her maturity and initiative. She shall like whatever her husband is interested in.

40. A chaste lady shall be delighted when her husband is delighted and dejected when he is dejected. She shall always wish for his benefit.

41. She shall be virtuous and equanimous in affluence and adversity. She shall have fortitude and shall never go astray.

42. Even when ghee, salt, oil or other things are exhausted she shall not tell her husband openly about it lest he should be subjected to undue strain.

43. O Goddess, the husband is superior to Brahmā, Viṣṇu or Śiva, for a chaste lady her husband is on a par with Śiva.

44. She who transgresses her husband and observes fast and other rites wrecks the longevity of her husband and after death goes to hell.

45. If she furiously retorts to her husband she is born as a bitch in a village or as a vixen in a secluded place.

46. The chaste lady shall never take a higher seat never approach a defiled person, never speak to her husband in agitation.

47. She should avoid slanderous words, shun quarrels and shall not speak aloud or laugh in the presence of elders.

48-49. She who delights her husband delights all the worlds. When she sees her husband coming home she shall hasten to serve him food and water, hand him betel and change of garments, and serve him by massaging his feet. By pleasing words she shall fascinate him and dispel his gloom.

50. What father gives is limited, what brother gives is limited and what the son gives is also limited. A chaste lady shall worship her husband who gives what has no limit.

51. To a wife the husband is god, preceptor, virtue, holy centre and sacred rite. She should cast off everything and adore him alone.

52. She who forsakes her husband and secretly violates her fidelity is born as a she-owl of cruel nature wasting its days in the hollow of a tree.

53. If she desires to beat her husband in retaliation, she becomes a tiger or a wild cat. She who ogles at another man becomes squint-eyed.

54. She who partakes of sweet dish denying the same to her husband becomes a pig in the village or a wild goat eating its own dung.

55. She who addresses her husband in singular becomes dumb. She who is jealous of a co-wife becomes ill-fated in matrimony again and again.

56. She who casts glance on another person hiding it from her husband becomes one-eyed, twisted-faced or ugly.

57. Just as a body bereft of the soul becomes unclean in a moment, similarly a woman without a husband is always unclean even though she may take a neat bath.

58. The mother, the father and the husband are blessed if there is a chaste lady in the house.

59. The three families—that of the father, that of the mother and that of the husband—enjoy the pleasures of heaven due to the merit of the chaste woman.

60. Disloyal women cause the downfall of the three families, that of the father, mother and husband and become distressed here and hereafter.

61. Wherever the chaste lady sets her foot, the sin is dispelled therefrom and the place is sanctified.

62. Even the sun, moon and wind touch the chaste woman to sanctify themselves and not otherwise.

63. Waters desire the touch of the chaste lady thinking—“Now our sluggishness is gone. Now we are able to purify others”.

64. Wife is the root of the household, and of its happiness; she is the source of the fruit of virtue and for the flourishing of the family.

65. In every house there are women proud of their exquisite beauty and comely appearance. But it is only due to the devotion of Śiva that a chaste lady is obtained.

66. The present and the next world can be won through her. A wifeless man is not authorized to perform the rites of gods, Pitṛs guests and sacrifices.

67. He alone is the true householder in whose house there is a chaste lady. The others are devoured by an ogress or old age.

68. Just as the body is purified by a plunge in the Gaṅgā, so everything is sanctified on seeing a chaste woman.

69. A chaste lady is not different from Gaṅgā. She and her husband are like Pārvatī and Śiva. Hence a sensible man shall worship them.

70. The husband is the high tone and the wife is the quarter tone. The husband is austerity and the woman is forbearance. The husband is the fruit and the wife is a sacred rite. O Pārvatī, such a pair is blessed.

71. O daughter of the lord of mountains, thus the duty of a chaste wife is described to you. Now, listen to their classifications with attention and love.

72. O gentle lady, the chaste ladies can be divided into four classes. Even when they are remembered they dispel sins. The divisions comprise of the superior etc.

73. They are superior, middling, inferior and very inferior. I shall explain their characteristics. Listen with attention.

74. O gentle lady, she whose mind is not aware of any one else and who is conscious of her husband even in her dreams is the noblest of all.

75. O daughter of the mountain, she who sees another man as her father, brother or son with a clean conscience is the middling among chaste ladies.

76. O Pārvatī, she who ponders over her duty mentally and desists from going astray is inferior among the chaste. Of course she is pure in conduct.

77. She who remains chaste for fear of her husband or the family is very inferior among the chaste ladies, so say the ancient poets.

78. O Pārvatī, these four types of chaste ladies dispel sins. They sanctify all the worlds. They are delighted here and hereafter.

79. A brahmin who died due to the curse of Varāha (Boar), was at the request of the three deities, resuscitated by Atri’s wife (Anasūyā), thanks to the power of chastity.

80. O Śiva, O daughter of the mountain, knowing this well, you shall render service to your husband every day with pleasure as it bestows all desires.

81. You are the Goddess and the mother of the universe. Śiva Himself is your husband. By remembering you women become chaste.

82. O Pārvatī, O gentle lady, what avails mentioning all this to you. Still I mention this just to follow the worldly convention.

Brahmā said:—

83. Saying this, the brahmin lady stopped and bowed to her. Pārvatī, the beloved of Śiva, derived great pleasure.