The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Code of Conduct for Women etc. which is chapter 7 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the seventh chapter of the Dharmaranya-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 7 - Code of Conduct for Women etc.

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Vyāsa said:

1. If, after reaching Dharmavāpī, a person performs the Tarpaṇa rite for his Manes, they derive satisfaction for a period of the tenure of fourteen Indras (i.e. a Manvantara).

2. After reaching this sacred tank that accords deliverance, the Manes, the ancestors who have attained heaven should be worshipped. He shall offer balls of rice unto them.

3. A Brāhmaṇa who offers a ball of rice with single-minded devotion in Kali obtains the benefit that is acquired in five days in Tretā and in three days in Dvāpara.

4. At the advent of Kali, people in the world become greedy. Persons are attached to other men’s wives. Women too are extremely fickle.

5. Men, women and eunuchs, all are engaged in doing harm to others. They are eagerly devoted to slandering others and finding out the weakness of others.

6. They are indeed bent upon causing anxieties to others. They quarrel and cause dissension among friends. All of them become pure (in this holy place). So said the three Lords: Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva themselves.

7. Thus, O blessed one, Dharmāraṇya has been described. The fruit thereof too is as mentioned by the trident-bearing Lord Śiva.

8-10. (Those people become) pure in mind, word and body, averse to the wives of others. They are free from hatred, and are endowed with equanimity. They are pure and devoted to mothers and fathers, free from avarice and covetousness, devoted to making liberal gifts. They are believers in the existence of God, the authority of the Vedas and the other world. They know what is Dharma (righteousness) and are loyally devoted to their masters. The women are chaste and engage themselves in serving their husbands. They desist from violence and are very hospitable. They are always devoted to their duties.

Śaunaka said:

11-12. Listen, O blessed Sūta, O holy one, the foremost among those who are conversant with righteousness. The code of good conduct of householders has been heard by me direct from your lips.

I have a desire now, O Sūta-born One, (to satisfy) which, kindly recount. Tell me the characteristics of all chaste women.

Sūta said:[1]

13. Fruitful indeed is the life of one in whose house there is a chaste woman. Like his very shadow, she is closely associated with him. Even a talk (reference) about her causes merit and holiness.

14-15. Chaste women are on a par with Arundhatī, Sāvitrī, Anasūyā, Śāṇḍilī, Satī, Lakṣmī, Śatarūpā, Menā, Sunīti, Saṃjñā, and Svāhā. The duties of chaste women have been enumerated by Sage Vyāsa.

16. She takes food after the husband has taken food; when he stands, she stands up together. She goes to bed after he has gone to sleep, and gets up before him.

17. When the husband has gone abroad, she keeps herself unadorned. When he is deputed anywhere on an errand, she avoids all jewellery.

18. She does not speak out the name of her husband in order to give him long life. She never mentions the name of another man too.

19. Even when dragged up by him, she does not cry aloud. Even if she is beaten by him, she continues to be gracious. When he says, “Do this”, she replies, “My lord, be assured that it is done.”

20. When she is called, she leaves off the work on hand and goes to him quickly (and says) “Wherefore, O lord, have I been called? Be pleased to tell me that.”

21. She does not tarry long at the door. She does not (frequently) go to the gate. She never gives anything herself, if it is something not to be given.

22. Without being told, she gets ready all the materials of daily worship such as water for rituals, Kuśa grass, flowers, leaves, raw rice grains etc.

23. Waiting for other things as the occasion demands, she brings them with all pleasure without demur.

24. She partakes of the leavings of her husband’s food, fruit etc. liked by him. She completely avoids watching community festivals etc. (if he is not accompanying her).

25-26. Then, she does not go on pilgrimages or similar excursions, nor for attending marriage festivities (without her husband). She does not wake up her husband when he is sound asleep, (or disturb him) comfortably seated or engaged in sports and pastime even when the matter on hand is likely to be obstructed. When she is in her monthly courses, she does not come into view personally.

27. Till she takes her purificatory bath, she does not even talk within his hearing. After taking the bath properly, she should look at the face of her husband and never that of anyone else. Or after meditating on her husband, she should look at the sun.

28-29. A chaste woman desiring a long life for her husband should see that the following auspicious things are never out of reach: turmeric, saffron, vermillion, collyrium, bodice, betel leaf, auspicious jewellery, hair tonics and embellishments, bangles, earrings and other ornaments.

30. She does not talk to a woman who speaks ill of her husband. She should not take bath anywhere in the nude.

31. A chaste woman shall never sit upon a mortar, pestle, broom, stone, any machine or on the threshold.

32. She should not exhibit bold wilfulness in anything except during sexual dalliance. She should always express her interest and delight wherever her husband shows his interest.

33. She should never transgress the words of her husband. This is the vow of women; this is the highest virtue and the holiest of worships.

34. She should never stray from her husband even if he is impotent, miserably placed, sickly, senile, infirm or unsteady.

35. If ghee, asafoetida, salt etc. are exhausted, a chaste woman shall not mention that they are not in store (at the time when the husband takes food). She should not serve food in iron vessels.

36. Desirous of taking holy dip in a sacred Tīrtha, she should drink the water with which her husband’s feet are washed. To a woman the husband is superior to Lord Śaṅkara and Lord Viṣṇu.

37. If a woman transgresses the injunction of her husband and performs holy rites, fasts and other observances, she takes away the longevity of her husband. After her death, she falls into a hell.

38. A hot-tempered woman who, when addressed, gives rude reply, is reborn as a bitch in a village or as a vixen in a desolate forest.

39. This is said to be the greatest and only sacred observance of women that they should resolve to take their food only after worshipping the feet of their husbands.

40. (A chaste woman) should not occupy a seat higher (than that of her husband). She should not (frequently) go to other people’s houses. There she should never speak harsh words.

41-42. In the vicinity of elders, she should not speak loudly or call others in a loud voice. An evil-minded woman who abandons her husband and goes to a secret place, is reborn as a ruthless female owl always lying ensconced in the hollow of a tree.

43. On being struck, if she were to strike him back, she is reborn as a tigress or a cat. She who casts loving glances at others, becomes a squint-eyed one.

44. She who sets aside her husband and partakes of sweet dishes alone, is reborn in a village as a female pig or a bat feeding on faeces.

45-48. She who utters hum expressive of contempt or reproach and addresses her husband in second person singular (instead of the respectful plural) and speaks harsh words to her husband, certainly becomes dumb (in the next birth). She who is envious of her co-wife, always becomes a shrew (in every birth). She who glances lovingly at another man when the husband is not seeing her, becomes ugly, one-eyed or foul-faced.

If a woman on seeing the husband returning from his sojourn out of the house, hurriedly receives him with offerings of water, seat, betel leaves, fans, massaging the feet, addressing sweet words and removing sweat and with other types of services and pleases him, the three worlds are delighted by her.

A father offers but little, a brother offers but little and so a son. But the husband offers much. Which woman will not worship him?

Husband is the lord; husband is the preceptor. He alone is the veritable dharma (virtue), sacred rites, holy shrine etc. Hence after setting aside everything, the wife should worship solely her husband.

49. Just as body bereft of soul becomes impure instantaneously, so also a woman without her husband is always impure, despite clean baths.

50. A widow is more inauspicious than all inauspicious things. Never can there be the accomplishment of anything when a widow is sighted.

51. All widows except one’s mother are devoid of auspiciousness. A wise man must avoid even their blessings, like serpents.

52. At the time of the marriage of a girl, the Brāhmaṇas shall recite thus: “She shall be the constant companion of her husband whether he is alive or not.”

53. A chaste woman who follows her husband from the house to the cremation ground for self-immolation undoubtedly attains the merit of a horse-sacrifice at every step.

54. Just as a snake-catcher forcibly retrieves a snake from its hole, so also a chaste woman retrieves her husband from the messengers of Yama and goes to heaven.

55-58. On seeing a chaste woman the messengers of Yama flee. On seeing the splendour of a chaste woman even the sun feels burning sensation, even the fire gets burnt and all other luminaries begin to tremble. A chaste woman sportingly enjoys heavenly pleasures along with her husband for as many crores and ten thousand years as there are hairs on her body.

Blessed indeed is that mother in the world, blessed is that father and blessed is that husband in whose house there is a chaste woman. All the members of the families of her father, mother and husband enjoy the pleasures of heaven, as a result of the merit of the chaste woman.

59. By losing her modesty and chastity, a woman of evil deeds causes the fall of the three families of her father, mother and husband. She becomes miserable both here and hereafter.

60. Wherever the foot of a chaste woman is placed, the ground becomes sanctified, a holy ground, worthy of being honoured. There is no holier burden (than the foot of a chaste woman placed on the earth).

61. Even the sun fearfully touches a chaste woman. The moon and a Gandharva too touch her in order to sanctify themselves and not otherwise.

62. Waters always desire the contact of a chaste woman. There is no destruction of sins (even) through Gāyatrī. She (a chaste woman) is a dispeller of sins through her vow of chastity.

63. Are there no women in every house priding themselves on their beauty and charm? But only through devotion to the Lord of the universe (Śiva) does one attain a chaste wife.

64. Wife is at the root of everything concerning a householder; wife is the source of happiness. Wife is the fruit of virtue: wife is for the increase of progeny.

65. The other world and this world—these two are won over by means of a wife. It is through a wife in the house that gods, Manes and guests are propitiated. Only he should be considered a true householder, who has a chaste wife in his house.

66. Just as the body becomes holy and sanctified through a dip in the river Gaṅgā, so also the home becomes pure at the sight of a chaste woman.

67. A widow who habitually lies on a couch causes the downfall of her husband.[2] Hence she should resort to the habit of lying on the ground, if she desires for the ultimate happiness of her husband.

68. Cleansing of the body with fragrant unguents should never be indulged in by a widow. She should never make use of sweet scents.

69. Citing their names and the Gotra lineage, the Tarpaṇa rite (water libation) with Kuśa grass, gingelly seeds and water should be done to the husband, his father and his grandfather.

70. Viṣṇu-worship must be performed with the intellect directed towards the husband and not otherwise. She should always meditate upon her husband as having taken the form of Viṣṇu, Hari.

71. Whatever in the world happens to be a favourite thing of the husband, whatever is eagerly sought after by the husband, should be given as gift unto a meritorious person, with a desire to delight her own husband.

72. In the months of Vaiśākha and Kārttika she should have special observances such as holy bath, visiting holy places, making monetary gifts and frequent listening to the Purāṇas.

73. Offering water-pots in the month of Vaiśākha and lights with clarified butter in Kārttika and grains, gingelly seeds etc. in the month of Māgha is highly praised in the heavenly world.

74. Sheds for supplying water to travellers should be made and maintained in the month of Vaiśākha and the following offerings should be made to the Lord: necklace, Uśīra (fragrant grass of Andropogon muricatus), fan, umbrella, fine fabrics and sandal-paste.

75-76. The following things should be given to prominent Brāhmaṇas with the prayer “May my husband be pleased”: betel leaf with camphor, flowers, various types of water-pots, flower-grottos, various kinds of beverages, grapes, bananas etc.

77. In the month of Ūrja (i.e. Kārttika) she should eat only cooked barley or a single meal (of one type of grain). She shall avoid brinjals, sūrana (Amarphophalus campamulatus) and Śuka Śambi (Mucuna pruritus).

78. In the month of Kārttika she should eschew oil and (use of) bell-metal vessel. If she observes the vow of silence in the month of Kārttika, she should make a gift of a beautiful bell.

79. If she takes the vow of taking food only on leaves, she should make a gift of a bell-metal vessel filled with ghee. If the vow is for lying (sleeping) on the ground, a soft and fine bed of cotton should be given as a gift.

80. If one has eschewed any fruit, that fruit has to be given as gift; if one has eschewed any juice, that particular juice has to be given; if any grain has been eschewed, that grain has to be given or paddy. Paddy grain may also be given alternatively. One should endeavour to make the gift of a cow fully adorned with gold ornaments.

81. On one side stand the gifts of all things and on the other side the gift of a lamp. They do not deserve even a sixteenth part of the (merit of the) gift of a lamp in the month of Kārttika.

82. Thus the religious observances of widows have been recounted. The merit belongs to those and not to others.

83. After arriving at Dharmavāpī, a wise devotee should make liberal gifts. His belongings increase millionfold as recounted by Brahmā.

84. If a devotee, standing in front of Lord Dharmeśvara, makes a gift of Tiladhenu (i.e. gingelly seeds in the shape of a cow), he is honoured in the heavenly world for as many years as there are gingelly seeds.

85. After reaching Dharmakṣetra one should perform the Śrāddha rite without any lethargy. Certainly the Manes will be pleased with him for the entire year.

86-88. All his ancestors who may happen to be in heaven or hell, those who have attained the state of animals, those who have remained as spirits—for all these one should perform the Śrāddha rite in Dharmakūpa in accordance with the injunctions.

The grains of offerings scattered on the ground here by men, propitiate those who have attained the state of Piśācas (ghosts). If (water) dripping down from their clothes after their bath falls on the ground, O dear son, those who have become trees can be propitiated thereby.

89. The propitiation of those who have attained godhood is effected by the bits of barley grains that fall on the ground.

90. The propitiation of those who have gone to the nether worlds is through those bits of cooked rice that fall on the ground, when the offerings of balls of rice are made.

91. Those who omitted the various rites befitting the caste and stage of life, those who were not consecrated properly and died, come here and partake of the water wafted by sweeping.

92. Others attain satisfaction by means of the water that drops down on the ground after the meals or ceremonial sipping of the water (Ācamana) by Brāhmaṇas.

93-95. Thus the person who worships and he who becomes pure on being slightly touched by the scattered water drops and leavings of food of those Brāhmaṇas, those who are fallen in the hell and those who have attained other births—all these, O dear one, become satisfied with the performance of the Śrāddha rite in the proper manner.

If Śrāddha rite is performed by men with money earned by illegitimate means, they become propitiated by means of the Śrāddha in their (future) births as Cāṇḍālas, Pulkasas etc.

96-98. Thus, O dear one, many of his kinsmen too are made to flourish thereby. If there is no capacity to perform Śrāddha elaborately like this, it can be performed by means of greens and vegetables. Hence a man should perform Śrāddha devoutly by means of greens and vegetables in accordance with the injunctions. The family of the person who performs thus, never becomes impoverished or disabled. If he commits sins, his sins increase and the person who performs Śrāddha (carelessly) is undoubtedly cooked in a terrible hell.

99-100. Just as merits so also sins, both auspicious and inauspicious rites, become increased, O excellent king, when carried out in Dharmāraṇya. It is lovable, it accords desires, it is divine and it accords deliverance to Yogins. Dharmāraṇya is said to be that which accords Siddhis (accomplishments) to Siddhas (or those desirous of Siddhis).

Footnotes and references:


VV 13-66 detail the duties of a chaste wife.


VV 67-82 describe the duties of widows.

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