The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Characteristics of a Chaste Woman which is chapter 4 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 fourth chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 4 - The Characteristics of a Chaste Woman

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: The chapter is important from sociological point of view. It portrays the status of women (wives) vis-a-vis men (husbands). It is a digest of Smṛti-laws about the duties of married women, especially with relation to the husband.

Sūta said:

1. O great sage, O holy Sir, on being asked by the sage, what did the Devas say? Kindly narrate it for the good of all the worlds.

Śrī Vyāsa said:

2. On hearing the words of Agastya, the Devas respectfully glanced at the face of Bṛhaspati (the preceptor of gods).

Vākpati said:

3. Listen, O illustrious Agastya, to the purpose of the visit of the Devas. You are blessed. You have achieved whatever should be achieved. You are honoured even by great men.

4. Are not there ascetics in every hermitage, on every mountain, in every forest? O excellent sage, but your status is entirely different.

5. You possess the glory of austerities. The Brāhmaṇical refulgence is established in you. The glory of merit of the highest type is in you. There is liberal-mindedness in you. You have a (steady) mind.

6-9. This auspicious and chaste lady Lopāmudrā is your partner in the holy rites. She is more or less like a shadow of your body and a (mere) mention of hers is a giver of merit. It is certain that no one else is considered as excellent as this lady among the chaste ones by Arundhatī, Sāvitrī, Anasūyā, Śāṇḍilyā, Satī, Lakṣmī, Śatarūpā, Menā, Sunīti, Saṃjñā and Svāhā. These chaste ladies are respectively the wives of Vasiṣṭha, God Brahmā, Atri, Kauśika, (Satī, the first consort of) Śiva, Viṣṇu, Svāyaṃbhuva Manu, Himālaya, Uttānapāda (Dhruva’s father), Vivasvān (the Sun-god), Agni (Fire-god). O sage, she takes her food after you have had it; when you stand, she also stands; when you have gone to sleep completely, she goes to bed and she gets up before you.

10. She never comes before you unadorned; when you go elsewhere for some work, she eschews all ornaments.

11. She never utters your name, so that your longevity becomes best assured; she never mentions the names of other men.

12. Though assailed by angry words (by you), she never expresses her displeasure; though beaten (by you), she continues to be pleased with you. If you say “Do this”, she replies, “O lord, know that it has been done.”

13. When she is called (by you), she leaves off all her other domestic duties and comes near you quickly (and says), “Wherefore, O Lord, have you addressed me; let that pleasure be given to me as favour.”

14. She does not stand at the doorway for a long time; nor does she lie near the doorway and block it. She does not give anything to anyone unless asked by you to give.

15. Without being specifically told so, she gets ready all the requisite things for the worship of the deity such as holy water for the observances, Darbha grass, leaves, flowers, raw rice grains etc.

16. She waits for the correct time, fetching the requisite thing at the proper time without being perturbed, nay, taking delight in the same.

17. She takes in the leavings of her husband whether cooked food or fruits and other things. If anything is given to her, she says, “It is your great favour” and then accepts it.

18. She never eats anything without sharing it with gods, manes, guests, servants, cows and mendicants.

19. She soberly dresses and adorns herself; she is efficient (in her job); she is cheerful, she is averse to wastage and over-spending. Without being permitted by you she never takes up holy observances, fasts and vows.[2]

20. She avoids from a distance visiting community festivities; she never goes on pilgrimage or for witnessing marriage celebrations (without you).

21. If the husband is comfortably seated, sound asleep or in a sportive mood, she never disturbs him by waking him up casually or even for her personal intimate reasons.

22. In the event of the monthly course, she never shows her face (to her husband etc.) for three days. Till she gets purified by her bath thereafter, she never makes her utterance heard by others.

23. After her cleansing bath (on her fourth day), she first looks at the face of her husband and not of anyone else, or after meditating on her husband in her mind, she looks at the Sun.

24-25. A chaste woman sincerely wishing for the long life of her husband shall never be without these: turmeric, saffron, sindūra (red lead), collyrium, blouse, betel leaves, splendidly auspicious ornaments, combing of the hairs and ornaments on the braid of hair, hands, ears etc.

26. A chaste woman never has close companionship with a washerwoman (or a woman in the monthly course), a rationalist, sceptic or heretic, a Buddhist recluse (woman) or a woman of Kāpālika sect or an unfortunate wretched woman.

27. This chaste lady never speaks to a woman who hates her husband. She never remains alone anywhere. She never takes her bath anywhere in the nude.

28. A chaste woman never sits on the mortar or pestle or broom or (grinding) stone or any mechanical contrivance, nor on a raised platform on either side of the front door (or threshold).

29. She never exhibits shameless boldness except at the time of sexual dalliance. She loves whatever her husband is interested in.

30. This is the holy vow for a woman; this alone is the greatest piety; this is the only divine adoration that she never transgresses the words of her husband.

31. She will never disregard her husband whether he be a eunuch, one in a miserable plight, sick, old and senile, affluent or poor.

32. When the husband is delighted, she should be delighted; when he is gloomy and morose, she also should be gloomy and morose. She shall be of meritorious deed if she identifies (herself with her husband) during affluence and in adversity.

33. When ghee, salt, oil etc., are wanting, she should not openly say, “We don’t have this and that”. A chaste woman never subjects her husband to overstrain.

34. A woman desirous of having holy bath in sacred waters near holy shrines should drink the water with which the feet of her husband are washed. To a woman her husband alone is far superior to even Śaṅkara or Viṣṇu.

35. If a woman disregards the wish of her husband and observes holy vows, fasts etc., she shall reduce the life span of her husband. After death she goes to hell.

36. If a woman resents and retorts, when she is told anything, she is reborn as a bitch in a village or a vixen in a desolate forest.

37. This is cited as the most important and decisive of all rules to be followed by women that they should enjoy everything after worshipping the feet of the husband.

38. A woman should never occupy a high seat. She should never go to other men’s houses. She should never utter words that could cause (her or others) to be ashamed.

39. She should never utter slanderous words. She should avoid quarrels. She should never speak aloud or laugh in the presence of elders.

40. An evil-minded woman who forsakes her husband and commits sexual offences (with a paramour) is reborn as a cruel owl residing in the hollow of a tree.

41. If on being beaten, a woman wishes to beat in retaliation, she is born as a tigress or a female cat. A woman leering at another man becomes squint-eyed.

42. If a woman keeps her husband away and herself enjoys sweet dishes, she is born as a sow in a village or a flying fox feeding on its own faeces.

43. If a woman addresses (her husband) disrespectfully and unpleasantly by using thou’ (instead of respectful ‘you’), she becomes dumb. She who is always jealous of her co-wives, becomes wretched again and again.

44. She who glances at others avoiding the sight of her husband is reborn one-eyed, deformed in face or ugly in features.

45-46. On seeing her husband returning from outdoor work, the wife should hasten to give him light meal and water, and betel-leaves; she should fan him, massage his feet, speak pleasing words dispelling his fatigue and worry. Thus, if a woman delights her husband, all the three worlds will be delighted with her.

47. Limited is what a father could give; a brother gives but limited gifts; a son too gives only limited. Hence a woman should always worship her husband who gives unlimited (gifts).[3]

48. Husband is the god; husband is the preceptor; husband alone constitutes piety, holy place and pious vows and observances. Hence a woman should forsake everything and worship her husband alone.

49. Just as a lifeless body becomes impure in a moment, so also a woman bereft of her husband is always impure even though she may bathe scrupulously.

50. A widow devoid of conjugal bliss and weal is the worst of all inauspicious things. There would be no success in a venture, if one sees a widow (at the outset).

51. A sensible man should avoid such a woman bereft of all conjugal bliss and even her blessings, except in the case of his (widowed) mother.[4]

52. At the time of the marriage of a girl, the Brāhmaṇas should pronounce, “Be a constant companion to your husband alive or dead.”

53. The husband should always be followed by a woman like a body by its shadow, like the moon by its light or like a cloud by lightning.

54. If a woman joyously follows her (dead) husband from the house to the cremation ground (to immolate herself along with him), she certainly derives the benefit of a horse-sacrifice at every step.

55. Just as a snake-catcher pulls out a serpent from its hollow, so also a chaste woman snatches her husband from the messengers (of god of Death) and takes him to heaven.

56. On seeing a chaste woman from a distance, the messengers of Yama flee after discarding her husband, though he might have been a man of misdeeds.

57. “We, the messengers (of Death), do not fear fire or lightning as much as seeing a chaste woman coming towards us.”

58. On seeing the refulgence of a chaste woman, the Sun blazes more and fire burns brighter and all fiery beings tremble.

59. A chaste woman sportingly enjoys heavenly pleasures along with her husband as many ten thousand crores (of years) as there are hairs on her body.

60. Blessed is that mother in the world, blessed is that father and blessed is that glorious husband in whose house there is a chaste woman.

61. Due to the merit of a chaste woman, all the three, viz. the members of her father’s family, those of her mother’s family, and those of her husband’s family, enjoy the pleasures of heaven.

62. By violation of the chaste and decent behaviour, women of evil conduct cause the downfall of the three families, viz., that of the father, that of the mother and that of the husband. They are miserable too here and hereafter.

63. Wherever a chaste woman sets her foot on the ground, the earth thinks thus: ‘I have no burden here. I have become pure.’

64. It is with the apprehension (of committing a sin) that the Sun, the Moon and the Wind touch a chaste woman only for their own purification and not for anything else.

65. Waters always desire the touch of a chaste woman (and say), “Our dampness (ignorance) has perished today. We have become capable of purifying others.”

66. Are there no women proud of their charm and beauty in every house? But, only due to devotion to Viśveśa does one get a chaste woman as wife.

67. Wife is the root cause (of everything good) to every householder; wife is the cause of happiness; wife is conducive to the attainment of righteousness; wife is for the increase of progeny.

68. Two worlds, viz., the visible world and the other world, are won over through wife. A man without a wife is not entitled to perform the rites of Yajña pertaining to gods, manes and guests etc.[5]

69. Only he should be considered a genuine householder, in whose house there is a chaste wife. The other one—the unchaste—is (as if) devoured at every step by old age assuming the form of an ogress (or is as if devoured by a Rākṣasī called Jarā).

70. Just as the body becomes pure through a plunge in Gaṅgā, so also everything becomes pure through the splendid (and benign) glance of a chaste woman.

71. If somehow by chance, a wife does not follow the husband (after death), even then, the chastity should be preserved unviolated. There is downfall through the violation of chastity.

72. A husband falls from heaven due to the misdemeanour of the wife and not for any other reason. Similarly her mother, father and all her brothers (fall).

73. After the death of the husband, if a woman preserves her widowed state (in purity), she goes back to the husband and enjoys heavenly pleasures.{GL_NOTE::}

74. The braided tresses of hair of a widow cause disaster to the husband. Hence a woman shall always get her hair shaved off.

75-77. As a rule (a widow) should take only a single meal (per day) and not a second meal. She must observe (fast) for three days, consecutively, or for five days together or for a fortnight. She may observe fast for a whole month. She may perform the expiatory rites of Cāndrāyaṇa, Kṛcchra, Parāka or Taptakṛcchra. Till the life becomes extinct, she must somehow sustain herself with cooked barley, fruit diet, vegetable dishes or mere milk.

78. A widowed woman lying on a couch causes the downfall of her husband. Hence with a desire for the happiness of her husband she must sleep on bare ground.

79. Anointing and smearing of the body should never be done by a widowed woman. She must not make use of any type of scents or perfumes.

80. Water-libations with gingelly seeds and Kuśa grass should be offered daily to the husband, his father and grandfather mentioning the Gotra and the respective names.

81. Adoration of Viṣṇu should be performed identifying the husband with the Lord and not otherwise. She should always meditate on her husband as the Lord in the form of Viṣṇu.

82. With a desire for propitiating the husband, all those articles which were very dear to him in the world and everything that he had desired should be given as gift to someone of good qualities.

83. She must do special observances in the months of Vaiśākha, Kārttika and Māgha such as holy ablution, gifting of things, pilgrimage and utterances of Viṣṇu’s names respectively.

84. Waterpots in Vaiśākha, ghee-lamps in Kārttika and distributing of grains and gingelly seeds in Māgha are of special significance in the heavenly world.

85-87. Sheds where water is offered to travellers should be arranged during Vaiśākha; Galantikā (a pot with a hole in the bottom which is filled with water and kept above the image so that there is a continuous flow of water on the top of the idol) should be offered to the deities. Gift of articles like the following should be made to prominent Brāhmaṇas: sandals, fans, umbrella, thin clothes and garments, sandal-paste, camphor, betel-leaves, flowers, many kinds of waterpots and floral houses, various kinds of beverages, grapes, plantains etc. While gifting she should utter, “May my husband be pleased.”

88. In the month of Ūrja (Kārttika) she should eat cooked barley or take a meal one time only. Brinjal, Sūraṇa, and Śukaśīmbi (Mucuna pruritus) should be avoided.

89. In the month of Kārttika, one shall avoid oil, honey, brass vessel and preserved pickles.

90. If one observes the vow of silence in Kārttika, she should gift a beautiful bell. If she observes the vow of eating in leafy cups and plates, she should give a bell-metal vessel filled with ghee.

91. If lying on bare ground is the vow observed, she should gift a soft, smooth bed filled with cotton. If the vow is avoidance of fruits, fruits should be given as gifts. In the case of the vow of avoidance of juice, that juice should be offered as a gift.

92. In the case of the vow of avoidance of grains that particular grain should be given as gift or paddy too can be given. With great effort cows should be given well-adorned and accompanied by gifts of gold.

95. (If) all other gifts on one side and the gift of lights on the other (are weighed to compare the merits derived), all other gifts do not deserve even a sixteenth of (the merit accrued from) the gift of lights in Kārttika.

94. The holy ablution in the month of Māgha should be performed when the sun has slightly risen up. A devotee observing the vow of holy ablution in Māgha shall follow the rules and regulations in accordance with his capacity.

95. Brāhmaṇas, ascetics and sages should be fed with sweet cooked foods, sweetmeats, Pheṇikas, Vaṭakas, Iṇḍarika etc. (these are the sweetmeats and snacks specially to be made).

96. They shall be fried or cooked in ghee. Pepper should be added where necessary. They should be flavoured with white camphor. There must be sugar within. The items prepared should be charming to see and of sweet fragrance.

97. Dry fuel should be given in bulk for the purpose of warding off cold. Shirts and blouses filled with cotton should be given along with mattress filled with cotton and with excellent covers.

98-101. Garments red in colour like madder, cotton cloths, nutmegs, cloves, betel-leaves of all sorts, blankets, shawls of various colours, houses affording protection from blowing winds, soft sandals and slippers, sweet-smelling unguents should be offered. She should offer worship as in famous temples with ghee-spread Kambalas (as at Badarikāśrama Temple) after great ablution. Agallochum should be used in the incense in the sanctum sanctorum. Lamps should have thick wicks. There shall be different kinds of food offerings. She should then utter, “May the Lord in the form of my husband be pleased.”

102. A widowed lady should spend the months of Vaiśākha, Kārttika and Māgha with such holy vows and observances as these.

103. She should not mount a bullock even when there is danger to life. She should not wear blouses or gaudy garments.

104. A widow who is fond of her husband, should not do anything without asking her sons. A widow who is accustomed to observe all these vows and practices, is considered auspicious.

105. A widow who is chaste and who observes all these pious practices, shall attain the regions of her husband. She shall not be miserable anywhere.

106. If a woman considers her husband as a deity, there is no difference between her and Gaṅgā. She is directly equal to Umā, the consort of Siva. Hence a sensible man should worship her.

Bṛhaspati said:

107. O Lopāmudrā, O great mother who always fixes her eyes to the lotus-like feet of her husband, it is as good as we have attained the benefit of bathing in Gaṅgā, since we are fortunate enough to see you.

108. After eulogizing the illustrious chaste lady, the princess (Lopāmudrā), Guru (Bṛhaspati) clever in every art and subject, bowed down to the sage and said:

109. “You are Praṇava. She is Śruti. You are Austerity yourself. She is Kṣamā (Forgiveness or the Earth). You are the fruit (of a holy rite while), she is the holy rite. Thus, O great sage, you are blessed.

110. This is the refulgence of a Pativratā (chaste wife). You are the great Brāhmanical splendour. Still this is the refulgence of penance. What is there impossible to be achieved by you?

111. There is nothing not known to you. I shall, however, tell you why the Devas have come here. O sage, listen to that:

112-114a. This is the glorious Slayer of Vṛtra, who has performed one hundred sacrifices, who wields the thunderbolt, at whose doorway the eight Siddhis eagerly stand awaiting his favourable glance; at the outskirts of his city the herd of Kāmadhenu cows graze; his citizens always lie down in the cool shades of the wish-yielding Kalpa trees; and in his streets the precious and miraculous Cintāmaṇi jewels abound like gravel and pebbles.

114b-116. This is Fire-god, the source of origin of the universe. This one is Dharmarāja. These are Nirṛti, Varuṇa, Vāyu, Śrīda (i.e., Kubera), Rudra and others.

Powerful persons are propitiated by persons of good conduct for (the fulfilment of) all desires. These persons are those who request. You are the one to be begged for the sake of the world. That can be achieved through a mere word from you. It can help the whole world.

117. A certain mountain named Vindhya has blocked the path of the Sun. He has increased in size due to his rivalry with Meru. You will kindly stop his growth in size (height).

118. Those who are hard by nature, those who cause obstruction to the path, those who prosper or increase (in size etc.) out of rivalry, the prosperity of such people, going beyond limits, is inauspicious.”

119-120. On hearing these words of Guru, the great sage did not think for a long time. Reflecting for a moment the sage replied, “Let it be so. I shall accomplish your task.” After saying thus he dismissed the heaven-dwellers. Agastya then began to think. He engaged himself in meditation.

Vedavyāsa said:

121. After listening to this chapter on chaste women the devotee, whether it is a woman or a man, casts off the bodice in the form of sins and goes to the world of Śakra (Indra).

Footnotes and references:


For the prohibition of non-permitted observance of vows see Manu V. I55.


Quoted from Mbh, Śānti, 148.6; also echoed in MtP 210.17-18. For Godhood of the husband to wife see Mbh, Anuśāsana. 146.58.


Repetition from SkP III.ii.7.50-51.


Cf. Jaimini, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā VI.1.17ff; also Āpastaṃba Dh. S, II.6.13.16-17.


VV 73-105 describe the duties of widows (Vidhavā-dharma). The verses are elaboration of Manu V. 157-160. But later writers on Dharmaśāstra quoted many of these verses from this Chapter of the Skanda as ‘authoritative duties of widows’, vide Nirṇaya-Sindhu (p.626), Madana-Pārijāta (pp. 202-6). Kane, however disapproves of Winternitz’s criticism of the inhuman attitude of Hindu Dharmaśāstra towards widows (HD II.i.583).

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