Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Status of Women in the Mudrarakshasa’ of the English study of the Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya: an important work on Hindu dramaturgy (Natya-shastra) from the tenth century dealing with the ten divisions of Sanskrit drama (nata), describing their technical aspects and essential dramaturgical principals. These ten types of drama are categorised based on the plot (vastu), hero (neta) and sentiment (rasa)

Part 15 - Status of Women in the Mudrārākṣasa

In the Maurya period, the social status of women was not quite satisfactory. Women were not allowed to get out of the house. As a matter of fact, they were not allowed to go anywhere. There was no freedom for them. They were not allowed to act independently without their husband. The Arthaśāstra stipulates that women stay in-door, they never go out, so, they were called “aniṣkāsinīnām” (Arthaśāstra.3/1). At that time, there was multi-marriage system. One could marry many women. The main aim of marriage was to beget children especially male offspring.

The society allowed eight kinds of marriage system, i.e.

  1. Brāhma,
  2. Prājāpatya,
  3. Ārṣa,
  4. Daiva,
  5. Gāndharva,
  6. Āsura,
  7. Rākṣasa and
  8. Paiśāca.

The dowry system was allowed in the Āsura type of marriage. However, girls were allowed to choose their husbands who are experts in wrestling, fighting etc. In the Brāhma, Prājāpatya, Ārṣa, Daiva marriage systems, the fathers conducted marriage of their daughters. However, in the Gāndharva, Āsura, Rākṣasa and Paiśāca systems of marriage, girls could choose their husbands with the permission of both father and mother.

The Arthaśāstra states that the marriage age should be twelve years for girls and sixteen years for boys.

(dvādaśavarṣā strī prāptavyavahārā bhavati, ṣoḍaśavarṣaḥ pumān
  –Arthaśāstra, 3.3.1.

In this period, women however, used to work as courtesan, servantand detective. Although the Arthaśāstra does not mention about the self-immolation (satīdāha) system, it is quite possible that the same self-immolation was practiced as the oldest-tradition of India. The Mudrārākṣasa, it should be noted that, does not consist of many leading female character, except the wife of Candanadāsa who enters in the seventh act. Her loyalty to her husband demonstrates that women were not given any independence in that period. The women were also used as the spies. In the fifth act, Cāṇakya sends a woman detective or poison-maid (viṣakanyā) to kill Parvataka, the father of Malayaketu.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: