There is one copy with a title ‘The Woman and the Counter- Revolution’. There is another copy of the same text with a title, ‘The Riddle of the Woman’. The Editorial Board felt that this essay would be appropriate in this Volume rather than in the volume of ‘Riddles in Hinduism’ Editors.
Manu can hardly be said to be more tender to women than he was to the Shudra. He starts with a low opinion of women. Mane proclaims:
II. 213. It is the nature of women to seduce men in this (world); for that reason the wise are never unguarded in (the company of) females.
II. 214. For women are able to lead astray in (this) world not only a fool, but even a learned man, and (to make) him a slave of desire and anger.
II. 215. One should not sit in a lonely place with one’s mother, sister or daughter; for the senses are powerful, and master ever learned man.
IX. 14. Women do not care for beauty, nor is their attention fixed on age; (thinking); ‘(It is enough that) he is a man’, they give themselves to the handsome and to the ugly.
IX. 15. Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become disloyal towards their husbands, however, carefully they may be guarded in this (world).
IX. 16. Knowing their disposition, which the Lord of creatures laid in them at the creation, to be such, (every) man should most strenuously exert himself to guard them.
IX. 17. (When creating them) Manu allotted to women (a love of their) bed, (of their) seat and (of) ornament, impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct.
The laws of Manu against women are of a piece with this view. Women are not to be free under any circumstances. In the opinion of Manu :
IX. 2. Day and night women must be kept in dependence by the males (of their families), and, if they attach themselves to sexual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control.
IX. 3. Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.
IX. 5. Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling (they may appear); for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families.
IX. 6. Considering that the highest duty of all castes, even weak husbands (must) strive to guard their wives.
IV. 147. By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.
V. 148. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.
V . 149. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both (her own and her husband’s) families contemptible.
Woman is not to have a right to divorce.
IX 45. The husband is declared to be one with the wife, which means that there could be no separation once a woman is married. Many Hindus stop here as though this is the whole story regarding Manu’s law of divorce and keep on idolizing it by comforting their conscience by holding out the view that Manu regarded marriage as sacrament and therefore, did not allow divorce. This of course is far from the truth. His law against divorce had a very different motive. It was not to tie up a man to a woman but it was to tie up the woman to a man and to leave the man free.
For Manu does not prevent a man from giving up his wife. Indeed he not only allows him to abandon his wife but he also permits him to sell her. But what he does is to prevent the wife from becoming free. See what Mama says:
IX. 46. Neither by sale nor by repudiation is a wife released from her husband.
The meaning is that a wife, sold or repudiated by her husband, can never become the legitimate wife of another who may have bought or received her after she was repudiated. If this is not monstrous nothing can be. But Manu was not worried by consideration of justice or injustice of his law. He wanted to deprive woman of the freedom she had under the Buddhistic regime. He knew that by her misuse of her liberty, by her willingness to marry the Shudra the system of the gradation of the Varna had been destroyed. Manu was outraged by her license and in putting a stop to it he deprived her of her liberty.
A wife was reduced by manu to the level of a slave in the matter of Property.
IX. 416. A wife, a son, and a slave, these three are declared to have no property; the wealth which they earn is (acquired) for him to whom they belong.
When she becomes a widow Manu allows her maintenance, if her husband was joint, and a widow’s estate in the property of her husband, if he was separate from his family. But Manu never allows her to have any dominion over property.
A woman under the laws of Manu is subject to corporal punishment and Manu allows the husband the right to beat his wife.
VIII. 299. A wife, a son, a slave, a pupil and a younger brother of full blood, who have committed faults, may be beaten with a rope or a split bamboo. In other matters woman was reduced by Manu to the same position as the Shudra.
The study of the Veda was forbidden to her by Manu as it was to the Shudra.
II. 66. Even for a woman the performance of the Sanskaras are necessary and they should be performed. But they should be performed without uttering the Veda Mantras.
IX. l8. Women have no right to study the Vedas. That is why their Sanskars are performed without Veda Mantras. Women have no knowledge of religion because they have no right to know the Vedas. The uttering of the Veda Mantras is useful for removing sin. As women cannot utter the Veda Mantras they are as unclean as untruth is.
Offering sacrifices according to Brahmanism formed the very soul of religion. Yet Manu will not allow women to perform them. Manu ordains that :
XI. 36. A woman shall not perform the daily sacrifices prescribed by the Vedas.
XI. 37, If she does it she will go to hell.
To disable her from performing such sacrifices Manu prevents her from getting the aid and services of a Brahmin priest.
IV. 205. A Brahman must never eat food given at a sacrifice performed by a woman.
IV. 206. Sacrifices performed by women are inauspicious and not acceptable to God. They should therefore be avoided.
Woman was not to have any intellectual persuits nor free will, nor freedom of thought. She was not to join any heretical sect such as Buddhism. If she continues to adhere to it till death she is not to be given the libation of water as is done in the case of all dead.
Finally a word regarding the ideal of life, Manu has sought to pi4, before a woman. It had better be stated in his own words:
V. 151. Him to whom her father may give her, or her brother with the father’s permission, she shall obey as long as he lives and when he is dead, she must not insult his memory.
V. 154. Though destitute or virtue, or seeking pleasure elsewhere or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must he constanttley’ worshipped as a god by a faithful wife.
V. 155. No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed k women, apart from their husbands; if a wife obeys her husband Al will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven. Then comes the choicest texts which forms the pith and the marrow of this ideal which Manu prescribes for women:
V. 153. The husband who wedded her with sacred Mantras, is always a source of happiness to his wife, both in season and out of season, in this world and in the next.
V. 150. She must always be cheerful, clever in the management of her household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economical in expenditure.
This the Hindus regard as a very lofty ideal for a woman Compare with this the position of the woman before the days of Manu.
That a woman was entitled to Upanayan is clear from the Atharva Veda where a girl is spoken of as being eligible for marriage having finished her Brahmacharya. From the Shrauta Sutras it is clear that women could repeat the Mantras of the Vedas and that women were taught to read the Vedas. Panini’s Ashtaadhyai bears testimony to the fact that women attended Gurukul and studied the various Shakhas of the Veda and became expert in Mimansa. Patanjali’s Maha Bhashya shows that women were teachers and taught Vedas to girl students. The stories of women entering into public discussions with men on most abstruse subjects of religion, philosophy and metaphysics are by no means few. The story of public disputation between Janaka and Sulbha, between Yajnavalkya and Gargi, between Yajnavalkya and Maitrei and between Shankaracharya and Vidyadhari shows that Indian women in pre-Manu’s time could rise to the highest pinnacle of learning and education.
That women in pre-Manu days were highly respected cannot be disputed. Among the Ratnis who played so prominent a part in the coronation of the King in Ancient India was the queen and the King made her an offering1 as he did to the others. Not only the king elect did homage to the Queen, he worshipped his other wives of lower castes2. In the same way the King offers salutation after the coronation cast to the, ladies of the chiefs of the shremes (guides3).
Courtesy : ‘Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches’ Vol-3, Page No.429-437
(to be continued…….)