--> Skip to main content

Manu Smriti On The Status Of Married Woman

The Vedas give a married woman the right to talk and debate independently. The wife is the home (jayedastam), says the Rig Veda 3.53.4. Besides, she is the treasure house of happiness (Atharva Veda,, a point elaborated in Manu Smriti in a much more explicit way:

‘Women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law who desire (their own) welfare.’ (Manu Smriti, 3.55.)

 ‘Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rites yield rewards’ (Manu Smriti 3.56).

‘Offspring, (due performance of) religious rites, faithful service, the highest conjugal happiness and heavenly bliss for the ancestors and oneself depend on one’s wife alone’ (Manu Smriti 9.28).

Manu declares that the perfect man is one who constitutes a trinity made up of his wife, himself and their offspring (Manu Smriti 9.45).

The wife being a gift from the gods (Manu Smriti 9.95), she ought to be supported to the end of her life. If Manu points out the seductive nature of women (Manu Smriti 2.213-4), he is equally unsure of the unbridled passion of men. He advises that wise men must not be in the company of even their own mothers, sisters or daughters in a lonely place, for they may deviate from the right path (Manu Smriti 2.215)!

Manu regards woman as a precious unit of the family and of society but denies them absolute freedom due to their physical vulnerability. He, however, distinguishes between the noble and virtuous and the degenerate women, and, like other smritikaras, criticizes those who are faithless, fickle, sensuous, immodest, quarrelsome and loose. ‘Day and night women must be kept in dependence upon males and if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments they must be kept under one’s control’ (Manu Smriti 9.2). Manu prescribes capital punishment for killers of women, exempts pregnant and old women from paying fines and suggests that as a matter of courtesy, they should be given precedence when crossing the road.

An abandoned woman without an issue or a male protector becomes a social responsibility, says Manu (Manu Smriti, 8.28.) If any one grabs her property during her life time, that person deserves to be punished like a thief (Manu Smriti 8.29, 352).