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Wife An Equal Half In Hindu Marriage

The Hindu woman as life partner has a fourfold character: she is ardhangini, one half of her husband, metaphorically speaking; sahadharmini, an associate in the fulfilment of human and divine goals; sahakarmini, a part to all her husband’s actions; and sahayogini, a veritable cooperator in all his ventures. Husband and wife together are called dampati, joint owners of the house hold, sharing work in terms of their biological, psychological and individual dharma. The former provides the seed (beeja) and the latter the field (kshetra) for its fructification, so that humans could be perpetuated in the cosmic process of evolution. Both have the joint responsibility of helping their children grow in all respects, but the contribution of the wife is always immense.

As life partner the Hindu woman has equal right to participate in religious rites and ceremonies; in fact, certain sacrifices like the Sita harvest sacrifice, the Rudrayaga for suitable sons-in-law or the Rudrabali sacrifice for material prosperity are performed by women alone.

Hindu law givers like Gobhila and Asvalayana ordain that no ritual or sacrifice can be complete (samperia) without the presence of the wife. Even Rama had to order for Sita’s statue in gold to make up for her absence during his Ashvamedha sacrifice.

In the Ramayana, Rama’s mother Kausalya offers oblations to the fire god Agni and Tara performs the Svastyayana ritual for the success of her husband Vali against Sugriva. Women of those days were quite learned in the Vedic lore. Draupadi was a brahmavadini and Tara an adept at reciting mystic syllables. Oghavati, Arundhati and Sulabha possessed a thorough knowledge of the Vedas and imparted religious knowledge even to rishis. The spiritual attainments of Savitri and Anusuya have become legendary. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad one meets women of wisdom such as Maitreyi and Gargi. The former abandoned wealth for wisdom and the latter entered into a debate with the sage Yajnavalkya at the court of King Janaka. Much later, Bharati, the wife of Mandana Mishra, carried forward the tradition by acting as judge in the philosophic debate between her husband and Shankaracharya. When she found her husband losing the debate, she emphatically told Shankaracharya that his victory would be complete only if he could defeat her, since she constituted her husband’s better half.

Source - Excerpts from article titled 'Hindu Woman as Life Partner' by Dr Usha Kapoor in the Prabuddha Bharata Magazine July 2005 issue