It’s very well known that a man’s life is extremely incomplete without a woman/women. He owes his very existence to a woman who bears in her womb for a period of at least nine months, undergoing all sorts of pain and discomfort. A man cannot even simply imagine the pain, strain and agony that a woman undergoes during her time of giving birth to a child. As a mother, a woman plays a critical role in nurturing the infant and is the first teacher. As a child grows up, various women plays different roles accordingly. From a teacher, mentor, peer, friend, colleague to a loving wife.
All of us know this. Nothing new!
But our Vedas and scriptures attach much more significance and more responsibilities to the fairer sex than that what I have mentioned above. I had just mentioned the tip of the ice berg!
The subtle but significant aspects of human life has been stressed throughout our Vedas and Upanishads and expressed more clearly as corollaries in the form of Ithihasas (Ramayana and Mahabharata) and Puranas (Srimad Bhagavatham, Vishnu, Garuda, Padma, Shiva, Skanda etc.).
A typical example is Panchakanya or five ideal women (Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti / Sita , Tara and Mandodari)
Ahalyā draupadī kunti tārā mandodarī tathā ।
pañcakanyāḥ smarennityaṃ mahāpātakanāśinīḥ ॥
Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari
One should forever remember the panchakanya who are the destroyers of great sins
A variant replaces Sita with Kunti:
ahalyā draupadī sītā tārā
mandodarī tathā ।
pañcakanyāḥ smarennityaṃ mahāpātakanāśinīm ॥
People practicing Sanatana Dharma, especially married ladies, remember the Panchakanya in this daily Morning Prayer.
Their names are extolled and the prayer is pratah smaraniya, prescribed to be recited in the early hours of the morning.
The panchakanya literally means five kanyas. Kanya may be translated as girl, daughter, maiden or virgin.
By the Vedic injunctions, the wife is accepted as the better half of a man’s body because she is assigned the responsibilities of discharging half of the duties of the husband. For a grihastha (for those in the married order of life), the wife is considered to be the source of liberation because she offers her service to the husband for his ultimate liberation. Marriage is actually a duty performed in mutual cooperation for spiritual advancement.
The critical role of a woman as a wife in a man’s life is mentioned directly in Srimad Bhagavatham:
“O hero [Vidura], Diti, being thus afflicted by the contamination of lust, and therefore poor and talkative, was pacified by the son of Marīci in suitable words. O afflicted one, I shall forthwith gratify whatever desire is dear to you, for who else but you is the source of the three perfections of liberation? As one can cross over the ocean with seagoing vessels, one can cross the dangerous situation of the material ocean by living with a wife. O respectful one, a wife is so helpful that she is called the better half of a man’s body because of her sharing in all auspicious activities. A man can move without anxiety entrusting all responsibilities to his wife. As a fort commander very easily conquers invading plunderers, by taking shelter of a wife one can conquer the senses, which are unconquerable in the other social orders. O queen of the home, we are not able to act like you, nor could we repay you for what you have done, even if we worked for our entire life or even after death. To repay you is not possible, even for those who are admirers of personal qualities. Even though it is not possible to repay you, I shall satisfy your sex desire immediately for the sake of begetting children. But you must wait for only a few seconds so that others may not reproach me.”
Srimad Bhagavatham: Canto 3 – Chapter 14: Pregnancy of Diti in the evening – Verses 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 & 22.
This clearly sums up the phenomenon of material existence in this universe. Human beings gets conditioned by Maya, the illusory energy of the Supreme Lord to transact its activities for existence but gets entangled when they forget the very purpose of life by getting fully absorbed only in the four material activities: eating, sleeping, mating and defending.
Here is an example of an henpecked husband lured by the extreme beauty of the female body and involved in extreme glorification of his wife (though this glorification about one’s wife is an undeniable fact) but he is doing at the wrong time of the day when he should have restrained her – the twilight hours are considered to be period to perform Vedic rites/devotional service and nothing else. Moreover, he is a Rishi and was involved in austere activities at the time. But he was powerless to stop the lusty advances of his wife. Thus by giving vain reasons that would obviously be unacceptable to her in her situation that time, he tries to post pone the act but miserably fails!
“Diti was thus informed by her husband, but she was pressed by Cupid for sexual satisfaction. She caught hold of the clothing of the great brāhmaṇa sage, just like a shameless public prostitute. Understanding his wife’s purpose, he was obliged to perform the forbidden act, and thus after offering his obeisances unto worshipable fate, he lay with her in a secluded place.”
Srimad Bhagavatham: Canto 3 – Chapter 14: Pregnancy of Diti in the evening – Verses 30 – 31.
“The learned Kaśyapa said: Because of your mind’s being polluted, because of defilement of the particular time, because of your negligence of my directions, and because of your being apathetic to the demigods, everything was inauspicious. O haughty one, you will have two contemptuous sons born of your condemned womb. Unlucky woman, they will cause constant lamentation to all the three worlds! They will kill poor, faultless living entities, torture women and enrage the great souls.“
Srimad Bhagavatham: Canto 3 – Chapter 14: Pregnancy of Diti in the evening – Verses 38 , 39 & 40.
Thus the two most vicious demons Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were born because of performing the act at an inappropriate time and not according to scriptural injunctions. The effect of this act is also mentioned in Bhagavad Gita:
Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 1 – Observing the Armies on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra – Verse 40
“When there is deliberate negligence of the regulative principles of religious life, the women as a class become polluted, and as a result there are unwanted children. When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krsna, the women of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrsni, comes unwanted progeny.”
Hence, moderation and restraint in any activity is essential to lead a sane and ideal life.
Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 6 – Sankhya Yoga – Verse 16
“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.”