From time immemorial Sita, Savitri, Damayanti, Nalayani, Anasuya and Draupadi have been regarded as sacred ideals of Indian womanhood. They are sublime and exemplary characters who have exalted womanhood to the height of divine perfection. Their purity, courage, patience and other virtues were subjected to severe testing, and nobly did they pass through these trials. Modern women should draw inspiration from their lives and try to tread their path. As long as such personalities continue to exercise their influence upon the lives and character of Indian ladies, so long they will be looked upon with admiration and reverence by their sisters of other countries.
Hindu women are, since the dawn of the early civilization, distinguished for their disinterested love and self-abnegation. What a wife is to a Hindu husband is well illustrated by a verse in the Ramayana where Sri Rama, referring to Sita, says:
Karyeshu Mantree, Karaneshu Dasee,
Dharmeshu Patnee, Kshamaya Dharitree,
Sneheshu Mata, Sayaneshu Rambha,
Rangecha Sakhi, Lakshmana Sa Priya Me.
In counsel she is my counselor, in action she is my servant, in religious performances she is my partner, in tolerance she is like the earth, in affection she is like my mother, in bed she is like the celestial Rambha and in play she is my companion. Such indeed, O Lakshmana, is my beloved.
This is the ideal of a wife. The eternal fidelity of a woman to her husband makes her an ideal of the feminine world. It makes her sublime and lofty.
Modesty is the ornament of women. To go beyond the boundary of modesty or to behave like a man, destroys the elegance, grace and beauty of the fair sex. Nothing can atone for the want of modesty in a woman, without which beauty is ungraceful.
Modesty is a fundamental virtue which a woman ought to possess. It is a wonderful mixture of humility, politeness, decency, elegance, gentleness and sweetness. Modesty is the most precious ornament of a woman. It is the mark of true nobility.
A woman without modesty is a flower without fragrance. She is a mere void although she possesses many other virtues. A modest woman is restrained by a sense of propriety. She has good behaviour and manners. A modest woman commands respect.
Modesty raises a woman to the status of divinity. O Devis! Do not waste your lives in fashion and passion. Walk on the path of righteousness.
The inspiring force of the home is woman. The home is the origin, the beginning of every form of social organization. It is the nursery of the nation. It is the sweet centre wherein children are trained for future citizenship. The woman illumines the home through the glory of motherhood. Under the personal influence of the mother, good habits, right conduct, formation of character are spontaneously created in children in a well-regulated home. The loving kindness and cultured gentleness of the mother help the children to quickly unfold their inherent talents and dormant capacities. Since children absorb ideas through suggestion and imitation, early training and impressions to create a lasting character can be imparted efficiently by mothers in the home. Therefore, the home is a beautiful training ground for building up of the character in children.
Women are also the backbone, bedrock, and basis for sustaining religion and national strength and prosperity. There is no difference between her and Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty, grace and prosperity. If the mother trains her children well, she is indeed rendering a great service to the nation and its national culture. There are ample opportunities for women to improve and increase national health and prosperity. They really build the nation. Mothers can use their talents and abilities to make the home a cradle of culture, character, personal ability and religious upheaval. It is therefore wrong to say that their life is stunted by attending to the duties of the home, or that no scope is given for their evolution and freedom. This is a sad mistake indeed! The life of a woman is as noble and serious as that of a man. Of this there is no doubt.
It is the woman who maintains the life and happiness of the home through her smile, tender affection, sweet speech, charming personality, grace and angelic presence. The home would be a real void without her. Without her presence, it would lose its peculiar charm and beauty.
If the woman is pure she can save and purify the man and the race. Women can make a home a sacred temple. The Hindu women have been the custodians of the Hindu race. The Hindu religion, the Hindu culture and civilization still survive in spite of the many foreign invasions, when other civilizations have come and gone, on account of the purity of the Hindu women. The women are taught to regard chastity as their most priceless possession. Religion is ingrained in Hindu women from their very childhood. They illumine and enliven the house through the glory of their purity. It is the secret of the endurance of the religion, civilization and culture.
It is therefore of benefit to know what the Great Ones have said about the ideal of conduct and deportment that a woman should try to live up to. Sri Rama instructs Kausalya, his mother, as follows: “To a woman so long as she is alive, the husband is indeed the Lord and God. That woman, who, though noblest of all and given to the practice of vows and fasts, does not look after her husband, will indeed obtain an unmeritorious future. Even if a woman has never bowed to the gods and has ceased to worship them, she obtains the highest heaven by serving her husband. A woman should be absorbed in the service of her husband, taking delight in his pleasure and his good. This is the path of the dharma, known for long ages, revealed in the Vedas, and remembered by the world. There is nothing more cruel for a woman to do than to desert her husband. To attend upon and to serve one’s husband is no doubt the highest duty of a woman. So long as a woman lives, her husband is her only master.”
The Hindu scriptures say that the husband is God to the wife, and that she must be obedient. Some ignorant persons take advantage of this and exercise undue authority over their wives and keep them under extreme subordination. Is this not a sad mistake? Woman is in no way inferior to man. The home is a cooperative organization. It flourishes on the principle of division of labour. The husband should not think that he is superior to his wife, simply because he is the earning member of the family. Women have a definite field of their own. They are mothers of the house.
The magnetic personality, intellectual attainments and extraordinary abilities of modern women are a standing monument to their undoubted equality with men. The personal influence of women at home is essential to unify the various interests of the family. It is women alone who can rear and nurse children. The husbands should treat their wives with intense love and respect. They should be regarded as equals in all respects and partners in life.