By Swami Harshananda
Pativratā literally means ‘a woman deeply devoted to her husband’.
Conjugal felicity depends to a very great extent on mutual trust and concern between the husband and the wife. Though this was stressed as the general rule, the onus was much more on woman than on man. Perhaps to help the wife by moral support and encouragement, the virtue of being a pativratā, a chaste wife, was eulogized highly in the scriptures, especially in the dharmaśāstras and the purāṇas.
Characteristics of a Pativratā
A woman was considered to be pativratā if she observed the following:
- Single-minded devotion towards her husband
- Service to her husband
- The rigid observance of all the rules prescribed for her voluntarily and willingly
Pativratā as per Bṛhaspati
The definition of a pativratā given by Bṛhaspati and quoted by other authors of dharmaśāstras gives us, perhaps, the best idea of that ideal:
‘She is distressed when her husband is distressed and is delighted when he is delighted. She becomes emaciated and wears soiled clothes when her husband goes out on a journey. She dies when her husband dies!’
Paragons of Pativratā in History
The following women are held as the ideal pativratās fit to be emulated. They are:
Other lists include:
Pativratā as per Mahābhārata
The Mahābhārata describes how a devoted wife attained everything including yogic powers just by serving her husband. The story of Sāvitrī who succeeded in bringing her husband back from the clutches of Yama is too well-known to be repeated.
- Vanaparva chapters 205-206
- Yama is the god of death.
- Vanaparva of Mahābhārata, chapters 293-299
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore