The Status Of Women As Depicted By Manu In The Manusmriti

Written by August 27, 2011 7:29 pm 359 comments

The Manusmriti also known as Manav Dharam Shastra, is the earliest metrical work on Brahminical Dharma in Hinduism. According to Hindu mythology, the Manusmriti is the word of Brahma, and it is classified as the most authoritative statement on Dharma .The scripture consists of 2690 verses, divided into 12 chapters.  It is presumed that the actual human author of this compilation used the eponym ‘Manu’, which has led the text to be associated by Hindus with the first human being and the first king in the Indian tradition.

Although no details of this eponymous author’s life are known, it is likely that he belonged to a conservative Brahman class somewhere in Northern India. Hindu apologists consider the Manusmriti as the divine code of conduct and, accordingly, the status of women as depicted in the text has been interpreted as Hindu divine law.  While defending Manusmriti as divine code of conduct for all including women, apologists often quote the verse: “yatr naryasto pojyantay, ramantay tatr devta [3/56] (where women are provided place of honor, gods are pleased and reside there in that household), but they deliberately forget all those verses that are full of prejudice, hatred  and discrimination against women.

Here are some of the ‘celebrated’ derogatory comments about women in the Manusmriti :

1. “Swabhav ev narinam …..” – 2/213. It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; for that reason the wise are never unguarded in the company of females.

2. “Avidvam samlam………..” – 2/214. Women, true to their class character, are capable of leading astray men in this world, not only a fool but even a learned and wise man. Both become slaves of desire.

3. “Matra swastra ………..” – 2/215. Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.

4. “Naudwahay……………..” – 3/8. One should not marry women who has have reddish hair, redundant  parts of the body [such as six fingers], one who is often sick, one without hair or having excessive hair and one who has red eyes.

5. “Nraksh vraksh ………..” – 3/9. One should not marry women whose names are similar to constellations,  trees, rivers, those from a low caste, mountains, birds, snakes, slaves or those whose names inspires terror.

6. “Yasto na bhavet ….. …..” – 3/10. Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known.

7. “Uchayangh…………….” – 3/11. Wise men should marry only women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace/gait like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.

8. “Shudr-aiv bharya………” – 3/12.Brahman men can marry Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaish and even Shudra women but Shudra men can marry only Shudra women.

9. “Na Brahman kshatriya..” – 3/14. Although Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaish men have been allowed inter-caste marriages, even in distress they should not marry Shudra women.

10. “Heenjati striyam……..” – 3/15. When twice born [dwij=Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaish] men in their folly marry low caste Shudra women, they are responsible for the degradation of their whole family. Accordingly, their children adopt all the demerits of the Shudra caste.

11. “Shudram shaynam……” – 3/17. A Brahman who marries a Shudra woman, degrades himself and his whole family  ,becomes morally degenerated , loses Brahman status and his children too attain status  of shudra.

12. “Daiv pitrya………………” – 3/18. The offerings made by such a person at the time of established rituals are neither accepted by God nor by the departed soul; guests also refuse to have meals with him and he is bound to go to hell after death.

13. “Chandalash ……………” – 3/240. Food offered and served to Brahman after Shradh ritual should not be seen by a chandal, a pig, a cock,a dog, and a menstruating women.

14. “Na ashniyat…………….” – 4/43. A Brahman, true defender of his class, should not have his meals in the company of his wife  and even avoid looking at her. Furthermore, he should not look towards her when she is having her meals or when she sneezes/yawns.

15. “Na ajyanti……………….” – 4/44. A Brahman in order to preserve his energy and intellect, must not look at women who applies collyrium to her eyes, one who is massaging her nude body or one who is delivering a child.

16. “Mrshyanti…………….” – 4/217. One should not accept meals from a woman who has extra marital relations; nor from a family exclusively dominated/managed by women or a family whose 10 days of impurity because of death have not passed.

17. “Balya va………………….” – 5/150. A female child, young woman or old woman is not supposed to work independently even at her place of residence.

18. “Balye pitorvashay…….” – 5/151. Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.

19. “Asheela  kamvrto………” – 5/157. Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands.

20. “Na ast strinam………..” – 5/158. Women have no divine right to perform any religious ritual, nor make vows or observe a fast. Her only duty is to obey and please her husband and she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.

21. “Kamam to………………” – 5/160. At her pleasure [after the death of her husband], let her emaciate her body by living only on pure flowers, roots of vegetables and fruits. She must not even mention the name of any other men after her husband has died.

22. “Vyabhacharay…………” – 5/167. Any women violating duty and code of conduct towards her husband, is disgraced and becomes a patient of leprosy. After death, she enters womb of Jackal.

23. “Kanyam bhajanti……..” – 8/364. In case women enjoy sex with a man from a higher caste, the act is not punishable. But on the contrary, if women enjoy sex with lower caste men, she is to be punished and kept in isolation.

24. “Utmam sevmansto…….” – 8/365. In case a man from a lower caste enjoys sex with a woman from a higher caste, the person in question is to be awarded the death sentence. And if a person satisfies his carnal desire with women of his own caste, he should be asked to pay compensation to the women’s faith.

25. “Ya to kanya…………….” – 8/369. In case a woman tears the membrane [hymen] of her Vagina, she shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off and made to ride on Donkey.

26. “Bhartaram…………….” – 8/370. In case a women, proud of the greatness of her excellence or her relatives, violates her duty towards her husband, the King shall arrange to have her thrown before dogs at a public place.

27. “Pita rakhshati……….” – 9/3. Since women are not capable of living independently, she is to be kept under the custody of her father as child, under her husband as a woman and under her son as widow.

28. “Imam hi sarw………..” – 9/6. It is the duty of all husbands to exert total control over their wives. Even physically weak husbands must strive to control their wives.

29. “Pati bharyam ……….” – 9/8. The husband, after the conception of his wife, becomes the embryo and is born again of her. This explains why women are called Jaya.

30. “Panam durjan………” – 9/13. Consuming liquor, association with wicked persons, separation from her husband, rambling around, sleeping for unreasonable hours and dwelling -are six demerits of women.

31. “Naita rupam……………” – 9/14. Such women are not loyal and have extra marital relations with men without consideration for their age.

32. “Poonshchalya…………” – 9/15. Because of their passion for men, immutable temper and natural heartlessness, they are not loyal to their husbands.

33. “Na asti strinam………” – 9/18. While performing namkarm and jatkarm, Vedic mantras are not to be recited by women, because women are lacking in strength and knowledge of Vedic texts. Women are impure and represent falsehood.

34. “Devra…sapinda………” – 9/58. On failure to produce offspring with her husband, she may obtain offspring by cohabitation with her brother-in-law [devar] or with some other relative [sapinda] on her in-law’s side.

35. “Vidwayam…………….” – 9/60. He who is appointed to cohabit with a widow shall approach her at night, be anointed  with clarified butter and silently beget one son, but by no means a second one.

36. “Yatha vidy……………..” – 9/70. In accordance with established law, the sister-in-law [bhabhi] must be clad in white garments; with pure intent her brother-in-law [devar] will cohabitate with her until she conceives.

37. “Ati kramay……………” – 9/77. Any women who disobey orders of her lethargic, alcoholic and diseased husband shall be deserted for three months and be deprived of her ornaments.

38. “Vandyashtamay…….” – 9/80. A barren wife may be superseded in the 8th year; she whose children die may be superseded in the 10th year and she who bears only daughters may be superseded in the 11th year;  but she who is quarrelsome may be superseded without delay.

39. “Trinsha……………….” – 9/93. In case of any problem in performing religious rites, males between the age of 24 and 30 should marry a female between the age of 8 and 12.

40. “Yambrahmansto…….” – 9/177. In case a Brahman man marries Shudra woman, their son will be called ‘Parshav’ or ‘Shudra’ because his social existence is like a dead body.

This post was written by:

- who has written 2 posts on Nirmukta.


  • The article doesn’t mention that punishment of adultery for women and men was different and homosexuality as well was different. Some groups like Arya Samaj eschew all scriptures post Vedas but most hindus don’t , if you google search for the manu smriti hindutva-leaning sites some crude, some sophisticated pops up all essentially claiming that caste was not hereditary and women were treated well and had choice which is untrue. They refuse to deal with polygamy and widow remarriage and caste. It’s pretty partial to Brahmin men, in fact it revolves around them.

    He who has associated with outcasts, he who has approached the wives of other men and he who has stolen the property of a Brahmin becomes [after death] a brahmarakshas [fierce devil]. It is declared that a Shudra woman alone [can be] the wife of a Shudra, she and one of his own caste [the wives] of a Vaishya, those two and one of his own caste [the wives] of a Kshatriya, those three and one of his own caste [the wives] of a Brahmin . Twice-born (‘upper’ caste) men, who, in their folly, wed wives of the low [Shudra] caste soon degrade their families and their children to the state of Shudras. According to Atri and to [Gautama] the son of Uthaya, he who weds a Shudra woman becomes an outcast . A Brahmin who takes a Shudra wife to his bed will [after death] sink into hell; if he begets a child by her he will lose the rank of a Brahmin.
    A [man of ] low [caste] who makes love to a maiden [of] the highest [caste] shall suffer corporal punishment.

    The property of a Brahmin must never be taken by the king, that is a settled rule; but [the property of men] of other castes the king may take on failure of all [heirs]. Let the king corporally punish all those [persons] who either gamble and bet or afford [an opportunity for it], likewise Shudras who assume the distinctive marks of twice-born [men].

  • Buddhism is far more superior to Hinduism and it is a shame when Hindus assume that they are all Hindus and there is no Buddhism as per say. Buddha put all th Brahmin to shame when he said the following. The system that divided people on the basis of their birth was unjust. He highly condemned the caste system because as per his perspective there were brutal and barbaric people in the upper caste and also kind and virtuous people in the lower caste.This is the sole reason why Gautam Buddha condemned and highly criticized the Varna system and Vedic literature because it preached caste system and discrimination. Buddha’s principle was highly humanistic as his principle was purely based on reason & logic, unlike the Brahmanism which practiced inequality and chaturvarna. According to Buddha, the priestly class were the people who were learned and not who were superstitious and blindly followed the scriptures or the one who were born in a Brahman family. Buddha did upset the entire Brahman concept of caste by stating the distinction was purely arbitrary and not divinely ordained as people thought of. He abolished the varna dharma and welcomed all types of people including the lower caste people (For instance, the barber barber shown in Zee TV Buddha) to join Buddhism so that they could enter a society which was based on spiritual fraternity and not according to the house where he was produced. According to the Buddha, the social organization was based on two aspects karuna, that is respect and maitri, that is equality for all living beings. He insisted that one should not blindly follow the scriptures, and the so called truth mentioned in it, but, instead use reasoning or logic to know the truth in it. No wonder, he was very liberal in his approach. Lastly, though Buddha could not wipe off the so called divine caste system during his period completely, the social awakening created by him modified the social structure to a great extent!!!

    • Sir, the chaturvarna system you so criticize was not same in the early vedic period. It was remoulded and modified later. A counter view about the views of Buddha about women he also was not in the favor of women, he did not wanted them to join Sangha. one of the reasons he renounced the world was that he did not like the site of a sleeping women(they are so pretty asleep,as you may be aware) along with that of a dead body and an ill person. He was of the view as he maetions to Ananda(his favorite disciple)that Sangha got polluted because of the coming of women and Buddhism will collapse early because of this reason.

  • Good article but could be best if full verses are given.

  • Hinduism has a subtle philosophy here they portray themselves to be righteous as compared to other religions. However the Manuscript indicates that women are evil and should be treated badly an looked upon with suspicion. They imply forget that their mothers are women and they lived inside their mothers womb for nine month and were brought up until they were adults. Now these women are inferior, I have no word to describe their logic and intelligence and wonder who is really inferior? I will quote what Guru Nanak said about women
    “From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all”. Guru Nanak, Raag Aasaa Mehal 1, Page 473.
    Sati is an Indian custom of immolation of a woman on her dead husband’s funeral pyre either self-willingly or by societal inducement and compulsion. Guru Nanak say the following about this practice: “Do not call them ‘satee’, who burn themselves along with their husbands’ corpses. O Nanak, they alone are known as ‘satee’, who die from the shock of separation. Some burn themselves along with their dead husbands, but they need not, for if they really loved them they would endure the pain alive”. Sri Guru Granth Sahib page 787. Finally about dowry “Any other dowry, which the self-willed manmukh offer for show, is only false egotism and a worthless display. O my father, please give me the Name of the Lord God as my wedding gift and dowry”. — Sri Guru Granth Sahib page 79. Indian women should wake up and do not let the preferred and spoilt male child in the Indian society steal you human rights away. Most of them given special treatment as a boy are irresponsible and insensitive which is a given the way thy are spoilt rotten by the enabling parents.

  • also tell what he has said good about women. Manu dharma has many derogatory comments about men & women.but the intellectuals never talk about the good lines. A woman is not indebted to anyone except her husband. Her husband and son are indebted to her. Her father is responsible to raise her well and get her married. Her husband is responsible to keep her happy then on. Her son is responsible after his father’s vanaprastha. A woman’s safety and happiness are given high importance. Women are the source of happiness, in the sense that a happy woman keeps her surroundings always happy and prosperous. Manusmriti insists on this in many ways.where women are respected devatas will be happy. Where women are not respected, no the ritual or worship will be of any use.. If women are unhappy, the clan of those who cause it will be destroyed. If women are happy, the house and clan will prosper. If a woman is insulted, the entire clan (of those causing the insult to her) will be destroyed. Those who want to be happy, should keep women happy, respect her and treat her well. If woman is happy, the entire clan will be happy. If she is not, the entire clan will suffer

    • Satish Chandra


      There is nothing good about what you listed. They are a result of a patriarchal setup which severely restricts the freedom of women. Why should women need to be under protection of their fathers, husbands and sons? Because that society is so fucked up that they can’t let women make their decisions and chose how they live. Because in that society women who aren’t “owned” by the fathers, husbands and sons are “loose” characters and are fair game for anything. Unsurprisingly, setups where women are made to depend to fathers, husbands and sons also give rise to plenty of domestic abuse as women aren’t free to break away from relationships.

      And regarding the kind of “respecting women” that Manusmriti talks about, it gives rise to its own set of problems –

      In short, to see why even the “good lines” of Manusmriti aren’t so good, one only need to look at a any patriarchal setup that would make Manusmriti proud – like the khaps for example.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated. Please see our commenting guidelines