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Ideal Wife and Role: Description and Prayer for in Rigveda

In a set of three brilliant verses, sage Kaanva prays to Agni for a wife and describes the ideal characteristics of a wife as well as her spiritual and material role in life.

A preamble : सोमपीतये

Before turning to the verses, let us recall the meaning of the term सोमपीतये. In a seminal verse in the very second hymn of Rigveda, Vaisvamitra uses this catch term. In this verse, he advises all to turn pious before their time on earth approaches to an end.

वायो तव प्रपृञ्चती धेना जिगाति दाशुषे | उरूची सोमपीतये || (1.002.3)[1]

Revere Union Thou (वायो), turn pious (दाशुषे) before getting caught in the swiftly moving river (प्रपृञ्चती धेना जिगाति)[2] (of time/samsara). As on earth (उरूची) draws to an end (सो) time (मः), one must increase (पी) protection (तयः).

This preamble is necessary because सोमपीतये is hereafter used as catch phrase for turning pious before death approaches. In case of Indra, it is used as a double entendre, since it also mean drinking soma.

Ideal Wife

Praying for an ideal wife, sage Kaanva says:

अग्ने पत्नीरिहावह देवानामुशतीरुप | त्वष्टारं सोमपीतये || (1.022.9)[3]

Agni (I) implore to bring home a wife (पत्नीरिहावह),  like wives of gods having beautiful form (देवानामुशतीरुप); Formed in mind suitably (त्वष्टारं) so that before time finishes on earth (I) increase protection (सोमपीतये).

Bring me home a wife, Agni, pleads the sage. She must be beautiful in form (“like wives of gods having beautiful form), as well as favour piety in mind (“formed in mind suitably”), so that the husband can turn pious before his time on earth runs out.

The sage further adds that the wife must favour speech, i.e. must be well spoken as well as bless him with good speech.

आ ग्ना अग्न इहावसे होत्रां यविष्ठ भारतीम् | वरूत्रीं धिषणां वह || (1.022.10)[4]

Also the divine woman Agni bring hither favouring speech (आ ग्ना अग्न इहावसे होत्रां), very young (यविष्ठ) descendant of Bharata (भारतीम्); Guardian goddess (वरूत्रीं), understanding (धिषणां) supporting (वह).

Here the sage likens the ideal wife to a divine woman, well spoken (“favouring speech”).  She must be very young, and a descendant of Bharata. She must be a guardian goddess. She must be understanding and supporting.

Role of Wife

In the next verse, the sage describes the spiritual and material role of an actual wife.

अभि नो देवीरवसा महः शर्मणा नृपत्नीः | अच्छिन्नपत्राः सचन्ताम् || (1.022.11)[5]

For the sake of (अभि) prosperity (नो), Devi’s protection (देवीरवसा), abundance (महः), sheltering (शर्मणा) and guiding men is Wife (नृपत्नीः); Inseparable, bestowing rise/fall (अच्छिन्नपत्राः), obedient/love/serve/follow/aid till death comes upon (सचन्ताम्).

To repeat, a wife is there for the sake of one’s prosperity and for Devi’s protection. She is there to provide abundance and shelter. The wife guides men (नृपत्नीः). She is inseparable and the cause of men’s rise or fall. Very poignantly he adds that she loves or is obedient, or follows, or aids, or serves the husband till death. The word सच् has five meanings all of which fit the context.

Summary

The sage description of the ideal wife and her role bear summarizing.

She must be beautiful and pious (1.022.9). She must be divinely well spoken, very young, a descendant of Bharata. She must be a guardian goddess, understanding and supporting the husband (1.022.10)

Describing the role of an actual wife, he says, that she is there for the sake of one’s prosperity. She provides Devi’s protection. She provides abundance and shelter. She even guides men, for she is inseparable, and the cause of men’s rise or fall. She loves/serves/follows/obeys/aids the husband till death (1.022.11)

 


[1] Reverence Union (वा-यः) thou (तव) before coming in contact (प्र-पृञ्ज् = प्रपृञ्चती) with river (धेना) going swiftly (जिगत्नु = जिगाति) worship emancipation (दाशु-षः = दाशुषे) | Earth (उरूचि) finish time increase protection (सो-म-पी-तयः = सोमपीतये)

[2] before coming in contact (प्र-पृञ्ज् = प्रपृञ्चती) with river (धेना) going swiftly (जिगत्नु = जिगाति)

[3] अग्ने पत्नी – रिह् – आवह देवानाम् – उशती – रुप | त्वष्ट – अरं सो – म – पी – तये ||

Agni (अग्ने) wife (पत्नी) implore (रिह्) to bring home (आवह्) wives of gods (देवानाम्) beautiful (उशत् = उशती) form (रुप) | Formed in mind (तष्ट = तवष्ट) suitably  (अरम्) finish (सो) time (मः) increase (पी) protection (तय = तये)

[4] आ ग्ना अग्न इह – अवसे होत्रां यविष्ठ भारतीम् | वरूत्रीं धिषणां वह ||

Also (आ) divine woman (ग्ना) Agni (अग्न) hither (इह) favour (अवस् = अवसे) speech (होत्रां) very young (यविष्ठ) descendant of Bharata (भारतीम्) | Guardian goddess (वरूत्रीं) understanding (धिषणां) supporting (वह)

[5] अभि नो देवीर् – अवसा महः शर्मणा नृ – पत्नीः | अच्छिन्न – पत्राः सच् – अन्त – अम् ||

For the sake of (अभि) prosperity (नो) goddess (देवीर्) protection (अवस् = अवसा) abundance (मह) sheltering (शर्मण्य = शर्मणा) guiding men (नृ) wife (पत्नी) | inseparable (अच्छिन्न) fall down/soar (पत्) bestow (राः) to be obedient/love/serve/follow/aid (सच्) death (अन्त) come upon (अम्)

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