Different roles a wife plays

We had seen in the previous article that even though Shakuntala was full of anger, words of great wisdom flowed from her lips; that Dushyanta acted ignorant in order to allow Shakuntala’s hidden knowledge to flower. Let us continue exploring what Shakuntala then said.

Shakuntala continues “O noble king, it is me, your wife, standing in your presence, worthy I am of being worshipped, but instead you rain insult on me as if I am of fallen cast and belong with the woman in the street. Is my pleading in vain and my crying just a shout in wilderness? If you keep ignoring me, your head will explode into a thousand pieces.”

Shakuntala was unaware that Dushyanta was acting ignorant. He was doing this to free her from the anger that was trapped in her unconscious mind, which she could vent in her words. She threatens Dushyanta with the power of her austerity, little knowing about its powers.

Shakuntala continues “the great Rishies of yonder knew that the husband enters the wife as a sex cell and through her, his form returns as the son. This role played by the wife is known as ‘Jaaya’ and the son that is born is called ‘Putra’.” Here, Shakuntala is describing a very deep science where the form of the husband reappears as the son. The word she uses is ‘Jaaya’ from the Sanskrit root ‘Jan’ meaning to give birth to. Therefore when a woman marries, she is called ‘Patni’, but when pregnant she is known as ‘Jaaya’. Putra comes from ‘Pu’ + ‘Tra’; Pu stands for purgatory or suffering and Tra is to transcend. She is revealing that the father transcends suffering by the birth of a son.

Shakuntala further adds, “The ‘Patni’ is the one who is clever in running the household and willing to give birth to children; her life-force is always centred on her husband.” ‘Patni’ come from the root Pa, which has two meanings, one is to give to drink and the other is to protect in the sense of nourishment. Here, Shakuntala is explaining that a wife nourishes her husband’s soul by giving him the drink of love.

Shakuntala also explains another role of a wife – that as a ‘Bharya’, coming from the roots ‘Bhru’, meaning to fill (or pervade), and Bharthru, meaning a leader or a supporter. Shakuntala remarks that “Only a woman understands the secret of manifestation, for it is only she who knows the secret behind giving birth.” The sages say that all manifestation is born out of a combination of the three forces. She is thus explaining that all events in one’s life are controlled by the three forces and because a woman knows their secret, it brings ‘Anand’ (happiness), ‘Lakshmi’ (prosperity), and ‘Dharma’ (religiosity) into the life of her husband. When she plays this role to perfection, her husband experiences the highest bliss and enjoys over-flowing wealth. When the wife plays this role, people see the husband as a trustworthy person.

Shakuntala then talks about the wife’s role called ‘Priyamvada’, from ‘Pri’ meaning to please, be a friend, and to soothe and ‘Vada’ meaning to speak pleasing words. She adds “In times of solitude, the ‘Priyamvada’ fills the heart of the husband with the elixir of friendship. During calamities and trying times, she comes forth as a mother nursing the husband through his period of difficulty. Also, when the husband performs religious rites, she becomes a paternal guardian to channelize his energies in the right direction; and provides for those travellers who pass by his door, like a dense tree that shades from the scorching sun.”

She finally talks of the role of ‘Kaanta’. This comes from the root ‘Kaam’ meaning desire depicting the wife as a fulfiller of the husband’s innermost desire. She says, “O King, the deepest desire in all men is that of continuity (through the birth of a son); even the great sages with all their powers and knowledge had to marry to quench this thirst of continuity. In this role fulfilling the deepest desire of man, the wife is known as ‘Kaanta’. She is the bearer of ‘Rati’ (fulfilment), ‘Preeti’ (love), and ‘Dharma’ (the natural law of continuity). Hence, even when a man is trembling with intense anger, he should never insult or hurt a woman for in doing so, he will only be depriving his own destiny of all these three (Rati, Preeti, and Dharma) and doing so delays eventual salvation and fulfilment.”

Dushyanta then replied “You have been born out of passion and sexuality; you are of a lower cast and speak like a prostitute. I do not know you or your son. It seems you always speak the untruth; who will ever trust you, please go away!”

To this, Shakuntala replied “I will go but please accept your son; even if you don’t, his destiny is to rule the earth, so I am leaving.”

As Shakuntala was about to leave, a heavenly voice spoke from the sky “O Dushyanta, this is your wife and son. Please accept and look after him, his name shall be Bharata. This great land, which has been looked after by the blessings of the great sages shall be named after him.”

Dushyanta then explains Shakuntala how he acted in a low and demeaning manner to destroy the last vestige of ego in the form of self-image in her so that she could reap the fruits of her years of austerity. On dissolution of the ego, the inner light reveals itself, depicted by the heavenly voice.

In the previous articles, we had discussed about cause, effect, ends, and motives. Within the words of Shakuntala where she talks about father, son, fore-fathers and sons of sons, I would urge readers to try and decipher the deeper play of cause and effect.