strī स्त्री

Definition: Is the ordinary word in poetry and prose for 'woman,' without special reference to her as a wife or as a maiden. Nārī has the same sense, but disappears in later prose, while Gnā refers only to the wives of the gods, and Yoçit, with its cognate words, denotes the young woman as ripe for marriage. In the Rigveda Strī stands opposed to Pumāms, ‘ man,’ and once to vrsan, ‘ male person not until the Atharvaveda does it mean ‘ wife ’ as opposed to Pati, ‘ husband,’ and even in the Sūtras it is sharply opposed to Jāyā. In Vedic India by far the greater part of a woman’s life was taken up in her marriage and marital relations (see Pati and Mātj?). There is no trace in the Rigveda of the seclusion of women, which was practically complete in all but the earliest Epic: the maiden may be assumed to have grown up in her father’s house, enjoying free intercourse with the youth of the village, and sharing in the work of the house. Educa¬tion was not denied to them, at any rate in certain cases, for we hear in the Upaniṣads of women who could take no unimportant part in disputations on philosophical topics. Moreover, women were taught to dance and sing, which were unmanly accomplishments. Of the exact legal position of daughters the notices are few and meagre. The Rigveda, however, shows that in the place of a father the brother was looked to for aid, and that brother- less maidens were apt to be ruined, though religious terrors were believed to await the man who took advantage of their defencelessness. Moreover, women could not take an inheritance, and were not independent persons in the eyes of the law, whether married or not. Presumably before marriage they lived on their parents or brothers, and after that on their husbands, while in the event of their husbands predeceasing them, their relatives took the property, burdened with the necessity of maintaining the wife. Their earnings would be appropriated by their nearest relative—usually father or brother —in the few cases in which unmarried women could earn anything, as in the case of courtezans.


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