Kadambari, Patralekha is described as wearing a veil of red cloth. This was,
however, not the general custom. Dhoyi, the author of the 12th century
poetical work, the Pavanaduta, relates that the women of Vijayapura (in
Bengal) did not observe the purdah system. Harshavardhana’s mother
Yasomati is found giving instructions to the ministers of the state before her
    The contemporary lawbooks and the Puranas give us pictures of the ideal
wife. She was the mainstay of the domestic life, and was a source of
happiness. Troubles and calamities were averted by her. She took care of the
family deity and entertained the guests. She rose before the others, paid
reverence to the elders of the family, and prepared food and condiments. She
was absolutely devoted to her husband. She did not utter his name, since this
action was believed to shorten his longevity. When the husband went abroad,
the wife removed her ornaments from her body. She avoided decorating
herself, as well as dancing, singing, and witnessing public festivals. Women
would participate in the religious activities of their husbands, but they could
not take to religious fast, perform vrata (a particular form of religious rite), or
go on pilgrimage without the consent of their husbands.
Legal Protection
As regards the general treatment of women, Brihaspati says that a woman
must be watched day and night by her mother-in-law and other women of the
family. The same authority lays down that if a man violates an unwilling
woman, his property is to be confiscated, and he shall be paraded on an ass.
The Smriti writers do not advocate the abandoning of the wife by the husband
for adultery, but on the contrary allow her to regain all her normal rights after
performance of the appropriate penance. The woman was to be abandoned
only if she had conceived as the result of the adultery. Some Smritis and
Puranas condemn women for their moral lapses. But other authorities give us
a different picture of the moral life of women. Women in general, says
Varahamihira, are pure and blameless; they deserve the highest honour and
respect. The same author castigates some writers for dilating only on the
vices of women instead of their virtues. This picture of the character of
women is reflected in the works of Kalidasa, Bana, Bhavabhuti, and other