Friday, April 22, 2016

Chanakya and his views about women- Part II

One of the most popular posts of my blog is 'Chanakya and his views about women'. I wrote it back in 2012, it is almost four years since this post was published, so now it is time to update it. Many people read that post and shared their views about it. I request readers interested in discussions related to this post to go through the comment section of it to see how different people perceived the post very differently. Let me warn you that it is very lengthy, but people who are really interested in such discussions might find it worthy of their valuable time. Some readers accused me of trying to malign the name of great Chanakya. I don't know on what basis this accusation was leveled against me, but let me clarify that Chanakya is a legend in many ways, but he is not above criticism, analysis or scrutiny by anyone like any other great historical figure, so there are and will be lots of articles, books or blog posts written about his work and my post is just one of them. It was not written with any bad intention and I don't think it is easy for anyone to malign the image of anyone like Chanakya. Some tried to defend the quotes mentioned in the post, it is all there in that discussion section, please go through it if you are interested. Recently I read one message sent to me by Mr. Tapan Joshi where he explained me why he thinks my post portrays wrong or misleading interpretations of Chanakya's views about women. I think this message is worth sharing. I always appreciate counter views, I think we all should listen patiently and attentively to people who disagree with us, it is very important. I like whenever people try to make a point by using rational approach. Whether I agree with their point or not is really immaterial, but I feel that anyone interested in any topic should try to read all possible sides of any topic to get the complete picture about that subject. This is the main intention behind sharing Tapan's comment about this topic.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.
Tapan sent following message to me, I am quoting his message with minimum corrections. He starts with warning me (or anyone) about dangers of wrong interpretation because of lack of good knowledge of Sanskrit (the language in which original works of Chanakya are written).
"What people need to understand is that Chankya's literature is in Sanskrit and those who have not learnt Sanskrit properly or the grammar, or cannot interpret Sanskrit should keep their opinions to themselves and not spoil literature of such kind.
A very fair warning, but I didn't interpret any of those verses as I don't understand Sanskrit, I just used popular translations of Chanakya's work available in the public domain, so if those translations are wrong or corresponding author misinterpreted anything then obviously I am also wrong. 

Then he makes a very good point, "A Sanskrit word can have multiple meanings and the meaning should be put in, in reference to the context. This message is for those people who have wrongly interpreted Chanakya Niti, and Arthashastr and other books like the Vedas, which has caused great ignorance and foolish beliefs.
It is true that many of these ancient texts, some of which are in the form of poetry can be interpreted in various ways. That is why we see many different interpretations of the same verse from the Gita or Quran or any other ancient book, but it is not an easy task to decide which one is the correct interpretation and which one is not. That's why we need to look into all interpretations and discuss them.  

He has provided very different interpretations of some of the verses which I quoted in my post (quotes from my post are highlighted in bold). They are very interesting. 

Coming to Chanakya's views on Women, in Arthashastr written by Arya (Noble) Chanakya BOOK 4 CHAPTER 12, 1) It is repeated many times ' No man shall have sexual intercourse with a woman against her will' 2) When a man refuses to stay in a marriage with a his wife as agreed upon, he shall be fined 200 panas. You will find many such instances in the book. Also, the verses from Chanakya Niti you have quoted are wrongly interpreted- 1) Chapter 1, verse 17, Women have hunger two fold, shyness four fold, daring six fold and lust eight fold compared to men.. You don't need to wonder anything here. It is self explained, but still if you don't get it, I'll interpret it for you, Women have 2 fold hunger- Well women give birth to children, help them grow, hence their food has to be nutritious, good and double that of a man. There is no mention of shyness in the verse, in fact, instead of shyness the word 'Buddhi' is used, hence the verse becomes women have four times more Brain, it is evident as women are doing better than men today (the sanskrit verse is-' striNaam dviguN aahaaro BUDDHISTAASAAM (no mention of shyness) chaturguNsaahasam ShadaguNam chaiva kaamoaShTaguN uchyate). Their daring is 6 times more than that of a man. Women are not that daring and strong compared to men, but if a woman shows some daring, then that is 6 times more powerful than a man. Now the word Kaam is used here not lust, there is a difference. Men who ejaculate during Reproduction, after ejaculation for some time their sexual desire decreases or comes to rest, but not in the case of a woman. Hence Kaam is 8 times more in a woman than that of a man. Such a beautiful verse wrongly interpreted by foolish, ignorant people who do not understand Sanskrit. 

2) One should not place trust in rivers, animals with horns, armed ones, women or in ruling familiesCongrats another wrongly interpreted verse (and that too not knowing what the Sanskrit verse says). Here is the verse and I will explain each word, ' naditire cha ye vrukshaha- the trees growing on the banks of the river, parageheShu kaamini- a woman who is not faithful by comiting adultry by going to other people's houses. MantrihinaaShcha raajaanaha- a king without ministers, shighram nashyantasamshayama- these without doubt destroy themselves very soon. Another verse copied and pasted from somewhere. Before finding fault with someone please ensure you are right and not mislead people. In fact Chanakya says chapter 4 verse 20- There are 5 mothers namely, King's wife, Teacher's wife (if applicable, it can be a female teacher), Friend's wife, own wife's mother (mother in law), and our birthplace. He also says- chapter 5 verse 9 -Satstriyaa rakshayte gruham- A woman is the one who protects a house. 

3) Fire, water, women, fool, snake and the royal family, beware of all these, they can prove fatalAnother baseless claim, there is no mention of the word woman in this verse, the verse is in chapter 9 verse 7- ahim- snake, nrupam cha- and King, shardulam- tiger or cheetah, kiTim cha- pig, baalakam tatha- a small child, parashvaanam cha murkham- someone's dog , a fool, sapta suptaan na bodhayeta-never wake up these 7 when they are in sleep. Also chapter 12 verse 13- the one who sees a woman as his mother, other's wealth as a heap of sand, and all animals same as him (they too have a right to live), he sees everything as it is. 

4) women who keeps fast without permission of her husband shortens the life of her husbandShe goes to hell and is punished with great horrors of hellAnother myth- so let's break it. This verse is found in chapter 17 verse 9- He only says those women who fast (that is not eat food) for no reason. In Ayurved you are supposed to fast only if you are unwell (like a stomach problem), so women who fast for no reason trouble the husband as he is worried about her and she herself suffers a lot from not eating anything. 

5) 'For good days one should save money, women should be protected even if it takes the money saved. But for self preservation the money and the women should be sacrificed!!.' Another claim not backed by proofs and lack of understanding. Chapter 1 verse 6-Aapadarshey dhanam rakshed- protect money for emergency situations, daaraan rakshedhanairapi- protect your wife more than money. aatmanam satatam rakshed- protect yourself more than money and your wife, daarairapi dhanairapi- because if you are not alive, than what is the use of money to you and the use of you to your wife. 

So you have quoted these wrongly translated verses from a foreign author who clearly has no knowledge in Sanskrit and is keen on giving Chanakya and Indian literature a bad name. So just see what you have done, you have wrongly accused Chanakya and spoiled his name and his book and mislead hundreds of people. I would like your response on this matter and please ask you to take you words back. My objective is just to know the truth and reject untruth. I was not able to post this as a comment on blogger so I decided to send u a message.

I ignore any personal remarks made against me in any comment if it provides any relevant or useful information related to the topic. There is no point in getting personal as it doesn't contribute anything to the topic of discussion. So I am going to follow the same principle here also. I still find problems with some of interpretations quoted by Tapan: 1. The explanation offered for women having kaam (sexual desire) 8 times more than men, doesn't make any sense to me. 4. Why is it assumed by scholar like Chanakya that women don't have an understanding of their own health to decide when to keep fast and when not? 5. Will Chanakya offer the same advice to women if they face such a difficult choice? If he will, then this verse should have been a gender neutral. 

I am not discussing number 2 and 3 as Tapan wrote that translations which I used are wrong, so as I mentioned already, if the translation itself is wrong, then obviously my criticism is not valid, but as long as these translations are out there in the public domain, and are published by reputed publishers people like me will always refer to them. The only way to minimize such occurrences is to publish correct and authenticated translations certified by some independent and reliable authority so that everyone has access to them. I am doing my bit by publishing alternative view on my blog, I hope this helps to continue our discussion on the important topic of gender discrimination.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.


  1. Hi Vinay! Thank you for your blog post! I'll try to clear some of the questions you have raised.

    3)"The explanation offered for women having kaam (sexual desire) 8 times more than men, doesn't make any sense to me."- This is an actual fact, once a man ejaculates, his kaam ceases to exist, but a woman's kaam doesn't. There is no misogyny here.

    4) "Why is it assumed by scholar like Chanakya that women don't have an understanding of their own health to decide when to keep fast and when not?" All of Sanskrit Literature wasn't written in one period. It has been added for hundreds of years. So some prevailing practices in the society during the writer's time, will be mentioned in his works. It may be possible that ridiculous practices like fasting for the health of one's husband was unfortunately present during Chanakya's time, so he may have written a verse in its criticism.
    It may also be possible that this verse is interpolated and has been added on later on. More research is needed to say anything further about it. Sanskrit literature is famous for being interpolated by greedy Brahmins and the notorious Max Muller.

    5) "Will Chanakya offer the same advice to women if they face such a difficult choice?" Yes! In Sanskrit we use Alankaars to convey deep messages in as little words as possible. So it is a tradition in Sanskrit literature to encompass everything when/if applicable to it. For example, people are advised to be trai vedis (master of three vedas), but in reality it means that they have to master all the four vedas.
    Moreover, verses are written in chandas (metre), the number of syllables in each verse of the book, which has to be the same. Mahabharat for example is entirely written in Anushtup chanda (32 syllables). So a writer is restricted in the things he/she can say. So this verse is gender neutral and encompasses women too. Same should be for any other verse, if it is applicable.

  2. Hi Vinay,
    Nice Blog very informative great work.
    Few teachings by Chanakya -
    1. The good men should never depend on the others strength.
    2. Leave your enemies if you want to save your wealth
    3. An intelligent will never have any enemy.
    4. Only intelligent have the opportunities.
    5. Even a sandalwood tree burns in the forest fires.
    6. Serve elderly people and you will gain true knowledge
    7. Always help the right people and right activities.
    8. Use your mind and most of the people aren't. You follow something only when you have a valid reason to do that particular thing.
    9. Chanakya teachings even today impart a lot of knowledge if one learns their true meaning.