The Seven Wives: Lankan Style

Life in Taprobane
Women. Can't live with them; can't live without them. Men declared war, built monuments, wrote epics and did the strangest of the strange – all because of them. And of course, our forefathers were no exception. According to one of the chronicles (Dhatuwamsa) a king called Giri Abhaya built a town in the name of his consort – Somadevi – and aptly named it Soma Nagara. King Vattagamini Abhaya aka Valagamba (89 - 77 BC) built a monastery in honour of his (second) queen Somadevi called Somaramaya.

Wifely virtues expected by the ancient Sri Lankan society were merely mainly centered on chastity, religious fervour, sagacity and affability in conversation. Mahawamsa eulogizes the virtuousness and other wifely attributes of the consort of king Parakramabahu the Great (1153 – 1186 AC), thus:

"a dear consort who has come forth, rejoicing the eyes of the poeple, as the moon (rises) from the ocean, from (the house of) the great king Kittisirimegha, who loved him, the highest of rulers, as Sita loved Rama. Amongst all the ladies of the harem, many hundreds in number, she was by far his best loved. She loved the frail of the jewels and beyond her own husband who was like to be the king of the gods (Indra), she cared for none even as much as grass whoever he might be. She did what the Lord of Men wished, had friendly speech, was adorned with the ornament of many virtues such as faith, discipline and the like, was skillful in dance and song, possessed an intelligence (sharp) as the point of the Kusa grass, her heart was ever cooled by the practice of the virtue of pity"

One must be extremely lucky to find a woman of exceeding beauty, as well as beauty within. Though there are many notes of women of such nature written all over the history of this island, the marriage brought out the true colours of most women (and men too, I suppose).

“Conjugal affinities, in the contemporary Hindu society of India, was fundamentally different from that of Buddhist Sri Lanka. The conduct of the Indian wife was based on a perpetual code that was considered sacred and inviolable. But the attitude of the Sri Lankan society, guided by the most rational liberal doctrines in the world, was that marriage was a union that bound two individuals physically and spiritually. The partners of such a union were not entitled satisfy their unfiltered whims. Just because his sex, the husband could not treat his wife as a slave. He provided for her and gave his protection and affection to her. They lived as partners of a union that was governed by mutual love and affection, trust and responsibility.”

The Sattabharya Sutta defines seven types of wives, based on their attitude towards their husband:

1. Vadhaka Bharya (executioner): a wife who's rough and inconsiderate to her husband.

2. Chori Bharya (robber): she who wastes her husband's wealth and indulges in surreptitious misbehavior

3. Ayya Bharya (master): a wife who lords over her husband

4. Bhagini Bharya (sister): she who's obedient and adores her husband as if he was her elder brother

5. Sakhi Bharya (friend): she who is trustworthy, concerned and attached - as if her husband is her good friend

6. Daasi Bharya (servant): a wife who never tires of working to please her husband

7. Maata Bharya (mother): she who is loving, concerned, attentive and protective as if her husband was her son

Motherly types and the friendly types have been the most popular. The three evil ones, I suppose wouldn't have been the topic of conversation much, even then.

Source: Sri Lankan Women in Antiquity - Prof. Indrani Munasinghe

1 comment:

  1. Are you serious? Sattabharya Sutta? I've never heard of it! In Buddhism??