Chastity in Women

Glorification of Chaste Women

“According to Vedic culture, even if a young woman is given an old husband, she must respectfully serve him. This is chastity. It is not that because she dislikes her husband she may give him up and accept another.” (SB 9.3.20, purport)

We are not encouraging you to marry an old, decrepit husband, but we want to stress the principle of loyalty and faithfulness to one’s religiously married husband, an idea Srila Prabhupada stressed so many times:

“A girl is trained from the very beginning that: ‘You should remain chaste,’ that is dharma. It is called Satita dharma. Sati means chastity. There are many stories of Sati, chaste woman. Nala-Damayanti… husband became so poverty-stricken. He was king, but he became later on so poverty-stricken that he had no sufficient cloth. The husband and wife was putting on the same cloth, half and half. So still, still there was no divorce. You see.”

Damayanti was a king’s daughter, a princess, but although the husband fell into poverty she didn’t consider leaving him.

“These are some of the extreme examples of chastity. Not to speak of olden days, I have seen in Bombay, in 1935 or ’34, on the roadside, there was a beggar. The beggar, the face was defaced. Might be some accident. His eyes and everything became defaced. He could not see, everything became useless. So he, he was sitting on the roadside, and his wife also, also sitting. But I saw that beggar was neat and clean. The wife was also neat and clean. The wife’s business was that to keep the husband always neat and clean and fresh and bring him there and again take him at home. Young woman. So I could understand that the wife is so chaste. She has not left such ugly husband.” (Lecture on Bg 1.40, London, 28 July 1973)

The Power of Chastity

The Sri Caitanya-caritamrita speaks of a lady of outstanding chastity and the powers she developed:

“The wife of a brahmana suffering from leprosy manifested herself as the topmost of all chaste women by serving a prostitute to satisfy her husband. She thus stopped the movement of the sun, brought her dead husband back to life and satisfied the three principal demigods [Brahma, Visnu and Mahesvara].” (Cc Antya-lila 20.57)
Srila Prabhupada elaborates in the purport:

“The Aditya Purana, Markandeya Purana and Padma Purana tell about a brahmana who was suffering from leprosy but had a very chaste and faithful wife. He desired to enjoy the company of a prostitute, and therefore his wife went to her and became her maidservant, just to draw her attention for his service. When the prostitute agreed to associate with him, the wife brought her the leprotic husband. When that leper, the sinful son of a brahmana, saw the chastity of his wife, he finally abandoned his sinful intentions. While coming home, however, he touched the body of Markandeya Rsi, who thus cursed him to die at sunrise. Because of her chastity, the woman was very powerful. Therefore when she heard about the curse, she vowed to stop the sunrise. Because of her strong determination to serve her husband, the three deities- namely Brahma, Visnu and Mahesvara- were very happy, and they gave her the benediction that her husband would be cured and brought back to life.”

This is an excerpt from the Bhakti Marriages Course “Get Ready for Married Life for Women” from ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry, prepared by Sri Radha Govinda Dasi.