The word Avarodha which indicated the strictest type of seclusion, is also
to be found in the literary works of the classical period.(16 a) But it cannot be traced
in Vatsyayana book. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the word was in vogue
even before the beginning of the Christian Era, as it is clearly proved by its occurrence
in Rock Edict VI of Asoka.
Hence, it can be concluded that the practice of the seclusion of women
was prevalent at least as early the Maurya period; for the word occurs in Kautilya: as
well as in the inscriptions of Asoka. But perhaps the earliest reference to the existence
of this custom can be inferred from that Sutra of Panini (17)
which teaches us the
formation of the word Asuryampasya which is explained by a commentator, the author of the
Kasika, as Asuryampasya Rajadarah. (Those who do not see the sun are the wives of
This shows that in the time of Panini, a most rigid type, of seclusion
existed in the royal families. Panini has been assigned to the fifth century B.C. The
practice of Purdah must have come into vogue before his time. The word Asurayampasya is
known to Sanskrit literature and has been used with reference to the princess figuring in
the historical drama Kaumudimahotsavah. 18
If Panini lived and wrote in the 5th century B.C., we may
reasonably assume that this change in society, at least in the., royal families, as Panini
directly refers to royal households, must have taken place at least a century previously.
But the epics and classical Sanskrit literature do not indicate seclusion of such a
rigorous type as is implied by the term Asurayampasya: which suggests that such a rigid
seclusion was probably more prevalent in that part of the country where Panini lived.