This represents a glorious epoch in history, about which we know very
little indeed. The description of this golden age of the past by Yama is in substantial
agreement with that of Harita. 'In olden days the investiture with the girdle of Muaja
grass was sanctioned for unmarried girls; so was the teaching of Vedas and the uttering of
Gayatri prescribed for them. They should be taught by a father, uncle or brother and not
by others; and the begging of alms is ordained to take place in their own house only.
Wearing of skins and the ragged clothe, as well as the Jata or plaited hair, has to be
We cannot historically trace the time when women were allowed to teach
the Vedas. Tradition has not handed down to posterity the literature detailing the
activities of these women. Be that as it may, we cannot doubt the truth of this statement.
Socially and politically the struggles of the country were from within and though hordes
of foreign tribes like the Hunas and the Arabs were pouring into the Indo-Gangetic plain
and western India, their influence was not palpable, but from the beginning of the
eleventh century a new change came in with the repeated attacks of the Muslim invaders who
not only carried away the wealth of India but also women whom they took as slaves.
With this important change in the political outlook, the elders of
society began to devise means of reclaiming these unfortunate abducted women into the
folds of Hindu society. A Smriti was composed which was attributed to Devala, consisting
of ninety-six verses, which recorded only the expatiatory ceremonies to be performed both
by men and women living in Mlechchas' houses, before they could be absorbed back into
The rigidity of the penance depended on the extent of the crime
committed. Women of all the four cases, who bad been either carried away by force, or had
transgressed the moral code were allowed to return after the performance of these rites,
but the extent of Prayaschittam or expatiation was less in the case of the lower castes.
For, the punishment of a Kshatriya woman is less by one-fourth than
that of the Brahmana woman, and the punishment of a Vaisya woman is less by one fourth of
that of the Kshatriya woman and the Sudra woman's punishment is one-fourth less than that
of the Vaisya woman. The limit up to which such expatiatory rites can purify a woman is a
stay of 20 to 25 days in the house of a Mlechcha, but if she becomes a mother, there is no
redemption for her. The Hindu children of such women have to abandon her even for the