How is it justified that Harishchandra sold his wife, or that Pandu's sons bet against Draupadi in the Mahabharata?

FYI - They were never charged (at least I don't find any reference) for this - for example, Indra blessed Harishchandra and Yudhisthira made it to heaven (he was charged only for his half-truth but never for this). There are also various instances where married women are at their toes despite not being guilty.

Is Hinduism is a male-dominant culture?

I am only asking this in terms of religion and will happy to edit if it hurts someone sentiments.

  • 5
    Your question is only half truth. Harishchandra sold himself, his wife and his son. Not just his wife. And Yudhisthira bet his brothers and draupadi. You seem to deliberately conceal information. If Hinduism is a male dominant culture why does it have Femaile Gods? Shakti is the sacred feminine and divine energy without whom the is no matter or Sivam.
    – Bharat
    Jul 28 '14 at 5:28
  • @Bharat yup man you are true..but actually you can take my question another way round like - though we have female goddess though at instances man is consider supreme over female and yes the story is only half here ..but it is true which is why I posted my question here
    – Trialcoder
    Jul 28 '14 at 6:07

Raja Harishchandra was renowned for his justice and being religious. He had two unique qualities,first- he kept his word and never went back on what he uttered as a promise and second he never uttered a lie in his life.

The Story of Raja Harishchandra

once Vishwamitra(a great sage) approached Harishchandra and informed him of a promise made by the king during the sage's dream to donate his entire kingdom. Harishchandra was so virtuous, that he immediately made good his word and donated his entire kingdom to the sage and walked away with his wife and son.

Since, the entire world was under the sage after he donated his kingdom, the king had to go to Varanasi. This was now the only place outside the influence of the sage. But the sage proclaimed that for an act of donation to be completed, an additional amount as Dakshina (honorarium) had to be paid. Harishchandra, with no money in his hands, had to sell his wife and son to a Brahmin Grihastha to pay for the Dakshina. When the money collected still did not suffice for the purpose, he sold himself to a guard at the cremation ground, who was in charge of collecting taxes for the bodies to be cremated.

The king, his wife and son had to sustain tremendous hardships doing their respective chores. The king helped the guard cremate the dead bodies, while his wife and son were used as household helpers at the house of the Brahmin. Once, the son had been to the garden to pluck flowers for his master's prayer, when he was bitten by a snake and he died instantly. His mother, having nobody to sympathise for her, carried his body to the cremation grounds. In acute penury, she could not even pay the taxes needed to cremate him. Harishchandra did not recognise his wife and son. He asked the lady to sell her golden mangalasutra and pay the tax. It is at this instance that his wife recognises the man as her husband. She has a boon that her husband only could see her mangalasutra. Harishchandra then came to her and recognised her as his wife and was stung by pangs of agony.

But, Harishchandra, was dutybound by his job to perform the cremation only after the acceptance of the tax. So, he asked his wife, if she was willing to undergo further hardships and stand by him in this hour of calamity. The faithful wife readily gave assent. She had in her possession only a saree, a part of which was used to cover the dead body of her son. She offers half of her lone dress as the tax, which Harishchandra could accept and perform the last rites of his son. When she proceeded to remove her dress, miracles happened.

Lord Vishnu, Indra and all Devas and the sage Vishwamitra himself manifested themselves on the scene, and praised Harishchandra for his perseverance and steadfastness. They brought his son back to life. They also offered the king and his wife, instant places in heaven. Harishchandra refused, stating that he was bound to his master, the guard. The Devas then reveal that the guard was none other than Yama. He again refused, saying that he cannot leave behind his subjects, by Kshatriya Dharma. He asked for a place in heaven for all his subjects. But the gods refused, explaining that the subjects had their own Karma and they have to undergo them. The king was then ready to forego all his virtues and religiousness for his people, so that they could ascend to heaven leaving him behind. The gods, now immensely pleased with the unassailable character of the great king, offered heavenly abode to the king, the queen and all their subjects. The sage Vishwamitra helped to populate the kingdom again and installed Harishchandra's son as the king.

Conclusion: If you read the above story whatever Harishchandra did, he did for justice and being religious and he was tested for the qualities he possessed in which he passed. In the end he did not accept heaven which was being offered to only him, instead he was ready to forego all his virtues and religiousness for his people, so that they could ascend to heaven leaving him behind. Hence Hinduism is not about being male dominant culture, its only about the dharma.

Yudhisthira Story

Yudhisthira was known as Dharmaraja. Yudhisthira's true prowess was shown in his unflinching adherence to Satya (truth) and Dharma (righteousness to fulfill one's moral duty), which were more precious to him than royal ambitions, material pursuits and family relations.

Yudhisthira succumbed to Shakuni's challenge in the game of dice, while being a novice in it. Game of dice had certain rules, one of which was One can't quit in the middle of game until and unless he has lost whatever he possessed and had pride on. Yudhisthira lost everything one by one including his palace brothers, himself and wife.

Conclusion: Yudhisthira did all this because he was following his Dharm, he himself knew whatever happened with Draupadi was adharm but he was not able to do anything because he was tied to his Dharm and later for peace and establishment of dharm and righteousness Mahabharat yudh took place. Hence Hinduism is not about being male dominant culture, its only about the dharma.

  • 1
    Give Scriptural references
    – user12826
    Mar 28 '18 at 16:03

Hinduism is a dharmic religion where importance is given to personal dharma. And keeping one's words and promises, that is, observing truthfulness is considered as one of the best dharmas. Even truth is considered God Himself:

सत्यं बरह्म तपः सत्यं सत्यं सृजति च परजाः
सत्येन धार्यते लॊकः सवर्गं सत्येन गच्छति [MB - 12.183.1]

Truth is Brahma; Truth is Penance; it is Truth that creates all creatures. It is by Truth that the whole universe is upheld; and it is with the aid of Truth that one goes to heaven

So sometimes people to observe the dharma of truthfulness can also do things that are generally not done, like selling one's wife or life partner. In these situations, doing what's difficult to do for the sake of dharma adds value to a person character of being truthful and being a man of his words.


Harishchandra was know for his truthfulness. When Viswamitra informed him that he had promised to give his kingdom, he immediately gave up all his wealth and kingdom. But when Visamitra asked for dakshina (fee offered to guru) along with dana (donation), he had to sell his wife and son. When the money didn't suffice, he even sold himself to a guard at a cremation ground. Because he did all these not for his personal benefit but for the observance of truth, his acts which are generally condemnable, turned out to be virtuous.


Similarly, Ydhisthira was a Kshatriya (warrior) king and elder brother of all other Pandavas. Losing in a game puts prestige of the king at stake. So Yudhisthira being a Kshatriya tires to win the game again and again even by betting his brothers and himself, but loses due to cheating of Sakuni. So Sakuni prompts Yudhisthira that he can steal win back all these by betting the only thing he had left, Draupadi:

O king, there is still one stake dear to thee that is still unwon. Stake thou Draupadi, the princess of Panchala. By her, win thyself back.

So Yudhisthira tried to win by betting Draupadi, but unfortunately lost. Although this act of betting was condemnable, it was still justified because Yudhisthira was the husband and elder brother of all other Pandavas. So it was their dharma to abide with Yudhisthira's misfortune. And because the Pandava's were already won by Sakuni, to keep their word they were unable to do anything. So Bhisma explains:

न धर्मसौक्ष्म्यात सुभगे विवक्तुं; शक्नॊमि ते परश्नम इमं यथावत
अस्वॊ हय अशक्तः पणितुं परस्वं; सत्रियश च भर्तुर वशतां समीक्ष्य
तयजेत सर्वां पृथिवीं समृद्धां; युधिष्ठिरः सत्यम अथॊ न जह्यात [MB - 2.60.40,41]

O blessed one, morality is subtle. I therefore am unable to duly decide this point that thou hast put, beholding that on the one hand one that hath no wealth cannot stake the wealth belonging to others, while on the other hand wives are always under the orders and at the disposal of their lords. Yudhishthira can abandon the whole world full of wealth, but he will never sacrifice morality.

So Yudhisthira betting Draupadi was even though condemnable, still justified.

Does this mean Hinduism is a male dominant religion?

No, it gives equal status to both. Otherwise why there were swayambars, marriage ceremonies where a bride chooses her groom out of many candidates? It is only because women are bodily weak, fickle in nature and their chastity is valued more in Hinduism that scriptures suggest women to stay under the guidance of their husband, sons and brothers:

By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house. [Manu - 5.147]

In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent. [Manu - 5.148]

She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both (her own and her husband's) families contemptible. [Manu - 5.149]

It is just that after marriage, it becomes a woman's duty to be happy with her husband's happiness and companion on her husband's misfortune. Otherwise, the scripture gives equal status to women and praises them as below:

Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire (their own) welfare. [Manu - 3.55]

Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards. [Manu - 3.56]

And we all know what consequence followed the Kauravas for this act of dishonoring Draupadi before everyone in the courtyard.


The point is, just because two or more Hindus did sell their wives in past does not imply that their acts were in accordance with the doctrines of Hinduism.

Similarly, a couple of Hindu kings building up temples with erotic and bestial sculptures on their walls do not imply(in the same way) that that act was in accord with Hindu Shastras or that that was generally "the Hindu way of life".

In fact,selling one's wife is condemned in Hindu Shastras & never justified.

Manu Smriti says,husband and wife are to be considered as one entity and the sale of wife is never desired.

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9.46. Neither by sale nor by repudiation is a wife released from her husband; such we know the law to be, which the Lord of creatures (Pragapati) made of old.

And,the Yajnavalkya Smriti explicitly mentions selling of one's wife as a minor sin.

There are many Upapātakas (minor sins and turpitude). ........ learning from a servant, teaching a superior, adultery, usury, sale of salt, contemptuous livelihood, misappropriation of a deposit, breaking of a vow, sale of meat, sale of a cow, abandonment of father, mother or a friend, sale of tanks and parks, selling of daughter's ornaments, crookedness, causing others to break their vow, selfish ventures, cohabitation with an alcoholic, forsaking of one's study of Vedas, sacred fires, child, and kinsmen, perusal of illegal and unholy literature, selling of oneself or one's own wife, all these are Upapātakas.

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