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These verses are cited in the work known as the Mitākṣarā, commentary on Yajnavalkya Smriti:

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“A woman is not rendered guilty by her connection with her paramour, nor a Brãhmaia by his performance of non-Vedic rites, nor a (river) water, by urine and excreta; nor fire, by burning impure articles. (194). Women were first enjoyed by the Celestiais; then, by the moon, the Gandharvas and the Fires. Afterwards came men to enjoy them. They are never affected by any sin” (Atri Samhita (Anandashrama Edition, 1905, verses 193 and 194)

The Yajnavalkya Smriti says something similar, but makes no mention of Devas enjoying women:

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But what does it mean that women were enjoyed by the Devas first before men came? Can someone provide a commentary that explains the meaning of these verses.

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This is not what Atri Smriti or Vishnu Purana says. This is directly from Rigveda Samhita.

Smritis generally have the info which is taken from the Vedas. Sages usually refer to Vedas when they say information like this.

The verse cited in Atri Smriti or Jyoti Nirbandha is referring to RigVeda Mandala 10 Sukta 85 mantras 37 to 43. To be more precise 40 and 41.

tubhyamagre paryavahan sUryAM vahatunA saha
punaHpatibhyo jAyAM dA agne prajayA saha

punaH patnImagniradAdAyuSA saha varcasA
dIrghAyurasyA yaH patirjIvAti sharadaH shatam

somaH prathamo vivide gandharvo vivida uttaraH
tRtIyoagniS Te patisturIyaste manuSyajAH
40

somo dadad gandharvAya gandharvo dadadagnaye
rayiM caputrAMshcAdAdagnirmahyamatho imAm
41

ihaiva staM mA vi yauSTaM vishvamAyurvyashnutam
kR^ILantau putrairnaptRbhirmodamAnau sve gRhe

A naH prajAM hanayatu prajApatirAjarasAya samanaktvaryamA adurmaN^galIH patilokamA visha shaM no bhavadvipade shaM catuSpade

aghoracakSurapatighnyedhi shivA pashubhyaH sumanAHsuvarcAH vIrasUrdevakAmA syonA shaM no bhava dvipadeshaM catuSpade

I am using Ralph.T.H Griffith's translation which is near translation but he also uses the word husband instead of lord for the word pati in mantra 40. I say near accurate translation because he uses husband only once and means lord in all other mantras.

37 O Pūṣan, send her on as most auspicious, her who shall be the sharer of my pleasures;
Her who shall twine her loving arms about me, and welcome all my love and mine embraces.

38 For thee, with bridal train, they, first, escorted Sūrya to her home.
Give to the husband in return, Agni, the wife with progeny.

39 Agni hath given the bride again with splendour and with ample life.
Long lived be he who is her lord; a hundred autumns let him live.

40 Soma obtained her first of all; next the Gandharva was her lord.
Agni was thy third husband: now one bornof woman is thy fourth
.

41 Soma to the Gandharva, and to Agni the Gandharva gave:
And Agni hath bestowed on me riches and sons and this my spouse.

42 Be ye not parted; dwell ye here reach the full time of human life.
With sons and grandsons sport and play, rejoicing in your own abode.

43 So may Prajapati bring children forth to us; may Aryaman adorn us till old age come nigh.
Not inauspicious enter thou thy husband's house: bring blessing to our bipeds and our quadrupeds.

These are the mantras chanted after the bride is wedded with the bride groom and seeks blessings from gods. According to the marriage rites, the couple is wedded in front of all the gods. Agni is the messenger between the gods and takes the havis to them hence he is called the Havyavahana. He is the face of all the gods (agni mukhaavai devaah). According to the beliefs of Hinduism, the humans are nourished by the devatas in every stage of life. in the Vedas, we pray different deities to give power, health, nourishment. Same is happening in the above sukta which is in the context of marriage. All the devatas are invoked as guests when a marriage is held.

In the above context, the bride is given to the bridegroom by the devas after nourishment and protection in each stage. Let us see what is the role of each god in the life of a woman.

somaH prathamo vivide - Soma obtained her first - According to Soma is the lord of manas. He gives us pure thoughts and good behaviour. Hence, when a woman is born, then Soma takes the role of giving good thoughts and behaviour.

gandharvo vivida uttaraH - Then Gandharva takes the responsibility of nourishment. When she attains the age of marriage (which is very less in the past according to Braahma vivaha), bride is provided with the behaviour which a young woman possess. She will get beauty and development of sweet speech during this age and other qualities which cause attraction from men and hence Vishvavasu is invoked during marriage. By this, there would be no problem in fertility. The life would be happy after the marriage.

rayiM caputrAMshcAdAdagnirmahyamatho imAm :Here, the chanter (bride groom) is asking the Agni to give progeny and riches with that woman. The role of Agni is giving the bride a long happy life so that she can live with her husband for hundred autumns.

In the above mantras, there is no mention of enjoying women. The word used is Lord as a translation by Ralph.T.H Griffith. A lord can be a person who rules us or protects us. Him we call as lord. In their life till the women reaches the husband, these devatas provide nourishment and protection.

Pati means a king, ruler, protector, master and husband according to the context. The devatas were protecting the woman which is evident from next mantras. Hence the translation of mantra 40 would be:

Soma obtained her first of all; next the Gandharva was her lord. Agni was thy third lord: now one born of woman is thy fourth.

The above mantra is spoken by Lord Pushan where he blesses the couple and wishes for their welfare. In the next mantras, the bridegroom again chants the next mantras and wishes other gods like Prajapati, Aryaman, Indra, to bless their family with good fortune and life. Thus ends the suktam. There are similar mantras chanted before and after marriage rites which pray to different gods for the fortunate life and giving good sons.

The above explanation was given by Brahmasri Mudigonda Shankara Sharma, a scholar in Vedas and Tarka (logic).

Thus, we can safely conclude that it is a translation and interpretation mistake to say that the devatas enjoy the women sexually. They only protect women as lords. They are not husband The mantras are not speaking about marriage of women with gods. As the smritis refer Vedas, they were also saying the same. No bad intent is to be assumed.

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    I appriciate your way to intepret Rig Vedic sukta. Keep it on ! – B.N. Bhaskar Jan 22 at 7:31

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