What are the duties of a wife towards her husband? What is her vedic roles and responsibilities?
What are the duties of a wife towards her husband?
The duty of a wife is to serve her husband her whole life.
From the Manusmriti in the section titled "Duties of women":
Manu 5.147 - She should not seek separation from her father, husband or sons: by separating, the woman would render both families disreputable.
Manu 5.148 - She should be always cheerful and alert in household-work; she should have the utensils well-cleaned and in spending she should be close-fisted.
Manu 5.149 - Him to whom her father may give her,—or her brother with the father’s permission,—she shall attend upon as long as he lives, and shall not disregard him when he is dead.
So the wife has to serve her husband her whole life, but one may ask, "If the husband has some flaws, should the wife leave him?" And the answer is no:
Manu 5.152 - Be he ill-mannered or of licentious habits or destitute of good qualities,—the husband should always be attended upon like a god by the true wife.
And the reason for it is given in the following verse:
Manu 5.153 - There is no separate sacrificing for women, no observances, no fastings; it is by means of serving her husband that she becomes exalted in heaven.
So even if the husband has a bad character, it still benefits the wife to serve him.
And even after her husband dies, she should not approach another man:
Manu 5.154 - The good wife, desirous of reaching her husband’s regions, should never do anything that may be disagreeable to her husband, alive or dead.
Manu 5.155 - Well might she macerate her body by means of pure flowers, roots and fruits; but she should not even mention the name of another man, after her husband is dead
Manu 5.156 - Till her death, she should remain patient, self-controlled and chaste,—seeking that most excellent merit that accrues to women having a single husband.
Other Smritis say the same thing:
Yājñavalkya (1.83).—‘Keeping household articles in good order, expert, joyous, averse to expenditure, devoted to her husband, she shall offer obeisance to the feet of her parents-in-law.’
Yājñavalkya (1.77).—‘Women should act up to the words of their husbands,—this is the highest duty of woman.’
Women are allowed to do fasts and penances and the like, but only if it doesn't interfere with their duty to their husband:
Śaṅkha (Aparārka, p. 102).—‘Only with the permission of her husband shall she undertake fasts, observances and the like.’
What it means is that her duty to her husband comes first; religious rites comes second.
There is already an answer from dharma shastras. But as you have tagged Mahabharata in your question, here is another answer from Draupadi-Satyabhama Samvada in Vana Parva
The background here being Satyabhama was wondering how come Pandavas were obedient to Draupadi, and if she was practicing charms of wicked women.
Keeping aside vanity, and controlling desire and wrath, I always serve with devotion the sons of Pandu with their wives. Restraining jealousy, with deep devotion of heart, without a sense of degradation at the services I perform, I wait upon my husbands. Ever fearing to utter what is evil or false, or to look or sit or walk with impropriety, or cast glances indicative of the feelings of the heart, do I serve the sons of Pritha--those mighty warriors blazing like the sun or fire, and handsome as the moon, those endued with fierce energy and prowess, and capable of slaying their foes by a glance of the eye. Celestial, or man, or Gandharva, young or decked with ornaments, wealthy or comely of person, none else my heart liketh. I never bathe or eat or sleep till he that is my husband hath bathed or eaten or slept,--till, in fact, our attendants have bathed, eaten, or slept. Whether returning from the field, the forest, or the town, hastily rising up I always salute my husband with water and a seat. I always keep the house and all household articles and the food that is to be taken well-ordered and clean. Carefully do I keep the rice, and serve the food at the proper time. I never indulge in angry and fretful speech, and never imitate women that are wicked. Keeping idleness at distance I always do what is agreeable. I never laugh except at a jest, and never stay for any length of time at the house-gate. I never stay long in places for answering calls of nature, nor in pleasure-gardens attached to the house. I always refrain from laughing loudly and indulging in high passion, and from everything that may give offence. Indeed, O Satyabhama, I always am engaged in waiting upon my lords. A separation from my lords is never agreeable to me. When my husband leaveth home for the sake of any relative, then renouncing flowers and fragrant paste of every kind, I begin to undergo penances. Whatever my husband drinketh not, whatever my husband eateth not, whatever my husband enjoyeth not, I ever renounce. O beautiful lady, decked in ornaments and ever controlled by the instruction imparted to me, I always devotedly seek the good of my lord. Those duties that my mother-in-law had told me of in respect of relatives, as also the duties of alms-giving, of offering worship to the gods, of oblations to the diseased, of boiling food in pots on auspicious days for offer to ancestors and guests of reverence and service to those that deserve our regards, and all else that is known to me, I always discharge day and night, without idleness of any kind. Having with my whole heart recourse to humility and approved rules I serve my meek and truthful lords ever observant of virtue, regarding them as poisonous snakes capable of being excited at a trifle. I think that to be eternal virtue for women which is based upon a regard for the husband. The husband is the wife's god, and he is her refuge. Indeed, there is no other refuge for her. How can, then, the wife do the least injury to her lord? I never, in sleeping or eating or adorning any person, act against the wishes of my lord, and always guided by my husbands, I never speak ill of my mother-in-law. O blessed lady, my husbands have become obedient to me in consequence of my diligence, my alacrity, and the humility with which I serve superiors. Personally do I wait every day with food and drink and clothes upon the revered and truthful Kunti--that mother of heroes. Never do I show any preference for myself over her in matters of food and attire, and never do I reprove in words that princess equal unto the Earth herself in forgiveness. Formerly, eight thousand Brahmanas were daily fed in the palace of Yudhishthira from off plates of gold. And eighty thousand Brahmanas also of the Snataka sect leading domestic lives were entertained by Yudhishthira with thirty serving-maids assigned to each. Besides these, ten thousand yatis with the vital seed drawn up, had their pure food carried unto them in plates of gold. All these Brahamanas that were the utterers of the Veda, I used to worship duly with food, drink, and raiment taken from stores only after a portion thereof had been dedicated to the Viswadeva. 1 The illustrious son of Kunti had a hundred thousand well-dressed serving-maids with bracelets on arms and golden ornaments on necks, and decked with costly garlands and wreaths and gold in profusion, and sprinkled with sandal paste. And adorned with jewels and gold they were all skilled in singing and dancing. O lady, I knew the names and features of all those girls, as also what they are and what they were, and what they did not. Kunti's son of great intelligence had also a hundred thousand maid-servants who daily used to feed guests, with plates of gold in their hands. And while Yudhishthira lived in Indraprastha a hundred thousand horses and a hundred thousand elephants used to follow in his train. These were the possessions of Yudhisthira while he ruled the earth. It was I however, O lady, who regulated their number and framed the rules to be observed in respect of them; and it was I who had to listen to all complaints about them. Indeed, I knew everything about what the maid-servants of the palace and other classes of attendants, even the cow-herds and the shepherds of the royal establishment, did or did not. O blessed and illustrious lady, it was I alone amongst the Pandavas who knew the income and expenditure of the king and what their whole wealth was. And those bulls among the Bharatas, throwing upon me the burden of looking after all those that were to be fed by them, would, O thou of handsome face, pay their court to me. And this load, so heavy and incapable of being borne by persons of evil heart, I used to bear day and night, sacrificing my ease, and all the while affectionately devoted to them. And while my husbands were engaged in the pursuit of virtue, I only supervised their treasury inexhaustible like the ever-filled receptacle of Varuna. Day and night bearing hunger and thirst, I used to serve the Kuru princes, so that my nights and days were equal to me. I used to wake up first and go to bed last. This, O Satyabhama, hath ever been my charm for making my husbands obedient to me!