Can a woman get moksha ? Or is getting moksha reserved only for men ?
Or Does husband-wife get moksha simultaneously ?
First of all, Mokṣa is for the jīvātmā, not the gross body. And, the jīvātmā cannot be described/identified by any notion of sex, gender, caste, creed, appearance, et al (except, perhaps, as per theology of the Dvaitavada propounder - Madhawacharyaφ).
Even so then, Unfortunately, the answer cannot be an unequivocal straight 'Yes or No' to this question, from a pan-Hinduism perspective.
First, understand what is Moksha?
Well, there are as many answers to this, as the number of 'School of Thought; and the sects (sampradaya).
For a comprehensive understanding of the variability of 'What is Moksha' as per various Schools, one might like to read: Yoga-sutras (Ancient and Modern Interpretations)
by Makarand Gopal Newalkar.
Now, coming to the question
The best way to answer this question, I think, would be to understand the verse 9.32 of the Śrimada Bhagavad-Gītā in the light of commentaries by ācāryas:
The verse is:
मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य येऽपि स्यु: पापयोनय: ।
स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम् ॥ ३२ ॥
English Translation By Swami Sivananda:
9.32. For, taking refuge in Me, they also, who, O Arjuna, may be of sinful birth–Women, vaiśyas as well as śudras–attain the Supreme Goal!
So, literally, this means that anyone (human or otherwise) can attain Moksha via devotion to the Supreme. Let's see if some major ācāryas concur with this view:
|Women/Everyone can attain Moksha?
|Bramha (Madhva)/ Sadh Sampradaya
|Sri Sridhara Swami
|Sri Keshava Kashmiri
|Svabhavika Bhedabheda (Dvaitadvaita)
Most Commentaries taken from this site
This proposition can be further supported by Nārada Bhakti Sūtras and Śāṇḍilya Bhakti Sūtras alike:
॥ शाण्डिल्य भक्ति सूत्रम् ॥
आनिन्द्ययोन्यधिक्रियते पारम्पर्यात् सामान्यवत् ॥ ७८॥
- Translation: Every being, even down to the lowest born, has equal right to follow the path of devotion as it is taught by successive authorities, like other objects which are common to all.
॥ नारदभक्तिसूत्राणि ॥
नास्ति तेषु जातिविद्यारूपकुलधनक्रियादि भेदः । ७२
72. [Translation]: "Birth, scholarship, external appearance, wealth and occupation, etc. make no difference in devotees.'
Ultimately, even Sri Rama concurs with the above stance, as he proclaims in Adhyatma Ramayana 3.10.20-29:
पुंस्त्वे स्त्रीत्वे विशेषो वा जातिनामाश्रमादयः ।
न कारणं मद्भजने भक्तिरेव हि कारणम् ॥ २०॥
यज्ञदानतपोभिर्वा वेदाध्ययनकर्मभिः ।
नैव द्रष्टुमहं शक्यो मद्भक्तिविमुखैः सदा ॥ २१॥
भक्तौ सञ्जातमात्रायां मत्तत्त्वानुभवस्तदा ।
ममानुभवसिद्धस्य मुक्तिस्तत्रैव जन्मनि ॥ २९॥
(Sri Ram replied to Śabri—) 'Distinction between a male and female body or distinction made on the basis of caste, creed, clan, name and section of society are not conducive for my worship (i.e., they are not the essential elements or a necessity for my worship or devotion). The only factor is my sincere and dedicated devotion and faith (20). Those who are devoid of dedication and sincerity in my devotion and worship can never see me by any other means such as Yagya (religious sacrifices), charity, Tapa (austerities and penances) and/or by studying of the Vedas or by any other method or deed (21).
.... As soon as Bhakti emerges (takes shape in one's heart), one can experience my true form , and those who for once experience me (i.e., realise my existence on the screen of their heart-mind complex), do attain emancipation and salvation in this birth itself without any doubt (29).
Sanksrit Verses with their Hindi Translation of above can be accessed from here.
φ: However, for Madhwacharya, even the jivatman has male and female characteristics. Thus, male and female salvation are different "experiences" as per him. In his Gita tatparya nirnaya, Madhawachrya says:
"A male is born again as a female because of desires or some demerit. A female is never born as a male because of attributes but they reside within the male body alongside the male form in a spiritual female form. These spiritual female forms are unlimitedly superior to those who have taken female forms due to the demerit of desires. All Jivas attain the body of skin and flesh according to their attributes. In liberation, even after experiencing the effects of prior karmas, each one lives according to their true attribute, even the statement merits even for those born in evil-wombs can be accepted, because of the declaration in Bhavishya Purana."
Ψ: Acharya Abhinavagupta in his Gita commentary - 'Gitartha Samgraha' interprets: by striyaḥ (women), it is meant - those who are ignorant.
Further, Ācārcya Abhinavagupta comes in full support of 'Moksha for all', as he says:-
When the (marvelous) deeds of the supremely compassionate God, such as the freeing of the elephant (from the jaws of the crocodile) are heard by the thousand, then what doubt can there be (of the salvation) of those of perverse conduct? Some say that this statement is meant to glorify the brāhmanas and the kshatriyas and it is not intended to indicate the accessibility of salvation on the part of women etc. They (who say so), denying the all-embracing power of God with their narrow intellects; being unable to bear the supreme kindheartedness of the supreme lord, going against sentences which clearly state the intended meaning such as "I hate none and love none"BG 9.29, “even if one be terribly depraved"BG 9.30 and others; not accepting, on the strength of dualism the non-duality of the essence of God established through a host of irrefutable arguments: not noticing other scriptural contradictions (of theirs); joining issue repeatedly 'how can you say this, 'how can you say this'; with their hearts penetrated and possessed by the supreme prejudice of birth etc., which has been completely accepted; turning askance their lowered face and eyes because of enmity, dissimulation, and embarrassment, prating nonsense before all, make themselves the butt of ridicule among the people which serves to explain everything in advance!
Now, as I mentioned in the starting, there's rarely an unequivocal Yes or No in Hinduism. Therefore:
Do Any scriptures [categorically] deny Moksha to a jiva in a woman's body?
As per Śiva Purāṇa, a woman first must "overcome" her "womanhood" via reciting the 'Śiva Pañcākṣarī mantra i.e., Namaḥ Śivāya (नमः शिवाय)'., then once they attain manhood, then only liberation is possible, for woman.
Quoting from Chapter 17, Section 1 - Vidyeśvara-saṃhitā
गुरूपदेशाज्जाप्यं वै ब्राह्मणानां नमोऽतकम् । पंचाक्षरं पंचलक्षमायुष्यं प्रजपेद्विधिः ॥ १२२ ॥
स्त्रीत्वापनयनार्थं तु पंचलक्षं जपेत्पुनः । मंत्रेण पुरुषो भूत्वा क्रमान्मुक्तो भवेद्बुधः ॥ १२३ ॥
122-123. Brahmin women must take instruction from a preceptor and perform the Japa with Namaḥ at the end. They shall repeat the five-syllabled mantra five hundred thousand times for their longevity. That is the rule. Again they must repeat it five hundred thousand times to wipe off womanhood. Becoming a man first, the liberation will be acquired gradually.
Tranlsation by Prof. J.L. Shastri
The above kind of theme viz. 'woman needing to acquire a male body ' is also found in Agni Purāṇa:
Agni Purāṇa: Part 2, Chapter 199 (Vows Relating to Different Seasons), Verse No. 9.b to 10
मूलव्रतकारी स्त्री च उमेशव्रतकारिणी ॥ १०.ख
सूर्यभक्ता तु या नारी ध्रुवं सा पुरूषो भवेत् ॥ ११
The main performer of the vow in Umeśavrata is woman. A woman who is devoted to the sun, would certainly become a male.
Translation by Prof. J.L. Shastri
Most ācāryas are in unequivocal support of not only women, but any being acquiring Moksha, through surrendering unto the Supreme. A nice summary of all such views might be read in the commentary by Swami Sivananda on BG 9.32
Some verses in certain scriptures say, that woman must first acquire manhood, then only Moksha prevails for women.
Related / For more reading on Moksha:
I don't think any sacred scripture says that Moksha is reserved for men only. Moksha means liberation of soul from cycle of birth and attaining the supereme one. The soul has no gender. It is possible that a person who is man in this life was a women in one of his previous life but still he can attain moksha. Lord Krishna said in Gita;
4:9.Anyone who knows as such of My divine birth(s) and activities will never, after leaving his body, take birth again, but will attain Me, oh Arjuna.
4.11. All who surrender themselves to Me I surely award My path [of glory] that is followed by all men, oh son of Prithâ, in all respects.
S.B. 7.7.54. For there are (many) Daityas, Yaksas and ogres, womenfolk, Sudras (members of the labouring and artisan classes), cowherds, birds, beasts and those living by sin that have attained immortality (through Devotion).
Bhagwatam clearly says that many women have attained Moksha so it is clearly possible for a women.
Yes, a woman can also attain moksha.
Renunciation is mentioned in the Taittiriya and other Upanishads: 'Some have attained immortality, not by acts, nor by offspring, nor by wealth, but by renunciation alone' (Kaivalya Upanishad., 3). Females also are entitled to this kind of renunciation. The Caturdharike of the Mokshadharma, by using the word bhikshuki (female mendicant) with reference to the lady in question, when dealing with the controversy between Sulabha and janaka, indicated that females may renounce before marriage, or after the death of their husband and may go about as religious mendicants, may learn and hear the sastras dealing with moksha (namely the Upanishad and cognate literature), may meditate upon the atman in seclusion and assume the emblems of tri-danda, etc. In the wake of the argument in the Devatadhikarana (the section about devata) in the fourth chapter of the third book of the Sarirakabhasya, wherein a discussion has been started relating to the rights of a widower (to such renunciation), the name of the lady Vacaknavi has also been mentioned. These references go to strengthen the right claimed by Maitreyi, the wife of Yajnavalkya, of whom she inquires in the words: 'Of what use would such (wealth) be to me, if the possession of such would not render me immortal? Tell me whatever your worship knows, as to what I should do, in order to be free from mortality' (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.4).
Jivanmuktiviveka of Vidyaranya translated by S. Subrahmanya Sastri and T.R. Srinivasa Ayangar, Chapter 1, Vividisa-samnyasa: The Renunciation of the Seeker
The above opinion is in agreement with Gita 9.32 which also affirms that women can attain to moksha.
Of course, the Bhagavad Gita literal world of Bhagavan or Ishvara clearly states in chapter nine verse number thirty two Sri Krishna states, "mām—in Me; hi—certainly; pārtha—Arjun, the son of Pritha; vyapāśhritya—take refuge; ye—who; api—even; syuḥ—may be; pāpa yonayaḥ—of low birth; striyaḥ—women; vaiśhyāḥ—mercantile people; tathā—and; śhūdrāḥ—manual workers; te api—even they; yānti—go; parām—the supreme; gatim—destination."
This verse is surrounded by unnecessary controversy due to the use of low/sinful birth, however, karma is an elementary concept. It is believed that because people of lower varnas, due to gunas, and women due to biology are generally speaking weaker they did some bad in their last life to gain such a birth. However, everyone has an equal presence of the divine in them it's about using that presence to attain the supreme.
Offcourse, Everyone and Anyone can get Moksha.
Sri Skanda Purana 3.3.1.:
Hence this five-lettered Mantra (NaMa SiVaYa) is declared as the bestower of everything. It may be practised (muttered) even by women, Śūdras and men of mixed caste and nativity desirous of salvation.
I hope this clarifies all your queries. Prd..