Does scripture say that widows are inauspicious?


Yes, scripture suggests that widows are inauspicious and should be avoided "like the poison of a snake." Only exception is one's own widowed mother.

Julie Leslie, in The Perfect Wife — a translation of/commentary on Strīdharmapaddhati (Guide to the Religious Status and Duties of Women) by Tryambaka of 18th century Thanjavur — says the following.

Tryambaka also discusses the interesting question of the impurity and inauspiciousness traditionally ascribed to widows. The examples he quotes are typical. 'Just as the body, bereft of life, in that moment becomes impure, so the woman bereft of her husband is always impure, even if she has bathed properly. Of all inauspicious things, the widow is the most inauspicious; there can never be any success after seeing a widow (cf. section IIA, pp. 54—7). The wise man should avoid even her blessing (tadāśiṣam api—excepting only that of his mother—for it is devoid of all auspiciousness, like the poison of a snake (āśīviṣopamām).'

According to Tryambaka, however, such remarks apply only to the widow who does not behave as she ought (ācārahīnāviṣayam). For even if she becomes a widow, the pativratā — 'who is devoted to (good) conduct' (caryāparā), 'fully committed to her religious duty' (dharmasamayukta), and 'who follows (the proper path of) widowhood' (vaidhavyam palayet) — earns a threefold reward: she is both happy and auspicious (śubhā) in this life; she obtains the pleasures of heaven (svargabhogān), or indeed the same heaven as her husband (patilokam); and she marries that same husband again in her next life. Theoretically at least, if she behaves as she should (see above), the dread inauspiciousness with which the scriptures threaten her are cancelled out. But if she cannot do this, she would presumably be well-advised to die with her husband.

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