"Yudhishthira said, 'O best of the Bharatas, I wish to hear thee discourse on the disposition of women. W omen are said to be the root of all evil. They are all regarded as exceedingly frail.'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the old history of the discourse between the celestial Rishi Narada and the (celestial) courtezan Panchachuda. Once in ancient times, the celestial Rishi Narada, having roamed over all the world, met the Apsara Panchachuda of faultless beauty, having her abode in the region of Brahman. Beholding the Apsara every limb of whose body was endued with great beauty, the ascetic addressed her, saying, 'O thou of slender waist, I have a doubt in my mind. Do thou explain it.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed by the Rishi, the Apsara said unto him, 'If the subject is one which is known to me and if thou thinkest me competent to speak on it, I shall certainly say what is in my mind.'
"Narada said, 'O amiable one, I shall not certainly appoint thee to any task that is beyond thy competence. O thou of beautiful face, I wish to hear from thee of the disposition of women.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Hearing these words of the celestial Rishi, that foremost of Apsaras replied unto him, saying, 'I am unable, being myself a woman, to speak ill of women. Thou knowest what women are and with what nature they are endued. It behoveth thee not, O celestial Rishi, to set me to such a task.' Unto her the celestial Rishi said, 'It is very true, O thou of slender waist! One incurs fault by speaking what is untrue. In saying, however, what is true, there can be no fault.' Thus addressed by him, the Apsara Panchachuda of sweet smiles consented to answer Narada's question. She then addressed herself to mention what the true and eternal faults of women are!'
"Panchachuda said, 'Even if high-born and endued with beauty and possessed of protectors, women wish to transgress the restraints assigned to them. This fault truly stains them, O Narada! There is nothing else that is more sinful than women. Verily, women, are the root of all faults. That is, certainly known to thee, O Narada! Women, even when possessed of husbands having fame and wealth, of handsome features and completely obedient to them, are prepared to disregard them if they get the opportunity. This, O puissant one, is a sinful disposition with us women that, casting off modesty, we cultivate the companionship of men of sinful habits and intentions. Women betray a liking for those men who court them, who approach their presence, and who respectfully serve them to even a slight extent. Through want of solicitation by persons of the other sex, or fear of relatives, women, who are naturally impatient of all restraints, do not transgress those that have been ordained for them, and remain by the side of their husbands. There is none whom they are incapable of admitting to their favours. They never take into consideration the age of the person they are prepared to favour. Ugly or handsome, if only the person happens to belong to the opposite sex, women are ready to enjoy his companionship. That women remain faithful to their lords is due not to their fear of sin, nor to compassion, nor to wealth, nor to the affection that springs up in their hearts for kinsmen and children. Women living in the bosom of respectable families envy the condition of those members of their sex that are young and well-adorned with jewels and gems and that lead a free life. Even those women that are loved by their husbands and treated with great respect, are seen to bestow their favours upon men that are hump-backed, that are blind, that are idiots, or that are dwarfs. Women may be seen to like the companionship of even those men that are destitute of the power of locomotion or those men that are endued with great ugliness of features. O great Rishi, there is no man in this world whom women may regard as unfit for companionship. Through inability to obtain persons of the opposite sex, or fear of relatives, or fear of death and imprisonment, women remain, of themselves, within the restraints prescribed for them. They are exceedingly restless, for they always hanker after new companions. In consequence of their nature being unintelligible, they are incapable of being kept in obedience by affectionate treatment. Their disposition is such that they are incapable of being restrained when bent upon transgression. Verily, women are like the words uttered by the wise. Fire is never satiated with fuel. Ocean can never be filled with the waters that rivers bring unto him. The Destroyer is never satiated with slaying even all living creatures. Similarly, women are never
satiated with men. This, O celestial Rishi. is another mystery connected with women. As soon as they see a man of handsome and charming features, unfailing signs of desire appear on their persons. They never show sufficient regard for even such husbands as accomplish all their wishes, as always do what is agreeable to them and as protect them from want and danger. Women never regard so highly even articles of enjoyment in abundance or ornaments or other possessions of an agreeable kind as they do the companionship of persons of the opposite sex. The destroyer, the deity of wind, death, the nether legions, the equine mouth that roves through the ocean, vomiting ceaseless flames of fire, the sharpness of the razor, virulent poison, the snake, and Fire--all these exist in a state of union in women. That eternal Brahman whence the five great elements have sprung into existence, whence the Creator Brahma hath ordained the universe, and whence, indeed, men have sprung, verily from the same eternal source have women sprung into existence. At that time, again, O Narada, when women were created, these faults that I have enumerated were planted in them!'"