There are occasional exceptions. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad , composed about BCE, for example, in the last chapter detailing the education of a student, include lessons for his Grihastha stage of life. And if a man wishes that a learned son should be born to him, and that he should live his full age, then after having prepared boiled rice with meat and butter, they should both eat, being fit to have offspring.
The 8th century poet, Bhavabhuti describes in his play, Uttararamacharita verse 2 - 3 , how the character, Atreyi, travelled to southern India where she studied the Vedas and Indian philosophy. In Madhava 's Shankaradigvijaya, Shankara debates with the female philosopher, Ubhaya Bharati and in verses 9 - 63 it is mentioned that she was well versed in the Vedas. Tirukkoneri Dasyai, a 15th-century scholar, wrote a commentary on Nammalvar's Tiruvaayamoli, with reference to Vedic texts such as the Taittiriya Yajurveda.
In its first book, Dushmanta asks Sakuntala above to marry him for love, in Gandharva -style marriage, without the consent of their parents. The main female character in the Mahabharata, Draupadi is married to all the five Pandavas, thus has five husbands. She insults Duryodhana, one of the triggers for the great war.
In the Ramayana composed in the second half of 1st millennium BCE, Sita is respected, honored and seen as inseparable beloved but presented as a homemaker, the ideal wife and partner to Rama. In the Hindu tradition, a majority of women's oral retellings of the Ramayana depict autonomy as the rule rather than the exception, but states Sugirtharajah, these versions are of recent origins. The Mahabharata, in Book 1, for example, states, No man, even in anger, should ever do anything that is disagreeable to his wife; for happiness, joy, virtue and everything depend on the wife.
Wife is the sacred soil in which the husband is born again, even the Rishis cannot create men without women. It gives a mixed picture. In chapter 11, the goddess of wealth and prosperity Lakshmi asserts, that she lives in those women who are truthful, sincere, modest, organized, devoted to their husband and children, health conscious, patient and kind to guests.
Uma Parvati proceeds to meet all the rivers, who are all goddesses that nourish and create fertile valleys. For a woman, claims Uma, her husband is her god, her husband is her friend, and her husband is her high refuge. A woman's duties include physical and emotional nourishment, reverence and fulfillment of her husband and her children.
Their happiness is her happiness, she observes the same vows as those that are observed by her husband, her duty is to be cheerful even when her husband or her children are angry, be there for them in adversity or sickness, is regarded as truly righteous in her conduct.
Her family life and her home is her heaven, tells goddess Parvati to Shiva. Tryambaka, according to Julia Leslie,  selectively extracts verses from many chapters of Anushasana parva. The characterization and treatment of women is mixed in Shastras and Smriti texts of Hinduism. Scholars have questioned the later date insertions, corruption and authenticity of the texts, as dozens of significantly different versions of the Smriti texts have been found.
Patrick Olivelle for example, who is credited with a translation of Manusmriti published by the Oxford University Press, states the concerns in postmodern scholarship about the presumed authenticity and reliability of Manusmriti manuscripts.
All the editions of the MDh, except for Jolly's, reproduce the text as found in the [Calcutta] manuscript containing the commentary of Kulluka. I have called this as the " vulgate version". It was Kulluka's version that has been translated repeatedly: Jones , Burnell , Buhler and Doniger The belief in the authenticity of Kulluka's text was openly articulated by Burnell , xxix: Indeed, one of the great surprises of my editorial work has been to discover how few of the over fifty manuscripts that I collated actually follow the vulgate in key readings.
The text preaches chastity to widows such as in verses 5. Manusmriti in verses 3. For example, verses 9. These include those she received at her marriage, or as gift when she eloped or when she was taken away, or as token of love before marriage, or as gifts from her biological family, or as received from her husband subsequent to marriage, and also from inheritance from deceased relatives. Nobody is in possession of the original text [of Manusmriti].