Heesterman's interpretation is somewhat narrow, since the mention of relatives is limited to this one text, and Day's interpretation places too much weight on the supposed guilt of the woman and the possibility of punishment. But both seem correct in assuming that the role of the woman must be explained as the central function of the ritual. The wife's very unusual level of involvement is enough to support this. But neither of their explanations deals adequately with the question of the rival and the transfer of evil. They must also be correct in assuming that women are believed to be capable of any immoral behavior that a ritual might assign to them. Yet the assumption of guilt implied in the form of the ritual seems formulaic rather than real.
Day, Terence P. The Conception of Punishment in Early Indian Literature. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 1982.
Day notes that there are four possible effects of the ritual. It can remove the pangs of guilt the wife feels which "might have a negative psychological and spiritual effect" on her desire for healthy offspring (Day 32). He suggests that it can also transmute the negative force of her sin into "a positive fructifying energy," and protect her relatives from the negative effects of her anrta (Day 32). The last possibility is that the ritual will "bring retribution (for adultery?) to her paramour(s)" (Day 32). Day doubts, in the end, that actual adultery is the central focus of the ritual. But, in terms of the potential for adultery and anrta in general, a woman is congenitally untrustworthy and may bring a great deal of evil on her husband's head. The snare of Varuna from which the sacrificer wishes to escape is clearly the evil that has been done to him, or is likely to have been done to him, by his wife--the stranger within his home whom he depends upon for the birth of his sons. The varunapraghasa offers an opportunity for averting the calamities, such as deformed children or evil for her