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WIDOW RE-MARRIAGE IN ANCIENT INDIA

WIDOW RE-MARRIAGE IN ANCIENT INDIA

In the 19th and 20th Centuries, widow remarriage was one of the major differences between the orthodox Bengalis and the progressive Brahmosamajis, and also between the conservative and progressive Maharashtrians. In S. India, it was totally unimaginable. Some of the Punjabi communities were a step ahead of all the Indians where a young widow was re-married to her net brother-in-law – husband’s younger brother.
This custom granted not only the long-term security to the surviving widow, it also prevented any future property dispute, especially when minor children of the deceased were involved.
In the North and Central India, the Jats, Gurjars and Ahirs were in favour of the widow-remarriage, a custom, that is till followed. This never set right with the orthodox Brahmins. The Rajputs set their own customs. Being the ruling/fighter class and the benefactors of the Brahmins, the latter always found something in the “scriptures” to support the ruler they were dependent upon for livelihood and the honor bestowed.

The honorable custom of widow remarriage rests its footing on simple common sense: A widow of marriageable age shall NOT remain a Widow, and her re-marriage within the next eligible bachelor in family secured the family assets.

The orthodox Brahmins who rejected this notion were ignorant of the Vedic practice of a widow marrying the brother of the deceased husband. Perhaps etymologically the word Devar (देवर in Hindi) might root from Dvitiyo Varah (द्वितीयो वरः in Sanskrit),meaning the second husband. This is not to promote illicit relationship between a married woman and her husband’s brother, but only applicable in case of a widow.

The RIgveda is proponent of widow remarriage:

उदीर्ष्व नार्यभि जीवलोकं गतासुमेतमुप शेष एहि |
हस्तग्राभस्य दिधिषोस्तवेदं पत्युर्जनित्वमभि सम्बभूथ || (X.18.8)

and

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कुह सविद दोषा कुह वस्तोरश्विना कुहाभिपित्वं करतःकुहोषतुः |
को वां शयुत्रा विधवेव देवरं मर्यं नयोषा कर्णुते सधस्थ आ || (X.40.2)

Gautama acknowledges its existence by admitting the right of a widow’s son by her second husband to inherit the property of his father (Gautama, XXIX, 8) Vashishtha ruled that after the death of her husband, a wife of the Brahmana caste who has issue, shall wait for 5 years and one who has no issue for four years, before remarriage.(R.N. Sharma. Brahmans Through the Ages; Chanakya permits, not only widow-marriage, but also divorce and Niyoga for Brahmanas.)

The Mahabharata says:

“As a woman marries her brother-in-law after the death of her husband, so the Brahman having failed to protect her, the earth made the Kshatriya her husband.” (Shanti Parvan, 72. V. 12) IS THIS CORRECT.

Manu is opposed to it not that he was ignorant of the ancient texts, but that was the period of Brahmin Supremacy:

“…In the sacred texts which refer to marriage the appointment (of widows) is nowhere mentioned, nor is the re-marriage of widows prescribed in the rules concerning marriage..”(Manu Smriti, IX, 65)

But ceased the opportunity but quickly claiming the son born of a widow, fathered by a Brahmin, as a Brahmin:

Source: Somelink from the Jat community — cannot locate it. Pl. identify)
“… What has been given to a Brahmana who lives by trade that is not (useful) in this world and the next, and (a present) to a Brahmana born of a remarried woman (resembles) an oblation thrown into ashes….”(Manu Smriti III, 181).

In the latter period we see the incident of Chandragupt Maurya, rescuing Dhruvaswamini, his brother’s widow, and marrying her.

One wonders why a social custom sanctioned in the Vedic times oft rejected? Orthodoxy? False sense of honor? Control over women?

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