Thursday, March 5, 2009

Polygamy in Hinduism!

Polygamy in Hinduism!

This issue was in focus in Cho's discussion in yesterday's episode of

"YengE Brahmanan?" (Jaya TV at 8 pm from Monday to Friday).

This post is on the issues around this.

There two ways of looking at this issue.

One is about the dharma angle of it and

another about what people did.

Sanatana dharma does not support polygamy.

Marriage is for the sake of doing rituals and getting children.

Without a wife beside him as his better half, the husband can not do any yajna.

When one half is still with him, he can not create another half of himself,

to be shared with another woman.

He can marry another woman only after the death of his first wife.

The same is also applicable to woman.

Widow re-marriage was prevalent until Mahabharatha times.

After the death of Shanthanu, Satyavati was proposed by Ugrayudha,

according to Harivamsa purana.

Arjuna married Uloopi, the Naga princess who was a widow.

Like this many instances of woman re-marrying after the death of her husband

are found.

Dharma is equal to both genders in this respect.

We even come to know from Varahamihira that the couple not only shared life

but also the good and bad of their karmas.

Varahamihira mentioned this in Brihad samhita

by quoting dharma satras that are now extinct.

As per this, whatever the husband does, half of it goes to his wife.

Similarly whatever the wife does, half of it goes to the husband.

Based on this rationale, the injunctions were formed that a wife need not do any vedik karma such as doing homas or reciting Vedas, for, half of whatever that her husband gains by doing them anyway goes to her.

Similarly what ever dharma (like giving alms, feeding others etc)

that she as the head of the Home does is shared by her husband.

That is why a marriage done in Vedic way can not be broken by any law of the land. They remain as husband and wife as long as they live.

This is the highest dharma which was exhibited by Rama.

Eka patni vratham is a difficult one. But a man must adhere to it.

But marriage with another woman when the first wife is still alive

had happened in practice.

Since it was in practice, we can not say that taking more than one wife

has dharmic sanction.

In most cases of second marriage while the first one was alive,

the motive was to get a male child.

Though the desire of the Hindu marriage system was to get a male child –

for the purpose of paying off debts to the pithrus –

dharma does not say that one can marry a second woman for that purpose.

Instead one can opt for adoption.

And there is no need for adoption if a person has only daughters.

The eldest grandson (from the daughters) can pay off the pithru ruaNam.

Rig veda 3-31-1 authenticates this.

Though the desire for male child is there, one can fulfill the purpose of that desire without violating the marriage dharma.

The marriage vow is such that it is a commitment for mutual fidelity throughout their lives. Such a vow taken in the presence of Agni can not be violated.

Verses 9-101 and 102 of Manu smrithi state this.

But the same Manu smrithi goes on to state the conditions under which a man or a woman can take up another spouse.

These are the conditions where a man or a woman can not discharge the duties as a grahastha.

But there are times when one seeks another wife for sensual gratification.

This will invite a resultant karma.

Such karma can be known from Jyothisha sastra.

From astrology we come to know that a person who marries when the first spouse is still alive, hale and healthy, will have to face sufferings in the next birth.

The exceptional cases where a woman can give up the spouse,

have been given in smrithis.

For the woman in Kali yuga, she can give up her husband if he has abandoned her (similar to divorce in today's condition), had died, had become an ascetic, happens to be an eunuch and is an offender in the eyes of Law of the land. This is as per Parashara smrithi which is the dharma sastra for Kaliyuga.

But no such rules are given for man. It shows that as long the wife is alive, he has to take care of her and be with her. Parashara smrithi does not give injunctions for marrying another woman when the first wife is there.

In present day's condition of rising divorce cases, these laws seem not applicable.

However the core principle is not diluted.

The core principle is that one can not live with more than one spouse at any given time.

In other words, polygamy is not supported and

one is expected to be an 'eka-patni vrathan' of the one he has married.

Related post from this blog:-


Anonymous said...

Interesting information about polygamy and marriage. I didn't know much about this. Thank you and congratulations.

Jayasree Saranathan Ph.D said...

Thanks for visiting and for your comments.

Unknown said...

while searching for something else, ended with this.from this article

A further link between the Sangam poetry and the Pūrvaśikhā group may be the
polygamy referred to at Puṛanānūru 178, a full-dress description of an ideal Vedic
Brahman of the lineage of the kauṇḍinya gotra. He is pictured with three wives. It is
quite possible that polygamy existed among the Pūrvaśikhā Brahmans; it was not
uncommon among the Nambudiri Pūrvaśikhās even into the historical period,53 while it
seems almost entirely unattested among the Aparaśikhā group. In the poem, the chief
wife wears an ornamental head-piece called valai

1.SO does puranuru really talk about this?

2. isnt it that only kshtriya clan had polygamy why a brahman is having more than one wife when first one exists

3. is this a exception


Jayasree Saranathan Ph.D said...

Thanks Ms/Mr(?) Asthika.

Before going into your questions, I must tell that the sangam connection given in that site is based on Parpola's interpretation whose support for AIT has no takers. He has based his interpretation of Tamil works on the premise that Aryans from Central Europe invaded India and spread the Vedic rituals to the South in Tamilnadu. So whatever he says on Purvashika matter and Tamil's connection are based on a very shaky premise of Aryan role.

Now coming to the Purananuru verse, it is not verse no 178, it is 166 as per Dr U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer's compilation.

On your questions
(1) The song is not about a brahmin, but about a King called ViNNanthaayan. He has a prefix called, KowNiyan, which is interpreted as Kaoundinyan, meaning as one who comes in KaoundiNya gothram. The verse describes the king as one who used to do 21 types of homas and describes the way he did them.

(2) In that context the poet describes the role of the wives of the kings in the homa. Usually in yajnas such as Ashvameda, the king will be accompanied by a minimum of 3 wives in the yajnas, who will be assigned specific roles for them. The old commentator of the verse (whose name and time period is not known) says that there must be a minimum of 3 yaaga patnis.

We find this kind of situation in Valmiki Ramayana also in the context of the Ashvamedha yaaga done by Dasaratha. Refer verse 1-13-35. In that yaaga, the king has to gift away his belongings including his consorts to the officiating priests. This verse says, "the officiating priests of the ritual, namely hota, adhwaryu and udgaata have received in their hand the Crowned Queen, the neglected wife, and a concubine of the king, next as a symbolic donation in the ritual by the performer, the king." [1-14-35]

There will be four officiating priests for these Vedic rituals. 1. brahma , 2. hota , 3. adhvaryu , 4. udgaata , to whom the king has to donate his inner core properties like wives, lands etc. By practice a king has to marry four wives. The four women of the king are 1. mahiSi = Queen, 2. parivR^itti = neglected women, 3. vaavaata = concubine, 4. paalaakali = goblet-maid. The order of donation is that the Queen to brahma , concubine to hota , neglected woman to udgaata , and the goblet-maid to the adhwaryu . Here, though the brahma ritvik is not cited along with paalaakali, goblet-maid, they are implied. The donation is symbolic and later bartering with some valuable items that is redeemed. (commentary by Govindaraja.)

As per this verse in Ramayana, the Patta mahishi, neglected wife and concubine took part in the yaaga along with Dasaratha. A similar situation is made out from the Puaranauru verse. It is inferred therefore that the person in question was a king and not a brahmin or an ordinary man.

(3) Yaagas such as the ones where presence of 3 consorts are needed are done by kings only. This Vedic ritual had existed wherever monarchy existed - be it north or south india.

In another verse (224) also the way the Vedic rituals were done in Sangam period is explained. Parpola tells about that also but with a flawed understanding of Aryan influence.

PS: Rama could not accept any other woman in his life. But as a king he had to do the yaagas such as Ashvamedha. So he had the golden image of Sita as his wife and could have used alternatives to fulfill the gifts related to other wives.

The 'valai' that the queen wore was described as 'chaalakam' (jaalakam) in the text commentary with an explanation that it is worn by yaaga patnis at the time of yaaga.

Unknown said...

Thanks a lot.

I suspected some wrong info and that reason for 1st question.

yes parpola is muka guy

yes have read that verse in ramayana, and that verse is used to peddle even more lies. I dont even want to type it.

Thanks a lot for detailed reply

The reason why I was searching was there is wrong info being peddled that but for foreigners, our vedic yagams would have died.

Also info was given that atiratram is highest in hierarchy,

When I was reading, I observed that in Mahaperiava book aptoryama is given highest hierarchy.

I notices several instances that publicity or credit is always given for others. Its our Gurus who have taken effort to preserve.

Yes these people did help with funds in one case, but they are not reason for preservation.

Also there were artciles that said this yagam was missed for since bc and revived only in 1800.

So was digging up, reading many things and this came up with cache.

There are host of books written on yagams by our riths and swamijis and yet it is this which is given importance. Our people did work during an aptoryama agnicayana held in 2007 with nal,isro, ignca,vivekananda univ and many more studying, but here media publicizes only because of foreigners presence.

will be compiling soon a post on this.

Thanks once again.

Dudlee said...

1. Is polyandry acceptable ! What's the logic behind 5 pandavas having 1 common wife draupathi

Jayasree Saranathan Ph.D said...

@ Dudlee

Read Mahabharatha.

manju said...

Hi I have read this article, I need to ask you if this situation is good or bad?
My conscious is pricking me thinking of this condition. I need to know if it is acceptable by the vedic laws or any good person's conscious. Many times i cannot sleep and even eat properly, because i dont know what is correct action i should take.

This is concerning polygamy by secret marriage.

I know of A who is a married woman with a young daughter. When the daughter was a toddler, A's husband deserted her for another single lady he loved. Now the single lady and the husband are married by rituals and living happily with a son of their own. A's husband has offered to look after A's child and now both are in the midst of divorce as they have registered their marriage.

Coincidentally A met another guy,B, at her workplace who happened to have a daughter who is also born in the same day as her daughter. B has a loving wife who loves B a lot. but the wife is not so good looking. A is more good looking and more well to do. A sometimes talks to B's wife and daughter too. B talk to A's daughter and A's siblings too. But A's parents and gd friends like me have advised A not to be too close to B. A and B are working in the same country while B's wife is in India looking after B's daughter. B's wife also goes to work and looks after B's family well. No complaints or reasons to cheat on B's wife by B. But B is attracted to A by her looks and her money and sometimes asks her for money and other personal favors. Both A and B are planning to get marry secretly and keep on working overseas. B has no plan to inform B's wife about it.
I am very angry with A as she is doing the same mistake that she was once a victim of . I find that if A wanted a married life since she is going to be divorce, she should marry another single guy or divorced/widower guy ( where the wife is not in the picture at all). But she told me that since B's wife will never be hurt as they will not inform her at all. Additionally as she is well to do, she wants to contribute money to B and B's wife too and look after the family too.
But i find that she is using her money to spoil another lady's married life.
My conscious is pricking me that this is really sinful, in being close to a married man without his wife's knowledge and still having the guts to help him and his wife.
Please advise as per scripture if her actions wrong or right? As a bystander, what should i do? Should i tell her that is tantamount to adultery or just keep quiet because she is indirectly supporting B's family?

Jayasree Saranathan Ph.D said...

Yes, it is really sinful and would cause untold misery and diseases in the upcoming births for both A and B. Please read my articles on 'diseases caused by poorva janma karma' to know the kind of diseases that they would get in future births. They are also bound to suffer similar circumstances in future births.