Yajnavalkya-smriti (Vyavaharadhyaya)—Critical study

by Kalita Nabanita | 2017 | 87,413 words

This page relates ‘Proprietary right of women’ of the study on the Vyavaharadhyaya of the Yajnavalkya-smriti: one of the most prominent Smritis dealing with Dharmashastra (ancient Indian science of law), dating to the 1st century B.C. The Yajnavalkyasmriti scientifically arranges its contents in three sections: Acara (proper conduct), Vyavahara (proper law) and Prayashcitta (expiation). Vyavahara deals with judicial procedure and legal system such as substantive law and procedural law.

Chapter 3.5b - Proprietary right of women

The Vyavahārādhyāya marks the development of the proprietary right of women. Yājñavalkya has entitled daughter, widow, mother, and wife with the right of inheritance that probably paved the way for women to become heirs today, in modern society. Before him, the Manusmṛti has not admitted wife and daughter in the list of heirs of a sonless person.[1] Yājñavalkya places wife and daughter at the top of the list of the heirs of a sonless deceased, and after them along with father, mother is admitted to the order of succession.[2] Mother is allowed to be the partaker of an equal share to that of her son when property is divided after the death of the father.[3] The wife is endowed with a share equal to the sons, if her husband himself makes a distribution of his self-acquired property. The share is allotted to compensate the women in case she is not the recipient of strīdhana from husband or father-in-law.[4]

The Mitākṣarā commentary shows that wives are not denied a share in her husband’s property even if they have received strīdhana, in that case they are allotted half of the share.[5] Therefore, while providing the share, the wealth received from father’s family does not act as a hindrance. After the death of the father, the unmarried sister is entitled to get a fourth part of brother’s share to be disposed of in marriage.[6]

Footnotes and references:


Manusmṛti, 9.185-187


Yājñavalkyasmṛti, 2.125


Ibid., 2.123


yadi kuryātsamānaṃśānpatnyaḥ kāryāḥ samāṃsikāḥ/ na dattaṃ strīdhanaṃ yāsāṃ bhartrā vā śvaśureṇa vā// Ibid., 2.115


datte tu strīdhane ardhāṃśaṃ vakṣati-date tvardhaṃ prakalpayet iti/ Mitākṣarā, Ibid.


Yājñavalkyasmṛti, 2.124

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