Yajnavalkya-smriti (Vyavaharadhyaya)—Critical study

by Kalita Nabanita | 2017 | 87,413 words

This page relates ‘Remarriage 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.

Though, there is no such direct reference to the remarriage of women in the Vyavahārādhyāya, yet the practice of remarriage may be inferred from some instances.

Under the head, different kinds of sons discussed above, it is shown that Yājñavalkya refers to a son called paunarbhava, which reads:—

akṣatāyāṃ kṣatāyāṃ jātaḥ paunarbhavaḥ sūtaḥ/[1]

Viśvarūpa, the earliest commentator of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti, explicitly, states that paunarbhava is the child born of a widow that has remarried:—

mṛte bhartaryakṣatayonyāmanyasaṃskṛtāyāṃ jātaḥ paunarbhavaḥ kṣatyonyāṃ /[2]

The Mitākṣarā also defines paunarbhava as the son, begotten by a man of equal class on a twice married woman whose marriage had or had not been consummated.[3] Therefore, it may be assumed that while recognizing the paunarbhava son Yājñavalkya has accepted the existence of remarriage of woman. He might have found it difficult to ignore the contemporary social practice of the time though the society generally looked down upon such a practice.

In another instance, Yājñavalkya declares the responsibility of a yoṣidgrāha to pay the debt.[4] Yoṣidgrāha is a person who takes a wife of another and so he is liable to pay the debt of the person, whose wife he takes. It also suggests the prevalence of remarriage in society without considering the fact whether society approves it or not. The Mitākṣarā makes it clear that although, the Śāstras oppose in taking the wife of another, still those who transgresses the prohibition becomes liable to discharge the debt incurred by the former husband.[5]

There is no such glaring instance of the evil practice called satī, meaning selfimmolation of widow in the Vyavahārādhyāya.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid., 2.130


Bālakrīḍā, Ibid., 2.134


paunarbhavastu putro’kṣatāyāṃ kṣatāyaṃ va punarbhvāṃ savarṇādutpannaḥ/ Mitākṣarā, Ibid.,2.130


yoṣitabhāryāṃ gṛhṇātīti yoṣidgrāhataḥ sa tathaivarṇaṃ dātyaḥ/ yo yadīyāṃ yoṣita gṛhṇāti sa tatkṛtamṛṇaṃ dāpyaḥ/ Mitākṣarā, Ibid., 2.51


yoṣidgrāho yadyapi śāstrāvirodhena na saṃbhavati tathāpyatikrāntaniṣedhaḥ/ pūrvapatikṛtarṇāpākaraṇādhikāri bhavatyeva/ Ibid.

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