Yajnavalkya-smriti (Vyavaharadhyaya)—Critical study

by Kalita Nabanita | 2017 | 87,413 words

This page relates ‘Prostitute and Concubine’ 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.

Prostitution is practised in all the societies throughout the ages. The existence of prostitution in some form may be traced from the Vedic times. Ancient Indian literature abounds in the description of prostitutes, which show the popularity and wide practice of this institution in the society, in spite of the high ideals of life emphasised in the Vedas, Smṛtis, etc. The Vyavahārādhyāya of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti indicates the presence of concubines and prostitutes in the contemporary society.

Yājñavalkya mentions two types of concubines viz.,

  1. avaruddhā and
  2. bhujiṣyā.

Avaruddhā woman may be considered slave who is prohibited by the master from having intercourses with other men with an injunction to stay at home.[1] Bhujiṣyā is the kept mistress who is restricted to have sexual intercourse to a certain person.[2] Thus, they resemble with concubines or kept mistresses, who are maintained by one single person. The exclusive right of enjoyment of a particular person over the avaruddhā and bhujiṣyā is accepted in the Yājñavalkyasmṛti, which might reflect the custom of that time. Hence, it is considered as adultery if any person cohabits with a kept mistress of another man.114

Apart from these two types of kept mistresses, another type of public woman called veśyā is referred to in the Vyavahārādhyāya. They are supposed to offer themselves in lieu of fee or wages. Yājñavalkya incorporates that if veśyā, i.e. a prostitute having received her fee, even in good health, refuses to submit herself to the person, who has paid the fee then she is liable to refund twice the amount of fee received from the person. In the same way, if a man having paid the fee does not go with her, he has to forfeit the amount of fee.[3] Thus, it may be observed in the Vyavahārādhyāya of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti that the prostitution has the legal recognition or acceptance and is considered a profession or occupation.

Footnotes and references:


gṛha eva sthātavyamityevaṃ puruṣāntaropabhogato niruddhā avaruddhāḥ/ Ibid.,2.290


puruṣaniyataparigrahāḥ bhujiṣyāh…/ Ibid.114 avaruddhāsu dāsīṣu bhujiṣyāsu tathaiva ca/ gamyāsvapi pumāndāpyaḥ pañcāśatpaṇikaṃdamam// Yājñavalkyasmṛti, 2.290


gṛhītavetanā veśyā necchantī dviguṇaṃ vahet/ agṛhīte samaṃ dāpyaḥ pumānapyevameva hi// Ibid., 2.292

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: