Widow marriage – is it permissible in our Dharma?

“Udayji, I follow your WhatsApp broadcast. I am happy to see the logical and scientific presentation of Hindu Dharma. I am a widow. I married at the age of 18 and lost my husband when I was 32. Now I am 45. My only son left me and settled in Europe. A friend of mine suggested that I should get married again. I have never thought about a man after my husband left. I don’t think anybody can replace him…”


“Ok, so?” I asked her. Whether to marry or to remain a spinster or bachelor, is a personal choice. Both states have their advantages and disadvantages as well.


“Ji, can a widow marry again?” she was struggling with that question.


“It is your choice”


“No Udayji, my question is, it is ethical? I belong to a Brahmin family”


“Who decides if it is ethical or not? And why do you bring your caste in this? This is a democratic country – everyone has equal rights.”


“I shall reframe the question then – As per our Dharma, can a window marry? According to our tradition, actually, a dedicated wife should perform Sati, right?”


“Who says so? I have discussed Sati many times. Can you show at least one example from our Shastras or Puranas about any woman performing Sati after her husband’s death? Leave Madri’s history alone. It was because of her guilt feeling that she caused her husband Pandu’s death. So, as atonement immolates herself on his pyre. Any other example?”


“I don’t know. What’s Sati then?”


“Sati means ‘good woman’ in Sanskrit. It’s a symbol of an empowered woman who has nothing to do with a husband’s pyre, even less to do with a widow. On the contrary, it’s about a married woman’s anger and frustration. Shiva’s first wife Sati is an example.”


“So, according to our scriptures and historians, what do women do when a husband dies?”


“To the best of my knowledge, ancient scriptures say the widow is often brought back home. Historically, yes – a deplorable practice of Sati became rampant in the 14th century with the foreign invasion when Hindu women committed suicides to avoid mass rape and servitude by those barbaric ter-rorists….”


“But do our Vedas agree to window marriage?”


“Again, to best of my knowledge, scripturally, widow marriage is not only allowed, but encouraged too. However, ultimately it is the choice of the widow or widower…”


“But our family priest won’t allow me to participate in any rituals. He says widows are inauspicious!”


“Your priest is either ignorant or a male-chauvinistic to the core. According to Rig Veda (10:18:8), the husband’s brother should support the widow and request her to move on. Atharva Veda (9:5:27, 28) also says a woman who takes another man as her husband, is never separated from the Divine. Further, elsewhere, it is mentioned that a woman who marries another man after the death of her husband can even perform panchamaha yajna.”


“Do our Dharma Shastras support it?”


“Parasara Smriti (4:30) provides five cases remarriage that is ordained for women – if the husband is disappeared, dead, having gone forth to a mendicant life, having become impotent, having fallen from social status. Nāradasmṛti (12:96) also says when a faultless maiden has been married to a man who has a blemish unknown before the marriage and does not take to another man after discovering it, shall be enjoined to do so by her relatives. If she has no relations living (or no children), she may go to live with another man of her own accord.”


“Really?”


“Even Manu was so progressive that he recommends widow marriage in Manusmriti. It (9:76) says if the husband went abroad for some sacred duty, the wife should wait for him eight years, if he went for acquiring learning or fame six years and if he went for pleasure three years. Thereafter she may remarry without incurring any sin or guilt.”


“Oh, so there is nothing wrong?”


“Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar translated Rig Veda in Bengali to convince the people that widow marriage was sanctioned in ancient times. It was due to his efforts that the Widow Remarriage Act 1856 was passed”


“Udayji, honestly, I have been feeling lonely, down, and frustrated and many times thought of committing suicide. I still love my deceased husband…”


“You don’t have to stop loving your deceased spouse to find another one. Again, it is your decision. Some people prefer to stay alone. Most people seek a companion. It’s all in your mind. As I said every stage of life has its pluses and minuses. So, if you want to marry, do not waste your remaining precious time in life. Find a suitable spouse and get married as early as possible. You don’t have to be guilty and sad about it. But you might want to take necessary precautions as the world is very unfair and there are chances that you would get exploited…”


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