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Women In The Sacred Laws
Kulapati's Preface The Author
Foreword Prologue
The Dharma Sutras Contemporary Evidence
The Manu - Samhita The Later Law-Books
Digest On Hindu Law Espirit Des Lois
Major Sections

THE DHARMA SUTRAS

The sin incumbent oil the failure of marrying the daughter at the proper time is ‘ equivalent to the slaying of an embryo ‘; that is the rule, of the sacred law".135  It is doubtful if this is from Vasishtha, for the evidence of contemporary books and of the later Smritis show clearly that child- marriage came into vogue quite late in Indian history. Verses like the above, corroborating such an institution, are  probably the additions of later compilers. 136

We find for the first time here, abduction not followed by sacrament, discarded. The earlier lawgivers have given a place to it among the recognised systems. Vasishtha welcomes an abducted girl into society, and says, ‘ If a damsel has been abducted by force, and not been wedded with sacred texts, she may be lawfully given to another man ; she is even like a maiden ‘.137 This, idea is further developed in Devala Smriti.

The wife of an emigrant could marry after a lapse of five years.138 If she were unwilling to do so, she had to live like a widow. 139 He further specifies the conditions of the rule by allotting five years each to a Brahmana and Kshatriya wife, four years to a Vaisya and three years to a Sudra, 140 after which the abandoned wives could marry again.

Vasishtha exempts from tax widows who return to their former family, unmarried maidens, and the wives of servants.141 In prescribing penances for women the mental unfaithfulness of a wife has to be expiated by a penance, which consists mainly of a frugal meal and sleeping on bare ground.142

For improper conversation with a man the penance is more severe : and when a woman over steps virtue, the penances are still more severe but they do not equal in severity those of the later law givers The three great crimes for which women can be out casted are ‘ the murder of their husband, slaying a learned Brahmana and the destruction of the fruit of their womb’.143 Still the punishment is not as severe as on the present age, when in such cases, a wife has to forfeit her life.

A wife could never be abandoned by a man on any account, ‘ though tainted by sin, whether she be quarrel some, or has left the house, or has suffered criminal force or has fallen into the hands of thieves’; a wife must not be abandoned, for ‘ to forsake her is not prescribed by the sacred law '.144 This is quite contradictory to what has been said previously that a woman should  be abandoned under similar circumstances. This is perhaps the original view of Vasishtha and the other a later addition.

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Women In The Sacred Laws
About The Dharma Sutras
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