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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 LATER LAW - BOOKS

Both Yajnavalkya and Vishnu ordain self-choice for a girl, in case her natural guardians fall to give her in marriage at the proper time. Yajnavalkya designates her a Kanya. According, to Yajnavalkya and Vishnu, 43 the, word Kanya is used for a girl who has attained the marriageable age. In the same sense does Manu use the word Kumari. 44

But front the verses of Samvarta and Yama the age of a Kanya is evidently fixed at ten, and a girl above that age is called a Vrshali. This change in the meaning evidently took place between the composition of Vishnu and the Samvarta-Samhita. Vishnu has been ascribed to the 4th century A.D., and it can be concluded on reasonable grounds that this change in the social outlook came into force soon after his time, so as to induce Marichi mention it in his work, and child-marriage was encouraged by the sanction of law; in fact, celestial felicity of the highest type was held out as a reward for it.

It was besides considered to be a meritorious act. The lower the age at which the girl was married, the higher is the merit reaped by the father. We do not know what political events necessitated this drastic change. The country was certainly passing through a turbulent time.

The periodical foreign invasions might partly have accelerated the change in the outlook towards womanhood. The position of woman in the literature that preceded Vishnu is not however the same. In the dialogue of Uma Mahesvara we have Kanya defined as one who is purified of her temporary uncleanness. 45

In the Mahabharata 46 the term Kanya is used for girls who have attained their marriageable age. Harita describes and ordains the initiation of woman. 47 He continues:

'Women are of two kinds: Brahmavadinis or women versed in the: knowledge of Brahman and married brides. The Brahmavadinis light the [sacrificial] fire, read the Vedas, and begs in their own house. The marriage of the new brides should be performed after a formal initiation on their arrival at the place of marriage'. 48

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Women In The Sacred Laws
About The Later Law Books
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