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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

It would be clear from the above survey that by the time of the later lawgivers a revolution in ideas had taken place and we find many other changes creeping into society. One of the revolutionary changes that came into force in contemporary society was the legal sanction for the self-immolation of a widow. The earlier lawgivers have not mentioned it anywhere.

The earliest Vedic custom for the widow was to marry her husband's brother. The earliest among the lawgivers agreed with this old order and sanctioned it. The lawgivers that followed him imposed a temporary asceticism for a short period, after which the widows could marry with the permission of the elders of the family.

This liberty, allowed to women, seems to have been extinct soon after the compilation of Vasishtha, for Manu and Yajnavalkya, 50 though referring to the old practice of Niyoga, and admitting the sons of such union as legal heirs to the property of the deceased, lay down life long asceticism for women after the death of their husbands, with a reward of heavenly bliss attached to it.

Yajnavalkya says as follows 51:

'She who does not go to another man, whether her husband is living or dead, attains, fame here, and rejoices with Uma.' Though life-long asceticism is inflicted upon a widow, there is not the least trace of the self-immolation of a widow here, any more than in Manu. Things, however seem to have altered considerably soon after the advent of the Gupta power.

Thus the Vishnu Smriti, which was compiled after the fourth century A.D., says that one of the duties of a woman is to preserve her chastity (Brahmacharyam) after the death of her husband or to ascend the funeral pile after him.52  Similarly the code of Brihaspati, which has been assigned to the sixth or seventh century A.D.: 53. 'A wife is considered half the body of her husband, equally sharing the results of his good or wicked deeds; whether she ascends, the pile after him, or chooses to survive him leading a virtuous life, she protects the welfare of her husband.'

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Women In The Sacred Laws
About The Later Law Books
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