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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

This shows that the verses in Parasara connected with Anumarana were not in the text of that Smriti which was before Medhatithi, and came to be inserted later on in imitation of Angirasa, with a view to sanctioning a new practice that was coming into force in society.

Medhatithi has been assigned by Buhler to the 9th century A.D. 61. Evidently Angirasa and the other Smrti karas must have lived before that time. The practice of the self-immolation of widows must have come into vogue also before that time and did the previous lawgivers recommend doubtless gaining ascendancy over the custom of life-long asceticism. Of course the custom of widow burning had not established itself firmly, as we have seen that Medhatithi himself has condemned it in no uncertain terms as an act of suicide.

He has, no doubt in this connection referred to the view of Angirasa, allowing Anumarana; but he says that it is not an obligatory act, that is to, say, it is not prescribed that it must be done. In his opinion it stands on the same footing as the performance of the syena sacrifice, allowed by the Vedic text 'One may kill living beings by means of syena sacrifice.' The Vedic text, no doubt, makes the performance of this sacrifice possible, but only for an individual who is blinded by extreme hatred, dvesha for creature life. This act can in no way be regarded, says Medhatithi, as Dharma or a meritorious act.

Similarly, the widow who is bent upon experiencing the consequences ensuing from this act of suicide, viz. Anumarana, can disobey the prohibition of it and put an end to her life; but in so doing she cannot be considered as acting according to the scriptures. Further, continues Medhatithi, we have the distinct Vedic text, 'One shall not die before the span of one's life is run out,' which is in contradiction to the Smriti text of Angirasa in such a way as to show that his statement is not in conflict with the Vedic injunction.

Only supposing that Angirasa allows Anumarana to a widow under special circumstances can do this. Supposing a widow is childless, has inherited no property, has to toil and moil for her livelihood, does not wish to marry again; supposing again that she is placed in abnormal times of distress where transgressions are permissible, as was the case with Viswamitra, when he partook of the dog's thigh, a widow can then undergo Anumarana. This act, though it is suicide, may be considered as a transgression, which was pardonable in times of distress.

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Women In The Sacred Laws
About The Later Law Books
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