Divorce, Widow Remarriage Allowed By Vedic Hinduism


Gandharva Marriage-Shakuntala and Dushyant.
Gandharva Marriage-Shakuntala and Dushyant.

Marriage in India, Hinduism is a bit complex in that Marriages are intertwined with Religion ,Spirituality, Disposition and place in the Society.

As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, the Social Organisation , incorrectly called as ‘Caste’ Marriages were classified into Eight Types, based on the couples disposition and their Social Status.

The Eight Types of Marriages ,Vivaha.

  1. Brahma Vivaah:Brahma vivah is considered the best marriage. In this the boy and girl belonging to good families and the same varna get married. The boy should have completed his Brahmacharya Ashram (studenthood). There is no dowry involved and the girl enters the boy’s house with two sets of clothes and some ornaments. In this marriage, the boy’s family approaches the girl’s family. “Kanyadaan”, which is the handing of the bride by her father to the groom, is an important ritual of the Brahma Vivah..
  2. Prajapatya Vivaah: This type of marriage is the same as the Brahma vivaah in all respects, except that the bride’s father gives her away as a gift, not to the groom, but to the groom’s father. This type of marriage is resorted to when the groom and bride are both very young. Thus, the protection of the bride or daughter is handed over by her father to the groom’s father during the Panigrahan (hand-receiving) ceremony. The wedding ceremony involving the young bride and groom may take place immediately afterwards, but the wedding may not be consummated for several years, until the bride and groom are old enough.
  3. Daiva Vivaah: In this type of wedding, there are no feasts or celebrations that are specific to the wedding, but the wedding of the daughter of a poor family is held as an act of charity by wealthy people. It was customary for kings, landlords and rich merchants to hold religious ceremonies and sacrifices where many gifts would be given and charities performed for the benefit of learned Brahmins and the poor. During these great events, a poor man would sometimes approach the wealthy host and seek the charity that his daughter’s wedding be performed at this time. This type of marriage may take place if the girl’s parents are unable to locate a suitable groom within a reasonable period (several years) after the girl has attained puberty. Often, the reason for this would be that the parents of the bride cannot afford the expense of their daughter’s marriage. It was considered improper or unsafe to keep a girl unwed past her teens, and anyway the chances of an aging girl getting a good husband were not better than the same girl getting a good husband at a younger age. So the girl would be bedecked with flowers and whatever small ornaments the parents could provide and taken to the venue of the religious ceremony or sacrifice being performed by a rich magnate. She would be offered in marriage to any willing man and generally this would be one of the priests, young or old. The wedding ceremony would be performed in short order and the feasts which were anyway being hosted as part of the festivities would suffice for this extra wedding also. According to the Dharmashastra, Daiva marriage is considered avoidable but is still respectable since poverty is not culpable; lack of virtue is reprehensible but honest poverty is acceptable.
  4. Arsha Vivaah: In this type of marriage, the family of the groom pays kanya-shulkam or bride-price to the parents of the bride. According to certain texts, the prescribed bride-price is a cow with a calf and a pair of bulls. The sacred texts provide various lists of specific communities where this custom prevailed and imply that it is unfitting in general society. However, several instances are found in the puranas of marriage between a man from mainstream communities and a woman from one of the bride-price seeking communities (PanduMadriDasharathaKaikeyi, etc.). In nearly all cases, the man willingly pays the bride-price and brings his bride home. Also in nearly all these cases, the woman thus obtained comes to dominate her husband and causes havoc and ruin in his family.
  5. Asura Vivaah: In the Asura type of marriage the groom is not at all suitable for the bride. In no way is he a match for the girl but he willingly gives as much wealth as he can afford to the bride’s parents and relatives. In Arsha type cows are given in exchange for the bride but there is no such limitation in the Asura type of marriage. Generally the groom is of lower social rank or caste than the bride. This type of marriage is highly disfavored.
  6. Gandharva Vivaah: When a man and a woman marry for love and without the consent of their families, that marriage is called Gandharva Vivaah or ‘love marriage.’ This type of marriage is considered impious and degrading because it is motivated by lust. In Hinduism, a man is supposed to marry a woman who will aid him in performing his duties towards his parents, clan and society, and to have sons to perpetuate his lineage. Love marriages are seen as taking a man away from all these duties and making him besotted to a beautiful, lustful woman, mindful only of his own selfish pleasures and unmindful of his duties. Hence this form of marriage is reprobated.
  7. Rakshasa Vivaah: This is essentially marriage by abduction. In cases where the girl is willing to marry the boy but her family is against the alliance, the girl may be abducted and married. It is essential that the girl be willing, because otherwise, the puranas and shastras simply treat the incident of abduction as rape, with consequent vengeance and retribution. Instances of such marriages include KrishnaRukmini and ArjunaSubhadra, in all of which cases the girl was willing and the results were good.
  8. Paishacha Vivaah: In the case where the bride is intoxicated, possessed or not in a conscious state of mind when being married and thus is married unwillingly, is an example Paishacha vivaah, and which has been outlawed by Manu.(Wiki)

Of these eight,  in the first Two Case, Brahmana Vivaha and Prajapati Vivaha, Divorce and Remarriage and Widow Remarriage were not allowed.

This is because of the elevated status these two groups, which perform these types of Marriages belong to.

Normally  these were performed by the Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaisya Communities.

What is important to note is that the ‘Caste’ is determined based on wedlock and Wedlock is not determined by the caste, in the sense that those who marry other than these two types of Marriages no longer belong to the Group and are not constrained by  their original groups laws.

An example is the marriage of  Asura Guru,Sukra’s daughter’s marriage.( Devyani).

Sukracharya, a Brahmin was the Guru of Asuras .

His duty was to get his daughter married  in the style of Brahmana Vivaha.

Since it he did not do it, for no fault of his, he separated himself from his daughter, who later married  a King.

In these cases, the Laws of Manu ,proscribing remarriage or Divorce do not apply.

The Laws of Manu forbidding Remarriage and Divorce are related to the two types of marriages and not to other Varnas.

In all the other six cases, laws of Manu do not apply and there is no bar for remarriage.

As has been the vein of Sanatana Dharama, stricter laws are applied to Barhmains, Kshatriyas ans Vaishyas.

Therefore Divorce and Remarriages were allowed  except in the case of the Brahmanas ,Kshtriyas and Vishyas,

In case people from these groups decide to marry in a form other than what is prescribed, Namely Brahman Vivaha and Prajapati Vivaha, tey acn, but they are no longer controlled by the laws that were applicable to them earlier.

The which group do they belong to and what rules should they follow?

This will be dealt with separately in another post, where I will be discussing how many so-called caste groups came into being.


Indian History By Reddy.



6 Replies to “Divorce, Widow Remarriage Allowed By Vedic Hinduism”

  1. Sage Dirghatamas and his father are epitomes of our tradition.Are they or not?


  2. This is confusing.In the Mahabharata Sathyavathi asks [rather]her daughters-in-law to co habit with her illegitimate son.Both Amba and Ambika are widows.So does this mean that they can co co-habit but not marry?Or are they special because they are Kshatruya widows and the person they co habit with is a hermit?
    As per the rules ,the dharmashastric prescription of those times Bhishma should have brought in Somadatta,Shantaus brother Balika’s son to co habit with his “fallen” sister in law
    But he chose Vyasa on the persistence of his stepmother.How did that work in a male dominated patriarcal dynasty?Incomprehensible.
    Why didnt Amba and Ambalika go into Sati?What about Sathyavathi when Shantanu died?Kunti conveniently stayed back and sent madhuri into the pyre.
    I dont understand the rules.

    Rishi Dirghatama said,

    Mahabharata 1.104.31-32 Dirghatamas [Rishi] said, ‘I lay down from this day as a rule that every woman shall have to adhere to one husband for her life. Be the husband dead or alive, it shall not be lawful for a woman to have connection with another. And she who may have such connection shall certainly be regarded as fallen. A woman without husband shall always be liable to be sinful.’
    Bhishma in the Mahabaratam tells the beautiful narrative of the birth of Dirghatamas in the Mahabharata (book1, Adi Parva, CIV): “There was in olden days a wise Rishi of the name of Utathya. He had a wife of the name Mamata whom he dearly loved. One day Utathya’s younger brother Brihaspati, the priest of the celestials, endued with great energy, approached Mamata. The latter, however, told her husband’s younger brother—that foremost of eloquent men—that she had conceived from her connection with his elder brother and that, therefore, he should not then seek for the consummation of his wishes. She continued, ‘O illustrious Brihaspati, the child that I have conceived hath studied in his mother’s womb the Vedas with the six Angas, Semen tuum frustra perdi non potest. How can then this womb of mine afford room for two children at a time? Therefore, it behoveth thee not to seek for the consummation of thy desire at such a time. Thus addressed by her, Brihaspati, though possessed of great wisdom, succeeded not in suppressing his desire. There is no space here for two. O illustrious one, the room is small. I have occupied it first. It behoveth thee not to afflict me.’ But Brihaspati without listening to what that child in the womb said, sought the embraces of Mamata possessing the most beautiful pair of eyes. And the illustrious Brihaspati, beholding this, became indignant, and reproached Utathya’s child and cursed him, saying, ‘Because thou hast spoken to me in the way thou hast at a time of pleasure that is sought after by all creatures,perpetual darkness shall overtake thee.’ And from this curse of the illustrious Brishaspati Utathya’s child who was equal unto Brihaspati in energy, was born blind and came to be called Dirghatamas (enveloped in perpetual darkness). And the wise Dirghatamas, possessed of a knowledge of the Vedas, though born blind, succeeded yet by virtue of his learning, in obtaining for a wife a young and handsome Brahmana maiden of the name of Pradweshi. And having married her, the illustrious Dirghatamas, for the expansion of Utathya’s race, begat upon her several children with Gautama Dirghatamas as their eldest.
    This great Dirgathamas tells us how women should live!!!How Men should live he does not have to tell us!!!–Its amazing AIDS and STD WERE absent then-after all the celestials and kings could do whatever they wanted-Why cant we follow what they did?Why should we follow the rules which have been set by by God knows Who?

    Our dear just Manu has a few helpful hints for everything
    :55. Know that such is the law concerning the offspring of cows, mares, slave-girls, female camels, she-goats, and ewes, as well as of females of birds and buffalo-cows.

    56. Thus the comparative importance of the seed and of the womb has been declared to you; I will next propound the law (applicable) to women in times of misfortune.

    57. The wife of an elder brother is for his younger (brother) the wife of a Guru; but the wife of the younger is declared (to be) the daughter-in-law of the elder.

    58. An elder (brother) who approaches the wife of the younger, and a younger (brother who approaches) the wife of the elder, except in times of misfortune, both become outcasts, even though (they were duly) authorised.

    59. On failure of issue (by her husband) a woman who has been authorised, may obtain, (in the) proper (manner prescribed), the desired offspring by (cohabitation with) a brother-in-law or (with some other) Sapinda (of the husband).

    60. He (who is) appointed to (cohabit with) the widow shall (approach her) at night anointed with clarified butter and silent, (and) beget one son, by no means a second.

    61. Some (sages), versed in the law, considering the purpose of the appointment not to have been attained by those two (on the birth of the first), think that a second (son) may be lawfully procreated on (such) women.

    62. But when the purpose of the appointment to (cohabit with) the widow bas been attained in accordance with the law, those two shall behave towards each other like a father and a daughter-in-law.

    I am sure no on will agree with me.I only have questions. Seriously why dont we start following the old rules of the game-forget Raja Ram Mohqn Roy.Follow Sathyavathi-She is my Favourite.


    1. 1.The point is hat should be and hat has taken place in the Mahabharata.
      The moral ideal is differnt from hat had happened in the Mahabharata.
      many instances in the Mahabharata, like gambling, Draupadi Vastrabhaharan are not dharmic.
      Yet they happened and peole paid the price for it.
      2.The Dharmas for each Yuga is differnt.
      3.Many aberrations of behaviour may be noticed in the Mahbharata and the consequnces of have also been described.
      .4.It is for us take what is good.
      Sorry for the delay in replying.


  3. Dear Sir,

    According to above marriage types, a Hindu Brahman cannot marry again.

    I am unmarried Brahman boy and want to marry a divorced Brahman girl.

    Is this marriage possible through traditional Vedic procedure, or suggest the appropriate process through Vedic system. Will the father of girl do Kanyadanam again for the same daughter to second husband.



    1. A Man can remarry if the wife is dead’issue less for over 12 years because of her,commits adultery,drinks, neglects children, Husband, illtreats husband and relatives.
      Widow remarriage, though we have refernces that they have taken place during Vedic period,does not have the sancion of Sruthi, vedas or the Smriti.

      However considering the present society, it may be allowed with out Kanyadaan.


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