The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'If a person, after having given dowry for a maiden, goes away, how should the maiden's father or other kinsmen who are competent to bestow her, act? Do tell me this, O grandsire!'
"Bhishma said, 'Such a maiden, if she happens to be the daughter of a sonless and rich father, should be maintained by the father (in view of the return of him who has given the dowry). Indeed, if the father does not return the dowry unto the kinsmen of the giver, the maiden should be regarded as belonging to the giver of the dowry. She may even raise offspring for the giver (during his absence) by any of those means that are laid down in the scriptures. No person, however, can be competent to wed her according to due rites. Commanded by her sire, the princess Savitri had in days of old chosen a husband and united herself with him. This act of hers is applauded by some; but others conversant with the scriptures, condemn it. Others that are righteous have not acted in this way. Others hold that the conduct of the righteous should ever be regarded as
the foremost evidence of duty or morality. 1 Upon this subject Sukratu, the grandson of the high-souled Janaka, the ruler of the Videhas, has declared the following opinion. There is the well-known declaration of the scriptures that women are incompetent to enjoy freedom at any period of their life. If this were not the path trodden by the righteous, how could this scriptural declaration exist? As regards the righteous, therefore, how can there be any question or doubt in respect of this matter? How can people condemn that declaration by choosing to conduct themselves otherwise? The unrighteous dereliction of eternal usage is regarded as the practice of the Asuras. Such practice we never hear of in the conduct of the ancients 2 the relationship of husband and wife is very subtile (having reference to the acquisition of destiny, and, therefore, capable of being understood with the aid of only the inspired declarations in scriptures). It is different from the natural relationship of male and female which consists only in the desire for sexual pleasure. This also was said by the king alluded to of Janaka's race.' 3
"Yudhishthira said, 'Upon what authority is the wealth of men inherited (by others when they happen to have daughters)? In respect of her sire the daughter should be regarded the same as the son.'
"Bhishma said, 'The son is even as one's own self, and the daughter is like unto the son. How, therefore, can another take the wealth when one lives in one's own self in the form of one's daughter? Whatever wealth is termed the Yautuka property of the mother, forms the portion of the maiden daughter. If the maternal grandfather happens to die without leaving sons, the daughter's son should inherit it. The daughter's son offers pindas to his own father and the father of his mother. Hence, in accordance with considerations of justice, there is no difference between the son and the daughter's son. When a person has got only a daughter and she has been invested by him with the status of a son, if he then happens to have a son, such a son (instead of taking all the wealth of his sire) shares the inheritance with the daughter. 4 When, again, a person has got a daughter and she has been invested by him with the status of a son, if he then happens to take a son by adoption or purchase then the daughter is held to be superior to such a son (for she takes three shares of her father's wealth, the son's share being limited to only the remaining two). In the
following case I do not see any reason why the status of a daughter's son should attach to the sons of one's daughter. The case is that of the daughter who has been sold by her sire. The sons born of a daughter that has been sold by her sire for actual price, belong exclusively to their father (even if he do not beget them himself but obtain them according to the rules laid down in the scriptures for the raising of issue through the agency of others). Such sons can never belong, even as daughter's sons, to their maternal grandfather in consequence of his having sold their mother for a price and lost all his rights in or to her by that act. 1 Such sons, again, become full of malice, unrighteous in conduct, the misappropriators of other people's wealth, and endued with deceit and cunning. Having sprung from that sinful form of marriage called Asura, the issue becomes wicked in conduct. Persons acquainted with the histories of olden times, conversant with duties, devoted to the scriptures and firm in maintaining the restraints therein laid down, recite in this connection some metrical lines sung in days of yore by Yama. Even this is what Yama had sung. That man who acquires wealth by selling his own son, or who bestows his daughter after accepting a dower for his own livelihood, has to sink in seven terrible hells one after another, known by the name of Kalasutra. There that wretch has to feed upon sweat and urine and stools during the whole time. In that form of marriage which is called Arsha, the person who weds has to give a bull and a cow and the father of the maiden accepts the gift. Some characterise this gift as a dowry (or price), while some are of opinion that it should not be regarded in that light. The true opinion, however, is that a gift for such a purpose, be it of small value or large, should, O king, be regarded as dowry or price, and the bestowal of the daughter under such circumstances should be viewed as a sale. Notwithstanding the fact of its having been practised by a few persons it can never be taken as the eternal usage. Other forms of marriage are seen, practised by men, such as marrying girls after abducting them by force from amidst their kinsmen. Those persons who have sexual intercourse with a maiden, after reducing her to subjection by force, are regarded as perpetrators of sin. They have to sink in darkest hell. 2 Even a human being with whom one has no relationship of blood should not form the subject of sale. What need then be said of one's own issue? With the wealth that is acquired by doing sinful deeds, no action leading to merit can be performed.'"
23:1 Hence, what Savitri did at the bidding of her sire could not be against the course of duty or morality. The Burdwan translator has misunderstood the second line of this verse, while K.P. Singha has quietly dropped it.
23:2 Dharmasya refers to the true or correct or eternal Aryan usage, Pradanam is khandanam, from da, to cut The sense is that the grant of liberty to women is an Asura practice.
23:3 Hence, no one should wed, led by desire alone. Nor should the maiden be permitted to choose for herself. She may be guided in her choice by improper considerations connected with only carnal pleasure.
23:4 The property is divided into five parts, two of which are taken by the daughter under such circumstances and three by the son.
24:1 I expand the verse for making it intelligible, by setting forth the reasons urged by Hindu lawyers and noticed by the commentator.
24:2 Valatah vasyam implies only those whose consent is obtained by force. Hence, such cases as those of Krishna abducting Rukmini and Arjuna abducting Subhadra, are excluded from this denunciation.
Next: Section XLVI