The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou art fully conversant with the ordinances of all the scriptures. Thou art the foremost of those that are acquainted with the duties of kings. Thou art celebrated over the whole world as a great dispeller of doubts. I have a doubt, do thou explain it to me, O grandsire! As regards this doubt that has arisen in my mind, I shall not ask any other person for its solution. It behoveth thee, O thou of mighty arms, to expound as to how a man should conduct himself who is desirous of treading along the path of duty and righteousness. It has been laid down, O grandsire, that a Brahmana can take four wives, viz., one that belongs to his own order, one that is a Kshatriya, one that is a Vaisya, and one that is a Sudra, if the Brahmana wishes to indulge in the desire of sexual intercourse. Tell me, O best of the Kurus, which amongst those sons deserves to inherit the father's wealth one after another? Who amongst them, O grandsire, shall take what share of the paternal wealth? I desire to hear this, viz., how the distribution has been ordained amongst them of the paternal property.'
"Bhishma said, 'The Brahmana, the Kshatriya, and the Vaisya are regarded as the three regenerate orders. To wed in these three orders has been ordained to be the duty of the Brahmana, O Yudhishthira. Through erroneous judgment or cupidity or lust, O scorcher of foes, a Brahmana takes a Sudra wife. Such a wife, however, he is not competent to take according to the scriptures. A Brahmana, by taking a Sudra woman to his bed, attains to a low end in the next world. He should, having done such an act, undergo expiation according to the rites laid down in the scriptures. That expiation must be twice heavier or severer if in consequence of such an act, O Yudhishthira, the Brahmana gets offspring. I shall now tell thee, O Bharata, how the (paternal) wealth is to be distributed (among the children of the different spouses.) The son born of the Brahmana wife shall, in the first place, appropriate from his father's wealth a bull of good marks, and the best car or vehicle. What remains of the Brahmana's property, O Yudhishthira, after this should be divided into ten equal portions. The son by the Brahmana wife shall take four of such portions of the paternal wealth. The son that is born of the Kshatriya wife is, without doubt, possessed of the status of a Brahmana. In consequence, however, of the distinction attaching to his mother, he shall take three of the ten
shares into which the property has been divided. The son that has been born of the wife belonging to the third order, viz., the woman of the Vaisya caste, by the Brahmana sire, shall take, O Yudhishthira, two of the three remaining shares of the father's property. It has been said that the son that has been begotten by the Brahmana sire upon the Sudra wife should not take any portion of the father's wealth, for he is not to be considered an heir. A little, however, of the paternal wealth should be given to the son of the Sudra wife, hence the one remaining share should be given to him out of compassion. Even this should be the order of the ten shares into which the Brahmana's wealth is to be divided. All the sons that are born of the same mother or of mothers of the same order, shall share equally the portion that is theirs. The son born of the Sudra wife should not be regarded as invested with the status of a Brahmana in consequence of his being unskilled (in the scriptures and the duties ordained for the Brahmana). Only those children that are born of wives belonging to the three higher orders should be regarded as invested with the status of Brahmanas. It has been said that there are only four orders there is no fifth that has been enumerated. The son by the Sudra wife shall take the tenth part of his sire's wealth (that remains after the allotment has been made to the others in the way spoken of). That share, however, he is to take only when his sire has given it to him. He shall not take it if his sire does not give it unto him. Some portion of the sire's wealth should without doubt, be given, O Bharata, to the son of the Sudra wife. Compassion is one of the highest virtues. It is through compassion that something is given to the son of the Sudra wife. Whatever be the object in respect of which compassion arises, as a cardinal virtue it is always productive of merit. Whether the sire happens to have children (by his spouses belonging to the other orders) or to have no children (by such spouses), unto the son by the Sudra wife, O Bharata, nothing more than a tenth part of the sire's wealth should be given. If a Brahmana happens to have more wealth than what is necessary for maintaining himself and his family for three years, he should with that wealth perform sacrifices. A Brahmana should never acquire wealth for nothing. 1 The highest sum that the husband should give unto the wife is three thousand coins (of the prevailing currency). The wealth that the husband gives unto the wife, the latter may spend or dispose of as she likes. Upon the death of the childless husband, the wife shall enjoy all his wealth. (She shall not, however, sell or otherwise dispose of any portion of it). The wife should never take (without her husband's knowledge) any portion of her husband's wealth. Whatever wealth, O Yudhishthira, the Brahmana wife may acquire by gift from her father, should be taken (after her death) by her daughter, for the daughter is like the son. The daughter, O king, has been ordained in the scriptures, to be equal to the son, O delighter of the Kurus. Even thus hath the law
of inheritance been ordained, O bull of Bharata's race. Remembering these ordinances about the distribution and disposal of wealth, one should never acquire wealth uselessly.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'If the son born of a Sudra woman by a Brahmana father has been declared in the scriptures to be disentitled to any wealth, by what exceptional rule then is a tenth part of the paternal property to be given to him? A son born of a Brahmana wife by a Brahmana is unquestionably a Brahmana. One born of a Kshatriya wife or of a Vaisya wife, by a Brahmana husband, is similarly invested with the status of a Brahmana. Why then, O best of kings, are such sons to share the paternal wealth unequally? All of them, thou hast said, are Brahmanas, having been born of mothers that belong to the three higher orders equally entitled to the name of regenerate.'
"Bhishma said, 'O scorcher of foes, all spouses in this world are called by the name of Data. Although that name is applied to all, yet there is this great distinction to be observed. If, having married three wives belonging to the three other orders, a Brahmana takes a Brahmana wife the very last of all yet shall she be regarded as the first in rank among all the wives, and as deserving of the greatest respect. Indeed, among all the co-wives, she shall be the foremost in consideration. In her apartments should be kept all those articles that are necessary in view of the husband's baths, personal decorations, washing of teeth, and application of collyrium to the eyes. In her apartments should be kept the Havya and the Kavya and all else that the husband may require for the performance of his religious acts. If the Brahmana wife is in the house, no other wife is entitled to attend to these needs of the husband. Only the Brahmana wife, O Yudhishthira, should assist in these acts of the husband. The husband's food and drink and garlands and robes and ornaments, all these should be given by the Brahmana wife to the husband, for she is the foremost in rank and consideration among all the spouses of the husband. These are the ordinances of the scriptures as laid down by Manu, O delighter of the Kurus! Even this, O monarch, is seen to be the course of eternal usage. If a Brahmana, O Yudhishthira, led by lust, acts in a different way, he shall come to be regarded as a Chandala among Brahmanas. 1 The son born of the Kshatriya wife has been said to be equal in status to the son born of the Brahmana wife. For all that, a distinction attaches to the son of the Brahmana wife in consequence of the superiority of the Brahmana to the Kshatriya in respect of the order of birth. The Kshatriya cannot be regarded as equal to the Brahmana woman in point of birth. Hence, O best of kings, the son born of the Brahmana wife must be regarded as the first in rank and superior to the son born of the Kshatriya wife. Because, again the Kshatriya
is not equal in point of birth to the Brahmana wife, hence the son of the Brahmana wife takes one after another, all the best things, O Yudhishthira, among his father's possessions. Similarly, the Vaisya cannot be regarded as the equal of the Kshatriya in point of birth. Prosperity, kingdom, and treasury, O Yudhishthira, belong to the Kshatriya. All these have been ordained for the Kshatriya. The whole earth, O king, with her belt of seas, is seen to belong to him. By following the duties of his own order, the Kshatriya acquires an extensive affluence. The sceptre of royalty is held by him. Without the Kshatriya, O king, there can be no protection. The Brahmanas are highly blessed, for they are the deities of the very deities. Following the ordinances laid down by the Rishis, the Kshatriyas should worship the Brahmanas according to due rites. Even this is the eternal usage. Coveted by thieves and others, the possessions of all men are protected by Kshatriyas in the observance of the duties assigned to their order. Indeed, wealth and spouses and every other possession owned by people would have been forcibly taken away but for this protection that the Kshatriyas afford. The Kshatriya, as the king, becomes the protector or rescuer of all the others. Hence, the son of the Kshatriya wife shall, without doubt, be held to be superior to him that is born of the Vaisya wife. The son of the Kshatriya wife, for this, takes a larger share of the paternal property than the son of the Vaisya mother.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast duly said what the rules are that apply to Brahmanas. What, however, are the rules that apply to the others?'
"Bhishma said, 'For the Kshatriya, O delighter of the Kurus, two wives have been ordained. The Kshatriya may take a third wife from the Sudra order. Such practice prevails, it is true, but it is not sanctioned by the scriptures. Even this should be the order, O Yudhisthira, of the spouses of a Kshatriya. The property of a Kshatriya should, O king, be divided into eight shares. The son of the Kshatriya wife shall take four of such shares of the paternal property. The son of the Vaisya wife shall take three of such shares. The remaining one or the eighth share shall be taken by the son of the Sudra wife. The son of the Sudra wife, however, shall take only when the father gives but not otherwise. For the Vaisya only one wife has been ordained. A second wife is taken from the Sudra order. The practice prevails, it is true, but it is not sanctioned by the scriptures. If a Vaisya has two wives, one of whom is a Vaisya and the other a Sudra, there is a difference between them in respect of status. The wealth of a Vaisya, O chief of Bharata's race, should be divided Into five portions. I shall now speak of the sons of a Vaisya by a wife of his own order and by one belonging to the inferior order, as also of the manner in which, O king his wealth is to be distributed among those children. The son born of the Vaisya wife shall take four of such shares of his father's wealth. The fifth share, O Bharata, has been said to belong to the son born of the Sudra wife. Such a son, however, shall take when the father gives. He should not take anything unless the father gives it to him. The son that is begotten on a Sudra wife by persons of the three higher orders should always be regarded
as disentitled to any share of the sire's wealth. The Sudra should have only one wife taken from his own order. He can under no circumstances, take any other spouse. Even if he happens to have a century of sons by such a spouse, all of them share equally the wealth that he may leave behind. As regards all the orders, the children born of the spouse taken from the husband's own order shall, it has been laid down, share equally the father's wealth. The eldest son's share shall be greater than that of every other son, for he shall take one share more than each of his brothers, consisting of the best things of his father. Even this is the law of inheritance, O son of Pritha, as declared by the Self-born himself. Amongst children all born of the spouse taken from the husband's own order, there is another distinction, O king! In marrying, the elder ones should always precede the younger ones. The spouses being all equal in respect of their order of birth, and the children also being all equal in respect of the status of their mothers, the son that is first-born shall take one share more than each of his other brothers. The son that comes next in point of age shall take a share that is next in value, while the son that is youngest shall take the share that belongs to the youngest. 1 Thus among spouses of all orders, they that belong to the same order with the husband are regarded as the first. Even this is what was declared by the great Rishi Kasyapa the son of Marichi.'
27:1 i.e., he should not acquire for storing. He may acquire to spend in sacrifices and gifts or for maintaining himself and his family.
28:1 i.e., if the Brahmana, led by affection for any other wife, disregards the wife belonging to his own order and shows preference for those of the other orders, he then incurs the liability of being regarded as a Chandala that has come to be numbered among Brahmanas.
30:1 The sense of this verse seems to be this: If a Brahmana takes in succession three spouses all belonging to his own order, the son born of his first wife shall take the share that is allotted to the eldest; that born of the second wife shall take a share next in value; and that born of the youngest wife shall take the share allotted to the youngest. After such especial shares are taken, the residue of the property is to be distributed unto equal shares each of which shall be taken by each of the children. If this interpretation be correct, it would appear that the contention waged some years ago in Bengal, that the scriptures do not allow a person the liberty of taking more than one spouse from his own order, falls to the ground. Upon other grounds also, that contention was absurd, for Kshatriya kings often took more than one Kshatriya spouse.
Next: Section XLVIII