Written by Sulaiman Razvi
Having more than one spouse (especially wife) is known as Polygamy. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 prohibits Polygamy for Hindus but Hindu scriptures allows polygamy and it’s still in practice among some Hindus. Not a single verse of any Hindu text says that ‘You should marry only one’ and yet Hindus claim that Hinduism permits only monogamy. Many Hindus think that Polygamy is prohibited in Hinduism, Hence Hindus are not allowed to have more than one wife. This is not true. Hinduism permits a man to have more than one wife at a time. When you tell a Hindu that Hinduism permits polygamy he won’t talk about scriptures rather he will tell you that Indian law prohibits polygamy for Hindus and Hindus have accepted the law unlike Muslims. They claim that Hindus are very adaptive. Hindus didn’t stop practices like Sati, Polygamy etc., but it was enforced by the Indian court. Recently some women and children were beaten up for entering a temple and the court had to intervene and it allowed entrance of women into some temples. So Hindus had to adapt because they had no choice but to accept court’s decisions. As far as my knowledge on polygamy is concerned I haven’t read a single verse from any Hindu scripture prohibiting polygamy.
This article deals with the following subjects
While Hindus makes mockery of Muslims for having four wives each (which isn’t true) they are unaware of the fact that Hindu men are more polygamous than Muslims in India. Let’s have a look at the survey,
As per Government’s 1961 census, 5.8% of Hindus were polygamous compared to Muslim’s 5.7%. Polygamy among Buddhist men was 7.9%, Jains 6.7% and incidence of polygamy was highest among Adivasis with 15.25% of Adivasi practicing polygamy.
It is illegal for non-Muslims in India to have more than one wife. In spite of this, many Hindus have multiple wives. Official reports brought out in 1974, almost two decades after the prohibition of Hindu bigamy, highlighted the shocking fact that polygamy among Hindus was higher than among Muslims (Adivasis: 15 per cent, Hindus: 5.8 per cent, Jains: 6.7 per cent, Buddhists: 7.9 per cent, Muslims: 5.6 per cent). Figures for subsequent decades are not available. The difference may appear insignificant but in real terms, it is huge — as many as one crore Hindu men had more than one wife, as opposed to just 12 lakh Muslims. In fact, according to the 2011 Census, 66 lakh women are still in bigamous marriages.
The National Family Health Survey carried out in 2006 showed that 2.5% of Muslim men were polygamous compared to 1.7% of Hindu men and 2.1% of Christian men. The number of polygamous marriages has dropped significantly in both Hindus and Muslims. But this time the percentage of polygamy is higher among Muslims with a 0.8% gap between Hindus and Muslims. But this 0.8% gap is not a huge number. There is something worth noticing that Indian law permits Polygamy for Muslims while Hindu Marriage Act 1955 prohibits Hindu men to have more than one wife at a time, despite this prohibition 1.7% Hindus still practices polygamy. Imagine the rate of polygamy in Hindus if Indian law permits them to have more than one wife. Indian law permits polygamy for Muslims based on Sharia law and yet only 2.5% of men practices polygamy. 1961 and 1974 census are more important because they are the only two official census to look marriages on religious lines. Apart from this, in Goa a Hindu man can practice polygamy if his wife did not bore him a child.
There are some tactics used by Hindus to practice polygamy in India as Hindu Marriage Act prohibits them to have more than one wife at a time. Some converts to Islam to have more than one wife but at the same time practices polygamy, some Hindus after marrying the second says that their first marriage was not solemnized as some ceremonies pertaining to Hindu law were not duly performed.
When a Hindu marries a second wife, the first wife lodges a criminal case against her husband pointing out his polygamy. In many cases the court rejects the case based on meager legal points and eludes the culprit out of punishment.
In Maharastra Mr. Balrao Sankar Lokande married a second wife. His first wife lodged a criminal case against him. Session court and High court convicted him. Mr. Balrao appealed to the Supreme court, the Supreme court released him. As he left some ceremonies pertaining to the Laws of Hindus Marriage, it can’t be considered as marriage. Since it is not a marriage, he did not commit any mistake to punish is the judgment.
Mr. Balrao Sankar Lokande against Government of Maharastra AIR 1965 SC 1566)
Mr. Suresh Chandra Gosh married a second wife. His first wife Priya Bala Gosh lodged a criminal case against him. High court refused to convict him on legal ground. Since he left some ceremonies pertaining to the Laws of Hindus Marriage, it can’t be considered as marriage.
Mrs. Priya Bala Gosh against Mr. Suresh Chandra Gosh AIR 1971 SC 1153)
In Andra Mr.L.Venkata Reddy married a second wife. His first wife Mrs.Lingari Oppallamma lodged a criminal case against him. In this case also High court did not convict him. As he left some ceremonies pertaining to the Laws of Hindus Marriage, it can’t be considered as marriage.
Mrs.Lingari Oppallamma against Mr.L.Venkata Reddy and others AIR 1979 SC 848)
In Kashmir Mr. Bangari married a second wife. His first wife lodged a criminal case against him. The court released him. As he left some ceremonies pertaining to the Laws of Hindus Marriage, it can’t be considered as marriage. His second wife is a concubine only. Since There is no law to punish for keeping a concubine.
Mr. Banari against the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir AIR 1965 SC 105)
Thus our High Courts and Supreme Court passed judgments in many cases.
Another tactic used by Hindus is the practice of Live-in relationship. A married man can have another partner through live-in relationship. And this practice has got legal backing in Gujarat where it is known as Maitri Karar. Though both men and women can practice Maitri Karar but its mostly upper caste rich Hindu men who are opting for Maitri Karar. In this practice they can have a wife and a live in partner at a time. In Madhya Pradesh too such case was reported where court ordered a man to spend equal time with wife and live-in partner. Here are the links,
According to Navbharat Times the man’s name is Basant Mahulal
For more information on this, you can read my article Condition of Hindu Women in India.
Ram’s father Dasharath had three wives
As per Padma Purana V.57.27-40 and Tulsi Ramayana Chaupai 194, Doha 186 King Dasharath the father of Ram had three wives. Other texts names them as Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi
But as per Padma Purana V.116.42-45a King Dasharat had four wives, Rama was born from Kausalya, Laksmana from Sumitra, Bharata from Surupa and Satrughna from Suvesa
Krishna had 16,100 junior wives along with 8 major wives
Vishnu Purana book 5.28.1-5 “RUKMINÍ bare to Krishńa these other sons, Chárudeshńa, Sudeshńa, Chárudeha, Sushena, Chárugupta, Bhadracháru, Cháruvinda, Sucháru, and the very mighty Cháru; also one daughter, Chárumatí. Krishńa had seven other beautiful wives, Kálindí, Mitravrindá, the virtuous Nágnajití, the queen Jámbavatí; Rohińí, of beautiful form; the amiable and excellent daughter of the king of Madra, Mádrí; Satyabhámá, the daughter of Śatrujit; and Lakshmańá, of lovely smiles 1. Besides these, he had sixteen thousand other wives.” Tr. H.H. Wilson
Brahma Purana 95.12-18 “…Krsna took possession of elephants, horses, and other wealth brought by the servants from the collection of Naraka. Krsna, on an auspicious day married damsels brought from Naraka’s residence. O excellent brahmins, with a separate body for each of these, Krsna married them in accordance with piety. There were sixteen thousand and one hundred women or even more. Lord Krsna took up as many forms. But those virgins considered him as their sole lord individually, thinking, ‘Krsna married me alone.’ During the nights, O brahmins, Krsna the creator of the universe, Krsna of universal forms, stayed in the abodes of all of them.” Tr. Board of Scholars, edited by J.L. Shastri
Vasudeva the father of Krishna had 14 wives
Brahma Purana 112.35 “Vasudeva had fourteen excellent women as his wives. The first five were: a descendant of Puri named Rohini, Madira, Vaisakhi, Bhadra and Sunamni. The second set of seven ladies comprised Sahadeva, Santideva, Sridevi, Devaraksita, Vrkadevi, Upadevi, and Devaki. The thirteenth and the fourteenth were Sutanu and Yadavi. These two had at first been maid servants.  The renowned Sauri (Krsna) was born of Devaki and Vasudeva…” Tr. Board of Scholars, edited by J.L. Shastri
Vasudeva having 14 wives is also mentioned in Harivamsa Purana 1.35.3
Soma the moon god had 27 wives
Brahma Purana 1.173 “Brilliant children of unmeasured splendour were born of those ladies of holy rites who had been mentioned as the twenty seven wives of Soma.” Tr. Board of Scholars, edited by J.L. Shastri Soma having 27 wives is also mentioned in Skanda Purana V.ii.26.1-6; Varaha Purana 35.1-2
Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Brahma Khanda 9.42 “…Now I am going to narrate to you the names of the wives of the Moon-god and the wonderful features of their character which constitute the essence of the Puranas. They are 27 in number and their names are as follows: Aswini, Bhrani, Krittika, Rehini, Mriga-siri, Ardra, Punarvasu, Pusya, Aslesa, Magha, Purva-Phalguni, Uttar-Phalguni, Hasta, Chitra, Swati, Visakha, Anuradha, Jestha, Mafa, Purvabhadra-padi, Purva-asada, Uttar-asada, Dhanistha, Sravana, Sata-bhisa, uttar-bhidra-padi and Revati…” Tr. Rajendra Nath Sen
Srimad Bhagavatam 6.6.2 — He gave ten daughters in charity to Dharmarāja [Yamarāja], thirteen to Kaśyapa [first twelve and then one more], twenty-seven to the moon-god, and two each to Aṅgirā, Kṛśāśva and Bhūta. The other four daughters were given to Kaśyapa. [Thus Kaśyapa received seventeen daughters in all.]
Hanuman’s father Kesari had two wives Anjana and Adrika. Hanuman was born from Anjana and wind god Vayu
Brahma Purana: Gautami Mahatmya 14.1-4 “…O Narada, there is a mountain Anjana. On that mountain, O excellent sage, there was an excellent celestial damsel Anjana. She had a downfall due to a curse. Her face resembled that of a monkey. Her husband’s name was Kesari. Adrika was another wife of Kesari. She too was a celestial damsel who had a downfall due to a curse. Her face and head resembled those of a cat. She too stayed on the Anjana mountain.” Tr. Board of Scholars, edited by J.L. Shastri
Rudra had eleven wives
Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Brahma Khanda 9.13-22 “Now I am going to recite, O great saint, the names of the wives of Rudra. They are celebrated by the names of (1) Kala, (2) Kalavati, (3) Kashta, (4) Kalika, (5) Kalahapriya, (6) Kandali, (7) Bhisana, (8) Basna, (9) Pramocha, (10) Bhusana, (11) Suki. They produced several children and were all followers of Siva…” Tr. Rajendra Nath Sen
Rudra having eleven wives is also mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam 3.12.13
Agni had two wives
As per Devi Bhagavatam 12.10.81-100 Agni had two wives namely Svaha and Svadha
Ganesh had two wives Siddhi and Buddhi who were both daughters of Prajapati Vishwarupa
Shiva Purana, Rudra Samhita 2.20.1-10 Ganesha had two wives namely Siddhi and Buddhi who were the daughters of Prajapati Visvarupa and begat two sons.
Shiva Purana, Rudra Samhita 2.20.13 “By this that was celebrated, Ganesa has obtained two wives joyously. They are the excellent daughters of Prajapati Visvarupa. He has begot of his two wives of auspicious body two sons, Ksema of Siddhi and Labha of Buddhi. They bestow happiness on every one.” Tr. J.L. Shastri
Vishnu had three wives
Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Prakriti Khanda 6.13-21 “…Laksmi, Saraswati and Ganga are the three wives of Hari…” Tr. Rajendra Nath Sen
As per another version he had four wives which later included Tulsi after he raped her. She quitted her body and became wife of Vishnu as per Brahma Vaivarta Purana
Brahma had two wives
As per Skanda Purana III.i.41.98-99 Brahma had two wives Gayatri and Saraswati
Yamaraja had ten wives
Srimad Bhagavatam 6.6.4 The ten daughters given to Yamarāja were named Bhānu, Lambā, Kakud, Yāmi, Viśvā, Sādhyā, Marutvatī, Vasu, Muhūrtā and Saṅkalpā. Now hear the names of their sons.
Garuda had many wives
Brahmanda Purana 18.104.22.1688-454; Vayu Purana 8.319 “…The wives of Garuda were the other five viz.-Bhasi, Kraunci, Suki, Dhrtarastri and Syeni…” Tr. G.V. Tagare
Svayambhuva Manu, son of Brahma, had two sons; Priyavrata and Uttanapada. Uttanapada had two wives; Suruci and Suniti
Linga Purana 62.1-5 Uttanapada had two wives, Suniti and Suruci and Dhruva was born of his elder wife Suniti
Also mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam 4.8.8
Manu had ten wives
As per Maitrayani Samhita 1.5.8 Manu had ten wives.
Sage Yagnavalkya had two wives
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.1 Yagnavalkya had two wives, Maitreyi and Katyayan
Sage Mandarkini had five wives
As per Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kanda 3, Chapter 11 Sage Mandakarni had five Apsaras (Nymphs) as his wives.
Prajapati Angira had two wives
Srimad Bhagavatam 6.6.19 The prajāpati Aṅgirā had two wives, named Svadhā and Satī. The wife named Svadhā accepted all the Pitās as her sons, and Satī accepted the Atharvāṅgirasa Veda as her son.
Sage Saubhari had fifty wives
Srimad Bhagavatam 9.6.52 says that Saubhari Muni had fifty wives.
Sage Visravas had four wives
Vayu Purana 9.32-34 “The sage Visravas was born of Idavida. He had four wives who made the family of Pulastya flourish. Brhaspati, the preceptor of the Devas, had a famous daughter named Devarinini. He (Visravas) married that girl. He (Visravas) married Puspotkata and Vaka, the daughters of Malyavan as well as Kaikasi, the daughter of Malin. Listen to their progeny.” Tr. G.V. Tagare, edited by G.P. Bhatt
Atri had ten wives
Vayu Purana 9.64 “I shall now recount the lineage of Atri, the third Prajapati. He had ten chaste and beautiful wives.” Tr. G.V. Tagare, edited by G.P. Bhatt
Sage Bhrigu had two wives
Brahmanda Purana 22.214.171.124-76 “The two wives of Bhrgu were excellent nobility of birth. They were unrivalled and splendid. (One of them) was the daughter of Hiranyakasipu, well-renowned by the name of Divya. The second was Paulomi, the daughter of excellent complexion, of Puloman…” Tr. G.V. Tagare
also mentioned in Vayu Purana 4.73;
Shiva Purana, Vayaviyasamhita 7.17.54 Ayati and Niyati became the wives of the sons of Bhrgu…” Tr. J.L. Shastri
Sage Marici had four wives upon who bore him 60,000 children
Brahma Purana 1.195-8 “Upadanava was the daughter of Hayasiras, Sarmistha was the daughter of Vrasaparvan, Puloman and Kalaka were the two daughters of Vaisvanara. They were the wives of Marici. They had great strength and they bore many children. They had sixty thousand sons who delighted Danavas…” Tr. Board of Scholars, edited by J.L. Shastri
also mentioned in Brahmanda Purana 126.96.36.199
Brahma’s son was Marici, Marici’s son was Kashyapa. Kashyapa Rishi had thirteen wives who were all sisters, Kashyap had two major wives namely Diti and Aditi
Srimad Bhagavatam 6.6.24-26 …O King Parīkṣit, now please hear from me the names of Kaśyapa’s wives, from whose wombs the population of the entire universe has come. They are the mothers of almost all the population of the entire universe, and their names are very auspicious to hear. They are Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kāṣṭhā, Ariṣṭā, Surasā, Ilā, Muni, Krodhavaśā, Tāmrā, Surabhi, Saramā and Timi…
Devi Bhagavatam 4.3.21-22 Vyâsa said :– Daksa Prajâpati had two daughters, Diti and Aditi; these two, of high rank, were married to Kas’yapa; and they were his favourites. Aditi gave birth to the very powerful Indra, the king of the Devas. Diti, too, asked for a son of the same strength, prowess, and splendour as those of Indra.
Brahma Purana 1.164-5 “O leading brahmins, now listen to the names of the wives of Prajapati Kasyapa. They are Aditi, Diti, Danu, Arista, Surasa, Khasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasa, Ira, Kadru and Muni. O brahmins, know the children born of them.” Tr. Board of Scholars, edited by J.L. Shastri also mentioned in Brahmanda Purana 188.8.131.52
Matsya Purana 4.53-54 “Out of the girls he created, he gave ten to Dharma, thirteen to Kasyapa…” Tr. Taluqdar of Oudh, edited by B.D. Basu
Aditi’s son Aditya had four wives
Kurma Purana I.20.1-2 “Aditi gave birth to her son Lord Aditya (the sun-god) from Kasyapa. This Aditya had four wives. They were Samjna, Rajni, Prabha, and Chaya…” Tr. G.V. Tagare
Aditya had three wives, the fourth Chaya was the shadow of Samjna
Seventh son of Aditi also had four wives
Srimad Bhagavatam 6.18.3-4 Dhātā, the seventh son of Aditi, had four wives, named Kuhū, Sinīvālī, Rākā and Anumati. These wives begot four sons, named Sāyam, Darśa, Prātaḥ and Pūrṇamāsa respectively. The wife of Vidhātā, the eighth son of Aditi, was named Kriyā. In her Vidhātā begot the five fire-gods named the Purīṣyas. The wife of Varuṇa, the ninth son of Aditi, was named Carṣaṇī. Bhṛgu, the son of Brahmā, took birth again in her womb.
Polygamy among Kshatriyas was more prevalent which is accepted by Hindu apologists also. Rig Veda shows the same,
Rig Veda 6.18.2 For like a King among his wives thou dwellest: with glories, as a Sage, surround and help us…
As per Devi Bhagavatam book 2, chapter 7 Other than common wife Draupadi, Arjuna had one more wife by name Subhadra who was the sister of Krishna. On Krishna’s consent Arjuna stole her away by force.
King Harishchandra the son of Vedhas had one hundred wives
Aitareya Brahmana, chapter 3, para 13 Harischandra, the son of Vedhas, of the Ikshavaku race, was a king who had no son. Though he had a hundred wives, they did not give birth to a son.
King Pandu had two wives Kunti and Madri.
As per Padma Purana II.79.1-2 King Yayati is said to have three wives
There are dozens of examples of Kings having several wives but I have limited it to few.
Renowned Hindu scholar Vijnanesvara writes,
“According to the order of the classes, for the Brahmana three, for the Ksatriya two wives, and for the Vaisya one wife are ordained. A Sudra can have only one wife born in the same class.” Vijnanesvara in his commentary Mitakshara on Yajnavalkya Smriti 3.57
Swami Vivekananda finds no problem with Polygamy,
“For women, they hold chastity as the most important virtue, no doubt. One man marrying more than one wife is not so injurious to society as a woman having more than one husband at the same time, for the latter leads to the gradual decay of the race.” The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 5/Writings: Prose and Poems/The East and The West/France-Paris
Swami Prabhupada the founder of ISKCON on Polygamy,
“…According to our Vedic process, polygamy is allowed. For example, Krsna married 16,000 wives, Arjuna married 3 or 4 wives, Krsna’s father Vasudeva, married 16 or 18 wives, like that. So according to the Vedic system polygamy is not prohibited…” By Swami Prabhupada, Letter to Karandhara written from Bombay
“People have become so degraded in this age that on the one hand they restrict polygamy and on the other hand they hunt for women in so many ways. Many business concerns publicly advertise that topless girls are available in this club or in that shop. Thus women have become instruments of sense enjoyment in modern society. The Vedas enjoin, however, that if a man has the propensity to enjoy more than one wife—as is sometimes the propensity for men in the higher social order, such as the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas, and even sometimes the śūdras—he is allowed to marry more than one wife. Marriage means taking complete charge of a woman and living peacefully without debauchery. At the present moment, however, debauchery is unrestricted. Nonetheless, society makes a law that one should not marry more than one wife. This is typical of a demoniac society.” Swami Prabhupada on Srimad Bhagavatam 4.26.6
He also writes,
“A man is allowed to keep more than one wife because he cannot enjoy sex when the wife is pregnant. If he wants to enjoy sex at such a time, he may go to another wife who is not pregnant. These are laws mentioned in the Manu-samhita and other scriptures.” Swami Prabhupada on Srimad Bhagavatam 4.27.5
Vedas the oldest scriptures of Hinduism neither permits nor prohibits Polygamy. But traces of polygamy can be found in Vedas which implies that it was practiced in the Vedic period, I am using Shri Ram Sharma’s Hindi translation.
Indra is said to have three wives as per the following verse,
Rig Veda 5.42.12 May the House-friends, the cunning-handed Artists, may the Steer’s Wives, the streams carved out by Vibhvan, And may the fair Ones honour and befriend us, Sarasvatī, Brhaddiva, and Rākā.
Maitrayani Samhita 3.11.1 [140, 10-11] “The three goddesses growing by means of oblation, enjoying Indra like wives, Sarasvati, heavenly Ida, and all-conquering Bharati with their swelling milk [enjoying] the unbroken thread…” Tr. Catherine Ludvik
Vishnu is said to have had two wives, Sarasvati and Aditi. This is truly a case of polygamy unless it is a contradiction,
Yajur Veda 29.60 “…a mess of boiled rice is to be made for Prajâpati; the same for Vishnu’s Consort Aditi…” Tr. Ralph T.H. Griffith
Atharva Veda 7.46.3 “O Consort of Vishnu Goddess, urge thy Lord to bounty…” Tr. Ralph T.H. Griffith
Veda seems to sanction Polyandry as well, Rig Veda 6.49.7 considers Sarasvati as wife of Indra which is contrary to what above verses say unless it is contradiction. Sarasvati is also called wife of Ashwin brothers in Yajur Veda 19.94 which is clearly a case of polyandry.
Rig Veda 10.43.1. IN perfect unison all yearning hymns of mine that find the light of heaven have sung forth Indra’s praise. As wives embrace their lord, the comely bridegroom, so they compass Maghavan about that he may help.
Rig Veda 4.58.8 “As youthful ladies of love and virtue, inspired with passion and smiling in bliss, proceed to meet agni, enlightened husband, so do streams of ghrta move and flow into the vedi to meet the lighted fire, and the rising fire, loving and gracious, cherishes to receive the flow of the holy yajaka’s offer.” Tr. Tulsi Ram
Another clear English translation
Rig Veda 4.58.8 “The streams of Ghi incline to Agni as devoted wives, auspicious and smiling, to a husband: they feed (the flame) like fuel, and Jatavedas, propitiated, accepts them.” Tr. H.H. Wilson
Krishna Yajur Veda 184.108.40.206 …therefore as one goes many follow; therefore one becomes superior among many; therefore one wins many wives…
A verse in Rig Veda clearly shows that an old Rishi Chyavana was married to many girls after he was rejuvenated,
Rig Veda 1.116.10 Ye from the old Cyavana, O Nasatyas, stripped, as ’twere mail, the skin upon his body, Lengthened his life when all had left him helpless, Dasras! and made him lord of youthful maidens.
Above is Shri Ram Sharma’s Hindi translation and following translation is by Pandit Ram Govind Trivedi
Chyavana being rejuvenated is also mentioned in Nirukta 4.19, Mahabharata Adi Parva 1.177 and Pancavimsa Brahmana 14.6.10 but it doesn’t state anything about his marriages. Maidens here may refer to several maidens or just two maidens. As Hindu texts only mentions his two wives. Scriptures doesn’t give much detail about Chyavana’s wives and stresses more on Sukanya the daughter of King Saryati. Sukanya became the wife of Chyavana as mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam 9.3, other texts talks about another wife named Arushi the daughter of Manu who bore him a son named Aurva and this is mentioned in Mahabharata Adi Parva 1.66.47.
Other Hindu scriptures are clear on Polygamy. They permit polygamy without a doubt.
Manu Smriti 3.12-13 For the first marriage of twice-born men (wives) of equal caste are recommended; but for those who through desire proceed (to marry again) the following females, (chosen) according to the (direct) order (of the castes), are most approved. It is declared that a Sudra woman alone (can be) the wife of a Sudra, she and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Vaisya, those two and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Kshatriya, those three and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Brahmana.
Agni Purana 285.63-67 “…A husband of many wives, should lick with his tongue, every day, a syrup composed of Triphala, Pippali, honey, clarified butter, and pulverised Amalaki treated with the expressed juice of the same fruit, and then drink water…” Tr. M.N. Dutt
Manu Smriti 9.85. If twice-born men wed women of their own and of other (lower castes), the seniority, honour, and habitation of those (wives) must be (settled) according to the order of the castes (varna).
Mahabharata 1.160.36 “There is no sin in this. For a man polygamy is an act of merit, but for a woman it is very sinful to betake herself to a second husband after the first.” Tr. K.M. Ganguli
Mahabharata 14.80.12-18 “Oh, let Vijaya, let him that is called Gudakesa, let this hero with reddish eyes, come back O life. O blessed lady, polygamy is not fault with men. Women only incur fault by taking more than one husband.” Tr. K.M. Ganguli
Mahabharata 1.197.27-28 “Drupada answered, ‘O scion of Kuru’s race, it hath been directed that one man may have many wives. But it hath never been heard that one woman may have many husbands!” Tr. K.M. Ganguli
Hindu scriptures also gives instructions on which wife should do religious duties with the husband if he has several wives.
Vishnu Smriti 26.1-4 If a man has several wives of his own caste, he shall perform his religious duties together with the eldest (or first married) wife. (If he has several) wives of diverse castes (he shall perform them) even with the youngest wife if she is of the same caste as himself. On failure of a wife of his own caste (he shall perform them) with one belonging to the caste next below to his own; so also in cases of distress (i.e, when the wife who is equal in caste to him happens to be absent, or when she has met with a calamity); But no twice born man ever with a S’udra wife.
Katyayana Samhita 8.6 “Many wives of the same caste and of other castes existing, the rite of churning, for producing the Fire, should be done by the chaste wives of the same caste, on account of the superiority of birth.” Tr. Manmatha Nath Dutt
The only confusion regarding Polygamy in Hindu scriptures is that some Hindu scriptures permits a Brahmin to marry four women and some permit only three. Following verses permits four wives for a Brahmin, three (as well as numerous) to a Kshatriya, two to a Vaishya and only one to a Shudra,
Mahabharata 13.47.4 “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.” Tr. K.M. Ganguli
Mahabharata 13.48.4 “The Brahmana may take four wives, one from each of the four orders. In two of them (viz.,the wife taken from his own order and that taken from the one next below), he takes birth himself (the children begotten upon them being regarded as invested with the same status as his own)…A Kshatriya may take three wives…The Vaisya may take two spouses…The Sudra can take only one wife, viz., she that is taken from his own order. The son begotten by him upon her becomes a Sudra….” Tr. K.M. Ganguli
Agni Purana 153.1 ”Pushkara said:- A Brahman may take four wives, a Kshatriya three, a Vaishya two, while a member of the Shudra caste is not allowed to have more than a single wife.” Tr. M.N. Dutt
Manu Smriti 9.149. If there be four wives of a Brahmana in the direct order of the castes, the rule for the division (of the estate) among the sons born of them is as follows:
Vishnu Smriti 24.1-5 Now a Brahmana may take four wives in the direct order of the (four) castes; A Kshatriya, three; A Vaisya, two; A Sudra, only one.
Baudhyana Dharma Shastra, Prasna I, Adhyaya 8, Kandika 16, verses 1-5 There are four castes (varna, viz.) Brâhmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sûdras. (Males) belonging to them (may take) wives according to the order of the castes, (viz.) a Brâhmana four, A Kshatriya three, A Vaisya two, A Sudra one.
Paraskara Grihya Sutra I Kanda, 4 Kandika, 8-11 Three (wives are allowed) to a Brahmana, in accordance with the order of the castes, Two to a Raganya, One to a Vaisya, One Sudra wife besides to all, according to some (teachers), without using Mantras (at the ceremonies of wedding, &c.).
Yajnavalkya Smriti 3.57 “Three, according to the order of the caste, so also two, and one for a Brahmana, a Ksatriya and a Vaisya respectively (may be the wives). To a person born as a Sudra, a girl of her own caste is his wife.” Srisa Chandra Vasu
See commentary by Vijnanesvara on this verse for explanation which I have mentioned in this article.
Sankha Samhita 4.7 “Brahmana can marry three wives, a Kshatriya can take a couple of wives, while a Vais’ya or S’udra can marry a single wife. A Brahmana can marry a Brahmana, Kshartriya, or a Vais’ya girl.” Tr. M.N. Dutt
Vasistha Samhita 1.24. Three wives (are permitted) to a Brâhmana according to the order of the castes, two to a Kshatriya, one to a Vaisya and to a Sûdra.
Mahabharata 13.44.11-12 “A Brahmana can take three wives. A Kshatriya can take two wives. As regards the Vaisya, he should take a wife from only his own order. The children born of these wives should all be regarded as equal. Of the three wives of a Brahmana, she taken from his own order should be regarded as the foremost. Similarly, of the two wives permitted to the Kshatriya, she taken from his own order should be regarded as superior. Some say that persons belonging to the three higher orders may take, only for purposes of enjoyment (and not for those of virtue), wives from the lowest or the Sudra order. Others, however, forbid the practice.” Tr. K.M. Ganguli
Some allows a Brahmin to have four wives while others allow three. As I said in my article Caste System in Hinduism, There is unanimity among scholars that a Brahmin should first marry a woman from his own caste and then of succeeding castes. This applies for Kshatriya and Vaisya also. They can marry several women from their own castes also but laws concerning marriage with other castes is mentioned in those verses. As for those who allow a Brahmin to marry only three, they say it on the following basis,
Yajnavalkya Smriti 3.56 “Though it has been said that a twice born may take a wife from a Sudra family, yet that is not my opinion, because out of her, he is born himself.” Tr. Srisa Chandra Vasu
Similar thing is also said in Manu Smriti 3.14. A man belonging to low caste cannot marry girl belonging to preceding caste. But a Brahmin can marry a girl of any caste. Following two verses will clear the confusion,
Narada Smriti 12.4-6 When a Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya, or Sudra takes a wife, it is best for him to take her out of his own caste; and so is a member of her own caste (the most eligible) husband for a woman (of any caste). A Brahman may marry three wives of different caste, in the direct order of the castes; and so may a Sudra woman take a husband of any of the three castes above her own. For a Kshatriya, two wives differing (from him) in caste are permitted; for a Vaisya, a single wife differing (from him) in caste…
Munis to King
Markandeya Purana 113.31-34 “O king, A brahman who marries wives among all the castes, provided that he marries first a brahman woman, incurs no injury in his brahman-hood. Likewise a kshatriya who marries first a kshatriya’s daughter, incurs no harm if he marries wives from lower castes; and therefore, O king, these other wives fall not from their own righteousness. Thus a vaisya, who marries first a vaisya woman and afterwards a girl born from a sudra family, is not excluded from the vaisya family. The law is thus declared in order…”
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