Punarbhu

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By Swami Harshananda

punarbhu (‘[a woman who has] married again’)

Remarriage of widows seems to have been permitted in the ancient days under certain conditions. Such a woman was known as ‘punarbhu’.

A punarbhu was of three kinds:

1. A maiden whose marriage was not consummated and whose husband died suddenly. 2. A woman accused of adultery but returned to her parents who gave her in marriage to another man. 3. A widow remarried to a close relative of her husband. (Whether she was childless or not, is not clear in this case.)

A married woman was permitted to remarry by some dharmaśāstras under the following conditions:

When a husband dies very early or is lost or unheard of for a long time; if he becomes a samnyāsin (monk); if he is impotent or suffering from incurable diseases or a sinner.

Though remarriage was perhaps permitted in the earliest age (vide Rgveda 10.18.7 and 8; Atharvaveda 5.17.8 and 9), during the later period, more stringent rules were imposed for the same. Some of the smṛtis even frowned upon the custom (vide Manusmrti 9.47; 8.226). Insistence on chastity and the social implications like maidens not getting good husbands may be one of the reasons for the hardening of this stand.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

OLD CONTENT

punarbhu (‘[a woman who has] married again’) Remarriage of widows seems to have been permitted in the ancient days under certain conditions. Such a woman was known as ‘punarbhu’. A punarbhu was of three kinds: 1. A maiden whose marriage was not consummated and whose husband died suddenly. 2. A woman accused of adultery but returned to her parents who gave her in marriage to another man. 3. A widow remarried to a close relative of her husband. (Whether she was childless or not, is not clear in this case.) A married woman was permitted to remarry by some dharmaśāstras under the following conditions: When a husband dies very early or is lost or unheard of for a long time; if he becomes a saiṅnyāsin (monk); if he is impotent or suffering from incurable diseases or a sinner. Though remarriage was perhaps per¬mitted in the earliest age (vide Rgveda 10.18.7 and 8; Atharvaveda 5.17.8 and 9), during the later period, more stringent rules were imposed for the same. Some of the smṛtis even frowned upon the custom (vide Manusmrti 9.47; 8.226). Insistence on chastity and the social implications like maidens not getting good husbands may be one of the reasons for the hardening of this stand.