Punarbhu

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Punarbhu literally means ‘a woman who has married again’.

Definition of Punarbhu[edit]

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

Classification of Punarbhu[edit]

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.

Rules for Punarbhu as per Dharmaśāstras[edit]

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 sanyāsin[1]
  • If he is impotent or suffering from incurable diseases or a sinner.

Curtailments on Punarbhu[edit]

Though remarriage was perhaps permitted in the earliest age[2][3] during the later period, more stringent rules were imposed for the same. Some of the smṛtis even frowned upon the custom.[4][5] 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[edit]

  1. Sanyāsin means monk.
  2. Ṛgveda 10.18.7 and 8
  3. Atharvaveda 5.17.8 and 9
  4. Manusmṛti 9.47
  5. Manusmṛti 8.226
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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