Hindu Widow Marriage

Hindu Widow Marriage

Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar
A complete translation, with an introduction and critical notes, by Brian A. Hatcher
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Hindu Widow Marriage
    Book Description:

    Before the passage of the Hindu Widow's Re-marriage Act of 1856, Hindu tradition required a woman to live as a virtual outcast after her husband's death. Widows were expected to shave their heads, discard their jewelry, live in seclusion, and undergo regular acts of penance. Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar was the first Indian intellectual to successfully argue against these strictures. A Sanskrit scholar and passionate social reformer, Vidyasagar was a leading proponent of widow marriage in colonial India, urging his contemporaries to reject a ban that caused countless women to suffer needlessly.

    Vidyasagar's brilliant strategy paired a rereading of Hindu scripture with an emotional plea on behalf of the widow, resulting in an organic reimagining of Hindu law and custom. Vidyasagar made his case through the two-part publication Hindu Widow Marriage, a tour de force of logic, erudition, and humanitarian rhetoric. In this new translation, Brian A. Hatcher makes available in English for the first time the entire text of one of the most important nineteenth-century treatises on Indian social reform.

    An expert on Vidyasagar, Hinduism, and colonial Bengal, Hatcher enhances the original treatise with a substantial introduction describing Vidyasagar's multifaceted career, as well as the history of colonial debates on widow marriage. He innovatively interprets the significance of Hindu Widow Marriage within modern Indian intellectual history by situating the text in relation to indigenous commentarial practices. Finally, Hatcher increases the accessibility of the text by providing an overview of basic Hindu categories for first-time readers, a glossary of technical vocabulary, and an extensive bibliography.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52660-9
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  6. CHRONOLOGY: Events Pertaining to the Widow Marriage Movement in Bengal
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
    (pp. 1-54)

    He called it “the single greatest good deed” of his lifetime—his role in promoting the passage of Act XV of 1856, which granted Hindu widows the legal right to marry.¹ It was an accomplishment for which he would be both lionized and vilified. Among supporters of Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar, the question was not whether the reform was valid or appropriate; this much was clear. Rather, the more interesting question was what explained his extraordinary commitment to the cause. Many viewed it as a manifestation of his boundless compassion, while others reckoned that it stemmed from his prodigious wisdom as a...

  8. HINDU WIDOW MARRIAGE:: The Complete English Translation
    • BOOK ONE
      (pp. 57-70)

      Nowadays most people appreciate the great misfortune caused by our failure to promote the custom of widow marriage. There are many who are now prepared to give their own widowed daughters in marriage.¹ Even those who do not have the courage to go this far will nonetheless acknowledge that it is necessary to begin promoting the practice. In times past, the preeminent scholars of this land debated whether or not the marriage of widows was in accordance with the authoritative treatises. Sadly, when the debate is raised today, scholars hankering for victory are so eager to advance their own position...

    • BOOK TWO
      (pp. 71-216)

      When I first published my proposal concerning the promotion of widow marriage, I firmly believed that as soon as the people of this land heard the title of the book and grasped its purpose they would respond with scorn and disbelief. I believed they would neither pick it up nor read it with the appropriate intent or earnestness. Frankly, I believed that all the effort I had invested in compiling the book would be for nought. But as luck would have it, people responded so earnestly to my publication of the book that in a little over a week the...

    (pp. 217-222)
    (pp. 223-232)
    (pp. 233-236)
    (pp. 237-242)