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The Deeper Look into Hindu Remarriage Act 1856

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The Deeper Look into Hindu Remarriage Act 1856

The ‘distortians’ or secular historians project widow remarriage as a deeply rooted societal practice in India. They believe that Indian widows were regularly subjected to social ostracization, denial of basic rights, and a life of seclusion. However, this exaggeration is incorrect. A deeper look into Hindu history and Sanatani texts reveal that remarriage was accepted by ancient India. Repeated Islamic aggression and erroneous transfer of knowledge brought about social restrictions on the remarriage widows. This attitude became prevalent in India in the 17th and 18th centuries. Therefore, a need for reforms arose. However, the social reformers and leaders chose to request the help of India’s oppressor to incorporate the Hindu Remarriage Act 1856.

The Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, 1856

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PC Rest The Case

On 16th July 1856 Lord Canning passed the Hindu Remarriage Act 1856. Lord Dalhousie drafted this act to legalize the remarriage of widows in India. The Indian social reformer and founder of Brahmo Samaj, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, had contributed significantly to making this Act socially acceptable. However, the colonizing British forces celebrated this Act as their milestone of social transformation in India. It was a British propaganda that showcased how Indians needed protection from themselves and how the British were their saviors.

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Widow Remarriage in Vedic Times

Widowhood and Remarriage in Sanatan Dharma – || Vedic Vishal ||

PC Vedic Vishal

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Ancient Vedic scriptures underscore instances where widow remarriage, or Vidhva Vivaha, is allowed and accepted. The Rigveda, one of the oldest texts in Hinduism, speaks about the equality of men and women and emphasizes the importance of companionship and marital bliss.

स॒म्राज्ञी॒ श्वशु॑रे भव स॒म्राज्ञी॑ श्व॒श्र्वां भ॑व । नना॑न्दरि स॒म्राज्ञी॑ भव स॒म्राज्ञी॒ अधि॑ दे॒वृषु॑ ॥ (Rigveda 10.85.46)

Meaning: “Be a queen to your father-in-law, mother-in-law, your husband’s sister, and husband’s brother.”

This verse highlights the role of a wife in managing the household and suggests that her happiness and fulfillment are essential for a harmonious family life.

उदी॑र्ष्व नार्य॒भि जी॑वलो॒कं ग॒तासु॑मे॒तमुप॑ शेष॒ एहि॑ । ह॒स्त॒ग्रा॒भस्य॑ दिधि॒षोस्तवे॒दं पत्यु॑र्जनि॒त्वम॒भि सं ब॑भूथ ॥(Rigveda 10.18.8)

Meaning: “Rise up, O woman! Go to the world of the living. Leave the lifeless body of your first husband. Take the owner of this hand as your new husband and re-enter wifehood.”

This verse highlights the acceptance of remarriage for widows and societal norms by ancient Indians.

In ancient India, there were several notable instances of women who remarried after the loss of their husbands. For example, Queen Satyavati had a common-law marriage and gave birth to Vyasa. Later, she married King Shantanu on the promise that their children would be heirs to the Kuru Rajya’s throne. This story exemplifies the acceptance of widow remarriage in early Indian society.

Major Contributors to the Act

Anniversary Tribute: Think Hindu Widows' Remarriage, Think Vidyasagar" | SabrangIndia

PC Sabrang India

The Hindu Remarriage Act 1856 was supported by Indian social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Pandit Ishwarchandra Sharma. They played instrumental roles in advocating for widow remarriage and gender equality in colonial India. They challenged the then-present regressive customs in Indian society. However, their efforts helped create a false image of regressive efforts. The British effectively used them to paint Indians as a savage community. They were powerless in front of the British narrative of the backward and poorly educated Indians.

The truth of Vedic India was left out of the conversations about the need for reforms. This denied Indians the ability to reconnect with their roots. This helped the British oppress Indians by reiterating that the Indian belief systems are rudimentary and orthodox. The social reformers fought for the rights of women and girls. However, they were unable to correct the narrative that was spreading in the world. They only countered evil by using the British’s help; they were unable to bridge the gap between Indian society and its Sanatani Vedic ideology.

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