Widows had their head shaved and forced into seclusion in South. Why??

  • Are you asking if the practice is still valid (justified) today or why it was followed at one point in the past? Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 4:48

1 Answer 1


Because it is forbidden in scripture.

This chapter of the Manu Smriti says that a widow cannot remarry, except for her brother-in-law under certain circumstances.

  1. By twice-born men a widow must not be appointed to (cohabit with) any other (than her husband); for they who appoint (her) to another (man), will violate the eternal law.

  2. In the sacred texts which refer to marriage the appointment (of widows) is nowhere mentioned, nor is the re-marriage of widows prescribed in the rules concerning marriage.

  3. This practice which is reprehended by the learned of the twice-born castes as fit for cattle is said (to have occurred) even among men, while Vena ruled.

  4. That chief of royal sages who formerly possessed the whole world, caused a confusion of the castes (varna), his intellect being destroyed by lust.

  5. Since that (time) the virtuous censure that (man) who in his folly appoints a woman, whose husband died, to (bear) children (to another man).

  6. If the (future) husband of a maiden dies after troth verbally plighted, her brother-in-law shall wed her according to the following rule.

  7. Having, according to the rule, espoused her (who must be) clad in white garments and be intent on purity, he shall approach her once in each proper season until issue (be had).

This chapter of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata says the same thing:

Be the husband dead or alive, it shall not be lawful for a woman to have connection with another.

By the way, there is one exception to the rule, namely that if her first marriage has not been consummated then a widow can marry again. See this chapter of the Vasishta Dharma Sutras:

  1. 'If a damsel at the death of her husband had been merely wedded by (the recitation of) sacred texts, and if the marriage had not been consummated, she may be married again.'

This chapter of the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata

Some say that the virgin wife or widow,--one, that is, whose marriage has not been consummated with her husband by actual sexual congress in consequence of his absence or death,--may be allowed to unite herself with her husband's younger brother or such other relation. The husband dying before such consummation, the virgin-widow may either surrender herself to her husband's younger brother or betake herself to the practice of penances

By the way, I should note that this verse from the Brahma Vaivarta Purana says that a widow marrying her brother-in-law is no longer allowed in the Kali Yuga:

In this Age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice, the offering of a cow in sacrifice, the acceptance of the order of sannyāsa, the offering of oblations of flesh to the forefathers, and a man’s begetting children in his brother’s wife.

But like many verses of the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, this verse is considered by many to be an interpolation.

  • 1
    The bramha vaivarta purana verse is clear interpolation sanyasa is nowhere forbidden in kaliyuga , so it is not internally consistent with other scriptures.
    – Yogi
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 19:01
  • @Yogi Yeah, I agree that it's a clear interpolation. By the way, how Gaudiya Vaishnavas interpret the verse is that it's only prohibiting Ekadandi Sanyasis (like Adi Shankaracharya), not Tridandi Sanyasis (like Ramanujacharya). Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 19:38
  • 1
    Its totally foolish to say that anyone even if Advaitin smarta or be it anyone cannot take Sanyas. Sanyas is integral part of varnashram the basis of Vedic lifestyle. ISKON is amplifying the misinterpretation by adding such things, do they have any logic for such claims?
    – Yogi
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 19:40
  • @Yogi Well, to be clear, Gaudiya Vaishnavas are not saying Advaitins are not allowed to be Sanyasis, they're saying that the particular type of Sanyasa that Advaitins generally do, namely Ekadandi Sanyasa, is not allowed. But they think Advaitins and everyone else are allowed to do Tridandi Sanyasa. But I agree that their beliefs regarding this are completely baseless. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 19:45
  • In the death of husband only in extreme or exceptional case for family/ progeny continuation, union with his brother as Devara Nyaya. has been permitted or recommended.
    – Narasimham
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 19:34

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