Polygamy in Vedas

Krishna Yajur Veda

therefore as one goes many follow; therefore one becomes superior among many; therefore one wins many wives

Polygamy in Ithihas:

Mahabharata Adi Parva 1.160.36

There is no sin in this. For a man polygamy is an act of merit, but for a woman it is very sinful to betake herself to a second husband after the first.

Mahabharata Anusasana Parva 13.47

It has been laid down, O grandsire, that a Brahmana can take four wives, viz., one that belongs to his own order, one that is a Kshatriya, one that is a Vaisya, and one that is a Sudra, if the Brahmana wishes to indulge in the desire of sexual intercourse.

Many smritis allow Brahmin to have 4 wives, for a Kshatriya three, for a Vaishya 2 and for Shudra one. Now, is there any scripture which condemn polygamy?


The scripture that comes closest to recommending monogamy is the Āpastamba Dharmasūtra:

Praśna II, Paṭala 5, Khaṇḍa 11

  1. If he has a wife who (is willing and able) to perform (her share of) the religious duties and who bears sons, he shall not take a second.

The very next verse, however, recommends taking another wife if the first wife cannot produce sons or if she's not fit:

  1. If a wife is deficient in one of these two (qualities), he shall take another, (but) before he kindles the fires (of the Agnihotra).

Polygamy was allowed. Hence a man may marry multiple women.

The rule of thumb is -- A man can marry only to his equal or lower intellectual order women. All other forms are disallowed.

In below passage, it has been said by Bhishma that, Brahmana can marry all the other divisions, Kshatriya can marry all but Brahamana. Vaishya can marry Vaishya & Shudra. Shudra can marry only Shudra. In general, for the Dvija divisions, marrying a Shudra is not preferred and may result in expiation [particularly to Brahamana]

A Brahmana can take three wives. A Kshatriya can take two wives. As regards the Vaisya, he should take a wife from only his own order. The children born of these wives should all be regarded as equal. 2 Of the three wives of a Brahmana, she taken from his own order should be regarded as the foremost. Similarly, of the two wives permitted to the Kshatriya, she taken from his own order should be regarded as superior. Some say that persons belonging to the three higher orders may take, only for purposes of enjoyment (and not for those of virtue), wives from the lowest or the Sudra order. Others, however, forbid the practice. The righteous condemn the practice of begetting issue upon Sudra women. A Brahmana, by begetting children upon a Sudra woman, incurs the liability of performing an expiation. [AnushAsana parva]

Above passage states the eligibility of a man belonging to particular division to marry a woman of certain division. But IMO, it implicitly also suggests that, multiple wives are allowed.

Opposite form, i.e. the "polyandry" is forbidden.


Polygamy for men is allowed :

But there are very strict rules - regarding how many wives, the order of varna to marry in order to avoid varna-sankara (a higher varna man can marry a lower varna woman, but not other way), how to treat them (go to naraka if one wife is given preference over other), how to divide wealth of inheritance for sons (according to both varna & seniority) etc. And polygamy is illegal in many countries nowadays.

For women it is not allowed :

Once is the partition of the inheritance made, once is a maiden given in marriage, and once does a man say,' I will give; each of those three acts is done once only.

Full detail here - http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/manu/manu09.htm

  • 5
    @Ajay Did you see Draupadi yourself? No? Then where did you hear about her, from Mahabharata, Yes ? The same Mahbharata says Draupadi was 'born' from FIRE and was 16-years old. The same Mahabharata says she is a combination of 5 shakthis and that she would do Agni-Pravesh before starting to live with each of the 5 brothers, thus assuming a 'pure' body each time. If you think these are not true, then you should also think Draupadi herself is not true. When the source of knowledge is the same book, you cannot decide which part to believe and which part not to believe based on your own intellect.
    – mar
    Jun 7 '17 at 5:06
  • @Ajay, and that is what I said in my answer too - that it's not allowed.
    – mar
    Jun 9 '17 at 4:19
  • "When the source of knowledge is the same book, you cannot decide which part to believe and which part not to believe based on your own intellect. –" true therefore refute the claim until evidence is given.
    – Wikash_
    Jul 30 '20 at 10:58
  • @Wikash_, the evidence is given, but you just haven't bothered to verify it. just like a doctor's headache medicine. You don't have time/interest to study biology research behind it, so you just trust him instead.
    – mar
    Jul 30 '20 at 20:24
  • Trust can be built via a scientific process of checking and verifying unlike your statements that are just based upon belief e.g. no proof given. Many people in India pray to their gods for protection yet the covid virus is spreading rapidly in India, strange isn't it? @ram
    – Wikash_
    Jul 30 '20 at 23:10

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