According to our scriptures, a man can have more than one wife. May be this is one of the reasons many Gods have two or more wives. Does any scripture mention what is the reason for men having multiple wives and is it applicable for women also? (other than Draupadi)

Wiki Source:

Polygamy became illegal in India in 1956, uniformly for all of its citizens except for Hindus in Goa where polygamy is legal, and for Muslims, who are permitted to have four wives. After that Hindu Marriage Act that a Hindu can marry only one. Otherwise before that polygamy was allowed

  • Draupadi is an exception. Do you find any other instance of polyandry in Hindu scripture? Why the Q.
    – user1195
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 2:13
  • 4
    1.What is the need of naming hindu again if you are asking on hinduism.SE? No need to do that. 2.You are asking about polyandry in the title and in the wiki source, you are quoting polygamy. History tag is irrelevant here. So, I am removing it.I also think scripture is irrelevant as the question is not about scripture but waiting for a confirmation from moderators on it. Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 2:21
  • Related Was Polyandry allowed prior to Mahabharata?
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 3:58
  • @SreeCharan My question was clear but when come to phrasing I'm little confused to mention tags. Go head and do the changes accordingly without missing the main question. Thanks for edit
    – CR241
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 3:58
  • 2
    Even if ten former husbands none a Brāhmin had espoused a dame, And then a Brāhmin took her hand, he is her husband, only he, not Vaisya, not Rājanya, no, the Brāhmin is indeed her lord:“ [Atharvaveda 5.17.8-9] looks like this verse support polyandry
    – user9554
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 5:02

1 Answer 1


Polyandry can have 2 meanings:

  • Society: A woman marrying multiple men
  • Zoology: A female mating multiple males

Human (objectified as animal) is part of both of the above terminologies. Society is more related to mentality and Zoology is more related to physicality.

According to scriptures (MahAbhArata based),

  • Multiple "marriages" were Not allowed for women
  • Multiple "matings" were acceptable upto 3 for a female, with her male's consent, typically for procreation

During Adi Parva PAndu & Kunti themselves referred the scripture!

Woman should marry to 1 husband

In below highly edited passage, it's explained that Women were allowed in ancient times to choose multiple men for mating. However a Rishi named Uddalaka's son Swetaketu stopped this practice when a Brahman took away his mother for mating. From thereon, it was a custom for Woman to be obedient to her husband. Certain cultures still allowed this practice though. PAndu has also mentioned liberalism of women part, which are removed.

King Pandu well-acquainted with all rules of morality, replied ... But I shall now tell thee about the practices of old indicated by illustrious Rishis, fully acquainted with every rule of morality... women formerly were not immured within houses and dependent on husbands and other relatives. They used to go about freely, enjoying themselves as best as they liked ... they did not then adhere to their husbands faithfully, and yet, O handsome one, they were not regarded sinful, ... The present practice, however (of women's being confined to one husband for life) hath been established but lately. Women transgressing the limits assigned by the Rishi became guilty of slaying the embryo.

Woman can mate upto 3 Men (with husband's consent)

King PAndu allowed both of his wives to mate with various deities for begetting sons. He wanted more from Kunti after 3rd son. She politely asserted him that why she can't go further.

The celebrated Pandu, tempted by the desire of having more children wished to speak again unto his wedded wife (for invoking some other god). But Kunti addressed him, saying, 'The wise do not sanction a fourth delivery even in a season of distress. The woman having intercourse with four different men is called a Swairini (heanton), while she having intercourse with five becometh a harlot. Therefore, O learned one, as thou art well-acquainted with the scripture on this subject, ...

"Swairini (heanton)" means "Unbound" & Harlot means "prostitute".

  • So, Woman allowed mate upto 4 and who have 5 husbands called as a Harlot (Prostitute)?
    – CR241
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:00
  • 3
    This is in the context of Niyoga. Nothing to do with the general acceptance in the society. The above translation is more like an interpretation.
    – user6990
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 13:19
  • Kunti's words make no sense to be true. Otherwise, she would have stopped before, because she would already have stopped before, because she knows she had Karna. Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 18:19
  • Kunti belonged to lunar dynasty where heterodroxy was not uncommon. Thus kunti violating rule is not a surprise.
    – ekAntika
    Commented Dec 10, 2022 at 9:31

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