Wikipedia defines it as:

Levirate marriage is a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow. The term levirate is itself a derivative of the Latin word levir meaning "husband's brother."

Does Hindu scripture allow this sort of marriage?

Whether or not this was allowed, are there any instances of such marriages in Itihāsas and Purāṇas?


1 Answer 1


Marriage of a widow is never prescribed in Hindu scriptures. That's what Manu Smriti states.

But there is a provision for a widow without a son to procreate one with the help of her brother-in-law.

Alternatively, the widow may seek to procure a son. 23When her brother-in-law is alive, a son born to such a widow by another person does not share in the inheritance.

Gautama Smriti 28.22-23

When her husband dies, a wife should abstain from honey, meat, liquor, and salt, and sleep on the floor for one year; 8 for six months, according to Maudgalya. 9

After that time, if she has no son, she may bear one through a brother-in-law with the consent of her elders.

10Now, they also quote: One should not enjoin a leviratic union on a woman who is barren, who has borne a son or reached menopause, whose children have died, or who is unwilling––that is, a woman from whom a fruitful outcome cannot be expected.

Baudhayana Dharma Sutras 2.4.7-10

Manu Smriti also states the same thing in this regard.

9.58. An elder (brother) who approaches the wife of the younger, and a younger (brother who approaches) the wife of the elder, except in times of misfortune, both become outcasts, even though (they were duly) authorised.

9.59. On failure of issue (by her husband) a woman who has been authorised, may obtain, (in the) proper (manner prescribed), the desired offspring by (cohabitation with) a brother-in-law or (with some other) Sapinda (of the husband).

9.60. He (who is) appointed to (cohabit with) the widow shall (approach her) at night anointed with clarified butter and silent, (and) beget one son, by no means a second.

So, it is like the Niyoga Pratha, the verse 9.60 clearly rules out the possibility of marriage and which is more explicitly ruled out in one of the verse given below:

Manu Smriti 9.64. 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.

9.65. 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.

  • What does Manu 9.64 actually say? Commented May 10, 2019 at 12:05
  • @NaveenKick You can check this page for an alt. translation and for further explanatory notes
    – Rickross
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 5:38
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    scriptures allow widows to remarry if they wish. (Rg Veda. X.18.8) (Ath Veda XVIII.3.2) Some Sutras allow a widow to marry her brother-in-law which is also stated in the Mahabharata though marrying brother-in law is not compulsory. Atharva Veda prescribes a ritual (ajA paNchodana) for lifelong union with the new husband. (AV 9.3.27). In MBH there are reference of widow remarriage. Arjuna had a son with the widowed daughter of Naga king airAvata. UgrAyudha wanted to marry Satyavati, the widow of shantanu. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:29
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    @Rickross in no way can manu smriti be equated to vedic reference. Not one but there are multiple references in itihasa. Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 12:34
  • 2
    @Rickross itihasa is also important. If multiple instances happen then it may be a custom back then Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 14:35

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