Are there any references to polygamy (multiple marriages) and whether they are allowed or prohibited in Hinduism?

At least in the Indian law, multiple marriages are banned for Hindus. But what do the sacred books say?


When the people used to follow varnashrama dharama (duty as per caste and order) properly, multiple marriages were allowed by the scriptures. However, certain rules and regulations related to caste were also to be followed in such cases. For example, consider the following statement:

For the first marriage of twice-born men (wives) of equal caste are recommended; but for those who through desire proceed (to marry again) the following females, (chosen) according to the (direct) order (of the castes), are most approved. [Manu - 3.12]

A Brahmana can take three wives, a Kshatriya can take two wives and as regards the Vaisya, he should take one wife from only his own order. [MB - Ansusasan Parva - Chptr 44]

Also, from statements like below it is evident that multiple marriage was present in the society:

If among all the wives of one husband one have a son, Manu declares them all (to be) mothers of male children through that son. [Manu - 9.183]

The sages were strictly against inter-caste marriage as it corrupted the blood line and produced sons of lower quality. But for the purpose of preservation of lineage multiple marriage was allowed esspecially for the twice borns like the Kshatriya Kings. If the Kings didn't have any son there would be no one to rule the Kingdom. Hence, to prevent anarchy Kings were allowed to have multiple wives if a wife didn't beget a son. However, having multiple wives was not a custom out of desire, but out of necessity. Only kings of later time forgot the actual purpose and adopted it as some sort of fashion. But because it was not a settled law to have multiple wives, virtuous kings like Ramachandra accepted only one. Law books do not favor polygamy unless it is done for rightful purposes like saving one's linage or dynasty.

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    Few rare instances of polygamy - Draupadi married 5 Pandavas (as per Mahabharata) and Marisha married 10 Prachetas (as per Bhrahma Purana). These also were not custom out of desire, but few rare circumstances. – YDS Dec 11 '17 at 19:00

In Hinduism polygamy was there. We can see a lot of examples in varies stories.

For example,Lord Rama's father dasharadha has three wives.

Also in Hindu mythology there are many instances of polygamy being practiced not only by men, but also by women (termed as polyandry) the most famous example of polyandry is Draupadi marrying the five pandavas.

This doesn't mean that Hinduism supports polygamy. But there were no authentic proofs are available from any sacred texts which supporting polygamy.

The best example of Hinduism as an advocate for monogamy is the case of Lord Rama, who was a strict Ek-Patnivrata Purush (a man dedicated to a single woman) and is also hailed as Maryada Purushottam (Ideal & Best among men). He has been pointed out as a Role-Model for all posterity.


Three mantras of Rig Veda, 1.124.7, 4.3.2 and 10.71.4 contain “Jaayeva Patya Ushatee Suvaasaah”. This means that knowledge comes to the scholar in same manner as a dedicated joyous wife comes only to her husband. “Jaaya” means wife and “Pati” means husband. Both appearing in singular implies that only one husband-one wife relation is considered ideal

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    There are other verses which give evidence that having more than one wife is good. what about that? – user9554 Sep 25 '17 at 4:00
  • Using the Vedas for morality is in general a bad idea. They are mostly commenting on the nature of the world. – Aupakarana Abhibhaa May 20 at 23:59

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