Chapter 21,Niyoga (Appointment)

The following verses sanction Niyoga or marriage by appointment between a widow and a widower.

“O married couple! Where do you pass the night, where do you pass the day, where do you earn your living, where is your private

chamber and where is your sleeping room? (As to how the man and the woman who have contracted Niyoga should behave towards each other it is said that) as a married woman draws to her rooms a married man (her husband) for begetting children, even so should a widow and a widower after entering into Niyogabehave like married men and women for the purpose of procreation.” Rig V. 8. 18.2

These questions are put to the husband and the wife and the dual number is used for them. This shows that one man should have only wife and one woman only one husband, that there should always be mutual love between them, that they should never separate from each other and that they should not be guilty of adultery.

(A bride should approach the groom) as a widow approaches her second husband by Niyoga. For authority see Nirukta III. 15 which says “a devara so called because he is he second husband.’ A widow is

allowed to contract Niyoga with a second husband and a widower with a widow. A widow should enter into Niyoga with a person whose wife is dead but never with a bachelor. Similarly, a bachelor should not contract Niyoga with a widow. That is to say, the bachelors and virgins should marry only once.

(In case they become widowers (or widows) they should enter into Niyoga. A second marriage is never allowed among the twice-born. It is allowed in the Sudra Varna only, because the Shudras are devoid of learning and of the usage (of the learned).

“This widow, forsaking her dead husband and desiring conjugal happiness comes to thee, O man! Her (second husband), i.e., approaches thee by way ofNiyoga. Do thou accept her and beget children upon her. Observing the ancient rite sanctioned by the Vedas she accepts thee as her husband by Niyoga. Do thou also accept her and make her bear children in this world and make her pregnant.” Atharva XVIII. 3-1-1. 

“O widowed woman! Leave thy dead husband whom thou hadst married and go thy living second husband and live with him for the purpose of procreating children. They children born to Niyoga shall belong to thy late husband who had accepted thy hand at marriage, or, if the Niyoga has been contracted for the sake of thy husband by Niyoga then they shall belong him.

O widow! If thou desirest to enter into Niyoga after the death of thy husband by marriage then approach a man whose married wife is dead, and become happy by giving birth to children. Rig X:18-8

The following verses enumerate the children that can be begotten by Niyoga, i.e., how many times a Niyoga can be contracted and how many children can be begotten

“O married man! Thou art the giver of seed, make her the mother of noble children and make her supremely happy. Make

this married woman bear ten children only but not more. (We should, therefore, understand that God has permitted a man to beget ten children only.) O woman! Have only eleven husbands including that to whom thou wast married.

The meaning is that if such a dire calamity happens that the husbands die one after the other the woman is allowed to contract Niyoga, for the purpose of begetting children, with ten persons one after the other.

Similarly, the widower, if after the death of this wife by marriage the wives by Niyoga with ten widows one after the other. But if a widow or a widower do not desire to contract Niyoga she or he may not do so.” Rig VIII. 3-28-5

The next verse gives the names of the different husbands one after the other.

“O woman! Thy first husband by marriage is called

  • Soma (gentle) because he possess the quality of gentleness, etc.
  • The second husband who accepts thee by Niyoga after they widowhood is called Gandharva because he knows what sexual intercourse is.
  • The husband with whom thou contractest Niyoga for the third time gets the appellation of Agni, because the substances of his body burn as if they were on fire when he enters into Niyoga with thee who hast had intercourse with two men already.
  • O woman! Thy husbands from the fourth up to the tenth are known by the name Manushyayah because they are possessed of ordinary strength and vigor.

Similarly, the first married wife is called Somya, the second wife by Niyoga is called Ghandharvya, the third Agneyi and the others Manushyajah, on account of their possession of aforesaid qualities.” Rig VIII. 3-27-5.

“O woman! Thou servest thy first husband by marriage and thy second husband (by Niyoga). Mayest thou, acquiring benign ib>
observing the good laws in household affairs, treating the domestic animals with kindness, accompanied, with excellent grace and knowledge, devoting thyself to the bringing up of children, giving birth to valiant progeny, desiring to have a second husband by Niyoga, the Ahavaniya, etc., and perform all household duties.” Atharva XIV. 2-18

These verses sanction the institution of Niyoga to be observed by men and women in times of distress.

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