The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India : Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan 9780199491452, 0199491453

Through the study of the various aspects of marriage, this book highlights the cultural diversity of India. An account h

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The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India : Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan
 9780199491452, 0199491453

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The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan



1 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries. Published in India by Oxford University Press 2/11 Ground Floor, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002, India © Oxford University Press 2019 The moral rights of the authors have been asserted. First Edition published in 2019 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer.

ISBN-13 (print edition): 978-0-19-949145-2 ISBN-10 (print edition): 0-19-949145-3 ISBN-13 (eBook): 978-0-19-909828-6 ISBN-10 (eBook): 0-19-909828-X

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This work is dedicated to Ikeda Sensei.


It has taken me fairly long to produce this work as I have been working on this along with my teaching and family responsibilities. Along the way, I have gathered many debts. I would like to express my gratitude to the institutions as well as the individuals who have contributed to the completion of this work. My foremost sense of gratitude is to my supervisor, Professor Dilbagh Singh. His immense patience with my delays, his confidence in my capabilities, and his gentle guidance has made this work possible. He especially helped me out with the interpretation of Rajasthani language and script. I could always approach him for any kind of help. I am also grateful to the Bikaner State Archives for making it possible to access material from there.The staff there was extremely cooperative and would take pains to make the requisite material available. I also remain indebted to Rajasthan University, Jaipur, for allowing me to take a peek at their dissertations and theses, which also familiarized me with the kind of sources used. The other institute to which I owe gratitude is the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, where I consulted most of the secondary sources used for this work. Similar gratitude is felt towards the Jawaharlal Nehru University library for facilitating consultation work. My colleagues in Deshbandhu College, especially Anil Sethi, Amiya Sen, and Bajrang Tiwari, constantly gave me helpful tips in terms of what I should read and the areas that I could look into. I would also like to thank R.P. Bahuguna with whom my association goes back to MA days. He evinced a lot of interest in my thesis, encouraging me and offering me helpful suggestions. I thank Hirdesh Kumar who handled my typing work, and my daughter Sonjuhi who handled the



corrections. I also feel immense gratitude towards my son Animesh and Shikha Sethi who very joyfully helped with proofreading and preparing the final draft. I am also very grateful to some of my very dear friends who provided me with a lot of emotional support when I was going through some tough times. Thank you Ranjana, Sunita, Mrinalani, Mona, Swaran, Anuradha, Shobha, and Joyshree. I especially thank my children who uncomplainingly accepted the fact that I was not available for them for long periods. Lastly, I am grateful to my husband for providing the facilities required for the completion of this work.



Economic and Political Weekly Indian Economic and Social History Review Muhta Nainsi, Nainsi Ri Khyat Marwar Ra Pargana ri Vigat Proceedings of Indian History Congress


This work has been created against the backdrop of constructs of monolithic cultural unity, political equilibrium, and the traditionalization of Indian culture. It is also in the context of certain political hues that project an essentialist view of Indian culture and try to valorize ‘indigenous’ society in a variety of ways without looking closely at the relation between caste, gender, and the state. The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan: the title of this book requires an explanation of mainly two aspects—the significance of studying the institution of marriage and the time frame of ‘medieval India’ as I understand and use this category. The study of marriage as an institution helps us understand some basic aspects of society. It is an institution that defines much about a person’s present and future. In fact, marriage practices are revealing of various aspects of the society and its attitudes, as marriage is a social act, involving more than two individuals hedged in by laws and customs. These laws and customs are never static and undergo subtle transformations all the time. Both marriage and family are near universal social arrangements that vary from group to group and change over time. Since marriage carries many social and legal consequences, it simply must be a public act and cannot be a private pact between husband and wife. It may seem that there is nothing more natural than the family as a social unit. But if that were indeed the case, it would have stayed in an immutable form throughout history. Instead, we have seen the structure of the family change from clan to joint to single parent. Some societies like the Spartans dispensed with the family altogether, with the children and the elderly becoming a collective responsibility. The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan. Sabita Singh, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199491452.001.0001



The history of marriage must be viewed at two levels. It is a piece of social history related to the whole pattern of customs, laws, relations, and aspirations that lie at the centre of the history of family life. But it is at every point deeply affected by the inner life full of variety—tragic and comic, romantic and very unromantic, and a tale of joy, suffering, and humdrum—most of it hidden from the historian’s eye. Therefore, for the study of the institution of marriage, there are varied aspects that need to be looked into, which will help reconstruct regional social structures and cultures.The specificity of regional social reality persists, adapts, and innovates, despite textual scriptural normative ordering and historical upheavals. Two dimensions clearly emerge in this process. First, we need to focus on the regional construction as distinct, but as a part of wider holistic constructs of Indian society. Second, we need to look at the significance of constructing a history based on actual folk reality and actual documents, revealing the ongoing process of different social groups of intra- and inter-relational levels. Also, the time frame for defining ‘medieval’ needs an explanation. For defining the period as medieval, there are no specific dates that can be used for earmarking the beginning and end of the period, as social and cultural histories cannot be defined by specific dates. But by medieval India, I largely mean the India contemporaneous to the preSultanate and Sultanate, Mughal and post-Mughal period.Therefore, it would approximately date from the eighth to the eighteenth centuries. One of the most significant cultural legacies of around a thousand years stretches in Indian history between the seventh and eighth centuries and the eighteenth century. Medieval India, as it is constituted now, is a large number of histories. The tripartite division of Indian history based largely on dynastic history to the debate on feudalism with its conceptualization of early medieval India, in some ways, expands the temporal domain of medieval India, but more importantly, it emphasizes the search for transition in the socio-economic sphere. Important and comprehensive developments during this period laid the foundation of much that was to characterize medieval Indian social and economic structures and to a large extent even state formation. The 1990s brought Indian historiography on the verge of another threshold with emphasis on social and cultural profiles, power relations manifest in everyday life within the family, interpersonal relationships, ideas about gender, and the study of space and time in historical contexts.



These problems by their very nature defy tight, temporal straitjackets. Explanations along these lines may lead to a far more effective questioning of the tripartite division than has hitherto been possible. Also, historical changes are not uniform or identical in space and time. Therefore, it not only requires us to re-examine our notions of periodization, but it also does not allow any easy periodization. Transitions often carried over features from one society to another. Therefore, generalization about the nature of society in any given area is a very complex matter. Hence, regional studies as well as studies covering variations within the region are important. The existing historiography regarding the social history of this period and this region is extremely meagre. In fact, no work has been done on the institution of marriage as such. There are some works in which references have been made to marriage practices. As far as the secondary sources are concerned, reference can be made to G.N. Sharma’s Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan 1500–1800, the only modern work where a broader study of the society of this region is attempted. But his work is more of a simple portrayal of social life based on caste. Besides, the author hardly throws any light on the middle and lower castes. He has made some general statements, which are not empirically corroborated. Moreover, his account of marriage is quite sketchy and therefore not very useful. Shashi Arora’s Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi (1600–1800) is an attempt to study the position of women of various sections of the society. She has used copious archival data as corroborating evidence. Despite this, she has tended to accept what G.N. Sharma has to say and has not put forth any new concepts. She certainly has dealt with marriage in a detailed manner, but only so far as it affected the position of women, and does not go into the details of other aspects of the institution of marriage. Rekha Mishra’s Women in Mughal India 1526–1748 has also touched on some aspects of marital alliances. Although she devotes one chapter to the position of middle- and lower-class women, her main emphasis is on the upper-caste women, and the information available to her is not very satisfactory. Another work on Rajasthan dealing somewhat with this aspect is the book by Shanta Rani Sharma, Society and Culture in Rajasthan c. 700–900. Her chapter, ‘Social Structure and Family, Marriage



and Position of Women’, although useful, follows more of a narrative style and deals largely with the early medieval period. The latest publication of Hembala Bhargav, Royalty, Feudalism and Gender, as Portrayed by Foreign Travelers, does tackle the topic of marriage in Chapter 2.This is merely a general survey of social institutions and trends rather than a work of historical rigour based on sufficient evidence. Chapter 3, ‘Gender and Status of Women’, follows the same pattern. Although dealing largely with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it does not throw any new light on either marriage or the status of women. Also, important issues such as sati and jauhar have just been touched upon. Here, it would not be out of place to go into the European writings on the history of marriage. History of marriage has long been characterized by the great variety of approaches made to it. Why has the study of the history of marriage become so popular in the West? This results largely from the search for relevance in history. The rapid and sensational changes in Western marriage customs and domestic upheavals have turned historians to look at the past. This obviously helps in putting the present world in perspective. Social and cultural history plays the role of a master link between the various elements in what is now a diverse discipline. We have long been aware of the fascinating parallel studies of marriage by anthropologists. In recent years, an eminent anthropologist Jack Goody has brought these studies into the historical arena in his fundamental work, The Development of Family and Marriage, in Europe. From Mary Wollstonecraft onwards, one can discern a stream of critical feminist writing, focusing successively on married women’s property rights, access to divorce, and right to work and vote. Professor Stone’s work, Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500–1800 (London), was a monumental work, vivid in style but with relative absence of investigation. The study of the history of marriage has been particularly illuminated in two recent books by George Duby, Medieval Marriage and The Knight, the Lady and the Priest. They are among the most influential works of one of the best known social and economic historians. His books are enchanting, full of rich and brilliantly presented evidence. Of course, for the English and French historians, the evidence and material is vaster and is almost readily available in a chronological order,



whereas, for us, the material is extremely scattered. But these limitations can be turned into an advantage when one realizes that there is sufficient material to turn scattered evidence into reconstructing some orderly picture of the past. The institution of marriage has to be viewed by examining such things as the hallmark of medieval marriage. What were the political and economic considerations and cultural determinants in the marriage practices of our period, reflecting the style of life, behaviour, norms, etiquette, and so on? This work has been divided into five chapters in which I have tried to deal with various significant aspects of marriage. In the first chapter, a study has been made of the political and social structure of medieval Rajasthan. Social and cultural history has to be related to the political structure, as changes in polity lead to changes in society. I have handled the phenomenon of emergence of Rajputs, as they have contributed significantly to the distinctiveness of Rajasthan. Also, I have examined how the emergence of the early Rajput clans led to the redefining and reorganization of the political and social structure. State formation being an ongoing process developed through distinct stages, and these developments affected the social substructure of the region. Study of these developments helps us understand the marriage network among the clans. The process of integration and transformation continued right up to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with the possibility of the resurgence of the erstwhile groups as well as their own kinsmen always remaining. Besides, the rulers of various kingdoms also had to deal with the Muslim rulers of Gujarat, Sultans of Delhi, and finally with the Mughals, who conquered and conciliated them. To what extent this altered the state structure has also been looked into. Whereas during the early period of state formation, caste boundaries were quite blurred, by the fifteenth–sixteenth centuries, caste distinctions acquired importance both for marriage purposes and for systematization of administration as reflected in the land revenue system. A study of the caste structure of this region makes it clear that it cannot be seen in terms of the fourfold varnas (castes). For the Rajputs, it was the clan structure that was more significant and this governed the marriage rules. Besides the Rajputs, the other dominant castes such as Brahmins, Bhats, and Charans have been studied. The significance



of the role played by the trading community in this region throughout the period has been examined. Role of other caste groups such as the Jats and Kayasthas has also been examined and so has the role of the tribals such as the Bhils and the Meenas. Ultimately, how the state emerged stronger and started playing a significant role in maintaining the caste boundaries of the society becomes evident. In Chapter 2, ‘Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage’, the motive behind marriage has been investigated, as this can change from one historical period to another. This chapter largely pertains to the elite and ruling class, for whom the motive behind marriage was largely political. The political aspect of marriage was most predominant as compared to the socio-economic aspect. Throughout the period we get examples of political marriages, although in the initial period of state formation, when marriages were used for enlarging one’s territory, ending enmity, and for increasing power and status, this aspect was more evident. The reaction of women to such alliances, to what extent familial relations were subordinated to political considerations, and how such considerations led to the institutionalization of the practice of polygamy have also been looked into. Also, we look into how in a period of incessant warfare, the victor compelled the widows and other women of the subjugated family to marry them—a way of exercising power. How far did the notions of honour motivate matrimonial alliances? What motivated the families to give their daughters to the Muslim rulers despite the fact that by then they had started adhering to strict caste endogamy? How did political marriages come to play a significant role in the consolidation of Mughal rule? Lastly, what was the degree of social acceptability of such marriages, and here again the notion of honour played an important part in the degree of opposition to the Mughal alliance. The major source that I have used for this chapter is the Vat and Khyat (chronicles) which largely focuss on the Rajputs.This has been done not by choice, but by the nature of information available. Sources for the alternate castes are not available. Despite the predominance of political motives, the rituals were always observed. Chapter 3 has been divided into separate sections under different headings such as ‘Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan’. Under this, I have tried to examine how the ceremonies and rituals of marriage helped in maintaining the caste identity of the families, how the authority and superiority of a particular



segment could be demonstrated through ceremonies and rituals on such social occasions, and the continuities and additions to the marriage samskars (lifestyles). An attempt has been made to look into the rituals followed by various castes and also to analyse their significance. Under the subheading of ‘Marriage Customs and Practices in Medieval Rajasthan’, the significance of the engagement ceremony has been looked into, such as notions of honour attached to it, especially among the Rajputs, and how breaking of the engagement was perceived by the people of different communities. I have also examined the age of marriage in medieval Rajasthan, which has varied considerably from period to period and caste to caste during the same period. I have examined the concept of stridhan (gifts given to the bride) and dowry and the effect these practices had on women in the subsection on ‘Dowry’. I have tried to understand the complexity of the marriage gift in its historical perspective. What are the changes that have occurred in the concept of dowry? What were the actual things given as dowry, as it must have varied according to the status of the family? Did the amount of dowry affect the status of the woman at her in-laws’ place? What happened in cases of inability to pay dowry? Why did dowry keep gaining increasing popularity? Another significant aspect that I have looked into is the tension and conflict that the payment of dowry may have generated within the family of the bride, taking us to the realm of interpersonal relationships. Besides this, the other customs and practices which have been examined, with special emphasis on the ruling class (that is, Rajputs), are practices such as ‘hypergamy, polygamy, and concubinage. What were the factors that were linked to it and what were the various implications of such practices? No work on the institution of marriage in Rajasthan would be complete without reference to the practice of sati and widowhood as, even today, Rajasthan continues to have the dubious reputation of having cases of sati or bride burning. In Chapter 4, ‘Sati, Widowhood, and Remarriage’, an attempt has been made to understand phenomena like sati and jauhar in their historical context, as well as the much talked about taboo on widow remarriages as these are seen as institutional forms of women’s oppression. I have tried to locate sati in its historical context, from the time of its earliest mention to its practice in our region during our period. What did the term sati denote? How was the practice of sati in Rajasthan different from that in other



regions? Which were the castes that practiced sati? Was it voluntary or obligatory? Did it adhere to the ideal of sati savitri (a virtuous woman) or were there other dimensions to it? An attempt has been made to find out the actual political, social, economic, and religious factors responsible for this rite. Examples of women becoming sati can be seen throughout our period. What motivated these women to commit sati? Were these individual acts or products of a sociocultural environment? What kind of life did the widow lead during the medieval period? To what extent was widow remarriage prevalent among various castes? How did the state and society perceive remarriages? Did the widows live like socially marginalized victims, as is made out in most works of social anthropologists, or does the position of widows appear to be any different from the general perception? What were the property rights exercised by the widows, a crucial aspect in determining their position? In the last chapter, the study of marital and sexual morality in medieval Rajasthan has been taken up. I have tried to show how sexuality is defined by the society and culture. Was there was any religious philosophy that marriages in medieval Rajasthan sought to convey? Was there any moral or textual injunction that religion or the state upheld for married men and women? What was the relationship between law and social practice one of the ideal and the aberrant? How were the marital disputes settled at that time? What were the legal and other devices available, what was the extent to which it was resorted to and the attitude with which it was viewed? What were the notions of sexuality, marital and extramarital sex, and shame and honour? Besides the case of fidelity between husband and wife, I have also looked into the cases of domestic violence, rape, and incest. The cases of deviant sexual behaviour were generally referred to as chamchori (deviant sexual behaviour) and an attempt has been made to study cases of chamchori between same caste people, men of upper caste with lower caste women, and vice versa; the reaction of the state in each case; the forms of punishment meted out; and how the society perceived these acts. EVALUATION OF SOURCE MATERIAL In view of the availability of copious archival and literary material it has been possible to throw light on the institution of marriage in



medieval Rajasthan. The emergence of archival records from the midseventeenth century onwards for the first time, including sustained village-level revenue data, has been very helpful in reconstructing the history of the period. Of course there are several gaps that remain, given the wide time frame and scope and nature of the work.Yet, it has been possible, to some extent, to construct a picture of the institution of marriage during our period. The archival material consists of the ‘Byah Bahis’, which record the marriage of Rajput princess and aristocracy of all the states of Rajasthan except for Jaipur. The bahis maintained by the merchant community also record the marriage practices. These Byah Bahis are therefore important sources of direct evidence.The Kagad Bahis record what was happening in the village and was reported to the state. Any offence being committed in the villages including deviations from the norms of marriage were reported. The ‘Adsattas’ are a pargana-wise record of ledgers of receipts and disbursements and basically provide all the information to the Diwan’s office regarding the revenue realization from all sources in the pargana. They also give us information on the taxes realized by the state on marriage and fines imposed in case marriage norms were flouted. These documents throw immense light on the role of the state in regulating social and marital norms. The ‘Chithiyats’ are official letters, which contain information on many matters including marriage negotiations and disputes. While reporting disputes, the genesis of the dispute is also mentioned and, hence, it is extremely useful in constructing a more detailed picture. The ‘Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur’ contains official orders passed on various matters reported to the state and they contain decisions on important social issues including marriage. Whereas the ‘Adsattas’ give us limited information, the ‘Sanad Parwana Bahis’ go into details of these issues and we get a wider range of information. Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, published and edited by Vikram Singh Rathore, is also rich in information. This gives us a great deal of information on marriage customs and practices. Besides these archival documents, there are several works of literature, which can be used in order to reconstruct the history of the period. But the use of literature as historical evidence is not safe unless one has meditated a little on their nature and purpose and studied their



status as documents and evidence. Hence, it is imperative to evaluate and examine the nature of the literary evidence used. Literature, whether written or oral, when used as a historical source, may not provide what some historians tend to call ‘hard facts’. But these sources do illumine our perspectives and historical assumptions. The texts carry the perceptions of the past and of their authors, and these perceptions frequently indicate contemporary concerns. Analyses of these sources are likely to provide the kind of insights into social history that may enable us to understand our past and, therefore, our present better. The literary source that I have used to the greatest extent is the Khyat of Muhnot Nainsi.1 The Khyat, though not purely a literary source, is a part of historical narratives. Writing of the Khyat has been an old tradition in Rajasthan. Seeing that the Mughal emperors used to get their tawarikh (histories) written, the Rajput rulers also introduced the task of Khyat writing. Very soon, most rulers had Khyats written under their patronage but some Khyat-kars did write of their own inspiration, but the number of such Khyats was few. Fortunately, many historians edited the Khyats and made our task easier. Also, historians have generally been sceptical about genealogies and have rightly maintained that they are not to be taken literally unless there is other evidence to support them. Nevertheless, medieval studies of genealogies indicate that genealogical patterns can be read as way of representing society. Genealogies record social forms. They assume importance at times of historical change and are often used to legitimize the present.2 The writings of Muhnot Nainsi are considered to be the first among the historical works of Rajasthan. His works are unique, and although he followed the line of Abul Fazal, his treatment of the historical events and the policies of the rulers is more objective than that of Abul Fazal. Besides narrating the dynastic histories of all the ruling Rajput families 1 Muhta Nainsi, Nainsiri Khyat, ed. Badri Prasad Sakariya, 3 Vols. (Jodhpur: Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute, 1984). The Khyat was first published in 1962. 2 Romila Thapar, ‘Clan, Caste and Origin Myths in Early India’, Nihar Ranjan Ray Memorial Lecture, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla. (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1992), p. 5.



of medieval Rajput states since their origin, his Khyat contains valuable information about the social structure and polity of the seventeenthcentury Rajput states of Rajasthan. Nainsi rose to the position of pradhan (village official) in 1658. But he was less remembered as an able administrator and more for the texts he penned. These are known as Munhot-Nainsi ri Khyat (completed 1665) and Marwar-ra-Pargana-ri-Vigat. In fact, the Khyat is an unparalleled text in throwing light on the royalty of Rajasthan. In the Khyat, Nainsi has given sometimes detailed and sometimes summarized description of Mewar, Dungarpur, Banswara, Devaliya (Pratapgarh), Marwar, Bundi, Jaisalmer, and Sirohi, and of the Rajput families associated with them. Out of these, the post-fourteenth century descriptions are more reliable than that of the earlier period. But as far as the Rathore clan of Jodhpur is concerned, it neither gives a chronological history nor does it throw light on all rulers. But this is done in the Vigat (literary account of the past, a kind of a gazetteer). There was also a tradition of writing Vigat in Marwar. The first work of this nature, Marwar ra Pargana ri Vigat, was written by Muhnot Nainsi in the latter half of the seventeenth century during the reign of Raja Jaswant Singh. There is no doubt that this work was written on the pattern of Ain-i-Akbari. Besides recording a systematic parganawise account of Marwar, he gives details of the history of their ruling families. As the Khyat does not provide complete chronological history of Jodhpur, this lacuna is more than made up by the information provided in the Marwar ra Pargana ri Vigat in three volumes—an incomparable piece of work. It is a gazetteer of Rajasthan in which details of various villages in a pargana are given in such a way that it is not available even in a modern gazetteer. The geographical, historical, economic, and political and social information that we find here is not only useful from a historical perspective but is also helpful in the study of several modern problems. As drawn extensively from the Khyat and Vigat, I feel it necessary to provide some more details about Nainsi and the perspective with which he has written his work. Nainsi was the Diwan of Jaswant Singh, who was a contemporary of Shah Jahan. Nainsi’s father Jaimal was also an important official during the time of Gaj Singh. Jaimal too reached the rank of Diwan and it is possible that besides his own experience Nainsi derived information from his father.The three volumes of Khyat



cover a period between eighth and seventeenth centuries, almost the entire period that I have taken up for study. Covering such a vast time frame means that considerable part of the work must partly be based on hearsay and partly on experience. But the salvaging factor is that Nainsi is very clear about the information that he gives, whether it is hearsay, parampara (tradition), or historical fact. Also, Nainsi wrote for self-satisfaction rather than royal patronage, therefore, to a large degree, the information that he gives us is objective. He does not hesitate to uncover or highlight the dark facts of Rajput life either. We must remember that when Abul Fazal wrote his text, he had several texts at his disposal from where he could study and write, whereas Nainsi was largely busy with administrative tasks. The Khyats of Nainsi are extremely significant as they describe numerous incidents pertaining to the Rajput elite family. Besides, there is also discussion on the political activities in the Khyats. There is information on polygamy among the rulers, the rivalry between co-wives, on sati and widow remarriage, and even on sexual morality. Although Nainsi basically confined himself to the Rajput aristocracy and their customs and practices, he does give reasonable information about the other sections of the society. In fact, his Khyat is in the form of a catalogue, and it is for us to analyse his narrative. Another important source is the ‘Report Mardumshumari’, which is an official compilation of customs and practices prevalent among various castes and communities, including the tribals, who were residing in Marwar. This was written in the beginning of nineteenth century. Although it is not contemporary, it has very useful and reliable information on various customs and practices followed by each and every caste residing in the state of Marwar. It also contains plenty of information on nata and gharecha (remarriages). James Tod, the first British agent appointed to Mewar, towards which he was favourably inclined, is known as the chronicler of Rajput history, but it is the Mewar interpretation of Rajput–Mughal relationship that is reflected in his monumental volumes, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. Tod’s account of the legend of Rana Pratap reflects the literary sources and oral traditions current in Mewar in the early nineteenth century. The Annals contain a stringent denunciation of those Rajputs who bartered away their daughters and their ‘honour’ for Mughal power and wealth. Rana Pratap by contrast is glorified for his refusal in the



face of adversity or temptation to sacrifice the independence of Mewar or to submit to the degradation of uniting his family to the Tarter. The intensity of the moral feeling in Mewar had come to be associated with the issue of Mughal Rajput marriages as well, reflecting in Tod’s gloating account of Mewar’s renewal of marriage alliances with Jodhpur and Amber.3 It is ironic that ever since their publication in 1829–32,Tod’s Annals which were translated into Hindi in 1925 and are very widely known in Rajasthan, have been regarded as a primary source concerning question of Rajput history and tradition. However, the pervasive inaccuracy of Tod’s historical account usually is not recognized, nor is the Mewar orientation of the Annals generally perceived as such. The continued influence of the Annals is a major factor shaping twentieth-century Rajput attitude towards the Mughal–Rajput marriage alliances. The Mewar tradition also shapes the writing of Vir Vinod by Shyamaldas, often termed as the first modern historian of Rajasthan, for its use of contemporary documents.4 However, Shyamaldas was also an official in the Mewar court and he tried his best to get information from other Rajput states. He also drew heavily (and uncritically) from the literary sources, and incorporated the legend of Rana Pratap and similar material extensively into his volumes. Shyamaldas’s discussion of Mughal–Rajput marriages is defensive and not entirely consistent. So long as the Rajputs and those who identify with them consider events of sixteenth century to have a direct bearing on their own standing, and so long as the marriage of their daughters to Muslims is seen as dishonourable, the successful diplomacy of the Amber, Bikaner, or Jodhpur Rajas, who were Akbar’s contemporaries, is likely to have few modern Rajput defenders, even among the direct descendents of Rajasthan. In such circumstances, a dispassionate examination and interpretation of the historical record is difficult.The facts are grounded too firmly to be denied entirely, but no matter how extensive the documentation, there still will be many who regard the Mughal–Rajput marriage alliances as shameful skeletons in the closet of Rajput history 3

James Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, vol. 1–2 (New Delhi: Rupa and Company, 1997), pp. 264–5, pp. 26–7. Henceforth Annals. 4 Rajkavi Shyamaldas, Vir Vinod—Mewar ka Itihas, 2 Vols, Udaipur Rajantralaya,V.S. 1943/1886. Subsequently published in Delhi in 1986.



to be shut away and forgotten.5 But relying too heavily on these literary texts would invariably limit the reconstruction of the past, as these literary texts largely give us information about the politically dominant class. Also, these texts contribute largely to the invisibility of women which is now increasingly concerning historians. The Rajwadi Lokgeet, edited by Laxmi Kumari Chundawat, besides throwing light on contemporary social situation and feudal culture, also gives voice to women. In fact, the sentiments highlighted through these songs have not been understood by historians and littérateurs. As an illustration, one can take up the story of Roothi Rani Umade Bhatiani, daughter of Rao Loonkaran of Jaisalmer, who was married to Rao Maldev of Jodhpur.Throughout her married life, she remained aloof from her husband as she was upset over something, and this was perceived as a matter of honour and Rajput pride. Nobody understood her anguish, which is brought out in songs when she gives message to other women: ‘[S]isters, please don’t bear grudges against your husband for so long. I remained unhappy with my lover and all my life my heart burnt, compared to this the fire of the funeral pyre is cool.’ These lines were spoken when she was committing sati for her husband.6 Rajasthan Vat Sangrah, which is a purely literary source, draws our attention to the Rajasthani environment.The Vat reflects the life of the people of North Rajasthan and Gujarat. Its special importance lies in the fact that it sheds light on the social history of the region. We can get a picture of the period earlier than eighteenth century in which political, social, religious, and economic matters have been described. Another significant fact about the information provided by the Vat is that it does not contain any communal bias; if there were any battles, the reasons were purely political and whoever participated in the battle fought for their master and not in the name of any community. The feudal culture, the valorization of certain values, the attitude of 5 Frances H. Taft, ‘Honour and Alliance: Reconsidering Mughal Rajput Marriages’, in Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identity, vol. 2, ed. Karine Schomer, Erdman, Joan L. Deryck O’ Lodrick, and Rudolph Llyod (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994), pp. 232–3. 6 Laxmi Kumari Chundawat, Rajwadi Lokgeet (Jaipur: Sheetal Printers, 1985), p. 9.



avenging their honour, all these are reflected in the marriage practices of the Rajputs. Of course the Vat largely gives information on the Rajputs, but we also get information on the life of the Mahajans and the Charans who had a very significant relationship with the Rajputs and played an important part in the construction of Rajput society.7 I have also gone into the local sayings, that is, Rajasthani Kahawate. Although one cannot situate the sayings and proverbs in a specific time frame, they remain extremely significant as they give us an idea of a specific region, its people, traditions and customs, and ideals and social organization. Besides these, there is also the folklore or folk literature, which help us to join the past with the present. RajasthanVirgatamak Pavarhe Sarachana Ewam Lok Parampara by Usha Kasturiya mirrors the culture of that period and region. The main stream in the story is average incidents and traditions. Any one historical event can absorb many geographical local and cultural changes and then reach its present shape. What in England can be called folklore can be called lokvarta in Rajasthan. Lokvarta, however, is clearer in the picture it presents and is more emotive. In fact, the Pavarhes can somewhat be compared to the English ballad, basically meaning songs that were sung along with dancing. Pavarhes can also be sung but their story line is not simple and has several stories strung together, therefore they are lengthy. In fact, some Pavarhes are so long that they are even called Lok Mahakavya. The main points of the Pavarhes are historical and because it was a part of oral tradition, some historical facts were added on to it. When dealing with women, centrality is given to her satitva (loyalty to her husband). Most of the stories revolve around sacrifices made by the women. The newly-wed wife of Galalang, Gogaji’s wife Kelamde, and Sultan’s wife Nehalde are unforgettable characters. In fact, the story of Sultan and Nehalde belongs to the fourteenth century when Muslim names became prevalent among the Hindus and are all mentioned in the Pavarhe. The new sources and the reinterpretation of the old has enabled us to know about the marriage practices of a wider social group.

7 Manohar Sharma and Shri Lal Nathmalji Joshi (ed.), Rajasthan Vat Sangrah (Sahitya Academy, 1984), p. 12.


Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan

To understand the social and political structure of medieval Rajasthan in all its uniqueness, one needs to begin by studying its geographical features and how they affected the historical development and the evolution of its political structure.We are so familiar with Rajasthan as the name of a state, with distinct boundaries going back through British Rajputana to the Mughal Suba of Ajmer, that we tend to forget that it does not make a natural geographical region. In fact, differences in geographical features give rise to variation in the human organization which became significant historically. As far as the geographical features are concerned, the most striking feature of Rajasthan is the Arawali range of hills, which running from northeast to southwest divides it into two distinct natural regions. To its west and northwest lie Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Marwar, and Shekhawati region of the former Jaipur state—mostly arid and sandy. On the east and southeast are the alluvial plains and the plateau region covering Mewar, Kota, Bundi, and Jaipur excluding Shekhawati. To the west of the Arawali are deserts and to its east the plateau region spreads from Chittor to Bijolia, Mandalgharh, Bundi, and Kota. Locally known as the Uparmal, this area is comparatively well watered and fertile with black soil on the flat hilltop. This distinctive feature of Rajasthan exercised profound influence on its history. The arid and dreary desert served as an effective obstacle to invasions from the western side. The inaccessible hills and sands provided a means of defence, which was lacking in the plains. But the region east of the Arawalis was easily approachable and with no natural The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan. Sabita Singh, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199491452.003.0001


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

barriers standing on the way, it fell successively under the sphere of Saka, Kusana, and Gupta political influence, which can be seen in the terracotta sculptures of Rajasthan. The resistance put up by the Rajput rulers against the rulers of Delhi was possible as much to the nature of the land they inhabited as their fighting capabilities. The secluded mountain areas also enabled the Bhils and Mers to survive and retain their distinctive culture. It might be relevant at this point to reconsider the established notion of isolation of Rajasthan because of its harsh climatic and geographic realities imposed by the vast Thar desert. Rajasthan has long been viewed as providing a safe refuge in the face of invasions, but this is only one truth. That it was an isolated backwater needs to be examined, as the imperial Gurjara Pratihara began from Bhilmala and Jalor, both in the arid part of Rajasthan, before spreading out to make the ancient city of Kanauj its capital. Many features commonly identified with Rajasthan today are present over more extensive areas of north and west India. Although it was in Rajasthan that the Rajputs first appeared on the Indian scene during the early medieval period, they rapidly extended their political control, over much of North India in the following centuries.Yet, it is Rajasthan which is consistently identified with Rajputs and Rajput ethos. Deeply set in the minds of historians of all hues is the association of medieval Rajasthan with the Rajputs. This is so deeply set indeed that one tends to forget that the earliest reference to the Rajputra, in a sense other than that of a prince, comes not from the records of Rajasthan, but occurs in the Bakhshali manuscript (seventh century) from North West Frontier Province, in the sense of mercenary soldier and as Irfan Habib points out in the Chachnama (eighth century) of Sind, in the sense of an elite horsemen.1 There is no proof, therefore, that Rajasthan was the fountainhead of these ‘knights of Indian feudalism’ in spite of the legendary sacrifice at Abu from which various clans of the Rajputs are said to have sprung.2 The second misconception arises out of a tendency to treat the Rajputs as a homogeneous race or community. Hence, the suppositions 1

Irfan Habib, ‘The Peasant in Indian History’, PIHC, 43rd Session, (1982),

p. 23. 2

S.P. Gupta, ‘Reconstructing the Political and Economic Profile of Rajasthan’, PIHC, 55th Session, (1994), p. 162.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


of their foreign origin—from the Hun (V.A. Smith) of Khazars (D.R. Bhandarkar) and inevitably from Vedic Aryans (C.V. Vadiya). If D. Sharma eschews the attraction of blue-blooded ancestry, he evokes modern nationalism by alleging that Brahmins like Chahamanas and other non-Kshatriyas, forced by the Arab invasion, came together abandoning their own varna professions to willingly shoulder the Kshatriya duty of fighting for the land as well as their people and culture.3 For this view to be sustained, it becomes important to attribute an exaggerated gravity to the threat from Arab-ruled Sind, a picture not at all sustained by any serious study of sources relating to Arab power in Sind.4 Rajput states have either been viewed as mere dynastic houses with endless military achievements or as post-tribal feudal states,5 or as a number of small kingdoms. G.D. Sharma’s, Rajput Polity provides a detailed analysis of the historical process of emergence of Rathore polity in the Marwar region. It highlighted the shift from the bhai-bant (distribution of land among kinsmen), that is, the principle governing the Rathore polity till Maldeo to the system of pattadari (system of assigning revenue or land) for fixing the service obligations towards the clan chief. It shattered the myth of an egalitarian clan structure fostered by James Tod by tracing the swing towards hierarchical principles in Rajput polity. It also showed that the degree of Mughal control on the ancestral domains of the Rajput chief was considerable, implying that they were less autonomous than envisaged hitherto.6 In order to understand the political structure of Rajasthan, one has to go into how state formation took place. One finds the political and social structure going through intensive historical changes through time, before finally being integrated. Therefore, the nature and the role of the state also kept varying. The reconstruction of medieval Indian political structures have broadly followed three lines of enquiry— ‘feudal’ polity, ‘segmentary’ state, and ‘integrative’ polity. 3 This perspective is evident in the writings of D. Sharma (1966) and S.R. Sharma (1996). 4 Gupta, ‘Reconstructing the Political and Economic Profile of Rajasthan’, p. 162. 5 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, pp. 107–71. 6 G.D. Sharma, Rajput Polity, A Study of Polities and Administration of the State of Marwar,1638–1749 (New Delhi: Manohar Publication, 1977), pp. 1–5.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

The feudal model has been perceived as a highly decentralized and fragmented political structure in the post-Gupta period.The multiplicity of regional powers and the absence of power of pan-Indian stature have been explained as a part of feudal social formation. A major departure from the above formulation was offered through the application of the idea of ‘integrative polity’ to the study of state formation and structure, essentially looking at the model of state formation as processual.7 Kulke questioned the very basis of political decentralization of the post-Gupta period, which fails to explain the growth of the great regional kingdoms and long duration of the rule in certain cases. He rightly observed that the period of decentralization in northern India coincided with a very intensive process of state formation on the local, sub regional, and regional level in some parts of Northern India, in many parts of Central India, and in most parts of South India. It was B.D. Chattopadhyaya who noted the two basis of state formation in early medieval India, illuminating the composition of the so-called feudatories. The emergence of the overlord or feudatory had its basis mostly in the lineage power of the local ruling elites, the transformation of the lineage into regional power was through the command of the military resources and other forms of support from other lineages. Secondly and more significantly the command of military resources and allegiance not only required a redistribution of resources, but also called for a system of ranking, which was based on service and ranks in the Samanta hierarchy.The political basis of integration was brought about by the inter lineage and intra lineage network of power. These political processes operated simultaneously with parallel contemporary economic, social, and religious processes.8 The important characteristics of political development of early medieval India was reflected in the exaggerated genealogies of the small kingdoms which find parallel in inflated claims of origin made 7 Herman Kulke, ‘Fragmentation and Segmentation versus Integration? Reflections on the Concept of Indian Feudalism and the Segmentry State in Indian History’, Studies in History,Vol. 4, No. 2 (1982), pp. 237–63. 8 B.D. Chattopadhyaya, Making of Early Medieval India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 204.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


by the different Rajput royal houses. In fact, mighty claims by the Rajput ruling families may be seen as an attempt to get away from the actual origin rather than reveal it. The new social groups continued to seek various symbols for legitimization of their newly acquired power. After all, category of Rajputs such as other varna categories have been assimilative in time and space.9 In early medieval period the continuing process of formations of Rajput clans was through the acquisition of political power. Apart from the subdivision of major clans, the emergence of various minor clans was another important aspect of the proliferation of the Rajputs. All these clans were drawn up into Rajput political network in a variety of ways. The bardic chronicles of Marwar state that Dharanivaraha of the Parmara dynasty of Abu made himself master of the Navkot Marwar which he divided among his nine brothers later—Mandover to one brother, Ajmer to the second, and so on. The Chahamans of Shakambhari branched off into Chahmans of Nadol, Jalore, Satyapura, and Abu. During the five centuries of their rule, they exercised control over a vast region in West Rajasthan and Gujarat. Mandover, the capital of the Parihar was the chief city of Marwar. The Rathore emigrant of Kannauj found asylum with the Parihars. They repaid it by treachery and Chuda, a name celebrated in the Rathore annals who dispossessed the last of Parihars and pitched the flag of Rathore in Mandovar.10 The post tenth-century scene in central and western India saw the rise of numerous powers, who claimed to be Rajputs and many of whom were feudatories of the Gurjaras and Pratiharas.The emergence of these Rajput families is linked with an increase in land grants and consequent new land relationships. They were also the production of fusion of foreign and local elements. The different Rajput clans constructed their fortresses on a large scale, which was a symbol of their power. Inter-clan marriages amongst some of these Rajput families led to social and political implications. 9

B.D. Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajput as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’. In Idea of Rajasthan, vol. 2, eds Karine Schomer, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O Lodrick, Llyod I. Rudolph (Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994), p. 162. 10 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 84.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Colonization of new areas was another way of consolidating their power and this is evident in the expansion of a number of settlements. These settlements were acquired by means of organized military strength. Territorial expansion was accomplished in some areas at the expense of tribal settlements. For example, Mandor Partihar Kakkuk is said to have resettled a place, which was terrible and inhabited by the Abhiras.11 The bardic tradition also suggests that the Guhila kingdom in South Rajasthan succeeded the earlier tribal chiefdom of the Bhils. The Guhilas took Mewar from the Bhil chief named Kherwo, and had been in possession of it for 20 generations, when they were expelled by Rathores at the end of twelfth century.They migrated to Saurashtra and settled at Perengarh, one branch settled a Buguna whose Chief married the daughter of Nadode and usurped his father-in-law’s estate.12 In spite of the few developments which may have been peculiar to West India, the rise and emergence of the Rajputs should be seen in the context of the main political process characterizing early medieval India, that is, the phenomena of state formation. Also, there are some recent works, which highlight among other things the importance of the study of those state processes of regional state formation, which go beyond the twelfth century.13 Studying the process of state formation in Mewar from seventh to fifteenth century, Nandini Sinha Kapoor has shown how the Guhila state of Mewar developed in distinct stages—local state to sub regional state of Mewar hills in the tenth century, graduating into the regional state of Mewar by the thirteenth century. The banner of Guhila royal family carved out a state structure through gradual territorial integration, incorporation of local and trans-local chiefs from non-Guhila Rajput lineages (the term lineage is used in the sense of vamsa (genealogy)) as well as Guhila royal families, along with a growing material base. New heights in territorial achievements and political growth were reflected in new claims to prestigious origin, which validated Guhila 11 Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, p. 164. 12 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 95. 13 Nandini Sinha Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan, Mewar during the Seventh-Fifteenth Centuries (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 2002).

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


power through a variety of motifs.Thus, the Guhilas of Mewar were not dynastic entities alone, nor was the Guhila state a breakaway feudatory power of Pratihara. Neither did it represent a decentralized political structure, feudal or bhai-bant. Through the process of incorporation, the Guhila state grew into the royal state of Mewar. Many local traditions and tales, as well as genealogical tables refer to the overthrow of numerous indigenous chiefs and rulers, usually Bhils or Meenas, or sometimes Mers, by different dynasty founding non-Kshatriya clans; the latter are generally described as having entered territories or tracts hitherto unfamiliar to them as either refugees or invaders, but quickly established their own domination over these territories. As their traditional land was wrested from them, these Bhil or Meena groups either retired to inaccessible sanctuaries within the thickly forested hill, or came to some kind of an understanding with incoming people. How kingdoms were carved out by appropriating land from the local tribals can be seen from various examples. Rao Asthanji, after the death of his father Sihoji, was living with his maternal grandparents. Later he left them and went to Pali in Marwar, an area ruled by Kanha Mer who used to trouble the people of that area and any woman who was to get married would forcefully be kept in his palace for three days. Asthanji noticed a Brahmin’s daughter who was past marriageable age, yet unmarried. When the Brahmin explained the reason, Asthanji suggested that he get his daughter married and when the Mer tried to use force, he was attacked by Asthanji. He killed Kanha Mer and appropriated 84 villages in Pali. Then he appropriated 84 villages of another nearby place called Bhadrajun, followed by the acquisition of the ancient city of Khed from the Guhilas.14 Appropriating territory from the Mers can also be seen in the case of the movement of the Chauhans, which was from Ahichha Chatrapura to Jungaldesha (Shakambhari) which as the name indicates was an inhospitable area. A tenth century record reads that Laxman, of the Shakambhari Chahman lineage, started with few followers and fought against Mers who had been terrifying the people around Naddula with their freebooting raids. It so pleased the Brahmin masters of the area that they appointed him the guard of the towns. Gradually Laxman 14

Badri Prasad Sakariya, MNK, vol. 2 (Jodhpur: Rajasthan Oriental Research, 1984), p. 277.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

built up a small band of troopers and suppressed the Mer in their own territory. The Mers agreed to keep off from the village, paying tribute to Laxman. He became the master of 2,000 houses and extended his dominions at ease and built a great palace in Nadol.15 The Chauhan kingdom of Nadol known as Saptsate is said to have been made into Saptashasrikadesha by a Chauhan chief who killed chiefs of the boundaries of his kingdom and annexed their villages. Similar process can be seen in the formation of many other states. In the tenth century, a branch of the Kachwahas emigrated and founded Amber, dispossessing the aborigines—the Meenas—and adding from the Badgujar tribe who held Rajare and large possessions around it. The Kachwaha Sorah Deva occupied the territory of Dhundhar. But even in the twelfth century, the Kachwahas were the principal vassal of the Chauhan kings of Delhi and according to Tod they have to date their greatness from the ascent of the house of Timur to the throne of Delhi.16 Wresting of power from the tribals was an ongoing process as Mewar was bounded on three sides by the tribes of Bhils, Mers, and Meenas.17 Raimal of Mewar succeeded in 1474. One of his sons, Prithviraj occupied Nadol.The Meenas were the aboriginal proprietor of all these regions, and according to Tod the Rajputs were interlopers and conquerors.18 This is the same Prithviraj who was poisoned by his brother-in-law of Abu, whom he had punished for maltreating his sister. Other such examples can be seen in the case of Bikaner, which held a secondary status amongst the principalities of Rajputana. It was an offset of Marwar, its princes being scions of the house of Jodha. In 1459, the year in which Jodha transferred the seat of government from Mundore to Jodhpur, his son Bika, wanting to enlarge the boundaries of Rathore dominion, fell upon the Sankhlas of Jangloo and massacred them. This exploit brought him in contact with the Bhattis of Pungan, the chief of which gave his daughter in marriage to Bika. 15 Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, p. 164. 16 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 75. 17 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 116. 18 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 236.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


Bika then approximated to the settlements of the Jats who constituted a vast majority of the peasants of western Rajwada. The spot that he selected for his capital was the birthright of a Jat, who conceded it on the condition that his name should be linked in perpetuity with its surrender. Nera was the name of the proprietor, which Bika added to his own, thus founding the future capital Bikaner (1489).19 Political authority of a lineage could even be brought about by simply replacing one lineage by another as is evident in the case of Chahmans of Jalore, a splinter line of Nadol Chahman branch. Kirtipal, son of Nadol Chahman Alhana, was dissatisfied with the share of land assigned to him. A man of ambition, he found that the situation in Mewar offered an advantage for an invader. Having failed there, he made his way into the region, which was ruled by the Parmars. He attacked Jalore, their capital, and made it the capital of his new kingdom. There is yet another version of purely bardic origin and partisan to the Candella.This is the epic poem,‘Alhakhanda’, which remained part of the oral tradition until it was recorded in the eighteenth century. The Candella family, ruling a much reduced kingdom, is assumed to be of lower caste and were closely linked to the Ahirs in various ways.The Ahirs, also claiming to be Yadu Vamsis, were nevertheless regarded as lower than the Rajput in the caste hierarchy. They were cattle keepers and not unfamiliar with raids. The description of royal activities is not only more realistic but also brings the events down to ground level as it were.20 Thus, the formation of lineage power evolved through multiple channels and processes which were not compartmentalized and they interacted with one another. Starting from the local agrarian base, a lineage could in course of time emerge as a big regional power. The two major developments which appear to have made Rajasthan unique as the home par excellence of the Rajputs, was the emergence of Mewar in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and of Marwar in the mid-sixteenth century as the dominating powers of the area. Neither the Sisodias nor the Rathores were fugitives of the Hindustan plane. The area of Rajasthan that they brought under themselves was only a small part of the ‘recovered’ territory. Most areas, as far as their own clan was concerned, were conquered by them for the first time, 19 20

Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 140. Thapar, ‘Clan, Caste and Origin Myths in Early India’, pp. 15–16.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

often from other clans.The long struggle between Bhattis and Rathores is one instance of such a conflict. It is in this phase that the essential of the Rajput state, as we come to know them in Mughal time, began to be shaped.21 It is this kind of state formation that became a precursor of the political identity of Rajasthan which has been highlighted by Deryck O’ Lodrick. Lodrick has highlighted the contributory role of the Rajputs and Rajput ethos that helped Rajasthan develop its own political identity between the thirteenth and sixteenth century. Although the historical presence of the Rajputs has contributed significantly to the distinctiveness of Rajasthan, yet their importance is hardly discernible from the numerical measure of their strength in the state. In total, the Rajputs rank fifth in Rajasthan after Jats, Brahmins, Chamars, and Bhils.22 The contribution of Rajputs to Rajasthani life extends beyond their social and political histories. They form a dominating influence in Rajasthan’s history and society. B.D. Chattopadhyaya’s approach in treating the emergence of the Rajputs as an interconnected political, economic, and social process is quite convincing. He argues that the miscellaneous origin (mixed caste) of Rajputs and the criteria for inclusion in the list of Rajput clans were provided by the contemporary status of a clan (in terms of degree of rural control). These clans in turn reached this Rajput eligibility status either by colonizing the lands with potential subordinate peasants or by wresting tribal areas. Examples of movement of expansions are found in the cases of Guhilas and Chahamans.23 Acquisition of political power was done by force or through upward mobility. Apart from the fact that the Rajputras are mentioned in certain sources as of mixed caste, the evidence relating to the Mers and Hunas and their inclusion in the Rajput clan structure suggests 21

Gupta,‘Reconstructing the Political and Economic Profile of Rajasthan’, pp. 163–4. 22 Deryck O’ Lodrick, ‘Rajasthan as a Region, Myth or Reality?’, In The Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities,Vol. 1, eds Karine Schomer, Joan L. Erdman, and Llyod I. Rudolph (Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994), p. 18. 23 Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, p. 165.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


historical stages in which the Rajput clan structure came to be developed. One feature, the incidence of which in this period appears to have been higher in Rajasthan than elsewhere, was the distribution of land among the royal kinsmen. This feature appears to have represented a process, which developed gradually and was associated in particular with spread of one clan, the Chahmans. From the tenth century, there are evidences of the distribution of the land among the members of Chahmans ruling lineage. King Simharaj, his brother Vatsraj and Vigraj and his brothers Chandraj and Govindraj had their own personal states. In the areas held by the Chahmans of Nadol, assignments called Grasa (land assignment), Bhumi (land), or Bhukti (person who has ownership rights to the land) were held by the king, the crown prince, other sons of the king, queens, and so on. The incidents of these assignments were higher in Rajasthan than in other parts. This feature apparently represented processes, which gradually developed and was associated with the spread of the clan. The process of land distribution among the members of the ruling clan, led to the emergence of a well-known class of chiefs by the latter part of the fourteenth century leading to crystallization of the Rajput polity. The early phase of Rajput ascendancy also coincided with the construction of fortresses on a large scale. Thus, along with the assignment, the construction of fortified settlements in large numbers could be seen as part of the process of consolidation of their position by the ruling clans. While the process of state formation involved the dispossession of several erstwhile ruling or autonomous groups, it was also followed by a systematic campaign to destroy the economic base of these groups. Under the policies of the new administration, the people of these groups lost their hereditary superior rights and were reduced to the position of middle- and low-level peasant proprietors. It was not only the Mers, Meenas, and other tribal groups that were displaced, but also other Rajput clans that were defeated and subjugated. While some of them reconciled to this historical process and became collaborators in the establishment of Rajput power, contemporary literature reveals that some of the defeated groups could not reconcile themselves to their new degraded status and from time to time rebelled against the imposition of taxes and exploitation of superior classes. The records


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

with reference to fasadi (rebellious areas), zortalabi (rebellious), and bagi (rebellious) are quite illustrative both in official and non-official language and scripts.24 In order to facilitate the smooth functioning of the administrative machinery, the king and his advisors placed a team of intermediaries who could help them not only in running the affairs of the state, but also to work as a link between the ruler and his people. The administration broadly followed the policy of three different courses to deal with various sections of the society, including the Rajputs. The first course was related to the question of rights and privileges of the people of the erstwhile Rajput ruling family.25 Clan was the most important social institution in the continuation of one dynasty. When a dynasty occupied a territory, they involved a specific political system based on kinship ties. Thus, polity and kinship system were intertwined which led to the empowerment of familial ties. The structure was hierarchical and got institutionalized with the passage of time. At the top was the ruler, then came the thikanedars (nobles) who were his brethren or sagas and then came the jagirdars. There was a well-defined mode and pattern of relationship among them. The fact that medieval period in Rajasthan is characterized by continuous battle, wherein the ruler was either defending or expanding his territory, it led to the formation of distinct social institutions, value system, gender relations, political alliance, and economy. The ruler needed continual preparedness for battle, loyalty amidst intrigues, and a support system through procurement of soldiers. Thus, the army was organized through clan relationships and members of the clan lineage were provided with territories which later on came to be known as thikanas. Basically, thikanas were given to brothers in lieu of military service. Grant of thikanas was a pragmatic mechanism of exchange.26

24 G.S.L. Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, PIHC, 59th Session (1998), p. 13. 25 Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, p. 14; the details of which are given from, pp. 15–18. 26 Rajendra Joshi, ‘Feudal Bonds in Rajasthan’, In Folk Faith and Feudalism, Rajendra Joshi and N.K. Singhi (eds), p. 20. (Institute of Rajasthan Studies, Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1995).

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


The subdivision of the thikanas into jagirs was replication of the first-level division. The thikanedars awarded land to their bhais (brothers) and betas (sons); these chhut bhias (jagirdars) owed their allegiance to their direct king (thikanedars), rather than the distant kin (the ruler) and had the same nature of relationship that the thikanedar had with his ruler.With the passage of time, these jagirs were also divided among their family members, and holders of the parts of such jagirs could remain poor shadows of their predecessors. Under the new system, they continued to hold the same or part of the land in the Bhom or Bhoom (landholding), but without enjoying any kind of political or administrative power over them. In lieu of sending the soldiers to the state army and assisting the local official in maintaining the law and order, they were allowed to retain land which was either tax free or assessed at a concessional rate. These linkages strengthened the feudal bonds and helped in organizing the administrative, economic, and political dimension of a territory, which had sub cultural identities and ethos. Grants and gifts were given to members of other castes such as a Brahmins and Charans in order to ensure mass loyalty. The bonds between the jagirdar and the village community were strengthened by recognition of his intervention in resolving familial and caste disputes related to engagement, nata, marriage, and abduction of women, and so on. However, such intervention was personal and moral rather than authoritarian or legal. It did not establish links with the masses but nominated intermediaries.27 Secondly, the leaders or senior most members of the subjugated tribe or Grasias were also accommodated and given superior position in the rural society. But the nature of their engagement was different. Though they were adjusted in the administration, yet like the Rajput Bhomias, they could not become a part of the integrated sociopolitical system of the Rajputs. To assist the state functionaries at the village or local level, for collection of revenue and maintenance of law and order, old and senior members of various agricultural castes were assigned the position of village headmen and local revenue officials, like Chaudhries, Patels, Zamindars, Kanungoes, Sahanas, and so on. These were hereditary positions and against these positions they were awarded land, which was either tax free or assessed at concessional rates. Rulers also took care to 27

Joshi, ‘Feudal Bonds in Rajasthan’, p. 21.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

see that the influence of these groups should not go beyond the place of their stay. On social matters, these Chaudhries and Patels could interact with their community people from other villages. But administratively their actions remained confined to the limits of their own village. Thirdly, the intermediaries were also chosen from the non-agricultural community, which mainly included artisans, service groups, and low caste people of the society. Members of these communities were spread over in all parts of the region and the persons who were considered respectable and senior most (not in terms of age but in terms of period of settlements) and already carrying the responsibilities of caste panchas (elders of the village who take decisions regarding village issues), were approached to work as representatives of their respective caste or communities and were designated Chaudhary, Mahtar, Mukhia, Panch, and so on. These positions were also hereditary in nature. What becomes evident is that the new government succeeded in organizing superior classes in the regions and through their influence tried to control affairs of each section of the society. This becomes evident in the chapter on marital and sexual morality, when we observe the efforts of the state in regulating the marital norms of the society. Hence, the state was functioning in conjunction with the caste panchas and leaders of various communities. In order to implement their policies and their programmes, the state tried to remodel certain branches of the administration on the traditional pattern of the caste structure. This kind of native systematization is easily noticeable in the land revenue system introduced in the Rajput states during this period. Now it is a well-researched argument that the caste of the cultivator played a significant role in determining rates of land revenue and other taxes, different rates being applied on the various castes of society. We see in the later chapter how caste became a significant factor when the state tried to regulate the marital norms of this region. Studies conducted so far make it clear that the section of the privileged groups comprised the upper castes and the rural aristocracy, classes comprising of Bhomias, Chaudhries, Patels, Kanungoes, and Patwaries, who owed their superior position partly due to hereditary superior rights in land and partly to their position in the apparatus of revenue administration. From our point of view, these developments are significant as they help us understand the social relations that developed during

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


this period. The obvious pointer to this would be the marriage network among the clans. Proceeding chronologically onward from the Pratihara family, one can see a change in the marriage network pattern in which not only does the supposed origin of the family play an important part, but there is also a development towards an understandable pattern in inter-clan relationship. In an inscription of 837 of the Pratihara family from the Jodhpur area, the originator of the family is mentioned as having a Brahaman and Kshatriya wife. In another inscription of 861, the Brahmin wife is dropped from the account of the ancestry. Towards the end of the genealogy, ‘Kakka’ who is very close to the last of the current ruler in the genealogical history is mentioned as having married Padmini of the Bhatti clan, considered by some to be identical with the ‘Bhatti’ of the Jaisalmer area.28 Records of other families suggest a similar development towards a network, which invoked mostly the ruling Rajput clans. The Guhilas entered into matrimonial relations with Chalukyas, Parmars, the Rashtrakutas, the Chahmans, and Hunas. Advantageous matrimonial alliances helped in the process of state formation. Political social linkages of the fifteenth-century Guhila kings with non-Guhila Rajput chiefs of eastern Mewar, played a more important role in the exercise of Guhila power and this is amply demonstrated by the contemporary royal reference.29 With the exception of Jaisalmer, Mewar remained in the same lands where conquest had placed them. This added to the dignity of the Ranas and was the cause of the general homage that they received, especially for the establishment of marriage network. Apart from the Parmar–Rashtrakuta and Chahman–Parmar matrimonial relations, the Guhila marriage was varied and widespread. The choice was essentially political, because the families cited here constituted the ruling elites of early medieval Rajasthan.30 Though the Guhilas extended their marriage with Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Chedis, and Huns in addition to those with Rajput clans 28

Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, p. 178. 29 Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, p. 109. 30 Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, p. 198.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

like Chahman and Parmars, the marriage network mostly constituted the Rajput clan category. Inter-clan relationship through marriage seems to have had a wider social implication as well. It could provide social legitimacy to such groups as the Hunas, who had acquired sufficient political power in West India by this period, leading finally to their inclusion in the Rajput clan list. Secondly, inter-clan marriage relationship may have led to collaboration in wider area of social and political activity.31 The marriage network among the ruling clans also led to the process of the consolidation of clan power at the social level. Thus, Guhila Allata, who was married to a Huna princess, had a Huna member in a goshthi (assembly) in the kingdom of his son, Narvahana. It is these clan relationships which offer a key to understanding the process through which Rajput polity evolved in the early medieval period, the detailed dimension of which have been taken up in the next chapter. The substitution of the traditional Kshatriya by the Rajput and a consolidation of power by the Rajput structure may be viewed as a result of a collaboration between emerging clans, not only in terms of inter-clan marriage relationship, but also in terms of participation at various levels of polity and the circulation of clan members in different kingdoms and courts. Apart from kinship ties within clans, which influenced the distribution of land, the inter-clan relationship governing the distribution power helped consolidate the structure of Rajput polity in early medieval period. Also, in order to understand the structure of Rajput political dominance, it is important to understand the proliferation of the Rajput in the early medieval period, both among the established clans and those outside them. From about the twelfth century onwards, one comes across a variety of expressions which are applied to the ruling elites and which are different from such ranks as Samant and Maha Samant, the use of which appears to have become less frequent, now the most common terms are Rajputra, Rautta, Rajkul, Ravala, Ranaka, and so on. What is common in all such terms is the suggested affiliation to royalty. We have seen that the formation of various sub clans of the Rajputs was not only due to clan segmentation, but also because of absorption 31

This aspect has been dealt with in greater detail in the Chapter II, on the Social Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


of local elements. That one of the channels for raising the status of a recognized clan was through marriage relationship as is suggested in relationships between Guhilas on one hand and the Bodanas and Mohilas (subdivision of the Chahamans) on the other.32 An understanding of the early political development shows that the appearance of the Rajputs on the political scene was not sudden. The emergence of these clans took place within the existing hierarchical political structure. Their emergence, therefore, should be understood as a total process. Also, the clans never merged with each other and the clan identity remained intact. In Marwar, even after the coming of Rathores, about six to seven clans continued to exist. The practice of new social groups claiming the status of Kshatriya became widespread in the early medieval period. Kshatriya status was sought for the legitimating of their newly acquired power. The early medieval and medieval Rajput clans, representing a mixed caste and constituting a fairly large section of petty chiefs holding estates, achieved political eminence gradually.There was a corresponding relation between the achievement of political eminence by the Pratihars, Guhilas, Chahman, and other clan and their movement towards a respectable social status, namely, acquiring a Kshatriya lineage. In this context, it is important to note that these dynasties claimed descent from ancient Kshatriyas along with their accession to power. So, first there was acquisition of political power. This newly acquired power was legitimized by claiming linkages with the Kshatriya lines of the mythical past, so much so that by the time Nainsi wrote his work, he frequently used the term Kshatriya and Rajput interchangeably. Also, a development in the reverse order can be observed as can been seen in the position of some Rajput clans. For example, after coming of the Rathores to Marwar, the various Rajput clans who lived here, turned into ordinary cultivators who paid taxes or did chakri (service) at the new ruler’s palace when the need arose. There were certain groups whose position went further down in the caste hierarchy according to the occupation they adopted. Then they no longer had matrimonial relations with the Rajputs and differences in their customs and tradition


Chattopadhyaya, ‘Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’, p. 186.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

also arose.33 The example of the Rajputs getting depressed into cultivating caste can be seen in the Danga Jat, who were initially Chauhan Rajputs. Their ancestor Jagsi, Chaju’s son, became a Jat.34 Two chronological orders in the emergence of the Rajputs in the early medieval period could be envisaged. In the first stage, it was essentially a political process in which disparate groups seeking power confirmed to such norms as permeated in the contemporary political ideology. As entry into the Rajput fold continued, basically through political power, the traditional norms or the need to legitimize remained. But in the second stage, roughly dating from eleventh and twelfth centuries, the rise of the Rajputs became a comprehensive social phenomenon as well. The Rajput ethic and the Kshatriya caste culture remain more central to Rajput identity in Rajasthan. The clans of the area such as the Gehlots and the Rathores were accorded high status by the Rajput community and their daughters were highly sought after in marriage.35 It was the Mewar tradition of opposition to the Mughals that came to be accepted as standard Rajput history, a perspective on the past introduced by the nationalists during the struggle for Independence.36 Contrary to what is generally believed or projected in the official history of the erstwhile princely states, there were several power groups or lineage groups in the same region where Rajputs were shown as ruling groups in absolute terms. Of course till that time the other lineage groups had accepted the military superiority of the Rajputs or of particular clan of the Rajputs. They also agreed to pay tribute to them but after that they continued to enjoy their self-governing rights and military strength. Out of those groups Meos, Mers, Meenas, Baloochs, Johias, Bhils, and Jats were prominent. There were also those Rajput powers, who after putting up resistance had accepted the suzerainty of their new brothers and ultimately allowed themselves to be incorporated into the larger sociocultural confederation. The non-Rajput 33 Narayan Singh Bhatti (ed.), MRPRV, vol. 1 (Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute, Jodhpur, 1974), p. 28. 34 MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 45. 35 Further details of this can be observed in Chapter III, sub-section on Marriage Customs and Practices. 36 Lodrick, ‘Rajasthan as a Region, Myth or Reality?’, vol. I, p. 30.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


lineage groups, otherwise, too had the similar sociopolitical organization, a federation of autonomous units within one large social entity. But most of these groups, unlike the Rajputs, could not mobilize their human resources for the establishment of new political centres in different parts of the province.37 Even before the Rajputs, both Turks and Afghans, in order to consolidate their authority, made several attacks on these groups and virtually dismembered their organization. The new emerging clans of Rathore, Kachwaha, Bhatti, and Chauhan Rajputs, taking advantage of the decline of the power of sultans of Delhi, succeeded in establishing their dominance over the territories of these groups. Yet, the defiance of these powers was such that they could not extract more than a yearly tribute from them. Moreover, the possibility of the resurgence of these lineage groups against them always remained. Also, there was conflict among most Rajput powers when the Mughals decided to approach them. Apart from the opposition of the lineage groups to their own brothers and kinsmen, there were also chiefs of subordinate Rajput powers who were pressing for the attainment of their own ambition and freedom. Therefore, the inner contradiction of the social–political structure of the clan order made the Rajput position weak and vulnerable. Like other regional systems, the clans also faltered before superior arms and organized force. Besides this, the tribute-based clan economy was unable to rise to the occasion. Only those powers of Rajasthan, that in comparison had a stable economy and a long history of control over the clan members, could provide some resistance to the Mughal intervention.38 It was Akbar’s genius that grasped the fact that the Rajputs remained a military force of some importance. He wanted to harness the military power to his own advantage or rather to mutual advantage. In theory, once a Rajput ruler accepted a mansab (rank in Mughal administration), he lost all his suzerainty and indeed even within their own domains, the Rajput rulers were bound to carry out the orders of the emperor. 37

Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, pp. 5–6. 38 Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, p. 7.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

But in practice, the ruler within their inherited dominions (watan) remained autonomous. Since a mansab entitled one to obtain a jagir and area or territory whose jama, or officially estimated revenue was equal to the pay and emoluments determined by the mansab, a major source of revenue of the Rajput ruler became the territories outside their watan. The Mughal emperor thus produced, both for the royal houses and Rajput soldiery, a prosperity that had hardly been known before. The Rajputs were a significant component of the Mughal nobility, far out of proportion to the population or resources of their own ancestral domains. This too underlines the extent to which the Rajput chiefs stood to gain from the Mughal Empire, which, therefore, could begin to claim their loyalty beyond their clan and tribal allegiances.39 Akbar took advantage of the circumstances and applied the policy of direct relationship with each ruler of the same kingdom and offering them mansab at the centre. In order to maintain the balance of power, Akbar used to increase and decrease the number of parganas under each ruler depending on the circumstances and the kind of service they offered.40 If the Mughal benefited from the Rajput support, the Rajput gained from their involvement with the Mughal imperial service, enabling individual Rajput rulers such as Man Singh of Amber and Jaswant Singh of Marwar to strengthen their internal power base against potential clan rivals and to extend their state influences at the expense of other Rajput states. We can see that during the Mughal period the boundaries of the Jodhpur kingdom kept changing with every ruler. There was constant effort by the rulers to expand their kingdom at the cost of one another. Tod has mentioned how border disputes were most prolific in the production of feuds. This, besides trade, was another reason for the apparent prosperity of Marwar. In addition to the watan, the Marwar rulers especially Jaswant Singh (1639–1678) obtained large jagir assignments in all parts of the empire. Considerable wealth must have steadily channelled into Marwar, through income received from the external jagirs of the ruler himself and his sub assignees. Clearly then, Marwar gained substantially 39 Gupta,‘Reconstructing the Political and Economic Profile of Rajasthan’, p. 166. 40 MRPRV, vol. 3, pp. 1–6.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


in economic terms from its membership of the Mughal Empire. This prosperity in turn affected the marriage practices of these regions reflected in huge marriage processions and larger amount of dowry given (details of this has been given in Chapter III). Therefore, looking at Rajput history, we witness both cooperation as well as opposition to the Mughal rule. This inability to unite against a common external threat underscores the lack of any sense of political cohesiveness amongst the Rajputs at the time.The most significant element in the Rajput political system was the clan, and the clan loyalties far outweighed any other concern.41 Thus despite the distinctiveness of their political and military system, there was a common cultural heritage and the sense of broader community inherent in social customs. The Rajput State of Rajasthan remained an assemblage of individuals, often warring kingdoms, each pursuing its own interest with varying degree of hostility or dependence in its relations with the central power. In fact, in Rajasthan when we speak about the state, we mean the various heads of clan such as Mewar, Marwar, Amber, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and so on. During the 400 years of resistance and accommodation with expansionist power at the centre, the Rajput states of Rajasthan remained bearers and guardians of cultural traditions and a way of life that have been evolving since the seventh and eighth centuries. Even after their integration into the Mughal Empire by Akbar towards the close of the sixteenth century, these states managed to maintain a discrete subordinate political existence. In doing so, they preserved much of their Rajput heritage, elements of which survived unaltered until the middle of the twentieth century. At the same time, substantive Mughal influences can be seen on medieval Rajasthan culture. If we look at the history of the parganas of Marwar, each pargana at some point of time was under the control of a Mughal officer. In fact, the Mughal wrested Jodhpur several times from the Rajput rulers. At that time, a mosque was constructed and several Muslims settled there. Later several Rajputs for some reason or the other became Muslims.42 41

Robert C. Hallisey, Rajput Rebellion against Aurangzeb: A Study of the Mughal Empire in 17th C. India (London: University of Missouri Press, 1977), pp. 10–33. 42 MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 29.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

According to the Mughal perspective, the patrimony of the Raja is his watan jagir whereas the rest is Mughal territory, which can be assigned to any member of Rajput clan or any Mughal jagirdar. If the states of Rajput clan in the area shared a common history and culture, it was the Mughals who first drew the boundary around the region approximating the modern state of Rajasthan. In 1580, the Rajput clan states, newly subdued by Akbar, were grouped together to form the ‘Suba of Ajmer’, and this represented the first formal delineation of Rajasthan as a political space. This region was given the collective denomination of Rajputan in Persian which was further corrupted to Rajputana by the Britishers. The Rajputs called their kingdom’s headquarters as Rayathana. Nainsi has used this word in the sense of capital.43 The word Rajputana was first used by Col.Tod and this soon gained currency. Throughout the British period, it was Rajputana that was in use and it was the romantic picture of noble feudal aristocracy presented in Tod’s Annals (published in 1829–32) that became part of British consciousness and subsequently came to dominate British view of Rajputs and Rajasthan. The term Rajasthan was used only after independence and is a post-1947 parlance. Therefore, the idea of Rajasthan was an outside perception, geographically and politically. But before 1947, Rajasthan had subregional identities. The establishment and functioning of the Mughal administration in Rajasthan ultimately threw away all previous agreements and arrangements, which was drawn among the various lineage groups and dominant Rajput powers. The Mughal introduced the mansab and the jagir system. They reorganized the boundaries along suba, sarkar, and pargana lines and established their paramountcy. Certainly these changes did evoke protests and challenges from various sections of the society. But at the other end, the Mughal offered a series of job opportunities especially in the imperial army where most of the Rajputs found better career prospects. Their own chiefs held high mansabs and carried numerous responsibilities to accommodate a large number of people in the different branches of administration. In most cases, the


Manohar Prabhakar, Culture and Heritage of Rajasthan (Jaipur: Panchsheel Prakashan, 1972), p. 3.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


income from the Mughal jagirs was computed higher than that of their patrimonies or watan.44 The significant part of the Mughal Rajput alliance was that the emperor, in return of the submission of Raoji and Ranaji (titles of royalty), recognized their hereditary rule over the territory that they were controlling at the time of their visit to the imperial court. While doing so, the Mughals simply ignored the position of the other social groups and worse still allowed the Rajput power to deal with them at their own level in the name of rules and regulations of the imperial administration. Fate of other social groups was left entirely in hands of the local chief.45 This turn of events provided a much-awaited opportunity to the Rajputs to consolidate their authority further, in their respective regions. After coming under Mughal protection, the Rajput chiefs became virtually free from the possibility of internal onslaughts and external aggressions. So first of all, they tried to curtail the excessive powers of their brothers and kinsmen. It is only now that epithets like Maharaja and Maharajadhiraj was applied to them, whereas in the Mughal communication they were still addressed as Zamindar, Rao or Rana. But this did not completely alter the character of the clan system. The contingents of Rajput mansabdars was still mainly composed of the jamiyats (contingent) of their Thakurs (Rajput clan leader or aristocrat) and other patta (document legitimizing and containing nature and terms and conditions of assignment of revenue or land) holders. Hereditary jagirs were offered more or less only to the brothers and other kinsmen. Factors like blood relation, family ties of the clan were considered so important that their political behaviour at the royal courts or darbars were organized on the spirit of the social order of the clan.46 The nature of the polity also determined the social substructures. This was evident from the positioning of various castes and institutions like polygamy, davrees (female attendant of princesses who were also 44

Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, p. 9. 45 Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, p. 10. 46 Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, pp. 10–11.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

given in dowry), and concubinage. In this chapter, an attempt has been made to study the caste system prevalent in the region for an essential understanding of the structure of the society. In fact, for a medievalist there is an intimate relation between cultural and social history and the history of caste. As caste is one of the basic institutions of society affecting marriage practices and customs, its ideal and typical structure with regional variations and the process of change and continuity needs to be analysed. With regard to the study of the emergence of the Rajputs in Rajasthan, it becomes evident that there have been deviations from the theoretical concept of caste. It has already been established that one cannot see the caste hierarchies within the fourfold varnas and when we look at the medieval, specially the early medieval period, we see the continual emergence of new castes for a variety of reasons. It would be interesting to note here how the folk literature or the Pavarhes viewed the relative position of the various castes in Rajasthan. In the Pavarhes, the Kshatriya is seen as the most important and active caste. The Kshatriya caste is associated with ruling, kingdom, battle, security, and protection. Most of the Kshatriyas are portrayed as Rajput warriors and the Pavarhes are full of tales of their bravery and valour. In fact, the Kshatriyas provide the basic element in the making of the Pavarhes. The high ideals of their bravery and valour gave them fame and inspired songs in these regions. They are always portrayed as protectors and Teja ji47 and Pabu are valourized as people who gave their lives for cow protection.48 The Marwar Vigat of Nainsi sheds light on the contemporary customs of the Rajput society. Their loyalty, ability to overcome adversity, their propensity to pick up enmity with anyone, their generosity,

47 Usha Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergathatmak Pavarhe: Sarachna, Evam Lok Prampara (Delhi: Lok Prakashan, 1989), pp. 40–1. Although Teja ji was a Jat, he was famous among the Jats of Marwar for laying down his life for cow protection. What is significant is that Jats are being associated with the same ideals as the Kshatriyas. 48 Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergathatmak Pavarhe, pp. 231–3, Pabu was a Rathore prince, the son of King Dhandhal of Kohlamgarh. He was in a way symbolic of the social values of medieval Rajasthan. Stories of his valour had spread far and wide.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


bravery, ambition, love for their land, pride in their caste, honouring their word, and various traditional ideals can be found in the Vigat. These ideals of samskara (a ceremony or rite marking a major event in one’s life) greatly influenced the other castes specially those castes who had a direct relationship with the Rajputs and who participated and helped in all the important functions of the Rajputs.49 Although the Rajputs developed along the Kshatriya kingly model, it was their clan structure, which remained significant. According to the Kanharde Prabandha,50 the Rajputs were divided into 36 clans. These clans were divided in to sub clans, but each was regarded as a single unit for the purpose of marriage and no man was permitted to marry the girl of the same clan. Rajputs never inter-married with their own kin. According to G.N. Sharma, this social restriction limited the choice of the father of marriageable girls. The result was the initiation of the practice of heavy dowry demands by the bridegroom.51 Epigraphic evidence shows that the various ruling families of Rajasthan from the ninth century onwards started tracing their ancestry from the Solar and the Lunar Vamsa and Agnikula (tracing lineage from the fire). Plausible explanation for the increasing importance attached to the genealogies and their fabrication during this period seems to have been the desire to ensure the continuity of the traditional relationship between the ruling and the priestly class. Also, the ruling families, which were not Kshatriyas, had to be given ritual status and hence arose the need for the fabrication of pedigree. Therefore, evaluation of caste relations should be done in the specific feudal context of Rajasthan. It is interesting to find that although the Rajputs were rendered below the Brahmins and above the Vaishyas, in practice, Rajputs in Rajasthan rarely behaved as a dvij (twice born)


MRPRV, vol. 1, pp. 28–9. Kanharde Prabandh is literature similar to the work of Prithviraj Raso. 51 G.N. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan (1500–1800 A.D.) With Special Reference to Impact of Mughal Influence (Agra: Lakshmi Narian Aggarwal Educational Publishers, 1968), p. 85. Moreover, as the number of eligible bridegrooms was limited, many fathers decided to murder their daughters in infancy. As to how many cases of female infanticide can be traced in our region among Rajputs and non-Rajputs needs to be examined and also whether this was related to dowry or other factors such as status. 50


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

caste. They did not put on the sacred thread. They also accepted food and water from castes lower to them in caste hierarchy. Commensal distinction was nearly non-existent between the Rajputs and the agricultural castes like Jats, Ahirs, Gujjars, Malis, and Meenas. The Rajputs did not enjoy high ritual status, although they enjoyed the highest status and power in Rajasthan by virtue of being the ruling class. The Rajput rulers superseded the decisions of the caste councils and village panchayats. Rajputs were less of a caste and more of a ruling class. Barbers, dancers, drum beaters, potters, carpenters, and Brahmins were given land grants in lieu of service rendered to the ‘ruling class’, making different social categories revolve around them.52 However, not all Rajputs were part of ruling class. There were several Rajputs who led very ordinary lives. When Rawal Meloji’s son Jagmal went into the jungle (forest), Nainsi describes how it was very deep, where one could not see any habitation for long stretches. Finally, he came to a place where he saw a woman carrying a number of pots on her head and when he asked her for the direction, she held the pot with one hand and pointed to the direction with another hand. He was so impressed that he asked for her hand in marriage. Her family protested that though they were Solanki Rajputs, they were no match for him, as they were uncivilized, uneducated, and made a living out of tending cattle, grazing camels, and so on. Yet, Jagmal insisted on marrying her.53 Nainsi also talks about a number of ordinary Rajputs (without jagir) who lived in Jodhpur. In fact, Rajputs were deeply differentiated along class lines. The Brahmins constituted substantial section of the population. In 1901, the number in Mewar slightly exceeded that of the Rajputs.54 Also, from the study of the Brahmins in Rajasthan, it becomes obvious that they were hardly a homogenous category. Although they formed a 52 K.L. Sharma, ‘Caste and Class in Rajasthan’, In Folk Faith and Feudalism, N.K. Singhi and Rajendra Joshi (eds), p. 23 (Institute of Rajasthan Studies, Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1995). As S.R. Sharma has noted that foreign tribes like the Sakas,Yavnas, and so on, had been awarded a proper social status in the society. S.R. Sharma, Society and Culture in Rajasthan C. 700–900 (New Delhi: Pragati Publications, 1996), p. 29. 53 MNK,vol. 2, pp. 285–7. 54 A.C. Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society (New Delhi: Rajesh Publications, 1983), p. 123.

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single caste with certain general characteristics, they were divided into various groups like Shrimali, Nagar, Bhattnewara, Pokharna, Sikhmal, Gaur, Sanadhya, Dadicha, and so on. Despite general uniformity, there were differences among them with regard to marriage rules.55 Some Brahamins suffered the penalty of social degradation for deviation from orthodox practices. These were the Bhojak and Lohana Brahamins who were condemned to a low social status.56 The conventional pattern of occupation was performance of priestly functions in temples as also in the houses of ordinary persons. The Brahmins who performed the priestly function were known as Joshi, Pandey, and Baman locally. Not only did the Brahmin perform marriage rituals, but he was also sent with a tika (here it is used in the sense of proposal rather than a mark on the forehead) to look for groom for a girl and he would decide the auspicious time for marriage. The Brahmins were invariably present at all important social and religious functions. Numerous Brahmins could be heard chanting at a royal wedding ceremony. Merchants venturing on distant sea voyages feasted the Brahmins and their benediction was sought before the ship’s departure.57 In the Pavarhes, the Brahmins are supposed to be people who honour their word and even the kings feared their curse. The same source also tells us that the Brahmins were open to manipulations. Sodhi (Sodhas were a clan of Rajputs ruling over Amarkot, an area bordering Rajasthan; Sodhi was the princess of Amarkot) wanted to marry Pabu. Stories of his valour had spread far and wide. When princess Sodhi saw Pabuji, she was completely besotted by him and tried to send a Brahmin with a proposal for marriage. The Brahmin, however, predicted that after three rounds of the sacred fire there would be disaster. But when Sodhi tempted him with rewards he changed his opinion, the lure of pecuniary benefits outweighing his earlier prediction. In another example Jaimati, the daughter of the Raja of Bhuwal, who was married to the Raja of Ran aged 60, was fascinated by Sawai Bhoj and sent word that she wanted to marry him and threatened the Brahmin with a curse if he refused to take the tika for Sawai Bhoj.58 55

Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 83. 57 Sharma, Society and Culture in Rajasthan, p. 20. 58 Kasturia, Rajasthani Veergathatmak Pavarhe, p.252. Bhuwal is a village near Pushkar. 56


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Here, obviously the Brahmin may not have feared the supernatural power of Jaimati, but she being a princess could have created problems for the Brahmin’s survival. Galaleng’s mother could prevail upon the Brahmin to alter the auspicious time of a marriage-related ritual.59 These examples portray that despite their exalted position in the society, the Brahmins too suffered from ordinary human weaknesses and remained in a subordinate position vis-à-vis the ruling class and were only too ready to oblige them. We also get examples of learned Brahmins being highly respected by the rulers. A priest, in the service of the king, was also known as Rajpurohit. They functioned as gurus of the princes and nobles. As educators of the children of their patrons, they acquired immense influence. In fact, the Brahmins not only performed priestly functions but were also entitled to hold political and administrative appointments. Besides, they also adopted military careers. For example, Purohit Garibdas was a general under Raj Singh of Mewar. In Marwar, many Brahmins played an important role under Durgadas in the war against Aurangzeb. Several Brahmins served as commanders under Abhai Singh of Marwar when he led his force against Haider Quli Khan;60 an indication of the adaptability and flexibility of the working of the varna order. Therefore, we see that the Brahmins exercised political influence through different channels and there is hardly any doubt that they used their access to the ruler for purposes profitable to themselves. From the details of the village of parganas of Marwar, it becomes evident that in each pargana several villages, wells, land, and so on, was given as grants to the Brahmin which they enjoyed for generations. Even after the arrival of the Rathores, the land that had been granted to the ancestors of the Brahmins was not taken away.61 All this indicates that the Brahmins were particularly active in legitimizing the rule of a dynasty, whether it was the Guhilas or Rathores. However, in the initial stages 59 Kasturia, Rajasthani Veergathatmak Pavarhe. Gulal Singh, popularly known as Galaleng, was of the Chauhan dynasty. He had left home with his wife, mother and son and gone to Mewar. Rana Jai Singh of Mewar was very impressed by him and gave him the jagir of Kherar. 60 Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 82. 61 MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 26.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


this task seems to have been performed more by the Charans than the Brahmins. The fact that the Brahmins were granted land on a large scale must have made them take to agriculture. Even the study of the ‘Adsattas’ show that Brahmins were granted land on a large scale. The Vigat records Brahmins holding a large number of villages. It appears that in these revenue-free villages, they had the right to sell or mortgage the land or village.62 Epigraphic evidence extending from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century shows the Mewar Brahmins taking to agriculture. The Srimalis and Paliwals of Bikaner and Jaipur, the Bagras of Jaipur, the Sancharas of Sanchar, and the Sukhwals of Ajmer were mostly agriculturist. Sometimes the Brahmins were offered special facilities for occupation and cultivation of land.63 We find the Brahmins of this region also engaging in commercial activities.The Pokharans of Bikaner, Marwar Jaisalmer, the Paliwals of Bikaner, the Nandwanas of Marwar, the Srimali of Mallani, the Nagars of Banswara, and Gaurs of Bharatpur participated in general business, through carrying trade and money lending,64 making it amply evident that Brahmins in the region were a most heterogeneous collection of interdependent subdivisions that ever bore a common designation. As in the case of the Rajputs, it has been shown that mere numbers reveal little about the interaction among castes or the unique contribution of particular groups to the distinctiveness of Rajasthani culture. Bhats and Charans, for example, account for only 0.3 per cent of Rajasthan’s population, yet their function as hereditary bards and genealogists for the Rajput assigned them a role in the regional culture, out of proportion to their numbers.65 A.C. Banerji has ascribed to the Charans a social position below the Brahmins and above the Rajputs.66 This may have been the condition only during the period of transition


MRPRV, vol. 2, p. 119. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, pp. 80–1. 64 Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society, p. 124, this fact is further confirmed by B.L. Bhadani in his book Peasants Artisans and Entrepreneurs: Economy of Marwar in the 17th Century (Jaipur, New Delhi: Rawat Publications, 1999), p. 163. 65 Lodrick, ‘Rajasthan as a Region, Myth or Reality?’, p. 18. 66 Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society, p. 124. 63


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when the Rajput power was emerging.The Rajputs in the early medieval period were continuously engaged in battles. This necessitated the formation of and adaptation to newer values, norms, social categories, and institutions.The classical ideal and texualized social structure could not cope with the emerging and changing realities of specific areas and situations. The emergence of the role of the Charans has to be seen in this context of regional local reality. As the Brahmins were placed higher in the social hierarchy than the Rajputs they were unable to respond to Rajput aspirations and needs associated with victory, defeat, valour, and glory—therefore, the Charans took over this role. They composed songs glorifying the martial exploits of Rajput heroes in Vamsavalis (descriptive genealogies), Khyats, and Vatas (stories). They were poets as also chroniclers, although not always impartial or historically correct. In literary pursuit and receiving gifts from the Rajputs, the Charans approximated to a Brahmin and in worshipping Shakti (Goddess of strength) and engaging in war, they resembled a Rajput. As genealogists, they validated the ancestry of Rajput rulers and strengthened their authority by connecting them with rulers of Hindu mythology. In lieu of these services, they were granted rent-free jagirs.67 From the time that they established their rule in Rajasthan by the end of the thirteenth century to the beginning of fourteenth century till the conclusion of treaty with the Britishers, the Rajputs continued fighting against each other. Even when they accepted Mughal overlordship, they continued their military activities in the service of the Mughal emperor. The Rajputs had evolved a political system, which was based on clan and kinship relationship, hierarchy, and loyalty to the clan head. Even their army was based on the clan system—both demanding complete loyalty from the clansmen. Norman Zeigler has shown how the ideology of identity, service, kinship structure, politics, and power coalesced to create a sense of ‘Rajputhood’ in Rajasthan during the Mughal period.68 67

Rajendra Joshi, ‘The Contextual Dynamics of Caste in Rajput System (14th–16th C.)’, In Religion, Ritual and Royalty, eds N.K. Singhi and Rajendra Joshi (Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1999), p. 305. 68 Norman P. Ziegler, ‘Some Notes on Rajput Loyalty During the Mughal Period’, In Kingship and Authority in South Asia, ed. J.F. Richard’s (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin, 1978), p. 240.

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At that point they needed a new dharma (ideology) to support their military and war-like activities. The role of teacher preacher, exponent of religion, and that of guardian of moral conduct of the ruling class was taken over by the Charans. The Charans claimed a semi-divine origin and are themselves the subject matter of many stories related to showing rulers the correct path in time of crisis. Such a phenomenon reveals the regional variations and contextual adaptation of Indian social structure. The villages given in grant to the Charans generally remained with their descendants and no tax was taken from them nor military service and there was no interference in their functioning.69 The Vigat reveals that the Charans were given villages wholly or in part in every tappa (an administrative subdivision) or pargana (subdivisions) of Marwar. Like the Brahmins, they too could sell or mortgage their land. Also, they were free to divide land among their heirs. In one case, one brother took 74 and other 25 per cent of the grant.70 There is a reference in Nanisi’s Khyat that Bhati Rao Vairsal gave dan (gift) to the son of a Charan according to his wishes (as much as the Charan wanted) in return, the Charan sang paeans of the ruler claiming that there was no ruler like him and that his fame would last for centuries.71 The Charans were also used by the rulers for political negotiations as is evident from the fact that in the case of enmity between Rathore Rao Rinmal of Sojat (son of Rao Chuda) and Bhattis, the Bhattis sent Charan Sandhayach to plead with Rinmal not to trouble them. He succeeded in his task, which led to the establishment of matrimonial alliance between the two sides.72 On the occasion of marriage, they stood at chief portal to demand neg (customary gifts) from the bridegroom, they also stood in the front row at the gate to receive the first blow of the sword. In them, there was a curious combination of the traditional characteristics of the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas.73 Also, the importance of the Charans in the social structure of Rajasthan can be assessed from the fact that the Ranis (queens), who

69 70 71 72 73

MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 25. MRPRV, vol. 2, p. 119. MNK, vol. 2, p. 118. MNK, vol. 2, p. 336. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, pp. 94–5.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

had young children, but had resolved to commit sati, would hand over their children to the care of the Charans, indicating the kind of trust that they enjoyed. There are examples of handing over children to the Brahmins also, but these examples are far less than those of the Charans.74 The fact that the Charans were engaged in the creation and recitation of the genealogy of the Rajputs implies a contestation of the ritual claim of the Brahmins. However, this contestation never developed into open confrontation as can be seen by the respect accorded to the Brahmins. The Rajputs, despite having their own moral conduct did not challenge Brahminical religion, but under its camouflage evolved a different code of conduct to suit their system. According to Tod, ‘In obedience to prejudice the Rajputs show outward civility to the Brahmins, but unless their fears and wishes interfered they are less esteemed than the bards.’75 Because of being constantly engaged in war, the Rajputs could not even follow the kitchen rules of the Brahmins, that is, where to eat and with whom to sit and eat. There was an important saying in Mewar, ‘mharo chauka Chittor tak’ (my kitchen extends upto Chittor).76 This reveals the dynamic nature of caste system, which was both in flux and had flexibility. The Rajputs preferred the company and gave priority to those castes who accompanied them on battlefields. The Brahmins must have adapted themselves to this later as we can see from the examples given earlier. The history of Rajasthan has been written both in Dingal and Pingal language. Dingal language was used by the Charans, whereas Pingal was used by the Bhats.77 The Bhats, who were primarily genealogists, formed a different caste. They compiled compositions at public festivals. They were feared by noble families because, unless they were conciliated with presents, they could distort their history and expose them to social disgrace. Control over the genealogical data was linked to controlling some aspects of the legitimacy of those in power. The tradition of bards, 74 The detailed references of these are given in the chapter on ‘Sati, Widowhood and Remarriage’. 75 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 25. 76 Joshi, ‘Contextual Dynamics of Caste in Rajput System’, p. 312. 77 MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 24.

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such as the Charans and Bhats, in maintaining the genealogies of landowning families has continued unbroken up to the present times.78 The Vaishyas, although not numerically strong in any Rajput state, enjoyed a very important place in commercial and a political life of Rajasthan. Works on early medieval period reveal that the Vaishyas formed a wealthy, prosperous, and respected community in Rajasthan. There is mention of Sresthins (organization of traders) and Maha Sresthins, with riches comparable to Dhanapati or Vaisraman, the God of wealth. Rich Vaniks were to be found in villages as well as towns. Evidence of the influence of traders during the period comes from the inscription of Jaipur.79 If we trace the condition of the trading community right from the works of S.R. Sharma on early medieval period, that is, AD 700–900 to that of Nandini Sinha’s work covering the period from seventh to the fifteenth century and the work of B.L. Gupta in Trade and Commerce in Rajasthan During the 18th Century, one can see that the trading community continued to be consistently prosperous throughout the medieval period and it is this affluence which prompted them to give large dowries and good amount of gold in the marriages of their daughters. Also, most of the Seth and Sahukars had close association with the Rajas (rulers) and when need arose, they even helped the king.80 In fact, the picture of the prosperity of the traders is another challenge to the ‘feudalism’ model propounded by R.S. Sharma. The trading castes of Rajasthan are socially recognized to be definite bearers and transmitters of wealth and their wealth was indeed frequently ‘eaten’ by the ruling elites of the states. On the basis of the study of Sirohi traders, Denis Vidal shows that the Jain traders were overwhelmingly the main players in the kingdom’s economic life. As traders and bankers they served as vital source of credit to the kingdom’s ruling elite and rural population alike. Their role was crucial in collection of revenue and selling of crops.81 The Banias and Mahajans even combined superior 78

Thapar, ‘Clan Caste and Origin Myths in Early India’, p. 6. Sharma, Society and Culture in Rajasthan, AD 700–900, p. 29. 80 Kasturyia, Rajasthani Veergathatamak Pavarhe. All these examples are on p. 253. 81 As cited in Lawrence A. Babb, ‘Violence and the Construction of Trading Caste Identity’, in Multiple Histories, Culture and Society in the Study of 79


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

rights in land with their profession of moneylending and trade.82 They also served as officials and estate managers for the Rajputs and were vital to the administrative structure of the kingdom at every level.83 During the reign of Raj Singh of Mewar, Dayaldas rendered valuable service to the state as an administrator. Although the Vaishyas were not a fighting community, there are recorded instances of Vaishya commander of forts and forces, several examples of which have been provided by Banerji.84 Perhaps the most famous is Muhnot Nainsi, an Oswal Jain who in seventeenth century took part in several military campaigns in the service of Jodhpur. We find the position of certain castes changing as a result of the Mughal administration.The growth of a third power also suggests some changes in Rajasthani polity and society. The suggested third force comprised mainly of the Vaishya groups with Kayasthas and Brahmins as their junior colleagues. Although the rise of the third force was not entirely because of the impact of systematization, as there is enough evidence to prove the presence and importance of the Vaishyas and other groups during the earlier period also. Since the early medieval period, Rajasthan had commercial connections with the neighbouring provinces of Delhi, Malwa, Gujarat, Sind, and Multan. Rajasthan’s favourable geographical position helped much in the growth of provincial trade. Trade from the north to the south and from the Subas of Sind and Multan to Delhi, passed through Rajasthan. This made Rajasthan an important centre of transit trade.The expansion of trade was also due to the keen interest taken by the rulers.85 A further growth and expansion of administrative machinery under the Mughals, at the local and regional levels, and exclusive involvement of these groups in its functioning resulted in an increase in their role and influence. These groups established their monopoly over the

Rajasthan, ed. Lawrence A. Babb, Varsha Joshi, and Michael W. Meister(Jaipur, New Delhi: Rawat Publications, 2002), p. 124. 82 Bhadhani, Peasants, Artisans and Entrepreneurs, p. 167. 83 Babb, ‘Violence and Construction of Trading Caste Identity’, p. 24. 84 Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society, p. 126. 85 B.L. Gupta, Trade and Commerce in Rajasthan in the 18th Century (Jaipur: Jaipur Publishing House, 1987), p. 87.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


administration as they were appointed from the post of lower clerk to that of chief minister or Diwan of the state. They were also asked to lead the armies on behalf of the rulers.With the rise of this class known as mutsaddi and kamdars (employee) it was now possible to draw a distinction between ‘feudal’ and ‘non-feudal’ class both within the polity and society. Senior mutsaddi and kamdars were awarded rich jagirs in lieu of salaries. But these were not hereditary in nature. Moreover, the Vaishyas who had opted for state service were not allowed to indulge in trading activities. They could only do so after forfeiting their job rights in the administration. The monetization of revenue, movement of armies, increase in long distance trade, uniformity in law and commercial involvement in the agricultural production and revenue collection, and the growing tendency of the market economy significantly increased the role of Vaishyas as traders and merchants, brokers, and revenue farmers and financiers. Thus, the medieval polity at the regional level grew mainly on two types of alliances, that is, alliance between Mughals and Rajputs on the one hand, and Rajputs and Vaishyas on the other. Ultimately, Rajas and Banias, although they themselves had different and contradictory aspirations, carried the entire weight of the medieval polity to the next century.86 The role played by the Mughal Empire in the disbursal and extension of the Marwari trade networks is interesting. The relationship between a Marwari and a Rajput state, with the former acting as revenue farmers and creditors to the state, could be very important as a source of initial accumulation of Marwari capital, so also was the use by Rajput potentates of the Marwari network for transmitting their revenue from jagirs in different areas of the empire to Rajasthan.87 The Marwaris greatly benefited from exploiting the strategic position of Marwar which lay astride the principle route connecting Agra and Delhi with Gujarat—the major outlet of sea-borne trade. This group of merchants certainly must have brought wealth from within and outside India. This was reflected in their dominance over commercial 86

Devra, ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’, pp. 23–5. 87 Gupta,‘Reconstructing the Political and Economic Profile of Rajasthan’, p. 167.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

capital and they spread all over India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.88 After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire started declining gradually, and his successors were incapable of preserving their sway over Rajasthan. The rulers of Rajasthan, in order to replenish their dwindling finances, thought it advisable to make efforts for the expansion of internal and external trade in their territory. They not only patronized local traders, but also invited traders from outside to make Rajasthan their homeland and engage themselves actively in the regional and provincial trade. To them, such facilities as exemption from commercial duties, grant of free land for construction of shops and havelis (large houses), and protection against the harassment by the government officials was provided.89 Varna-oriented analysis of caste often stresses the Brahmin–Kshatriya relationship as the crucial dyad in the Indian social order. But historical material suggests that at least in parts of Rajasthan, the really crucial dyad was that of chieftain and trader. The alliance between the king or chieftain and his trader advisor/manager is undoubtedly ancient in India, and it is this dimension of the trader’s role that is entirely missed by Vaishya category as defined by the classical varna system. In Sirohi, each was indispensable to the other as a result of which they were locked together in close social proximity. Of course the traders were not the only sharers of the Rajput state, but Brahmins too were sharers in their role of priests and interpreters of dharma (religion) and so were the Charans as genealogists, chroniclers, and praise singers of Rajput ruling lineages. But as far as the day-to-day functioning of the kingdom’s political structures and economy is concerned, the truly crucial group was the traders.90 The other influential social group in the thirteenth-century Mewar seems to have been that of the Kayasthas. As revenue officers and accountants, the Kayasthas belonged to the same category as the Vaishyas and the Khattries, who were also employed as accountants and Diwan (there were a number of Khattries employed by the Jaipur state). Monetization was so widespread that accounting became a 88 89 90

Bhadani, Peasants Artisans and Entrepreneurs, p. 390. Gupta, Trade and Commerce in Rajasthan in the 18th Century,pp. 87–8. Babb, ‘Violence and Construction of Trading Caste Identity’, p. 26.

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major activity and also a status-enhancing activity. They have been classified as a caste allied to the Kshatriyas, Rajputs, and Khattries. The community played a significant role in the sphere of administration in Rajasthan.91 They had already figured as wealthy notables in the seventh century and as officials in the tenth century. But there are no records mentioning Kayasthas as state functionaries during the thirteenth century. However, their prosperity in general is evident from the record of a Kayastha family in Chittorgarh, which refers to the family of Vijada, who were a part of the local elite and may have functioned as a link between the state and other Kayastha families.92 During the period of Mughal suzerainty, the Kayasthas occupied an important position in the administrative setup of the Rajput princes by virtue of their proficiency in Persian and skill in revenue administration. The Bhatnagars, Pancholis, and Mathurs played an important role as administrators.93 The Jats formed a considerable part of the population of Rajasthan and were found in greater numbers in the territories of Bikaner.94 According to an assessment, they form the highest percentage of the population of Rajasthan (9.3 per cent).95 Compared to the Rajputs, the Jats formed a larger portion of the rural population of Marwar. In the Vigat, the Jats are mentioned in large number of villages in the northeast and southeast of Marwar. The Vigat also entered the Jats as the only caste in a village and it is possible that some villages were inhabited entirely by the Jats.96 According to Tod, the greater portion of husbandmen in Rajasthan were Jats. Legend regarded them as having sprung from the Jattas or locks of lord Shiva and hence called Jat.97 They were considered to be expert agriculturists and best cultivators in the land. Jats were not a caste in a clear sense; instead they were a wide category of warrior cultivator, who had absorbed many outsiders into


Prabhakar, Culture and Heritage of Rajasthan, p. 19. Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan, p. 126. 93 Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society, p. 127; Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 93. 94 Gupta, Trade and Commerce in Rajasthan in the 18th Century, p. 21. 95 Lodrick, ‘Rajasthan as a Region: Myth or Reality?’, p. 18. 96 Bhadani, Peasant Artisans and Entrepreneurs, p. 157. 97 Prabhakar, Culture and Heritage of Rajasthan, p. 19. 92


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their ranks. Male Jats married into the whole range of lower agricultural and entrepreneurial castes.98 The four centuries between eleventh and sixteenth century saw a great explosion of the Jat population. Apart from the development of the irrigation technology, the kings in Rajputana also contributed to the expansion of Jat settlements. The ‘Bahis’, especially the ‘Patta Bahis’ and ‘Sanad Parvana Bahis’, provide a great deal of information pertaining to the settlement efforts of the state. The Marwar ra Pargana ri Vigat is replete with documents accounting for the settlements of Jats in parts of Western Rajasthan. Thus, in Western Rajasthan the process of colonization of land by Jats went on simultaneously along with the process of state formation. Jats being good agriculturists flourished in numbers. Necessity led to the development of a symbiotic relationship between the Jats and the state. The state required the Jats for colonization of land and the Jats needed the state to legitimize their claims over land, which the state could do by granting patta of the land. Gradually, the Jats emerged as prime agriculturists and as a vital caste in the rural social structure of Western Rajasthan, where they were numerically dominant as compared to the Eastern and Southern portions of Rajasthan. Due to the lower ritual rank in the caste hierarchy, the Jats were exploited by the Rajputs and this in turn made the Jats sensitive to their caste identity.99 This caste had its own peculiar customs regarding commensality, marriage rules related to widows, and so on. Despite being numerically superior, Jats were regarded as being at the middle and lower end of the caste hierarchy and as mentioned earlier, sometimes the Rajputs were also depressed into cultivating castes. During the period of state formation, the Jats and Ahirs were invited from other areas to settle in Marwar and were also appointed ‘desh chaudhries’ from fifteenth century onwards. There were a number of territories which were uninhabited and were called Khalidesh. Therefore, state formation was partly through conquest and partly through colonization. 98 C.A. Bayly, Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars, North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770–1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 22. 99 Etee Bahadur, ‘A Study of the Jats in Westren Rajasthan, 1818–1919’, Thesis Submitted to CHS/SSS, JNU (2001), pp. 5–14.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


What becomes obvious with the study of the various castes is that they were hardly a homogeneous category. Subdivisions can be witnessed among most castes, an example in this region is specially that of the Bishnois. The Bishnois were the followers of St. Jambaji, a Parmar Rajput who flourished in the fifteenth century. The word Bishnois seems to have been derived from bees (20) nau (9), the number of tenets preached by Jambaji. Initially they formed a cosmopolitan sect and members of any caste or creed were admitted to the new cult. But with the passage of time they too were affected by the rigours of the caste system and formed a distinct caste standing at the lower rungs of the society.100 Originally the Bishnios were supposed to be Jats but because of their following a specific sect, they separated themselves from the Jats. They are mentioned in 42 villages in Pargana, Jodhpur, and 21 in Phalodi.101 As almost all principles that formed the ethics of the Bishnois were derived from the Vaishnav sect of Hindu religion, Bishnois is considered a synonym for Vaishnav. The Bishnois formed quite a small section of the rural population. It is likely that they were like the Jats— largely a peasant caste—and held superior rights over a few villages. The Bishnois lived mainly in the territories of Bikaner and Jodhpur and many of them were also engaged in trade. There is a mention of Bishnois who were camel dealers and who took camels for sale from Marwar to the Deccan.102 A look at the Pavarhes reflects the presence of various other castes in Rajasthan such as Nai (barber), Mali (gardener), Sunar (goldsmith), Luhar (blacksmith), Kumhar (potter), Ahirs, Gujjars, and Rebaris who were the herdsmen and Dhobi (washer man). Service of the barber was required very often in the socio-religious ceremonies associated with birth, marriage, and death. His status in society was higher than that of a washer man. Their occupation brought them close to members of all status and some of the barbers entered state services as mashalchis (torchbearers) and worked outside the system of traditional


Prabhakar, Culture and Heritage of Rajasthan, p. 19. MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 203. 102 Gupta, Trade and Commerce in Rajasthan in the 18th Century, p. 21, and the source quoted is Sanad Parwana Bahi, no. 17 V.S. (1883 [1776]) AD. 101


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

arrangement.103 There was a tendency among the caste to move vertically and horizontally. Gujjars for example, followed the occupation of cattle rearing and at the same time they attempted to get respectable position by accepting the jobs of foster mothers and foster brothers in royal households. Although the Gujjars were known for their pastoral wealth, but as they had stouter maids they were employed to look after the royal princes and were called Dhaya Ma.104 From the contemporary work, it appears that the position which each caste occupied was frequently not clear. The social status of clean artisans was confusing. In one of the stories of Vastragrah it has been mentioned that a woman dyer and woman blacksmith came to blows simply because one addressed the other as an untouchable.The same work records a quarrel between a goldsmith and a carpenter, because the wife of the goldsmith, after lifting water over the head of the female carpenter, declared herself polluted and wished to be purified by the sprinkling of water, touched with gold by another woman.105 These quarrels depict a clear tendency of lower castes to adopt customs of higher castes. In everyday life a distinction seems to have been maintained between the upper and the lower castes and classes. The lower caste has been compared to coarser variety of grain (jau) and the upper caste has been referred as a finer quality of grain (wheat), and a surprise is being expressed at sighting them together.106 Outside the pale of the caste society, considered to be untouchables, was a category of people for whom the general term of chandal was applied. This category included the butchers, tanners, sweepers, and scavengers.The sculptured art at the tower of victory in Chittor, where many classes of persons had been shown side by side, sweepers and other untouchable castes have been sculptured with a broom, winnower, and so on, as indicating objects for identifying them and for keeping others away from them.107 The social distance between the wealthy Sudras and upper classes may have narrowed down.The privileged among the 103 104 105 106 107

Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 98. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 98. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 105. MNK, vol. 3, p. 135. Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society, p. 127.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


Sudras were even given the right to perform acts of charity.108 This was considered to be an important religious privilege. What was the level of interaction among the various castes? According to the Pavarhes, all castes came together and worked on all-important occasions of life. On occasions such as weddings, people from all castes were invited. At the time of marriage of Suraj Kunwar, daughter of Ajit Singh, gur (jaggery) was distributed to both high and low castes who were attached to the royal family. The dignitaries sent prized presents and persons of lower ranks presented offerings fitting their status. To commemorate the occasion, feast was served to members of dignity. Men of lower order were also invited to a separate feast. Similar relations have been observed in the marriage of Bai Ji Sardar Kumwari in AD 1770.109 In fact, these occasions were made successful through the help and cooperation of all castes. It is said that people of 36 castes would come forward to view a good-looking groom.110 The presence in Rajasthan of Bhils and Meenas and other tribals and the relationship of the tribal population with caste society is as much a part of Rajasthan’s cultural distinctiveness as a tradition of Rajput chivalry. In the land of the Rajputras, the Vanaputras or the tribals played an important role in the political and economic history. They were the ruler of the local areas before the emergence of the Rajput clan states and the term used for them is Thakur, Bhomias, Chorasias. The Meenas had become settled agriculturist in many parts of Rajasthan much before the establishment of the Rajput rule. According to tradition, Bappa was protected in his infancy by a Bhil and the descendants of some Bhil chief still claim the privilege of performing tika on the coronation of the descendants of Bappa. This practice was adopted in other states as well. The coronation ceremony of the Rajput chief in any state, where there was a Bhil or Meena population, was not considered complete unless the tika or mark of kingship was impressed upon the forehead of the new chief by the bleeding thumb of the head of the family to whom that territory belonged.111 The Bhils were scattered in different states of Rajasthan, 108 109 110 111

Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society, p. 36. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 106. Kasturyia, Rajasthan Veergathatamak Pavarhe, p. 253. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, pp. 102–3.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

but they were found in greater numbers in Mewar, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Banswara, and Sirohi. Such caste and tribal concentrations also gave rise to localized regions, serving as much to emphasize the ethnic and social complexity of the regional state’s population as to outline its particular characteristics. While historic associations with Rajput clans provided links to broaden Rajasthan’s cultural tradition, they also acted as reminders of political fragmentation of the past. The problems of integration demanded that the Bhil chiefs of the core area be conferred with a suitable political rank. The prestigious title of Rana (status equivalent to the royal kinsmen) was conferred upon the Bhil chief of Oghna Panarwa. Nainsi refers to Rana Dayaldas Bhil, the chief of Panarwa.112 It is equally significant that Nainsi also refers to Rawat Narsimhdas, the Bhil chief of Nahesar, the area of Juna (southwest of Panarwa).113 Since different Bhil chiefs wore different titles—Rana and Rawat, the possibility that these political titles were conferred on the Bhil chiefs by the state is strong. Nainsi also reports that Panarwa was the ‘place’ for refuge for the Bhils, which belonged to the Maharana.114 Hence, an important source of the seventeenth century points to a tradition of close alliance between the Bhils of Panarwa and the Guhilas. It is important to note that not only the Bhils, but also many Rajputs of Mewar enjoyed the status of Bhomia and Grasia as has been shown earlier. The crucial issue of tribe and state does not hinge around the direct annexation of tribal territories, but their political incorporation into the state. Their incorporation not only accelerated the process of territorial integration and consolidation of state power, but also mobilized manpower for the state. The state also depended on local Bhil chiefs for occasional mobilization of Bhil as militia for the state. In spite of the Bhil participation in the functioning of the state apparatus, a paradox emerges in the state image of the Bhils.They were a socially despised ethnic group.Though the tika ceremony performed by the Bhil chief at the royal coronation is known to have continued at a later period, there is no such mention in the official Guhila record. An understanding of the official image 112 113 114

MNK, vol. 1, p. 41. MNK, vol. 1, p. 41. MNK, vol. 1, p. 35.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


of the Bhils perhaps reveals the actual situation of the Bhils in society and highlights the problems of tribal integration in the state. In spite of a close Bhil Guhila interaction, the state had to reassert itself again and again in the Bhil localities. Also, the element of egalitarianism that dominated the Bhil social structure would have generated problems for the Rajput chiefs in controlling Bhils beyond their limited territorial jurisdiction.115 In the area between the Bhil tract and the core of the state were estates of Rajput chiefs. Bhil discontent was perhaps responsible for the settlement of Solanki Rajput chief Akshaya Raja in Panarma in fifteenth century. This was responsible for the Bhil Solanki marriage in the subsequent period and the claims of Solanki descent by the chief of Oghna Panarma. Similarly, some other Bhil groups of Mewar, Mogra Kalyanpur, and so on, claimed descent from different Rajput lineages. Bhils claiming Rajput descent were called Bhilal (progeny of Rajput fathers and Bhil mothers). They claimed a rank superior to the Bhils.116 This process of state formation in Mewar highlights the process of differentiation within an egalitarian tribe on coming in contact with stratified society. The foundation of the three principal Rajput states is connected by the tradition of replacement of the original inhabitants by the landhungry newcomers by force and fraud. Initially there was a frequency of violent wrestling of power to carve out an independent principality. The replaced tribes were subjugated and marginalized but their original proprietorship of the soil continued to be recognized symbolically through the peculiar custom relating to the tika ceremony.117 The intermixing with tribal people was not unusual on the part of the Rajputs. The colonizing of new areas was also a process of reproducing caste society. Nainsi speaks about the 35 branches of the Parihar, the Botha Shakha Rajputs, who stayed in Marwar and lived in Phalodi (60 km from Jodhpur). Bari Shakha Rajputs were in Mewar and the Muslims stayed in Marwar. The Jhangar Shakha of Parihar Rajput became Bhat and stayed in Marwar. Their job was to write the genealogies of 115 116 117

Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan, p. 132. Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan, p. 133. Banerji, Aspects of Rajput State and Society, p. 128.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

various dynasties. In return, they would get grants, gifts, and respect and therefore they thought of themselves as Brahmins and became famous by the name of Brahma Bhatt. The Bafna Shakha of Parihar became a branch of Oswal Banias. Same was the case with Chaupdra Shakha.The Peshwal Shakhas of Parihar, because they tended to sheep, goat, and camel, began to be called Rabari and like the Bhats got converted into a separate caste. The Chandora Shakha Parihar who lived in Nimbaj, as they used to make clay utensils and pottery, got converted into potter caste (‘kumhar jati’) and became different from Kshatriyas. The Solanki branch of Dahar and Roojha Rajputs became Muslims after going to Sind.118 Romila Thapar talks about society in which identity is traced through birth and kinship or territory and where clan and lineage are fundamental to this identity, gradually giving way to either identities such as caste, occupation, or community.119 But we find that the Rajputs actually never gave up their clan and lineage identity. As rights over territory asserted by way of birth became stronger, state boundaries and the major infrastructure of states started emerging along with it. We find that the tribals such as Meenas and Mers were absorbed in the caste fold and in the revenue documents they were equated with the middle caste. Success required the conquest of territory and the incorporation of existing tribal societies. The change from clan-based to caste-based social organization was seen as a form of upward mobility, at least by the families of the chiefs and those claiming Kshatriya status. But ultimately the clan identity did not altogether disappear. This seems to take on the role of a bridge in the transition to state systems. Thus, identity conferred by birth, kinship, and marriage relations continued. Though clan-based society did not completely transform into caste-based society, with the passage of time, the state started playing a more active role in maintaining the boundaries of the caste. The survival of the caste is partly because of continuance of marriage and kinship rules and partly because of the economic relationships, which were also an integral part of this structure. Although the members of different castes came together on various occasions, especially on occasion of marriage, yet caste system 118 119

All this information is available in MNK, vol. 1, pp. 79–80. Thapar, ‘Clan, Caste and Origin: Myths in Early India’, p. 4.

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


was not allowed to be diluted by inter-caste marriages. Although the caste boundaries were not so distinct and stringent in the early medieval period and we get examples in the tenth century of a Guhiloth prince named Sakti Kumar marrying a Huna girl name Hiryadevi,120 a Kshatriya wife of the Brahmin Partihar ruler of Mandore, and the wife of the Brahmin poet Raj Shekhar, Avanti, from the Chauhan lineage,121 this practice gradually disappeared. The state started playing a more active role in regulating caste boundaries. The means of maintaining the caste boundaries was the strict observance of the rules of endogamy and exogamy as applied with reference to caste. Rules of marriage were rigidly enforced and marriage became primarily a social institution to be regulated by the state. In the early medieval phase, we have seen how the Rajput emerged out of mixed castes. But once they were able to establish their political power and acquire a foothold in the caste hierarchy, they started projecting themselves as the regulators of the varna order. Also, when there was contestation of power, the rulers began to be projected as the defenders of Brahmnic order as can be seen by the portrayal of the whole episode of the conquest of Jalore by Allauddin Khalji and a defeat by the ruler Veramde and Kahnarde as mentioned in Padmnabha’s Kahnarde Prabhand.122 By the seventeenth century, Raghunath—the writer of Jagat Singh Kavya observes that Maharana Jagat Singh (AD 1628 to 1652) employed his authority in regulating the duty of the varnas and seeing that the distinctive way of life, characteristic of each varna, was preserved. Similarly, the Ajitcharita says that Ajit Singh (AD 1679–1724), the ruler of Marwar, was known for regularizing the life of the four varnas.123 In order to fit into the caste hierarchy, they were being projected as regulators of the varna order. This resonates very well with the point


Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan,p. 59. Shashi Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi (Bikaner: Tarun Prakashan, 1981), p. 4, and the source used is Epigraphic Indica, Part 18, p. 95. 122 This whole episode has been mentioned by Ramya Srinivasan in the article, ‘The Marriage of Hindu and Turak: Medieval Rajput Histories of Jalore’, Medieval History Journal, vol. 7 (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004). More details of the episode have been given in Chapter II and Chapter IV. 123 Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 77. 121


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

made by Bayly that the overriding need of the expanding groups of pioneer peasant warriors was to attract skill, labour, and political and moral support from whatever quarter. Those parts of their tradition, which emphasized brotherhood and downgraded the importance of caste hierarchy and the role of the Brahmins were therefore most appropriate. But later when more stable kingdoms were built, hierarchy and caste distance re-established itself.124 A study made by Madhu Tandon of the Hadauti region shows that there is no reference to any upper caste man marrying a lower caste woman or a lower caste man marrying an upper caste woman, but there were two cases of inter-caste marriages among the lower castes for which an additional levy known as marh (additional imposition) was imposed.When Meh Siha’s son Nathiya married a Koli girl, he had to pay nine takas (currency) as marh over and above 14 takas 25 dams (currency) as panchgara (tax on marriage), which was normal lag (tax on marriage) on marriages. Similarly, when Chama Mali’s daughter was married to a Koli boy the same amount was realized as marh and panchgara.125 By the time we come to the eighteenth century, there is reference to a Rajput jagirdar, Khushan Singh Nirwan who married a Jat woman. This was reported by the panch thakurs to the state. The state held that their marriage was in contravention of the marriage custom, and on this ground his jagir was confiscated.126 A Khati (carpenter) once married the daughter of a Teli (oil presser) under the wrong impression that the girl belonged to his caste but later when it was disclosed that the girl was a Teli; the state ordered the Khati to restore her back to her parents and he was fined Rs 11/(high amount) despite having married another caste unknowingly.127 So now just imposition of fine was not sufficient but the girl was also to be restored to her parents—an indication of growing rigidity. So while it was true that the classical traditions set boundaries, which most rulers were unlikely to over step, in practice the interpretation of 124

Bayly, Rulers,Townsmen and Bazaars, p. 49. Madhu Tandon Sethia, Rajput Polity Warriors, Peasants and Merchants (New Delhi: Rawat Publication, 2003). 126 Eighteenth-century Muwazana Kala, Pargana Sawai Jaipur. 127 Adsatta Jaipur, Paragana Chaksu,V.S. 1801/1744. 125

Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan


ideology was highly responsive to economic and political conditions. In most societies, new elites and new classes adopted the conservative styles of thought of the old order.128 Therefore, we can see that the problem of understanding the structure of the medieval Rajasthan polity and society right from the early medieval period to the later period remains quite acute. The emergence of a large numbers of ruling clans conceptualized through the use of Kshatrization and Rajputization explains the close link between the Brahminical ideology, emerging reality, and invocation of the normative order. Once the new state emerged, it started regulating the social institutions such as caste by laying down rules against inter-caste marriages, establishing a two way between different levels of polity from the village society to the apex power. On the basis of the reconstruction of the political and social history of Rajasthan, one can see that there were different stages of expansion of political power and the stages in which various claims to ancestral respectability were made. Local-level ruling class families developed into regional dynasties through the process of integration of local chiefs and other prominent social groups into the emerging political structure. Clans and lineages were open and fluid social networks, especially at the lower end, in a continual process of renewal through interaction and matrimonial alliances with different castes and in their search for power and resources especially after the conquest of new zones. The historical process of Rajasthan indicates that the structure of society was constantly in a flux and was certainly not based on the traditional alliances of the varnas. There was an emergence of numerous castes and sub castes based on birth, heredity, occupation, and class privileges. These features rendered the social organization, a complex and compacted framework, built around the traditional caste system.


Bayly, Rulers,Townsmen and Bazaars, p. 49.


Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage

In the earlier chapter we have examined the processes leading to the development of polity and society of medieval Rajasthan and seen how marriage alliances helped in establishing kinship network and strengthening the political position of a particular family or a clan. Therefore, investigating the motive behind marriage assumes importance. This motive may also change from one historical period to another. In our period, it seems that many marriages were transacted with purely political or economic motive or both. Of course when we speak about the socio-political and economic aspects of marriage, we are talking about the elite class or the ruling class for which our chief source of information is Nainsi ri Khyat. An examination of the text reveals, that more often than not, the motive behind marriage was purely political. In fact, the political necessity of marriage seems to have been a predominant aspect among the ruling class in Europe too. Although the main purpose of marriage among the aristocracy in Europe was procreation, there were many other factors that affected marriage alliances. The politico-economic aspect of marriage was more evident in the initial period of turmoil when the territories of rulers were not so well defined and the Rajput rulers were constantly engaged in enhancing their territory and consequently their power at the cost of each other. In our region, we come across several instances of marriages being transacted with the specific purpose of acquiring or enhancing one’s territory or one’s prestige. The earliest example that we find is that of the marriage of Gangdev’s daughter Lela with Chuda. While The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan. Sabita Singh, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199491452.003.0002

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


sending the proposal of marriage, an offer of 84 villages was made to the prospective son-in-law. During the marriage, Chuda was given Mandovar.1 Another example is that of Raimal, the ruler of Mewar (1474). He gave his daughter in marriage to Jaimal of Sirohi and gave him Abu as her dowry.2 That marriages were economically and politically beneficial, is also illustrated by Ram Dev of Pokaran giving Pokhran to his son-inlaw, Hamir (son of Rathore Jagmal Malawat), whereas he himself came to Ramdevre (last few decades of sixteenth century).3 This must have been considered as a part of the dowry bestowed on the daughter. But the examples of territory being offered voluntarily at the time of marriage are very few. Otherwise we have several examples of territory being grabbed by deceit after marriage, or due to hostilities between two parties, which may have emanated from designs over certain territories that was finally brought to an end by offering marriage and territory. Perhaps it was a way of saving face and honour by not losing the territory in a battle. The daughter of Rawal Maldev, ruler of Jaisalmer (early seventeenth century), was married to Rao Patar of Rardhera. Patar died shortly after marriage and the family gave away his wife in marriage to Ghazni Khan Pathan of Jalore. For this misdeed, the Jaisalmer ruler destroyed Rardhera. He appropriated Kotda village, which belonged to the kingdom of Jodhpur. This resulted in war between Haraj and Rawal Meghraj. They fought constantly for six months. Finally Meghraj brought an end to the war by offering his daughter in marriage and gave away Kotda and seven other villages in marriage.4 Here diplomacy became the primary motive of marriage. In fact, in several instances, we find marriage being used as an instrument for ending enmity and hostility between the two sides. When Sankhla (ruler of Roon) killed Sansarchand, Sewaldas (son of Sansarchand) got his daughter married to Sankhla to end the enmity.5 Therefore, here marriage was instrumental in settling vair (feuds). 1

Rima Hooja, A History of Rajasthan (New Delhi: Rupa and Company, 2006). 2 Tod, Annals, p. 234. 3 MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 59. 4 MNK, vol. 2, p. 97. 5 MNK, vol. 2, p. 181 (this incident occurred sometime in AD 1613).


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Other such examples can be seen in the case of Ide (Ide was the son of Ugmade and was a chakar (servant) of Rawal Malinath Ji). Ide had enmity with Singla of Bhadrajun. Solankis were the chakars of Singla and Ide was married into Solanki family. This Solankini was very beautiful. Mela Septa who lived near Bhadrajun, started coveting her. This led to enmity between Ide and Meleji and was finally ended by getting Sikhri’s daughter married to Meleji’s son.6 Another example is that of Visalde who married his daughter Solankini to Moolu, son of Snagram Rao, in order to save himself from Moolu’s threats. After the marriage, Moolu immediately slept with her, making it obvious that the motive behind marriage was to settle a score. When other members of the clan got to know of this they wanted to kill Moolu in order to avenge the insult of having married the daughter forcibly. But it was Solankini who helped Moolu flee. She probably chose to help him because despite the element of force, marriage rituals were performed and this must have made her accept him as her husband. Later an attempt was made to get her remarried but the proposal met with several rejections. Finally, the ruler of Jalore, Sawant Singh, accepted her as his wife.What motivated Sawant Singh to marry her? Was it an act of bravado, a challenge to Moolu? Because after that Moolu developed enmity with Sawant Singh and kept attacking his territory. But later their enmity ended and Solankini bore Moolu’s son who was called Kanharde. He continued to live with his mother and Sawant Singh. Later Moolu asked for his child but she refused to give the custody on the ground that he was her future security.7 This throws an insight into the importance of a male child among the Rajputs, as a result of which Moolu wanted him, Solankini wanted to depend on him, and the fact that Kanharde continued to stay with Sawant Singh reflects that he was very well accepted into the household. A male progeny in the Rajputs always increased their fighting strength. The idea of establishing matrimonial alliance in order to end rivalry can be seen from the time of the inception of the Rajput kingdom right up to the eighteenth–nineteenth centuries. In AD 1382, the Hadas and Sisodias had fallen apart because of the skirmishes that took place between them. Later a group of Hadas met Lakha, the 6 7

MNK, vol. 3, p. 265. MNK, vol. 3, pp. 290–3.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


new Maharana (title for royalty) and apologized. Lakha not only forgave the Hadas for killing the Maharana, but also agreed to accept as many as 12 daughters of Hadas in marriage to the Sisodias.8 It was through marriage that amity between the two houses was restored. That this form of marriage continued throughout this period can be seen from an example of 1813. There was rivalry between Jaipur and Jodhpur leading to severe battle between the two states involving princess Krishna Kumari. In order to end the rivalry, both the rulers gave their daughters in marriage to each other.9 Similarly, the Sankhlas of Chawla village had continuous enmity with Kunpawat. Finally the Sankhlas married their daughter to Samaldas of Kunpawat to end the enmity.10 When Maharaja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur attacked Ummed Singh of Sirohi, he saved himself by giving some money and his daughter to the Maharaja.11 The custom of ending hostility by giving a daughter seems to have become so popular that the practice can be seen even among the Rajput families who did not belong to royalty. There was a fight between two Rajputs, Sikhra and Melo, over the possession of a horse. In the fight, both were fatally wounded and Melo died. Enmity between the two ended when Meloji’s son declared that his father had been unreasonable and that he did not bear any grudge against Sikhra.Then Sikhraji’s brother suggested that he give his daughter to Meloji’s son to end the enmity.12 Daughters were offered in marriage not only to end protracted rivalry, but also to buy peace and save themselves from attack as can be seen in the case of Abhai Singh who in 1729 marched to various areas subjugating various chiefs. The Sirohi prince offered his daughter in marriage rather than oppose Abhai Singh.13 Rao Narain Das made overtures to the Rathores proposing his niece (daughter of Man Singh, his predecessor) in marriage and in the words of Tod, ‘in


Varsha Joshi, ‘Marriage Policy of the Rajput Rulers’, paper presented at the Seminar on the Social Economic and Political Development in Western India from 16th to 19th Century, at M.S. University,Vadodara, 1995, p. 4. 9 Joshi, ‘Marriage Policy of the Rajput Rulers’, p. 7. 10 MNK, vol. 2, p. 181. 11 Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 1, pp. 11–13. 12 MNK, vol. 2, p. 256. 13 Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 80.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the midst of strife, the coconut with eight choice steeds and the price of four elephants were sent and accepted. The drum and battle ceased, the nuptials were solemnized. Besides the fair hand of Chohani, the Rao consented to pay a concealed tribute’.14 These marriages not only helped to put an end to the hostilities and rivalries between the warring parties, but at times also contributed in raising their power and status. There was rivalry between the Mohils and Bhattis and in order to increase their strength, the Mohils gave their daughter in marriage to the Rathores as they were more powerful and with their support their enemies could be cowed.15 Daughters were also given to express gratitude for help received. Sihoji’s (the nephew of Jaichand, the ruler of Kannauj) first exploit was in Kolumud (20 miles west of the city of the Bikaner, residence of the chieftain of the Solankis). The Solanki chief received the royal immigrants with kindness and they repaid by offering their services to combat their enemies. In gratitude of his service the Solanki bestowed upon Sihoji his sister in marriage with an ample dower.16 Somo Rajput, whose maternal uncle had been killed by Ranngdev (Bhatti of Jaisalmer), approached Rao Chuda in order to seek aid against the Bhattis. In return, he promised to give them 100 horses and 100 girls.17 Hundred horses and girls were being offered in the same breath, thereby girls and animals being treated in the same vein, a lure for strengthening their position. Although horses were a valuable possession and giving horses was considered a matter of pride, girls too were being treated as possession. In the medieval period, the feudal ethos of male honour relegated women as marginal figures who could be ‘used’ to end old enmity between two houses of royal family and this was referred to as beti dekar bair bhajna.We can see how historically the status of women has been expressed and maintained through the forms of marriage they have entered into, the nature of the marital bond ensuring women’s sexual, religious, political, and economic freedom or dependency. We do not get many examples of reactions of the women on being given away in this manner. But there is an example of the daughter of 14 15 16 17

Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 81. MNK, vol. 3, p. 165. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 10. MNK, vol. 2, p. 312.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


the ruler of the Khed (Guhilas) who was married off by her brother to Parihar Hanspal despite her protests.The marriage alliance was entered with the idea of acquiring the support of Hanspal, who did come to their aid when the Pawars of Barmer attacked Khed. In the ensuing battle, Hanspal died and the girl retaliated by cursing both her family of origin as well as her husband’s family that they would lose their patrimony.18 Perhaps this being her only way of expressing her dissatisfaction at the way she had been married off. That the family into which the marriage had taken place was expected to extend help to each other can be seen from another example. There was enmity between Rao Rinmal of Sojat (son of Rao Chuda) and the Bhattis. The Bhattis married their daughter to Rao Rinmal and their son, Rao Jodha fought along with Rinmal against Narbad.19 In fact, George Griersen has made an interesting study of a canto describing the marriage of Alha. Alha won Sunva (or Sonmati) daughter of Naipali, the Baghel Raja of Naingharh. The site of this town has not been identified and nothing is known about it except that it was seven days’ march from Mahova. This canto gives a good example of Rajput marriage customs. The father of the bride dares suitors to come and take away his daughter and when one does come, he has to meet force by force and is treated with foulest treachery. The most solemn oath of friendship, not to speak of safe conduct, is taken with no intention of it being kept and is broken without hesitation. Alha succeeds, after many perils, in bringing away his bride and it would naturally be expected that in future years his relation with his wife’s family would at least be strained.Yet, we find them subsequently on most friendly terms and fighting side by side as allies.20 Not only was this custom widespread amongst the Rajputs, but we also find the Mughal rulers using this system as a means of bringing about a settlement between two Rajputs rulers. In 1649, the Mughal emperor, Shahjahan, used this system to bring an end to rivalry between 18

MNK, vol. 2, p. 320. MNK, vol. 2, p. 336. 20 George Griersen, ‘The Marriage of Alha’, in Rajasthan Through the Ages, ed. Suresh K. Sharma and Usha Sharma, vol. 3(New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1999), p. 137. 19


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Rao Amar Singh and Maharaja Jaswant Singh ordering that Jasiangde be married to Maharaja Jaswant Singh.21 Obviously when matrimonial relations were motivated by such factors, the daughters would be given away in marriages without bothering about the number of wives the ruler might already have, leading to the institutionalization of polygamy. In a polygamous setup, a woman’s status would largely be determined by the kind of relationship she enjoyed with her husband, that is, whether she was the favoured one or not. Whether this means of ending enmity led to any lasting harmony or conciliation and whether such friendships were maintained is another question. We get several examples in our region where despite the establishment of matrimonial relations there is indulgence in deceit in order to get rid of their relatives. In fact, at times relationships were completely subordinated to financial and political considerations. During Surajmal’s reign (1529–31), relations between Mewar and Boondi were turbulent. Rao Surajmal’s sister Karnawati was married to Rana Sangha of Mewar and Sangha had appointed Surajmal to be the guardian of their two sons, Vikramaditya and Udai Singh. Sangha had also granted the Jagir of Rathambore, including its famed fort, to these two sons. Following the death of Rana Sangha of Mewar, his eldest son, Ratan Singh became the new ruler of Mewar. Relations between Rana Ratan Singh and Rao Surajmal were already rocky, even though the close ties between kingdom of Mewar and Boondi had been further cemented by the marriage of Surajmal’a sister Suja Bai with Mewar’s Rana Ratan Singh and that of Ratan Singh’s sister with Surajmal. Despite this, Rana Ratan Singh decided to put an end to Raja Rao Surajmal of Boondi. With that aim in mind, Ratan Singh invited Surajmal to a hunting expedition, in the course of which he attacked Surajmal. Both attacked each other and could not survive and Hadas and Sisodias became sworn enemies.22 The daughter of Lalaji Songara had been married to Rao Rindmal so that the latter may not destroy Songara. The alliance was a means of buying protection. But when Lalaji realized that Rindmal’s ambition had not been assuaged by the alliance, Lalaji planned to kill Rindmal, 21

Raghuvendra Singh Manohar, Rajasthan ke Raj Gharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 198. 22 Hooja, History of Rajasthan, p. 530.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


regardless of the fact that he was his son-in-law. But his mother-in-law alerted him and he escaped. What is interesting is that when Lalaji shared his intention with his wife, she pretended to be unconcerned about her daughter becoming a widow. She was expected to put the interest of the clan above that of her daughter. Yet, she quietly alerted her daughter, an indication of the emotional bond between mother and daughter, whereas for Lalaji the political compulsions were more important than his daughter’s future. However, the whole scenario changed when Rindmal’s force attacked the Songaras and brutally murdered them and took over the entire territory of Songara. Fatherin-law and brother-in-law were also not spared. The mother-in-law must have been well aware of the consequences of alerting Rindmal, yet she chose to warn him after extracting a promise that he would not harm the people and treat the defeated ruler well. Therefore, when the bodies of those killed were being dumped in to the well, the body of the father-in-law and brother-in-law was kept at the top.23 The story reflects the various aspects of matrimonial relationship. In fact, marriage is a field of human experience in which the most intimate, rich and rare and yet most common of human emotions of love and hate, domestic comfort and discomfort, adventure and routine are mingled. Although it is evident that women belonging to the ruling families functioned as pawns in military and political strategies, they were also not always silent spectators in these transactions.Women thus occupy a complex location in the battle for material gains between the main branches of the family: they were pawns as well as agents. In the Mahabharata, the interest of the incoming woman is also sought to be ensured by their natal kin indicating that arranged marriage alliances do not work only in one direction and that a women’s interest can also be protected.24 Most of feminist writings, tend to represent male and female in sense of absolute power or powerlessness. But the reality is much more complex. Patriarchy, however, operates through far more complicated trajectories with power lines being dependent on several factors within 23

MNK, vol. 3, p. 133. Uma Chakravarti, ‘Exploring a No Conflict Zone: Interest, Emotion and the Family in Early India’, Studies in History, vol. 18, no. 1 (n.s.) (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002), p. 178. 24


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the caste and class and privileges. Even within the female world, sharply delineated internal power lines run that shift course according to domestic status, changes in the lifecycle, and marital circumstances. Thus, women can go through extreme helplessness and authority.25 If the daughter is a helpless pawn, the mother seems to be playing a much more powerful role in the entire episode. That wives ended up playing a more proactive role, can be seen from the example of Rao Jodha who was on his way to Chittor to fight Rana Raimal and all powers on the route from Ganelo (where Jodha lived) to Chittor submitted to him. Then he reached Sethava village of Rawat Loon where he was not received well. He then sent his respects to Rawat’s wife Songiri who was related to him from the maternal side. Songiri welcomed him, served him food, yet Rao did not cool down. When her husband excused himself for an afternoon nap, she locked the palace, Rao Jodha looted whatever he wanted and proceeded further.26 Was it just the relationship with Rao Jodha which made her do this or a practical understanding of the situation that by allowing this she was buying peace for a longer duration? Meanwhile, the Sankhlas of Roon on receiving the news of Jodha’s arrival, approached him with coconut for marriage with Rao Tikawat Sankhla’s daughter.27 The cases of rivalry between father-in-law and son-in-law is indicative of how early history of Rajput clan states had undergone political changes because of marriage alliances. Rao Jodha had designs on the land of the Mohil Rajputs, who possessed plenty of land. So he got his daughter Rajabai married to Mohil Ajit. But Jodha realized that he would not be able to get the land as long as Ajit lived, so he planned to have him killed. The wife of Jodha, Rani Bhatiani came to know of it and helped her son-in-law escape. However, a war took place between the two sides in which Ajit was killed and Rajabai became sati.28 This incident, too, highlights the mother’s concern for her daughter, yet her helplessness in prevailing upon her husband to spare the sonin-law. It would be interesting to know about the thoughts and feelings 25

Tanika Arkar, Words to Win, the Making of Amar Jibon a Modern Autobiography (Delhi: Kali for Women, 1999), p. 28. 26 MNK, vol. 3, pp. 7–8. 27 MNK, vol. 3, p. 8. 28 MNK, vol. 3, pp. 162–6.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


of these women, both daughter and mother. The mother-in-law chose the path of warning the son-in-law knowing well that she would not be able to prevail upon her husband. Having lived and grown in that milieu, she accepted this as the way of life of the man’s world, yet tried to do what was within her power, even if it meant going against the wishes of her husband. We also get an example of the daughter herself trying to save her newly wedded groom. In the Khyat of Mundiyar, it is mentioned that when Maldev went for marriage to Bhattis of Pungal, the Bhattis had conspired to kill Maldev to avenge some old enmity. His newly wedded wife got the wind of it. She then requested the Rajguru Raghav, to apprise Maldev of this danger. Raghav did the needful and Maldev was saved. Later she asked her parents for Raghav as a part of her dowry and brought him with her to Jodhpur.29 Being fully aware of the fact that nobody would pay heed to her if she protested directly, she was wise enough to choose another means which would work for her instead of becoming a victim of circumstances. Making use of the opportunity of the weakness of the Mohils after the death of Ajit, Rao Jodha attacked and defeated them and passed on Mohil territory to his son Jage. But Jage was unable to defend the land and the Mohils again started making inroads. Jage’s wife Jhali then sent a message to her father-in-law that they were losing land therefore he must take some concrete steps. She must have known that her husband might be recalled. Yet, she also must have realized that her interest lay in the interest of the clan. Here again Jhali is not a passive spectator, but having realized the import of the situation, plays an active role of involving her father-in-law. Jage was called back and the territory was given to Vide, son of Sankhli Navrangde. Vide made the Mohils his chakar after he had given them patta. Jaba Mohil got his daughter married to Vide and as he was very wealthy he gave a large dowry and had a grand wedding. This is how the foundation of Vide’s thakurai (area of influence) was strengthened in 1531.30 Therefore, for Vide the marriage was economically as well as politically beneficial. Similarly, Jaba used Vide to get rid of those with whom he did not get along.

29 30

MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 81. MNK, vol. 3, pp. 158–60.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

That father-in-law and son-in-law relation was not considered sacrosanct is also illustrated by another incident quoted by Nainsi. Narbad was the nephew of Sangam of Pali whereas Napa was the son-in-law. When Narbad asked Sangam who out of the two was his favourite, Sangam replied that both were equal but he favoured Narbad more as he was staying with him. Then Narbad asked him to poison Napa. Sangam did not protest at the idea but merely expressed his inability to do so. Narbad was able to lure a maid into poisoning Napa.31 Although it has not been explained why Narbad would want to poison Napa, one can see that at times the sanctity of marital relations were completely disregarded in this kind of a set up. Sometimes marriages were made with the sole purpose of acquiring the land of the son-in-law or avenging some earlier insult or defeat. The Rana of Parihars married his daughter to Kaman, the prince of Budhera, with the intention of acquiring the land of Budhera. Through a conspiracy, he got Kaman killed and the Parihars occupied Budhera.32 Seen from a modern perspective, it seems strange and cruel that the father was uncaring about the future of his daughter, who in any case could lead an ‘honourable’ life only within the folds of marriage or become sati. But there could also be another dimension and that is that the father may have been secure in the knowledge that once he acquired more land and consequently status, he could easily get his daughter remarried. In the chapter on ‘Sati, Widowhood, and Remarriage’, I have pointed out how in our period not only were widow remarriages not unknown among the ruling aristocracy, but also prevalent was the remarriage of women even while their husband was alive, especially in the pre-Mughal times. Here we can go into the example of a lady who remarried because her husband was not ready to listen to her. Sangam Rao Rathore of Jalore was married to Aachanan of Kundal village. She was the younger sister of Visandas. They both ended up fighting over a horse.33 Then Aachanan offered to ask for the horse from her brother, which she felt could be considered 31

MNK, vol. 3, p. 130. MNK, vol. 2, p. 140. 33 Horses were considered to be a source of strength. In fact, horses were used for ravaging land and establishing superior might of the Rajputs. 32

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


as a part of her dowry. But her brother refused to part with the horse. She was now faced with a dilemma as neither her husband nor her brother were willing to budge from their position. She then called her people (who they could be has not been defined) and asked them what she should do next and was told that she should do whatever she thought was appropriate. She then went to the thikanas of all wellknown Rajputs requesting them to marry her but nobody was willing to accept her. Finally, she was graciously accepted by Ramchand Ide of Bhelu village. Sangam Rao then attacked and killed Ide and Aachanan became sati. Then Sangam Rao attacked Kundal and Visaldas got his younger sister married to Sangam Rao and gave the pony in tika, but while Sangam Rao was still there,Visaldas killed him with deceit.34 One does not know what happened to the younger sister. When it came to a matter of power and pelf, no relationship stood in the way; familial relations being completely subordinated to the notion of pride for the entire clan. A factor which is being completely overlooked in all this is the emotional being of the women. How she would react to the loss of her husband. She obviously was not a party to this transaction. Also, as far as emotions are concerned, in a polygamous setup she probably could not have much of an emotional attachment to her spouse. That matrimonial alliances could be entered into just to avenge some old enmity is illustrated by another instance. Rawal Chacha, the ruler of Jaisalmer had gone to Thatta for some work and on his way married the daughter of the ruler of Mandan. But there had been traditional hostility between Jaisalmer and Mandan because Rawal Chacha had said a few harsh words to the nephew of Rao Mandan. So Mandan’s daughter was offered in marriage with a deceitful purpose and later on Bhojde, nephew of Mandan, killed Rawal Chacha.35 Complete disregard of familial relations for political and territorial gains can be seen from another example. Rajpal was the ruler of Muthra but when the Mughals occupied it his son Budhera came and settled in Kharad. He married the daughter of Parihar Rana, Roopde, and then killed them and grabbed their land.36 Matrimonial relation 34 MNK, vol. 3, pp. 281–5. Later, the son of the Sangam Rao, Moolu, became hostile to Visandas and married his daughter to avenge his father’s death. 35 MNK, vol. 2, p. 82. 36 MNK, vol. 2, p. 140.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

was being entered into purely for political and economic gain. Nanisi is silent about the women’s reaction in most of these cases, but we do have an example where the daughter was able to prevail upon her husband and prevent him from taking action against the father-in-law on the plea that mathe par dahi ka tika diya hai (father in law had applied curd on his forehead, a symbol of acceptance and blessing of the son– in-law). Udai Singh Devra lived in the village of Bahrali Paladi. He was very powerful and was married to the daughter of Mandan, who was a suhagan (loved and honoured) and Sihe’s daughter who was a duhagan (ignored). Sihe and Mandan both were the chakar of Rana. Mandan raided and looted the territory of Sihe. Udai Singh was furious, but Mandan’s daughter was able to intervene on his behalf. Then Sihe’s daughter incited the Rajputs to avenge his honour and Mandan was injured.37 Marriage alliances often strengthened position of the ruler against their rivals. When Bhim Singh took away the kingdom from his nephew Raimal (son of Surajmal),38 his father-in-law, Maharana Sangram Singh of Chittor came to his help and even fought with Gujaratis who had constantly been attacking Raimal’s territory.39 When Udai Singh was declared Maharana of Mewar, the Samants of Udaipur married him to the daughter of Abhay Raj Songara of Pali, who was a powerful military leader of that region. The object of this marriage was to strengthen Udai Singh’s hand in order to fight Banveer, the usurper of the Mewar throne. Subsequently Songar rendered valuable help in ousting Banveer and securing the throne for Udai Singh.40 This alliance has an interesting background story to it. It is said that Maldev (chief of Songira) had cheated Rana Hamir by giving him a widow for a bride. On discovering that he had been tricked, Rana Hamir was very bitter and laid a curse on anyone who should intermarry with the descendants of Maldev, and many urged that Udai Singh should have nothing to do with Songira’s daughter. But the advantages of the alliance were so plain and the chieftain had done so much for Udai Singh’s cause that it was decided that Hamir himself would have been 37 38 39 40

MNK, vol. 3, pp. 125–7. MNK, vol. 3, p. 125. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 995. Joshi, ‘Marriage Policy of the Rajput Rulers’, p. 9.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


appeased and that the curse was more than 200 years old, therefore all went merrily for the new Rana’s wedding.41 Marriage was envisaged as a means of acquiring kinsfolk who would strengthen their hand. In fact, there are recurrent examples of the empowerment of a family through their association with another family. This presents a contrast with the Bramanical form which focused more centrally on the transfer of the bride and on the relations forged between affinal kins.42 With state formation being an ongoing process, constant integration of new territories into the polity till the establishment of the Mughal rule, and with clan boundaries defined, marriage alliances were used to buttress the political incorporation of a particular area. We get an example of this with the Guhila and the Hadas with the political incorporation of the Hadas of east Mewar into the state of Mewar. Where in earlier years the offer of the Hada princess as a Guhila bride had been rejected leading to skirmishes between the two sides, in later years, we find references of three Hada queens of Guhila kings—two for Rana Kheta and one for Rana Kumbha.43Similarly, when the Mandalgarh region (of Solankis) was integrated during the reign of Rana Kumbha, there is mention of two Solanki Queens of the Guhila kings in the fifteenth century—one married to Mohala and another to Rinmal. Given the strategic importance of Mandalgarh, the Guhilas might have made matrimonial alliances with the Solankis of Mandalgarh in the fifteenth century.44 Thus, prudent alliances, whenever a neighbour became extra powerful, were more a necessity than a 41 Gabrielle Festing, ‘The Story of Udai Singh’, in Rajasthan through the Ages, vol. 3, p. 275. 42 Kumkum Roy,‘Marriage as Communication: An Exploration of Norms and Narratives in Early India’, Studies in History, vol. 10, no. 2 (n.s.) (Delhi: Sage Publication, 1994), p. 193. 43 Nandini Sinha Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan Mewar During the 7th, 15th Century (Delhi: Manohar Publications, 2002), p. 111.The reference is taken from Devilal Paliwal (ed.), Badvadevidan Khyat (Udaipur, 1985), pp. 2–5. Hada traditions also interestingly narrate the refusal of the Rana of Chittor of a matrimonial offer of a Hada princess, clearly indicating political rivalry between the Guhilas and the Hadas of Eastern Mewar (besides hinting at the lower status of the Hadas). 44 Nandini Sinha Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan Mewar During the 7th, 15th Century, p. 115, same source as above has been used pp. 4–6.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

royal whim. In fact, one of Lakhas eight queens, Rani Lakshmi Kanwar, was the daughter of Rana Kumbha of Mewar, while Champa Kanwar, Lakha’s daughter (by a non-Sisodia queen) was married to Kumbha’s son, Rana Rinmal (1473–1508).These matrimonial alliances undoubtedly helped in mending fences with neighbouring Mewar.45 Perhaps the most significant aspect of political structure of Mewar in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was the growing strength of the Rathores in the Guhila court. According to tradition, one of the early Rathores of Marwar, Rao Rinmal, brought the Rathores into Mewar. Accounts seem to indicate that the kinship pressure may have forced Rao Rinmal to settle outside his paternal state in the early fifteenth century. Rana Lakha is known to have welcomed him and granted him an estate. Rao Rinmal reciprocated by leading Rana’s army and bringing Ajmer under Mewar. Besides, the Rathores probably functioned as an effective check against the locally entrenched known Guhila–Rajput family such as the Hadas of eastern Mewar.46 These politico-military factors seemed to have helped the Rathores in quickly gaining control and acquiring a progressively higher status in the royal court of Mewar in early fifteenth century. The RathoreGuhila alliance is likely to have been politically significant, for the bardic traditions narrate at length the matrimonial alliances sought by the Rathores with the Guhilas in the early fifteenth century.47 Rana Lakha (1373) is known to have married a Rathore princess Hansabai, Rinmal’s sister. The marriage took place with the understanding that a son by the Rathore princess was to succeed to the throne of Mewar, superseding the elder prince. Thus, the Guhila-Rathore marriage alliance led to the famous abdication of the throne of Mewar by its heir prince Chuda (Rana Lakha’s eldest son) and the influx of many more Rathores into Mewar.48 The Annals understandably highlight the importance of Rathores for early fifteenth-century rulers of Mewar. By being pitted against the old Rajput alignments in the polity, including royal kinsmen, they greatly furthered the consolidation of Guhila royal power. When Jodha came to the throne of Jodhpur, he gave 45 46 47 48

Hooja, A History of Rajasthan, pp. 358–9. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, pp. 939–42. Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 223. Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p.115.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


Merta to his two sons, Bar Singh and Duda (son of Songiri Rani). Later, differences developed between Bar Singh and Duda and the latter went off to Bikaner. Bar Singh was succeeded by Siha who was not a very capable ruler, then the widow of Bar Singh sought advice of the panchas and invited Duda from Bikaner giving him ownership of half of Merta.49 Here the Rani played a very significant role obviously realizing the importance of a stronger member of the clan governing the area. It became strategically necessary for the Guhilas to establish political and social links with the Mertiya Rathore. On their part, the Mertiya Rathores, who were in a process of expansion, looked towards bigger powers for military alliances. In 1496, a daughter of Maharana Rinmala was married to the crown prince of Merta, Viramdev, the son of Rao Duda. Later, Viramdev got Merta as jagir from the Badshah (ruler).50 Meerabai (whose devotion to Krishna according to Tod gave rise to tales of scandal), granddaughter of Rao Duda and daughter of Ratansimha, was married to Bhojraj son of Rana Sangramsimha (Sanga).51 Thus, by the early sixteenth century, the Guhilas had established reciprocal marital exchange with Mertiya Rathores. In their attempt to expand their territorial control, the Guhilas realized the importance of having allies in order to strengthen themselves politically. Thus, the Chahamans of Suvarnagri (Songira) were won over as political allies in central Rajasthan through the marriage of Songira princess Rupadevi, sister of Sawant Simha, with Guhila king Teja Simha. She was the mother of the Guhila prince, Kaetrasimha.52 The Guhila-Songir marriage, recorded in the bardic tradition of Mewar, highlights the importance of the Songirs for the Guhilas. Rana Hammira is stated to have married Songira (branch of Chauhans), Vanvira’s sister, and Nainsi mentions a Songira mother of Hammira (late thirteenth to early fourteenth century).53 Political alliance of the Guhilas and Songiras seems to have been maintained as traditions 49

MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 46. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 49. 51 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 290. 52 Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan Mewar During the 7th, 15th Century, p. 135. 53 MNK, vol. 1, p. 122. 50


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

record the marriage of the Sisodia (Rana Guhila) princess, Subali, with the Songira chief, Rao Samantsimh,54 in contravention of the general rule of hypergamy. The rise of Ahmad Shah I (contemporary of Rana Mokal who was Kumbha’s father and Chudas’s step brother) in Gujarat in the fifteenth century was accompanied by repeated incursions into Mewar by him. Rana Kumbha responded with a programme of territorial expansion in the northwest frontier of Mewar to control the fortresses of Nagaur and Narena and tried to ally with the ruler of Muslim kingdom of Mandu.This provoked a counter alliance by Malwa and Gujarat against Mewar and necessitated close Guhila–Baghela and Guhila–Yadav political cooperation, which led to matrimonial alliances with the Baghelas of Malwa and Yadavs. Mokal’s Singirsi inscription eulogizes his Bagheli queen, Gavrambika, at great length.55 As there were repeated attempts by Gujarat to seize Kumbalgarh and Chittorgarh, pursuing social links with local families of Gujarat became an important strategy against the Sultan of Gujarat. Guhila princess, Ramavati (Kumbha’s daughter) was married to Rao Mandalika, the Yadav ruler of Junagrah. The Guhilas continued to strengthen their social linkages with the local Rajput powers of Gujarat at least up to the end of the fifteenth century. Local bardic tradition speaks of Rana Raimal’s (son and successor of Kumbha) chief queen, a princess from Idar (Banskantha region of northeast Gujarat) and how Raimal captured Chittorgarh from Kumbha’s assassin Udaisimha, with the help of his father-in-law, the Rajput ruler of Idar.56 Malwa’s repeated incursions of Mewar, and Kumbha’s claim of defeating a joint army of Malwa and Gujarat, all led to matrimonial alliances between the Guhilas and Khichis of Gagraun. The Annals record the marriage of Lalbai (Mokal’s daughter) with Achaldas Khichi.57 Since Gagraun commanded a strategic point on the route between Malwa and Mewar, the politico-military significance of the social linkages with the Khichis of Gagraun cannot be underestimated for the Guhilas 54

MNK, vol. 2, p. 65. Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan Mewar During the 7th, 15th Century, p. 136. 56 Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 1, pp. 336–7. 57 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, pp. 228–9. 55

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


of the fifteenth century. Undoubtedly the social alliances with the neighbouring Rajput powers beyond Mewar facilitated Guhila hold, however difficult and tenuous, over some of the forts claimed by the contemporary records.58 Also, the area of Abu had become a bone of contention between Mewar and Gujarat. A local popular song celebrates the conquest of Abu, a Devda possession, and ascribes the building of palaces and lakes there to Kumbha. It is in this period that we hear of the Devda queen each for the early kings of the Rana branch like Khata and Lakha, as well as to Devda queens for Rana Raimal.59 It becomes very evident that among the ruling elite, marriages not only had social and religious significance but was used as channel for diplomacy.The motives could be social, political, and economic, leading to the strengthening of the ruler and his kingdom. Marriage was also used as a military strategy, for military alliances, all this leading to the emergence of newer kingdoms. Example of matrimonial relationships leading to changes in the region can be seen in the establishment of the state of Bikaner. Rao Bika (1472–1504), the founder of the Bikaner state was given decisive help by his maternal uncle Napa Sankhla and his position was further secured and consolidated by matrimonial alliances with the Bhattis.60 Also, Raja Sur Singh (1613–1631) was aided by Bhatti Samant against his brother Dalpat because Sur Singh had married a Bhatti girl.61 Matrimonial alliances provided other advantages as well. When Akhairaj expelled Prithviraj from his territory, Prithviraj, who was married in the Deula family, was given some place to live near Chekla mountain by Deval Dhare and Mane.62 In the process of state formation, this kind of a situation must have arisen quite often in which relatives must have had to seek shelter with one another. So on one hand, if we get examples of men ready to kill even their sons-in-law for the sake of land, on the other hand, we also get examples of the in-laws providing 58 Kapoor, State Formation in Rajasthan Mewar During the 7th, 15th Century, p. 137. The contemporary record is a quotation of Ranakpur Prasasti. 59 Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 1, p. 332. 60 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Sthiti, p. 38. 61 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Sthiti. 62 MNK, vol. 1, p. 143.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

land as shelter. These gestures were situational, and had Prithviraj tried to grab more of their land, they probably would not have hesitated to kill him. Alliances of these kinds continued throughout the period and we find that Sawai Jai Singh (1707–1743) married his daughter to Raja Dalel Singh of Bundi so that he could become more powerful in the Hadoiti region.63 Also, in order to enhance the prestige of his family and regain his lost kingdom, in 1708 he married the princess of Mewar.64 The marriage was performed on the condition that the son of this princess would became the successor to the state. This later led to several problems in the state of Jaipur. Also, when Udai Singh succeeded the throne in 1469 after killing his father Rana Kumbha, he was shunned by his kin for committing the crime. Finally, he humbled himself before the king of Delhi, offering him a daughter in marriage to obtain his sanction to his authority.65 Again, we find that in 1718 Maharaja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur got his daughter married to Sawai Jai Singh so that Jai Singh would support the Saiyyad brothers in the Mughal court.66 Also, Sawai Jai Singh got his daughter married to the son of Maharaja Ajit Singh, Abhai Singh, so that he could increase his influence in Marwar and secure his own position.67 Not only were marital relationships established for political reasons, but there were also times when one royal family would decide not to establish matrimonial relationship with a particular family or clan. The Bikaner clan had vowed that no girl from this clan would be given to Sirohi and Jaisalmer because in the war of succession a girl from the Bikaner house had been killed and this was considered to be an insult to the honour of the Bikaner house.68 When the Amber family married their daughters to the Mughals (AD 1562), the Sisodias stopped giving their daughters to the Kachwaha clan and it was only 150 years later (AD 1708) that Sisodia-Kachwaha marriage was possible and the reason again was political, that is, to


MNK, vol. 1, p. 39. Satish Chandra, Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court, 1707–1740, third edition (New Delhi: Peoples Publishing House, 1979), pp. 33–4. 65 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 233. 66 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 35. 67 Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 395. 68 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Sthithi, p. 40. 64

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


oppose the Mughals. At that time, the states of Amber and Jodhpur were brought under Khalisa by the Mughal emperor, therefore marriage alliances took place between Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur and daughter of Maharaja Amar Singh of Udaipur and daughter of Maharaja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur. These two marriages took place in order to acquire each other’s support to recapture their lost states.69 The Maratha inroads and the rapidity with which they were conquering territories alarmed the Rajputs and again brought about a conflation, which, with the characteristic of all such contracts, was commenced by matrimonial alliances. On this occasion, Vijay Singh, the heir of Marwar, was affianced to the Rana’s daughter, who at the same time reconciled the princess of Marwar and Amber.70 Similar alliances took place between Maharaja Durjan Sal of Kota and daughter of Maharana Jagat Singh in 1734 to get support against the Marathas.71 We have, therefore, seen that marriage alliances were often entered into for political and economic gains but at the same time we have also seen examples when relationships were given precedence over any political consideration. Equations were different in different setup and it is these factors which make marital relationships such a complex subject. Marriages in medieval Rajasthan were a piquant mixture of notion of honour, of prestige and customs, of valour and deceit. Very frequently we find that the enemy was hoodwinked by sending a marriage proposal. There were five Chauhan brothers who wanted to bring Abu under control. For this, they arranged the marriage of their daughters with the Panwar rulers of Abu. But at the time of marriage, they dressed some of their young men as brides, who had swords in the fall of their saris. During the ceremony, the Chauhans killed the Panwars and became the rulers, and the chief of the Panwars was made to give his daughter to Teja Singh who was the new ruler of Abu.72 Tricking the enemy through marriage alliance can also be seen in the way that the Bundi Haroti region was captured by the Chauhans. Deva Hada Chauhan had a beautiful daughter whom the Meena chief wanted to marry. The Rajputs raised several objections, but the Meena 69 70 71 72

Joshi, ‘Marriage Policy of the Rajput Rulers’, p. 9. Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 334. Joshi, ‘Marriage Policy of the Rajput Rulers’, p. 9. MNK, vol. 2, p. 28. Teja Singh became ruler in AD 1216.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

persisted adamantly. Finally, the Rajput consented to offer the girl in marriage, but basically it was a trick to kill him.73 From here rose the Hada state of Bundi. Nainsi has also narrated another instance of using marriage as a lure to deceive the enemy. The Sankhlas of Roon were made to leave their territory and come to Jangloo, which was ruled by the Dahiya Rajputs. Their men would tease the Sankhli women when they drew water from the well. When these women complained to the head of the family, they were asked to wait for an appropriate moment. The Sankhlas sent 14–15 coconuts with proposal and on the day of the marriage, killed the Dahiya Rajputs after having intoxicated them, and acquired the Jangloo region.74 That manipulation in marriage was used to get rid of the enemy is also illustrated by another example. Vijay Rao (Varihaha Rajput of Jaisalmer area AD 814) was constantly troubling and attacking the Bhattis. Finally, the Bhattis realized that they would have to use deceit in order to win the situation. Therefore, they sent a proposal of marriage for their daughter.WhenVijay Rao came with the baraat (Sanskrit, varyatra, the groom’s journey), the Bhattis killed him along with 750 other men, although Vijay Rao’s son Devraj was able to escape.75 This happened despite the fact that the girl was married to Devraj. Later, Devraj came and started living with his wife whose name was Hurar and he became known as Hurar Bahan, thus being identified as Hurar’s husband. In that period of uncertainty, the living of Devraj at his inlaw’s place does not seem to have aroused any ridicule, although today the concept of gharjamai (son-in-law who lives at his in-law’s place) is looked down upon, marriage customs and practices becoming a matter of expediency. Hurar gradually realized that Devraj planned to take revenge and she was faced with the dilemma of either being loyal to her husband or her family of origin, and it seems that her loyalty tilted more towards her natal family and she would always alert her family whenever he made any plans. Finally, Devraj killed Hurar,76 the story of deceit and revenge coming around full circle. 73 74 75 76

MNK, vol. 1, pp. 170–2. MNK, vol. 1, pp. 330–1. MNK, vol.2, p. 18. MNK, vol. 2, pp. 19–21.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


The same Devraj provided shelter to the family Purohit (priest) of the Pawars who had offended him over some issue.This Purohit stimulated him to dispossess his old masters of their territory.77 A proposal was sent for the daughter of Nirpbhan, the chief of Lodarva. Here, there is a reversal of the custom of the sending of the proposal by the girls’ family. When the motive differed, the customs could be altered. The Pawar chief was hesitant, not because Devraj had killed his earlier wife, but he feared that Devraj might overpower them. His wife suggested that he should be asked to bring only 100 persons for the marriage so that he would not get the opportunity to deceive. But he brought 1,200 people, subdued the Pawars, and took over Lodarva.78 Therefore, it is quite possible that in the period of political uncertainties (early years of state formation) the Rajputs must have deliberately discouraged large baraat for the fear of being overpowered and it is only after the Mughals defined their territory that larger pageants became possible. But what is amply clear is that marriage alliances or even the rituals that were performed did not have a mere socio-religious purpose behind them. The marriage ceremony itself could have some hidden purpose as is illustrated by another example. Samar Singh had designs over Dungarpur area, which was ruled by the Bhils. So he took a plea that he had four daughters of marriageable age and used marriage as an excuse for inviting his relatives as well as the Bhils and after intoxicating them, killed them in large numbers and took over their properties.79 Intoxicating and killing was also the way the Rathores acquired power. Sawalia Sodh of Parihar dynasty was the ruler of Idar. He wanted to forcefully marry the daughter of his Brahmin Pradhan, Nagar. Nagar invited Sawalia and when he arrived, he and his men were served alcoholic drinks (probably mixed with something) as a result of which they fainted and the Rathores killed all of them and henceforth the kingdom went to Sarang Singh in 1256.80 Therefore, during the medieval period, the Rajput chiefs who succeeded in establishing their authority over different parts of Rajasthan 77

Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 190. MNK, vol. 2, pp. 24–5. Lodarva was the old capital of the Bhattis, now under the control of the Pawars. 79 MNK, vol. 1, p. 73. 80 Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 994. 78


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

did not always do so on the basis of superior armed might, but also through manipulations, trickery, and deceit. One can find several examples of such trickery and deceit. Rawal Jagmalawat’s wife had left him as a protest against polygamy and gone to her natal home Baharamer. When her sons grew they killed their maternal uncle deceitfully and became the ruler of Baharamer and Kotda.81 Bida the brother of Bika, led the first Rajput colony from Mundore, in search of fresh establishment.There he took service under the Mohil chief, who, with the title of Thakur, ruled over 140 townships. Bida deemed circumvention better than open force to achieve his purpose. He became the medium of a matrimonial arrangement between the Mohil chief and the prince of Marwar and along with the baraat he entered into the palace of the Mohils and killed the Mohil men. The son of Bida, Tej Singh, laid the foundation of a new capital, which he called after his father Bidasir.82 In the period of political flux any means could be used to win over the situation. Hence, we witness manipulations, intrigues, and counter intrigues in which closest of relationships were completely disregarded. The fear of deceit affected the social aspect of marriage to such an extent that at times marriage proposals were turned down out of fear that in the absence of male members, who would be away with the baraat, their territory might be attacked.83 In this culture, and that too in a culture where refusal of marriage proposal was considered dishonourable for the bride’s side.This sense of honour would also bring disrepute to the refusing party especially if the proposal was from a family of higher status.84 Accepting coconut for engagement at times became such a problem that when the Mohils sent a Brahmin with a proposal to Pugal for Sadul, the son of Ranangde, Ranangde refused on the ground that they could not come for the marriage as they had enmity with the Rathores. When Sadul heard of this, he called the Brahmin and 81

MNK, vol. 3, p. 3. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 151. 83 MNK, vol. 2, p. 324. 84 MNK, vol. 2, p. 40. Rawal Kanharde of Jalore sent a proposal for marriage of his daughter to Rawal Lakhansen which put him in a dilemma because the acceptance of it would annoy his favourite wife Sodhi of Umarkot and if he did not it would mean a loss of prestige. 82

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


accepted the coconut, at the same time he sent a message to his father that they would acquire a bad reputation if they refused the proposal. He proceeded to Chapar and married the daughter of Manak Rao. It was suggested to him that he should return immediately and others would follow later. But he insisted that he would not proceed without offering tyag (customary practice of distributing money or gifts), as lot of prestige was attached to this practice. Rana Arardhakanal (his enemy) was on the lookout and killed Sadul.85 The fear that the aristocracy had in leaving their territory and taking the baraat to another region can be seen in another example when Megha’s (son of Nar Singh) men had all gone in a baraat, Duda (son of Jodha) came to attack and when Megha protested that this was not the right time, Duda challenged him for a fight in order to settle the matter and defeated and killed Megha.86 It was these insecurities of the period that made the Rajputs improvise certain customs such as performing marriage rituals with the sword of the groom, as his presence may not have been possible at that time.87 There was an ongoing enmity between Gogade (Chohan Rajput) and Dheerde (Johya Rajput). When Dheerde had gone for his marriage, Gogade attacked his territory. When Dheerde’s nephew came with the news, he left immediately without removing the Kankan Dora.88 Also, Gogade is supposed to have looted 27 baraats of Rajputs Jats and Banias, which were coming on the same day for marriage to the village Mitasar.89 Similarly, Mahewa Desh had been fending off constant attacks of Hema (Hema used to be in the service of Rawal Maloji who had occupied Mahewa and become its ruler). Then Hema and Jagmal fell out over a horse and Hema became a plunderer. He created such terror there that people left Mahewa and went off to Jalore and Jaisalmer. 85

MNK, vol. 2, pp. 324–7. MNK, vol. 3, pp. 38–40. The reason for enmity was that Nar Singh had killed Askaran Satawat when Narbad had brought Supiarde, and as neither Nabad nor Askaran had sons, it was upto Duda to avenge this enmity. 87 This aspect of the marriage customs has been dealt with in the next chapter. 88 MNK, vol. 2, p. 318. Kankan Dora was the auspicious thread that was tied to the wrist of the bride and groom at the time of marriage. 89 MNK, vol. 2, p. 323. 86


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

This stopped only after Kumbha Jagmalot (son of Rawal Meloji) became the ruler of Mahewa. When Rana Mandan Sadho heard this, he was very impressed and sent a proposal for his daughter’s marriage to Kumbha. Although Kumbha (the son of Solankini) felt honoured by the proposal, yet he requested that the daughter should be sent for the marriage because if he left his territory, Hema would attack immediately. The ceremony was performed secretly. However, Kumbha had to leave immediately, again without removing the Kankan Dora, for Hema had arrived.90 Uncertainties of the period could sometimes lead to a piquant situation regarding marriage. When ruler of Roon, Sankhla Seehar, sent a proposal of marriage for his daughter Supiarde, to Narbad Satawat the ruler of Mandor, Narbad was attacked by Rao Rinmal and Rana Mokal. Narbad was hurt and was taken away by Rana Mokal. When Seehar heard about this, he got his daughter married to Nar Singh. Later Narbad became Rana’s favourite and when Narbad expressed his sorrow over the marriage of his fiancée to someone else, Rana sent a message to Sankhla to have Supiarde married to Narbad. Sankhla instead offered his younger daughter and Narbad agreed on the condition that Supiarde would perform his aarti (a welcome ceremony). But Nar Singh forbade her to do so. Another daughter performed the aarti, but Narbad protested that he would only settle for Supiarde, otherwise he would prepare for war. Supiarde’s parents pleaded with her to agree. Nar Singh had left a barber to spy on her and when the barber reported the matter to Nar Singh, he whipped her and finally she ran away to Narbad.91 This story is so rich and provides so many possibilities of interpretation on several facets of marriage; the notion of honour inherent in sending a proposal for marriage. From the time the proposal was sent, the woman was considered to belong to the person who had sent the proposal, as turning down the proposal was very dishonourable among the Rajputs.The rivalry between Narbad and Nar Singh over Supiarde again underlies the notion of honour among them. The prevalence of physical domestic violence, and Supiarde leaving Narbad, not so much a protest against physical violence as against being made to witness his love making with another wife, which she considered a bigger 90 91

MNK, vol. 2, p. 292. MNK, vol. 3, p. 141.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


insult  than being whipped, and finally the running away to Narbad, as if the onus of protection lay on him, it was his honour which was being challenged. The examples cited have variously shown the motives behind marriage alliances among the ruling aristocracy. From trying to acquire more territory, to ending enmity, to strengthening one’s political position, to satisfying their notion of honour, any or all of these reasons determined matrimonial alliances. During this period a marriage proposal, which appeared unpalatable because of the groom being too old, became acceptable once the promise was made that the son from this marriage would become the successor. Rana Lakha expressed his wish to marry a Rajput girl of an equal status. His son Chuda approached Rao Rinmal for the hand of his daughter for his father. Initially Rinmal hesitated as the Rana was too old and expressed his willingness to give his daughter to Chuda. But once he was assured that the son from the alliance to Lakha would become the successor, he agreed.92 As to how his daughter reacted, we do not know, but one can surmise that being brought up in a value system which valorizes this kind of status and power, it may not have been an unhappy situation. How the other wives and children may have reacted to this and the jealousies and conflicts that it could possibly have led to are areas that need to be looked into. Marriage among the Rajput aristocracy in Rajasthan was very akin to what Duby has to say about the aristocracy in medieval Europe: Among the knights, marriage was really a matter of business a way of preserving or increasing that family honour. During the 11th century when ideological positions were hardening, the feudal mode of production was coming into existence amid tumult and a bitter struggle of power … marriage was an instrument of control … the heads of the family used it as a means of keeping their power intact.93

Of course what Duby goes on to say about the leaders of the church using marriage as means of holding their own against the laity does 92

MNK, vol.2, pp. 333–4. George Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest. The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France, translated from French by Barbara Bay (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), p. 153. 93


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

not hold true of Rajasthan. The priestly class never became a separate centre of power through which they could control the institution of marriage. In fact, here it was the state, which played a more active role in regulating the institution of marriage. How incessant wars affected the institution of marriage can also be seen by the increasing number of young widows in a family. Nainsi mentions that because the Chawdas had enmity with the Lakhas and due to constant warfare between the two sides, there were many young widows in the house of Chawdas.94 This, of course, makes it obvious that not all widows committed sati, and most of the time the widows seem to have been provided for. But very often the victor would compel the defeated side to marry their daughters to them.95 When Rinmal of Mandore received the news of Mokal’s death (he was Mokal’s maternal grandfather) and that he was killed by his own relatives, Rinmal wanted to avenge the killing of Mokal, and after defeating the Sisodias he compelled the Sisodia women to marry Rathore men.96 The details of marriage are also given by Nainsi. According to him,17 dead bodies were used to make the platform for the mandap (a temporary pavillion erected for performing the marriage ceremony). Of course this must have been an exaggeration but what becomes amply clear is that marriages and wars went along simultaneously and what is interesting is that despite treating the women as war booty, the rituals associated with marriage were always performed, thus indicating the symbolic sanctity of marriage. In a condition like this, the women could have just been carried away but it was the notion of honour, which made them perform the rituals of marriage. Not only did the victor feel free to marry the women of the defeated ruler, but they were also treated as booty, who could be given away to others too. Thus, a promise was made to Afgan Daulat Khan and Sarkail Khan of Nagor that in lieu of the help rendered, the victor party would give two daughters of the defeated Rajputs to them.97 Though the promise was made just as a ploy—later both acknowledged that they would actually not give their daughters. 94 95 96 97

MNK, vol. 2, pp. 67–8. MNK, vol. 3, p. 292. MNK, vol. 3, p. 138. MNK, vol. 3, p. 90.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


Therefore, marriages among the Rajput aristocracy was not undertaken only for male heirs or personal satisfaction, but it was also a matter of exercising power, displaying their status, and satisfying their notion of honour. The notion of honour for the aristocracy was very different from that of a layman.We are told a story about Jagmal, who is mentioned as a very brave man, and his so-called bravery is reflected in the fact that he had managed to abduct the daughter of the Badshah of Gujarat.When the Badshah declared war on him, he fought so valiantly that the Badshah had to retreat.98 An act of abduction, which would be seen as an act of lawlessness today, is seen as an act of bravery in the medieval context. Different situations dictated their own notions of what was proper and improper. Jagmal’s own concept of strength can be seen by the instance already quoted in the introductory chapter. Taking up the issue of abduction of the daughter of the Badshah, we do not know whether Jagmal married her. But it seems that the Rajputs were reluctant to marry the daughters of Muslim rulers. Nainsi mentions that Alaudin Khalji’s elder daughter wanted to marry Viramde. Alaudin Khalji tried to convince her that she was a Muslim and he a Hindu. But she was adamant and stopped eating and drinking. Then the Badshah asked Viramde, he protested, but when the Badshah insisted, he realized that he would have to be cunning, so on the pretext of going to Jalore to prepare for the marriage, Viramde left and started preparing for war. When the Badshah realized that he had been hoodwinked, he too prepared for war. Ultimately an expedition was sent against Kanharde, and Jalore was brought under the possession of the Sultan.99 This episode has also been mentioned by Padmanabha in Kanharde Prabandh, written in the mid-fifteenth century and by Nainsi, who composed during 1648–60. Ramya Srinivasan has made a very interesting analysis of the story told in two different ways in both the sources. She has discussed two perceptions of the capture of Jalore and the subsequent proposal toViramde for marriage of Alaudin Khalji’s daughter.According to Kanharde Prabandh, the Sultan was initially dismissive pointing out to his daughter that ‘Hindu’ and ‘Turak’ do not marry, but finally gave in to his daughter’s insistence. He offered to make Kanharde the governor 98 99

MNK, vol. 2, p. 297. MNK, vol. 1, p. 201.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

of Gujarat in return for accepting the alliance. Viramde spurned the offer for marriage as shameful. Padmanabha invoked Shastric norms of kinship in explaining Kanharde’s resistance to Alaudin Khalji.The lands that Alaudin Khalji conquered in the region are represented as domains representing an idealized Brahminical order, whereas Nainsi’s account reflects the changed political condition. Nainsi was writing hundred years after Akbar intervened in Marwar and transformed the Rathores into regional feudatories of Mughal state. Nainsi does not grope for explanations of Alaudin Khalji’s success. In his account, Kanharde actually sent Viramde to the imperial court at the emperor’s request. The relationship only deteriorated when Alaudin Khalji compelled Viramde to marry his daughter.100 But the reluctance of the Rajputs to marry daughters of Muslims was an attitude which developed over a period of time. Social proximity or distance, and inter-community marriages are often issues of debate when it comes to Rajput–Muslim relations. The point of reference for matrimonial alliance between Rajput and Muslims become the marriage of Mughal emperor Akbar. It is commonly believed that Akbar initiated the system of marriages between Muslim and Rajput princesses. However, the traditional Khyat and Vats of Rajasthan provide a different picture. History, too, tells us that much before the establishment of Mughal rule in India, several Kshatriya or Rajput clans and groups across Sindh, Multan, Punjab, Gujarat, and other parts of the subcontinent had accepted the Muslim faith for a variety of reasons over the period of AD 800–1500. The culture, traditions, language, rites and rituals, mode of dress, and food habits of these converts did not change dramatically and neither did marriages. In these marriages, it was not simply coercion by might which was a deciding factor, but the notion of marriage between equals, and for political, social, and economic reasons. Rao Kalan of Jaisalmer was married to the daughter of the ruler of Sind, Ismail Khan, and because of this marriage Rao Kalan received help in consolidating his kingdom.101 But this example pertains to 100

Srinivasan, ‘The Marriage of “Hindu” and “Turak”’, pp. 102–3. Virendra Singh, ‘Jaisalmer ke Shaskon ke Kendriya Shaktiyon ke Sath Sumbandh (1000–1450 AD)’, Phd thesis submitted to the University of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati, 1993, p. 326 101

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


the early medieval period. Another example that can be seen in a later period is of Chachi Deo, the Bhati ruler of Jaisalmer (1448–62), who married the granddaughter of Shoomar Khan.102 Traditional Annals tell us that the heroes, Jakhda and Mukdha were Bhati Rajputs, while their mother, Piyusandhi, was the daughter of a Muslim Biloch chieftain called Kangda. Another instance of Rajput men marrying Muslim women was that of Kelana and Zubeida Kelana, a powerful Bhati Rajput ruler of Pugal, who invaded Dera Ghazi Khan and inflicted defeat on the Biloches. As part of the peace settlement, Zubeida, the daughter of the Biloch chief Jam Ismail Khan was married to the Bhati Rao.103 Later on, Rajput men kept Muslim women as paswan but did not marry them. This whole reluctance was probably related to their obsession with lineage and that the legitimate son should be the bearer and promoter of their blood. This obsession with lineage grew as they were able to establish their power more firmly. This obsession with lineage, however, could be relaxed in the absence of the male heir. Since Rawal Pratap of Banswara did not have a male successor from his wives, Man Singh was given the right to succeed him. Man Singh was the son of a Baniya woman, the khawaas (concubine) of Rawal Pratap. He was even married to a Chauhan girl with a view to raising his status, as it was customary among the Rajputs that a man of a lower social order could attain elite status by marrying a girl from aristocratic Rajput family.104 Therefore, Man Singh’s status went up through adoption and through the establishment of matrimonial relations with the Chauhans. There is, however, no evidence of his mother being given the status of Rajmata as the mother of the ruler was called. Upward social mobility of the son who attained the status of a ruler did not help his mother improve her status as she was not a Rajput and could not have been married to a Rajput Raja. Although adhering to strict caste endogamy for marriage purposes, the Rajputs did not hesitate to give their daughters in marriage to Muslim rulers who were more powerful and when it was politically advantageous. Although the scale of such marriages was not as wide as during the Mughal times, we do come across examples of such 102 103 104

Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 206. Hooja, History of Rajasthan, pp.422–3. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 1031.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

marriages taking place. The concept that must have prevailed behind it is that once a woman is given away in marriage then she ‘belongs’ to the family in which she is married and children born from that union would belong to that lineage, whereas the Rajput lineage would not be allowed to get polluted.105 Giving away daughters in marriage to the Muslims then was not considered dishonourable. Rao Maldev had eight daughters. His daughter Kanhavati was married to Badshah Mahmud of Gujarat and Ratnavati Bai was married to Haji Khan and in the battle of Hasmara, Maldev gave him an assistance of 1,500 soldiers. Other six daughters were married to Rajput rulers of other areas.106 The daughter of Mota Raja (ruler of Jodhpur) was married to Chiram Khan of Nagaur. In fact, in the battle of Samauali, she sent help to her father.107 This fact clearly indicates the political benefits of such alliances. Between the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Rajput states engaged in territorial expansion were inevitably confronted by the rival political ambitions of the Delhi and Malwa Sultanates. It is plausible that in this period of intense territorial rivalries and frequent military conflicts, the importance of political alliance, negotiated through marriage must have grown, increasing the vulnerability of women in the households of the regional Rajput elite, and according to Ramya Srinivasan, this provided the impetus to heroic narratives that recast the ruler of Delhi’s imperial conquest of territory in terms of his desire for women.108 As to how well these women may have adjusted in a different cultural environment, we do not know. But we do get an example of Ratnavati Bai who was married to Haji Khan coming back to her natal home after the death of her husband.109 Why she chose to do this is not clear, 105 This concept of purity and pollution has been very well highlighted in the unpublished thesis by Anil Sethi, ‘The Creation of Religious Identities in the Punjab c. 1850–1920’, submitted to St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, August 1998. He has emphasized the commensal exclusion of the Muslims in the social life of Punjab. 106 MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 11. 107 MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 18. 108 Ramya Srinivasan, ‘Alaudin Khalji Remembered: Conquest, Gender and Community in Medieval Rajput Narratives’, Studies in History, vol. 18, no. 1 (n.s.) (New Delhi, Sage Publications, 2002), p. 296. 109 MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 52.

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


after all not all widows came back to the natal family. It is mentioned that she came back in a very sad condition. The sadness could have been due to the death of her husband, but it could also be that she returned because she had adjustment problems there. The daughter of Madev (ruler of Marwar) and the daughter of ruler of Jaisalmer were married to Sultan of Gujarat, Muzzaffar Shah, and they also came back upon widowhood and were given shelter in their parental home. Later we also get an example of Faruq Siyar’s Rajput widow being brought back.110 These examples may lead us to conjecture that these women did not integrate too well in the Muslim household. Although politically beneficial, it seems that these marriages did not receive the same kind of social acceptability and honour.There is a very popular song of Rajasthan, which is based on Chandrawali, who was a Rajput woman from a village. She had gone to the river with her friends to fetch water. There, a Mughal chief captured her. Her family members requested for her return, but the chief refused. At this juncture, Chandrawali convinced her family that she would not bring any disgrace to them. Finally, she put the Mughal camp on fire, killing them as well as herself.111 Another example has been cited by Tod: The Mugals demanded the hand of princess of Roopnagar, a junior branch of the Marwar house. But she rejected the proposal offering herself to Rana Raj Singh in return for her protection. The priest deemed it as an honour at being the messenger of her wishes. The Rana then appeared before Roopnager and took her away to his capital. This led to a war between Mewar and the Mughals.112

Literature concerning the pre-Mughal Rajput Muslim marriages is not very large because of the Rajput prejudices. Even before political marriages started taking place between the Rajputs and Mughals, we do see the prevalence of Rajput–Muslim marriages. New unpublished genealogical sources as well as Persian sources now indicate that these marriages were more extensive than realized. For more than four centuries, prior to the advent of the Mughals, Rajput rule in North 110 111 112

Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 1142. Maru Bharti, vol. 3 (January 1955), pp. 14–15. Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 301.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

India had been contested by Muslims. Muslim dynasties had ruled in Delhi since the twelfth century, establishing kingdoms in Gujarat and Malwa and controlled local areas (Nagaur and Jalore in Marwar as well). Rajput daughters were given to Muslim rulers from early on. There is reference to marriages involving the Ghuri and Tuglaq rulers of Delhi (thirteenth–fourteenth century). Rao Jodha (1453–1489) onwards, they did not hesitate to make Muslim marriages when it seemed politically advantageous to do so. There are references to preMughal Muslim marriages by Jaisalmer, Marwar, and Amber as well.113 Although Muslim–Rajput marriages were not unknown, there was no precedence for the extensive network of alliances that Akbar promoted. As in previous eras, the first Rajputs to make marriage alliances with the Mughal dynasty were seeking support for their efforts to gain or retain land. Raja Bharmal Kachwaha, involved in a long and bitter contest with a brother for the control of Amber and Mertiya Rathore, Jagmal Viramdevot, was similarly struggling with his brother Jagmal for Merta, both married their daughters to the young emperor in 1562–3 respectively. From the perspective of the Rajas, the significance of the marriage alliances appears to have remained straightforwardly political.114 It catapulted the Kachwahas to the centre stage of pan-Indian politics, diplomacy, and administration. It is interesting to note the reaction of Jodha Bai as portrayed in the Varda. Jodha Bai, princess of Amber, disliked her marriage to a Mughal prince (it is still not clear whether she was married to Jahangir) and the initial reaction was unhappy. She calls him a blind man, whereas she was like Ganga (river) that turned saline (polluted) by being merged into the sea. Her heart was not in a position to enjoy all the wealth and status that she obtained by marrying him.115 Their wishes, however, were rarely taken into account. Political marriages soon came to play a significant role in the establishment of the Mughal rule. Akbar wanted to use political marriage alliances as an important means for building and consolidating local support. In fact, Akbar’s conception of the Rajput role in his expanding empire was responsible for a number of matrimonial 113

Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 233. Taft, ‘Honour and Alliance’, p. 226. 115 Shiv Singh Chayarin, ‘Story of Amber Kumari’, Varda, ed. Manohar Sharma (October 1961), p. 32. 114

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


alliances with the Rajputs, and he made at least 40 political marriages for himself, his three sons, and his eldest grandson. Ultimately the emperor made marriage alliances for himself and sons with almost all major Rajput chiefs. The importance that Akbar placed on Rajput alliances is underlined by the early marriages that he arranged for his heirs Salim (Jahangir). In 1585, when Salim was in his 16th year, he was married to the daughter of Raja Bhagwan Das (sister of Mansingh) of Amber. The marriage was celebrated with a mixture of Hindu and Muslim ceremonies, a practice that was retained subsequently. In the following years, Salim was married to the daughters of Rajas of Bikaner and Jodhpur. Salim’s Amber, Bikaner, and Jaisalmer marriages represented ties over second generation since his father had previously taken wives from all these houses.116 Not all Rajput Rajas, however, accepted Akbar’s overlordship. Neither Rao Chandrasen of Jodhpur nor Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar ever came to terms with the emperor.Their opposition to the emperor is traditionally ascribed to their desire to preserve the independence of their kingdoms and in case of Rana Pratap, to his unwillingness to suffer the degradation of sending a daughter to the imperial harem.117 In fact, these attitudes may be better understood in somewhat different terms, involving their sense of personal honour as well as traditional Rajput rivalries. Not until 1583 after Chandarsen’s death, did Akbar finally grant Jodhpur to a son of Maldev, Mota Raja Udai Singh, who in the mid-1580s along with other prominent Rajas of Rajasthan married a daughter to the young prince Salim.118 Although Abul Fazl’s rhetoric in the Akbarnama, which always attributed the proposal for a marriage alliance to the bride’s side, may be taken as conventional, in fact, indicative for at least some of the early Mughal alliances including those made by Raja Bharamal of Amber, Rathore, Jagmal Viramdeval, came from the Rajput side. However, the abandonment of extensive marriage alliances by Akbar’s successors diminished both the opportunities and the motivation for the Rajput houses to give their daughters to the Mughals.The 116 117 118

Taft, ‘Honour and Alliance’, pp. 221–2. This perspective is evident in the Annals of Tod. MRPRV,vol. 3, p. 57.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

impetus for such marriages during the time of Akbar came from the Mughal side. Only Amber, the house whose fortunes were most closely linked to Mughal patronage, maintained consistent Mughal marriage ties. Of the six Amber Rajas from Raja Bharamal to Maharaja Ram Singh (1547–1688) married, either sister, daughter, or a niece to the Mughals.119 This example continued in the eighteenth century when Maharana Ajit Singh married his daughter to Farukh Siyar. Yet, in the various factions that existed at the Mughal court, Ajit Singh sided with the Sayyjids who overthrew Farukh Siyar, regardless of the fact that he was his son-in-law. In fact, after the deposition of the Sayyid brothers, in order to appease the Rajputs and as a gesture of goodwill, the daughter of Ajit Singh was allowed to renounce Islam (to which she had been converted to at the time of marriage) and return to her home with her father, taking all her wealth and property with her.120 As to whether this wealth and property was her dowry or she had received this from Farukh Siyar as one of his queens, we have no means of determining. The question of Mughal–Rajput marriages led to two different ideological reactions—one stressing an identity between Mughals and Rajputs, the other viewing the association as an unavoidable but essentially degrading necessity. From the time of Akbar, there was always an opposition by the Rajputs to these marriages fostered by the Mewar darbar (court). During the reign of Rana Raj Singh, the gulf widened. Raj Singh consciously cultivated Mewar’s reputation as the defender of Rajput tradition and Hindu Dharma. Significantly, it was during Raj Singh’s time that the heroic legend associated with Rana Pratap took place and it was incorporated in the Mewar Khyat literature. Critical examination of the evidence, however, indicates that this incident and much of the rest of Pratap’s legend as well are not authentic.121 Mughal–Rajput relations were torn apart by the conflict between Aurangzeb and Jodhpur that followed Raja Jaswant Singh’s death in 1678 and were never fully restored. Then as the Mughal power declined in the course of the eighteenth century, in the struggle for 119

Taft, ‘Honour and Alliance’, pp. 228–9. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 1142. Also see, Chandra, Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court, 1707–1740, pp. 147–8. 121 Taft, ‘Honour and Alliance’, pp. 230–1. 120

Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage


pre-eminence among the Rajput houses, the Ranas of Mewar were in a position to capitalize on Mewar’s history of opposition to the Mughal and the claim as evidenced by the fact that Mewar had never made a Mughal marriage alliance, that Mewar was the defender of Rajput honour.122 This whole notion of honour was carried to such an extent that from Pratap Singh to Raj Singh (1572–1680), no Mewar Rana had himself married or arranged marriages with either Amber or Jodhpur houses. Rana Jai Singh (1680–98) supported Jodhpur’s resistance to Aurangzeb, among other means, by declaring his willingness once again to enter into marriage alliance with Jodhpur and married a niece to Raja Maharaja Ajit Singh, Jaswant Singh’s son in 1694. Renewal of marriage ties with Amber in 1708, arranged as a part of an effort to forge a united Rajput front against Aurangzeb’s successor, Bahadur Shah, was an attempt to a major assertion of the political primacy and social superiority of Mewar. Although this was not Jai Singh’s first marriage, he agreed to grant the Mewar Rani the position of senior (pat) Rani as well as various related privileges, a son born to her was to be the heir to Jai Singh and daughters were never to be married to Muslims.123 As we have seen earlier, this is not the first time that the wife from Mewar is being given a special status. A Sisodia clan of Mewar had always been accepted as the most honoured clan in this region. As to how this would affect the status of other queens, how the co-wives reacted to this, their jealousies and conflicts is another area of study. We find the sociopolitical and economic aspects of marriage in medieval Rajasthan to be a complex matter. How marriages were conducted during the period of political turmoil, when the territories of the rulers were not well defined, to more a stable situation prevailing under the Mughals. In the initial period of uncertainties, the rulers enhanced their territory, and consequently their power, at the cost of each other and at times marriage alliances were entered into with the 122 This image lingers to such an extent that on a recent visit to Udaipur, the explanation offered by a local guide on the white colour of the city was that it was bedagh (untainted), as it had not given away any daughters to the Mughals in marriage. 123 Taft, ‘Honour and Alliance’, pp. 231–2.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

specific purpose of enhancing one’s territory. Land was rarely offered voluntarily at the time of marriage, and most of the time the defeated rulers were compelled to give their daughters in marriage. Marriage alliances were also entered into as a face saving device in order to bring an end to prolonged hostilities over land. But matrimonial relationships did not always ensure lasting harmony. Even these relationships were ignored when it came in the way of the political ambition of the ruler.Thus, we have examples of fatherin-law not hesitating to kill his son-in-law in order to enhance his territory. But if on one hand there are examples of relationships being completely disregarded for personal gains, on the other, we also come across examples of relationships being honoured. If there was strict caste endogamy being exercised on one hand (more towards the latter part of our period of study), on the other, the Rajputs did not hesitate to give away daughters in marriage to Muslim rulers when it was politically advantageous to so, although they themselves no longer married Muslim girls. The scale of such marriages peaked during the period of Akbar but with changes in the political situation such marriages lost their political sheen. From the foregoing analysis, we can see that marriage alliances were a mixture of various factors entailing customs, traditions, notions of honour, uncertainties of the period, leading to deceit and manipulation and finally resurgence of a sense of honour given a different political situation. Therefore, the marriages do not focus so much on the sacred precepts/practices. Instead, there is a far greater concern among the participants for power, political support, land, and even conflict. The definition of marriage thus offered is socialized rather than sacralized.


Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan

In the previous chapter we have shown the practical side of marriage which was hardly a sacrament but a way to realize political ambition. Yet, the religious rituals always followed. Therefore, in the writing of any social history, the study and analyses of rituals becomes essential to understanding society, as rituals arise out of society’s collective history and culture. Ritual observances hold subtle meanings and reflect beliefs about the world. Certain beliefs and customs are ritualized, thus preserving them as aspects of culture, and become means of reconstructing realities. Marriage rituals replete with its essential features constitute a socially integrative function helping to cement and unify the bonds of belonging and brotherhood, forging a shared identity while also contributing to the continuation of the tradition. Study of specific rituals also throw light on the possible connection between gender and other forms of social differentiation. Rituals become status-conferring activities. For example, the Upanayans (wearing of the sacred thread) rite in the Dharmashastras reiterated the hierarchical nature of the varna-based society. This is apparent from the variations found in the rituals on the basis of varna. While all those who performed the rite acquired dvija (twice-born, referring to the upper caste) status, not all dvijas were equal. Hierarchical ideals are also manifest through the exclusion of women and shudras from access to the rite. A number of crucial statements about ideal relationships and power were communicated through the Upanayans—those between men and women, between older and younger, and between men belonging to various varnas. The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan. Sabita Singh, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199491452.003.0003


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

In this chapter, an attempt has been made to study certain marriage rituals in medieval Rajasthan and relate it to the social structure that existed during that period. I would at the outset like to define what a ritual is. Among the various ways in which ritual has been defined for the purpose of my study, I define ritual as symbolic formalized actions performed with regularity which may or may not be religious or magical in nature. Festivals, marriage ceremonies, church ceremonies are all ritual acts, different from customs and practices.1 Although, certain ritual acts did become a part of custom at a later stage. Rites associated with marriage provide an occasion for giving expression to relationships at several levels between the bride and the groom, within and amongst the varnas and amongst kinsfolk. Marriage is envisaged as a focal point of a person’s social existence, a point in and around which are woven concerns of power, status, and well-being— both material and spiritual.While these concerns are clearly long-term and are intended to be worked out or realized through the course and duration of married life, the rituals which mark the commencement of married life bring them into sharper focus, providing an occasion, foregrounding what are perceived to be the essential features or ideal forms of the institution.2 The ceremonies and rituals of marriage in our period were related to the caste and status of the families. ‘Hindu’ marriage was considered to be a sacrament and hence would be incomplete unless all the rituals were performed according to the sacred formula. Marriage among the Rajputs, besides being entered into for political reasons, also emphasized the socioreligious aspect and hence was bristling with rituals. Following these rituals would niche them into the ‘Hindu’ society and legitimize their position. An examination of the marriage practices and rituals observed during the Medieval period show how each caste followed a different set of rituals and marriage practices which was an expression of their identity and their place in social hierarchy. It was R.S. Sharma who first provided a historical analysis of the eight types of marriages mentioned 1

Custom can be defined as a habit or practice. It refers to that which usually happens, especially in connection with daily life and business and as such is recognized in law. In law, a custom is a rule of conduct which has prevailed in a certain district from time immemorial and is reasonable. 2 Roy, ‘Marriage as Communication’, p. 183.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


in the text.3 These are arranged in a descending order. Sharma demonstrates that this order is broadly related to the varna system, with the best form being prescribed for the Brahmin in which neither the daughter nor the mother had any right to select the bridegroom nor did the bride’s family receive any compensation for the loss of her labour and the bride was regarded as an object to be given away. This form of marriage is synonymous with anuloma (hypergamy) and in North India it is institutionalized to a high degree among various castes and sub castes. This form of marriage is also known as kanyadan (giving away of a virgin girl in marriage)—marriage where the ritual of gifting a virgin girl to a boy of good pedigree is performed. People of higher caste preferred this Brahma form of marriage. Marriage between two asymmetrical kin groups and fundamentally a product of a stage of historical development when private property along with a new Brahminic ideology came into existence to strengthen the patriarchal social order. Thus, a new form of normative order was conceived to be typified in the Dharmashastras. This had provided a bedrock for the sanction of hierarchical morphological social order. During this period, a structure consisting of superordination and subordination between different caste groups, on the one hand and men and women on the other, emerged along with greater elaboration of rites and rituals.4 Less exalted forms of marriage were recommended for men of the lower varna, where both parents had the right to select the groom, and the mother retained a certain degree of control over the sulka (bride wealth). According to Sharma, the patrilineal system was less firmly established among the lower varnas than among the higher. Hence, different forms of marriage were adopted among different social groups with the Brahmins trying to create a system out of the diversity to propagate an ideal. Sharma’s use of Brahminical textual sources to explore various dimensions of gender inequality is a significant departure from earlier efforts to project an idealized version of Indian womanhood on the basis of Sanskrit literature. So, for centuries 3 R.S. Sharma, Perspectives in the Social and Economic History of Early India (New Delhi, Munshiram Manohar Lal, 1980), pp. 35–44. 4 M.C. Paul, Dowry and Position of Women in India (New Delhi: Inter India Publications, 1986), p. 4.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the ritual practices of the higher castes were different from that of the lower castes.The lower castes were trying to clamber up the social ladder by emulating the lifestyle of those above them, what M.N. Srinivas called ‘sanskritization’—the process whereby lower castes aspired for higher position by emulating the customs, rituals, ideology, and upper caste way of life. But this practice never became generalized among them. According to T.K. Oomen, this emulation is occurring on such a large scale that it has gone beyond emulation and has taken on a form of protest. When a Jatav mounts a mare for his marriage these days, it is almost an act of defiance.5 An examination of the marriage practices and rituals observed during our period show how each caste followed a set of different rituals and marriage practices which became an indicator of their separate identities. In the social structure of medieval Rajasthan, which revolved around notions of status and prestige, such things had their own importance.The authority and superiority of the particular segment could be demonstrated through ceremonies and rituals on such social occasions. The outward manifestation of rituals had special significance. Marriage practices and customs are also an extremely significant context for the making of masculine and feminine culture. When we examine our period we find that the rituals related to marriage can be divided into two parts—those which are according to the Shastras and those which are called the kulachar and lokachar, that is, clan or local customs.6 These rituals, which are associated with the Shastras also borrow from the kulachar or lokachar. In fact, even today a complex interrelationship exists between the folk traditions and the more orthodox Brahminic Hinduism. In the Pavarhe so much


But these changes were extremely slow and we see remnants of ritual practices of various castes from the ancient to the medieval period. These changes still do not alter the birthmark of caste. Caste very much decided who you married. A survey conducted by A.S.I. (Anthropological Survey of India) in 1994 found that the notion of hierarchy of higher and lower castes still exist in 90 per cent of the communities. Therefore, till today caste remains a basic unit of human society in India which no religious ideology of association has so far been able to obliterate. 6 Usha Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergatmak Pavarhe: Sanrachna Evam Lok Prampara, First Edition (Delhi: Lok Prakashan, 1989), p. 213.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


of importance is given to the lokachar that in comparison it seems that the Shastras have almost been ignored. Coming to the textual description of the samskara of marriage, there are three parts to it. There are certain rites that are preliminary, then there are a few rites that are the essence of the samskara, namely, panigrahana (holding of hands), homa (going around the fire), and the saptapadi (taking seven steps together), and there are certain rites that are subsequent to the central rites. The essential rites are mentioned by all the sutrakaaras (writers of the Sutras) but as to the preceding and subsequent rites, there is a great divergence in details.7 This divergence in detail can be greatly seen in our region during our period. The distinctions in the types of marriage that have been talked about during the ancient period were very much discerned during our period. The main outlines of the marriage samskaras show a remarkable continuity for several thousand years from the time of the Rigveda to the modern times. Although, within these continuities we also witness a number of changes, especially regarding the rituals that were followed by the Rajputs, as the Rajput were a far more open group and the kinship alliance that they followed was a transgression of jati. The distinctions among the various castes can be observed right from the engagement ceremony. Among all castes, we find that the proposal for marriage was sent by offering coconut and jaggery. But there was one very striking difference in the performance of this ritual by upper castes and the middle and lower castes. Whereas among the ruling houses and the other upper castes it was the girls’ family who send the proposal along with coconut and jaggery, among the middle caste and menials it was the boys’ family who initiated the proposal. There is a further differentiation in this ritual. Whereas the ruling aristocracy and the Rajput sent the coconut with the Brahmin, the other upper castes such as the Brahmins, Kayasthas, and merchant caste, that is, Mahajans, sent the coconut—which was a symbol of a marriage offer—through the barber thus reiterating the superiority of the Rajputs in this region. Clothes, turbans, sweets, dry fruits, gold 7

P.V. Kane, History of Dharmashastras, Ancient and Medieval Religion and Civil Law, vol. 2, Part I (Pune: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1941), p. 531.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

coins, and horses and elephants were sent in 1727, when Salumbar’s Rawat, Kesri Singh’s daughter’s engagement with Maharav Durjan Sal of Kota was celebrated.8 This kind of tika was sent to the ruler by the pardesi Thakurs (pardesi Thakurs were those Rajputs in the kingdom who belonged to a different lineage from the ruler) also. Several other things could be included along with the coconut depending on the status of the person. In 1750, coconut studded with gems, two elephants, and 10 steeds all ritually caparisoned were sent to the Rana to affiance the daughter of his younger brother Gaj Singh to Ajit Singh.9 When the marriage proposal was sent for Bikaner’s Maharaja Gaj Singh’s daughter to Maharana of Udaipur in 1761, along with gold, silver, and coconut, elephants, horses, cashews, and many other things were also sent.10 This practice prevailed not only among the royalty, but among the Samanta. Therefore, rituals existed at two levels, one at the level of the royalty another at the level of the common people. These rituals provide an insight into their world view, their social institutions, and structures. The rituals connected with royalty were symbolic of power and was central to the political structure created to strengthen the system.They were formulated to support the ideology of medieval relationships. Each ritual for this purpose served as a brick for the construction of the royalty.The Zamindars, Jagirdars, and the Mutsaddi (petty state officials) class also followed this practice though on a lesser scale. Examples can be seen in the case of Bhaiya family of Bikaner, when the engagement coconut of Dhaykunwar was sent to Rupnagar (Krishangarh) in 1772.11 Among other upper castes such as the Jains, Kayasthas, and the middle castes such as the Jats and lower castes such as barbers, utensil makers, and carpenters, and so on, the engagement was performed merely by sending coconut and jaggery.12 8

Kota Bhandar, No. I,V.S. 1784/1727, Basta No. 121. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 58. 10 Bikaner Byah Bahi,V.S. 1821/1764. 11 Shashi Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Sthiti (Bikaner: Tarun Prakashan, 1981), p. 25.The source quoted is Bhaiya Collections Bikaner Bahi Dhaykurmar ri Byah ri Jama Kharch ri Migsar Sudi 9,V.S. 1829/1772. 12 Information on the various rituals and ceremonies followed by the various castes is available in the Report Mardumshumari Raj Marwar, Part III,V.S. 1815/1768. 9

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


Among the middle-caste artisans and the menials, sending of the coconut by the boy’s family could be related to the fact that women of these castes added to the workforce of the family. The social organization of labour and the process of production was largely reliant on the use of productive labour of the family. This is especially true of the middle-caste peasants. Also, during this period, it was not only women of the menial caste who worked as agricultural labourers, but we also get examples of middle-caste married women working as full-time agricultural labourers and the amount they received as remuneration is also mentioned. An Ahir male labourer was getting Rs 2 per month while the female labourer was getting Rs 1.25 per month.13 A Jat male labourer was getting Rs 3 per month while a Jat woman labourer was getting Rs 2 per month. They were also paid a small portion of the produce in kind.14 These women may have been supplementing income from a small family holding or earning in the absence of a male breadwinner.Though an issue related to their participation in the productive activity would be the degree, if any, to which they were able to control the fruits of their labour. But the fact remained that the participation of women of middle caste and menial caste in the production process must have given them a greater degree of freedom and mobility, whereas the normative order of the Brahminical system forbade the women of upper castes to participate in various socioeconomic activities outside the household. Among the higher castes, a system of seclusion was prevalent and this conferred higher status and prestige on these women than that accorded to women of lower castes. Although we get examples of the Jat women working in the fields and participating in the production process, yet when it came to the performance of marriage rituals and bearing the expenses of the ceremony, it was borne by the parents of the bride. This was viewed as dharma vivah (righteous marriage) and a superior form of marriage. So despite the fact that women were contributing to the production process, the psychological bearing of certain customs were so strong that although the boys’ side took the initiative, the ultimate burden of the marriage expenses was born by 13

Narain Singh Rao, Rural Society and Economy: Study of South Eastern Rajsthan during the 18th Century (Delhi: Rawat Publication, 2002), p. 65. 14 Rao, Rural Society and Economy.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the girls’ side.15 These expenses must have varied according to the economic and social status of the family but it is difficult to determine how burdensome these expenses were. Among the Kayasthas we found that once marriage was finalized, the caste panchayat would ask the Brahmins for a suitable date. At the time of receiving the baraat, the girls’ father gave kurbana (all the expenses of the marriage). The fact that the Kayasthas were emerging as an important social group in medieval Rajasthan would have made it possible for them to indulge in this practice. But one local practice that we find among the Kayasthas is that after the pheras (seven perambulations around the sacred fire sealing the marriage) they promised gau-dan (gift of cow) instead of kanyadan. Although gau-dan was also considered equally sacred, it is difficult to speculate why so much importance was given to gau-dan by an official class such as them. We find that there were quite a few rituals which were according to the Shastras. These were testing the qualities of the groom, welcoming the groom, sending invitation, setting up the mandap, seven pheras and kanyadan, and so on.The concept of kanyadan was the most prominent in the Brahma form of marriage where the kanya (virgin daughter) is given in dan (sacred gift). It is through this religious and cultural principle that a kanya is converted into a stri (wife of somebody). To initiate a complete and irreversible conversion of the idea and identity of a woman under dan through the vital ceremonies like panigrahana, satpadi, and dakshina (token offering monetary or otherwise).The dharmic (religious and so meritorious) act of dan of a kanya is incomplete till the receiver (the bridegroom) is given a dakshina or vardakshina (a token of gift given to the bridegroom). According to the local customs or kulachar, the rituals that were involved were sagai (engagement), tika, sending of horoscope, god-bharai (gifts to the bride), Devi pujan (goddess worship), putting of turmeric and oil, decorating the groom, and muh dikhai (viewing the face of the bride for the first time).16 Some of the local rituals performed had simple meanings. The ritual of putting turmeric and oil before marriage was basically for beauty purpose. The custom of keeping the 15

Information on all the different practices is available in the report Mardumshumari, Raj-Marwar, Part III, AD 1815. 16 Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergatmak Pavarhe, p. 213.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


sword with the groom was a way of fighting the evil spirit.17 To touch the groom’s toran (a fortress-shaped ornament) with the sword, always a part of a custom, was also probably to ward off evil spirit. Special treatment being meted out to the bridegroom was common to all castes. In fact, the bridegroom was treated almost like a deity. It was a customary practice in Rajasthan that if a groom’s procession was passing by, then in his honour even a ruler would step aside. Rana Lakha was the ruler of Chittor, one of the most powerful kingdoms of Rajasthan, and the Sisodias enjoyed the highest status among the Rajputs, yet even a powerful ruler like Lakha stepped aside when he saw the marriage procession of a potter coming his way.18 Deity-like treatment being meted out to the groom was regardless of his caste status and the term used for him was bindraja (groom considered to be royal) rather than the ordinary term dulha. But the mode of transport of the groom in the baraat was again an indication of his status. Generally a groom would be seated either on a horse, camel, or a tonga (a cart drawn by horse), it was only the royalty or the big thikanedar who could mount on an elephant while going in a baraat.19 During our period, we find that the marriage rituals followed by goldsmiths were quite similar to that of Oswal Mahajans. But the similarity ended where the mode of transport of the groom was concerned, as the goldsmiths belonged to a lower caste, even though economically they may have been better off . That they were of an inferior status was reflected in the fact that they could not get on a horse or tie a toran.20 Also, among the goldsmiths, the boys’ side sent the proposal and the expense of the wedding was borne by the boy’s father. In fact, we find several distinct rituals during the time of marriage among the different castes and it is difficult to give categorical explanations about the genesis and significance of each ritual. Thus, among the utensil maker, the boy was made to wear the sacred thread on the day of the marriage. Although the sacred thread ceremony was 17

William Crooke, The Popular Religion and Folklore of North India, vol. 2 (Delhi: Munshi Ram Manohar Lal, Orient Publishers, 1968), p. 28. 18 MNK, vol. 2, p. 332. 19 Report Mardumshumari, Raj-Marwar, Part III,V.S. 1815/1768, p. 26. 20 Report Mardumshumari, Raj-Marwar, Part III,V.S. 1815/1768, p. 26.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

associated only with the twice-born, why this ceremony was followed by the utensil makers is a question for which I have not been able to find a suitable explanation. Among the Jats, when the marriage of a girl was being settled, the chief points of consideration were purity of blood, economic status, and prestige of the family. Landed property was another point of consideration among them as they were primarily agriculturists. The engagement ceremony was formalized with coconut and jaggery. The bride’s father took care of the marriage expenses as this was considered to be dharma vivah. When the marriage was solemnized by paying a bride price, the union was locally termed as baayohar or babhar and was considered improper.21 Although there was a clash of economic interest between the Jats and Rajputs, we have also seen that the states required Jats for colonization of land and the Jats needed the state to legitimize their claims over land. This symbiotic relationship is reflected in the adoption of Rajput marriage rituals by the Jats. The rituals imitated by them were the striking of the toran, making four pheras, and distribution of tyag (an offering, monetary or otherwise) among the Charans and the Dhobi.22 Although among the Jats, marriage was arranged between two families of different clans, and while the giver of the daughter acquired a subordinate position in relation to the receiver, the status of the clan to which the families belonged did not get affected. By definition, all Jat clans were considered equal.23 The processional approach of the groom to the bride’s house, the aarti ceremony, kanyadan, pheras, and so on—all reflected Sanskritic influence. The Sanskritic influence can also be seen in the practices of the tribals, and even the Mer observed the seven perambulation but retained their customs of separation. The facility for separation was simple. The husband cut off a shred from his turban and gave it to his wife. She then took two jars of water on her head and took whatever path she pleased, and the first man who chose to ease her off her load became her husband. This mode of separation prevailed among the 21

Etee Bahadur, ‘Study of the Jats in Western Rajasthan: 1818-1919’, Thesis Submitted to CHS/SSS, JNU, 2001, p. 119. 22 Bahadur, ‘Study of the Jats in Western Rajasthan’, p. 121. 23 Bahadur, ‘Study of the Jats in Western Rajasthan’, p. 132.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


Meenas, Jats, Gujjars, Ahirs, Malis, and other Sudra tribes.24 One can see that there is no one prescriptive model of marriage rituals. There are substantial variations in marriage rituals and practices, as people could have drawn or modified, adapted or even rejected elements from available alternatives. The precise importance of any one of the ritual activities could have varied substantially in such situations, the codified ritual norm, while not explicitly violated, could be marginalized. Basically, the process of codification remained incomplete. Among the menials, particularly the tanners, the Asura form of marriage prevailed. The groom’s father was supposed to offer money to the bride’s father, which was known as reet in Rajasthan.25 If the boy’s father was not in a position to offer money, the baraat would return without the bride. This form of marriage is a major indication of the fact that the menials had retained certain rituals and customs from the ancient past and remained at the bottom of the ladder in the caste hierarchy. The difference of ritual practices show how rigidly the caste hierarchy had begun to be maintained, so much so that by the seventeenth–eighteenth centuries inter-caste marriages were perceived as a crime by the state.26 This rigidity, however, developed with the passage of time, the caste boundaries being flexible during the initial stages of state formation. But as the various states grew in strength, they started upholding the caste hierarchy in the society. Besides the fact that the rituals of marriage rigorously maintained the caste identity of each group, it also indicates that the upper-caste women were more dependent on their husbands as they did not take part in the production process. Whereas among the middle-caste peasants, artisans, and menials, wives took part in agriculture, animal husbandry, and other professions. This also explains why dowry was not given much importance among these castes. Although this condition seems to have altered with age, once these women became economically unproductive their conditions changed. Making a study of the 24 A.C. Bannerjee, Aspects of Rajput State and Society (New Delhi: Rajesh Publication, 1983), p. 129. 25 Kagdo ri Bahi, No.I,V.S. 1811/1754, and No. 5,V.S. 1838/1781. 26 I will be going into greater details regarding this aspect when I deal with the customs. An example of this has already been given in Chapter I. Adsatta Jaipur, Pargana Chaksu,V.S. 1801/1744.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Hada state, Madhu Tandon Sethia has shown how an old mother, who could be of no use, was handed over to the state for being a dakan (being branded as a witch). Most of the dakans caught were at the initiation of their sons and husbands.27 Dowry and excessive expenditure was an integral part of the marriage of the upper castes. Although the upper-caste women were provided with this elaborate social security, the position of women remained subordinate in the marriage hierarchy. The ritual of pheras signified that the woman had passed from the ownership of her father to the ownership of her husband.28 The song that was sung by the women during the phera emphasized the fact that after the fourth phera the woman became parai, that is, belonging to another. Among the Rajputs, although the wedding ceremony did consist of several Sanskritic rituals, they had only four pheras as compared to seven pheras of other castes, although the pheras were accompanied with the chanting of Vedic mantras. It is possible that this was practiced in order to cut the ceremony short especially as we get examples of men having to leave immediately after the marriage ceremony to protect their territory in an event of it being attacked. Similar practice is seen among the Jats. Although wedding rituals differ from community to community and from family to family, there are certain structural features, which are present in some form or the other in all weddings of the Rajput type, which is most characteristic of Rajasthan. Among the Rajputs, kalash (pots) music, song, and worship of Ganesh were an integral part of the marriage ritual.29 In royal marriages, pots and kalash were placed in all four corner of the marriage mandap. Among royalty as many as 54 brass and copper kalashs have been mentioned.30 Satiyon ki Pooja (worship of sati) was an important marriage ritual, which seems to have been limited to the Rajputs initially and then spread to the other castes, an example of which is the worship of sati 27

Madhu Tandon Sethiya, Rajput Polity: Warriors Peasants and Merchants (Jaipur, Delhi: Rawat Publications, 2003), p. 185. 28 MNK, vol. 2, p. 277. 29 MNK, Nainsi has mentioned how the mangal kalash was placed in every corner of the mandap, vol. 3, pp. 41–6. 30 Vikram Singh Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi (Jodhpur: Rajasthani Shodh Sansthan, 1994), p. 63.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


at Jhunjhunu by the Aggarwal community. The ‘Mardumshumari’31 reports and the ‘Dastur Rajlok’ are replete with instances of Satiyon ki Pooja. Although the ritual trappings of marriage among the Rajputs did follow certain set religious patterns, there were certain rituals that were used as a means of imparting and promoting social and family values. The rationale for the ritual was to create a psychological impact on the newly wedded girl, in this way instilling the ideology of honour and glory of sati in the bride to be. This notion of honour associated with sati first took root among the Rajputs and was later emulated by members of not only other upper castes but also middle and lower castes. The marriage rituals not only reflected caste and gender hierarchy, but also layers of hierarchy within the same caste based on factors like social and economic status.This distinction can be clearly seen in the marriage rituals of the Rajput aristocracy. Due to the supremacy of the Udaipur royal house whereas Jodhpur could take a baraat to Udaipur, they could not establish dohra sagpan (a system by which both family could marry their daughter into each other’s family), therefore Jodhpur house could get their daughters married there but would not get brides from the Sisodias. Similar was the relationship between Jaipur and Jodhpur.32 Also if a girl’s family happened to be of a much lower status, then instead of the baraat going to the girl’s place the girl’s dola (carriage) was brought to the royal capital and all the marriage rituals were performed there.33 When Maharaja Sri Mansing of Jalore married a girl of Thaka Mansa (Gujarat), the dola came and the marriage was performed at 12 kos from Jalore Jeevana.34 Also, if matrimonial relation was established

31 ‘Mardumshumari’ is basically an official compilation of customs and practices prevalent amongst castes, communities including tribal. The ‘Dastur Rajlok’, reflects the customs and practices of the royal households and is a compilation or recording of social and religious practices. 32 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 40. Although at a later stage we find this taboo breaking and a two-way relationship being established between Maharaja Shri Bhim Singh ji of Jodhpur and Maharaj Pratap Singh of Jaipur. Marriage was conducted in Pushkar in 1857. 33 MNK, vol. 3, p. 41. 34 Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 79. Jalore was held by Songir Chauhan then Rathores followed by Gazni Khan and finally the Mughals assigned it in jagir to the Rathores.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

with the daughter of the younger brother of a Raja and if the king was of higher status then he would take the baraat only if the girl’s father was residing in the headquarters and not to the thikana which may have been assigned to him. In such cases, the dola of the girl was sent.35 Dolas were generally sent by the smaller Rajas who had accepted the sovereignty of the bigger ruler.36 The rituals were so related to the status hierarchy that one sees the practice of two types of marriages even with the dolas. In one case, the dola went straight to the Zanani Deorhi whereas in another case the first three pheras were taken with the sword of the ruler and then the dola were sent for pheras with the ruler.37 This may not just be a question of disparity in status but it could also be that the groom is busy fighting a battle and therefore unable to be physically present for the rituals. In such circumstances, instead of the groom going personally to the bride’s place either his sword or his turban was sent and the priest got the girl married to the symbol.38 Also, as the marriage ritual had to be performed at an auspicious time, it was not always easy to adhere to the right time and hence the practice of marriage with the sword and turban. The sword or the turban was sent after all the ceremonies on it were performed at the bridegroom’s house—a practical means employed to deal with the exigencies of the situation. In 1679, mahasudi 1339 Maharaj Dhiraj Shri Gajsingh’s marriage was performed with Kachwaha princess, Kalyande.40 Despite the 35

Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 93. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 41. 37 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 41. 38 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, the source quoted is Ardh Khyat Jodhpur ri Raj ra Dastur ri Bahi, and the episode recorded was ‘Maharaja Gaj Singh ri Khando ri byah’. 39 It is the month of the Indian calendar, and refers to half of December and half of January. 40 Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 82. This system seems to have continued well into the twentieth century though there may have been no need. So we can see that customs that had arisen in particular circumstances continued to be practiced and became a part of the local tradition. Therefore, the rituals were taken rather seriously although the adaptations were made according to the circumstances. Similarly, when Takhat Jadecha married Rinmal Singh’s daughter in 1908, three pheras in Jam Nagar were taken with the 36

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


fact that the sword was sent, all the other ritual trappings and pomp and show of the ceremony remained the same.Three pheras were conducted with the sword and the remaining one phera was conducted with the groom on reaching the in-law’s place.41 Another reason could also be to conduct the marriage secretly so that nobody gets a whiff of it. Given the fact that either the baraat or the territories of the people who had gone in the baraat could be attacked, this was a way of ensuring security for themselves.This proxy marriage at times could lead to complicated situations as can been seen in the example of the marriage of the Rana Rattan Singh of Mewar (AD 1530) to the daughter of the Prithvi Singh of Amber. His sword had been married as a proxy representing him. But since this was kept a secret, the Hada prince of Boondi, Surajmal, being ignorant of the fact demanded and obtained her as his wife. The bards of Boondi were rather pleased to record the power of their prince, who dared to solicit and obtain the hand of the bride of Chittor and according to Tod the unintended offence sank deep into the heart of the Rana and though he was closely connected with the Hadas, having married his sister, he brooded on the means of revenge.42 That the Brahmins complied and helped in innovating this device is also a reflection of the status of the Brahmins who were willing to go to any length to please the rulers. While the role of the Brahmin priest was accepted in the negotiation and completion of marriage, the priests were, in a sense, marginal to the proceedings.Their presence was essential but they did not guide or direct the proceedings. Therefore, despite the Dharmashastric rituals being given their due recognition and importance, the form changed according to the circumstances. There were several rituals that had originated in the ancient past. The political instability of the initial stages of clan-state formation led to the disappearance of many rituals and appearance of some in new forms. Also, there were a set of rituals that were derived from a different quarter altogether—from a set of rules and principles that were

sword and the remaining one phera was in the village Magro, four kos near Jodhpur, with Shri Hoozur. 41 Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 84. 42 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, pp. 247–8.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

indigenous and time honoured. In fact, the ‘Hindu’ law and rituals do not remain static or uniform. Customs and tradition keep contributing in its evolution and end up having the final word. All changes once accepted as custom and tradition become part of an everlasting sacred law. Here the remarks of Vijay Nath seem to be very pertinent. He talks about a sea change perceptible between Brahminism of the Dharamshashtras and ‘Hinduism’ as reflected in the Puranas. Despite a prominent continuum, the former represented, a more or less, a single stream fed mainly by the Vedas and the Vedangas, while on the contrary Puranic Hinduism was more like a vast ocean with the Brahminical stream, no matter how big and forceful, representing only one amongst the numerous others flowing into it and making it an all-encompassing mass of religious beliefs and practices. The source of its authority and strength lay not merely in the Vedas, but was far more variegated, each one of them being as vibrant and efficacious as the other.43 Among the Rajputs, who had extended families in which women lived together in the Zenana (area earmarked in the palace which was only occupied by women), there tended to be more distinctive rituals that could be controlled by the women to express their solidarity, than in communities or regions where there was less seclusion of women. There were several rituals associated with marriage, which remained within the domain of the women.Thus, when a baraat arrived, it was a married woman who, keeping a colourful pot on her head, welcomed it while other women sang songs. This was known as the ceremony of varhera (welcoming of baraat by women who sing songs).44 Even unmarried girls could perform this ceremony.45 The news of the arrival of the baraat was given to the women folk by the barber, and on receiving the news they would brand his back with their palm signifying that the news had reached them,46 a communication channel established in order to deal with the seclusion and segregation.The rituals associated with the groom’s arrival clearly show the separation of the world of men and women. When the baraat was few kilometres 43 Vijay Nath, ‘From “Brahminism” to “Hinduism”: Negotiating the Myth of the Great Tradition’, PIHC (2000–1): 36–7. 44 MNK, vol. 3, pp. 41–6. 45 Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi,p. 71. 46 Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 201.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


away from the bride’s place, all male relatives of the bride went up to welcome the baraat and this was known as samel.47 Seclusion among the Rajputs was present to such an extent that even when wedding rituals like phera or kanyadan was being performed by the priest, unlike other communities, the girl’s father was not present.48 These rituals can be viewed not only in terms of segregation, but also from the point of view of security. We see that most of the time even the father of the groom did not accompany the baraat, as in those days they could not afford to leave the fortress for too long. The constant fear of attack ensured that male members remained outside. In fact, a boy used to go as a guard for the bridegroom and he would keep passing on the information to the men folk outside. Although the rituals do indicate a rather rigid segregation of male and female activities, this rigidity must have developed over a period of time. Nainsi has spoken about how the sister-in-law, that is, the bride’s sister did the arti of the groom and sometimes the groom made a special request for a particular sister to perform arti.49 But the segregation, it seems became more rigid in the early seventeenth century during the period of Raja Sur Singh of Marwar when he reorganized the Zenana on the Mughal pattern50 and by eighteenth century, we find that the mother-in-law observed pardah (veiled herself) with her sonin-law. When the groom arrived, the ritual of putting dahi ka tika51 on his forehead was performed only after a sheet was stretched between the two as a veil, and the mother-in-law extended her hand over the sheet to put the tika.52 This stricter enforcement of segregation and pardah seems to have been more of a Mughal influence. All such weddings also represented both an alliance between the two families and the taking away of the bride from her natal home. As a result, there were ceremonies that had to do with exchange and there were ceremonies which had to do with the ‘claiming’ and ‘releasing’ 47

Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan. Report Mardumshumari, Raj Marwar, AD 1815, Part III, p. 30. 49 MNK, vol. 3, p. 142. 50 MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 564. The Zenana was reorganized in V.S. 1668/ 1611 AD. 51 Putting curd on the forehead which is considered to be auspicious and is symbolic of blessing to the bridegroom. 52 Report Mardamshumari Raj Marwar, AD 1815, Part III, p. 29. 48


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

of the bride. The pageantry of conquest, common to North Indian weddings as a whole was specially marked in Rajput and Rajputinfluenced communities (Jats) in Rajasthan as was the mock resistance of the bride’s women. In fact, equating the taking away of the bride with conquest was very common in a situation of constant warfare and turbulence. The Rajputs would take a vow to marry the daughters of their enemies thus symbolically subjugating them.53 The ambivalent attitude of the bride’s women towards the conquest of the bride and their dual role in both blessing the groom and setting up ceremonial barriers against him reflects in many of the rituals among the Rajputs during this period.There is a distinctive Rajasthani tradition known as toran marano (striking the toran) in which the groom dramatically strikes the toran with his sword which hangs at the entrance of the bride’s home and represents the power of her family.54 Many of the women’s songs that were sung on the arrival of the baraat are of the type known as galis songs that tease, ridicule, and insult the groom and his party.The galis are playful but the fact that they are sung at all is as indication of the Zenana’s ambivalence.55 It is in the context of this basic structure and structural exclusives that one needs to see this custom which was also a part of many other North Indian marriage rituals. The riddling of the bridegroom, which may start informally as soon as the wedding ceremony is over, is concentrated heavily in the next morning’s breakfast for the groom and is an important part of the interaction between the groom and his female in-laws for several years after the wedding. In the context of the Zenana culture such as that of the Rajputs and Rajput-influenced communities of Rajasthan, the ritual of riddling the groom empowers the bride’s women by giving them an active ceremonial role in releasing the daughter of the house to her new in-laws. It also provides, through humorous mock confrontation, a way 53

MNK,Vol. 2, p. 338. Karine Schomer, ‘Testing the Groom: Riddling at Rajasthani Wedding as Cultural Performance’, in Idea of Rajasthan, ed. Karine Schomer, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O Lodrick, and Llyod I. Rudolph, The Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities, Vol. 1 (Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994), p. 114. 55 Schomer, ‘Testing the Groom’. 54

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


of both revealing and concealing their ambivalent feeling towards the conquering groom who will be taking the bride away. Finally, it gives them the opportunity to test the groom’s worthiness, his poise, intelligence, and his knowledge of culture including those dimensions of culture, which are of special interest to them as women. Another practice that was noticed among the Rajputs of Rajasthan was the prevalence of several such rituals which ensured the participation of various castes in the marriage ceremony. After the ritual of toran marano, the groom would give some reward to the carpenter as the toran was specially prepared by the carpenter for this occasion. Also, the day the baraat was to leave, the women of the house would go to the house of the Kumhar (potter) to perform a ritual called chak nyutna (worshipping the potter’s wheel).56 Not only did the rituals ensure the participation of various castes, but there were also various rituals assigned to special kin group such as the bride’s mama (maternal uncle) or groom’s jeeja (brother-in-law) so that these people would also join in the celebrations and reinforce familial ties. Thus, we have Sileh Khan of Nagaur who was married to the sister of Karam Singh Raipal performing the ritual of sala kattari (custom of giving special gifts to one’s bride’s brother), as per the Rajput custom, although he himself was a Muslim.57 Sala kattari is mentioned as a ceremony in which the brother-in-law gave a special present to his sala on his marriage and this gift could even be a jagir. So in a way this reflects on the strength of ties created by such rituals. Higher the social status of a particular community, more elaborate the rituals, which enabled the participation of a large number of people and all this further reinforced their status. In fact, royal weddings were more pageants than weddings. In our period, we find that the ruling class and other dominant castes and classes used to transact lots of property, both moveable and immovable, along with their daughter at marriage to elevate their status and get recognition from others. It was due to conventional usage springing from the exigencies of political and other situations rather than the actual letter and the spirit of textual injunctions themselves. In the ‘byah bahis’, the amount spent on the marriages of aristocracy is 56 57

Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 200. MRPRV, vol. I, p. 40.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

mentioned. In some cases, the expenditure incurred on marriage could be a large part of the state expenditure.58 Extravagant spending on marriage with an increased degree of pomp and show is not only indicative of excess resources, but also imitating practices of the Mughal. When the Mughal emperor ventured anywhere, he would be preceded by elephants carrying seven flags known as ‘Shahi Maratib’. This maratib also accompanied the baraat of the royalty in Rajasthan. Although among the Mughals, weddings were accompanied with feast and other rites, they did not believe in marriage processions.The Hindu rite of bridegroom going on horseback in a procession known as baraat to the bride’s home is perhaps first indicated among Mughal chronicles in the Akbar Nama, when Salim’s marriage to the daughter of Raja Bhagwan Das Kachhwaha took place in 1584. Two years later, we have indications of another procession, led by Akbar to the house of Rai Singh for the marriage of Salim with the Rajput daughter. By and by, music also came to be part of marriage procession, clearly borrowing from the Rajput tradition.59 Mukhia has shown how marriage ceremonies were undergoing mutations. Celebrations accompanying weddings among the Mughals although included feasts on a grand scale, there were no marriage processions. If the marriage of prince and princesses in the reign of Babur and Humayun took place in the house of the groom, from Akbar’s time when ‘Hindu’ brides had found an entry into the imperial Mughal family, marriage ceremonies came to be performed in the bride’s home in accordance with the ‘Hindu’ custom. Among the Mughals, sometimes the ceremonies were conducted at the bride’s home and at others in the groom’s, suggesting that the amalgamation of diverse customs was still in process.60 We do find the marriage ceremonies getting more elaborate after Akbar. When the baraat of the son of Surajmal Balisa, Sagra, was going to marry the daughter of Ratan Singh, Rahnavat Singal there were 500 people on their sawari (riding on elephants and horses) of elephants

58 59 60

Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 38. Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 83. Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, pp. 149–50.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


and horses.61 This was a marked departure from the earlier period where attempt was made to keep the baraat small. This, however, does not mean that large expenditure in marriages did not take place in the pre-Mughal period. Nainsi also gives us an example of V.S. 1478 (1421) in the celebration of marriages in family of Jaisalmer that there was so much expenditure involved that no marriage ceremony could be organized thereafter.62 Although we do not have information on whose marriage it was, the point to be noted is the extravagance indulged in during the marriage ceremony. Taking of huge baraat started becoming customary. Large baraat was a show of strength as well as assertion of status of the ruler and by participating in the baraat of the stronger ruler the lesser rulers also exhibited their loyalty. If the ruler did not participate in the marriage ceremony it was taken as an affront and could lead to hostilities. When Bhim Singh, Maharana of Udaipur wanted to marry the daughter of Shivaji Singh of Idar, then en route, the Rawal of Dungarpur, Shiva Singh, extended great deal of hospitality to the baraat and also joined it, but when Rawal Fateh Singh became the ruler of Dungarpur and once again Bhim Singh was going to Idar for marriage, Fateh Singh did not extend similar courtesy. This angered the Rana and on his way back he surrounded Dungarpur and the Rawal had to pay him Rs 3 lakhs in order to appease him.63 Therefore, participation in the baraat also became a matter of prestige and status symbol for the Rajputs. This obviously must have inflated the number of people moving in the procession. The size of the marriage procession also varied according to the circumstances and political situation. In the initial years of state formation when marriages were used as a means of overpowering the enemy and grabbing land,it was not thought to be wise to have large marriage processions and we have seen how, when Devraj, sent a proposal of marriage for the Pawar chief ’s daughter, he expressed suspicion over the motive of Devraj. His wife then suggested that he should be asked not to bring more than 200 people so that a mishap could be avoided.64 61 62 63 64

MNK, vol. 3, p. 45. MNK, vol. 1, p. 220. Das, Vir Vinod, p. 1012. MNK, vol. 2, pp. 24–5.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

A day after the marriage dakshina was given to the Brahmins by members of all castes who got the marriage ceremonies conducted by the priest. But the Rajputs, besides giving dakshina to the Brahmins, also gave tyag to the Bhats and Charans, which was akin to dakshina, except that the Brahmins generally accepted the dakshina made to them. But the Bhats and Charans made exaggerated demands and there was considerable bargaining although in a good humour. According to the Charans, it was only the Rajputs who could make the payment of tyag. When Maharaja of Bikaner, Raj Singh had gone to Jaisalmer for marriage he distributed Rs 2 lakh as tyag.65 How the giving of tyag converted from custom to status determining factor can be seen from the example of Jaita Salodi who had come to Pipalbad for marriage. This marriage could not be solemnized for some reason. But numerous people had gathered to ask for tyag, therefore tyag was given without the marriage taking place.66 Because of this the giver acquired a name for himself and his generosity would be talked about for a number of years. There were various other kinds of practices that added to the marriage expenses among the royalty. It was a custom to distribute money among friends and relatives on the occasion of marriage or any other auspicious occasion.67 But this became a curse for the poor Rajputs because the expenses of marriage increased and it became difficult for them to get their daughters married and that may have even led to female infanticide. So a ritual, which became a status conferring act for one section, became a social burden for another. The Rajputs, being the ruling class, were bound to have influenced the practices of other sections of the society. There is not much information on what an ordinary Rajput did. Obviously there may have been variations within the same clan and also local variations from one region to another. As society changed, these rituals acquired different dimensions.Yet, there are also several continuities to be witnessed. For any study of social history, balancing the theme of continuities and change becomes important. In some respects, the works of eminent social historians, Ladurie and Braudel, have emphasized some 65 66 67

Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 204. MNK, vol. 2, p. 54. Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 75.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


changeless qualities in most parts of the world. To be able to observe the differences, one needs a much sharper focus on continuities. Also, in the process what one can see is also a syncretistic fusion of Brahminism of the ancient period with several disparate but equally vibrant cultural traditions and all this erased the monolithic structure and character of ‘Hinduism’. It goes to show that religious beliefs and practices are not static and change from one historical period to another. In fact, the authority of religion is insured through adaptation of beliefs and practice, in order to suit the needs of the new emerging order. MARRIAGE CUSTOMS AND PRACTICES The customs and practices followed in Rajasthan may have at times varied from one state to another but the general customs related to marriage were quite similar. Most of these customs and practices were either based on local traditions and were largely regulated by the village panchayats, the local Bhomias, as well as the state. The ritual concerned with engagement has already been discussed earlier. The system of having engagement before marriage seems to have been prevalent among all the classes. As marriage was considered a sacrament (at an ideal level) among the ‘Hindus’, and therefore indissoluble, perhaps engagement brought about an element of flexibility before the finality of marriage. They may have helped in sorting out differences between two families and in the worst case, by breaking an engagement, marriage could be saved. But at the same time breaking of engagement was neither as frequent—as in Europe—and in the medieval Rajasthan society we find that it was frowned upon by all sections of society. Among the Rajputs especially, both rejection of engagement proposal or breaking of engagement was regarded as a humiliation to the prestige of the family. The ruler of Roon, Singhal Sankhla, sent the coconut of engagement for his daughter Supiarde to Narbad of Mandore. Soon after, Narbad was attacked and defeated by Rana Mokal and it was rumoured that he died, hence Supiarde was married off to Nar Singh Kindawat of Jaitaran. When Narbad recovered and asked for Supiarde, Sankhala offered to give his younger daughter to him. Although Narbad agreed to this, at the same time in order to avenge his humiliation, he insisted that Supiarde should welcome him


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

at the door with aarti. This did not have the sanction of Supiarde’s husband, but Supiarde had to comply as Narbad threatened to take back the baraat if his wishes were not fulfilled.68 Therefore, although nobody was at fault for the breaking down of the engagement, it led to a great deal of tension as Narbad felt affronted and Supiarde’s husband also made a prestige issue out of it. In another instance, the daughter of Nahar Rao of Mandovar, Kanchanmala, was engaged to Prithviraj. The man sent for finalizing the sagai reported that Prithviraj had too many defects of character, therefore the daughter should not be given to him. This led to enmity between the two. Prithviraj attacked Mandovar, a battle ensued in which 500 people died. Later Nahar Rao surrendered and got his daughter married to Prithviraj and two of his sons became samant to Prithviraj.69 The question of honour at times was taken to such lengths in the royal family that there is an instance where the princess had to pay the price with her life. The daughter of Maharana of Udaipur was to be married to Maharaja Bhim Singh of Jodhpur but later, for some reason, she got engaged to the ruler of Jaipur, Jagat Singh. But Bhim Singh’s successor, Man Singh insisted that she was engaged to the royal throne of Jodhpur and therefore Jodhpur had a right over her. As the Udaipur ruling house was weak at that time, the only way was to make Krishna Kumari consume poison, as neither side would relent because it became a matter of honour and prestige.70 In this context, even today as far as the Rajputs are concerned, it is said that a sagai can never be broken.71 Seen from the man’s point of view, it was treated as a matter of honour, which even led to battles. But what about the women who often had to be a pawn in the game of honour? Most of the texts written on the royalty are silent on this aspect. But the folk tradition (recorded in the Varda) has spoken of the emotion experienced by Krishna Kumari who has likened the honour of men to a game of polo where several 68

MNK, vol. 3, pp. 141–3. MRPRV, vol. 1, pp. 2–3. 70 Tod, Annals,vol. 2, p. 109. 71 Bhagirath Kanodia and Govind Aggarwal (eds), Rajasthani Kahawat Kosh (Jaipur: Panchsheel Prakashan, 2002), p. 113. 69

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


are sacrificed to uphold the honour of a few men. She is supposed to have said that the peasant women are better off than the women of royalty as they have more freedom. She also said that state, religion, and society are all selfish.72 Whether these words were her own or she was made to verbalize these sentiments, as these were the popular perceptions of such practices, that led to her tragic death we cannot say but we can see how the Rajput sense of honour could become extremely oppressive for women. Also, among the Rajputs, turning down an offer of engagement was considered an insult to the bride’s side and could lead to considerable tensions between the two families and this is exemplified by the incident when Maharaja of Jaipur, Madho Singh, refused the coconut sent by Maharao of Bundi, Ummed Singh.73 Nainsi gives us an example of how when a proposal of marriage was being turned down by the ruler (Rao Kheva of Pokran) on the grounds of the physical appearance of the girl (the girl had big teeth), he was persuaded by none other than his wife to accept it, as this would be seen as an insult to the girls’ side,74 an insight into the notion of honour and the working of the system of polygamy among the Rajput aristocracy. Refusing a proposal was considered so insulting that although she later married Suja Jodhavat of Marwar, she felt so humiliated that she carried a grudge for several years and later instigated her son to avenge her insult.75 In fact, when an engagement was broken the woman was almost considered to be a widow.Tod gives as an example of how a lady (Bimla Devi of Rathore clan), whom Gursi (son of Rawal Duda of Jaisalmer, 1306) had married, was referred to as a widow merely because she had been betrothed to Deora but the engagement had been broken. In the Annals, she has been referred to as rand (widow), even though she was a kumari (maid).76 We have another example where Chandra Kunwar, the sister of Maharana Bhim Singh II, had been engaged to 72

Chayarin, Varda, Story of Krishna Kumari, pp. 32–3. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 400. Also see Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 197. 74 MNK, vol. 3, p. 104. 75 MNK, vol. 3, pp. 105–6. 76 Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 203. 73


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jaipur (1851/1794).77 But Maharaja Pratap Singh died before marriage and Chandra Kunwar decided to remain unmarried throughout her life. She was treated as queen by the Jaipur royal family and received hath kharch (money for her expenses) from the Jaipur treasury.78 Breaking of engagement was viewed seriously not only amongst the Rajput royalty, but was also considered a great insult by the boys’ side. Even among the ordinary people local panchas would punish the family responsible by imposing a gunahgari (fine), to be collected by the state. In village Gareasani of Jodhpur, the son of Rajput Anand Singh Jodhsinghgot was to be married to the daughter of Nariandas Madho Singhgot. The date of the wedding was decided but when Anand Singh Jodhsinghgot did not turn up for marriage, the state fined him Rs 100179—a substantial amount in those days. In another instance, the marriage proposal of the daughter of Singhli Rattan Singh Nahrawat, hailing from Jakhora village of Sindhlawati, was sent to Khet Singh, the son of Rawal Ratan Singh. Although the date of the marriage was fixed for the next fortnight, the girl’s father, on getting to know about the boy’s poverty, sent the proposal for the son of Surajmal Balisa, Sagar.The baraat of both Khet Singh and Sagar arrived on the same day. Khet Singh killed Sagar and then there was pressure on the bride to become sati. Although she protested that she could not become sati as she was unmarried, but when she realized that it would lead to war between both sides, she gave in to this demand.80 Examples from practices of other castes also show that among all castes, high or low, it had become a norm that engagement could not be easily revoked. The breaking of engagement among other castes was also treated as an offence. In Jodhpur, in village Nanau the son of Chandan Paliwal had been engaged to the daughter of Brahmin Dungar of Udhahra village. But later Dungar got his daughter engaged elsewhere.The state gave instruction to the pancha to convince Dungar 77

Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 1719. Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 199. 79 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 30, and the source quoted is, Jodhpur Hath Bahi chait sudi, 5,V.S. 1813/1756. 80 MNK, vol. 3, pp. 41–7. 78

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


that it was wrong and he should pay vair.81, 82 In Roop Nagar, the son of Gulabchand belonging to the Baniya caste was engaged to the daughter of Sarupchand. As the boy went out for two to three years, the girl was engaged elsewhere. When the boy’s family approached the court, the court ordered the girl’s family to cancel the new engagement.83 Hence, engagement could not be broken at the whim of the family, even if the circumstances were not favourable.The state seems to have upheld not only the sanctity of marriage, but also of engagement. We have another instance where Baniya Jagnnath got his two daughters engaged. But soon he became bankrupt. After this, one of the daughters was taken away by the fiancé, whereas the other was not (dowry perhaps being a consideration). She was later married elsewhere. Now her former fiancé claimed her and the court fined Jagnnath by imposing a meal of 23 people on him.84 Here the state action seems to be more in favour of the boys’ side otherwise it would also take action against them for refusing to marry the girl at the right time. Even in the earlier quoted instance, given the social norm of getting daughters married at an early age, the absence of the boy for two to three years must have caused anxiety to the father, yet he was not given the freedom to decide otherwise. In another instance, the daughter of Shriram of Lowale village was engaged to Lala of Punalson (perhaps a Kayastha), but when she was married to someone else in Ahar village, a fine was imposed.85 These examples indicate that whereas among other castes certain amount of fine was imposed on the girls’ side as a punishment for breaking the engagement, the girl was not much affected by the situation. But among the Rajputs, the revoking of an engagement often had disastrous results with the girl and the family both having to pay a heavy price for it. In the mercantile community, waiting for marriage after engagement seems to have led to problems, as the men would be away 81 ‘Vair’ is a word which is used in the sense of feud. It can also be used in the sense of paying fine to settle a feud. 82 Sanad Parvana Bahi Jodhpur, maha badi-13,V.S. 1825/1768. 83 Sanad Parvana Bahi Jodhpur, maha badi, No. 2,V.S. 1822/1772. 84 Sanad Parvana Bahi Jodhpur, maha badi, No. 2,V.S. 1822/1772. 85 Kagdo ri Bahi, No.8,V.S. 1848/1791.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

from home for long durations on distant voyages in pursuit of trade. Sometimes we find gaps of even 10 to 11 years between engagement and marriage.86 In that case, the caste panchayat as well as the darbar tried to look for a solution and if the boys’ side acted difficult, they were punished.87 The concept of honouring the engagement seems to have permeated down to the lower castes also. We have an example of Chander Ajba’s daughter being engaged to the son of Cheepa Harji of village Karera. It was a case of atta satta (giving and taking bride from the same family) exchange. Meanwhile the daughter died but it was felt that the engagement of Harji’s son must be maintained and for this the tailors of Badnor insisted that the engagement must not be broken;88 the caste community functioned as a pressure group to maintain the custom of their particular community. The panchayat did at times function in a flexible manner, as can be seen from the example of Mochi Nathiye who had got engaged to the daughter of Mochi Laliye. But when Mochi Nathiye turned blind, the panchas dissolved this engagement.89 Whoever passes from upland Mewar, the kingdom of the Sisodias, into the sandy flats of the Marwar can notice certain dissimilarities of customs and manners. The fact that certain areas of Rajasthan are famine prone, the men of the middle and the lower castes must have frequently left their homes in search of livelihood, this also becoming one of the reasons for the breaking of engagement among them. However, the state and the panchas always tried to devise means by which they could regulate and uphold the engagement. Marriage is considered a composite institution consisting of several subordinate elements in a certain order of the custom and practices. The age at which one should get married is an important factor. The study of the age of marriage in Rajasthan occupies a special place


Jodhpur Sanad Parvana Bahi, posh vadi, 6,V.S. 1824/1767. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 29. 88 Vigat, No. 14, Karera, Papers, Documents serial No. 26, Phalgun Sudi 15,V.S. 1843/1786, p. 15. Why the tailors should intervene in the case of ‘Cheepas’ could be because, as an artisanal class, they may have belonged to the same community. 89 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 31, and the source quoted is Bahi Peshkashi ri Lekhe ri, Bikaner,V.S. 1838/1781. 87

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


since child marriage still persists in this state. A large number of historical, social, and economic factors have contributed to this state of affairs. There is need for intensive fieldwork at the grass root level to understand how socio-economic conditions correlate with the age of marriage. Especially today, the analysis of the age of marriage has acquired significant importance in demographic research in view of its established relationship with the level of fertility and population growth. Age of marriage for both sexes has varied considerably in different ages, from province to province, and also in varied castes at the same time. A notable feature of traditional marriage practices in India was the stress on early marriage, particularly of females. As regards men, there was no special rule prescribed about the age at which they were obliged to marry. The social organization and value system in early Indian society strongly approved and favoured the marriage of girls before puberty or immediately after puberty. In the Rig Veda, although no fixed age was mentioned, it seems that marriages were not very early, but by the time of Dharamshastras, girls were to be married off before or immediately after puberty. In the Manusamhita, a religious Hindu text, the marriage of a man of 30 with a girl of 12 and a man of 24 with a girl of eight are described as instances of permissible and socially recognizable marriages in early Indian society.90 By 200 (Yajnavalkya Smriti), the popular feeling insisted on pre-puberty marriage.91 According to Kapadia, the main reason for early marriage was that the girl might not question the transformation of the father’s right of guardianship and control over the maiden in favour of her husband.92 Age of marriage to a large extent is determined by how the institution of marriage is perceived in different ages. Traditionally, a ‘Hindu’ marriage was seen more as a sacred duty rather than a matter of personal convenience or arrangement. Marriage was conceived not so much for sex or progeny as for obtaining a partner for fulfilment of 90

R.P. Goel, Marriage Age in India (Delhi: B.R. Publishing Company, 1988), p. 3. 91 Kane, History of Dharamshastras, p. 443. 92 K.M. Kapadia, Marriage and Family in India (Calcutta: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 164.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

one’s religious duties or samskaras.93 Hence, the age of marriage could be before the child had developed the age of reason, as it was an obligation to be gone through and to be arranged by family and community. According to the Dharamshastras the power to arrange marriage was with the father, paternal grandfather, or brother. Therefore, marriage was an alliance of the family and not the union of individuals. As opposed to this is the modern concept of marriage, wherein marriage is considered a contractual obligation between the two parties and cherishes around the fulfilment of personal goals, of mutual adjustment for the attainment of happiness, pleasure, and material gains in life. Demographers have established by subtle statistical methods, the mean age of marriage of different segments of society between the sixteenth–eighteenth centuries, in many different parts of the world. Mean ages are intensely interesting and have been used to throw light on population growth. However, if we wish to understand their inner meaning—the reasons why women married earlier in some societies and some walks of life than others and what marriage meant to them— we have to investigate a wide range of topics with insight, precision, and subtlety. One crucial topic here is the motivation behind marriage. The motive can remain qualitative, as we have seen in Chapter II, ‘Socio-Political and Economic Aspects of Marriage’. Child marriages have existed for generations. They are deeply embedded in the societal and cultural practices and have continued for both sociocultural and economic reasons, but its consequences are both biological and psychosocial. During the medieval period in Rajasthan, we see that the marriage for progeny, especially among the royalty seems to have become an important aspect of the institution of marriage. Given the constant warfare and insecurities of the period the number of progeny, especially male, provided security. Although as mentioned earlier, there does not seem to have been a fixed textual or legal age as during the ancient period, or as we have today, but all sections of society seemed to have favoured early marriage. Among the royalty, it seems to have been a matter of status and social prestige to have their children married early. In AD 978 Bachera, the Bhati prince, was 14 years old when the coconut of proposal came 93

Goyal, Marriage Age in India, p. 2.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


from Ballabhsen Solanki, Raja of Pattan. He forthwith proceeded to Pattan where he married the Solanki princess.94 Prithviraj Chauhan (1177–1192) had his first marriage with the daughter of Parihar Naharrai while he was a mere child.95 In 1641, Raj Singh of Udaipur married the Marwar princess at the age of 12.96 Jodhpur prince was married to Maharaja Jagat Singh’s daughter at the age of 15.97 The girls whom they married must have been even younger, although we get little information on the age of the girls. The practice of pre-puberty marriage at times even degenerated into infant marriage. In the literary sources, it has been mentioned that Marwani (princess of Marwar) was one and a half years old when she was married to Dhola (founder of Amber house) who was three years old.98 These instances make it obvious that both males and females were very young when they got married. Among the royalty, age was not a consideration at the time of marriage and there could be a considerable age gap between the bride and groom, the groom being much older than the bride. Also, though the male could be young in the case of the first marriage, as a result of polygamy being practiced among the Rajput aristocracy, he could be quite old by the time his fourth or fifth marriage was performed. The son of Rao Chuda of Marwar (fifteenth century) received an offer for marriage and the father wistfully remarked that no offer of marriage was coming to him, as he was getting old. So the son persuaded him to accept the proposal which had come for him, that too when his father was well into his 60s.99 Gogaji was older then Pabuji although Pabuji was his father-in-law. Gogaji in fact tells his father-in-law that although he was younger in age, he was elder in position.100 Pabuji obviously had no hesitation in marrying off his daughter to a man older than himself. With this kind of an age gap existing between the 94

Tod, Annals,vol. 2, p. 190. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi,p. 3. 96 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 34. 97 Jodhpur Byah Bahi, asarh sudi, 9,V.S. 1801/1744. 98 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 34. The source that she has quoted is Dhola Maru ri Vat. There is a mention of this even in the Chundawat, Rajwadi Lokgeet, p. 130. 99 MNK, vol. 2, pp. 232–3. 100 MNK, vol. 3, p. 74. 95


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

bride and groom, it must have led to tremendous psychological and sexual problems for the girl; this has been looked into in Chapter V, ‘Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan’. In the preceding chapter, we have seen that among the Rajput aristocracy, marriage was mostly a form of political alliance rather than a matter of individual choice. In such cases, even the woman’s age could have been more than that of the man as the political aspect of the marriage assumed more importance. We have an example of the Varihaha Rajput of Jaisalmer sending a proposal for Vijay Rao Bhatti. Although the proposal was for him, he accepted the proposal for his son who was aged five years.101 It is an amazing situation in which the proposal for the father could be passed on to the son or the son’s proposal could be passed on to the father. In this case, the girl must have certainly been older as it does not seem plausible that the proposal for an infant would have come for a man who had already fathered his own children. In such instances, they were naturally not adhering to any textual injunction or any prevalent social norm. Also, not all princesses were married off when they were mere children. We do come across instances of adult and self-chosen marriages. Princess Charumati, daughter of the ruler of Kishangarh, strongly protested against the marriage settled by her father (1660) and invited Maharaja Raj Singh of Udaipur to marry her.102 The sister of the ruler of Bikaner, Maharaja Surat Singh (1787), strongly protested when her marriage was fixed with Raja of Narwar.103 Also, when princess Sodhi saw Pabuji, she conveyed to her mother her wish to marry him and sent a Brahmin with a proposal for marriage;104 a very bold step indeed. Also, in another case, we find that the daughter of Manik Rao, despite being betrothed to the heir of the Rathore of Mundore, conveyed her wish to be the bride of the chief of Pungal and the marriage was formalized.105 Her wishes were acceded to, despite the fact that it 101

MNK, vol. 2, p. 18. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, pp. 114–15. 103 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 40 and the source quoted is Dayaldas ri Khyat. 104 Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergatmak Pavarhe, p. 50. 105 Tod, Annals,vol. 1, p. 49. 102

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


entailed the breaking of an earlier engagement, which was considered very dishonourable among the Rajputs. She must have been mature enough to withstand the pressures that must have prevailed upon her to not do so. But she was so fascinated by Sadoo that she ultimately married him. All these instances indicate that these women must have been mature enough to know their mind and convey their wishes. When Pabuji was getting married to Sodhi Phoolamde, her feeling of excitement has been mentioned in the Rajwadi Lokgeet,106 a feeling associated with a woman mature enough to understand what marriage is all about. The ‘Sanad Parwana Bahi’ of Bikaner and ‘Jodhpur Bahi’ provide evidence about the marriageable age among the mercantile and the agricultural community. Among the mercantile class, the range seems to have been between four and 16.The Oswal Jains got their daughters married before 14.107 Among the peasant castes it seems that children were generally married off before sixteen. Although evidence reveals that economic hardships as well as the high-handedness of the Bhomias did not always allow the peasant to stick to the age limit. All the peasant residents of a village had to petition to the state that they were unable to get their daughters married because of the exorbitant rate of marriage cess demanded by the Bhomias.108 The Bhomias exercised power in the social arena through their customary regulatory authority. It was the customary obligation of the Bhomia to beat the drum at the time of the arrival and departure of the marriage procession. No marriage procession could arrive or depart from the village till the Bhomia had beaten the dhol (drum) to give permission. In return for this service, the Bhomia had the right to demand marriage cesses like kansa (cess on marriage), dhol, vagdum from all the village residents.109 Also, it was obligatory for the raiyat to extend invitation to the Bhomia and his entire establishment for the wedding feast.110 Not only could the Bhomia create 106

Chundawat, Rajwadi Lokgeet, p. 7. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 3. 108 Chitthi to Amil, Pargana Chatsu dt. posh sudi 14,V.S. 1720/1663. 109 Chitthi to Faujdar, Pargana Sawai Jaipur dt. sawan vadi 9,V.S. 1806/1749. 110 Amber Records, Chitthi from Diwan Murlidas to Amber Pargana Mauzabad, dt. sawan sudi 1,V.S. 1811/1754. 107


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

problems regarding the daughter’s marriage, but even the bridegroom was required to call on the Bhomia and offer him presents.111 The bridegrooms who went to call on the Bhomia were often maltreated by them and the raiyat of the village found it difficult to contract matrimonial relation outside the village.112 Madhu Tandon Sethiya has made a study of the Hadauti state (1700–1800) and shows how lag (tax on marriage) also known as panchgara was realized from the artisan menials and some of the Mahajans living in the village while peasant proprietors were exempted from this lag. There is no reference to any lag being realized from the Rajputs and Brahmins.113 Whatever evidences that we have indicate that mass child marriage on ‘Akha Teej’ (a practice in which mere infants are married off) which is prevalent in Rajasthan even today, despite legislation, does not seem to have been very prevalent during the medieval period.114 Although, early age of marriage was preferred, examples of infant marriages are very few. In fact, among the peasant castes dowry was of no major consideration and therefore marrying off the girls so early was not required. We have an example where an Ahir girl is mature enough to have been able to reason about her marriage to Phool. When the Ruler of Kelkat reached the village of Kheradi in a half-dead condition 111

Chitthi to Amil Pargana Phagi dt. asoj sudi 10,V.S. 1780/1723. Chitthi to Amil Pargana Phagi dt. asoj sudi 10,V.S. 1780/1723. 113 Sethiya, Rajput Polity, p. 184. 114 Though the law does not permit child marriage, this age old tradition is prevalent among Jats, Gujars, and members of the backward castes, schedule caste, and schedule tribes besides those belonging to economically weaker sections. Rural folk present a very logical case as to why they persist with the practice of child marriages. Families with several daughters are able to arrange the wedding on one auspicious day for all their daughters thus saving expenses as well as circumventing the dowry system. Administrative measures have failed to eliminate centuries old custom. The economic and social considerations appear to be the most compelling forces keeping the practice alive. Since the bride’s family is responsible for most of the expenses of a wedding, the marriage of several children on the same day helps them make substantial saving. As far as the social ramification of child marriage is concerned one very obvious effect is on the reproductive health of the woman. Also, there must have been mental disorders resulting from girls having to handle situations for which they are not well equipped. 112

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


it was suggested by the hakims that only the body warmth of a young girl could restore him. For this, one Ahir requested his daughter. But the girl refused to perform the task unless she was married to Phool. She made him regain his lost consciousness only after she was married to him.115 The girl was mature enough to have understood the consequences of such an act and knew how to go about it. In the absence of any legal or textual injunction, there seems to have been no fixed age of marriage, although tradition and other factors may have determined the marriageable age. Among the aristocracy, factors such as hypergamy and political alliances may have affected the age of marriage, whereas among the common people it was largely economic factors.The fact that among the middle and the lower castes woman’s labour was valued, also influenced the age of marriage. The issue of early age of marriage was also related to the question of morality. Given the number of cases of chamchori that has been talked about in Chapter V, ‘Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan’, the parents of marriageable daughters must have always had apprehensions and therefore must have been eager to marry off their girls at a young age lest they bring shame and scandal to the family. One may argue that such a fear would not disappear in the husband’s village or family. But if it occurs at the in-law’s place it becomes the responsibility of the in-law’s family. Besides, a girl born in a family is unproductive as long as she is in her parents’ home. But the same girl becomes an asset as she goes to her in-laws. This realization led to the preference of male child over females and hence infanticide. Another question that the age of marriage raises is the age gap between husband and wife where the girl might be too young for her husband.We have an example of a woman leaving her husband because he was too old. Jaimati left her old wedded husband to live with Vir Sawai who was nearer her age, and in the eyes of the society, she had committed a grave crime.116 The Rajputs also observed clan exogamy and caste endogamy, although the latter was followed only after they had firmly established themselves in power. Caste endogamy was followed by the Rajput society to ensure caste purity, racial purity, and group solidarity. The 115 116

MNK, vol. 2, pp. 226–7. Kasturia, Rajasthani Veergatmak Pavarhe, p. 241.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

caste system, through endogamy, regulated the structure and function of marital bond. The endogamous marriages of the rulers and thikanedars, and so on, were socially recognized. The married ladies had well-defined status as wives and were called Maharanis, Ranis, Thukrains, and so on, according to the position of their husband and according to the custom prevalent in their house. Their children could be heir apparent and legal heirs to the rulers. They were the daughters of illustrious families and clans and were backed by their clans. In fact, a Rajput woman did not lose her ties with her natal clan after her marriage. Regional songs’ stories and occasional archival records reflect the pride a Rajput woman felt about her natal clan. So much so, that even in their in-laws place they were known by clan names of their natal family such as Marwani, Bhatiani, Rathore, Chauhani, and so on.117 Further, it was the custom for official genealogies to note her name, as well as that of her father and her clan in their records. But the practice of marrying outside and taking food had not become as rigid and cast iron as they became during the latter part of medieval period. The caste restriction for choosing a girl for marriage became prevalent during the later Vedic period, although in the literature of that period one does find examples of inter-caste marriages.We find that anuloma marriages were allowed, whereas pratiloma (when a woman marries a man of lower caste) marriages were condemned. Numerous sub castes arose from such mixed marriages. The ancient smritis ungrudgingly recognized marriage between Brahmin and Kshatriyas or a Vaisya girl. But opinion was not unanimous about the marriage of a dvijati with a Sudra woman. Such marriages took place but were looked down upon with disfavour and often condemned with severity. Anuloma marriages were frequent enough till ninth and tenth centuries. But this was also a period of flux in the political situation and became rare later. For the last several hundred years, they hardly ever took place as they were not at all recognized as valid by the communities concerned. It is extremely difficult to say when exactly inter-caste marriages even between dvijatis came to be prohibited by the ‘Smritis’ and writers of digests.


MNK, vol. 3, p. 63.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


The local records of our period, especially of the seventeenth– eighteenth centuries, confirm that caste was a big factor in deciding who one married and the state regulated this practice treating inter-caste marriage as a crime and imposing fines when it did occur. Examples of all this has already been given in Chapter I, ‘Political and Social Structure of Medieval Rajasthan’. In such cases, the state and the caste panchayats intervened. In fact, whenever there was violation of caste norms the caste panchayat or the state would intervene. But this intervention was limited to imposing fine on the defaulter. It was already known to the offender that he would have to pay fine and was mostly in a position to pay fine as well as take care of the livelihood of the woman concerned. Besides caste, there were other restrictions that were also placed for marriage. Among the Rajputs clan exogamy was strictly emphasized. Under this system, certain groups of people who were related or believed themselves to be related either by blood or kinship were forbidden to intermarry.118 The groups involved in this case are family, prohibited kin, clan, gotra (lineage), and sapinda (related in direct line of ascent or descent). Each of these is bound by incest taboo. This meant that the married men in each of these groups would avoid marrying girls in their respective groups and thus seek partners from other groups.119 The group of individuals belonging to the same clan traced their descents and origin to common ancestors so they were all bound by kinship ties. Therefore, all the people belonging to the same clan were considered brother and sister. They were a part of the extensive family having common ancestors whether they were directly related to each other or not. The entire Rajput caste category was divided into a large number of clans. The rule of clan exogamy restricted the marriage of males and females of the same clan. For example, a boy of Rathore clan could not marry a girl of the same clan. Intra-clan marriage was regarded as incestuous among Rajputs. There is a basic contradiction in this when we regard it vis-à-vis practice among Kayasthas and Brahmins, where marriages were largely arranged in the same sub caste. 118

Kane, History of Dharamshastras, p. 447. K.B.K. Singh, Marriage and Family System of Rajputs: A Study of Tradition and Change (New Delhi: Wisdom Publications, 1988), p. 34. 119


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

For example, a Mathur girl would get married to a Mathur, which is quite reverse to the principle of clan exogamy of the Rajputs.120 Thus, the rule of clan exogamy established clan dependencies for the brides of grooms among Rajputs. This was one of the factors, which acted as an agent of unity despite their continued conflict amongst themselves. Caste endogamy and clan exogamy were the main determinates of marriage alliance and is strictly followed even to the present times. DOWRY Another practice, which persists even today in India, is the phenomenon of dowry. Dowry in modern times in India is not a chance event but a product of emergence and development of social forces over a period of time. Scholars are increasingly becoming aware of dowry’s significance. Numerous anthropologists have studied dowry and bride wealth and even historians of Western society have recently begun to investigate this essential side of the bargain, as the phenomenon of dowry is not only peculiar to Indian marriages, but is also prevalent in Western society. A focus on dowry can also provide social historians the tools with which to approach political and economic history. Studies of dowry address issues of status of women, their role in the family, the family economy, and the economy at large. As already mentioned earlier, the Hindu textual laws recognized eight forms of marriage. Out of these, the first four forms were approved and the rest were unapproved. The approved ones were the Brahma, Daiva, Arsa, and Prajapatiya; the unapproved ones being the Gandharva, Asura, Rakshasa, and Paishacha forms. Today, the most prevalent form of the marriage is the Brahma form. Here the parents or guardian of the bride offer her as a gift in marriage to the bridegroom, without receiving any compensation from him. In early times, this type of marriage was confined to Brahmins only, but later Hindus belonging to any caste could marry in accordance with the Brahma form. The ancient sages who were the conscience keepers 120

Sharad Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitudes in an Elite Society in Transition: A Case Study of Upper Class Rajput Women of Rajasthan in the 20th Century’,thesis submitted to the University of Rajasthan, 1993, p. 28.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


of the society conceived the various forms of marriages. The Brahma form of marriage was institutionalized during the ancient period and the preference for it continues even today. With this the patterning of marriage payment became an important consideration. On the basis of the classic texts and contemporary practices, two major payments can be identified. One, the bride price, which is devalued today as it is considered a degraded and immoral form and seems to be on the decline, but was formerly widespread and still occurs among the low caste and tribal communities. Here the female members are likely to work outside the house for wages and make a substantial contribution for the family labour.Thus, the groom pays for the economically useful bride. Secondly, dowry, which is given to the bride by her parents and consists of jewellery, household articles and clothes, and so on. This is usually paid in communties where women have been, traditionally, least likely to make substantial contribution to the family income. Thus, a high caste groom is being paid to take on an economically dependent wife as higher caste women did not participate in the social and economic activities outside the household. A system of seclusion got closely connected with the higher caste/ classes, as it conferred higher social status and prestige on their women than for women belonging to lower castes/classes.121 Preferential property rights to the male and mere maintenance allowance and marriage expenses to the females also underlined the potent ideology of the Brahminical system. In fact, we know very little about the dynamics of women’s stridhan and its variant in India, particularly who controlled the wealth after marriage and how that may differ in joint and nuclear families.Therefore, we need to examine how dowry has transformed from the classical pattern, wherein kanyadan and vardakshina were voluntarily performed by way of love and affection in accordance with the financial position of the bride’s parents. Over a period of time, these two aspects assumed the frightening name of dowry; even today compulsion, coercion, and force is used, whereby many marriages are becoming a bargain. To understand the complexity of the marriage gift, we have to view it in a historical perspective by examining the continuities and 121 Tara Ali Baig, India’s Women Power (New Delhi: S. Chand, 1976), pp. 175–6. See also Kapadia, Marriage and Family in India, p. 253.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

discontinuities in the social institution from place to place and one era to another. We can see that dowry is a dynamic and not a static institution where the traditional stridhan got converted to daj or dahej (dowry) during our period and which moved to the present-day atrocity which can be termed more as groom price. The adaptability and ever-changing nature of religion could well account for the reason why dowry has emerged in different ways in different points in history. The older cultural and historical connotation and perspective of dowry was more a marriage settlement as an insurance or security for daughters in an alien setup. In fact, the notion and function of payment of stridhan had a considerable economic rationality and sociological significance along with the ritual prescription. The stridhan and the vardakshina offered by the bride’s parents and her kin had a considerable sense of elevation of prestige for the woman and the donor. But whether the women had complete and final right over the stridhan, as recommended by the Dharamshastras, cannot be ascertained. The practice of gifting stridhan to the bride at the time of marriage was considered as a part of the sacred cultural concept of kanyadan marriage and was given to her by her parents and other kin groups to provide her with economic security for any eventuality in her life. We find this sentiment very specifically being echoed by the Maheshwaries, justifying giving plenty of jewellery to their daughters as stridhan as a safeguard against widowhood.122 Even in Europe, dowry was given and used as a safeguard against widowhood, the widow falling back on the dower for survival.123 Customarily it seems that only the widows of the ruling houses were provided with grants and maintenance. The property right of other upper caste women is not very clear. It was also perhaps an inducement to go and live with her affinal kin so as to make her feel that she is not just being driven out from her natal home.124 There are two issues regarding stridhan which deserve close attention. What did stridhan exactly include and exclude, and related to this, how important was stridhan in terms of the production process. Answer to the first question is relatively straightforward. It was found that stridhan included items like jewellery, clothes, utensils, and so on, 122 123 124

Report Murdumshumari, Raj Marwar, Part III, 1815 AD. Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest, p. 143. Paul, Dowry and Position of Women in India, p. 7.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


and basically personal possessions; it did not include land. This had an obvious bearing on the second question. If there was one dominant activity in the medieval period, it was agriculture. While agrarian system shows substantial variation over time and in different regions, one can say that in any agrarian system, land is possibly the most important resource. If women did not have legal recourse to land, stridhan would really not have meant much.125 My sources so far have not reflected any examples of land being transferred to women as stridhan (although widows did exercise rights to their husband’s land).This is one area that can be further investigated. In our period, also among the Rajput ruling elite we do find the women retaining some right over the land given in dowry during their marriage. It was more due to conventional usage springing from the exigencies of political and other situations rather than the actual letter and spirit of textual injunction themselves. Therefore, the amount given as dowry varied according to political and other circumstances during this period. In the early medieval period, we find that cattle, cows, and camels were also offered in dowry. Dowry was mostly offered at the time of marriage. But in some cases, it was initially promised and the actual payment was made subsequently. At the time of Gogaji’s marriage with Budeji’s (Rathore ruler) daughter, Pabuji (Budeji’s son) promised that he would get an ox from Doda Sundra, at which Gogaji scoffed, as Doda was known as the second ‘Ravana’. But Pabuji was undaunted and when Goga went off with his bride, Pabu ordered his men to get Doda’s oxen so that they could be paid as dowry for his sister.126 So in order to fulfil a dowry obligation, others were attacked and plundered. There is a similar incident when Pabuji attacked the territory of the parents of his sister’s co-wife so that he could provide dowry for his sister. Bagheli Rani was the co-wife of Sonabai (sister of Pabuji married to Gogaji) and she constantly bragged about the amount of jewellery she had brought from her natal home. This led to argument between Sonabai and Bagheli, in which Gogaji sided with Bagheli and even hit Sonabai. Sonabai wrote to Pabuji that she had been hit by her 125

Svati Joshi and Javed Malick, ‘Women in Early India’, D.U. Forum for Democracy (Delhi: Progressive Printers, 2001), pp. 14–15. 126 MNK, vol. 3, p. 62.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

husband at the instance of Bagheli. Pabuji then attacked and plundered Bagheli’s father’s territory and paid a part of the plunder as dowry for his sister.127 Thus, dowry had become a major ingredient; even if it led to war, plunder, and indebtedness of the girls’ side, it could not be avoided. Because, among the Rajputs as well as other upper caste, the women were entirely dependent on their menfolk, father, husband, and son for their livelihood. As a major part of their life was spent with their husband, there may have developed a feeling that the boys’ side had obliged the girls’ side by marrying, as she was not going to be of any help monetarily, but on the reverse she was going to share their funds. Hence, parents gave ample dowry to their daughters so that they were economically secure and there were no pointers to their self-respect. We have seen from the earlier example how favour shown to a wife depended, among other things, upon the dowry that she had brought in marriage. Dowry played a key role in bestowing status and forging alliances.The size of the dowry indicated the bride’s family’s social and economic standing and a large endowment could raise the status of the wife and her family. Also, dowry could be used as bait for luring an alliance. When Raj Singh died early, leaving his son, Surat Singh, his brother wanted to get rid of his nephew in order to get the throne. But his sister was a hindrance as she vigilantly watched over her nephew. So he tried to get her married off and invited the needy Raja of Nirwan to make a proposal for his sister, and although she claimed that she had already been affianced elsewhere, all scruples banished at dower of Rs 300,000. Her objection was overruled and she was forced to marry.128 The literature of that period gives innumerable references of the amount of dowry given. In several places, there is reference to ghana dayaja (large dowry). This big amount could be something like 100 horses, 200 camels, and Rs 1 lakh.129 When Rao Chandersain got his daughter married to Hada Sujan of Ranthambhor, she was 127

MNK, vol. 3, pp. 63–72. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 146 (late eighteenth century). Here also we can see how the custom of proposal being sent from the girls’ side is reversed. Similar reversal had been observed in the case of Devraj (Chapter II). 129 MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 8. 128

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


given a dowry of horses, 15 elephants, jewellery, and 1,500 rupees.130 When Chander Kunwer Bai got married to the Maharana of Amber, Jaisingh, she was given two elephants as well as utensils and Rs 20,000 in cash.131 Household items such as articles of the bedroom, kitchen, articles of daily use made of gold, articles like pandan (betel boxes), tasali (plate), kalash, dolani (cot), jhurjhuri (jugs), naharni (nail cutter) formed part of the dowry.132 Palaquis and raths (carriages) were also given in dowry. For example, Princess Sanuath Kunwar of Jodhpur was given four elephants, 24 horses, and 10 raths in her dowry.133 That dowry had become an integral part of the marriages among the ruling class can be seen from the fact that when Sevaji (the nephew of Jaichand) went towards Bikaner he was received kindly by the chief of the Solanki clan, who bestowed his daughter in marriage upon him with an ample dower.134 When the daughter of Manik Rao got married to ‘Sadoo’ the dower was splendid, gems of high price, vessels of gold and silver, a golden bull, as well as 13 davrees.135 Naba, the prince of Marusthali, had a son Bahubal who married Kamlavati, daughter of Vijay Singh. The prince of Malwa gave in daija (dowry) 1,000 horses of Khorasan, 100 elephants, pearls, gems, and gold innumerable, and 500 handmaids with chariots of bedsteads of gold.136 This large dower was perhaps responsible for Kamlavati becoming Bahubal’s chief queen. Chachi Deo (Jaisalmer) who had made Marote his headquarter, formed an alliance with Shoomar Khan (chief of Seter tribe) to protect his territories from the attacks of Multan. Later, he dismissed him and married his granddaughter. The father of the bride, Hybat Khan, gave with her in daija, 50 horses, 35 slaves, four palkis (carriage), and 200 female camels.137 130

MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 69. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 1, p. 71. 132 Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitudes in an Elite Society in Transition’, p. 44, and the source quoted is ‘Dastur Komvar’. 133 Jodhpur Records Hakikat Bahi, Number 35, V.S. 1946, pp. 171–2. 134 Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 10. 135 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 498. In the first decade of the thirteenth century. 136 Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 174. Early ninth century. 137 Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 206 (the time period would be about fourteenth century. It is another rare example of Rajput man marrying a Muslim woman). 131


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Not only money, jewellery, and cattle, but also territory was given as dowry. Rao Bika was given Mohla territory at the time of tika.138 Rao Dhalvalji got his daughter married to Rao Chudaji and gave Mandovar in dowry.139 At times several villages were given as part of the dowry. When Rana Lakha’s sister got married to Rinmal he was given the township of Durlo and 40 villages and he almost resided at Chittor, being considered by the Rana as the first of his chiefs.140 When the enmity between the Hadas and the Sisodias was resolved,12 Sisodia sardars married Hada girls and in dowry they were given six villages.141 The Rajput princesses were given property in forms of villages and land in their dowry. They were entitled to the revenue of the given villages throughout their life. It seems that the Rajput women did exercise considerable control over the land given in dowry. Also, whatever was transferred along with the bride to the bridegroom’s household was to be in public gaze. It was to be displayed to her kith and kin in the conjugal home. Through this an equation would be measured, consciously or unconsciously, and it is here that her status in the conjugal family as well as her natal family’s status would be determined. The display of the dowry was probably also done in a particular context, in the sense of listing everything that was given to the bride and therefore belonged to her. We get examples of Ranis constructing temples and places of public utility. They could have got the resources from either the maintenance given to them by their husband or from the daija that they had received at the time of marriage. Giving huge amount of money as dowry could also be related to the availability of greater resources with the rulers especially after the reorganization of the states under Mughals. With relative stability and more resource available with the rulers, the ability to give large amount in dowry had increased and later it became a custom emulated by other classes. When Rao Chandrasen of Bhadrajun went to 138

MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 39. MNK, vol. 2, p. 110. 140 Tod, Annals,vol. 2, pp. 12–13. 141 MNK, vol. 1, p. 43, this occurred around V.S. 1714/1657, that such dowries were listed is indicated by the fact that the six villages were mistakenly listed as 24 villages. 139

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


marry the daughter of Surjan Hada of Ranthambhor (1625/1568), he was given 15 horses, elephants, jewellery, and Rs 105,000 in cash.142 When Maharaja Gaj Singh of Bikaner got his daughter married in AD 1770, Rs 21,007 was given as dowry. This was a very large part of the income of the state.143 The amount of dowry also depended on the status and the position of the groom. Parents usually preferred the ruler’s eldest son and heir apparent as their son-in-law. To solemnize alliance with them, they were ready to spend beyond their limits, even taking loans for this purpose. This measure assured them of the future position of their daughter, who in case of being the first wife wielded enormous power in the Zenana as Patrani (senior queen). Even Rana Bhim Singh had to take loan for the marriages in his family and the distribution of tyag.144 Thus, with the possession of power and prosperity among some of the higher and dominant castes and classes, an element of distortion entered into the system of gift offered to the bride and bridegroom at the time of marriage. The deviation germinated with the possession of wealth and power among certain higher and dominant castes/classes and this became a convention later on. Spending lavishly on the occasion of a daughter’s marriage also became a matter of status, something to be talked about for years by the local community. Rao Varjang was the ruler of Sanchar. The ruler of Jaisalmer’s daughter was married to Varjang. He was a big Thakur and he is supposed to have spent much more than what anyone else had ever done before.145 It was obviously a case of hypergamous marriage where large amount of dowry was used to attract men from families of higher status. When Jagat Singh’s baraat went to Loonvard to marry the daughter of nobleman Solanke Narsingh, lakhs of rupees were spent on the marriage.146 In fact, the expenditure on the marriage seems to have been increasing considerably and when the daughter of Mansingh, Swarup 142 143 144

Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 206. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 38. Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitudes in an Elite Society in Transition’,

p. 41. 145 146

MNK, vol. 1, p. 220. Das, Vir Vinod,vol. 2, p. 905.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Kunwar, got married to Raja Ram Singh of Boondi, the expenditure involved was Rs 10 lakhs.147 In the ‘byah bahis’, the amount spent on the marriages of aristocracy is mentioned. Another development in the dowry system which one witnesses during this period among the ruling elite and the nobility is the system of giving davrees in dowry. This custom may have arisen due to the fact that in the medieval period the Rajput men often remained away from home, fighting in different parts. Female chakars were needed to look after and give company to their Ranis. Also, the intrigues and counter intrigues in the Zenana necessitated the presence of females from the father’s side who could be trusted. Later, it became a status symbol.The bridegroom in turn would bring unmarried boys equal to the number of such davrees. Such boys were called panch kalyani and were married to the girls given in dowry.148 There were two categories of persons who were dowered. One category consisted of unmarried girls called davrees. Their number was not fixed and depended on the status of the ruler or noble men. The Maharajas, Rajas, and bigger jagirdars had such girls in their own Zenana who were the offspring of their daroga (servants). The smaller jagirdars, if they did not have such girls, purchased them (perhaps in the years of famine).149 Such girls were purchased only from those castes, which came under the category of touchable. After marriage, they merged with the daroga caste. In Marwar, the Musaddis, the Singhvi Brahmins, and Mehtas, who for generations not only occupied important posts at the court but were even jagirdars, maintained davrees in their families. Apart from these girls, some full families of darogas were given as dowry. The Maharaja and bigger jagirdars also gave some families of other castes in dowry. In this category came the kamdar, dhobi, darji (tailor), dyer, and so on.150 The idea was to give one family of each of the professions required by their daughter, so that she would not have to depend on her in-laws 147

Manohar, Rajasthan ke Rajgharane ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 201. Varsha Joshi, ‘Zenani Deorhi, A Study of the Davaree System (with special reference to Mewar)’, M. Phil Dissertation submitted to University of Rajasthan for M. Phil Degree, 1987–8, p. 20. 149 While going through the ‘Adsattas’, I came across several examples of sale of girls. 150 Joshi, ‘Zenani Deorhi’, p. 20. 148

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


for her needs. This meant that the full staff required for running the household was given to the daughter. Duties of the personal davrees, who came with the Rani in dowry, were confined to the person with whom they had come. When Chander Kunwar Bai got married to Maharaja Jai Singh of Amber, in addition to other things mentioned earlier, she was given 616 women, inclusive of servant davrees, and so on.151 These davrees were supported throughout their life by the royal ladies with whom they were sent. They and their descendants were given maintenance allowance for their residence and food throughout their lives by their mistresses.152 Huge resources must have been required for this, and it is doubtful if all the maintenance was paid from their dowry alone. Females of the royal family observed ghoongat (veil) among themselves and also in front of the mother-in-law and other relatives. She could also not speak directly to her mother-in-law for many years after marriage. During this period, she spoke through the davrees. It was after several years that the mother-in-law permitted the daughter-in-law to talk to her directly. This was regarded as a mark of respect under the medieval etiquette and at the same time it avoided any rough dialogue between the two. It seems that the system of giving davrees in dowry must have been introduced because of certain social and political requirements of that time. This institution seems to be directly linked with three things—the martial activities of the aristocracy, polygamy, and the pardah (seclusion) system. One of the reasons why dowry became popular was to provide security for the bride in view of the widespread practice of polygamy among the elite Rajputs, whereby all wives were not given equal amount for maintenance. It was an established practice for the women in the ruling class to possess property in their name. There were a fairly substantial number of such women—usually Rajputs to whom their natal families and the families they married into granted lands for their upkeep. It was the standard accepted practice for these women to individually administer the lands and villages they held as personal

151 152

p. 45.

Das, Vir Vinod,vol. 1, p. 771. Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitudes in an Elite Society in Transition’,


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

jagirs and hath kharch ki jagir through carefully chosen administrative agents like kamdars, amils, and diwans. The concerned owner used revenue from these jagirs solely as she wished. However, it was another matter whether it ensured their security or not. Although there was a practice of granting maintenance allowance to all the women of an elite Rajput family, not all would be getting enough.The amount would vary according to the clan status of the woman, her situation in the in-law’s family, and the personal fancy of the ruler. Also, not all Rajputs would have had enough resources to offer large amounts of dowry and incur lavish expenditure. Also, the inability to pay dowry may have led to female infanticide, especially among the poorer section of the Rajputs, and this is reflected in the local proverb of Rajasthan which talks about how at the birth of a girl child the infant was put in a sealed pot and after her death the pot was taken to the jungle.153 It is difficult to determine the extent of infanticide among various castes, but its existence was certainly there among the Rajputs. We also come across an example of a girl child being abandoned after birth. Kehar, who was married to a Solanki was in her parents place when she had a baby, and this girl child was abandoned in a jungle on account of her being born at an inauspicious hour.154 It is very doubtful whether a similar consideration would have prevailed had a son been born to her. As far as the practice of the dowry among the other upper castes in concerned, we have information on the marriage practices of the Pushkar Brahmins among whom marriages were generally simple. Even if the girl’s father could not give anything, it did not make a difference. Also, they did not spend much on the barbers, Bhats, and so on, on whom other people had to. Even the poorest among them did not take reet from the boys’ side, but some people did it quietly and this was not considered proper.155 There in an instance recorded which indicates that a Brahmin boy paid something to the girls’ side at the time of engagement. Maha Singh Brahmin reported that he was engaged to the daughter of Uda 153

Kanhiyalal Sahal (ed.), Rajisthani Kahawaten (Jaipur: Rajasthani Sahitya Sanstha, 1995), p. 215. 154 MNK, vol. 3, p. 103. 155 Report Mardumshumari, Raj Marwar, Part III, AD 1815, p. 162.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


Brahmin of village Roopa Heri of Pragana Chatsu and had also given Rs 114 to his would be in-laws. But the uncle of the girl was creating a problem. Instructions were given to the officers to see that the marriage was performed otherwise the money would be returned.156 But it is difficult to think that this could have been the norm. Perhaps it was an exceptional case where the man may have been too old or may have had some other defect, so he may have resorted to buying a bride. Perhaps this is why the uncles were creating a problem. But it is difficult to say anything conclusive, as clear references of marriage practices among the Brahmins is missing. The prosperity of most of the Baniya caste throughout the medieval period has been testified to and hence they were in a position to pay large amounts in a dowry. In fact, even today a saying goes in Rajasthan Baniye ki betiya rupiyo ki petiya obviously implying that the daughters of Baniyas bring in a lot of dowry.157 The size of the dowry affected the marriageability of the daughter. That the Baniya’s daughters were highly sought after in marriage is reflected in a local saying that a Baniya’s daughter, even though not beautiful, may be more valuable than a goldsmith’s daughter who might be beautiful.158 We have already talked about the factors responsible for the historical development of stridhan or vardaksina into the large-scale dowry contracted during our period. Hypergamy, polygamy, and concentration of large resources in the hands of the ruling class during the Mughal period, ideas of status and prestige, the non-productivity of the women of upper classes, all factors were responsible for the institution of dowry, turning it into what it became during our period. In the pre-Mughal times, evidence suggests that dowry was not transacted on such a large scale and consisted mainly of clothes, jewellery, and cattle. In the initial years of state formation, when there was ongoing warfare, even a baraat could be attacked on its way to the marriage ceremony or while returning with the bride along with the dowry. This insecurity must have prevented parents from giving large dowries to their daughters. 156

Chithi from Permanand Khati, dt. asoj vadi 10,V.S. 1812/1755. Laxmi Lal Jori, Mewar ki Kahawaten (Ajmer: Krishan Lal Brothers, 1979), p. 137. 158 Sahal, Rajisthani Kahawaten, p. 215, ‘Sona ki beti sahgi sarup, baniya ki beti mahngi sarup’. 157


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Another question which is important while discussing dowry is the right enjoyed by the woman over the dowry which has been bestowed on her by the natal family. Elite women received their share of dowry in the form of jewels or ornaments of gold and silver.This was not only a hedge against financial calamities, but also something which women controlled exclusively, ultimately a power enhancing development for women. In that sense, the concept of dowry differed from what is prevalent today.159 During our period, we find that the property given to a Rajput woman by her parents at the time of her wedding, in the form of dowry was recognized as her personal property. But how far this exclusive right could be entertained in a joint family needs to be looked into in more detail. For the son-in-law, his parents, and other family members, separate gifts were given in the form of Dasturs (established customs) called Paharwani and Siropas (Siropa literally means from head to feet along with an item of jewellery practical for both men and women). Also, gifts were given by the maternal uncle of the bride to both bride and the groom known as Mahero.160 Giving of large amounts of dowry had assumed considerable importance among other castes as well. It was a safety net which gave status to a bride in the new village, cushioned her against discontinuity, against the paraya (belonging to someone else) concept by giving her something of her own, which she could pawn to tide over a family crisis. As such, the dahej that we encounter in the archival sources was evolved more for the benefit of the women. This safety net gradually turned into a noose. In fact, dahej was the only subject within the patriarchal society where a woman could do something for a woman, mother for daughter, collecting a basket of reciprocities, putting something caringly together for 10 years or so. What the sources bring out clearly is that only a minority consisting of the aristocracy and the rich Baniyas hankered 159 The classical notion and rationale of stridhan is no longer an adequate descriptive model of payments made for marriage bonds in contemporary Indian society, because nowadays dowry is referred to as a typically large transaction made by the bride’s household to that of her prospective bridegroom and his kin and dowry is demanded even after the marriage and perpetuates forever. 160 Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 76.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


for dowry. Among the other communities, there is hardly any talk of transactions. Among other castes, such as the Kayasthas and middle castes, that is, Jat, Gujar, Mali, Ahir, and so on, although we do not come across dowry transactions, yet if we take the meaning of dowry to include the expenses incurred on the marriage ceremony, we find that except for the menial castes the expense of marriage was borne by the girls’ parents. Among the Kayasthas, at the time of receiving the baraat, the girls’ father gave kurbana.161 But among the Kayasthyas associated with royalty, such as the Mutsadi Bhaiya family of Bikaner, the girls were given the same amount of dowry as among the royalty.162 We have already mentioned earlier that among middle-caste peasants, the proposal for engagement was sent by the boys’ side and this perhaps had something to do with the economic productivity of the women concerned. There is a close correlation between the division of labour according to sex and the nature of marriage. Dowry is found mostly in societies where women make minimal contribution to the family income, whereas we find an absence of dowry among those castes/ classes where women’s productive labour is valued. But of course the economic contribution of women could not be the only consideration for the lack or prevalence of dowry and this is a much more complex social phenomenon. We see that in our period, although the Jat women worked in the field and participated in the production process, yet the marriage expenses was borne by the parents of the bride.163 This was viewed as a dharma vivah and a superior form of marriage. So, despite the fact that the women were contributing in the production process, the psychological and cultural bearing of certain customs was so strong that although the boys’ side took the initiative, the ultimate burden of the marriage expenses was borne by the girls’ side. The custom of the girl’s parents bearing the expenses of marriage became so prevalent that artisan castes such as the carpenters, thathera 161 Information on all the different practices is available in the report Mardumshumari Raj Marwar, 1811, Part III, Jodhpur,V.S. 1815/1758. 162 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 25. 163 Vikram Singh Rathore, ‘Madhyakalin Marwar ka Sanskritic Adhyan (1600–1800)’, PhD thesis submitted to the Department of History, Jodhpur University, p. 588.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

(utensil maker), and bhar bhuja (gram roaster) spent money on the marriage of their daughters,164 so much so that we find its practice even among the tribals. We can see that among the Sansi, the system of dowry prevailed whereby half the amount was paid during engagement and the other half during marriage. It was paid more in kind, in terms of donkeys and dogs in consonance with their economic activity.165 Among the Bhils, the expenses of marriage was divided by both the parties, one-fourth being shared by the family of the groom and three forth by the family of the bride, the brides’ side picking up the major share of the expenses involved.166 Dowry system in fact also seems to have been prevalent among the Meenas.167 This is an indication of the interaction between the caste society and tribal society. Tribal society was never completely isolated and we find ‘Hindu’ rituals and customs being observed by them. As far as the peasants are concerned, there is no conclusive evidence of prevalence of dowry among them. In fact, whatever example we have of peasants complaining about not being able to get their daughters married was not because of their inability to pay dowry, but because of the excessive cess levied by the Bhomias. Whereas in early modern France and England, the need to save for dowry resulted in late marriages among artisans and peasants. Dowry, therefore, was not only affected by the political and economic development, but in turn it also affected the broader social and demographic patterns.168 Another aspect of the dowry system, which needs to be looked into is the tension it may have generated within the family, where the father may not have been willing to part with large amount as it would become paraya. The local proverb of Rajasthan highlights this tension. The daughter demands an explanation from her father as to why so little was given to her when he was so wealthy, to which her father replied that however much he may have, only a prudent amount can be given to a daughter.169 Another example of the daughter resenting 164

Report Mardumshumari, Raj Marwar Part III, AD 1815. Rathore, Marwar ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 594. 166 Rathore, Marwar ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 595. 167 Rathore, Marwar ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 595. 168 Marrion A. Kaplan (ed.), The Marriage Bargain: Women and Dowries in European History (New York: The Howarth Press, 1985), p. 6. 169 Sahal, Rajisthani Kahawaten, p. 153. 165

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


the fact that she is not being given an appropriate dowry is reflected in another proverb in which a daughter tells her mother that she will not weep on her death as she has not received sufficient dowry. This proverb may have arisen at a time when the practice of dowry may have become more widely prevalent, and in a way it was a reminder to the girl’s parents to give sufficient dowry to their daughter.170 That tension generated over dowry can be seen by an example quoted by Nainsi where the brother and the husband of a woman fought over a horse. The woman was confident that she could ask her brother for the horse as a part of her dowry. But the brother refused and she was so upset about the fact that neither her brother nor her husband paid any heed to her that she went and married someone else.171 What this reflects is that the woman did feel that it was well within her rights to ask for something as a part of her dowry. Although in this case it was not honoured, but we find another case in which the daughter got what she had asked for. When the Bhatti princess got married to Maldev, she asked for Rajguru Raghav as a part of a dowry and her family complied.172 Thus, the study of dowry raises important issues of family history, taking us to the realm of affection between the family members. A sketch of the history of dowry reveals the effect it had on social relations, the balance of the power between wife and husband, parents and children, and among extended kin. Finally, the marriage endowment reflects the position of the women, their status, wealth, and autonomy as daughters, wives, and mothers. What was the status of the daughter whose birth filled the father’s heart with fear because of the large dowry that the marriage would require and whether the wives with generous endowments wielded more power in their marital homes? We have seen how property and power relations in a marriage passed through a number of stages.We cannot take static view of them. Dowries detail the broader economic and social structure within which young women married, and the size of dowry varied according to vacillations in the economy. Also, how political conditions (political 170 171 172

Kanodia and Aggarwal, Rajasthan Kahawat Kosh, p. 123. MNK, vol. 3, p. 283. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 81.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

stability, warfare, consolidation of political elite) caused fluctuations in the size and importance of the dowry become evident. Therefore, dowry should not be idealized as one type of practice with predictable set of affects. HYPERGAMY, POLYGAMY, AND CONCUBINAGE We find the institution of marriage going through different stages of development along with historical evolution. At certain stages of historical development, certain aspects of marriage developed more importance than others. In the agricultural stage of social evolution, marriage was an extreme necessity in every group of individuals for economic and social stability. Society then was in need of manpower. The importance of male children had grown to such an extent that all male children, including the illegitimate ones, were accepted by the society. In Rig Veda, there is mention of the procurement of immortality through a son.173 The desire for male progeny is equally true of medieval Rajasthan. Among the Rajput aristocracy, this preference was due to a different set of factors. We have seen how the rulers, chieftains, and vassals were constantly busy in warfare, either in defence or in expansion of their territories, and there were occasions when three generations were killed in a single war. Therefore, for the elite Rajputs the institution of marriage was necessary to produce warriors for future battles. As a result of this, women’s reproductive role in medieval Rajasthan society—especially among the Rajputs—was extremely important. Also, when other considerations of marriage were completely subordinated to political motives, it did not really matter that the groom already had other wives. Polygamous marriages of most Rajput rulers and chiefs was one way of maintaining political network of sagas which could always be called upon in an emergency. Among the aristocracy we find the practice of polygamy right from the ancient to the medieval period, although it may have existed in different periods for different reasons. Although the Vedic ideal of marriage favoured monogamy, in spite of this ideal we find the royal personages having more than one wife. In the post-Vedic era, polygamy 173 M.R. Sharma, Marriage in Ancient India (Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1993), p. 6.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


was an exceptional practice, even though theoretically approved. The Dharamshastras were also in favour of monogamy and allowed a second wife only in such circumstances as a wife not being able to bear a child. Also, in the medieval period it was not just motherhood, but being the mother of a male child was valued more. A preference born out of circumstances became a prominent attitude which even persists today. The preference for a male child is starkly brought out in the Rajwadi Geet when the woman wakes up her husband to tell him about her labour pains and the husband makes it clear that she must not have a girl child or else her bed will be placed near the garbage and he would not bestow any appreciation on her, but if she has a male child he will take special care of her and shower praise on her.174 The Pavarhe reveals several facets of polygamy. When Jhawar was expelling his pregnant wife and she pleaded that she be allowed to stay as his dasi (maid servant), he claimed that he already had several Ranis. Before marrying Jaimati, the Rana already had eight wives. The wife of Sawai Bhoj, Sadhu, pleads with him to not abduct Jaimati and gives him the incentive that she would get him married elsewhere. In Nihalde Sultan, it is mentioned that Phool Kumar had 17 Ranis and Galaleng had three wives. The Partihara ruler Mahendra Pal (AD 892–910) had two wives, but by the time of Prithiviraj III (AD 1177–1192), we find him having several wives.175 It is said that Rawal Bapa married 140 women altogether.176 This may have been an exaggeration but portrays a picture of unlimited number of wives that elite Rajputs could possess. Genealogies of the period reveal how the custom functioned as an index of a rulers’ status.Thus, the seventeenth-century Sisod Vansavali exalts the status of Bapa Raval, now appropriated as the founder of the Sisodia lineage, by narrating how the rulers of Kanauj, Ujjain, Gujarat, Marwar, Sambhar, and Delhi were defeated by Bapa in battle, accepted his overlordship (page laga), and wedded their daughters to him.177 Chuda who was the ruler of Mandovar and had also 174

Jaswant Singh (ed.), Rajasthan ke Rajwadi Geet, Part II (Jaipur: Sandhi Prakashan,1990), pp. 297–8. 175 Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergatmak Pavarhe. All the above mentioned examples are present on p. 236. 176 MNK,vol. 1, p. 7. 177 Srinivasan, ‘Alauddin Khalji Remembered’, p. 285.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

occupied other territories, had 10 Ranis and 14 sons.178 Rao Maldeo is mentioned as having 16 Ranis.179 Raja Udai Singh of Marwar had 27 wives and had numerous progeny, no less than 52 sons and daughters. Despite having 27 wives, it did not stop him from coveting the daughter of a Brahmin, which resulted in the Brahmin killing his daughter in order to save himself from being defiled.180 Hence, we see a vast variation in the rules prescribed in the ‘Hindu’ Law books, regarding second marriage and what was actually in practice among the elite Rajputs. Whereas in the former a second marriage was forbidden, if the first wife was endowed with progeny and completed the performance of sacrifices, but it was completely ignored by the Rajput aristocracy. Rawal Jagmal of Mehwa, had a Chauhan wife with three sons from her, therefore theoretically the very purpose of marriage was complete, namely, the continuation of the line by the male successor. Yet, Jagmal married a Gehlot princess. This annoyed the Chauhan wife and as a mark of protest she went to Baharmer, her father’s place, with her three sons never to return despite attempts to cajole her back.181 But this kind of protest by a wife against the husband’s polygamous marriage was more of an exception rather than a rule given the kind of social set up and the notions involved in forming alliances, most wives not only accepted the existence of co-wives, but also the existence of several concubines. Although we do have another example of Umade Bhatiani (daughter of Rawal Loonkaran of Jaisalmer) refusing to go to her husband’s house because she could not tolerate the fact that he was besotted by her maid, Bharmali.182 It is clear that in this political order, marriage was an institution integral to the maintenance and consolidation of state power. The polygamous family was the means by which military and political alliances were forged within an internally competitive ruling elite. Marriage relations were part of a system of gaining land, influence, power, honour, status, and alliances. Thus, it is to be expected that the evolving 178 179 180 181 182

MNK, vol. 2, p. 309. MNK, vol. 2, pp. 227–8. Also MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 12. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 27. MNK, vol. 3, p. 3. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 75.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


patterns of such matrimonial alliances reflected the changing status of the Rajput clans within the medieval political hierarchy. When the Rathores of Marwar rose to prominence in the mid-fifteenth century, marriage alliances with them were keenly sought after. Similarly, with the entry of clans like the Shekhawat and Baghela into the mansabdari system of the Mughals, their increased prestige was reflected in the matrimonial arena as well.183 The existence of the practice of polygamy was also linked to the notion of honour among the Rajputs. It was considered a dishonour for the girls’ side to refuse the coconut of proposal. When a coconut was sent, it was to be accepted gracefully. We have already seen how, when the Maharaja of Jaipur, Madho Singh, refused the coconut sent by Maharaja of Boondi, Ummed Singh, it led to heightened tension between the two families. Earlier, we have already given an example of how when the proposal for marriage was rejected on the grounds of her appearance, the lady felt so humiliated that she later instigated her son to avenge the insult.184 Therefore, numerous marriages were also an offshoot of the notion of honour and political consideration, especially if the proposal came from a more powerful ruler and perhaps some of the marriages were not even consummated. Also, outright rejection of a proposal from the girls’ side could create problems for the ruling aristocracy, which is illustrated by another example. Rawal Lakhansen ruled over Jaisalmer. Rawal of Jalore sent him a coconut for his daughter Songiri. Lakhansen could not return the coconut, as Jalore was a powerful state. He disclosed his predicament to his favourite wife Sodhi, who belonged to Umarkot and had a stronghold over him. Sodhi advised him to accept the proposal but extracted a promise from him. Firstly, when the marriage function was being performed he should tell them that it is not as good as the one performed by Sodhi’s family. Secondly, when he enters the fort he should tell them that the city was not as good as Umarkot. Thirdly, when he receives Songiri’s hand he should say that the hand is not like Sodhi’s. Finally, when the wedding gets over, at the time of departure, finding some faults with 183

Varsha Joshi, Polygamy and Purdah: Women and Society among Rajputs (Jaipur: Rawat Publication, 1995), p. 53. 184 MNK, vol. 3, pp. 105–6.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Songiri, he should leave her behind. Lakhansen did as he was told by Sodhi and abandoned Songiri.185 Outright rejection would have invited immediate retribution, but after Lakhansen abandoned Songiri she was furious, and in retaliation went away with Kumwar Nimbha Simhalot. Lakhansen did not take any action although she was his wedded wife and we have seen Rajputs taking umbrage at broken engagements.This must have stemmed from the fact that Lakhansen could not take on the might of Jalore; another reason might also be the realization of his own dishonourable behaviour. It is also surprising that Jalore being a powerful state, its ruler, Kanaharde, did not take any punitive action against Lakhansen. Later Kanaharde formalized a marriage between Simhalot and Songiri.186 But what becomes evident is the dilemma faced by the Rajput aristocracy in refusing a proposal, despite being previously married, and of course it also reflects the insecurity of the wives at the thought of having a co-wife and using all means to safeguard their own position. Sodhi must have realized that if Lakhansen marries a woman from a powerful state, he would not be able to ignore her and that would be a threat to her position. It is surprising that in a polygamous setup, Sodhi was able to exercise this kind of authority. This in itself indicates that marital reality did not always follow a set pattern. The interplay of human emotions added a complex dimension to it. Also, as the Rajputs were a fighting confederacies, as warriors they accepted daughters from the conquered clan but would not give them theirs in return. In this structure, the givers of girl were considered to be inferior in status to the receiver of girls. The marriage rituals of the Rajputs, very clearly bring out this disparity in the status of the two sides. This is in sharp contrast to Europe where social superiority in the wife was a rule of aristocratic marriage. This disparity exacerbated men’s fear of women provoking the notion of defilement on to their wives as a way of exercising the danger the women embodied.187 This also indicates that women in Europe would not have been meek and submissive. Another factor responsible for the custom of polygamy was the practice of hypergamy among, not only the Rajputs, but all twice-born 185 186 187

MNK, vol. 1, p. 40. MNK, vol. 2, p. 41. Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest, p. 144.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


castes in Rajasthan. Of course, marrying up also involved giving a lot of dowry. Therefore, one system was deeply enmeshed within the other. The practice of hypergamy adversely affected the position of these women. When a number of offers would be made to the same person, he would naturally insist on his own terms and conditions. Also, when there is haste in securing a boy for one’s daughter from a higher group, it would inevitably result in marriage at an early age. There may have been various other implications of hypergamy that needs to be looked into. Hypergamy must have led to the inequality of females in this segment of the society—where females of lower group would have been drained away to higher groups for marriage. The lower groups consequently would have been faced with a paucity of girls unless the numbers were higher in that social group. What choice would have been left with the lower groups? The anomalies of the situation would have led to social tensions. Another problem at times was the inability of higher groups to find somebody of higher or equal status. If it was so important, for honour and status, to not give girls to families of lower status, then it could have led to spinsterhood or female infanticide. Perhaps the notion of honour and dignity of medieval times in Rajasthan made killing of a girl child more acceptable than giving her away in marriage to somebody of lower status. Since the number of families considered equal or higher in status was limited, the Rajputs did not hesitate to give their daughters away in polygamous marriages, and we also have an example of the father giving away three of his daughters in marriage to the same man.188 Even in Gujarat, an important, in fact crucial determinant of status distinction among Rajputs were the hypergamous marriage preferences. Their lineages were arranged in a hierarchy. The top stratum, that is, Jadeja lineage, only received brides but did not give its own to anybody, instead, they killed many of them. All other Rajput lineage both gave and received brides.189


MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 73. Kunwar Badho Sujawat had seven sons and seven daughters. Three of his daughters were married to Rana Sanga. 189 L.S. Vishwanath, Female Infanticide and Social Structure (New Delhi: Hindustan Publishing Corporation, 2000), p. 27.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Both rich and poor Rajputs, who claimed high ritual and social status, killed their girl child in large numbers to stave off a potential decline in status because of their inability to find a groom of higher rank for them. These choices were linked to structural contradictions in Rajput marriage strategies, which contributed to the decline in the status of many families seeking to strengthen the honour, power, and position of the patrilineage.190 We have already seen that a number of factors were responsible for this practice of polygamy and it was not just the outcome of the pleasure-seeking nature of the Rajputs but seems to have been an upshot of the imperatives of that period. Out of the three main purposes of marriage listed in the Dharmashastra (dharmasampati, praja, and rati), it seems that marriage for progeny became most important for the Rajputs. A ruler who had more male progeny not only increased his fighting strength, but also helped in the process of state formation specially in the pre-Mughal times when the territories of states were not fixed and it increased and decreased according to the strength of the rulers. For example, Chuda’s 14 sons from 10 marriages became rulers of different territories.191 According to Tod, Raja Udai Singh of Marwar, who had no less than 52 legitimate sons and daughters added ‘new clans and new estates to the federal association of Maroo’.192 After the Rajputs had accepted the paramountcy of the Mughals, their territories became defined. Therefore, a need for progeny would not have been so great, but once a practice has arisen it acquires customary sanction and becomes a matter of status. The Zanani Deorhi records adequately substantiate that during the Mughal period the harems of the Rajputs had become much like the Mughals. Mansingh is supposed to have had 13 Ranis.193 It was only after 1818 when the Rajputs entered into a treaty with the British that a decrease in the number of wives is observed. In the case of Mewar where earlier rulers had 25 wives each, after 1818 none had more than four, and in fact 190

Malvika Kasturi, Embattled Identities: Rajput Lineages and The Colonial State in Nineteenth Century North India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 15. 191 MNK, vol. 2, p. 210. 192 Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 27. 193 Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 874.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


Maharana Fateh Singh had only one wife.194 Whether this was due to the British influence only or were there other factors needs to be examined. Therefore, the women’s reproductive role in medieval Rajasthani society, especially among the Rajputs, determined her status and the failure to bear a child could be devastating. In fact, even today, infertility is not perceived by society as any other ailment but is a social taboo. In a patriarchal set up, women are singled out for being the cause of infertility and bearing the brunt of criticism for being barren. What could have happened to such women during the medieval times in Rajasthan? We have an interesting example of the sister of Jai Singh who was married to Budh Singh, the Rao of Boondi, but had borne her husband no children.This was a matter of bitter grief to her and all the more as her co-wife, daughter of the Mewar chief, was the mother of two sons. When the ‘Rao’ was away, warring with the state of Kota, the Kachwaha Rani feigned pregnancy. On Budh Singh’s return she presented him with a male child whom she declared she had just given birth.The Rao was certain that the boy was neither his nor hers.When Jai Singh came to visit them, the perplexed husband complained to him in his Rani’s presence. Displeased with this, Jai Singh started asking his sister searching questions. But his sister was not to be intimidated and in turn would have probably stabbed him if Jai Singh had not fled from the room.195 It was through means such as this that women served the paramount ends of males to maintain the patrilineage by bearing male children for them. Lineage was created in and through marriage. We can see how motherhood (especially of male child) was regarded, at all social levels, as having great prestige and a female was made aware of this at an early age. The practice of polygamy must have led to various other psychological problems among women. It was not possible for the ruler husband to pay equal attention to all his queens, and this becomes obvious from the fact that all wives did not receive equal maintenance. This is evident in the letters that were written by the Ranis to the

194 195

p. 247.

Joshi, ‘Marriage Policy of the Rajput Rulers’, p. 18. Festing,‘The Story of Jai Singh of the One Hundred and Nine Virtues’,


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

rulers, where they complained about receiving very little money for maintenance.196 Although one cannot rule out that the letters may have been written out of a sense of jealousy between co-wives, the discrimination between different wives was a reality whereby the wife who was favoured by the husband was known as suhagan and the others were known as duhagan.197 It is also mentioned that the duhagan wife and her sons were ignored and they had no economic security.198 Madan and Sihe’s daughter both were married to Udai Singh. Madan’s daughter was suhagan and Sihe’s daughter was duhagan.199 Although the married women of Rajput royal and noble family did not face a problem of sustenance, all wives obviously could not enjoy equal rights and status in a polygamous set up. A wife receiving the title of Patrani from the ruler or a nobleman was given comparatively more facilities and privileges than the other wives, and held a position of importance and respect. It was she who used to accompany the king in all the religious and political activities.200 A major ceremony used to take place to bestow the title of Patrani. After conferring this title, the king would give her additional pattas, which brought her a handsome income. In 1622, Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur had conferred this title on the Sisodia queen, Pratapde, and she was entitled to an annual income of Rs 75, 000 from the patta of several villages. But these privileges were not permanent and the position of the Patranis was not secure, as the aforesaid privileges and facilities could be forfeited from the Patrani during the lifetime of the same Raja or nobleman.201 Rani Saubhagde was given Rani Pade (position of supreme queen) in V.S. 1752 by Maharaj Suraj Singh of Jodhpur.202 The details of the financial gains of Rani Hadi, when she 196

Zenani Tahrir, Jaipur Records,V.S. 1700–1812, B. No.1. Letter written to Maharaja Bishan Singh by Queen Devadi. 197 MNK, vol. 3, p. 124. 198 MNK, vol. 2, p. 277. 199 MNK, vol. 3, p. 124. 200 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, pp. 79–80. 201 Shashi Arora, ‘Status of Women in Rajasthan’, in Some Aspects of Socio Economic History of Rajasthan, ed. G.S.L. Devda (Jodhpur: Hindi Sahitya Mandir, 1979), p. 63. 202 Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 96.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


was given Rani Pade, is also mentioned in the ‘Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi’,203 and these gains were quite substantial. The Patrani could be either the favourite Rani of the ruler or it was also customarily decided according to status. Thus, if a king married the princess of Udaipur, she would be Patrani, otherwise the princess of Jaipur. Next in line were Hadi of Bundi, Bhati of Jaisalmer, Sirohi or Jadechi of Bhujnagar in descending order.204 In case a ruler had not married into any of these families of status then the lady whom he had married first would be Patrani.205 In the ruling house of Jodhpur, Patrani was addressed as Raniji and other queens were called Bahuji. This kind of distinction in rank and favouritism towards one wife may have made other wives feel unimportant. Some may have accepted this as a part of social norm but as also shown, some did protest against the system either in an outright manner or in a subtler way. But it is extremely doubtful that all of them earnestly felt devoted to their husband. In fact, some of the Rajput queens did not even get the chance to come in contact with their husband hence feeling of any sort of affection was a remote possibility. Polygamous marriages certainly depressed the condition of women. In a day and age when the public and domestic domain of activities of men and women was clearly defined, women would not have been able to wield complete authority over the domestic domain. Although this hierarchical status of the various queens and their sons was customarily drawn up in the Rajput polygamous set up, it could lead to situations creating tremendous heartburn and stress for the ruler. An example can be seen when Chandra Kunwar, the daughter of Maharana Amar Singh of Udaipur, was married to Jaisingh in 1708, an agreement was made that her son would become the successor. When she did have a son, who was called Madho Singh, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh instead of being happy became worried as he already had two sons, and the birth of Madho Singh would cut into their rights and those two were also ready to put up a fight. But if he did not honour the agreement, it would to lead to war with Udaipur in which Jodhpur, Bundi, Kota, Bikaner all would help Udaipur. So the birth of a son, which was always considered to be a source of joy for 203 204 205

Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 101. Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 95. Rathore, Jodhpur Rajya ki Dastur Bahi, p. 96.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the Rajputs, became a cause of worry for Jai Singh to the extent that he lost his appetite. A way out was to kill the newly born baby, but Chandra Kunwar got to know about it, therefore he could not succeed in the attempt and had to make two trips to Udaipur to convince the Maharana that Madho Singh could be given the jagir of Rampur. Finally, Maharana brought Chandra Kunwer bai and Madho Singh to Udaipur who stayed there till the death of Ishwar Singh. Then they went back to Jaipur and Madho Singh sat on the throne of Jaipur.206 The polygamous situation could not only unsettle the rulers and lead to intrigues, but polygamy also led to a lot of intrigue in the Zenana too. An offshoot of the system of polygamy was prevalence of mutual jealousies among the co-wives.The favourite Ranis used their influence to undermine the position of others.The two wives of Jaswant Rathore Jalhanot of Jalore, Devadi and Songiri, did not get along. Devadi filled the king’s ears against the latter alleging that she had an illicit relationship with another man; consequently Songiri was abandoned.207 The jealousies and rivalries of co-wives is also brought out in the Rajwadi Geet where the woman is expressing how her co-wife fights with the husband if he gets jewellery made for her. In fact, not only does the co-wife quarrel, but the mother-in-law and aunt-in-law also seek his attention. Out of fear of domestic disharmony, the lady states that her co-wife can keep the husband but must not quarrel with her.208 We can see more examples of one wife trying to instigate her husband against another. Sonabai, the sister of Pabuji was the co-wife of the Bagheli princess and married to Rao Devra of Sirohi. During an argument between them, Bagheli taunted her about her brother. Circumstances got out of hand and the Rao lashed Sona with a whip. She complained to Pabuji about being whipped by her husband at the instigation of her co-wife.209 Pabuji then raided the land of the Bagheli Rani’s parents, killed her father, and the wealth that he plundered from 206

Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, pp. 973–4. B.L. Bhadani, ‘Madhya Kaleen Bharat mein Nari ka Girta Hua Roop’, Rajasthan Bharati, Part 14, vol. 1(December 1971), pp. 31–2. 208 Singh, Rajasthan ke Rajwadi Geet, p. 27. 209 MNK, vol. 3, p. 63. Also mentioned in Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergatmak Pavarhe, pp. 49–50. This example has already been quoted in the context of dowry on p. 150. 207

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


there was brought as dahej for his sister. Then he also attacked Sirohi and imprisoned Devra who was released on Sona’a request. The relationship between her husband and brother improved.210 Henceforth, Devra started respecting Pabuji for his bravery. In all likelihood, he must have started treating Sonabai well as these relationships were also shaped in accordance with the power positions. It seems that the favour and disfavour of the wife depended not only on the family status and the dowry she brought in at the time of marriage, but also on her personal charm. When Sodha Rana was leaving his first wife to go to the second one she stopped him, wanting to know what was so special about his second wife. The Rana praised the second wife claiming that she was more beautiful.211 Earlier I have quoted an instance where rivalry between co-wives led to hostility in their natal family, but sometime the relation between the co-wives become strained due to political rivalry in their parental family. Maharaja Udai Singh Devda was married to Madan’s daughter and also to his enemy Seeha Seendhal’s daughter. Mandan’s daughter was a suhagan while Seeha’s daughter was a duhagan. Madan Singh used his daughter’s favours to persuade Udai Singh to not to assist Seeha in the war that was on between them. Further, when Seeha was killed in Udai Singh’s land, the Maharaja was furious. But again the suhagan wife used her charms to prevent her husband from taking action against her father.212 Sometimes these rivalries were avenged in very amusing ways.There was disharmony between the two wives of Kunwar Singh Sankhla. One of the wives reported the matter to her parents and the parents got him married to a blind girl. The idea was to make a laughing stalk of him even if it meant another co-wife for their daughter.213 The Pavarhe reflect some of the unpleasant aspects of the relationship between the co-wives. Maru’s co-wife was always taunting her. When Sonalde lost her necklace she was fearful of the taunts of her co-wives.214 The Rajwadi Lokgeet also reflects the kind of rivalry that 210 211 212 213 214

MNK, vol. 3,p. 63. Jaswant Singh, Rajasthan ke Rajwadi Geet, pp. 78–9. MNK, vol. 3, pp. 124–45. MNK, vol. I, p. 331. Kasturiya, Rajasthani Veergatmak Pavarhe, p. 247.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

could exist between co-wives. There is a song reflecting an argument between the two wives where the younger one who addresses the elder as ‘Jeejibai’, says that she must not think that she possesses the husband, because he does things for both of them and the younger one had loaned the husband to the elder one.215 In the songs, most of the time these aspects of rivalry were given a humorous touch in order to remove the sting from it. One of the evils of polygamy was that each wife desired her offspring to wear the crown. This love of power made them resort to all kinds of cunning. Shortly after the death of Sanga, the mother of his second son intrigued with Babur and bribed him with the surrender of Ranthambhor so that her son could become the heir.216 When Rana Jai Singh concluded a treaty with Auragzeb in 1681 and Umra Singh became the successor, there was dissension between two of his queens—one the mother to the heir, other the favourite of the sovereign, which at this juncture was of greater detriment than the loss of a battle.217 As a result of the rivalry among the co-wives whereby each wanted her child to become king, several times the throne did not go to the eldest son, but to the son of the favourite queen of the Raja. This led to dangerous results and affected the history of these regions for a long time. This has been described by Nainsi in a very significant way.218 As we can see in the case of Chuda whose claim was set aside for the sake of the son of the ruler’s favourite Rani.219 Also, when one Rani had a male child, the other Ranis tried to get him killed by their davrees. The scheming and manipulation involved in trying to make their son the successor can also be seen in the following example.The wife of Maharana Raj Singh wanted her son Sunder Singh to become Yuvraj. She turned Maharana against the elder son, Sultan Singh, and the Raja had him killed. Then she schemed with her Purohit to also have the Maharaja killed. But the Maharaja got to know of it and had her and 215 216 217 218 219

Chudawat, Rajwade Lokgeet, p. 18. Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 246. Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 301. MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 7. MRPRV, vol. 1, p. 13.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


the Purohit killed.220 What were the extra benefits that the Rani got as the mother of the Raja, that she should have her own husband killed? But on the other hand, we also find a Rani to be claiming the right of her co-wife’s son. Umade Bhatiani and Rani Lachalde Kachwani were co-wives of Rao Maldev. Rani Bhatiani did not join her husband but kept her co-wife’s son Rao Ram with her.When Rao Maldev died and she was becoming sati, she wanted Rao Ram to perform the last rites and then go to Jodhpur and claim the right to the throne. But he left without performing the last rites and was therefore denied the right to the throne.221 We have already witnessed how polygamy led to a lot of intrigues in the Zenana.The davrees played a significant role in this.The inmates of the Zanani Deorhi had very little contact with the outside world and had to depend on their maid to be a mediator between them and an outsider.222 They would try to attract rulers to their Ranis by singing songs of their beauty and charm. One Rani would try and prevent the husband from seeing another new Rani. Even at the time of marriage, the bride as well as her family were well aware that she would have to live in competition with her co-wives and during marriage, the women of the bride’s family would perform certain rituals which they believed would make the husband more devoted to this particular wife. The Rajwadi Geet of Rajasthan record several songs related to the women doing kaman (casting a spell) in order to ensure that the groom would remain under the bride’s influence.223 Another aspect of the system of polygamy also raises question of the sexual–psychological problems, which the queens may have faced. How did the wives deal with the fact that they may be coming in contact with their husbands rarely, or not at all? Did the women stick to the ideal of Sita or Savitri to remain chaste in thought and deed or did it lead to certain aberrations in behaviour reflecting on the marital morality of that period. There is not much direct evidence to how aristocratic women viewed their lot. Although subject to the authority of father and husband, one cannot see them only as victims. 220 221 222 223

Das, Vir Vinod,vol. 1, p. 445. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 75. Joshi, ‘Zanani Deorhi’, p. 27. Jaswant Singh, Rajasthan ke Rajwadi Geet, pp. 67, 69, 85.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

What options did they have in the given circumstances and how they exercised it, has to some extent been explored in Chapter V, ‘Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan’. Besides the Rajputs, one does get information of the Jain traders and officials having several wives.224 The prosperity of the Jain community throughout this age has already been testified. Together with this, their proximity to the ruling class (as they were appointed as state officials) may have led them to imitate the practices of the ruling class. A Jain inscription of V.S. 1648 /1591 talks about four wives of Tarachand of Saddri becoming sati,225 indicating the prevalence of both polygamy and sati among them. But among the non-elite (Brahmins, traders, and member of the working class), polygamy was not generally practiced. Nainsi, however, has given us an example of polygamy in a mason’s family. He informs us about Sidhrao of Abu who invited some masons for construction work. The work was so complicated that no one was willing to undertake that job. Finally, we are told that it was the fourth wife of a mason, a very accomplished lady, who was able to tell the mason how to do the job as per the specification of the Raja,226 perhaps also indicating that women of common families enjoyed more authority in family matters than the women of ruling aristocracy. Among the lower castes, there are examples of taking a second wife but this was not very acceptable and often criticized. Normally, in this case, the reason was an inability to have a child after marriage, and this was not only considered a social necessity in those days, but the same attitude persists to this day and age. Such cases were regulated by the village community and the caste panchayat, whereas among the aristocracy, it was the custom and tradition that shaped such practices. The caste panchayat asked both sides to wait for at least five years before deciding to go for a second marriage. Also, in case of the second marriage, the panch took full interest in the maintenance of the first wife. In AD 1800 in Dhirdesar Village of Bikaner where Chaudhary Narsinghvana married a second time, the first wife complained that 224

Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 6. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 128, and the source cited is Jain inscription, Part I, No. 719 V.S. 1648/1591. 226 MNK, vol. 1, p. 261, the mason got his son married four times and the fourth wife is mentioned as lady with 32 qualities. 225

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


she was not being taken care of. The panch and the court pressurized him to take care of his wife’s needs and if he did not do so he would be fined gunahgari.227 In case the second wife was socially accepted, then the separated wife was given maintenance by her husband, almost sounding like divorce laws of today although there was no legal or social concept of divorce during the medieval period. In the village Taliyasen in Bikaner in 1796, the court decided that Chaudhary Parmod would give food and clothing and monthly money to his first wife.228 Similarly, the court instructed Kushal Jat to pay a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his first wife.229 The first wife was also free to either accept the arrangement made by the husband or go to her parents, or marry some other man. But if she went to her parent’s home she would not get financial support from her husband, but if the parents died the husband would again have to accept the responsibility.230 So we can see that while polygamy was freely practiced among ruling aristocracy, it was a rare occurrence among the other castes. Also, whereas among Rajput aristocracy women were expected to live in harmony with their co-wives, among other caste is seems women did not readily accept this and the caste panchayat protected their right to claim maintenance. Another interesting aspect that emerges from the above-quoted examples is that women actually made complaints of such marriages indicating that not only were they aware of their rights, but also that it must have been socially acceptable to fight for it.Therefore, during the medieval period in Rajasthan, customs seem to have protected these women in the most crucial aspect of her life, her marriage, which is more than what can be said for today.This awareness of their rights has been further illustrated in the next chapter. Not only polygamy, but also a variety of concubinage existed openly among the Rajput aristocracy. In fact, the Rajput ruling family in medieval Rajasthan was an extended household with the paswan, 227

Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Sthiti, p. 58. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Sthiti, p. 58. 229 Jodhpur Sanad Parwana Bahi, Posh Sudh-15 V.S. 1828/1771. 230 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 59. In 1796, in village Sohi in Bikaner, Chaudhary Asha Chouhani’s wife lost this right when she went to her parents but after they died the responsibility was given back to her husband. 228


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

khawaas, pardayat, and so on, forming an integral part of it. These women were kept without marriage if they had either impressed the ruler with their beauty or any special quality. Even among them, there was a hierarchy. The pardayat was the topmost in the hierarchy and was kept under pardah. The second category was the paswan followed by khawas. After they entered the palace, their income and food was assigned like those of the queen. Sometimes, like the queens, they were given villages and they could do anything from its income. But as far as their children were concerned, although socially accepted, they had no rights in the property of the ruling family and were married off to the children of the same status with almost equal pomp and show as that of the princes.231 Illegitimacy was a normal part of the structure of society of the aristocracy not only in medieval Rajasthan, but also in medieval Europe, so normal that illegitimate children—especially males—were neither concealed nor rejected. They were just as noble as the other offsprings, and they enjoyed certain prerogatives. They had the right to bed and board in their father’s house. Concubinage flourished in medieval Europe, although at a lower level than that of a lawful marriage. The rites and rituals accompanying the lawful marriage were arranged much in advance and were much more lavish and public. The future wife first had to be ceremonially bestowed and then conducted to the marriage bed nuptials.232 In medieval Rajasthan, there seems to have been different categories of concubines. The pardayat was given chuda (bangles) by the Rani almost accepting her as a co-wife. Also, the Rajputs could keep woman of any caste as pardayat but not a Charan, Brahmin, or a Rajput woman. When Raja Karn took away the daughter of Nagar Brahmin Madhav, and kept her in his house, Madhav appealed to Alauddin Khalji, who attacked Gujarat and annexed it.233 Gulab Rai, the paswan of Maharaja Vijay Singh of Jodhpur was a Jat. A khawas, Omaji, of Maharaja Lal Singh, father of Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner was daughter of


Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, pp. 77–8. Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest, pp. 262–3. 233 MNK, vol. 3, p. 53. Though this example pertains to Gujarat, there was a lot of similarity in the customs and practices of the neighbouring states. 232

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


Ghawanda Chakar. She was originally one of the maids in the Bikaner palace.234 The ritual acceptance of the pardayat would not preclude any mutual jealousies.The fact that there was so much bickering among the co-wives, it is doubtful whether wives would have actually accepted them as a co-sharer in the king’s affections, but they probably felt less threatened by them as it was clear that the sons from khawas and paswan could never become rulers. But at times, women of this category exercised considerable influence over the king and the state affairs.The influence of Paswan Gulab Rai of Maharaja Vijay Singh on the kingdom was more than that of the Maharanis, insofar that she even tried to get her son nominated to the throne but it did not work because of the premature death of her son. She even got her son married into the Sodhi Rajput clan.235 Another example is that of Anara Begum, a Muslim lady who was the khawas of Gaj Singh. It was because of her intervention that Gaj Singh nominated his younger son as successor ignoring the elder son, Amar Singh.236 When the king died not only the queens, but also the khawas and paswan became sati.237 However, when Maharaja Vijay Singh (in AD 1739) died, only one paswan who was with him in Nagaur became sati, whereas no one in Jodhpur committed sati.238 So, in all matters, they behaved like a wife although customarily they did not enjoy the same status as a wedded wife. Women of this category were considered of a separate sub caste and were not included in the Rajput society. Two restrictions were put on them: first, food was not partaken from their thali (plate); second, no marriage alliances were established with them and their children. Despite this, we do get an example of the son of a khawas being accepted as a ruler. Pratap Singh of Banswara had no son of his own


Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitude in an Elite Society in Transition’, p. 26, and the source quoted is Sodhi Hukum Singh, A Biographical Account of the Ladies of the Ruling House of Bikaner, 1891, p. 6. 235 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 90. 236 Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 89. 237 There are innumerable references in Das, Vir Vinod about the concubines becoming sati. 238 Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 857.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

but had a son through a khawas (Padma Baniyani), and the Chauhan Sardars made him the ruler of Banswara, however, he did not last long and the kingdom was finally wrested by Ugrasen.239 But this was a rare case and not a norm; it could be acceptable only in exceptional cases. Bakhtawar Singh had two children—a son and a daughter from Mushi khawas, but he kept his nephew Vinay Singh from the age of seven so that he would become the successor.240 Generally, children of the concubines were married to people of the same status and they could not marry into the royal family, the case of Gulab Rai’s son being an exception.The rulers usually got the children of their favourite paswan and khawas married with a great deal of pomp and pageantry. When Maharaja Bakht Singh (AD 1750–3) got the daughter of his khawas married, he gave her a patta of an income of Rs 1 lakh and also a haveli.241 The practice of concubinage not only raises the question of the relationship between wives and the concubines, but also the relationship between their sons. In a society where status was all important, the progeny of the concubines, although well provided for, must have been looked down upon. What would be their reaction to a setup where they enjoyed almost the same facilities as the prince, but at the same time knew well enough that they are not equal, must have led to tensions and clashes. An interesting example related to this is that of Rana Mokal of Marwar. Once, he had gone to a forest and one of his attendants requested Rana to identify a particular tree. He replied that he may not be able to do so but his uncle who was the son of a carpenter woman may be able to identify it. His uncle was so offended by this remark that he killed him.242 In another instance, we have the example of the grandson of Maharana Pratap Singh, who revolted against him but the Maharana dealt with it cleverly.243 The plethora of relationships obviously created interpersonal tensions but not enough to overthrow the existing social structure.

239 240 241 242 243

Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 1031. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 1381. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 63. MRPRV, vol. 1, pp. 27–8. The tern used is khati ka beta. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 1, p. 539.

Interpretation of Marriage Rituals in Medieval Rajasthan


We find that the system of concubinage not only existed in the royal family, but also among other men of Rajput nobility. Rao Ider Singh of Nagaur kept a woman named Challi of the Banjara caste.244 This practice was not only socially acceptable among the feudal classes, but the state too seems to have recognized it as a legitimate act and even realized tax on it. Sujan Singh Chauhan of Pargana Lalsot kept a Meena woman (with her family’s acceptance). On this, the state realized a tax of Rs 5 taka.245 It was accepted by the state and society that a Thakur kept a woman of lower caste, but when he married the same woman, it was considered to be against the customs and traditions. It would have been perfectly acceptable if he had taken her as a concubine. In Pargana Sawai Jaipur, Rajput Joginder Kushan Singh Nirman married a Jat woman and it was reported by the panch Thakur to the state. His jagir was confiscated on the ground that it was in contravention of marriage customs.246 As inter caste marriages among the upper castes was not acceptable, perhaps concubinage was a way of subverting this norm. Although the men of the ruling class did keep women of lower castes as their concubine, among the lower caste the caste panchayat took an exception to this practice. When in village Tausar in Jodhpur, a man of the Mali caste kept a woman of Derh caste, he was punished with the imposition of monetary fine.247 In the same kingdom in village Merooh, when a man of carpenter caste kept a woman of Derh caste, he was punished by imposing a meal for the entire community.248 By punishing the offenders, the state and panchayat tried to prevent the occurrence of such incidents in the society. So, we have seen that reasons for polygamy varied from hypergamy to political necessities to notions of honour. Polygamy devalued the lives of women and made them indulge in deceit and manipulation. The existence of concubinage further complicated the situation for them. 244 245 246 247 248

p. 136.

Rathore, Madhyakalin Marwar ka Sanskritic Adhyan, p. 578. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1770/1713. Muwazna Kalan 18th Century, Pargana Sawai Jaipur. Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur, Chait Sudhi, 5,V.S. 1822/1765, p. 32. Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur, Chait Sudhi, V.S. 1830/1773, No. 13,


Sati, Widowhood, and Remarriage

The last few decades have seen the growth of a body of literature concerned with the nature of women’s oppression and articulation of the oppression with regard to property and class relations. Broadly speaking, the debate has been carried out between radical and Marxist feminists. Whilst suggesting that the form of women’s oppressions has varied historically, radical feminists have tended to argue that the subordination of women is trans-historical, often rooted in the biological difference in the sexes. Marxist feminists have argued that the emergence of women’s oppression is historically specific, the specificity of production and reproduction as a dialectical totality being the determining factor.1 While it is possible to discuss the nature of women’s oppression in conceptual and theoretical terms without recourse to empirical refutation or verification, it is unlikely that such an approach will furnish answers. To avoid impasse, a historical and empirical investigation of the issues is necessary. To date, sociologists have not attempted to address the issue by piecing together the epochs and regions that made up Indian history. In this chapter, an attempt has been made to understand phenomena like sati and jauhar as well as the much talked about taboo on widow remarriage, as these are seen as institutional forms of women’s oppression. The institution of sati, whereby a widow immolated herself at the funeral pyre of her husband, is an old institution, although it does not have the sanction of the Vedas. Even the Smritis or the law books do not sanction sati unreservedly.2 1 Mary Murray, ‘Property and Patriarchy in England’s History’, Journal of Historical Sociology, vol. II (1989). 2 A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India: Survey of the Culture of the Continent Before the Coming of the Muslims (New York: Grove Press Inc., 1954),

The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan. Sabita Singh, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199491452.003.0004

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


There is no mention of sati in Manu (a Smriti which otherwise has a disparaging view of women). Further, suicide is a sin as also is the killing of women. The widow who lived a celibate life and performed prescribed sacrifices for the dead husband was living according to the injunctions of the Smritis. Yet, the earliest reference of the practice in the Sanskrit texts may be found in the Mahabharata. An account is also given in the first century BC by the Greek author Diodrus Sicules who wrote the history of Punjab in the fourth century BC. Sati stones (memorials to women who died in this way), may be found all over India dating from as early as 510 BC.3 The term ‘sati’ has a wide semantic range, encompassing the action of a woman’s immolation following the death of her husband, to the woman herself, or to sati as a goddess. In English, the first meaning is dominant; defining sati as an action or ritual. English usage sometimes makes sati the object of the verb ‘to perform’ or the verb ‘to commit’. In its origin, sati is a Sanskrit feminine participle derived from the verb ‘to be’. Hence, sati is a good woman: and because, according to classical Hindu formulations, a good woman is one devoted to her husband, sati came to mean a truly faithful wife. The concept is that the true devotion of a wife to her husband, her moral ‘truth’ (satisatya) becomes manifest at the moment when she becomes a sati, though the virtue existed long before. This is the moment at which such virtue becomes fully visible. Thus, in Indian languages one generally speaks of ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ sati and not ‘performing’ or ‘doing’ sati. In Sanskrit, the practice and the person are generally differentiated; the words sahagamana (going together with) or anugamana (following after or dying after) denoting the practice, and the word sati, the person.4 Besides sati as a person and sati as practice, the word has a third dimension, in that sati also refers to the goddess. On the one hand, sati is the wife of Siva, who immolated herself in the sacrificial fire of her father Daksha. But those referring to sati as a goddess are not generally referring to the goddess sati, but are using the term to refer to ‘real’ p. 187 (1-A). Early Smriti literature allows it, but in general does not strongly advocate it. 3 Julia Leslie, ‘Suttee or Sati:Victim or Victor’, in Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women, ed. Julia Leslie (London: Printer Publisher, 1991), p. 175. 4 Anila Verghese, New Perspective on Vijaynagar (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 117.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

satis—women who are believed to have immolated themselves at some point of time. Sati as a voluntary act seems to have spread slowly throughout India from the third century onward and become more prevalent and popular after the eighth century, and in the later Smriti literature between ninth and eleventh centuries, to be more specific, it seems to have found acceptance. How did this come to be? This is indeed a problem of historical research. When we examine issues like sati and widowhood, another problem that needs to be taken into account is that the British sensationalized sati. They wanted to show that it was the British who stamped out such horrid rites and that India was to lapse into barbarianism again if the British were to leave India. In seeking a psychological advantage, the British attempted to demonstrate their moral superiority over their colonial subject in many subtle and not so subtle ways. One of these not-so-subtle ways was the area of gender relations. The higher morality of the imperial masters could be effectively established by highlighting the low status of women among the subject population. It was an issue by which the moral inferiority of the subject people could be simultaneously demonstrated. The question of ‘women’ was thus crucial to colonial ideology and was one of the first areas in which the British intervened. Social practices pertaining to women formed the first foci of the colonialist master reformist zeal, starting with the most visibly socially oppressive custom, sati or the self-immolation of widows, being banned in 1829. This was followed by legislative provision for remarriage of widows and raising the age of consent. By any absolute standard, these were progressive legislations and had the support of a section of the subject people. But it was also characterized as a case of ‘white men saving brown women from brown men’. In any case, intervention set the framework for the women’s question, which became the focus of cultural conflict between the ruler and the subject. History, therefore, came to play a major role in the cultural battleground between rulers and ruled. It was in this context that the construction of the past became so obsessively concerned with the cultural question in which women have an integral part.5 5

Uma Chakravarti and Kum Kum Roy, ‘Breaking Out of Invisibility: Rewriting History of Women in Ancient India’, in Retrieving Women’s History

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


The custom was viewed with abhorrence by the British and became a political issue in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, there were Indian scholars who pointed out that sati was not prevalent in the Vedic period and few references are found in the period from 300–700 and it gained ground only after 700. Its incidence was really local and limited to certain classes. It was thus pointed out that the rite was largely confined to Bengal and Rajputana and among the Rajputs and Marathas who claimed Rajput descent. Its incidence is also seen in Maharashtra (Maratha territories). It was thus narrowed down into a martial custom (though the Brahmins also took over). While the motive behind the effort to determine the temporal, spatial, and other dimensions of sati may have been to minimize its gravity, such determination is obviously essential to its understanding. Although the practice of sati was more or less prevalent in all parts of medieval India, it was primarily centred in Rajasthan, Bengal, and Punjab in the north and Madura and Vijayanagar in the south. Anila Verghese, having studied the practice of sati in Vijayanagar, feels that sati was undoubtedly an important social practice here and the women who became sati were greatly honoured. However, the frequency and prevalence of sahagamana was not nearly as common or widespread as the traveller’s accounts would have us believe. It would have been an exception rather than the rule among Vijayanagar women whose husbands predeceased them. Yet, references to the practice of sati in travel accounts, though exaggerated, should not be dismissed as useless, for they do provide some valuable insights on this practice. At the same time, she feels that they should not be relied upon in isolation, but considered together with the memorial stones, which also provide pertinent information on sati. These two types of sources, one literary and the other monumental, are used together to reflect the correct picture of the practice.6 In Bengal and Rajasthan—its main strongholds—the institution seems to have been identified more with upper caste specially the ruling aristocracy in Rajasthan and the Brahmins in Bengal. Dr Kane

and Changing Perceptions of the Role of Women in Politics, ed. S.J Klienberg (New York: Berg Publishers Ltd., Unesco Press, 1988), p. 321. 6 Verghese, New Perspective on Vijaynagar, p. 139.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

thought that the high incidence of sati in Bengal was related to the Dayabhaga law in which a widow had a right to her husband’s property till her death, a fact that gave her agnatic relations an interest in her committing sati. The increase in the practice of sati among the Brahmins of Bengal (especially during the period 1680–1830) was only partially due to the fact that the system of law prevailing there gave inheritance rights to its widows. While some widows enjoyed the power it conferred others conformed to the increased pressure to die. Therefore, the Dayabhaga law might have encouraged heirs to do away with the widows or to pressurize them into suicide and therefore may explain the prominence of sati in Bengal. But it hardly explains the great variations of incidence between different districts and cities of Bengal. Also, the vernacular sources indicate that it was not restricted to upper caste but observed by both upper and lower castes.7 Brahmins took to this practice in great numbers, so did the merchants and writer caste of Kayasthas who sought to emulate the ritual observances of the Brahmins, and once elevated to new heights as a status conferring ritual, the next step was its practice by lower artisan and entrepreneurial castes who saw it has an avenue of attaining prestige and status in the society. In our region, we find both instances of sati and jauhar. In fact, the regular wars being waged in Rajasthan gave stimulus to both these practices. It is necessary to make it clear that all widow burning is not sati. Jauhar, for instance, was the collective suicide of Rajput women who preferred death rather than submit themselves to be captured alive by the enemy victorious in battle. Death was preferred to dishonour and it was fundamentally different from a situation where a widow climbed a pyre of her dead husband to become a sati. Jauhar was mainly committed in the fortress for honour’s sake, although this honour seems to have been related mainly to the Muslim aggression, as we have seen in an earlier chapter (Chapter II) that 7 Annand A. Yang, ‘Whose Sati? Widow Burning in Early 9th Century India’, in Expanding the Boundaries of Women’s History-Essays on Women in the Third World, ed. Cheryl Gohson Odin and Margret Strobd, published for Journal of Women’s History by Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianpolis, 1992, p. 83.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


the victorious side generally ended up marrying the women of the defeated side. Every woman, married or unmarried, would commit jauhar, either when the husband was dead or there was fear of the husband being killed. When the men wore the kesaria bana (saffron colour dress indicating preparedness to die) it indicated that he was going to sacrifice his life. An example of this is evident in ‘Patai Rawal ri Vat’. Patai Rawal’s (Yashwant Singh who was popularly known as Patai Rawal) brother-in-law had entered into a conspiracy with the Badshah of Gujarat (Begdo Mahmood) and passed on the key of the fortress to him. But on receiving the news of the capture of the fortress, the women committed jauhar, and Nainsi gives us an account of how Saiyo Vakliyo (brother-in-law of Patai Rawal) was pointing out to the Badshah how each woman was jumping into the fire to commit jauhar.8 Basically jauhar amounted to women of all categories committing suicide in order to save their honour. But we get an interesting episode in which an unmarried girl protested that she would not commit jauhar without being married. When Rawal Dudo Tilok Singh Jasnot’s fortress fell after being attacked by the Turks, his wives committed jauhar. But his nine-year-old daughter protested that she was still unmarried and according to the Shastras if an unmarried woman commits jauhar, her soul would not be liberated. She was married to Dhau Bhechle and the next day she committed sati along with Dhau Bhechle.9 It is surprising that a nine-year-old should be quoting the Shastras, and this makes it obvious that somebody was giving her the idea and also that sati carried more prestige than jauhar and therefore it was more honourable to die as a sati. We also see that one of the wives of Patai Rawal insisted that his head be brought to her and then she would commit sati.10 There are accounts of mass jauhar such as the three in Chittorgarh in 1303, 1535, and 1568 and one at Jaisalmer in 1299. When the Khaljis attacked the fort of Abhedh in Jaisalmer under the leadership of Malik Kafur, Rawal Moolraj and Rattan Singh were defeated. The Ranis decided to commit jauhar rather than ‘be defiled 8 MNK, vol. 3, p. 25. Patai Rawal was a thakur of substance in a principality in Gujarat. 9 MNK, vol. 2, pp. 60–1. 10 MNK, vol. 2, pp. 60–2. This event occurred in 1299.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

by enemy of different religion’. In order to save the honour of his clan, Moolraj killed those women who could not jump into the fire as a result of shortage of wood.11 Rattan Singh was the ruler of Chittor when it was attacked by Alaudin Khalji. There was a full-fledged war and instruction was given to women to commit jauhar so that they are not humiliated at the hands of the enemy.12 The other example of jauhar can be seen when Alaudin Khalji attacked Jalore and fort of Jalore fell, four Ranis committed jauhar.13 Similar example of jauhar also pertains to Alaudin Khalji’s attack on Ranthambhor in 1301, when all the women preferred to commit jauhar rather than submit to the Muslims.14 In V.S. 1589/1528, when Bahadur Shah of Gujarat attacked Chittor, Rani Karmavati committed jauhar.15 All these examples indicate that jauhar was committed only when attacked by Muslim rulers and that too during the pre-Mughal period. By the time of the Mughals, the political equations had changed and many Rajput rulers willingly entered into matrimonial alliances with the Mughals. Sati is a much more complex phenomenon. This is a phenomenon which even today remains as an ideal. While the number of women who may have died in this way may have been statistically small, the ideal of such women and such death was revered throughout traditional India and its social effect as a model of a good (that is, socially valued) woman remains. That such a death became an ideal worthy of worship and emulation demands explanation. An attempt must be made to find out the actual political, social, economic, cultural, and religious factors responsible for this rite. In this chapter, an attempt has been made to study sati in medieval Rajasthan in its specific context and characteristics. Although widow immolation emerges from caste,


Singh, ‘Jaisalmer ke Shashkon ke Kendriya Shaktiyon ke Sath Sambandh (1000–1450 AD)’, p. 196, and the source quoted is Umji’s Khyat. 12 MNK, vol. 1, p. 13, Nainsi also tells us a story of how Alaudin Khalji coveted Rani Padmini who was the very beautiful wife of Maharana Rattan Singh. 13 Singh,‘Jaisalmer ke Shashkon ke Kendriya Shaktiyon ke Sath Sambandh’, pp. 212–13, AD 1369. 14 Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 128. 15 MNK, vol. 3, p. 55.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


class, and gender relations, each event is quite specific and produced through disparate variables. There is a need to see women not only as passive victims of an oppressive ideology, but also (perhaps primarily) as the active agents of their own positive constructs. It is in this context that the interpretation of religion and ritual texts become important as well as the evaluation of religious experiences of the women. Such choices are being made by women who (given the cultural restraints within which they are working) see themselves not only as the victim of their culture, but also as active agents in the creation of their own identities and identities of their daughters. Hence, the inability to question the model of women as negative, passive, and powerless needs to be investigated, as this may not always be the case.16 As we have seen in Chapter 1, the territories of Rajasthan during the early medieval period had been marked by three pronged conflicts in Rajput states many of which were still at a formative stage. Territories were being wrested from tribes, from Muslim rulers and from other Rajput states. The political history is one of ceaseless competitive warfare. A condition existed both of steady expansion and of insecurity which reinforced the mutual dependence between ruler and the clan. Besides, this was a period not only of expansion and consolidation but also of cultural unification. The fifteenth century saw the emergence of the word Rajput in its contemporary sense, signifying not merely a caste but a ruling military aristocracy with its own ethos of martial valour, claim to prestige and an achieved status, and patriarchal practices grounded in the clan system.The management of women and marriage became the key elements in the process of cultural unification and in the imperial designs of the emerging Rajput states and as smallest unit of a clan, the family, provided a system of patriarchal protection for women. The degree of integration and desired harmony between family and the state not only set off the ruling Rajput groups from other castes, but also determined the patriarchal public nature of the code of family honour, of the management of the marriage, the regulation of sexuality, and determining the women’s right to property. It was in this system that manhood or maleness came to be synonymous with veerta (courage, 16

Leslie, ‘Suttee or Sati:Victim or Victor’, p. 3.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

bravery) and kulgaurav (the honour of the clan). We find a new ideal of womanhood being propagated during this period. It is between the end of the Vedic period and the AD twelfth century, the idea seemed to have gained ground that the husband should have exclusive and total control over his wife’s sexuality. Pre-pubertal marriage was the surest way to make certain of it. Pre-pubertal marriage also transferred the responsibility from the male kin in her natal family to her husband and his agnates. Once married, total faithfulness was expected of the wife and this was attempted to be assured by the deification of the husband. Total control over her sexuality was not only of the duration of the marriage and extended to the pre- and post-marital period, the patriarchal domination depended on the symbolic labour of women themselves in rituals to preserve marriage and ward off widowhood around which much of the religious activity centred. Restrictions were imposed on the widow—she was condemned to perpetual mourning as it were and became a symbol of inauspiciousness and ill luck. On the other hand, the widow who decided to commit sati was auspicious and was dressed as a bride for her last journey. Turning to our region, we can examine how much the practice approximated to the ideal of womanhood and to what extent it was related to the pitiable conditions of widows during our period as is reflected in the above-mentioned perception. The term sati carries with it the association of widowhood and victimization. But the same word in original Sanskrit is sati (feminine) deriving from sat meaning goodness and virtue.17 The practice of sati seems to have become more widespread during medieval times, as is clear from the numerous sati stones and sati impressions at the gateway of the palaces and commoner’s houses raised in commemoration of many faithful wives.18 We have examples of several women becoming sati throughout the period. Mohil Rajputani, who was married to Sadul of Pungal, was going to her in-laws place after her marriage. Her husband was killed on the way. As a bride, she did not even get to know her husband, yet the ideology of sati was so powerful that she cut off her hand (which was given to him in marriage) and leaving it with her husband, she 17 18

Leslie, ‘Suttee or Sati:Victim or Victor’, p. 177. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 127.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


went to her in-laws place, took their blessing and became sati,19 thus bringing honour to the entire family. Loyalty was not limited only to the husband but was to be extended to the entire family. Sati in a way was a reward-oriented act aiming at securing residence in heaven and glory on earth.Those Smriti texts, which recommend sati do so on the argument that thereby heaven is secured by the widow.20 Was the practice of sati in Rajasthan any different from its prevalence in other regions? The information we get about sati in medieval India, especially during the Mughal period, is mostly from the accounts of the foreign travellers who poured into India in great numbers. Naturally a detailed knowledge of sati and its various social aspects is largely dependent on the account of these foreign travellers, who were prone to exaggerate and were often ill-informed. Tavernier, the seventeenthcentury traveller, narrates how a widow of 22 at Patna held her hand in the flame of a torch till it burnt to cinders in order to convince the officer that she was a willing party.21 Francois Bernier, the French physician at Aurangzab’s court, condemned the practice with indignation. When he was travelling from Ahmedabad to Agra, through the territories of Rajasthan, news reached him that a widow was on the point of burning herself with the body of her husband. Bernier went to have a look and saw that the pile was ready, the woman was seated on the pile and there were a number of spectators including five middle-aged women, who were dancing around the pit.When the woman’s clothes caught fire he could not see the slightest indication of pain or uneasiness in the victim. Later, the singing and dancing women also burnt themselves, and according to Bernier, the five women were slaves and, ‘having witnessed the deep affliction of their mistress in consequence of her husband, they were so moved by compassion that they decided to perish by the same flame that consumed their beloved mistress’.22 Sati aroused a wide gamut 19

MNK, vol. 2, p. 328. Kane, History of the Dharamshastras, p. 631. 21 As cited in Arvind Sharma, Ajit Ray, Alaha Hejib, and Katherine Young, Sati, Historical and Phenomological Essays (Delhi: Moti Lal Banarsidas, 1988). 22 Francoi Bernier, Travels in Mogal Empire AD 1566–1668, English translation by Irving Brock, revised by Archibald Constable (New Delhi: S. Chand and Company, 1968 [London, 1891], pp. 309–10). Even Bernier’s account at places is not without admiration. 20


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

of reaction among the Western travellers ranging from admiration to outright condemnation. Although these foreigners may have had some admiration for the women who committed sati, most condemned it as a barbarous inhuman act deserving no sympathy. Whereas during our period sati seems to have been eulogized and was rarely reviled on ethical grounds, the problem of understanding is made more complex, in that most people condemn sati today. Separated by reform and the passage of time, we remain outsiders to the phenomenon with a resulting impasse in a sympathetic understanding.Today sati arouses negative feelings given humanistic values and movements to redress the status of women. But when the task is to understand, the full phenomenon must be allowed to come into view even though the custom in the final analysis should continue to be subject to a radical critique from a modern perspective and kept safely relegated to the past. Today we see sati as an act of suicide or as an act of murder.The radical feminist view denounces the practice as an evidence of patriarchal atrocity against women. This perspective also views widow as a victim. The act of sati, whether physically enforced by men or internalized and embraced by the women themselves, is an act of violence against women that could only arise in a male dominated, woman demeaning society. But it is precisely this aspect that one needs to confront. Can one dismiss every case of sati as murder? Are not some cases, most perhaps, voluntary? In order to understand how such a custom could exercise such a great hold over women over so many centuries in different parts and that too with an aura of sanctity, we can study the sources of our region and see what they indicate. The earliest reference to sati is to be found in Tod’s works. When the ruler of Vallabhi, Siladitya, was killed, his queens were sacrificed on the funeral pyre. He further informs us that Pushpawati, daughter of the Panwara prince of Chandrawati, was on pilgrimage. Taking refuge in the mountain of Maliya, she delivered a son and giving him to a Brahmin, she committed sati.23 We get the next reference of sati in 810 of Rajput Samant Ranuk’s wife, Sambhaldevi, who did sahagamana.24 23

Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 180, the reference pertains to the eighth century. Arora, Rajathan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 6 and the source quoted is Ghatiyala Manuscript of Jodhpur. 24

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


When Tejaji (a Jat who became famous in his community for laying down his life for cow protection) died (1072), his wife who was staying with her parents at that time committed sati on the news of his death.25 In another example we see that Pabuji (1239–1276) left his marriage ceremony half way through to honour his word and fight for cow protection. When his bride learnt of his death she committed sati.26 Again, a wife who had not even known her husband preferred to die with him. In the early medieval Indian culture, the protection of cow was considered to be the sacred duty of men of honour, like Tejaji and Pabuji. Pabuji has been immortalized in Rajasthani memory and is regarded as one of the deified warrior saints, along with Gogaji and Tejaji. The sanctity must have stemmed from the nature of the economy, which in certain areas of Rajasthan was primarily pastoral during this period. Men who gave their lives for this purpose were greatly revered and venerated. The act may appear foolhardy today, but the medieval notion of an ideal man gave great importance to the ideology of honouring one’s word. Perhaps some parallel can be drawn between this ideology of honour of the ideal man to the ideology of the honour of the ideal woman who laid down her life out of fidelity to her husband, out of a notion of bringing honour and glory not only to herself but to the entire family. Dadu Dayal (1544–1603), who lived and preached in Rajasthan, compares a true saint (‘sant’) to a devoted wife, who burns herself at the pyre of her deceased husband who is in turn compared to a warrior (‘shur’), who sacrifices his life in the battlefield for the sake of his master. Bravery in the field and sacrifice of a devoted wife by committing sati had high prestige value in Rajasthan, numerous ballads recounting the deeds of warriors and the sacrifices of lives on the battlefield were written in Rajasthan and are even sung today. Even the Bhomias were usually regarded as being warriors who had fought for the defence of the boundary of the state or village, or had descended from someone who had died performing such a role and had been granted some land called bhom or bhoum in recognition of their valour. Hero stones were setup for such dead protectors in recognition of their valour and

25 26

Arora, Rajathan mein Nari ki Stithi, pp. 40–1. Kasturiya (ed.), Rajasthan Veergatmak Pavarhe, p. 49.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

became places of veneration by local communities.27 Similarly, sati temples commemorating the act of sati are dotted all over Rajasthan. In Karpuro, which is a thikana of Karara Chudawat, the daughter-inlaw of Bane Kunwar, Champawati, had become sati. The songs sung in her memory, during any puja (ritual of worship), reflects how sati was expected to bring glory to the entire family. By committing sati, the kul vadhu (it has the connotation of daughter-in-law of entire clan) of Ajit Singh and wife of Bhim Singh, Bane Kunwar brought honour to her in-laws’ clan, her parents’ clan, and her maternal grand-parents’ clan.28 The rituals that a widow would follow to join her husband on his funeral pyre drew its cachet as a publicly witnessed act that generated social awe, status, and religious merit for the widow and made her the virtuous wife in death. The concept of chivalry and courage of medieval times acquired new dimensions within the context of family. Women were seen as representatives and upholders of the family. Morality and honour and the institution of sati bestowed a mystical aura unparalleled before. Many legends were woven round the myth of sati and many temples constructed in their honour sacralizing this act. It was this warrior ideal, which saw the self-cremation of the sati as one of the most fortunate and auspicious events for the sati herself (in those cases where she was willing) and for those who witnessed this rare expression of self-annihilation.The very acceptance of this custom for centuries and the building of memorials for wives who committed sati testify to this fact. ‘The Mardumshumari Report’ and the ‘Dastur Rajlok’ are replete with instances of the worship of sati. Often satiyon ki puja (worship of sati) formed the part of the marriage rituals in Rajasthan, in this way instilling the ideology of the glory of sati in the bride to be. Examples of women becoming sati can be seen right through our period. Chuda’s mother Jasahrdbai (Viramji’s wife committed sati on death of her husband)29 (early Sultanate period twelfth century). When Samar 27

Savitri Chandra, ‘Social Philosophy of Dadu Dayal and his Concept of Sant, Sati and Shur’, in Religion Ritual and Royalty, ed. N.K. Singh, R. Joshi (Jaipur: Rawat Publishers, 1999), p. 178. 28 Singh, Rajasthan ke Rajwadi Geet, p. 3. 29 MNK, vol. 2, p. 304.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


Singh, prince of Chittor died, his wife Pirtha (sister of Prithvi Raj) became sati (late twelfth century).30 When Lakha of Chittor died in AD 1373 (pre-Mughal time), his queen committed sati.31 Bimaladevi, wife of Gursi, committed sati well after the death of her husband (early fourteenth century).32 Many queens of Amar Singh (1405) of Jaisalmer committed sati on his death.33 Kunwarde, the wife of Rawal Kesridev of Jaisalmer, became sati when Kesridev died in 1453.34 The same was the case with the wives of Rao Bika (AD 1504) and the wives of Bhim Singh of Kota.35 Several wives of Rao Maldev committed sati on the news of the death of their husband (1568),36 as did the wives of Raja Rai Singh (1574–1612)37 and the wives of Mukund Singh of Kota (1658).38 Raja Suraj Singh had married into the Tirman family in Khandel. In AD 1668, when he died, his Shikhawati Rani became sati and burnt on the pyre with him.39 When Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur died (1679), one of his wives who was pregnant was persuaded not to commit sati but his other queen and seven patars (concubines) mounted the pyre.40 When Galaleng (1690s) (Gulal Singh Chauhan dynasty) died, both his wives became sati.41 When Maharaja Karan Singh of Bikaner died in 1661, nine queens and 11 khawaas became sati, and when his son Anoop Singh died in 1698, 19 women all together including his queens and khawaas became sati.42 In V.S. 1734/1677, when Maharaja Sujan Singh of Bikaner died, five khawaas who were with him became sati; when the news reached Bikaner five of his queens became sati.43 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

Tod, Annal, vol. I, p. 208. MNK, vol. 2, p. 73. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 203. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 128. MNK, vol. 2, p. 280. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 127. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 75. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 127. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 128. MNK, vol. 1, p. 309. Tod, Annals, vol. II, p. 44. Kasturiya, Rajasthan Veergatmak Pavarhe, p. 28. Das, Vir Vinod, p. 498. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 1, p. 501.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

When Maharaja Jorawar Singh of Bikaner died in V.S. 1745/1688, two of his queens plus 24 khawaas, patar, and maids became sati.44 When Maharaja Jai Singh (V.S. 1746/1669) of Jaipur died, one Rani, two khawaas, and two patar became sati.45 A fundamental question regarding the practice of sati in medieval India is whether it was voluntary or obligatory. Whether the wives willingly sacrificed their lives or were forced to do so. Can we consider their act in terms of ‘options’ bound as they were by religious, economic, and social constraints? The specific reasons for their sacrifice cannot be fully determined from their perspective because their voices are not present in the historical documents. Contradictory evidence furnished by foreign travellers as well as other historical documents makes it difficult for us to pronounce a definite answer. Abul Fazal divides sati into different categories: those who out of sheer love for their husband consigned themselves into the flame, those who from fear of reproach consented to be burnt, others who were swayed by family considerations and customs, and finally those who were actually forced to burn themselves with their deceased husband.46 In our region, we come across numerous instances of voluntary sati being committed. According to the medieval custom, sati was not permissible under certain circumstances. Nevertheless, we find women devising means to circumvent these circumstances. Pabuji’s wife, Sodhi was seven months pregnant when her husband died. She was advised not to commit sati on account of this, but she took the child out from her womb and gave it in the care of a Charan and became sati.47 Although there is an element of exaggeration in this, the point to be noted is that the Rani was determined to become sati despite being dissuaded. When Sisodani Rani heard about her husband’s death, she was all set to commit sati but the Brahmins dissuaded her on the plea that it would be a sin to commit sati in her pregnant state. The queen waited 44

Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 1, p. 503. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 1295. 46 Chaudhury, ‘Sati as a Social Institution and the Mughals’, PIHC (1976): 219–20. 47 MNK, vol. 3, p. 79. 45

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


for the birth of her son and after about 15 or 20 days, became sati.48 Again Viram’s wife (Chuda’s mother), Jashard Bai, on the death of her husband insisted that she had to go and meet her husband. Handing over her son to a Charan, she committed sati.49 Generally a woman was burnt together with her deceased husband, a practice termed suhamana or sahagamana (dying together with). But if co-cremation was not possible, say when a husband died in a distant place or a woman’s pregnancy required that she wait till after delivery, a sati performed the act of anumarana or anugamana, that is, burning with the husband’s ashes or with some other memento representing him such as sandals, turban, and so on.50 This in itself indicates that the woman had enough time to deliberate over the matter of whether she wanted to commit sati or not. The fact that the passage of time did not dim the ardour, amply demonstrates that the women were performing the act voluntarily. Therefore, the whole act obviously resulted from something much deeper than the immediate grief of having lost their husband. The specific nature of the volition also depended on social, cultural, and religious factors present in the region. Bernier tells us of the steps taken by the Mughal governor to stop this practice and according to him, an order was issued that no woman can sacrifice herself without permission from the governor of the province in which she resides, and he never grants it until he shall have ascertained that she is not to be turned aside from her purpose. To accomplish this desirable end, the governor reasons with the widow and makes her enticing promises and if these methods fail, he sometimes sends her his women so that the effect of their remonstrance be tried. Not withstanding these obstacles the number of self-immolations is still considerable particularly in the territories in Rajasthan.51

This implies the failure of the Mughals to check the custom and also the fact that the Mughals depended so much on the Rajputs that they 48 49 50 51

MNK, vol. 2, p. 2. MNK, vol. 2, p. 304. Kane, History of Dharamshastras, p. 228. Bernier, Travels in the Mogal Empire, p. 306.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

could not afford to alienate them. The fact that women remained adamant about their decision despite attempts made to dissuade them, begs the question whether it was only a sense of loyalty and fidelity to the dead husband that made them act this way. In the eighteenth-century Sanskrit manual Trayambakyaj, the injunction relating to sati as ‘dying with one’s husband’ (sahagamarans) is discussed first and the duties of the widows second. Despite this evident preference, Trayamabaka concludes that both options are available to the woman whose husband has died.52 In the latter part of our period Sati Puran, in verse, was also composed with the descriptions of examples when the system was frowned upon in various quarters.53 For Trayambak, the proper role of a woman includes sati, not for every woman but for those who aspire for the highest ideal. According to him, when sati is put into practice by a devoted wife (pativrata), it confers great blessings on both wife and husband. He also argued that a sinful woman who dies with her husband in this way extinguishes her sin. In this sense, sati is the ultimate atonement of a bad wife. He also gives a lengthy explanation of why it is important for a wife to behave properly during her husband’s lifetime. Such passages make a number of references to any rituals powerful enough to wipe out the effect of unwifely behaviour. In that case without recourse to the ritual power of sati, the wife’s only hope is to behave properly, to worship and placate at every turn. Sati wipes out the otherwise inevitable karmic effects of unwifely behaviour, and this secures both husband and wife a place in heaven. Therefore, sati remains the safest course of action for the less-than-perfect wife.54 We come across instances of women who had expressed their unhappiness with their partner and had even deserted them, yet committed sati on their death. The wife of Champa Seedhal left her husband’s 52

Leslie, ‘Suttee or Sati, Victim or Victor?’, p. 183. A man’s treatise on women, the stridhampadhati or guide to religious status and duties of woman, written in the eighteenth century by an orthodox pandit whose aim was to summarize the views of Sanskrit religious law relating to women. His arguments are traditional, his evidence takes the form of hundreds of detailed quotations drawn from older and more authoritative religious and legal texts. 53 Sharma, Social History of Medieval Rajasthan, p. 127. 54 Leslie, ‘Suttee or Sati,Victim or Victor?’, p. 187.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


house and went to live with Sajan Bhayal. Both of them fought over her and died, and she committed sati for both.55 Napoji, an important ruler of Hadawati, married the daughter of Solanki chief of Thoda. While on a visit to Thoda, a slab of beautiful marble attracted his attention and Hara Rao desired that his bride ask for it from her father. On being refused, Napoji was insistent and visited his anger on his wife, whom he treated with neglect and even banished her from his bed. She complained to her father, who killed Hara Rao. Despite the grudge she bore against her husband, she committed sati.56 In another piquant situation, Acharan, who had married Sangam Rao, went to live with Ramchand Ide. Both fought over her and died. She cut off her hand and left it with Sangam Rao, as the hand had been given to him in marriage and became sati with Ide’s body.57 Leaving the hand became, for her, a symbol of honouring the marriage as the hand had been given to him and yet choosing to be with another man. This is a medieval notion of honour, difficult to fathom today. We also have an example of a woman, who was wanting an illicit relationship with her stepson, becoming sati on the death of her husband,58 obviously raising doubts about the notions of fidelity. These contradictory elements are also reflected in Dadu Dayal’s attitude towards sati. He refers caustically to some women becoming sati even though they were of loose morals (vyabhicharni) and who preened themselves for the sake of others even when their husbands were alive.59 Galaleng had to go to battle even before he could meet his newly wedded wife. But when he died in the battlefield, both his wives became sati.60 All this is an indication of the complexity of the phenomenon. 55

MNK, vol. 1, p. 82. Tod, Annals, vol. 2, p. 374. 57 MNK, vol. 2, p. 230. 58 MNK, vol. 3, p. 283. 59 Chandra, ‘Social Philosophy of Dadu Dayal’, p. 179. Further contradiction can been seen in the fact that at one point he equates sati with sant and shur and at the same time he advises the devoted wife to burn not for the sake of the mortal husband but for the real husband (meaning God). 60 Kasturiya, Rajasthan Veergatmak Pavarhe, p. 28. Gulalsingh of Chauhan dynasty was in the darbar of Rana Jai Singh of Mewar and helped in the construction of Jaisamvadh lake which was completed between AD 1685–91. 56


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

We also have the example of the estranged wife of Rao Maldev, Rani Bhatiani, who had been living separately from her husband, committing sati on the news of the death of her husband.61 The intricacy of the situation is further brought out in the Rajasthani proverb which says that no one can fathom the character of a woman, she can even kill her husband and become sati.62 These examples do not fit in with the ideal of a pativrata woman, who was expected to remain devoted to her husband not only till he was alive, but also till after his death. Yet, women unhappy with and unfaithful to their husbands too committed sati. What was the ritual power of sati that made such women commit sati? It was the stupendous power of the ‘virtuous woman’ that such acts endowed on them, the thought that they would bring salvation to their husband’s and their natal family, regardless of their actual behaviour in this world. Additionally, they would be worshipped in their community forever. When Kunwar Prithvi Raj of Gaud clan died in 1723, his wife Gouriji became sati after him. While becoming sati, she left instruction behind to tell the ‘Maharaja’ to make a memorial after her, the kind that had been constructed for Gajsingh.63 She was obviously very conscious of the fact that she would be deified as the eternally virtuous wife. But if we look at the Rajput satis, we find not all were worshipped by their natal or conjugal clans, and some of them were simply ignored. Bhatiani sati of Jasol is one of the few examples worshipped by both Rajputs and non-Rajputs. She immolated herself not with the dead body of her husband, but that of his younger brother. Her husband Kalyan Singh and his younger brother Sawai Singh had gone to participate in the battle of Merta between Jodhpur and Jaipur. Sawai Singh was killed, but for reasons that remain unclear, Kalyan Singh sent false news about his own death. Rani Bhatiani decided to immolate herself and began to prepare for this. Later when the dead body was brought it was realized that it was Sawai Singh’s and not her husband’s. But abiding by her earlier decision, she performed the immolation with the brother-in-law’s body. Several miracles got attributed to her thereafter 61 62 63

MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 175. Sahal (ed.), Rajasthani Kahawate, p. 108. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 189.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


and she began to be worshipped for it.64 The miracles become the evidence of the presence of sat in her.Why did she do that? After all her husband was still alive. It could be that from the time of her decision she was so honoured that backtracking would have invited ridicule. Alternately, she may have been favourably inclined towards Sawai Singh and probably that is why Kalyan Singh sent false news about his death. The practice of self-immolation has also been linked to the system of inheritance. This point made by Varsha Joshi seems interesting and plausible. Among the Rajput clan in which the deceased chief ’s thakurai and property were equally divided among his sons, or among his wives, the practice of immolation by the wives of deceased chief was not prevalent. It was only prevalent where the patvi (successor), the eldest son succeeded the father who was the ruler as well as the head of the clan. But as no example of such cases has been given, nor the source from which they have been derived quoted, it remains in the realm of speculation. But we have an example when Rana Lakha, the ruler of Chittor, died, all his Ranis were proceeding to become sati. Among them was also Rinmal’s daughter and mother of Mokal who had been married to Lakha on the condition that her son would became patvi. When Chuda (elder son of Lakha) saw her proceed to become sati, he fell at her feet and requested her not to do so as she would receive the honour of becoming ‘Rajmata’. This conveys that the Rajmata’s position was certainly better than other Ranis and she would receive an honourable position even after her husband’s death. When she protested that her son could not become patvi as long as Chuda lived, Chuda called her son Mokal and put his turban on him. She blessed Chuda and claimed that if she was sati (and here it is obviously being used in the sense of a virtuous woman) then the land of Mewar would always remain in the hands of Chuda’s descendants.65 But when men other than rulers died, we have example of all the wives committing sati. When Raghavdev Sisodia (part of the clan lineage) was beheaded by Rana Kumbha and Rinmal, all his seven wives came from Padawal to commit sati.66 64 Varsha Joshi, ‘Deifying the Dead’, in Multiple Histories-Culture and Society in the Study of Rajasthan, ed. Laurence A. Babb, Michael W. Meister (Jaipur, New Delhi: Rawat Publications, 2002), pp. 199–200. 65 MNK, vol. 2, pp. 334–5. 66 MNK, vol. 1, p. 48.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

A pertinent question related to the whole act of sati would be about the fate of the children whose father had already died and mothers also chose death. In the Harshcharita of Banbhatta, when Harsha’s wife was going to commit sati, she was implored by her son not to do so.67 Although we have no information of the reaction of the children, we do have information about what happened to them and who looked after them. When Ajit Singh’s queens were becoming sati, their children Anand Singh, Rai Singh, and Kishan Singh were handed over to the Sardars (clan leaders) to be looked after by them. Kishan Singh was later sent to his maternal home in Jaisalmer whereas Anand Singh and Rai Singh were taken by Devi Singh to the mountains.68 This was probably done to bring them up safely so that they would not be captured by their enemy. In another case, when Viram, the ruler of Khed, died his wife Mangliyani did not commit sati immediately, but started living in her natal village, hiding her identity. Later, her son Chuda was given to Alha Charan while she decided to committed sati.69 There are references of the sons being handed to Brahmins and Charans before the queen decided to commit sati, but there is no reference to the female children. They are completely invisible and must have been in a vulnerable position open to all kinds of harassment. Also, given the fact that Rajput chiefs died in large numbers in battles, a large number of widows would be left behind. Since a chief married for political reasons, the age difference was of no consideration and women must have become widows at a very young age. Nainsi tells us about the family of Moolraj Solanki, who had become the ruler of Pattan in V.S. 998/941 after killing his maternal uncle Sawant Singh, and there were young widows of the age of 15, 16, and 1770 (also indicating the age of marriage and the fact that not all widows committed sati). Thus, the maintenance of stepmothers and grandmothers must have been a major problem. Each Rani used to maintain a huge personal staff and also kept a separate household called Rawala supported by 67 P.V. Kane (ed.), Harshcharita of Banbhatta (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1973), pp. 100–1. 68 Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 844. 69 MNK, vol. 2, p. 304. 70 MNK, vol. 2, p. 267.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


her personal jagir. This arrangement helped keep peace in the family. Had the widow continued to live in the Zenana, she could become the source of disruptive Zenana intrigue prompted by her need to safeguard her own interest. Against this background, one can easily see how self-immolation might have been encouraged as a political solution as far as ruling houses were concerned.71 The court bards and Charans prepared the psychological ground for this by providing a suitable ideological rationale and made it a strong model of female chastity by identifying it with pativrata. By valourizing the act, they transformed self-immolation into a heroic sacrifice and effectively linked it to the honour and prestige of the woman’s natal and conjugal clans. Through their poetry, the Charans conditioned the Rajput women from their childhood to accept and even welcome immolation by glorifying the act of sati. The Charans were skilled poets whose compositions and recitations were extremely forceful. In their verses, they portrayed voluntary immolation as an ideal of Rajput womanhood and sacred kul reet. By eulogizing previous satis, the Charans inspired subsequent generations of Rajput women. From childhood onwards, the Charans created a powerful conviction among Rajput women, that death was more honourable than birth. When a female child was born in a Rajput family, there were no celebrations, but when she became sati, it was a different matter. She was taken in a procession like a bride and accompanied by drums. It is also known that the bards taunted the women who chose not to commit sati. It is well known that the two wives of Abhairaj Sonigara, the Swami of Pali, did not become sati on the death of their husband, but on hearing taunting poetry from the bard they immediately prepared to perform sati.72 On any special occasion in the royal family of Jodhpur, commodities associated with the ritual of worship were sent to the memorial of these two women. We can see that sati, even if committed willingly, was not just an act of one individual or few individuals, but also a product of the sociocultural environment in which social pressures were exercised in subtle and at times blatant ways where a woman would be compelled to accept the will of others. A Rajput girl had been engaged to a Sisodia boy. When the Brahmin 71 72

Joshi, ‘Deifying the Dead’, p. 201. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 389.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

went to perform certain rituals for the engagement, he was not given adequate gifts. This was sufficient ground for the parents of the girl to break the engagement and have her betrothed elsewhere. This was an insult to the Sisodia boy as the Sisodias were considered to be the highest status clan among the Rajputs, so he cut off the head of the man she was betrothed to. The relatives of the boy demanded that she commit sati. Although the girl protested that she could not commit sati without being married, but had to give in, in order to avoid bloodshed.73 It is difficult to give a clear-cut answer whether sati was voluntary or obligatory. In the context of the medieval period, it does not even seem a pertinent question. Once sati is institutionalized and the institution acquires social sanction, to the extent of being deified, this normative pattern itself acts as a pressure for the performance of sati. In medieval Rajasthan, we find that sati seems to have been institutionalized mainly among the Rajputs. The communities that were closely connected to Rajput courts had a tendency to adopt the same lifestyle as their rulers. This can be seen in the architectural style of the havelis, the davree system, and parda. Similarly, sati was also an institution adopted by castes and communities from the Rajputs socially close to them. The example of the four wives of a merchant becoming sati has already been quoted with reference to polygamy.74 Although, we do find example of sati being committed by women of other castes, in their case it was not institutionalized and could have stemmed from either a feeling of personal love for their husband or as a result of ‘sanskritization’. There is a very popular ‘Vat’ in Rajasthan, that of Jasma Odni. Her tale is popular in the form of Rajasthani folk songs also. A certain Rao Khangar was stunned by the beauty of Jasma who belonged to the labour class. Rao expressed his desire to take her with him. On being refused, he killed Jasma’s husband. As a self-defensive measure and as a mark of true loyalty towards her husband, the woman-performed sati.75 Bhola, the wife of Balu, who also belonged to the labour class, burnt herself with his remains after Balu died in the battlefield.76 The 73 74 75 76

MNK, vol. 3, p. 47. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 128. Sharma and Joshi, Rajasthan Vat Sangrah, pp. 181–3. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 128.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


daughter-in-law of Nanki darzi also committed sati on the death of the husband.77 Anand Ram Mukhlis has also talked about sati being performed by the women of Khatri caste and it was perceived by him as an act of fidelity. I am writing the preface of the book of fidelity. An account of sati in the year AH 1156/1747–8 AD. Exactly at noon the wife of Bhagwan Narain Khatri, who resided in Mohalla Walhpura, situated in Shahjanabad, at age of 35 years, burnt herself along with her husband with perfect perseverance and firmness. Ray Rayan tried his best to induce and exit her with huge amount of money and grant of village in jagir, to keep her away from determination to burn herself but she accepted nothing. Riding her horse, she started with the dead body of her husband from her house towards the cremation ground and a large number of spectators collected, so much so that the eye could not see far enough. It is said that so many nobles had come to witness the spectacle in disguise.78

A rather interesting example of sati is that of the daughter of Alaudin Khalji who was fascinated by Viramji and wanted to marry him. But when the proposal was made to him,Viramji, on the pretext of preparing for marriage, started preparing for war and in the battle that ensued, he was killed by Alaudin Khalji. On receiving the news of his death, Alaudin Khalji’s daughter committed sati on the ground that she had been married to him in her past life.79 The act of sati was so romanticized as an act of valour and virtue that it even fired the imagination of the ‘Shahzadi’ who could not remain untouched by its influence. This whole story has been represented differently in Padmanabha’s Kanhade Prabhand in which it is said that when Kanhade perished in the battle, the Sultan’s daughter ordered her servant to bring back the dead Viramde’s head and anointed it with due rituals on the banks of the river Yamuna.While being cremated,Viramde’s head turned away from the ‘Shahzadi’. She then died by jumping into the river, the Rajput 77

Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 67. Tasneem Ahmed (tr.) Encyclopedic Dictionary of Medieval India, Mirat ul Istilah (Delhi: Sandeep Prakashan, 1993), p. 250. 79 MNK, vol. 1, p. 212. 78


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

order triumphed even as the Rajput kingdom itself was conquered by Alaudin Khalji. Even though Padmanabha lauds this demonstration of wifely virtue, he resists granting her full Rajput status and therefore is not allowed to die in the same pyre. Nainsi, however, introduced two crucial modifications to this textual representation. The decapitated head of Viramde turned back when the Sultan’s daughter reminded him of them being husband and wife in the previous birth. She then underwent a ritual wedding with the head before immolating herself with it and becoming sati. This indicates that by Nainsi’s time, the gulf between the ‘Turak’ and the ‘Hindu’ was less absolute because by his time most Rajput rulers had already accepted the Mughal sovereignty.80 That sati among other castes was also worshipped and deified can be seen from the example of the temple in the southwest of Alwar dedicated to sati Narayani. Because this sati was a member of barber caste, she became a special goddess of that caste in northeastern Rajasthan. Hand prints on the wall of the temple testified the belief that this sati goddess will bless and make fertile the recently married women who came to her.81 Memorials commemorating the satis of men other than rulers, as might be expected, are less elaborate than those in the royal cenotaphs. It seems that in Rajasthan women from a broad caste spectrum became sati, but most of their deaths are unrecorded and many of their memorials undated. Most ordinary are stone pillars, which stand by themselves near Jaisalmer on a hill next to the road running through the ‘bada bagh’ in the city. A series of memorial pillars commemorating only Brahmins are protected with cenotaphs with mostly pyramidal but also doomed roofs. In Udaipur, a freestanding memorial pillar commemorating a male and his sati belonging to the Dhobi (washerman) caste stands on the grounds of a present day tourist bungalow.82 Therefore, we can see that sati was not confined only to warrior widows whose husbands had died in battle.The act of sati was elevated 80

Sirinivasan, ‘The Marriage of“Hindu” and “Turak”’, pp. 104–5. William A. Noble and A.D. Ram Sankhya, ‘Signs of the Divine: Sati Memorials and Sati Worship in Rajasthan’, in The Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities, ed. Schomer Karine, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O. Lodrick, and Llyod I. Rudolph,Vol. I (Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994), pp. 366–7. 82 Noble and Sankhya, ‘Signs of the Divine’, p. 358. 81

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to new heights as a status conferring ritual, hence it was practiced by Brahmins as well as members of lower castes who saw it as an avenue for attaining prestige and status in society. G.N. Sharma gives an interesting example of a Brahmin lady who committed sati in Amli (Mewar) in order to save herself from being molested by Sawant Singh, the Bhomia of that village.83 Also, for a long time sociological and historical works have seen the performance of the act of sati as the choice between two options— either the glory of sati or the wretched life of a widow.This is reflected not only in the Dharamshashtras, but also in modern sociological works. According to the Dharamshashtras, the view towards the widow is diametrically opposite to that of sati. The traditional view of the widow was that of a tapasvini (ascetic). The word tapasvini is idiomatically used to connote an unfortunate female. The vidhwa (widow) was considered to be inauspicious. Thus, widowhood of a woman entailed spiritual misfortune and implied the temporary absence of dharma in relation to the family.The lineage and community too had to share the blame for this adharma (unrighteous).84 Sati and widowhood did not constitute equal options. From the moment of decision, the sati was considered auspicious, and the widow, from the moment of her husband’s death became inauspicious. Everyone in the village gathered to witness a sati’s holiness, whereas everyone considered the sight of the widow as inauspicious.85 Most works have assumed that a third option, that of widow remarriage, was not open especially to the women of upper caste. We find that in our region the word that is used for a widow is rand which is also a derogatory word, used for women who are perceived of loose morals and the local proverb portrays that for a married woman there is no bigger curse than to be called a widow.86 Our archival sources, however, indicate that widow remarriage was a well-established practice in our region for the middle and lower caste. 83

Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 129. When the report reached the Rana, he confiscated the Bhom and appointed some Rawat Fateh Singh as Bhomia. 84 Kane, History of Dharmashastras, pp. 624–36. 85 Sharma et al., Sati Historical and Phenomological Essays, p. 80. 86 Sahal, Rajasthani Kahawate, p. 190.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Although not on a large scale, we do get examples of women of castes other than Rajput committing sati, and the factor responsible was certainly not the lack of widow remarriage. In fact, remarriage was such a well-established norm that the state derived an income by taxing these marriages.The ‘Adsattas’ are full of references to hasil gharecha (tax on remarriage) from various parganas. Gharecha, nata, palla lagana, or gharwasa, the terms used for remarriage, is found to be prevalent among all the middle and low castes of Rajasthan. We find instances of nata among the Jats, Bishnois (agricultural castes) among bangle makers, utensil makers, calico printers, goldsmiths, and also the menial castes. Also, we can view a distinction between primary and secondary marriage. Primary marriage connotes a marriage with full rights of a virgin with a man from an appropriate caste group. A woman goes through such a marriage only once in her life. Her subsequent marriage may have social sanction and she may continue to use all the signs of a married state but she has permanently stepped outside the bonds of primary marriage. These unions were not solemnized through fullblown rituals but socially declared through symbolic act or truncated ceremony which included presentation of glass bangle or nose ring to a woman which signifies marriage status, throwing of cloth over woman’s head, symbolic of the woman now being protected by a man. We can see that only notional marriage rituals were followed. The term used for remarriage can be any of these: chadar dalana, ghar mein bithana, palla lagana, nata karana, or gharecha and gharwasa as is often used in our region. The distinction between primary and secondary marriage again can be gleaned from the popular proverbs of this region, which reflects that remarriages or nata were not really seen as an ideal situation, especially when all the Vedic customs had not been followed.87 But, as we already know, that there was always a difference between what was ideal and what was practically feasible. This distinction probably centres on the concern with family purity and management of female sexuality. It is sought to be sustained by according special value to primary marriage and a low status to a secondary union. It was considered a concession to human weakness without seriously undermining the boundaries of caste. 87

Sahal, Rajasthani Kahawate, p. 32.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


The castes which permit remarriage, unlike the Brahmins, do not look upon marriage as indissoluble. Presence of remarriage of widows, or remarriage even when the husband was still alive, was very much prevalent among different castes. In fact, among the agricultural and artisanal castes, widow remarriage was not only permissible but completely honourable. The rituals of the second marriage were distinct from the first marriage, which was properly conducted according to the Shastras. A widow’s remarriage was performed without fanfare either to scourge on bride price or to consolidate the family property. Gharecha, nata, and gharijana (remarriage) are not confined just to widow remarriage but also refers to the second marriage in the lifetime of the partner. Nainsi specifically mentioned that gharecha meant staying with someone else after widowhood or to leave one’s husband and go and live in another man’s home as his wife.88 We come across examples of not only Rajput widows remarrying, but also leaving their husbands when they were still alive.Widow remarriage, though not very common, was not prohibited either. It is not clear during what period do prohibitions on widow remarriage of upper caste Rajput women appear. But in the Khyats, one hardly finds examples of widow remarriage during the post-Mughal period. In the pre-Mughal period, we find that the clan order of the Rajputs was quite flexible and there was a degree of openness. In the formative years, the Rajput clan structure was more accommodating and there was less male–female segregation. Changes occurred after the political and administrative paramountcy of the Mughals, however, the clan character of the Rajputs did not undergo substantial changes. The Mughal preferred them because of their clan following. The position of women was affected when Sur Singh reorganized the Zanani Deorhi. Thereafter, no male above the age of five was allowed to enter the Zenana. The Mughals were so particular about the chastity of their women that during Akbar’s reign, when Rao Kalla, was suspected of having come in contact with a lady of the Zenana, it was considered ground enough for Akbar to want to have him killed.89 This obsession with chastity perhaps translated into an attitude against widow remarriage. 88

MNK, vol. 3, p. 57. Harbans Mukhia, The Mughals of India (Blackwell Publishers, 2004), p. 131. 89


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

That injunctions against widow remarriage was imposed, becomes clear from the fact that Sawai Jai Singh wanted to introduce legislation encouraging widow remarriages. But nothing positive came out of it due to his mother’s opposition. In the royal correspondence of Kota and Jodhpur, however, there is some reference to giving state aid to the widows.90 But if we look at the pre-Mughal period, we see an example that suggests that the widow did not remarry out of helplessness, but chose to enter it from a position of strength. In a fight between Songara and Rao Tida Rathore, Songara was defeated and his wife Sisodiani (from Sisodia clan) got the offer of gharwasa. She agreed on the condition that her son would be the patvi. Sisodiani was made the chief queen and her son, who was younger, was appointed the patvi.91 The fact that she belonged to the Sisodia clan, which enjoyed the highest status among the Rajputs, made her proposal more acceptable. In the process, the Rao obviously disregarded the claims of his other sons. Here the status of the clan acquired extreme importance. This incident challenges the view of Kumkum Sangari who feels that women acting on their own behalf are an anathema to the moral order of men.92 We also have an example of a Rajput lady who was so upset about both her husband and brother disregarding her wishes that she sent a proposal to various Rajputs and was finally accepted by Ram Chand Ida of Bhelu village.93 As we have seen in Chapter II, when the motive behind marriage was political or economic, no set rules were followed. Rao Malinath of Mehwa got his widowed daughter married to Gharh Singh. In this way, the new Rathores of Marwar became the well-wishers of Gharh Singh and he fought a number of battles of Marwar.94 Flexibility of the moral order can be seen in different situations.


Arora, Rajisthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 45. MNK, vol. 3, p. 23. Her son was Kanharde. 92 Kumkum Sangari, ‘Consent Agency and the Rhetoric of Incitement’, Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 28 (March 1993): 874. 93 MNK, vol. 3, p. 283. 94 Virender Singh, ‘Jaisalmer ke Shashkon ke Kendriya Shaktiyon ke Sath Sambandh’, p. 240 and the source quoted is Tawarikh Jaisalmer, p. 39 and Bankidas ke Khyat, p. 3. 91

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


In V.S. 1561/1504, Nirwan Ridmal of Khandela had completely destroyed the lands of Bikaner. In retaliation, Rao Bikaji attacked and plundered Khandela and married the widow sister of Nirwan Ridmal and she had two sons from him.95 There is also a reference to the mother of the Makvana Rajputs of Gujarat who had done gharecha.96 Looking at the pattern of widow remarriage in Rajasthan, one can again question Kumkum Sangari’s view that the genealogy of the Rajput widow can be traced to the model of the Brahmin widow in the Manusmriti.97 There is a very interesting example of Moolu who married Solankini by force in order to avenge an enmity. After marriage, he made her pregnant and abandoned her. The proposal of her marriage was sent to various people but was not accepted; finally Sawant Singh of Jalore married her.98 We have yet another example of Udham Singh Ida who was in the service of Rawal Malinath, asking for the hand of a girl from Kotechi clan who had been abandoned by her earlier husband, Mohil of Parihar, on the ground that she ate too much. But Udham Singh saw her as an asset who would produce strong sons for him.99 In another example Champa Seedham’s wife, Devri left him and went to Sajan Bhayal’s house. This was not acceptable to her earlier husband, they both died fighting for her.100 To marry a woman who had been abandoned by other men seems to be in direct contravention of the much talked about high caste norm of putting premium on the chastity of the woman, which is also advanced as one of the arguments for the lack of widow remarriage among them. Not only did men marry abandoned women, but we also come across examples of women leaving their husband while he was still alive.


J.K. Jain (ed.), Bikaner Rajya ka Itihas, by Sidhayach Dayaldas, Deshdarpan, Primary, Rajasthan State Archives, Bikaner, 1989, p. 19. 96 MNK, vol. 3, p. 57. 97 Kumkum Sangari, ‘Mira Bai and the Spiritual Economy of Bhakti’, Economic and Political Weekly (1990): 1467. 98 MNK, vol. 3, p. 291. 99 MNK, vol. 3, p. 251. 100 MNK, vol. 1, p. 182.Whether it was remarriage or she just started living with him is not specified but can be equated with gharwasa.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Maldev died soon after marriage and at that time his wife was in her natal home and her family got her married to Gazni Khan Pathan of Jalore.101 To avenge this, Rawal Harraj, the son of Maldev, sent Bhatti Khed Singh to completely destroy Rardhare. Why this should have been done is something one can only conjecture. It could either be that widow remarriage was on the wane or that the family of origin was not meant to exercise that kind of authority over the woman. We do have evidence to show that women still continued to have connection with their natal home and treat it as their second home. When Sihaji (ruler of Kanauj) died, his Rani Chawari took her three small children and went to live at her parents place.102 It is not clear why she took this step.Whether she feared she would not get adequate maintenance or it was customary for them to exercise this choice, we cannot say with any certitude, but from this example it does seem that she had the right to choose her place of comfort. If a woman was very beautiful then the aristocratic Rajputs did not hesitate to covet her unmindful of her marital status. Sepat having seen Solankini in a mela (fair) asked her brother for her hand. Solankini said that her husband would not allow this. Both fought over her and died.103 The preceding examples have amply proved that remarriage among the elite Rajput was not such a taboo as has been made out to be. As to how widely it was prevalent and acceptable is difficult to determine. The same source that gives us so many examples of remarriages among the Rajputs also tells us how the proposal of a Rajput widow’s marriage was refused on the ground that it would invoke ridicule of the family and relatives. But what is again striking about this incident is that the widow herself sent the proposal for marriage.104 The traditional view that one has of a widow is that of a tapasvini. Since the Rajputs followed most norms of the Dharamshastras regarding marriage customs and rituals, would that also be the criteria for the treatment of widows? But as we have seen earlier, along with certain practices of Dharamshastras, there were many customs and practices, 101

MNK, vol. 2, p. 97. MNK, vol. 2, p. 276. 103 MNK, vol. 3, p. 259. 104 MNK,vol. 2, pp. 114–15. The widow of Rao Ranmade Batti sent a proposal to Rao Kolhan for remarriage and in return she promised to give him the fort. But he was hesitant. 102

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


which were derived from local traditions and whatever was expedient in the situation. As far as the aristocratic Rajput widows are concerned, we have enough information on their condition to demonstrate that it did not approximate to the picture drawn in the Dharmashastras. So far we have already seen the prevalence of widow remarriage among the Rajputs, although perhaps among them it was mostly prevalent under war conditions. Whatever references of widow remarriages we find are largely of the pre-Mughal period. There are not many examples of widow remarriage in the later period. Therefore, it was circumstances, which affected issues like widow remarriage rather than any Dharmshashtric injunctions. As far as the other upper castes are concerned, there are not very many references regarding them. We get the example of a Brahmin who got his daughter engaged a second time without revealing it to the state. But Fatu Patel of Toda Ganga came to know of it and he was fined Rs 11.105 This instance was more of an exception rather than a rule. There could be two possible reasons for the Brahmin not revealing the second engagement. Perhaps he hid the betrothal because he did not want to pay marriage tax to the state. But the upper castes were not taxed anyway, so this argument does not seem valid. The other reason could be that remarriage was not socially acceptable among the Brahmins and that is why an attempt was made to hide it. Also, it is not very clear whether it was an attempt at remarriage of a widowed daughter or otherwise. As to what happened after the state realized the fine is not mentioned—whether the engagement was broken or it culminated into marriage, after having paid the penalty—is not very clear. Another example of remarriage of the Brahmin is that of Raja Karena who remarried the daughter of Madhav Brahmin of Nagaur.106 As far as the ruling class were concerned, they could always flout the norm of having remarriages within the same castes. But this must have been a very rare case and gradually caste endogamy was maintained even in case of remarriages. A striking aspect of gharecha is that even in case of remarriage, the caste purity and caste endogamy was still emphasized. In Mauza Jatpura, Nai of a village did gharecha with a Brahmin woman. This was perceived as a crime by the state and 105 106

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788/1731. MNK, vol. 3, p. 53.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

his belongings were sold off to realize a fine of Rs 6 by the state.107 But surprisingly when the wife of Ram Rai Gujjar of Ghato did gharecha with Valor Khan of a Mauza in Pargana Lalsot, the state realized the usual amount of tax of Re 1 and 5 annas.108 Given the fact that the ruling class of this region had entered matrimonial alliances with the Muslims, it could be possible that the state was more tolerant of inter-religious marriages but inter-communal marriages was not such a common practice among the ordinary families. Also, the fact that it was a low caste marrying a Brahmin may have determined the amount of fine. Examining the ‘Adsattas’ of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of our region, we find that nata was prevalent among all castes of middle and lower rung.This kind of remarriage was also very much recognized by the state and the state realized tax on such marriages thereby granting legitimacy to them. Thus, we have examples of Cheepa Gujjar, Jat, Charan, Sonar, Meena, Darzi, Ahir, Khati all indulging in this practice. ‘The Jama i Jama Kharch Parna Kota’ is replete with instances where a Lohar, Gujjar, saltmaker, Julaha, boat men all married though the system of nata and then legitimized it by paying tax to the panch and the state. Some nominal amount seems to have been realized as tax from most castes. When Asa Meena’s wife did gharwasa with Sukhaija Meena of Lakhanpur, the amount realized by the state was Re 1 and 5 annas as tax.109 This is an indication of the fact that the state was regulating the marital norm of the tribal population also. Sometimes the references in the ‘Adsattas’ do not make it clear whether the gharecha was done even while the spouse was alive or only after his/her death. Most of the time the women are referred to as a particular person’s wife and not by their name. Some references do make it clear that the women remarried only after becoming a widow such as the remarriage of Hema Meena’s daughter to Hari Meena of Katwaro after the death of her husband.110 In another reference of a Meena, wife of Nirottam Meena of Mauza Javanata did gharecha with Mane Meena of Pargana Udehi. The state realized Re 1 and 5 taka.111 107 108 109 110 111

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1768/1711. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S.1788/1731. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788/1731.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


This could have occurred due to personal reasons when the woman may have taken a fancy to another man. As stated earlier, the possibility of women remarrying even when their husbands were alive was very much there, although it may not have been very frequent. Among the agricultural castes, one can find examples of remarriage among the Jats, Gujjars, and Ahirs. When the wife of Harkishan Gujjar did gharecha with Chhajju Gujjar of Mauza Majkur, the State again realized Re 1 and 5 taka as tax.112 The same amount was also realized when Karamsi Gujjar of Todari Kalan did gharecha with wife of Godha Gujjar of Lalsyo.113 Wife of Krishna Gujjar of Johta did gharecha with Sabli Gujjar and the amount realized was Re 1 and 4 takas.114 So we see that there is little variation in terms of the tax realized by the state from the middle-caste groups. Examples of remarriage can be seen among other agricultural caste such as Ahirs. Wife of Narain Ahir did gharecha with Kari Bishna Ahir of Mauza Jarawali and the tax paid was Re 1 and 4 taka.115 Among the other agricultural caste such as the Jat and Bishnoi, nata was performed within the family of the husband for reasons of land and property. As to why this was not so among other agricultural castes such as the Ahir and Gujjars, one may conjecture that they probably did not own as much of landed property as the Jats and Bishnois. Among the Jats, it was expected that the widow automatically married the brother of the deceased husband. This was in order to consolidate the hold over land, as among the Jats, women also had rights over landed property. In such cases of remarriage, the wishes of the women were hardly taken into account, yet we have an example of a Jat woman Pemali, who requested that she would earn her livelihood and therefore refused to remarry.The panchayat and the court accepted her request.116 On the basis of this example, one can say that from time to time women did pick up some courage and had their voices heard. Coming to the artisanal caste, we find the system of remarriage was very much prevalent among them.When Harkishan Cheepa of Amber 112 113 114 115 116

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

did gharecha with the daughter-in-law of Udai Cheepa, the state realized Re 1 and 5 annas as tax.117 Among the goldsmiths, although nata was prevalent, it was performed discreetly. Kanu Sonar did nata with wife of Har Nath Sonar and the state realized Re 1, 1 taka, and 12 dams.118 Another example of remarriage among the goldsmiths is that of Govind Ram of Muaza Narian Pur who did nata with the wife of Sonar of Sarwasa and the state realized Re 1 and 5 taka as tax.119 Among the goldsmiths, we find that when the boys’ side came for nata with clothes and jewellery, the friends and relatives would be around but the moment the woman had worn them and it was time for her to depart, everybody moved away. She entered the new husband’s home quietly and in order to wash off the stigma of nata, she was made to grind wheat in the chakki (grinder).120 As to why the goldsmith caste should treat it so when it was perfectly acceptable among other artisanal castes, one can conjecture that perhaps the goldsmith were better off economically than the other artisanal castes and therefore tried to emulate the practice of the upper caste, where remarriages were only taking place among the Rajputs and that too up to a point of time. Other artisan caste from which one gets examples of remarriages is the ironsmiths. Thus, wife of Teja Lohar did nata with Khokhar Lohar of Muaza Rampura and the state realized tax of Re 1 and 4 taka.121 In the same pargana, when Udo Lohari did nata with Pama Lohari’s son, the same amount was realized by the state.122 When the daughter of Looghan Lohar did nata with Ghasi Lohar Lasan, state realized Re 1 and 5 taka as tax. Examples of remarriages among other artisanal castes such as carpenters are also to be found. From Adsatta Pargana Bahatri V.S. 1777/1720, we get two examples of gharecha among the Khatis, that of Dayal Khati of Mauza Perlitayura with the wife of Ramrik Khati and another of wife of Uda Khati’s son of Mauza Motuna with Vaksa Khati of Pargana Dhausa; in both cases the amount realized was Re 1 and 4 taka.123 Besides these, we have examples of many 117 118 119 120 121 122 123

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788/1731. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1777/1720. Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur,V.S. 1832/1775. Report Mardumshumari, Raj Marwar, Part III, AD 1815, p. 162. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1777/1720.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


other caste groups entering into nata.We have the example of kumhar, dhobi (washerman), nai, darzi (tailor), mali, Kalal (winemaker), and Koli (weaver).124 In all such cases, the state realized taxes ranging from Re 1 and 4 taka to Re 1 and 6 taka. In one instance, the state seems to have realized a much bigger amount as tax from a Lakhera. Whereas, in one case involving a Lakhera, the state imposed Re 1 and 4 taka.125 In another pargana, when Jairam Lakhera’s daughter was married to Sunder Lakhera of village Halwa and after his death was remarried to Lakhera of village Datwa, they had to pay a tax of Rs 6.126 The variation in taxes could be because the remarriage was not revealed to the state as the state was quite strict about realizing tax on gharecha, and if these cases were hidden and the state came to know about it, the person concerned had to pay a fine. When Abha Nai did gharecha and did not pay hasil, he was fined Rs 7.127 In another case involving a Meena, the state imposed a much heavier fine. When Ashavad Meena of Muaza Bhawat married Hatiya Meena’s wife without paying cess to the state, he was fined Rs 35.128 When Laliya Ladho did gharecha with the wife of Uda and did not acknowledge it, he was fined Rs 22 by the state.129 Even when gharecha was done within the family, the state had to be informed. When Bena Sunar did gharecha with the younger brother’s wife without informing the state, he was fined Rs 11.130 When Revra Chamar of village Roopura did gharecha with Chamari without informing the state, he had to pay a tax of Rs 6.131 Besides informing the state, the concerned parties who were entering into nata or gharecha had to take the permission of the panchas. Doli, an artisan woman reported that she had contracted nata without obtaining consent of the panchas. Hence, she was fined and also made to pay compensation to the state. She requested for


These references are all available in Adsatta Pargana Bahatri, V.S. 1777/1720 and Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716-1777/1720–88/1731. 125 Adsatta Pargana Bahatri, V.S. 1777/1720. 126 Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1770/1171. 127 Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1777/1720. 128 Adsatta Pargana Malarna, V.S. 1775/1718. 129 Adsatta Pargana Chatsu, V.S. 1780/1723. 130 Adsatta Qasba Lalsot, V.S. 1795/1742. 131 Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1770/1713.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

exemption from paying the outstanding amount of Rs 23 as she was hard pressed financially and was begging to survive.132 One comes across several references of gharecha among the menial castes such as the Chamars and the Dom, and even from them the state seems to have realized the same amount of 1 Re and 5 takas as tax. When the daughter of Dhanna Chamar of Manpur did gharecha with Natho of Mauza Patan Pargana Lawani, the state realized 1 Re and 5 annas.133 In most of the cases of gharecha, the women doing gharecha are referred to as somebody’s wife. But it was obviously a case of remarriage, otherwise the term byah (marriage) would have been used. There could also be a possibility that the widow had reverted back to her natal home after the death of her husband. However, in most cases, it seems that the widow continued to live at her in-laws. That the remarriages occurred at the in-laws’ family, can be seen from further examples. The wife of Pemla Chamar of Muaza Sarika did gharecha with Sukhla Chamar.134 References from pargana Bahatri of gharecha among the same caste also mentions the women as someone’s wife.The wife of Dhaniya Chamar did gharecha with Geedha Vanah Chamar of Averi.135 Similarly, the wife of Har Ram Chamar of Mauza Dehrauli did gharecha with Chamari of Qasba Reeni and the state realized 1 Re 6 takas as tax.136 In another reference related to the same caste, the daughter of Dunga Chamar of Shahi Jahanpur did gharecha with Megha Chamar of Muaza Katrawas.137 Perhaps among the menial caste of Chamar, there was no hard and fast rule about where the woman resided after she became a widow. Presence of remarriage among the other menial castes during our period is well documented. When the wife of Nauju Das of Mauza Vilena did gharecha with Vacha Dom of Mauza Mutkaha, the state also realized the same amount of Re 1 and 5 taka as tax.138 These

132 133 134 135 136 137 138

Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur,V.S. 1831/1774, p. 44. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788/1731. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788/1731. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1788/1731. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788/1731.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


facts demonstrate that the state played an important role in regulating norms of remarriage and the state officials who tried to appropriate the tax and did not pass it on to the state were punished with the imposition of a fine. Kirnail Singh Chauhan appropriated Re 1 as tax on gharecha in his village and instead of giving it to the state, he kept it with himself, therefore the state fined him Rs 2.139 In another case, a carpenter had taken a loan from a Brahmin but died without repaying the loan. The Brahmin realized that money when the wife of the deceased married another man. He realized gharecha and shared it with the state Jagirdar so that it would not be revealed to the state.140 But in most cases, the state got to know of it anyway. In another instance, the husband of Merta Sunar’s granddaughter (Merta was a part of Jodhpur) passed away.The wife of a Jodhpur Sunar lured her secretly to Jodhpur and tried to marry her off. But the news spread and the latter woman was punished by the court for trying to marry the lady secretly. According to the court orders, she was kept in the police custody for two days.141 So, although, remarriage was practiced by the middle and the lower castes, it was arranged by the family members of the woman. In this case, since the woman was to be secretly married without the knowledge of the family and the state, it was perceived as a crime by the state. Who took the initiative for the remarriages? It seems that the family members of the person concerned largely arranged it. It was socially accepted by the castes and formalized through panchayat, and the final recognition was given by the state. State demonstrated its overarching authority and turned it into a source of income. Among the lower and the middle castes, we find that remarriage was possible even in the presence of a previous husband, who had either deserted his wife or his wife was dissatisfied with him.When Teli Biko got married through nata to wife of Manoher Teli, he paid Rs 12 as compensation to Manohar.142

139 140 141 142

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1769/1712. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1769/1712. Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur, No. 5,V.S. 1823/1766, p. 26. Jama i Jama Kharch Parna Kota, AD 1693.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

When Gujjar Kalu married the wife of his brother, the panchayat decided that he pay a compensation of Rs 51.143 The practice of severing relation with one and becoming a part of another through nata was formalized through vair acceptable to both sides. Without vair, the marriage could not be legitimized. In 1743, in village Jodhalsar in Bikaner the widow of Durga Sonar’s brother was married by her parents without Durga’s consent, she was brought back to Durga’s family and later on when the compensation was paid, the marriage was legitimized through vair.144 The amount of vair was determined according to the economic status of the family. Therefore, in medieval Rajasthan we see the village community, caste panchayat, and the state regulating all areas of married life, unlike Europe where the church played the role of a regulating agency. During distress years, we find certain norms and rules of gharecha being overlooked. Rajasthan being a famine-prone region, migration of males in search of livelihood was frequent. The value system then permitted the women of some castes to enter a temporary marriage. A woman whose husband had migrated married temporarily on the assurance of being taken care of, but when her first husband came back to her, she was restored to him.145 Although details of the attitude of the husband is not given, there does not seem to be any taboo on this kind of an arrangement, indicating moral and social elasticity during distress years. Also, the attitude of the woman is not mentioned—whether she went back to him willingly or unwillingly. Since we do have examples to show that women did protest against atrocities and the state did pay attention to them, on all accounts, she went back to her husband willingly. There is also an instance where a Muslim woman was deserted by her husband and son during famine years. Initially she tried to earn her livelihood by working as a casual labour.When she failed to get any employment, she married a Muslim fakir (wanderer). Later, her previous husband claimed that she was illegally married to the fakir and the lady was persecuted by the ‘Panch Musalman’ and the ‘Qazi’. But when she narrated her experience with her first husband and her son, the second marriage 143 144 145

Jama i Jama Kharch Parna Kota, AD 1693. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 49. Jodhpur Sanad Parwana Bahi, Fagun Sudi-9,V.S. 1823/1766.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


was legitimized.146 Was this an example revealing gender sensitivity? But at the same time, we also find that among some castes there were instances of selling the wife due to economic hardships during distress years, which is highly demeaning. The word Punar Bhu is used to indicate a widow who has remarried.147 Although, of course by the time of Manu, widow remarriage was condemned. In the early period, women could not hold or inherit property, which was a big disability. A landed property was divided among heirs who had the power to defend it against the actual and potential enemies. Women obviously were unable to do this and thus unable to hold property.148 That the widow’s right to succeed as heir to her husband was not recognized in ancient times is clear from Sakuntla (Act VI), where the minister writes to the king that the estate of a merchant will escheat to the crown and not go to the widow. In the medieval times, it seems that the rights of a widow to property was better recognized than in the times of early Sutra writers. If we examine the documents of medieval Rajasthan, we find this to be true for the widow of this region. The wife of Annand Ram Chaudhary was allowed to appropriate the perquisites of her late husband till she was alive.149 That the widow had a right over the land held by her husband is substantiated by another document. Goma Bahamani of Kasba Lalsot informed the state that her late husband Jodha had rented out five bighas of land to Surtya Brahmin for cultivation. But for the last nine years Goma was not getting the rent from Surtya. The state issued an order that if her claim was justified then she should be given the rent,150 thus recognizing her as the owner of the land. That the widow also had a right over the house of her husband is revealed in another document. In Qasba Sawai Jaipur, Jakh’s (Brahmin) widow claimed her right over her husband’s house on the basis that she had been staying in the house ever since its construction.The state gave 146

Chitthis of Jaipur Records, eighteenth century. Sharma, Marriage in Ancient India, p. 32. 148 Mohinder Jeet Kaur Teja, Dowry, A Study in Attitudes and Practices (Delhi: Inter India Publications, 1993), p. 12. 149 Chitthi Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1815/1758. 150 Chitthi Pargana Lalsot, dt.Vaisakh Sudi 14,V.S. 1813/1756. 147


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the verdict that she should be allowed to keep possession of the house, and after her it should be given to her son.151 In another petition, the widow of Chittar Mahajan reported that she had come from village Kardana to stay with Joua Patwari. In her absence, Hari Singh Chauhan had broken open the lock of her house, taken away her belongings, and started living in her house. An order was issued by the state that her property be restored to her and a warning issued to those who were trying to take advantage of her.152 There is another instance where the state upheld the right of the woman as co-sharer in the produce of the land. It is not clearly stated whether she was a widow. Due to the share being allotted in her name, one can assume that she was a widow. The younger wife of Laxmi Das Brahmin (the reference to the younger wife is revealing of the fact the Brahmin had entered polygamous marriage) made a petition that the family held land grant in village Kaluvar in Didwana. The co-sharers were not letting her take her share and the matter was sorted out by the darbar with the help of the pancha. As per the justice dispensed by the pancha, she was granted one third of the share. She appropriated the share for two years, but after that someone else misappropriated her share. Instruction was given by the state that once the reported matter was substantiated, she should be allowed her share and it be separated from other co-sharers thus giving her exclusive rights.153 We see widows making representation to the state or the pancha whenever their rights were violated.154 When Hardev Dani of Qasba Merta did not honour his promise to provide for the maintenance of his widowed daughter-in-law, she appealed to the state and received the requisite maintenance.155 In Kishangharh village in Bikaner, when a Brahmin was throwing out his widowed daughter-in-law from his house, she appealed to the panchayat and made them recognize her right to stay in the house as well as her entitlement of a share in the produce of the field.156 We find widows making representation to the 151 152 153 154 155 156

Chitthi Pargana Sawai Jaipur, dt. Kati Sudi 15,V.S. 1824/1767. Chitthi Pargana Sawai Jaipur, dt.Vaisakh sudi 1,V.S. 1777/1720. Chithi Pargana Lalsot, dt. bhadwa vadi 8,V.S. 1810/1753. Jodhpur Sanad Parwana Bahi,V.S. 1822/1765. Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur,V.S. 1822/1765. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 74.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


state for any kind of problem they may have faced. Ajoli Rajputani of the village Gagrajei reported that her husband was no more and she was indebted to Urja Rajput of village Kanmur. As she was unable to repay, the lender had taken away her daughter. She wanted her daughter to be restored to her.157 These documents bring out two things clearly. One, that the widows were open to harassment by family members and others, regarding their share in the property. But at the same time it also shows that they were very aware of their property rights and petitioned to the state as and when these rights were violated and the state did uphold the rights of these women. These women appear strong and resilient, capable of securing their rights and fending for themselves. These examples are significant also because of the fact that most of them relate to Brahmin women. If we examine the injunctions that the Dharamshastras lay down for the Brahmin widow, the picture that emerges is that of women who are socially marginalized, ritually inauspicious, and clearly stigmatized, and this certainly does not fit the image of Brahmin widows provided in our documents. The Manusmriti says that the Brahmin widow, in order to be good must never think of another man, avoid sensual pleasures, and in order to obtain heaven, live like the Brahmin ascetic. She must practice those incomparable rules of virtue which have been followed by such women as were devoted to only one husband and it has generally been viewed that the upper caste women could not dream of remarriage. Although we do not have information on all the other upper caste women, our literary sources give us evidence that the Rajput widows of our region, at least during the pre-Mughal period, did remarry and the Brahmin widows certainly do not appear to be a marginalized lot. Also, the lokgeet of this region talks about widow remarriages and how it had social acceptability. This is further exemplified by the local sayings of a particular region, which has been captured by Laxmilal Jori in ‘Mewar ki Kahawaten’. There is a local proverb which says that widow remarriage is so prevalent among the Rawats (Mers who had taken to agriculture) that after losing her husband a lady does not remain a widow for long and soon finds another husband.158 From the 157 158

Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur, No. 14, 1831/1774, p. 106. Jori, Mewar ki Kahawate, p. 142.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

same source we learn that in Mewar a mulmul white sari with print was worn both by widows and married women indicating that there was no sartorial difference between the widow and other married ladies. It is true that the elite Rajput women had no claim over her husband’s property, but that did not mean that she was living a povertystricken life, since a particular amount of money was fixed for the expenditure of the widow and they were also granted pattas of villages which brought them a regular income, hence by and large they were economically secure. Mahtab Kunwarji, the Patrani of the head of the Bikaner Raola and the wife of Maharaja Dungar Singh, held the jagir of six villages, yielding an annual income of Rs 7,600.159 Chandrawatji Maji, widow of Maharaja Lal Singh of Bikaner, held five villages in jagir, yielding an income of Rs 6,000. In addition, she was receiving Rs 2,000 per annum from the state treasury.160 Chota Bhatianiji, widow of Maharaja Sunder Singh of Bikaner, held two villages—Mansar and Surat —from which she derived an annual income of Rs 37,000 and 13,000 respectively, free from all state demands.161 So the argument that the practice of sati was shaped by such consideration that existed in a milieu in which widowhood was regarded as the final and lowest stage in the life of a woman, whereby the woman was regarded as a marginal entity in society, does not seem tenable for our region. The question that arises is that which caste is one talking about? As far as the middle and the lower caste peasant and the artisan women are concerned, for them the institution of marriage had a greater degree of openness whereby they could remarry as a widow or otherwise. As far as the upper caste women are concerned, although we do not have much information on Brahmin and Baniya remarriage, they also do not appear to be socially marginalized entities. With respect to Rajputs, among whom the incidence of sati is highest, we see that the 159

Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitude in an Elite Society in Transition’, p.  12, and the source quoted is Sodhi Hukam Singh, A Biographical Account of the Ladies of the Ruling House of Bikaner (Bikaner: Bikaner State Publishing, 1894), pp. 7–8. 160 Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitude in an Elite Society in Transition’, same source as quoted above, p. 3. 161 Rathore, ‘The Changing Attitude in an Elite Society in Transition’, p. 4.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


widow could remarry till the pre-Mughal period and those who chose to remain widows, especially among the aristocratic Rajput families, were quite comfortable and well looked after and some of them even wielded tremendous influence as regent queens. The following examples provide us information on the number of women who did not commit sati. There was enmity and constant warfare between the Chawdas and the Lakhas; as a result there were many young widows in the house of the Chawdas (late fourteenth century).162 When Rao Maldev of Jaisalmer died, his wife who was in her natal home then was married off to Ghazni Khan Pathan of Jalore163 (about fifteenth century). When Rao Sihoji died, his wife Rani Chawdi (sister of Mulraj) left her in-laws’ place and came back to the natal family in Idar in Gujarat with her sons who were very small.164 It is further mentioned in the Vigat that when Siha died his two wives could not get along with each other therefore one of them went back to her natal family in Patan with her three children. It is obvious that both Ranis did not commit sati165 (about mid-fifteenth century). The example of Bikaji marrying the widow sister of Nirwan Ridmal166 has already been given earlier. This lady obviously chose to remain a widow and later remarried rather than become sati. The widow of Var Singh did not commit sati and when she realized that her son Siha was a weak ruler, she sought the advice of the panchas and invited Duda from Bikaner, giving him ownership of half of Merta (1540s). So, here the Rani does not commit sati but plays an active role in preserving the territory.167 The mother of Prithvi Raj III Karpoordevi and Rani Lohani, sister of Puranpal Parmal and wife of Vighraj, did not become sati (sixteenth century).168 On Lakha’s death in 1421 (Mewar), his son Mokal born of Hansa Bai, succeeded to the throne. Mewar’s queen mother, Hansa Bai, 162 163 164 165 166 167 168

MNK, vol. 2, pp. 67–8. MNK, vol. 2, p. 97. MNK, vol. 2, p. 276. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 2. Jain, Bikaner Rajaya ka Itihas. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 45. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 7.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

solicited and obtained the help of her brother Ranmal (Rathore) for administering the state on behalf of young Rana Mokal.169 The wife of Rai Singh (the ruler of Bikaner) Ganga Bai, successfully helped in the running of the state during the reign of her son Sur Singh (AD 1613–31).170 When Suraj Singh died in V.S. 1673/1616, his wife Rani Ahadi and Kuwar Sabal Singh were there with him. Raja Gaj Singh then tried to convince her that he was giving appropriate bant to her son and that she did not need to go to the Badshah of Delhi for this. But she still took Sabal Singh to Delhi and the Badshah got Rs 20,000 sanctioned for them.171 In Jodhpur, Rani Hadi, after the death of her husband Jaswant Singh (1638–78) had successfully taken up the charge of the state and appealed to Aurangzeb to make her son, Ajit Singh, the successor.172 The wife of Maharaja Anoop Singh (Bikaner), Rani Sisodani, had taken charge of the state during the reign of Maharaja Swaroop Singh (1698–1700), then the other wives of Maharaj Anoop Singh sent a proposal to Aurangzeb to have their sons installed as the ruler of Bikaner.173 On the death of Maharaja Madho Singh of Jaipur, Prithvi Singh succeeded him (AD 1768–79) and his stepmother took care of the state matters till he grew older.174 When Maharana Adi Singh of Mewar died in AD 1772, his wife took up the reign of the state affairs on behalf of her child Hamir II.175 When Maharaja Vijay Singh of Jodhpur died, only one paswan, who was with him in Nagore became sati (1793).176 On the basis of the information provided, it does seem that there was a decline in the number of the women committing sati in the Mughal period and this is precisely the period when widow remarriage among the Rajput women had declined. Sushil Chaudhary has offered

169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176

Hooja, History of Rajasthan, p. 228. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 83. MRPRV, vol. 3, p. 19. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 83. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, pp. 84–5. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 84. Arora, Rajasthan mein Nari ki Stithi, p. 84. Das, Vir Vinod, vol. 2, p. 856.

Sati,Widowhood, and Remarriage


an explanation in terms of the attitude of the Sultnate and Mughals. According to him, the Delhi Sultans, though not exactly indifferent, tactfully avoided interference in the established custom of the newly conquered country. Mohmmad-bin-Tuglak was the first Muslim ruler of India to raise his voice against this practice. Ibn Batuta informs us that the Sultan had made it compulsory to obtain a license to burn a widow. But generally the license was issued, the idea being to discourage and eliminate the use of force and social pressure. As far as the Mughals were concerned, it was Humayun who took the bold step against sati and tried to extirpate it altogether and introduced the system of official permit for the burning of the widows. Akbar too endeavoured to prevent forceful sati in his kingdom and even personally intervened in certain cases, but he did not really pursue a policy of total prohibition. During Jahangir’s period, although there was prohibition on paper, it was never strictly enforced. According to Manucci, Aurangzeb issued an order prohibiting totally the sacrifice of widows, but hardly succeeded in suppressing sati. However, it did make the performance of sati difficult. On the whole, it can be safely asserted that the Mughal emperor and their officers viewed the rite of sati with unconcealed disfavour and tried their best to prevent it by persuasion, if possible.177 The decline in the number of women committing sati cannot be seen only in terms of the state policy.We find the number of sati declining precisely during the period when notions of honour were being redefined and women were being subjected to more control.This was a period of more rigid segregation of the Mughal harem and the Rajput Zanani Deorhi, whereas in the early medieval period of uncertainty when the concept of honour and valour was still being defined, sati was seen as a virtuous act. So, besides the state policy, another factor could have been the establishment of relative peace in the territories of Rajasthan after Mughal intervention. Since the Mughals drew the boundaries of the Rajput kingdoms, the territories remained safe even after the death of the ruler and we find the widowed Ranis playing a powerful role as ‘regent queens’. Also, as the frequency of wars came down, there may have been fewer deaths on the battlefields, hence lesser number of satis. 177

Chaudhuri, ‘Sati as a Social Institution’, pp. 220-21.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

For the widow, it was not a matter of either the glory of sati or the life of the marginalized widow, but a number of combined factors that were responsible for the institution of sati. It is the male-authored scriptures and law books of the Brahaman elite that have gained hegemonic role in the understanding of Indian society.178 But the evidence cited reveals that a vast majority of castes allowed and accepted widow remarriage. Otherwise it does not explain why the concubines of the kings who were known as paswan, khawas, and so on, committed sati in such large numbers on the death of their masters. Nainsi ri Khyat and Vir Vinod are teeming with examples of such women who became sati on the death of the rulers.179 What factors prompted these women, who were not the legally wedded wives of the Raja to commit sati? Was it out of a feudal sense of loyalty? Or because their position would be worse than that of the widow, as their status was mainly dependent on that one man who may have taken a fancy to them for some reason or the other. Was it in any way dependent on the caste status of these women? Or were there any well-defined rules and customs with regard to the treatment of these women after the death of the man. Could it also be that this vulnerable section was persuaded to commit sati to enhance the status of the deceased ruler as in rudali, a mourner appointed to cry for the lost person? These aspects still remain unanswered as our sources are silent on it.


Yang, ‘Whose Sati?’, p. 91. MNK, vol. 3, pp. 209–12. The references are right from the period V.S. 1688/1631 to 1803/1746. Also, Das, Vir Vinod, vol. I, pp. 498–503 and vol. 2, p. 859. 179


Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan

When we talk about marital morality, we need to broadly examine two aspects—one concerned with the sexual behaviour and the other with social morality. If the sex lives of husbands and wives were subject to surveillance, it was because by getting married they had entered the regulatory arena of society. Every human society has certain rules and rituals surrounding sexual and marital morality, the most obvious being that sex is legitimate only within the institution of marriage. In certain parts of the world, this has been challenged, which again shows how human societies define the limits of valid and natural sex. Also, sex has been closely linked to procreation in some periods and linked to pleasure in others. In some societies, adultery invites a slow, painful, and completely legal execution, while in others it does not even merit a raised eyebrow. Also, many things that were earlier unacceptable have become acceptable with the passage of time. When we talk of marital morality, besides sexual morality and the question of fidelity between husband and wife, what we need to look into are also cases of domestic violence, rape and incest, and other forms of sexual behaviour. Also, there are no common standards by which sexual/marital morality can be judged, as moral standards are different in different groups. There are also several class moralities. Again, beneath this perception of class morality, there is a great degree of pluralism, and there is growing sociological and historical evidence to suggest this, which is reflected in the study of marital morality of medieval Rajasthan. Sexual morality has become a big issue today. It is said that Indian culture is being blown apart by foreign influences, and this is seen The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan. Sabita Singh, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199491452.003.0005


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

more in the attitude towards sex rather than any particular political ideology. It seems to be one of the characteristics of people faced with rapid social change to yearn for a return to a supposedly golden age of decency, discipline, and propriety. It provides a yardstick with which to judge the present, usually revealing, more of our present discontent than the past realities. Also, the very mobility of sexuality, that what for one might be a source of warmth and attraction for another might be one of fear and hate, makes it a peculiarly sensitive conductor of cultural influence, hence of social and political divisions. Not surprisingly therefore, especially during the past century, sexuality has become the focus of fierce ethical and political divisions, between traditional moralists (of various religious hues) and liberals, between the high priests of sexual restraint and the advocates of sexual liberation, between the defenders of male privileges and feminists who challenge it. Increasingly over the past decades, sexual issues have moved closer to the centre of political concerns, where on one hand one political group mobilizes political energies through its emphasis on social issues such as an affirmation of the sanctity of family life, hostility to homosexuality and sexual deviance, opposition to sex education, and reassertion of ‘traditional values’. On the other hand are the feminist and other radical sexual movements challenging many of the received norms of sexual behaviour, identities, and relationships. The increasing politicization of sex in the past century offers new possibilities and consequent challenges, not just of moral control and its inevitable converse sexual deviance, but of political analysis, opposition, and change. This makes it all the more necessary that we know what we are talking about when we speak of sexuality, that we clarify the meaning (or more accurately meanings) of this complex phenomenon. Sexuality being a product of social and historical forces, what we define as sexuality is a historical construction, which brings together a host of different biological and mental possibilities—gender identities, bodily differences, reproductive capacities, needs, desires, and fantasies. Here one can briefly go into how sexuality has been viewed in different cultures. The Islamic cultures have developed a view of sex with sustained attempts at integrating the religious and the sexual. The Christian West has seen sex as a terrain of moral anguish and conflict, setting up an enduring dualism between the spirit and the flesh, the

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


mind and the body. In the early and central Middle Ages, clerical moralists reckoned that sexual union nearly always had some element of sin in it, that it was only justified by the desire to have children. That it was only moral so long as there is no pleasure in it. In the middle and late Middle Ages, the whole atmosphere slowly changed, the union of marriage came to be much more sacramental in the eyes of the theologians, and sexual union was more readily accepted as the essence of marriage.1 The Indian and Chinese cultures have held sexual relationship between male and female as primary earthy manifestation of the universal union of opposites from which all existence is created.Therefore, we have the concept of ‘Shiv’ and ‘Shakti’ and the Chinese yin and yang. Our understanding of sex and sexuality comes primarily from the ‘Kamasutra’, ‘Tantric traditions’, and ‘Ayurved’. In the Kamasutra, kama (earthly pleasure or passion) or desire is stated as one of the three great aims of life, but must always be pursued in harmony with the other two dharma (duty or righteousness) and artha (pursuit of economic benefits)). Although, the ground realities may have been different as sexual morality continued to change over a period of time. It is in this context that I would like to examine the sexual norms and mores present in the society of medieval Rajasthan.What were the perceptions of pre-marital and extramarital sex? How were the ideas of shame and honour linked to the women’s bodies? What was the degree of domestic violence against women? How did the state and society perceive incest? Marital relations between blood relatives may be a taboo in one community, although the same ties do not transgress any taboos in a number of other communities.What was the regulating agency as far as these norms were concerned and what happened to people if such norms were flouted? Was there any textual injunctions laying down such norms.What was the role of religion? As in medieval Europe, we see the church playing a major role in regulating such norms. Was there any sexual egalitarianism or was patriarchal domination present? It is in the resolution of such questions that attitudes to such social forms as marriage, sexual inequality, or double standards of morality can be determined. 1

Christopher Brooke, The Medieval Idea of Marriage (Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 132.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

For examining these aspects, use has been made of evidence contained in the medieval Rajasthani texts of Muhta Nainsi. The nobility has been discussed under a separate head since the nature of the source material used for the elite is very different. In fact, the information we get on the elite is entirely from the literary sources and historical narratives. For the other castes and the non-elite Rajputs, the archival sources used is very rich in empirical data but does not give us much information about the other aspects such as society’s reaction, emotional response of the people involved, and so on. The information in the ‘Adsattas’ is mainly related to the fine levied by the state in case of chamchori. Chamchori is a term which broadly denotes illegitimate sex, whether it is pre-marital or extramarital, and deviant form of sex such as rape, homosexual encounters, and incest. There are instances when the term jorawari (rape) is also used. ‘The Sanad Parwana Bahi’ also gives us information of cases of illegitimate sex among various caste categories. Another source of information is the Varda periodical, issued from Bikaner and preserved in the Bikaner archives, and though a secondary source, it interestingly gives us a different perspective on extramarital affairs, that is, instances which have been quoted in Nainsi ri Khyat have also been mentioned in the Varda with a slight twist to it, which is very revealing of the common man’s point of view. When we talk in terms of marital morality and sexual mores, the question uppermost in our mind is sexual fidelity.What did this mean to different sections of society? When we examine the code of fidelity during the medieval period in Rajasthan, we find that although infidelity was perceived as an aberrant form of behaviour yet it was not uncommon. Talking about the elite Rajput, we have already shown in an earlier chapter, the widespread practice of polygamy among them. In such cases how much of commitment could there have been on either sides? Polygamy coupled with the long periods of absence of husbands when they were engaged in battles, infidelity was bound to occur as it happened in medieval Europe, where cases of infidelity within the family, especially with the husband’s nephew, was very common.2 2

George Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest: The Making of Modern Marriages in Medieval France, tr. from French by Barbara Bay (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), p. 221.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


Among the Rajput nobility, we do get examples of adultery involving servants and stepsons. We have been led to believe that the upper caste male in the medieval and earlier period put heavy premium on the chastity of women and the upper caste women could not remarry, one of the reasons being this notion of chastity whereby she was required to be faithful to the memory of the deceased husband. Also, the pardah system and the segregation of the mardana (male) and Zenana was so strictly observed by the elite Rajputs that it would not provide any opportunities for such sexual encounters. In the earlier chapter, I have already shown how the upper caste or more precisely the elite Rajput widows did remarry. Examining the literary texts of this period, we do find the existence of sexual encounters of the noble ladies with men other than their husbands.3 Sodhi, the wife of Lakha Jarecha, was his favourite. When Lakha was leaving for Banga, he arranged for a Dom to entertain her with his songs. But in his absence, Sodhi developed physical relations with the Dom.When Lakha, on his return discovered the relationship, he in the language of Nainsi, donated his wife to the Dom. He asked his wife to take as much wealth as she desired and leave the palace along with the Dom. This was seen as an act of mahadan (generous gift).4 Some questions have already been raised on the notion of pativrata in the preceding chapter regarding the question of fidelity. The following propositions can be deduced from the various texts cited in the Dharmashastras. One, there is no absolute right of abandonment of wife by the husband on the ground of adultery and two, adultery is ordinarily an upataka (a minor sin) and could be atoned by appropriate penance.5 In the case cited, the wife is abandoned or given in dan, one can see it from both perspectives, but what is interesting is that no punishment was inflicted on the Dom (being of a very low caste). Probably the Dom was perceived as innocent. He would not have dared to establish illicit relation with a royal woman unless she had taken the initiative. 3

This fact has been mentioned by Muhnot Nainsi who is considered to be a eulogizer of the elite Rajputs. 4 MNK, vol. 2, pp. 232–4. 5 P.V. Kane, History of Dharmashastras, Ancient and Medieval Religious and Civil Law,Vol. 2, Part I (Bhandarkar, Oriental Research Institute, 1941), p. 571.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Nainsi has given us the picture from Lakha’s point of view but the reaction of Sodhi is to be derived from the folk song of this region. Most of the folk songs and local stories almost invariably take into account the woman’s reaction to such episodes, thus giving a voice to her. The folk song, which popularly goes by the name of ‘Lakha’, mentions that the queen was obviously unhappy in the house of the Dom so she came back to Lakha. At that time, Lakha was moving out in a procession, she had a good look at him and breathed her last (in a way atoning for her sin). Lakha consulted a jyotish (astrologer), who said that Sodhi was fated to have both Lakha and Bholiya Dom in her life. Although the song initially berates Sodhi for being lustful, at the same time towards the end of the song, there is sympathy for her, especially for the fact that she atoned for the man she loved.6 Therefore, none should be blamed for this as it was fated to happen. The song is sung on auspicious occasions as a guideline of sexual morality. By highlighting the decline in the morality of Sodhi, it tries to lay down certain norms and guidelines for proper marital sexual behaviour. This biographical song was intended to put forward a female model of marriage, but at the same time, they also reveal what marriage was actually like for noble women at that time. It is meant to reflect the popular perception of marital morality. Infidelity, although not acceptable, was certainly not unforgivable. Neither in Nainsi nor in the lokgeet, is there any condemnation of Sodhi and the Dom or feeling of shame associated with it. Another incident, which brings forth a different reaction is the case of Suhvade Johiani. She was upset with her husband Prithviraj Chauhan, and as a mark of protest she went to her natal home. There she developed an extramarital relation with Gundal Rao Khichi, who was a feudatory of Prithviraj. On getting to know about this, Prithviraj sent an army against Gundal Rao who fled to Malwa.7 So in this case, Prithviraj did take punitive action against Gundal Rao probably because this was seen as a challenge to his honour and position, whereas for Lakha there was no question of challenge to his status by 6

Manohar Sharma, ‘Rajasthani Lok Geeton mein Do Nari Charitra’, Maru Bharti(January 1955): 25. 7 MNK, vol. 1, p. 240.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


a mere Dom. Lakha must have been fully aware of the fruitlessness of punishing the Dom who could never be a threat. What happened to Johiani is not mentioned in the text. Although Nainsi sees the act of indulgence by the women as a kukarma (a lowly deed), the language does not convey contempt for the woman and neither is there any talk of punishment. On the basis of this example, one can conjecture that there was a greater degree of elasticity in the value system of the Rajputs in the pre-Mughal times. Also, the men had greater access to women’s apartments, enhancing possibilities of such sexual encounters. However, after Sur Singh, the Maharaja of Jodhpur reorganized the Zenana on the Mughal pattern with a greater degree of segregation, the occurrence of such incidents may have then reduced. This pattern seems to correspond to what was happening at the imperial level. In the early Mughal history, the female members seemed to have enjoyed a degree of freedom. But this declined in the later reigns. In Babur’s memoirs, the epithet ‘chaste’ is hardly ever used for a woman young or old, princess or commoner. But from Akbar’s time, chastity got invested in the female body and is perceived entirely in sexual terms, such that even the sight or the thought of anything implicating the female body was considered to be dilution of purity of herself. Bernier was to observe later that the slightest glimpse of any woman of the royal family was almost inaccessible to the sight of a man. Significantly while earlier sources make innumerable reference to the harem, it was only with Akbar that it was reorganized into a fortress-like institution.8 Abul Fazal has also highlighted a very interesting incident, which reflects how the harem had got associated with the female as well as the male honour. Akbar’s foster brother Adam Khan, after having defeated Baz Bahadur, passed on much of the plunder to the emperor but eyed some valuable part for himself and specially lusted for some of the women captives, Roopmati in particular. Report of the Khan’s deceits reached the young emperor and he arrived at Malwa to surprise his foster brother. Adam Khan arranged for Akbar to sleep on the terrace of his own house from where he could look into the Khan’s harem and see his women. If he did that, the Khan presumed, that it would 8 Harbans Mukhia, Mughals in India (Blackwell Publishers, 2004), pp. 128–32.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

give him a legitimate reason to kill Akbar even if he were the emperor himself.9 This story reflects how so much sanctity was being attached to the female body that it needed to be kept away from the male gaze. Mukhia has attributed this change, to some extent, to the growing influence of Rajput cultural ethos since his marriage in 1562 to Rajput princess, daughter of Bharamal Kachhwaha of Amber. But when we examine the functioning of the Zenana among the Rajput royalty, we notice a similar pattern as indicated amongst the Mughals. Here too, in the pre-Mughal period, the organization of the Zenana was much more flexible and it seems that it is after coming in contact with the Mughal that the Zenana was reorganized on the imperial pattern of the harem. It seems that this imposition of a more rigid control of the women emanated from the organized power of the state, and this increased the power manifested in acquiring control over the woman’s body. As far as the relationship between the Mughals and Rajputs is concerned, it seems to be symbiotic rather than one affecting the other. Hence, one cannot really talk of one standard code of morality for the entire period or for the entire region. In both cases, increased state power leads to increased control over a woman’s body. The examples we have quoted illustrate how extramarital relationships were established outside marriage and outside the family. Besides this, we also have examples of such relations being established within the family. Since the Rajput royal households were very vast, this possibility was always present. In the absence of Phool Jarecha, his wife Dhan, wanted to establish relations with a son of Jarecha born of an Ahir lady, but he refused on the ground that she was like his mother. The affronted wife then instigated Phool against the son and had him banished. Although it was Dhan who had initiated the sexual advances towards a stepson, but it was the son who was punished as she raised false charges against him. It seems that this behaviour on her part stemmed from the dissatisfaction with her husband, as there was a substantial age difference between them. Interestingly, she committed sati when her husband died proclaiming herself a pativrata who died bringing honour to the family.10 This example illustrates the difference between the ideal and the real. 9 10

Mukhia, Mughals in India, p. 132. MNK, vol. 2, p. 230.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


The texts do not only mention the sexually deviant behaviour of the women, but also of the men concerned. In the case of Jaisalmer, when the ruler indulged in sexually deviant behaviour, he was punished. His involvement with a mother-like woman was seen as a heinous crime for which, despite being a ruler, the members of his clan, that is, the Bhatis punished him.11 What motivated him to initiate such a relation is not clear. Not much is revealed of the lady, but the fact that he was severely punished for the act, it is very likely that the woman also belonged to the royal family and perhaps she was a widow. Although in this case, we see the man being punished because this may have been a case of incest, but otherwise, as far as the elite Rajput men were concerned, there were hardly any moral rules for them.They could have any number of wives, concubines, and even visit prostitutes and covet other people’s wives. Gaj Singh of Marwar had a daughter born out of a prostitute and she was married off to Bhatti Govindas.12 As long as she was the ruler’s daughter, her mother being a prostitute was immaterial. In another instance, Rao Mandleeh heard about the beauty of the daughter-in-law of Charan lady Negi. Despite his wife’s protest, he went to her village to see her and wanted to touch her. The lady, however, angrily retaliated by cursing him that his state would go to the Muslims.13 These cases related to extramarital relationships are mostly with married women. Were married women seen as both the initiators and the objects of desire? Although we do not come across cases of premarital relationships among the ruling family, the possibility cannot be ruled out. The system of hypergamy dictated that girls be married to superior families.What happened if superior or equal family boys were not available? There could be a possibility of there being spinsters who might have indulged in premarital sexual behaviour. That premarital chastity was obviously valued is clear from the instance of Phool and the Ahir girl who was asked to revive him but 11 MNK, vol. 2, p. 37. Jaisalmer was founded by Rawal Jaisal in 1212 and he ruled over it for 22 years. He was then succeeded by Vaijal, son of Shalivahan who had contributed substantially in the strengthening of Jaisalmer. But Vaijal lacked wisdom and developed relationship with a mother like figure, for this he was beaten up and banished from the kingdom. 12 MNK, vol. 2, p. 81. 13 MNK, vol. 2, p. 203.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

she insisted on being married to him before she would perform the task. She made him regain his consciousness only after the marriage rituals were performed.14 Premarital chastity was perceived as important by the girl. Also, the girl was of age of reason so that she could lay down the conditions. It seems premarital or post-marital feminine chastity although valued was not something, which if flouted, would make a social outcast of the women. It is difficult to say at what point feminine chastity became an obsession. In the early Vedic times, we find that the breach of feminine chastity could be pardoned in a ritual called Varun Praghesa. In this ceremony, which routinely took place every four months, the wife of the sacrificer was asked by the priest to hold up as many stalks of grass as she had lovers during this time span, by which action, she was purified for her sins.15 But this ritual must have generally been associated with the upper caste people. What happened among the other castes is not known. How uniform was the morality of the Dharmashastras? What were the other injunctions and guidelines of morality? Were there any textual injunctions and regulatory mechanisms for other castes? Although, there are no normative texts as such for the region, we find substantial information on the various castes in the ‘Adsattas’ of this period. In the ‘Adsattas’, the women in the villages who indulged in adultery were at times referred to as rand, a derogatory term. The information on infidelity and even sexual crimes against women contained in the ‘Adsattas’ and the ‘Sanad Parwana Bahis’ is much more comprehensive and offers details of sexual misconduct and the punishments inflicted thereupon. These sources focus on different castes and social groups including the Rajput families residing in the villages. But these sources do not provide information on crimes involving elite women. An insight into the cases of infidelity and range of crime against women is best given by the cases that were reported to the state either by the victims or the local state officials. In order to bring out the high prevalence of chamchori, the state’s reaction to it, and its social fallout, an attempt has been made to study 14

MNK, pp. 226–8, details of this have already been given in Chapter III. L.E. Gatwood, Devi and the Spouse Goddess:Women, Sexuality and Marriage in India (New Delhi: Manohar Publication, 1985), p. 32. 15

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


cases of chamchori between same caste people in terms of caste status, between a man of upper caste and woman of lower caste, and vice versa, cases of chamchori committed by state officials, and chamchori within the family. What was the reaction of the state in each case, what was the punishment meted out, and how did the society perceive such acts? We have first taken the cases of chamchori between the same castes. There are several cases of chamchori among the Brahmins. The state invariably imposed a fine which varied from case to case. When Chakho Brahmini became pregnant as a result of chamchori with another Brahmin, and she terminated the pregnancy by having some medicine, she was fined Rs 44.16 The amount of fine seems to be rather high especially when it is clear that both were willing partners.The large amount then must have been for terminating her pregnancy. Whether she became a social outcast or not is not known to us. The Yaj declares that if a woman ‘conceives in adulterous intercourse she may be abandoned, and also when she is guilty for the murder of her foetus it makes her an outcaste’.17 Another case of levying heavy fine was in village Malarna when swami Mayaram committed chamchori with Heremani Brahmini and was fined Rs 45.18 One can deduce that this could have been a case of rape.The swami could have been a Brahmin or belonged to any caste and would be more like a wanderer who would not have got the opportunity to develop a relationship and it is more likely that he raped her. On the other hand we have cases of Brahmins indulging in chamchori and being fined as little as Rs 2 or 3. When Kirya Brahmin did chamchori with Tulsi Brahmini he was fined Rs 2.19 Similarly, when a Brahmin priest called Dayal indulged in chamchori with a Brahmin lady he was fined Rs 3.20 It is strange that the Brahmin is being fined so little. After all, if the priest and priestly caste were meant to be upholders of societal norms of morality, they should have been given more exemplary punishment. 16 17 18 19 20

Adsatta Qasba Lalsot, V.S. 1773/1716. Kane, History of Dharmashastras, vol. 2, Part I, p. 571. Adsatta Pargana Malarana, V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1794/1737. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1769/1712.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

We have already seen in Chapter 1 that the priestly class, although respected, did not enjoy the kind of prestige in Rajasthan as they enjoyed in other areas and now we can also see that they had no regulatory authority as far as the sexual mores were concerned.We find that generally it is the state, which is acting as the regulating authority along with the caste panchayat and village community. Imposing monetary fine seemed to be the standard way by which the state dealt with cases of chamchori. The amount of fine levied varied according to the gravity of the crime as perceived by state. The amount of fine in cases of involvement of both sides seems to have been anything from Rs 3 to Rs 10. When the amount is higher than Rs 10, one can conjecture that it could be rape or a very young girl is involved. But when cases became more complicated a mere fine would not do. Jodha Sirvi reported that his brother Tikam was a resident of a village Nikhana and his wife had developed illicit relations with Ratna Sirvi. They poisoned his brother Tikam to death. Ratna was held culprit. He promised to give away Tikam’s wife and other belongings as compensation but did not comply. Tikam’s wife and Ratna were imprisoned.21 It seems even in a clear case of murder it wasn’t imprisonment straightaway but only on non-compliance of payment of compensation. The wife of a person who worked in the fields had developed illicit relations with a vyabhicharni (‘vyabhicharini’ is used in a sense of woman with loose morals). One day she reached late to meet him and he was vexed. She pleaded with him, professing her willingness to do anything to convince him of her love. He told her to cut off her husband’s head and she did, at which he was quite aghast and asked her to get lost. She then started weeping loudly. The Chowkidar and Kotwal located the Brahmin, appealed to the state and his hands were cut off as a form of punishment.22 The woman probably got away as nothing is mentioned about her. It is evident that she was able to dupe the officials. Again in another case we see that a barber killed Kesa, the son of Ladkhan as Kesa had developed illicit relations with the barber’s wife.23 Nainsi does not mention if any punishment was meted out to 21 22 23

Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur,V.S. 1844/1787. MNK,vol. 1, pp. 203–4. MNK, vol. 1, p. 307.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


him. Also, we do not know what happened to the wife. It is possible that there may not have been much outrage regarding the matter. If we study the pattern of the fine imposed on other castes, we find that when a Mahajan named Chaju did chamchori with the niece of Sethi Sukhmal he was fined Rs 11.24 When Deva Chamar of village Bhanata did chamchori with daughter of Chamar of village Jaigandhpur he was fined Rs 7.25 When Sukhla Chamar of Pempura did chamchori with Shyamal Chamar’s wife of Mauza Khandwani he was fined Rs 9.26 The amount does not vary much in case of the involvement of the Mahajan and the menial caste, whereas the paying capacity of the Mahajan would have been much more than that of the menial caste. Also, at times the variation in the amount of fine levied, appears to be rather arbitrary as is clear when we examine four cases of chamchori involving the Meenas. Tulcha Meena was caught when he came to Chetra Meena’s house in the night and did chamchori. He was fined Rs 4.27 When Durga Meena did chamchori with daughter of Morkha Meena he was fined Rs 8.28 When Hera Meena did chamchori with wife of Soda Meena he was fined Rs 14.29 Again when Chajju Meena did chamchori with Sukhala Meena’s wife he was fined Rs 13.30 So the monetary amount was not fixed and varied from case to case and we have no means of determining what the criteria was as we do not have other details of the cases. Perhaps it was the caste panchayat which made these decisions on the basis of each individual case in tandem with the state. A study of the case of chamchori among the Gujjars highlights an interesting phenomenon about the Gujjars and the Meenas and the state’s attitude towards them. While chamchori invited a lesser fine, when they married the same woman with whom they had committed chamchori, a much higher fine was imposed.When Gashi Gujjar committed chamchori with wife of Dayaram Gujjar he was fined Rs 35.31

24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1802/1745. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1783/1726. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1794/1737. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1780/1723. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1780/1723. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1772/1715. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1794/1737. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1781/1724.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Subsequently, he married her which shows that both partners were willing and therefore the question arises as to why the state should levy such a heavy fine. The previous husband may not have been willing for such an alliance and may have complained. Therefore, the state may have seen it as a case of marital break down and hence the severe attitude. These are some of the rare cases in which chamchori culminates in the breakdown of the earlier marriage. In other cases of chamchori involving the Gujjars the fine varied from Rs 9 and 50 paisa32 to Rs 15.33 But Ghasi Meena of village Lalpura was fined Rs 31 for committing chamchori with a woman whom he finally married.34 The status of the woman is not mentioned and could have been a case of either premarital or extramarital sex. Although marrying the same person did not absolve the crime and punishment was meted out any way. That there are rare cases in which chamchori actually led to breakdown of marriages indicates that probably exclusivity was not seen as an absolutely necessary ingredient in the institution of marriage among this section of the society. Cases of chamchori abound among various castes. Keta Kohli (oil presser) did chamchori with the daughter of Natha Kohli and was fined Rs 8.35 When Tulcha Halal (meat seller) indulged in chamchori with the wife of Maharang Halal he was fined Rs 5.36 When Khusla Sonar of Qasba (small town) Lalsot indulged in chamchori with Sonari of same Qasba, he was fined Rs 10.37 When Vakhia Ahir did chamchori with wife of Hera Ahir he was fined Rs 15. When Mahu Darji did chamchori with wife of Toda Darji he was fined Rs 9.38 But we find higher amounts being imposed on a case of chamchori between Tikharam Swami of Tutoli village and wife of Pura Swami, the amount being Rs 22.39 When Jewo Sahu Mali did chamchori with Gangli Malan he was also fined Rs 22.40 Again, when Devi Das Mali 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1780/1723. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1765/1708. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1770/1713. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1717/1660. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1770/1713. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S 1802/1745. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1781/1724. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1781/1724. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1794/1737.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


did chamchori with Badiya Mali’s wife he was fined Rs 20.41 When Khusla Jat did chamchori with Chatra Jat’s daughter, he was fined Rs 25.42 These amounts appear to be higher than what was levied on other castes. But it is not so high as to conjecture that it could be a case of rape or else the amount would be much higher. Then could the fine also be related to the paying capacity of the individuals or is it that the caste panchayat may have had a role in determining the amount for its own caste people? Since people of the same caste were involved, the caste panchayat must have played a greater role in resolving the issue whereas in cases involving different castes the state must have intervened to a greater degree. That there is no communal bias in levying the fine is indicated by the fact that when Noor Mohammad Fakir of village Vehetri did chamchori with wife of Karmala Fakir he was fined Rs 9.43 Now coming to cases where men of upper caste were involved with women of lower caste. When Nirsingh Pandyo (Brahmin) did chamchori with a Chheepan, he was fined Rs 14.44 In another case, the Brahmin of Mauza Mirzapur did chamchori with a wife of Keshav Nai and was fined Rs 11.45 Same amount was taken in case of another Brahmin indulging in chamchori with wife of Julaha.46 Brahmin belonging to upper caste could not get away lightly even if the woman was of a lower caste. Even if Brahmin indulged in chamchori with an upper caste woman as in the case of Ballu Brahmin of village Chandani, with daughter of Tulsi Mahajan the fine levied was the same.47 Similarly, where Rajputs were involved, they were made to pay a fine although they belonged to the same caste as the ruling class.When Mohan Nirman of village Varsi did chamchori with the daughter of Laxmi Meena he was fined Rs 33.48 Therefore, regardless of the fact that the man belonged to the ruling caste and the woman to a lower caste, a big amount of fine was realized. In the late medieval period, 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1772/1715. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1770/1713. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1770/1713. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1778/1721. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1769/1712. Adsatta Pargana Hindon,V.S. 1781/1724. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1781/1724. Adsatta Qasba Sanganer,V.S. 1812/1755.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the practice by the Maratha state of charging women of the lower caste with adultery and then enslaving them had become a norm. The construction of ‘lavanis’ (singer of erotic song in folk genre of Maharashtra) being sexually insatiable and inherently adulterous lower caste women provided the ideological justification of her enslavement in the late medieval Maratha period.49 Although in our period and in our region we do get references of sale of women it was in no way related to the adulterous behaviour of the women. Through a system of surveillance and punishment including enslavement, the Maratha state tried to ensure the compliance of women. State power was thus a crucial element in the reiteration and expansion of Brahminical gender codes.50 The Peshwa state self-consciously functioned, as a dharamrajya (righteous state/administration) privileging Shastric laws over customary law and offences of women, especially widows were punishable with imprisonment and, uniquely, enslavement. But in our region, as no textual code was followed, we find that women were generally not punished and even for the man the punishment inflicted was largely in terms of a monetary fine. However, one does not find a standard uniform policy being followed all the time. Some degree of arbitrariness must have existed contingent on factors such as proximity to state officials, the economic power of the person, thus reflecting the fallibility of the state system. In village Terathpuro when Chauhan Patwari did chamchori with Vallehi he was fined only Rs 4.51 Study of the Hada state reveals that in cases of chamchori, the fines and penalties were imposed for violating social norms. These fines were imposed through the panchas and were, therefore, hardly challenged. In the case of gharijana, when a man acquired a woman, with or without the consent, the fine imposed was known as bhar meaning weight or burden. The state share from bhar was termed as 49

Sharmila Rege, ‘The Hegemonic Appropriation of Sexuality: The Case of the Lavani Performers of Maharashtra’, Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 29, no. 1–2 (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1995), p. 25. 50 Uma Chakravarty, ‘Wifehood, Widowhood and Adultery;Female Sexuality, Surveillances and the State in 18th C. Maharashtra’,Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 29, no. 1–2 (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1995), p. 4. 51 Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1773/1716.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


chautha, meaning one fourth. As against this, when a woman decided to leave her family to live with another man, the fine imposed was termed chinali, a term based upon social rejection of a woman’s behaviour and character. It reflects that the state not only realized a share of fine imposed by social agencies but also endorsed a social notion about women.52 Arbitrariness is to be found even in dealing with rape cases. There is an instance where a Rajput man raped a woman of Mali caste. The matter was reported to a higher authority and they decided to maintain silence over the issue.53 In cases mentioned earlier of Chauhan Patwari and the Rajput man, the state may have ignored or taken a lenient view because these people may have been representative of the state or the people close to the state officials for it does not explain why the state levied a fine of Rs 48 on Chatra Patel when he did chamchori with the daughter of Kheta Mali.54 It maybe because the girl would have been underage as she is not mentioned as wife but as daughter of somebody, whereas most cases of chamchori involved married women. Also, these cases occurred in different Rajput states and the authorities may have reacted differently given the exigency of the situation. Although some amount of arbitrariness was there, we find that in general the state did not display any communal or unfavourable gender bias towards the women in imposing punishments for such cases. But as far as the caste factor is concerned we do find members of higher castes getting away with lighter fines as compared to the members of the middle and the lower castes, but at the same time the state did not try to soft-pedal such issues. When Gumani Mahajan did chamchori with Lali Kumhari, he was fined Rs 15 and 2 annas.55 When Mauza Vaghera’s Dola Mahajan did chamchori with wife of Mauja Nai he was fined Rs 16 and 50 paise.56 When Nathela Sethi did chamchori with daughter of Harwaha, he was fined Rs 11.57 52 53 54 55 56 57

Sethia, Rajput Polity,Warriors Peasants and Merchants, pp. 182–3. Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 5,V.S. 1823/1766. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1780/1723. Adsatta Qasba Sanganer,V.S. 1812/1755. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1802/1745. Adsatta Pargana Hindon,V.S. 1767/1710.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

So far we have seen examples of the three upper caste men, that is, Brahmin, Rajput, and Banias indulging in chamchori with lower caste women and the state seems to have imposed more or less a similar amount of fine. In the case of Nirwan Rajput the fine was pretty high. Could it be because it may have been a case of rape and the amount levied in cases of rape also was not as high on the Rajputs as it was on the other caste? We do have an example of another Rajput being let off lightly with a fine of only Rs 4 whereas other caste people paid more than Rs 10. The state, after all, did favour people belonging to the ruling caste, as we do have an example of the state ignoring the case of rape committed by a Rajput. But then we also have another example of Mani Ram, a goldsmith who raped Durga in his house, whereby she conceived and even had to terminate her pregnancy, and although she was excommunicated no question were asked from Mani Ram.58 Although here the ‘Sanad Parvana Bahi’ is giving us information on what happened to the women, the Adsattas do not reveal any such information, as they are largely concerned with the revenue appropriated by the state. This is the only example I have come across in which the treatment being meted out to the woman is mentioned, and it is clear that the woman who was raped did not get much sympathy from the state. But what were the reactions of the family, caste community, and the local society? Would so many cases of rape been reported to the state if it had led to the woman becoming a social outcast? Mani Ram’s getting away without being questioned may have been possible due to the economic power that this particular goldsmith may have wielded. The Dharamshastras mention that when a woman was raped she was not to be abandoned but she became impure only till her next period. If a woman conceives as a result of rape, the Shantiparav says that the woman is not at fault.59 Yet, here we see the woman having to bear the brunt of it all. Our sources do not give us much information on the social outcome of such cases. Why is it that the state responded with severity in few cases and leniency in other cases? Could it be because of the social outcry against some cases? Given the limitations of the source, not much can be said about certain aspects of this problem. 58 59

Sanad Parwana Bahi Jodhpur,V.S. 1832/1775, No. 1004. Kane, History of Dharamshastras, vol. 2, Part I, p. 575.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


Why did these exceptions to the norm occur? What were the variables that caused these exceptions? When we examine more cases related to many other castes these cases do appear to be exceptions. When Kanha Gujjar of Mauza Vadli did chamchori with Ramji Chamar’s wife, he was fined Rs 30.60 When Narian Luhar of Qasba Malarna did chamchori with Chamari of village Tagraya he was fined Rs 21.61 When Vakshu Meena did chamchori with a Chamari he was fined Rs 51.62 In the case of Meenas, even the earlier examples had indicated that the fine levied was severe. Then can we surmise that there was some caste bias displayed. Although all castes were equally punished by imposing fine on them, the upper castes seem to have paid a lesser amount than the middle caste. But it seems that largely the state paid equal heed to all cases irrespective of the status of the woman involved. The state meted out punishment even when a case of chamchori involving a maidservant came to light. When Moman Pinara did chamchori with Varsha Pathan’s maid he was fined Rs 20.63 But who reported the matter is not known. Studying cases of chamchori where men of lower castes and women of upper castes were concerned we can construct some sort of a picture and see whether certain trends are discernible. When Jangli Bania of qasba Rini did chamchori with Todar Pandey’s wife, he was fined Rs 45.64 But when Chaju Bania did chamchori with Narmadi Brahmin he was fined Rs 6.65 The caste variable is the same and the place and year of crime is the same yet there is a great variance in the amount of fine levied. If we study other cases involving the Bania and Brahmin we again find a great variance in fine. When Rupa Mahajan of Hari Pura did chamchori with wife of Pusa Brahmin he was fined Rs 61.66 But in the same qasba when Fakira Mahajan did chamchori with a Brahmin woman he was fined Rs 19.67 Was the enormity of

60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu, V.S. 1781/1724. Adsatta Pargana Malarna, V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Pargana Hindon, V.S. 1987/1930. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu, V.S. 1773/1716. Adsatta Pragana Malarna, V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pragana Malarna, V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu, V.S. 1806/1749. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1801/1744.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

the fine related to the gravity of the crime in the sense of willing or unwilling partner? A fine of Rs 20 was levied on a Rajput Amar Singh Ranawat of village Kotkhavda when he did chamchori with a Brahmin woman.68 In assessing the basis on which the state was more lenient to some sections, the possibility of bribing the state official also cannot be ruled out. But ultimately everything was subordinated to the interest of the state. Going by either the code of Dharamshastras or Manu or Islamic law, fine is not enough punishment.Yet, this was the only method used by the state for punishing the crime. However, what is important from our point of view is regardless of whether it was a case of rape or adultery, was the woman accepted back in the family? We know about how the state dealt with such cases, but what happened socially within the family we have no means of ascertaining. Such cases are numerous, and here we are only talking about cases which were reported. We have already seen in the earlier section how the state realized a greater fine if the individual married the woman with whom he had committed chamchori. Such cases were, of course, few and the fact that the state also discouraged it, indicates that such cases of chamchori did not generally lead to marital breakdown. We already know that there was no concept of divorce or dissolution of marriage in the medieval period yet remarriages did occur. But remarriages may have occurred due to other factors rather than the expectation of fidelity. How did women react to such cases is also unknown as the voices of the women are generally silent. Was there a strong sense of dishonour felt by these women? We really cannot say. The impression one gets is that it does not really disturb the institution of marriage, as it did not lead to marital breakdown. We only have an example of an extreme case where a Brahmin lady committed sati in Amli (Mewar) because she was molested by Sawant Singh, the Bhomia of this village.69 If we study the cases of chamchori involving the other lower castes and Brahmin women, the amount of fine was whatever the state ordinarily levied. Thus, when Kheta Meena did chamchori with Cheema Brahmin he was fined Rs 13.70 When Peetha Gujar did chamchori 68 69 70

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu, V.S. 1781/1724. Sharma, Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan, p. 129. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1794/1637.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


with wife of Heera Brahmin he was fined Rs 11. When Deekla Pinara did chamchori with a Brahmin he was fined Rs 5.71 In Mauza Azamnagar when Pema Chamar did chamchori with Brahmin the fine was Rs 20.72 According to the Shastras, adultery was offence enough but including a Sudra among her partner was the most reprehensible offence for a Brahmin woman, that of a pratiloma connection. The traditional punishment in the Shastras had included public humiliation and even death for the woman.73 Yet, in our region we find that fine was the only way of punishment and responsibility was largely fixed on the men, whereas in the Peshwa state we see that the punishment for the adulterous woman was greater than that of an adulterous male. But in the same pargana, when Harzi Meena of village Khejriwal did chamchori with the daughter of Radha Brahmin he was fined Rs 44. In this case, it is obviously not because a low caste man is involved with the high caste woman, but it may have had something to do with the age of the girl. We have noticed earlier also that the amount of fine levied on the Meena is always high. The ambivalent attitude of the state towards the tribals has already been talked about in the Chapter 1 and this seems to have continued throughout our period. The extraordinarily heavy fine on them was perhaps a way of reminding them that they were beyond the pale of caste society, although theoretically Meenas were equated with the middle caste and above the artisans. So far we have examined cases of lower caste men involved with Brahmin women. When we consider other cases of lower caste men being involved with other upper caste women, we find that the state did not make any distinction regarding the caste status of the women. When Ganga Ram Nai (considered to be village servant) did chamchori with wife of Teja Bania, he was fined only Rs 6. Again when Mohan Kalal did chamchori with Jodha Bania’s sister, he was fined Rs 8.74 When there are cases where the Bania women were involved the levy seems comparatively small whereas in cases of chamchori with Jat women it is much higher and the amount increases further when the middle caste is involved with the menial caste. When Kishan Singh 71 72 73 74

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1783/1626. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1768/1711. Chakravarty, ‘Wifehood, Widowhood and Adultery’, p. 12. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1783.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Gujjar of Mauza Podti did chamchori with Pema Jat he was fined Rs 44.75 Whereas when a Gujjar did chamchori with Chokha Khati he was fined Rs 11.76 Again, when Neta Khati did chamchori with wife of Rao Jat he was fined Rs 33. In the first case since the girl is mentioned as the daughter of somebody, it could be possible that the larger amount of fine was imposed because of the age of the girl. But this logic cannot apply to the other case.This could perhaps be because the Jat community may have been more cohesive and powerful, and therefore would have created more of a hue and cry about it. Although in the absence of information on other aspects, it is difficult to draw any definite conclusion. Because again we have information that in another case involving a Gujjar and a Chamari the state levied a fine of Rs 30.77 Vasista says, [T]he wives of Brahmins Kshatriyas and Vasiyas, who commit adultery with a Sudra may be purified by a penance in case no child is born. A wife is to be abandoned only if she be in adultery with a Sudra and further that the abandonment consists in not allowing her to participate in religious rites and conjugal matters, but she is not to be cast on the streets.78

The emphasis in most cases of adultery, whether the woman was involved with upper caste men or lower caste men, seems to be penance. If we are go to by the Dharamshastras the penance had more of a ritual significance. The extent to which the marital morality in this region may have been influenced by the dharamshastric injunction is difficult to say. But the fact that a lot of marriage customs and practice of this region drew from the Dharamshastras can lead us to surmise that the dharamshastric injunctions may have influenced to some degree, but as we have seen lokachar or local tradition had an equally, if not more important, role to play. The complexity and elusiveness of real life cannot be put in the parameters of one uniform code. The women

75 76 77 78

Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1722/1665. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1783/1726. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1871/1814. Kane, History of Dharamshastras, vol. 2, Part I, p. 571.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


found an answer to their emotional and sexual demands, indicating the manner in which women manipulate the rigorous male code. When we examine the cases of our region, it seems that substantial number of cases were related to Brahmin women and Bania men and women. Among the Banias, perhaps it can be explained in terms of the husband travelling far and wide for trading purposes and, therefore, both men and women meeting their emotional and sexual needs outside of marriage. As to why there are so many cases involving the Brahmin women, it can be conjectured that it was because the Brahmin widows did not remarry, therefore, they may have been more open to these kinds of sexual encounters. In cases like this how far did the men have double standards regarding the marital morality? In the period of crisis, the apatta dharma could be followed (different code permissible during crisis). There is a popular saying in Rajasthan, which when translated would mean that during the period of famine, a farmer was compelled to sell his wife. But when the rains came the peasant could not appreciate it as he felt the pangs of separation from his wife.79 Also, Rajasthan being a famine-prone area, it was not uncommon that men would migrate in large numbers looking for work and livelihood, under such circumstances women became susceptible to sexual advances of other male members. These migrations definitely would be causing problems in the Rajasthani society, the dilemmas in the men who migrate and the loneliness of the women who are left behind. Studying the cases of chamchori involving the Muslims one can examine whether the state followed the Islamic law or there was a uniform law for all sections of society regardless of the caste or communal status. When Jom Turk did chamchori with wife of Baliya Nai, he was fined Rs 3. When Musalman of Mauza Pinasi did chamchori with Nathu Brahmin’s wife he was fined Rs 8 and 50 paisa.80 In village Vehetri when Noor Mohammed fakir (Muslim mendicant) did chamchori with wife of Karmala fakir, he was fined Rs 9.81 It is only in the case involving Jom Turk that the state let it off so lightly. Here it was not because the woman belonged to a low caste, as 79 80 81

Sahal (ed.), Rajasthani Kahawate, p. 14. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1774/1717.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

we have already seen state realizing hefty amount in case of chamchori involving menial women. Perhaps Jom Turk was an influential man hence he was let off lightly. But when we come to other cases involving the Muslims the fine is much higher. When Khurdmanshah did chamchori with wife of Sabla Meena he was fined Rs 25.82 When Shameh Musalman did chamchori with Jodha Bania’s wife, he was fined Rs 45.83 When Pinare of Kaksadpur did chamchori with Cheepan of Napla he was fined Rs 40.84 It is not clear why he was charged with excessive fine. Was it because it was a case of rape, but the amount was even higher in case when Khwaja Baksh Musalman of Qasba Malarna did chamchori with daughter of Ghasi Velahi (tanner); he was fined Rs 91.85 Here we can safely assume that it was a case of rape as girl is mentioned as daughter of and not wife of, which is indicative of the age of the girl. But the fine would be even higher if such liaison would lead to pregnancy and illegitimate child. When Khan Jahan Kagodi (a Muslim sub caste) of Mauza Jonai kept a Kagodi girl and she gave birth to an illegitimate son, they buried the son in the field belonging to Shivram Gujjar. The killing of a child was not as much a crime as the killing of an illegitimate child and he was fined Rs 130.86 When Adil Shah of village Vehtra buried a girl alive he was fined Rs 9.87 Both cases relate to killing of child; since killing of a girl child was part of the social practice of female infanticide it did not invite such penalty from the state as killing of an illegitimate child.The ruling class obviously had a separate morality for itself whereby they could have any number of concubines and illegitimate children whereas the lesser mortals in no way could have the luxury of legitimizing their keep. That it was the state that regulated the marital morality and took it upon itself to deal with cases of deviance is amply illustrated by the following example. When Burhan Pinara did chamchori with the wife of Mansur Deswal, Mansur, instead of reporting the matter wounded him with a sword so he was fined Rs 44. His friend Jeihan Deswal, who 82 83 84 85 86 87

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1777/1720. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1802/1745. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1774/1717.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


also was a party to the injury was fined Rs 15. Burhan was also fined Rs 8 for committing chamchori.88 This clearly indicates the fact that the state expected the matter to be reported to it and it was the Patel (the hereditary village officials representing the village community and recognized by the state), the panchayat, and the village community who were expected to do the reporting. The Patels, who were responsible for reporting such matters, were also not spared when they indulged in chamchori. When Chatra Patel of village Sukhtapur did chamchori with Kheta Mali’s daughter, both father and son were fined Rs 24 each, that is, Rs 48.89 In another case, in village Vajoli when Rana Patel did chamchori with Kalahan, he was fined Rs 30.90 The Patels were fined heavily as they were representatives of the village community and were expected to uphold the regulation made by the state regarding such matters. But this of course did not mean that at times things could not be manipulated in their favour as has been shown earlier. But strangely when Deepa Meena of village Thackreya did chamchori with daughter-in-law of Hariya Patel, he was fined only Rs 22.91 This is despite the fact that a woman of Patel family was involved and as we have seen earlier the Meenas were generally fined more heavily for such crimes. Also, it seems that the state levied fine after evaluating the paying capacity of the culprit. Kheta Meena’s wife of qasba Rini was having an affair with Rattan Singh Chauhan and son of Chahar Gujjar. On their instigation she poisoned her husband and she was fined Rs 10 whereas the Rajput and Gujjar together were fined Rs 63.92 The woman seems to have fined little as compared to the seriousness of the crime. But it seems that the state was only able to recover Rs 3 and 4 taka from her, that too by selling off her belongings. Therefore, given the paying capacity of the woman the fine amount was quite high and she must have been rendered an absolute pauper after appropriation of the fine. What happened to her socially after the incident is, sadly, not provided in the document. 88 89 90 91 92

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1770/1613. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1772/1615. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1773/1616. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

In another case, in qasba Rini, Bhikha Brahmin and Bhupati Rajput both were involved with a Rajputani. But she doesn’t seem to have been fined anything whereas the two men were also fined a very small amount of Rs 2 each.93 It is obvious that in the earlier case the woman was fined Rs 10 for poisoning rather than for chamchori. Largely women did not seem to have been fined for cases of chamchori. Maybe they were also seen as victims rather than offender. It could be that they were held less responsible than the men also seen as lacking the paying capacity. This leads us to the question of property rights, which has been examined later in this chapter. But in the latter cases why were the men fined so little is baffling. The fine of Rs 2 seems to be more of a symbolic deterrent. The woman is referred to in the official document as a rand, which is a derogatory term and at times is also used for widows. She is referred to as a bad character, who had been thrown out of the village but would come back again and again.This example does reflect a degree of arbitrariness; it may have been because she was considered to be of bad character it was felt that men could be absolved of their responsibility. There are several cases in which we find this kind arbitrariness occurring. In Qasba Lalsot V.S. 1174, we have an example of a Rajput accompanying a baraat to village Serpur and committing chamchori. It could have been a case of rape as he was new to the village and would not have known the woman yet he was fined only Rs 6.94 There are also several cases recorded in various parganas where only the name of the man who did chamchori is mentioned not with whom he did it. Thus, we came across a case of chamchori being committed by Ramraj Rajput of Mauza village for which he was fined Rs 15.95 In the same qasba, when Bhima Chamar did chamchori, he was fined Rs 5.96 From the same pargana but different year Duda Keer (hunter caste) was fined Rs 49 for chamchori.97 A major jump is seen in the fine levied on Deepa Kalal (distiller, seller of wine). When he did chamchori, he was made to pay an 93 94 95 96 97

Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1769/1712. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1769/1712. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1774/1717.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


exceptionally high amount of Rs 375.98 This kind of high amount we have seen in incestuous cases of chamchori where it occurs within the family. We can conjecture that it must have been a case of rape or incest but we do not know what happened to the woman he raped. What happened to the victim and the perpetrator of the crime at the family level is not known to us but in another case we find the family of the rapist being treated as an outcast. In an instance when the son of Ghazi Mohammed of Qasba Medta of Jodhpur raped an unmarried girl he was made to pay a fine of Rs 300 and his father and wife were made to leave the village. So the whole family was held responsible for the crime.99 We have no means of determining with certainty the criteria for levying the fine. We can only make surmises that seem logical but sometimes the ground reality may defy logic and we have no means of assessing that ground reality. It could depend on the ruler or the gravity of the crime, or on the paying capacity of the culprit. We have another case where it was reported that Yati (Jain) Falta is having an illicit relationship with Anoop Chopra’s wife. She has got rid of an unwanted child and the concerned officer has not sought any explanation from Yati nor imposed any fine.100 Perhaps it was a case of bribing the official or the official also belonged to the Jain community. Suppression of cases was always a possibility. How did the cases of chamchori compare with other cases of crime or socially deviant behaviour? For this we need to examine the fine levied by the state on other crimes. When Surat Ram Mahajan gambled he had to pay fine of Rs 11.101 When Tilo Meena cut the tail of a horse of a jagirdar, he was fined Rs 17.102 When Hero Mali of Reekwa stole wood, he was fined Rs 5.103 A study of the various parganas reveals that most of the time the fine imposed for stealing anaj (grain) was below Rs 10. Only in the case of murder had the state imposed a fine of Rs 101.The fine for chamchori 98 99 100 101 102 103

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1774/1717. Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, Bahi No. 3,V.S. 1822/1765, p. 41. Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, Bahi No. 30,V.S. 1845/1788. Adsatta Pargana Sanganer,V.S. 1812/1755. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1788/1731. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1812/1755.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

averaged anything between Rs 11–42 and in cases within the family going up to as high as Rs 551. Therefore, the state seems to have taken rather a serious view of the cases of chamchori and comparatively the fine for chamchori seems to be very high especially when it was within the family although even in the cases of chamchori within the family the fine levied by the state again seems to be arbitrary. In medieval Rajasthan, cases of chamchori within the family were heavily fined although even within that there seemed to be some variation.When Karam Singh Kohli of Chatsu committed chamchori with his mother-in-law named Cheema, he was fined Rs 9.104 This seems to be very little when compared to another case of chamchori with mother-in-law where Devat Musalman of Mauza Jonaiha was fined Rs 71.105 Both were cases involving mothers-in-law yet there is substantial variation in fine. Even if one conjectures that it could be the result of partner being willing or unwilling it is unlikely that the state would view it lightly even if both partners were willing.This kind of relationship within the family was not to be taken lightly. Perhaps the fine was related to the paying capacity of the person. Because when Himmata Musalman did chamchori with his mausi (aunt), who is meant to be a mother like figure, he too was fined Rs 71.106 In our region we come across a number of cases of chamchori with the brother’s wife. At times it is clearly mentioned that she is a widow at other times it lacks clarity. In certain communities (especially among the Jats), marriage to a brother’s wife was almost automatic on the death of the brother but chamchori with brother’s wife was looked upon as a crime and the state levied heavy fine in such cases. When Mahapur’s Hathya Cheema did chamchori with brother’s wife, he was fined Rs 27.107 When Bhiyon Meena did chamchori with his sisterin-law he was fined Rs 25.108 When Mauza Gudla’s Tikla Brahmin did chamchori with elder brother’s wife he was fined Rs 33.109 When 104 105 106 107 108 109

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1781/1724. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1776/1719. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1806/1749. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1770/1713.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


Chakhi Gidoni (sweet maker) of Qasba Chatsu did chamchori with his sister-in-law he was fined Rs 51.110 Not only is there a variation in the amount of fine levied on different individuals for the same crime but we find a quantum jump on the fine levied on Banias for a similar crime.When Bani Ram Mahajan of Qasba Chatsu did chamchori with his elder brother’s wife he was fined Rs 351.111 Committing chamchori with bhabhi (elder brother’s wife) was viewed even more seriously than poisoning her.When Jodha Mahajan poisoned his elder brother’s wife, he was fined Rs 71.112 At the same time, the heavy amount of fine cannot be explained in terms of the act being viewed more severely by the particular community. When Haria Bania did chamchori with his younger brother’s wife, he as fined only Rs 20.113 Why was this extreme degree of variation practised? Was it because the elder brother’s wife was perceived as a more sacred (mother-like) figure? When the son of Jagannath Patel did chamchori with the widow of elder brother he was fined Rs 70.114 It could also have been a case of rape. The fact that, like the Rajputs the Banias also remained away from home, quite often travelling around for the sake of trade, their womenfolk seem to have been quite susceptible to sexual advances within the family. When Gujjar Pansari (Bania caste) did chamchori with his daughter-in-law, he was fined Rs 551.115 The heavy amount of fine shows that the state took a very severe view of this because even in case of killing the amount of fine levied was far less. When Karamchand of Mauza Maharanpura killed a Brahmin husband and wife, he was fined Rs 101,116 far less than in the case of chamchori with daughter-in-law. Examining the amount of fine levied, it seems there was a hierarchy within the family, and chamchori with daughter-in-law was viewed much more seriously than with the sister-in-law. There were times when the state would merely issue a warning in case of an illicit relationship with younger brother’s wife. Radha 110 111 112 113 114 115 116

Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1774/1717. Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1770/1713. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1780/1723. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1802/1745.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Sivian’s wife belonging to the village Aanveli, reported to the Huzuri (state) that her husband had developed an illicit relationship with the wife of his younger brother Khiva, and was also entertaining the idea of getting a new wife for himself. On the first part of the complaint the state issued a warning to him to not to carry on the affair with Khiva’s wife and for the latter the state rendered that he could bring a second wife provided he made sufficient arrangement for the upkeep of the first wife.117 This of course brings in the whole question of the rights of the first wife, especially given the fact that there was no concept of divorce. This aspect has been dealt in an earlier chapter. What is interesting is that it is the woman herself who is reporting her husband’s misdemeanour to the state. Therefore, she is not just a passive victim of husband’s misadventure and neglect but is able to voice her concern and obtain redressal of grievance. She was undeterred from reporting the matter by notions of loyalty to the husband. Although in several of these cases we do not know who reported the matter but it could be very likely that in some cases the aggrieved women did make the complaint. Even today we find occurrences of incestuous relationship or incestuous rape not only in the lower class but frequently among the upper and the middle class, but they are more reluctant to speak about it because of the social stigma attached to it. Yet, we find in our area in the medieval period the matter being reported by a cross section of castes and classes. Although the state responded by levying fine in such cases, what happened socially and within the family we can only conjecture. In medieval Europe the presumption of incest made divorce not only permissible, as in the case of fornication, but was actually made compulsory which was an outright contradiction of indissolubility of marriage.There was a great degree of sexual liberty within the family in Europe. Duby quotes examples of men with wife’s sister, women with husband’s cousin and even with mother-in-law. So it was usually easy for a man who wanted to be legally separated from his wife to make charges to the clerics about such vagaries.118 In medieval Rajasthan, 117

Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, V.S. 1844, No. 36, p. 186. These documents give us many more details of the case than the adsattas. 118 Duby,The Knight, the Lady and the Priest, p. 175.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


marriage was not always viewed as a sacrament and although we find some examples of marriages breaking down, there was no concept of legal separation. But incest did not as a matter of principle, lead to dissolution of marriage. When the state levied fine in case of such transgressions it was equally serious about realizing the amount of fine imposed, even if at times it was merely symbolic. So much so that when Pemo Meena did chamchori and ran away he was caught and brought back, and made to pay the a fine of Rs 22.119 In another case, Meena of Malarna did chamchori and ran away, so his crops were seized and the fine realized from the sale proceeds, which amounted to Rs 12 and 15 annas.120 In a similar case, the crops of another person was sold off and the amount realized was Rs 12 and 13 annas.121 Despite the severity of the fine imposed the number of cases of chamchori reported were quite high. Even if we go by the large number of reported cases, it seems that chamchori was rampant in society. Besides, there may have been a large number of unreported cases. In Paragana Bahatri in V.S. 1718 out of 134 cases of crime reported, nine cases were of chamchori. In the same year in Paragana Chatsu, out of 67 crimes reported, seven cases were of chamchori and one was of eloping. In Paragana Chatsu itself in the year V.S. 1801 and V.S. 1806, out of the total number of 150 odd cases of various crimes put together, approximately 50 cases were that of chamchori. A study of Adsatta Paragana Lalsot of V.S. 1787 shows that out of 101 cases of crime reported, 54 cases were of chamchori, which amounts to about 50 per cent of the crime reported. If we look at it in terms of percentage of cases of chamchori it seems to be growing over the years. What could have been the factors responsible for this? It is difficult to provide any answer to this question at this juncture. The fine ranged generally from Rs 3 to Rs 16 except for a Brahmin who paid Rs 100 and a Vohra and Mahajan who paid Rs 80 and Rs 30 respectively. Two cases of chamchori by the patwari was reported and


Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1773/1716, the person involved was Pemo Meena. 120 Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1776/1709. 121 Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1776/1709.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

they were fined Rs 9 and Rs 14.122 Since the background of the case of the Brahmin is not known, we cannot comment on why he had to pay such a high amount. The fact that so many cases were reported raises a number of questions. Who reported the cases? Was it the aggrieved party? If so, then what happened to the notion of shame and honour of the family? Could the women have reported in the case of assault, or the spouse in the case of adultery? Besides, the reported cases there may have been several unreported cases.123 If notions of family honour was strongly related to a woman’s fidelity and chastity, such matters would probably not have been reported. The hardening of sexual values and morality seems to have been imposed more by Christian values.The rules related to adultery, which is used to deal with cases of adultery even now were framed in the nineteenth century and these rules weighed heavily in favour of men. If we compare this to what existed in medieval Rajasthan, we do get examples of women making complaints and the state playing an active role in the redressal of their grievances. Also, it is the men who had to pay the fine and examples of fine being imposed on women are few and far between, although this could also imply the woman’s inability to pay. The Maratha Peshwa state’s action indicates that it held women solely responsible for such acts and severely punished them. There are very rare cases when a man was given an equally severe punishment especially if it was a case of a Brahmin man.124 The state tried to project the Brahmin as the protector of marital morality. Hence, the Brahmin was meant to set an example. Consequently, Brahmin widows were not allowed to remarry (this situation seems to have prevailed in most parts of the country) and stricter punishment was meted out to a Brahmin if he was caught in a case of adultery. Not only is there gender discrimination but discrimination in terms of caste hierarchy. As compared to the Brahmin women, men had it easier but the state 122 All the above-mentioned information is available in the Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1787/1730. 123 Maximum number of cases reported were related to embezzlement of revenue. 124 V.S. Kadam, ‘The Institution of Marriage and the Position of Women in 18th C. Maharashtra’, IESHR, vol. 2, no. 3(1988): 341.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


was certainly tough on them as compared to other castes. However, in medieval Rajasthan it is clear that the Rajput rulers did not expect the priestly class to play any significant role as the upholders of social and marital morality in the state structure. Here we are faced with a contradiction, that is, whereas in terms of sexual morality there does not seem to be any clear cut ideology that they followed, the main marriage ceremonies were strictly according to the rules of the Dharamshastras. So much so that even if a princess was being married to a sword or a turban of the groom, all the rituals were performed with the priestly caste presiding over it. Perhaps it was the clan structure of the Rajputs, which refused to accept the higher status of the Brahmins but at the same time, for assimilation with the local culture and broader caste structure, it was prudent to adopt their customs and rituals, especially in the initial stages of the formation of the polity, when support of the Brahmin was required to legitimize the state. Therefore, they never questioned the ritual ranking of the Brahmin. We have seen how the existence of the state action and punitive measures against adultery did not really prevent it from happening. Therefore, the existence of state laws cannot really be taken as an indicator of what was actually happening in society. There is a difference in what the state perceives as what the family life and marital morality should be, and what actually is the ground reality. However, the state’s perception of what the family life and marital morality should be was largely influenced by customs and practices of local castes and communities rather than any textual norms. Also, norms and perceptions were also subject to change. One cannot rule out cases of homosexuals. The ‘Adsatta’ has recorded the sexual relationship between two women. Kushla Balahi’s wife committed chamchori with daughter of Cheepa and was fined Rs 5.125 Therefore, contrary to popular belief, homosexual behaviour is not an unprecedented, unnatural modern aberration. Several scholars 125

Adsatta Pargana Chaksu, V.S. 1806/1749.Although we do not know if there was any social outcry against it the amount of fine levied is very routine. In 1996, Deepa Mehta’s film, Fire, was banned because it showed a lesbian relationship. The director and the actresses even received death threat from right-wing groups.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

have recently suggested that labelling of homosexuality as deviant stems essentially from a distinctly Euro-centric Judeo Christian understanding of the phenomenon. As Christianity spread over the globe so did the traditional universal understanding of homosexuality as deviant. On the other hand, many traditional non-Christian and non-western cultures seem to have exhibited a remarkably tolerant attitude towards homosexuality.126 The amount of fine levied by the state shows that it perceived it like any other deviant sexual behaviour. Among the Rajputs, polygamy and the segregation of women in the Zenana can make us conjecture the existence of lesbian relationship in the Zenana. Although, no source relating to the elite Rajput in this regard has been located, the possibility cannot be ruled out. One has also not come across more than one example of this behaviour yet it would be interesting to know the immense variety of human relationships and social response to it rather than pretend that such unmentionable things never happened. Also, merely laws and regulations being imposed by the state cannot create social norms. Besides, there also existed the caste panchayat and the village panchayat, which exercised jurisdiction over the social life of the people. Many cases may have been resolved at the level of the panchayat. But the final arbitrator was the state. At times it seems that such laws could rebound, in the sense that state officials could misuse it to harass the citizens. In the ‘Sanad Parwana Bahi’ we come across several such examples. Thus, we have the Patel of village Nivau reporting that the faujdar (state official) has charged him with committing chamchori, which is not true, so he requested that the fine amount of Rs 17 be waived.127 If the faujdar could harass a Patel, it must have been easier to trouble other ordinary citizens. In another case, a barber reported that his brother, Amar, has been detained by the Kotwal (police officer) on the

126 Ken Plumner in his widely acclaimed, ‘Sexual Stigma, An Interactionist Account’, notes that in ancient Greece love between two males was seen as a higher form of bonding than between husband and wife. Plumner had made a seminal contribution in this regard by proposing that sexual deviance is not a quality that resides in particular sexual acts, but instead in the social meaning attributed to these acts by mainstream society. Gay sex was not an offence before the British introduced the IPC in 1860. 127 Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 14,V.S. 1831/1774.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


false charge of having illicit relations with Rajoya barber’s wife.128 Jata Mahajan from village Sevi reported that his brother had been fined Rs 23 for having committed chamchori with the wife of Roopa tailor and now the Jagirdar has also imposed a fine of Rs 19, which he is unwilling to pay as he has already paid the fine of Rs 23.129 Here the brother had to take responsibility as perhaps the culprit may have been younger and lacked the paying capacity. Also, we find that Husain Mohammed, employed as musketeer, was handed over to the Kotwal, Lala Gahlot, on the ground that he had committed chamchori but Husain Mohammed represented that he hadn’t committed the crime hence he was exempted from paying Rs 21.130 At times, not only the state officials but we find that even the family members could unnecessarily harass the people involved. Weaver Haran from Jodhpur reported that his brother Azam was charged with having committed chamchori with the wife of Khaji weaver. He had already been fined for this offence. Now Khaji’s brother was harassing him unnecessarily that he was continuing his relationship with Khaji’s wife, which he was not.131 From the above examples, it becomes clear that the faujdar and jagirdar were meant to oversee cases of chamchori and acted as the moral police of the state. This is amply illustrated by an example in the chithi (petition) of Chatra Brahmin who was also the Patel of the village Pathrajpur. He had committed chamchori with wife of Hathu Brahmin and had been fined Rs 25 by the faujdar. The new faujdar also charged him with the same crime, but the Brahmin claimed that he had already been fined once so there was instruction by the state to not to impose fine on him again.132 It could also be possible that special officials were appointed by the state to keep an eye on the day-to-day activity of the people so that any deviant behaviour could be reported.There are documents, which talk about people being caught red handed while doing chamchori. Thus, Nathu Ram Mahajan of Qasba Basva who did chamchori with Mani, was caught red handed and fined Rs 31.133 In another case, Madho 128 129 130 131 132 133

Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 15,V.S. 1832, p. 243. Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 40,V.S. 1846, p. 318. Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 30,V.S. 1845, p. 103. Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 40,V.S. 1846, p. 233. Chithi Pragana Chatsu, dt Magh Vadi 6,V.S. 1812/1755. Adsatta Paragana Bhahtri,V.S. 1718/1661.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Ram Brahmin did chamchori with wife of Gokul, was caught red handed and fined Rs 11.134 The question then arises as to who caught them red handed—was it the family members, or people living in the same village, or the state officials. But it does seem that the village panchayat, caste panchayat, and the state officials who seemed to be actively regulating the day-to-day life of the people. Not only did the state try to settle matters related to chamchori, but also regulated other areas of married life, such as marital disputes clearly indicating that—customs and traditions apart—the marital morality was actively regulated by the state. Thus, the institution of marriage did occupy a key position in the state ideology and it was an edifice through which social order could be maintained. The ‘Adsattas’ again give us ample evidence on how the state settled marital disputes. When Shabho Dom eloped with wife of Pehwa Meena he was fined Rs 16 and 50 paise.135 In another case, Mauja Meena of village Goval had eloped with the married daughter of Devga Meena. She was recovered and handed over to her husband and Mauja was fined Rs 33.136 Again, in village Mandavri a chamar had taken away Nathu Meena’s wife. She was recovered and restored to Meena and the chamar was fined Rs 20.137 Since the term elopement is used, it suggests that the woman was willing yet she was not stigmatized. The state’s main concern was to maintain social stability and since she was already married, the husband was seen as having a greater right over her. Whether the woman’s opinion was taken into account or not is not clear. In all probability the woman’s opinion was not taken into account, as the idea was to restore the sanctity of marriage and the marriage could not be dissolved until both partners were willing. But in another case, when Deva Lohar of Mauza Bagdi was having a dispute with another lohar over loharan (male and female blacksmith) of village Radu Vadi, the dispute was resolved by the state by taking the loharan’s consent. She willingly accepted Dola lohar. The fee realized by the state for the marriage as well as for settling the dispute Rs 37.138 134 135 136 137 138

Adsatta Paragana Hindon,V.S. 1767/1710. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1768/1711. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1768/1711. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1768/1711. Adsatta Qasba Lalsot,V.S. 1773/1716.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


The loharan must have been an unmarried woman and hence her consent was sought otherwise in all probability she would have been restored back to her husband. Also, it is an indication of her age and the state must have thought her to be mature enough to make her choice. Here the woman was obviously single and of the age of reason hence her opinion and not that of her parents was sought. Can one conjecture on this basis that women belonging to the middle caste and artisan castes were more free to choose their partners? Also since people of the same caste were involved in the dispute. So the caste panchayat must have played a more active role.Yet, it is the state, which settles the dispute, the state is the final arbitrator in resolving social issues. In another incident where people of the same caste, that is, Mahajan were involved we find the matter being resolved by the state and not the caste panchayat and the married woman being restored to her husband. Probably the question of consulting the wife did not arise in this case. Whether she came back willingly, and the conditions that she had to face once into the folds of the family, is not mentioned. But had the question of chastity been involved, Dhana Mahajan would not have asked back for her from Seval Mahajan who had abducted her and was fined Rs 9.139 When Jodha Sonar had illegally brought Shambhu Sonar’s wife to his house he was fined Rs 14 and 50 paise.140 What clearly emerges from these instances is that social institution like the caste panchayat—though important—played a limited role in regulating the social life of the people and the ultimate authority was exercised by the state. We find the state constantly regulating the marital rules and norms to be followed by the people. A Gujjar lady was married to Govinda Gujjar. Her father handed her to another Gujjar (again we do not know whether she was willing or not), Govinda protested that his wife should be restored back to him and the sate charged a fee of Rs 2 and 50 paisa for the service rendered.141 In the case of elopement and abduction, although the women’s willingness is not mentioned, since most cases relate to married women one can assume that at times they may have been willing and mature 139 140 141

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1769/1712. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1801/1744. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1768/1711.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

enough to decide for themselves. That in most cases women were not unwilling partners is illustrated by a case mentioned in the ‘Chithiyat’. Permanand Khati’s daughter-in-law had been abducted by a Gujjar belonging to village Khatali. The daughter-in-law’s brother knew the Gujjar’s name but he was not willing to reveal the identity. Had it been a case of forced kidnapping it is highly unlikely that the brother would not reveal the identity. Perhaps the family of origin of the woman was conniving. In response to the petition from Parmanand Khati the state issued instructions to extract the information from the Gujjar’s brother, get the Gujjar arrested, and the woman restored to the family.142 The outcome of the instruction is not known. But it is clear that in most cases of family disputes, involving member of the same caste or different castes, the matter was being referred to the state for resolutions. Also, in cases where force was being used, the amount of fine realized was much higher.When the wife of Chokha Kusla Gujjar was kept forcefully by the son of Deepa Meena, and the matter came into the open, the son ran away and the father had to pay a fine of Rs 105.143 This incident highlights two aspects: first, the use of force on women was viewed seriously by the state; secondly, the whole family was held responsible for maintenance of marital morality. The latter aspect is further highlighted in another case. We find that the brother of Daula Ahir of village Sachari had eloped with wife of Khati belonging to Gudda Karamasi. The state fined Daula Rs 10,144 although the crime had been committed by his brother. If the family members could not be located, the fine was realized by selling off the belongings of the culprit as happened in the case of Tula Jat of Madan Pura, who eloped with the wife of Jodha Brahmin. All his belongings were sold and the proceeds worth Rs 48 realized by the state.145 What happened to the eloped couple is not known as the belonging was obviously sold in his absence. Not only eloping with another man’s wife was a crime as it came to disturb the social sanctity of marriage but even disturbing commitment for marriage, that is, engagement, was treated as crime. When a Patel 142 143 144 145

Chithi, dt, Asoj Vadi 10,V.S. 1812/1755. Chithi, dt, Asoj Vadi 10,V.S. 1812/1755. Adsatta Pargana Bahatri,V.S. 1770/1713. Adsatta Pargana Chatsu,V.S. 1783/1726.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


forcefully married Sundra Gujjar’s fiancé he was fined Rs 5.146 The state imposed a smaller fine probably because he had already married her and the state resolved the dispute by getting Sundra’s acceptance of the marriage. In this case the state did not return the fiancée to Sundra which it would have done had she already been married to him. This further establishes the fact that the state was not lax with its own officials if they disturbed any norms laid down by the state regarding the sanctity of the institution of marriage. Although the state may have shown some leniency regarding the amount of fine levied. However, in another instance a jagirdar had brought a Jat woman to his house. When the woman’s family appealed to the court for her return, the court ordered a search for the woman. On being found there, the jagirdar was ordered to restore the woman back to the family. No punishment seems to have been inflicted on the jagirdar. So we can see that at times this leniency stretched to the extent of not imposing any punishment at all.147 Being a state official, the jagirdar must have been able to manoeuvre his way out of the sticky situation. Therefore, one can see that in the absence of any textual injunction the state did act arbitrarily in some cases. Also, there could have been a variation in the law-enforcing agency from state to state and from time to time. Perhaps the state of Jodhpur treated its own officials with a greater degree of leniency. One finds several cases of abduction in medieval Europe, especially amongst the aristocracy, but unlike the position in medieval Rajasthan, adultery and cases of abduction destroyed marriage contracts in Europe. The church in Europe was convinced that marriage was not a game. Marriage was an order subject to discipline.148 Therefore, in Europe, it was the church that laid down the marital norm even if it involved the aristocracy (although there were conflicts between the two from time and time and each had to make adjustments). From the twelfth to the nineteenth century, marriage and its laws lay in the courts of the church. In medieval Rajasthan, however, the priestly class hardly had any role to play in such matters and it was the customs and traditions along with the state that dictated such norms. 146

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot, V.S. 1774/1717. The word used for fiancé is ‘mang’. 147 Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 3,V.S. 1822/1765, p. 481. 148 Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest, p. 216.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

Also, the study of marital morality of Rajasthan highlights the multicultural ethos of India and raises question on the application of the norms laid down by the Dharamshastras, whether we can apply it in a pan-Indian sense as guidelines for all sections of the society.The textual injunctions relate largely to upper caste women and that too they did not always adhere to a kind of ideal that was laid down by the Shastras. The Pavarhe mentions women who were considered to be ideal sacrificing wives to their husbands but at the same time Pavarhe also mentions women like Jaimati who revolted against the existing system and left her old wedded husband to live with Vir Sawai who was nearer her age. We are already familiar with the protest of Umade Bhatiani, queen of Rao Maldev, who left her husband and refused to go back to him.149 Humiliation of wives also manifested in physical violence. Nainsi, who deals mainly with cases of ruling elite, mentions that when a wife did not listen to the husband he punished the wife. Nainsi gives us the example of discord between Supiarde and Nar Singh Khindawat (of Mandua) who subjected her to whip lashing as a form of punishment which she tolerated but when he further humiliated her by putting her under the bed while he slept with the co-wife. Then Supiarde reacted, saying that she was willing to accept any punishment but not this. In retaliation Supiarde vowed never to have sexual relations with her husband and subsequently left his house as a mark of protest. Nar Singh chased her, but by that time the incident had become a matter of gossip at the village level. When Nar Singh reached a well, a village woman inquired from him if he knew whose wife had run away. Admitting that it was his wife, he commented that women by nature are wanderers who cannot be stopped. But he was told by this woman that he must have badly insulted her otherwise she would have not left him. Although in this case the woman tolerated the violence, finding it less humiliating than the other form of abuse that Nar Singh inflicted on her, women did not always tolerate physical violence and seem to have protested vehemently against it. The folk song of ‘Bainbai’ is famous in Rajasthan. Bainbai revolted against her husband because he had hit her on some issue and she wrote to her father asking for an army to be sent against him. On getting to know 149

MNK, vol. 3, p. 215.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


of this the husband tried to placate her by promising her a precious necklace but Bainbai rejected it.150 From the earlier instances it does seem that domestic violence was not so uncommon, although women do not seem to have always accepted this form of atrocity. It certainly produced outrage and protest among the women as we have seen in the case of Bainbai who complained to her father. We also have an instance of Pabuji’s sister complaining to her brother against Rao Sirohi, her husband, who had hit her on some issue. On hearing this, Pabuji wanted to punish Rao Sirohi but the lady, although complaining about the violence, did not want her humiliation to be avenged and later persuaded her brother not to harm Rao Sirohi in any way.151 Whether she wanted to protect her husband just out of love or sense of loyalty or she felt that his action did not warrant such a punishment is not known. Although she did not helplessly surrender to violence at the same time she could not go ahead seeking vengeance for her humiliation, thus revealing how complex and obscure such matters are. Rao Siha of Kannauj was married to Mool Raj Solanki’s daughter, Chawdi. Once she had a nightmare, which she narrated to Sihaji. The Rani had dreamt about three lions, who could be interpreted as three male children. According to superstition if she slept after such a dream it would not come true. Siha whipped her so that she would not go to sleep again. Although she was very saddened by the whipping, she readily accepted her husband’s explanation that he had whipped her because he wanted to prevent her from going back to sleep.152 In her perception, the physical violence became too trivial compared to the larger issue of having sons who would gain territories. Although there


Manohar Sharma, Rajasthan ki Vishist Nariya, Maru Bharti, vol. 3(1995):

12–13. 151

MNK, vol. 3, p. 63, Pabuji’s sister Songiri’s co-wife (Bagheli) used to brag about the jewellery that she had received in dowry. She also made some disparaging remarks about Pabuji and when Songiri protested her husband sided with Bagheli. Songiri then retorted that there was nobody like her brother in the whole of Umra. This angered the Rao and he lashed her three times with a whip. 152 MNK,vol. 2, pp. 274–5.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

is no malintention here but surely Siha could have adopted some other means of keeping her awake. Not only does one come across instances of the husband being violent with the wife but we have an instance where a son could be violent with his mother. Kandhal or Kanharde hit his mother (daughter of Vaisalde and wife of Sawant Singh of Jalore). She was badly hurt in the ear and fell to the floor.Yet, she did not say anything to her son.153 What is it that made her accept this physical abuse? It must have been a sense of dependence on her son and perhaps also that for women physical abuse may not have been uncommon.The dependence on the son is reflected by the fact that same lady refused to part with her son when her earlier husband asked for him (the son was from the earlier marriage but was living with her in her conjugal home) on the ground that he might be her support later in life.154 There is also an instance when a Jatni, who praised another Jat Chaudhri Godaro of Laghariyo village, was accused by the husband of being fascinated by him and he lashed her. This made her so furious that she vowed never to have sexual relations with him again and later she sent a message to Jat Godaro Pando that she had been lashed because of him. She then left her husband and went away with Godaro Jat. Saran realized that he would not be able to fight Godaro, as he had the support of a Bikaji. So he went to Narsinghdas Jat of Siwani offering him his land in return for his help. Narsinghdas attacked Laghariyo, looted the place and returned. This invited a counter attack from Bikaji who then killed Narsinghdas and appropriated all his wealth and animals.155 This case obviously occurred among the elite Jat who controlled substantial territory. The lady protested by calling the other Jat.What was the means through which she sent the message? Why should the other Jat come to her rescue? There could have been something between them or it was treated as a matter of honour to come to the rescue of the woman who had asked for help. Or there could have been another motive of occupying the land of Saran Jat. But one thing that stood out in this whole episode was the reaction of the woman. She was unwilling to tolerate 153 154 155

MNK, vol. 3, p. 292. MNK, vol. 3, p. 293. MNK, vol. 3, p. 13.

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


unacceptable behaviour and created a hue and cry, which even led to political changes in the region. We have quoted these instances of violence in the domestic realm among the ruling as well as other landed elite, and now we come to instances of domestic violence among the lower and middle caste. We have one instance from Pargana Lalsot, village Neejharva, where Manohar Meena wounded his wife with a sword at the venue of Vinai ka Mela and he was fined Rs 5.156 The amount realized seems to be little considering that he had hurt his wife with a sword. Can one assume that the fine, if at all, was taken because it occurred in the full view in the public, so much so that when Hema beat his wife and she died, he was let off by merely paying a fine of Rs 3 and 50 paisa,157 whereas Gujjar Dunga had to pay a fine of Rs 18 and 75 paisa, three times greater, for killing a cat!158 In another case, Mangal Shrimali was so enraged with his wife that he cut off her nose. He was arrested but released on bail. The state resolved that he pay Rs 13 to his wife and continue to pay her Rs 2 per month so that she could sustain herself. Mangal’s wife was instructed not to go haywire (the form of going haywire is not mentioned, could have been adultery) in future and she was not to raise any objections if Mangal decided to remarry. Mangal was also penalized by the panchayat.159 One can see how reaction to violence also varied from person to person and it would be fascinating to go into the mentalities of these women. The proverbs of this region indicate that physical violence against women may have been quite prevalent.The proverb talks about how if the husband, who is assumed to be the protector of the wife beats her, then she has nobody to turn to. It is clear that wife beating did take place and under such circumstances the wife probably did not have many choices. Domestic violence was found among the elite also, hence the ruling class does not seem to have viewed it as a serious crime. To assess the extent of domestic violence is very crucial to the understanding the institution of marriage, yet there are inherent difficulties in even addressing these problems. As far as the elite women 156 157 158 159

Adsatta Pargana Lalsot,V.S. 1770/1713. Jama Jama i kharch Parna, Kota,V.S. 1748/1691. Jama Jama i kharch Parna, Kota,V.S. 1748/1691. Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 20,V.S. 1835/1778, p. 126.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

are concerned, we do get some idea of the response of the women to the situation but in cases concerning the common women their voice is largely silent. Therefore, we cannot assess the social fallout of such incidents. Perhaps it is an indicator of the fact that there was also lack of social outrage regarding such issues. Such violations were probably not perceived as violations of women’s rights because they belonged to the domestic cultural realm, although the state did try to regulate the domestic life in other areas. Domestic violence must not merely be seen only in terms of a husband-wife relationship but also in terms of the family exerting pressure over the women. There is an example where the family members seemed to have inspired so much dread in the woman that it led her to commit suicide. In Mauza Deevana, when Gangaram Meena allegedly abetted his brother’s wife to commit suicide, he was fined Rs 21.160 A much higher amount of fine was imposed on Revria Meena who also made his brother’s wife commit suicide. He was made to pay Rs 91.161 Perhaps in the earlier case the person was fined less, probably because he was merely alleged to have abetted, whereas in the other case it was clear that he had abetted. We have already seen that even in case of chamchori the Meenas were always fined more heavily. But it does seem strange that the state should fine the husband so little when he beats his wife to death, whereas a much higher amount is taken from the brother-in-law. Did the state perceive the husband as having the sole authority to treat his wife as he wished?162 Such questions, of course, remain unanswered given the reach of our source material.The fact that the state did desire domestic harmony is clear from the fact that Deeno jat of Mauja Mardri was fined Rs 41 and 25 paisa when he fought with his elder brother’s wife.163 These cases do reflect that women were subject to harassment within the household, harassed to the extent to commit suicide. Yet, the state responded by merely imposing a fine. The amount increased 160

Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1769/1712. Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1769/1712. 162 In the National Family Health Survey in 2005–6 when women were asked if wife beating was justified, 54 per cent believed it was. Mindsets do not change despite legislation in the modern day. 163 Adsatta Pargana Malarna,V.S. 1761/1712. 161

Marital and Sexual Morality in Medieval Rajasthan


and decreased depending on how the state viewed it. But when the violence spilled over between two families the state seems to have reacted with firmness. When Faquir Aziz refused to send his wife with his in-laws, violence broke out between him and his father-in-law. Both father and son-in-law exercised their authority over the woman. All of them were taken into custody but in custody one of the Rajput troopers raped his wife and Aziz wanted action to be taken against the culprit.164 Although we have no further information on the matter, in all likelihood the state must have responded to his demand. We do not know how the society reacted to the cases of chamchori. But the fact that the state viewed it with severity may have percolated down to the common people. But looking at the kind of punishment meted out, the way marriage disputes were resolved, it does not seem that society expected a very high moral rectitude from women and treated the lapses of men and women with leniency. Whether there was any gender bias in terms of societal reaction to such cases cannot be gauged by the kind of evidence we have at our disposal. But one thing that becomes clear is that no state law was deemed inviolable by the society. It is this dominance of local customs and practices, which Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay has cited as the rule of lokachar, more powerful than both the state laws and the Shastras. There was a gap between what was legally permitted, what was normatively prescribed, and what actually happened in society. But the very fact that the blanket term ‘chamchori’ is used to denote adultery as well as rape is indicative of a gender bias on fashioning the norms (although at times the term ‘jorawari’ was used, it is difficult to make out the difference). Rape as an act of male sexual violence being lumped with adultery in a way underplays the nature of the crime. In studying the cases of chamchori within the family, I have pointed to the existence of rape within the family and the heavy amount of fine levied by the state. The fact that the fine was levied on the man indicates that the men were held responsible for the act, but what happened to the women socially we have no means of determining. The attitude of the state would not have been completely different from that of society. One cannot assume that the women may not have been blamed for it, and they remained insecure and vulnerable even 164

Sanad Parwana Bahi, Jodhpur, No. 14,V.S. 1832/1755, p. 275.


The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India

within the environs of the family. Also, they must have been subject to sexual violence by their own husbands—an issue which even today’s government is reluctant to acknowledge. What we can see clearly is that acts of adultery and infidelity cut across caste and class lines. As far as the marital morality is concerned, it is largely regulated by the state, caste panchayat, and local community rather than by Brahmins or any textual injunctions. The state viewed marriage as sacred, as a unit for maintaining social stability. Therefore, any deviance was punished by imposing fine and dissolution of marriage was generally not allowed. Of course we find the state acting arbitrarily in certain cases, although largely it does not reflect any caste bias in dealing with cases of marital dispute. However, cases of adultery and infidelity by and large did not lead to a marital breakdown as it did in Europe, not only because the state did not allow it, but also because society did not view it as something insufferable where the chastity of the women had been defiled.Therefore, one cannot really talk of a pan-Indian morality which feminists talk of based on the treatment of Sita. Also, morality and moral values remained flexible from time to time and meant different things for different section of the society. Also, different states had different set of laws to deal with deviances in marital morality and most were not based on the textual injunctions. Besides the state, even the village panchayat and caste panchayat were seen to be regulating the marital norms. The relationship between the state and the caste panchayat was interactive in the sense that the state would seek the assistance of the pancha on certain matters. Alternately, when the local community was not able to handle a matter, they would appeal to the state. The relationship between the state and local panchas was complementary rather than competitive. But the final arbitrator was the state. The role of the state was not limited to maintenance of law and order and collection of revenue; it exercised effective control over societal matters too. Ultimately the gender and moral codes were not merely an arrangement of the society but were also reinforced by the state power. It is not in vain that Louis Althussar proclaimed family to be one of the most prominent ideological state apparatuses. The family is able to adapt to society by ensuring that the function necessary for maintaining societal power structure are performed within it.


The study of the institution of marriage in relation to the political and social structure of medieval Rajasthan reflects how the process of state formation impacted the social substructures and institutions such as the caste system and also affected the marriage patterns during this period.We witness the political and social structure of Rajasthan going through intense historical changes, altering the institution of marriage and its customs and practices. In the early medieval period, the basis of state formation was the emergence of the lineage power of the local ruling elite, who continued to seek various symbols for legitimization of their newly acquired power. The Rajput clan states were formed by colonizing land with potential subordinate peasants and also by acquiring areas at the expense of erstwhile tribal settlement. Right from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries, we see various states of Rajasthan emerging after replacing either the Bhils, Mers, Meenas, or even the Jats.These groups accepted the superiority of the Rajputs and agreed to pay land revenue to them, but after that, they continued to enjoy their superior rights on land. However, the possibility of the resurgence of the lineage groups against them always remained. The process of land distribution among the leading members of the ruling clan had led to the fragmentation of authority and emergence of parallel centres of authorities within the clan state. The Rajput clan states of Rajasthan remained an assemblage of individuals, often warring kingdoms, each pursuing its own interest and each displaying varying degree of hostility or dependence in its relation with the central power. The glory, the valour, and the tensions of war were associated with a highly distinctive social and cultural personality. Friction and strife The Politics of Marriage in Medieval India: Gender and Alliance in Rajasthan. Sabita Singh, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199491452.003.0006



over ritual, rank, economic status, and authority shaped relationships within the Rajput family and impacted masculine identities. Also, the structure and working of Rajput polity, coupled with inter- and intraclan rivalries, led to the weakening of central authority in a Rajput state, making the position of Rajputs vulnerable, and so they faltered before superior arms and organized force, especially those of the Mughals. Both the Mughals as well as the Rajputs benefited from their alignment with each other. Rajput–Mughal history, therefore, discloses both cooperation as well as opposition to one another. The systematization of the Rajput order was done on the basis of the traditional pattern of the caste structure and this is reflected in the land revenue system, according to which different rates were applied on various castes. Caste distinction acquired importance during this period for marriage purposes too. Though we do get examples of inter-caste marriages in the initial years of state formation, it gradually disappeared and eventually the state started projecting itself as regulator of the Brahminic order and became rigid about inter-caste marriages. One can see a change in the marriage network pattern, in which the supposed origin of the family plays an important role. The process of state formation was further buttressed by advantageous matrimonial alliances. Political and social linkages played an important role in the exercise of power. A study of the caste structure of this region and the emergence of the Rajputs indicates deviations from the theoretical concept of caste. Although the Rajputs in Rajasthan evolved along the model of the Kshatriya ruling class, it was their clan structure that significantly affected their customs and practices. Although Rajputs were divided into 36 clans, and these were further divided into sub-clans, each clan was regarded as a single unit for the purpose of marriage and clan exogamy was strictly adhered to. However, Rajput families and households were not fixed magnitudes but shaped by fundamental and broader social, political, and economic processes. Studies on the Brahmins shows that they were a heterogeneous category. The priestly class among them was invariably present on all important social and religious functions including marriage. Although they were highly sought after as gurus of the royal children, they were also open to manipulation. In our region, we find Brahmins also holding political, administrative, and military positions and are



also given land grants on a large scale. They played an active role in legitimizing the rule of a particular dynasty and readily obliged the ruling class by altering marriage customs and practices to suit them. The task of legitimization was also carried on by the Bhats and Charans of this region. Although they functioned as hereditary bards and genealogists of the Rajputs, they also became the guardian of the moral conduct of the ruling class. Although this implied a contestation in the role of Charan and Brahmin, there was never any open confrontation between the two, as the Rajputs never challenged the Brahminical religion. An examination of the role of the Vaishyas reveals that the trading community continued to be consistently prosperous throughout the medieval period, which prompted them to give large dowries to their daughters. With changes in Rajasthan’s polity and society, especially with the systematization of Mughal institutions, there was an increase in their role and influence. Varna-related analysis of caste often shows the Brahmin–Kshatriya relationship as the crucial element in the Indian social order. But the historical material suggests that at least in parts of Rajasthan, the really crucial dyad was the chieftain and the trader. Belonging to the same occupational category as Vaishyas, the other influential group was that of the Kayasthas. This community played a significant role in the sphere of administration in Rajasthan, especially after the Rajput–Mughal alliance, as they were proficient in Persian. Therefore, the role, functions, and importance of each caste varied according to historical situations. The Jats formed a considerable part of the population of Rajasthan and owned considerable amount of land till the Rajputs depressed some of them. In some areas of Rajasthan, the process of state formation went on simultaneously along with a process of colonization of land by Jats. The state required the Jats for colonization of land, and the Jats needed the state for legitimizing their claim over land. This symbiotic relationship is also reflected in the similarity of some marriage practices and customs of Rajputs and the Jats, although they had their own peculiar custom regarding marriage of widows. A look at the Pavarhe reflects the presence of various other castes in Rajasthan such as Bishnois, Nai, Mali, Sunar, Luhar, Kumhar, Ahirs, Gujjars, and so on. From the contemporary work, it appears that the social hierarchy was frequently not clear.



Although members of different castes came together on various occasions, especially on the occasion of marriage ceremonies, gradually caste system was not allowed to be diluted by inter-caste marriages. When the rights over wrested territory became stronger, state boundaries started emerging and along with it caste differences became more distinctly defined. Study of the historical process of Rajasthan indicates that society was based on numerous castes and sub-castes which were, in turn, based on birth, heredity, occupation, and class privileges. The nature of the polity and process of the state formation affected marriage alliances of this region. Matrimonial alliances were one of the major mechanisms for reinforcing social and ritual hierarchies and building networks of support and loyalty. We come across several instances of marriages being transacted with the specific purpose of acquiring or enlarging one’s territory, enhancing one’s prestige, and using marriage as an instrument for ending enmity and hostility between two sides. This also contributed to the raising of power and status of both sides. The medieval period with the ‘feudal’ ethos of male honour made women into marginal figures who could be ‘used’ to end old enmity between two houses of royal family. This was one of the factors that led to the institutionalization of polygamy, as daughters would be given away without bothering about the number of wives the man already had. But establishing matrimonial relations did not always mean an end to the hostilities and at times we find these relationships being completely subordinated to financial and political considerations. We come across cases where the father-in-law is ready to kill the son-in-law, regardless of the impact it may have on the daughter’s life. The fact that state formation was an ongoing process and there was constant integration of new territories into the polity meant that marriage alliances were used to buttress the political incorporation of a particular area. Social relations were also maintained with areas that had strategic or political and military significance. It became evident that among the ruling elite, marriages not only had social and political significance but was also used as a channel for diplomacy. The insecurities of that period affected the social aspect of marriage to such an extent that at times marriage proposals were turned down fearing that the absence of male members might lead to an attack on their territory, and this too in a culture where refusal of marriage



proposal was considered to be a dishonour for the bride’s side. How incessant warfare affected the marital practices can be seen from the fact that the victor would compel the defeated side to marry their daughters to them. It is the predominance of the political aspect of marriage that explains the fact that although the Rajputs adhered to strict caste endogamy for marriage purposes, they did not hesitate to give their daughters in marriage to Muslim rulers when it was politically advantageous to do so. Not only were the daughters of the ruling houses married to the Mughals, but also to the Badshah of Gujarat and the Khan of Nagaur, although of course there is no precedence for the extensive network of alliances that Akbar promoted. Therefore, one sees eclectic and syncretic elements in the society of Rajasthan, where Rajput princesses from the Sultanate period onwards were married to Muslim rulers of neighbouring areas and to the Mughal rulers.Yet, the syncretic element cannot be overstated.The superiority of the Sisodia clan, besides other things, was also maintained through the fact that a child from the marriage to a Sisodia princess could not be married to the Mughals. When Amber house established matrimonial relations with the Mughals (ad 1562), the Kachhwaha princeses stopped receiving brides from the Sisodia royal family. Also, though the Rajputs married their daughters to the Muslim rulers, they themselves were reluctant to marry daughters of the Muslim rulers, and though there are examples of such marriages, they are observed in the pre-Mughal period. We find the political, social, and economic aspects of marriage in medieval Rajasthan to be a complex matter. We can see a difference in the way marriages were conducted during the period of political turmoil when the territories of the rulers were not rigidly demarcated to the more stable situation prevailing during the Mughal period. The ceremonies and rituals of marriage in our period were related to the caste and status of the families. An examination of the marriage practices and rituals observed during this period shows how each caste followed a different set of rituals and marriage practices, which was an expression of their identity and their place in the social hierarchy. We find that the rituals related to marriage were according to the Shastras and also local customs referred to as kulachar or lokachar. Also, the rituals existed at two levels—at the level of the royalty and at the level



of the common people. The distinctions among several castes can be observed right from the time of the engagement ceremony. Special treatment being meted out to the bridegroom was, however, common to all castes, the groom being known as ‘Bindraja’. Besides the fact that the rituals of marriage maintained the caste identity of each group, they also indicate that upper-caste women were more dependent on their husbands, whereas among middle-caste peasants, artisans, and menials, participation in the production process indicated why dowry was not given much importance among them. Therefore, at the time of the marriage transaction, the women of middle and lower castes seem to have been in an advantageous position as compared to the upper-caste women. But this role seems to have been reversed once they became older and an economic burden. Old women, who could be of no use, were handed over to the state for being a dakan. There were several rituals that were followed only by the Rajputs, indicative of their special status and their set of values. Certain rituals were used as a means of imparting and promoting social and family values, especially the notion of honour prevalent among the Rajputs. The notion of honour and status was reflected in the different layers of hierarchy existing between the Rajput clans. This distinction is clearly noticeable in practices like the girl’s dola being sent, or the groom’s sword or turban being sent to perform the marriage rituals. This was also a device to deal with the exigencies of the situation. So, though a large number of marriage rituals were derived from the Dharamashastras, some of their forms had changed. In the process, what one can see is a syncretic fusion of Brahmanism of the ancient period with several disparate but equally vibrant cultural traditions and all this erased the monolithic structure and character of ‘Hinduism’. Also, rituals indicate that over a period of time, a rather rigid segregation of male and female activities developed. Since the same pattern can be seen at the imperial level as well as the level of the Rajput clan states, an explanation needs to be sought beyond just cultural seepages. This was a period when the imperial monarch as well as the rulers of various Rajput kingdoms had consolidated their personal power and strength. As their personal power strengthened, they would have needed to defend themselves from rivalry and intrigue. The need to protect their position would have also spilled over into protecting their women because one of the challenges of that period was the defilement



of their women. If they could be assured of the safety of their women, and thus their honour, they would have more energy to devote to the task of consolidation. In a period of changing political equation, the possibility of turmoil was always there, therefore the need on the part of the rulers to take care of all their resources including women as a site for contestation. Hence, the segregation, so that control could be exercised over them. The rituals also ensured participation of various castes in the marriage ceremony. The rituals were also assigned to various kin groups, thus reinforcing familial ties. Higher the social status of a particular community, more elaborate were the rituals. There were other kinds of practices that added to the expenses of marriage. Hence, a ritual, which became a status-conferring act for one section, became a social burden for another. On examination of other customs and practices, we find that among the Rajputs, both rejection of proposal or breaking of engagement was regarded as a humiliation to the prestige of the family. Although it was related to their honour among the Rajputs, we find that breaking of engagement was frowned upon by all sections of society and the state extracted fine in case of breaking of engagement. Besides this, early age of marriage was favoured by all sections of the society, although there were several cases of women marrying when they had reached the age of reason. The gifting of stridhan to the girl was done as a part of providing economic security to the girl. In our period, we find the ruling class and other dominant castes and classes transacting lots of property, both movable and immovable, along with their daughters at the time of marriage to elevate their status and get recognition from others. Giving larger amount of dowry was also possible after the Mughals inducted many of the leading Rajput chieftains to their service; hence, more resources were available to the rulers as, along with the watan jagirs, the rulers were given other jagirs commensurate with their mansab rank. Mughal service, therefore, led to the enhancement of their prestige as well as resources. We find huge amount of money, jewellery, and territory being given as dowry. The form of dowry went through changes during our period. In the early medieval period, we find cows and camels being offered in dowry in areas where pastoral economy was predominant. In semi-arid



and arid regions, cattle wealth was more important than land. In order to fulfil dowry obligations, the territories of others were attacked and plundered. At times, favour shown towards a particular bride depended on the dowry that she had brought in marriage. But not all Rajputs had enough resources to offer such large amounts as dowry and this led to other problems such as female infanticide. Another development in the dowry system, which we witness during this period among the ruling elite and the nobility, is the system of giving davrees in dowry—female chakars who were meant to give company to their Ranis. Also, darogas were given in dowry, and this consisted of families of certain occupations such as dhobi, darji, kamdar, and so on. These people were supported throughout their life by the royal ladies with whom they were sent. The institution of davree was directly linked with three things—the martial activities of the aristocracy, polygamy, and the pardah system. During our period, property that was given to a Rajput woman by her parents at the time of wedding in the form of dowry was recognized as her personal property. Also, dowry became popular in order to ensure the security of the bride in view of the widespread practice of polygamy among the Rajputs. Despite receiving dowry, we find that the women of the aristocracy seemed to have continued to enjoy the right of residence in their natal home. Not only did widows come to live with their family of origin, but also women who left their wedded homes while their husbands were alive did so. Prevalence of dowry does not seem to be much among other castes, except the Baniyas, who were largely prosperous throughout the period and gave large amounts of dowry to their daughters. But among Kayasthas and other middle castes, although we do not come across dowry transactions, all expense of marriage was borne by the girl’s side. The custom of the girl’s parents bearing the expenses of marriage became so widespread that we find this practice being emulated even by the tribals. We can also see how dowry generated tension within the family. A sketch of the history of dowry reveals the effect it had on social relations, the balance of power between wife and husband, between parents and children, and among extended kin. Besides marrying at a young age, there was also prevalence of the practice of polygamy among the Rajputs. In a period of uncertainty and warfare, there was a need for increased number of male children



who could become future warriors. Having a number of wives meant a large number of progeny. In the pre-Mughal times, the territories of the states were not fixed and increased and decreased according to the strength of the ruler whose sons would help carve out newer kingdoms. Although after the acceptance of the Mughal paramountcy, the need for progeny may not have been so great, but it had become a matter of status. It is only after the Rajputs entered into a treaty with the British and their territories were well defined that a decrease in the number of wives is seen. That marriages among the Rajputs were governed by political considerations encouraged the practice of polygamy among them.The existence of the practice of polygamy was also linked to the notion of honour among the Rajputs as it was considered insulting to the girl’s side to refuse the coconut of proposal. Another factor responsible for the custom was the practice of hypergamy among the Rajputs. Practice of polygamy led to several psychological problems among the women. They faced discrimination in terms of maintenance, in terms of the attention of the husband, and so on, which resulted in rivalries and jealousies among the co-wives and intrigues in the Zenana. Each would vie for the king’s attention and each wanted her child to become the king. Among the lower classes, there are examples of taking a second wife, but this was also subject to criticism. Also, in the case of second marriage, the panch took full interest in the maintenance of the first wife. What is interesting is that women made complaints of such marriages indicating their awareness of their customary rights. Not only polygamy but also a variety of concubinage existed among the Rajput aristocracy. After the concubines entered the palace, their income and food was assigned like those of the queen but their children had no right on the property of the ruling family. Also, the Rajputs could keep any other caste woman as pardayat but not a Charan or any other Rajput woman. The system of concubinage existed not only in the royal family but also among other feudal classes and the state even realized tax on it. On examining the issue of sati, it becomes very evident that it was a very complex phenomenon and references to women committing sati are found throughout our period. Although the act of Sati was largely prevalent among the Rajputs, at times it has been emulated by both upper and lower castes. The regular wars being waged in Rajasthan



gave stimulus to both sati and jauhar. Jauhar was committed mainly at the time of Muslim aggression, and all women, married or unmarried, committed jauhar in order to save their honour. In contrast, when the Rajput rulers attacked one another, they ended up marrying the women of the defeated ruler’s family. By the Mughal period, there is hardly any reference to jauhar as, by then, the Rajputs had entered into matrimonial alliances with them on a large scale. The social effect of sati as a model of good (that is, socially valued) woman remains in many parts even today. The practice of sati became quite widespread among the Rajputs during the medieval period. If we look at the number of women who committed sati, we find a decline in the occurrences of sati in the Mughal period.Yet, this is precisely the period when there is a hardening of attitude towards women including widow remarriage. There are several reasons for the fact that such a custom could exercise such a great hold over women over so many centuries, in different parts, and that too with an aura of sanctity. The concept of chivalry and courage of medieval times acquired new dimensions within the context of family.Women were seen as representatives and upholders of the family morality and honour, and the institution of sati bestowed a prestige unparalleled before; many legends were woven around the myth of sati. There were several instances of satiyon ki puja. During our period, we find several cases of sati being performed voluntarily, to the extent that women would devise means to circumvent rules which prevented them from performing sati under certain conditions. At times, the widow committed sati much after their husband’s death, having deliberated over the matter. But the act of committing sati cannot be explained only in terms of women expressing their total fidelity to their husband.We come across instances of women who had expressed their unhappiness with their partner, had even deserted them, yet committed sati on their death. Also, women who wanted illicit relations with other men committed sati. This does not fit into the ideal of a pativrata woman, who was expected to remain devoted to her husband not only while he was alive but also after his death. Sati, even if committed willingly, was not just an act of one individual, but also a product of the sociocultural environment in which social pressures were exercised in subtle as well as blatant ways.The possibility of sati being related to inheritance laws, which were different among



various clans, is also there. Sati was also encouraged as a solution to the financial drainage on the maintenance of a large number of widows. Hence, voluntary immolation was portrayed as an ideal of Rajput womanhood and sacred kulreet by the Charans. It was known that the bards taunted the women who chose not to commit sati. These factors combined to create all sorts of pressures for the performance of the act. In medieval Rajasthan, sati seems to have been institutionalized among the Rajputs only. Although we do get examples of women of other castes becoming sati, it was not institutionalized among them. The act of sati was elevated to new heights as a status-conferring ritual; hence, it was practiced by members of other castes who used it as an avenue for attaining prestige and status in society. Most sociological and historical works have seen the performance of the act of sati as the choice between two options: either glory of sati or the wretched life of a widow. Most works have assumed that a third option, that of widow remarriage, was not open, especially to the women of upper caste. There is ample evidence in the archival sources to indicate that widow remarriage was a well-established norm in our region, especially for the middle and lower castes, to the extent that the state derived an income by taxing these marriages. Gharecha, gharwasa, nata, or pallalagana are the terms used for remarriage. Besides informing the state, the concerned partners had to take permission of the panchas. The panchayats played an important role in regulating the norms of remarriage Examples of elite Rajput women remarrying are to be found throughout the pre-Mughal period. In the period of strife and turmoil, when the state power had not stabilized, widow remarriages among the Rajputs did not follow any rigid patterns. But once state power was consolidated, this power was also used to control women, and widow remarriages among the Rajputs declined. Although it is true that Rajput women had no claim over their husbands’ property, a particular amount of money was fixed for the expenditure of the widows and they were also granted pattas of villages, which brought them regular income. Among the higher castes, we do not come across any reference of remarriages among the Bania and there exist rare examples of remarriage among the Brahmins. The fact that remarriage was prevalent among the Rajputs is again due to their clan structure, rather than the norms of traditional caste hierarchy being followed.



Widows who did not belong to aristocratic families had a right over the land and the house of their husbands. Although the widows were open to harassment by family members and others regarding their share in the property, they were very aware of their property rights and petitioned the state as and when their property rights were violated. Also, most of the examples refer to Brahmin widows, and their condition certainly does not correspond to the socially marginalized Brahmin widows of the Dharamshastras. So, the argument that the practice of sati was shaped by such considerations in a society in which a widow was regarded as a marginal entity, as the lowest stage in the life of a woman, does not seem very tenable for our region. For the widow, it was not a matter of either the glory of the act or the life of a miserable widow but a number of combined factors that contributed to the existence of the institution of sati. Finally coming to the marital sexual morality of medieval Rajasthan, our studies again reveal how sexuality is defined by the society and culture. There is no one standard by which sexual and marital morality can be judged. Evidence suggests that there is a great degree of pluralism in the perception of morality. On examining the question of fidelity apropos the elite Rajputs, we can see how the institution of polygamy and differences in age were responsible for cases of infidelity within and outside the family, as indicated in Nainsi ri Khyat. Since the Rajput aristocratic households were vast, the possibility of illicit sexual encounters was always present.Though in the pre-Mughal times, there was more openness in the organization of the Zenana, once Sur Singh reorganized the Zenana on the Mughal pattern, the possibility may have reduced. Yet, premarital or post-marital chastity, though valued, was not something, the lack whereof would make a social outcaste of the woman. It is difficult to say at what point feminine chastity became an obsession, but notably the tightening of control over women at the imperial level can be seen from the period of Akbar and this in turn affected the Rajput ruling classes of our region too. However, this whole phenomenon cannot be explained only in terms of cultural seepages, rather it can be related more to the increasing power of the state. Patriarchal authority is widely believed to be the subjective symbolic counterpart of political authority, and, in our region, we do witness a correspondence in familial authority and political authority.



If we examine the injunctions and guidelines of morality, we find the state playing an active role as a regulatory body. The study of the ‘Adsattas’ reveal how cases of chamchori were handled by the state, whether the case was between a member of the same caste or a lower caste woman with the higher caste man and vice versa. Imposing monetary fine seemed to be the standard way in which the state dealt with cases of chamchori. The amount of fine levied varied according to the gravity of the crime as perceived by the state although at times the fine appeared to be arbitrary. Despite a certain amount of arbitrariness, the state did not try to soft-pedal the issue. In general, we also find that the state did not display any communal bias in meting out punishments for such cases. Remarkably, in most cases, it was men rather than women who were punished. Although all castes were equally punished by imposition of a fine on them, the upper castes seem to have paid a lesser amount than the middle castes—an indication of the caste bias of the state that is revealed even in revenue administration. A study of the cases of chamchori reflects that it was more pervasive among the Brahmin women and Baniya men and women. Among the Baniyas, it can be explained in terms of the practice of the husband to travel for trading purposes, resulting in both men and women meeting their emotional and sexual needs outside marriage. As to why Brahmin women were involved to a greater degree, one can conjecture that as Brahmin widows and women of other upper castes could not remarry, they indulged in this kind of sexual behaviour. What it reflects is that though these upper caste women did not remarry, they did not lead the life of a celibate widow or a tapasvini. In medieval Rajasthan, the cases of chamchori within the family were generally heavily fined, but within that there seems to be some variation. What is clear is that there was frequent enough prevalence of illicit sex and rape within the family. Despite the severity of the fine imposed, the number of cases of chamchori reported were quite high. If we go by the large number of reported cases, it seems that chamchori was rampant in society, at one time going upto 50 per cent of the reported cases. There may have been a large number of unreported instances too. If notions of family honour and chastity had been so strongly related to women’s fidelity and chastity, such matters would probably not have been reported.



The state did not allow the priestly class to play a significant role as the upholder of social and marital morality. The state had its own ideology by way of which it meted out punishment to the people. But there always existed a difference between the idealized family life and marital morality of the state and the actual ground reality. The state not only settled matters relating to chamchori, but also those relating to marital disputes. Thus, the institution of marriage occupied a key position in the state ideology; it was an edifice through which social order could be maintained. In the absence of any textual injunction, the state did act arbitrarily in certain cases. Also, different states may have perceived the offence differently. Besides the state, the village and caste panchayats were seen to be regulating the norms. Mostly, the relationship between the local panchas and the state was complementary, yet the final arbitrator was the state.Therefore, there was a degree of fluidity and flexibility as far as the marital norms of this region were concerned, as they were not regulated by any textual injunction or Brahmins. In certain cases of domestic violence among the elite, the women protested in their own way, either by deserting the husband or inviting their brother or father to avenge their humiliation. For the other sections of society, it is difficult to come to any conclusion on the basis of stray reports. Physical violence was prevalent, yet it may not have been reported as it was not perceived as wrong and the state does seem to have paid inadequate attention to this issue. Therefore, the study of marital morality of Rajasthan, besides highlighting the multicultural ethos of India also reveals variations within a region. It raises question on the application of the norms of the Dharamshastras in a pan-Indian sense. Whatever textual injunctions were there related to women of upper sections, we can see the reality being different from the norms that were laid down. We come across several examples of upper-caste women not adhering to the norms. Finally, what becomes clear is that there is always tension surrounding the definitions of gender roles. Obviously individuals at all times and in all cultures have experienced a varied degree of difficulty in assimilating the prescriptions of expected role behaviour whether it is related to marital fidelity, sati, or the behaviour of a widow. We cannot interpret history in monolithic universal terms, ignoring the differences in culture. Needs of women who live in different countries is dissimilar and conditioned by several factors—familial, societal, racial, marital, economic, cultural, and individual consciousness.



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Sharma, Gopinath. Rajasthan ka Sanskritik Itihas. Jaipur: Rajasthan Hindi Granth Academy, 1989. Sharma, G.N. Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan. Agra: Lakshmi Narain Agarwal Educational Publishers, 1968. Sharma, G.D. Rajput Polity: A Study of Polities and Administration of the State of Marwar, 1638–1749. New Delhi: Manohar Prakashan, 1977. Sharma, M.R. Marriage in Ancient India. New Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1993. Sharma, R.S. Perspectives in the Social and Economic History of Early India. New Delhi: Munshi Ram Manohar Lal, 1980. Sharma, Shanta Rani. Society and Culture in Rajasthan C. 700–900. New Delhi: Pragati Publications, 1996. Sharma, Suresh K. and Usha Sharma, eds. Rajasthan through the Ages, vol. 3. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1999. Singh, K.B.K. Marriage and Family System of Rajputs: A Study of Tradition and Change. New Delhi: Wisdom Publications, 1988. Singhi, N.K. and Rajendra Joshi, eds. Folk Faith and Feudalism, Institute of Rajasthan Studies. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1995. ———.Religion, Ritual and Royalty. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1999. Teja, Mohinder Jeet Kaur. Dowry: A Study in Attitudes and Practices. New Delhi: Inter India Publications, 1993. Thomas, P. Women and Marriage in India. London: George Allen and Unwin Limited,1939. Tod, James. Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, vols 1–2. New Delhi: Rupa and Company, 1997. First Published in London: Routledge & Kegan Ltd, 1832. Ullah, Al-Haj Muhammad. Women in Islamic Sharia (Laws of Marriage & Divorce). New Delhi: Islamic Book Services, 2001. Verghese, Anila. New Perspective on Vijaynagar. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000. Vishavnath, L.S. Female Infanticide and Social Structure. New Delhi: Hindustan Publishing Corporation, 2000.

Articles Arora, Shashi. ‘Status of Women in Rajasthan’. In Some Aspects of Social and Economic History of Rajasthan, ed. G.S.L. Devda. Jodhpur: Sri Jagdish Singh Gohlot Research Institute, 1979. Chakravarti, Uma. ‘Exploring a “No-Conflict” Zone: Interest, Emotion and the Family in Early India’. Studies in History, vol. 18, no. 1 (n.s.). New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002.



Chakravarti, Uma. ‘Wifehood, Widowhood and Adultery: Female Sexuality, Surveillance and the State in 18th Century Maharashtra’. Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 29, no. 1 and 2 (n.s.). New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1995. Chakravarti, Uma and Kumkum Roy. ‘Breaking Out of Invisibility: Rewriting History of Women in Ancient India’. In Retrieving Women’s History: Changing Perceptions of the Role of Women in Politics, ed. S.J. Klienberg. Oxford: Berg Publishers Ltd., 1988. Chattopadhyaya, B.D. ‘The Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval Rajasthan’. In The Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities, vol. 2, eds Schomer, Karine, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O Lodrick, Llyod I. Rudolph (New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1994). Chaudhri, Sushil. Sati As Social Institution and the Mughals. Kolkata: PIHC, 1976. Devra, G.S.L. ‘The Internal Expansion of Society and Formation of Medieval Polity’. PIHC, 1998. Gupta, S.P. ‘Reconstructing the Political and Economic Profile of Rajasthan’. PIHC, 1994. Habib, Irfan. ‘The Peasant in Indian History’. PIHC, 1982. Joshi, Svati and Javed Malick. ‘Women in Early India’. Delhi University Forum for Democracy, Progressive Printers, Delhi, September, 2001. Joshi, Varsha. ‘Marriage Policy of the Rajput Rulers’. A Paper Presented at the Seminar on Social Economic and Political Development in Western India from 16th to 19th Century, Jaipur, 1995. Kadam, V.S. ‘The Institution of Marriage and the Position of Women in 18th C. Maharashtra’, IESHR, 1988. Kulke, Herman. ‘Fragmentation and Segmentation versus Integration? Reflections on the Concept of Indian Feudalism and the Segmentary State in Indian History’. Studies in History, vol. 4, no. 2, 1984. Lodrick, Deryck O. ‘Rajasthan as a Region: Myth or Reality?’. In The Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities, vol. 1, eds Karine Schomer, Joan L. Erdman, and Llyod I. Rudolph. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994. Murray, Mary. ‘Patriarchy in English History’. Journal of Historical Sociology, vol. II, 1989. Nath, Vijay. ‘From “Brahmanism” to “Hinduism”, Negotiating the Myth of the Great Traditions’, Social Scientist, vol. 21, nos 3–4, 2000. Noble, William A. and A.D. Ram Sankhyan. ‘Signs of the Divine: Sati Memorials and Sati Worship in Rajasthan’. In The Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities, eds Schomer, Karine, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O. Lodrick, and Llyod I. Rudolph, vol. 1. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994.



Rege, Sharmila. ‘The Hegemonic Appropriation of Sexuality: The Case of the Lavani Performers of Maharashtra’. Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 29, no. 1 and 2(n.s.). New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1995. Roy, Kumkum. ‘Marriage as Communication: An Exploration of Norms and Narratives in Early India’. Studies in History, vol. 10, no. 2 (n.s.). New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1994. Srinivasan, Ramya. ‘The “Marriage” of “Hindu” and “Turak”: Medieval Rajput History of Jalore’. The Medieval History Journal, vol. 7, no. 1. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2004. ———. ‘Allauddin Khalji Remembered: Conquest, Gender and Community in Medieval Rajput Narratives’.Studies in History, vol. 18, no. 2 (n.s.). New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002. Schomer, Karine. ‘Riddling at Rajasthani Weddings as Cultural Performance’. In Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities, eds Schomer, Karine, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O. Lodrick, and Llyod I. Rudolph, vol. 1. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994. Sangari, Kumkum. ‘Mira Bai and the Spiritual Economy of Bhakti’. Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 25, no. 28, 1990. ———. ‘Consent Agency and the Rhetoric of Incitement’. Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 28, no. 18 (March), 1993. Taft, Frances H. ‘Honour and Alliance: Reconsidering Mughal, Rajput Marriage’. In Idea of Rajasthan, Explorations in Regional Identities, vol. 2, eds Karine Schomer, Joan L. Erdman, Deryck O’ Lodrick, and Lloyd Rudolph. Manohar Publications, American Institute of Indian Studies, 1994. Thapar, Romila. ‘Clan, Caste and Origin Myths in Early India’. Nihar Ranjan Ray Memorial Lecture, Indian Institute of Advanced Study. New Delhi: Manohar Publications, 1992. Zeigler, Norman. ‘Some Notes on Rajput Loyalties during the Mughal Period’. In Kingship and Authority in South Asia, ed. J.F. Richard. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1978.

Theses and Dissertations Bahadur, Etee. ‘A Study of the Jats in Western Rajasthan: 1818–1919’. Thesis submitted to CHS/SSS, JNU, 2001. Joshi, Varsha. ‘Zanani Deorhi: A Study of the Davree System (with special reference to Marwar)’. Dissertation submitted to the University of Rajasthan for M. Phil Degree, 1987–8. Manohar, Raghuvendra Singh. ‘Atharvi Sadi mein Rajasthan ke Rajput Gharano ki Sanskritik Paramparaon Evam Samajik Riti Riwajon ka Adhayan’.Thesis submitted to Rajasthan University,1988.



Rathore, Sharad. ‘The Changing Attitude in an Elite Society in Transition: A Case Study of Upper Class Rajput Women of Rajasthan in the 20th C.’. Thesis submitted to the University of Rajasthan, 1993. Rathore, Vikram Singh. ‘Madhykalin Marwar ka Sanskritik Adhyan (1600–1800)’. Thesis submitted to the Department of History, Jodhpur University, 1991. Sethi, Anil. ‘The Creation of Religious Identities in the Punjab,C. 1850– 1920’. Unpublished thesis submitted to University of Cambridge, 1998. Singh, Virendra. ‘Jaisalmer ke Shaskon ke Kendriya Shaktiyon ke Sath Sambandh (1000–1450 AD)’. PhD Thesis submitted to the University of Maharishi Dayanand Sarswati, 1993.


Aarti Adharma Agnikula Ahir Akha Teej Amil Anaj Anugamana Apatta dharma Artha Atta satta Badshah Bagi Bahuji Bant Baraat Bedagh Bhabhi Bhar Bharbhuja Bhom Bhukti Bhumi Bigha

A welcoming ritual/ceremony Unrighteous Tracing lineage from fire Herdsmen A day considered auspicious Revenue Collector Grain Following after or dying after Different code permissible during crisis Pursuit of economic benefits Giving and taking bride from the same family Ruler Rebellious Other queens of Jodhpur Giving a share in patrimony Groom’s marriage procession Untainted Elder brother’s wife Fine imposed on remarriage Gram Roaster Landholding Person who has ownership rights on the land Land Unit of land measure considered to be two-fifth of an acre


Bindraja Byah Chakar Chakki Chaknyutna Chamchori Chandal Chautha Chinali Chithi

Chuda Daj/ Dahej/ Daija Dakan Dakshina Dam Dan Darbar Darji Daroga Dasi Dastur Davree Devi pujan Dharamrajya Dharma Dharmic Dharma vivah Dhol DholVagdum Diwan Dohra Sagpan

Dola Dolani


A groom considered to be royal Marriage Servant/In service of Stone-grinder Worshipping the potters’ wheel Deviant sexual behaviour Untouchables One-fourth Woman with loose character Official letters which contain information on many matters including marriage, negotiations and disputes Bangles Dowry Branded as a witch Token offering Currency made of copper Gift court Tailor Women serving in the zananaa Maid servant Established customs Female attendants of princesses who were also given in dowry Goddess worship Righteous State/Administration Duty or righteousness Religious and so, meritorious Righteous marriage Drum Cess on marriages Chief minister A system by which both families could marry their daughters into each other’s family Carriage Cot


Duhagan Dvija Fakir Fasadi Faujdar Galis Gau-dan Ghanadayaja Gharecha/Gharwasa Gharjamai Ghoongat God-bharai Gotra Grasa Gunahgari Hakim Hath Kharch Hasil Gharecha Haveli Homa Huzuri Jamiyat Jati Jau Jauha

Jhurjhuri Jorawari Jyotish Kalal Kalash Kama Kaman Kamdar


Ignored by husband Twice-born, referring to upper caste Wanderer Rebellious areas State official Teasingly abusive songs Gift of Cow Large dowry Remarriage /Gharijana Son-in-law who lives at his in-law’s place Veil Giving gifts to the bride Lineage Land assignment Fine levied by the state Local doctor practicing Unani medicine Money given to all wives of rulers for expenses Tax on remarriage Large houses Going around the sacred fire The State Contingent Caste Coarse variety of grain Suicide by women who want to save their honour after their men folk have been defeated in battle Jugs Rape Astrologer Wine maker/ Distiller/ Seller of wine Pot Earthly pleasures, passion Casting a spell Any employee whether state or otherwise


Kankan dora Kansa Kanya Kanyadan Kesaria Bana Khati Khawaas Koli Kos Kotwal Kukarma Kul Vadhu Kulachar Kulgaurav Kulreet Kumhar Kurbana Lag Lakhera Lavani Lohar Loharin LokVarta Lokachar Mahadaan Maharana Mandap Mardana Marh Mashalchi Mausi Mela MuhDikhai


Auspicious thread tied to the wrist of the bride & groom at the time of marriage Cess on marriage Virgin daughter Giving away of a virgin girl in marriage Saffron-coloured dress indicating preparedness to die Carpenter Concubine Weaver Unit of distance; one kos is two miles Police officer Lowly deed Daughter-in-law of the entire clan Clan customs Honour of the clan Custom of the clan Potter All the expenses of marriage Tax on marriage Bangle maker Singer of erotic songs in folk genre of Maharashtra Male blacksmith Female blacksmith Folklore Clan or local customs Generous gift Title for royalty A temporary pavilion erected for performing marriage ceremony Male Additional imposition Torch bearers Aunt Fair Viewing the face of the bride for the first time


Mulmul Mutsaddi Naharni Nai nata, palla lagana, gharwasa Neg Page Laga Paharwani Pahawari

Pallalagaana Palkis/Palaquis Panchas Panchgara PanchKalyani Panch Thakurs Pandan Panigrahana Parai/ Paraya Pardesi Thakurs

Paswan/pardayat Pat

Patars Pativrata Patrani Patvi Patwaari Phera


Muslin Petty state officials Nail Cutters Barber Terms used for remarriage Customary gift Accepting overlordship Something to wear Clothing worn by both men and women which covers from head to toe and is worn with an item of jewellery, also known as Siropa Remarriage Carriage Elders of the village who take decisions regarding village issues Tax on marriage Men brought by the bridegroom to be married off to the davree Senior members of the village community Betel-leaf boxes Holding of hands Belonging to another Those Rajputs in the kingdom who belonged to a different lineage from the ruler Different categories of concubines Senior; used in the sense of patrani who would either be the first wife of the ruler or most favoured queen Concubines Wife who is true to her husband Senior queen Successor Part of rural aristocracy The circumambulation of the sacred fire that sealed the marriage


Pinara Pradhan Pratiloma Puja Qasba Rajwada Raj-purohit Rand Rani ji Rani Pade Raoji/Ranaji Rath Rautta/ Rajkul/ Rawala Revaris Rudali Saga Sagai Sahagamana Sala Sala Kattari Samel

Samskara Sapinda Saptapadi Sardars Sat Satisatya Satitva Satiyonki puja Satpadi


Cotton Carder Village official When a woman marries a man of lower caste Ritual of worship small town The King’s residence Priest in the service of the ruler Widow Jodhpur patranis were addressed as Rani ji Position of Supreme Queen Titles of the royalty Carriage Ruling elite affiliated to royalty Separate household of the Ranis Herdsmen Mourners appointed to cry for the dead Brethren Engagement Going together with Brother of wife Custom of giving special gifts to one’s bride’s brother All male relatives going up a few kilometres from the bride’s house to welcome the baraat A ceremony or rite marking a major event in one’s life Related indirect line of ascent or descent Taking the seven steps together Clan leaders virtue/virtuous Moral truth Devotion and loyalty to husband Worship of sati The bride and the bridegroom taking seven rounds of fire together


Sawari Sreshthin Stri Stridhan Suhagan Sulka Sutrakaar Taka Tapasvini Tappa Tasali Teli Thakur Thakurai Thali Thathera Thikana Tonga Toran Toran marano Tyag

Upanayan Upataka Vair

Vamsa Varhera Vanaputra Vardakshina Veerta Velah


Riding on elephants/ horses Organization of merchants/ traders Wife of somebody Gifts given to the bride at the time of marriage Loved and honoured by her husband Bride wealth Writer of the sutra Currency made of brass; 14 to 18 takas make a silver rupee Lady leading an austere life An administrative sub-division Plate Oil presser Rajput clan leader or aristocrat Area of influence/ Property of a Thakur Plate Utensil-maker Territorial assignment in lieu of military service A horse-drawn cart A fortress-shaped ornament Striking the toran Customary practice of distributing money or gifts to retainers at the time of marriage Wearing of the sacred thread A minor sin Agreement/ An economic imposition that the offender had to give to the wronged party genealogy Welcoming of baraat by women who sing songs Tribal Token gift to the bridegroom Courage, bravery Tanner


Vidhwa Vyabhichari/Vyabhicharini Yuvraj Zanani Deorhi Zenana Zortalabi


Widow Licentious Crowned prince Section in the royal household where the women of the family lived An area earmarked in the palace which was only occupied by women Rebellious


Aachanan 58–9 abduction 13, 75, 139, 241–3 Adsattas xxi, 29, 184, 190, 208, 214, 222, 237, 240, 263 adultery 205, 209, 214, 220, 224–6, 236–7, 243, 247, 249–50 Afghans 19 agriculture 29, 95, 125, 199; Mewar Brahmins taking to 29 Ahadi, Rani 202 Ahir, Narain 191 Ahirs 9, 26, 38–9, 91, 95, 119, 135, 190–1, 253 Ajit, Mohil 56 Ajitcharita 45 Akbar xxiii, xxv, 19–22, 76, 80–2, 84, 104, 185, 203, 211–12, 255, 262; form ‘Suba of Ajmer’ 22 Akbar Nama 104 Akha Teej 118 Alhakhanda 9 Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan xxiv anuloma marriages 120 apatta dharma 227 Arardhakanal, Rana 71 Asthanji, Rao 7 atta satta 112

Aurangzeb: death of 36; Jai Singh treaty with 150; and sati 28, 82–3, 202–3 Bagheli 125–6, 148 bagi (rebellious) 12 Bagras 29 bahis xxi, 38 balance of power 20, 258 Balisa, Surajmal 104, 110 Baloochs 18 Banerji, A.C. 29, 34 Banias/Baniyas 33, 35, 44, 71, 111, 133–4, 222–3, 227, 233, 258, 263 baraat 68, 70–1, 92–3, 95, 97–105, 108, 110, 133, 135, 230 barbers 26, 39, 72, 89–90, 100, 132, 216, 238 bards 32, 99, 179, 261 Bari Shakha Rajputs 43 Batuta, Ibn 203 Bernier, Francois 167, 173, 211 Bhadrajun 50, 128 Bhatiani, Rani 56, 151, 176 Bhatiani, Roothi Umade xxvi Bhatiani sati of Jasol 176 Bhatiani, Umade 140, 151, 244



Bhats xvii, 29, 32–3, 43–4, 106, 132, 253 Bhattis 10, 15, 19, 31, 52–3, 57, 65, 68 Bhilal 43 Bhils xviii, 2, 6–8, 10, 18, 41–3, 69, 136, 251 Bhojraj 63 Bhomias 14, 41–2, 107, 117–18, 136, 169, 183, 224 Bida 70 Bika 8–9, 70; Rao 65, 128, 171, 187 Bikaner clan 66 Bimaladevi 171 bindraja 93, 256 Bishnois 39, 184, 191, 253; of Bikaner 39; of Jodhpur 39 Botha Shakha Rajputs 43 Brahmin widows 187, 199, 236, 262; Manusmriti on 199; and sexual encounters 227 Brahmin women 199, 224, 227, 236, 263; with lower caste men 225 Brahminical gender codes 220 Brahminism 100, 107 Brahmins 25–32, 36, 87, 89, 106, 120–2, 161–2, 182–3, 189–90, 195, 197–8, 215–16, 219, 235–7, 252–3; feasting 27; and Kshatriya relationship 36, 253; land grants for 29; to lower status 27; perform marriage rituals 27; in Rajasthan 26–7; weakness of 28 bridegroom 25, 27, 31, 71, 73, 86–7, 92–4, 98–9, 101–4, 101–2, 104, 115–16, 118, 122–3, 129–30, 134, 136, 138, 144, 151, 256; as bindraja 93, 256 Budeji 125 ByahBahis xxi, 103, 130

caste xvii–xx, 13–14, 23–6, 36–42, 44–7, 86–9, 95–7, 110–11, 120–2, 184–5, 194–6, 214–15, 217–19, 241–2, 252–8; agricultural 13, 26, 184, 191; bias 223, 250, 263; boundaries xviii, 45, 95; dominant xvii, 103, 129, 257; emergence of 47; endogamy xviii, 77, 84, 119, 122, 189, 255; as factor in marriage 121; hierarchy 24, 26, 38, 45–6, 92, 95, 121, 152–3, 157, 216–17, 219, 236, 238, 240–1, 250; and regulatory mechanisms 214; society 40–1, 136, 225; structure xvii, 14, 237, 252; system 24, 32, 39, 44, 120, 251, 254 ceremonies xviii–xix, 25, 67, 72, 86, 88, 91–2, 94, 96, 98–101, 103–4, 146, 214, 255; of Hindu and Muslim 81; sword or turban for 98; of varhera 100 Chahamans/Chahmans 5, 9–11, 15–17, 63 Chahman–Parmar matrimonial relations 15 chak nyutna 103 chakar 50, 57, 60 Chalukyas 15 chamchori xx, 119, 207–8, 212–15, 217–33, 235, 239–40, 249, 263–4; as adultery 249; among Brahmin women 263; among Brahmins 215; with aunt 232; with bhabhi 233; with brother’s wife 232–3; with daughter-in-law 229, 233; between same caste people xx, 215; fine for 215–21, 223–7, 229–33, 235, 237–40, 248; high caste woman with low caste man 225; faujdar falsely charging for


238–9; incestuous cases of 230; with menial women 228; with mother-in-law 232; in Muslims 227; with sister-in-law 232; and state 263; with upper caste women 219; with widow 233; within family 215, 232, 249, 263 Charans xvii, xxvii, 13, 29–33, 36, 94, 106, 154, 172–3, 178–9, 190, 253, 259, 261; Banerji on 29; grant to 31 chastity 185, 187, 209, 211, 236, 241, 250, 263; obsession with 185; post-marital 214, 262; premarital 213–14; upper caste male and 209 Chaudhries 13–14 Chauhan, Deva Hada 67 Chauhan, Prithviraj 115, 210 Chauhan, Sujan Singh 157 Chauhan Rajputs 18–19 Chauhans 7, 63, 67, 77 Chawari, Rani 188 Chawdas 74, 201 Chedis 15 child marriages/early marriages/ infant marriages 81, 113–15, 118 Chithiyats xxi, 242 Chuda, Rao 5, 31, 48–9, 52–3, 73, 115, 139, 144, 150, 177 Chundawat, Laxmi Kumari xxvi clan exogamy 121–2, 252 clan system 23, 30, 165, see also under separate entries classes 11, 14, 35, 40, 103, 107, 123, 128–9, 135, 152, 161, 165, 234, 237, 243 co-cremation 173, see also sati communal bias xxvi, 219, 263; see also caste


compensation 87, 122, 193, 195–6, 216 concubines 77, 140, 154, 156–7, 171, 204, 213, 228, 259; children of 156 co-wives xxiv, 83, 125, 140, 142, 145–6, 148–51, 153–5, 244, 259; rivalry between 148–50 customs kulachar xiii–xiv, xxiv, 38, 40, 67, 69, 71, 84–6, 88, 91–2, 94–5, 107, 135–6, 237, 251–3 dahej 134, 149 Dastur Rajlok 97, 170 Dasturs 134 daughter’s marriage 72, 118; spending on 129, see also dowry davrees 23, 127, 130–1, 150–1, 258 deceased husband 169, 172–3, 191, 209 Dhanapati or Vaisraman 33 dharma vivah 91, 94, 135 Dharmashastras 85, 87, 100, 113–14, 144, 183, 188–9, 209, 224, 226, 237, 244, 256, 262, 264; on arranged marriage 114; on Brahmin widow 199; injunctions by 189; and marriage customs 188; and monogamy 139; on morality 214, 226; on rape 222; on rituals 99; and stridhan 124; on widows 183 divorce xvi, 153, 224, 234 Dom 194, 209–11 domestic violence xx, 72, 205, 207, 245, 247–8, 264 dowry xix, 21, 24, 49, 57, 59, 82, 95, 111, 122–38, 143, 149, 253, 256–8; darogas given in 130, 258; demands 25; giving davrees in 258; obligations 125, 258; status and position in 129



elite Rajput widows 209 elite Rajputs 131, 138–40, 188, 208–9, 213, 238, 262 elopement 235, 240–2 endogamy 45, 120 engagement xix, 13, 70, 90, 92, 107– 12, 117, 132, 135–6, 180, 189, 242, 257; breaking of 117; ceremony xix, 89, 94, 256; coconut for 52, 56, 68, 70–1, 89–91, 94, 109, 141; jaggery in 41, 89–90, 94; punishment for breaking 111, 142; state and revoking of 111; turning down as insult 109 exogamy 45, 119, 121–2, 252 extramarital relationships See chamchori fasadi (rebellious areas) 12 father-in-law 55–8, 60, 64, 84, 115, 249, 254; and son-in-law relation 58 faujdar 238–9 Fazal, Abul xxii, xxiv, 81, 172, 211 female body 211; chastity and 211; sanctity and 212 female infanticide 106, 119, 132, 143, 228, 258 feminine chastity 214, 262 feudalism xiv, xvi, xxvi, 2, 4, 33; Sharma on 33 feudatories 4–5, 210 fidelity xx, 169, 174–5, 181, 205, 208–9, 224, 236, 260, 262 first wife 129, 140, 149, 152–3, 234, 259; monthly allowance for 153; rights of 234 funeral pyre xxvi, 158, 168, 170; see also sati galis songs 102 gau-dan 92

Gaurs 27, 29 genealogies xxii, 4, 6, 15, 25, 30, 32–3, 43, 120, 139, 187; of landowning families 33 gharecha (tax on marriage) xxiv, 184–5, 187, 189–96, 261 gharwasa 184, 186, 190, 261 ghoongat 131 gifts xix, 13, 30–1, 44, 71, 92, 103, 122, 129, 134, 180; stridhan as, See dowry girl child 132, 139, 143–4, 228; killing of 144, 228 grants 12–13, 28, 31, 36, 44, 83, 124, 173, 181; see also land grants Grasias 13 Guhila–Baghela political cooperation 64 Guhila–Rajput family 62 Guhila-Rathore marriage alliance 62 Guhilas 6–7, 10, 15, 17, 28, 42, 53, 61–4 Guhila-Songir marriage 63 Guhila–Yadav political cooperation 64 Gujarat xvii, xxvi, 5, 34–5, 64–5, 75–6, 78–80, 97, 143, 163–4, 187, 255 Gujjars 26, 39–40, 95, 190–1, 217–18, 226, 229, 241–2, 253 gunahgari 153 harassments 36, 178, 199, 248, 262 harem 144, 211–12 Harshcharita 178 higher castes 40, 87–8, 91, 123, 221, 261, 263 Hindu: customs 104; law 100, 140; marriage 86, 113 Hinduism 100, 107, 256


homosexuality 206, 208, 237–8 hostilities 21, 49, 51–2, 105, 149, 206, 251, 254 Humayun 104, 203 Hunas 10, 15–16 Huns 15 Hurar 68 hypergamy xix, 64, 87, 119, 133, 138–57, 213, 259 identities 44, 82, 86, 88, 92, 165, 178, 206, 242, 255; Thapar on 44; Zeigler on 30 illegitimate sex 208, see also chamchori immolation See sati incest xx, 205, 207–8, 213, 231, 234–5, see also chamchori infanticide. See female infanticide infidelity 208, 210, 214, 250, 262, see also chamchori; elopment integrative polity 3–4 inter-caste marriages 45–7, 120–1, 252, 254 Inter-clan: marriages 5, 16; relationship 15–16 inter-communal marriages 190 intermediaries 12, 14 Intra-clan marriage 121 intra-clan rivalries 252 Islamic law 224, 227 jagir 12–13, 20, 22–3, 26, 30, 35, 46, 130, 132, 179, 181, 200, 239, 243, 257 jagirdars 12–13, 22, 90, 130, 231, 239, 243 jagirs 13, 20, 26, 35, 46, 54, 63, 103, 132, 148, 157, 181, 200, 257; Mughal 23; rent-free 30 jama 20


Jats xviii, 9–10, 18, 26, 37–9, 91, 94–6, 102, 135, 154, 184, 190–1, 246, 251, 253 jauhar xix, 158, 162–4, 260; Nainsi on 163 Kachwahas 8, 19, 80 Kahnarde Prabhand 45 Kamasutra 207 kamdars 35, 130, 132, 258 Kanharde Prabandh 50, 75–6, 181, 246 kanya 92 kanyadan 87, 92, 94, 101, 123 Kayasthas xviii, 34, 36–7, 89–90, 92, 111, 121, 135, 162, 253, 258 Kayasthyas 135 kesaria bana 163 Khan, Sarkail 74 Khattries 36–7 khawaas/khawas 77, 154–6, 171–2, 204 Khichis 64 Khyat of Muhnot Nainsi xxii, xxiv Khyat of Mundiyar 57 Khyats xxii–xxiv, 30, 185 Kotechi clan 187 Kshatriyas 16–17, 24–5, 31, 37, 44, 76, 120 Kshatrization 47 kulgaurav 166 kurbana 92, 135 land: distribution 3, 11, 16, 251; grabbing 59, 66; grants 5, 26, 29, 131, 198, 253; revenue system xvii, 14, 252 lavanis 220 legal separation 235 lesbian relationship 238 lineage 4, 44, 47, 77–8, 90, 121, 143, 145, 183; groups 18–19, 22, 251; power formation of 9



lower caste woman xx, 91, 157, 215, 219–20, 222, 263; y upper caste man marrying 46 lower castes 40, 46, 88–91, 93, 97, 112, 152, 157, 183, 215, 219–21, 223–6, 256, 259, 261 Mahabharata 55, 159 Mahajans xxvii, 33, 89, 118, 217, 235, 239, 241 Maharanas 42, 51, 90, 105, 108, 148, 150, 156 male progeny 50, 144–5; desire for 138 Mangliyani 178 mansabdari system 141 Manusamhita 113 Manusmriti 187, 199 mardana 209 Mardumshumari 97, 170 marh 46 marital xx, 14, 210, 262, 264; breakdown 224, 250; disputes xx, 240, 250, 264; morality 151, 205, 208, 210, 226–8, 236–7, 240, 242, 244, 250, 262, 264; relations 58, 207; sex xx marriage/wedding xiii–xxi, 41, 44–6, 48–60, 62–80, 82–4, 86–9, 91–145, 151–4, 184–90, 242–3, 250–9; for acquiring kinsfolk 61; age of xix, 7, 69, 112–14, 117–19, 178, 257; alliances xxv, 48, 53, 56, 60–1, 67, 69, 73, 80–1, 83–4, 122, 141, 155, 254; among Jats 94; among Rajputs 259; celebration of 105; ceremony 96, 102; cesses 117; as contractual obligation 114; customs xxi, 68, 107–22, 157, 188, 226, 253; dakshina 106; diplomacy as motive of

49; disputes 249; dissolution of 224, 235, (see also divorce); eight forms of 122; to end hostility 49; expenditure in 105; expenses 91, 94, 104, 106, 123, 135–6, 257–8; facets of 72; force 243; institution of xiii–xv, xvii, xix–xxi, 74, 113–14, 138, 200, 205, 218, 224, 240, 243, 247, 251, 264; manipulation in 68; network xvii, 15–16; payment 123; as political 48; politico-economic aspect of 48; practices xiii, xv, xvii, xxi, xxvii, 21, 24, 86, 88, 132–3, 253, 255; primary 184; processions 21, 93, 104–5, 117; proposal 27, 49, 67–8, 70, 72–3, 89–90, 105, 109–10, 116, 141, 188; and refusal of proposal 254–5; restriction on 121; rituals xviii, 27, 50, 71, 74, 85–6, 91, 93–8, 102, 142, 170, 184, 214, 256; secondary 184 marriage ceremonies 69, 74, 86, 96, 103–6, 133, 135, 169, 237, 254, 257; hidden purpose of 69 marriage practices: and customs 24, 88, 253; of Pushkar Brahmins 132 Marwar Vigat of Nainsi xxiii–xxiv, 5, 7–9, 17, 20–1, 28–9, 31, 35, 37–9, 43, 66–7, 80, 115, 140–1, 186 matrimonial: alliance xviii, 15, 31, 47, 59, 61–2, 64–5, 67, 73, 76, 141, 164, 252, 254, 260; to end rivalry 50; relationships 15, 17, 54–5, 65–6, 77, 84, 254–5 menial castes 91, 135, 184, 194, 217, 225 Mers 2, 7–8, 10–11, 18, 44, 94, 199, 251 Mertiya Rathores 63, 80


middle caste 44, 89–91, 135, 195, 221, 223, 225, 241, 247, 256, 258, 261, 263 mixed caste 10, 17, 45 Mohilas 17 Mohils 52, 57, 70 monogamy 138–9 morality 119, 170, 207, 210, 212, 214–15, 228, 236, 250, 262–3; code of 212 mother-in-law 55, 57, 101, 131, 148, 232, 234 Mughal administration 19, 34; Mughal Empire xxiv, 19–21, 23, 34–5, 82; decline of 36; institutions of 253; in Rajasthan 22 Mughal–Rajput: marriage alliances xxv, 23, 82; relations 82 Mughals 18–23, 34–5, 66–7, 69, 79, 81–3, 104, 144, 164, 173, 185, 203, 212, 252, 255 Munhot-Nainsi ri Khyat xxiii Muslim dynasties 80 Muslim rulers xviii, 75, 77, 80, 84, 164–5, 255; Rajput daughters marrying 77; Rajput daughters to 80, 84, 255 Muslim–Rajput marriages 80 mutsaddi 35 Nagars 27, 29, 69 nai 39, 189, 193, 253 Nainsi, Muhnot xxii–xxiv, 22, 26, 42–3, 74–6, 101, 105, 109, 150, 152, 178, 182, 185, 209–11, 244 Nainsi Ri Khyat 48, 262 Nandwanas of Marwar 29 Narbad 53, 58, 72–3, 107–8 nata 13, 184–5, 190–3, 195–6, 261 natal home 78, 101, 124–5, 188, 194, 201, 210, 258


Padmanabha 75–6, 181–2 Paharwani 134 Panch 14, 46, 110, 112, 152–3, 157, 190–1, 193, 195–6, 198, 216–17, 219–20, 238, 240–1, 250 panch kalyani 130 panchas 63, 110, 112, 193, 198, 201, 220, 250, 261 panchgara (tax on marriage) 46, 118, see also gharecha Panwars 67 pardah 101, 131, 154, 209, 258 pardayat 154–5, 259 Parihars 5, 43–4, 58, 187 Parmars 9, 15–16 paswan 153–5, 202, 204 Patels 13–14, 229, 238–9, 242 pativrata 174, 176, 179, 209, 212, 260 patrani 129, 146–7, 200 patriarchal protection 165 patrilineal system, Sharma on 87 patrimony 22–3, 53 Patta Bahis 38 pattadari 3 Patwaries 14 Pavarhes xxvii, 24, 27, 39, 41, 139, 149, 244, 253; as Lok Mahakavya xxvii Pawars 53, 69 peasant castes 39, 117 pheras 92, 94, 96, 98–9, 101 Phool 118–19, 213 physical violence 72, 244–6, 247, 264; see also domestic violence political: marriages xviii, 79–81; power 5, 10, 16–18, 45, 47 polygamy xviii–xix, xxiv, 23, 70, 109, 115, 131, 133, 138–57, 180, 198, 208, 238, 258–9, 262; institutionalization of xviii, 54, 131, 138, 141, 144–5, 208, 254,



258–9; and sexual–psychological problems 151 potters 26, 39, 93, 103 pratiloma 120 pre-marital relationships 213–14, 218, 262 pre-puberty marriage 113, 115, 166; see also child marriage property rights xvi, xx, 123, 199, 230, 262; of widows 197–9 prostitutes 213 proxy marriage 99 Punar Bhuis 197 punishment xx, 209, 211, 213–16, 218, 220, 223–5, 236, 243–5, 249, 263–4; levying fine as 111; public humiliation as 225 Rajasthani Kahawate xxvii Rajkul 16 Rajpal 59 Rajput xvii–xix, 2, 5–6, 8–10, 16–26, 29–30, 32, 75–7, 96–7, 100–3, 105–9, 141–5, 221–2, 251–3, 255–62; chiefs 3, 20, 23, 41, 43, 69, 81, 178; custom 103; daughters to Muslim rulers 77–8, 84; families xxiii, 5, 51, 62, 179, 214, 252; Kanharde Prabandha on clans of 25; lineages 43, 78, 143; mansabdars 23; marriage characteristics of 96; marrying Muslim women 77; miscellaneous origin of 10; polity 3, 11, 16, 252; powers 11, 18–19, 23, 30; in Rajasthan 24; states xxv, 3, 10, 14, 20–1, 33, 35–6, 43, 78, 165, 221, 252; treaty with British 144;Varihaha 68, 116 Rajput aristocracy xxiv, 73, 75, 97, 109, 115–16, 138, 140, 142, 153, 259; marriage among 73

Rajput clan 5, 10–11, 15, 17, 22, 42, 76, 141, 177, 256; formations of 5; structure of 10–11, 185 Rajput daughters, in marriage with Muslim rulers 80, 104 Rajput woman 79, 120, 128, 134, 154, 162, 179, 202, 258–9; and husband’s property 261; ties with natal clan 120 Rajputana 1, 8, 22, 38, 161 Rajput-influenced communities 102 Rajputization 47 Rajput–Muslim: marriages 79; relations 76 Rajputras 2, 10, 16, 41 Rajwadi Geet 139, 148, 151 Rana 15, 23, 42, 58, 60, 72–3, 79, 90, 99, 105, 128, 139, 149, 156 Ranaka 16 Rao 23, 52, 56, 145, 148, 180, 186 rape (jorawari) xx, 205, 208, 215–16, 219, 221–2, 224, 228, 230–1, 233, 249, 263; within family 249, see also domestic violence Rathore clan xxiii, 109, 121 Rathore-Guhila alliance 62 Rathores 5–6, 9–10, 17–19, 28, 51–2, 62, 69–70, 76, 81, 120 Ravala 16 Rawats 42, 199 Rebaris 39 remarriage xix–xx, xxiv, 58, 160, 184–6, 188–95, 199–201, 224, 227, 236, 247, 261, 263; compensation for 196; elite Rajput widows and 209; among elite Rajput women 261; initiation of 195; tax on 184; upper caste women and 209 Report Mardumshumari xxiv


rituals xviii–xix, 74, 76, 85–90, 92–103, 106–7, 151, 154, 180–1, 185, 188, 214, 237, 252, 255–7; in higher castes 88; levels of 90; Oomen on 88; as social burden 106 rivalry xxiv, 50–3, 56, 72, 148–50, 256, 259 Roopde 59 Roopmati 211 royal marriages 96, see also marriage; see also under Rajput royalty xvi, xxiii, 16, 23, 51, 90, 93, 96, 104, 106, 108–9, 114–15, 135, 255 ruling class xviii–xix, 26, 28, 31, 48, 103, 106, 127, 131, 133, 152, 157, 189–90, 253, 257 sacred thread ceremony 93 sagai 92, 108 Sahanas 13 sala kattari 103 samant 16, 60, 108 samskara 25, 89, 114 Sanad Parwana Bahi xxi, 38, 117, 208, 214, 222, 238 Sancharas 29 sanctity 58, 111, 168–9, 206, 212, 240, 243, 260; of family life 206; of marriage 74, 111, 240, 242 Sangrah, Rajasthan Vat xxvi Sankhlas of Roon 56, 68 Sanskritic: influence 94; rituals 96 sanskritization 180; Srinivas on 88 sarkar 22 sati (bride burning) xix–xx, xxiv, xxvi, 56, 58–9, 74, 96–7, 110, 151–2, 155, 158–64, 166–84, 200–4, 212, 259–62, 264; by Acharan 175; act of 168, 170,


178–9, 181–3, 259, 261; act of anumaranaor anugamana 173; as act of fidelity 181; Akbar and 203; among Brahmins of Bengal 162; Anila Verghese on 161; Aurangzeb 203; by Brahmin lady 183; British sensationalization of 160; Dayal on 175; decline in 203; financial drainage and 261; as goddess 159; Humayun against 203; institutionalization of 180; Kane on 161–2; karmic effects on 174; by Khalji’s daughter 181; in large numbers 204; in Manu 159; Mughal governor against 173; Ranis not committing 201; self-cremation of 170; on social pressures 179–80; Tavernier on 167; Tod on 168; in travel accounts 161; by unmarried girl 110; and victimization 166; as virtuous act 203; wives of Rao Maldev committing 171; women’s pregnancy and 173 sati Narayani 182 Sati Puran 174 sati savitri (virtuous woman) xx sati stones 159, 166 sati temples 170 satiyon ki puja 96–7, 170, 260 Saubhagde, Rani 146 Sawai,Vir 119, 244 Sawalia 69 seclusion 91, 100–1, 123, 131 second marriage 140, 152, 185, 196, 259 second wife 139, 149, 152–3, 234, 259; among lower castes 152 self-immolation 160, 173, 179; and system of inheritance 177



sex xvi, 113, 135, 158, 205–8; legitimacy of 205; politicization of 206 sexual: behaviour (deviant sexual behaviour) 205–6, 210, 213, 238, 263; crimes 214; egalitarianism 207; encounters 209, 211, 227; fidelity 208; liberation 206; morality xx, xxiv, 14, 116, 119, 152, 205, 207, 210, 237, 262; norms 207; values 236 sexuality xx, 165–6, 206–7, 262; control over wife’s 166; mobility of 206 Shahi Maratib 104 Shahzadi 181 shame xx, 119, 207, 210, 236 Shastras 88–9, 92, 163, 185, 225, 244, 249, 255 Shastric laws 220 Siropas 134 Sisodia-Kachwaha marriage 66 Sisodias 9, 50–1, 54, 64, 66, 74, 93, 97, 112, 128, 180 sister-in-law 101, 232–3 Smritis 120, 158–9 social: acceptability xviii, 79, 199; institutions xvi, 45, 47, 90, 124, 241; organization xxvii, 44, 47, 91, 113; relations 14, 137, 254, 258 Sodhi 27, 116, 141–2, 172, 209–10; committing sati 172 Solanki 26, 43–4, 50, 52, 61, 72, 115, 127, 132, 175, 187–8, 245; Ballabhsen 115; Moolraj 178 Sona 148–9 Sonar 190, 192 son-in-law 55–8, 68, 82, 84, 129, 134, 249, 254 Sresthins 33

state formation xiv, xvii–xviii, 3–4, 6, 10–11, 15, 38, 43, 61, 65, 69, 95, 105, 133, 251–4; and matrimonial alliances 15; in Mewar 6; process of 6, 11, 15, 38, 43, 65, 144, 252–3 state laws 237, 249 state officials 152, 195, 215, 220–1, 239–40; misuse by 238 state power 42, 140, 220, 250, 261 stepsons 175, 209, 212 Stone xvi stridhan xix, 124–5, 133, 257 sub castes 47, 87, 120, 254 suba 22, 34 Sudra 40–1, 225–6 suhamana or sahagamana 161, 168, 173 suicide 162, 248, (see also sati); feminist view on 168; as sin 159 Sukhwals 29 suzerainty 18–19, 37 Tantric traditions 207 thakur 23, 41, 70, 129, 157 Thapar, Romila 44 thikanas 12–13, 59, 98, 170 thikanedars 12–13, 93, 120 Tod, James xxiv–xxv, 3, 8–9, 20, 22, 32, 37, 51, 63, 79, 99, 109, 144, 168 toran marano 102–3 trade 20, 29, 33–5, 39, 112, 233 traders 33, 35–6, 152, 253; patronized local 36 trading community xviii, 33, 253; Gupta on 33; Sharma on 33 Trayambakyaj 174 Turks 19, 163 tyag 71, 94, 106, 129 Upanayans 85


upper caste 46, 88–91, 96–7, 124, 126, 161–2, 189, 199–200, 209, 214–15, 219, 222–3, 225–6, 256, 263–4; and inter caste marriages 157 upper caste woman xv, 91, 124, 183, 199–200, 209, 219, 223, 225, 244, 256, 261, 263–4; lower caste man marrying 46 utensil makers 90, 93–4, 136, 184 vair 111, 196 Vairsal, Bhati Rao 31 Vaishyas 25, 33–6, 253 Vaniks 33 vardaksina 133 varna system 24, 87, 253; based society 85; classical 36; oriented analysis 36 Varun Praghesa 214 Vat Sangrah, Rajasthan xxvi–xxvii, 180 veerta 165 Vigat xxiii, 25, 29, 37, 201 village community 13, 152, 196, 216, 229 violence 168, 244–6, 247, 249; domestic 247; by son to mother 246 watan 20, 23 widows xx, 109, 124–5, 159–60, 162, 166–8, 170, 178–9, 183,


185–6, 188, 194, 196–201, 203–4, 260–2; coming back of 78–9; (committing sati, See sati); and harassment 199, 262; and property rights 197–8; remarriage xix–xx, xxiv, 58, 158, 183–9, 197, 199, 202, 253, 260–1 wives 54, 56, 137–40, 142, 144–50, 152, 155–6, 163, 166, 170–2, 175, 177, 179–80, 201–2, 259; committing jauhar 163, (committing jauhar, see also sati); humiliation of 244; of Mukund Singh 171; of Rai Singh 171; of Rao Maldev 171; refused to accept 244 women: body of 212, (see also female body); immolation of 159; as kukarma 211; oppression of xix, 158; position of xv, 96, 185; protest against abuse 244; as representatives of family 170; reproductive role of 138, 145; status of xvi, 52, 122, 168; virtuous xx, 176–7; as war booty 74 zamindars 13, 23, 90 Zenana 100–2, 129–30, 148, 151, 179, 185, 209, 211–12, 238, 259, 262 Zenana culture 102 zortalabi (rebellious) 12

About the Author

Sabita Singh teaches history at Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi, India. She graduated in History (hons) from IP college, Delhi University, and completed her MA in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). After completing her MPhil on trade and commerce in eastern Rajasthan, she joined the history department in Deshbandhu college in 1983 and has been teaching there since then. She obtained her PhD from JNU in 2007.