Widow remarriage

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Widow remarriage

Colour poster of V Shantaram’s Dunya Na Maane (1937): One of the earliest to look at infant marriage & widow remarriage

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From the archives of the The Times of India

The Times of India

The Times of India

MAY 16 | 1846

Around 1846 The Times of India went all guns blazing towards making ‘widow remarriage’ an acceptable reality in society. Its writers lobbied for suitable legislation, and it threw open its columns to opinions from both the orthodox and reformers. Scraps of news with a hint of promise of this reform found their way into the paper.

One of the earliest reports was of a ‘Dhurma Sabha’ meeting calling for sanction to let widows marry. “At a meeting of the Dhurma sabha, the [citadel] of orthodox Hinduism... it is a strange thing to read of a petition calling for legislative enactment in favour of the remarriage of Hindoo widows being submitted for the approval of a Society originally established to contest the abolition of Suttee!” Welcoming the change in the Sabha, the report compliments the member who moved the petition. “We admire the courage of the baboo who introduced the subject to the Society; and we applaud his determination to persevere to the attainment of his benevolent object...”

The coverage was single-minded. It hailed the reformers; was scathing in its criticism of the orthodox and called for action from “educated Natives”. Where customs confused, it pitched in with reports on caste practices and religious customs: a sort of ‘Hindoo-rituals-fordummies’ or what we now call Learning-With-The-Times so that all its readers could be, so to speak, on the same page if differing in opinion.

It carried reams of emotional reporting to showcase the pitiable conditions of Hindu widows: from little 10-year-olds forced into prostitution to being abandoned and exploited by Maharajas and the like. Such reports were often followed by biting editorialized comments, “How long will Lord Ripon’s Government allow enforced widowhood to continue?”

Hailing the law when enacted in July 1856, The Times of India noted, “The Act...gives us a step in the right direction. It is obviously a compromise betwixt Hindoo prejudice and a European sense of humanity and justice. When once a reasonable number of widows become married, their husbands may perhaps find courage enough to come forward and insist on more...”.

In December 1856, it detailed the first two marriages recorded after the Act was passed.

JAN 24 | 1855

A meeting of the most respectable natives of Calcutta was recently held for the purpose of taking into consideration such measures as will most speedily bring about re-marriage of Hindu widows. also understand that Pundit Issur Chunder Bedyashagar [Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar], Principal of the Government Sanscrit College has been engaged in writing in Bengalee a treatise on the remarriage of Hindu widows. The paper reported hawk-eyed from all corners every detail on widow marriages, every attempt thwarted, cases that reached the courts...

JUNE 27, 1855 |

A Coolin Brahmin... obtained a bridegroom for a widowed daughter... One such act is worth volumes of letters advocating remarriage of widows... some natives are in earnest who possess that moral courage... to break the bonds of custom

DEC 8, 1855 |

Meeting of ‘anti-Remarriage of Hindoo widows’ | “Not less than five thousand men ... The Brahmins in a body bewailed their hard fate that the ancient castle of Hindooism was attacked by a foreign government at the instigation of outcasts

DEC 6, 1856 |

The respectable Pundit S C Nyrutten, who expressed his intention of marrying a widow is dissuaded from his laudable purpose by his mother... who told him... in obtaining a wife he must be prepared to lose a mother... (But) The pundit will now be involved in another trouble. A millionaire native gent has espoused the cause of the injured party... an interesting case will be set down in the Calcutta Supreme Court viz, Widow vs Pundit

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