The Status of Women in India

1000 to 1300 A.D.

Marriage: As in the previous period, girls got married at an early age.

As far as the royal marriages were concerned, Vaijayanti gave a two-fold classification. The king’s married wives consisted of the chief queen, the queen born of a royal family, the honored lady, the dearly beloved lady, the lady who is not the daughter of a king and lastly the lady who has been won in war.

The Kathasaritsagara says that the tradition of the girl’s guardians getting off their girls married continued from the previous period. There were some irregular marriages too, like Brahmans marrying Kshatriya girls, sometimes with their parents blessings or by elopement of girls with their lovers. There were a number of cases of inter-caste marriages reported during this period.

Education: As in the previous period, the average level of education dropped drastically since they were married off before attaining puberty.

Widow: As in the previous period, widow remarriage was forbidden.

Sati: Perhaps due to the impact of foreign invasions, self-immolation of widows on the funeral pyre was getting more common in North India.

Purdah: As in the earlier periods, it had restricted usage. With the advent of Muslim rule, it gradually spread to the higher classes of Northern India.

General Status of Women: Men continued to be as protective about their womenfolk as in the previous period. They were guarded against physical abuse and mental chastity, at all times. This was best done by keeping the wife in seclusion. She was kept so busy at home that she did not have time for anything else. The husband would honor his wife with gifts, clothes while the other male relatives would honor her on festive occasions.

The laws relating to suppression and abandonment have a strong tendency to emphasize some points in her favor. The wife may be superseded on specific grounds. The husband, in some cases has to ask her permission or in others has to wait for a long periods of time. Even if a superceded wife gets angry and leaves her husband, she must be maintained by him. The superceded wife must be given a sum equal to what is spent on the second marriage or is given to the second wife. When a wife is guilty of adultery, she must be maintained till her performance of penance. Only in extreme cases, such as when a wife is guilty of abortion or attempting to kill her husband, must she be driven out of the house. When a husband leaves or deserts his good wife wrongfully, he would be punished by the King like a thief.

The custom of dedicating women to the service of temples continued from the previous period.

There was a strong tendency in this period to maintain, but increase women rights to property. The women’s right to inherit the property of her male relations is emphatically stated by the authors of Smriti-Chandrika. The widow is entitled to succeed to the whole estate of her deceased sonless husband, provided she is chaste and the property was divided at the time of his death.

As in the previous period, some women exercised a commanding influence upon the administration of the state. In Kashmir, Suryamati, the queen of Ananta, rose to be the de-facto ruler of the king. The political influence of ladies can also be traced to the Deccan and South India. In South Canara district, 13th century A.D., queen Ballamahadevi of the Alupa dynasty ruled for atleast 14 years.

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