What was the importance of Family and Marriage in the Mauryan Society?


The Mauryan state did not look with favour on the inroads made into the social system, and the growth of the ascetic orders with large claims upon the livelihood of the people.

Kautilya forbade the practice of abandon­ing domestic life, and made it a rule that only old men could become ascetics, and then only after making adequate provision for their dependents and getting sanction from the dharmasthas.

In domestic life the joint family system prevailed, but it could be dissolved at the will of the parties. A girl was deemed to attain majority at the age of twelve and a boy at sixteen. Eight kinds of marriages are enumerated, of which only four are regular, though Kautilya adds that there is no prohibition against any form of marriage that produces satisfaction to all concerned.


Marriage could be dissolved by mutual consent or prolonged absence. A married woman had property of her own in the form of bride-gift (stridhana) and jewels, and these were to some extent at her disposal in case of widowhood. If she remarried a relative of her deceased husband with her father-in-law’s consent she retained proper­ties given by her father-in-law or her first husband.

Cruelty by either party to a marriage partner was punishable. In the absence of a male issue, a man was free to take another wife without paying com­pensation to his first wife. The law concerning marriage and the relations between husband and wife is fully stated in three chapters of Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Similarly, widows in this text appear to enjoy a much freer life and occupied an honoured place in society, and as such, their use in secret service is recommended.

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