Hindu Widow Marriage

Overview

Before the passage of the Hindu Widow's Re-marriage Act of 1856, Hindu tradition required a woman to live as a virtual outcast after her husband's death. Widows were expected to shave their heads, discard their jewelry, live in seclusion, and undergo regular acts of penance. Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar was the first Indian intellectual to successfully argue against these strictures. A Sanskrit scholar and passionate social reformer, Vidyasagar was a leading proponent of widow marriage in colonial India, urging his ...

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Hindu Widow Marriage

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Overview

Before the passage of the Hindu Widow's Re-marriage Act of 1856, Hindu tradition required a woman to live as a virtual outcast after her husband's death. Widows were expected to shave their heads, discard their jewelry, live in seclusion, and undergo regular acts of penance. Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar was the first Indian intellectual to successfully argue against these strictures. A Sanskrit scholar and passionate social reformer, Vidyasagar was a leading proponent of widow marriage in colonial India, urging his contemporaries to reject a ban that caused countless women to suffer needlessly.

Vidyasagar's brilliant strategy paired a rereading of Hindu scripture with an emotional plea on behalf of the widow, resulting in an organic reimagining of Hindu law and custom. Vidyasagar made his case through the two-part publication Hindu Widow Marriage, a tour de force of logic, erudition, and humanitarian rhetoric. In this new translation, Brian A. Hatcher makes available in English for the first time the entire text of one of the most important nineteenth-century treatises on Indian social reform.

An expert on Vidyasagar, Hinduism, and colonial Bengal, Hatcher enhances the original treatise with a substantial introduction describing Vidyasagar's multifaceted career, as well as the history of colonial debates on widow marriage. He innovatively interprets the significance of Hindu Widow Marriage within modern Indian intellectual history by situating the text in relation to indigenous commentarial practices. Finally, Hatcher increases the accessibility of the text by providing an overview of basic Hindu categories for first-time readers, a glossary of technical vocabulary, and an extensive bibliography.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Oriental Society - David Brick

Brian Hatcher is to be commended for giving them such detailed and responsible treatment and, thereby, making Vidyasagar's documents accessible to a wide scholarly audience.

Journal of Hindu Studies - Ferdinando Sardella

It is superbly researched and written, with useful resources that go a long way towards making the text intelligible to non-specialists.

Paul Courtright

Hindu Widow Marriage threw down a major challenge to popular attitudes about the destinies of widows. It was both denounced by traditionalists and embraced by reformers. In his translation of and extensive introduction to Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar's text and context, Brian A. Hatcher brings to life the contentious debates within Calcutta's emerging middle class about how a modern world can be embraced within the framework of an enduring tradition. This book is a masterful contribution to our understanding of how traditional textual authority, prevailing social practices, and the pressures of colonialism collided and brought into being a religious and cultural world that was both in continuity with and a departure from the past.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231156332
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar (1820--1891) was a Sanskrit scholar, author, educator, and social reformer. A leading figure in the Bengal Renaissance, he was responsible for transformations in everything from Bengali prose style and printing techniques to Sanskrit curriculum and Hindu social practices.

Brian A. Hatcher is professor and Packard Chair of Theology in the Department of Religion at Tufts University. His research centers on Hinduism in modern India. He is the author of Idioms of Improvement: Vidyasagar and Cultural Encounter in Bengal; Eclecticism and Modern Hindu Discourse; and Bourgeois Hinduism, or the Faith of the Modern Vedantists: Rare Discourses from Early Colonial Bengal.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

PrefaceA Word About the TranslationHindu Categories for First-Time ReadersChronology: Events Pertaining to the Widow Marriage Movement in BengalIntroduction A Short Life of Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar Widow Marriage in Bengal Hindu Widow Marriage as Modern-Day Commentary The Real Significance of Hindu Widow MarriageHindu Widow Marriage: The Complete English Translation Book One Book TwoGlossaryBibliographyIndex

Columbia University Press

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