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Hindu Widow Marriage
     

Hindu Widow Marriage

by Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar
 

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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

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 cruelties. A Sanskrit scholar and passionate social reformer, Vidyasagar was a leading proponent of widow marriage in colonial India, urging 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 his two-part publication Hindu Widow Marriage, a tour de force of logic, erudition, and humanitarian rhetoric. Translating the entire text into English for the first time, Brian A. Hatcher makes one of the nineteenth-century's most important treatises on Indian social reform available to an English-speaking audience. An expert on Vidyasagar, Hinduism, and colonial Bengal, he enhances his work 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 Indian culture and philosophy, situating the text in relation to indigenous intellectual practices. In addition, Hatcher provides an overview of basic Hindu categories for first-time readers, a glossary of technical vocabulary, and an extensive bibliography, making the text accessible to students and scholars alike.

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.

International Journal of Hindu Studies
Hatcher's masterly translation of Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar's Hindu Widow Remarriage affords us a rare opportunity to peer deeply into the world of the nineteenth-century Bengali intelligentsia... [this translation] must now be considered "required reading."

Orientalistische Literaturzeitung
A triumph of historical scholarship.... Hatcher's translation of Vidyasagar's Bengali text is exemplary with its close attention to details and his concern for readability and integrity. His annotations are ample and meticulous.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231526609
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
11/15/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Rachel Fell McDermott
Should Hindu widows be allowed to remarry? Hindu Widow Marriage brings together two master exegetes: Isvaracandra Vidyasagar, architect of the reforms that freed widows for remarriage in the mid-1850s; and Brian A. Hatcher, highly respected Vidyasagar expert. In this first complete English translation of the arguments that Vidyasagar marshaled, in Sanskrit and Bengali, Hatcher brings Vidyasagar's voice alive. I found myself liking Vidyasagar, appreciating his zest for argumentation, and thankful for his appeals on behalf of girls and women without sexual outlet. Sadly, Hindu widows today still need a Vidyasagar on their side. This makes Hindu Widow Marriage poignantly and powerfully prophetic.

John Stratton Hawley
In this complex and finely wrought volume, Brian A. Hatcher provides the first full translation of Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar's treatise on why Hindu widows—many of them mere girls—should be allowed to marry. The work raised a furious storm in India when it was published in 1855, and few scholars have been as celebrated and vilified as Vidyasagar. Hatcher's splendid book pays homage to a man of dazzling character and ability while also introducing us to a maelstrom of difference—sexual, social, colonial—that even such a man could not tame.

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.

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