Monday, March 21, 2011

Polyandry and Polygyny in India

This article examines an area in northern India where polygamy, including polyandry, is common. The article uses "polygamy" in place of "polygyny."

"There are at least 50-60 polyandrous and polygamous families in Jaunsar-Bawar. In Monti village, four brothers have one wife. In Sidi, Soopa had three wives. His son has [outdone] him and married four times. It's another matter that two of his wives died and the third split from him," said Moham Singh (name changed at his request), our local guide for the Jaunsar-Bawar tour.

The polygamy seems to be working out just fine.

The Jaunsaris have strong reasons for following polyandry and polygamy. While they attribute polyandry to the Pandava brothers — Yudhishthir, Bheema, Arjuna, Nakul and Sahadev — their devtas (deities) who shared Draupadi amongst themselves, for polyandry, they say more wives mean more hands to do domestic chores, farming and cattle rearing.

More often than not, it's the people from affluent castes and those with large landholdings who practice polygamy. Bhagat Singh, a farmer in Pokhri village, for instance, has three wives.

Anything wrong with this? No.

Another interesting feature of polyandry is that though the brothers share one wife, the children sired by them only carry the name of the eldest brother.

Without full marriage equality, which would allow men to marry each other and close relatives to marry each other, if the wife dies, the family will be dissolved unless they can find another wife.
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