This article is also available in Hindi at http://agniveer.com/4982/polygamy-hinduism-hi/
Immediately after I published my analysis of Dr Zakir Naik’s views on Hinduism, I started receiving hate mails. However I also received a soft-copy of another book of his “Answers to Non-Muslims’ Common Questions about Islam”. This is another masterpiece of his sophism. I have already glimpsed through videos of his lectures where he recites this book line by line. Many rebuttals of this book are already available.
However what perturbed me, was another set of misconceptions he attempts to breed regarding Hinduism through his self-proclaimed research. I can understand why Dr Zakir Naik has to spend so much space discussing Hinduism in an article on Muslims, and so much space discussing Islam in an article on Hinduism (See in FAQ on Hinduism)! This apparent confusion emerges from the fact that in current political, social and cultural situation, 80 crore Hindus form the most ideal conversion ground for Islamic Research Foundation. Peace TV managed by Dr Zakir Naik even announced this a few months ago that they would make Hindustan a Darul-Islam in next 5 years.
Further, many Muslims believe in a prophecy that once India is conquered, only then would Jesus Christ come again and will bring end of the world. After that, Judgment Day would happen and they will go to Paradise to have their virgins and luxuries forever! The lure is too tempting for the uncultivated mind to drop all sense of reasoning!
In this article, I shall cover the first question he addresses – POLYGAMY.
Dr Zakir Naik has tried to prove that Hinduism is inherently a polygamous religion. He states on Page 4 of the book:
“The Qur’an is the only religious book, on the face of this earth, that contains the phrase ‘marry only one’. There is no other religious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the other religious scriptures, whether it be the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Geeta, the Talmud or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number of wives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes. It was only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted the number of wives to one.
Many Hindu religious personalities, according to their scriptures, had multiple wives. King Dashrat, the father of Rama, had more than one wife. Krishna had several wives.”
He continues giving some census data from sources best known to him alone that polygamy is more popular among Hindus than Muslims.
I shall not dwell into what Polygamy means in Islam of Zakir Naik – whether marrying 4 wives in total in entire life, or keeping the total number of existing wives at 4 by divorcing old ones as one marries new ones, or having special provision of 9/11/16/++ for those having revelations, or permitting marriage with babies, or whether keeping unlimited slaves and not counting them as legal wives and thus skewing census data. These issues have been dealt with by a large number of people including women-rights organizations, Muslim reformers and ex-Muslims worldwide. Internet lists a large number of such reference sources that you can google upon.
The focus of this article would be explode the myth that “according to Hindu scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes.”
POLYGAMY IN VEDAS
We start with the Vedas because Vedas are considered the foremost authority in matters of Dharma.
1. There is no single mantra in the entire 4 Vedas that even give a hint of supporting more than one wife or more than one husband.
2. Three mantras of Rig Veda, 1.124.7, 4.3.2 and 10.71.4 contain “Jaayeva Patya Ushatee Suvaasaah”. This means that knowledge comes to the scholar in same manner as a dedicated joyous wife comes only to her husband. “Jaaya” means wife and “Pati” means husband. Both appearing in singular implies that only one husband-one wife relation is considered ideal.
3. Rigveda 1.3.3 states that God is like a dedicated wife with high character and purity. This also implies that monogamy alone is considered ideal.
4. Rigveda 10.149.4 compares love between God and devotee like that between dedicated wife and husband. Both “Jaaya” meaning wife and “Patim” meaning husband are used in singular number implying strict monogamy.
5. Rigveda 10.85.20 appeals a bride to expand happiness for her husband. Again both husband and wife are referred in singular.
6. Rigveda 10.85.23 appeals to wife and husband to always have self-control. Its obvious from reference to self-control and singular numbers for both wife and husband that monogamy alone is recommended.
7. All mantras relating to marriage are addressed in dual number to a couple of husband-wife implying one wife for husband and one husband for wife. Some examples are Rig Veda 10.85.24, 10.85.42, 10.85.47 and almost entire 14th Chapter of Atharva Veda which deals with subject of marriage. Most mantras pray for faithful relation for entire life-time.
Please note that Sanskrit has a dual number apart from singular and plural, specifically to remove this confusion that people may have.
8. In Atharva Veda 7.35.4 both husband and wife state that, “You establish me in your heart so that our minds become one and same.”
9. In Atharva Veda 7.38.4, wife says that “You should only be mine. You should not even discuss about other women.” What can be a more clear prohibition of polygamy than this!
10. Atharva Ved 3.30.2 and 14.2.64 also appeal husband and wife to be devoted and faithful to each other.
11. Perhaps Veda provider Ishwar knew that despite all this, some self-proclaimed experts may still find reasons to justify polygamy. Thus certain mantras in Vedas describe demerits of Polygamy.
– Rig Veda 10.105.8 compares existence of multiple wives with multiple worldly miseries.
– Rig Veda 10.101.11 states that a man with two wives is pressed from both sides and weeps like a horse that neighs when pressed from both sides by spokes while driving a chariot.
– Rig Veda 10.101.11 state that two wives make life aimless.
– Atharva Veda 3.18.2 prays that may a woman never face threat of another co-wife.
12. The only mantra that skeptics try to give in favor of polygamy in Vedas is Rig Veda 8.19.36 that contains “Vadhoonaam” and “Satpati” words. However, “Vadhoo” does not mean bride here and instead means powers that provide happiness. “Satpati” means protector of good, just as “Bhoopati” means protector of earth. This is also evident from the Devata or Key subject of the Sukta in which this mantra comes – prayers for charity and donation (Daanastuti). The mantra means that Ishwar gives variety of powers to those who protect truth and good.
POLYGAMY IN RAMAYAN
While it is admitted that Dashrath practiced polygamy, but the essence of entire Ramayan is that polygamy leads to troubles. The polygamy of Dashrath is considered to be the cause of trouble and grief that everyone faced. Ram is considered “Maryada Purushottam” or the “Ideal Man” because he re-established the Vedic norm of monogamy. Same was followed by all his brothers.
POLYGAMY IN MAHABHARAT
By the time of Mahabharat, the moral values of society had declined a lot. Thus none of the characters, apart from Krishna, is considered exemplary in Mahabharat. And that is exactly the reason why Krishna has been targeted the most for character assassination by a variety of forces.
Mahabharat is an extremely adulterated text and is not taken as authentic in totality. The original text was much smaller and over a period of time it expanded to include a lot of things. Unlike Vedas, there was no mechanism to stop adulterations from it. However a close analysis easily exposes that certain popular stories in Mahabharat are pure myths. I give a list here:
a. Krishna was wedded to none except Rukmini. The myth of 16000 wives came from a story where he liberated 16000 captive girls from Narkasur. The story itself is questionable. Further the story never states that Krishna married 16000 girls. It says he protected them, which is true if story is correct. had Krishna married 16000 of them, it would have taken him more than 10 years even at rate of 4 marriages a day as per the prevailing rituals!
b. Krishna was so strictly disciplined that he observed complete Brahmacharya for 12 years before planning to be a father. That is why Krishna is such a role model for entire society. The narrator of Geeta had no time for anything except nation-building in those testing periods.
c. Krishna never had any love-games with any Gopi. These are figments of imaginations which got popular during dark age of foreign rule when rulers of small states indulged in wasteful enjoyments after accepting supremacy of foreign rulers. Further the whole story of Radha is a figment of imagination. It exists only in Brahma Vaivart Puran which is another unscrupulous book like Bhavishya Puran that insults legends like Krishna and Ram. The concept of Radha grew popular only in very recent times during dark age of India when rulers of princely states were busy only in considering themselves Krishna incarnate and indulging into lustful activities by demeaning just a legendary Brahmachari character! Mahabharat does not contain these.
Please read this excellent article by Dr Satya Pal Singh, Police Commissioner of Police, Pune: Lord Krishna – Lord Krishna – an enlightening personality
POLYGAMY IN GENERAL
While polygamy was practiced by certain rulers at various points in time, it was restricted only to ruling class and never became a mainstream in larger population. That is why Hindus had no discomfort or objection to formal introduction of monogamy as a law after independence.
All the great legends of Hinduism, whom many consider to be near God, were purely monogamous or brahmachari- Vishnu, Shankar, Ram, Lakshman, Bharat, Shatrughna, Hanuman and Krishna.
Thus it is a gross myth that Hinduism accepts Polygamy.
On contrary, Vedas are unambiguous over recommendation of monogamy alone. The same has been the trend for general population and our role models.
If there is any philosophy that condemns polygamy and specifically demands monogamy, it is the Hindu Dharma based on noble precepts of Vedas.
On an additional note, I would like to address a few sophism that Dr Zakir Naik indulges into to justify polygamy:
1. Naik – Average life span of women is more than that of men.
By this logic, polyandry (one wife- multiple husband) should be allowed. Because, on average, one wife would require more than 1 husband to cover her entire life!
2. Naik – World female population is more than world male population.
This contradicts previous point. If one looks at 2008 data of World Population as published by UN Statistics Division, there are 2% more males than females in the world! The same is also true for marriageable age discarding children and elders. Does he recommend Polyandry now?
3. Before we get further, let us also look at the countries with worst gender ratio. You can view the list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_sex_ratio
The table has facility to sort by fields. What we observe is that the top 9 countries with more men than women are all Muslim countries. Stricter the Islamic Law, more adverse the gender ratio. There are 2.74 times more men in UAE and 2.46 times in Qatar. India and Pakistan are also is not far off with their significant Muslim population!
4. Naik – Muslim women in due faith could bear a small personal loss to prevent a greater loss of letting other Muslim sisters becoming ‘public properties’.
We just saw the data above. Does Dr Naik recommend the inverse now?
5. In civilized societies like Vedic Dharma, each women apart from one’s wife is viewed as mother, by default. The basic rule is “Matrivat Paradaareshu – All except wife are like my mother”. That is why the question of someone becoming public property does not arise. In wars, legends like Shivaji would bow to imprisoned women and call them mother! And in a society that respects women, the question of adverse gender ratio does not arise as is happening in conservative Muslim countries.
6. What is important is use of word “property” for women. Dr Naik recommends that polygamy enables women to be private property rather than “public property” at small personal loss. This small loss is a great insult to entire womanhood. If sharing of husbands is haram, why is sharing of wife merely a small personal loss? Vedas do not discriminate at all between men and women and provide them equal rights and privileges in all matters including marriage.
Next he lists 4 reasons why polygamy is permitted but polyandry is not permitted:
a. This will help identify father of the child!
(But now we have DNA testing available!)
b. Man by nature is more polygamous!
(What is the proof for this except that polyandry is stoned to death? Is this not a ploy to insult entire womanhood by justifying polygamy?)
c. It is biologically difficult for women to be polyandrous and rear children!
(This is again another shameless reason to justify keeping multiple wives and concubines, in name of religion and social service!)
d. High chance of acquiring sexual disease!
(On contrary, medical science proves that it is women who are more susceptible to contract such diseases from polygamous men than vice versa. Being a medical student sometime, Dr Naik should have verified at least this much before publication. Or perhaps he never got a chance to practice or get back to medical books!)
Wise can decide themselves the mentality of this admirer of Osama bin Laden.
In summary, Polygamy is a malpractice, quite aptly condemned by the Vedas. Hinduism guided by Vedas and its role models has always emphasized on monogamy and self-control as the only way for humans.
Efforts to justify polygamy, through whatever reasons, is an insult to entire womanhood.
May such deviant minds introspect and come into the shade of Vedas. May they inculcate feeling of respect for entire Matru-Shakti.
This article is also available in Hindi at http://agniveer.com/4982/polygamy-hinduism-hi/