Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage
Divorce is more or less unilateral to be effected by the husband on grounds of
adultery, barrenness, disobedience, and the like. But Kautilya does not permit
divorce in the case of the first four approved forms of marriage, which shows
that it can take place in the unapproved forms.
    The regulations regarding the dissolution of marriage were evidently
influenced by varna considerations. Dissolution can take place for essentially
two reasons:
    • As endogamy is a vital requisite for marriage, the moment a person
         loses his caste, his wife abandons him and can take another husband.
    • In the case of absence of the husband for a long time, Kautilya as well
         as several Brahmanical law-makers permit the wife a number of
         options including remarriage and levirate. Kautilya lays down that a
         Brahmin wife without children should wait for four years, a Kshatriya
         for three, a Vaishya for two, and a Sudra for one, in case the husband
         goes out on journey and does not return in time as promised. If the
         wife is with children or she has been provided with means of
         livelihood, the period of waiting is extended but the difference
         between the various varnas maintained. The early Dharmasastras
         also prescribe similar periods of waiting in such cases. But the later
         law-givers raise the extent of the waiting period for all varnas, the
         highest being eight years for the Brahmin wife with child.
Widow Remarriage and Niyoga
Though there is neither literary nor epigraphic evidence about the practice of
widow remarriage in ancient India, it was probably practised particularly by
the lower varnas. A passage of Manu states that it cannot take place among
the Brahmins, which implies that it can take place among the three other
    Niyoga (levirate) was certainly practised by the Sudras in the early
centuries of the Christian era, which fact strengthens our presumption about
the existence of widow remarriage among the lower varnas. In the Vedic and
the epic ages we do not have any regulation confining niyoga to any