times, however, the Smritis restrict the practice to the Sudras only.
Polygamy and Monogamy
The number of wives assigned to a person is determined by his varna. While
polygamy seems to have been prevalent among members of the upper varnas,
monogamy is generally practised by those of the lower varnas. For example,
Vishnu permits a Brahmin to take four wives, a Kshatriya three, and a Sudra
one only. Thus, polygamy of the upper varnas seems to be in line with their
larger share in the social surplus; just as the monogamy of the lower orders is
an index of their inability to maintain a large family.
Though there are some examples of intercaste marriage in the Vedic and epic
literature, all these are in the anuloma order (a higher caste man marrying a
lower caste women) rather than the pratiloma order (a lower caste man
marrying a higher caste woman). Besides, the majority of instances relates to
the marriage between the two higher varnas—the Brahmin bridegroom and
the Kshatriya bride.
The practice of matrimonial alliance between members of the two higher
varnas continues into later times. Famous traditions report that such sages as
Kanva, Vatsa and Satyakamajavala were sons of slave women (dasiputras)
and that Santanu was the son of a fishwife. But in the pre-Gupta and Gupta
periods such examples are rare.
In spite of the permission to take wives from the lower varnas, these
wives do not enjoy the same position as those from the upper orders. Not
only are different ceremonies prescribed for wives belonging to different
varnas, but even the modes of greetings meant for wishing them vary
according to their varna. Again, children born from wives of lower varnas
are condemned to a lower status.
Several irregular or mixed castes are represented in the Dharmasastras as
coming into existence as a result of the anuloma and pratlioma connections,
especially the later. Some of the latter type of castes are branded as the
antyaja or lowest castes. The later Vedic literature mentions about eight
mixed castes besides the four regular varnas, Vasistha raises their number to