Definition of adultery in Hinduism
In the part 1st and 2nd of this article, the philosophy of sexuality in Islam has been outlined. In this part, we will study and present the philosophy of sexuality in Hinduism in a comparative method. It is clear that Hindu religion according to its religious scriptures is neither absolute licentious nor absolute prohibitive, but inclines to both: the permissibility and prohibition. Similarly, Islam is not absolute licentious and absolutely forbidding, but some sorts of sexuality are permissible and some are prohibited. This is a point of convergence between the two religions in general.
One Wife between Brothers in Hinduism
There is no doubt that Islam forbids sharing wife with others, but allows one man to marry four women if the man is able to be fair between wives in fulfilling their marital rights and providing food, drink, dress and housing.
According to Hinduism, adultery is believed as an act involving, sexual intercourse between two individuals, of which one is married (not to the same person).
Adultery is sexual intercourse between a married man and a woman not his wife, or between a married woman and a man not her husband.
The definition of adultery as has been given by the prominent scholars of Hinduism is different from the definition of adultery in Islamic terminology. According to Islamic jurisprudence, in the definition of adultery, there is no condition of “married”.
So, Islamic jurisprudence regards as adultery if the sexual intercourse takes place between an unmarried man and woman or between married man and woman who are not husband and wife though both were agree for sex. Only condition is to be adult and grown-up and absence of marriage contract between the parties involved. Islam regards adultery even if the both parties were agreeing with the sexual activity but there was no contract of marriage between them.
The question: Is sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman permissible in Hinduism?
According to my study, there are at least two sorts of sexual relationship allowed in Hinduism out of marriage contract; Niyog and sexual intercourse with a prostitute with payment. We will explain with more detail in the following lines.
Is Prostitution Allowed in Hinduism?
Sexual intercourse with a strange woman and with a woman who has a child from her husband as well as with a woman, who is wife of a person, is prohibited in Hinduism. But the question is; if a woman is independent not a wife, and she does not have a child; is sexual intercourse with her a sort of adultery or not? But if we take the meaning that strange means who is not married with him then the ruling is similar in Hinduism and Islam. But some texts of Hinduism suggest that sexual intercourse with a prostitute who is not wife of a specific man is allowed.
Public Woman and Private Woman
It is important to point out here that the ancient Indians have classified women into two categories: a private and married woman who has a husband and this category of woman is not allowed to be a bed for another person. The other category is a public or unmarried woman who is free from the marriage bond with any specific man or she is a prostitute, in this case, there is no sin or blame in exercising sexual intercourse with her rather, it is allowed for a person to enjoy her body sexually because she is not specific to a certain man through marriage.
Is Prostitution Allowed in Hinduism?
Hindu kings in ancient times created a group of women to entertain and help some men traveling and visiting Hindu holy places, or soldiers and regiments on travel and fighting on the border or remote countries and their wives are not with them and they needed to enjoy the physical lust and sexual intercourse to fulfill their sexual needs with payment of some fees. In addition, this type of sexual intercourse had been regarded according to the Hindus a meritorious act and a sort of charity as adultery was only if the woman was married and has a husband. However, it was very bad act if the fee was not paid to the woman for the sexual intercourse. Additionally, it was among the practices of some Hindus to gift their beautiful young daughters to the Brahmins and religious mentors who served the Hindu temples expecting rewards from their gods. (1)
Is Adultery prohibited in Hinduism?
In the light of the sacred texts of Hindu scriptures, we can conclude that adultery in general is prohibited in Hinduism. Additionally, there are some punishments prescribed in Hinduism.
“With unknown women, with such beings as belong to the third sex, with women of loose morals, with the wives of others, and with maidens let not a man have union.”(2)
This text has two possibilities according to our understanding; the first one is that a person should not have a union by marriage, in other words a man is not allowed to marry those who were mentioned in the text. And the other meaning is that a man should not have a sexual intercourse with those who were mentioned because it is a sort of adultery.
The text is also clear in prohibiting the sexual affair with she-males (neither man nor woman) that were denoted by the third sex who are neither complete male nor complete female rather they are the third gender.
Sexual intercourse without marriage
Manusmriti forbids sexual intercourse with a virgin girl (without marriage). It consists of provisions for the atonement of this sin.
Carnal intercourse with sisters by the same mother, with (unmarried) maidens, with females of the lowest castes, with the wives of a friend, or of a son, they declare to be equal to the violation of a Guru’s bed.
He who has had sexual intercourse with sisters by the same mother, with the wives of a friend, or of a son, with unmarried maidens, and with females of the lowest castes, shall perform the penance, prescribed for the violation of a Guru’s bed. (Laws of Manu: 59, CHAPTER XI.)
In Hinduism Hell as a Punishment for the Adultery
It is also noteworthy that besides the unknown woman, the woman with child is named as forbidden in Mahabharata. Furthermore, in all cases a man must never approach the wife of another. For there is naught (curse) in the world which so shortens life as that the man on earth should visit the wife of another. (Manu, IV, 134). As many pores as are on women’s bodies, so many years will he sit in hell. (3)
Another Punishment for Adultery in Hinduism
The concept of re-birth in Hinduism is its identity; perhaps, the philosophy of re-birth is the common ground between the religious sects and sub-religions of India. Therefore, we find a punishment for adultery according to the philosophy of re-birth.
He who touches another’s wife is born as a wolf, as a dog, as a jackal, and then born as a vulture, a snake, a heron (a large fish-eating bird), as also a crane (long-legged and long-necked bird).
A bad character person who ruins his brother’s wife becomes for a year a Nightingale cock. Who satisfies his lust and puts his hands on the wife of his friend or his teacher (guru), or of the king, is born after death as a swine. He will be five years a swine, ten years a porcupine (an animal with a covering of long, sharp quills), five years a cat, ten years a cock, three months an ant, one month an insect, and then, having had these embodiments will be born in a worm’s existence. In this worm’s existence he will live fourteen months, and then, having atoned for his evil, be born again as a human being. For five offences, indeed, there is no atonement (nishkriti), through them a man becomes an outcast, unworthy of intercourse (asambhashya) with forefathers, gods, and pious men, goes to hell, is roasted there like a fish, and has to live there on matter and blood. These are: the murder of a Brahman, cow-slaying, intercourse with another’s wife, unbelief, and living on a woman (xiii, 130.37-40). In the same way Ram., iii, 38.30 teaches: “There is no greater sin than to touch another’s wife.” On the other hand xii, 35.25 prescribes, indeed, an atonement for him that seduces the wife of another; but it is noteworthy that it is the same vow of mortification that is also laid on the Brahman-murderer. The former, however, only need keep it for a year. “Then he is free of his sin.” This punishment falls on him “as a robber of another’s property.” (paradarapahari tu parasyapaharan vasu).
These texts clearly indicate that adultery is prohibited in Hinduism and entails a painful punishment in this world and in the Hereafter. In addition, this attitude of Hinduism is identical to that of Islam on this issue.
(1)Mirza Muhammad Kazim Barlas, Al-Hunood, Fath Al Kareem, Bombay, 1896, vol.3rd, p.415.
(2) Mahabharata, xii, 90.32.
(3) Sexual life in ancient India, p.246.