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Niyoga : Alternative Mechanism to Lineage Perpetuation in Early India: a Socio-Historical Enquiry
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This book attempts to explore the institution of niyoga in early India, examining its genesis and trajectory through the temporal and spatial canvas, for though the focus remains on the early period, the fluctuations are best studied over a larger span of time. The early texts refer to niyoga as apaddharma, a practice to be resorted to only in times of exigency. Niyoga allowed a married woman to cohabit with a designated male if her husband was infertile or had died without leaving an heir. Niyoga, therefore, emerged as an alternative to lineage perpetuation with due normative sanction. The institution had its beginnings in a pastoral set-up, but with changes in social formations, it also underwent many variations. As state societies gave way to regional polities, and as property issues became increasingly important, normative traditions evolved and mutated, and patriarchies changed their stance on the socio-sexual regulation of both men and women. With the passage of time, the institution of niyoga became marginalized within the legal framework, and yet, as this study shows, the practice continues to be espoused at local levels up to the modern era.