A request :

In modern times surrogate motherhood, abortion and test tube babies are acceptable. Likewise, at different times in history, different customs prevailed. For example, there are some stories in the Old Testament where daughters approach fathers for sons. It is not correct for us to judge Kruta Yuga Dharma by Kaliyuga (Modern) Values. Similarly, ideas of right and wrong vary with geography also. It is not right for people of one area to judge people of another area by a different set of values. Problems do arise when people living on one area follow the dharma or value system of  a distant place (due to conversions etc). Then people of the same area and same time have conflicting value systems. Every mature effort must be made to respectfully understand. Value systems get refined and altered over time. (See Also : Oh! The Horror of their ways!)

Niyoga literally means delegation.

During the ancient period that we are discussing, it was considered very important to have children.

As per the Manu Dharma Sastram (applicable to the Krta Yuga and Dwapara Yuga), if a lady is widowed without having any sons, then she could have a son through her dead husband’s brother. So when Vichitravarya died without any sons, his mother Satyavati approached Vichitravirya’s half-brothers to co-habit with Ambalika and Ambika to bless them with a son each. Bhishma, Santanu’s son, refused on account of his vow of brahmacharya (in this context: celibacy). Then she asked her own son Veda Vyasa and he obliged. It is very clear that in this case Ambika and  Ambalika were obedient but unhappy to go through this process.

It was also legal for a man to approach a brahman or a deva to give him a son through his wife. When Pandu was cursed that he would die if he approached his wives, he left for the Himalayas with them. He then asked Kunthi Devi to invoke the Devas for sons. He also asked her to teach his other wife Madri the mantram that she learnt from Durvasa, so that Madri could have children too. The children were called Pandavas though they did not have any of his genes. Their genes were the Yadu genes from their mother Kunthi and the Deva genes of their fathers.

As per some accounts, the Devas were the offspring of Aditi and Kasyapa, so the Pandavas were their grandchildren.

Applicable to the Mauryan Period,  Magadha: “When a king is too old or diseased (to beget sons), he may appoint a maternal relation or a blood relation (kulya) of his or any one of his neighbouring kings possessed of good and amicable qualities to sow the seed in his own field (kshétrebíjam, i.e., to beget a son on his wife.)” – Kautilya Arthasastra

Levirate Marriages among the Jews : Reference :

“In Judaism, levirate marriage, known as yibbum (pronounced “yee-boom”), is a marital union mandated by the Torah in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, obliging a brother to marry the widow of his childless deceased brother.

When brothers live together, and one of them dies childless, the dead man’s wife shall not be allowed to marry an outsider. Her husband’s brother must cohabit with her, making her his wife, and thus performing a brother-in-law’s duty to her. The first-born son whom she bears will then perpetuate the name of the dead brother, so that his name will not be obliterated from Israel (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).”

….”if the levirate union resulted in male issue, the child would be named after the deceased brother and considered to be his offspring.”


Levirate marriage has also been practiced by central and southern African peoples. Among the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria it was a common practice for a woman to marry her widowed husband’s brother if she had children, so the children could retain the family identity and inheritance and not have to deal with step families.”

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