Women Before Widow Remarriage Act Came Into The Picture

The condition of women before the Widow Remarriage Act was awful and they felt unheard. However, things changed gradually for them.


The widow remarriage act was passed in the year 1856 and legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows on 16th July 1856. Earlier, the life of Hindi widows, especially women, wasn’t fascinating.

Women were always considered submissive gender and below men. Its introduction became a significant change, and it became a centre of attention, the most talked-about show that prevailed during that period.

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was the face that led to this significant change in the role of women in the establishment of the act. Before this act, the Sati custom, one of the cruellest customs, was also abolished by Lord William Bentick.

This act came as a ray of hope, a second chance for women to live a life without having to feel a burden. With that, the action protected the condition of men who married widows.

Condition of women before the widow remarriage act

Unfortunately, the Hindu widow remarriage act was never a thing. The condition of women before the act was incredibly heartbreaking.

Sacrifices, punishment, a life too dull, and no social connection were the final resort. Now, when one looks back at how women were treated, it is no less than a feeling of hatred towards the traditions and society.

  • Upper-class Hindu women who became widows at a younger age had to lead a life full of miserably, extremity, and austerity.
  • Widow remarriage was never discussed or even considered as an option. Even if a widow is a girl child, she cannot start a new life. She was bound to accept her state, shave off her hair, and live a low life. Not just that, she was instructed to wear a white saree, coarse material, and eat real food.
  • Widows were not allowed to wear bright colours, open their hair, talk to people or make social connections.
  • They were boycotted during festivities, considered a stain on the family. Their parents, friends, relatives, and society shunned them.

Ishwar Chandra focused on bringing to light the Hindu scriptures that emphasized widow remarriage within the folds of Hinduism. With the connection of Hindu culture to tradition, Lord Canning enacted the Act throughout British India.

Significant changes after the Establishment of the Act

After the act came into the picture, many changes and benefits came along. The action protected women and men who were marrying widowed women.

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Let us learn the significant changes brought to light with the help of the act.

  1. It described that no marriage contracted between Hindus shall have a disability. This act- also known as Act XV, was applicable in all the regions that were under the protection of the jurisdiction of the East India Company.
  2. During the time, the Governor-General of India was Lord Canning. Moreover, this act came into reality after the tireless efforts of social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
  3. The law specified that the widow who would remarry was entitled to benefit from all the rights and inheritances that a woman who married for the first time would have.
  4. The first-ever widow remarriage occurred just after the law got enforced on 7th December 1856 in north Calcutta. Surprisingly, the groom was the son of Ishwar Chandra’s close friend.


Women now have received the recognition, respect, and equality that was missing for so long. The widow remarriage act brought several good things to light, especially the chance for women to start their lives yet again.

It is no less than a ray of hope that women can have a life to live without feeling like a burden to society.

This article was published here first.

Image credits: Stills from the movie, The Last Colour via YouTube

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About the Author

Pratibha Sahani

I am a Lawyer. At GetLegal India, we provide basic legal information on Indian laws and help to those who looking to hire a lawyer. read more...

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