By Swami Harshananda
Parivedana literally means ‘obtaining a wife leaving the elder brother’.
The ancient dharmaśāstras like the Gautama Dharmasutras and the Āpastamba Dharmasutras declare that a younger brother should not marry before the elder brother. In case he did, he was called ‘parivettā’ and the act itself was known as ‘parivedana’.
However, if the elder brother was a lunatic, a patient suffering from an incurable serious disease, an impotent person or had become a monk, the younger one was permitted to marry. This restriction applied to a younger sister also who married before her elder sister. All the persons involved in such an act like the parents of the couple and the priest and also two brothers were considered as sinners who would go to hell. Prāyaścittas or expiations were prescribed for them all. It is rather difficult to understand the logic behind this prohibition. This custom seems to have existed among the ancient jews also.
- Gautama Dharmasutras 15.18
- Āpastamba Dharmasutras 18.104.22.168
- The Old Testament, Genesis 29
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore