Describe the ‘Ideal of Patriliny’ and ‘Gendered access to Property prevailing during sixth century B.C.E. to sixth century C.E.

The Ideal of Patriliny: The Mahabharata stands exemplary when it comes to the idea of Patriliny. The feud between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, ultimately ended in a battle, in which the Pandavas emerged victorious. After that, patrilineal succession was proclaimed. While patriliny had existed prior to the composition of the epic, the central story of the Mahabharata reinforced the idea that it was valuable. Under patriliny, son could claim the resources (including the throne in the case of kings) of their father’s when the latter died.

Most ruling dynasties (c. sixth century BCE onwards) claimed to follow this system, although there were variations in practice: Sometimes there were no sons in some situations and brothers succeeded one another, sometimes other kinsmen claimed the throne, and, in very exceptional circumstances, women such as Prabhavati Gupta exercised power. It is evident in ritual texts such as the Rigveda.

Gendered access to Property: The paternal estate was to be divided equally amongst sons after the death of the parents, with a special share for the eldest. Women could not claim a share of these resources. However, women were allowed to retain the gifts they received on the occasion of their marriage as ‘stridhana’ (literally, a woman’s wealth). This could be inherited by their children, without the husband having any claim on it. Prabhavati Gupta was an exception when a woman claimed the resources of her father. At the same time, the Manusmriti warned women against hoarding family property, or even their own valuables, without the husband’s permission. However, cumulative evidence – both epigraphic and textual – suggests that while upper-class women may have had access to resources; the land, cattle and money were generally controlled by men. Women acquired wealth during the ritual of marriage, bridal processions as a token of affection from her brother, mother or father or as a gift from her husband. In other words, social differences between men and women were sharpened because of the differences in access to resources.

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