Hindu society seems to have changed rapidly after Medhatithi wrote. For
Hindu law was differently explained about the middle of the 11th century, when
Vijnanesvara flourished at the court of the Chalukya king of the time, Someshvara
composed his commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smriti.
Madhavacharya, who wrote a gloss on the Parasara-Samhita and lived in
the reigns of Bukka and Harihara of the Vijayanagara dynasty, followed him in the
fourteenth century. Both unite in eulogizing the practice of the self-immolation of a
widow and holding it up as the ideal thing for a widow to perform. In this
connection it is intriguing how these commentators slur over the Vedic text quoted above,
'One shall not die before the span of one's life is rian out.'
Madhavacharya explains it away in this manner: 'The Smriti text
relating to Anumarana remains forceful, otherwise it has no scope for action. The Sruti
text relating to self-destruction, has indeed scope every- where except in the case of
women desirous of heaven.' This means that the Sruti text, forbidding suicide, is not to
be given a prior and universal application, as a Sruti text deserves and as has been done
by Medhatithi, but its scope is to be limited by the Smriti text, which has to be given
its full scope first, leaving the Sruti text an application only in that sphere which is
not covered by the former.
Medhatithi did not look upon Anumarana, or the self immolation of
widows, as a Dharma or meritorious act at all, and tolerated it only as a transgression in
times of distress. On the other hand, Vijnanesvara, and Madhavacharya regarded. Anumarana
as a Marina and not as an act of suicide. Hence they argued that the suicide prohibited by
the Sruti text was to be considered suicide in all cases, except in that of
self-destruction by a widow. The whole mental vision thus seems to have changed between
the times when Medhatithi and Vijnanesvara respectively wrote, that is, between the 9th
and the 11th centuries.
That the perspective had completely altered during this period may be
seen from another consideration also. Paithinasi, a Smrti karas, who seems to be earlier
than Angirasa, says as follows: "By the order of Brahma a Brahmana woman is not to
follow the dead husband. But, among other castes, this is laid down as the best duty of a