Little Dowry, No Satī. The Lot Of Women In The Vedic Period.
The marriage hymn of Ṛgveda (10.85.40) speaks about three previous -- mythological -- husbands of any bride: Soma, Gandharva and Agni who “transmit” the bride to her actual husband during the marriage ceremony. That a bride, in real life, had to be a virgin was shown, with copious materials, by my teacher Paul Thieme more than thirty years ago.1 Once promised by her father with an oath accompanied by the ceremonial pouring of water, followed by the marriage ritual in which she was given away in the presence of the sacred fire, the young woman was ceremonially bound to her new clan (gotra) forever -- even after the death of her husband.
If they did not have a son before his death, a brother of the husband could live with her in levirate, as we shall see, to produce this son. At any rate, she was bound to her new family for life, and after it. Even then, whether she had to follow her husband to the other world at the time of his death or shortly afterwards, has been a topic for keen discussion.
However, the Ṛgveda is clear enough. The burial hymn of the RV speaks about the return of the widow to her settlement, together with her relatives, RV 10.18.8:
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