The five Pandava princes, heroes of the Indian epic Mahabharata, with their shared wife-in-common Draupadi
The custom of taking multiple wives, or polygyny, is well known. The opposite custom, the taking of two or more husbands or polyandry, is rather less well known, and is becoming a very rare practice indeed in the modern world...
The word polyandry comes from the Greek,Poly (many) andAndros (man) and literally means the practice of one woman taking two or more husbands. The custom evolved in human cultures where resources, particularly land and food, were scarce, and/or where women were allowed to own property or ancestral titles of rank. In some parts of the world it occurred in areas where women themselves were scarce, for example in cultures where female infanticide was routinely carried out, or where females were less likely to survive to adulthood. Polyandry allowed men to pool their resources and live comfortable lives that might otherwise be denied to them and their children. And in these relationships, the women often enjoyed a very high status.
Polyandry was practiced at the dawning of human civilisation and across the world: throughout the Indian subcontinent, in areas such as the Canadian Arctic and in parts of Africa, China and the Americas. We know that in some ancient Celtic societies, women were allowed to own property and therefore marry more than one husband, because Julius Caesar complained about it along with several other Britton customs. Around 2300 BCE the Sumerian king Urukagina of Lagash abolished the custom of polyandry entirely in Mesopotamia. Polyandry was also prohibited successively by the monotheist faiths Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In today’s world, a recent survey of tribal societies indicates that 83.39% of them practice polygyny, 16.14% practice monogamy, and only 0.47% practice polyandry. And in almost all cases, the polyandry practiced is fraternal, where a group of brothers share a wife. Fraternal polyandry was also believed to be the norm historically. Nonfraternal polyandry, where a group of unrelated men share a wife, is virtually nonexistent because of its inherent instability: a group of unrelated men would be far less willing to share the parenting of a completely unrelated child, no matter the immediate benefits.
In pockets of India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet the custom of polyandry continued until relatively recently, particularly amongst the many minority peoples of the region. While the custom has now been banned in Tibet by Chinese authorities, in India the practice seems to be dying a natural death. Increasing resources and opportunities allow men to leave resource-poor areas and find jobs and wives elsewhere. And all of this has happened in the space of a single generation. As one Malang Indian local, the son of a polyandrous marriage, put it in an interview to the New York Times in 2010 “That system had utility for a time. But in the present context it has outlived its usefulness. The world has changed”.
From Polyandry In Tibet - A Country Where Women Have Several Husbands Apiece. - Financial Considerations Rule All Matrimonial Questions in the Land of the Lama, But Jealousy It Not Popular. Syndicated, The Piqua Daily Call (Oh.), Apr. 6, 1892, p. 4
References and Further Reading
Kinship and Marriage. Linda Stone, 1997. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
One Bride for 2 Brothers: A Custom Fades in India. The New York Times, July 16 2010
Polyandry, or the practice of taking multiple husbands. 2012 Esther Inglis-Arkell.
Polyandry. Brian Schwimmer, 2003.
Polyandry. Wikipedia. Accessed 17th July 2012
Why are There Virtually No Polyandrous Societies? by Satoshi Kanazawa, 2008, The Scientific Fundamentalist, Psychology Today.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Kashgar began through a love of travel.
In 1989 my father Bernard packed in his house painting business and set off for two years on a backpacking trek to the remotest corners of the world. When he finally arrived in the oasis city of Kashgar, China, he was so impressed with its history that he decided to start a new life collecting and selling exotic goods from all over the world. For 2000 years the legendary city of Kashgar was a melting pot of ideas and a key trading post on the historic Silk Road. It was this unique combination of philosophy and trade that my father wanted to recreate at home.
Starting in markets in 1991, he opened his first store in the Sydney suburb of Newtown in 1994. I gave up my own career as a government scientist to join him in 2000 and soon convinced my partner Ian to join us in what was to become the Family Business.
Today our version of Kashgar stocks a hugely diverse range of furniture, rugs, textiles, antiques, handicrafts and jewellery sourced from over twenty different countries including India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Thailand, Burma, Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Our collection includes contemporary and tribal silver and gold jewellery, a unique range of headhunting curios, antique Buddhist relics and a collection of one-off necklaces, earrings and bracelets that I design and create myself using the beads and jewellery making techniques of ethnic minorities from around the globe.
Kashgar is a philosophy as well as a store. We are committed to supporting traditional artisans and small village communities by selling authentic handcrafted goods which are personally collected by us. By supporting traditional methods of design and production we hope to encourage local cottage industries which have a low impact on the environment and help ethnic minorities maintain their self-sufficiency into the 21st Century. We are particularly committed to assisting women around the world and to this end have worked with several organisations including the Hua Bin Women's Union of Vietnam, the East Timorese Women's Association and Tikondane in Zambia. Time honoured means of craftsmanship and traditional ways of life are disappearing as people all over the world give up their identity in favour of jeans and T-shirts. We see our trade as a means of staving off the inevitable encroachment of the 21st century, assisting communities to decide for themselves which parts of the western world they wish to incorporate (medicine, education) and which they wish to reject (prostitution, drug production, begging and servitude to warlords). We encourage our customers to think of the handicrafts and artifacts they buy from us as an investment: a piece of history and a way of life that may soon be gone forever.
Kashgar has recently closed its retail outlet and gone completely online.
In the past our pieces appeared in many movies including The Hobbit, Mission Impossible 2, Queen of the Damned, Scooby Doo, Moulin Rouge and Wolverine, and in many televisions series, as well as in plays, commercials and exhibitions. We've found special pieces for individual customers as well as for film sets, event management companies, hotels, businesses, consulates and embassies. The uniqueness of our stock means that we are also very appealing to interior and fashion designers with a taste for the exotic.
There is something for everyone at Kashgar - collectors, the curious, those looking for a special present or for something unique to adorn the home. Most of our items are one-off specialties; other pieces we only stock in small quantities so as to continuously offer a wide and ever-changing range of interesting products. We are also packed with ideas for decorating home and work premises that will challenge your established concepts of design and storage.
Please enjoy - Linda Heaphy
Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases and more …
Sign up to get the latest on sales, pop up stores, new arrivals and exclusive discounts just for members
Get the low down on our pop up stores,
latest arrivals, promotions and sales