Female’s property, commonly known as Stridhan, is known to Hindu Law from very early times.
Stridhan according to Smrities:
Manu enumerates the six kinds of Stridhan:
(1) Gifts made before the nuptial fire;
(2) Gifts made at the bridal procession from the residence of her parents to that of her husband;
(3) Gifts made in token of love;
(4) Gifts made by the father;
(5) Gifts made by the mother;
(6) Gifts made by the brother.
The first kind of Stridhan has been explained by Katyayana as adhyagni, or gift made before the nuptial fire.
The second kind of Stridhan has been explained by Katyayana as those made through affection by her father-in-law and mother.
The third kind of Stridhan has been explained by Katyayana as those made through affection by her father-in-law and mother- in-law (pritidatta) and those made at the time of her making obeisance at the feet of the elders (padvandanika).
All the commentators, however, have agreed that the above enumeration by Manu was not exhaustive. Vishnu added the following to that list:
(1) Gift made by a husband to his wife on supersession, that is, on the occasion of his taking another wife (adhive danika).
(2) Gifts made subsequent to the marriage.
(3) Sulka or the gratuity for which a girl is given in marriage or the bride’s price.
(4) Gifts from sons and relations.
The second kind of Stridhan has been explained by Katyayana as those made after marriage by the relatives of her parents and the husband (anwadheyaka).
Katyayana’s definition of adhyagni gifts before the (nuptial fire) and that of adhyavahanika (gifts as the bridal possession), it appears, are wide enough to include gifts from strangers prior to coverture.
But he expressly excludes from the category of Stridhan, gifts made by strangers during coverture, as also property acquired by a woman during coverature by mechanical arts, which he as, will be subject to the husband’s dominion. The words “husband’s dominion” evidently indicated the gains of arts and gifts from strangers either during maidenhood or during widowhood were not excluded from being Stridhan. According to him the rest is pronounced to be Stridhana.
Thus according to the texts, expression, “Stridhan” was not used in its etymological sense of “female’s property” and its only gifts obtained by a woman from her relations and her ornaments and apparel which constitute her stridhana and the only sorts of gifts from strangers which come under that denomination are presents before the nuptial fire and those made at the bridal procession. Bur gifts did not obtain from strangers at any other time nor do her acquisitions by labour and skill constitute her Stridhana.
The above technical view of the Stridhana (which is called technical Stridhana by the Mayukha) is accepted by all the schools including the Dayabhaga. Vijnaneshwar, the author of Mitaskhara, in his commentary says:
“That which was given by the father, by the mother, by the husband or by the brother; and that which was presented by the maternal uncles and the rest at the time of wedding before the nuptial fire; and a gift on a second marriage or gratuity on account of supersession; and, as indicated by the word adya (and the rest) property obtained by.
(4) Seizure, e.g., adverse possession,
This is Stridhana according to Manu and the rest.”
It should be noted that the first portion of the above definition is a reproduction of the definition of the Stridhana given by the texts and the Rishis. Stridhana has thus been defined by Yajnavalka in Yajanvalkya Smriti as “what was given (to a woman) by the father, the husband or a brother, or received by her before nuptial fire, or presented to her on husband’s marriage to another wife, and the rest (adya) is denominated Stridhana to that which is given by kindred, as well as her marriage fee (Sulka) and anything bestowed after marriage.
“The second part of the above definition of Vijnaneshwar is the expression by him of the word adya which occurs in Yajnavalka’s definition of Stridhana, so as to include in Stridhan five distinct kinds of property which were not recognised as Stridhan by the early stages.
Referring to the definition of Stridhan, the Madras High Court observed in Salemma v. Lutchmana, 21 Mad. 103:
“It is scarcely necessary to say that Vijnaneshwar’s statement that Stridhan is not to be understood in a technical sense was not mere philosophical observation. But lying down that position, Vijnaneshwar other great commentators who followed him succeeded in effecting a beneficial change in the archaic Smriti Law and placed woman almost on a footing of equality with men as regards the capacity to hold property.”
The Privy Council, however, by its decision in Devi Mangal Prasad v. Mahadeo Prasad, (1912) 24 All. 234 discarded that whole of Vijnaneshwar’s aforesaid expansion of five means of detaining property and that became the law of the land since then. The importance of the definition lay in the fact that while Stridhana absolutely belonged to the female and she had absolute power of disposal of it which on her death passed to her heirs, in respect to other properties she had only life-interest and they, on her death, passed to the heirs of the person from whom she had received those properties of course.
It is very important to remember that the Explanation to subsection (1) of section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act now removes all distinction between properties, so far held by her as Stridhana and other properties received by her as gift on the one hand and properties received by her by inheritance or by partition, etc., on the other, the textual definition, of Stridhana or the female’s property is no more of much consequence. Now all properties possessed by a female Hindu shall be held by her as an absolute owner and not as the limited owner.
Stridhana according to the Commentaries:
(1) Stridhana according to the Mitakshara:
The definition of Stridhana by Vijnaneshwara (the commentator of the Mitaksharas) has already been given in the foregoing pages. Vijnaneshwara has placed women almost on a footing of equality with men as regards the capacity to hold the property.
(2) Stridhan according to Bombay and Banaras Schools:
Banaras and Bombay Schools of Hindu Law support and adopt the definition of Vijnaneshwara as given in the Mitakshara.
But for the purpose of succession, the Mayukha (i.e., the Bombay School) divides Stridhana into the following two classes:
1. Technical and
Technical Stridhana is the property expressly recognised as Stridhana by the old sages, i.e.,
(a) Gifts from relations made at any time, and
(b) Gifts from strangers if made before the nuptial fire or at the bridal procession.
Non-technical Stridhana comprises every other kind of property belonging to a woman.
(3) Stridhana according to the Madras School:
The four treatises of the Madras School namely, Smriti Chandrika Par- asara, Madhaviya, Saraswati Vilasa and Vyavahara Nimaya, do not agree with each other on all points relating to Stridhana. Hence the Madras High Court has held in Salemma v. Lutch- mana (1898) 21 Mad. 100 that the comprehensive definition of Stridhana given in the Mitakshara should be followed in order to ascertain whether a particular kind of property is Stridhana or not, unless they said treaties are unanimous in holding that it is not Stridhana.
Thus the Madras School recognises the definition of Stridhana as propounded by Vijnaneshwara unless any kind of property is expressly excluded from the category of Stridhan by those treaties.
Sulka is a gratuity for the receipt of which a girl is given in marriage. Whether the gift is made in the limited sense as defined in the Mitakshara (namely, sulka is that which having been taken the bride is given in marriage) or in a wide sense as including gift of house-old furniture, conveyance, milch cattle and ornaments as defined to Smriti chandrika in either case it shall be a bride in the nature of a bride’s price.
This form of Stridhan has become obsolete. In modern society, it is not possible to assume that every gift made to a bride, either before or after the marriage for the aforesaid purpose of Sulka will be her Stridhana property. A party seeking to divert succession must set up a definite case and establish by clear evidence that a particular gift is a Sulka within the meaning of the text books. [Venkata Reddy v. Sankara Reddi, (1954) 2 M.L.J. (Andhra) 223: A.I.R. 1955 Andhra 31).
It has been held by the Madras High Court that the doctrine of presentation which renders the son, grandson and great grandson as single in the case of succession to the property of a male is not applicable to determine the-heirs in dealing with Stridhana sue- cession: The rule of representation which is founded upon religious efficacy as also on the theory of unobstructed heritage and of survivorship prevailing between these co-heirs has no applicability to Stridhan succession as the basis of it is not the religious efficacy and in the latter case it is propinquity and the rule that the nearer excludes the more remote that governs to determine the heir.
The agreement that as the succession after the husband is enjoyed as if the property belonged to the husband himself and succession determined on such a fiction cannot be accepted. The application as this principle cannot serve to constitute Stridhana property of coparcenary property of the grandson and great grandson of the husband.
One cannot lose sight of the fact that the propsitus is really the woman and that it is to her that succession is traced and the kinsmen of the husband inherit her property because they are also her kinsmen. [Krishnaswami Chettiar v. S. Sankill Chettiar, A.I.R. 1955 Mad. 720).
Stridhana according to the Mithila School:
The term “Stridhana” has not been defined by the Mithila School. The Mithila School mentioned eleven kinds of property:
1 to 6. Six kinds of property as enumerated by Manu and explained by Katyayana;
7 to 9. Gifts made on supersession, gifts subsequent and Sulka;
10. Ornaments; and
11. Food and vesture, i.e. funds appropriated to a woman’s support
The school recognizes the definition of Stridhana as laid down by the Smriti writers but according to it the property acquired by inheritance and other kinds of property mentioned by way of expansion as Stridhana in the Mitakshara arc not Stridhana.
(a) A gift made to a female of immovable property is Stridhan according to all the schools except that the Dayabhaga does no recognise immovable property given by a husband to his wife as, Stridhan.
(b) A gift to a widow in lieu of maintenance is Stridhan according to all the schools. The text to be cited for the authority is that of Deval which runs as follows “Her subsistence, her ornaments, her perquisites and her gains are the separate property of the woman.
(c) Property purchased from the income of Stridhan property is a Stridhan according to all the schools as she has absolute power over it.
(d) Property purchased from the income of the property held by a widow is Stridhan if the facts show that there was an intention of the widow to treat them as her separate property.
(e) The Privy Council held in Dev Mangal Prasad v. Ma- hadeo Prasad, (1212) 34 All. 234 that a share allotted to a mother on partition is not her Stridhan. Mithila School also does not treat the share allotted on partition as Stridhan.
According to the Dayabhaga School where a share is allotted to a mother or father’s mother on partition it is only a provision for her maintenance and it is not Stridhan.
(0 Property given to a widow by the State after having confiscated the same is her Stridhan because property given or bequeathed to a Hindu widow is her Stridhan.
(g) In all schools of Hindu law it is settled law that any property that a woman acquires at any stage of her life by adverse possession is her Stridhan.
(h) According to all schools of Hindu Law, the property acquired by manual labour, by employment, and by mechanical arts etc. during widowhood or maidenhood is her Stridhan. During the husband’s life time it is subject to his control.