ČAKAR, a Middle Persian legal term denoting a widow who at the death of her “authorized” (pādixšāyīhā, q.v.) husband without issue was obliged (see ayōkēn; būdag) to enter into a levirate marriage (čakarīh) in order to provide him with male offspring (frazand). (The pādixšāyīhā marriage, as against stūrīh/čakarīh, is cum manu marito, i.e., the legal union of a husband and wife enjoying the relevant rights and obligations of lawful wedlock.) The institution of čakarīh was, therefore, a special case of stūrīh (q.v.) that may be termed “levirate” and not a distinct type of marriage, as some authors have presumed (see below). However, in contrast to the Jewish levirate, when there were no near agnates, the widow could institute a čakarīh with any eligible person by appoint­ment (gumārdagīhā; see būdag). In such a union the wife, husband, son, and daughter are respectively called zan, šōy, pus, and duxt ī čakarīhā (for which some late manuscript copies have only čakar). In Zoroastrian family law, if the authorized husband passes away without leaving male issue, his successorship devolves upon his authorized wife (widerd ān mard ān zan šōy abar mānēd; Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 97.7-11), that is, it would be incumbent upon his widow to institute a levirate marriage in order that the begotten čakarīhā son might maintain his deceased father’s lineage and name and administer his property (kē pad ān ī ōy nāmagānīh ud +paywand rāyēnēd ud xwāstag dārēd+, Dādestānī dēnīg, ms. K 35, p. 201); and finally to ensure that he had a son by čakarīh to help his soul cross the Činwad­puhl “the separating bridge” (Wizīrkard ī dēnīg, 2.6,17). Hence, only a fruitful (barwar) widow would become liable for remarrying as a čakar, in which case, accord­ing to one provision of the law (Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 49), she would be bound by duty to keep up her čakarīh marriage until the age of seventy (for “fifty”?). It was a serious crime (sin) for a man consciously to marry a woman who was under the obligation of čakarīh in an authorized marriage; if he were to conclude such a marriage he would be guilty of sin to the degree of one tanāpuhl (q.v.), and if the marriage were to endure, he would become “worthy of death” (marg-arzān) within a year (Rivāyat ī Ēmēd ī Ašawahištān, chap. 21). Although čakarīh was a sine manu marriage and the čakar wife was “in no need of any statement concerning her divorce, since she is divorced by her own status (pad xwad ēstišnīh abēzār)” (ibid.), the dissolution of čakarīh before an heir to the deceased had been provided was considered a deadly sin, ranked as marg-arzānīh (Pah­lavi Rivayat, pp. 122-23). However, after the widow had given birth to the desired offspring, the čakarīh, though not the guardianship over her, could be brought to an end (Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 48). According to a singular point of family law, an authorized husband could even in his lifetime establish a čakarīhā marriage in his own favor by saying to his wife: “I have made you your own guardian and given you freedom over your own person,” in which case “she has not been divorced but authorized to marry a čakar husband” (Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 3). A widowed mistress of the household (kadag­bānūg) who was not under guardianship (sālārīh) was free to cohabit with a man of her own choice, whereupon he would be appointed her guardian. The institution of čakarīh did not involve any proprietary rights or claims, nor did it put either party under any special legal obligation other than their obligatory cohabitation and endeavor to produce the desired offspring and the čakar wife’s submission to and reverence (tarsagāhīh) for the čakar husband, who was at the same time her guardian. The management of čakarīh by the čakar husband was financed from the estate of the deceased for whom the levirate was created. The stipend of the čakar husband depended on his legal status or category. The property settled on a designate (kardag) stūr (see būdag; stūr) (i.e., a person desig­nated by the deceased himself in his lifetime or by a testamentary disposition to assume the conduct of his čakarīh/stūrīh) came to him by inheritance in full ownership. For the near agnates, who were liable (see  būdag) for the assumption of čakarīh and were entitled to a share of inheritance from the estate of the deceased, no remuneration was considered. If there were no near agnates, the minimum amount required to establish čakarīh by appointment (gumārdagīhā; see  būdag) was a profit-yielding capital of 60 stērs, which was to be held in usufruct. The capital was entailed on the family (dūdag) of the deceased for the management of čakarīh and had to be delivered to the son born as his successor upon his coming of age. For less than this amount the creation of čakarīh was, according to the majority of juridical cases, not binding upon his relatives. However, once such a marriage had been instituted, an indigent čakarīhā father was to be maintained from the private resources (wāspuhragān) of the čakarīhā wife and chil­dren, which was supposed to be reimbursed by the čakarīhā father (Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 32). Reciprocally, those čakarīhā children who could not be supported by the family were to be maintained by their čakarīhā father (Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 32). Neither member of the čakar couple had the right to inherit the estate of the other; the čakar children succeeded only to the legacy left by their mother.

The Zoroastrian jurisconsults were divided on the legitimacy or propriety of changing the status of čakarīh into that of pādixšāyīhā by adoption. It was practiced by the office of mōbeds at Dārābgerd (Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 70) and conceded by Pusānweh, son of Burzādur-­Farrbag, and Māhdād-Gušnasp, son of Yazdānabzūd, but it was disputed by the office of mōbeds of Ardašīr-­Xwarrah (Mādayān, pt. 2, p. 40).

If the čakarīhā wife passed away leaving only a daughter, all the estate of the mother and the obligation (ayōkēnīh) of stūrīh for the deceased authorized father descended to her. On the death of the čakar father, if there were two surviving daughters, the eldest suc­ceeded to the ayōkēnīh of the authorized father, whereas the other, if unmarried in the lifetime of the čakar father, became eligible to assume the stūrīh of the čakar father by appointment. A čakar father who had no pādixšāyīhā children was, by virtue of his “natural” paternity, conceded certain “preferential” rights in regard to his own stūrīh by his čakar children, which are circumstantially treated in the Rivāyat ī Ēmēd ī Ašawahištān (chap. 23).

Following the Persian Rivayats (I, p. 180), which erroneously advance five types of Zoroastrian matri­monial arrangements, some authors have wrongly considered čakarīh a discrete type of marriage and misapprehended the legal term čakar. W. E. West took zan ī čakar as “serving wife” (Sacred Books of the East, vol. 18, p. 189), which is its New Persian meaning rather than its Middle Persian, juridical, denotation. C. Bartholomae interpreted čakar as “Nebenfrau” (Zum sasanidischen Recht I, p. 32) and was followed by J. C. Tavadia, who translated it “subordinate wife” (Šāyast nē šāyast 10.21). J. de Menasce (p. 7) confined his description of the term to its difference from that of authorized (pādixšāyīhā): “une femme qui n’est pas pādixšāyīhā (selon le droit, légitime au sens plénier).” M. Macuch explains čakar as “Hilfsehe” (p. 7).

Middle Persian čakar is, in the opinion of the present writer, derived from Indian chokra- “boy (slave)” (see R. L. Turner, A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo­-Aryan Languages, London, 1966, I, p. 279); cf. NPers. čāker “humble servant, bondman,” Ossetic caγar “slave.” Bartholomae’s derivation of the word from Av. čarāitī- “young woman” (AirWb., col. 581), as well as K. Brugmann’s suggested derivation from a reduplicated form of kar- “do” (Grundriss II, 2a, p. 425), followed by Perikhanian (1970, p. 357), are untenable.



Dādestān ī dēnīg: ms. K 35, ed. A. Christensen, in Codices Avestici et Pahlavici III, Copenhagen, 1934; The Dādistān-ī Dīnīk, ed. W. E. West, SBE 18, Oxford, 1882.

Mādayān ī hazār dādistān: Mâdigân-i-hazâr Dâtistân, ed. J. J. Modi (facs. ed. of pt. 1, fols. 1-55), Bombay, 1901; The Social Code of the Parsees in Sasanian Times or the Mâdigân-i-hazâr Dâtistân, Part II, ed. T. D. Anklesaria, Bombay, 1912.

The Pahlavi Rivâyat Accom­panying the Dâdestân-î Dînîk, ed. B. N. Dhabhar, Bombay, 1913.

The Pahlavi Rivāyat of Āturfarnbag and Farnbag-Srōš, pt. 1 (text and tr.), ed. T. A. Anklesaria, Bombay, 1969.

Persian Rivayats: M. R. Unvala, ed., Dârâb Hormazyâr’s Rivâyat, 2 vols., Bombay, 1922; B. N. Dhabhar, tr. The Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz and Others, Bom­bay, 1932.

Rivāyat ī Ēmēd ī Ašawahištān, ed. B. T. Anklesaria, Rivâyat-î Hêmît-î Asavahistân, Bombay, 1962.

C. Bartholomae, Zum sasanidischen Recht, Sb. der Heidelberger Akad. der Wiss., 1919.

S. J. Bulsara, The Laws of the Ancient Persians as Found in the “Mātīkān ē Hazār Dātastān” or “The Digest of a Thousand Points of Law,” Bombay, 1937.

M. Macuch, Das sasanidische Rechtsbuch “Mātakdān ī Hazār Dātistān” Part II, Wiesbaden, 1981.

J. P. de Menasce, Feux et fondations pieuses dans le droit sassanide, Paris, 1964.

A. G. Perikhanian, Sasanidskiĭ sudebnik “Kniga tysyachi sudebnykh resheniĭ (Mātakdān ī hazār dātastān), Yerevan, 1973.

Idem, “On Some Pahlavi Legal Terms,” in W. B. Henning Memorial Volume, ed. M. Boyce and I. Gershevitch, London, 1970, pp. 349-57.

Idem, Obshchestvo i pravo Irana v parfyanskiĭ i sasanidskiĭ periody, Moscow, 1983, esp. pp. 94-98 (see index, p. 372).

M. Shaki, “The Sasanian Matrimonial Relations,” Archív Orientální 39, 1971, pp. 322-45.

Idem, “Two Middle Persian Legal Terms for Private Property,” in Mémorial Jean de Menasce, ed. Ph. Gignoux and A. Tafazzoli, Louvain, 1974, pp. 327-36.

Idem, “Two Chapters of the Rivāyat ī Ēmēd ī Ašawahištān,” in Oriental Studies (D. Kobidze memorial volume), Tiflis, 1983, pp. 45-53.

(Mansour Shaki)

Originally Published: December 15, 1990

Last Updated: December 15, 1990

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