Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi

by Ganganatha Jha | 1920 | 1,381,940 words | ISBN-10: 8120811550

This is the English translation of the Manusmriti, which is a collection of Sanskrit verses dealing with ‘Dharma’, a collective name for human purpose, their duties and the law. Various topics will be dealt with, but this volume of the series includes 12 discourses (adhyaya). The commentary on this text by Medhatithi elaborately explains various t...

Verse 1.31 [Creation of the Brāhmaṇa and other castes]

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation by Ganganath Jha:

लोकानां तु विवृद्ध्यर्थं मुखबाहूरुपादतः ।
ब्राह्मणं क्षत्रियं वैश्यं शूद्रं च निरवर्तयत् ॥ ३१ ॥

lokānāṃ tu vivṛddhyarthaṃ mukhabāhūrupādataḥ |
brāhmaṇaṃ kṣatriyaṃ vaiśyaṃ śūdraṃ ca niravartayat
|| 31 ||

With a view to the development of the (three) regions, He brought into existence the Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya, the Vaiśya and the Śūdra, from out of His mouth, arms, thighs and feet (respectively).—(31)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

With a view to the development of the regions.’ terrestrial and the rest;—‘development’ stands for Nourishment and expansion; it is only when the four castes, Brāhmaṇa and the rest, are there that there is development of the three regions; for the Gods live upon offerings made by these castes,—these castes alone being entitled to the performance of sacrifices; so that the action done by these nourishes the two regions (celestial and subterranean); then again, the Gods also are prompted by men’s action to act; from the Sun-God comes rain; and thus the said creation (of the Brāhmaṇa) tends to the nourishment of this (terrestrial) region also.

He brought unto existence,’—i.e., produced, the Brāhmaṇa and other castes,—‘from out of his mouth, arm’, thighs and feet’ respectively; i.e., the Brāhmaṇa from out of his mouth, the Kṣatriya out of his arms, the Vaiśya out of his thighs and the Śūdra out of his feet.—The affix ‘tasi’ (inmukha bāhārupādataḥ’) has the sense of the Ablative; the effect is, as it were, drawn out of the cause; and this implying a sort of separation, the use of the Ablative becomes fully justified.

It was only a certain primeval Brāhmaṇa whom Prajāpati produced, by his divine power, out of the component particles of his own mouth; because so far as the Brāhmaṇas of the present day are concerned, they are all actually found to he produced by intercourse between human couples, out of the material principles.

In reality however, what is stated here is merely commendatory, intended to show the relative superiority and inferiority of the castes;—the meaning being—‘of all beings Prajāpati is the highest,—among all the limbs of Prajāpati, the mouth is the highest,—similarly the Brāhmaṇa is the highest, most praiseworthy, of all the castes;’ and on the basis of this similarity the Brāhmaṇa is described as produced out of Brahma’s mouth.

Or, the description of the Brāhmaṇa coming out of Brahma’s mouth may be due to the fact that the work of the mouth, such as teaching and the like, belongs preeminently to the Brāhmaṇa; to the Kṣatriya belongs the work of the arms, lighting; to the Vaiśya the work of the thighs, such as wandering about with the cows, when tending cattle, and also travelling for trade on land and water; and to the Śūdra belongs the work of the feet, i.e., service.—(31)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Lokavivṛddhyartham’—‘in order that the inhabitants of the worlds might multiply (or prosper)’—(Medhātithi, Govindarāja and Kullūka);—‘in order to protect the world by means of the castes, and to make it prosperous’ (Nārāyaṇa).

It is refreshing to find Medhātithi regarding this account of the castes issuing from the mouth and other parts of the body of the Lord as mere ‘stuti’—not to be taken as literally true.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: