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 1.58 [Origin of the Law]

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

इदं शास्त्रं तु कृत्वाऽसौ मामेव स्वयमादितः ।
विधिवद् ग्राहयामास मरीच्यादींस्त्वहं मुनीन् ॥ ५८ ॥

idaṃ śāstraṃ tu kṛtvā'sau māmeva svayamāditaḥ |
vidhivad grāhayāmāsa marīcyādīṃstvahaṃ munīn || 58 ||

Having prounded this Law, he himself, first of all, taught it to me with due care; I then taught it to Marīci and other Sages.—(58)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

In the present context the term ‘Law’ stands for the whole collection of Injunctions and Prohibitions contained in the Smṛtis, and not for any particular treatise; as this latter was composed by Manu; that is why the Treatise is called ‘Mānava’ (of Manu); otherwise [ i.e., if the Treatise were the ‘Law’ propounded by the Imperishable One], it would have been ‘Hairaṇyagarbha,’ ‘of Hiraṇyagarbha.’

Others however have held that the Treatise itself was composed by Hiraṇyagarbha [and is spoken of in the text as the ‘Law’ propounded by him], and since it came to be revealed to, and published among, many persons by Manu, it is only right that it should he called after the name of the latter. For instance, the Ganga has its real source somewhere else (in Heaven), and yet since it is seen for the first time in the Himavat (Himālaya), it is called ‘Haimavatī’ (proceeding from Himavat), after the name of the latter;—similarly though the Vedic text is eternal, yet since it was expounded by Kaṭha, it is called ‘Kāṭhaka,’ after his name; even though there are several other expounders and learners of that Veda, yet it is called after Kaṭha, on account of the superiority of his expounding. Nārada also has declared thus:—‘This Treatise, consisting of 100,000 verses, was composed by Prajāpati, and, in due course, it came to be abridged by Manu and others.’ Thus, even though the Treatise may have been originally composed by some one else, there is nothing incongruous in its being called ‘Mānava,’ ‘of Manu.’ As for the term ‘Śāstra,’ ‘Law’ (of the text) standing for the Treatise, we often find it so used, in the sense that the subject expounded by it is instruction, ‘śāṣana.’

He taught it to me,’ I was taught by him.—‘Himself,’ ‘first of all,’ ‘with care,’—these words indicate the fact that there was no break in the continuity of tradition in regard to the Law. As a matter of fact, when the author of a book ‘himself’ teaches it first of all, not a single syllable of it is lost; while when the book composed by one person is taught by another person who has learnt it from the former, there is not the same ‘care’ taken in guarding the text from loss. In fact, in the case of the author himself, when he has taught it once and established its position, he feels confident that he has already taught it once, and hence when he comes to teach the work a second time, he is likely to be careless and lazy; so that lapses in the text become possible; hence the text has added the phrase ‘first of all’.—‘With due care,’—the term ‘vidhi,’ ‘care,’ stands here for the quality, in the teacher and the pupil, of having undiverted attention, a concentrated mind; and the affix ‘vati’ (in the term ‘vidhivat’) signifies capability, possession.

Then I taught it to Marīci and other sages.’—In as much as Marīci and the other sages are persons of well-known reputation, when Manu speaks of such well-known persons having learnt the Law from him, he describes his connection with specially qualified pupils, and thereby indicates his well-established professional dignity; and by pointing out the importance of the Law, he produces in the minds of the great sages (who have asked him in verse 1 et seq. to propound the Law) faith and confidence, so that they may be unremitting in their study; the idea being—‘So important is this Law that oven such great sages as Marīci and the rest have learnt it,—Manu also is such a high personage that he is the Teacher of those great sages,—so that it is highly proper that this Treatise should be learnt from him with this idea in their minds, the enquirers who have come to hear the Law propounded would not cease to give their attention to it.—Both these facts are mentioned with a view to eulogise the Law.—(58)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Vidhivat’—‘With due attention’ (Medhātithi and Govindarāja);—‘according to rule,—with due ceremonies’ (Kullūka).

In connection with the authorship of the Smṛti see Bhāṣya (Printed edition, Gharpure, p. 7) and also Buhler’s Introduction p. xv. Burnell in his footnote on Verse 58, misrepresents Medhātithi, by imputing to him a view which he has put forward only as held by ‘some people’ ‘Kechit’.

Parāśara-mādhava (Ācāra—p. 106) quotes this verse in support of the view that the Smṛtis are the work of Brahmā; and it adds that—‘as Brahmā, so Svāyambhuva Manu also, compiles the Duties that have been ordained in the Veda;—which establishes the beginningless and immutable character of Dharma.’

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