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...

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

कृष्णसारस्तु चरति मृगो यत्र स्वभावतः ।
स ज्ञेयो यज्ञियो देशो म्लेच्छदेशस्त्वतः परः ॥ २३ ॥

kṛṣṇasārastu carati mṛgo yatra svabhāvataḥ |
sa jñeyo yajñiyo deśo mlecchadeśastvataḥ paraḥ || 23 ||

But the region where the spotted deer roams by nature is to be known as the ‘land fit for sacrificial acts’; beyond that is the ‘land op the Mlecchas.’ (23)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Where the deer known as ‘Kṛṣṇasāra’—that which is either black with white spots, or black with yellow spots—‘roams,’—lives—i.e., is found, born, —‘by nature,’—i.e., not that where it resides for a time only, having been imported as a present of rare value, and so forth;—‘that country is to be known’—regarded—‘as yajñīya’—‘fit for sacrificial acts.’

Beyond that’—i.e., the region other than the one where the Kṛṣṇasāra is indigenous—‘is the land of the Mlecchas.’ The Mlecchas are the people who are known as lying beyond the pale of the four castes,—not included even among the Pratiloma castes; such as the Medas, the Andhras, the Śabaras and the Pulindas.

It is not meant that the sacrifices are to be performed on the very spot where the deer roams,—in the way in which they are performed ‘on level ground,’ according to the injunction that ‘one should perform sacrifices on level ground’; as we h ave ‘rooms’ in the present tense, and certainly one could not perform a sacrifice on the very spot, and at the very time, at which the deer may have started to roam. Further, a certain place is the ‘locus’ of the sacrifice only in the sense that it holds a all those things that are operative towards its performance, either as instruments or agents and the like, and certainly two material substances (i.e., the Roaming Deer and the Sacrificial Accessories) could never occupy the same spot. Nor can the condition mentioned (the roaming of the deer) be taken as indirectly indicating some, other time (than the one at which the roaming is being done); as no such indirect indication is admissible in the case of Injunctions; as has been shown under the Adhikaraṇa dealing with the ‘winnowing basket’ (Mīmāmsā-Sūtra, 1.2.26 el. Seq.), by Śabara (on 1.2.26), who says—‘what is meant by is done is that it is capable of being done’ [and the present time is not what is meant to be emphasised].

“As a matter of fact, when one thing is spoken of as located (contained) in another, it does not mean that it occupies the whole of it; so that it is not necessary for the Locus to be occupied in its entirety, as it is in the case of the oil contained in the seasamum-seed. In fact, even when only a portion of one tiling is occupied by another, the whole of the former becomes its locus or container; e.g. when a man is spoken of as ‘sitting in the house,’ or ‘occupying the chariot.’ So that in the case in question what is described here is the entire country, consisting of villages and towns, and bounded by hills and rivers; and when the deer roams even in some part of it, the whole country becomes its locus. Hence there is no force in the argument that ‘two material substances cannot occupy the same spot.’”

Our answer to the above is as follows:—In the present instance there is no direct injunction, such as ‘one should perform sacrifices here (in this country)’; as the injunctive affix is found added to the root ‘to know’ (in the word ‘jñeyaḥ’), and not to the root ‘to sacrifice.’ All that is meant is that the country spoken of is ‘fit for sacrifices’; the meaning being that ‘this country is fit for sacrificial performances’; and this ‘fitness for sacrifices’ is possible even without a direct injunction (of the actual performance). The fact of the matter is that it is only in the countries mentioned that the several sacrificial accessories, in the shape of the kuśa -grass, the Palāśa, the Khadira and other trees, are mostly found; and sacrificial performers also, in the shape of persons belonging to the three higher castes and learned in the three Vedas, are found only in these countries; and it is on the basis of these facts that the countries have been described as ‘fit for sacrifices.’ The verb ‘jñeyah’ ending in the verbal affix (‘yat’) also has the sense of the injunctive only imposed upon it, and in reality it is only an Arthavāda resembling an injunction; just like the passage ‘jartilayavāgvā vā juhuyāt,’ (‘one should offer either the wild seasamum or the wild wheat’) [which, even though cotaining the injunctive word ‘juhuyāt,’ has been regarded as an Arthavāda resembling an injunction],

When again it is said that ‘beyond this is the land the mlecchas,’ this also is purely descriptive of the usual state of things; the sense being that in these other lands it is mostly mlecchas that are born; it does not mean that people inhabiting them are all (on that account) ‘mlecchas’; because what is a ‘mleccha’ is well known, just like the ‘Brāhmaṇa’ and other well known castes. In fact, the name ‘mlecchadeśa’ is to be taken literally, in the sense that it is ‘the country of mlecchas’; so that if mlecchas happen to conquer a part of Āryāvarta itself and take their habitation there, that also would become ‘mlecchadeśa.’ Similarly if a certain well-behaved king of the Kṣatriya-caste should happen to defeat the mlecchas and make that land inhabited by people of the four castes, relegating the indigenous, mlecchas to the category of ‘Chāṇḍāla,’ as they are in Āryāvarta, then that which was a ‘country of the mlecchas’ would become a ‘land fit for sacrifices.’ And this for the simple reason that no laud is by itself defective; it is only by association that it becomes defective, just as it is when soiled by impure things. Hence, even apart from the countries designated here as ‘fit for sacrifices,’ if, in a certain place, all the necessary conditions are available, one should perform his sacrifices, even though it be a place where the spotted deer does not roam.

From all this it follows that the statement—‘this should, be known as the country fit for sacrifices, and beyond is the land of the mlecchas’ is purely descriptive, being meant to be supplementary to the injunction that follows in the next verse.—(23).


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Kṛṣṇaṣāraḥ—Burnell—“What animal is intended it is impossible to say. In Southern India, a pretty little, but rare, gazelle is taken for it. It does not however answer to the name so far as its colour (light brown) goes.”

From the explanation given by Medhātithi the deer meant is that which is ‘black with white spots’, or ‘black with yellow spots’; and there is no doubt that the animal meant is that which is black in the upper, and white (or yellow) in the lower parts of its body.

Medhātithi (p. 76, 1. 26)—‘Śūrpādhikaraṇe’—in Mīmāṃsā Sūtra 1-2-26; and the next sentence ‘etaddhi kriyate ityucyate’ is from Śabara on that Sūtra,—the whole sentence being—‘etat (i. e. shakyate kartumiti) hi kriyate ityucyate, na ca vartamānakālaḥ kaschidasti yasyāyam pratinirdeṣhaḥ.’

Mleccadeśastvataḥparaḥ’—Note the liberalised interpretation of this provided by Medhātithi. Burnell curiously enough regards this to be an ‘order to dwell in this land’. There is no ‘order’ to dwell in the Mleccadeśa. The countries to be inhabited having been defined and all beyond these being designated as ‘Mlechadeśa’, the term ‘these countries’ of verse 24 refers, as Medhātithi clearly points out, to Brahmāvarta, Madhyadeśa, Brahmarṣideśa and Yajñīyadeśa; and the order to dwell contained in verse 24 also refers to those, and not to the ‘Mlecchadeśa’, which is ‘beyond these.’

This verse is quoted in the Smṛticandrikā (Saṃskāra, p. 18), which adds that the country described as ‘fit for sacrificial performances’ is meant to be so used only when the aforesaid four countries are not available;—in the Vīramitrodaya (Paribhāṣā,p. 56), which explains ‘Yājñiyaḥ’ as ‘fit for sacrificial performances’, and ‘Mlecca’ as ‘unfit for sacrificial performances’;—and in the Saṃskāramayūkha (p. 4).


Comparative notes by various authors

(Verses 18-23)

See Comparative notes for Verse 2.18 (The Practice of Good Men).

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