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:

गार्भैर्होमैर्जातकर्मचौडमौञ्जीनिबन्धनैः ।
बैजिकं गार्भिकं चैनं द्विजानामपमृज्यते ॥ २७ ॥

gārbhairhomairjātakarmacauḍamauñjīnibandhanaiḥ |
baijikaṃ gārbhikaṃ cainaṃ dvijānāmapamṛjyate || 27 ||

Of twice-born men the taint of seed and womb is removed by the ‘Libations in connection with Pregnancy’ and by ‘Jātakarman’ (Rites attendant upon birth), ‘Chauḍa’ (Tonsure) and ‘Mauñjībandhana’ (Tying of the grass-girdle). (27)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The statement that ‘corporeal consecration is purifying and auspicious’ has pointed out the use of the Sacraments Now, ‘purification’ consists in removing the impurities of the impure thing; and the question arises—“whence the impurity of the Body?”

It is in answer to this that the text speaks of ‘the taint of seed and womb,’;—‘of the seed,’ is that which arises from, or is due to, the seed;—similarly ‘of the womb’ (is that which arises from, or is due to, the womb). ‘Taint’ is evil, an unseen source of pain. All that is meant by this is that the Body is impure, owing its birth to the seed and the womb. The ‘seed’ of man consists of semen and ovule; and these by their very nature, are impure. Similarly the womb, is impure by contamination. And the ‘taint’ of the man thus caused is ‘removed? wiped away, by the sacraments.

These sacrameuts are now mentioned ; some are actually named, while others are left to be indicated by the peculiar circumstances of what is sanctified.

Libations in connection with pregnancy,’—thoso that are offered when the pregnancy of the woman has come about,—or those that are offered for the purpose of bringing about pregnancy; in either case the libations are said to be ‘in connection with pregnancy.’ What prompts the offering is the pregnancy, the woman being only a means to it; so that the libations, being prompted by pregnancy, are said to be in connection with it; and these are the rites of ‘Pumsavana,’ ‘Sīmantonnayana’ and ‘Garbhādhāna.’ The word ‘libation’ here stands for the whole rite; as the ‘Garbhādhāna’ (‘Conception’) is certainly not a ‘Libation.’ The exact details of the rites, regarding the substances to be offered, the duties and so forth—arc to be found out from the Gṛhyasūtras.

Just as by the ‘libations in connection with pregnancy’. so also by the sacrament known as ‘Jātakarman’ (Rites attendant upon birth). Similarly by ‘Tonsure’;—‘Chauḍa,’ ‘Tonsure,’ is meant that which is performed for the purpose of the ‘cūḍā’ (the- lock of hair left to grow on the crown of the head). ‘Tying of the gross-girdle’ is Upanayana; as it is at this ceremony that the girdle of muñja-grass is tied, this indicates that rite. ‘Nibandhana’ is the same as ‘bandhana’; and the prefix ‘ni’ has been added for filling up the metre.

Jātakarman’ and the rest—which are the names of the sacraments—have been made into a copulative compound, and then have the instrumental ending added to show that they are instrumental in the removal of taint.


Every ‘consecration’ brings about some peculiarity, either seen (material) or unseen (spiritual), in the thing consecrated, which is subservient to something else to be brought about, and has either already subserved, or is going to subserve, the purposes of this latter thing. For instance, in the case of the ‘threshing of the corn’ and ‘offering sacrifices with the corn,’ the ‘threshing’ (which is the ‘consecration’ or ‘purification’ in this case) produces in the corns, that are going to help in the accomplishment of the sacrifice, the visible peculiarity, in the shape of the removal of the chaff. [So that in this case the thing consecrated is going to subserve some useful purpose]. When again it is said that ‘removing the garland from the head one should keep it in a clean place,’ the garland is something that has been used (and served its purpose) and has become mangled in shape; so that the special method of its disposal (after use) only produces an invisible effect. Now all the sacraments mentioned in the text are prescribed for the purpose of the purification of the body; but they are not found to bring about in the body any such effects as the removal of bad odour, etc., which is done by washing with clay and water. Hence the ‘purification’ in this case should be understood to consist in some unseen effect; just as has been held to result from the particular time at which the birth of the individual takes place. And when the man has become purified by such purification, he becomes fit for the performance of acts prescribed in the Smṛtis and in the Vedas; just as the Butter sanctified by mantras is fit for use in libations. In connection with ordinary (non-religious) acts, all necessary purity is attained by the (external) purification of things; as in the case of the Butter required for eating. As for that ‘purity’ of the boy which consists in his touchabien?ss, this is brought about by the ‘washing with water’ mentioned as the means of purifying the body (in 5.109). Hence has it been declared that ‘there is no impurity arising from his touch.’


“How can these sacraments be regarded as subserving the purposes of actions? As regards the ‘sprinkling of butter,’ it is only natural that through the butter it should subserve the purposes of the sacrificial act, in Connection with which it has been prescribed. These sacraments however lie entirely, outside the pale of any action;—their injunction not occurring in the context of any sacrificial act. So it is difficult to say that they help in the sacrifice through the man (in the way in which the does through the butter). And unless it subserves the purposes of an act, consecration cannot be performed for its own sake; as in that case it should cease to be a ‘consecration’ (which is always subsidiary to something else), and become a primary act itself, and (when it ceases to be a consecration) this would mean the nullification of the statement ‘corporeal consecration should be performed’ (verse 26), and also of the Accusative ending in the statement ‘when, the boy is born, before he is touched by any other person, the father should etc.’ (which refers to the Birth-rites); and in that case, the sense of the injunction will have to be altered, as is done in the case of the injunction ‘Saktūñjuhoti’ [where the incompatibility of the Accusative ending leads us to alter it into the Instrumental ],—a particular result (as arising out of the consecration, as a primary act by itself) will have to be assumed; and so forth, a number of absurd assumptions will have to be made.”

Our answer to the above is as follows:—What we mean by the consecration subserving the purposes of sacrifices is-not that it is a subsidiary integral part of these,—which character is indicated by Direct Vedic Declaration and certain other means; all that we mean is that it is helpful to it; and this helpfulness is possible even without the one forming an integral part of the other. For instance, we have the injunction regarding the ‘laying of fire’ and that relating to ‘Vedic study’; but there is no Direct Injunction or any other indication (of these forming part of any sacrifice); all that we find is the Vedic text ‘offerings are made into the which lays down the ‘Āhavanīya’ (as the receptacle of the offerings); and as the precise nature of the ‘Āhavanīya’ is superphysical, the only way in which it can be brought into existence is by means of the prescribed ‘laying of fire,’ which is contained in the text ‘the Brāhmaṇa should lay the fires during spring’; so that the ‘laying of fire’ helps in the sacrificial performance through the bringing into existence of the Āhavanīya, and yet it does not form an integral part of the performance. ‘Vedic study’ also helps in the sacrificial performance, through the knowledge of the meaning of Vedic texts (acquired by the study).

Analogous to these two is the case of the sacraments:

  1. the act of Vedic study can be done only by one who has had these sacraments performed,
  2. it is only when one has carried out the injunction of Vedic study that he can marry,
  3. it is only when one has married that he can ‘lay the fire,’
  4. and it is only one who has ‘laid the fire’ that is entitled (to the performance of sacrifices).

It is in this way that even though the sacraments are laid down apart from the sacrificial injunctions, yet their due performance is helpful towards the sacrificial acts.

Since the text speaks of ‘Niṣeka’ (conception, depositing of the semen) as the first of the sacraments, it follows that all the sacraments for the child are to be performed by the father. Thus the mantra for the ‘Rites on Birth’ reads—‘You are my very soul, bearing the name of son’ (Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, 14. 9. 4. 8.) [which clearly shows that it is recited by the father]. It is for the father again that the begetting and instructing of children has been prescribed as a duty in the verse—‘Having paid off the three debts etc.,’ (6.35); and the passage. It is for this reason that the duly instructed son is called the real son,’ speaks of ‘instruction,’ which consists in teaching the boy his duties; and we shall show later on that this ‘instruction’ is accomplished only by teaching hi m the Veda up to the point where the boy comprehends its full meaning. It is thus that the sacraments are of use to both: they help the father in the begetting of the right sort of child, and they help the boy in the performance of those acts that can be done only by one who has been duly consecrated. Thus it is the father on whom devolves the task of having the sacraments properly performed; and on his death, for hi m who takes his place; for instance, it is said ‘he who h as not been consecrated should be consecrated by his brothers who have had their consecration already done.’ (Yājñavalkya, 2.124).—(27)

The author next indicates, by way of illustration, those acts in which the sacraments of the Boy are helpful:—


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Medhātithi (p. 80, 1. 8)—Gṛhyasmṛtibhyovasātavyam—see Āśvalāyana Gṛhya Sūtra 1-13-14.

Medhātithi (p. 80, 1. 10) ‘Mekhalā badhyate’—see Gautama, 1-15.

This verse has been quoted by the Mitākṣarā on 3.253 (p. 1285), where it has been taken to mean that the sacrament of the Upanayaṇa wipes off all the sins committed by the boy prior to it.

It is also quoted in the Vīramitrodaya (Saṃskāra, p. 134) and has been taken to mean that the Sacramental Rites are meant only for the ‘Twice-bom—and in the Aparārka (p. 25), as indicating that the sacraments are meant for the Twice-born only, on the ground that they have been mentioned after the injunction of Upanayaṇa which pertains to the Twice-born only. It is quoted in the Smṛtikaumudī (p. 48), which notes that the term ‘Saṃskāra’ (Sacrament) connotes destruction of sin or impurity.

It is quoted in the Smṛticandrikā (Saṃskāra, p. 36), which adds the following notes:—‘Bīja’ stands for semen-ovule, the impurity due to defects in that is called ‘baijika’—that due to residence in the womb is called, ‘gārbhika’;—‘homaiḥ’ includes the Garbhādhāna and other rites that are accompanied by libations into fire;—and in the Saṃskāra - ratnamālā (p. 5) to the effect that Homa is to be performed by the Twice-bom only;—‘baijika’ is such impurity relating to the semen-ovule as is due to the intercourse having taken place at a forbidden time,—‘Gārbhika’ is the impurity due to residence in a womb that is not quite clean;—it quotes Medhātithi to the effect that as.the ‘semen-ovule’ and the ‘womb’ cannot be the effects of any sins of the child, the ‘enaḥ’ mentioned in the text must be taken as standing not for actual sin, but for the impurity or uncleanliness due to the child’s physical connection with them.


Comparative notes by various authors

(Verses 27 and 28)

Sumantu (Vīra-Saṃskāra, p. 131).—‘The sacraments common to the Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya, are the following—Garbhādhāna, Sīmantonnayana, Jātakarma, Nāmakaraṇa, Annaprāśana, Cūḍā, Upanayana, Vratacaryā, Adhyayana, Samāvartana, Vivāha, Yajña and Dāna.’

Hārīta (Ibid, p. 135).—‘There are two kinds of Sacraments—Brāhma and Daiva; the Garbhādhāna and the rest ending with Snāna, which are proscribed in the Smṛtis, are “brāhma”; the Pākayajñas, the Haviryajñas and the Somayajñas are “daiva”.’

Jātūkarṇya (Ibid, p. 135).—‘The sixteen sacramental rites are the following—

(1) Ādhāna,
(2) Puṃsavana,
(3) Sīmanta,
(4) Jāta,
(5) Nāma,
(6) Anna,
(7) Chaula,
(8) Mauñjī,
(9-12) the four Vratas,
(13) Godāna,
(14) Samāvartana,
(15) Vivāha,
and (16) Antya.’

Āṅgiras (Ibid).—‘

(1) Garbhādhāna,
(2) Puṃsavana,
(3) Sīmanta,
(4) Bali,
(5) Jātakṛtya,
(6) Nāmakaraṇa,
(7) Niṣkrama,
(8) Annaprāśana,
(9) Chaulakarma,
(10) Upanayana,
(11-14) the Four Veda-vratas,
(15) Snāna,
(16) Udvāha,
(17) Āgrayaṇa,
(18) Aṣṭakā,
(19) Śrāvaṇī,
(20) Āśvayujī,
(21) Mārgaśīrṣī,
(22) Pārvaṇa,
(23) Utsarga,
(24) Upākaraṇa,
(25) Mahāyajñas;

these are the obligatory sacraments, specially for the Brāhmaṇa. It is by means of the sacraments that Brāhmaṇahood comes to be gradually manifested.’

Āśvalāyana (Ibid, p. 136).—‘The five mahāyajñas are to be performed daily; the sixteen cuding with Marriage are naimittīka, to be done on prescribed occasions; the Pārvaṇa is to be done every month, or if this be not possible, then every year; the seven sacrifices beginning with Āgrayaṇa are to be performed once in the year.’

Gautama (Ibid, p. 137).—‘The following are the 10 Sacraments—

(1) Garbhādhāna,
(2) Puṃsavana,
(3) Sīmantonnayana,
(4) Jātakarma,
(5) Nāmakaraṇa,
(6) Annaprāśana,
(7) Chaula,
(8) Upanayana,
(9-12) the four Veda-vratas,
(13) Snāna,
(14) Sahadharmacāriṇīsaṃyoga,
(15-19) the five mahāyajñas,
(20-26) the seven Pākayajñas—Aṣṭakā, Pārvaṇa-Śrāddba, Śrāvanī, Āgrahāyaṇī, Caitrī and Āśvayujī,
(27-33) the seven Haviryajñas—Agnyādheya, Agnihotra, Darśapūrṇamāsa, Cāturmāsya, Āgrayaṇeṣṭi, Nirūdhapaśubandha, and Sautrāmaṇi,
(33-40) the seven Somayajñas—Agniṣṭoma, Atyagniṣṭoma, Ukthya, Ṣoḍasbī, Vājapeya, Atirātra and Āptoryamā’

...‘He who has not had these forty sacraments, nor is endowed with the eight qualities of the soul (sympathy for all beings, forgiveness, freedom from jealousy, purity, equanimity, good character, non-miserliness) is never united to Brahman, nor does he attain the regions of Brahman.’

Hārita (Ibid, p. 130).—‘He who has been sanctified by the Brāhma Sacraments becomes equal to the sages and becomes united with them and attains their regions; and he who is sanctified by the Daiva sacraments becomes equal to the gods, is united with them and reaches their regions.’

Do. (Aparārka, p. 25).—‘When the women of the twice-born castes are sanctified by the performance of a single sacrament, every child that they bear thereafter becomes sanctified thereby.’

Śaṅkha-Likhita (Ibid, p. 110).—‘The Brāhmaṇa who is endowed with the two sets of sacraments and is equipped with the eight qualities (of the soul) attains the regions of Brahman.’

Devala (Aparārka, p. 25).—‘Just as a picture becomes manifested through the gradual appearance of the several limbs, in the same manner Brāhmaṇahood becomes manifested through the lawful performance of the sacraments.’

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