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:

उद्धृते दक्षिणे पाणावुपवीत्यौच्यते द्विजः ।
सव्ये प्राचीनावीती निवीती कण्ठसज्जने ॥ ६३ ॥

uddhṛte dakṣiṇe pāṇāvupavītyaucyate dvijaḥ |
savye prācīnāvītī nivītī kaṇṭhasajjane || 63 ||

When the right hand is held above (the sacred thread etc.), the twice-born person is described as ‘Upavītin’; when the left hand is held above, ‘Prāchīnāvītin,’ and on its hanging by the neck, ‘Nivītin.’—(63)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

An objection is raised—“As a matter of fact, in treatises dealing with Dharma, the meanings of words are accepted to be exactly as they are known in ordinary usage; and the works of Manu and others should not make it their business to explain the meanings of words, in the way in which it is done by grammatical and lexicographical works.”

Ānswer.—We have already answered this before; if treatises on Dharma should be found to supply the explanation of such words as are not ordinarily known, are they to be blamed for doing so? Then again, in the present instance, there is another purpose also in view. The term ‘upavītin’ is explained in the course of the explanation of the act of ‘water-sipping,’ with a view to indicate that the method (of wearing the sacred thread, etc.) is auxiliary to that act. Though it is true that the wearing of the sacred thread,—either as part of a religious observance, or as accomplishing certain desirable results for man,—is known as to be done at all times, yet if the ‘water-sipping’ were done without it, it would remain incomplete. So that, if we did not have the present text (as indicating the necessity of wearing the sacred thread during water-sipping), there would be some deficiency in the religious act, as also some defect in the agent. If the sipping were done without the sacred thread, it would be as good as not done, and there would be the additional wrong done, in the shape of sipping the water while unclean.

Question.—“How is it that the Upavīta-method alone is regarded as auxiliary to the ‘water-sipping,’ when as a matter of fact, the present text has spoken of another method, the ‘Prāchīnāvīta,’ also?”

Our answer is as follows:—As for the ‘Prāchīnāvīta’ method, this has been directly prescribed, in so many words, as pertaining to acts of offering to the Pitṛs; so that when its use has been found in connection with these, it could not be taken as an alternative to the ‘Upavīta’ method, whose use has not yet been found. Similarly the ‘Nivīṭa’ method also has its use in connection with acts of sorcery. Though the use of the ‘Nivīṭa’ has not been laid down in the itself, yet since all Smṛtis have the same end in view, the use prescribed in other Smṛtis could be regarded as accepted in the present context also.

The term ‘hand’ stands here for the arm; it is only when the man raises his arm that he is called ‘Upavīṭi’; further, we are going to point out later on that the ‘Upavīṭa’ is the method (of wearing the thread) to be employed at all times (not during religious acts only); and no one is called ‘Upavīṭin’ by merely lifting his hand.

When the left hand is held above,’ he is called ‘Prāchīnāvīṭī’; it is the compounded form (‘prāchīnāvīṭī’) that constitutes the name; the text puts it iu the uncompounded form on account of the exigencies of metre.

On its hanging by the neck’;—‘Sajjana,’ ‘hanging’ means being worn, when the sacred thread, or the piece of cloth, is worn over the neck, and neither arm is held over it, then the man becomes ‘nivītī.’—(63)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Saṃskāramayūkha (p. 39), which notes that the non-compounding (in ‘prāchīna-āvīti’ is a Vedic anomaly;—and in Saṃskāraratnamālā (p. 188).


Comparative notes by various authors

Baudhāyana-Dharmasūtra, 5.1.5-8.—‘The Sacred Thread worn at sacrifices to gods (upavīta) consists of the silk or the cotton thread folded three times three: it should reach down to the navel; the right arm being held above;—the reverse (prāchīnāvita) at offerings to Pitṛs; hanging by the neck, it is nivīta; hanging downwards it is adhovīta.’

Āpastamba-Dharmasūtra, 1.6.18-19.—‘He who is wearing the Sacred Thread in the upavīta form is to be regarded as wearing two pieces of cloth;—while he who is wearing it in the Adhovīta form, is to be regarded as wearing only one piece of cloth.’

Gobhila-Gṛhyasūtra, 1.2.2-3.—‘Holding aloft the right arm, passing over the head, resting the thread on the left shoulder, hanging down the right arm-pit,—thus does he become the wearer of the Yajñopavīta; lifting the left arm, passing over the head, resting the thread on the right shoulder, hanging down the left arm-pit,—thus does he become the wearer of the Prāchīnāvīta.’

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