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:

वित्तं बन्धुर्वयः कर्म विद्या भवति पञ्चमी ।
एतानि मान्यस्थानानि गरीयो यद् यदुत्तरम् ॥ १३६ ॥

vittaṃ bandhurvayaḥ karma vidyā bhavati pañcamī |
etāni mānyasthānāni garīyo yad yaduttaram || 136 ||

Wealth, Relation, Age, Action and Learning, as the fifth,—these are the grounds of respect; (among them) that which follows is weightier (than that which goes before it).—(136)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Caste has been described as a ground of superiority; so that one belonging to a higher caste should be respected by one of a lower caste. The text now proceeds to describe the relative strength of those factors that entitle persons of a caste to salutation and honour among themselves.

Age is mentioned here again only for the purpose of indicating its position as compared with others.

In the case of all that is mentioned here it is the connection of the person with them that entitles him to respect. That is, the possession of wealth and the possession of relations constitute titles of respect. It is not meant that the peculiar relationship borne by the man—such as that of being a paternal or a maternal uncle—constitutes the title of respect; what is meant is that one who has many relations deserves to be respected.

Age’—i.e., advanced age. The term is generally used in this qualified sense ; e. g., in such passages as—‘Even though the son be of age, he should be advised by his father.’ Verse 134 has already explained what age entitles one to respect

Action’—such as is laid down in Śrutis and Smṛtis; i. e., one’s assiduity in performing such actions.

Learning,’—the knowledge of the Veda along with the subsidiary sciences and their auxiliaries.

Objection.—“In view of such declarations as ‘the learned man offers sacrifices,’ ‘the learned man officiates at sacrifices,’ the unlearned person can never be entitled to the performance of religious acts; under the circumstances, how can mere ‘action,’ without ‘learning,’ be a ground for respect?”

Answer.—There is no force in this objection. Excellence is what is meant here. Superior or efficient learning is what constitutes a title to respect; and as for the performance of actions, this can be done also by men possessed of limited learning; for a man is entitled to perform actions in accordance with the knowledge possessed by him: specially as ‘learning’ entitles a person to the performance of actions simply because it serves to capacitate him for it, and not because it has been declared to be a necessary condition.

“But the man devoid of learning cannot know the form of the action to be performed, and being capable of acting only like lower animals, to the performance of what could he be entitled?”

Even such a person can, on having heard a few Smṛti-texts, perform austerities and repeat mantras. It is only in the performance of the Agnihotra and such other Vedic rites that one requires the knowledge of Vedic texts. But here also the title to perform the rites is dependent upon the extent of knowledge possessed by the man; e.g., one who knows the meaning of tho texts bearing upon the Agnihotra is entitled to its performance; the knowledge of other sacrifices is of no use in that.

The following argument might be urged here—“We have the injunction ‘the entire Veda should be studied,’ which pertains to the whole Veda, and implies the thorough understanding of the whole; and when it is necessary to understand the meaning of the entire Veda, how can there be any such partial knowledge as could justify such an assertion as that ‘he who knows the meaning of the texts bearing on the Agnihotra shall be entitled to the performance of that act, even though he be ignorant of the meaning of other texts?’”

Our answer to the above is as follows:—It is the study of one Vedic Recension that is necessary; and what we mean is that he who has studied one Recension and has fully understood its meaning, becomes entitled to the performance of Vedic acts, even without studying the other Recensions.

“The purpose of the Scripture is the same in all cases; even though there may be some difference in the order of a few words and syllables, yet the main feature of the Scripture remains the same. Then again, as for the understanding of the meaning, this is obtained by the due comprehension of the meanings of words and reasonings; now, neither the meanings of words, nor the reasonings, differ in the different Recensions. So that the means by which one learns the meaning of one Recension serves the same purpose in regard to the other Recensions also; and one does not stand in need of any other learning; so that if One Recension has been learnt, all become learnt.”

True. Such Agnihotra, etc., as are enjoined in one Recension may not differ from the same acts as enjoined in other Recensions; but there are certain actions which are not enjoined at all in certain Recensions. E.g., the Śyena and other malevolent rites in connection with the Darśa-pūrṇamāsa are not found in the Aśvalāyana Recension of the Ṛgveda; nor the Somayāga, the Vājapeva, the Bṛhaspatisava and so forth. So that when a man has learnt one Recension, he becomes entitled to that Agnihotra and that Jyotiṣṭoma, etc., which are enjoined iu that Recension; and if one who has not studied another Recension, and has neither read nor heard of it, how can he know anything about the acts enjoined in that other Recension? Nor ore the Soma-sacrifices compulsory; so that, through fear of incurring the sin of omitting a compulsory act, one might be forced to seek for the knowledge of them from other Recensions. As for the ‘Kindling of Fire,’ even though this also is not found enjoined in the said Āśvalāyana recension of the Ṛgveda, yet it does contain the injunction of preparing the ‘Āhavanīya’ fire; as is clear from such passages as ‘bring up the Āhavanīya’; so that, not understanding the meaning of this passage with the help of ordinary people, the student naturally seeks, from other Recensions, for the knowledge of what this ‘Āhavanīya’ is; and thus he comes to look over the entire section of the other Recension dealing with the ‘Kindling of Fire.’ Similarly having heard the passage—‘Having offered either the Amāvāsyā or the Paurṇamāsa libations, etc.,’ one seeks from other Recensions for the knowledge of the exact form of the two acts (of Amāvāsyā and Paurṇamāsa offerings). Similarly in the case of other compulsory and optional acts that have to be performed, when it is found that some of their details arc not laid down in a certain Recension,—-such details, for instance, as pertain to the Adhvaryu (and are mentioned in the Yajurveda) or to the Udgātṛ (and are mentioned in the Sāma-Veda),—the requisite knowledge is sought for from those other texts. It is not possible for one to know the act that is laid down in Recensions other than the one studied by him. To the student who learns several Recensions, and studies their meanings, all this becomes quite clear. But even in the absence of such knowledge as this last, the performance of acts is quite possible. Or, such performance could be possible even on a slight understanding (of the Vedic texts).

The sense of all this is that in the case of one whose learning is flawless, and who is fit to explain all sciences, such learning constitutes a title to respect.

Weightier.’—The comparative ending indicates that the comparison is between two and two out of the five mentioned. Thus one who is fully versed in all the fourteeu sciences, is respected through his ‘learning,’ even though he he not entitled to it on account of being lame, blind or poor.

The text points out the relative superiority of these, with a view to cases where there may i.e a conflict among them.—

Among these that which follow is weightier than that which precedes it.’ For instance, when one man has vast wealth, and the other has many relations, then the latter deserves higher respect than the former; for that which follows is ‘weightier’ than that which precedes it. Similarly Age is weightier than Relation. And from this it follows that Age is weightier still than Wealth. From all this it is clear that ‘Learning is superior to all, for all Dharma is based upon it,’ as has been declared by Gautama (6-21—22).

Objection.—“Since the preceding factor is not weighty, how can we have the comparative form ‘weightier’? It is only when there are two weighty things that one can be called weightier; and since in the present case is, ex hypothesi, in relation to something preceding there can be no weightiness in ‘wealth,’ which is not preceded by any thing else.”

What is meant is that the whole lot of five being ‘weighty’ in common, the comparative ending is rightly used as showing that one is weightier than the other.

Māna’ means respect; ‘sthāna’ means ground, cause.

If we adopt the reading ‘Mānyasthānāni,’ the term ‘mānya’ is to be explained as having the force of the abstract noun; ‘mānya’ standing for ‘mānyatva.’—(136)

It has just been declared that among persons each of whom possesses only one of the qualifications mentioned, one possessing the latter is to be regarded as superior to one possessing the former. Now the question arises—between two persons, one of whom possesses two former qualifications and the other possesses only one latter qualification, who is to be treated as superior? The following verse answers this question.


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Vīramitrodaya (Saṃskāra, p. 474), where we find the following notes:—‘Vittam’ stands for wealth acquired by lawful means;—‘bandhuḥ’ for uncles and others;—‘vayaḥ’ for older age;—‘karma’ for acts prescribed in the Śruti and Smṛti;—‘vidyā’ for true knowledge;—these are ‘mānyasthānāni,’ i.e. grounds of respectability. (See note below on 137).

Aparārka (p. 159) quotes this verse in support of the view that a man, though belonging to an inferior caste, deserves to be respected by another of the superior caste, if the former happens to be possessed of superior learning and other qualifications.—It is quoted in Nṛsiṃhaprasāda (Saṃskāra, p. 44b);—and in Smṛticandrikā (Saṃskāra, p. 106), which explains ‘mānyasthānāni’ as ‘grounds of respect, and adds that ‘learning’ is the highest of these all.


Comparative notes by various authors

Viṣṇu Smṛti (32.16)—(words of Manu reproduced).

Gautama-Dharmasūtra (6.20).—‘Wealth, Relationship, Caste, Learning and Age are objects of respect: the succeeding being superior to the preceding; Vedic Learning is superior to all, Dharma being based upon that.’

Vaśiṣṭha-Smṛti (1.3.21).—‘Learning, Wealth, Age, Relationship and Deeds are objects of respect; when all these are present, the preceding has preference over the succeeding,’

Yājñavalkya (1.116).—‘By reason of Learning, Action, Age, Relationship, etc., and Wealth, in order, does a man become respected.’

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