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 3.1 [Period of Studentship]

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

षट् त्रिंशदाब्दिकं चर्यं गुरौ त्रैवेदिकं व्रतम् ।
तदर्धिकं पादिकं वा ग्रहणान्तिकमेव वा ॥ १ ॥

ṣaṭ triṃśadābdikaṃ caryaṃ gurau traivedikaṃ vratam |
tadardhikaṃ pādikaṃ vā grahaṇāntikameva vā || 1 ||

Duties relating to the Three Vedas should be observed under the Preceptor for thirty-six years, or for half that period, or for a quarter, or precisely till they have been got up.—(1)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Two kinds of Religious Students have been described above—the life-long student and the student for a limited period. Verse 2.244—where it is said that ‘he serves the Preceptor till the dissolution of his body’—has described the life-long studentship; while verse 2.108—where the ‘Final Return’ has been described as the limit—has indicated the other alternative. As regards the ‘Life-long Student,’ the mention of the name, itself, which is based upon reason, serves to indicate the limit of the period of studentship; the term ‘naiṣṭhika’ meaning that which goes to the very ‘niṣṭhā.’ or end of a thing; and the exact period has been stated by the direct declaration that ‘it extends to the dissolution of the body.’ As regards the ‘limited’ studentship, we have the following texts bearing upon it:—(a) ‘by this course of application etc.,’ (6. 85), (b) ‘the entire Veda should be acquired by means of particular austerities and several observances prescribed by Injunctions’ (2.165); and since these texts do not specify any particular number of Vedas to be learnt, it would seem as if these injunctions intended the pupil to learn one, two, three, four, five six, seven or any other number of Vedic texts, in fact, as many as he could learn. The present verse proceeds to restrict the number of Vedas to be learnt.

Duties relating to the Three Vedas should be observed.’—‘Relating to the three Vedas’ means ‘conducive to the learning of the three Vedas;’ the act of ‘learning’ being implied by the compound, on the strength of the fact that the ‘getting up of the Veda’ has been presented before.—‘Duties’—i.e., the whole lot of duties laid down for the Religious Student,—‘should be observed’—one shall observe them; the verbal affix having the injunctive force.

From the above it might be assumed that the duty of ‘fetching the fuel’ and the rest also should continue to be kept up only till the texts have been got up (and no longer); and, in order to preclude this notion, the text adds—‘for thirty-six years;’ which means that even after the Veda has been got up, the full period has to be completed.

“If the detailed duties, that have been laid down are related to the injunction of learning the Veda,—and this Injunction ceases to be operative after the Veda has been learnt,—then why should the observances of studentship be continued for twelve years, even after the Veda has been learnt?”

What you say is too little. You might say the same in regard to the performance, at the Darṣa-pūrṇamāsa, of all those secondary details that come after the Āgneya and other primary offerings. The fact of the matter is that, just as in the case of the sacrifice, the due result is obtained only when the act is performed along with all its details, so in the case in question also the fulfilment of the Injunction (of Learning) is complete only after the act has been performed along with all the details in the duly prescribed order.

“There are several lesser alternative periods—half, and quarter of the full period—mentioned as the limit for study; and when these are permitted, who is there who would keep up the observances, which require such effort, for twelve years?”

Pupils, desirous of more extensive results, will have recourse to the carrying out of the larger details. To this effect we have the saying—‘when there is greater effort, there must follow larger results.’

“As a matter of fact, the learning of the Veda, through study, does not lead to any other result except the understanding of the meaning of Vedic texts. They say that—‘the revered Ritualists do not regal’d mere learning as the result;’ and in the Śabara-bhāṣya also we read—‘the purpose served by it has been found to consist in the comprehension of what should be done.’ And certainly, there is no diversity (or divergent grades) in the said comprehension.”

If that be so (if the comprehension of meaning were the sole end of Vedic Study), then, inasmuch as such comprehension could come about at the time of learning the Text, even without the keeping of any observances, there should be no keeping of the observances at all. Then again, who says that the Injunction of Vedic Study is for the purpose of comprehending the meaning of Vedic texts? In fact, the Injunction of Vedic Study is for the purpose of Vedic Study itself; there is no reason for regarding one thing as being for. the purpose of another thing. As for the comprehension of meaning, it follows after the Text Las been learnt, by the very nature of things, and not by virtue of the Injunction.

“Then, is the Injunction meant for one who desires Heaven?”

How can this also be possible?

“What, then, is the meaning of your assertion that there are larger results obtained (when the act is performed along with more extensive details)?”

The meaning of the statement is as follows:—The whole Injunction prescribes a sanctiticatory process, in which ‘Vedic Study’ forms the predominant factor, by reason of the sanctification being accomplished during that ‘study.’ And Injunctions of sanctifications do not stand in need of the direct mention of the result the seeker whereof would be entitled to their performance; in fact, through the object sanctified, they become part and parcel of another Injunction in connection with which a particular result has been mentioned. For example, we have the Injunction ‘the corns should be threshed and this ‘threshing’ becomes related to the transcendental results proceeding from the Darśa-pūrṇamāsa sacrifices,—not by itself, but—only through the removal of the chaff which goes to purify the corns of which is made the cake used at the Āgneya and other offerings making up the Darśa-Pūrnamāsa; and it is thus that the threshing comes to be recognised as something to be done. In the same manner, the Veda cannot be regarded as something to be sanctified or refined, except as subordinate to something else. As a matter of fact, we find that the comprehension of meaning actually follows after ‘Vedic Study from which it follows that this act of ‘study’ itself extends up to the comprehending of the meaning, just as the act of ‘threshing’ extends up to the accomplishment of the Rice. The only difference in the two cases is as follows:—By reason of its injunction occurring in the same context, the ‘threshing’ becomes quickly recognised as related to another Injunction mentioning a result; while the Injunction in question (of Vedic Study) does not occur in the context of any particular act, and is regarded as extending up to the comprehension of meaning; so that its connection with results is only implied by the fact of its being of use in the performance of all those acts that are enjoined as leading to various results. Thus the fact that an Injunction aims at some useful purpose of man is readily understood; and it makes no difference whether it does so directly or indirectly. And since its connection with a result is clearly implied, the Injunction in question gets itself carried out independently by itself, even though the comprehension of meaning is of use in connection with the injunctions of compulsory and voluntary acts.

Some people have held the view that—“the injunction of Vedic Study serves, through the comprehension of meaning, the same purpose as the injunctions of the Jyotiṣṭoma and other acts, and that the additional effort (involved in Vedic Study and comprehension of meaning) serves to enhance the quality of the results brought about by those acts.” But what fault has the Injunction of ‘becoming a Teacher’ done for those people, that they should have made great efforts to deny the view that this latter also serves the same purpose as the Injunction of ‘Vedic Study?’ If it be urged that—“under this view, the Veda would become unauthoritative,”—our answer is that, that might be so; but when a certain fact is well established by reason and arguments, it is not abandoned or rejected for the sake of accomplishing any purpose. In fact, an argument is set aside only by another and a more cogent argument.

“But if the Injunction of Vedic Study were taken as serving the same purpose as that of ‘becoming a Teacher,’ then the former would lose its injunctive character; as in that case no significance would attach to what is expressed by its own words.”

The same thing happens also when the Injunction in question is made a part and parcel of the Injunction of the Jyotiṣṭoma, etc.

If, on the other hand, the Injunction of Vedic Study is regarded as independently by itself conducive to the carrying into effect of what it enjoins, then, standing upon an equal footing with all other Injunctions, it rightly comes to be acted up to by itself, as a necessary factor (of all performances).

Thus then, out of the several alternative options—some heavier than the rest—that have been set forth (in the verse), if the lighter alternative serves to accomplish the desired purpose, all that the undertaking of the heavier option can do is to add something to the quality of what has been prescribed by the Injunction. Just as is the case with the options of giving ‘one, three or twelve cows’ as a fee in connection with the Laying of Fire. Thus then, if the Injunction of Study has been carried into effect on its own accouut (and the Veda has been studied), we cannot escape from its twofold relation—viz.: (1) its leading to the performance of what it itself prescribes, and (2) its helping the performance of the Jyotiṣṭoma and other acts; it matters little whether such relation is directly stated, or implied, or assumed; for this latter fact would involve a diversity only in the means whereby the knowledge of the relation is obtained, and not any in the relation itself.

“How is it that you are making statements, of which the succeeding ones are inconsistent with the preceding ones? It has been asserted above that Injunctions of sanctification are never directly related to results; while now it is stated that the Injunction in question is by itself conducive to itself being carried into effect. It might be urged that—‘Though it is true that the Injunction of Sanctification is not related to any directly mentioned result, yet there is nothing incompatible in its being related to such results as are indirectly indicated.’ But even this makes no difference, if the performanceof the act (of Study), as prompted by the injunction in question, is made to extend to the comprehension of meaning also. Even so, the mere learning of the Text being got at in accordance with the Injunction of ‘having recourse to a teacher &c.,’ it would become admitted that Injunctions of sanctification are related to definite results. If, on the other hand, the performance of the act (of study) were in accordance with the Injunction as helping other Injunctions (i.e., those of the Jyotiṣṭoma and other acts), then, in that case, it would come to this that the Veda would be studied by one seeking after the stated result, and not that the person who has studied the Veda is entitled to the performance of acts leading to that result; and in that case, the Shudra’s title could not be denied. Nor does it necessarily follow that the meaning of Vedic texts should be learnt immediately after the texts have been learnt. In fact, whenever one might, by chance, come to understand that ‘a certain Vedic act, named Jyotiṣṭoma, leads to Heaven,’ he would learn the details of the procedure of that act, and at that same time he would also read up such Vedic texts related to that act as would have to be recited by the sacrificer.”

To the above, some people make the following answer, on the basis of the principle enunciated in Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā—Sutra 4.1. 18 et. seq. The Sviṣṭakṛt and other similar offerings have been regarded as being of both kinds, serving the purposes of sanctification and also leading to specific results; and, on the same analogy, ‘Vedic Study’ also would be of both kinds—being purely sanctificatory, as indicated by the words of the Injunction prescribing it, and also leading to particular results, by virtue of its bringing about the comprehension of the meaning of texts which ultimately leads to the performance of acts (directly bringing about those results). It is in this manner that the Injunction of Vedic Study becomes conducive to definite results.

“But who is the person to whom the results accrue (and who, by seeking for that result, comes to perform the act)?”

Our answer is that it is the Boy belonging to one of the three higher castes, who has gone through the Initiatory Rite. That this is so is clear from the fact that the act (of Vedic Study) has been prescribed among the duties of the Religious Student. The Injunctive and other similar affixes are expressive of that injunction or persuasion which is inseparable from the person sought to be persuaded; and when the question arises as to particular details regarding that person, (a) sometimes the information is supplied by the words of the Injunction itself—e.g., in the sentence ‘one desiring heaven should perform the Agnihotra throughout his life (b) sometimes, even though not directly mentioned, he comes to be assumed on the basis of what is directly stated;—e.g., in the case of the Viśvajit and other sacrifices;—(c) sometimes, again, he is indicated by the examination of other Injunctions in view of the force of the context and the nature of things. In the present case, all this is present:—(a) the Religious Student happens to be the person dealt with in the context (in which the injunction of Vedic Study occurs); (b) the comprehension comes about from the nature of things; and (c) the Study is of use in connection with all other Injunctions, as it is only one who has learnt the Veda that is entitled to the performance of any Vedic act.

This explanation is not accepted by others. [According to these] it is in the character of the ‘Injunction of Santcification’ itself that the Injunction in question has (he corres-pondiṇg result indicated. As a matter of fact, all sanctificatory acts are done for the sake of the thing sought to be sanctified; and if no peculiarity is perceived in that object, then the act would lose its very character of ‘sanctification,’ as it happens in the case of the ‘Saktu.’ In the case in question, however, there does appear a peculiarity in the shape of the comprehension of acts conducive to definite results. The case of the ‘Sviṣṭakṛt’ offering has been cited above; but in that case the two-fold character has to be admitted, as if both were not held to be denoted by the root and the affix, then the act (of ‘sacrifice’) would cease to be itself.

From all this it follows that the Injunction in question stands by itself, and pertains to the initiated boy; and hence the act (of ‘study’) has to be done fo r its own sake, and not as subserving, like the threshing of corn, the purpose of results proceeding from the performance of the Darśa-pūrṇamāsa and other sacrifices.

The same should be understood to be the case with the learning of more than one Veda; In connection with this also, the question might arise as to why one should learn several Vedas, when the Injunction is duly fulfilled by the learning of one Veda only? And here also the answer would be that the learning of several Vedas would be conducive to large results. The result of such learning also would be of the nature described above, and not of the nature ‘milk,’ ‘curd,’ and the like. Such being the case, if one has learnt a single Veda, when he comes to undertake the performance of acts requiring the use of mantras not occurring in the particular Vedic Rescension learnt by him, the very force of circumstances permits his learning of those Mantras; though in describing the title to the performance of Vedic acts, as belonging to ‘persons who have learnt the Veda,’ the qualification mentioned is that he should have duly learnt the Veda. [But the peculiar circumstances of the case render it permissible for the performer to leam the mantras at the time].

Others have held that in the text—‘that the Veda with its six subsidiary sciences should be learnt is what should be done by the Brāhmaṇa without any other motive,’—the phrase ‘without any other motive’ explains the nature of the act as regards the person to perform it; the term ‘without any motive’ means ‘without having any other end in view;’ so that what is meant is that the act should be done as a compulsory one. Unless we take this term as indicating the nature of the person to perform it, it cannot be construed with the rest of the sentence either in the form of an act, or in that of an agency contributing towards the act, or in that of a qualification of the act, and so forth.

Thus, then, even though the Injunction in question be one of sanctification, yet it may have its result indicated indirectly (as explained before), or stated directly (as now explained); and neither of this involves any incongruity.

Others, again, argue that since it is an Injunction of sanctification, it is better to take it as not related to any result at all. For the result is sought after only for endowing the act with a certain peculiarity; and this peculiarity in the present case is obtained by noting the thing to be sanctified. It is true that Injunctions of sanctification stand in need of the mention of purposes served by them; but all that is sought to be accomplished by an injunction is the result of the act enjoined; and such result, in the present case, is actually found to consist in the ‘getting up’ of the text; and there is nothing incongruous in this.

The present verse not specifying the period for the learning of each Veda, we derive the knowledge of the specific period from other Smṛti-texts, which lay down that the studentship relating to each Veda is to extend over twelve years.

The next question that arises is—which are the ‘three Vedas’ that are meant here?

They are the Ṛgveda, the Yajurveda and the Sāmaveda.

“Then, is the Atharvan not a Veda at all?”

Who says so? All that is meant by the present context is a certain sanctification; and when the sanctification in question is found to be one that can be accomplished by taking the words of the present verse in their literal sense, the Injunction in question has its performance secured by being extended up to the comprehension of meaning; and this for the simple reason that the said comprehension is of use in all performances. As for the Atharvan Veda, it deals for the most part with magical spells, and hence neither the Jyotiṣṭoma and other such acts, nor any details pertaining to these, are prescribed in it; in fact, all the duties relative to the Hotṛ the Adhvaryu and the Udgātṛ are completely laid down in the Three Vedas; the duties of the Brahman-priest also are laid down in the Three Vedas. Then, again, the term ‘three’ denotes a special number, and whenever a particular numeral is used, it is always with reference to a particular character (in which the things included under that number are found to agree). So that, in the case in question, those alone can be taken as included under the number ‘three’ which are found to possess the common character of containing Injunctions regarding what ought to be done. And the Atharvan does not fall within this category; as it does not contain any injunctions of such, primary acts as the Jyotiṣṭoma and the rest, not of any of their subsidiaries. As regards the Śyena and other malevolent sacrifices, these also are performed by the same priests (as the Jyotiṣṭoma, &c.), and their procedure also is the same, with a few additional details; but even those peculiar details are such as have been prescribed in the Three Vedas. Thus, theu, since the Atharvan Veda is|not found, in the performance of any act, to be grouped either With Ṛk and Yajus, or with Ṛk and Sāman, it cannot be included under the appellation of ‘Three Vedas and this is the reason why it has not been mentioned in the present context But, since it is included under the term ‘svādhyāya,’ ‘veda,’ there is nothing incongruous in its being included under the wider Injunction of ‘Vedic Study.’

For half that period’—‘that period’ refers to ‘thirty six years;’ the ‘half’ of which is eighteen years. Here also the division of time would be six years for each Veda.

Or for a quarter;’—‘Quarter’ is the fourth part of the said number, i.e., nine years, that is, three years for each of the three Vedas.

“But how can the Veda be got up in three years.”

It is quite possible that a certain pupil may be exceptionally intelligent (and he could get up the Veda in three years).

Other people offer the following explanation:—The duties prescribed in the verse are not made conditional upon the character of the ‘learning they are conditioned by the injunction bearing upon the duties themselves. So that if, before the learning has been accomplished, the rules are duly observed for a few days during the course of learning, the purpose of the Injunction becomes duly fulfilled; as the observance of the details even to that extent would go to fulfil the conditions of the Injunction of Vedic Study. If one puts an end to his observances before he has got up the text, then he comes to be called a ‘Vratasnātaka’ ‘renouncer of observances.’ Thus, inasmuch as both these contingencies are possible, it is only right that a definite period of time should have been prescribed; and the meaning is that one does not become entitled tō the title of ‘Vratasnātaka’ unless he has put in three years’ work (at least). Though some Smṛtis lay down that ‘there is Final Bath only on the completion of Vedic Study,’ yet it is quite reasonable to apply the name ‘Bath’ (snāna) figuratively to the completion of the observances relative to Vedic Study.

This, however, is not right. Though the observances are objects of independent Injunctions, yet the right course to be adopted is that they should be kept up as long as the ‘study’ continues. In fact, the observances having been actually enjoined in connection with Study, they must continue throughout the study. If the first part of the present verse (consisting of the first three feet) were taken separately, then the words of the text themselves would make the observances abandoned after three years only, even before the ‘study’ has been finished. If, on the other hand, the whole verse—including the last quarter—is taken as a single sentence, then the observances cannot cease until the Veda has been wholly learnt. In fact, the particle ‘eva,’ ‘precisely,’ clearly indicates that this last view is the correct one.

“If there is no cessation of the observances until the Vedas have been learnt, how is it that three are two distinct titles (l) ‘Vratasnātaka’, ‘who has completed the observances.’ and (2) Vedasnātaka,’ ‘who has completed the Veda’?”

We shall explain this under Discourse IV.

The aggregate of ‘thirty-six years’ is called ‘ṣaṭtṛṃśadabdam;’ that which pertains to this aggregate is ‘ṣaṭtṛṃśadābdikam’. Similarly, the term ‘traivedikam.’ That whose extent is half of that is ‘tadardhikam.’ Similarly, ‘pādikam’ and ‘grahaṇāntikam.’ The possessive affix in these terms is in accordance with Pāṇini’s Sūtra 5.2.145. The forms cannot come under Pāṇini’s 5.1.57.—(1).


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

“The Atharva Veda is here, as in most of the ancient Dharmasūtras, left out altogether. Baudhāyana alone states that the term of Studentship extends over forty-eight years, and that rule includes the Atharva Veda.”—Buhler.

Medhātithi (p. 187, l. 10)—‘Yatraiva hi sviṣṭakṛdādayaḥ.”—See Mīmāṃsā Sūtra 4.1.18 et seq. The question being whether the Sviṣṭakṛt offering (which is made with the remnants of the sacrificial materials) serves only as a ‘disposal’, or it also serves some transcendental purpose,—the conclusion is that in tills case a transcendental result, even though not mentioned in the texts, has to be assumed.

This verse is quoted in Madanapārijāta (p. 97), where the following notes are added:—‘Traividyā means the three Vedas;—the Studentship over the three Vedas should be made to extend over thirty-six years; that is, one should devote twelve years to studentship over each of the three Vedas;—in the case of ‘half the period six years have to be devoted to each of the three Vedas; and in the ease of ‘quarter of the period only three years.

It is quoted in Vīramitrodaya (Saṃskāra, p. 557), where the following totally different explanation is added:—The meaning of this is as follows:—In the event, of the Boy studying the three Vedas, his Studentship should extend over thirty-six years; if he studies only two Vedas, then over ‘half, i. e. half of forty-eight years, or twenty-four years; that such is the meaning we deduce from the other texts bearing on the subject;—the ‘quarter’ also has to be similarly explained. If the ‘half’ and ‘quarter’ were taken in relation to ‘thirty-six years’, then the meaning would he that the Studentship should extend over eighteen and nine years respectively; and this would not agree with any other Smṛti text This same consideration gets rid of the fanciful view set forth by the Candrikā that “in the case of ‘half’, the Boy should devote six years to each of the three Vedas, and in that of ‘quarter’, three years to each.”

It is interesting that this last view has been adopted by Medhātithi. (See Translation, p. 11). This view appears to have the support of Yājñavalkya (l.36), which clearly states that—“Studentship should extend over either twelve or five years for each Veda.”

This verse is quoted in Aparārka (p. 67), which adds that the studentship over one Veda is to extend over six years in the case of ‘half’, and over three years in the case of ‘quarter’;—in Smṛticandrikā (Saṃskāra, p. 166), which adds the following explanations:—‘Traivedikam’, pertaining to the three Vedas, Ṛk, Yajuṣ and Sāman,—this should be carried on for 36 years,—similarly the vow of ‘Studentship’ pertaining to each single Veda is to be kept for 12 years,—in the case of the ‘Ārdhika’ system, 6 years have to be devoted to each Veda,—and 3 years each in the case of the ‘Pādika’ system;—and in Hemādri (Śrāddha, p. 779).


Comparative notes by various authors

Gautama (2. 52. 54).—‘One should keep up his studentship over one Veda, for twelve years;—or for twelve years over each Veda;—or over all, till they have been got up.’

Baudhāyana (1. 2. 1-4),—‘The ancient studentship over the Veda lasts for 48 years;—or for 24 years;—or for 12 years over each Veda;—or for one year over each Kāṇḍa;—or till it has been got up.’

Āpastamba Dharmasūtra (1. 2. 12-16).—‘For 48 years; or less by a quarter;—or by half;—or by three quarters; or at least for half-twelve years.’

Yājñavalkya (1. 36).—Over each Veda, studentship should continue for 12 years, or for 5 years; or, according to some, for such time as may suffice for its being got up.’

Āśvalāyana Gṛhyasūtra (1. 22. 3,4).—‘Studentship over the Veda should continue for 12 years:—or for such time as would suffice for its being got up.’

Pāraskara Gṛhyasūtra (2.5.13-15).—‘One should keep up his studentship over the Veda for 48 years;—or for 12 years over each Veda;—for such time as would suffice for its being got up.’

Pāraskara Gṛhyasūtra (2. 6. 2).—‘Studentship continues for 48 years; according to some, for 12 years.’

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