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:

गुरुणानुमतः स्नात्वा समावृत्तो यथाविधि ।
उद्वहेत द्विजो भार्यां सवर्णां लक्षणान्विताम् ॥ ४ ॥

guruṇānumataḥ snātvā samāvṛtto yathāvidhi |
udvaheta dvijo bhāryāṃ savarṇāṃ lakṣaṇānvitām || 4 ||

The twice-born person, having, on being permitted by the Preceptor, “bathed” and “returned” according to rule, shall take a wife of the same caste as himself, who is endowed with signs.—(4).


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Even on the completion of the observances relating to Vedic Study, the Boy shall “bathe” only when ‘permitted by the Preceptor.’ ‘Bathing’ here stands for a peculiar sacrament prescribed in the Gṛhyasūtras, as the limit for the observances of the Religious Student. Why the term ‘bathing’ is used in this figurative sense we have already explained above.

Having returned’—i.e., having gone through a particular consecratory. rite consisting of the offering of the Madhuparka, etc., as laid down in the Gṛhyasūtra, and having returned from the Preceptor’s home to his Father’s home.

All this has been mentioned as supplementary to the Injunction contained in the term ‘shall take,’ being already known from other sources. The ‘return’ spoken of here is not a part of the ‘marriage.’ Hence for him who has learnt the Veda in his Father’s house, though there can be no ‘Return,’ yet marriage is done.

Some people take the ‘Return’ to mean that Bath which forms part of the marriage rites. Against this view it might be argued that the participial ending ‘ktvā’ (in ‘snātvā’) clearly indicates that the two (Bath and Return) are entirely different. But that ceremony of ‘Return’ which coṇsists in ‘bathing’ and which forms part of the marriage rite, is going to be described later; where a particular form of ‘Bathing’ with its details is found laid down, [Hence the ‘Return’ mentioned, in the present verse cannot be regarded as part of Marriage.]

Or, the term ‘Return’ may be taken as intended to connote the renouncing of restraints and observances. In that case, ‘returned’ would mean ‘having resumed the former condition free from all restraint.’ Special stress is laid upon the renouncing of restraints in this connection, because the observances and restraints imposed upon the Religious Student are exceptionally hard, which is not the case with the other subsequent stages of life.

According to rule’—this is to be construed like the term ‘in strict accordance with his duties’ (of the preceding verse).

The twice-born person shall take a wife’—‘Shall take’ constitutes the injunction of marriage. Marriage is a sacramental rite, a refining process, as is indicated by the Accusative ending in ‘bhāryām.’

“But before marriage there does not exist such a thing as wife for whom the refinement could be effected in the same manner as ornamentation by collyrium is done to the Eye. In fact, it is by means of marriage itself that the wife is brought into existence.”

In the case of the sacrificial post, we find such injunctions as the ‘sacrificial post shall be cut,’ and that same piece of wood becomes the post on which the refining process of cutting, &c., has been performed. Exactly in the same manner it is by means of the refining process of marriage performed upon her that the person becomes a ‘wife.’

The word ‘marriage’ denotes the taking hold of the hand, which forms the principal factor in the ceremony. To this effect we have the assertion—‘marriage is taking a wife, i.e., the taking hold of the hand;’ and in this work also marriage is spoken of as ‘the sacrament of taking hold of the hand’ (verse 43 below). The offering of parched grain and such other rites are the subsidiary details (of Marriage); and all this may be learnt from the Gṛhyasūtras,

Later on (in verse 8) we read—‘one shall not marry a maiden with golden hair, &e., &c.;’—and from the use of the term ‘maiden’ there it is clear that marriage is a sacrament for maidens, and not for any and every woman; and we are going to explain later on that in the present context the term ‘maiden’ stands for the female who has had no intercourse with a male.

Of the same caste as himself’—i.e., belonging to the same caste.

Endowed with signs,’—The term ‘signs’ stands for the colour of the complexion, lines on the body, moles and such other marks which are indicative of unwidowed life, offspring, wealth, and so forth,—which may be learnt from the science of Astrology.—‘Endowed’—i.e., equipped—‘with these signs;’ i.e., bearing auspicious marks. Even though indicators of evil are also called ‘signs,’ yet since what is mentioned here is, that one should marry a girl with these signs, it follows that what is meant is the girl with good, auspicious, signs. In fact, the term, ‘lakṣaṇa,’ ‘sign,’ is used in ordinary parlance in the sense of desirable signs; e.g., men and women are spoken of as ‘endowed with signs’ which means that they bear auspicious marks.

What we have to consider in this connection is the question of title (Who is entitled to marry?).

Since the Injunction of marriage enjoins a sacrament, a consecration, it comes to be performed just like the Laying of Fire; and just as the Laying of Fire serves, through the Āhavanīya and other fires, the purposes of compulsory and voluntary acts, and hence it comes to be performed for the bringing into existence of the Āhavanīya, &c., as subsidiary to those acts,—so the Marriage also brings into existence the ‘Wife,’ and through her serves the fulfilment of the visible and unvisible ends of man. For example, when desire for sexual intercourse arises in man, there arises the possibility of his having recourse to any and every woman; but intercourse with maidens and wives of other men being prohibited, the said desire comes to be accomplished only through one’s own married wife [The married wife thus serves a visible end]. Then again, there is the saying that ‘every religious act shall be done by the husband and wife together,’ which shows that it is only as accompanied by his wife that man is entitled to the performance of religious acts; and thus it is clear that the accomplishment of the invisible (transcendental) purposes of man also is dependent upon the wife.

In connection with this subject, some people make the following observations:—“As just described, persons, with their sexual desire aroused, have, of their own accord, their marriages done for the purpose of accomplishing their visible ends; and after they have married, they happen to perform certain religious acts; and in this case, the marriage might thus turn out to be of use in the fulfilment of religious acts. But in a case where a man’s desire for intercourse with women has entirely ceased, there is no marriage at all;—there being no marriage, the man is not entitled to the performance of religious acts;—in the absence of such title, the non-performance of acts shall involve no sin;—consequently, there need be nothing reprehensible in the conduct of the man who does not take to the Householder’s life and does not perform any religious acts conducive to the ends of man.”

This, however, is not right. Religious acts are as much conducive to the fulfilment of man’s purpose as sexual desire is. In fact, every man engages in activity only for the accomplishment of some purpose of his. If this were not so (i.e., the entrance into the Householder’s state were not essential), then there would be no room for such assertions as ‘desisting for a year from entering into the Householder’s state, &c., &c.’ We shall explain this fully under Discourse VI, in connection with the question of option regarding the Life-stages.—(4)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 462) simply as laying down marriage;—in Madanapārijāta (p. 131) as indicating the necessity for marriage;—also in Vidhānapārijāta (p. 673);—in Vīramitrodaya (Saṃskāra, p. 567), as indicating that the ‘Final Bath’ spoken of above (in 1. 245) is meant to be for the purpose of marriage;—on the ground that the Bath is here spoken of in connection with the twice-born person who is going to marry; while we do not meet with any such assertion as ‘Having bathed, he should betake himself to the forest,’ or that ‘having bathed,’ he should bike to Renunciation;—in the same work on p. 585, in support of the view that Marriage is meant to be conducive to the fulfilment of the man’s purpose, the following notes are added:—the term ‘dvija’ serves to show that it is only the twice-born person endowed with the above-mentioned qualifications that is entitled to marriage; and it does not mean that any and every twice-born person is entitled to it; and that this is so is clear from the fact that marriage has been laid down only for one who has had his Initiation and has taken the ‘Final Bath’ of the Studentship. Nor again can the term ‘dvija’ be taken as precluding others; as in that case there would be no marriage for the Śūdra. From all this it follows that the present text should be taken as enjoining a particular act as pertaining to a particularly qualified person.—The term ‘bhāryā,’ ‘wife,’ has been used in view of the future status of the girl; so that the meaning of the injunction comes to be that ‘he should bring into existence a wife by means of the marriage-ceremony.’—The term ‘Savarṇā,’ ‘of the same caste’ is meant to indicate that such a marriage would be in its principal form: and it does not preclude the marrying of girls of other castes; this is in fact sanctioned by other texts.

The same work quotes the verse again on page 747, as laying down the ‘principal’ wife ordained for man.

Vīramitrodaya again in its ‘Lakṣaṇa’ section (p. 118) quotes the second half of this verse under the ‘the characteristics of women.’

It is quoted also in Smṛtitattva (p. 940) to the effect that ‘Samāvartana’ is another name for the concluding rites of Studentship;—in Aparārka (p. 76) as indicating that the ‘Bath’ is distinct from the Samāvartana ceremony;—in Hemādri (Dāna, p. 680);—in Saṃskāraratnamālā (p. 403);—and in Nṛsiṃhaprasāda (Saṃskāra, p. 49a.)


Comparative notes by various authors

Vaśiṣṭha (8. 1).—‘The Householder, with anger and joy under control, when permitted by the teacher, should take up a wife of the same grade as himself, younger in age, not having the same sage (as an ancestor), and who has not had intercourse.’

Yājñavalkya (1. 52).—‘Having gone through his studentship intact, he should marry a qualified girl, one who has not belonged to another man, loving and younger in age, who is not a Sapiṇḍa.’

Āśvalāyana Gṛhyasūtra (1. 5. 3).—‘One should marry a girl who is free from disease and endowed with intelligence, beauty, modesty and other good qualities.’

Āśvalāyana Gṛhyasūtra (3. 9. 4).—‘On the completion of his study, he should approach the teacher with presets and then, permitted by him, he should take the Bath.’

Pāraskara Gṛhyāsūtra (2. 6.1-4).—‘Having finished the Veda,he should take the Bath;...............permitted by the teacher.’

Gobhila Gṛhyasūtra (2. 1. 1. 2).—‘One should take to a wife during the Puṣya-Asterism,—one who is endowed with comendable qualities.’

Gobhila Gṛhyasūtra (3. 4. 1-3).—‘The Religious Student, having studied the Veda, and having offered presents to the Teacher, should take a wife, after being permitted by the Teacher.’

Vyāsa (Vīra-Saṃskāra, p. 586).—‘Having taken the Bath, one should marry a girl of one’s own caste, endowed with good qualities.’

Dakṣa (Vīra-Saṃskāra, p. 586).—‘Having, with due effort, studied the Veda both verbally and intelligently, he shall marry a girl endowed with good qualities, after having previously taken the Bath.’

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