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:

न वर्धयेदघाहानि प्रत्यूहेन्नाग्निषु क्रियाः ।
न च तत्कर्म कुर्वाणः सनाभ्योऽप्यशुचिर्भवेत् ॥ ८३ ॥

na vardhayedaghāhāni pratyūhennāgniṣu kriyāḥ |
na ca tatkarma kurvāṇaḥ sanābhyo'pyaśucirbhavet || 83 ||

One should not prolong the days of impurity; nor should he interrupt the rites performed in the fires; because he who performs those rites, even if he be a Sapiṇḍa, would never he impure.—(83).


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Some people may entertain the following notion:—“The various alternatives that have been laid down regarding the period of impurity extending to three days, &c., all stand on an equal footing with the alternative of ‘ten days,’ and their adoption is not regulated by considerations of character and study, etc.; so that the observing of the longer period being open to me, why should I have recourse to the alternative of ‘one day’, which would entail the trouble of resuming my studies sooner? I shall have recourse to the alternative of ‘ten days’, and shall enjoy the pleasure of having nothing to do for a longer period.”

It is for the benefit of such a person that the author, moved by sympathy, makes it clear that the optional alternatives are regulated by other considerations; and that they do not all stand on the same footing. In what way they are regulated has been already shown by us.

If this be not the meaning of the present advice, and if it mean something else,—what possibility would there be of any prolongation of the period that has been specifically fixed for each individual? And it is only with such a possibility that there could be room for the advice contained in the present verse. What harm could there be in the author making still clearer what he has already said before (regarding the regulation of the optional alternatives)?

Some people hold that—even after the prescribed number of days have elapsed, purification is not accomplished until bathing and other rites have been performed; as it is going to be asserted that ‘the Brāhmaṇa becomes pure after touching water, etc.’ (Verse 98); and some one may think that so long as he remains impure he would not incur any sin by the omission of religious duties, and hence he may not proceed to take the bath or other rites;—and it is in view of such cases that we have the injunction that ‘one should not prolong the days of impurity,’—the meaning being that the stipulated days having elapsed, one should not delay the external purifications.

As regards the assertion that—“the use of the term day implies that there is no impurity on the night of the tenth day,”—it has already been pointed out that this view is not correct. Says Gautama (14.6)—‘If during one impurity another source of impurity should arise, there is purification after the remainder of the former’; and having said this, he thought that people might be led to think that if the second impurity should arise about the end of the last night, there would be purification after that night, and in order to guard against this he has added—‘if it happens about the end of the night, then after two nights’ (14.7) [From which it is dear that the lost night also falls within the period of impurity].

Nor should he interrupt the rites performed in the fires.’—This is said in view of the fact by reason of impurity all the rites prescribed in the Śruti and the Smṛti become precluded. The meaning is that the rites that are performed in the fires,—such as the Evening-libation and the rest—should not be interrupted,—i.e., shall not be omitted. ‘Interruption’ means omission, non-per formance.

But this does not mean that the impure man should himself perform the rites; since it is added—‘he who performs the rites, even if he be a Sapiṇḍa, would never be impure’; which means that ‘even a Sapiṇḍa-relation would not be impure, to say nothing of other persons’; says the Gṛhyasūtra also—‘They should perform in the house-fire the obligatory rites, with the exception of the Vaitāna -rite’; and then—‘others would perform these.’ This does not refer to the mere offering of libations that is done in connection with the setting up of the fires, but to the performance of the rite in all its details; since it is only for these that the employment of other agents is possible, since the principal libation itself, which consists in offering certain substances, can be offered by the householder himself. Hence the rites that are precluded (daring impurity) are those of the Vaiśvadeva-offering and the Darśa-Pūrṇamāsa and other sacrifices. Of other nets, such as the telling of beads, the saying of Twilight Prayers and so forth,—the preclusion of these has nowhere been indicated; and all these are obligatory. Hence what the present taxt does is to permit the performance of other acts; specially as another Smṛti text has prohibited such acts as ‘the offering of libations and Vedic study.’ Thus then, the distinction (as to what acts are precluded and what not) is based upon the obligatory or voluntary character of the acts themselves; specially as the voluntary act tending to the accomplishment of desired ends should never be done, since impurity deprives the man of the title to perform all such acts.

“But the impure man cannot be entitled to the performance of the obligatory acts either.”

As a matter of fact, purity does not constitute an essential factor in the rites; and though an obligatory act may be done even in a slightly deficient form (due to the lack of purity, for instance), such is not permissible in the case of voluntary acts done with a view to definite ends. It might be argued that they also might be performed, on the strength of the present text itself. But this would not be right; for all that the present text permits is getting certain rites performed by proxy; and as this in itself would be a deficiency, it would be admissible in the case of the obligatory rites only, and not in that of voluntary ones.

With regard to the Vaiśvadeva offering however, there is a difference of opinion. Some people quote the following Smṛti -text—‘At a birth or a death, one shall not pour libations into fire, even with dry grains or fruits, nor should he perform any sacrificial rites.’

From all this it follows that one should offer the following the Twilight-libations, the Dūrśa-Purṇamāsa sacrifices, the Annual Śrāddha, the Śrāddha offered in the month of Āśvina and so forth. As for the Upākarma, its performance depends upon the lunar asterism and it need not be done on the full-moon-day.—(83.)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

(Verse 84 of others.)

Pratyūhenṅāgniṣu kriyāḥ’—Medhātithi has been misrepresented here, not only by Buhler, but by Kullūka also. There is nothing in Medhātithi to show that Sandhyopāsana should be omitted for ten days. Nor is there any difference in the interpretation of Medhātithi and that of Kullūka and others. (See Translation.)

Sanābhayaḥ’—‘Sapiṇḍa’ (Govindarāja, Kullūka, Nārāyaṇa and Rāghavānanda);—‘Sahodara’, ‘uterine brother’ (Nandana).

This verse is quoted in Aparārka (p. 891), which adds the following notes:—With a view to remaining idle, without having to perform his religious duties, one should not prolong the days of impurity; nor should he abandon those necessary acts that are prescribed to be performed in the śrauta fires,—e.g., the Agnihotra offerings; the meaning is that all those should be done even during the days of impurity;—the second half is added in anticipation of the objection that “in view of the rule whereby impure men are not entitled to the performance of religious acts, it would be right to abandon the acts during the period of impurity.” What is meant is that it is quite true that the impure m an should not perform religious acts; but on the strength of the special texts (like the present one) hearing upon certain Well defined acts, one would be justified in concluding that he is not ‘impure’, so far as the performance of these acts is concerned.—The use of Atmanepada form ‘kurvāṇaḥ’ makes it clear that the actual performer of the religions acts is not impure—even though the person dead or born be a very near relation of his,—in fact he is quite pure. Inasmuch as this absence of impurity refers to the performer himself, it follows that so far as officiating at the performance of other persons is concerned, the near relations of the dead or the born must be regarded as impure and unqualified.

It is quoted in Mitākṣarā (on 3.17), in support of the view that there is no impurity regarding the performance of those religious acts that are compulsory, the voluntary ones, however, which are done for the purpose of gaining reward, should not be performed during impurity;—and it adds that since the text specifically mentions the acts done ‘in the fires’, it follows that the ‘five great sacrifices,’ which are not done in fire, should cease during impurity.

It is quoted in Smṛtitattva (II, p. 254) as affording justification for the coalescing of ‘impurities’ due to more than one cause;—in Hāralatā (pp. 7 and 25), which notes that the expression ‘tat karma’ implies that the impurity means incapacity to perform such acts as Fire-kindling, gifts, Homa and so forth, and adds the following notes:—‘aghāhāni’, days of impurity, those should not be prolonged by the Agnihotrin, for whom its curtailment is justified by distinct texts; and he should never observe the full period of ten days,—even dining the curtailed period, he should not entirely stop the offerings into the Fires, he should have this done through Brāhmaṇas belonging to other gotras and hence not suffering from the same disabilities,—and the reason for this lies in the fact that in the performance of the said acts of disablity does not attach even to the Sapiṇḍa,—what to say of persons of other gotras?

It is quoted also in Gadādharapaddhati (Kāla, p. 278), which explains ‘sanābhayaḥ’ as Sapiṇḍa,—‘tatkarma’ as officiating as a priest,—the disability due to impurity does hot attach to him, if no person of other gotras is available for the work,—such is the implication of the particle ‘api’.


Comparative notes by various authors

Yājñavalkya (3.17).—‘One should continue to perform all the fire-worship, as also all those acts that are enjoined in the Veda.’

Vyāghrapāt (Aparārka, p. 892).—‘During the period of impurity one should stop all smārta rites; but for the purpose of śrauta rites, one becomes pure immediately, by bathing.’

Pāraskara Gṛhyasūtra (3.13.31-34).—‘During the period of impurity, one should not carry on Vedic study one should intermit the daily rites, with the exception of those performed with the help of the śrauta fire, or with that of the domestic fire, according to some:—others should perform those for him.’

Jābāla (Aparārka, p. 892).—‘During the impurity due to birth and death, there is no intermission of rites performed in the śrauta fire; as regards the domestic fire, libations into it should be poured by persons belonging to another gotra.’

Bṛhaspati (Do.).—‘During impurity due to birth or to death, one shall not abandon the fire-offerings, he shall have them offered by others.’

Jātūkarṇya (Do.).—‘During an impurity, Piṇḍayajña, Caru-Yajña, and Homa, should be got done by a person not belonging to the same gotra.’

Saṃvarta, (Do.).—‘The Homa-offerings should, during impurity, be made with dry grains or fruits; but the performance of the five Great Sacrifices should be intermitted. For ten days, the Brāhmaṇa shall desist from the Vaiśvadeva offering.’

Viṣṇupurāṇa (Do.).—‘O king, the offering of the twilight-prayers should he done at all times, except during impurity.’

Paiṭhīnasi (Do.).—‘During impurity, one shall only offer water with the Sāvitrī and meditating upon the sun, offer his obeisance.’

Pulastya (Do. p. 893).—‘The twilight-prayers, the Iṣṭi, the Caru and Homa one should perform all through life; even during impurity one shall not omit these During impurity due to death or birth, one should not omit the twilight prayers; the Brāhmaṇa shall repeat the mantras only mentally—even so omitting the Breath-suspension.’

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