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:

वृथासङ्करजातानां प्रव्रज्यासु च तिष्ठताम् ।
आत्मनस्त्यागिनां चैव निवर्तेतोदकक्रिया ॥ ८८ ॥

vṛthāsaṅkarajātānāṃ pravrajyāsu ca tiṣṭhatām |
ātmanastyāgināṃ caiva nivartetodakakriyā
|| 88 ||

The water-offering is withdrawn from those born in vain and from intermixture, from those who are addicted to asceticism and from those who have abandoned themselves.—(88)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The term ‘born’ is to be construed separately with each of the two terms with which it is compounded. He is said to be born in vain’ who does not worship Gods, Pitṛs or Men; i. e. he who does not lead the life proper for uny of the four stages of life, even though he is capable of doing so; one who is excluded from all offerings and invitations. Having referred to the man ‘who for one year does not lead the life proper for any stage,’ the scriptures speak of a great sin attaching to persons doing this for any length of time. This is so because with the exception of the Student and the Renunciate, all the others have to cook food for other people; and it is only cooking for one’s own self alone that has been prohibited.

Born of intermixture;’—i.e., the Āyogara’ and other persons born of an improper and inverse mixture of the several castes; that the issue of improper mixtures is meant is indicated by its association with those ‘born in vain,’ which implies lowness of birth. As regards the issue of legal mixtures, even though these also are ‘born of intermixtures,’ yet these are not meant here, because they belong definitely to their mother’s caste and are entitled to all that pertains thereto. Further, in ordinary usage children of legal mixtures are not spoken of as being of ‘mixed origin’; e.g. in 10.25, where the issues of ‘mixed origin’ are described. The term also includes (a) the children of such widows as have not been ‘permitted’ to beget children, born of the intercourse of several men, and (b) the children of prostitutes; the children of women begotten by a person other than their husbands are not included in this category, if there has not been intercourse with several men.

Some people hold that this prohibition refers to Sapiṇḍa relations who are as described, and not to their sons; while in the case of those who have ‘abandoned themselves,’ it applies to their sons also.

This however is not right; as the text makes no distinction among those mentioned.

Asceticisms; i.e., of heretics, such as the ‘Bhagala,’ the ‘Raktapaṭa’ and the rest. That these are meant is indicated by the plural number and by the fact that it is the heterodox heretic alone that is excluded. These are regarded as ‘heterodox’ by reason of their observances &c., being different from those of the orthodox ascetics.

Those who have abandoned themselves;’—i.e ., those who, even before their life’s span has been run out, give up their bodies (by committing suicide). [It is only such suicide that is reprehensible]. It is considered quite desirable in the case of old men suffering from incurable diseases given up by the physicians; as has been thus declared:—‘If an old man,—incapable of purification and memory, who has passed beyond the reach of the physician’s art,—kills himself by falling down from a precipice, or entering into fire, or by fasting, or by drowning in water,—in his case there is impurity for three days; his bones being collected on the second day, on the third day the water offering-should be made, and on the fourth day the Śrāddha should be performed’. Suicide is regarded as desirable also in the case of persons suffering from leprosy and such other diseases; as has been said in connection with men who, though still in the Householder’s state, have lost all energy,—‘Bent upon entering the Great Path, they do not wish to live on uselessly.’ That man is called ‘devoid of energy’ who is incapable of doing purificatory acts, as also saying the Twilight Prayers &c. Then again, in texts deprecating suicide, the words used are—‘if one whose body has not been emaciated, or who has not lost all energy, should kill himself &c. &c.’; which implies that it is permitted for those who are not such as here described.

Other Smṛti-texts prohibit the water-offering for other persons also. It has been thus declared—‘Those killed by kings, those killed by horned or fanged animals, or by serpents, and those who have abandoned themselves,—to these no Śrāddha is to be offered; and water, ball-offerings and other offerings that are made to the dead, all this does not reach them, it becomes lost in the intervening regions. Through fear of popular blame, one should make the Nārāyaṇa offering; and for the sake of these also food-grains, along with the additional fee, shall be given.’

Elsewhere again—

‘Sinful men meet death from the Cāṇḍāla, from water, from serpents, from Brāhmaṇas, from lightning and from fanged animals.’

It is also laid down that—

‘For incendiaries, for keepers of baths and makers of ornaments and for professional mourners, there is purification after the performance of two Taptakṛcchra penances. Hence for these no after-death rites shall be performed by others; even the name of such persons, or of their family, should not be pronounced. For truly fearful is the uttering of the name of such a great sinner, who has gone to the worst hells.’

It is in connection with the acts mentioned here that Saṃvartn has prescribed the ‘Sāntapana’ penance; and Parāśara has laid down the ‘Taptakṛcchra’; and Vaśiṣṭha has prescribed the ‘Cāndrāyaṇa’ along with the Taptakṛcchra’. But these differences may be ignored.

With reference to what has been said above regarding ‘the death of sinners’ resulting from ‘the Cāṇḍāla, from water &c. &c.,’ there arises the following question—“Does this rule, regarding the non-performance of the Śrāddha and the performance of penance, pertain to the Cāṇḍāla who kills himself intentionally?—or to one who is killed through carelessness, without intention?”

Why should this question arise?

(A) Well, Gautama (14.12) has said—‘In the case of those dying from hunger, by a weapon, by fire, by poison, in water, in prison, or from a precipice,—it is only when it is unintentional.’ While in the verse just quoted it is said simply, without any qualification ‘Those dying at the hands of the Cāṇḍāla &c.’ And on account of the necessity of reconciling this with what has been said in the other Smṛti text regarding the case of ‘dying in water’ &c., it must be ‘intentional death’ that is meant. And the idea arises that by reason of ‘association,’ the same should be the case with the others also.

(B) On the other hand, the verse quoted uses the term ‘sinful’; and all sinful act has been prohibited; he who does what is prohibited is called ‘sinful’. And a man becomes the ‘doer’ of an act through his own initiative, as also through the urging of another person. Now, death ‘from lightning, and the fanged and horned animals’ could never belong to the former category (i.e. this could never be intentional); and no one is ever urged by others to such death; nor are these means of dying employed by suicides, as holes, water and sword etc., are, and it is only if these were so, and the man were to kill himself by having recourse to these, that he could be the ‘self-sufficient agett (agent?),’ of the act of ‘dying.’ The truth therefore is that the man who comes by such death is understood to have been sinful in his previous life,—as is learnt from the scriptures; just as the possession of ‘black teeth’ and the rest. If it be asked—‘what is the use of this fact of the man’s having been sinful in the past being indicated?’ But in the case of persons with deficient limbs etc.,; their previous connection with sin is clearly indicated; and the expiatory rite to be performed in the case has been laid down by Vaśiṣṭha, as consisting, in the case of some men, of the performance of two Kṛcchras, and in that of others, of something more.

(C) In reality however, the suicide having died, can have nothing to do with the performance of any rites. Or, if he be regarded as having commited a grievous sin, then, any person who may have entered into any kind of relationship with him—marital, or friendly, or sacrificial,—would also have to be regarded as sinful. But such is not the usage of cultured men. For as a matter of fact, people having relationship with suicides are not looked down upon in any way; nor do they perform any expiatory rites.

From this it follows that what is meant is intentional death.

(D) Some people, having read, in another Smṛti text, the words—‘those killed by cows and Brāhmaṇas etc.’—read the words ‘those who have abandoned themselves’ apart by themselves, and seem to take up an entirely different position.

From all this (A, B, C and D) there arises the above-mentioned doubt—as to what is the right view.

The right view is that intentional suicides are what are meant;—why?—because of their being spoken of as ‘sinful.’ The man who intentionally proceeds to set into activity the causes leading to his own death, wilfully disobeys the law that ‘no man shall by his own desire, cut off his life-span and it is only right that such a transgressor should be spoken of as ‘sinful.’

“But it has been said and pointed out above that the causes of death spoken of do not resemble the sword and other things used by suicides; so that the intentional killing of oneself could not be meant.”

Our answer to this is as follows:—If a man does not guard himself against a danger, he is regarded to be as good as having brought it upon himself. So that if a man wanders about alone in a forest infested with cāṇḍālas and robbers,—even though he may not have the wish that they should kill him, yet—there is disobedience of scriptures on his part, since he acts in a way that invites danger, and he does nothing to avert that danger. Similarly with the man who goes to swim in the river, or enters a boat of doubtful capacity rowed by incompetent boatsmen. Under such circumstances, if by the loss of vigour, or by the turning over of the boat, the man should happen to die, it would be only right to regard him as having committed a sin. On the contrary, if persons were to bathe in water, whose depth they have duly ascertained by means of sticks etc., and of the presence wherein of alligators and other animals they, are ignorant,—and were to be carried away by any such animals, no blame would attach to them. Similarly if one gets into a boat, which is well-fastened, and rowed by capable rowers, and proceeds to cross a swift stream,—if, on the sudden rising of a strong wind, the boat happen to be tossed on a whril (whirl?)-pool and capsize, and the man become drowned,—he would not have transgressed the scriptures at all. Similarly again, if one did not carefully avoid places known to be infested with snakes, and being bitten by a snake were to die, he would have acted sinfully; not otherwise. Similarly if one does not run to a safe distance, on seeing a sharp-horned cow or an elephant, and become killed, he is rightly regarded as sinful. Similarly again if, when it is raining heavily and lightning is flashing, if one wanders about in desolate places and does not take shelter in a village or town,—his action is reprehensible. While if the lightning should, by chance, happen to fall upon a man who is in the village, there would be nothing sinful on the part of the man. For these reasons it is always right and proper that the man should do all that has been laid down (for his safety).

The prohibiting of ‘water-offerings’ should be taken as applicable to all kinds of after-death rites; for such is the view propounded in another Smṛti -text.—(88)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

(Verse 89 of others.)

This verse is quoted in Aparārka (p. 877);—in Madanapārijāta (p. 406), which adds the following notes:—‘Vṛthājātāḥ’ are those who do not perform the ‘Five Great Sacrifices’;—‘Saṅkarajātāḥ’ are those born of castes mixed in the reverse order;—in Smṛtisāroddhāra (p. 217), which reads ‘nivāpo na vidhīyate’ for the last foot and explains ‘nivāpaḥ’ as Śrāddha-Tarpaṇa’,—in Śuddhikaumudī, (p. 80), which explains ‘Vṛthāsaṅkarajāta’ as born of a lower caste father and higher caste mother;—and in Hāralatā (p. 202), which has the same explanation and adds that such persons are precluded from all religious acts; it adds the following remarks—Those born of higher caste father and lower caste mothers are not called ‘Vṛthāsaṅkarajāta’, as these persons are permitted to perform all religious acts to which their mother’s caste is entitled,—‘ātmatyāgin’ are those who have committed suicide by hanging or poison or some such means, or those who have renounced the duties of their caste.


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 5.88-89)

Viṣṇu (22.56).—‘Suicides and outcasts do not cause impurity or receive offerings of water.’

Yājñavalkya (3.6).—‘Those who have recourse to heretics, thieves, women who have killed their husbands, loose women, and women drinking wine, and women killing themselves, do not partake of impurity or of water-offerings.’

Vṛddha-Manu (Aparārka, p. 876).—‘Eunuchs and others should not make water-offerings, nor thieves and apostates, nor women who injure their embryo and husband, or drink wine.’

Vṛddha-Yājñavalkya (Do.).—‘Persons killed by lightning, bulls, kings, Brāhmaṇas, water, horned animals, tusked animals or fire, persons born in vain, the eunuch, and the religious student are not deserving of water-offerings.’

Āpastamba (Do., p. 877).—‘One who kills himself by means of fire, water and such things,—for him there is no impurity; nor should water be offered to him.’

Gautama (Do.).—‘For those who intentionally kill themselves by starvation, or weapons, or fire or poison, or water (there shall be no offering).’

Aṅgiras (Do.).—‘If one is killed, through carelessness, by fire, water and such things, for him impurity shall be observed and water-offerings made.’

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