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:

वैतानिकं च जुहुयादग्निहोत्रं यथाविधि ।
दर्शमस्कन्दयन् पर्व पौर्णमासं च योगतः ॥ ९ ॥

vaitānikaṃ ca juhuyādagnihotraṃ yathāvidhi |
darśamaskandayan parva paurṇamāsaṃ ca yogataḥ || 9 ||

He shall offer, according to rule, the sacrificial oblations, taking case not to omit the ‘Darśa’ and the ‘Paurnamāsa’ sacrifice.—(9)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Vitāna’, is vihāra, sacrifice; what pertains to it is ‘sacrificial’, ‘vaitānikam’; i.e., the rites pertaining to the Three Fires this he shall ‘offer’, perform.

The term ‘agnihotra’ primarily denotes the wild barley and other substances that are employed in sacrificial oblations; and it is not the name of a particular rite; it is in this sense that we have the term used as the object of the verb ‘shall offer’; and we get at the meaning that ‘he shall offer, by means of the Agnihotra and other rites, the oblations into the Āhavanīya Fire;’—it is in this way that the use of the verb ‘juhuyāt’, ‘shall offer’ becomes justified. In this explanation the word ‘agnihotra’ becomes synonymous with the denotation of the root ‘hu’, ‘to offer into the fire.’

Objection—“The text has just prescribed the optional alternative of committing his wife to his sons; in this case how can the man, in the absence of his wife, be entitled to the performance of śrauta rites? It might be said that ‘the man would be entitled to them in the same way as the man away from home is entitled; just as the man who is away from home, though at a distance from the Fires, is regarded as the performer of the rituals by reason of his having made arrangements for the offerings to be made by a proper substitute, in the same manner, in the case in question, when the man is starting for the forest, his wife shall permit him to carry on the rituals; and in this manner the joint character of the title would not be disturbed.’ But this cannot be right. The procedure of employing a substitute is permissible only in cases where the man is forced by human or divine agencies to go away from home, and not when he goes out of his own accord. Because in such a procedure, many of the details would become omitted, even though the man would be perfectly capable to accomplish them (if he himself remained at home); e.g. in connection with the Darśa-Paurnamāsa sacrifices it is laid down that the sacrificer shall make his wife repeat the mantravedo-si vittirasi, &c.’; and this would be omitted (during the sacrificer’s absence).

“It might be said that the rule laid down in the present verse may be taken as pertaining to the case where the householder is retiring to the forest along with his wife (and not when he is going alone, leaving her in charge of his sons). But this also is not possible; because we do not find any such restrictive specification. Further in connection with the contigency of leaving the wife behind, the scriptures have prescribed another method of disposing of the Fires (in the shape of the direction that they should be committed to the charge of the wife.)

“Then again, even if the rule wore taken as pertaining to cases where the wife accompanies the husband, the following direction (contained in verse 11) would not be relevant—‘With pure grains, fit for hermits, which grow in spring and in autumn, and which he has himself collected, he shall prepare the cakes and the boiled messes, according to law’;—the grains meant here are the wild ones, Nīvāra and the like, because he has been directed to relinquish all his village-belongings; and yet in the Veda cakes are laid down as to be made of Vrīhi and other grains, which are cultivated. Nor could the rite be completed by using any other pure grain, either in accordance with the maxim that ‘whatever is produced may be used’ (‘Utpannanyāya’), or in accordance with the law of options (Vrīhi-nyāya). Because any such grains it would be difficult for the wife to obtain. Lastly, the performance of the Agnihotra being a life-long duty, how can there be any relinquishing of that rite, or of the wife? From all this it is clear that the rule regarding the entering into the next stage of life is not compatible with the performance of the Sacrificial Acts.”

On this point a special effort has to be made (for reconciling the apparent discrepancy).

(A) Some people say that the term ‘sacrificial’ in the text has been used, by way of praise, for the smārta (not śrauta) rites; and in connection with the smārta rites there are no such scriptural restrictions as that cakes should be made of the Vrīhi and other cultivated grains only. In fact in connection with these rites it has been declared that—The deities of a man partake of the same food as the man himself’ (Vālmiki-Rāmāyaṇa Ajodhyā kāṇḍa). So that there would be nothing wrong if the Hermit performed these rites with ‘grains fit for the hermit.’ Even if this were incompatible with the injunctions regarding the use of Vrīhi and other cultivated grains, this incompatibility could be easily explained away.

“But even in this case there would be the law relating to the joint right of the husband and wife to the performance, which would be infringed by the man doing it when separated from his wife.”

Well, as regards the Vedic declaration—‘One shall offer sacrifices, when accompanied by his wife.’—this can pertain to śrauta rites only so that the said difficulty does not arise in connection with the smārta rites.]

(B) Another explanation is that the rule laid down in the present verse does not refer to the Householder’s Fire at all; it refers to what has been prescribed by Gautama (3.27) regarding ‘the kindling of fire in the month of Śrāvaṇa.’ In the present treatise also, the author is going to add the phrase ‘following the methods of the hermit’ (Verse 21). From all this it is clear that the rites referred to here are those that have been prescribed in the scriptures, as entirely apart from the rites relating to the Agnihotra, &c. And the terms ‘Darśa’ and ‘Paurṇamāsa’ too have been used only figuratively. Thus the said kindling of the Fire by the Hermit is to be done by him, without his wife. As regards the household Fires of the Agnihotra, the method of disposing of them is laid down (in verse 25 below) in the words—Having reposited the sacrificial fires in himself, &c. &c.’

As regards the contention based upon the life-long character of tbs Agnihotra- rite, that the abandoning of the Fires cannot be right,—we shall deal with this when we are considering the question of the sequence among the four life stages.

(C) Others again explain as follows:—What has been forbidden for the Hermit is the act of offering oblations of cultivated grains, and not that of employing these for the sake of the Deities.

“But the sacrificer has got to eat of what is offered to the gods, according to the law that the four priests, with the sacrificer as the fifth, partake of the sacrificial cake.”

True; but that eating is one that is prescribed by the scriptures, and not the ordinary one; and what has been forbidden under verse is the ordinary eating. And for purposes of the scriptural act, even if the man were to go into the village, there would he nothing wrong in this; in fact it is going to be declared below (verse 28) that—‘he may eat the food after having obtained it from the village.’

This however is not right; because of the express injunction that he is to make use of only such grains as arefit for hermits.’

Thus we find that the whole explanation regarding the text referring to the fire kindled during the month of Śrāvaṇa (explanation B above), and all that follows is not acceptable.

Further, verse 4 has spoken of the mantaking with himself the sacred fire’,—and not leaving it behind. As for its being committed to another person, it is going to be laid down that it is to be done either by the man who is going to die, or who is going out for the first time. Then again, the Turayāṇa and other rites that are prescribed (in verse 10) for the Hermit (and which are all Śrauta rites to be performed in the Śrauta Fire of the Agnihotra) cannot be explained, if the present verse refers to the fresh Smārta fire kindled in Śrāvana. In fact, this latter Fire-kindling could be done only by one whose wife has died,—such being the implication of the actual words laying it down. Or, it may be done in a case where the man retires to the forest immediately after Studentship-

From all this it follows that when an Agnihotrin retires to the forest, he shall do so along with the Fire, and accompanied by his wife.

In the forest, the rites are to be performed ‘according to law’, with Vrīhi and other grains; and these grains (though belonging to the cultivated category) may somehow or other be brought under the category (if ‘grains fit for hermits.’ Specialty as Vrīhi and Yava (which are cultivated grains) are (quite sacred.

For the man who has not maintained the Fire, the duty of ‘committing the Fires to his wife’ may be accomplished somehow with reference to the Fire kindled according to smārta rules. This would be only right, as both are ‘smārta’ acts. In the case of a man who has two wives, and one of these has taken charge of the Fires, the ‘committing of the wife to the children’ would apply to the second wife.

Not omitting.’—‘Omission’ is disobeying the Injunction; the non-performance of an act in the form in which it has been prescribed. This has been added only for the purpose of filling up the metre; similarly also the term ‘yogaṭaḥ’, ‘taking care.’ The construction is ‘yogataḥ askandayan’, ‘taking care not to omit’, i.e., carefully keeping up. Thecare’ here refers to the injunction ittelf—(9).


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Mitākṣarā (on 3.45) as indicating the purpose for which the Hermit is to carry with him his Śrauta Fire;—in Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 528);—and in Aparārka (p. 941).


Comparative notes by various authors

Baudhāyana (3.3.5-8, 20).—‘They offer Agnihotra in the evening and in the morning, give food to ascetics, guests and students and eat the remainder. They shall be sedulous in worshipping gods and Brāhmaṇas, in offering Agnihotra, and in practising austerities.’

Āpastamba (2.22.12).—‘He shall offer sacrifices.’

Vaśiṣṭha (9.10).—‘He shall offer the Agnihotra.’

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