Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi

by Ganganatha Jha | 1920 | 1,381,940 words | ISBN-10: 8120811550 | ISBN-13: 9788120811553

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:

कृत्स्नं चाष्टविधं कर्म पञ्चवर्गं च तत्त्वतः ।
अनुरागापरागौ च प्रचारं मण्डलस्य च ॥ १५४ ॥

kṛtsnaṃ cāṣṭavidhaṃ karma pañcavargaṃ ca tattvataḥ |
anurāgāparāgau ca pracāraṃ maṇḍalasya ca || 154 ||

—also upon the entire ‘eight-fold business,’ and on the ‘five-fold group’ in its real character, on affection and disaffection, and on the conduct of his ‘circle’.—(154)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Eight-fold business’.—Either (A)—

  1. undertaking of what has not been done,
  2. the doing of what, has not been done,
  3. the refining of what has been done,
  4. the acquiring of the fruits of the act,
  5. conciliating,
  6. alienating,
  7. giving
  8. and employing force;

or (B)—

  1. Trade,
  2. building of embankments and bridges,
  3. fortification,
  4. repairing of fortifications,
  5. elephant-catching,
  6. mine-digging,
  7. colonising uninhabited places
  8. and clearing of forests.

Others quote the following two verses of Śukra, in explanation of what constitutes the ‘eight-fold business’—“

  1. Acquiring,
  2. (and) spending,
  3. dismissing,
  4. (and) forbidding,
  5. propounding of the right course of conduct,
  6. investigating cases,
  7. inflicting punishments,
  8. and imposing purificatory penances;

—the king, ever intent upon these, is said to carry on his ‘eight-fold business’; he who duly performs this eight-fold business is honoured by his enemies and goes to heaven.

In this quotation—

  1. ‘acquiring’ means the receiving of revenues;
  2. ‘expenditure’ stands for gifts to servants;
  3. ‘dismissing’ for getting rid of wicked servants;
  4. ‘forbidding’ for the checking of the improper activities of his officers;
  5. ‘propounding of the right course of conduct’ for the checking of improper conduct;
  6. ‘investigation of cases’ for the settling of doubts arising in regard to the duties of the several castes and orders;
  7. ‘inflicting of punishment,’ for what is done in the case of disputes among his subjects;
  8. and ‘purificatory penances’ for those that have to be done in connection with mistakes due to want of care.

All this constitutes the ‘eight-fold business

Five-fold group’.—This stands for the five kinds of spies, disguised as—

  1. a scholar,
  2. a fallen ascetic,
  3. a householder in distress,
  4. a merchant in trouble,
  5. and a hermit.

The term ‘scholar’ here stands for forward students advertising themselves as knowing the highest law; the spy who goes about thus disguised should be honoured by the minister with presents and marks of honour, and addressed thus—‘Putting your trust upon the king and on myself, you should report whatever wrong you happen to discover.’

(2) The ‘fallen ascetic’ is one who has fallen off from the state of the true Renunciate; he is one who is endowed with intelligence and purity; and he should take up service as a body-servant in a place where there is plenty of gold and where there is every possibility of vast gifts of food-grains being made; he shall also carry the fruits of agriculture to all wandering mendicants, enough to supply them with food, clothing and home; among these those that might be seeking a livelihood, these he should alienate; and in this manner the work of his employer, the king, should be done. Such a spy shall present himself at the time of the distribution of fooding and wages; and all wandering mendicants would, in this fashion, become alienated from their duties.

(3) ‘The householder in distress’,—is the agriculturist reduced to poverty, who is clever and pure. He should do the work of cultivation on a piece of land, such as described above.

(4) The ‘merchant in trouble’ is the trader, clever and pure, but reduced to poverty; he should do the work of trading, in a place, such as described above.

(5) The disguised ‘ascetic’ is one who is either completely shaven or wears matted locks, and goes about seeking a living. He should take up lodgings dose by the city, accompanied by a large number of clean-shaven disciples, openly living upon a handful of herbs or barley-corn, taken at the interval of thirty days, but secretly eating to his heart’s content; his disciples, also disguised as ascetics, shall proclaim to the people that he is possessed of great occult powers, and thereby obtain presents of money; and under his influence the king’s confidential ministers would disclose to him projected burnings, danger from thieves, the projected killing of wicked persons or news from foreign countries,—saying ‘this will happen either to-day or tomorrow’, ‘the king is going to do this and that’, and so forth.

Under the other king there would be certain persons studying the science of genealogy, the Saṅgavidyā (?), the science of putting to sleep (Jambhakavidya?), the processes of magic, the duties of the several orders, the science of omens; and all such persons the king shall get over to his own kingdom through the above-mentioned five kinds of spies. Among the ministers, priests, army commanders, princes, wardens, inner guards and others belonging to the other king,—he shall, under the disguise of ordinary citizens, introduce his own trusted ministers, who are experts in tricks, disguises, arts and languages; similarly he shall also depute the humpbacked, the dwarf, the forester, the dumb, the idiot, the deaf, the blind, the actor, the dancer, the singer and others, as also women capable of entering the harem; along the forests foresters should be appointed, and in villages villagers, all ostensibly engaged in their own business and wholly immersed in these; and all these shall be in constant communication with persons of their own kind. Similarly with persons capable of moving in water, who should go about secretly, and hold secret commissions.

Having appointed this ‘five-fold group’, he shall, through these, learn all about ‘affection and disaffection’ among the people of the other king, as also among his own priests and ministers.

He shall also ponder over the ‘conduct of his circle’,—i.e., the tendency to peace and war of his provincial governors.—(154)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Aṣṭavidham karma’—Medhātithi offers three explanations:—(A)—(1) Conciliation, (2) Division, (3) Force, (4) Presents, (5) Attempting the undone, (6) Completing what is done, (7) Bettering what is completed, (8) Consolidating the fruits of the operation;—(B) (1) Trading routes, (2) Bridgemaking, (3) Fortification, (4) Strengthening of forts, (5) Elephant-catching, (6) Mining, (7) Settling unpopulated tracts, and (8) Clearing forests;—(C)—(1) Revenue-collection, (2) Expenditure, (3) Dismissing undesirable servants, (4) Prohibiting of wrong, (5) Deciding difficult points, (6) Inspection of judicial affairs, (7) Inflicting of punishments, (8) prescribing purificatory penances.—Of these (B) is adopted by Nandana, and (C) by Govindarājā, Kullūka, Nārāyaṇa and Rāghavānanda.

This verse is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 411), which explains that the ‘eightfold business’ has been described by Uśanas, and it quotes the verses cited by Medhātithi, to which it adds the note that ‘śuddhi’ is ‘expiatory penance.’ It proceeds to explain pañcavarga as standing for (1) kāpālika, beggar (2) dāmbhika, the hypocrite, (3) gṛhapati, the householder (4) vaidehaka, and (5) the disguised hermit; it goes on to point out that it may stand for—(1) The commencement of an operation, (2) the supply of men, (3) supply of material, (4) precautionary measures and (5) success.

It is quoted in Vīramitrodaya (Kājanīti, p. 159), where also the verses of Uśanas are quoted, to which the following explanatory notes are added:—‘Ādānam’—i.e., of taxes and other dues,—‘visarga’, ‘making gifts of wealth,’—‘praiṣa’ is the activity of the Minister and others relating to temporal and spiritual matters,—‘niṣedhaḥ’, prohibiting of inimical acts,—‘anuvacana’, ‘the king’s orders regarding doubtful points’—and ‘śuddhi’ is ‘expiatory penance.’—it explains ‘pañcavarga’ as consisting of—(1) allies, (2) means of success, (3) apportionment of time and place, (4) prevention of trouble and (5) success.

It is quoted again in the same work, on page 317, where also the same verses from Uśanas are quoted, but with a fuller explanatory note:—‘Ādānam’ is ‘collection of revenue and other dues’,—‘visarga’ is ‘the giving away of prizes and other presents’,—‘preṣa’ is the deputing of servants (v.l. praiṣa) and others,—‘arthavacana’ is ‘taking of measures for amassing wealth’,—some works read, for ‘arthavacanam’, ‘anuvacanam’, which means ‘the king’s orders on doubtful points’,—‘śuddhi’ regarding Punishments, consists in their being inflicted in accordance with law; and that regarding the ‘Self’ consists in expiatory penances.—Next it quotes Medhātithi’s first explanation (A) of the ‘eightfold business and then proceeds to explain ‘pañcavarga’ (of the text) as meaning the ‘group consisting of five spies’, as follows:—(1) Those trustworthy persons who are experts in geography, arts, languages and so forth, (2) those disguised as dwarfs, foresters, dumb and deaf, insane or blind, (3) dancers, musicians, and singers, (4) Ascetics and so forth. It then quotes the other explanation of ‘pañcavarga’ as consisting of allies and the rest (see above). ‘Aparāgaḥ’ (of the text) means ‘disaffection’; the sense being that the king should make it his business to learn everything regarding the affection and disaffection that there may be among Ministers, Priests, the Commander-in-Chief, the Heir Apparent, the Porter and others.


Comparative notes by various authors

Pracetas (Vīramitrodaya-Rājanīti, p. 159).—‘Acquiring, spending, directing, forbidding, proclaiming, investigating suits, punishing and expiating,—are the eight functions of the king; by fulfilling these eight functions the king goes to Heaven and is honoured by Indra.—Assistants, means of accomplishment, division of place, division of time, and remedy for troubles,—these are the five elements of success.’

Uśanas (Parāśaramādhava, p. 411).—(Same as above.)

Arthaśāstra (p. 75).—‘The five subjects for consultation are—(1) the means of commencing operations, (2) the supply of requisite men and material, (3) adjustment of time and place, (4) the remedy of troubles, and (5) success.’

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