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...

Verse 8.41 [Knowledge of Law, Custom and Usage necessary for the King]

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation by Ganganath Jha:

जातिजानपदान् धर्मान् श्रेणीधर्मांश्च धर्मवित् ।
समीक्ष्य कुलधर्मांश्च स्वधर्मं प्रतिपादयेत् ॥ ४१ ॥

jātijānapadān dharmān śreṇīdharmāṃśca dharmavit |
samīkṣya kuladharmāṃśca svadharmaṃ pratipādayet || 41 ||

The king knowing his duty shall determine the law for each man, after haying duly examined the provincial laws pertaining to each caste, the law’s of guilds, as also the laws of families.—(11)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Kuru, Kāśī, Kaśmīra and other regions with fixed boundaries are called ‘provinces,’ and laws obtaining in those are called ‘provincial’; by which are meant those laws that are observed by the people living in the province and called after it. Or, the term ‘province’ may stand for the inhabitants of the provinces, just as the men on the platform are called the ‘platform,’ when it is said that ‘the platforms are crying’; and the laws observed by these people would, in that case, he called ‘provincial’;—the nominal affix ‘aṇ’ being added in accordance with Pāṇini 4.3.120.

The compound ‘Jātijānapadāḥ is to be compounded as ‘jāteḥ-jānapadāh’; the meaning being ‘those provincial laws that pertain to each caste’; and these have to be maintained by the king.

Having examined,’—i.e., duly considered the following points—(a) are these law’s contrary to the scriptures or not? (b) are they the source of trouble to some people or not?

After having duly considered all this, he shall ‘determine’—cause to be observed—those laws that are found, on examination, to be not incompatible (with the scriptures or with the people’s convenience); as it is going to be declared later on (verse 46)—‘What may have been practised by the good, etc., etc.’

Or, the compound ‘Jātijānapadāḥ’ may be expounded in such a manner as to make ‘jāti’ the qualification of ‘janapada’; the term ‘jāti’ in this case would indicate eternality, and would be only a laudatory epithet to ‘provincial laws’; the idea being that ‘just as genus is something eternal, so are the provincial laws also, in so far as they are not contrary to the scriptures’; all such visibly useful acts as the feeding of cattle, the storing of water in reservoirs and so forth being such as ought to be performed at all times.

Thus the meaning is that when the men of a certain village have laid down the rule that ‘cattle should not be taken to graze at such and such places,’ then if some one, for some purpose of his own, breaks this rule,—he shall be punished by the king.

Or, the term ‘jānapada’ may stand for those born in the province; i.e., the inhabitants of the province; and the compound ‘jātijānapadāḥ’ being expounded as ‘jātyā jānapadāḥ,’ and ‘jāti’ standing fot birth,—it would signify the eternal relationship between the province and the men born there; and the term ‘jātijānapadāḥ dharmāḥ’ would stand for those laws whose beginning cannot be traced, and which relate to the duly qualified persons among those born and living in a particular province. And though in this case the proper nominal affix to use would have been ‘cha’ (giving the form jānapadīya), according to Pāṇini 5.2.114, yet it is the ‘aṇ’-affix that has been used; this anomaly being permissible as a ‘Vedic anomaly.’

Or, it may be that the term ‘jātijānapadāḥ’ though directly denoting the inhabitants, has been applied here to their laws,—the two being regarded as identical; so that the phrase serves to restrict the scope of the law referred to,—this restriction being deduced from the men themselves; the sense thus is that the laws referred to pertain only to the men of certain localities, and not to all the Ārgas,—the former being such as have a morality akin to that of the lower animals, and not entitled to the performance of any other duties, they perform only such acts as are in keeping with their own customs; such, for instance, as the marrying of their own mother and so forth;—and as such in the performance of such acts, these men shall not be prevented by the king having his sway over the whole world (thence also over the barbarians); because such practices ane permitted by their ‘tribal custom,’ sanctioned by the geographical position oi the locality inhabited by them. Nor could such practices he regarded as ‘contrary to the scriptures’; because the incompatibility of scriptures has a meaning only for persons entitled to the scriptural acts, and not to lower beings.

An objection is raised—“In Manu (10.63), such duties as h armlessness, truthfulness, absence of anger, purity and control of the senses have been laid down in reference to the irregularly mixed castes; and barbarians also belong to the same category as those castes; so that if such men would not he committing something wrong in marrying their mother, or in not using water after urinating, what sort of ‘control of the senses’ or ‘purity’ would there be for them?”

This has been already answered. Purity and other duties pertain to the inhabitants of the whole of Āryāvarta; and so far as the four castes are concerned, there is no restriction of place regarding the duties pertaining to them.

Some people have held that the restriction as to the locality of the ‘laws’ pertains to some transcendental results;—as we shall point out later on.

There are people following a common profession; such, as tradesmen, artisans, money-lenders, coach-drivers and so forth; and the laws governing these are ‘guild-laws.’ E.g., certain principal tradesmen offer to the king his royal tax fixed upon verbally by their declaring before the king—‘we are living by this trade, let the tax thereupon be fixed at such and such a rate, be our profits more or less’; now on the king agreeing to this, they join together and lay down certain rates among themselves, which are calculated to bring thorn larger profits and likely to be detrimental to the interests of the kingdom,—e.g., (a) ‘Such and such a commodity should not be sold during such and such a time,’ (a) ‘such and such is to be the tax payable either to the king or towards the celebration of some religious festival,’ and so forth. And if any one transgresses such rules, he shall be punished for acting against ‘guild-laws.’

Laws of families’;—‘Family’ means race; some remote ancestor of well-known fame may have laid down the rule—‘whenever any of my descendants earns wealth, he shall not make use of it without having first given something out of it to Brāhmaṇas’;—and such rules are what are meant by ‘laws of families’; or such rules as ‘priests and bridegrooms shall be selected out of those same families out of which they have been selected by one’s forefathers, provided that suitable men are available therefrom.’ One who acts against such laws shall be punished by the king.

These have been reiterated here with a view to preclude the idea that such laws govern only particular groups of men and as such cannot he regarded as ‘Equity’ proper.

The transgression of these laws does not fall within the category of ‘Breach of Contract,’ as we shall show later on.—(41).


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Jānapada’—‘Of districts’ (Medhātithi, and Kullūka Govindarāja);—‘of the inhabitants of one and the same village’ (Nārāyaṇa).

The customs here referred to are those that are not repugnant to the Scriptures (Medhātithi, Govindarāja, Kullūka and Rāghavānanda).

This verse is quoted in Smṛticandrikā (Vyavahāra, p. 65), which has the following notes:—‘Śreṇi-dharma’ customs established among such communities as those of the tradesmen and artisans, e.g., ‘such and such things are not to be sold on such a day’,—‘Kuladharma;’ e.g., ‘in this family the piercing of the ears is to be done in the fifth year’in Kṛtyakalpataru (p. 6b);—and in Vīramitrodaya (Vyavahāra, p. 9b), which has the following notes:—‘Jātijānapada’, laws relating to tribes, castes and to localities,—‘Śreṇī’ stands for the corporation of persons belonging to the same profession,—‘Svadharma’, the law promulgated by the king himself.


Comparative notes by various authors

Gautama (11.10, 11, 20, 21).—‘Those who leave the path of duty, he shall lead back to it;—for it is declared that he obtains a share of the spiritual merit gained by his subjects. The laws of countries, castes and families, which are not opposed to the scriptures, also have authority. Cultivators, traders, herdsmen, money-lenders and artisans have authority to lay down regulations for their respective classes.’

Āpastamba (2.15.1).—‘The above considerations dispose also of the law of custom which is observed in countries or families.’

Bodhāyana (1.2.1-8).—‘There is a difference of opinion regarding live practices in the South and in the North. He who follows those practices in any other country than where they prevail, commits sin; for each of those practices, the custom of the country should he the authority. Gautama declares that this is wrong; and one should not take heed of any of these practices, because they are opposed to the traditions of the cultured.’

Vaśiṣṭha (1.17).—‘Manu has declared that the peculiar laws of countries, castes, and families may he followed in the absence of revealed texts.’

Do. (19.7).—‘Let the King, paying attention to all the laws of countries, castes and families, make the four castes fulfil their particular duties.’

Viṣṇu (3.3).—‘To keep the four castes and the four orders firm in the practice of their several duties.’

Yājñavalkya (1.360).—‘Families, castes, guilds, corporations and the provinces,—when those deviate from the paths of their duty, the King should check them and bring them round to the right path.’

Śukranīti (4.5.89-91)—‘The King should perform his duty by carefully studying the customs that are followed in countries and are mentioned in the scriptures, as well as those that are practised by castes, villages, corporations and families. Those customs that have been introduced in the country, caste or race should be maintained in the same condition; for otherwise the people get perplexed.’

Nārada (1.7).—‘Families, guilds, corporations, one appointed by the King and the King himself are invested with the power to decide law-suits,—each succeeding one being superior to the one preceding in order.’

Bṛhaspati (1.26-30).—‘Cultivators, artisans, artists, money-lenders, persons belonging to particular religious sects and robbers should adjust their disputes according to the rules of their own profession. The King shall cause the disputes of ascetics and of persons versed in sorcery and witchcraft to be settled by persons familiar with the three Vedas, and not decide them himself, for fear of rousing their resentment. Relatives, companies of artisans, assemblies, and other persons duly authorised by the King should decide law-suits among men, excepting causes concerning violent crimes; Meetings of Kindred, companies of artisans, assemblies and chief judges are declared to he the resorts for the passing of sentences,—to whom he whose cause has been previously tried may appeal in succession.’

Bṛhaspati (2.26.28).—‘When a decision is passed in accordance with local custom, logic or the opinion of traders, the issue of the case is over-ruled by it. When the King, disregarding established custom, passes sentence, it is called the edict of the king, and local custom is over-ruled by it. The time-honoured institutions of each country, caste and family should be preserved intact; otherwise the people would rise in rebellion.’

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