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:

शस्त्रं द्विजातिभिर्ग्राह्यं धर्मो यत्रोपरुध्यते ।
द्विजातीनां च वर्णानां विप्लवे कालकारिते ॥ ३४८ ॥
आत्मनश्च परित्राणे दक्षिणानां च सङ्गरे ।
स्त्रीविप्राभ्युपपत्तौ च घ्नन् धर्मेण न दुष्यति ॥ ३४९ ॥

śastraṃ dvijātibhirgrāhyaṃ dharmo yatroparudhyate |
dvijātīnāṃ ca varṇānāṃ viplave kālakārite || 348 ||
ātmanaśca paritrāṇe dakṣiṇānāṃ ca saṅgare |
strīviprābhyupapattau ca ghnan dharmeṇa na duṣyati || 349 ||

Twice-born persons shall carry arms: When religion is interfered with, when there is confusion among the twice-born castes caused by the exigencies of time,—(348) in his own defence, in cases of hindrance of sacrificial fees, in the case of outrages upon Brāhmaṇas and women,—if one strikes in the cause of right, he incurs no sin.—(319)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

(verses 8.348-349)

From what has been said above (in 4.36) regarding the carrying of ‘a bamboo-stick’ the carrying of weapon being permitted to a Vedic-scholar, it is just possible that when possessed of much physical strength, if he were to take up arms, he would be regarded as a desperado; hence for fear of his becoming a criminal, it would seem that the carrying of weapons is forbidden to him; it is in view of this idea that the present text sanctions the taking up or arms under certain circumstances—‘Twice-born persons shall carry arms.’

This sentence ends here (as a general permission); the rest (of the two verses) is to be taken along with —‘if one strikes in the cause of right, etc., etc.’ Thus there are two distinct sentences here.

Some people hold that arms are to be taken up only under the circumstances described hero (and hence they take the whole of the two verses as a single sentence). But according to this view, what would he the condition of the man who would be unexpectedly attacked by a desperado? Certainly desperados would not wait for him to take up arms.

Another interpretation possible is that—“when religion is interfered with, when there is confusion caused by exigencies of time, i.e., when things have become unsettled on the death of a king—one may take up arms; but at other tiroes the necessary protection would be afforded by the king himself.”

But in reality the king cannot spread out his hands and reach every individual person in the kingdom. There are some desperados who attack even the boldest, and the most trusted officers of the king; but they fear persons carrying arms.

For these reasons it is right that one should carry arms at all times.

The question arising—are arms to be carried only for the purpose of striking fear in the minds of people?—the answer is ‘no,’—‘if one strikes in the cause of right, he does not incur sin’;—i.e., what is permitted extends up to striking.

What Āpastamba (1.10.6) has declared—‘The Brāhmaṇa shall not take up a weapon even for the purpose of testing it’—prohibits the raising of weapons, when none of the mentioned occasions is present, and not the carrying of them; because weapons are unsheathed, when they are tested.

When religion is interfered with,’— when the performance of sacrifices and other religious rites is obstructed by some men.

When there is confusion among the castes’—absence of all restraint, admixture of castes, and so forth.

Caused by the exigencies of time,’—such as the death of the king, and such other calamities. On all these occasions one shall carry arms fur the protection of his properly and family.

Others hold that on the occasions stated, arms may be carried for the sake of other people also;—says Gautama (21.19)—‘Also when some one is striking a weaker man, if he is able to rescue him.’

Interference with religious rites, and confusion of castes having been already mentioned as occasions for taking up arms, the author proceeds to mention other occasions also—‘In his own defence’—i.e., for defending his own body, wife, children and property ,—against all kinds of danger—this is what is signified by the preposition ‘pari’ in the term ‘paritrāṇe’;—‘if one strikes, he incurs no sin.’

In cases of hindrance of sacrificial fees’—when other people are taking away the sacrificial fee set up in connection with a performance,—then one must fight, on that account.

Others construe the phrase to mean ‘when there is a strife for sacrificial fees’;—i.e., if some trouble arises over them.

In the case of outrage upon’—insult, ill-treatment of,—‘women and Brāhmaṇas,’—where modest women are being forcibly outraged, or killed; or where a Brāhmaṇa is being killed by some people,—‘if one strikes’ with the sword or some such weapon, ‘he incurs no sin.’ That is, this involves no transgression of the prohibition of causing injury to others.

If there was no prohibition, one might do as he liked; but when we look at other injunctions and ponder over the declaration of Gautama—‘One should take up arms when a weaker person is being struck, if he is able to rescue him,’—we understand that one must strike, under the circumstances. But if one fears that he may be struck hack, then he might ignore (what is happening to others), in accordance with the maxim that ‘one should guard himself against all dangers.’—(348-349).


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

(verses 8.348-349)

These verses are quoted half and half in Aparārka (p. 1043).

They are quoted in Madanapārijāta (p. 784), which adds the following notes :—‘Kālakārite viplave’, ‘if there is interference with the sacred duties due either to the tendencies of the king or to the tendency of the times,’—‘tat paritrāṇe saṅgare’, ‘if fighting ensues for the safety of those’;—‘abhyupapatti’ is ‘preservation’;—‘dharmeṇa’, ‘not by dishonest weapons or by dishonest methods.’

The first half of verse 348 is quoted in Mitākṣarā (2.286) in support of the view that, in certain cases—when, for instance, one finds the paramour with his wife, and there would be delay if he were to lodge a regular complaint before the king,—the man would be justified in taking up a weapon and killing the paramour. Bālambhaṭṭī explains the entire verse:—‘(1) When arrogant persons prevent Brāhmaṇas from performing their sacred duties; (2) when, on the waning of royal authority due to foreign invasion, one has to take care of himself, (3) when one has to enter a fray for the preserving of cows &c., (4) or for the safety of women and Brāhmaṇas;—if one fights in a lawful manner, he incurs no sin.’


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 8.348-349)

Baudhāyana (2.4-15).—‘They quote the following—“Out of regard for the sacred law, the Brāhmaṇa and the Vaiśya may take up arms for the protection of cows and Brāhmaṇas, or when a confusion of castes threatens to take place.”’

Vaśiṣṭha (3.24).—‘The Brāhmaṇa and the Vaiśya may take up arms in self-defence and in order to prevent the confusion of castes.’

Gautama (7.25).—‘If his life is threatened, even a Brāhmaṇa may use arms.’

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