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:

गुरुं वा बालवृद्धौ वा ब्राह्मणं वा बहुश्रुतम् ।
आततायिनमायान्तं हन्यादेवाविचारयन् ॥ ३५० ॥

guruṃ vā bālavṛddhau vā brāhmaṇaṃ vā bahuśrutam |
ātatāyinamāyāntaṃ hanyādevāvicārayan || 350 ||

Without hesitation one should strike an approaching desperado,—be he a preceptor, a child, or an aged man, or a highly learned Brāhmaṇa.—(350)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The author further points out that in one’s own defence a man should always fight.

That man is called a ‘desperado’ who is intent upon destroying one’s body, property, wife or children. Such a man one ‘should strike without hesitation.’

The mention of the ‘preceptor’ and the rest is purely by way of a commendatory declamation; the sense being—‘when even such persons deserve to be struck, what of others?’ As a matter of fact, in the case of the persons named, there is to be no killing, even though they be desperados; since from what has been said under the text—‘He shall never offend the teacher who explained the Veda, etc.’ (4.162)—it is clear that the striking of the preceptor is forbidden, even if he do harm.

It may be possible to construe the term ‘gurum’ with ‘ālatāyinam’;—hut in that case the two terms would mean ‘the great desperado’; so that the striking of desperados who are not ‘great’ would become precluded;—why?—because there is no other text (that would enjoin striking in their case).

“But there is the next verse—‘there is no sin in killing a desperado,’ which permits the killing of all desperados in general.”

Not so; because we do not find any injunctive word in the next verse, which, on that account is best taken as a declamatory supplement to the previous injunction (contained in the present verse).

The revered teachers have declared as follows:—Though, in reality, the injunction contained in the text is that ‘one should strike the desperado,’ and all the rest is merely declamatory,—yet it has to be taken as sanctioning the striking of the preceptor and other persons mentioned. Because the mere ‘malefactor’ (who is mentioned in 4.162, as not to be offended) is something quite different from the ‘desperado’;—one who inflicts an ordinary injury, which does not involve any serious harm to the body, etc., is the ‘malefactor’; while the ‘desperado’ is something totally different;—being described in the following words.—‘Ho who has lifted the sword, who is going to strike with poison or Are, who has raised his hands for the purpose of pronouncing a curse, who is going to kill by means of magic spells, who backbites against one to the king, who violates one’s wife, who is ever intent upon finding fault with one,—all these should be regarded as desperados?

Some people hold that—“from the use of the word ‘approaching’ in the text it would seem that the person who is rushing forward with uplifted sword, with a view to strike him, or one who is going to take away his wife, should be struck;—but when the injury has been done, he should ignore it.”

But this is not right; since in the next verse we find the phrase ‘openly or secretly,’ from which it is clear that the man who has done the harm, and he who is going to do it, both stand on the same footing. Hence the term ‘approaching’ must be taken as purely descriptive; whether he ‘approaches’ for doing harm, or after having done harm,—he is to be struck, because he is a ‘desperado; for the mere fact of his having done the act does not deprive him of the character of a ‘desperado.’ Further, the present text does not sanction the striking in one’s own defence only (in which case alone the above-mentioned meaning of the epithet would be applicable); since that has been already provided for in the foregoing verse.—(350)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

“According to Kullūka the condition is that one must be unable to save one self by fight;—according to Nārāyaṇa one must not wound such a man excessively.”—Buhler.

This verse is quoted in Madanapārijāta (p. 784), which adds the following explanation:—‘When even the Teacher and the rest, if they are assassins, may be slain—what to say of others;’—which only means that there is nothing wrong in the slaying of assassins other than the Teacher and the rest; it is not meant that these latter are to be slain; because we have the general prohibition that ‘no Brāhmaṇa shall be killed.’

It is quoted in Vyavahāramayūkha (p. 104);—in Aparārka (p. 627, and again at p. 1043);—in Vyavahāra-Bālambhaṭṭī—(p. 1011);—in Prāyaścittaviveka (p. 59), which says that ‘eva’ has been added for the purpose of emphasis;—and in Nītimayūkha (p. 77).


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 8.350-351)

Vaśiṣṭha (3.15-18). ‘They declare that the slayer commits no crime by slaying an assassin. They quote the following:—“An incendiary, a poisoner, one raising a weapon to strike, a robber, one who forcibly takes away land, abductor of another man’s wife,—these six are called Ātatāyin, Assassins. One may slay an assassin who comes with the intention of killing, even though he may be knowing the whole Veda along with the Upaniṣads; by that act one does not incur the guilt of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter. He who slays an assassin learned in the Veda and belonging to a noble family, does not incur, by that act, the guilt of murdering a learned Brāhmaṇa; as this is a case of fury recoiling on fury.”’

Baudhāyana (1-18.11-13).—‘One should not fight with...... Brāhmaṇas,—excepting assassins. They quote the following—“He who slays an assassin, who is able to expound the Veda and born in a noble family, does not, by that act, incur the guilt of killing a learned Brāhmaṇa; this being a case of fury recoiling on fury.”’

Viṣṇu (5.189-192).—‘Any man may unhesitatingly slay a man who attacks him with the intent to murder him, whether he be his spiritual teacher, young or old, or a Brāhmaṇa, or even a Brāhmaṇa versed in many branches of sacred knowledge. By killing an assassin who attempts to kill, whether in public or in private, no crime is committed by the slayer—fury recoils on fury. Assassins are of seven kinds—such as try to kill by the sword, or with poison, or with fire, such as raise their hand to pronounce a curse, such as recite a deadly incantation from the Atharva Veda, such as raise a false accusation reaching the ears of the King, and such as have illicit intercourse with another man’s wife. The same designation is given to other evil-doers who deprive others of their reputation or of their wealth, or who destroy religious merit by ruining pools and such things or property.’

Vyāsa (Aparārka, p. 1042).—‘Or an assassin advancing to strike one, even though he be fully learned in the Veda, if one strikes him, one does not incur the sin of Brāhmaṇa-killing. The following are to be regarded as assassins:—one raising the sword to strike, one going to administer fire or poison, one raising his hand to curse, one killing with magic rites, one back-biting to the King, one wresting another man’s wife.’

Bṛhaspati (Do.).—‘If one reviles on being reviled, or strikes on being struck, or kills one who is advancing to kill, one does not commit any offence.’

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