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:

शुल्कस्थानेषु कुशलाः सर्वपण्यविचक्षणाः ।
कुर्युरर्घं यथापण्यं ततो विंशं नृपो हरेत् ॥ ३९८ ॥

śulkasthāneṣu kuśalāḥ sarvapaṇyavicakṣaṇāḥ |
kuryurarghaṃ yathāpaṇyaṃ tato viṃśaṃ nṛpo haret || 398 ||

The king shall take one-twentieth of the price of saleable commodities, that may be fixed by men who have experience of custom-houses and are experts in all kinds of merchandise.—(398)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Custom houses’ are those places where duties and tolls are realised, as fixed by the king and the merchants in accordance with the special conditions of each country. Those who have experience of these are the ‘custom-house officials’; these men cannot be hoodwinked by clever rogues.

Similarly there are men who are ‘experts in all kinds of merchandise,’ i.e., who know all about the demand and supply, the good and bad qualities and such details regarding all commodities.

When things are brought by merchants in boxes from other countries, the said experts fix their prices; and of this price the king shall take the twentieth part.

“What is the use of the valuation? It would be enough to say that the king shall receive the twentieth part of each commodity.”

This would be all right in cases where the king realises his dues in kind. But in the case of such cloth-pieces as are used in the form in which they are sold, the twentieth part could not be taken without tearing each piece. Hence it is that valuation becomes necessary.

In the case of unsaleable commodities, or of articles meant for personal use, there are no duties, hence the text adds the term ‘yathā-paṇyam,’ ‘saleable commodities.’

The valuation has to be done in accordance with several considerations of time, place and other circumstances; for instance, all commodities do not sell at the same price at all times; so that the price of any article cannot be regarded as fixed for all time.—(398)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Tataḥ’—‘Of the amount thus fixed’ (Medhātithi);—‘out of the profit on that amount’ (Kullūka).

This verse is quoted in Vivādaratnākara (p. 304), which remarks that this refers to commodity. imported from other countries;—in Aparārka (p. 833);—in Vīramitrodaya, (Rājanīti, p. 164), which adds that, though from the words it would seem that the twentieth part of the value of the commodity is meant, yet, in fact, it is of the profit over and above the value fixed; for if the king were to take the twentieth part of the value, then the trader would have no profit at all, and his business would be ruined;—and in Vyavahāra-Bālambhaṭṭī, (p. 954.)


Comparative notes by various authors

Yājñavalkya (2.261).—‘The King shall take as duty the twentieth part of the price fixed for each commodity.’

Gautama (10.26).—‘In the case of merchandise one-twentieth should be paid as duty.’

Baudhāyana (1.18.14-15).—‘The duty on goods imported by sea is, after deducting a choice article, ten Paṇas in the hundred. He shall also lay just duties on other marketable goods, according to their intrinsic value, without oppressing the traders.’

Arthaśāstra (I, p. 241).—‘The trade-commissioner shall keep himself informed of the prices and the demand for commodities got out of the earth and those got out of the water, imported by land and by water;—also of the time for their collection and disposal. Of such commodities as are found in large quantities, he shall fix the price after collecting them in one place. Of commodities produced in his own country, the commissioner shall establish an emporium with a single outlet; of those imported from outside, there shall be an emporium with several outlets; and the sale of those kinds of commodities shall he so arranged as to be most helpful to the people of the country. Even large profits he shall forego if it injures the people...... In the case of commodities sold by measures of capacity, 16 per cent, shall be the duty payable to the King; 20 per cent, in the case of things sold by weight; 11 per cent, in that of things sold by the number. Exports from outside he shall encourage by favourable treatment. To sea-going and land merchants he shall grant concessions and advances and help in other ways.’

Viṣṇu (Vivādaratnākara, p. 304),—‘In the case of commodities produced in the country itself, the King shall levy a duty in the shape of the tenth part; and in that of those imported from outside, the twentieth part.’

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