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:

वाणिज्यं कारयेद् वैश्यं कुसीदं कृषिमेव च ।
पशूनां रक्षणं चैव दास्यं शूद्रं द्विजन्मनाम् ॥ ४१० ॥

vāṇijyaṃ kārayed vaiśyaṃ kusīdaṃ kṛṣimeva ca |
paśūnāṃ rakṣaṇaṃ caiva dāsyaṃ śūdraṃ dvijanmanām || 410 ||

He shall make the Vaiśya to carry on trade, money-lending, agriculture,—and cattle-trading; and the Śūdra to perform service for the twice-born castes.—(410)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Some people explain this text as follows:—“The Vaiśya and Śūdra should he made to do the work here mentioned, even though they be unwilling to do so; since such is their duty. Even though the law is laid down for a visible purpose, yet from the very nature of the restrictive injunction, it has to be regarded as indicating a transcendental result also. Such being the sense of the text, it comes to this that the Brāhmaṇa also should he forced to accept gifts. If it be held that such acceptance has heen held, in certain cases, to be improper, then the same may be said regarding the case in question also.”

This however is not right. What the injunction contained in the verse does is to lay down the methods to be adopted by certain men if they are desirous of acquiring wealth; and it does not mean that they must act as here laid down. man’s activity is not always determined by injunctions; i.e., there is no need for an injunction in a case where there is some motive already present. It is only in the restriction that lies the use of the injunction; and the restriction in the present case is that it is the Vaiśya only who should be made to carry on trade; so that if any other man do that work, except in times of distress, he should be punished by the king. Similarly it is the Brāhmaṇa only who should accept gifts; but if he happens to be contented, he may desist from receiving gifts, though quite capable of receiving them. As regards the statement in verse 412 below, that is purely declamatory. Similarly it is the Śūdra only who should be made to perform service; and so on, the sense of the restriction may easily he explained—(410)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Vivādaratnākara (p. 625).


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 8.410-418)

Nārada (18.4-6).—‘Sinful confusion of castes, the rules regarding their means of subsistence and other subjects have been dealt with in the Miscellaneous Chapter. The King shall he careful to protect all orders and the constituent elements of his state with the four means indicated by science. When any caste remains behind the rest, or exceeds the limits assigned to it, the King, seeing that it has strayed from its path, shall bring it back to the path of duty.’

Gautama (8.1-3).—‘A king and a deeply read Brāhmaṇa are the upholders of moral order in the world; on them

depends the existence of the fourfold human race, of conscious beings, of those that move on feet and on wings, and of those which creep—as well as the protection of the offspring, the prevention of the confusion of castes and the sacred law.’

Vaśiṣṭha (1.39-41).—‘The three lower castes shall live under the guidance of the Brāhmaṇa;—he shall declare their duties;—and the King shall govern them accordingly.’

Hārīta (Vivādaratnākara, p. 626).—‘The King is the ruler of men, in regard to favours and punishments; he keeps in check people prone to transgress the bounds of propriety and to misappropriate the property and wives of others.’

Kātyāyana (Do., 152).—‘The three lower castes may take to slavery, but never the Brāhmaṇa. Among the various castes, the lower can be a slave to the higher, but never the higher to the lower. Among, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and Śūdras there may be slavery among members of the same caste, but a Brāhmaṇa should never be made to work as a slave. If a Brāhmaṇa is made to work as a slave, the King’s glory fades away.’

Nārada (Do., pp. 144-145).—‘These first four kinds of slaves are never freed from slavery, except through the masters’ favour. Of slaves, there are fifteen varieties—(1) one born in the masters’ house, (2) bought, (3) obtained as present, (4) inherited, (5) saved from starvation during a famine, (6) one kept in pledge, (7) acquired by freeing him from debt, (8) won in battle, (9) won by betting, (10) one who has surrendered himself, (11) one fallen from renunciation, (12) one who has become a slave for a limited period, (13) slave for fooding, (14) one who has accepted slavery through his love for a slave-girl, and (15) one who has sold himself.’

Arthaśāstra (p. 80).—‘If one puts up for sale a Śūdra who is a minor or who is the very life of an Ārya, one shall be fined 12 Paṇas; one who puts up a Vaiśya, 24 Paṇas; a Kṣatriya, 36 Paṇas; a Brāhmaṇa, 48 Paṇas. This applies to cases where the boy is put up by his own relatives. If it is done by strangers, the penalty shall be the three kinds of Death; also for the buyers and those who witness the transaction. For the Mlecchas there is no offence, if they sell or pledge their offspring; but an Ārya can never be a slave.’

Śukranīti (4.5.579).—‘The wife, the son and the slave,—these three have no property; whatever they earn is the property of those to whom they belong.’

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