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:

पिता रक्षति कौमारे भर्ता रक्षति यौवने ।
रक्षन्ति स्थविरे पुत्रा न स्त्री स्वातन्त्र्यमर्हति ॥ ३ ॥

pitā rakṣati kaumāre bhartā rakṣati yauvane |
rakṣanti sthavire putrā na strī svātantryamarhati || 3 ||

The father guards her during virginity, the husband guards her in youth, the sons guard her in old age; the woman is never fit for independence.—(iii).


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Guarding’ here stands for averting of trouble,—‘trouble’ consisting in suffering caused by the transgression of the right course of conduct, by illegal appropriation of property and so forth; and the ‘averting’ of this consists in warding it off. This should be done by the father and others.

The Present tense in ‘guards’ has the force of the Injunctive; such use being a Vedic idiom; hence the word ‘guards’ should be taken to mean ‘should guard’.

The mention of the three stages of her life separately is only meant to show on whom lies the greater responsibility during a certain period of the woman’s life. In reality all the male relatives are equally responsible for her safety.

Virginity’—stands for the period preceding her being given away in marriage.

Smilarly ‘youth’ stands for the period during which her husband is alive.

Thus the words of the text are only reiterative of the actual state of things; the sense being that the woman shall be guarded by that man under whose tutilage she may he living at the time. It is for this reason that even during her husband’s life-time, the responsibility for the woman’s protection rests upon her father and her son also. This is what has been declared in the laws of Manu; which means that all of them shall guard her at all times; and this has not been stated in so many words, as that would have made the text prolix.

“What is asserted here has been already declared above, under 5. 147.”

Not so; ‘independence’ is one thing and ‘guarding’ is another. 5.147 has declared that woman shall not be ‘independent’, while the present text lays down that she shall be ‘guarded’, as a matter of fact even while the woman is ‘dependent’ upon some one else, she may be open to danger, which has got to be averted.

“But in the present text also it is said that ‘the woman is not fit for independence.”

Our answer to this is that the present text does not lay down that she shall not be independent in regard to anything at all; all that it means is that her mind being not quite under her control, she is not capable of guarding herself, specially as she does not possess the requisite strength. Under discourse V on the other hand, the absence of ‘independence’ laid down is in regard to something totally different (i.e. her property).—(3).


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Prāyaścitta, p. 286);—in Vivādaratnākara (p. 410);—in Vyavahāra-Bālambhaṭṭī (p. 608);—in Nṛsiṃhaprasāda (Saṃskāra 66b);—and in Saṃskāraratnamālā (p. 674).


Comparative notes by various authors

Mahābhārata (13.46.14).—(Same as Manu.)

Baudhāyana (2-3.45).—‘They quote the following:—“Their father protects them in childhood, their husband protects them in youth, and their sons protect them in old age; a woman is never lit for independence.”’

Vaśiṣṭha (5.3).—‘They quote the following:—“Their fathers protect them in childhood; their husbands protect them in youth; and their sons protect them in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.”’

Viṣṇu (25.13).—‘To remain subject, in her infancy to her father, in her youth, to her husband, and in her old age to her sons.’

Yājñavalkya (1.85-86).—‘The father shall guard her while she is a maiden, her husband, when she has been married, and her son in old age; in the absence of these, her relations; there is no independence for the woman at any time. When deprived of her husband, she shall never live apart from her father, mother, son, brother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, or maternal uncle.’

Smṛtyantara (Aparārka, p. 109).—‘When there is no one left in the two families (of her father and of her husband), the King becomes the master and supporter of the woman; he shall support her and punish her if she deviates from the path of duty.’

Nārada (Vivādaratnākara, p. 410).—‘Women, even though born of noble families, become ruined by independence; that is why Prajāpati has ordained that they shall not be independent.’

Nārada (Vivādaratnākara, p. 111).—‘On the death of her husband, if the widow is without a son, the members of her husband’s family shall be her masters; they shall take it upon themselves to protect and support her. If the husband's family has perished, and not a single member of it is left, her father’s family shall be her master. When there is no one left in either of the two families, the King becomes her lord and protector; it is for him to protect her and punish her if she deviates from the right path.’

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