Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi

by Ganganatha Jha | 1920 | 1,381,940 words | ISBN-10: 8120811550 | ISBN-13: 9788120811553

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:

देवराद् वा सपिण्डाद् वा स्त्रिया सम्यक्नियुक्तया ।
प्रजेप्सिताऽऽधिगन्तव्या सन्तानस्य परिक्षये ॥ ५९ ॥

devarād vā sapiṇḍād vā striyā samyakniyuktayā |
prajepsitā''dhigantavyā santānasya parikṣaye || 59 ||

On failure of issue, the woman, on being authorised, may obtain, in the proper manner, the desired offspring, either from her younger brother-in-law or from a ‘Sapiṇḍa’.—(59)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

This verse enjoins the practice of ‘Niyoga’, hemmed in by all its qualifications.

‘On failure of issue, the woman, on being authorised, may obtain, offspring in the proper manner,’—from her younger brother-in-law and others.

This ‘failure of issue’ is the ‘distress’ referred to under verse 56.

The term ‘issue’, ‘antāna’, here stands for the son; as regards the daughter, she is regarded asissue’ only when she has been ‘appointed,’ as it is only then that she carries on (‘santanoti’), perpetuates, her father’s family; which is not done by the daughter, in ordinary circumstances.

The ‘failure’ of such issue consists in no son being born, or in a son, though born, dying off, and in the non-appointment of a daughter (by the husband). We shall explain later on that the woman is not entitled to have an ‘appointed daughter’ or any other substitute for the son. She may, therefore bring forth a child only when authorised by her elders.

“Whence is the idea obtained that the authorisation is to be done by her elders?”

It is obtained from other Smṛti-texts. Or, the idea follows from the very name ‘niyoga’, ‘authorisation’. In ordinary parlance ‘authorisation’ is always understood as proceeding from a superior; when the teacher does the teaching, he is not spoken of as being ‘authorised’ by his pupil to do it; in fact it is the pupil that is spoken of as being ‘authorised’ to read and repeat the lessons.

The ‘elders’ meant here are the mother-in-law, the father-in-law, the younger brother-in-law and other persons belonging to her husband’s family,—and not the woman’s own father and other relations. Because if a child is born as the result of this ‘authorisation’, it is only the former who come to be known as ‘with offspring’, and who become benefitted by the after-death rites performed by that child.

“If that were the sole criterion, then, since the child’s maternal grandfather also would benefit by the rites performed by his grand-child, it would follow that the said ‘authorisation’ could be done by him also.”

This has been already answered by the explanation that those persons alone are to ‘authorise’ who would become known as ‘with offspring’ through the child born as the result of that authorisation. Further, when the verse speaks of the ‘younger brother-in-law’ and the ‘sapiṇḍa’, all persons belonging to the same gotra come to the mind. In the Mahābhārata also, in several places, it is shown that ‘authorisation’ can proceed only from the woman’s relations on the husband’s side. It is for this same reason that there is to be no ‘authorisation’ when the husband’s brother’s son is present.

“As a matter of fact, the benefits from the issue occur to only those persons who are ‘authorised’ to beget the offspring; in fact only those persons are entitled to ‘authorisation’ who are eager to obtain the benefits of the issue, in the shape of the love and satisfaction derived from the son. Thus then, no benefits can occur to one who is dead; how then can the child be said to be the ‘issue’ of the latter?”

Our answer to this is that the dead person also does obtain benefits, in the shape of the offering of libations and so forth; and that this is so is clearly asserted in authoritative texts. Though it is true that the dead person has not carried out the injunction regarding the begetting of a child; yet the scriptures clearly lay down that libations are offered to him by the child that may be begotten in the ‘soil’ belonging to him, (i.e. on his wife), according to the law of ‘authorisation’. And from this it follows that benefits for the issue do accrue to the dead father also. How this is we shall explain fully later on.

Younger brother-in-law’—the husband’s brother.

Sapiṇḍa’—a person belonging to the husband’s family. This is what is understood to be meant by the law in other Smṛti-texts regarding the child being obtained from any person ‘of the same caste’.

In the proper manner’.—This refers to the rules regarding the man annotating himself with clarified butter and so forth.

The desired offspring may be obtained’— The verbal affix has the force of the Injunctive. The term ‘desired’ indicates the capacity for fulfilling his duties; which implies that in the event of a girl or a blind or deaf son being born, the process of ‘authorisation’ may be repeated.—(59)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

(verses 9.59-60)

Santānasya’—‘Son, and also the appointed daughter’ (Medhātithi);—‘Son’ (Govindarāja and Rāghavānanda).

“This practice is forbidden in Āpastamba 2.27.2-7; if the husband is alive; but with the widow, it is expressly enjoined by Gautama 78.4 and 28.21-22, and Vaśiṣṭha 17.56. Nārada gives an elaborate account of the formalities. See Jolly, Recht. Stellung S. 18, where the passage is discussed.”—Hopkins.

This verse is quoted in Mitākṣarā (2.127) as propounding the practice of ‘niyoga’ for the purpose of forbidding it under verse 64 et seq.—Bālambhaṭṭī adds the notes:—‘Samyak,’ in accordance with the scriptures,—‘īpsitā,’ in the form of a son,—‘kṣaye,’ in the event of threatened extinction of the family; this means that the practice is sanctioned only under very abnormal circumstances;—‘vāg-yataḥ,’ silent;—it then goes on to quote Medhātithi.

(59) is quoted in Vivādaratnākara (p. 445)—and both the verses in Parāśaramādhava (Vyavahāra, p. 350); and in Vīramitrodaya (Saṃskāra, p. 737) which remarks that the term ‘vidhavā’ in this verse stands for the girl whose betrothed husband has died after the betrothal, but before actual marriage.

Both verses are quoted in Vyavahāra-Bālambhaṭṭī (p. 700);—in Nṛsiṃhaprasāda (Vyavahāra, p. 38a);—and in Smṛticandrikā (Saṃskāra, pp. 224-225), which explains the meaning as—“The widow, when directed by the father-in-law or other elders, may beget a desired (i.e., male) child from her husband’s (elder or younger) brother,—but only one; although some people hold that she may secure two sons.’


Comparative notes by various authors

(See below, verse 64 et seq.)

Gautama (18.4-7).—‘A woman whose husband is dead and who desires offspring may bear a son to her brother-in-iaw. She should obtain the permission of her elders and should have intercourse during her period only. On failure of her brother-in-law, she may obtain offspring from a Sapiṇḍa, a Sayotra, a Samānapravara or from one belonging to the same caste. Some people hold that she should do this with none hut her brother-in-law.’

Do. (28.22-23).—‘The widow may seek to raise up offspring to her deceased husband. A son begotten on a widow, whose brother-in-law is alive, by another relative, is excluded from inheritance.’

Baudhāyana (2.4.9-10).—‘After the expiry of six months from her husband’s death, she may, with the authority of her elders, bear a son to her brother-in-law, in case she has no son. They quote the following:—“A barren woman or one who has already borne sons, or one who is past childhearing, or one whose children are all dead, or one who is unwilling, must never be authorised or appointed to do this.”’

Vaśiṣṭha (17.56).—‘After the completion of six months from the death of her husband, she shall bathe, and offer a funeral oblation to the husband. Then her father and brother shall assemble the elders who taught or sacrificed for her husband, as also his relatives, and authorise her to raise issue to her deceased husband. One should not thus appoint a widow who is either mad or ill-behaved or diseased; nor one who is very aged;—sixteen years after maturity is the period for authorising a widow. Nor shall such an authorisation be made if the male entitled to approach her is sickly.’

Yājñavalkya (1.68-69).—‘If a widow is without a son, her brother-in-law, or a Sapiṇḍa or a Sagotra,—smeared with butter, shall approach her during her period, being authorised to do so by the elders, for the purpose of obtaining a son for her. He shall approach her only till conception has taken place; doing otherwise, he would become an outcast. The son born in this manner is called Kṣetraja.’

Bṛhaspati (25.12-14).—‘The Niyoga (authorisation of a widow to raise offspring to her deceased husband), after having been declared by Manu, has been forbidden by himself; on account of the deterioration in the nature of the time-cycles, this cannot he done by all in the proper form. In the Kṛta, Tretā and Dvāpara cycles, men were imbued with austerities and with knowledge; in the Kali cycle a deterioration in the capacity of men has been brought about. Therefore the sons that were obtained by various methods by the ancient sages cannot he obtained by men now, on account of their being without that capacity.’

Nārada (12.80-81).—‘Should the husband of a childless woman die, she should go to her brother-in-law, through desire to obtain a son, after having received the necessary authorisation from her elders;—and he shall have intercourse with her till a son is born. When a son is born, he must leave her. It would be sinful intercourse otherwise.’

Brahmapurāṇa (Aparārka, p. 97).—‘On the death of her husband, or on her having abandoned her husband, a woman may beget a son from a man of her own caste. If she is a child-widow, or has been forcibly abandoned by her husband, she shall go through the sacrament of marriage again, with any other man. But this remarriage of women, or the begetting of a son from the brother-in-law, or the freedom of women, should not be permitted during the Kali age; as during this age, men are inclined to be sinful.’

Āpastamba (2.27.2-4).—‘A husband shall not make over his wife, who occupies the position of a gentilis, to others (than to his gentiles), in order to cause children to be begotten for himself. For they declare that a bride is given to the family of her husband (and not to the husband alone). This is forbidden for the present age, on account of the incapacity of men’s senses.’

Yama (Vivādaratnākara, p. 446).—‘A man desirous of securing offspring for bis dead brother, may beget a child on his widow; he shall leave her as soon as conception has taken place; he shall never approach her after she has got a child.’

Kātyāyana (Do., 449).—‘After having carried out Niyoga, one should perform the prescribed penance for expiation.’

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