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...

Verse 9.166 [The Twelve Kinds of Sons defined]

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation by Ganganath Jha:

स्वक्षेत्रे संस्कृतायां तु स्वयमुत्पादयेद् हि यम् ।
तमौरसं विजानीयात् पुत्रं प्राथमकल्पिकम् ॥ १६६ ॥

svakṣetre saṃskṛtāyāṃ tu svayamutpādayed hi yam |
tamaurasaṃ vijānīyāt putraṃ prāthamakalpikam || 166 ||

Him whom a man himself begets in his own sanctified ‘soil,’—one shall know as the ‘body-born’ (legitimate) son, (declared) to be the first in order.—(166)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The term ‘own’ here denotes ownership, and not the character of belonging to the same caste. Thus, the meaning is that the ‘body-born’ son is one born from the woman ‘sanctified’ (married) by the man himself. If this were not meant by ‘own,’ then the epithet ‘sanctified’ would only exclude the unmarried woman; so that the son begotten on a woman married by another person would also come to be known as one’s ‘body-born’ son. And further, if the word is interpreted as we have pointed out, the sons of the Kṣatriya wife also would be ‘body-born’ (for the Brāhmaṇa father); these latter do not fall within any other class of sons.’ Others take the epithet ‘prathamakalpitam’ as qualifying ‘body-born’ [and meaning ‘of the principal kind’], and hold that the sons born of the Kṣatriya wife are not ‘body-born’ in the fuller sense.

Under this explanation, however, as the son begotten on one’s own married wife would not be ‘body-born’ in the full sense, he would be as good as born of an unmarried wife And even if the sons of the Kṣatriya and other wives are not called ‘body-born,’ what does it matter? They still remain the man’s ‘sons’ and entitled to inherit their limited shares in his property.

The following argument might be put forward—“If the son in question does not fulfill the conditions of the ‘body-born,’ the ‘soil-born,’ or any of the twelve kinds of sons,—and there are only these twelve kinds of sons,—how can he be regarded as a ‘son’ at all?”

The answer to this is as follows:—What is the use of any definitions? The application of the same depends upon actual usage. As a rule, when a child is born of a man, he is called his ‘son’; and obviously, if the child is not born of a man, they do not regard that man to be his ‘father’; and they tell him—‘this is not your father, you are not born of him.’ From these two affirmative and negative propositions, it follows that the progenitor is the ‘father’ and the person born is the ‘son;’ and it is only for the purpose of indicating the peculiar characteristics that definitions are set forth. In the case of the ‘soil-born’ son, it is true that the person called his ‘father’ is not his progenitor; but that is only with a view to a special purpose; the child being called the man’s ‘son,’ for, even though not his ‘son,’ he fulfills for him the functions of a son.

As a matter of fact, the mere fact of a person being born of a man does not make him his ‘son’; as this has been expressly denied. It is for this reason that such sons have been called ‘substitutes’ (in 180). Further, if the mere fact of being born of a man were to make one his ‘son,’ then there would be no difference in the ‘sonship’ of the ‘body-born son,’ ‘the son born of a remarried woman’ and ‘the son of an unauthorized woman,’ since the fact of being born is common to all of them. Then again, if the mere fact of serving the purposes of a son were the sole condition of one being a ‘son,’ then no one in the world would be ‘sonless.’ As regards the common usage (regarding the use of the name ‘son’) mentioned above, it cannot he regarded as universally true, since it is found that in many cases the name ‘father’ is not applied to the actual progenitor.

Thus then, notwithstanding ordinary usage, the actual application of the name ‘son’—as in the case of such titles as ‘wife’ and the like—should be determined by the scriptural texts, which lay down the various ways in which a ‘son’ may he begotten; and it is only the signification of the names that may be learnt from ordinary usage; just as in the ease of such titles as ‘Indra’ and the like.

“But as regards the declaration that the ‘body-born’ son is ‘the first in order,’ it is ordinary usage on which this is based.”

Not only on ordinary usage, but also upon the nature of the benefits (conferred by this particular kind of son);—the meaning of the declaration being that ‘the body-born son is in a position to confer the greatest benefits upon his fathers.’ Thus, the other sons are called ‘substitutes’ only on the ground of the lessening degrees of benefits conferred by them. As a matter of fact, however, these other sons cannot be ‘substitutes’ in the real sense of the term; because, it is only when a substance is used as a subsidiary accessory in the completing of an act already begun with a certain substance (which is no longer found)—that the former substance comes to be called a ‘substitute;’ in the case in question however, the son is not the ‘subsidiary accessory’ of any act, the act of begetting the son being itself only a subsidiary act Hence, what is meant by calling the other sons, ‘substitutes’ is that though the ‘soil-born’ and others are also ‘sons,’ it is the ‘body-born’ one that is most praiseworthy; just as we find in the Vedic passage—‘The cow and the horse are the only cattle, animals other than the cow and the horse are not cattle,’—where the assertion that the other animals are not ‘cattle’ means that the cow and the ‘horse are praiseworthy.

Further, it has been shown in the Mahābhārata that sons do not always belong to the person from whose seed they are born: e.g., Pāṇḍu, Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Vidura, though born from the seed of Vyāsa, are not spoken of as ‘sons’ of Vyāsa.

It has already been explained by us what useful purpose is served by our regarding as ‘body-bom’ or ‘legitimate,’ the sons of the Kṣatriya and other wives also.

“As regards the ‘son of the Appointed Daughter,’ if this were regarded as a ‘son,’ the number of sons would exceed twelve.”

What is the harm if it does? This may be the thirteenth kind of son. In fact, he has not been separately mentioned, because, the useful purpose served by him is the same as that by the ‘body-born’ son, which fact makes him equal to this latter. That is why another Smṛti text has declared—‘Equal to him (the Body-born son) is the son of the Appointed Daughter.’ (Yājñavalkya, 2.128).—(166)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Svakṣetre’—‘On his own wife’ (Medhātithi);—‘on his wife of the same caste as himself’ (‘others’ in Medhātithi, Nārāyaṇa and Kullūka).

This verse is quoted in Vivādaratnākara (p. 553);—in Parāśaramādhava (Prayāścitta, p. 38);—in Vyavahāra-Bālambhaṭṭī (pp. 538, 557 and 689);—and in Nṛsiṃhaprasāda (Vyavahāra 38a);


Comparative notes by various authors

Baudhāyana (2.3.14).—‘A son begotten by the husband himself on his wedded wife of equal caste is called the Aurasa, Body-born, son.’

Āpastamba (2.13.1-2)—‘Sons begotten by a man who approaches in the proper season, a woman of equal caste, who has not belonged to another man, and who has been married legally, have a right to follow the occupations of the caste and to inherit the father’s estate.’

Vaśiṣṭha (17.13).—‘The first among sons is the son begotten by the husband himself on his legally married wife.’

Viṣṇu (15.2).—‘The first is the son of the body—viz., he who is begotten by the husband himself on his own lawfully wedded wife.’

Yājñavalkya (2.128).—‘The body-horn son is one begotten on the legally wedded wife.’

Devala (Vivādaratnākara, p. 554).—‘One who is begotten by one’s self on one’s legally married wife, is the body-born son, the principal upholder of the father’s family.’

Arthaśāstra (II, p. 40).—‘The son begotten by the man himself on his lawfully wedded wife is the body-born son.’

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