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 10.1 [The Four Castes and their Purely Legitimate Progeny]

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

अधीयीरंस्त्रयो वर्णाः स्वकर्मस्था द्विजातयः ।
प्रब्रूयाद् ब्राह्मणस्त्वेषां नेतराविति निश्चयः ॥ १ ॥

adhīyīraṃstrayo varṇāḥ svakarmasthā dvijātayaḥ |
prabrūyād brāhmaṇastveṣāṃ netarāviti niścayaḥ || 1 ||

The three twice-born castes, devoted to their duties, shall study; but of these the Brāhmaṇa alone shall expound it, not the other two; such is the established law.—(1)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The injunction for the study of the Veda by the three castes has been set forth in the text—‘The entire Veda, along with the esoteric treatises, shall be studied by the twice-born;’ and for all householders it has been laid down as an obligatory duty that they shall not forget what has been learnt,—in such texts as—‘One shall be always intent upon Vedic study’ (375), ‘He shall constantly ponder over the scriptures’ and so forth; and it is the Veda alone that can be called ‘śāstra,’ ‘scripture,’ in its primary sense of ‘instructing;’ since, it is the Veda alone that propounds injunctions not obtainable by any other means of knowledge; hence the Veda alone is the ‘scripture;’ and this term is applied to other works only indirectly, on the basis of their resembling the Veda in being like it, a literary composition. Thus then, it follows that the Veda shall be constantly recited, and there is evil involved in abandoning its study. As for the ‘Brahmayajña’ (which is done daily), this can he accomplished by the life-long daily repetition of a single hymn, a single Sāma-song, a single mantra or a single section; and hence that does not imply the necessity of remembering the entire text of the Veda.

Thus then, there being nothing left, which could form the original subject-matter of the present injunctive text (‘shall study &c.’), it has to be taken as a mere reiteration,—made for the purpose of precluding the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya from the function of teaching, in the words ‘of these the Brāhmaṇa alone shall teach it, not the other two.’

“As a matter of fact, there can be no possibility of those two castes undertaking the work of teaching, which has been reserved exclusively for the Brāhmaṇa, in such texts as ‘Teaching belongs to the Brāhmaṇa alone.’ [So that there could be no occasion for the preclusion intended by the present text.]”

There is no force in this objection. The texts have hitherto reserved the function of Teaching for the Brāhmaṇa, only as a means of livelihood; so that the exclusion of the other castes would also appear to be with reference to the same; and the imparting of knowledge as a meritorious act would still be permissible for the other two castes; it is this possibility that the present text precludes.

Even granting that there is a general prohibition (of Teaching, for the other castes), the present text maybe taken as reiterating a settled fact, for the purpose of introducing the subject of the admixture of the castes and their functions. In this manner the order of sequence of the original promise would be duly maintained,—as set forth above, in the words ‘The duties of the Vaiśya and the Śūdra, then the origin if the mixed castes’ (1.116).

In this connection some people argue as follows:—The work of ‘Teaching’ consists in instructing one to pronounce the words, and ‘expounding’ includes also the explaining of the meaning of the words. So that the former prohibitions of

‘Teaching’ cannot mean the prohibition of ‘expounding;’ and for this latter, a fresh injunction (in the shape of the present text) becomes necessary.

An objection is raised—“We do not find the word ‘Veda’ in the present verse; wherefore then should the action of studying be taken as pertaining to the Veda? The reading of secular prose and poetry is also called ‘study.’”

The answer to this is as follows:—If the latter were meant, then the injunction would have to be taken as put forth with a view to some invisible result only; and that would necessitate the assuming of some such result as would be desired by the man undertaking the said study, as also the discovering of some authority for such an assumption. On the other hand, if we interpret the text as we have done above, it is found to have its authority in a well-known Vedic text, and there is no need for assuming another basic authority for it.

What is meant being already expressed by the term ‘twice-born,’ the term ‘three castes’ has been added for the purpose of filling up the metre; so also the epithet ‘devoted to their duties’—(1)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

Vaiśeṣyāt’.—‘Through pre-eminence,—of qualities’ (Medhātithi),—‘of race’ (Govindarāja, Kullūka, Nārāyaṇa and Rāghavānanda).

Niyamasya dhāraṇāt—‘On account of the observance of the restrictive rules, i.e., those prescribed for the Accomplished student’ (Medhātithi, Govindarāja, Nārāyaṇa and Rāghavānanda);—‘on account of his possessing superior knowledge of the Veda’ (Kullūka).


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 10.1-3)

[See texts under 71 et seq. below.]

Śaṅkha (Vīramitrodaya-Saṃskāra, p. 512).—‘The Brāhmaṇa controls all the sciences; it is he who expounds them to others.’

Pālakāpyasaṃhitā (Vīramitrodaya-Saṃskāra, p. 513).—‘The Brāhmaṇa may teach the other three castes; the Kṣatriya, two castes, and the Vaiśya, only one caste.’

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