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:

ब्राह्मणः क्षत्रियो वैश्यस्त्रयो वर्णा द्विजातयः ।
चतुर्थ एकजातिस्तु शूद्रो नास्ति तु पञ्चमः ॥ ४ ॥

brāhmaṇaḥ kṣatriyo vaiśyastrayo varṇā dvijātayaḥ |
caturtha ekajātistu śūdro nāsti tu pañcamaḥ || 4 ||

The Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya are the three twice-born castes; the fourth is the one caste, Śūdra; there is no fifth.—(4)

 

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

What are these ‘castes’? Is the word ‘caste’ denotative of a species of human beings? No; these are four castes, begining with the ‘Brāhmaṇa’ and ending with the ‘Śūdra.’ The others—the ‘Barbara,’ the ‘Kaivarta’ and so forth—are only mixed races, as will be described later on.

Of these four, three castes are ‘twice-born,’—the ‘Initiatory Rite’ being prescribed for them.

One caste’ is the Śūdra; there is no ‘Initiatory Rite’ for him; since the injunction of this rite contains the distinct mention of the three castes, Brāhmaṇa and the rest;—e.g., ‘the Brāhmaṇa shall be initiated in the eighth year, the Kṣatriya in the eleventh and the Vaiśya in the twelfth;’ and nowhere is the name of the Śūdra mentioned.

“Since no time is specified in connection with the Śūdra, it may simply mean that there is no time fixed for his Initiation.”

This might have been the meaning, if there were a general injunction for Initiation (for all men in general); and in that case all these rules regarding the castes, the times for initiation would have to be taken as purely commendatory details. There is however no such general injunction for Initiation. Under the circumstances, on the strength of what authority could we take the Śūdras’ Initiation as to be done without any restriction regarding time?

“If that is so, then what is the point in reiterating that there is one caste the Śūdra?”

True; but it serves the purpose of removing a suspicion; on the strength of the assertion that it is done without sacred texts, the idea may be entertained that for the Śūdra there is Initiation without any restriction as to time.

“But the assertion quoted occurs in connection with the ‘Food-Sacrifices;’ and having served its purpose in that connection, it could not be made to refer to anything else.”

That is why we have said that there would just be a suspicion. In reality, however, the verse serves the purpose of restricting the actual practices of men.—(4)

 

Comparative notes by various authors

Āpastamba (1.1.4-5).—‘There are four castes—Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra;—amongst these, each preceding caste is superior to the one following.’

Baudhāyana (1.16.1).—‘There are four castes—Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra.’

Vaśiṣṭha (2.1-2).—‘There are four castes—Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra;—the three castes, Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya and Vaiśya are twice-born.’

Yājñavalkya (1.10).—‘The castes are the Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya, the Vaiśya and the Śūdra;—the first three are twice-born.’

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