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:

ब्रह्महा द्वादश समाः कुटीं कृत्वा वने वसेत् ।
भैक्षाश्यात्मविशुद्ध्यर्थं कृत्वा शवशिरो ध्वजम् ॥ ७२ ॥

brahmahā dvādaśa samāḥ kuṭīṃ kṛtvā vane vaset |
bhaikṣāśyātmaviśuddhyarthaṃ kṛtvā śavaśiro dhvajam || 72 ||

The Brāhmaṇa-slayer shall, for his purification, build a hut in the forest, live there for twelve years, subsisting on alms; making for himself a flag consisting of the head of the dead man.—(72)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Hut’—a house built of grass and leaves, capable of resisting rain, heat and cold.


Subsisting on alms.’—Another Smṛti text lays down that these alms shall be obtained from twelve houses, not in close proximity to one another.

The head of the dead man’—Either the head of the man killed by him, or a wooden or some other image of the head, shall be held aloft Such is the explanation given by some people.

But men knowing the right meaning of words do not accept this explanation as this is not what is meant by the term ‘śavaśiraḥ.’

Other rules to be observed by the man are going to be described under 78.—(72)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

The first half of this verse is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Prāyaścitta, p. 399).

It is quoted in Madanapārijāta (p. 787);—in Aparārka (p. 1053), to the effect that the man should place a human skull on the top of a flag;—in Mitākṣarā (3.243), which explains the first half as prescribing living in the forest and the phrase ‘kṛtvā śavaśirodhvajam’ as meaning that the man shall carry a staff placing at its top the skull of the man murdered by him;—in Śuddhikaumdī (p. 241), which says that the year meant here is the ‘sāvana’ one’;—and in Prāyaścittaviveka (p. 62 and 522), which says that he is to have recourse to ‘begging alms’ only when wild growing fruits are not available.


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 11.72-86)

Gautama (22.2-6).—‘He who has intentionally slain a Brāhmaṇa shall emaciate himself and thrice throw himself into the fire;—or he may become in battle the target for armed men;—or remaining chaste, he may, during twelve years, enter the village only for the purpose of begging,—carrying the foot of a bedstead and a skull in his hand, and proclaiming his deed. If he meets an Ārya, he shall step out of the road. Standing by day and sitting at night, and bathing in the morning, at noon and in the evening, he may be purified after twelve years,—or by saving the life of a Brāhmaṇa; or if he is thrice vanquished in trying to recover the property of a Brāhmaṇa stolen by robbers, or by bathing with the priests at the end of the Āśvamedha sacrifice;—or at the end of any other sacrifice, provided that an Agniṣṭut forms part of it. The same penance should be performed even if he has attempted the life of a Brāhmaṇa, but failed to kill him; likewise if he has killed a Brāhmaṇa woman who had bathed after her monthly course.’

Baudhāyana (2.1.2-6).—‘The murderer of a learned Brāhmaṇa shall practise the following penance during twelve years:—Carrying a skull and the foot of a bedstead, dressed in ass skin, staying in the forest; making a skull his flag, he shall cause a hut to be built in the cremation ground and reside there; going to seven houses to heg food, while proclaiming his deed, he shall support life with whatever he gets and shall fast if he obtains nothing. Or he may offer an Āśvamedha, a Gosava or an Agniṣṭut; or he may bathe with the priests on the completion of the Āśvamedha. They also quote the following:—“He who unintentionally kills a Brāhmaṇa becomes sinful according to law; the sages declare that he may be purified if he did it unintentionally. But no expiation is possible for a wilful murderer.”

Āpastamba (1.24.11-22).—‘The Brāhmaṇa-slayer shall erect a hut in the forest, restrain his speech, carry the skull like the flag and cover his body from his navel to his knees with a quarter of a hempen cloth. The path for him when he goes to the village is the space between the tracks; and if he sees another Ārya, he shall step out of the road He shall go to the village carrying a broken dish of metal of inferior quality. He may go to seven houses only, crying—“Who will give alms to the accursed?” That is how he should gain his livelihood. If he does not obtain anything, he must fast. Whilst performing this penance, he should tend cows. After having performed this penance for twelve years, he must perform that customary ceremony which may gain for him re-admission into society. Or, he may build a hut on the path of robbers and live there, trying to recover from them the cows of Brāhmaṇas; and he becomes free from his sin after he has been worsted by them thrice, or after he has vanquished them.’

Do. (1.25.11).—‘A non-Brāhmaṇa who has killed a Brāhmaṇa shall go to the battle-field and place himself between the two hostile armies; there they shall kill him.’

Do. (1.28.21 and 1.29.1).—‘He who has killed a learned Brāhmaṇa shall put on ass’ skin or dog’s skin with the hair turned outside and take up a human skull as his drinking vessel; and he shall take the foot of a bedstead instead of a staff, and proclaiming his deed, he shall go about saying—“Who gives alms to the murderer of a Bhrūṇa?” Obtaining thus his livelihood, he shall dwell in an empty house, or under a tree,—having no intercourse with Āryas. Thus shall he live until his last breath. After death his sin is taken off.’

Viṣṇu (35.6).—‘Those who have committed a “Mahāpātaka” are purified by Āśvamedha and by visiting all Tīrthas.’

Do. (50.1-6, 15).—‘The man should make a hut of leaves in a forest and live in it; he shall bathe three times a day: he shall collect alms, going from one village to another, and proclaiming his own deed; he shall sleep on the grass; this is called the Mahāvrata. He who has killed a Brāhmaṇa must perform this for twelve years. One who is performing this penance should carry the skull of the person slain, as his flag.’

Yājñavalkya (3.243-250).—‘One who has killed a Brāhmaṇa shall carry a skull and a flag, shall live on alms, eating very little and proclaiming his deed; living thus for twelve years he attains purity. Or he may attain purity by saving the life of a Brāhmaṇa, or that of twelve cows; as also by joining in the final bath of the Āśvamedha sacrifice. The Brāhmaṇa-slayer may also become purified if he relieves the pain of a long-suffering Brāhmaṇa, or relieves from danger a cow on the road. If robbers have taken away a Brāhmaṇa’s entire property and the Brāhmaṇa slayer recovers it from them, or if he is himself killed in the attempt, or if he is even wounded in the attempt, he becomes purified. Or he may offer his body into the fire beginning with the hairs and ending with the marrow, indue order. Or he may attain purity by becoming killed in battle;—he is purified even if he is mortally wounded but does not die. Or he is purified by reciting the Vedic text thrice; eating very little and going along the Sarasvatī river from its mouth towards its source. Or he may attain purity by giving to a proper person a large amount of wealth to his satisfaction.’

Vaśiṣṭha (20.25-28).—‘The slayer of a Brāhmaṇa shall kindle a fire and offer therein to Death the following eight oblations consisting of portions of his own body—(l) hair, (2) skin, (3) blood, (4) flesh, (5) sinews (6) fat, (7) bones, (8) marrow; (with appropriate mantras). Or he shall fight for the sake of the King, or for the sake of Brāhmaṇas, and die in battle facing the foe. It is declared in the Veda that “a murderer who remains thrice unvanquished, or is thrice defeated in battle, becomes pure.’”

Parāśara (8.42).—(Same as Manu, 80.)

Mahābhārata (12.335.4-11).—‘He shall eat only once, begging alms and performing his duties; taking a begging bowl in his band, moving on wooden sandals, celebate and ever alert; free from jealousy, sleeping on the ground, proclaiming bis deed among people; living thus for twelve years, the Brāhmaṇa-slayer becomes absolved (then follow Manu’s verses 74, 76, 77).

(See Manu above, 9.317, and 1.93-95; and below 12.112 in connection with 11.85 and 86.)

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