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:

व्रात्यानां याजनं कृत्वा परेषामन्त्यकर्म च ।
अभिचारमहीनं च त्रिभिः कृच्छ्रैर्व्यपोहति ॥ १९७ ॥

vrātyānāṃ yājanaṃ kṛtvā pareṣāmantyakarma ca |
abhicāramahīnaṃ ca tribhiḥ kṛcchrairvyapohati || 197 ||

If one sacrifices for apostates, or performs the obsequies of strangers, or malevolent rites, or the Ahīna sacrifice,—he wipes it off by three Kṛcchras.—(197)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Apostates’—Those who have fallen off from the Sāvitrī; for such men, (a) if one performs the Vrātyastoma—which is a rite specially prescribed for them,—either by officiating at it as a priest or by directing it;—(b) or if he performs the ‘obsequies’— the rites performed in the cremation-grounds—‘for strangers’—i.e., for persons other than their parents or preceptor;—(c) or if he performs ‘malevolent rites’—such as the Śyenacit sacrifice and the like;—or (d) if he performs the Ahīna. sacrifice;—he becomes pure by performing ‘three Kṛcchras.’

Others hold that what is here laid down does not refer to the performer of the ‘malevolent’ or ‘Ahīna’ sacrifices, but to those who officiate as priests at these sacrifices. It is for this reason that this same rule applies also to those who perform sacrifices for apostates. As regards the performer himself, since he undertakes the performance in obedience to the Vedic injunction of the sacrifices concerned, how could they be liable to expiation for their act, so long as the performance has not been forbidden?

“As regards the Ahīna sacrifice, it is possible that it may have been undertaken in obedience to a Vedic injunction; but how can the same be said regarding the Śyena and other malevolent rites? There is no such injunction as that ‘one should kill his enemies’; all that the Veda says is that—‘if one desires to encompass the death of his enemy, he should, for that purpose, perform the Śyena and such malevolent rites.’ And to the killing of an enemy one is prompted solely by impetuous desire, and the entertaining of such desire has been forbidden, by such texts as—‘one should not seek to injure any living creature.’ To the performance of the Ahīna sacrifices also people are prompted solely by impetuous desire; as only such people are entitled to it as entertain an eager desire for a definite reward;—but (there is this difference that) in this case neither the desire for the particular reward nor the action leading up to that reward is one that is forbidden. While in the other case in question (that of the Malevolent Rites), both are forbidden: as the general prohibition ‘one should not injure living creatures’ means that ‘one shall undertake an act that leads up to the death of a living creature’; and it is such death which forms the result of the Śyena and other malevolent rites. As regards the Ahīna on the other hand, there is no such prohibition as that—one should not undertake an act that leads to heaven.’”

In answer to this, some people offer the following explanation:—It having been declared (11.33) that ‘speech is the Brāhmaṇa’s weapon,’ the encompassing of the death of an enemy by means of malevolent rites, becomes sanctioned by it. So that the Ahīna and the Malevolent Rite stand upon the same footing.

Thus then an expiation would appear to be necessary only for the priest officiating at these sacrifices (and not for the sacrificer himself).

“As a matter of fact all acts done with a purpose have been forbidden by the general text—selfishness is deprecated’ (2.2).”

What this text means we have explained under that verse itself.

As a matter of fact, in connection with the Ahīna, there may he some Vedic texts sanctioning the act of officiating at it. As regards the Malevolent Rite on the other hand, there is impropriety on the part of the sacrificer also; as is indicated by such texts as—‘Those who kill by means of the Jyotiṣ, etc., etc.’; and it is for this reason that expiations also have been prescribed in this connection.

So far as the present verse is concerned however, it can he taken as referring to the priests officiating at the Malevolent Rite.

Malevolent Rite,’ ‘abhicāra’ is the name given to the encompassing of an enemy’s death by means of the repeating of sacred texts and the offering of oblations, prescribed in the Veda.—(197)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Nirṇayasindhu (p. 383);—in Aparārka (p. 1152), which explains ‘antya karma’ as the ‘antyeṣṭi,’ and adds that this refers to one who does the acts on hire, and not merely with a religious motive; and that it refers to the Brāhmaṇa who performs the death-rites for the Kṣatriya and other castes;—the ‘Ahīna’ is the name for all those Ahargaṇa sacrifices which begin with the ‘Dvirātra’ and end with the ‘Dvādaśarātra.’

It is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Prāyaścitta, p. 429), as laying down the expiation for officiating at sacrifices performed by those who should not perform them;—and in Madanapārijāta (p. 917), which adds the following notes:—‘Antya karma,’ the rites performed on the cremation ground,—‘pareṣām,’ non-sapiṇḍas or śūdras,—in the case of the former it is repetition that is reprehensible, and in that of the latter, even the first act;—‘abhicāra,’ ‘murderous rite,’ is reprehensible, when it is performed against one who has not done any similar act against the man;—the ‘Ahīna’ is a particular kind of sacrifice.

It is quoted in Saṃskāramayūkha (p. 122);—and in Prāyaścittaviveka (p. 247), which says that, as ‘hīna’ means ‘unrighteous,’ ‘ahīna’ means ‘righteous,’ and hence what is forbidden is ‘magical rites against righteous persons.’


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 11.197-198)

Viṣṇu (54.25).—‘He who has knowingly offered a sacrifice for an unworthy person, he who has performed the funeral rites for a stranger, he who has practised magic rites, and he who has performed sacrifices of the Ahīna class,—all these may rid themselves of their sin by performing three Kṛcchra penances.’

Āpastamba (1.26.7).—‘He who has been guilty of conduct unworthy of an Aryan, of calumniating others, of actions contrary to the rules of conduct, of eating or drinking forbidden things, of connection with a woman of the Śūdra caste, of an unnatural crime, of performing magic rites, shall bathe and sprinkle himself with water, reciting the seven verses addressed to Apas, or those addressed to Varuṇa,......... in proportion to the frequency with which the crime has been committed.’

Yājñavalkya (3.289).—‘One who performs sacrifices for an Apostate, one who performs magic rites for encompassing the death of some person, one who misuses the Veda, or one who abandons a person who has sought his protection, should perform three Kṛcchra penances and subsist upon barley for one year.’

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