Vasistha Dharmasutra

by Georg Bühler | 1882 | 44,713 words

The Dharmasutra of Vasistha forms an independent treatise and has no relationship with the Kalpasutra. The chapters of this text are divided in a way that resemble the practice of later Smritis. This Dharmasutra has a unique characteristic, it cites the opinions of Manu at many places. This led scholars like Bühler among others to form a hypothesis...


THE Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra is, like that of Gautama, the last remnant of the Sūtras of a Vedic school, which, as far as our knowledge goes at present, has perished, together with the greater part of its writings. We owe the preservation of its Dharma-sūtra probably to the special law schools of India, which, attracted as it would seem by its title and the legend connecting it with Vasiṣṭha Maitrāvaruṇi, one of the most famous Ṛṣis of the Rig-veda and a redoubtable champion of Brāhmanism, made it one of their standard authorities. The early existence of a legend according to which the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra was considered either to be a work composed by the Ṛṣi Vasiṣṭha, or at least to contain the sum of his teaching on the duty of man, is indicated by several passages of the work itself. For the Dharma-sūtra names Vasiṣṭha, or appeals to his authority on no less than three occasions. First, we find a rule on lawful interest, which is emphatically ascribed to Vasiṣṭha[1]. 'Learn the interest for a money lender,' the Sūtra says, 'declared by the word of Vasiṣṭha; five māṣas (may be taken) for twenty (kārṣāpaṇas every month).' Again, at the end of a long string of rules[2] which contain the observances to be kept by sinners who undergo Kṛcchra penances, Vasiṣṭha's name is brought forward as the authority for them, and the last words are, 'Thus speaks the divine Vasiṣṭha.' Finally, the concluding Sūtra of the whole work[3] gives expression to the devotion felt by the author for the Ṛṣi, 'Adoration to Vasiṣṭha, Śatayātu, the son of Mitra and Varuṇa and of Urvaśī.' The epithets used in this last passage conclusively show that the Vasiṣṭha after whom the Dharma-sūtra is named, is the individual who, according to the Brāhmanical tradition, is the Ṛṣi of a large portion of the seventh Maṇḍala of the Rig-veda and the progenitor of the Vāsiṣṭha clan of Brāhmans, and who in some hymns of the Rig-veda appears as the purohita or domestic priest of king Sudās and the rival of Viśvāmitra, and in other Sūktas as a half mythical being. For the verses Rig-veda VII, 33, 11-14 trace the origin of this Vasiṣṭha to the two sons of Aditi, Mitra and Varuṇa, and to the Apsaras Urvaśī, and contain the outline of the curious, but disgusting story of his marvellous birth, which Sāyaṇa narrates more circumstantially in the commentary on verse 11. Moreover, the word Śatayātu, which in the Dharma-sūtra is used as an epithet of Vasiṣṭha, occurs Rig-veda VII, 18, 21 in close connexion with the Ṛṣi's name. Sāyaṇa explains it in his commentary on the latter passage as 'the destroyer of many demons,' or, 'he whom many demons seek to destroy,' and takes it as an epithet of the sage Parāśara, who is named together with Vasiṣṭha. It would, however, seem that, if the verse is construed on strictly philological principles, neither Sāyaṇa's interpretation, nor that suggested by the Dharma-sūtra can be accepted, and that Śatayātu has to be taken as a proper name[4]. But, however that may be, it is not doubtful that we may safely infer from the expressions used in the last sentence of the Dharma-sūtra, that the Vasiṣṭha to whom the invocation is addressed and the composition of the work is ascribed, either immediately or through the medium of pupils, is the individual named in the Rig-veda. The connexion of the Dharma-sūtra with one of the Ṛṣis of the Rig-veda which is thus established, possesses a particular interest and importance, because it corroborates the statement of Govindasvāmin, the commentator of Baudhāyana, that the Institutes of Vasiṣṭha were originally studied by and authoritative for the Bahvṛcas, the Ṛgvedins alone, and afterwards became an authority for all Brāhmans[5]. In the introduction to Gautama it has been shown that a similar assertion which Govinda makes with regard to the Gautama Dharma-sūtra can be corroborated by a considerable amount of external and internal evidence. It has been pointed out that not only the fact that the spiritual pedigrees of the Chandoga schools enumerate several Gautamas, but also the partiality for texts of the Sāma-veda, which the Institutes of Gautama show on several occasions, strongly support the tradition that the Gautamīya Dharmaśāstra originally was the exclusive property of a school of Sāmavedins. In the case of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra indications of the latter kind are, if not entirely wanting, at least very faint. The number of Vedic passages quoted is, no doubt, large; but few among them belong to the class of Mantras which are recited during the performance of gṛhya rites, and must be taken from the particular recension of the Veda to which the performer belongs. Besides, the texts of this description which actually occur, do not bear the mark of a particular Veda or Śākhā. The numerous texts, on the other hand, which are quoted in support or explanation of the rules, are taken impartially from all the three ancient Vedas. For this reason it would be dangerous to use the references to a dozen Ṛcas in chapters XVII and XXVI, as well as to the legend of Sunaḥsepa, which is told only in works belonging to the Rig-veda, as a proof that the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra is the work of a Ṛgvedin. Under these circumstances the three passages, mentioning Vasiṣṭha's name, and especially the last which identifies him with the Ṛṣi of the Rig-veda, have a particularly great importance, as they are the only pieces of internal evidence which can be brought forward in favour of Govindasvāmin's valuable statement. But the latter is, even without any further corroboration, credible enough, because no reason is apparent why Govinda should have invented such a story, and because his assertion fully agrees with the well-established facts known about the other existing Dharma-sūtras, which all were composed not for the benefit of the Āryans in general, but in order to regulate the conduct of particular sections of the Brāhmanical, community.

There is, however, one point in Govindasvāmin's statement which requires further elucidation. He says that the Bahvṛcas, i.e. the Ṛgvedins in general, formerly studied the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra. It might, therefore, be inferred that the work possessed equal authority among the Aśvalāyanīyas, the Sāṅkhāyanīyas, the Māṇḍūkāyanas, and all the other schools of the Rig-veda, and that it belonged to the most ancient heirlooms of its adherents. That is, however, improbable for several reasons. For, first, neither the Aśvalāyanīyas nor the Sāṅkhāyanīyas of the present day study or attach any special importance to the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra. Secondly, if the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra had ever been the common authority on Dharma in all the different schools of the Rig-veda, it would be necessary to ascribe to it an antiquity which it clearly does not possess. All Sūtras were originally composed for a single school only. Where we find that the same Sūtra is adopted by several Caraṇas, as is the case with the Dharma-sūtra, which both the Āpastambīyas and the Hairaṇyakeśas study, and with the Cayana-sūtra, which the Bhāradvājas and the Hairaṇyakeśas have in common, it is evident that the later school did not care to compose a treatise of its own on a certain subject, but preferred to take over the composition of an earlier teacher, If, now, a Sūtra on a certain subject were acknowledged by all the schools of one Veda, it would follow that it must belong to the most ancient books of that Veda, and must have been adopted successively by all its later schools. In such a case the Sūtra must certainly show signs of its great antiquity. But if we look for the latter in the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra, the trouble will be in vain. Though that work contains a good deal that is archaic, yet, as will be shown presently, its numerous quotations from Vedic writings and older Dharma-sūtras clearly prove that it does not belong to the oldest productions of its class, but takes even among the still existing Institutes of the Sacred Law only a secondary rank. Under these circumstances the correct interpretation of Govindasvāmin's words will be, that according to the Brāhmanical tradition, known to him, some school of Ṛgvedins, the name of which he did not know, or did not care to give, originally possessed the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra as its exclusive property, and that the work later, through the action of the special law schools, acquired general authority for all Brāhmans. It is a pity that no authentic information regarding the name of that school of Ṛgvedins has been handed down. But, considering the fact that Vedic schools are frequently named after Vedic Ṛṣis, it seems not improbable that it was called after the Vasiṣṭha whose authority the Dharma-sūtra invokes, and that we may assume the former existence of a Vāsiṣṭha school, a Sūtra-caraṇa, of the Rig-veda[6], founded perhaps by a teacher of the Vāsiṣṭha gotra. This conjecture, which, it must be confessed, is not supported by any corroborative evidence from the Brāhmanical tradition, will explain why the title-pages of this and of the first part speak of a school of Vāsiṣṭha.

The position of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra in Vedic literature can be defined, to a certain extent, by an analysis of its numerous quotations from the Saṃhitās, Brāhmaṇas, and the older Sūtras. By this means it will become evident that the work belongs to a period when the chief schools of the three ancient Vedas had been formed and some of the still existing Dharma-sūtras had been composed. Faint indications will be found which make it probable that the home of the school to which it belonged, lay in the northern half of India, north of the Narmadā and of the Vindhyas, As regards the quotations from the Śruti, the revealed texts of the Hindus, they are chiefly taken from the Rig-veda and from three recensions of the Yajur-veda. Passages from the Rig-veda-saṃhitā are quoted IV, 21; XVII, 3--4; and XXVI, 5-7. With respect to the quotations in the latter chapter it must, however, be noted that its genuineness is, as will be shown in the sequel, not above suspicion. A Brāhmaṇa of the Rig-veda seems to be referred to in XVII, 2, 32, 35. But the extracts, given there, agree only in part with the text of the Aitareya, and it is probable that they are taken from some lost composition of the same class. A curious Sūtra, II, 35, shows a great resemblance to the explanations of Vedic passages given by Yāska in the Nirukta[7]. The passage points either to a connexion of the author with the school of the Nairuktas or, at least, to an acquaintance with its principles. Among the schools of the Yajur-veda, that of the Kaṭhas is twice referred to by name, XII, 29; XXX, 5. But Professor Weber, who kindly looked for the quotations in the Berlin MS. of the Kāṭhaka, has not been able to find them. A. third passage, I, 37, said to be taken from the Cāturmāsyas, i.e. the portion of a Saṃhitā which treats of the Cāturmāsya sacrifices, actually occurs in the Kāṭhaka. But, as it is likewise found in the Cāturmāsya-kāṇḍa of the Maitrāyaṇīyas, it must remain uncertain from which of the two recensions of the Black Yajur-veda it has been quoted. The chapter on the duties of women, vers. 6-8, contains a long quotation which, in spite of some small discrepancies, seems to have been taken from the Taittirīya-saṃhitā of the Black Yajur-veda. Passages of the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka are quoted or referred to X, 35 and XXIII, 23. The White Yajur-veda is mentioned several times as the Vājasaneyi-śākhā or the Vājasaneyaka. The former expression occurs III, 19 and XXIII, 13. The quotations, marked as taken from the Vājasaneyaka, XII, 31, XIV, 46 are found in the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa, and another passage of the same work is quoted I, 45, without a specification of the source. A very clear proof that the author of the Dharma-sūtra knew the Vājasaneyi-saṃhitā is furnished by the Mantra, given II, 34. The text, quoted there, occurs in three different Śākhās, that of the Vājasaneyins, that of the Taittirīyas and the Atharva-veda, and in each shows a few variae lectiones. Its wording in the Vājasaneyi-saṃhitā literally agrees with the version, given in the Sūtra. The Sāma-veda is referred to III, 19, and particular Sāmans are mentioned in the borrowed chapter XXII, 9. A passage from the Nidāna, probably a work on Stomas and metres, which belonged to the Bhāllavins, an ancient school of Sāmavedins, occurs I, 14-16. An Upaniṣad, connected with the Atharva-veda, the Atharvaśiras, is mentioned in the borrowed chapter XXII, 9, and the existence of the Atharva-veda is presupposed, also, by 'the vows called Śiras,' which are alluded to in the suspicious chapter XXVI, 11, and are said to be peculiar to the Atharvavedins[8]. The chapters, which are undoubtedly genuine, contain no allusion to the fourth Veda.

As regards the older works on Dharma, the author of the Institutes of Vasiṣṭha certainly knew and used a treatise, attributed to Yama, the Dharma-sūtras of Manu, Hārīta and Gautama, and perhaps that of Baudhāyana. With respect to two verses, which, as the Sūtra says, were proclaimed by Prajāpati, XIV, 24, 30, it is somewhat doubtful, if it is meant that they have been taken from a work, attributed to Prajāpati, or that they are merely utterances, supposed to have been made by that deity for the benefit of mankind. The latter view seems, however, the more likely one, as it is customary in the Smṛtis to ascribe the revelation of social institutions, ceremonies, and penances to Prajāpati, who, in the older works, occupies much the same position as Brahmā, the creator, in the later religious systems. It is not impossible that some of the references to Yama, e.g. XI, 20, have to be explained in the same manner. But other passages, attributed to Yama, e.g. XVIII, 13-26, seem to have been taken from a work which was considered the production of the Dharmarāja. Of course, none of the Yamasmṛtis, which exist in the present day, can be meant. The quotations from Manu are numerous[9]. They have all been taken from a book attributed to a Manu, and possess a very high interest for the history of the present metrical Manusmṛti. For the prose passage from the Mānava, given IV, 5, furnishes the proof that the author of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra quotes from a Dharma-sūtra attributed to a Manu, while other quotations show that the Mānava Dharma-sūtra contained, also, verses, some of which, e.g. XIX, 37, were Tṛṣṭubhs, and that a large proportion of these verses has been embodied in Bhṛgu's version of the Manusmṛti. Fifteen years ago[10] I first called attention to Vasiṣṭha's prose quotation from the Mānava, and pointed out that, if the MSS. of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra were to be trusted, a small piece of the lost Mānava Dharma-sūtra, on which the present Manusmṛti is based, had been found. The incorrectness and the defective state of the materials which I then had at my disposal did not allow me to go further. Since that time several, comparatively speaking, good MSS. of the Institutes of Vāsiṣṭha and many inferior ones have been found, and all, at least all those which I have examined, give the quotation in prose exactly in the same form. The fact that Vasiṣṭha gives, in IV, 5, a prose quotation from Manu may, therefore, be considered as certain[11]. Moreover several of the best MSS.

show, by adding the particle 'iti' at the end of Sūtra 8, that the quotation from the Mānava is not finished with Sūtra 5, but includes the two verses given in Sūtras 6 and 7 and the second prose passage in Sūtra 8. Among the verses the first is found entire in the metrical Manusmṛti, and the second has likewise a representative in that work, though its concluding portion has been altered in such a manner that the permission to slaughter animals at sacrifices has been converted into an absolute prohibition to take animal life. Sūtra 8, which again is in prose, has no counterpart in the metrical Manusmṛti, as might be expected from its allowing 'a full-grown ox' or 'a full-grown he-goat' to be killed in honour of a distinguished Brāhmaṇa or Kṣatriya guest. A closely corresponding passage is found in the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa, and a verse expressing the same opinion in the Yājñavalkya Smṛti, the versification of a Dharma-sūtra of the White Yajur-veda. As the last part of the quotation resembles the text of the Brāhmaṇa and its language is very archaic, it is quite possible that, though belonging to the passage from the Mānava-sūtra, it contains a Vedic text, taken from some hitherto unknown Brāhmaṇa which Manu adduced in support of his opinion. On this supposition the arrangement of the whole quotation would be as follows. Sūtra 5 would give the original rule of the author of the Mānava in an aphoristic form; Sūtras 6-7 would repeat the same opinion in verse, the latter being probably Ślokas current among the Brāhmanical community; and Sūtra 8 would give the Vedic authority for the preceding sentences. This arrangement would be in strict conformity with the plan usually followed by the authors of Dharma-sūtras. But whether Sūtra 8 contains a second original aphorism of the Mānava Dharma-sūtra or a. Vedic passage, it seems in-disputable that the author of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra knew a treatise attributed to a teacher called Manu, which, like all other Dharma-sūtras, was partly written in aphoristic prose and partly in verse. The passage furnishes, therefore, the proof for Professor Max Müller's conjecture that our metrical Manusmṛti, like all the older works of the same class, is based on the Dharma-sūtra of a Vedic Sūtra-caraṇa. In connexion with this subject it maybe mentioned that the Institutes of Vasiṣṭha contain, besides the above-mentioned passages, no less than thirty-nine verses[12], which are not marked as quotations, but occur in Bhṛgu's metrical Manusaṃhitā. Some of them present more or less important variae lectiones. Moreover, there are four verses which, though Vasiṣṭha attributes them to Hārīta and Yama[13], are included in our Manusmṛti and treated as utterances of the father of mankind. The bearing of both these facts on the history of the Manusmṛti is obvious. But the frequency of the references to or quotations from Manu which Vasiṣṭha makes, teaches another important lesson. Like the fact that Manu is the only individual author to whom Gautama refers[14], it shows that in ancient times Manu's name had as great a charm for the Brahman teachers as it has for those of the present day, and that the--old Mānava Dharma-sūtra was one of the leading works- on the subject, or, perhaps, even held that dominant position which the metrical Manusmṛti. actually occupied in the Middle Ages and theoretically occupies in our days. It is interesting to observe that precisely the same inference can be drawn from the early Sanskrit inscriptions. If these speak of individual authors of Smṛtis, they invariably place Manu's name first[15].

Vasiṣṭha gives only one quotation from Hārīta, II, 6. Hārīta was one of the ancient Sūtrakāras of the Black Yajur-veda, who is known also to Baudhāyana. From a passage which Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita quotes in elucidation of Vasiṣṭha XXIV, 6, I conclude that Hārīta was a Maitrāyaṇīya[16]. The relation of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra to Gautama and Baudhāyana has already been discussed in the introduction to the translation of the former work[17]. To the remarks on its connexion with Baudhāyana it must be added that the third Praśna of the Baudhāyana Dharma-sūtra, from which Vasiṣṭha's twenty-second chapter seems to have been borrowed, perhaps does not belong to the original work, but is a later, though presumably a very ancient, addition to the composition of the founder of the Baudhāyana school. The reasons for this opinion will be given below. If Baudhāyana's third Praśna is not genuine, but has been added by a later teacher of that school, the interval between Baudhāyana and the author of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra must be a very considerable one. I have, however, to point out that the inference regarding the priority of Baudhāyana to Vasiṣṭha is permissible only on the sup-position that Vasiṣṭha's twenty-second chapter is not a later addition to the latter work, and that, though it is found in all our MSS., this fact is not sufficient to silence all doubts which might be raised with respect to its genuineness; for we shall see presently that other chapters in the section on penances have been tampered with by a later hand. It will, therefore, be advisable not to insist too strongly on the certainty of the conclusion that Vasiṣṭha knew and used Baudhāyana's work.

In the introduction to his translation of the Viṣṇusmṛti[18], Professor Jolly has pointed out two passages of Vasiṣṭha which, as he thinks, have been borrowed from Viṣṇu, and prove the posteriority of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra, if not to the Viṣṇusmṛti, at least to its original, the Kāṭhaka Dharma-sūtra. He contends that the passage Vasiṣṭha XXVIII, 20-15 is a versification of the Sūtras of Viṣṇu LVI, which, besides being clumsy, shows a number of corruptions and grammatical mistakes, and that Vasiṣṭha XXVIII, 18--22 has been borrowed from Viṣṇu LXXXVII. Professor Jolly's assertion regarding the second passage involves, however, a little mistake. For the first two Ślokas, Vasiṣṭha XXVIII, 18-19, describe not the gift of the skin of a black antelope, which is mentioned in the first six Sūtras of Viṣṇu LXXXVII, but the rite of feeding Brāhmans with honey and sesamum grains, which occurs Viṣṇu XC, 10. The three verses, Vasiṣṭha XXVIII, 20--22, on the other hand, really are the same as those given by Viṣṇu LXXXVII, 8-10. It is, however, expressly stated in the Viṣṇusmṛti that they contain a quotation, and are not the original composition of the author of the Dharma-sūtra. Hence no inference can be drawn from the recurrence of the same stanzas in the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra. As regards the other passage, Vasiṣṭha XXVIII, 10-15, Professor Jolly is quite right in saying that it is a clumsy versification of Viṣṇu's Sūtras, and it is not at all improbable that Vasiṣṭha's verses may have been immediately derived from the Kāṭhaka. The further inference as to the priority of the ancient Kāṭhaka-sūtra to Vasiṣṭha, which Professor Jolly draws from the comparison of the two passages, would also be unimpeachable, if the genuineness of Vasiṣṭha's twenty-eighth chapter were certain. But that is unfortunately not the case. Not only that chapter, but the preceding ones, XXV--XXVII, in fact the whole section on secret penances, are, in my opinion, not only suspicious, but certainly betray the hand of a later restorer and corrector. Everybody who carefully reads the Sanskrit text of the Dharma-sūtra will be struck by the change of the style and the difference in the language which the four chapters on secret penances show, as compared with the preceding and following sections. Throughout the whole of the first twenty-four chapters and in the last two chapters we find a mixture of prose and verse. With one exception in the sixth chapter, where thirty-one verses form the beginning of the section on the rule of conduct, the author follows always one and the same plan in arranging his materials. His own rules are given first in the form of aphorisms, and after these follow the authorities for his doctrines, which consist either of Vedic passages or of verses, the latter being partly quotations taken from individual authors or works, partly specimens of the versified maxims current among the Brāhmans, and sometimes memorial verses composed by the author himself. But chapters XXV--XXVIII contain not a single Sūtra. They are made up entirely of Anuṣṭubh Ślokas, and the phrases[19] 'I will now declare,' 'Listen to my words,' which are so characteristic of the style of the later metrical Smṛtis and of the Purāṇas, occur more frequently than is absolutely necessary. Again, in the first twenty-four and the last two chapters the language is archaic Sanskrit, interspersed here and there with Vedic anomalous forms. But in the four chapters on secret penances we have the common Sanskrit of the metrical Smṛtis and Purāṇas, with its incorrect forms, adopted in order to fit inconvenient words into the metre. Nor is this all. The contents of a portion of this suspicious section are merely useless repetitions of matters dealt with already in the preceding chapters, while some verses contain fragmentary rules on a subject which is treated more fully further on. Thus the description of the Kṛcchra and Cāndrāyaṇa penances, which has been given XXI, 20 and XXIV, 45, is repeated XXVII, 16, 21. Further, the enumeration of the purificatory texts XXVIII, 10-15 is merely an enlargement of XXII, 9. Finally, the verses XXVIII, 16-22 contain detached rules on gifts, and in the next chapter, XXIX, the subject is begun once more and treated at considerable length. Though it would be unwise to assume that all genuine productions of the old Sūtrakāras must, throughout, show regularity and consistency, the differences between the four chapters and the remainder of the work, just pointed out, are, it seems to me, sufficient to warrant the conclusion that they do not belong to the author of the Institutes. Under these circumstances it might be assumed that the whole section is simply an interpolation. But that would be going too far. For, as other Dharma-sūtras show, one or even several chapters on secret penances belonged to such works. Moreover, in the section on women, Vasiṣṭha V, 3-4, the author makes a cross-reference to the rahasyas, the section on secret penances, and quotes by anticipation half a Śloka which is actually found in chapter XXVIII. The inference to be drawn from these facts is, that the section on secret penances is not simply a later addition intended to supply an omission of the first writer, but that, for some reason or other, it has been remodelled. The answer to the question why this was done is suggested, it seems to me, partly by the state of the MSS. of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra, and partly by the facts connected with the treatment of ancient works by the Paṇḍits, which my examination of the libraries of Northern India has brought to light[20]. MSS. of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra are very rare,. and among those found only three are complete. Some stop with chapter X, others with chapter XXI, and a few in the middle of the thirtieth Adhyāya. Moreover, most of them are very corrupt, .and even the best exhibit some Sūtras which are hopeless. These circumstances show clearly that after the extinction of the Vedic school, with which the work originated, the Sūtra was for some time neglected, and existed in a few copies only, perhaps even in a single MS. The materials on which the ancient Hindus wrote, the birch bark and the palm leaves, are so frail that especially the first and last leaves of a Pothī are easily lost or badly damaged. Instances of this kind are common enough in the Jaina and Kaśmīr libraries, where the beginning and still more frequently the end of many works have been irretrievably lost. The fate of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra, it would seem, has been similar. The facts related above make it probable that the MS. or MSS. which came into the hands of the Paṇḍits of the special law schools, who revived the study of the work, was defective. Pieces of the last leaves which remained, probably showed the extent of the damage done, and the. Paṇḍits set to work at the restoration of the lost portions, just as the Kaśmīrian Sāhebrām Paṇḍit restored the Nīlamata-purāṇa for Mahārāja Raṇaviraśiṃha. They, of course, used the verses which they still found on the fragments, and cleverly supplied the remainder from their knowledge of. Manu and other Smṛtis, of the Mahābhārata and the Purāṇas. This theory, I think, explains all the difficulties which the present state of the section on secret penances raises. Perhaps it may be used also to account for some incongruities observable in chapter XXX. The last two verses, XXX, 9-10, are common-places which are frequently quoted in the Mahābhārata, the Harivaṃsa, the Pañcatantra, and modern anthologies. With their baldness of expression and sentiment they present a strong contrast to the preceding solemn passages from the Veda, and look very much like an unlucky attempt at filling up a break at the end of the MS. In connexion with this subject it ought, however, to be mentioned that this restoration of the last part of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra must have happened in early times, at least more than a thousand years ago. For the oldest commentators and compilers of digests on law, such as Vijñāneśvara[21], who lived at the end of the eleventh century A. D., quote passages from the section on secret penances as the genuine utterances of Vasiṣṭha. These details will suffice to show why I differ from Professor Jolly with respect to his conclusion from the agreement of the verses of Vasiṣṭha XXVIII, 10-15 with the Sūtras of Viṣṇu LVI.

With the exception of the quotations, the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra contains no data which could be used either to define its relative position in Sanskrit literature or to connect it with the historical period of India. The occurrence of the word Romaka, XVIII, 4, in some MSS., as the name of a degraded caste of mixed origin, proves nothing,, as other MSS. read Rāmaka, and tribes called Rama and Rāmaṭha are mentioned in the Purāṇas. It would be wrong to assert on such evidence that the Sūtra belonged to the time when the Romans, or rather the Byzantines (Rōmaioi), had political relations with India. Nor will it be advisable to adduce the fact that Vasiṣṭha XVI, 10, 14, 15 mentions written documents as a. means of legal proof, in order to establish the 'comparatively late' date of the Sūtra. For though the other Dharma-sūtras do not give any hint that the art of writing was known or in common use in their times, still the state of society which they describe is so advanced that people could not have got on without writing, and the proofs for the antiquity of the Indian alphabets are now much stronger than they were even a short time ago. The silence of Āpastamba and the other Sūtrakāras regarding written documents is probably due to their strict adherence to a general principle under-lying the composition of the Dharma-sūtras. Those points only fall primarily within the scope of the Dharma-sūtras which have some immediate, close connexion with the Dharma, the acquisition of spiritual merit. Hence it sufficed for them to give some general maxims for the fulfilment of the guṇadharma of kings, the impartial administration of justice, and to give fuller rules regarding the half-religious ceremony of the swearing in and the examination of witnesses. Judicial technicalities, like the determination of the legal value of written documents, had less importance in their eyes, and were left either to the deśācāra, the custom of the country, or to the Nīti and Artha-śāstras, the Institutes of Polity and of the Arts of common life. It would, also, be easy to rebut attempts at assigning the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra to what is usually 'a comparatively late period' by other pieces of so-called internal evidence tending to show that it is an ancient work. Some of the doctrines of the Sūtra undoubtedly belong to an ancient order of ideas. This is particularly observable in the rules regarding the subsidiary sons, which place the offspring even of illicit unions in the class of heirs and members of the family, while adopted sons are relegated to the division of members of the family excluded from inheritance. The same remark applies to the exclusion of all females, with the exception of putrikās or appointed daughters, from the succession to the property of males, to the permission to re-marry infant widows, and to the law of the Niyoga or the appointment of adult widows, which Vasiṣṭha allows without hesitation, and even extends to the wives of emigrants. But as most of these opinions occur also in some of the decidedly later metrical Smṛtis, and disputes on these subjects seem to have existed among the various Brāhmanical schools down to a late period, it would be hazardous to use them as arguments for the antiquity of the Sūtra.

The following points bear on the question where the original home of the Vedic school, which produced the Dharma-sūtra, was situated. First, the author declares India north of the Vindhyas, and especially those portions now included in the North-western Provinces, to be the country where holy men and pure customs are to be found, I, 8-16. Secondly, he shows a predilection for those redactions of the Veda and those Sūtras which belong to the northern half of India, viz. for the Kāṭhaka, the Vājasaneyi-śākhā, and the Sūtras of Manu and Hārīta. Faint as these indications are, I think, they permit us to conclude that the Sūtra belongs to a Caraṇa settled in the north.

As regards the materials on which the subjoined translation is based, I have chiefly relied on the Benares edition of the text, with the commentary of Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita Dharmādhikārī, and on a rough edition with the varietas lectionum from the two MSS. of the Bombay Government Collection of 1874-75[22], B. no. 29 and Bh. no. 30, a MS. of the Elphinstone College Collection of 1867-68, E. no. 23 of Class VI, and an imperfect apograph F. in my own collection, which was made in 1864 at Bombay. The rough edition was prepared under my superintendence by Vāmanācārya Jhalkīkar, now teacher of Sanskrit in the Dekhan College, Puṇa. When I wrote the translation, the Bombay Government MSS. were not accessible to me. I could only use my own MS. and, thanks to the kindness of Dr. Rost, Colebrooke's MS., I. O. no. 913, from which the now worthless Calcutta editions have been derived either immediately or mediately. These materials belong to two groups. The Bombay MS. B., which comes from Benares, closely agrees with Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's text; and E., though purchased at Puṇa, does not differ much from the two. Bh., which comes from Bhuj in Kach, and my own MS. F. form. a second group, towards which Colebrooke's MS., I. O. no. 913, also leans. Ultimately both groups are derived from one codex archetypus.

The first group of MSS. gives a fuller and in general a correcter text than the second. But it seems to me that the text of B., and still more Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's, has in many places been conjecturally restored, and that the real difficulties have been rather veiled than solved. I have, therefore, frequently preferred the readings offered by the second group, or based on them my conjectural emendations, which have all been given in the notes. To give a translation without having recourse to conjectural emendations was impossible, as a European philologist is unable to avail himself of those wonderful tricks of interpretation which permit an Indian Paṇḍit to extract some kind of meaning from the most desperate passages. In a few cases, where even the best MSS. contain nothing but a conglomerate of meaningless syllables or unconnected words, I have thought it advisable to refrain from all attempts at a restoration of the text, and at a translation. A critical edition of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra is very desirable, and I trust that Dr. A. Führer, of St. Xavier's College, Bombay, will soon supply this want. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's commentary, for which he had not the aid of older vṛttis, shows considerable learning, and has been of great value to me. I have followed him mostly in the division of the Sūtras, and have frequently given his opinions in the notes, both in cases where I- agree with him and in those where I differ from him, but think his opinion worthy of consideration.

In conclusion, I have to thank Professors R. von Roth, Weber, and Jolly, as well as Dr. L. von Schröder, for the verification of a number of Vedic quotations, which they kindly undertook for me, as I was unable to use my own books of reference during the translation of the work.

Footnotes and references:


Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra II. 51.


Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra XXIV, 5.


Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra XXX, it. Similar invocations of teachers at the end of Sūtras occur frequently, ej. Āśvalāyana Śrauta-sūtra XII, 15, 14; Rig-vidhāna V, 3, 4; Yāska, Nirukta, Roth, p. 226.


See Petersburg Dictionary, s. v. śatayātu.


See Sacred Books of the East, vol. ii, p. xlix, note 2. As Govindasvāmin's statements possess a considerable importance, I give here the whole commentary on Baudhāyana I, 1, 2, 6, according to my two MSS., C. I. and CṬ.:


A school of Vāsiṣṭhas, belonging to the Sāma-veda, certainly existed in ancient times. I have formerly put forward a conjecture that the Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra might belong to that school (Digest of Hindu Law Cases, p. xxii, first edition). But Govindasvāmin's explicit statement makes it evident that it has to be abandoned.


This resemblance has not escaped Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita, who says in his commentary,


See Baudhāyana Dharma-sūtra II, 8, 14, 2, note


They occur Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra I, 17; III, 2; IV, 5-8; XI, 23; XII, 16; XIII, 16; XIX, 37; XX, 18; XXIII, 43; XXVI, 8.


Digest of Hindu Law Cases, p. xxxi, note, first edition.


Such, I suppose, will be the opinion of all European scholars. Those Hindus p. xix who allow their religious convictions to get the better of their reason, will perhaps prefer Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's ingenious, but unsound explanation of the words iti mānavam, by iti manumatam, 'such is the opinion of Manu.'


Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra I, 22; II, 3, 10, 27, 48; III, 5, 11, 60; V, 2; VI, 6, 8, II, 13, 19; VIII, 7, 15; X, 21-22; XI, 27-28, 32, 35; XIII, 48; XIV, 13, 16, 18; XVI, 18, 33-34; XVII, 5, 8; XVIII, 14, 15; XIX, 48; XX, 18; XXV, 4-5, 7; XXVII, 3.


Vāsiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra 11,-6; XVIII, 14-15; XIX, 48.


Sacred Books of the East. vol. ii, p. lvii.


See e.g. the grant of Dhruvasena I, dated Saṃvat, i.e. Guptasaṃvat 207, Pl. i, l. 7; Ind. Ant., vol. iv. p. 105.


He says:


Sacred Books of the East, vol. ii, pp, liii-lv.


Sacred Books of the East, vol. vii, p. xviii.


See XXV, 1; XXVII, 10; XXVIII, 10, 20.


See Report on a Tour in Kaśmīr, Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xii, p. 33.


Thus Vasiṣṭha XXVIII, y is quoted in the Mitākṣarā on Yājñavalkya III, 298; XXVIII, 10-15 on Yājñavalkya III, 309; and XXVIII, 18-19, 2a on Yājñavalkya III, 310.


See Report on Sanskrit MSS. 1874-75, p. 11.

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