Yajnavalkya-smriti (Vyavaharadhyaya)—Critical study

by Kalita Nabanita | 2017 | 87,413 words

This page relates ‘Commentaries on the Yajnavalkyasmriti’ of the study on the Vyavaharadhyaya of the Yajnavalkya-smriti: one of the most prominent Smritis dealing with Dharmashastra (ancient Indian science of law), dating to the 1st century B.C. The Yajnavalkyasmriti scientifically arranges its contents in three sections: Acara (proper conduct), Vyavahara (proper law) and Prayashcitta (expiation). Vyavahara deals with judicial procedure and legal system such as substantive law and procedural law.

Chapter 1.2e - The Commentaries on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti

The Yājñavalkyasmṛti has a number of commentaries written on it, which bespeaks its authority, The importance of the commentaries lies in the fact that these have removed the obsolete provisions, explained, modified or enlarged the tradition, recorded in the Yājñavalkyasmṛti with the aid of the accepted usages and customs. Thus, the commentaries have brought the Smṛti into harmony and required form, to outfit the felt necessities of the time and place. Among all the available commentaries, those composed by Viśvarūpa, Vijñāneśvara, Aparārka, Śūlapāṇi and Mitramiśra are very eminent.[1]

Bālakrīḍā by Viśvarūpa:

The earliest commentary on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti is considered to be the Bālakrīḍā commentary written by Viśvarūpa.[2] The Mitākṣarā commentary on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti showing gratitude refers to the long, and learned commentary of his well-known predecessor Viśvarūpācārya in the introductory verses, which reads as-

yājñavalkyamunibhāṣitaṃ muhurviśvarūpavikaṭoktivistṛtam/

It indicates that this work must be, at least, one or two centuries older than the Mitākṣarā. Viśvarūpa quotes Kumārila’s Ślokavārtika and as such, he is presumed to have flourished between 750 A.D. and 100 A.D.[3] It is fairly established by Kane after examining the whole evidence that Viśvarūpa is identical with Sureśvara, a pupil of the famous Śaṅkrācārya, and so he probably, belonged to the beginning of the 9th century A.D.[4]

There are many commentaries on the Bālakrīḍā, which are not available as complete works. One of them does not mention its name and author’s name but available portion on the introduction in Bālakrīḍā contains 5500 granthas. Second one is known as Vacanamālā of which 6000 granthas are received yet. Other three commentaries are respectively Vibhāvanā, Tīkā and Amṛtasyandinī by name.[5] These works indicate the influence and authority once enjoyed by this work of Viśvarūpa. The commentary on the Vyavahārādhyāya appears to be insufficient and devoid of merit in comparison to the same on the Ācārādhyāya and the Prāyaścittādhyāya, which are voluminous and genuine. The essential question of the origin of proprietary right originated with Viśvarūpa, which was established by Mitākṣarā but both the works differ on many other points.[6] A digest named Viśvarūpanibandha, which is frequently cited by many writers like Jīmūtavāhana appears to be a work of different Viśvarūpa. Numerous quotations of this work are untraceable in Bālakrīḍā.[7]

Mitākṣarā by Vijñāneśvara:

The Mitākṣarā commentary on Yājñavalkyasmṛti is the most celebrated and important of all the commentaries. The authorship of this commentary, which has superseded other works, is attributed to Vijñāneśvara. This work with its remarkable merit became authoritative at an early date in Deccan, Benares and a great part of Northern India. [8] During British rule, this commentary has obtained paramount authority in several matters of Hindu Law, except Bengal and Assam, where the Dāyabhāga prevailed.[9] In those areas, also it occupies high authority except those matters, which are in conformity with the Dāyabhāga.

The full name of the commentary is Ṛju-mitākṣarā meaning, easy and concise letters. However, it has become well-known as the Mitākṣarā only. It is not a mere commentary, in fact, it is a large work in the nature of a digest of the Smṛti material. In the form of a commentary, it brings together numerous the Smṛti passages, explains and removes differences among them applying the rules of Purvamīmāṃśā system. Moreover, it arranges various dictums in order according to proper scope and province. According to the information provided by the author at the end of this commentary, Padmanābha Bhaṭṭa was his father and Uttama his teacher. He was an ascetic and composed the commentary when a king, called Vikramārka or Vikramādityadeva, reigned in the city Kalyāṇa. With reference to his patron king his age has been fixed to be the later part of 11th century.[10] Examining the evidences, Kane thinks that the Mitākṣarā is supposed to have completed before 1120 A.D.[11] This well classified and clearly illustrated commentary of Vijñāneśvara has stood the test of time.

The special contributions of the Mitākṣarā are propinquity as the guiding principle on inheritance and the principle of ownership by birth. The Yājñavalkyasmṛti has several commentaries to its credit due to the unique position held by it. Among them Subodhinī, Bālambhaṭṭī and Vaijaynti are most famous. The Subodhinī owes its authorship to Viśveśvara, who gave vent to more simple and useful exposition of difficult provisions contained in the Mitākṣarā. Most elaborate commentary, the Bālambhaṭṭī was composed by Bālambhaṭṭa and he flourished towards the end of 18th century A.D.[12] It contains 10,000 verses. The author of the Vaijaynti was Nandapaṇḍita who expounded the Mitākṣarā in Benares sub-division.[13]

Aparārkāparā by Aparārka:

The Aparārkāparā is a learned and comprehensive commentary on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti. The commentator is known as Aparārka and the name of the commentary is also famous by the same name. In a concluding verse, the commentator declares himself as Aparāditya, a Śilāhāra king who belonged to the family of Jīmūtavāhana of the Vidyādhara race.[14] So the author is identified to be king of Koṅkaṇ in the dynasty of Śilāhāras, who ruled in 12th century A.D.150 This work occupied high authority in Kashmir and in Benares sub-division. It is more voluminous than the Mitākṣarā and very rich in quotations from various sources. He has profusely cited long extracts from the Purāṇas, the Gṛhyasūtras, the Dharmasūtras and the metrical Smṛtis, for which the work seems more like a veritable digest than only a commentary. The connection between the Aparārka and the Mitākṣarā has not been established clearly. Though in general it agrees with Mitākṣarā, yet in some aspects it differs also.

Dīpakalikā by Śūlapāṇi:

Śūlapāṇi, an eminent Dharmaśāstra writer from Bengal composed a commentary named Dīpakalikā on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti. He has not provided any useful information about his family except expressing him as an Mahāmahopādhyāya and Sāhuḍiyān. His work is referred to by Raghunandana and in the Viramitrodaya. He is placed between 1365-1445 A.D.[15] Dīpakalikā is marked with brevity, good style and explains selected passages. In matters of inheritance, the work reveals somewhat archaic views. It is to be mentioned here that Dīpakalikā was published by J.R. Gharpure in 1939 in his series of Hindu Law texts.

Vīramitrodaya by Mitramiśra:

Mitramiśra is credited with two works Vīramitrodaya, a commentary on the Yājñavalkyasmṛti and a Nibandha work. The commentary is an elaborate and valuable work. The commentary is published in Chowkhamba Sanskrit series in several sections from 1927-1930. The age of these two works is settled in the early part of the 17th century. [16] The Nibandha Vīramitrodaya is a vast work and closely follows the Mitākṣarā. Its authority was accepted throughout India, where the Mitākṣarā jurisdiction was prevalent and held to be greater authority in the Law of Benares School.[17]

Footnotes and references:


Banerji, S.C., Op.cit., page35


Misra, J.R.(revised.), Op.cit., page32


Kane, P.V., Op.cit., Volume1, Part 1, page562


Ibid., Volume V, Part 2, pages1188-1198


Sastri, T.G.(Edited), The Yājñavalkyasmṛti with the commentary Bālakrīḍā, Introduction, pp.i-ii


Kane, P.V., Op.cit., Volume1, Part 2, pages560-561


De, S.K.et al (Edited), Op.cit., Volume 2, page365


Jolly, J., Op.cit., page68


Kane, P.V., Op.cit.,Volume1, Part 2, page599


Jolly, J., Op.cit., page69


Kane, P.V., Op.cit., Volume1, part. 2, pages607-612


Misra, J, R., (revised), Op.cit., page34


Rama Jois, M., Op.cit., page48


Apte, H.N., Yājñavalkyasmṛti with the comm. of Aparārka, Ānandāśrama skt. series, Volume2, page 1252150 Jolly, J., Op.cit., page70


Kane, P.V., Op.cit., Volume1, part. 2, page839


Misra, J, R., (revised), Op.cit., page35


Rama Jois, M., Op.cit., page49

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