Yajnavalkya-smriti (Vyavaharadhyaya)—Critical study

by Kalita Nabanita | 2017 | 87,413 words

This page relates ‘Different kinds of Sons’ 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.

From very ancient times, the natural desire among people for male offspring is remarkable in the societies. It is believed from the Vedic times that the debt incurred by a man in his birth towards the gods, sages and the pitṛis, i.e. forefathers can be repaid, respectively, by performing sacrifices, by brahmacārya, i.e. studenthood and by giving birth to sons.[1] In the Ṛgveda, it is stated that a worthy son brings fulfillment to the life of his father by the continuance of the lineage and offering of oblations to the dead.[2] Thus, the procreation of a son is believed to have served, the purpose of releasing the person from the debt, owed to the ancestors, and securing immortality or heaven. Owing to these spiritual benefits deemed to be attached with the birth of a son, the Smṛtis also emphasise and strongly recommend begetting sons. Manu states the necessity of a son by explaining the etymology of the term putra, used to denote a son, who saves (trāyate) the father from the hell, called put, and therefore he is known as putra.[3]

The influence of the Vedic injunctions, declaring the benefits of sons is also emphasised by Yājñavalkya, who states that by sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, an unending family is acquired and the celestial region is attained hereafter.[4] Therefore, due to the longing for male issue, various kinds of sons were accepted in the society in ancient time.

The Vyavahārādhyāya enumerates twelve kinds of sons, which are described hereinafter.[5]

(i) Aurasa:

The Aurasa or the legitimate son of the body is one who is born of a lawfully wedded wife. A legally wedded wife is defined by the Mitākṣarā to be a woman of equal varṇa espoused in lawful wedlock. The son begotten upon her is considered true and legitimate and is chief in rank.[6]

(ii) Putrikāsuta:

The son of an appointed daughter is called Putrikāsuta, who is equal to the Aurasa son.

(iii) Kṣetraja:

The Kṣetraja is one who is begotten on a wife by sagotra relation of her husband or near kinsman.

(iv) Gūḍhaja:

The son secretly born of a married woman in her husband’s house is considered a Gūḍhaja son, meaning son of a concealed birth. According to the Mitākṣarā, in case of such kind of son even if it is not ascertained who the father is, but he must belong to the same varṇa.[7]

(v) Kānīna:

Kānīna i.e. a maiden son is one who is born of an unmarried daughter in her father’s house. That son is considered the son of the maternal grandfather if she remains unmarried and stays at her father’s house. After her marriage, the son belongs to her husband.[8]

(vi) Paunarbhava:

Paunarbhava or the son of a remarried woman is he who is born of a twice-married woman, whose marriage has or has not been consummated.

(vii) Dattaka:

That son is called Dattaka, who is given by mother or father. However, mother may give in adoption under her husband’s direction, in the absence of her husband on a journey or when husband is dead. Apart from mother, he may be given by father or by both to a person of same caste. In such situation, the son is considered the Dattaka or adopted son of the person, who receives him as a gift from his natural father or mother.[9]

(viii) Krīta :

If a son is sold by both mother and father, or by either of them, then the son is called Krīta or a son bought. The Mitākṣarā states that he should be sold not being the eldest or only son, in the time of distress and to him, belonging to the same class.[10]

(ix) Kṛtrima:

Kṛtrima is a son, whom a man himself adopts or makes his son. It is explained that the son is adopted by the man himself, who being desirous of a male issue, entices by the show of money and land, either an orphan, or if parents are living, with their consent only.[11]

(x) Dattātmā:

If a child gives or presents himself as son to another man being bereft of father and mother or abandoned by them then he is called Dattātmā, or son self-given.

(xi) Sahoḍhaja:

Sahoḍhaja, i.e. the son of a pregnant bride is one who being in the womb of his mother at the time of her marriage is accepted along with the bride. He is considered to be the son of his mother’s husband.[12]

(xii) Apaviddha:

The son who is taken or adopted by a person, after having been deserted by his parents, is called Apaviddha or deserted son.

Yājñavalkya recognizes the religious right to offer funeral cake and the right to inheritance to these twelve kinds of son in order, i.e. in absence of the preceding one, each next in order is entitled to those rights. In this connection, Yājñavalkya stresses on the caste that should be same as with the father.[13]

The different kinds of sons are also mentioned by the Manusmṛti[14] and the Nāradasmṛti.[15] The order in which the different sons are placed, and some of the names in the Manusmṛti and the Nāradasmṛti vary with that of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti, are shown below in the following table.

Sl No Yājñavalkyasmṛti Manusmṛti Nāradasmṛti
1 Aurasa Aurasa Aurasa
2 Putrikāsuta Kṣetraja Kṣetraja
3 Kṣetraja Datta Putrikāputra
4 Gūḍhaja Kṛtrima Kānīna
5 Kānīna Gūḍhotpanna Sahoḍha
6 Paunarbhava suta Apaviddha Gūḍhotpanna
7 Dattaka Kānīna Paunarbhava
8 Krīta Sahoḍha Apaviddha
9 Kṛtrima Krīta Labdha
10 Dattātmā Paunarbhava Krīta
11 Sahoḍhaja Svayaṃdatta Kṛtaka
12 Apaviddha Śaudra Svayamupagata

The number of sons and the respective status attached to them in different Smṛtis reflect the importance of the sons and thought of the contemporary society of the Smṛtikāras, who might have placed them considering the social and family set-up. Manu and Nārada have divided the sons into two classes. The first six sons placed in their respective place are considered bandhudāyada and abandhudāyada, literally those succeeding to the bandhus and those not succeeding to the bandhus. It is important to be noted that Yājñavalkya has not made these two classifications.

It can be noticed that among the twelve kinds of sons found in the Yājñavalkyasmṛti, five viz., Dattaka, Krīta, Kṛtrima, Apaviddha and Dattātmā are generally the adopted sons of the father, which are named after the modes of circumstances of adoption. Nowadays also, adoption is found extraordinarily in vogue. During the time of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti it appears to be an established mode or means to get fatherhood. The main distinction seems to be that in ancient times either only sons have been preferred for adoptions or only sons may be adopted. There is no mention about the adoptions of daughters in the Vyavahārādhyāya of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti.

According to Julius Jolly, most of the twelve kinds of sons are not having any blood relation with the father, some of them are begotten by the illicit connection of the mother, and this is the most striKing feature of Indian family law. Moreover, he thinks the cause of such importance attached to male issue is not only religious as found in the Smṛtis, but also possibly for the economic purpose to get as many as possible workers for the family.[16] Kane holds that the Smṛtis do not consider all these sons to be equally competent to confer spiritual benefit and a man is not endowed with all or most of them at one and the same time. For instance, the nature of putrikāputra, dattaka, kṣetraja indicate that one can have such sons in absence of son, grandson, etc., of his own. Therefore, it appears to him that the observation made by Julius Jolly is based on erroneous assumptions.[17]

Footnotes and references:


jāyamāno vai brāhmaṇastribhirṛṇvā jāyate brahmacaryeṇa ṛṣibhyo yajñena devebhyaḥ prajayā pitṛbhya eṣa vā anṛṇo yaḥ putrī yajvā brahmacārivāsī/ Taittirīyasaṃhitā,


mo ṣu devā adaḥ svarava pādi divaspari/ mā somyasya śaṃbhuvaḥ śūne bhūma kadā cana vittiṃ me asya rodasī// RV., 1.105.3


punnāmno narakādyasmāttrāyati pitaraṃ sutaḥ// tasmātputra iti proktaḥ svayameva svayaṃbhuvā// Manusmṛti, 9.138


lokānantyaṃ divaḥ prāptiḥ putrapautraprapautrakaiḥ/ Yājñavalkyasmṛti, 1.78


auraso dharmapatnījastatsamaḥ putrikāsutaḥ/ kṣetrajaḥ kṣetrajāstu sagotreṇetareṇa vā// gṛhe pracchanna utpanno gūḍhajastu sutaḥ smṛtaḥ/ kānīṇaḥ kanyakājāto mātāmahasuto mataḥ// akṣatāyāṃ kṣatāyāṃ vā jātaḥ paunarbhavaḥ sutaḥ/ dadyānmātā pitā vā yaṃ sa putro dattako bhavet// krītaśca tābhyāṃ vikrītaḥ kṛtrimaḥ syātsvayaṃkṛtaḥ/ dattatmā tu svayaṃdatto garbhe vinnaḥ sahoḍhajaḥ// Ibid., 2.128-132


uraso jata aurasaḥ putraḥ saca dharmapatnīyaḥ savarṇā dharmavivāhoḍhā dharmapatnī tasyāṃ jāta aurasaḥ putro mukhyaḥ/ Mitākṣarā, Ibid.


…hīnādhikajātīyapuruṣajatvaoarihāreṇa puruṣaviśedhajatvaniścayābhāve’pi savarṇajatvaniścaye sati boddhavyaḥ/ Ibid.


yadyanūḍhā sā bhavettathā pitṛgṛhaeva saṃsthitā/ athoḍhā tadā voḍhureva putraḥ/ Ibid.


mātrā bhartranujñayā proṣite prete vā bhartari pitrā vobhābhyāṃ vā savarṇāya yasmai dīyate sa tasya dattakaḥ putraḥ/ Ibid.


…tathaikaṃ putraṃ jyeṣṭhaṃ ca varjayitvā āpadi savarṇa ityeva/ Ibid.


kṛtvimastu putraḥ svayaṃ putrārthina dhanakṣetṛapradarśanādi pralobhenaiva putrīkṛto mātāpitṛvihīnaḥ/ tatsadbhāve tatparatantratvāt/ Ibid.


sahoḍhajastu garbhe sthito garbhiṇyāṃ pariṇītāyāṃ yaḥ pariṇītaḥ sa voḍhuḥ putraḥ/ Ibid.


Yājñavalkyasmṛti, 2.132-133


Manusmṛti, 9.159-160


Nāradasmṛti, 4.13.45-46


Jolly, J., Hindu Law and Custom, page1.78


Kane, P.V. Op.cit., Volume 3, page648

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