From the Jacket:
The rules of social order were codified by the ancient seers in the rationalistic age in treatises which are known as the Dharmasutras. The Dharmasutras were composed in abstruse style and so were not intelligible to the populi. In the Dharmasastras we find an attempt to present these rules in graceful and lucid verses. The smrtis or the Dharmasastras are the compendia, systematically epitomizing the material contained in the grhya and Dharmasutras. The smrtis, like any other text, are the great reflectors of the life of the people of their period.
The Manu-smrti stands foremost among the principal works of its class. It has always been a work of universal authority. It has served as a veritable storehouse of information for social, cultural, political and religious life of the people. It contained the very essence of later Hinduism. Its study is imperative for the proper understanding of Indian culture. In fact the period represented by the Manusmrti holds a key to the understanding of the entire and subsequent social history of India. Indian society in the days of Manu on account of is elasticity, vigour and adaptability stood the best of external pressure and retained its distinctive character even in trying political and economic situations.
Manu's importance in Indian history lies in fact that was he who gave the stamp of sanctity and permanence to the socio-political institution of the land and left to the Indian world the first code of civil and criminal laws. It serves as the chief authority on Hindu jurisprudence.
About the Author:
In the present day, when a lot of controversies are being razed around some of the views expressed in this great work of Manu, on varna, women, politics, and social justice etc., a need was felt to understand its precepts more clearly and rationally. Sanskrit scholars can read and interpret its injunctions and comments contained in its various commentaries written by Medhatithi and others at different point of time. But those who were not familiar with Sanskrit could not understand it. For the convenience of such people who were interested in knowing the views of Manu on social, political and other topics, M.N. Dutt brought out two separate volumes containing text and translation with notes.
Since the researchers and the readers of the Manusmrti faced the problem of consulting the text and the translation in two separate volumes, so in order to remove this shortcoming, an attempt is being made in the present edition of the Manusmrti, to place the text and translation side by side in a single volume. It is hoped that the present endeavour will be well received by the world of scholars and general readers.
Indian tradition lays down four fold sources of Dharma viz,, the Sruti, the Smrti, good conduct and self complacency of one’s own. The Vedas are called Srutis as they are direct revelation by the God to the sages when they were absorbed in contemplation. So they are considered as number one authority on Dharma. The knowledge transmitted by the Vedas is classified as Anubhava or Pramana. The second source is Smrti which denotes that knowledge which is based on the previous knowledge. In this sense Smrti reproduced in different words the knowledge as propounded in the Vedas. In other words the smrtis of Manu, Yajnavalkya etc., preserve the traditions, precepts, customs and rules of conduct and rites in the Vedas. The term Dharmasastra is generally applied to both Dharmasutras and the metrical codes otherwise known as smrtis. The word smrti is used in two senses. In the wider sense it includes the whole literature other than the Vedas; but in the restricted sense the Smrti and Dharmasastra are synonymous terms. The Taittiriya Aranyaka, describes smrti as one of the sources of Dharma. According to Samkara the word smrti denotes the Mahabharata or the Manusmrti. The smrti came into existence to satisfy the demand of the society for new provisions in matters of Dharma, religious and secular.
In thee early stages of the development, the smrtis were regarded Less authoritative than Srutis, still in actual practice, they were regarded as supreme in their own sphere. All smrtis are not of equal authority. Most of them are indeed obscure and rarely cited in the ancient commentaries.
Among eighteen smrtis, the most important are that of Manu, Yajnavalkya, Parasara, Brhaspati, and Narada. Of these the Manusmrti is considered the most important one. Angirasa says that smrti which goes against the injunction of the Manusmrti is not good.
The oldest and the most recognised of the smrtis, is that of Manu also called Manava—Samhita or Manava— Dharmasastra. It is a standard and the most authoritative work on Hindu law and presents the normal form of Hindu society and civilization. It is a storehouse of information on the social, cultural, religious, ethical, educational, political, judicial and geographical life of the period and this is perfectly natural. Literature or whatever kind it be, cannot he isolated from the lives of the people. It has also exerted influence on the social and political orders of countries like Burma and Indonesia. For thousands of year’s Indian society has been developed and moulded on the lines laid down in the Manusmrti. By agreement smrtis and dicta opposed to it are rejected. Its study is imposed as a duty on the leaders and teachers of the society. Even in the west, its wisdom and foresight have attracted the attention of man not borne down by conventions and habits like Neitzsche, who looked for new light, its dicta have been cited as authority in the literature of Indian philosophy. Modern studies in comparative religion and laws have proved that there is remarkable resemblance between Manes, Manu and Moses. Manu`s importance in Indian history lies in the fact that it was he who gave the Stamp of sanctity and permanence to the socio—political institutions of the land and left to Indian world the first code of civil and criminal laws. Manu`s greatness among the lawgivers of antiquity like Hammurabi is self-evident. In short Manusmrti commanded great respect and authority in this country for centuries and is still an indispensable guide to the understanding of ancient Indian social order.
The period represented by Manu has a crucial epoch in ancient Indian history. It saw significant social and economic developments, remarkable religious efflorescence, and political kaleidoscope characterised by foreign invasions and the settlement of the foreigners as a dominant section of the ruling aristocracy, which exercised a considerable impact on the existing social order. In fact the period holds the key to the understanding of the entire earlier and subsequent social history of India. The Manusmrti was formulated partly under the impact of the contemporary conditions. a system of norms and values of life, which remained closely connected with the efforts to regulate indian society for centuries to come. On account of its elasticity, vigour and adaptability, Manu’s society stood the test of external pressures and retained its distinctive character in trying political and economical conditions.
Tradition ascribed the primary authorship of the Manusmrti to sage Manu, whose name occurs right from the Vedas down to pre- smrti literature. The Manusmrti, itself refers to Brghu as the second author. From its style and diction, it can be said that the Manusmrti wits composed between 2nd Century B. C. and 2nd Century A. D. The Manusmrti is divided into twelve chapters and contains 2694 anustubh couplets. The first chapter deals with the origin of the world, creation of beings, the origin of the text as Manu taught it through Brghu, the units of time and Yugas and differences in their V respective dharma’s, according to them the four classes of men and the differences in their dharma’s. It also gives the list of topics to be subsequently dealt with in the work. The second chapter deals with four sources of dharma, some sacraments and upanayana. The third ad fourth chapters state the duties of the householder and a snataka respectively.
The fifth chapter deals with food, impurity and purification and the women. The sixth one consists of duties of forest—dweller and the sanyasa. The duties of a king are described hi the seventh chapter. The administration of civil and criminal law is dealt with in the eighth chapter. The laws of husband and wife, the laws of inheritance, the punishments for some crimes are described in the ninth chapter. The rules for the four castes and laws of penance are described in the tenth and eleventh chapters respectively. The twelfth chapter deals with transmigration and knowledge of Atman. The various topics dealt with in the Manusmrti make it a compendium systematically epitomising the ideal traditions, rites and customs as laid own in the Vedic literature. The method of presentation by itself would be enough to plat t• the code of Manusmrti in class apart.
Some of the important commentaries on the Manusmrti are;
The Manubhasya by Bhatta Medhatithi, the Manvarthamukta vali by Kullukabhatta, the Manutika by Govindaraja, the Manvartha Candrika by Raghavananda Sarasvati, and the anonymous Tippana in the Kashmir manuscript of the Manusmrti.
The popularity of the Manusmrti can be gauged from the fact that it was translated into English, French and German languages by Sir William Jones, EW. Hopkins, G. Buher. Ganganatha Jha translated it in English. Huttner Loiserleur Deslongchamps, and Elmanevich translated it in German, French and Russian languages respectively.
An important edition of the various smrtis named ‘The Dharmasastras’ was published in 1979 by Shri M. N. Dutt which contained text and English translation of the smrtis including the Manusmrti. This literal translation, containing the, footnotes and giving the interpretations of the other' writers and commentators, is still the oldest and the most authoritative. Though this edition is very useful for the students and researchers of the Manusmrti yet due to the separate text and translation suffered a visible drawback. In order to remove this shortcoming, the publishers Choukhamba Sanskrit Pratisthan, Delhi, has brought out this edition i.e. which contains the text and translation of the work together at one place or in one volume. I am thankful to Mr. J. L. Gupta who has very carefully gone through the work. He has got a remarkable acumen for spotting out printing errors, with his expert knowledge extending many years. He deserves my best thanks also for contributing a very informative note on this work. I congratulate him for making available this edition to the world of scholars.
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