The Naradasmrti is the most comprehensive basic text on procedure in ancient India. The present publication represents the only critical edition of a metrical smrti published to date. The critical edition is based on the evidence of 47 manuscripts from libraries in India, Nepal, Germany, France, United States, and United Kingdom. In addition to the critical edition of the text of the Naradasmrti, Prof. Lariviere has critically edited and translated the incomplete but extremely important commentary of Asahaya. He also provides the reader with summaries of the commentary of Bhavasvamin.
This is the most comprehensive and though examination of any of the basic texts of the Indian legal tradition. It establishes a new standard for the scholarly editing of these texts. A standard which, it is hoped, will be taken up by the subsequent scholarship on the rich tradition of the dharmasastra.
The first edition of this work was awarded the prestigious CESMEO (Centro Piemontese de Studi sul Medioed Estremo Oriente, Torino) prize in 1990 as the best book on South Asia.
About the Author:
Richard Lariviere is the Ralph B. Thomas Regents Professor of Asian Studies, the Judson Neff Fellow in the IC2 Institute, the Dean of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. He is an expert on Indian legal history.
In addition his academic work, Prof. Lariviere is involved in many aspects of the business world. He is a corporate specializing in advisory services for companies doing business in India and serves on the Boards of the Dutch company HCL / Perot Systems NV and on the Board of eMr America. He is a founder member of the Society for Design and Progress Science.
Prof. Lariviere, born in Chicago in 1950, has his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and has been on the faculty of University of Pennsylvania, the University of Iowa, and, since 1982, the University of Texas where he served as the Director Asian Studies for eight years and Associate Vice President for International Programs for four years before assuming his present as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this new Devangari version of Richard Larivere’s award winning critical edition and translation of the Narada Smrti. Originally published in 1988 it was the first critical edition of a metrical Smrti acclaimed for the vast number of manuscripts collated and for the critical acumen of the editor. It produced the first trustworthy edition of a metrical law book and reopened many questions regarding this important literary tradition including the dating of texts as central as the Manava Dharmasastra and the Yajnavalkya Smrti.
In 1992 Lariviere’s Naradasmrit was awarded the prestigious Cesmeo (centro Piemontese de studi sul Medio ed Estremo Oriente) Prize for 1990. it has received superlative reviews in scholarly journals. As the general Editor. I feel extremely fortunate and honored to include this work in this series. Together with my own Dharmasutras published as the first volume of the series the publication of the Narada Smrti takes us substantially forward in fulfilling the goal of this series which is to bring out fresh editions and translations of all the ancient Dharmasutras and Dharmasastras as well as those of major commentaries and Nibandhas of medieval India.
Because the original edition was published by the Department of South Asia Regional Studies of the University of Pennsylvania and because that edition was in transliterated Roman Script it did not receive the publicity or the circulation it deserved especially within India. Many Indian Scholars have continued to use Jolly’s edition when it was superseded by Lariviere’s work over a decade ago. The cost of the original edition also kept it form most Indian libraries. Our hope is that this new edition will make this work which should be on the bookshelf of every scholar India more widely available worldwide but especially with the Indian subcontinent.
I want to express my gratitude once again to Motilal Banarsidass and in particular to Mr. N.P. Jain for the care and speed with which they have brought out the volumes in this series.
The Narasdasmrit is unique in the corpus of Sanskrit legal literature. It is the only original collection of legal maxims (mulasmrti) which is purely judicial in character. Unlike all the other known mulasmrtis which contain sections dealing with righteous conduct and penance (acara and parayascitta) the Narasdasmrti focuses solely on legal procedure and the substantive law that is included in this traditional category. The fact that the Naradsmrti is cited frequently by later writers in the Indian legal tradition tessifies to its improtnace. There is some evidence which indicates that the Naradasmrti may have even influenced momarchs and their governments when the great rular of the Malla dynasty in Nepal Jayasthiti designed his legal and social reforms he may well have consulted the Naradmsrti.
When the text was first made available to legal scholars in Europe in the late 19th century their reaction was unanimous here was a text the style content and structure of which could stand comparison with the very best of the Roman legal tradition. August barth felt that a jurisconsult would be right at home with this text due to its method of presenting concise definitions and its well conceived plan. The legal historian Rodolphe Dareste wondered whether or not the author might have had some acquaintance with Roman law perhaps he might even have had some texts of Ulpain or Paulus before him while composing his text. Such ethnocentric hypotheses are no longer acceptable. That they could have been made at all is a testament to the juridical character of the Naradasmrti. Others than legal historians and Indologists recognized its importance as well Karl Marx used Jolly’s 1876 transaltion in preparing his Asiatic mode of production.
Even after another century of scholarship in the field of Indian legal history it is still the case that the Naradsmrti is the juridical text par excellence. If anything its standing has been enhanced with time. Even K.V. Rangaswami Aiyangar who tended to accord all virtues to Brhaspati to the exclusion of other texts contended that the Naradasmrti is clearly a text written for practitioners. The subjects the style and the method of presentation will be familiar to scholars
of classical legal systems. The Naradasmrti is indeed the mulasmrti which offers the best single summary of the classical Hindu legal system.
The Nature of the Text
For an editor of classical Hindu legal texts, such as the Naradasmrti, it is impossible to provide answers to the normal questions which introductions to texts usually address: Who was the author? When and where did he live’? What was there about his circumstances that contributed to the content and shape of his work’? What was the history of the reception of his work? and so on. Such questions cannot be answered with any certainty for these eponymous mulasmrtis. For some questions there are no answers at all. For other questions the answers are mere conjecture.
According to the historian of dharmasastra P.V. Kane, when an author attributes his composition to Manu, Narada, Yajñavalkya, Gautama, Visnu, etc., he is obviously attempting to “invest the work with a halo of antiquity and authoritativeness.” If we assume that these are pseudonymous texts which were composed by an individual author, then Kane’s speculation must be correct. It may be the case, however, that what we have in these mulasmrtis is not the work of a single author. E. Washburn Hopkins has made some interesting suggestions with regard to the Manusmrti which merit extensive quotation.
I draw the conclusion that the çastram [i.e. the Manusmrti] was in great part collated between the time when the bulk of the epic [i.e., the Mahabharata] was composed and its final completion, that previous to its collation there had existed a vast number of sententious remarks, proverbial wisdom, rules of morality etc. which were ascribed, not to this treatise of Manu at all, but to the ancient hero Manu as a type of godly wisdom. These I conceive to have floated about in the mouths of the people, not brought together but all loosely quoted as laws or sayings of Manu an these sayings were afterwards welded into one with the laws of a particular [sect] called the Manavas—a union natural enough, as the two bodies of law would then bear the same title, although the sect had no connection with Manu except in name. I fancy this sect built up their dedra (‘usages’) and kuladharma (‘family law’) out of their own heads, not ascribing them to Manu; then seizing this distinct mass of “Manu’s sayings,” they appropriated them and the two became one. According to my theory, these Manu-verses found in the Manava treatise were simply caught up and drawn from the hearsay of the whole Brahman world, keeping their form after incorporation with the Manavas text. This was especially valuable because every time a fraud was intended they could invent a verse and insert it in the old text. They had so many Manu saids that it was difficult to detect a new one.
Except for this remark about inventing frauds. I think that Hopkins was right. I doubt whether such texts as the Naradasmrti or the Manusmrti were composed by a single individual. It seems more likely that the verses that have been preserved in the form of what we now call mulasmrtis were part of the Spruchweisheit in ancient and classical India. As Hopkins were part of the gnomic verses known to the experts of a community. The number of these verses may have been large and they may have been attributed to any number of mythical or heroic characters in the tradition. These verses were cited in support of judgments or advice which panditas made for the members of the community and as part of the instruction of their successors. At a certain time these verses were collected together (by an individual? A group? A school?) as compilations of dharma verses into dharmasastras. The attribution of these verses to a single mythical figure Manu, Narada, Brhaspati and others may have been done at the time of the compilation in order to enhance the authority of the entire text. Or more likely these verses may have been attributed to Manu or Narada or Brhaspati all along while they were being cited by the above mentioned sistas the compiler simply collected all of the verses attributed to Manu which were known at the time in that locality and in good faith presented a collection of Manu’s verses on dharma.
This latter possibility explains how a single verse could be attributed to more than one other as is often the case. In one village the experts on dharma knew and often cited a certain verse they attributed to say. Narada in another village that same verse was known and often cited but attributed to Katyayana. In both cases the verse may have been handed down for generations with these respective attributes. At the time of compilation the compiler would naturally attribute the verse to the traditional source known to him in his village or tradition. In this way a single verse could come to be included in tow or more different compilations attributed to different authors. The compilation of these verses into texts did not establish once and for all the text of Narada Brhaspti etc. merely compiling Narada verses or Brhaspati versed did not prevent other experts from continuing to attribute verse not found in that compilation to Narada, Brhaspati or any other ancient sage.
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