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Under the series of Smrtis collectively known as Dharma-sastra, Visnusmrti or Vaisnava Dharma-sastra occupies an unique place. There are many smrtis ascribed to the names of various Rsis like Vyasa, Parasara, Manu, Yajnavalkya, Atri etc. But visnusmrti is famous after the name of lord Visnu himself. This foremost of the Dharma Sastras ha been promulgated b y the god himself.
It contains one hundred chapters in total. In the beginning of this treating, lord visnu felt a desire of creating creatures; knowing the earth to be under water, he, as in the cycle before, uplifted the earth supported upon the auspicious (figure of the) boar, delighting to sport in the water. The initial chapters after chapter one describe the duties of the four-casts, duties of the King and also laws relating to treasure-finds.
The subsequent chapters deal with the laws of purification, viz., Upakarman, Utsarga, Upanayan, Purifying Mantras from the Vedas etc. and penances, viz., Tarpana, Pitr rites. Apart from these rites, the code of Visnu elaborates about the duties of Brahmans, duties of owner and servant etc. It also mentions about the three kinds of Property of a house-holder and their comparative moral worth's.
The present translation of Visnusmrti by M.N. Dutt is an authentic English translation with various notes at appropriate places for researchers. The Editor of the present book has further enhanced the English Translation by replacing older usage of English words with the corresponding modern words. He has done a good labour to put Sanskrit text and English translation side by side for the benefit of readers. Further, he has corrected various diacritical notations that were incorrectly used in the earlier edition. Also the text has been corrected at appropriate places for a better edition of Visnusmrti.
The Scriptural writings of the Hindus are divided, mainly,
into two classes Sruti (or what is heard) and Smrti (or what is
remembered). The earliest and the most sacred religious work of
the Hindus, namely, the Veda, belongs to the former. In it the
words of revelation are preserved in their original state. And all
the law, civil and religious; which govern and regulate the life
and conduct of the Hindus pass under the sacred appellation of
Sruti. According to the belief of the Hindus, Smrti also is of
divine origin; the difference between it and the Veda consists in
the fact that in the Hindu System of Law the sense is recorded
either in the divine words or other equivalent expressions. The
Taittiriya Aranyaka, describes Smrti as one of the sources of
The history of the origin of Smrti attributes it to the Self-
Sprung Brahma who communicated it to Manu, who again taught
it to the ten patriarchal sages, viz., Marici, Atri, Angira, Pulastya,
Pulaha, Kratu, Praceta, Vasistha, Bhrgu and Narada.
Smrti consists of three sections, viz.,- (i) Acara or
regulations relating to the performance of religious rites and
ceremonies and the general.duties of men; (ii) Vyavahara or civil
law relating to the protection of life and property with all their
rules and practices; and (iii) Prayscitta or those relating to the
atonement for various sins committed. But all these groups of
laws, religious, civil .and about atonement, pass by one
comprehensive term which i popularly known as the Dharma-
Under the series of Smrtis (or Code of law) collectively
known as Dharma-sastra, Visnusmrti or Vaisnava Dharma-sastra
occupie an unique place among these scriptures. There are many
smrtis ascribed to the names of various Rsis like Vyasa, Parasara,
Manu, Yajnavalkya, Atri etc. but Visnusmrti is famous after the
name of lord Visnu himself. This foremost of the Dharma Sastras
has been promulgated by the god himself. Brahmanas, who study
or teach this Law code, acquire an elevated status in the celestial
This (code) is holy, auspicious, life-prolonging, and heaven
awarding. It imparts fame, knowledge, opulence and good
fortune. This (Code) should be studied, remembered, heard and
recited to others. Persons, deserving good, shall hear it, narrated
during the celebrations of a Sraddha ceremony.
It contains one hundred chapters in total. In the beginning of
this treatise, lord Visnu felt a desire of creating creatures;
knowing the earth to be under water, he, as in the cycle before,
uplifted the earth supported upon the auspicious (figure of the)
Boar, delighting to sport in the water.
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