A brief indication of the plan of the lectures may he offered. In the first lecture ("Manu and his rivals") the supposed rivalry between Arthagastra and Dharmasastra is examined. A number of problems that have to be solved by students of Manusmrti today before they can grasp his position and teaching form the subject of the second discourse. The third lecture attempts to describe the background against which the teachings of Manu and the Hindu social system have to be viewed in order to obtain a correct picture of them. The next two lectures deal with the basic ideas of varna and agrama, and their bearing on life. In the last lecture some salient features of the political system and ideas of ancient India, that may be gathered from Manusmrti, are outlined. A social and political setup that has embraced a vast continental area cannot be dealt with even cursorily in a few lectures. The present attempt is there-fore designed less to convey inform-ation than to furnish a stimulus for study of the great social classic. "Manu's administrative ideas are highly rational. Manu's administrative principles does not suggest that they were intended to be a code of law for any practical group, inhabiting in a specific geographical area though Manu Dharmasastra relates to Hindu society and polity. That Manusmriti occupies a place of highest authority in the Indian polity is manifested in the application of the injunctions of Manusmriti in various branches of Indian admini-stration".
In the literatures of the world, Manusmrti has held for centuries a unique position. Even in its present recension it is admittedly above two thousand years old. For atleast a thousand years earlier the name of Manu was cited as the author of many fl9ating dicta to which his name gave weight. Even in Ariha-Sastra a school of thought springing from Manu was held in esteem long before the fourth century B. C. The book does not claim to be a direct utterance of God, but to have been revealed by the Father of Mankind to assembled sages through another sage (Bhrgu) to whom its terms had been communicated, and in the presence of the Patriarch himself. The inspirer of the work is one of fourteen Manus, who are divinely appointed regents of the universe for vast time cycles (manvantara), and who are immortal. By agreement, it has been accorded primacy among smrtis, and dicta opposed to its are rejected. Its study is imposed as a duty on the leaders and teachers of society. Manu is said in Indian tradition
to have been the first king of men, the greatest ruler ever born, and 'entitled to veneration by all who claim to be intelligent' (manaiyo manisinam), in the words of Kalidasa. For thousands of years Indian society has been moulded on the lines laid down in Manusmrti. To uphold Manu's words has been to uphold the Indian social order, to condemn his teachings to reject it. Accordingly, anti-Hindu propaganda dating from the advent of British rule in India, whether conducted by followers of alien religions or by Indians who desired to reform their own religion or society, has made Manusmrti the chief target of attack. At the same time, Hindu reformers like Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who ha-e advocated a purification of Hinduism and of Hindu society, have turned to Manusmrti and have used it as a text-book for homilies to Indian leaders. Centuries ago it was carried over the seas by Indian colonists and conquerors and became the law of the lands over which they ruled, and the foundation of their social and political order. Even in the West, its wisdom and foresight have attracted the attention of men not borne down by convention and habit, like Nietzsche, who have looked for new light. To-day, after the agonies of two calamitous world wars, there are thoughtful men who find in its social system a model for remaking the world. Attempts have been made to study Manusmrti in the light of modern sociology, and to find how far its teachings and fundamental beliefs, (metaphysical, ethical and political) can help in a synthesis of a new order in our war-riven world.
The recognition of its commanding position in social literature is not new. The best minds of India, educated on traditional lines, and filled with a knowledge of its basic beliefs, have made it for centuries the subject of study and comment, so that its light may shed illumination on furture ages. Not a century has passed without a great commentary on Manusmrti being composed. At present, the oldest commentary that has survived is the Many-bhasya of Medhatithi, which is at least 1200 years old. But Medhatithi used older commentaries like those of Asahaya (whose commentary on Narada-smrti has survived in fragments), Bhartryajlia and Bhaguri. What is more significant is that the ancient smrti of Brhaspati, which is far older than commonly believed by many scholars, is virtually a lucid expansion of Manu's work—a kind of varttika. It explains crucial passages that puzzle modern writers who see in them inconsistency or suspect interpolation. V. N. Mandlik rendered a great service to the study of Dharma§astra by collecting eight famous commentaries on the work and printing them in 1886.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend