Narada is one of the most prolific writers and one of the fore most authorities on ancient Indian Dharmasastras. Narada seems to be a pseudonym of a brilliant jurist of ancient India. It is estimated by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. Pandurangavaman Kane, the author of the Classical History of Dharmasastras, that, he arrived between 100 A.D.-400 A D. Naradasmrti shows unmistakable evidence of the fact that its author lived in a Period later than Manu & Yajnavalkya.
Naradasmrti is one of the methodical books of ancient law. The first three chapters are introductory dealing with the principle of judicial procedure(व्यहारमातृका). Like Yajnavalkya, he deals with the law of evidence under the chapter(ऋणादान) money-lending. The classification and sub-classification of the topics of law show the analytical mind of Narada. Manu first divided the substantive law into eighteen heads. Other authors followed Manu substantially. Narada divides these into sub-heads totaling one hundred and thirty two sub-heads.
Dr. P.V. Kane says that Narada, Brhaspati & katyayana form the triumvirate in the realm of Hindu Law of procedure. The works of Brhaspati and Katyayana are yet to be recovered (See Dr. P.V. Kane: History of Dharmasastra Vol. I page. 213).
The texts of Brhaspati and Katyayana are collected from later commentators like Vijnaneswara, Mitra Misra, Devana Bhatta and Nilakantha.
Narada first mentions the ten aparadhas (offences) (Narada quoted in Smrticandrika III. I, 62-63). Then there are the Padas (or napa-padas) offences against the king, twenty two in number. The chalas (literally deceptions) are fifty in number. Some of them are serious offences whereas others are not so serious and can be termed miscellaneous. The sub-heads into which Narada divides the traditional eighteen sub-heads are not fully mentioned. His commentator Asahaya gives the whole list (see Asahaya on Narada 7.21-25 and notes in the Sacred Books of the East. Vol XXXIII. 9-12).
The sub-classification is not scientific and justifies the comment of Dr. P. V. Kane that ancient lawgivers of India had a penchant for classification.
But the matter does not there. According to Narada the eighteen heads of litigation could be divided into eight thousand topics and a judge was supposed to be versed in all of them (Narada quoted in Smrticandrika). Naradasmrti and the analytical commentary of Asahaya on the same makes valuable insight into ancient Law. Unfortunately there are no good publications on Narada.
Prof. Dr. Brajakishore Swain, Department of Dharmasastra of Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri has contributed many research papers on Dharmasastra to his credit.
His book on Naradasmrti with Asahaya Bhasya and critical notes named --- prepared on the basis of the commentators and nibandhakaras with his own assessment and translation of the difficult text into simple Hindi is a valuable contribution to our understanding the ancient law of India. Dr. Swain deserves eulogy for delving deep into this aspect of ancient law and social system of India.
Narada-smrti, as it has come down to us, deals prominently with the Vyavahara portion of Dharmasastra. Though later writers quote Narada in the context of acara in a few cases, as for example ekadasi, sraddha and so on (cf. Hemadri, Caturvargacintamani) or the worship of Narayana (Smrticandrika I), they have to be taken as later addition to the main and original Naradasmrti. Earlier texts and commentators do not quote any Naradasmrti passage in this context. Hence, it is clear that Vyavahara was the original theme of the Naradasmrti. Another point is that, though Narada is mentioned quite early, in the Aitareya Brahmana(33.1) in the context of the account of Hariscandra, along with Parvata, as extolling the virtue of getting a son, he does not appear there as a law- giver, The Mahabharata appears to know Narada as an exponent of duties (Udyoga, 49.22) for the Vrsnis, but there also it is difficult to take him as a law-giver of the status of Manu or Yajnavalkya. Narada, whose teachings could be taken as the basis of the Naradasmrti, has to be taken as a different person.
As is generally the case with ancient Sanskrit works, manu refers to Narada, while the Naradasmrti mentions manu. (See the opening prose passage, iha hi bhagavan manuh etc.). According to the Manusmrti (1.35) Narada is one of the ten Prajapati-s some of whom appear as law-givers. On the other hand, Yajnavalkya does not mention Narada. This would mean that Narada mentioned by manu has more of the ancient halo, and falls in line with Narada-Parvata, or the almost mythical Narada with the lute, who also appears in the Mahabharata, consoling Yudhisthira by telling various stories to enliven his mind heavy due to the death of his relatives (santi 29. 13ff). The nebulous nature of this Narada is seen also when the Mahabharata makes him a maternal uncle of Paravata (taking a cue from the Aitareya-brahmana, which does not mention this relationship).
From the printed Naradasmrti, it is clear that it follows the Manusmrti to a great extent. A colophon in the Nepalese manuscript of the Naradasmrti reads “iti Manavadharmasastre naradaproktayam Samhitayam”, which would indicate that the Naradasmrti was a part of the laws propounded by manu or is based on or, has a very close relationship with, the doctrines of Manu Evenso, the Naradasmrti differs from the Manusmrti in many important points, which would indicate a late date for it. Narada allows niyoga (levirate), while Manu condemns it, interestingly, Narada allows re-marriage of women, while Manu does not.
Another point is that the Yajnavalkya-Smrti advocates the right of a widow to her deceased husband’s share in his ancestral property; while Narada does not. This goes with the trend of conservatism mentioned by Vijnanesvara, against which he fought, and which was not in the nature of the forward views of the Yajnavalkyasmrti. All this would indicate that Narada, the ‘Smrtikara’ was not near the period of the Manusmrti, and that he was later than Yajnavalkya.
The Naradasmrti (on Vyavahara) has two versions-one larger and the other smallers. Dr. Jolly long back (1876) published the translation of the smaller version, and the text of the longer version (1885). All these years there was need for a good edition of the Naradasmrti. The present edition by Dr. Braja Kishore Swain is an attempt in this direction. Dr. Swain has already published Varsikaparvasamgraha Sraddhapradipa kalamadava. He has shown his acumen in this direction, and is well versed in Dharmasastra.
For the present edition, Dr. Swain has written his own commentary in Sanskrit, naming it ‘Tilottama’; and he has also added comments and a general rendering in Hindi. The Tilottama commentary is highly useful as it refers to various Sanskrit Texts and authorities, including those on Dharmasastra in particular, to explain terms in the original text Thus, for example, we have here not only Puranic texts such as Visnupurana, Matsyapurana etc., but also Rgveda, the Commentator Sayana, other Samhitas, Mahabharata and so on. Help has been taken for comparative explanation, from the Smrti texts, such as Manusmrti. Yajnavalkyasmrti, Visnusmrti, and commentators such as Kulluka, Aparaka, Vijanaesvara, and others. Some peculiar terms used by the Naradasmrti have been very critically glossed upon. Among them is hodha, and the Vyavaharapada ‘prakitnaka’. The Sanskrit commentary and the Hindi ‘tika’ will be of immense help for understanding the Smrti text. A word about the Hindi tika would not be out of place. It has to be seen as an aid to the understanding of the text, which certainly it is. However, a reader familiar with Hindi might find certain pricks such as acaraparampara ki samraksanahetubhuta” or “uska pahala prakarana men”, But, well, this can be taken as a type of Hindi; and the edition is not harmed by it. The edition commends itself to scholars and is welcome.
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