Manusmriti

one of many Dharmasastra texts of Hinduism


The Manusmriti (Sanskrit: मनुस्मृति), also known as the Mānava-Dharmaśāstra or Laws of Manu, is believed to be the first ancient Sanskrit legal text in the Dharmaśāstra tradition of Hinduism.

Learn that sacred law which is followed by men learned (in the Veda) and assented to in their hearts by the virtuous, who are ever exempt from hatred and inordinate affection.

Quotes

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(full text, multiple translations and formats)

  1. The great Seers having approached Manu seated intent, having reverenced him, duly spoke this speech.
  2. Lord! deign to tell us truly in order the rules of all the castes and of all the castes that arise between (them).
  3. For thou, Lord, alone knowest the true sense of the objects of this universal, self-existent system, unattainable by (simple) reason, not to be reasoned out.
  4. He whose glory is unmeasured, being duly questioned those magnanimous ones, having saluted all the great Seers, answered them: Hear!
  5. This (All) was darkness, imperceptible, without definite qualities, undiscoverable, unknowable, as if wholly in sleep.
  6. Then the self-existent Lord became manifest, making this undiscrete (All) discernible with his power, unobstructed by the chief elements and the like, removing the darkness.
  7. He who can be apprehended by the suprasensual, (who is) subtile, undiscrete, eternal, who consists of all elements, incomprehensible, he verily became manifest of himself.
  8. Wishing to produce different beings from his own body, he -having desired, first created water alone; in that he cast seed.
  9. That became a golden egg, like in splendour to the thousand - rayed (sun); in that was born spontaneously Brahma, the grand parent of all the worlds.
    • Lecture One, p 1-2, (Translation by Arthur Coke Burnell)
  • Those who seek great prosperity and happiness should never inflict pain on women. Where women are honored, in that family great men are born, but where they are not honored, all acts are fruitless. Where women pass their days in misery and sorrow because of the misdeeds of their husbands, that family soon entirely perishes, but where they are happy because of the good conduct of their husbands, the family continually prospers.
    • Manusmriti (3:55-57)[1]
  • पूजयेदशनं नित्यं अद्याच्चैनमकुत्सयन् ।
    दृष्ट्वा हृष्येत् प्रसीदेच्च प्रतिनन्देच्च सर्वश: ॥
    पूजितं ह्यशनं नियं बलमूर्जं च यच्छति ।
    अपूजितं तु तद्भुक्तं उभयं नाशयेदिदं ॥
    • Food should always be worshipped and taken with the utmost reverence. The sight of food should delight one’s heart and fill it with joy. It should always be cherished whatever the situation. Food thus honoured gives one strength and energy. Food taken irreverently destroys both strength and energy.
      • 2.54-55
  • अनारोग्यमनायुष्यं अस्वर्ग्यं चातिभोजनं ।
    अपुण्यं लोकविद्विष्टं तस्मात् तत्परिवर्जयेत् ॥
    • Excessive eating is prejudicial to health, to fame, and to (bliss in) heaven; it prevents (the acquisition of) spiritual merit, and is odious among men; one ought, for these reasons, to avoid it carefully.
      • 2.57; translated by George Bühler
  • इन्द्रियाणां विचरतां विषयेष्वपहारिषु ।
    संयमे यत्नमातिष्ठेत् विद्वान् यन्तेव वाजिनां॥
    • The five senses chase the objects of their desire which powerfully attract them. Wise men should endeavour to keep them under control like a horseman controls his horses.
      • 2.88
  • Evil actions performed in this world do not bear fruit immediately like the cow, which gives milk after being fed, but gradually gnaw the roots of him who commits them.
    • 4.172
  • Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to (the attainment of) heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun (the use of) meat. Having well considered the (disgusting) origin of flesh and the (cruelty of) fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.
    • 5.48-49; translated by George Bühler
  • धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः
    • Dharma protects those who protect dharma.
      • 8.15
      • Variant translation: Dharma protected protects.
  • Learn that sacred law which is followed by men learned (in the Veda) and assented to in their hearts by the virtuous, who are ever exempt from hatred and inordinate affection.
    • 2.1; George Bühler translation
  • When a man has studied the Veda in accordance with the rules, and begotten sons in accordance with his duty, and sacrificed with sacrifices according to his ability, he may set his mind-and-heart on freedom. (MS 6.36)
  • That land where the black antelope naturally roams, one must know to be fit for the performance of sacrifices; (the tract) different from that (is) the country of the Mlekkhas.
    • Manu Smriti 11.22 (2.23)
  • Where women are honored there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored no sacred rite yields rewards.
    • Manu Smriti (III.56)
  • [Brahmāvarta or] ―the district between the Sarasvatī and Dṛṣadvatī is the home of the Veda.
    • Manu 11.17


Misattributed

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  • Only in the case of a girl is the whole body pure.
    • Not found in the original text, but stated in 'Jacolliot’s flawed translation' and quoted by Nietzsche, see Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008)
  • Circumcision, was prescribed for male children and the removal of the small labia from the females.
    • Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols. According to Elst:" To the ignorant reader, this hypothesis is strengthened considerably by Jacolliot’s additional claim, uncritically quoted in full by Nietzsche (TI Improvers 3, referring to the demeaning features of Chandala existence enumerated in Manu 10.52), that the Chandala-s were circumcised. This is based on a mistranslation of daushcharmyam in a verse (MS 11.49) which strictly isn’t about Chandala-s but about the karmic punishment for the student who has slept with his guru’s wife, either in this or a former lifetime. The mistranslation first appeared in a commentary on Manu by Kulluka from the 13th century, when Northern India had been conquered by Muslims. The word means ‘having a skin defect’ but was reinterpreted as ‘missing skin (on the penis)’, hence ‘circumcised’. The medieval Hindu commentator’s purpose clearly was to classify Muslims as contemptible Chandala-s. Some Hindu scribes were very conscientious in rendering texts unaltered, others felt it would be helpful for the reader if they updated the old texts a bit, which seems to have happened in this case."see Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
  • They are forbidden to write from left to right or to use their right hand in writing: the use of the right hand and writing from left to right are reserved to people of virtue, to people of race.
    • Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols. Elst comments:" To compound this important mistake, Nietzsche (TI Improvers 3) further quotes from Jacolliot’s Manu version an insertion by the medieval commentator to the effect that the Chandala-s used a right-to-left script, allegedly because writing from left to right like in the Sanskritic script, and even the use of the right hand, was forbidden to them."see Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
  • I cannot oversee whether the Semites have not already in very ancient times been in the terrible service of the Hindus: as Chandalas, so that then already certain properties took root in them that belong to the subdued and despised type (like later in Egypt). Later they ennoble themselves, to the extent that they become warriors […] and conquer their own lands and own gods. The Semitic creation of gods coincides historically with their entry into history.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche as quoted in Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008)
    • Louis Jacolliot and Nietzsche speculated, based on the Manu Smriti, that the Chandalas later became Semites or Jews. There is no basis for this speculation, and the claim that the Chandalas were circumcised is based on a mistranslation of the Manu Smriti. Elst writes: "In a far-fetched departure from Manu’s use of the term, [Nietzsche] relates the concept of Chandala to the psycho-sociological origin of the Jewish national character..." For a full discussion, see Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).

About the Manusmriti

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  • One thing I want to impress upon you is that Manu did not give the law of caste and that he could not do so. Caste existed long before Manu. He was an upholder of it and therefore philosophized about it, but certainly he did not and could not ordain the present order of Hindu Society [...] The spread and growth of the caste system is too gigantic a task to be achieved by the power or cunning of an individual or of a class [...] The Brahmins may have been guilty of many things, and I dare say they were, but the imposing of the caste system on the non-Brahmin population was beyond their mettle.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, "Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches: Castes in India and 11 other essays", p. 106. B.R. Ambedkar 1916 16, quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
  • The laws of Manu very probably were considerably older than those of Solon or even of Lycurgus, although the promulgation of them, before they were reduced to writing, might have been covered with the first monarchies established in Egypt and India.
    • William Jones, Expansion of Cultural Imperalism Through Globalisation.
  • Manu Smriti was the foundation upon which the Egyptian, the Persian, the Grecian and the Roman codes of law were built and that the influence of Manu is still felt in Europe.
  • [Calling it a law book] skews it towards what the British hoped to make of it: a tool with which to rule the Hindoos. A broader title like 'teaching' would better suggest what the text is.
    • Wendy Doniger, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 512
  • The Manu Smrti is usually referred to, especially by its modern leftist critics in India, as the casteist manifesto pure and simple. This is fair enough in the sense that there is no unjustly disregarded anti-caste element tucked away somewhere in Manu’s vision of society; the text is indeed casteist through and through. However, the scope of the Manu Smrti is broader, dealing with intra-family matters, the punishment of crime, the king’s (in the sense of: the state’s) duties, money-lending and usury, et al.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
  • We know nothing more interesting than to read Manu with the Bible in front of us. The latter book, a code of pillage and debauchery, which never knew the immortality of the soul, can not sustain the tiniest comparison with the ancient law book of the Hindus.
    • Louis Jacolliot , Les legislateurs religieux, p. 54. in Lincoln, Bruce (1999), Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.254
  • I do not know any book that says as many kind and delicate things to females as in the law book of Manu; these old men and saints have a way of minding their manners in front of women that has perhaps never been surpassed.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, (AC 56) quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
  • What a yes-saying Aryan religion, born from the ruling classes, looks like: Manu’s law-book. What a yes-saying Semitic religion, born from the ruling classes, looks like: Mohammed’s law-book, the Old Testament in its older parts. What a no-saying Semitic religion, born from the oppressed classes, looks like: in Indian-Aryan concepts; the New Testament, a Chandala religion. What a no-saying Aryan religion looks like, grown among the dominant classes: Buddhism.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Manu as a weapon against egalitarianism: Nietzsche and Hindu political philosophy in : Siemens & Vasti Roodt, eds.: Nietzsche, Power and Politics (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008).
  • One draws a breath of relief when coming out of the Christian sick-house and dungeon atmosphere to this healthier, higher wider world. How paltry the 'New Testament' is compared with Manu, how ill it smells! One sees immediately that it has a real philosophy behind it, in It, not merely an ill-smelling Jewish acidity compounded of rabbinisim and superstition ... All the tlungs upon which Christianity vents its abysmal vulgarity, procreation, for example, woman, marriage, are here treated seriously, with reverence, with love and trust.
    • F. Nietzsche, quoted in Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture. New Delhi: Pragun Publication.
  • Here we arc manifestly no longer among animal- tamers: a species of human being a hundred times more gentle and rational is presupposed even to conceive the plan of such a breeding. One draws a breath of relief when coming out of the Christian sick-house and dungeon atmosphere into this healthier, higher, wider world. How paltry the 'New Testament' is compared with Manu, how ill it smells!"
    • Nietzsche , in Lincoln, Bruce (1999), Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.109
  • I owe to these last weeks a very important lesson: I found Manu's book of laws in a French translation done in India under strict supervision from the most eminent priests and scholars there. This absolutely Aryan work, a priestly codex of morality based on the Vedas, on the idea of caste and very ancient tradition-not pessimistic, albeit very sacerdotal-supplements my views on religion in me most remarkable way. I confess to having the impression that everything else that we have by way of moral lawgiving seems to me an imitation and even a caricature of it-preeminently, Egypticism does; but even Plato seems to me in all the main points simply to have been well instructed by a Brahmin. It makes the Jews look like a Chandala race which learns from its masters the principles of making a priestly caste the master which organizes a people.
    • Nietzsche. In a letter of 31 May 1888 to Peter Gast, (letter to Peter Gast, KSA 14.420) in Lincoln, Bruce (1999), Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. p 107
  • Hindu Sashtras also contain a Sanitary Code no less correct in principle, and that the great law-giver, Manu, was one of the greatest sanitary reformers the world has ever seen.
  • “The cosmogony of the Manava Dharmashastra is the broadest and most comprehensive we have thus far encountered.”
    • Joseph Guigniaut , in Jain, S., & Jain, M. (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. vol 4. Introduction
  • Even the much-maligned Manusmriti (commonly known in the West as the Laws of Manu) was never enforced as the divine and all-encompassing law of Hindus – except by the British rulers who enforced it to show that the colonizers were ruling in accordance with 'Hindu Law' (a canon they had constructed themselves). Moreover, Manu's code is explicit in stating that it is not universal. It calls for updates, amendments and rewrites in order to suit different circumstances.
    • Malhotra, R., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2018). Being different: An Indian challenge to western universalism.
  • The other side of the coin is equally important. Before using hyperbolic pejoratives to describe how oppressive Indian society has been for ‘thousands of years’, and basing the most far-reaching policy prescriptions on that construction, should the judges, who quote a sentence or two from Manusmriti, not adduce evidence to establish, first, that the half a dozen verses that are cited again and again are representative of the work; second, that the smritis are intrinsic to Hinduism; third, that the kind of oppression and differentiation that these verses imply actually prevailed in practice?
    Manusmriti is said to have been compiled over seven to eight hundred years. Which verse is authentic and which an interpolation? Second, what is the evidence that this text was in fact being lived out in practice? Even the ‘eminent historians’ who have built their careers on such assertions have not been able to point to any evidence that even vaguely suggests that Indian society was characterized by the tales of caste oppression that are their stock-in-trade.50 With these ‘historians’ unable to adduce any evidence to substantiate their assertions, on what do the judges base their characterizations? And yet, not only do our judges repeat the assertions, they do so in grandiloquent prose, and they base their policy prescriptions on those very assertions.
    • Arun Shourie - Falling Over Backwards (2012)
  • More serious is Nietzsche’s uncritical reliance on the flawed translation of the text by Jacolliot, an amateur openly denounced by leading philologists like Friedrich Max Muller. Uncritical reading of this text led Nietzsche to quote mistranslations and later insertions in support of the claim concerning the Chandala (low caste) origins of the Semites, used to attack Christianity in TI and AC. Elst goes on to highlight what Nietzsche missed or omitted in his reading of the text, including not just the actual politics and institutions of the caste system, but also some striking affinities with his own views and teachings. Despite these philological blunders and misjudgements, however, Nietzsche seems to have landed on his feet after all; for in Elst’s view, he did succeed in grasping Manu’s view of man and society.
    • Herman Siemens and Vasti Roodt , in Introduction, in : Herman Siemens (editor)_ Vasti Roodt (editor) - Nietzsche, Power and Politics_ Rethinking Nietzsche's Legacy for Political Thought-De Gruyter (2008) p 26
  • [The Aryan] religion was, in its poetic fancies, as far exalted above [the native's] crude systems of worship as the sublime teachings of Christianity soar above the doctrines of the code of Menu.
    • W. C. Pearce in 1876 quoted in Bryant, E. F. (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press. ch 1

See also

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