The Manusmriti, translated "Laws of Manu" or "Institutions of Manu", is regarded as a foundational work of Hindu law and ancient Indian society, compiled and written quite late, c.200 CE in India. It is one of the eighteen Smritis of the Dharma Sastra (or "laws of righteous conduct"); Smriti means "what is remembered" and is applied in general to a Hindu text other than the Vedas, including traditional Indian epics, the Puranas, and science and grammar treatises. Unlike the Vedas which are considered to be eternal or of divine origin, the Smritis are considered to be of human origin and therefore susceptible to the flaws of humans. They contain laws, rules and codes of conduct to be applied by individuals, communities and nations. Some of these laws codify the Hindu caste system and discuss the "stages of life for a twice-born man". The book is ascribed to Manu, said to be the forefather of all human race. Manu's writings prescribe a particular ideal of Indian society, conforming to detailed social and religious rules which are expressed as being in line with the universal ethical principle of 'dharma'. For many scholars, it is merely one (particularly influential) set of laws to which many Hindus have appealled - others guides to social practice exist, and have complemented or contradicted Manu throughout India's history and across its communities.Manusmriti was quoted, especially by the British Colonial rulers of India as "the law-book" of the Hindus. Some Hindus allege that the colonial rulers, like Robert Clive and Lord Macaulay, would have found it a useful tool. They have argued that the caste system as prescribed by the Manusmriti developed a society that was very easy to subjugate and rule. Some people over the ages have quoted or interpreted the Manusmriti to justify Brahmin supremacy, the sanctity of the caste system and the lower status given to the so-called Dalits (i.e. slaves).Manusmriti is a key text in justifying and prescribing the detailed precepts of the caste system. In it, society consists of four (later hereditary) classes - Brahmanas (teachers and priests), Kshatriyas (administrators and armymen), Vaishyas, also called as Aryas (traders, farmers and herdsmen) and Shudras (unholy slaves). It clearly defined the relative position and the duties of the several castes, and determined the penalties to be indicted on any transgressions of the limits assigned to each of them.
Manusmriti has specified the socioecologicalstatus of the human beings on the basis of a defined livelihood i.e. Varna (which subsequently emerged into caste) and his social role i.e. Karma, a manifestation of simple life style.
The Constitution of India has sought to create a more equal and just rule of law between individuals and groups than what existed under traditional authorities such as Manusmriti
Manusmruti says:Yathaa yathaa hi purushah ssaastram samadhigachchati, Tathaatathaabijaanaativijnyaanamchaashyarochate. (IV/20)Meaning: The more a man completely studies the institutes of science, the more he fully understands them and his great learning shines brightly.
I AM MANU OF THE PAST
I am Manu of the Past<br /> Presented to : Presented by :<br />Ms. Shweta Dhaliwal AbhimanyuJ Rajpurohit<br /> Group no. – 3<br /> Roll no. – 441<br /> RAJIV GANDHI NATIONAL UNIVERAITY OF LAW, PATIALA, PUNJAB (RGNUL)<br />
Introduction<br />I am the author of Manusmriti.<br />In the 3rd Century A.D., I drew up the Dharmasashtracode, which was called as Manusmriti.<br />Manusmriti dealt with the duties of a king, the mixed castes, the rules of occupation in relation to caste, occupations in times of distress, expiations of sins, and the rules governing specific forms of rebirth.<br /><ul><li>Manusmriti was the first Indian code of law.
Manusmriti was translated into English by Sir William Jones in the year 1794.</li></li></ul><li>Emergence of Varna System<br />Manusmriti is often blamed for the division of Varnas and restriction of freedom for women.<br />The fourfold (Chaturvarna) classification of the society (without birth right initially) as Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra in Indian scenario, was based on Guna (quality) and Karma (duty).<br />The duty of the different Varnas and Varnashankaras (mixed Varnas: resulted out of sex adultery and illegitimate marriages) is specified in Manusmriti to signify the working cadre and social status of a person in the society.<br /> The intellectuals who guided the society were called Brahmana, the Kshatriyas rendered protection to all concerned, the Vaishyas were to shoulder the economic responsibility in a broader spectrum, such as: agriculture and commerce; and the Shudras being uneducated, without defined livelihood (occupation) were prescribed to serve (support / help) the other three Varnas for the smooth running of the society.<br /> So the Chaturvarna classification was more based on the division of labour and was more a natural system.<br />
Administration of Justice<br />The judges<br />The peril of injustice<br />Judicial Psychology<br />General Principles of law<br />Witnesses<br />
Laws to Which I Stand By<br />A student shall first reverentially salute that teacher from whom he receives knowledge.<br />One must not sit down on a couch or seat which a superior occupies; and he who occupies a couch or seat shall rise to meet a superior, and salute him.<br /><ul><li>It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world, for that reason the wise* never remain unguarded in the company of female.</li></ul>There is no sin in eating meat and in drinking spirituous liquor, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention brings great rewards.<br />He who damages the goods of another, be it intentionally or unintentionally, shall give satisfaction to the owner and pay to the king a fine equal to the damage i.e. compensation.<br />
Laws Which I Regret<br />A man can leave a barren woman after eight years and one who only gives birth to daughters.<br />If a woman should happen to merely to overhear recitations of Vedic mantras by chance, hot molten glass should be poured into her ears.<br />When any of the three lower vernas, commit a sin they may be punished by the king on any body part while for a Brahman, if he commits a sin he should be made to depart from the country unhurt.<br />A Shudra who insults a Brahman with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.<br />If a Shudra mentions the names and castes of the Brahman contumely, an iron nail, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth.<br />
Contemporary Relevance<br />In the pre-independent India it was the British who resurrected the Manusmriti and used it to frame the "Hindu Civil Code". <br />My reminiscences in the village justice system is still playing a major role in the dispensation of justice.<br />It made it easier to disenfranchise women in matters of inheritance or introduce legal injunctions against same-gender sexual relations as was the case in Britain during the 18th Century.<br />
Sources<br />Olivelle, P. (2004). The Law Code of Manu. USA : Oxford University Press<br />Buhler, G. (1984). The Laws of Manu. Delhi: Banarsidass. (Reprint from Oxford University's 1886-edition)<br />Internet Sources<br />