Maharishi Manu in right prespective
IMPORTANCE & RELEVANCE OF MANUSMRITI WITHOUT INTERPOLATIONS ANDWORLDWIDE INFLUENCE OF MAHARISHI MANU
CONTRIBUTED BY SHRI Y K WADHWA
It is observed that today a large section of our people have very little knowledge about the true perspective of Maharishi Manu and significance of his Laws which has had a great impact on human race in general and Hindus in particular. Some persons say that in the present context Manusmriti has lost its relevance, oppose Manu’s Dharma Shastra tooth and nail and decry it. On the other hand there are also people who opine that a sizeable part of Manusmriti is very good. However, this later category also have some reservations in accepting Manu Dharmshastra as their precious patrimony because of ongoing disinformation campaign against it. This Group is also trying to disgrace Manusmriti on account of some objectionable material(particularly relating to hereditary caste system and some shlokas relating to women) in it. The answer to this darker side is quite simple – separate the good part from the bad part(interpolations) and make best use of Manusmriti. This is what Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati has done to attack hereditary caste system who while quoting from the same Manusmriti(verse 10/65) said that a Shudra becomes a Brahman and vice versa a Brahman becomes a Shudra on the basis of one’s merits, actions and aptitude(Gun, Karma and Swabhava). The same basis of interchange also applies to Kshatriya and Vaishya as well. Swamiji made it clear that caste is based on one’s worth(karmana) and not birth(janmana).
Reaching the gems of Manusmriti
During the period of decadence, the whole scenario changed and obnoxious practices made their way into our social structure and many of our texts. So the solution lies in removal of these later additions and accretions from the texts in a rational and scientific manner. After all what do you do to make water potable if it is full of impurities? You set up a water treatment plant. What do you do if you have an eye problem? You do not pluck the eye but go for the eye treatment. Just because the ores are full of impurities you do not leave them in the earth in insitu condition and discard the gold mine. You simply go for processing of ores for removal of extraneous matter to meet your metal requirements and especially gold.
Relevance of Manusmriti in modern context
Similarly, it is absurd to assume that Manu Smriti is obsolete. Manu’s definition of Dharma is as relevant today as it was in the past which says “Dhriti Kshama Damostayam shauchamindriyanigraha. Dhirvidhya satyamakrodho dashkam dharmalakshnam.”(Manusmriti 6.92), i.e., There are ten characteristics of Dharma, (1) dhriti(perseverance), (2)forgiveness(kshama), (3)self restraint(dama), (4) not to take possessions of others without permission(asteya), (5)internal and external purification(shaucha), (6)subjection to senses(indriya nigraha), (7)improvement of intellect(dhi), (8)acquisition of accurate knowledge(vidya), (9)truth(satya),(10) abstaining from anger(akrodha). There is a unanimity amongst scholars both Indian and foreign with regard to position of Manu ‘as the basis of Indian thought’ and the significant role of Manusmriti in the context of Indian tradition. Maharishi Manu attaches lot of importance to Veda as well as Logic and says “Every thing pertaining to dharma should stand the test of Veda and logic” (Manusmriti 12/106). Acharya Brihaspati says “When there is a contradiction among the Smrities, treat Manu Smriti as authentic. But it should be taken like this only, when the Manu Smriti is in consonance with the Vedas and not where it contradicts the Vedas.”
Refutation of disinformation campaign about Manusmriti by Arya Samaj
Arya Samaj scholars did not prefer to remain in their cocoons while Manusmriti was being attacked by Kanshi Ram, Mayavati, leftists, etc. Eight booklets in defence of uninterpolated Manusmriti compiling the works of eminent Arya Samaj scholars like Vasudev Sharan Agarwal, Bhagwad Dutt, Bhawani Lal Bhartiya, Dr.K.V. Paliwal, etc. were published by Samarpan Shood Sansthan, under the guidance of Swami Dikshanand Saraswati. Again Arya Samaj will not remain silent to put things in the right perspective when some pseudo Hindus are fleeing from their responsibility and rather trying to tarnish the image of Maharishi Manu and true spirit of Manusmriti. Consequent upon the resolution passed on 28th June, 1989, by the full administrative bench of the Rajasthan High Court it was decided to shift the statue of Manu from the premises of the High Court. However, as a result of serious efforts and writ petition filed by a scholarly leader of of Arya Samaj (when the opposite party could hardly say anything), that the High Court passed an interim order staying its own administrative resolution and the statue continues to stay installed where it was.
Maharishi Manu proclaims flexibility of Varnas and their growth
Vedas proclaim that all human beings should move forward in unison and there cannot be any distinction on the basis of birth. Atharva Veda says “All the four Varnas should live in harmony and with love” Priyam ma krnu devesu priyam rajasu ma krnu, priyam sarvasya pasyata uta sudra utarye.(Atharva Veda 19-62-1). As per true Vedic concept, the duty of each Varna is to serve the society and every individual irrespective of his varna has to discover his soul (self-realization). Soceity will not obstruct the growth and progress of even Shudra to awaken his soul. That is why Manusmriti ( WITHOUT INTERPOLATIONS) says:
“Shudro brahmanatameti brahmanashchaiti shudratam.
Kshatriyanjalamevamtu vidyadvaishyattathaiva cha.”(Manusmriti 10/65)
i.e. a Shudra can become a brahmin by acquiring learning, merit, virtuous life, etc.and a brahmin lacking in above traits becomes a Shudra. The above principle of merit, action and personality traits (Guna-karma-Swabhava) also holds good for Kshatriya and Vaishya for their upward or downward mobility. According to Dr.Paliwal “Manu not only gave the right and the freedom to the shudra to rise upto the status of the Brahmanhood but also has shown him the ways and means to reach there thus:This human body is transformed into the the body of the Brahman through studies and dissemination of all knowledge, practice of celibacy , by following the rules of the truthful speech, performing yajnas and agni hotras, adoption of truthful action, renunciation of untruth, worship and acquisition of learning of crafts and science, etc., having good progeny and its upbringing as directed in the Vedas.” The shloka reads as Swadhyayenvratairhomaistra vidyenejyaya sutaih. Mahayagyaisheha yagyaishcha brahmiyam kriyate tanuh. (Manusmriti 2.28).
Again Manu says”A person desirous of entering the Brahman varna should attain more excellence through eschewing the company of the debased, characterless, narrow minds and the low, and by developing more contacts with the best of persons. Whereas by conducting himself just opposite to this, even a Brahman will be reduced to shudra-hood.” “uttaoniruttamairmityam sambandha nacharestsah. Ninishuh kule mutkarshamadhamanadhamanstyajel.” (Manusmriti 4.244). Source: Manu Ambedkar and Caste System by Prof.K.V. Paliwal, pub by Hindu Writers’ Forum, New Delhi, Ed.1998.
SPURIOUS INTERPOLATIONS /ADULTERATIONS IN MANUSMRITI
A perusal of complete Manusmriti will reveal that it is a carrier of paradoxes. We have noble commandments and profound philosophy in some of the verses and at the same time there are objectionable verses totally opposed to the original and real ideas of Maharishi Manu. Manu who considers Vedas as the final authority said “Vedo khilo dharma mulam“i.e., ‘Vedas are the main source of all Law’ while in the presently available Manusmriti we find many verses which are not in accordance with the Vedic precepts. Further we find that there are verses supporting meat eating and some verses against it. In certain verses women & shudras have been highly eulogised while in some they have been looked down upon. An important question ,therefore, arises here that when ordinary writers avoid self contradictory statements in their works, is it possible that a person of Maharishi Manu’s stature shall ever allow for paradoxical views in his own Dharma Sastra which has a universal significance? The answer is a definite ‘No” So the best lies in removal of the dust and rust by way of pin pointing the interpolated portions/later accretions with the standard literary parameters in a logical way not only from Manusmriti but also from other Shastras by bringing out their critical editions. Baring the Vedas which were well preserved by the oral tradition, interpolations in the absence of copy rights or rigid checks have been going on with many texts for centuries willy-nilly. If it was not so, the eminent scholar – Medhatithi during his time(9th century) would not have cried from house tops. regarding interpolations in Manusmriti. Maharishi Dayananda(1824-1883), Vishwanath Narayan Mandlik (1886), Jagannath Raghunath Dharpure (1920), Pt.Tulsi Ram(1907) and many other scholars have pointed out about interpolations in Manusmriti with varying number of interpolated shlokas. The recent publication of Dr.Surendra Kumar, (former Principal, Govt.College, Gurgaon) who has come out with uninterpolated Vishudh Manusmriti purged of extraneous matter has examined on the basis of 7 scientific parametres and declared 1471 shlokas as interpolations out of a total of 2685 verses. Prof.K.V. Paliwal, President Hindu Writers Forum, New Delhi in his book ‘Manu Ambedkar and Caste System agree with the findings of Dr.Surendra Kumar and the dispassionate and scientific research methodology used by him to identify interpolated verses in the Manusmriti.
Examination of Interpolations
In the present day available complete Manusmriti contradictions and interpolations are of course there which have led to mis-conceptions. Dr.Surendra Kumar, in his book “Opposition to Manu Why?” pub.by Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust, Khari Baoli, Delhi observes on scientific examination of Manusmriti that there are interpolations which have been added to it from time to time designed to suit the vested interests of interpolators. “The original verses are contextually relevant and written in a sober style which matches with the principle of due consideration for an individual’s merits, actions and potentialities so dearly upheld by Manu. The interpolated verses are written in a different style and are not only irrelevant and out of context but also thematically discordant.” To carry out social reform programmes, Swami Dayananda Saraswati extensively quoted only original verses of Manu in his works since he accepted interpolations in Manusmriti. Taking cue from Swamiji, a
number of Arya Samaj scholars in the last over hundred years have come out with several editions of Manusmriti by purging interpolations from complete manusmriti. However, the latest edition of Vishudh Manusmriti(sans interpolations) by Dr.Surendra Kumar is considered to be most authoritative, scientific and exhaustive. In his above publication, out of 2685 verses in the complete Manusmriti, Dr.Kumar has pin pointed 1471 shlokas as interpolations while 1214 verses are original. The criteria adopted by Dr.Surendra Kumar for identification of interpolated verses is based on logical yardsticks,namely, 1. Vishay-Virodh(Contradiction in subject matter), 2.Prasang-Virodh(Contextual contradiction), 3.Anter Virodh (Internal Contradiction), 4.Puneraktiyan(Repetition), 5.Shailey- Virodh (Contradiction in style), 6.Avanter Virodh(Accretion in interpolated verses),7.Ved-Virudh(Contradiction to the Vedas) Note:Since Manu believes in the final authority of the Vedas, obviously the verses contradicting Vedas in present day complete Manusmriti are interpolated.
Writing about interpolations in Manusmriti, Dr.K.V. Paliwal states “A reference in Narad Smriti also says that Manu wrote a dharma shastra, comprising 24 sections, 1080 chapters, and 1,00,000 verses and read it over to Narad who abridged it into 12000 verses and read it over to Markandeya. Markandeya abridged the verses to 8,000 and passed on to Sumati Bhargava who, in turn himself abridged them to 4,000 verses.” “Revisions and changes continued to be affected in it between the period of its writing and the commentary by Medhatithi in the 9th century”. Medhatithi during his time cried from house tops regarding interpolations in Manusmriti. Readers interested in deeper study of original Manusmriti who would like to know about additions, adulterations and later accretions shall find the research work of Dr.Surendra Kumar in both his Sampurna Manusmriti and Vishudh Manusmriti(pub.by Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust, Khari Baoli, Delhi) very useful. As a matter of fact, entire Dalitodhar programme undertaken for upliftment of downtrodden classes by Arya Samaj since 1875 has been greatly influenced and motivated by original verses of Manusmriti quoted by Swami Dayananda Saraswati and other Arya Samaj scholars in their works. As a result, a large number of Gurukul students hailing from the so called low classes after completing their studies became Pandits/Purohits of Arya Samaj and some of them even had the distinction of becoming eminent Vedic scholars.
Worldwide Influence of Maharishi Manu
According to Dr.Kewal Motwani teachings of Manu have not only influenced India but also several other countries of Far East, South Asia, West Asia and Europe. He further says “Manu does not belong to the dead past of some forgotten antiquity, but is a living force in the life of every civilized human being that breathes on the face of this earth today.” “Thus, judged from a purely pragmatic point of view, Manu is the only Teacher among the elect of the human race, whose teachings have done the greatest good, to the greatest number of people, over the largest area of the world and for the longest period of time! But this phase of human history has escaped the attention of academic historians and in vain shall be our search for even a hint of it in the history text-books, now in use in schools, colleges and universities throughout the world.” “Manu belongs to no single nation or race; he belongs to the whole world. His teachings are not addressed to an isolated group, caste or sect, but to humanity.”Source: Manu Dharma Sastra by Dr.Kewal Motwani, pub.by Ganesh & Co.(Madras) Pvt.Ltd.,1958 Ed (Note: The above book is also reported to be Ph.D thesis of Dr.Motwani written for Harward University).
King and Brahamanas liable for maximum punishment while Shudra for minimum punishment for the same crime as per Manu’s Penal Code.
Even the king could lose his position if he dared to deviate from the legal code. Where an ordinary person should be fined a small amount, for the same offence king should be fined a thousand times more(Manusmriti 8-336). As per Manu’s penal code, while determining the quantum of punishment, a brahmin is liable for most rigorous punishment for a similar offence as compared to the other three vernas because being more knowledgeable he is expected to be the role model for the entire society. Manusmriti (8-337,338) says “A convict in similar crimes like theft etc. has to be punished keeping in mind the principle that higher the status of an individual and higher the knowledge level, the greater he should realise his responsibility. Thus, a Shudra is to be punished 8 times more, the Vaishya 16 times more, a Kashatriya 32 times more, a Brahmin 64 times more or 128 more rigorous for a similar crime of theft.
Exaggerated and preposterous notions of upper caste oppression
Due to the endless repetition of the Upper Caste Oppression Theory which is based on half baked knowledge and one sided view of our vast literature, it has not only established firmly into the minds of a common man but also that of intelligentsia. The impact of this can be seen on the ‘Report of the Backward Classes Commission'(Mandal Commission Report). In Chapter IV(Vol.I&II) the report states “One important outcome of this ritual ranking of castes has been to create deep – rooted vested interests in this system and to enable the higher castes to exploit the lower ones through the institutional framework of social organisation.” The above Report also states “Like the limbs of the body, they cannot properly exchange their place or function”.
The above statements are contrary to the Vedic ethos since Vedic Soceity in general did not stop the progress or self development of any individual. For ascending the social order complete flexibility has been shown by various scriptures. Mahabharta says “A man cannot be a brahmin on account of his family. Even a Chandal who exercises restraint and has a good conduct is a brahmin”(Mahabharata Van Parva 226.14). There are numerous instances of children of non-Brahmana parents becoming Brahmana by virtue of their merit, action, learning and temperament. Swami Dayananda Saraswati in Chapter IV of his magnum opus Satyartha Prakasha says “Jabali of the Chhandogya Upanishad whose birth and lineage were unknown became a Brahmana. Sage Vishwamitra was born in a Kshatriya family but became Brahmarshi. Sage Matunga belonged to a very low Chandala family but became Brahmana and called a Rishi”. Apart from the popular verse 10/65, Manusmriti has dozen of other verses downgrading Brahamanas to Shudra,such as, 2/37,2/40, 2/103, 4/245,etc for neglecting their prescribed duties and upgrading shudras(9/335) in accordance with the merit, action and abilities of a particular varna.
OTHER HISTORICAL EXAMPLES REGARDING CHANGE OF VARNA
1. Kavash Ailush, a son of a maid-woman, and Vatsa, a son of a Shudra-woman became Rigvedic Rishis for their having become seers of Mantras(exponents of Vedic hymns).
2.Valmiki who (according to some legends) was lowly-born acquired the fame which goes with the name of Maharishi Valmiki.
3.Maid woman’s son, Vidur, became the Prime Minister of Raja Dhritarashra and came to be known as Mahatma.
4. Shri Ram, a son of King Dashratha, and Shri Krishna, born in a Yadav family, came to be regarded as God. They became venerable even for the Brahmanas, their birth in a Kshatriya family notwithstanding.
5.On the other hand, Ravana who was born in a clan of Pulastya Rishi came to be called a Rakshasha ‘demon’ for indulging in evil deeds and for his mis-conduct.
6. Raghu, the ancestor of Rama had a son named Pravridha. He was outcast from the Kshatriya clan due to his misdeeds and misdemeanour and became a demon.
7. Trishanku, originally a king became a Chandal.
8. Many of the Vishwamitra’s sons came to be called Shudras.
(Source: 1.Opposition to Manu Why? by Dr.Surendra Kumar, pub.by Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust, Delhi and
2.Untouchability Alien to Hindu Dharma, by Dr.K.V. Paliwal(pub by Hindu Writers Forum, New Delhi, 2005 Ed.)
Varna System Cycles – sometimes by birth and sometimes by worth – Periods of degeneration followed by periods of regeneration
The eminent Vedic scholar, Mr.Kireet Joshi in a seminar organised by WAVES at New Delhi remarked “Even when there have been failures and periods of decline, there have been sudden revivals and creations of new institutions and forms which have not hurt the fundamental continuity.” Opposition to Caste system based on birth has been there since ancient times. Manu Smriti, Mahabharata, Bhagwat Gita and various other scriptures clearly record Varna determination as per ones personality traits, i.e. Guna, Karma and Swabhava. The world is governed by three gunas, i.e., Sattva(quality of purity and goodness), Rajas (passion and activity) and Tamas (ignorance and inertia). It is the combination and domination of one of these three gunas which make a person a brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra. Swami Vidya Nand Vidhey elaborates this in his book on Gitayog(4.13) that a brahmana has sattvik, kshatriya has rajsik, vaishya has a mix of sattvik and rajsik while a shudra has a combination of rajsik and tamsik gunas. Later Jain Tirthankars, Mahatma Budha, Sidhas from 9th to 12th century, Gorakh Nath and other Naths from 12th to 15th century exploded the birth based cast rigidies. One full chapter of Dhampada is devoted to the description of a true Brahmin. A large number of disciples of Mahatma Budha were Brahmins who preached budhism both within and outside India. Budha says “Not by birth is one a Brahmana, nor is one by birth a non Brahmana. It is by ones actions a person becomes a brahmin”Dhampada. As per Skand Purana”Every body is born as a Shudra, however, by education he becomes a Dwija(twice born) . Meghatheeth who wrote a commentry on Manu Smriti in 9th century, remarked that Varna was determined by ones actions(karmas) and not by birth(janma).
The core message of Bhakti movement which originated in the south in 8th century spread subsequently all over the country was also the same. Its main exponent in North was Ramananda – a brahmin who had a formative influence on number of medieval age saints. Ramananda is regarded as Guru of not only Kabir but of several low caste saints, such as Ravidas(even brahmins of Banaras used to touch his feet), Pipa, Sain and Dhana. The works of Ramananda’s disciples are included in the Guru Granth Sahib(Adi Granth) while the highest representation has been given to Kabir with 541 hymns. Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus continued their crusade against hereditary caste system and gave a verdict that it is only the karma which decides ones varna(caste). It can therefore be inferred that at different points of time, caste system in India has been either by Karma or by Janma and cycles of caste rigidies and flexibilities have been there since ancient times.
Period of decadence – Vedic Studies falling into oblivion
The saints of the sant tradition started with a spirit of social criticism and protest directed against the caste ridden and ritualistic brahminism and barren scholasticism of the Vedas but did not practice their teachings. Actual Vedic Studies had fallen into oblivion and even Brahmanas were unable to comprehend various shades of meanings of the Vedas. That is why Kabir had to point out “Do not say the Vedas are untrue, Untrue person is one who does not delve deep into their study” (Adi Granth page 1330). The period of decadence continued till 19th century and this is evident from the autobiography of Maharishi Devendra Nath Tagore who remarked”The Vedas had become virtually extinctint in Bengal. Nyaya and Smriti shastras merely studied in every tol(Sanskrit School) and many Pandits versed in these Shastras came forth thence, but the Vedas were totally ignored. The business of the Brahmanas, that of learning and teaching the Vedas, had altogether disappeared from the country, there remained Brahmanas only in name, bereft of all Vedic knowledge, bearing the sacred thread only, with the exception of one or two learned Brahman Pandits they did not even know the meaning of their daily prayers.” Disturbed by the declining state of true Vedic tradition which was getting extinct, Swami Dayananda had to give a clarion call “Back to the Vedas.”
MAHARISHI DAYANANDA SARASWATI OPENED DOORS FOR STUDY OF VEDAS FOR ALL INCLUDING WOMEN
Swami Dayananda opened the doors for the study of Vedas for the downtrodden classes and women and quoted Yajurveda in this regard:
“Yathemam vacham kalyanimavadani janebhyah. Brahma rajanyabhyam shudraya charyay swaya charnaya.”(Yajurveda 26.2). “Just as God reveals and tells the Veda-vani(divine knowledge) to the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, the Shudras, women, servants and men of the best quality born elsewhere, so should all men teach and spread it to one and all. No one is unauthorised in this regard”.(Eng.translation from Dr.K.V. Paliwal’s book – Manu Ambedkar and Caste System pub.by Hindu Writers’Forum, New Delhi). Taking cue from Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Arya Samaj took up various programmes for the upliftment of depressed classes and established number of Dalitodhar Sabhas, namely:
VARIOUS DALITODHAR SABHAS SET UP BY ARYA SAMAJ FOR UPLIFTMENT OF DOWNTRODDEN CLASSES:
1.Megodhar Sabha, Sialkot, 1903
2.Dayanand Dalitodhar Sabha, Lahore, 1930
3.Arya Dalitsabha, Dinanagar(Punjab)
4.Amritsar Achutodhar Sabha
5.Achutodhar Sabha, Lakimpur
6.Lahore Megh Sabha
7.Ashprishyata Nivarak Samriti, Allahabad
8.Achutodhar Sabha, Meerut
9.Ashprishyata Nivaran Sangh, Bihar
11.Depressed Classes Mission of India
12.Bengal and Assam Depressed Classes Mission
13.ALL INDIA SHRADHANAND DALITODHAR SABHA, DELHI 1921
(Source: Contribution of Arya Samaj in the Making of Modern India 1875-1947 by Radhey Shyam Pareek, pub.by Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, New Delhi,1973 Ed.)
However, despite the efforts of Arya Samaj towards upliftment of depressed classes and to revive our ancient literature in its true perspective, the misinterpretation of Vedic texts by Imperialist scholars of 19th century is continuing even till today which has led to several misconceptions about Vedic studies including Manu’s Dharma Shastra. Therefore, it is only an intelligent and holistic approach for the study of Vedas, Manusmriti and other Arsha literature (composed by rishis) which would reveal the true nature of Varna System – the four divisions of social and occupational castes based on worth of a person rather than birth.