2 points | Post submitted by suyash95 11 days ago | 4 comments
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SMRITIS and DHARMASHASTRAS in HINDUISM
The fundamental categorization of Hindu scriptures is in terms of shruti and smRti. The shruti texts are the Vedas, which are descriptive texts. This means they describe things as they really were. So they describe society and the different classes of people and their interactions as it really was. The smRti texts are prescriptive texts. This means these are various texts of individual authors who wrote their personal opinion of how things should be in their time. These are framed as “laws” and the texts can be called “law books” in modern parlance. So with this fundamental definition in mind, it is highly unintelligent to imagine that every single “law” written in these “law books” were actually implemented in practice without knowledge of how ancient Indian society was organized.
DharmashAstras fall in the category of secondary scripture called smRti, and they are prescriptive texts. They contain do’s and don’t’s. However, there is no unanimity on which text is the one and only authority. The basic tenet is that each age deserves its own law book to work within the social context peculiar to it. Each book is attributed to a specific author, and in the best light it can be called the author’s opinion.
But again, the point to be emphasized is that these books were prescriptive, and there is no evidence that all the laws in these books were enforced at all. Especially in regards to the allegation that these laws are oppressive and denigrating to women or specific classes: Hindu culture, art, music, dance, architecture, sculpture, etc would not have developed in such beautiful and wholesome ways if such vast sections of society were so depressed and oppressed. Most, if not all, of the artisans, craftsmen, dancers, painters, singers, musicians and other creative people were women and shudras and the oppressive Brahmins were beggars.
The Smritis can say a whole lot of things, but People are failing to understand that “saying things” is not the same as “doing things”. They are entirely wrong that any of the theoretical text books called Dharmashastras became the “law of the land”. There r countless examples where nobody cared what the Dharmashastras said, and did what their caste tradition was. For example, all the Dharmashastras prohibit cousin marriage, but there are many communities throughout India that practice cousin marriage. The Shastras prescribe 7 levels of separation of sanguinity between the bride and groom, but even Buddha’s Shakya tribe, who called themselves Suryavamshi Kshatriyas and descendants of Rama, strictly had cousin marriage, completely disregarding the rules in the Dharmashastras. Similarly, many Brahmin communities in south India also do cousin marriage, by completely ignoring their own Dharmashastras. I have given enough examples in my answer where the actual conditions were 180 degrees apart from what you would think from reading the Dharmashastras.
So Basically What they are ? .They are narratives, opinions, personal notes - in today’s world, “blogs”! Unlike communal religions which have state built into the religion, Hindu traditions and the state were always different entities. And it is the state that makes the laws, not Hindu traditions. Even the Veda/Purana and darshana are “secondary knowledge”, meaning they are someone else’s experiences. We can use them to find our own path to the truth, or we can create our own path. All humans are born with all the tools they need to seek the truth. And while the texts are useful, they are optional.Smriti writers were similar to Jurisprudence scholars of 17th Century suggesting various ways of making law and implementing them. Acceptance of those theories was in the hands of kings . Most such suggestions remained in theory only.
The problem with the DS started with their translation by European scholars namely Julius Jolly, Hermann Oldenburg, G. Buhler and edited by Max Muller. The translations were overall good but they entitled the collection as “The Sacred laws of the Aryas.”
“Sacred” hints at being of divine origin and thus akin to the laws of the Bible or Quran. This is deceptive because they are neither divine nor even inspired by Divinity - they are the laws promulgated by human jurists according to time, place and circumstance and were by and large IDEALISTIC and not pragmatic.
They were “Priestly” laws which described the ideal society that the priests envisaged. There was no kingdom at any time in the history of India where any of these laws were legislated as the law of the land. They were honoured more by lip service than by application.
If you study Hindu legal system, you will know that no Hindu kingdom followed smriti or the other dharma shastras. Every king would ask his court pundits to make a new vyavahara text, which would be consistent with his family traditions and the culture of his subjects , keeping in mind their time.
Hindu laws were always interpreted according to the hermeneutic principles of the Mīmāṁsa and certainly there was a lot of flexibility. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately after Colonization , the British were the final arbitrators in the civil law in India and marriage, divorce, inheritance, torts etc came under the jurisdiction of the civil authorities.
Also the other factor is that all matters pertaining to these matters was settled by the caste panchayats on the basis of Custom and Usage and not Dharma Shastra. So in the absence of the High Court of Dharma Shastra there were no avenues of appeal and the decisions of the panchayat were final.
how many known smritis are there?
1) Manu, 2) Umā-Maheśvara, 3) Nandi, 4) Brahmā, 5) Kumāra, 6) Dhūmrāyaṇa,
7) Kaṇva, 8) Vaiśvānara, 9) Bhṛgu, 10) Yājñavalkya, 11) Mārkaṇḍeya, 12) Kuśika,
13) Bharadvāja, 14) Bṛhaspati, 15) Kuni, 16) Kuṇibāhu, 17) Viśvāmitra,
18) Sumantu, 19) Jaimini, 20) Śakuni, 21) Pulastya, 22) Pulaha, 23) Pāvaka,
24) Agastya, 25) Mudgala, 26) Śāṇḍilya, 27) Solabhāyana, 28) Bālakhilya,
29) Saptarṣi, 30) Vyāghra, 31) Vyāsa, 32) Vibhāṇḍaka, 33) Vidura, 34) Bhṛgu,
35) Aṅgiras, 36) Vaiśampāyana.
There are many more like Vatsa, Marīci, Devala, Pāraskara, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, Likhita and Chāgaleva.
Then there are Upa Smritis:
1) Logākṣi, 2) Kāśyapa, 3) Vyāsa, 4) Sanatkumāra, 5) Śāntanu, 6) Janaka,
7) Vyāghra, 8) Kātyāyana, 9) Jātūkarṇa, 10) Kapiñjala, 11) Baudhāyana,
12) Kaṇāda and Viśvāmitra.
About 46 smritis and 13 upa-smritis.
SUBJECT MATTER OF DHARMA SHASTRAS
The Dharma Śāstras all deal with three broad topics:–
Vyavahāra - legal matters and social structuring and engineering. Thi is 2000 years ago when there was no separation between religion and state. The kings devised there own laws issued through proclamation and edict - but were supposedly guided by their Brahmin advisors - advice which they were not obliged to accept. Most of the Family Laws on Marriage, divorce, adoption etc. are derived from the Nārada Smrti which treats of these topics in great detail.Nowadays Vyavahāra is managed by the secular democratically elected government - so this entire section can be deleted.
Ācāram – this section deals with personal and daily conduct and is based on life in a village. So it deals with some very important topics like how far from a domicile should one walk to answer the calls of nature, where one should bath and when, what mud to use as a detergent and how many times one should apply it to be clean - again dealing with many issues which are simply outdated and irrelevant to our modern lives. However there are still many guidelines about personal and interpersonal conduct which are still useful and applicable.
Prāyaścittam – reparation or atonement for offences committed. here again we have a cross-over between crime and “sin”. The atonements range from fasting to committing suicide. Murder or rape for example are both a crime and a sin - so extremely severe atoning practices are prescribed which involve suicide. It is forbidden for any priest to prescribe the prāyaścittas in this day and age so this entire section is also redundant. SUMMARY So most of the Dharma Shastra (including the politically charged Manu) are completely redundant and useless today. The only use they have is for studying medieval Indian sociology and for priests to sort out some nitty gritty problems and conflicts with custom and tradition that may arise - like how many times to walk around the sacred fire during a wedding ceremony. (Answer is 3 or 4 not 7!!) Those who wish to practice a more conservative and orthodox mode of living can refer to the ācāram section to find guidelines for themselves.
Most of them are lost now.
All these were merely recommendatory in nature and they were never administered as law text in ancient or medieval Hindu society. These were not codes of law but a commentary on morals. The smritis were composed in different parts of India and at different times and they recorded the social customs,practices of different JATIS and to reflect the prevailing state of society at that time.There was never a single body of an overarching law which legitimized a uniform legal code for entire Hindu community.The actual enforcement of the law was in the hands of the local communities,JATIS n Kingdoms which had their own rules.
Hindu custom derives from Shastra (scripture) and from Custom & Usage (rīti-rivāj) - the Brahmins generally follow Shastra and the vast majority of Hindus follow Custom & Usage and hold it to be of higher authority than Shastra even when there is a conflict between the two. For example, Shastra severely condemns dowry as wicked and sinful - Custom & Usage endorse it. So no matter how much the priests may condemn dowry - will people change over night? Can the scourge of dowry be blamed on Brahmins?
Hindu law is divided into (1) social rules and regulations, (2) religious law and (3) state laws.
(1) Social rules and regulations are decided and managed by the elected caste panchayat (governing committee) - and each caste has different social rules - some conflicting and some consonant with other castes. The castes themselves managed petty criminal matters and took care of their own affairs.
(2) Religious law with its multitude of strict restrictions and observances was applicable only to Brahmins but was applied rarely.
(3) State law regarding taxes, duties, supervision, criminality etc. was formulated, regulated and enforced by the King and his ministers.
India was a patchwork of kingdoms and city monarchies - each and every city and kingdom had its own laws as did every community and caste. Every time a kingdom changed hands the kings would modify and change laws according to their changing circumstances or whims. All absolute monarchs rule by DECREE not by abiding by an ancient and defunct code..
you can see the nature of the judiciary and legal system in India has been extremely complex over the millennia reflecting the multifarious diversity of Indian society, and an egregious attempt to rationalise and regulate it caused immense disruption which echos even today.
Hinduphobes brings quotes from Dharmashastra,Puranas,Manu which r somehow derogatory towards Shudra Class.these r the opinions of people, not some divine commands.The Hindu scriptures constitute a whole vast library and in that library there are many diverse opinions, narratives, laws, and paths. There is contradiction, agreement,abrogation, innovation and reform.
The ancient Hindu Law books are now completely obsolete and are found only on library shelves. There are some elements of Hindu law governing current marriage legislation in India. Hinduism like Christianity can thrive and flourish without a legal wing since legislation is by the people for the people.
The three major Law Books (Smritis) are Manu , Yājñavalkya and Parāśara Smṛti
The minor law Books are:—Āpastamba, Viṣṇu, Dakṣa, Samvarta, Vyāsa, Hārita, Sātātapa, Vasiṣṭha, Yama, Gautama, Uṣāna, Atri, Śaunaka, Aṅgirasa, Kātyāyana, Devala, Sankha & Likhita.
And one written by a woman — Madalasa Smriti.
There are no Hindu courts or judges and very few paṇḍits study Hindu Law any more
There is a maxim in Vedānta called makṣikā-nyāyaḥ — the maxim of the fly - used to denote the fault-finding tendency of some deplorables, which is like the behaviour of flies whicThere is a maxim in Vedānta called makṣikā-nyāyaḥ — the maxim of the fly - used to denote the fault-finding tendency of some deplorables, which is like the behaviour of flies which are attracted to ulcers or pustules no matter how beautiful the body may be.h are attracted to ulcers or pustules no matter how beautiful the body may be.
the Dharma Shastra which is loosely based on the Veda with input by various law-givers. 80% of the Dharma Shastra is conditioned by time and circumstance and hence irrelevant to the modern world. There is a heap of seriously objectionable stuff promulgated by some law-givers which is anachronistic and should be rejected. Like the noble bees - we should seek out the nectar in the DS and consume only that. And eschew the behaviour of the detestable disease carrying fly that only seeks filth! (SJW - take note!!)
All the Dharma Shastras and Sutras (Manu, Apastamba, Baudhāyana, Hiraṇyakesin, Gobhila, Narada, Vishnu, Parashara, Yajjavalkya etc. etc.) claim the “Vedas” to be their inspiration and source. But these “Vedas” they speak of are just metaphorical and not the actual Vedas which Abhijit Kurse has pointed out are mainly poems of praise to various Devas and Devis and not text-books of rules and regulations. There is very little basis for law in the actual Vedas.
But scattered throughout the appended works like the Brahmaṇas, Aranyakas and the Upaṇiṣads there are hints and glimpses of rules, regulations, customs, traditions and procedures etc. which the Law-givers have seized upon to create their idealised rules for society. So the Dharma-shastras are huge buildings constructed on tiny and unstable metaphorical “Vedic” foundations.
For example - the mention of varna in the Veda is scant and ill-defined. The primary source being the famous Purusha Sukta in which society is described as a “Person” - with the Brahmins being the mouth, the Kshatriyas the arms, the Vaishyas the thighs and the Sudras the feet – without any further elaboration of the concept. The authors of the Dharma Shastras (Manu et all - then worked this idea into the concept of social engineering and administration ).
The other bane of ancient Hindu society Sati - is not mentioned anywhere in the Veda. What is mentioned is the Aryan funeral custom of the wife lying beside her deceased husband on the pyre and then being raised up by a male relative and led back to the village. Even Manu concurs with this usage - but some of the others decided it would be convenient if she were left on the funeral pyre!! Again non-Vedic!!
So there is a very flimsy and mostly imaginary relationship between the Veda and Manu-smriti.
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