Opposition to Manu: Why?

During the British period in India some western writers indoctrinatedin Christianity, and having vested interests in the continuance of the BritishEmpire hatched a foolproof conspiracy. They planned to inculcateantipathy in and demolish faith from the minds of Indians towards everything and everyone who traditionally was closely associated with themajesty, magnanimity and magnificence of India. These western writerssucceeded in converting to their views some of the Indians with the help ofthe imperial influence of the British and their divide-and-rule policy.

Macaulay’s educational policy also lent them a helping hand. Such Indiansthen carried on and furthered this anti-Indianism. Thus came up on thescene a group of people who made Maharishi Manu- the first law-giver,and hisManusmriti, the foremost law-book, a target of their slanderouscriticism. Things have come to such a pass that whereas disparaging Manuand decrying his Manusmrition mere hearsay and unsubstantiatedcriticism has become a mission for some sections of the society, it hasbecome a fashion with the English-knowing people in India, and an issuefor winningelections for some political parties. Very queer is the conduct of our politicians in this regard. A few years ago, soon after the split of aparticular political party, the erstwhile progeny of Manu disowned him astheir foremost father and started cursing and condemning him, hisManusmriti and his progeny from the public fora. One of the political partiesstructured a point and program, viz.,Manuvad for grabbing politicalpower. Some years ago when a statue of Manu was installed on the Jaipurpremises ofthe Rajasthan High Court in recognition of his having been thefirst law-giver, some people saw the statue as a potent danger and begansubjecting the lifeless statue to a controversy. The dispute thus created isunder the consideration of that very Hon’ble Court to decide. The fact ofthe matter is that some people regard the opposition to the statue as avery good opportunity to makethe best political capital and are trying to acquire a political identity.

One is amazed to see such peopledisregarding the Manusmriti as they have not even as much as seen the shape and size ofthe book, let alone read it, One day I confronted a person who started slighting the Manusmriti by quoting a couplet from Tulsidas. viz., ‘Dhol, pashu,shudraaurnari …. ‘attributing it in ignorance to Manu asone oftheshlokasauthored by him. It can easily be guessed from this illustration how littlethe slanderers orManu know about him and his Manusmriti.

Laymen apart, even as widely read a man as Dr. Ambedkar is sweptaway in opposition to Manu to such an extent that he sees in every antiShudraact a doing of Manu. He has attributed to Manu the anti-Shudrasayings of even Shankaracharya. And the chaos and confusion created byordinary writers in respect of Manu has a very long account. All this points to a careful and serious study of the Manusmriti hasnot been carried out.

It has been observed that there are three types or people who indulgein deprecating Manu. The first are those who have read Manu throughprejudiced commentaries written in English, and have been brought up in atradition thus developed. Such people are not acquainted with thealterations and interpolations carried out in the ancient Indian literaturethrough the ages. The second are those who have not read side by side theoriginal and the interpolated versions thoughtfully and critically. The thirdare those who have made it a point todisparage Manu on account of somemisgivings, prejudices and worst of all, even vested interests. But the factremains that Maharshi Manu neither as a man nor as a writer deserves tobe condemned. India and Indianism can take pride in him and look big anddignified. 

  1. Manu’s Position in India Maharshi Manu is the first to have given the world a well-regulated,systematized, ethical and ideal pattern of living for human beings. He is thefirst among manavas (one of the human races), the first among scripturewriters,the first among law-makers, law-givers and social philosophers,the pioneer statesman and above all the first sage-ruler. Manu is thereligious teacher who introduced the yajna-rituals. The religious scripturecomposed by him which today is known as the Manusmriti is the oldest of the Smritis. We see in our ancient history and literature right from Vedic agesdown to modem times, a long tradition of those scripture- writers, litterateurs,authors, poets and rulers who have spoken of Manu eulogistically. VedicSamhitas andBrahmanical scriptures describe Manu’s words as efficaciousand beneficent like medicine.
    Maharshi Valmiki in his Ramayanaalludes to Manu as an authority in the field of religious scriptures. Ram,who is worshipped as God by the Hindus, quotes Manu’s verses to provethat his conduct has been in consonance with the directions given in thereligious scriptures. TheMahabharta proclaims at several places thatthe Manusmriti is a tried and tested constitution of life, and alludes to itswriter as the greatest preceptor and jurist. In several of the Puranas Manuhas been embellished with epithets such as the foremost sage-ruler,scripture-writer, etc. and thus has been painted as a person devoted to humanwelfare. Acharya Yaska quotes Manu’s dictum in his Nirukta in thediscussion on equal rights for sons and daughters and thus regards him asauthentic. In the ArthashastraChanakya has quoted Manu as an authority.Brihaspati, a writer of one of the Smritis regards the Manusmriti asthe most authentic document and proclaims other Smritis controvertingManu’s as unacceptable. Ashwaghosh, the Buddhist poet, quotes Manu’sdicta in his work Vajrakopnishad as evidence. Yajnavalalkya’sSmritiis based on the Manusmriti itself. All religious books and Smritis quoteManu’s words in support of the contentions contained in them. Dharsen,the king ofValabhi has declared Manuism as an authentic creed as per apetrograph of 571 A.D. DaraShikoha, the writer-son of Emperor ShahJehan describes Manu as the first and original human whom Jews,Christians and Mohammedans call Adam. GuruGovind Singh has showeredliberal eulogies on Manu in his book entitled ‘DashamGrantha’.

MaharshiDayanand, the founder of the Arya SamajacceptsManusmriti as an authority second only to the Vedas. Shri Aurobindoregards Manu as a semi-god. Shri RabinderNath Tagore, Dr. RadhaKrishanan, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and many other national leaders have made mention of Manu in their writings as the first law-giver. A numberof jurists such as Justice A.N. Mullah, N.Raghavacharya and others haveacknowledged Manu’s set of laws as an authority. Keeping only this widelyacknowledged recognition of Manu in mind Pt. Nehru and people at largeembellished Dr. Ambedkar with the epithet ‘Modem Manu’ while presenting the Constitution of India to the LokSabha. Also, while unveiling the statue ofDr. Ambedkar, ShriR.Venkataraman, the then President of Indiaadded to the grandeur of the former’s personality by calling him “Modern Manu.”

  1. Manu’s Recognition Overseas

 Manu’s position and prestige, his magnanimity and magnificence and the extent of his influence overseas have not been any the less thanthese have been in India. The encyclopediasbrought out by the British,Americans and Germans describe Manu as the foremost among humans,as the first law-giver, as the pioneer jurist and social philosopher.Upholding Manu’s beliefs Max Mueller, A.A. Macdonnel, A.B. Keith,P.Thomas, Louis Renoy and other western writers regard the Manusmritinot only as a religious book but also a law book and describe the lawsgiven therein as universal in application and beneficial toall mankind. Sir William Jones, a judge in the Indian Supreme Court at one time learntSanskrit to have first-hand study of the Manusmriti on having realizedthe scripture’s indispensability in arriving at judgments in respect of somedisputes of Indians. He even edited the Manusmriti. The famousGerman Philosopher, FrederichNeitsche has gone to the extent of sayingthat ‘the Manusmriti is superior to the Bible as a scripture; in fact,according to him ‘It is a sin to compare the Manusmriti with the Bible’.

Books like ‘The Encyclopedia of Social Sciences’ brought out in the USA,The Cambridge History oflndia’, Keith’s ‘History of Sanskrit Literature’,A History ofDharma Shastra’ by Bharat Ratna P.Y. Kane, Dr. Satyaketu’s’DakshinPurviAurDakshin Asia Mein BhartiyaSanskriti’ (India Culturein South East and South Asia) and other similar books contain a vivid anddetailed description of the extent of the influence of the Manusmriti.These readings can make every Indian feel puffed with pride at thecountry’s ancient heritage.

We come to learn from the history of, and the petrography found onthe island of Bali, Burma, Philippines, Thailand, Champa (Vietnam), Cambodia(Kampuchea), Indonesia, Malaysia, Ceylon, Nepal etc. that varna systembased on people’s profession as propounded in Manu’s scripture has beenpractised in these countries. Paramount importance was given to the lawsenunciated by Manu, and judgements were doled out accordingly. A numberof verses of the Manusmriti have been found inscribed in the form ofpetrographs. Kings and emperors used to take pride incalling themselvesthe disciples or followers of Manu, and would feelelevated by adding oneor the other label of Manuism to their name. According to an inscriptionfound in Champa (Vietnam) Raja Jai InderVarmadeva was a follower ofManuism. According to another inscription found in UdayanVarma’s’SadokKakthom’ there is a mention of a book entitled ‘ManavNeetisar’ which isbased on the Manusmriti.ln one ofYashovarman’s inscriptions found inPrasatKompan we find quoted a verse. i.e.2.1.36 from the Manusmriti.In one of the inscriptions of Raja Jayavanna there is a mention of ministerwho was well-versed in the Manusmriti. In Bali island Manu’s socialsystem is still being practiced,the code of conduct and the constitutions ofthe aforementioned countries were and still are largely based on theManusmriti. The Philippines believe that Manu’s Smriti and another Smritiauthored by Laotse have contributed a lot to the making of their country’scode of conduct. It is in recognition of their contribution that the statues ofthe two have been installed at the gate of the legislature of that country.Howsoever much Manu may be disparaged and deprecated therelationship that has been built between us and Manu can never be undone.We can never break offwith Manu; can never put him in abeyance so longas this human society and its history are intact.Indian society regards Manu as their original ancestor as is testifiedin the country’s ancient literature. All humans are the progeny of Manu. Itis for this reason that all words meaning’man’, such as manushy, manuj,manav, manusb, have originated from the word Manu. So the writer ofthe Nirukta says while giving an etymology of these words ‘मनो: अपत्यम मनुष्य: (3-4). This means that we are calledManushya for we are theprogeny of Manu. The statement ‘मानव्य: प्रजा:  in the Brahmanicalscriptures alsotestifies the same fact. The European scholars havephilologically proved that there was a time when Europe, Iran and Indiansub-continent were the members of one ethnic group. The wordsconnoting man in the languages of these regions are all derivatives of wordsoriginated from Manu, e.g., minos in Greek and Latin, mann in German.manna in Spanish, man, manis, manus, manes, etc., in English and itsdialects, nuh {with स (s) मनुस . (manus) changed into ह: (h) and म (m)getting dropped} in Iranian Persian. This fact is testified in the historicalwritings and inscriptions of these countries. Iranians regard themselves asAryans even today and believe Saptasindhu country to be the place oftheir origin. Cambodians (Kampucheans) regard themselves as the progenyof Manu. The inhabitants of Thailand consider themselves to be thedescendants of Ram who belonged to the Suryavanshi clan. Both Ramand Krishan belong to Manu’s lineage. On having read this account wecan say that no other scripture-writer or law-giver has been accorded ashigh a place or pride and prestige as Manu.

  1. Accusations hurled at Manu and theManusmriti

Now let usconsider the charges levelled against Manu and theManusmriti which can broadly be classified in three categories:-

  1. Manu built up a caste system based on birth.
  2. In his social system whereas he made partisan and even inhuman laws for the Shudras. He gave privileges to Savarnas (thehigh-born, particularly the Brahmanas. Thus Manu was anti-Shudra.

iii. Manu was anti-woman. He did not allow women equal rights with men. Also Manu has spoken rather disparagingly of women.To answer these charges it will be fitting to citeevidence and examples from the Manusmriti itself rather than quoteinstances and adduce proofs from outside. A few observations are made below on the basis of some conclusionsdrawn from the Manusmriti.


  1. Based on merit, profession and potentiality Manu’s system has Vedic origins:-

The varna system propounded in the Manusmriti is based on anindividual’s profession, his merits and capabilities and has Vedic origins.This system finds its mention originally in three of the Vedas, viz, Rigveda(10.90.11-12), Yajurveda (31. 10-11) and Atharvaveda (19.6.506), Manuconsiders the Vedas to be of axiomatic status in religious matters. So,regarding the Varnasystem as a system propounded and sanctioned by the Vedas and considering it to be the basis of righteousness, Manu includes it in his system of administration, and disseminates his plan through hisscripture.

  1. Varna system and castsystem as contrastingsystems:-

The determining factors in Manu’s Vedic Varna system are merits,vocation and capabilities rather than the birth of a human. Here it isessential to understand thatthe varna system and caste system arecontradictory propositions. Neither of these systemscan sustain itself whereas the other is being practiced and thus the presence of one rules out the other. The basic difference between the two can easily be understood ifwe appreciate the etymological difference of the two words. In the varnasystem it is the varna (an individual’s vocation) which is the decidingfactor whereas in the caste system it is the parentage which is of crucialimportance. Inter-changeable use of the two words is highly misleading.

The word Varna is derived from the Sanskrit verbal root ‘वृज वरने ‘ whichmeans the vocation which is chosen. Acharya Yaska clarifies theconnotation of his word in his Nirukta as follows:

वर्ण: वृनोते (2· 14) meaning thereby the word ‘Varna’ has something todo with the choice/the selection (of vocation/profession here), whereas the word ‘Jati’ has something todo with Janma:, (birth). The word jati hasbeen used as a synonym for janma (birth) and not caste as is illustratedbelow:

जाति अंध बधिरौ :blind and deaf by birth

जातिम  स्मरति पौर्वीकीम :remembers his previous birth.

द्विजाति :because he is believed to be born twice.

एकजाति :Shudrabecause he has only one birthand does not have the second which  is believed to take place on beinginitiated into the study-period. As per vedicvarna system the society is to be divided into fourclasses, viz,Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. As long aspeople kept on choosing one of these vocational groups on the basis ofmerit-cum-profession-cum-ability the system kept on being called VarnaVyavastha (class system). However, when birth or parentage began todetermine if one wasa Brahmana oraShudra, etc., it came to be called JatiVyavastha (caste system). An etymological study of the word Varnawhichis formed from a Sanskrit verbal root and a suffix added to it, onlyindicates that when the system(i.e. Varna Vyavastha)come into being theVarna (vocation) was selected on the basis of the concerned individual’smerit-cum-profession – cum-ability and not acquired on account of hisparentage.

  1. No mention ofpresent-day castes and sub castes in Manu’s Varna system:

That Manu has made a mention of only four varnas and or nocastes or sub-castes is conclusive proofin support of the fact that Manu’svamavyavastha was based on vocation and performance and not on birth.

Two facts are evident from it. One, there were nocastes based on parentage during Manu’s times. Two, parentage or gotra(sub-caste) wasof no consequence in varna-vyavastha and one would not acquire a varna(vocation) on this basis. Ifduring Manu’s times birth had been the basis fordetermining varna or if there had been castes or sub-castes Manu wouldcertainly have enumerated them and also pointed out which of thembelonged to the Brahmana community and which to the Shudra community and soon and so forth. How much disregard Manu had for birth-basedaggrandizement is known from that verse in the Manusmtiti in which amention has been made with derogatory epithets like ‘Vantashi’ (one whoeats his vomit) for those who eulogised someone for his lineage orparentage (3- 109). Besides, in Manu mention had been made of anindividual’s virtues and good deeds only and not of his clan, caste or kinshipwhile showing respectfulness and reverence to him.

  1. Purpose ofManusmritidefeated if birth-based castes accepted:

The very purpose of the composition ofthe Manusmriti would bedefeated if we accepted Manu to be a believer in castes on the basis ofbirth because the scripture has assigned different tasks to different varnas

(classes). If a person were to be a Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudraby birth he would remain in the same varna whether or not he performed the tasks allocated to that varna. The very fact that Manu has assigneddifferent roles to different varna only proves that he approves of vocationand not of birth as the basis of varnavyavastha.

  1. Provision for change of Varna in Varna Vyavastha.

There is a very basic difference between the varnavyavastha andthe caste system. It is that there is a provision for change of varna in varnavyavastha. An important verse from the Manusmritidispelling all the doubtsin this respect is being quoted as all evidence:-


Manu says in this verse that a Brahmana becomes a Shudra andvice versa on the basis of one’s merits, actions and abilities. Similarly suchan interchange also takes place between Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.

  1. Change of Varna on neglecting prescribedduties:

There are dozens of verses in the Manusmriti which speak of provisionsfor downgrading Brahmanas to the class of Shudras on account of the former neglecting their prescribed duties and indulging in deeds ofdebased nature (See 2/37, 40, 103, 168; 4/245 etc.) and for upgradingShudras to higher varnas consequent upon their undertaking tasks of noblernature (See 9/335).

  1. Varna vyavastha practiced up to the Mahabharta period:

The aforementioned proofs and arguments make it abundantly clearthat in Manu’s social system all people had equal rights to join any of thevarnas according to their merits and vocations, irrespective of theirparents’profession. This system continued from Rigvedic period until Mahabharata(Geeta) period, The Geeta clearly says:

चातुर्वर्ण्यंमयासृष्टंगुणकर्मविभागशः।।(4- 13)।।

The chaturvaranya (the four-class system) has been created on thebasis of people’s vocations and merits and not on their birth and parentage.

  1. Change of Varna: Examples in history:

Hundreds of examples from Indian history can be cited in supportof the fact that Varna Vyavastha is based on an individual’s vocation andaction, and has nothing to do with his birth.

  1. KavashAilush, a son of a slave-woman, and Vatsa, a son ofa Shudra-woman became Rigvedic Rishis for their having become seersof Mantras (exponents of vedic hymns).

ii Raja Vishvamitra who- was born of Kshatriya parentsbecame a Brahmarshi.

iiiSatyakamJabal whose birth and lineage are unknownbecameBrahmavadi Rishi (an exponent of the highest reality, Brahma)

  1. Matanga who was born in a Chandalfamily came to be called a Rishi…
  2. Valmiki who (according to some legends) was lowly-born acquired the fame which goes with the name of Maharishi Valmiki.
  3. Slavewoman’sson, Vidur, became the primeministerof Raja Dhritarashtra and came to be known as a Mahatma.

vii. Shri Ram, a son of King Dashratha, and Shri Krishna, born in a Yadav family, came to be regarded as God. They became venerableeven for the Brahmanas their birth in a Kshatriya family notwithstanding.

viii. On the other hand, Ravana who was born in the clan of Pulastya Rishi came to be called a         ‘demon’ for indulging in evil deeds.

  1. Raghu, the ancestor of Rama, had a son named Pravridha. He was outcast from the Kshatriya clan due to his misdeeds and misdemeanor and became a demon.
  2. Trishanku, originally a king became a Chandal.
  3. Many of Vishwamitra’s sons came to be called Shudras.
  1. The whole community acquiring a new varna.

Besides individuals we also come across examples of a whole community or a large part of it leaving its earlier varna and acquiring a new one. Some verses in the Mahabharta and the Manusmriti, with, of course some variations in the text reveal that some of the communities were Kshatriyas earlier but with the negligence of their duties, and for their not having undertaken penance to atone for their omissions and commission seven when so required by the Brahmanas, degenerated into being enlisted among the Shudras.


पारदापह्लवाश्चीनाःकिरातादरदाःखशाः।।(10-43, 44)


Meaning: Owing to their having neglected their prescribed duties and not having undertaken penance even on being advised to do so by the Brahmanas some of the Kshatriya communities which came to be called Shudras were:Paundraka, Audra, Dravida, Kamboja, Yavana, Shaka, Parada, Pahalva,Cheena, Kirata, Darada, and Khasha. In addition to these some othercommunities that find a mention in the same context in the Mahabharta(Ch. 35. 17-18)are: Mekala, Lata, Kanvashira, Shaundika, Darva, Chaura,Shabara and Barbar.

Examples of change of varna are found until much later history. According to J. Wilson and I·LL. Rose the Pakharana or PushkamaBrahmanas of Rajputana, Sindh and Gujarat, and Pathak and MahavarRajputas of Aamtara in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh were upgraded 10 higher classes consequent upon change ofvarna (see Hindi EncyclopaediaPart 4.).

 The secret ofidentical sub-castes in all the four varnas:

The identical surnames found among Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Dalitas are a firm proof not only indicating the existence of long family traditions but also showing that the members of all communities are descendants of the same one original family. Peopleinthe beginning chose a particular varna on the basis of their merits,performance and potentialities and later on came to be regarded as members of the same varna. In the times that were to come their varna in case of some, was upgraded, and in case of others downgraded forvarious reasons. For example, in some areas the people of Brahmana community continued to remain Brahmanas whereas in others they became Ksharriyas and in yet others, Shudras. During the course of time a rigid social system developed and parentage and birth became the bases of a person’s categorization which came to be called caste.

  1. The basic elements in varnavyavastha

The basic elements of varnavyavastha as propounded in the Manusmriti are merits, vocation and capabilities, Manu does not attachany importance to an individual as such or to the varna to which hebelongs, but to the aforesaid attributes. Where these attributes abound onthe positive side the individual and his varna are accorded greater respect and reverence. Where they are in a low measure or are on the negative side the individual and his varna are given a lower recognition. Even till today no civilized system has been able to negate the elements constituting Manu’s,varnavyavastha nor is any likely to do so in future. Negating these is sure to lead to injustice and consequent discontent, protests,mismanagement and ultimately to anarchy. Such a situation is describedidiomatically in Hindi as: ‘Treating the donkey at a par with the horse’, and’driving all with the same stick’.


As a result of such a situation no country or society can progress and prosper, be happy, contented or peacefully remain disciplined,systematised or even unified. In fact such an arrangement can not be sustained for too long. Even the communistic pattern of society or government, which wears by the principle of equality for all, has not been able to ignore the elements so basic to Manu’s system. Even in that system we have public posts and social positions being given to individuals after taking intoconsideration their merits, duties and capabilities which further determinetheir perks, status and salary structure.


If we carry out a comparative analysis of the present dayadministrative and business set-up vis-a-vis the one conceived by Manuwe shall be able to see clearly the essential similarities between the two.There are four classes in the administrative hierarchy of the government,ii. Class I Gazettedofficers ii. Class II Gazettedofficers iii. Class IIIand Class IV employees. Among them the first two men are of the officer-cadre and the rest are karamcharis (workers). The basis of this classification isan individual’s potentialitiesand capabilities, and theduties assigned to him.And these very things determine the privilegesstatus and importancegiven to him. In earlier times, the possession of particular types ofpotentialities and capabilities by an individual was certified by theacademic institutions (The Gurukulas, the Ashramas and the Acharyasof the institutions) much on the same lines as is being done today (byschools. colleges. universities, etc.). In the absence of any suchcertification a semi- educated or anuneducated person has to undertake amenial job or physical labour and such a person is put in the last categoryofservice. In earlier times also a person who would not go to a teacher for acquiring knowledge or a particular skill used to undertake a job of asimilar nature and was categorized as a Shudra which means a man of alow position, a message-bearer, etc. One can easily see how similar to theword ‘Shudra’ are the connotations of words like ‘Naukar’, ‘Chakar’. ‘Sevak’, ‘Preshya’ (a message bearer), ‘servant’, orderly’, ‘a low class employee’etc.


There is not much difference between the systems of allotment ofvocation as it exists today and as it was practiced earlier. In both the casesone is permitted to practice a profession such as medicine, law or teachingonly on the acquisition of a relevant degree or diploma or certification, andnot without it. Rules and duties for all jobs are prescribed which if violatedwill entail removal from the position held by a person.


  1. Practical opportunities for Shudras to change their varna


There are some people who have considered themselves Shudrasand for some reasons are still labouring under this erroneous impressionand thus keeping themselves deprived of human rights. The Arya Samaj regards Manu as a religious preceptor and is an ardent follower ofthe principles and systems enunciated by Manu openly invites them to getinitiated into any of the varnas they qualify for, and thus offers themconcrete opportunities to change their varna. Long before the present-dayconstitution of India came into force MaharshiDayanand declared in thelight of the dicta ofManusmriti that untouchability, notions of inequalityamong humans,casteism, denial of education to women and to those of Shudra parents, child marriage, unmatched marriage, polygamy,practice of sati system and social and economic exploitation were greatsocial evils. He also carried on a crusade against these evils. The AryaSamaj has set up gurukulas and schools some of which are exclusivelyfor women. The children born of so-called Shudra-parents have been admitted to these educational institutions. With the result hundreds ofDalitseducated there have become scholars of Sanskrit, Vedas and other holy scriptures. Why do Dalitas forget that in order to abolish untouchability numerous followers of Manu and disciplesofRishi Dayanand themselvesbecame untouchables in the eyes of the society, and yet they didn’t yield and carried on the struggle? Dalit writers who are ignorant of these developmentssee the Arya Samaj with coloured glasses. Does thisnot amountto ingratitude on their part?


  1. A correct appraisal of the system


Manu belongs to antiquity. Although the model values of life,ethical proprieties and true form of religion described by Manu are ofuniversal nature some of the provisions made by him arealterable to suit the particular place, time and the situation. The social system which Manu took as a modeland advocated for adoption was of the bestkind during his time. This iswhy that system has been the most widely acceptedand has lasted forthousands of years. During the course of the time some of the arrangementsin that system lost their original nature and became deformed. Todaypolitical and social conditions have changed. Democracy has replacedmonarchy. Many social systemsand traditions have also changed with thepassage of time. But this does not imply that our ancient values havebecome completely unacceptable things to look down upon. If that wereour line of thinking everything connected with our ancient magnificence such as our great men, heroic personages, poets, authors, cities, holy places,monuments, buildings, literature, history, etc. all would become detractable. To carry out a proper appraisal the system a person or a thing has to beevaluated in thecontext of the situations prevailing at the time to which itbelongs.


  1. Maharishi Manu and DrAmbedkar


  1. Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar has been the chief carrier ofthe traditionof opposing Manu, and also the main source of inspiration toanti Manuism today. It is true that as a result of birth-based casteism,inequality and untouchability practiced in society Dr. Ambedkarwas subjected to a series of acts of slight and injustice, inequitabletreatment and some consequently nightmarish experiences. It is also truethat any self-respecting educated person would have reacted along thesame lines as did Dr. Ambedkar. And yet it is also true that the treatmentmeted out toManu byDrAmbedkaron the basis of the prejudice he had nursedagainst the former and without a correct and complete understanding ofhis ideas was also an act of extreme injustice and hence uncalled for.Being a legal luminary, he is all the more to be arraigned for this excess.He provided in the constitution that in no case should an innocent personbe punished even if it leads to the acquittal of the culprit. But he himselfdidnot observe this principle in respect of Manu in his pronouncements. Heimputed to Manu a kind of social systembased on birth and parentagewhich in fact was the creation of a society subsequent to Manu’s times,and kept on accusing Manu unjustifiably and even carried on a vilificationcampaign against him. He also used extremely bitter and unpalatable wordsfor a Maharishi who is held in high esteem in the Aryan (Hindu) society.Dr. Ambedkar’s attention was repeatedly invited to the fact that he hadseveral misconceptions and biased opinions about Manu and that he shouldclear them. But he persisted in his prejudices. There were several reasonsfor this insistence. Perhaps he did not want to retract on what he hadalready written on Manu. In his own words ‘I may seem hard on Manu,but I am sure my force is not strong enough to kill his ghost’. And it is truethat the ‘ghost’ was never shed and was infact bequeathed to his followerson his death. But the big question is: Can the appraisal which flows out ofa haunted mind be called nominal, balanced. well- considered and correct?


That Dr. Ambcdkar did not know Sanskrit language is a1so a fact ofhis life. He himself admits that he had acquired knowledge on Manu andthe Manusmriti from the critiques and analysis ofManu written in Englishlanguage. Naturally, therefore, he could not takeinto account some aspectsof Manu such as the original text and the interpolations in the Manusmriti,the perspectives in which a verse has been written, etc. The learned Doctoracquired opinions and built his own views on the basis of his readings ofbiased commentaries in English. No research had been carried out on the interpolations in the Manusmriti till the times ofAmbedkar. So hedid notcome across any man or material to guide him andexplain the original fromthe subsequent motivated insertions. If these reasons had not existed hewould have perhaps not spoken so ill of Manu and the Manusmriti.


15.A statement and discussion of some of the basic beliefs ofDr. Ambedkar on Manu’s Vedic Varna system appear to be necessary soas to carry out a critical appraisal of these beliefs and also to acquire a new proofto support the contentions made in this write-up. He writes:-


* One thing I want to impress upon is that Manu did not give thelaw of caste and that he could not do so. Caste existed long before Manu.(Caste in India, P.16)

*It is indisputable that the Vedas lay down the theoryofChaturvamyain what is known as the Purushsukta. (Philosophy of Hinduism, P.25)

* Manu may not be responsible for the creation of caste. Manupreached the sanctity of the Varna and as I have shown varna is the parentof caste. In that sense Manu can be charged with being the progenitor if notthe author of the caste system. (Philosophy of Hinduism, P.25)

* I must admit that the Vedic theory ofvarnas as interpreted by SwamiDayanand and some others is sensible and an inoffensive thing. It did notadmit birth as a determining factor in fixing the place ofan individual insociety. It only recognized worth. (Annihilation of Caste, P.92-93)

* The essence of the Vedic conception of Varna is the pursuit of acalling which is appropriate to one’s natural aptitude. (Annihilation ofCaste, P.92)

* The Principle underlying caste is fundamentally different from theprinciple underlying varna. Not only are they fundamentally different but they are also fundamentally opposed. (Annihilation of Caste, P.92)


  1. Dr. Ambedkar accepts unequivocally that varna system has its origin in the Vedas, that it has been handed down by the Vedas, thatManu is only an advocate of this system and not its creator, that the Vedicvarna system is logical and not at all despicable in as much as it is based onan individual’s merits, vocation and capabilities, that the Varna system and the caste system are contradictory in nature and that Manu is not thecreator of the caste system. Thus as per Ambedkar’s own admissions,Manu stands absolved of the charges of being the creator of either thecaste system or even the varna system. He being an advocate of thevarna system cannot be charged with being a supporter of the birth-basedcaste system. If varna system is ‘sensible’ and ‘inoffensive’ Manu hasdone only the desirable and nothing wrong by supporting andstrengthening the system. Manu, being a follower of Vedic faith, regardsthe Vedas and their postulates as axiomatic. Then it is no sin that hedisseminates the good provisions and principles of his religion ascommanded by the Holy Scriptures upholding this faith. Followers of allfaiths do likewise. After having converted to Buddhism Dr. Ambedkaralso disseminated Buddhist beliefs. Ifhe isjustified in doing so, Manu toois. It is surprising that even after having made admissions (which figureabove in his own words) Dr. Ambedkar detracts Manu every step of the way by holding him responsible for the caste system. How far is it justifiedto impute to Manu the creation of social systems which came into beinglong after him, and speak bitterly of him on this basis?


About 80 amendments have been carried out in the IndianConstitution in the 46 years of its existence, some of which violates the spirit of the constitution such as the one prolonging the use of Englishas an official language, the one seeking removal of the provision of givingsubsistence allowance to Muslim women, etc. Can Dr. Ambedkar be heldresponsible for these amendments and the amendments yet to come? Ifnot, how can Manu beheld responsible for the evil and depraved systemwhich developed and came to be practised long after him.


  1. Dr. Ambedkar believes that thevarna system has given rise to thecaste system and since Manu advocated the varna system he is to blame forthe caste system. What an odd and offensive argument! Just in tune withthe caste system itself. It amounts to saying that if someone does notobserve shraddha he will go to hell alongwith his forefathers of sixgenerations only because the latter have been the forefathers of the former. Also, ifsomeone observes shraddha his six earlier generations will crossover to heaven as they are his begetters. Much on the same lines since thecaste system isan evil system so the system immediately preceding it (i.e.the varna system), should also be an evil one.


What is surprising is that a legalluminary should be leveling seriouscharges against a law giver. Dr. Ambedkar has nowhere provided in theConstitution of India that whilepunishing a culprit his parents, grandparents and ancestors should also be declared guilty only because theyhave begotten him. Only if Dr. Ambedkar had made a provision in theconstitution that people could also be declared guilty, punished andexterminated fortheir misdeeds in the past, ifnot in all cases, at least in thecase of some matters relating to nationalism! It would have gratified atleast those nationalists who believe that on the attainment of freedom thosepeople who had indulged in treason against the cause of freedom, who hadcollaborated with the imperialistic foreign rulers, who had indulged in actsof espionage and had sent the patriots to thegallows, should have been declaredoffenders and punished. The traitors to the national cause led a happy andbountiful life in the days of foreign rule by having been favoured withlanded property, pelf and position. And they or their progeny even nowcontinue to do so.



*the references are to government of Maharashtra publication of DrAmbedkar’s writings and speeches, 1979.


On the other hand the freedom fighters are going aboutfrom pillar to post on the look-out of even the basic amenities of life. Suchcharity towards treachery and such indifference towards patriotism havehardly ever been shown in any other case of a transfer of power or a changeofgovernment! If the treacherous people had been punished it would havetaught them a lesson and in turn it would have been in the larger interestofnational integrity, unity and freedom.


  1. Manu is being held responsible for the varna system havingdegenerated later into the caste system as if Manu had been in the foreknowledgeof this degeneration, and had consciously advocated the varna systemwith a dubious design! Dr. Ambedkar is the creator of the presentconstitutional system ofIndia. But, did he know at the time of the creationof this constitution what system of government might spring from it in thefuture due to unforeseen developments? No, not at all. Similarly Manualso did not know what shape the varna system would take in the times thatwere to come.


  1. Dr.Ambedkar is the creator and a staunch advocate of thecurrent constitutional provisions which are free from caste prejudices. Ifunfortunately, consequent upon some changes for some unforeseenreasons, the Indian constitution acquires a casteist bias hundreds of yearshence will Dr. Ambedkar be responsible for that?At that time everyreasonable person will say at the top of his voice, ”No, No. Ambedkar isanti-casteist. Why should he be labelled as the author of the caste-basedsystem?” When obviously the caste-system is at variance with the varnasystem how can Manu be dubbed as the creator of the caste system? Sothe charge that Manu was the father of the caste system cannot besustained and hence stands rebutted. The fact of the matter is that asubsequent society is the creator of the evil caste system and that verysociety is to blame for its subsistence and sustenance.


  1. Dr. Ambedkar states that Manu ‘did not give the law of casteand that he could not do so. Caste existed long before Manu’ (Caste inIndi a, P. 16). Thus Ambedkar himself admits that Manu is responsibleneither for the creation of the caste system nor for the society practicing it.This implies that varna system was already in vogue and the society hadcome to accept it before Manu. This system was after people’s hearts. It hadbeen universally accepted as the best system at that time. It was notimposed by Manu on society. How then is Manu responsible for thesystem which society had already accepted and was practising? AsDr. Ambedkar had advocated a system acceptable to people so had Manualso promoted the varnasystem which had been liked by the people, thenthere is hardly any justificationleft for holding Manu guilty.


  1. No system in the world is fully flawless and acceptablewithout reservation. So there is no justification at all in subjecting the wholeof Hindu religion to insulting criticism in the context of the evil caste systemwhich developed long after Manu and other Hindu social philosophers.Are all the constitutional provisions of today which boast ofbeingjust andfair, really perfect? As a matter of fact they are highly controversial,modern senseof equitability notwithstanding. Reservation for the weakersection has been provided as warranted by the present day requirements,and yet it is being violently questioned. Hundreds of years hence when theworking of the present system is recorded in history ignoring the current perspectives it is certain that the sections of the society enjoying privilegesof reservation now will be painted in the same colourBrahmanas arcbeing painted today in the context of ancient holy scriptures.


As per present constitutional provisions appointments to almost allpublic posts from the highest to the lowest have to be made on the basisofdegrees and diplomas, and performance at competitive examinations andinterviews. Nominations are made to certain posts. In only a few years ofthe coming into being ofthecurrent constitution things have come to sucha pass that the yardstick of merit is ignored with impunity and the relativesand recommendees of political leaders and officers in power alone aremostly nominated to administrative posts in utter disregard of anindividual’s merits. Interviews are supposed to be held to measure a jobseekersworth. However,jobs go not to the worthy but to the recommendeesor to those who can afford to purchase these positions. Selection listsquashed by the courts bear a testimony to it. Merit is the first casualty incase of appointments to political posts. Nepotism and favouritism are theorder of the day in this respect. Imagine a situation, which is a possibility,that some centuries hence the present constitutional arrangements getdegenerated into arrangements the basis of which becomes birth andparentage rather than the deserts of an individual. Will Dr. Ambedkar andthe constituent assembly of which he was a member be responsible for that degenerated form of things? Will anybody be justified in calling thearrangements given by him and theconstituent assembly responsible forthat degraded and decayed system? If not, Manu can also not be calledthe father of the caste system and can’t be held responsible for thesubsequenterosion of the social system he pleaded for.


  1. A more thoughtless and dangerous statement by Dr. Ambedkaris: If you wish to bring about a breach in the system then you have got toapply dynamite to the Vedas and the Shastras (Annihilation ofCaste).


On the one hand Dr. Ambedkar believes that Vedas do not advocatethe caste system, and instead pleads only for the varna system which he believesto be logical and not despicable, it being a system based on an individual’smerits and performance. On the other he makes a highly improper andprovocative statement urging for the torching nay dynamiting, of the Vedas.How paradoxical the statements are! He has given a call for theextermination of and a complete dissociation with the Vedas, the holyShastras, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Geeta. These holy scriptures provide a basis to and are a source ofinspiration for all good values oflife such as righteousness, inquisitiveness, literary and culturalexcellences, civilized and good conduct. Exterminationof the holy scriptures amounts to the demolition of Hindu (Aryan) civilization,culture, religion,et al.


Did Dr. Ambedkar have this as a target in mind? If Dr. Ambedkarhad felt distressed and afflicted in the Hindu fold and had wanted to be outof it, he could have jolly well renounced this faith, walk out of it and lived on as afree man withoutjoiningany particular religious community. But he couldnot, infact, do this without taking recourse to some religious faith either. Consequently he joined the Buddhist fold and came to regard the Buddhist scriptures as the carriers of ultimate truth·- this all in contrast to his callfor the renunciation of Hinduism and Hinduscriptures! Here I would like to refer to aquestion put by Mahatma Gandhi (to Dr. Ambedkar) who wantedto know how one could be a Hindu by disowning the Vedas and Shastras when nobody could be a Muslim by rejecting the Quran and nobody couldbe aChristian by rejecting the Bible.The thinking ofAmbedkar can be compared with the thinking thatsuggests that instead of treating the boils of a diseased person the patienthimselfshould be exterminated.


  1. There is not even a remotely suggestive mention of the castesystemin the Vedas. Dr. Ambedkar admits this. Even so he has criticizedthe Vedas without justification on other counts. He has talked ofexterminating the Vedas rather than acknowledging their worth. Even onhaving converted to Buddhism he continued to deprecate the Vedas andthus defied his preceptor, the Buddha and the Buddhist scriptures in asmuch as they speak very highly of the Vedas and of those who are well-versed in the Vedas, and thus affirm their importance. Here are somequotes in support of this contention.


“विद्वा च वेदेहि समेच्च धम्मम्

न उच्चावचं गच्छति भूरिपज्वो”(Suttanipata – 292)


Mahatma Buddha says ‘The scholar who acquires the knowledgeof righteousness from the Vedas never wavers in life.’


(b)विद्वा च सो वेदगू नरो इध, भवाभवे संगं इमं विसज्जा |

सो वीतदण्हो अनिंघो निरासो अतारि सो जातिं जरोति ब्रूमीति ||(Suttanipata – 1060)


The scholar who bears the knowledge of the Vedas gets disinterestedin life and becomes indifferent to death, becomes devoid of desiresand yearning, and thus having become aimless gets disentangled from thevicious circle of life and death. (other verses supporting the idea inSuttanipata are: 322.458,503,846. I059, etc.)


  1. Dr. Bhadanta Ananda Kausalayana, carrying forward theanti-Manu tradition promoted by Dr. Ambedkar detracts Manu only forthe sake of detracting in his book entitled ‘National Duty’. His thesis in thisbook is shallow in as much as there is neither any logic nor any appealinganalysis. An attempt has been made here to prove bad even what isundoubtedly good through misinterpretation and lopsided presentation.Whereas he resents uncharitable remarks about women made by Manu(ashe believes)he also appears to beanguishedat why the word Pujarha=’worth worshipping’ has been used for women. This amounts to taking thestand: ‘Heads, I win; tails, you lose’. He presents himself as a greatparadox. He is an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and yet does not accept hisprecepts. He is a Buddhist and yet does not acknowledge the importanceof the Vedas and those who possess the knowledge of the Vedas, as hasbeen made out in the Buddhist literature. He took pride in proclaiminghimself as a non-Hindu (non-Vedic).


  1. All anti-Manu writers have made certain identical remarkswhich make a biased and lopsided appraisal ofthe Manusmriti. They havenot quoted those verses which, being in consonance with the topic in thecontext, are, beyond any controversy, regarded as from the original text.These are the verses which carry charitable and amiable remarks aboutwomen and Shudras. On the other hand, these writers have decried anddisparaged Manu by quoting those verses which are doubtlessly regardedas interpolations. These writers have not cared to resolve the question whythere should be in the same context clearly self-contradictory statements.


And another relevant question is: Why should they have quoted only thecontroversial statements ignoring others? In fact, if these writers had caredto discuss this issue they would have automatically come across the answerto the question. In that case there would have been left no reason forresentment and consequent protest. Instead, a number of misgivings couldhave been avoided.


  1. The position of the Shudras in the Manusmriti


Now let us address ourselves to the most discussed and the mostcontroversial topic regarding the Manusmriti, viz, the position of theShudras as described in the Manusmriti. If we glance even cursorily at the evidence available within the Manusmriti itself we arrive at somebasic and important facts which indicate what Manu’s attitude towards theShudras was.


  1. The Dalits and the Backwards of Today are not among the Shudras.


Nowhere does the Manusmriti talk of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward classes of today asbeing the Shudras. Manu has giventhe world the varna system, and he determines the varna of a man not onthe basis of his parentage but on the basis of his merits, vocation and capabilities. This is the reason why no community or vocation as such has been included in the Shudra category. The subsequent societies andlater-day system- givers were the ones who named certain varnas and vocations asbelonging to the Shudra category. Some people of unfounded misgivingsare imputing this later development to Manu. Subsequentsocietieswere and are responsible for the degenerated systems but Manu is the one being lashed out at! What asense ofjusticeon the part of the representatives oftheDalits!



  1. Manu’s Definition of Shudranot Applicable to present-dayDalits.


The present day Dalits and Backwards cannot be included in the Shudra category as per definition ofShudra given by Manu. According to him those who have, besides their normal birth, also a second birth calledBrahmajanma {Which takes place on being initiated into receivingeducation at the feet of the teacher for acquiring awareness of the higherreality'(Brahma)} are called dvijas (twice-born), i.e., the Brahmanas,Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Those who do not have the Brahmajanma andthus have only one birth are called Shudras. This means that a child whogoes to his teacher at the time prescribed for receiving education in theVedas and other knowledge passed down orally (with all the formal religious ceremonies performed)and also for receiving training pertinent tohis varna,  is born a second time.


This Vidyajanma which has been called Brahmajanma in the holyscriptures is his second birth, However, a child who deliberately or on account of being a dullard or being incapacitated to acquire education and training in any of the three dvijavarnas remain ekjati which means theone having only one birth, a mere natural or Shudra. Besides, the man who, despite having received education and training in anyone of the threehigh varnas does not carry out the prescribed duties and obligations of thatvarna, also becomes a Shudra (See Manusmriti: 2-126,169,170, 72,10-4. etc.)


A couple of quotes from the Manusmriti as evidence to this effectmerit our attention:-


(a) ब्राह्मणःक्षत्रियोवैश्यस्त्रयोवर्णा:द्विजातयः।
चतुर्थएकजातिस्तुशूद्रोनास्तितुपञ्चमः।।(Manu. 10.4)


This means that the three varnas, i.e., the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyasand the Vaishyas are called dvijatis (dvijas, i.e., twice-born) because they have, through education, a second birth also. The fourth varnais ekjati (once-born only) because members of this varna have only onebirth, i.e., the normal birth and do not have a second birth named Vidyajanma. There are no other varnathan these four ones.


(b) शूद्रेणहिसमस्तावद्यावद्वेदेनजायते।(2-172)


It means that unless a man acquires the Brahmajanma (a second birth by undertaking the studies of the Vedas) he continues to remain like aShudra.


(c) नवेत्त्यभिवादस्य—यथाशूद्रस्तथैवसः (Manu. 2-126)


It means that the one who is not possessed of the courtesy of doingobeisance to others is a Shudra.


(d)प्रत्यवायेनशूद्रताम् (Manu. 4-245)


It means: A Brahmana becomes a Shudra ifhe joins the companyof depraved and evil-minded people and conducts himselfat their level.This definition of the Shudra continued to remain in operation evenuntil later days.


(e) जन्मनाजायतेशुद्र:,संस्काराद्द्विज् उच्यते|(SkandaPurana)


Every person is born a Shudra. It is onlyon the performance of theUpanayana ceremony laterthat he becomes a dvija(twice-born).This system upheld by Manu is practised on the island of Bali eventoday. There dvijatiand ekjati words are used to distinguish the dvijasfrom the Shudras. However, Shudras are not regarded as untouchablesthere.



  1. Shudras are not Untouchables


A numberofverses in the Manusmriti indicate that Manu had anattitude of humanity, feeling and goodwill towards Shudras and by no meansdid he regard them as untouchable, depraved and hate-worthy. Manu has used for Shudras such epithets as ‘best’, ‘highest’ and ‘cleanest'” And aperson who is described so eulogistically can never be untouchable orhate-worthy, (9-335). Manu has directed Shudras to carry out in the households of dvijas such domestic chores as cooking, and some othermanual and labour-based services(1-91;9·334,335).lf some Shudracomesas a guest to the house of a dvija the latter is directed to serve him meals,(3-112). Heis also directed to take meals only after he has served meals tohis servant” who used to be Shudras in those times (3.)16). Are the servants and domestic helps in a household in the present day varna-free’civilized’society served meals in precedence over the employer? Are they given so much of consideration? How humane, respectful andconsiderate an attitude Manu had!


As per Vedic Varna system Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas andShudras have been metaphorically described to have emerged from themouth, arms, thighs and feet of Brahma (the pramatmapurusha) respectively(1-31). This leads us to three conclusions. Firstly, the membersof all the four varnas are the progeny of God and enjoy equal status. Secondly,when they are all born of the same origin, not even one varnacanbe untouchable or despicable. Thirdly the feet which are organs of thesame body cannot be untouchable or despicable vis-a-vis the other parts. With such verses in the Mamusmriti, can any objective and unprejudicedreader make the observation that Manu regarded Shudras as untouchableand hateworthy?


  1. Special concessions to Shudras in the order of precedence


Manu has given exceptional regard to Shudras in matters of socialrecognition. In the order of precedence prescribed by Manu he accordsrespect and recognition to the first three varnas in proportion to theirmerits. And accordingly the learned are the most respectable (2-111, 112,130). But Manu has shown extra consideration for Shudras and hasprovided that the members of the dvijavarna should show prior respect toan aged Shudra, even though he be illiterate. Such respectfulness for agehas not been extended to any of the first three varnas.




Meaning: All elderly Shudra should be shown respect in precedenceover others who deserve to be respected only on the basis of the merits they possess-the greater the merits the more the respect.


  1. Freedom to Shudras in the observance of religious rules and duties


(a) नधर्मात्प्रतिषेधनम्।(10-126).


It means that the Shudras are not barredfrom the observance of religious ceremonies and rites. In saying so, Manuhas allowed freedom to Shudras to observe religion. The samepoint is also made in the verse in which he says ‘we must imitate goodpoints of conduct found even in a Shudra (2-213). Vedas grant Shudras aclear right ofperformingyajna, and of reading Vedas and Shastras:


यथेमांवाचंकल्याणीमावदानिजनेभ्य: |
ब्रह्मराजन्यभ्यांशूद्रायचार्यायचस्वायचारण|य|| यजुर्वेद – (Yajurveda xxvi-2)


Meaning: I have given the benevolent Vedic sermon for all humanbeings, viz., Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, women, domestic help and the Shudras of the lowest degree also.


(b)यज्ञियासःपञ्चजनाममहोत्रंजुषध्वम्(Rigveda 10-53-4)

पञ्चजना: =चत्वारोवर्णाः,निषाद: पञ्चमः(Nirukta 3-8)


Meaning: Five classes of people who are entitled to performyajnashould carry out agnihotra. They are the people belonging to the fourvarnasand the fifth are the Nishadas,Manu proclaims that the postulates of the Manusmriti are in conformity with those of the Vedas. Naturally, therefore, Manu’s beliefsand views are also the same as those of the Vedas. That is the reason whywearingofupanayana has not been barred for anyone inthe discussion onthis topic in the Manusmriti. It means that one becomes Shudra only whenone does not undergo upanayana ceremony and remains uninitiated.


  1. Shudras the least liable to punishment as per Manu’s penal code


Now let us have a look at the penal code propounded by Manu. It ishighly improper to suggest that Manu has provided for the Shudras a morestringent code of punishment, and has extended privileges and prerogativesto Brahmans. In Manu’s code merits are the yardstick, and the level ofintelligence, social status, post and position held and the likely socialconsequences of the crime are the fundamental criteria for determiningthe punishment to a wrong-doer. Manu’s code of punishment is just andequitable which is also psychologically effective. If Manu has accordedgreater respect and higher social status to higher varnas, he has alsoprovided for more rigorous punishment in the case of members of these varnaswho commit crimes. Accordingly the Shudra is the least and the Brahmanaamong all the varnas is the most liable to punishment. In case a king isinvolved in a crime he is liable to much more severe punishment.





A convict in crimes like theft etc. has to be punished keeping inmind the principle that higher the varna to which he belongs the greater the punishment be meted out to him as there is expected to be greaterunderstanding on his part in respect of the seriousness of the crime, itsconsequences and social implications. Thus a Shudra is to be punished eight times severely, the Vaishya sixteen times,a Kashatriya thirty two times, Brahmana sixty four times; nay, hundred times or even 128 times more severely.


Besides, Manu has also ruled that no person-be it the preceptor,the priest or even the parents of the king should beexempted from thesaid punishment. The king should not let even a friend go scot-free. Ifsome financially well-off convict seeks exemption on the payment of alarge sum of money in lieu ofthe physical punishment due to him he too should not be let offwithout due punishment. (8.335,347)


See how just, practical, result oriented and psychologically effectiveManu’s penal code is! Ifit is juxtaposed with the present day penal code the difference will become clear. The cardinal principleoftoday’scode is: Allare equal in the eyes of law. Its first point of difference with Manu is thatwhereas in it people enjoy social prestige as per their position and status in the public and the government they are liable to only equal punishment.


The second point of difference is that the modem system is not equitable.This unequitable situation can be explained with an illustration. Suppose on trespassing into a field to graze, a lamb, a buffalo or an elephant is eachstruck with one blow of the same slick, what will be its effect on each ofthese animals? The poor lamb will break down and start bleating in pain, the buffalo willjust feel the impact and the elephant won’t even feel that ithas been given a blow. But the question is: Does it really amount to a standard measure of punishment and equitable justice? Equitable justice is that which works in normal day to day life. A he-buffalo can be controlled with just a lathi blow whereas it requires an iron-hook or a goad to tame anelephant or a lion. Let us take another illustration. If it is a question of thepayment of a fine ofRs. 1000/- a poor and penniless person will be able to pay it off with extreme hardship by borrowing the amount on exacting terms and will have to labour for a life time to repay the sum. A manbelonging to middle class will feel the pinch of it but will easily pay it off. But a wealthy person will pay off the fine with a what-do-I- care attitude! It is the result of only this unrealistic and psychologically ineffective penalsystem that whereas the poor get entrapped in the clutches of law, the people with position, pelfand power easily get away with crimes or havethemselves let off on the payment of only monetary fines. It will berevealing to cast a glance at the statistics available as to how many of thepoor and powerless on the one side and how many of the rich andresourceful on the other side have been effectively booked for offences. The latter, if at all they are sentenced, keep on paying off monetary fines foroffences only to repeat them. There is no such imbalance in Manu’s PenalCode which is extremely even handed!


The severity of punishment is perfectly proportionate to the seriousnessof the crime in Manu’s penal code. He provides for rigorous punishmentsfor serious crimes, and for lighter punishments for less serious offences to all varnas without any discrimination, whatsoever. The provision for very harsh punishment especially for the Shudras is in sharp contrast to Manu’spronounced code. Such a provision is to be found only in the spurious verses which were never composed by Manu.


  1. Shudras are not slaves


The statement calling for engaging Shudras in slavery or for notpaying them their wages runs counter to Manu’s well-known instructions.In fact Manu has called upon the kings to give wages to servants anddomestic helps as per their status. He also emphasises that their wagesshould not be deducted without any sufficient and valid reasons. (7·125,126,8-216)


  1. Shudrasare Savarnas


If we referto the Manusmritiin its present interpolated form wecan see a number of provisions made by Manu which have been altered bythe subsequent societies to suit their whims and requirements. Manuregards all the four varnas as savarna and anyone other than the four asnon-savarna. But the subsequent societies started putting the Shudras inthe category of non-savamas. (10-4,45)


Manu includes the artisans, sculptors, etc. among the Vaishyas (3-64,9-329; 10-99-120) but the subsequent society relegated them to the categoryof Shudras. Also, whereas Manu regards agriculture and animalhusbandry as the job of the Vaishyas (1.90) the Brahmanas and Kshatriyaswho have mostly been pursuing these professions have not been acceptedas Vaishyas by the subsequent societies including the present. How canthis categorising be accepted as prescribed by Manu?


Thus we see that the provisions which were really made by Manuare just and equitable. He has not been unfair to the Shudras or, for that matter, to any other varna.


  1. The position of women in the Manusmriti
  2. Women are held in highest esteem


It is clear from the internal evidence of the Manusmriti that theanti-women picture of Manu presented by some is baseless and contrary tothe facts. The provisions concerning women in Manu have been inspired byhis sense of respect, justice and goodwill and his concern for their securityand equality with men. Here are some facts of evidence in support: -Maharshi Manu is the first great man ofthe world to have given thesociety the highest ideal about women which adds remarkably to the dignity’, status and self-respect of women.


यत्रैतास्तुनपूज्यन्तेसर्वास्तत्राफलाःक्रियाः|| (3·56)


The correct meaning of the verse is: Gods (who stand for divine qualities, good deeds, sweet nature and blessings for the family, for obedient children and other coveted possessions) make their abode in thehousehold in which women are treated with respect. However, wherethey are not shown any respect, all ventures and undertakings end in smoke. There can be no better proof to show the reverential attitude ofManu towards women than the extremely respectful and beautifuladjectives used for women by him. He says that women in the family are instrumental in bringing good luck to the household; they are respectable; they are illuminating by their very presence and decorative in appearance;they are a symbol of prosperity; they are the mistresses and the solemanagers of the household; they are heavenly in influence; they areconducive to a smooth worldly journey (ix-11, 26, 28; v- 150). He adds that people wishing for their welfare must respect women and that those families and households in which women have to suffer slights, go to dogs.According to him the real happiness and welfare of a household lies in thehappiness and welfare of the women in it (iii-55-62). So he instructs thehusband and the wife in the household to remain happy and satisfied witheach other, not to act against each other and not to indulge in any such activity as may lead to their separation (ix-101·102). Only one verse will suffice to bring out Manu’s feelings.


प्रजनार्थमहाभागा: पूजार्हागृहदीप्तय: ॥

स्त्रिय: श्रियश्चगेहेषुनविशेषोस्तिकश्चन॥ (Manu 1-26)


It means that women bring good luck to a household throughprocreation; they deserve respect and reverence; they irradiate the housewith their presence. In fact there is no difference between the goddess ofwealth and the woman.


  1. Son and daughter have equal status


Those unacquainted with Manu’s code will be pleasantly surprisedto be informed that Manu is the first law-giver to have ordained that sonand daughter enjoy an equal status in the family. He has also given this concept a constitutional validity. He says:पुत्रेणदुहितासमा।(9-130) whichmeans that daughter is at par with son in every respect.


  1. Son and daughter: Equal partners in parental property.


Manu regards both the son and the daughter as equal heirs toparental property. This opinion findsa mention in theManusmriti in chapter ix-130, 192. This very view has been quoted in the Nirukta as follows:-



मिथुनानांविसर्गादौमनु: स्वायम्भुवोsब्रवीत्|| (iii-1-4)


Meaning: In the beginning ofthe creation SvayambhuManuordained and declared that there are equal rights for sons and daughters in theancestral parental property. Manu has infact enhanced the importance ofgirls in the house-hold by laying down that only daughters (and not sons)are entitled to inherit the personal property of the mother(ix- 131).


  1. Special instructions for the safety of women’s property:


Manu has ensured that nobody usurps the property of women under the impression that they are weaklings. He has laid down that people makingsuch attempts, howsoever close they may be to the concerned woman, should he given the same punishment as has been prescribed for thieves(ix-2 12; iii-52, viii-2,29).



  1. Stringent punishment for crimes against women


Manu has tried to ensure the security of women by laying down thatthe kidnappers and killersof women should be awarded capital punishmentand the rapists be banished after being tortured (viii-323; ix0232, viii-352).Manu has given clear instructions for the redressal of all difficulties, big or small, facing women. Men have been instructed not to quarrel with their mother,wife and daughter (iv-180). There is a provision for punishment to persons leveling false charges against them; to those deserting women even when they are innocent; to those who fail to fulfill conjugal obligations towardswomen (viii-275,389; ix-4).


  1. Marital Freedom to Women:


Manu has an ideal approach on the subject of marriage of a woman.He has conceded to her the freedom of marrying a man of her choice whoin her opinion is the most suitable for her (ix-90, 91). He has allowedremarriage of a widow and has also sanctioned Niyoga (temporaryattachment to a member of the opposite sex for a definite purpose such asprocreation, etc.) (ix-1 76,56-63). Marriage is a symbol of affection and respect for girls and, therefore, according to Manu dowry in any form ishighly improper and hence forbidden (i ii-51-54). Earnestly wishing for thehappiness of women he suggests that it is better to remain unmarried lifelong than to marry a wicked and vicious man (ix .89).


  1. Joint obligations and woman’s indispensability in the performance of religious rites


The participation which women get in every field of activity enjoyed bymen in India as sanctioned by Vedic religion is of a unique nature and is notto be seen elsewhere. Here no religious rite, no social ceremony and nohousehold venture can be accomplished without women being associated.Manu also has the same creed to propound. So he entrusts the job ofaccomplishing religious rites and ceremonies to women, and gives directions that such rites should not be carried out without theirparticipation (ix- II 28, 96). During the Vedic period women enjoyed allrights such as the right to study the Vedas, right to the wearing ofyajnopavita (sacred thread), right to doyajna (sacrificial ceremony),etc. They used to embellish the position of Brahma (the director) in theyajna ceremony. They would acquire the position of seers (exponents) ofVedic hymns after having received high education. Manu who regarded the

Vedas as being of axiomatic authority in all religious matters was a greatadvocate of high education and all religious rights for women as ordainedin the Vedas. That is why he rules that all the rights relating to womenshould be carried out under their own supervision with the chanting ofVedic hymns by them. (ii-4 ;iii.28)


  1. Preference to women


The admirers of’ladies first’ culture will be gratified to learn thatManu has instructed that we should stepaside to make way for women ona priority basis. He also rules that newly married women, unmarried girls, ailing, expectant and old women should be provided foodfirst and then only should husband and wife in the family take mealstogether.(ii.138; iil.114, 116)Al1these provisions in Manu indicate the highdegree of sense of respect and affection he had for womenfolk.


  1. Manu not in favour of unrestrained freedom to women


It will be only pertinent to clarify in this context that Manu is anadmirer of virtues and a great detractor of vices. So he accords all respectto virtuous ladies and provides for all punishmentstovicious women.

One of the characteristics of these provisions of Manu is that he is not infavour of unlimited liberty for women which may make her unsafe andconsequentially be extremely harmful to her. So he has warned womenagainst jumping the security cover provided to her either by the father or bythe husband or by the son because such a misadventure on her part canbring a bad name to two families, her parents’ and that of herin-laws’ (v-149; ix-56) However, by no means does it mean that Manu isanti-women’s lib. This only implies that the first social requirement ofwomen is security which may be provided to her by the State’s law andorder machinery or by some man or by her own valour. Her own valour, moreoften than not, fails to protect her in a world dominated by sensualtendencies. There are instances to show that even well-armed woman dacoits have required male protection and patronage. However, it will notbe proper to assess Manu’s contentions in the present day politicalperspective. Today there is a law-enforcing government and yet thousands of women have been criminally assaulted and thus compelled togo to the dogs. The rape and subsequent killing of women is the order of the dayand the rule of law is rendered ineffectual. The real import of Manu’swords can be realized vis-a-vis a situation when there is looseness inadministration consequent upon a change in the system of governmentfollowing violent incidents. It is in such a situation that Manu’s words proveto be perfectly true.


This analysis makes it clear that the provisions made by Manu areneither anti-shudra nor anti-woman. They are in fact, extremely fair,just,impartial and even-handed. Manu has said nothing objectionable, nothing exceptionable.


E- Spurious interpolations in the Manusmriti


The aforementioned discussion leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the Manusmriti does have in it a large number of verses carryingnoble canons and commandments. However, it is also a fact that theextremely objectionable verses which anti-Manu writers have beenquoting and underscoring are imputed to Manu and hisManusmriti. Thismakes the scripture a carrier of paradoxes. If the latter type of verseswere also accepted as really from the originalManusmriti it would meanthat the book has in it on the one side just and fair rules and regulations andunfair and treasonable and hence despicable proposals and postulates onthe other. The crucial question is: Is it an acceptable position that a bookshould originally carry in it such paradoxes and self-contradictorystatements and commandments? When there are no apparently self-contradictorystatements in the compositions of even ordinary writers ofaverage intelligence how can there be such paradoxical statements in thewrite-up of such a legal luminary and religiously righteous sage. A plain, simple and incontrovertible explanation to this is one and only one: the justand noble laws and those giving due consideration to a man’s potentialities,actions and abilities are originally written by Manu and those against theseprinciples, and putting a premium on partial, unreasonable and unjustapproach are interpolations added to the Manusmriti from time to time,designed to suit the vested interests of interpolators. This explanation getsupheld as correct and just if we make a reference to the Manusmritiitself. The original verses are contextually relevant and written in a soberstyle 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 onlyirrelevant and out of context but also thematically discordant Thus we candetermine which verses are original and which ones are interpolated. Inbrief the following can be stated as guiding principles for telling the originalfrom the interpolated:-


1.The system upheld by Manu is the Vedic Varna system (EvenDr. Ambedkar has accepted this fact). So the verses upholding theprinciple of merit-profession-potentiality are the original ones and thoseagainst it and pleading for parentage and birth as determining factors arethe motivated insertions made subsequently.There were no castes during Manu’s times. That is why Manu does not name any caste as belonging one or the other varna. Keeping this inview the logical conclusion is that the verses upholding the inheritance ofvarnas are the interpolated ones.


  1. The verses relating to the system of due and equitable punishment quoted in the present write-up, which constitute the generallaw, are original. And the verses which talk of discriminatory rigorouspunishment only to some sections are interpolated ones.


  1. Similarly the verses quoted here relating to the definition of Shudras, talking of a charitable attitude towards them, of the performance ofreligious rites by them of possible change from one varna to the other arefrom the original text. On the other hand those which talk of a person beinga Shudra if born of Shudra parents, which talk of untouchability, ofdiscrimination between the high and the low, and those which supportexploitation of weaker sections are interpolated ones.


  1. Again the verses quoted in this article suggesting that women should be given due regard, should enjoy social freedom, have equalitywith men and have the right to education including the right to study the Vedas, are original and those negating these postulates are interpolations.Some readers may be interested in going deep into the question ofwhich verses are original and why, which verses are subsequent motivatedadditions and why. They are urged to refertotheManusmriti (Complete)in Hindi published by the ArshSahityaPracharTrust. 455-.Khari Baoli, Delhi. This book carries an appraisal of the book on the strength of arguments based on internal evidence and tells the original verses from theinterpolated ones on the basis of universally acceptable yardsticks. Thisedition of the Manusmriti will prove very useful in securing informationregarding the original subjects taken up in the scripture for discussion,regarding the interpolated verses clearly stating why they are decisivelyand conclusively interpolated and not original, regarding some of the popular misgivings about the Manusmriti and their resolution in aconvincing manner. This is the latest research on interpolations in theManusmriti. It is essential to make it clear here that the interpolatedverses are no longer a subject of controversy. Instead, they have beenaccepted as such decisively, conclusively and finally. It is a factsupported by written evidence that there motivatedadditions have been made to the ancient Sanskrit literature from time to time. TheMahabharata which originally carried only 10,000 verses has graduallybecomea stupendous volume of about one lakh verses. Today’s Ramayanacarries hundreds more shlokas than those in a hand-written versionwhich is about one thousand years old and which isstilllying preserved inthe Nepalese archives. The Manusmriti is also sailing in the same boat. As a matter of fact a larger number of additions, alterations andinterpolations have been carried out in it. The reason obviously is that it is more related and relevant to the day-to-day conduct and concerns of humanbeings. So it was subjected to manipulations by vested interests. Thescholars of all shades and hues are unanimous on the issue ofinterpolations in the Manusmriti. The commentaries available on it bear adirect testimony to this fact. The later-day commentaries carry a largernumber of verses. There are 170 more verses in Kullukabhatta’scommentary (12th century) than those found in that of Meghalithi (9thcentury). Till then the extra verses in the former had not been assimilatedin the main body of the commentary and so had to be given in largebrackets. There is a variation in the number of verses found in othercommentaries.


* British researchers like Wooler, J.Jolly, Keith and MacDonell andthe Encyclopedia Americana also accept that the Manusmriti carries alarge number of interpolations.


*MaharshiDayanand, the founder of the Arya Samaj regards onlythe original and interpolation-free Manusmriti as authentic. He has pointedout some interpolated verses and has urged scholars to identify other suchverses for expurgating this great work.


*Mahatma Gandhi in his book entitled ‘Varna Vyavastba’ accepts that the objectionable verses found in the Manusmriti are subsequentmotivated insertions. Dr. Radhakrishanan, Dr. Rabindemath Tagore andother national leaders and scholars too are of the same opinion.Hence the need of the hour is that the original Manusmriti shouldbe reckoned as authentic, and the opposition to Manu on the basis ofinterpolated Shlokas should be rebuttedbecause Manu and Mauusmritiare worth taking pride in and not something condemnable. We shouldnot drag such invaluable and important heritage of our country in the dirtypolitics of vested interests, and thus should not desecrate it by subjecting itto indignities and insults.



One thought on “Opposition to Manu: Why?”

  1. Some one who has not studied the original manusmriti in samskrita cannot and will never understand the lofty universal teachings of this masterpiece of the great rishi. The fact that ambedkar did no know samskrita all his ideas are borrowed from the books of the foreign scholars so all his arguments are futile, worthless and to be rejected. Those who are following his steps should sit down and study manusmriti otherwise they will continue to sail in ignorance and doing harm to themselves and to the great universal culture of the rishis. Sa vishva vaaraa prathamaa samskriti.

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