DR. RAM MANOHAR LOHIYA NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY
B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) Semester I (Sec. B)
LAWS IN ANCIENT INDIA : A STUDY OF THE SMRITIS
SUBMITTED TOMrs. VANDANA SINGH
SUBMITTED BYVRISHALI GUPTA I Semester Roll no. 157
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTAs a child, you acknowledged everything you accomplished, as you grow older and more sophisticated, you acknowledge only major accomplishments but an endeavor of this magnitude would not have been possible without the invaluable help and support Mrs. Vandana Singh who guided me in every possible way with this project. I want to thank my dear friends whose inputs and critique played a major role in shaping up this work. But I still fail to understand the scarcity of this page to put in the efforts of all those people who helped me and guided me through this small piece of work that I have completed. Anything that I do in my life is incomplete without the blessings of GOD who are my parents only.
TABLE OF CONTENTSSMRITIS INTRODUCTION ANCIENT INDIAN SYSTEM-GENERAL NEED OF THE SMRITIS EVOLUTION OF THE SMRITIS GOAL OF SMRITIS SUBJECT DIVISION OF CODES OF CONDUCT NAMES OF SMRITIS BRIEF OF SOME IMPORTANT SMRITIS -MANU SMRITI -YAJNAVALKYA SMRITI-HAREET SMRITI -ANGIRASA SMRITI -YAMI SMRITI -SAMVARTA SMRITI -KATYAYAN SMRITI -PARASHAR SMRITI -SHANKHA SMRITI -DAKSHA SMRITI -GAUTAM SMRITI -SHATATAPA SMRITI
SPIRIT OF THE SMRITIS INDIA UNDER THE RULE OF SMRITIS CONCLUSION
LAWS IN ANCIENT INDIA: A STUDY OF THE SMRITISINTRODUCTIONSmritis mean "that which has to be remembered". Unlike the Vedas which are considered of divine origin, the Smritis are of human composition which guides individuals in their daily conduct according to time and place. They list the codes and rules governing the actions of the individual, the community, society, and the nation. They are also called Dharmashastras or laws of righteous conduct.Laws in ancient India were codified in Smritis. In the Smritis (code of law), instructions have been given regarding religious cum moral behaviour of a man, in great details. These 'Smritis' have touched nearly every important aspects of human life like conduct, behaviour, education and his duty of seeking happiness in the other world after his death by being virtuous.1
Vedas are the basic religious scriptures upon which the tradition of Indian-theism is based. These four Vedas i.e. Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda contains all the knowledge of this universe and they are well preserved in it. The Vedic sages, for the benediction of human beings condensed this vast expansion of learning into cryptic form. Their pupils who were of sharp intellect memorized them as soon as these words of great knowledge were pronounced by them (sages). The experienced sages of these Vedic knowledge have transformed the Vedic principles into most practical forms in the Smritis and which they thought must be the objective of the Smritis. Even the most learned man having the knowledge of Brahma, spiritualism and philosophy gets respect from people only when he practices what he preaches otherwise his tremendous knowledge is covered by the darkness of his bad conducts. The Smriti texts have become a binding of sacred literature which includes the six Vedangas, the Ithihasas : the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as well as, the Puranas.2
The Indian encyclopaedia by Subodh Kapoor, Volume 2, Page 6704Lingat, Robert. 1973. Ch. 1, pp. 9-10.
SMRITIS(DEALING WITH CHANGING TIMES)ITIHAS - MAHABHARATA, RAMAYANA PURANAS - 18 PURANAS SMRITIS - 18 SMRITIS (DHARMASHASTRAS) VED-UPANGA -VARIOUS DARSANS VEDANGAS - LIKE GRAMMARS, ASTROLOGY, KALPASUTRA , RITUALS. UPAVEDA - AYUR VEDA, GHANDHARV VEDA, DHANUR VEDA, STAPATHYA VEDA.
Four VedasRIGVEDA SAMVEDA YAJURVEDA ATHARVEDA
Smritis could be broadly classified as: Vedangas subjects required to understand various aspects of the Veda. Upavedas arts and sciences. Upangas understanding of dharma and debating it. Darsanas windows to truth.3
ANCIENT INDIAN SYSTEM - GENERALSome of the key dates are as follows:42700 BC Harappa Civilization 900 BC Mahabharata War 550 BC Composition of the Upanishads 544 BC Nirvana of Buddha 327 BC Alexanders Invasion 322 BC Rise of the Mauryas 272 BC Ashoka begins reign 145 BC Chola King Erata conquers Ceylon 320 AD Chandragupta I establishes Gupta dynasty 405 AD Chinese traveller Fa-hein travels through India 711 AD Invasion of Sind by Muhammad Bin Qasim 1001 AD Defeat of Jaipal by Sultan Mahmud
There may be some disputes about the above dates but such controversies will not affect our arguments. It is obvious that the ancient India spans a time period of about 3700 years3 4
See, http://www.hindupedia.com/en/SmritiChronology Ancient India BC to 1000 AD, http://www.itihaas.com/ancient/index.html
starting from Harappa civilization and ending with defeat of Jaipal by Sultan Mahmud in 1001 AD. There is no other country that has such a long period of continuous civilizational history. One of the key characteristics of ancient India was that though there was never one ruler who ruled the complete area which was known by the name of BHARATVARSHA or ARYAVARTA, the area had an identical system of governance that remained by and large unchanged throughout the period.
NEED OF SMRITISAny society or civilization, can only flourish when it follows certain well laid laws or rules which govern mans conduct, and help him to maintain such manners and customs which will help to protect and preserve his culture. This is what the Smritis do- they give us clear directions on how every class or group of men should lead their lives and perform their duties. Rules are also laid down for individuals in daily life, as well as for communities and nations. They also tell us how men should conduct themselves at different ages and stages of life. The rights, privileges and duties of kings are detailed. Judicial, social issues are dealt with, as also are rituals of purification and other samskaras.
EVOLUTION OF SMRITISThe origin and development of Smritis blossomed after the Vedas. Smritis which were created after the Vedic literature contain some serious topics as well as many preaching in simple language. As a result of this simple language common people have been able to gain knowledge about their rights and duties. It is said that a phase came after the Vedic period which could be called the Smriti period because during that period the society was governed by the rules contained in the Smritis. During that period many Smritis were created apart from the main Smritis, keeping in mind the prevalent social and environmental conditions in which there is found great diversities in the rules although the basic principles remained the same.
GOAL OF SMRITISThe Smritis aim at outlining and giving a picture of how to live life in a way to fulfil the purpose of life, thus make life meaningful. They also aim at reflecting Vedic worldview in daily life. The functions Smritis prescribe regulate life closest to natural laws as seen in the Veda.
SUBJECT DIVISION OF CODES OF CONDUCTThe learned men of religion have tried to categorize the scriptures of code of conduct mainly into three categories. 1. Codes of Conduct (Aaachaar Samhita) 2. Codes of behaviour (Vyavahara Samhita) 3. Codes of atonement (Praayaschita Samhita) Or Codes of punishment (Danda Samhita)5 All these three aspects are very essential for a worthwhile existence of a man. If any of the aspect is absent then the all round development of a man not only gets blocked but also becomes impossible. Keeping this in mind the ancient sages of India preserved their memoirs,5
The Indian encyclopaedia by Subodh Kapoor, Volume 21, page no.6704
their conclusions in the form of code of conduct for the welfare of mankind stressing upon the importance of religion and salvation and his continuous endeavour in that direction. CODES OF CONDUCT The first demonstration made in the Smritis is related with the right conduct of a man. The spiritual development of a man depends upon the implementation of the sixteen rites, wherein he is required to maintain his life style pure virtuous since his birth till his death by keeping away from sinful activities. Therefore for an achievement of bright future, ordinances have been made for different ceremonies and rites for different situations like conception, initiation into learning, sacred thread ceremony (yagyapavit), marriage etc which brings respectability to a man and which helps him to develop real humanity in him. Although the education on the codes of conduct as directed in the Smritis had been originally categorized on the basis of the four castes i.e. Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra and similarly on the four stages of man's life i.e. Brahmacharya (maintaining celibacy), Grihastha (a householder's life), Vaanaprastha (going to the forest) and Sanyaas (renunciaton) but today in the Kaliyuga when the caste system has deteriorated to such an extent that there is a fear of it becoming extinct is not applicable. The permission has been given in the 'Smritis' to each individual and community according to his tendency, capability and efficiency so that a man can develop physically, mentally, intellectually and the whole society moves forward on the path of virtuosity. The two of the most important duties of a Brahmin as described in the Smritis are a) Penance. b) Learning and acquiring knowledge. A Brahmin by doing a penance liberates himself from all of his sins and by acquiring knowledge, he achieves the supreme status. The areas of activities where a Brahmin is supposed to function are learning, teaching and help in the performance of Yagya. (sacrificial f