Open main menu

Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 25.djvu/24

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


suffice to show that the explanatory notes offered by the Indian commentators on the origin and history of the Manu-smriti are not suited to furnish a basis for a critical discussion of these questions, and that hence they have been deservedly set aside by most modern Sanskritists who have written on the subject. As regards the theories of the latter, it would be useless to enumerate those preceding Professor Max Müller's now generally accepted view, according to which our Manu-smriti is based on, or is in fact a recast of an ancient Dharma-sûtra. But, well known as are his hypotheses and the later discoveries confirming them, an introduction to the laws of Manu would, I think, be incomplete without a full restatement of his arguments and of their additional supports furnished by others.

The considerations on which Professor Max Müller based his explanation of the origin of the Manu-smriti may be briefly stated as follows[1]. The systematic cultivation of the sacred sciences of the Brâhmans began and for a long time had its centre in the ancient Sûtrakaranas, the schools which first collected the fragmentary doctrines, scattered in the older Vedic works, and arranged them for the convenience of oral instruction in Sûtras or strings of aphorisms. To the subjects which these schools chiefly cultivated, belongs besides the ritual, grammar, phonetics, and the other so-called Aṅgas of the Veda, the sacred law also. The latter includes not only the precepts for the moral duties of all Âryas, but also the special rules regarding the conduct of kings and the administration of justice. The Sûtra treatises on law thus cover the whole range of topics, contained in the metrical Smritis attributed to Manu, Yâavalkya, and other sages. Though only one Dharma-sûtra, that of the Âpastambîyas, actually remains connected with the aphorisms on the ritual and other sacred subjects, the existence of the Dharmasâtras of Gautama, Vasishtha, and Vishnu, which are likewise composed in Sûtras, proves that formerly 


  1. See his letter Mr. Morley, reprinted in Sacred Books of the East, vol. ii, pp. ix–xi, and Hist. Anc. Sansk. Lit. pp. 132–134. Compare also the analogous views formed independently by Professors Weber and Stenzler, Indische Studien, vol. i, pp. 69, 143, 243–4.