Open main menu

Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 25.djvu/31

There was a problem when proofreading this page.

which might be considerably enlarged, do not necessarily force on us the conviction that they refer to actual law-books which preceded our Manu-smriti. If they stood by themselves, they might possibly be explained as showing nothing more than that legal and ritual questions had long engaged the attention of the learned. But this subterfuge becomes impossible, as we find in other verses the explicit confession that the author of the Manu-smriti knew Dharmasâtras. Three passages allude to their existence in general terms. The first occurs in the definition of the terms Sruti and Smriti, Manu II, 10, 'But by Sruti (revelation) is meant the Veda, and by Smriti (tradition) the Institutes of the sacred law.' In the text the last word, dharmasâstram, stands in the singular. But it must doubtlessly be taken, as Kullûka[1] and Nârâyana[2] indicate, in a collective sense. Another mention of law-books is found Manu XII, 111, where a dharmapâthakah, 'one who recites (the Institutes of) the sacred law,' is named among the members of a parishad or assembly entitled to decide difficult points of law. The commentators are unanimous in explaining dharma, literally 'the sacred law,' by 'the Institutes of the sacred law' or 'the Smritis of Manu and others,' and it is indeed impossible to take the word in any other sense than that of 'law-books[3].' The third passage is perfectly explicit, as the word Dharmasâstra is used in the plural. It occurs in the section on funeral sacrifices, Manu III, 232, 'At a (sacrifice in honour) of the manes he must let (his guests) hear the Veda, the Institutes of the sacred law (dharmasâstrâni),' &c.[4] Here the existence of many earlier law-books is plainly acknowledged. The character of the Institutes of the sacred law, known to the author of our Manu, may be inferred 

  1. (Symbol missingIndic characters)
  2. (Symbol missingIndic characters)
  3. Medh. (Symbol missingIndic characters) Gov. (Symbol missingIndic characters) Kull. (Symbol missingIndic characters) Nand. (Symbol missingIndic characters) The full significance of this passage will be shown below, p. lii.
  4. See also Professor Stenzler in the Indische Studien, vol. i, p. 245; Dr. Johänntgen, Das Gesetzbuch des Manu, p. 76.