Manu: Social Laws
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1.Describe The Social Laws Of Manu And Their Impact On Either The Position Of Women In Society Or The Caste System.(2010). Introduction:-
Manu was the first Hindu political philosopher who laid the foundations of India’s political traditions in ancient India. Because if traditions begins with myth, Hindu mythology believes, all dynasties that ruled India owed their origin to the primaeval/primal king Manu. Manu was not only the first king of ancient India, he was also the first philosopher who codified the law and created a new Hindu social and political order. His original brilliant masterpiece, the Manusmriti is the most influential Hindu law book which still determines the social and political orientation to many Indians. The study of Manu has become more relevant with the emergence of Hindu revivalism in Modern India. Origin Of Manu:-
It is impossible for ordinary human beings to trace the origin of Manu to a particular period. However scholars views regarding his origin is based on only different assumptions. Sir William Jones traces Manu to 1200 B.C., Bhandarkar talks of the origin of Manu between the middle of the 2nd century A.D and the end Of 5th century A.D. According to Hopkins, Manu lived in the beginning of or even before the Christian era. Identification Of/Who Was Manu:-
Manu in its literal implication stands for Wisdom and Compassion. He was also considered to be the symbol of an institution or office of Kingship. But it is said, Manu was the first progeny of the creator Brahma. Brahma in his plan of creation implanted the human race which started from Manu. Some others view him to be the real king who existed in different periods & guided human generation through his ruling. According to others, Manu was not a person to be identified. ‘Manu’ is described by them as a legal code. Their opinion is that “the religion or right principles for the maintenance of social and political life of men derived from the minds (Mana) in right manners were codified in the legal code, is titled as Manu. Thus, Manu is a legal code. It has the legal responsibility. It is the combination of all rules & regulations for maintenance of social and political life, in a welfare organization, i.e. , the state. But one common agreement was that Manu was the creator, the philosopher, and he was the first Hindu king of ancient India. S. there are disputes regarding the identification of Manu. The Manu Smriti:-
Manu is the father of ancient Indian Polity and it is believed to be first of all men on this our land. Manu wrote Manusmriti which enjoys an exceptional place in our ancient literature. It is the basis of several later religious writings of tremendous value and volume. Manusmriti is considered to be the most authoritative text on human religions, social and political organization. Manusmriti form an important part of the knowledge of ancient India. It is the first work which codified the law in ancient India. It is like the Ganges which has its origin in vedas. It is a comprehensive treatise of the conduct of Hindu society and Hindu way of life in those days. It is called by various names in Manu Samhita, Manu Dharma Smriti etc. After vedas this is the most important book on the Hindu way of life. It is said that it was written between 200-300 B.C. It contains 12 chapters in which author has beautifully depicted about the co-ordinated growth of society, religion, and polity or political science.
It touches all the aspects of life, administration, king, and his duties, levy on taxes, running of government, establishment and functioning of courts, division of society into varnas and the various customs during life and after death. Mausmriti consists of 12 chapters & 2684 hymns. The second chapter consisting of 249 hymns deals with the different parts & duties of life such as hereditary occupation, process of purification, Brahmacharya (Celibacy). Third chapter consisting of 286 hymns deals with householders ‘s life, the system of marriage, rules regarding happy married life, evils of inter-caste marriage. The last chapter deals with the rules of social life, Moksha, self-knowledge, self-examination, duties towards the society & the state. Social Provision/Views/Ideas/Visions Of Manu In Manusmriti:- The entire social ideas/visions of Manu has been described in the Manusmriti. The ideas/visions may be categorized into the following subjects:- a)Varna System:-
Manu has provided the principles of the social organization. In this connection, he has divided the entire society into 4 castes (varnas) as Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishya, and Shudra. Manu codified the caste system which he claimed to have done for the betterment of the society. Manu says that for the prosperity of the world, the lord created Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra from his mouth, arms, thighs and feet respectively. Let us make an attempt to give a brief account of the relative positions, duties, occupations and inter-state of different castes in his social order:- i)Brahmana:-
Brahmans are the greatest among men. A Bhraman is born for the fulfillment of the sacred law. He becomes one with Brahman. He is an eternal incarnation of the law. According to Manu, a Brahman is an interpreter of law & hence must read the sacred law carefully. The main functions of the Brahaman are teaching, reading, sacrifice, and sacrificing (as priests) for others. He exists for the sake of dharma and is for the existence of the Vedas. Became when a Brahman is born, he is born above the world. A Brahmin is a twice-born who undergoes the process of sanctifying the body & purifying his life. He is the chief of all creatures to guard the treasure of dharma. Thus, whatever exists in the world is property of the Brahman. For the Brahman is entitled to it all by his superiority and convenience of birth. He prohibits Brahmins to marry in other castes (varna). A Brahmin’s son can be a Brahmin only when he marries a lady of his own castes. A Brahmin has to undergo austerity & should stick to the vedic way of life, otherwise he loses the fruit of a successful Brahmin.
There are the code of conducts for a Brahmin. These are the code of conducts for a Brahmin. Only a successful Brahmin can be a guide to the king. The King should respect the Brahmins. Manu observes that the Brahmin are cultural persons. According to Manu, the twice born classes may take up arms when they are prevented from the performance of their duties, when destructions, due to bad times, threatens them, when they are in need of self-presentation, when there is conflict in respect of fees of sacrificed priests, and when women of Brahmins have to be protected. He who righteously kills another under the above circumstances should not be blamed. Manu says that the Kshatriyas become overbearing towards the Brahmins in all respects the spiritual power (Brahma) itself shall duly refrain them. According to Manu, the Brahmin should be of war of the means of subsistence prescribed by law for all castes.
He must instruct the others & he must live in accordance with the law. The Brahmin is the lord (Prabhu) of all castes, on account of his pre-eminence the superiority of his origin, his adherence to distinctive rules and his particular sanctification. The Brahmin should punish the wrongdoers by her own strength, without bringing it to the notice of the king. He should use the charms & incantations as contained in the Artharva Veda and his weapon lies in his speech. Besides put rights, the Brahmin who has public rights. Manu observes that the king, even in time of deepest distress, should not provoke the anger of the Brahmins. The wealth of the Brahmins is the knowledge of the Veda. Whether learned or not, the Brahmins must be honoured in every way in the society. The Brahmins has the right to instruct others in their duties because of his distinctive birth & upbringing. ii)Kshatriyas:-
The Kshatriyas sprang from the arms of the creator. A Kshatriyas has to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda) and to abstain from attaching himself to sexual pleasures. Like the Brahmins, Kshatriyas are also twice born & are to undergo the same type of purification. The son of a Kshatriya becomes a Kshatriya only when Kshatriya gets married to a lady oh his own caste. Thus Manu assigns to the Kshatriyas the occupation of protecting the people. In his discussion on the king’s duty towards war & fighting, Manu says that the king must not refrain from fighting when challenged by an enemy of equal inferior or superior strength. The duty of the Kshatriyas is to achieve victory & not retreat from battle. Manu says further that those who fight with the approved weapons & are killed in battle without thought of retreat, go to Heaven. For a Kshatriyas, the most commendable occupations is the protection of his subjects. iii)Vaishya:-
The Vaishya coming from the thigh of the creator constitutes the third rank in the social hierarchy. The main functions of the Vaishya are to tend the cattle, bestow gifts, offer sacrifices, study the Veda, trading, lending money, and to cultivate land. That means Vaishyas are to carry out both agricultural and commercial functions. But Vaishyas, according to Manu, are categorized under the group of twice-born. Hence Manu gives them the right to study the Veda but cannot teach the Veda. Like Brahmins he undergoes the process of purification. But the thread ceremony of Vaishya will be different from Brahmins and Kshatriyas. For example, Manu said, the sacred thread of a Brahman must be of cotton put over the left shoulder. The thread of a Kshatriyas must be of three fold & hemp thread, the Vaishya must have woolen thread. iv)Sudra:-
Sudra occupies the lowest position in Manu’s codified law. The Sudras are to serve the other three castes. Naturally while the other three castes are privileged, Sudras are deprived. Sudras are excluded from the twice-born. They do not have any right for sacred learning. He who explains the sacred law to a Sudra or dictates a penance to him sinks along with his pupil into hell Manu undermined the importance of Sudras and said, Sudras can never form a stable society. A kingdom which is destitute of twice-born people but contain many Sudras and which is infected by atheists is soon afflicted with disease and famine and utterly perishes. Brahmins should not reside in such a state. He also gives an insignificant positions to Sudra women when he says is a son is born from a Brahmin male & Sudra female, he will not have the right of a Brahmin. b)Asrama System:-
Manu gives a detailed account of the life of an individual human being into four stages, popularly known as the four asrama. The Brahmacharya, Grahastha, Vanaprastha, & Samnyasa and shows how the ordering of life ensures ordered progress of the individual & the society. Let us discuss each of the aspects in detail as follows:- Four Stages Of Asrama:-
The first stage is called the Brahmacharya asrama. During this period which covers the first 25 years of the life of an individual, the young student devotes himself to the acquisition of knowledge of Brahman. At the appropriate time the student leaves his parental home to live with his guru. The Guru demanded no fee from the pupil who was expected to serve him in various ways. The aim of the education gives to the student was to train his intellect, teach him to control his emotions and purify his desires. It was also calculated to assimilate the child to the society, and was instrumental in transmitting the culture of the group to the succeeding generation.
Thus, it sought to reconcile the needs of the individual & claims of the community. To Manu, a sound system of education should awaken the creative faculties of the child, satisfy his spiritual aspiration and held in his ascent towards the spirit. It should be noted that according to Manu’s system the formal education of the child did not commence before he was 8 years of age. He prescribed different age limits for children of different groups. 8 years was the limit for Brahmin & 12 years for Kshatriyas. Only boys were required to live in home of Guru; the girls were to stay with their parents for their education. ii)Grahastha Asrama:-
After the completion of his education the individual enters the second stage of life. He marries at the age of 25 and becomes a householder. Whereas the brahmacharya asrama is meant for acquiring the necessary knowledge and developing the intellectual faculties, the grahastha asrama is meant for the satisfaction of biological needs, building a family & acquiring property. However, it must be borne in mind that while enjoying life & earning wealth, the individual is not to forget the moral & spiritual sides of life. The family consists of husband, wife & children. Manu regards the family as the eternal school where the child learns his first lesson through mothers love and father’s care. Manu mentions fine duties of the householder, namely, duty, to the sages who gave the vedas; duty to the gods to whom oblations must be offered; duty to the forefathers or pitras to whom we owe our bodies; duty to the natural elements which help the lower forms of life to grow on which our own life greatly depends; and finally duty towards humanity. The proper discharge of these 5 duties lifts the family to a high position in the social order. iii)Vanaprastha Asrama:-
When the householder attains to the age of 50 years, and his hair begins to form grey and he gets a grandchild, he should know that it is time to retire from the hustle & bustle of life, and seek seclusion in a forest asrama. He may take his wife with him, if he likes. Here the individual grows up attachment to persons and property and participates in the life of the group as a ‘wise counsellar’, rich in life’s experiences, as the guide & adviser of the youth & the trusted friend of all. Public administration & advisers to the king should be chosen from among vanaprastha in as much as they have abandoned all personal self-seeking & have learnt to subordinate selfish impulses to social good. vi)Samnyasa Asrama:-
This is the last stage of an individual’s life. In it he devotes himself exclusively to spiritual pursuits and prepares himself for union with the Supreme Being. Abandoning all earlier ties, he should now enter into complete seclusion where he is alone with God. Here commences a carrier to which the 3 previous ones have been but a prelude. It is time for a diligent quest after the Spirit, the life of the eternal, in him. His purity of life and motive and realization of the Real become the beacon lights (for those who are still involved in the meshes of maya, the material and the social worlds). He now becomes a free man, a resurrected soul, no longer a slave to the natural and institutional life but a guide to those who must live in them. c)Manu’s Views Respecting Women:-
i)Women is the Mistress Of The House:-
In Manu’s social order women is given a peculiar status. She is bestowed with a major responsibility to be the real mistress of the house and made the wife, the uncrowned queen of home. ii)Prohibited Of To Women To Study The Vedic Literature:-
Manu’s ordinance prohibited women to study the vedic literature. iii)Husband Should Respect Their Wives:-
Manu suggested that women should be properly taken care of. Husbands should respect their wives so that the offspring’s & the sanctity of the family will be properly protected. Wives should be given the authority to manage the material and financial affairs of the house. Here Manu gives an elevated position to women in comparison to man. Again in some other verses he says if a wife tries to surpass her husband, she will suffer from many dieseases. iv)Second Marriage In Lower Caste:-
Manu allows in case of a second marriage, one may marry a women of lower caste. v)A women Is Not Fit For Independence:-
Manu portrays woman as a weaker sex, requiring protection at all stages of life. He opines “Her father guard her in childhood, her husband guards her in youth, and sons guard her in Old age.” Manu exhorts the man to guard his wife zealously in order to keep his progeny clean. He advises the man to keep her busy, cooking food, looking after the furniture and engaging in purification. Simultaneously, he suggests that women are not guarded when they are combined in a house by men who also can be trusted to do their jobs well but women who guard themselves by themselves are well guarded. vi)Supersession Of A Wife:-
Manu suggests supersession of a wife who is rebellious, dishonest, or violent, or has been barren for 8 years or one whose children die in the 11th year or who has been blessed only with daughters till the 11th year or who talks unpleasant things. A well behaved woman even if falls ill may be superseded with her consent and may not be dishonoured. vii)Absence Of Infidelity Between Husband & wife:-
Manu stresses mutual absence of infidelity until death. He has rightly advised a man and woman who have performed wedding ritual not to get separated or be unfaithful to each other. It is important to note that sermons of mutual infidelity constitute the bedrock of happy conjugal life which should be strictly adhered to. Manu’s advice in this respect has eternal value for conjugal & blissful homely life. viii)Annulment Of Marriage:-
According to Manu, after the marriage if a wife hates husband because of his insanity, bad character, impotence or a disease may not be deprived of her inheritance. Here Manu has suggested for the annulment of such a marriage. Because it is a big torture for a woman to remain tied to an impotent or a diseased person. In modern amended Hindu Laws some such reasons can lead to divorce though alimony is permissible to the woman in case of divorce. xi)Where Woman Are Honoured, Gods Rejoice:-
According to our social philosopher marriage is a sacrament; it is not a contract but a spiritual patronage for life, and even beyond. A man receives his wife from Gods, and is linked with her from the past; he must, therefore, honour & protect her. Manu assigns a very high place to women in society and says that where women are honoured, Gods rejoice; and where they are neglected & ill-treated, people quickly come to grief. x)Distinguished Between A Virtuous And Vicious Woman:-
According to Manu, the woman who is not unfaithful to her husband but restrains her mind and heart, speech & body reaches her husband’s worlds (after death) and she is a virtuous woman. An unfaithful woman is an object of rapproach in this world & is reborn in the mouth of a jackal & faces torment of diseases due to her evils. Criticism Regulating Manu’s Views On Women:-
Manu’s version regarding dependence of woman upon males is one capacity or the other is a relic of the past and is certainly an anachronistic idea unacceptable in the modern era where equality of the two sexes has not only become the letter of the law but also an accepted fact in higher strata of society, in particular.
b)Obnoxious Version Regarding A Husband Takes His Wife As Gift From The Gods:- Another obnoxious version which may not be patable at all to modern generation is Manu’s contention that a husband takes his wife as gift from the Gods & not by own wish.
Hence, he should always support a virtuous woman thus honouring the Gods. c)Orthodox View Considering Woman Only A Bearing And Rearing Machine:- Manu empasises that women were created to bear children & men to carry on the line. Hence, “the revealed canon prescribes a joint duty (for a man) together with his wife.” His contention may be challenged considering woman only a bearing and rearing machine and that too be termed with the Gods wishes is an orthodox view. It is also contrary to the liberal modernized thinking of the youngsters to have a life partner of their choice and have child when affordable.