Manu Smriti and Kautilya




Virtue (dharma), wealth (artha), enjoyment (kāma), and liberation (mokṣa) are the four great aims to be attained by all human endeavour,

and the pursuit of each of these was aided by a normative science āstra) devoted to an exposition of its nature and the means to its attainment.

The Manu-Smṛti is the leading work on the sacred law (dharma-śāstra) of ancient India and the Artha-śāstra of Kauṭilya takes the same rank among the manuals of polity.

The Manu-Smṛti is a metrical work of 2,685 verses, though a few versions include some more.

The Manu-Smṛti is the leading work on the sacred law (dharma-śāstra) of ancient India.

The Manu-Smṛti is a metrical work of 2,685 verses, though a few versions include some more.

It purports to contain the teachings of Manu (Svāyambhūva) expounded at his desire by his pupil Bhrigu to the sages who approached him for knowledge of the dharma of all varṇas (castes).


Manu Smriti or The Laws of Manu = you can read online by click.

Varṇa.—The society envisaged by Manu and Kauṭilya is organized in four classes (varṇas), each with definitely marked spheres of duties and rights.

4 Varṇas:

1. Brāhmaṇas
2. Kṣattriyas
3.  Vaiṣyas
4.  Śūdras

- these 4 Varṇas or Castes are considered fundamental,
in practice – many sub-groups exist.

Dalit – a person of Indian decent without a Caste – considered below of all others; to avoid social disadvantages – often turns into Islam or Christianity.

"Everyone ought to perform the one function in the community for which his nature best suited him. Well, that principle, or some form of it is justice."

4 Āśramas:

—Another governing concept regulating social life is that of the āśramas, stages of life, of which again 4 were recognized, i.e.

1. Brahmachārin (celibate student),
2. Grihastha (householder),
3. Vānaprastha (forest- dweller), and
4. Sannyāsin (ascetic).

Three-fold Debt:

A Person in a society is never born Free – he is always a subject of many conditions, limitations and debts.

The 3-fold Debt is fundament of all:

1. Debt to Guru – Teachers & Saints
2. Debt to Forefathers.
3. Debt to God and celestial beings.


Liberation (Mukti) – is the goal of every living being.

Usually – Liberation is sought after – by paying debts to Society, Gods & Family, and reaching liberation at the end of life;

or – by cutting off from the world – becoming Sannyāsi, a Forest Dweller – and seeking God only.

It purports to contain the teachings of Manu (Svāyambhūva) expounded at his desire by his pupil Bhrigu to the sages who approached him for knowledge of the dharma of all varṇas (castes).

Manu is a hoary name in Indian tradition, and Bhrigu is equally legendary. The present text was apparently composed out of the earlier material passing under the name of Manu and was certainly revised once afterwards to bring it abreast of changed notions of morality.

The revision may be dated between the second century B.C. and second century A.D.

Well over 250 verses of the Manu-Smṛti occur in the several sections of the Mahābhārata, and many legends are common between the two works;

it was long held that the Smṛti borrowed from the Epic; but recently Kane has argued with much force in favour of the opposite view, and demonstrated the probability of the original draft of the Smṛti having preceded the extant text of the Epic.

On the other hand, the Smṛti is much in advance of the early Dharma-śāstras of Gautama, Baudhāyana, and Āpastamba, which must be placed at least some centuries earlier.

While there is much agreement between Manu and Kauṭilya in the fundamentals of sociology, their differences in detail on such matters as niyoga and divorce clearly indicate that the more puritanical views of the Smṛti belong to a slightly later age than the Artha-Śāstra. The Mānava School cited by Kauṭilya is clearly not represented by the extant Smṛti.

The Artha-śāstra of Kauṭilya is a prose work in fifteen Books comprising 6,000 units (ślokas) of 32 syllables each in length. The long-forgotten work was recovered in 1909, and gave rise to a long and many- sided debate regarding its authenticity and real date.

But no decisive grounds have emerged for regarding the work other than what it purports to be, i.e. the work of the Chancellor of Candragupta Maurya composed about 300 B.C.

In composing his work the author says that he took account of all the literature on the subject already in existence and consulted the practice of contemporary states (prayogān upalabhya ca).

There are features in the work which distinguish it from others of the kind and indicate Kauṭilya’s close acquaintance with the administrative methods of the Hellenistic states, particularly Syria and Egypt.

“Artha,” says Kauṭilya, "is the condition of men, i.e. the inhabited part of the earth; and the śāstra (normative science) which aids the acquisition and protection of such (inhabited) country is the Artha-śāstra.

When Kauṭilya wrote, Artha-śāstra was already an old discipline. He refers to the views of no fewer than five different Schools on various occasions besides the unnamed teachers (ācāryāḥ), possibly an honorific reference in the plural to his own teacher; he also cites a dozen individual authors, half of them only once and the others more often.

But the works of all these schools and authors, like those of early authors mentioned by Jaimini, Pāṇini, Bādarāyaṇa and others have perished.

When learning was sacred, knowledge a secret to be revealed only to tested and trustworthy pupils, and writing was seldom used to multiply copies of books, outmoded works had no chance of survival.

Kauṭilya, it may be noted, does not refer to the writers of dharma-sūtras some of whom certainly preceded him.

Manu laws online

Manu laws online

Dharma-śāstra and Artha-śāstra alike study man in society. The former treats of social life from the point of view of religion and morality, the latter from that of utility, expediency and policy.

In elaborating the duties of a Kṣattriya, works on dharma like that of Manu have necessarily to cover practically the whole ground of Artha-śāstra.

On the other hand, a writer on artha, like Kauṭilya, should specify in detail the nature of the social order which the state is there to uphold, and in doing so he traverses ground that belongs properly to the sister discipline.

All the same, dharma works cover wider ground, rest on the finer and more basic values of life, and therefore command a wider appeal.

The cosmogony and eschatology of the opening and closing chapters of the Manu-Smṛti, for instance, have no counterparts in Kauṭilya's work;

according to Manu, a breach of the code is not just a legal offence to be dealt with by the courts, but also a sin to be expiated by a penance.

Later literary tradition has deprecated the logic of material interests propounded in the artha-works, selected Kauṭilya for particular censure, and generally discouraged the growth of an extensive political literature.

Geographical Overview.—Developing an ancient tradition to suit new conditions Manu divides Northern India, Āryāvartta, into different graded regions according to their precedence in social culture.

He lays down that the traditional customs of Brahmāvartta, the land between the two divine streams of the Saraswatī and Dṛṣadvatī as the most authoritative.

The geographical outlook of Kauṭilya, on the other hand, is coloured by his dominantly political purpose. He recognizes the presence of small states and elaborately discusses their inter-relations.

But with his eye on the expanding empire of his creation, and possibly on the age-long traditions of universal empire, he defines the Cakravarti-ketra (the emperor's field) as the whole country stretching from the Himalayas to the southern ocean which is a thousand yojanas across its width, i.e. the whole of India as it was before the partition of 1947.


Varṇa.—The society envisaged by Manu and Kauṭilya is organized in four classes (varṇas), each with definitely marked spheres of duties and rights.

Its beginnings are to be traced to a natural and necessary division of social functions, and to say that in it "early colour prejudice is rationalized into a divinely appointed social order" does not represent the whole truth of the matter.

The ideal was one of co-operation for the common good among the different orders of co-ordinate standing.

But in practice, hierarchical notions developed, and as new regions and peoples were admitted into the fold, a theory of mixed varṇas (vara-sakara), of new castes (jātis) arising out of illicit unions was evolved.

And Manu, though not Kauṭilya, is not free from the assertion of extreme claims on behalf of the brāhmaas on account of their birth.

But the better view that a brāhmaṇa is entitled to no particular regard unless he is both good and learned, which receives great emphasis in the dharma-sūtras, is not unrepresented in Manu.

The functional basis of the concept of vara was always stressed.

Plato thought that the greatest possible happiness of the community as a whole was promoted by its being divided into three orders—rulers, auxiliaries and craftsmen, roughly corresponding to the brāhmaṇa, Kṣattriya and Vaiśya of the Hindu system.

And later thinkers like Heard, Steiner, and Waterman trace the malaise of Western civilization to its failure to recognize clearly the need for adequately organizing a threefold social order respectively to look after the cultural, political and economic fields of human activity.

Under normal conditions each Varṇa was to devote itself to its own particular duties (sva-dharma)—

the brāhmaṇa to learning and intellectual and spiritual pursuits; the Kṣattriya to soldiering and protection of the community, internal and external; the Vaiṣya to agriculture, industry and trade; and the Śūdra to the service of all.

But in critical times and in situations of extreme danger a strict adherence to the code was not expected:

"Everyone ought to perform the one function in the community for which his nature best suited him. Well, that principle, or some form of it is justice."

Āśrama.—Another governing concept regulating social life is that of the āśramas, stages of life, of which again four were recognized, i.e. Brahmachārin (student), grihastha (householder), Vānaprastha (forest- dweller), and sannyāsin (ascetic).

Here again departures from the norm were quite common in practice and at no time did the bulk of the community follow the prescriptions relating to the two last stages, though the elite were ever ready to do so and earn the respect of the community by disinterested well-doing.

Nothing can be farther from truth than to represent Hindu society as world-negating or other-world-minded.

Every man is required to discharge the three-fold debt (ṛṇa-traya) with which he is born before he thinks of mokṣa, release for himself.

He must:

1.  educate himself properly to fulfil his obligations to the seers of the race,
2.  procreate children to repay his debt to his forefathers and
3.  perform sacrifices according to his means to free himself from his debt to the gods, before thinking of renouncing the world.

He must take to an ascetic life only after attaining satiety in the enjoyment of the good things of life, after drinking life to the lees, as it were.

From another point of view, Kauṭilya lays down a punishment for a person who turns ascetic without making adequate provision for the maintenance of his family.

The householder is the pivot of society and the support of all others; being as it were, the life-breath of the āśramas, that of the grihastha is the highest of them all. He provides food for those who do not cook for themselves, i.e. the students, ascetics and others.

The entertainment of guests is counted among the major duties of the householder, and he and his wife are to have their meal after all the others, including even their own servants, have been satisfied.

Even a pseudo-religious foundation for the rule of hospitality is furnished by the suggestion that by the use of the quern, pestle and mortar and other appliances for preparing food they incur sins which they expiate by the performance of five great sacrifices (mahā-Yajñas) every day, among which entertainment of guests is counted as one (n-yajña)

Marriage: Woman. — Both Manu and Kauṭilya describe the traditional eight forms of marriage, some of which hardly deserve the name.

But their statement as well as all other known evidence leave no doubt that the normal form of marriage was a monogamous sacramental union between a youth and a maiden of the same Varṇa.

But the facts of life were sought to be accommodated not only by the theory of mixed castes mentioned above, but by prescriptions relating to marriages among different varṇas and inheritance among children of such unions.

Niyoga (levirate, a practice in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow, and the widow is obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother) is allowed by Kauṭilya,

but Manu mentions it obviously as a permissible practice, but then follows it up with a condemnation which some annotators explain as relating to the present age (kali-yuga).

There is little doubt that there grew up a more puritanical attitude between the time when Kauṭilya wrote and that when the Smṛti was finally redacted.

Manu gives a high place to woman in social life and in the family:

Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards,"

In that family where the husband is pleased with his wife and the wife with her husband, happiness will assuredly be lasting."

He is so keen on girls getting proper husbands that he goes so far as to say that when a suitable husband is not to be found, a girl might be kept in her father's house as a spinster to the end of her life rather than be given over to a man destitute of good qualities.

Passages which admonish women to consult their male relatives in all matters and warn men, particularly those engaged in austerities, against danger from them are no detractions from the robust outlook on women's part in family and social life that pervades the code.

Slaves.—The Greek writers are positive that slavery was unknown in India in the Mauryan epoch. The best way of understanding their statement is to suppose that slavery of the Greek type, “chattel slavery," as it may be called, was unknown in India.

But the dāsas or servants were in a condition of semi-slavery though not without rights.

Kauṭilya lays it down definitely that an Ārya could never be enslaved by another, and lays down punishments for the sale of Āryan children of all the four varṇas.

It is, however, open to an Āryan adult to accept voluntarily the condition of a dāsa to another to tide over an economic crisis, but then he could recover his freedom by repaying the debt or in other stipulated ways.  

Manu also makes the distinction between dāsas who are purchased and those who are not, but in language that recalls Aristotle's views on men who are slaves by nature, Manu affirms that Śūdras were created by Brāhma for the service of others.

He mentions the different classes of dāsas. There is a distinct worsening in the status of the last Varṇa from Kauṭilya to Manu.


Though Kauṭilya devotes a section (Book XI) of his work to republican states (sanghas), he is no friend of the non-monarchical states

and devotes less attention to a description of their working than to suggesting methods by which the prince might promote dissensions among them with a view to getting them under his power.

The State of Kauṭilya and Manu was thus a monarchy, and Kauṭilya anticipates Louis XIV by several centuries and roundly affirms: The King is the state(rājā rājyam).

Origin of the State.—Kauṭilya makes only an oblique reference to the origin of the state and records the tradition that men troubled by the fish-law (of the bigger fish eating up the smaller fry) agreed to set up Vaivasvata Manu as king who undertook their protection from injustice in return for a sixth part of the produce from land and a tithe of the returns of trade.

Elsewhere he points out that in the absence of a king (Daṇḍa-dhara) the strong devour the weak, whereas with his protection the weak hold their own against the strong.

This view of the origin of the state comes close to the contract theory as it was developed by Hobbes.

But while Hobbes was free to press his theory to its logical conclusion and advocate monarchical absolutism, the Indian milieu in which Kauṭilya wrote was an effective bar against such a course on his part.

Yet of all the Indian writers on polity, Kauṭilya stands closest to Hobbes as he exalted royal power much more than any other author before or after him.

Daṇḍa.—To understand the full force of the term Daṇḍa-dhara by which Kauṭilya designates the king in the significant context cited above, we must turn to Manu.

When the world was without a king it was much agitated with fear; and for its protection the lord Brāhma created a king, says Manu, to protect the good and destroy the wicked.

He follows this up with the statement that for the king's sake the Lord created His own son Daṇḍa, the protector of all creatures.

Daṇḍa is full of Brahma's glory (tejas)] through fear of him all created beings observe the law of their nature; Daṇḍa is leader and ruler, and surety for the four āśramas observing their dharma; he keeps awake while others are asleep, and is the embodiment of dharma.

Properly directed by a wise king, daṇḍa pleases the subjects; it is by daṇḍa that gods and other super-humans contribute to the universal welfare.

Daṇḍa declines to be a tool in the hands of an uncultured king (a-ktātman) and turns against an unrighteous ruler, destroys him together with his kith and kin;

and then everything and everybody would suffer not only within the kingdom but even the sages and gods in heaven.

Danḍa is often translated as punishment; though this is indeed one of its meanings, it is inadequate in the present context where daṇḍa is seen to be the embodiment of the principle of universal law and order, the descendant of the Vedic ita.

The common saying "the king makes the age" (rājā kālasya kāraṇam) is true in the sense that a righteous king aided by daṇḍa brings about universal prosperity and happiness, while a bad king fails in the task and brings ruin on himself and his kingdom.

Such ideas were widespread in the ancient Āryan world.

"When a blameless king fears the gods and upholds right judgment," says Homer, then the dark earth yields wheat and barley, and the trees are laden with fruit; the young of his flocks are strong, and the sea gives abundance of fish"

Those are statements which have many parallels in Indian literature.

On this view the sovereign is not the king, but the law which is prior to him and which he has to follow himself and enforce justly upon others.

Manu is not averse to contemplating the king punishing himself for mistakes much more heavily than his subjects.

And his statement that daṇḍa ruins an unrighteous king and his family links up with the story found in the Mahābhārata of the tyrannical rule of Vena which was put an end to by a revolt of his subjects ending in the killing of the tyrant.

Such a mystic doctrine which carried the seed of revolution had no appeal for Kauṭilya, the practical administrator and architect of empire; we hear nothing of it in the Artha-śāstra.

Though monarchy is a divinely ordained institution, the king himself is by no means a god. No Indian king ever called himself “Theos” or “Epiphanes,” and none was worshipped as a god in his life-time.

It has been rightly pointed out that “in Asia there was little soil for deification of rulers to germinate” and that this was a native product of Greece, evolved to meet “the need of finding a legal basis in a constitutional state for an extra-constitutional authority.”

Manu, indeed, says:

Even an infant king must not be despised (from an idea) that he is a mere mortal, for he is a great deity in human form.”

But the verse occurs in the midst of the long passage which gives the basis for our commentary in the last paragraph, and the context shows beyond a shadow of doubt that the statement is what Mimāmsas call an artha-vāda meant only to stress the necessity of upholding monarchy.

Brahma and Kṣatra.—By the side of the katriya king stands the brāhmaṇa, primarily in the capacity of a priest or purohita (lit. placed foremost), to advise and assist the king in his onerous tasks.

Manu only repeats a well-established tradition harking back to the early Vedic period when he says:

“After creation Prajāpati made over the cattle to the Vaiśyas to the brāhmaṇa and to the king he entrusted all created beings.”

Again, “kṣatra without brahma does not prosper, nor does brahma flourish without kṣatra; brahma and kṣatra being closely united prosper in this world and the next.”

A discerning critic of Hinduism has observed:

“In politics the Brāhmaṇs had the good sense to rule by serving, to be ministers and not kings.

In theory and to a considerable extent in practice, the Brāhmaṇs and their gods are not an imperium in imperio but an imperium super imperium.

In the ceremonial of royal consecration, the purohita commended the king to his subjects and excluded the brāhmaas from that category saying: “Here is your king, O ye people; as for us brāhmaṇas, Soma is our king.”

There are some verses in Manu which cast on the brāhmaṇas in particular the duty of restraining despotic kings:

“When the kṣatra becomes in any way overbearing towards brahma, brahma by itself shall duly restrain it; for the kṣatra sprang from brahma,” and cannot prevail against its source any more than fire against water.

Though in Manu the office of the purohita has ceased to be important and he is no more than the priest of the royal family officiating in its domestic ritual,

stress is laid on the need for the king consulting a wise brāhmaa minister of high character apart from the regular consultations with other ministers, particularly before reaching decisions on critical points of state policy involving questions of peace and war.

Kauṭilya treats the office of the purohita as a key-post and lays down high qualifications of learning and character for its holder; having chosen a proper man for the post, the king is to follow him as a pupil follows his teacher, a son his father, or a servant his master.

And he affirms:

“The kṣatra strengthened by the brāhmaṇa, purified by the counsel of ministers and following the precepts of the code (śāstra) becomes invincible and attains success (even) without (the use of) arms!”

The constant co-operation based on mutual under­standing between brahma and kṣatrasacerdotium and imperium—is thus, according to Manu and Kauṭilya, the true foundation of a pros­perous and successful state.

Aṅgas,—The agas or prakṛti (component elements) of a state are reckoned to be seven in number. Manu enumerates them as:

(1) the king (svāmin), (2) the minister (amātya), (3) the capital (pura), (4) the country (rāṣṭra), (5) the treasury (koa), (6) army (daṇḍa) and (7) ally (suht or according to Kauṭilya mitra).

The order in which they have been named is also the order of their importance. The State stands to suffer more by mishaps to earlier members in the list than to the later ones.

This does not, however, mean that in their normal functioning one is superior to the other; each is efficient in its own sphere and as in the triple staff of an ascetic no single part is less essential than another for the efficiency of the whole.

Kauṭilya mentions the aṅgas in nearly the same order as Manu, with the difference that he puts the country (janapada, Manu’s rāṣṭra) before capital (durga for Manus pura).

He cites the view of his preceptor that each preceding member in the enumeration is more vital and entitled to greater care in abnormal times than the succeeding members, and has an elaborate discussion of rival views on the relative importance of the different factors.

He agrees with none of these scholastic and a priori considerations, and concludes on the common-sense note that the action to be taken in a crisis will have to be guided not by textbook rules but by the actual nature of the danger involved to any part or parts of the state and its probable effects on the rest.

The King.—The welfare of the state, it is well recognized, depends on the personal qualities and conduct of the king and elaborate prescriptions are laid down for his education and training before he is called to the throne,

and for the manner in which he should, after accession, divide his time and attention between his personal affairs and public duties.

Kauṭilya wants the king to think of the succession in good time; and has laid down elaborate rules for the selection and training of a suitable successor.

Other elements.—The king should be ever active in the interests of his subjects and be accessible to them; he should promptly attend to urgent matters, neglect of which may lead to complications. Exertion is the secret of success.

“The happiness of the subjects,” says Kauṭilya, “is the happiness of the king; their welfare, his; his own pleasure is not his good, but the pleasure of his subjects is that.”

The king must appoint, says Manu, a council of seven or eight ministers of good family, learned, courageous and of established reputation for character and efficiency, to assist him in the affairs of state.

Kauṭilya has discussed in detail the principles of governance, selection of different ranks of ministers, the layout of the capital, the economic development of the country, principles of taxation and maintenance of the discipline and morale of the army.

Foreign Relations.—The theory of inter-state relations both in Manu and Kauṭilya is dominated by the notion that he who could not be hammer will necessarily become the anvil.

The ideal king is a vijigīṣu, one desirous of fresh conquests. This certainly means enterprise and perhaps aggran­dizement, but not necessarily war which is recommended only as a last resort.

We have to pass by the elaborate and rather scholastic disquisi­tions, naturally more detailed in Kauṭilya than in Manu, on the Mandala or diplomatic circle, on the four-fold policy (upāya) and on the six-fold action (sāḍguya).

Kauṭilya distinguishes three kinds of conquerors:

—the dharma-vijayin—virtuous conqueror, who is content with the acknow­ledgment of his protectorate;
- the lobha-vijayin, covetous conqueror, who seeks territory and wealth;
- the asura-vijayin, the wicked conqueror, who wants to confiscate everything of the conquered ruler including his person, wife, and children and even puts him to death.

He also suggests in detail the steps by which conquered territory is to be pacified and normal life restored in it.

Manu, on the other hand, lays it down defi­nitely that when a conquest is over the normal life of the country should be restored to its status quo ante—its laws and customs, its religious and social institutions, even its ancient royal family.

Administration.—In the sphere of internal administration Kauṭilya’s work is unique.

The Adhyaka-pracāra (Book II) with its detailed descrip­tion of town-planning, fortification, and financial administration,

together with the duties of about thirty adhyakas, heads of departments as we should call them now, is unique in ancient Indian political literature, and may well stand comparison with a modern manual of administration.

Kauṭilya contemplates a vast bureaucracy, busying itself over the study, regulation, and control of the entire field of the nation's social and eco­nomic activities with a measure of centralization unknown in India again till the period of British rule.

The volume of authentic and up- to-date information at the disposal of the state regarding each city and village, the number of its inhabitants and their occupations, its resources in land, cattle, and so on,

must have been very considerable if the precepts of Kauṭilya were followed, and there is little reason to doubt that they were followed in the Mauryan empire at least to the end of the reign of Aśoka.

The model for Kauṭilya in this respect was doubtless the Hellen­istic state which, in its turn, followed the practice of the Persian kings of the Achemenid line (550–330 BC) and their satraps.

The Mauryan state thus departed from the usual rule of the Indian state of not interfering actively in the daily avocations of the people but limiting itself to the task of preventing hindrances to their lawful pursuits.

Justice.—In the administration of justice, Kauṭilya distinguishes two kinds of courts:

—the dharmasthīya (Book III) for dealing with vyavahāra, civil litigation, considered usually under eighteen convenient heads,

and the kaṇṭaka-śodhana (Book IV) for dealing with crimes against society in­cluding misconduct of officials in the discharge of their public duties.

The former are the regular law-courts where all the regular forms of legal procedure were observed and justice was administered by royal officials assisted by the advice of brāhmaṇas versed in law.

The latter were admin­istrative courts of a summary character which sought to remove the thorns (kaṇṭaka) of society.

Difficult cases were sometimes transferred to these courts from the regular ones. They employed spies and agents provocateurs for the detection of crimes and resorted to torture to extort confessions.

The basis of distinction between the two sets of courts is nowhere stated in terms; but we may suppose that Kauṭilya created these new courts to meet the growing needs of an increasingly complex economy,

to protect the state and people from the actions of anti-social persons, and to place an effective check on the administration of a mass of new regula­tions by a growing number of officials

and thus secure reasonable efficiency in government and freedom from oppression and discrimination for the people.

With Kauṭilya this new type of court figures as the key-stone of the elaborate system of bureaucracy he envisages.

Of all other writers on polity, Manu stands closest to Kauṭilya in this respect, for though he does not mention the special courts, he deals with the kaṇṭaka-śodhana at some length,

and his treatment of the subject bears close resemblances to Kauṭilya's in its particular reference to spies, to misdeeds of officials, and to a large number of crimes and offences on the part of others very similar to those mentioned by Kauṭilya.

In another important respect Kauṭilya figures as an innovator, and once again the source of his inspiration is to be sought in the Persian monarchy and the Hellenistic states which succeeded it.

He says: “dharma, contract, custom, and royal decrees are the four legs of law (determinants of litigation). Of these each later item is of superior validity to its prede­cessor.’'

In the words said about the Hellenistic mon­archies:

“it is evident that a royal law, order, or regulation, if it conflicted with other laws was always regarded as over-riding them and that the royal verdict in law-suits was final.”

With the solitary exception of Nārada, the later law-books allowed this un-Indian exaltation of royal authority to fall into oblivion.

The usual rule was that the king was bound by dharma, an elastic term which included revealed law, local and group custom, and every traditional practice—but not royal decrees.

Manu enumerates the sources of dharma as the entire Veda, the tradition and conduct of those who know the Veda, and the customs of holy men, and finally, self-satisfaction.


We may conclude with a sketch of the ethical overview of Manu which has had an incalculable measure of influence on literature and on the conduct of men through the ages.

The content of dharma (the moral code) is not fixed once for all, but must be learned in each generation from what is observed or allowed by learned men who are good and ever free from hatred and inordinate affection.

Ten virtues are particularly commended to the brāhmaṇa, i.e. contentment, forgiveness, self-control, abstention from appropriating others' property, purity, restraint of the senses, wis­dom, knowledge, truthfulness and abstention from anger.

A foolish and greedy brāhmaṇa is condemned in no uncertain terms and gifts to him deprecated as likely to hurt even the giver.

Flesh-eating and drinking liquor are recognized as natural, but abstention from them is praised as very meritorious; evidently this marks a transitional stage in the practice particularly of the brāhmaṇas.

Anyone who would instruct others for their welfare must follow the rule of ahiṁsā (not causing pain) and use sweet and gentle speech towards them; the commentators take this to apply particularly to the relation between a teacher and his pupil.

Wealth, kinship, age, achievement and learning are entitled to social respect in an increasing order; wealth, it will be noticed, gets the lowest place and learning the highest.

Personal freedom is highly prized as the source of real happiness, and one is advised to undertake work that he can put through on his own and find satisfaction in doing so.

Elsewhere, service is condemned as a dog's life. Incredible as it may seem, Manu advocates full employment for the Vaiṣya and Śūdra for the sake of social peace.

Elsewhere, he permits a starving man to take food from wherever he finds it, though not with a view to hoarding it, and roundly affirms that a man who takes wealth from the wicked and distributes it among the good and needy makes himself the means of redemption for both.

There is no virtue higher than truth; truth purifies the mind and speaking the truth is nobler than silence.

At the same time: “let one say what is true, let one say what is pleasing, let one utter nothing disagreeable, and let one utter no agreeable falsehood; that is the eternal law."

To lie in a court of law in cases where it was a question of life or death was, however, considered excusable.

The rule of good conduct on all occasions was more binding on the higher classes than on the common folk and deviations from the right called for higher pains and penalties in their case, as their responsibility was in proportion to their status and knowledge.

Confession and repen­tance are held to be of value in restoring one’s peace of mind and keeping one from repetition of the same errors.