Institutes of Hindu law, or, The ordinances of Menu, according to the gloss of Cullúca : comprising the Indian system of duties, religious and civil : verbally translated from the original Sanscrit : with a preface, by Sir William Jones online

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Online LibraryManuInstitutes of Hindu law, or, The ordinances of Menu, according to the gloss of Cullúca : comprising the Indian system of duties, religious and civil : verbally translated from the original Sanscrit : with a preface, by Sir William Jones → online text (page 1 of 25)
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IT Is a maxim in the fcience of legiflatioii
aid government, that Laws are of no avail
ix'ithuit manners, or, to explain the lentence
morefullv, that the beft intended legiflative
provifions would have no beneficial cfFcdl even
at firft, and none at all in a (hort courfe of
time, unlets they were congenial to the difpo-
fition and habits, to the religious prejudices,
and iipproved immemorial ufnges of the peo-
ple for whom they were ena£led ; efpecially
if th:.t people univerfally and fincercly believed,
that ill their ancient ufages aPid cflabHflied rules
of ccndudl had the fandlion of an ailual revela-
tion from heaven : the legiflature of Britain
iiaving (hown, in compliance with this mnxim^
an iuention to leave the natives cf thefc Indian
pro "inces in pofTeflion of their own Laws, at
leaf: on the titles of contra^s and inhcriia?7ces^
we may humbly prefume, that all future pro-
vifions, for the admin'' ftration of juftice and
government in Lidia^ will be conformable, ai
far as the natives are affcclcd by them, to the
manners and opinions of the natives themfelves;
an objeft which cannot poffibly be attained,
■until ihofe manners and opinions can be fully
">': I accurately known. Thefc confiderations,
1 a few others more immediately within my
A z pro-


province^ were my principal motives for wip-
ing to know, and have induced mc at lehgth
to publifh, that fyftem of duties, religious and
civil, and of law in all its branches, which the
Hindus firmly believe to have been promulged
in the beginning of time by Menu, foti or
grandfon of Brahma', or, in plain language,
the firft of created beings, and not the oldeft
only, but the holieft of legiflators ; a fyftem
fo comprehenfive and fo minutely exadl, that
it may be confidered as the Inflitufes of Hindu
Law, preparatory to the copious Digeft^ which
has lately been compiled by Pandits of eminent
learning, and lntrodu6lory perhaps to a Code
which may fupply the many natural defedls
in the old jurilprudence of this country, and,
without any deviation from its principles^ ac-
commodate it judly to the improvements of a
commercial age.

We are loft in an inextricable labyrintli of
imaginary aftronomical cycles, Tugas^ Ma-
hdiugas^ Calpas, and Menvcantaras^ in attedpt-
ingto calculate the time, when the firft Mst^u,
according to the Brahmens^ governed his
world, and became the progenitor of mankiid,
who from him are called Mdnavah ; nor baa
we, fo clouded are the old hiftory and chrolio-
logy of India with fables and allegories, afler-
tain the precife age, when the work, now pre-
fented to thePublick, was adually compofed ;
but we are in pofi'effion of fome evidence,
partly extrinfick and partly internal, that it is

5 really


really one of the oldcd: compofitlons exifting.
From a text ot Para'sar a diicovered by Mr.
Davis, it appears, that the vernal equinox had
gone back from the tenth degree of bharani
to the fir ft ot- A/winl, or twenty- three degrees
and fweniy minutes, between the days of that
Indian philofjpher, and the year of our l.ord
499, when it coincided with the origin of the
Hindu ecliptick; fo that I^ara'sara probably
floiniflied near the clofe of the twelfth century
before Christ; now Paka sara was the
grandfon of another fage, named Va'sisht'ha,
who is often mentioned in the laws of Menu,
and once as contemporary with the divine
BhrIgu himfelf; but the charader of Bhrigu,
and the whole dramatical arrangement of the
book before us, are clearly fictitious and orna*
mental, with a defign, too common among
ancient lawgivers, of ftampii^g authority on
the work by the introduftion of fupernatural
perfonages, though Va'sisht'ha may have
lived many generations before the a6lual writer
of it, who names hig:i, indeed, in one or two
places as a philofopher in an earlier period.
Tiie Hyle, however, and metre of this work
(which there is not the fmalleft reafon to think
afFe^ledly obfolete) are widely diften nt from
the language and metrical rules of Calida's,
who unqueftionably Wiote before the begin-
ning of our era; and thedialed:ot Menu is even
oblerved,in many palTages, to relemble that of
the Veda^ particularly in a departure from the

A 3 morr


more modern grammatical forms ; whence it
niuft, at firli view, feem very probable, that the
lav\ s, now brought to light, were confiderably
older than thole of Solon or even of Lycuh-
Gus, although the promAilgation of them, be-
fore they were reduced to writing, might have
been coeval with thefirft monarchies eftablilh-
ed in Egypt or jijia: but, having had the
fingnlar good fortune to procure ancient copies
of eleven Upanifhads^ witii a very perfpicuous
comment, 1 am enabled to fix, with more ex-
aftntfs, tiie prubable age of the work before us,
and even to limit its higheft poffible age by a
mode of reafonlng, which may be thought
new, but will be found, I pcrfuade myfelf,
faiisfadtory ; if the Publick fliall, on this oc-
caiion, give me credit for a few very curious
fads, which, though capable of ftricl; proof,
can at prefent be only aflerted. The Sanfcrit
of the three fidi: Vedas^ (I need not here fpeak
of the fourth) that of the Manava Dkerma
Sajira^ and that of the Pur anas ^ differ from each
other in pretty exafl: proportion to the Latin of
NuMA, from whofe laws entire fentenccs are
preferved, that of Appius, which wx fee in the
fragments of the Twelve Tables, and that of
CiCKRo, or of Lucretius, where he has not
afFcded an obfolete ftyle : if the feveral changes,
therefore, of Sanfcrit and I^atin took place, as
we may fairly afllime, in times very nearly
proportional, xhtFedas muft have been written
about 300 years before thefe Inftitutes, aqd



about 600 before the Purdnas and Itihdfds^
which, I am fully convinced, were not the
produftions of Vya'sa ; lo that, if the fon of
Papxa'sara committed the traditional Vcdas
to writing in the Sanfcrit of his father's time,
the original of this book mufl have received its
prefent form about 880 years before Christ's
birth. If the texts, indeed, which Vya'sA
collcclcd, had been aclually written in a much
older dialeft, by the fiiges preceding him, we
muft inquire into the greateft poffible age of
the Vcdas themfelves : now one of the lor geft
and fineft Upa?iJJJjads in the fecond VeJa con-
tains three lifts, in a regular feries upward?,
of at moft: forty-two pupils and preceptors,
who fucceffively received and tranfmittcd (pro-
bably by oral tradition) the doftrines contained
in that Upamjhad\ and as the old Indian priefts
were ftudents 2X fifteen^ and inftruftors at twen*
ty-fve^ we cannot allow more than ten years,
on an average, for each interval between the
refpeclive traditions; whence, as there tivq forty
inch intervals, in two of the lifts betwcreii
Vya'sa, who arranged the whole work, and
Aya'sya, who is extolled at the beginning of
it, and juft as many, in the third lift, bLtweea
the compiler and Ya'jnyawalcya, who
makes the principal figure in it, we find the
jiigheft age of the T<jur Veda to be 1580
years before the birth of our Saviour, (which
would make it older than the five books of
MosEb) and that of our Indian law trad about



1280 years before the fame epoch. The for-
mer date, however, feems the more probable
of the two, becaufe the Hindu fages are faid
to have delivered their knowledge orally, and
the very word Sruta-, which we often fee ufed
for the Veda itfelf, means what ivas heard-,
not to inhft that Cullu'ca exprefsly declares
the fenfe of the Veda to be conveyed in the
language of Vya'sa. Whether Menu or
Menus in the nominative and Mend's in an
oblique cafe, was the fame perfonage with Mi-
Kos, let others determine ; but he muft in-
dubitably have been far older than the work,
which contains his laws, and though perhaps
he was never in Crete, yet fome of his infti-
tutions may well have been adopted in that
ifland, whence Lycurgus, a century or two
afterw^ards, may have imported them to Sparta,
There is certainly a ftrong refemblance,
though obfcurcd and faded by time, between
our Menu with his divine Bull, whom he
names as Dherma himfelf, or the genius of
abftraft juftice, and the Mneues of Egypt with
his companion or fymbol ^pis ; and, though
we fliould be conftantly on our guard againft
the delufion of etymological conjedlure, yet we
cannot but admit that Minos and Mneues,
or Mneuis, have only Greek terminations, but
that the crude noun is compofed of the fame
radical letters both in Greek and in San/crito
^ That Apis and Mneuis/ lays the Analyfl
pf ancient Mythology, * were both reprefen-

* tations


rations of fome perfonnge, appears fr^m the
teftimoiiv of Lycophrov and his fchoHai};
and that perlonage was the fame, who in
Crete was ftyled Minos, and who wns alfo
reprefented under the emhlcnri of the Mino^
taur: Diodorus, who confines him to E^^y^^
fpeaksof him by thetitle ot' tlie hull Mneuis^
as the firft lawgiver, and fays, ** That he lived

* after the age ot the gods and heroes, when
' a change was made in the manner of lite

* among men ; that he was a man of a mofl:

* exalted foul, and a great promoter of civil
' fociety, which he benefited by his laws ;
' that thole laws were unwritten, and receiv-
' ed by him from the chief Kgyptuin deity
' Her MIES, who conferred them on the world

* as a gift of the highcft importance." He
was the fame, adds my learned friend, with
Menes, whom the Egyptians repreferUed as
their firfl: king and principal bencfaftor, who
firft facrificcd to the gods, and brought about
a great change in diet.' If Minos, the foa

of Jupiter, whom the Cretans^ from national
vanity, might have made a native of their own
ifl.ind» wns really the fameperfon with Menu,
the fon of Brahma', we have the good fortune
to reftore, by means of Indian literature, the
moll celebrated fyflem of heathen jurifpru-
dence, and this work might have been entitled
T^he Lavjs of Minos ; but the paradox is too
fingular to be confidently alTerted, and the
geographical part of the book, with mofl: of



the allufions to natural hiftory, muft indubi-
tably have been written after the Hindu race
had fettled to the louth oi Himalaya, We can-
not but remark that the word Menu has no
relation whatever to the Moon ; and that it
was the feventh^ not the Jirjl of that name^
whom the Brahmem believe to have been pre-
ferved in an ark from the general deluge :
liim they call the Child of the SuUy to diftin-
guifh him from our legiflator ; but they affiga
to his brother Yama the office (which the
Greeks were pleafed to confer on Minos) of
Judge in the Jhades below.

The name of Menu is clearly derived (like
tnenes^ mens^ and mind^ from the root men to
underjland'y and it figiufies, as all the Pandits
agree, intelligent^ particularly in the dodrines
of the Veda, which the compofer of our Dher-
nia Safira muft have ftudied very diligently ;
fince great numbers of its texts, changed only in
a few fyllables for the fake of the meafure, are
interfperled through the work, and cited at
length in the commentaries: the Publick may,
therefore, affure themfelves, that they now pof-
fefs a confiderable part of the Hindu fcripture,
without the dullnefs of its profane ritual or
much of its myflical jargon. Da ra Shucu'h
w^as perfuaded, and not without found reafon,
that the firft Menu of the Brahmens could be
no other perfon than the progenitor of man-
kind, to whom JewSf Chrljiians, and Mujel"
mansy vnitc in giving the name of Adam ; but,



whoever he might have heen he is highly ho-
nourcrd by name in the VcJa itleh, uhtre it is
deckued, that ' whatever Menu pronounced,

* was a medicine for the loul,' and the lage
Vrikaspati, now luppofed to prelide over
the planet Jupiltry fays in his own law tradl,
that * Menu lieldthe liril rank among legifla-

* tors, becanfe he had exprefled in his code the

* whole {c\\{c of the Feda ; that no code was

* approved, which contradicted Menu ; that
^ other SafiraSy and treatiies on grammar or lo-

* gick, retained fplendour fo long only, as

* Menu, who taught the way tojufl wealth, to

* virtue and to final happinels, w\as not leen in

* competition with them :' Vya'sa too, the
Ibn of Para'sara before mentioned, has de-
cided, that ' the Veda with its Angas^ or the

* fix compofitions deduced from it, the reveal-

* ed fyrtem of medicine, the PurdniU^ or fa-
^ cred hiftories, and the code of Mlnu were

* four works of fupreme authoritv, which

* ought never to be Ihaken by arguments

* merely huma?).'

It is the general opinion of Pandits^ that
Brahma^ taught iiis laws to Menu in :\ hu?i'
dred thoufand verfes, which Menu explained
to the primitive world, in the very words of
the book now tranflated, where he names him-
felf, after the manner of ancient lage>^, in the
third perfon, but in a fhort prefiice to the law
tradt of Na'red, it is afierted, that ' Menu,

* having written the laws of JBkahma' in a

* hundred


' hinidred thouhnd Jlocas or couplet?, arrange.

* ed under twenty -Jour heads in a thoufand

* chapters, dehvered the work to Na'red,

* the fage among gods, who abridged it, for

* the ufe of mankind, in twelve thoufand verfes,
' and gave them to a fon of BnRtGU, named

* Sum ATI, who, for greater eafe to the hu-

* man race, reduced them to four thoufand ;

< that mortals read only the fecond abridge-

< ment by Sumati, while the gods of the
lower heaven, and the band of celeftial mufi-
cians, are engaged in ftudying the primary
code, beginning with the fifth verfe, a little

* varied, of the work now extant on earth ;
but that nothing remains of N A red's abridge-
ment, except an elegant epitome of the ninth
original title on the adm'miftration of jufiice^

Now, fince thefe inftitutes confift only of
two thoufand Jix hundred and eighty five verfes,
they cannot be the whole work afcrlbed to
Sumati, which is probably diftinguiflied by
the name of the Vrfddha^ or ancient Mduava^
and cannot be found entire; though fcveral
paffages from it, which have been prefervcd by
tradition, are occafionally cited in the new

A NUMBER of gloflcsor Comments on Menu
were compofed by the Mnnis^ or old phi-
lolophers, whofe treatifes, together with that
before us, conlVitute the Dherm /djira, inacol^
lective Icnitr, or Bodv of Law ; among the
more modern commentaries, that called Med-



hatit'hu tliat by Go Vindara/ja, and that by
Dharani'-Dhera, were once in the greatelt
repute^ but the hrll: was reckoned prolix and
unequal ; the lecond concite but oblcure ; and
the third often erroneous. At length appeared
Culf^u'caBhatta; who, after a painful courfe
of iludy and the collation of numerous manu-
fcripts, produced a work, of which it may,
perhaps, be faid very truly, that it isthe(hort-
eft, yet the moft luminous, tiie leaft oftenta-
tious, yet the moft learned, the G^eepeft, ytrt
the moft agreeable, commentary ever compofed
on any author ancient or modern, European or
AJiatkk. The Paiidits care fo little for genu-
ine chronology, that none of them can tell me
the age of Culi.uca, whom they always
name with. applaufe ; but he informs us him-
lelf, that he was a Brahmen of the Varendra
tribe, whofe family had been long fettled
in Gaur or Bengal^ but that he had chofen his
refidence among the learned, on the banks of
the holy river at Cafu His text and interpreta-
tion 1 have almoft implicitly followed, though
I had myfclf collated many copies of Menu,
and among them a manufcript of a very ancient
date : his glofs is here printed in Italicks ; and
any reader, who may choofe to pafs it over as
if unprinted, will have in Reman letters an exadl
verfion of the original, and may form fomc idea
of its charadcr and ftrudure, as well as of the
Sanfcrit idiom which muft ncceflarily be pre-
lervcd in a verbal tranilation; and a tranila-



auftere majefty, that founds like the language
of l<^giflation, and extorts a refpedlful awe ; the
fe'itiments of independence on all beings but
God, and the haifh admonitions, even to kings,
are truly no(/le; and the many panegyiicks on
the Gayatt\. the Mofier 21s it is called, of the
Feda, prove the author to have adored (not the
vifible material fun^ but) that divine and in-
comparably greater lights to ule the words of
the mod venerable text in the Indian fcripture,
ivhich ilumlnes all^ delights ally from which all
proceecf'i to which all mujl return, and which
alone can irradiate (not our vilual organs
merely, but our fouls and) (??^r inielle^s. What-
ever opinion in fhort may be formed of Menu
and his laws, in a country happily enlightened
by found philofophy and the only true reve-
lation, it muft be remembered, that thole
laws are adlually revered, as the word of the
Moft High, by nations of great importance
to the political and commercial interefts of
Europey and particularly by many millions of
Hindu fubje£ls, whofe well di reded induftry
would add largely to the wealth of Britain,
and who -afk no more in return than protec-
tion for their perfons and places of abode, juf-
tice in their temporal concerns, indulgence to
the prejudices of their old religion, and the
benefit of thofe laws, which they have been
taught to believe facred, and which alone they
can poflibly comprehend.


T }I E



On the Creation j with a Summary of the Contents

i.T\ yf'ENU fat reclined, with his attention
XVjL fix^'<^ on one objecfV, the Supreme God ;
when the divine Sages approached himy and^ after
mutual falutations in due form, delivered the fol-
lowing addrefs :

2. * Deign, fovereign ruler, to apprize us of

* the facred laws in their order, as they mufl: be

* followed by. all iht four clafles, and by each of

* them, in their feveral degrees, together with

* the duties of every mixed clafs;

3. * For thou. Lord, and thou only among mor -

* talsy knoweft the true fcnfe, the firft principle^
' ^;/^ the prefcribed ceremonies, of this univerfnl^

* fupernatural Vrda^ unlimited in extent and un-
' equalled in authority.'

4. He, whofe powers were meafurelei^, being
thus requeftcd by ihe great Sages, whofe i!:oughts
were profound, faluted them all with reverence,
and gave them a comprehenfive anfwcr, /-z)?;;^ ;

* 13c it heard !

5. * This univerfc cxifted only /;: the frj} dtvitte
' idea yet unsxpandedy as if involved in darknci's,

* imperceptible, Uiidelinable, undifcoverabic by

li • reafff,


tion, not fcrupiilou fly verbal, would bavebe^il
highly improper in a work on fo delicate and
momentous a fubjedl as private and criminal

Should a ferles of Brdhmens omit, for three
generations, the reading of Menu, their facer-
dotal clafs, as all the Pandits ajffure me, would
in ftridntrls be forfeited ; but they muft ex-
plain it only to their pupils of the three higheft
clafles ; and the Brahmen^ who read it with
me, requeued mofl: earneflly, that his name
might loe concealed ; nor would he have read it
for any conlideration on a forbidden day of the
moon, or without the ceremonies prelcribed in
the fecond and fourth chapters for a ledure on
the VfiDA : fo great, indeed, is the idea of
lanflity annexed to this book, that, when the
chief native magiilrate at Batiares endeavoured,
at my requefl:, to procure a Perjian tranflation
of it, before I had a hope of being at any time
able to underftand the original, tiie Pandits of
his court unanlmoufly and pofitively refufedto
afiift in the work ; nor iliould I have procured
it at all, if a wealthy Hindu at Gay a had not
caufed the veriion to be made by lome of his de-
pendants, at the detireof my friend Mr. Law.
The Perjian tranflation of Menu, like all
others from the Sanfcrit into that language,
is a rude intermixture of the text, loofely ren-
dered, with fome old or new comment, an-d
often with the crude notions of the tranflator;
and though it exprefltsthe general fenle of the
original, yet it fwarms with errours, imputable



partly to hafte, and partly to ignorance : thus
where Menu lays, that emijfaries arc the eyes
of a prince^ the Perfian phrafc makes him
afcrlbe four eyes to the per (on of a king ; foi:
the word char^ which means an emijjliry in
Sa?2fcrit, fignltics four in the popular di aloft.

The work, now preicnted to the JLuropcan
world, contains abundance of curious matter
extremcly interefting both to fpeculative law-
yers and antiquaries, with many beauties
which need not be pouited out, and with many
blemifhes which cannot be juftified or palliat-
ed. It is a fyftem of delpotifm and prieftcraft,
both indeed limited by law, but artfully con-
fpiring to give mutual fupport, though with
mutual checks; it is filled with ftrange con-
ceits in metaphyficks and natural philofophy,
with idle fuperftitions, and with a fcheme of
theology molt obfcurely figurative, and con-
fequently liable to dangerous milconception ;
it abounds with minute and childifli formali-
ties, with ceremonies generally abfurd and of-
ten riuiculous ; the punilhments are partial and
fanciful; for fome crimes, dreadfully cruel, for
others, reprehenfibly flight ; and the very mo-
rals, though rigid enough on the whole, are
in one or two in dances (as in the cafe of light
oaths and of pious perjury) unaccountably re-
laxed : neveithelefs, a fpirit of fublime devo-
tion, oi benevolence to mankind, and of amia-
ble tendernefs to all fenticnt creatures, pervades
the whole work; the flyle of it has a certain

« auftere


auftere majefty, that founds like the language
of )f giflntion, and extorts a refpecflful awe ; the
fe^itiments of independence on all beings but
God, and the harfh admonitions, even to kings,
are truly nol.le; and the many panegyricks on
the Gayatt\. xh^ Mother ^s it is called, of the
Veda^ prove the author to have adored (not the
vifible material Jun^ but) that divine and in^
comparably greater lights to ule the words of
the mofl: venerable text in the Indian fcripture,
which illumines ally delights ally from which all
frcccedy to which all muji return, and which
alone can irradiate (not our vifual organs
merely, but our fouls and) t?wr intelle^is. What-
ever opinion in fliort may be formed of Menu
and his laws, in a country happily enlightened
by found philofophy and the only true reve-
lation, it muft be remembered, that thofe
laws are actually revered, as the word of the
Moft High, by nations of great importance
to the political and commercial interefts of
EuropCy and particularly by many millions of
Hindu fubjefts, vvhofe well direded induftry
would add largely to the wealth of Britain^
and who -a{k no more in return than protec-
tion for their perfons and places of abode, juf-
tice in their temporal concerns, indulgence to
the prejudices of their old religion, and the
benefit of thofe laws, which they have been
taught to believe facred, and which alone they
can poffibly comprehend.





On the Creation j with a Summary of the Contents

i.Ti yf'ENU fat reclined, with his attention
j[Vx ^^^^ on one objedV, the Supreme God j
when the divine Sages approached him^ and^ after
mutual falucations in due form, delivered the iol-
lowing addrefs :

2. * Deign, fovereign ruler, to apprize u<; of

* the facred laws in their order, as they mufl: be

* followed by. all t\\t four claffes, and by each of

* them, in their feveral degrees, together with

Online LibraryManuInstitutes of Hindu law, or, The ordinances of Menu, according to the gloss of Cullúca : comprising the Indian system of duties, religious and civil : verbally translated from the original Sanscrit : with a preface, by Sir William Jones → online text (page 1 of 25)