Nomenclature[ edit ] The title Manusmriti is a relatively modern term and a late innovation, probably coined because the text is in a verse form. In modern scholarship, these two titles refer to the same text. Olivelle states that the various ancient and medieval Indian texts claim revisions and editions were derived from the original text with , verses and 1, chapters. However, the text version in modern use, according to Olivelle, is likely the work of a single author or a chairman with research assistants. Most of these ancient texts are now lost, and only four of have survived: the law codes of Apastamba, Gautama, Baudhayana and Vasishtha.
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Manu-smriti is the popular name of the work, which is officially known as Manava-dharma-shastra. It is attributed to the legendary first man and lawgiver, Manu.
The received text dates from circa ce. The Manu-smriti prescribes to Hindus their dharma —i. It contains 12 chapters of stanzas, which total 2, It deals with cosmogony; the definition of the dharma; the sacraments samskara s ; initiation upanayana and the study of the Vedas the sacred texts of Hinduism ; marriage, hospitality, funeral rites, dietary restrictions, pollution, and means of purification; the conduct of women and wives; and the law of kings.
The last leads to a consideration of matters of juridical interest, divided under 18 headings, after which the text returns to religious topics such as charity, rites of reparation, the doctrine of karma , the soul , and hell.
The text makes no categorical distinction between religious law and practices and secular law. Its influence on all aspects of Hindu thought, particularly the justification of the caste system, has been profound. This article was most recently revised and updated by Matt Stefon , Assistant Editor. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.
Manu Samhita : English translation
Manusmriti in Sanskrit with English Translation