Hindu Law and Judicature from the Dharma-Sastra of Yajnavalkya

Hindu Law and Judicature
from the Dharma-Sastra of Yajnavalkya

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Of the above list, twenty (distinguished by one cross) are in Yájnavalkya's list: seventeen of these are named by ParáÅ›ara, viz. all except Yama, Brihaspati and Vyása, instead of whom he gives KaÅ›yapa, Gárgya and Prachetas: the Padma Puráṇa gives those named by Yájnavalkya, with the exception of Atri, and seventeen others, (distinguished by two crosses) three of whom, Prachetas, KaÅ›yapa and Gárgya, are on ParáÅ›ara's list, and the remaining fourteen, not before mentioned: Madhusúdana Saraswatí names the same nineteen of Yájnavalkya's list, also Devala, Nárada, Paiá¹­hínasi: Ráma Krishṇa, in his gloss to the Grihya Sútras of Páraskara, mentions thirty-nine, of whom nine (distinguished by three crosses) are new ones. There is also a Dharma Åšástra attributed to Åšankha and Likhita jointly, thus making forty-seven in the whole. The professor considers all to be extant; and has himself met with quotations from all, except Agni, Kuthumi, Budha, Åšáá¹­yáyana, and Soma.

To those may be added several recensions of the same Dharma Åšástras, of which professor Stenzler speaks to having read of twenty-two.

The entire forty-seven are independent sources of and authorities upon Hindu law.

The Digest of Jagannát'ha Tarcapanchánana, as translated by Colebrooke, is a valuable repertory of texts; but, detached and isolated as they necessarily are, those texts can with difficulty be appreciated or applied.

Yájnavalkya is second in importance to Manu alone: and, with the commentary, is the leading authority of the Mithilá school.

The resident of British India needs not to be informed, that the orthodox Hindu regards his Dharma Åšástras as direct revelations of the Divine will: still less need such an one be told, that, among this people, law is entirely subservient to the mysterious despotism of cast, a religious, rather than a political ordinance.

With the Hindu, all religious tenets and aspirations are centred in the idea of BRAHMA, the one, pervading, illimitable substance, without multiple, division or repetition. This idea has two modes or phases, 1st. as representing the absolute, self-included Brahmá; 2nd. as representing Brahmá in connection with, relative to, the world. In the latter, Brahmá is creator of the world, or, the very world, a semblance or a development of the former, the absolute idea. Man's highest aspiration and aim is, to know Brahmá absolutely: to have attained this knowledge implies a total renunciation of worldly concerns, to coalesce with, to be ultimately absorbed in, reunited with, Brahmá. Bráhmaṇas are held to possess, to represent, this knowledge. Again, Brahmá is the creator, the preserver, also, the objects created and preserved. Kshattriyas represent Brahmá, the preserver: Vaisyás, Brahmá the preserved. The dogma is otherwise explained: in the secondary or relative notion, Brahmá is Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas, i. e. goodness, activity, darkness,—respectively represented by the Bráhmaṇa, Kshattriya, and Vaisyá casts.

When the Hindus dwelt in the country of the five rivers, and were worshippers of the powers and phenomena of material Nature, as of Indra, Váyu, Agni &c., cast was necessarily unknown, for the notion of Brahmá was undeveloped.

The divisions or classes among them were conventional; there were princes, priests, and peasants or cultivators.

But class distinction had not then crystallized into cast, into immiscible, uncongenial yet co-ordinate elements of a so called revealed constitution.

So soon however as the idea of Brahmá had attained fixity in the Hindu mind, and simultaneously with it, cast was developed, as we find it (but imperfectly) in the earliest records of Hindu philosophy, the Upanishads.

Thus, cast governs and is antecedent to law, which must bend and adapt itself to cast, as the overruling, intrinsic, unalterable condition of Hinduism, of Hindu life. There is one law, one phase of obligation for the twice-born, another for the Åšúdrá. In Manu, cast is not so fully and severely developed: Manu permits to the Bráhmaṇa four wives, of whom one may be a Åšúdrá, necessarily permitting, therefore, a transition or quasi-amalgamation between the highest and the lowest in the scale....