The Daily Nash-on

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The Manusmruti

with 12 comments

I stumbled upon another example of hypocrisy in the in Indian Society. The Indian Society holds the Manusmruti in highest regard, and much of the characteristics of Indian Society, including the oppression of women in all stages, has been dictated largely because of this document. Or at least, the document that is close to religious law has been used as an excuse for the oppression. This very document quotes :

“Marriage is of eight kinds – brahma (mutual consent of both the bride and groom), deva (gift of richly adorned daughter to an officiating priest of a great yajna), arsha (daughter in lieu of consideration given by the groom), prajapathi (mutual consent of families), asura (marriage upon bribing of the bride and groom), gandharva (intercourse of maiden and her lover out of sexual desire), rakshasa (forceful abduction of bride), pisacha (where bride is intoxicated, sleeping, mentally disordered), in the order of piety of the marriage.” (III: 21 to 34)

Notice how what we call in modern times ‘a love marriage’, is held “most pious”.Β  Makes me think about all the stories about disgruntled families in India that encourage or discourage marriages between lovers. There are these gruesome tales of couples being driven to suicide and even being murdered.
Further, the mention of gandharva suggests that pre-marital sex was obviously very much part of Indian culture. Notice a pattern of ignorance in our society now ? We still consider pre-marital sex a Western fad, that ‘good’ boys and girls do not indulge in. What BS!

Admittedly, I am no scholar on these texts, yet, I am a skeptic of convention and these things make me question.

If one becomes a little petty, one could decipher that an arrange marriage is about 25% less pious than a love marriage, and only 12.5% more pious than pre-marital sex. Comparing it to the other end of the spectrum, pre-marital sex is about 25% better than intoxicating your bride. πŸ™‚

Ok ok, the last part is a far-shot. But you get the point.


Written by Nash

April 17, 2007 at 4:18 am

Posted in Random Rants

12 Responses

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  1. hehehe…interesting.


    April 24, 2007 at 6:41 am

  2. i somehow feel that this passage from manusmriti should be looked at in the context of the larger discussion Manu engages in, in the chapter. according to me, not all marriages where the bride and groom are willing would be “pious” or brahma. Such decisions could also be made due to immaturity on part of either or both of the partners, or due to hormonal effects due to adolescence.

    With regards to the recent media reports, not all reports are what they actually are reported. One example is of a much-talked about case from Haryana where the bride and groom were supposedly thrashed by the Panchayat. It turns out that the bride was a minor, and repeated warnings to the couple had not stopped them from eloping. I personally dont agree that a 16 year old is in a proper physiological, mental and emotional state to take rational decisions. Not that I support the Panchayat’s public thrashing, but a stern action by the elders was needed in this case.

    Point is, you cannot sweep of all acts of opposition in one go under the carpet of hypocrasy vis-a-vis (probably misinterpreted) Manusmriti. Not all consentual/love marriages are “brahma”.


    May 6, 2007 at 12:51 am

  3. Hi Gaurav,

    Firstly, how are you doing and thanks for visiting the blog.

    Secondly, point well taken. For every example of the media’s goof-up or bias, as the case maybe, it would be possible to quote legitimate cases of incidents where sociological belief has led to a (buzzword alert) ‘human rights violation’. Although your comment goes to illustrate my point that the hypocrisy may result from a variety of causes : ignorance, misinterpretation, incomplete informattion (from the media or otherwise). Yet, the bottomline is that the hypocrisy is there. It is my contention that an implementation of a philosophy that is supposed to improve the quality of life , but clearly conflicts its goal in situations, is logically flawed, or at the very least, incomplete.

    And thirdly, growing evidence suggests that the presumed immaturity of 16yr olds, specifically, may be a result of sociological factors rather than any definite physiological make up. Living in Europe , my observations regarding European youth is that they are in fact, more mature, owing more to being thrown into the real world faster than us. They learn from their early mistakes faster, and if one refrains from making relativistic moral judgements on their behaviour, they are in fact, quite content with their lives and have greater flexibility for exploration and such.


    May 6, 2007 at 9:11 pm

  4. Nachiket,

    Thank you for visiting my blog and posting a comment there. With regards to global warming being “one of the three cases” you mention, it has been very recently proved beyond doubt that the warming is man-made and not a natural geological cycle. The findings were presented after a 7 year long study by a UN appointed committee (IPCC) having some 120 scientists representing about 20 countries.(I may be a little off-mark in numbers, but not the scale). The points you made were valid till 4 months back, but now, they have been adequately resolved by the team of experts. I have a post on my blog on the 3rd report which made these conclusions. In fact, the last report on “Global warming: the steps to tackle global warming” was released on 4th May, 2007 in Bangkok.

    About your views on Indian youth being immature because of sociological factors, I am completely in coherance with your thoughts. The Manusmriti, or for that matter even the Quran, are intrinsically flawed religious pieces, as they are subject to gross misinterpretations. I also agree somewhat to your view that the kind of individual freedom the youth get in the west has quite a few positive aspects, however, there are also negative aspects to the same. Over and above what u say, I would like to add that the collective Indian mind is on an average a rotten one, with the religion and our social system sapping out most of the creativities and innovativeness from our brains.

    Where I disagree is on the point of hypocrasy. What I want to put forth is, our society has evolved in parallel with the Western civilization, and the cultural system and ethos are significantly distinct. At this point of time, imposing western ideals in the Indian society WILL lead to a clash of thoughts and ideas. Public kissings, PDAs, girls clad in miniskirts or bikinis WILL turn eyeballs in India, they will not in the West. That is not hypocrasy. Mallika Sherawat’s dances will always be a taboo for family-viewing. That is not hypocrasy. Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty in public will be criticized. That is again, not hypocrasy. (There can be a separate debate on this issue, no?) That IS the social makeup of this country. Forcible conversion of the way of life to a western one might even pull the entire system down, just as it happens to an organism that is grossly modified artificially. A lot of networks get disturbed. A lot of interactions get affected.

    Hence, I feel, the current actions that you feel are hypocritical are just signs of incompatibility between certain western and Indian ideals. Who knows, probably things may change later?

    About me, I am going to the US this August for my PhD. I took a drop this year and was teaching in Ruia. I intend to do evolutionary biology later on, more specifically, molecular evolution. I suppose you are doing something on metabolic engineering, right?


    May 9, 2007 at 1:17 am

  5. oh, i was wrong on the scale too…its 400 scientists from 120 countries…


    May 9, 2007 at 1:22 am

  6. There indeed can be a separate issue on this debate. We are deviating, but I think incompatibility arises because we believe that physical relations, affection or exposure are “not our culture”. When in fact , it IS our culture if anything. Hinduism is one of the most erotically advanced religions, for god’s sake, one of the leading symbols of our devotion is the male phallus.

    In my reading, it seems to me that the taboos we have acquired, are more a Victorian influence than an Indian one. Victorians were the people who had the concept of shame and sin when it came to physical acts. It begs the question, what is the REAL western influence in our society ? πŸ™‚ In the light of truly Indian culture, I would term out current behaviour hypocritical. If you disagree, then we shall agree to disagree. πŸ™‚

    Metabolic engineering, nothing of the sort, my buzzword has changed to Systems Biology. Specifically, network topology in signal transductions networks, although the ideas, models are borrowed from information theory , and the approaches used are mainly live cell imaging, FRAP, FLIM, MPI etc. and kinetics studies of cellular processes. It is a field more in line with physics in its nature, where theories are used to predict and then experiments used to verify. Incidently, I am studying quite a tricky set of proteins with respect to the evolutionary heritage. We may talk when we have time.


    May 9, 2007 at 1:32 am

  7. We will have to agree to disagree on that one. There too many incidents and events of this nature, and quite a few aspects to the issue and all of them cannot be expressed clearly in blog comments, or in a limited number of words. We can talk on that (if and)when we meet…?

    About your field of enquiry, surely seems interesting. Must be involving a lot of mathematical modeling, equations and stuff. Some of that stuff, especially in topics like network topology or graph theory go bouncers to me. I hope to understand more of that during my coursework.


    May 9, 2007 at 9:50 pm

  8. “bandit Queen” movie says that the Manusmruti mentions:
    “Animals, drums, illiterates, low castes and women are worthy of being beaten”.

    Do you have any idea of that’s true?


    July 1, 2007 at 12:47 am

  9. It is unclear to me if Manu wrote such a thing, though he was not very forthcoming in giving women rights. It is unlikely that he wrote the exact words , since the Manu Smriti distictly lacks humour or poetic flare – however, he may have written something to that effect.

    I beleive, that Tulsi Das, echoing Manu wrote in the Ram Charitra Manas :

    β€œDhor, Ganwar, Shudra aur naari,
    Yeh sab tadan ke adhikaari.”

    …which is the Hindi version of the quote.


    August 24, 2007 at 6:59 am

  10. Panchamved is based on the fundamental philosophy enunciated in the Rugved, philosophical procedures as provided in Yajurved, Philosophical procedural practices as guided in Samved and results of such practices as analysed in Atharved. Different scholors have narrated way of life based on their own observations of the society, their own experience, self-learning process, search and research of various situations, prevailing in the then society and presented their own suggestions with conclusions on the subject matter of their own selected research. Manu was not one person in line; therewsere 16 Manus in sequential orders followed with 9 other Maharshis (scholors) possessing the status of Manu, all to gether took lead to design, redesign, improve, develop the verses of the present text in ,’Manusmruti””. Again one has to understand that any research outcome is not final for all the times, but opens doors for further research and innovations to the new researchers as such the Punchamved covering thousands of Upanishidas, smrutis, Shrutis, Samhitas, Gitas etc are the open documents to be updated contineously by the new researchers for new innovations suitable to the society as such the Vedas are considered as ,”Neetyanutan”” i.e. ever fresh for references with context.


    October 26, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    • could u plz tell me the moral of manusmriti? the hidden meaning.. If m not wrong it says one should retain its blood purity.. I want to know more. hlp me dost.


      October 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm

  11. Short but nice one. yup our books are well written.. but to know the fact we are the people who always contradict to what ever we say.. as refferring to the gandharva part.. hahaha


    October 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm

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