Yajnavalkya Smrti with Many Sanskrit Commentaries (A Heavy Book)

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Item Code: NAC850
Author: S. S. Setlur
Publisher: Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati
Edition: 2007
Pages: 1483
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 Inch X 6.8 Inch
Weight 2.45 kg
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Book Description

While writing a few words in way of prelude to the revised edition of the book entitled “The Mitaksara, with Visvarupa and commentaries of Subodhini and Balambhatti”, I would express my profound sense of gratitude to Hon ‘ble Justice Dr.M.Rama Jois, former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court and former Governor of Jharkhand and Bihar for his elaborate introduction unfolding some hitherto undiscussed areas regarding the date and place of Vijnanesvara as well as the significant position of “Mitaksara”, an authentic commentary on Yajnavalkya in the field of Indian Legal Literature. Besides favoring us with his prudent opening observations, Justice Jois has been a constant source of our inspiration and encouragement in under-taking the reprint of this monumental volume, once edited by Justice S.S.Setlur, former Advocate of the High Courts of Bombay and Madras and published Brahmavadini Press, George Town, Madras in the year 1912. The timely valuable guidance received from our Hon’ble Chancellor, Dr. V. R. Panchamukhi in respect of publication of this highly useful work on Indian Jurisprudence and legal digests has expedited the entire machinery of our University for completing the task of printing as early as possible, for which we, while placing our gratefulness to him on record, once again reiterate our commitment to our duties and responsibilities for preservation and promotion of Sanskrit language and literature Moreover, the demands received from various quarters to bring out this rare book once again after almost one century have not only proved the popularity, relevance and utility of the volume but also prompted us to cater to the needs of the scholars and researchers by reprinting and that too after making some revisions and corrections as and when felt necessary.

Among all the sources of Hindu Law, the Srutis or Vedas (5000- 1000 B.C.) and the Smrtis or Dharmasastras (900-200 B.C.) occupy a prominent place because of their authenticity and all- inclusive character of dealing with the code of conduct and way of life of the human beings of the then society. Although several ancient treatises on Dharmasastras were written during a span of nearly one thousand years ranging form 900-200 B.C., two codes namely “Manu” and “Yajnavalkya” have been extremely famous and popular and these scriptures are still referred to by the Indian Law Courts while adjudicating upon the cases under Hindu Law particularly in the areas concerning adoption, maintenance, marriages succession and inheritance. Of these two famous works on Dharmasastra; the Yajnavalkya Smrti has been found more acceptable and relevant even throughout the country because of the Mitaksara commentary on it by Vijnanesvara. The Doctrine of Rights by birth was deduced by Mitaksara from the texts of Yajnavalkaya and this was the foundation of the Mitaksara joint family. But in Bengal, Jimutavahana, the author of Dayabhaga, rejected the doctrine of Right by Birth and thus gave rise to another school in respect of inheritance of ancestral property. Hence, two main schools i.e. Mitaksara school and Dayabhaga school continued to exist in the country regarding the inheritance of paternal property. But the jurisdiction of Dayabhaga school is only confined to Bengal, whereas the Mitaksara school, named after the commentary on Yajnavalkya by Vijnanesvara, is in prevalence in rest of the country, which is a clear evidence of its relevance and acceptability.

The Yajnavalkya Smrti is divided in to three chapters i.e. i) Acara (ritual), ii) Vyavahara (secular) and iii) Prayascitta (expiation). The chapter on marriage is found in Acara Adhyaya. The second part deals with the legal matters like courts, procedure, ordeals, debts, pledges, partition, twelve kinds of sons, sales, defamation, assault, theft, and adultery whereas the last part discusses regarding expiation or atonement (Prayascittam) for the offence or sins committed. Hence, it is a full-fledged code dealing with almost all aspects of law for which the study of the said treatise has been a matter of paramount importance particularly for those who deal with the subtle aspects of Hindu Law and also want to trace the origin and development of the present Indian Judiciarl System in our ancient Indian legal literature. No doubt, the Mitaksara commentary by Vijnanesvara on Yajnavalkya is an uncommon and extraordinary exposition that has brought together all the relevant portions of Dharmasastra in one place while interpreting the original versions of Maharsi Yajnavalkya.

While underlining the importance of Mitaksara, Dr. P.V. Kane, the author of History of Dharmasastra observes as follows -

“The Mitaksara is not only a commentary explaining the verses of Yajnavalkya, but it is in the nature of a digest of Smrti material. It brings together numerous Smrti passages, explains away contradictions among them by following the rules of interpretations laid down in the Purva Mimamsa system, brings about order by assigning to various dicta their proper scope and province (Visvavyavastha) and effects a synthesis of apparently unconnected Smrti injunctions.”

The Mitaksara has quoted nearly 87 (eighty-seven) Smrtikaras or ancient law makers, six predecessors and five important Puranas viz. the Brahmanda, the Bhavisya, the Matsya, Visnu and Skanda Purana for which it has got all the characteristics to be termed as ancient Indian encyclopedic legal literature encompassing all the legal theories developed till 12th century A.D.

As regards the significance of the present publication, it is mentioned earlier that the introduction of Justice Jois is an added flavour to the volume, where he has discussed regarding the date, time and place of Vijnanesvara in detail on the basis of an authentic epigraphic record discovered from Kalingesvara Temple of Martur of Karnataka (written in Kannada) and deciphered by Sitaram Jagirdar, an eminent epigraphist. It is evident that Vijnanesvara flourished during the king Vikramaditya VI of Calukya dynasty with his Capital at Kalyana, who ruled for almost fifty years from about 1076 A.D. to 1126 A.D. and therefore the time of composition of this work can be placed between 1100 to 1120 A.D. As to the original home and habitation of Vijnanesvara, it can be safely concluded that he was born in the Bidar district of present Karnataka and lived somewhere in Vikramaditya’s realm, probably not far from the capital Kalyana (in the Bidar district of Karnataka) in what was a few years ago the Nizam’s dominion.

The two verses found in the colophon of the Mitaksara commentary stand testimony to the erudite scholarship and profound knowledge in law of Vijnanesvara, who according to some critics, was also a judge of high repute and his association with the king Vikramaditya VI of Calukya dynasty. These two verses arc as follows -

The translation of these two verses runs as follows -

On the earth, there never was, nor is, nor will hereafter exist a capital similar to Kalyana ; a king like Vikramarka was not seen or even heard; and moreover another matter is that the Pandit (called) Vijnanesvara has no one else for comparison with him. May this triad that is like Kalpalatika (the wish-granting plant) firmly endure till the end of the world”.

May king Vikramaditya, whose fat are refulgent with the brilliance of the diadems on the heads of king bowing down from the eastern ocean, protect as long as the moon and stars last the whole world from the Setu of Rama (in the south) from the Himalaya (in the North) from the western ocean with its waves rising high on account of the movements of shoals of fishes.”

The publication of the Martur Inscription of Chalukya Vikrama year 48 (i.d. 1124 A.D.) has corroborated the fact that Vijnanesvara, the author of Mitaksara and Vijnanesvara Bhattaraka were one and the same person and the doubt raised by Dr. P.V.Kane as regards the difference of these two persons because of the difference of Gotra and father’s name has also been dispelled. It may be mentioned that the colophons of the Mitaksara describe the author to have been Vijnanesvara Bhattaraka (an ascetic) son of Padmanabha Bhatta of the Bharadvaja Gotra, whereas in Martur inscription Kamcha is said to be the son of Somaraja of the Kaniska Gotra. This is not a proper ground to dispute the identity between the two because Padmanabha and Somaraja were same and the change of Gotra was possible because of adoption as viewed by same Dr.Kane. Another reason for which the importance of Mitaksara has been sufficiently increased is the availability of several commentaries and analytical notes on Mitaksara itself which include four important commentaries viz. i) Subodhini by Visvesvara Bhatta, ii) Balambhatti by Balambhatta and iii) Vaijayanti and Pramitaksara by Nanda Pandit.

In view of the foregoing paragraphs, it is necessary that further studies and researches should be made on the concerned work and its author to bring so many important aspects of Hindu Law in to lime-light in the contemporary society. That is why a research centre in the name of this great law-maker, Vijnanesvara Sauharda Sahakari has been established in the native place of Vijnanesvara under the patronage and supervision of Justice Rama Jois. Rashtriya Sanskrit University owes a lot to the concerned Research Centre for its academic assistance in publishing this work. I am confident that this publication will receive the same amount of appreciation of the scholars and readers as of the earlier ones and once again I thank all those including Dr.V.V. Jaddipal, the Co-ordinator and others, who are associated with the process of publication.



It is in response to a suggestion made by Sir Lawrence H. Jenkins, soon after he took charge of the High Court of Bombay as Chief Justice, that the members of the Bombay Bar should follow the brilliant example of the Calcutta Bar and contribute their own share to Indian legal literature, that the publication of this work was undertaken. The collation of the manuscript originals had to be done in the midst of professional and other engagements and could be finished only in 1908. Afterwards I was given to understand that the value of the book would be considerably enhanced if both Subodhini and Balambhatti, the two well-known commentaries on the Mitaksara, were included in the publication. But the commentary, Subodhini, does not seem to be available anywhere in so far as it relates to the first and the third books of the Acharadhyaya and the Prayaschittadhyaya. Nor is the commentary Balambhatti on these same books available in this part of the country. Consequently, it has been possible to publish these commentaries here only in relation to the second book the Vyavaharadhyaya.

Four manuscripts of Balambhatti were at first available. But, before the work of collation could be begun, the one belonging to the High Court of Bombay had to be returned, as it was constantly, required for reference by Sir Narayan Chandavarkar. J., whose commendable enthusiasm in the cause of Hindu Law has done so much for the encouragement of its study in the Bombay Presidency. The one from the Deccan College had also to be returned, as it was wanted by the College authorities. Thus there were only two left with me - one belonging to the Sanskrit College at Benares and the other lent by Mr. Ghanasham Nilkantha Nadkarni, High Court Vakil, Bombay. Then, the kindness of my friend, Mr. Manubhai Nanabhai Haridas, made the manuscript which belonged to his respected father, the late Justice Nanabhai Haridas, available for use in connection with this publication; and the present edition has been prepared with the help of these three manuscripts and another transcribed in Bombay. For Subodhini, three manuscripts have been used, which are described at length in the Sanskrit preface by its editor Pandit T. Ganapati Sarstriar of Travancore. The discovery of a copy of Visvarupa’s commentary on Vyavaharadhyaya in the Mysore Oriental Library led to its inclusion herein. As the Mysore manuscript was extremely incorrect, mistakes have crept in which could not be avoided in the absence of other manuscripts. In view of the great juristic value of that commentary, Pandit T. Ganapati Sastriar of Travancore was requested to re-edit it with the help of the manuscripts existing in the Palace Oriental Library there, of which he is in-charge. With his unfailing courtesy, he consented to do so; and that commentary is now in the Press and will shortly be issued separately with an English translation by Mr. K. S. Ramaswami Sastri, B A, B.L. the worthy son of the well-known scholar, Professor K. Sundararama lyer of Kumbhakonam, and District Munsiff of Tinnevelly.

News comes from Travancore that the Pandit Editor of the commentary of Visvarupa has found several copies of this work containing not only the Vyavaharadhyaya but also the Acharadhyaya. If he should be fortunate enough to procure the Prayaschittadhyaya, as well and publish the whole work, he would be conferring a priceless boon on all students of Hindu law.

The index to this volume was prepared by Mr. V. Ramaswami Iyengar, B. A., B. L., High Court Vakil, to whom my acknowledgments are due, as also to the authorities of the Benares Sanskrit College, to Mr. Ghanasham and Mr. Manubhai for assisting me with their manuscripts, and to Dewan Bahadur P. Rajagopalachariar, the Dewan of Travancore, by whose kind offices the invaluable assistance of the accomplished Pandit T. Ganapati Sastriar was secured. My grateful thanks are in a special degree due to this Pandit and to Mr. S. N. Narharayya of Chennapatna but for whose indefatigable attention and industry the work would not have so easily seen the light.

Not withstanding the great care bestowed on proof reading mistakes in, owing to the unfamiliarity of Devanagari characters to Madras pressmen. By the kindness of Pandit Ganapati Sastriar, they have all been carefully noted at the end in the list of errata.

The second volume containing the English translation and notes will soon follow. Its publication has been purposely delayed with a view to revise the translation with the help of this edition of the Mitaksara. The time so obtained has been utilised in adding to the translation legal and Sashtraic notes so as to make the work specially useful to non-Sanskritist lawyers. In an introduction, the principles of Law adopted by the author of the Mitaksara will be summarised and explained.



“Vijnaneswara” is better known and remembered by his celebrated commentary on Yajnavaklya Smriti entitled “Mitakshara” than by his own name. This is in conformity with the attitude of all ancient Bharatiya authors who were never after name and fame for themselves but they desired to flourish only through their contribution by discharging their one of the four pious obligations namely “Rishiruna” by way of acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. It is for this reason it has always been a difficult task in finding out the time and place of work of all great authors and literary figures in this Country. They were never for personal publicity. Attitude of Vijnaneshwara who is acknowledged as the greatest jurist who flourished in the 12th century AD was similar. As a result, name of Vijnaneshwara and the title Mitakshara have become synonyms and inseparable. An authentic information is available about the time when he lived from a stone inscription found in Kalingeshwara Temple of Martur which appears to have been a prosperous village during the reign of Chalukya dynasty [973 AD to 1126 AD]. Among the rulers of this dynasty, Vikramaditya the VI’ was the greatest. In that stone inscription of 1124 AD which is in old Kannada language, there is a reference to him. Sitaram Jagirdar, an eminent epigraphist has read the contents and has explained that the Vijnaneshwara referred to in the inscription author of Mitakshara. In the inscription the important portion of it having reference to Vijnaneshwara translated into English reads :-

“When the Emperor Vikramaditya wearing his jeweled crown saluted at the feet of Vijnaneshwara, the crown touched his feet”

This one sentence speaks in volumes about the great personality of Vijnaneshwara and the highest esteem in which Vijnaneshwara was held. From times immemorial there were several “smritis” which were nothing but compilation of the laws which had been evolved by the Society. Out of them, two important smritis were “Manu Smriti” and “Yajnavalkya Smriti”. Vijnaneshwara who was well versed in all the then existing smritis chose to write a commentary to Yajnavalkya Smriti.

The code of Yajnavalkya acquired a very high position in the Bharatiya jurisprudence. Though this Smriti follows the same pattern as of Manu in the treatment of subjects, it is scientific and more methodical. It avoids repetition of same or similar provisions. J.C. Ghose points out to the dominant position acquired by Yajnavalkya Smriti as follows:-

“Now it should be remembered that though Manu’s authority is unquestioned by all Hindus, it is the law of Yajnavalkya by which they are really governed. Yajnavalkya’s authority is supreme in India”.

About the fame and importance of Yajnavalkya, Robert Lingat in his book “Classical Law” observes:-

“Of all the Smritis which have come down to us that of Yajnavalkya is assuredly the best composed and appears to be the most homogeneous, even though it may have been made up of elements borrowed from various sources. We are struck, especially if we have just read Manu, by the sober tone, the concise style and the strictness with which the topics are arranged. We find none of those lyrical flights which are after all the literary beauty of Manu.

The author has obviously sought to make his formula as brief as is consistent with clarity; he succeeds more often than not. There are cases where he compresses two slokas of Manu into one. The result is that he reduces to one thousand or so the 2694 couplets of Manu even though several topics, especially in private law, are dealt with far more completely and in greater detail”.

This Smriti consists of 1010 verses divided into 3 chapters:-

(1 Achara or ecclesiastical law 368 verses

(2) Vyavahara or civil and criminal law 307 verses

(3) Prayaschitta or atonement for sins committed 335 verses.

Regarding the 18 titles of law, Yajnavalkya follows the same pattern as in Manu with slight modifications. On matters such as women’s right of inheritance and right to hold property, status of Sudras and criminal penalty, Yajnavalkva is more liberal than Manu. He steps up the pace of progress in the development of law in keeping with the times. It is said that the profound influence of the teachings of Buddha had great impact on the society which has found itself expressed in the form of more humane provisions of law in the Yajnavalkya Smriti. He deals exhaustively on subjects like creation of valid documents, law of mortgages and hypothecation as also on partnership. associations of persons interested in joint business ventures. This Smriti occupies a very important position in the field of substantive civil and criminal law.


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