Ancient Indian Law SystemShastrasSutrasYajnavalkya RishiYajnavalkya Smriti

Yajnavalkya Smriti | Vyavahara Law | 104 (Conclusion)

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Two Major Divisions of Law: In the post Smrti period, a large amount of commentaries on various Smrtis were produced. While commenting the older texts, the commentators used to incorporate regional customs and practices in their law books for extending and elaborating the existing laws. Accordingly a work written in a particular locality became the law of that locality. Thus several schools of law were emerged in different regions and they are broadly grouped into two divisions called Mitaksara system and Dayabhaga system. Mitaksara system had its development basing the Mts commentary of Vijnanesvara on the code of Yajnavalkya. Dayabhaga school takes its name after the work entitled Dayabhaga written by Jimutavahana, who might have flourished in the early part of the 12 century A.D. This text appears to be a chapter of a vast treatise on Dharmasastra composed by the author. But this chapter only is now extant. The Dayabhaga had been accepted as the supreme authority in Bengal in matters of Hindu law such as inheritance, partition and Stridhana. In all other parts of India the Mitaksara was accepted as paramount authority. These two schools of law fundamentally differ in two main particulars, namely the joint family system and the law of inheritance. The Mitaksara system was based on the principle that the property belongs jointly to the men of the family. The sons, grandsons and great grandson’s sons acquire right to the ancestral property by birth. This is called ‘Janmasvatvavada‘ or the theory of ownership arising on birth. But in Dayabhaga school they can acquire it only after the death of the father. There is no right by birth. This is called ‘Uparamasvatvavada‘ or the theory of ownership arising on death. In these two systems all the rules and regulations on partition and inheritance are governed by these two basic principles.

The Commentaries on Mitaksara: As stated earlier, Mts was accepted as an authority in almost all parts of India, except in Bengal. Because of its widespread acceptance, numerous commentaries have been produced on this work. P. V. Kane has enlisted nine commentaries which are:

  1. Subodhini by Visvesvarabhatta
  2. Balambhatti by Balambhatta
  3. Pramitaksara or Pratitaksara by Nandapandita
  4. Mitaksarasara by Madhusudana Gosvami
  5. Siddhantasangraha by Radhamohansarma
  6. Vyakhyanadipika by Nirdurivasavopadhyaya and
  7. Other three commentaries, the names of which are not known, written by Halayudhabhatta, Mukundalal and Raghunatha Vajapeyi. Among them those of Visvesvarabhatta, Balambhatta and Nandapandita are more important.

Subhodhini of Visvesvarabhatta: Visvesvarabhatta whose probable date can be considered as the later half of 14th century A.D. was a portage of Madanapala who belonged to the family of ‘Taka’ kings of ‘Kastha’, a city on the banks of Yamuna River to the north of Delhi. The author himself gives his whereabouts in the Subhodhini commentary and also in the introduction of his work called Madanaparijata. P.V. Kane points out that Visvesvara was a native of the Dravida country and in search of patronage he reached the court of Madanapala. It is believed that the four Dharmasastra works, Madanaparijata, Smrtimaharnava, Tithinirnayasara and Smrtikaumudi attributed to Madanapala, were actually composed by Visvesvarabhatta himself. Subodhini might have been written before his migration to North India. This is considered as the most celebrated commentary on Mts. Visvesvarabhatta does not comment each word of Mts, but gives only useful expositions of the difficult provisions of the text. This text with an English translation has been published by Sri. J.R. Gharpure in the Hindu Law text Series.

Balambhatti by Balambhatta: Balambhatti, otherwise known as Laksmivyakhyana, on Mts is almost the latest work in ancient Indian law. The date of this commentary can be fixed as later half of the 18 cen. A.D. as a manuscript of the Acarakanda of this work is dated Samvat 1831 which corresponds to 1774-75 A.D. The authorship of the work is an enigmatic one. In the introductory verses of the commentary it is stated that it is written by Laksmi, wife of Vaidyanathapayagunda:Yajnavalkya Smriti_Vyavahara Law_104 (Conclusion) Yajnavalkya Smriti_Vyavahara Law_104 (Conclusion)But several references in the text make one suspect that it was written by Balakrishna, son of Vaidyanathapayagunda. After an elaborate discussion, P.V. Kane concludes thus: “Therefore it follows either that the Balambhatti was composed by Vaidyanatha himself and ascribed to his wife or that the work was composed by Balakrishna alias Balambhatta son of Vaidyanatha and was ascribed to his mother.” This voluminous work consisting of 10000 verses is the most elaborate commentary on Mts. Among the three portions, Prayascitta is very brief while the other two, Acara and Vyavahara are much exhaustive. The commentator has given more importance to the Acara section and so it gets the status of an independent work. This text is also edited by J.R. Gharpure and published in 1914. An English translation also is available.

Pramitaksara or Pratitaksara by Nandapandita: Nandapandia, an esteemed exponent of the Mitaksara in the Banares sub-division, has written a commentary on Mts which is referred to as Pratitaksara in his Vaijayanti commentary on Visnudharmasutra:Yajnavalkya Smriti_Vyavahara Law_104 (Conclusion) - 103It seems that the author has not completed this work. Only fragments are found with his descendants. The author is a voluminous writer on Dharmashastra and has credited with the authorship of more than ten works in this field. His Dattakamimamsa is accepted as an authority on adoption throughout India. He lived between the later half of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century.

The Sub-schools of Mitaksara System: Due to the difference of various conditions in the society and the customary practice of different regions, the Mitaksara system itself was adopted with certain local variations in different parts of the country. As a result, this system came to be subdivided into four minor schools namely

  • Benares School
  • Mithila School
  • Maharastra or Bombay School and
  • Dravida or Madras School.

The Benares school, covering a substantial portion of Northern India, recognizes Viramitrodaya and Nirnayasindhu as authoritative treatises in addition to Mts. Viramitrodaya is a digest written by Mitramisra in the first half of 17 century A.D. Nirnayasindhu is composed in 1612 A.D. by Kamalakarabhatta. The Mithila School, which covers the northern part of Bihar, accepts Vivadaratnalcara, Vivadacintamani and Madanaparijata as authoritative texts. Vivadaratnakara is a digest written by Candesvara, the chief Judge and minister of King Harasimhadeva of Mithila. Vivadacintamani is composed by Vacaspatimisra in 15th century A.D. Madanaparijata is digest written by Visvesvarabhatta, the author of Subodhini commentary on Mts The Maharastra or Bombay school stands for Western India including Konkan. In addition to Mts, Vyavaharamayukha of Nilakanthabhatta of 17th century A.D. and Nirnayasindhu have got importance in this sub division. In Dravida or Madras school in southern India the Parasaramadhaviya, a commentary on Parasarasmrti by Madhavacarya, Smrticandrika by Devannabhatta, Vyavaharanirnaya by Varadaraja and Sarasvativilasa by Prataparudradeva, a great ruler of Gajapati dynasty, are the principal works which supplement the Mts. Thus Yajnavalkyasmrti and its commentary Mitaksara have their vital position in ancient Indian jurisprudence. It is Yajnavalkya who inaugurated a new path in ancient Indian legal system by categorizing Vyavahara as a separate part in his Smrti text. He has introduced liberal and progressive thoughts in many aspects, especially regarding the law of succession. But the spirit of such ideas was not imbibed by many of the later authors.


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