Patrick Olivelle

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:


The Mānava-Dharmaśāstra (“Manu” for short) occupies a pivotal position in the long history of Dharmaśāstric textual production. Dharmaśāstras produced before Manu, in the last three centuries bce, consisted of prose texts written in the sutra style with interspersed verses. Manu is the first to be written entirely in verse, a style that is followed by all later authors. Manu is also the first to integrate completely the Arthaśāstric material dealing with the duties of the king, warfare and foreign policy, and law and jurisprudence. These will remain central topics of later Dharmaśāstric discourse. Manu was also considered within the native tradition itself as the most authoritative text on dharma. Its preeminent position was clearly established by the 5th century ce and possibly as early as the 3rd. Sometime toward the middle of the first millennium, Bṛhaspati, one of Manu’s successors and himself a composer of a Dharmaśāstra, pays Manu the ultimate compliment: Manu is the authority, and any text contradicting Manu has no validity. Manu’s importance is also indicated by the number of important commentaries that were written on it; nine of them survive, written between the 8th and the 17th centuries. It is also one of the most cited texts in medieval legal digests (nibandha).

Article.  9513 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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