Dharmasastra are written in two different dimension. Among those, Dharmasutra are written in Sutra-style whereas Smrtis are in verse style. The Dharmasutra, of those two divisions, are connected with different Vedic recensions, but Smrtis do not come under such schools. Therefore the Smrtis are regarded as universal code of law irrespective of schools, places or time, etc.
Although the subject matter of Dharmasastra is very vast, the Manusmrti, which is treated as supreme of all smrtis, contains many a subject related to various aspects of human life as well as human society. Manu has described the matter in twelve sections which are equally described by Yajnavalkya in three sections. As a matter of fact, Yajnavalkya's such division of subject matter is not new, because, before him, it is Visnu who has taken this step. However, people accept Yajnavalkya as the originator of this arrangement on account of the fact that Yajnavalkya's method of rearrangement is very cohesive as well as compact.
Dharmasastrakaras are of opinion that the human behaviour is required to be reviewed when it contradicts the of Dharmasastra and the customs of the society. For this, in India, eighteen categories of law suits evolved gradually in course of time. These categories, according to Manu (8.4-7), are payment of debts, deposits, sale without ownership, joint undertakings, resumption of gifts, payment of wages, violation of convention of guilds and corporations, sale and purchase, dispute between master and servant, boundary dispute, defamation, assault, theft, offence by violence, adultery, duties of husband and wife, partition, betting and gambling.
Yajnavalkya has dwelt upon the topic relating to duties of husband and wife in the Acarya part of his Smrti and has introduced a topic under the heading 'Miscellaneous' (prakirnaka) and has divided the topic of sale and purchase (Krayavikra-yanusaya) into two topics, thus making in all twenty topics. Fifteen topics of Narada Smrti are as in Manu. It omits dispute between master and servant (Svamipalavivada), and theft (steya) and adultery (strisamgrahana). It adds the two topics and divides one topic into two as in the Yajnavalkyasmriti. Theft and offence by violence are added in the appendix. Brharpati adds prakinaka and makes the number of topics nineteen. Neither the topics of law nor the provisions relating to a particular topic were considered to be exhaustive. The codification of law under eighteen titles only indicates that most of the disputes among the people during those periods arose under those eighteen topics. Manu makes this point clear in 8.6 when he states, depending upon the eternal law let the king decide disputes among men who mostly contend on the topics mentioned above.
In course of time, when people accepted the authority-ship of the author of a Smrti, commentators came forward to write commentaries of those Smrtis. When people changed their mind and gave equal importance to each and every author of Dharmasastras, they started collection of materials relating to each subject from different Dharmasastra texts and put together in a book and interpreted whose to keep cohesion among the opinions of different Dharmasastraskaras. this trend gradually gave rise to a particular type of literature i.e. Nibandha. In formation of this literature, both Purvamimamsa and custom played vital role.
The condition of the Smrtis and the development of Mimamsa gave scope to jurists to contribute to the society, which took the shape of the interpretation of laws by very eminent jurists. Most of the Smrtis were all in the form of apparently conflicting provisions in the Smrtis. Several eminent jurists wrote commentaries on Smrtis during there respective times and made the Smrti law practical, understandable and workable. Such authoritative works came to be accepted by the society as laying down the correct position on all matters of law. In the interpretation of Smrtis, the custom and usage had a great influence. By the process of interpretation, well accepted customs and usages were woven into the legal system and thereby satisfied the requirement of changes called for to suit the needs of the developing society. The task of reconciling the law laid down in the different Smrtis by way of interpretation and of absorbing the customs and usages into the legal system was discharged by the jurists admirably. Their treatises were accepted as authoritative expositions of the law of the Smrtis and came to be used liberally in the administration of justice.
It is to be pointed out here that in case of conflict among the views of dharmasastrakaras, commentators, nibandhakaras and time honoured customs and usages, a successful voice of verdict is required. For this, due importance is given to administration of justice, legal proceeding, judicial proceeding, trial and document of victory or judgement. Subject matter dealing with above those topics are vividly discussed in this book in twenty on chapters on account of which the author is tempted to determine the nomenclature of this book as The Voice of Verdict.
For the completion of this book I have taken help of different libraries mostly the Central Library of Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri. I am thankful to Sri Rajendraji and his colleagues of Chaukhambha Sanskrit Sansthan, Varanasi who have taken keep interest for its early publication. Last but not the least I submit my heartful pranama to Sri Jagannath for His blessings.
About the Book
The book contains an analysis of ancient Indian law in twenty one chapters. From the first chapter to fourth chapter concept of law and legal procedure are vividly discussed. From the fifth chapter to seventeenth chapter various subjects relating to debt, adoption, trade and commerce, community organization etc., are critically analysed. From the eighteenth chapter to twentieth chapter a comparative study of law of inheritance according to Kautilya and Yajnavalkya is made. In the twenty first chapter modern equivalents of ancient Hindu law are given. This is a source book in Ancient Indian Law for researchers.
About the Author
Professor Dr. Braja Kishore Swain has been teaching Dharmasastra in Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri for more than two and half decades. He has twenty seven books and more than hundred research papers to his credit. He is known as one of the celebrated resource persons in the country relating to Dharmasastra, Modern Hindu Law and Jurisprudence.
|2||Change in Vyavahara Dharma||26-41|
|5||Law of Evidence||68-83|
|6||Law of Debts and Deposits||84-94|
|7||Law of Employers and Employees||95-110|
|8||Law of Trade & Commerce||111-127|
|9||Law of Joint Commercial Undertakings||128-132|
|10||Law of Gifts and Adoption||133-142|
|11||Law of Community Organisation||143-149|
|12||Law of Partition of Inheritance||150-206|
|13||Law of Matrimonial Causes||207-215|
|14||Law of Gambling||216|
|15||Law of Boundaries||217-219|
|17||Law of Inheritance in Pre Smrti Period||238-280|
|18||Kautilya on Inheritance||281-311|
|19||Yajnavalkya on Inheritance||312-326|
|20||Kautilya & Yajnavalkya on Inheritance||327-350|
|21||Inheritance: Ancient & Modern||351-364|