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Canonical image of the Old Indian society according to the Manusmṛti


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Srdarev, Mirta. (2013). Canonical image of the Old Indian society according to the Manusmṛti. Diploma Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Indology > Chair of Indology. [mentor Ježić, Mislav and Andrijanić, Ivan].

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The Manusmṛti or Laws of Manu is the most important and earliest metrical dharmaśāstra. According to Patrick Olivelle, this work was composed during the time of the Kuṣāṇa Empire. Manusmṛti has divine origin – the Indian god of creation, Brahman, proclaimed it to his son Manu, the progenitor of mankind, and Manu ordered his son Bhṛgu to proclaim it to the people. The exposition was subdivided into twelve chapters which regarding to the structure, can be divided into four parts – (1) creation of the world, (2) sources of dharma, (3) the dharma of the four social classes, (4) law of karma, rebirth, and final liberation. The most important is the third part (cāturvarṇasya dharmaḥ: 2. 25 – 11. 266). That is the main topic of this paper. The most precise insight into the fabric of ancient Indian society can be provided by an analysis of the regulations concerning the four varṇas – Brahmins (the priests), Kṣatriyas (the warrior class), Vaiśyas (production class) and Śūdras (class of those who serves others). Within the Laws of Manu, 38, 6 percent of the text is dedicated to Brahmins, and 36 percent to the Kṣatriyas. Along with the varṇas, the āśrama system plays a very important role. This system refers to the four distinct and legitimate periods of life or ways of leading religious life. In the first period of life a person is called brahmacārin, a celibate student, in the second gṛhastha, a married householder, in the third and fourth vānaprastha, a forest hermit, and saṃnyāsin, a world renouncer. It is important to notice that the varṇa system regulates the hierarchy in society and the āśrama system regulates the proper flow of life. Within the āśrama sytem an important role is played by the saṃskāras, sacraments, complex domestic rituals which mark the entry into any particular period of life. The Laws of Manu is written by Brahmins probably during the Kuṣāṇa period. Due to this fact, one can speculate about the social and political environment of the author(s) and the motivations for the composition of this work. The main goal for the author(s) was to protect the rights and privileges of the brahmanical class. After the period of the Maurya Empire and their ruler Aśoka – a Buddhist who founded "the kingdom of dharma" – Brahmins wanted to re-establish the old alliance between the political power and their religious role. This alliance would benefit both the Brahmins and the Kṣatriyas; the kings and Brahmins would have again the privileged position within the society. However, the Laws of Manu has occupied the most prominent position among the Indian law books, the dharmaśāstras. Therefore the influence of the Manusmṛti had spread far outside India and its text was widely studied and commented upon for many centuries.

Item Type: Diploma Thesis
Subjects: Indology and Indoiranistics
Departments: Department of Indology > Chair of Indology
Supervisor: Ježić, Mislav and Andrijanić, Ivan
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2016 10:21
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2016 10:21

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