The Dharma Shastras include the law codes of Hinduism, both secular
and religious (since both were very much inseparable).They deal with
three main subjects: codes of conduct, civil and criminal law, and
punishment and atonement.
Most important is the Manu Smriti
(or Manu Samhita), still consulted in Indian law. It was
written by Manu, an administrative demigod (the "ruler of mankind")
and the first law-giver. The word "man" is said to derive from Manu.
There are fourteen Manus during each creation of the world. The Manu
Smriti contains 2,700 verses divided into twelve chapters. Most
scholars claim that it was written between 300 and 600 BCE. Other
important dharma texts were written by Yajnavalkya, Parashara,
The Manu Smriti establishes the Hindu way of life. It
specifically outlines the duties of the four varnas and four
ashramas. It extols the virtues of the brahmanas,
but clearly states that the varna divisions are based on
individual merit and capacity rather than birthright. The text also
deals with rules of inheritance and adoption, and with law and the
science of government.
An illustration of the "blue jackal" from a popular version of the
Closely related is the Artha Shastra, a text that
discusses the science of acquiring wealth and power. One such popular
work is the Artha Shastra of Chanakya (also known as Kauntila),
who was the prime minister of King Chandra Gupta, reputed to have
defeated Alexander the Great.
Chanakya also studied many scriptures and compiled an anthology of
popular wisdom in the form of proverbs. It is part of the
Niti-shastra, which also includes the famous animal fables of the
Panchatantra and the Hitopadesha.
"A man should not associate with a woman in a solitary place, not
even with his mother; sister, or daughter, for the senses are so
strong that they lead astray even a person advanced in knowledge."
Manu Smriti 2.215
How does the quote from Manu (above) relate to popular opinion
today? Is it out of date, or could it be relevant?
Do any of the proverbs relate to our experience?
Are there any similar proverbs from our own background?
What do they really mean?
Related Values and Issues
Verses From Chanakya
A pigeon today is better than a peacock tomorrow.
The union of even small people can become irresistible. The
elephant is tied up with rope made of grass.
As the gardener plucks each flower without destroying its
root, so should the ruler collect revenue without harming its
Excessive courtesy should never be trusted.
Flies go after open wounds, bees after flowers, good people
after good qualities, mean people after faults