Manu Vaivasvata – The Progenitor of Hindu Royal Dynasties

The Puranas give the names of the 14 Manus. The life span of each Manu is said to be one Manvantara consisting of 71 chaturyugas (each yuga consisting of Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali). Manu Vaivasvata is said to be the seventh Manu and the Manu of the present age from whom all ruling dynasties of ancient India trace their origin. The unreasonable life span assigned to the predecessors of Manu Vaivasvata makes their very existence a myth. Also the mentioning of the future Manus when the present age is still in vogue shows that the information is just prophesy. Hence only Manu Vaivasvata can be consider as a historical person.

According to Satapata Brahmana, Manu Vaivasvata whose personal name appears to be Satyavrata was a south Indian king and when the floods came he had abdicated from his throne and was practising austerities in the Malbar country. Later he came to north India and established his rule. Manu was the son of Vivasvan and Savarna. His father Vivasvan was the brother of Indra and son of sage Kashyapa and Adithi. In the Rig Veda Manu is spoken as the father of mankind and was the first to offer sacrifice. And as a institutor of fire rites, he was also the first composer of hymns and model to all later rishis. Manu had his capital at Ayodhya on the banks of river Sarayu. Kautilya reveals that people suffering from anarchy first elected Manu Vaivasvata to be their king and allotted 1/6th of the grains grown and 1/10th of the merchandise as sovereign due. Fed by this payment kings took upon themselves the responsibility of maintaining the safety and security of their subjects. His eldest son Ikshavaku succeeded him and he was the founder of the solar dynasty. Manu’s daughter (adopted) Ila married Budha and their heir was Pururava, the originator of lunar dynasty. Manu was a good administrator and peace and prosperity prevailed in his kingdom. He was a great lover of learning and religion. Kalhana has recorded that even during the reign of Kashmir monarch, Jayapida, the 5th successor of Lalitaditya Muktapida (712-750 A.D.) Manu along with Mandhatra, Rama and others was remembered as a great sovereign.

Probable Period of Manu Vaivasvata

Two probable dates arrived by scholars on the occurrence of Mahabharatha war are 3067 B.C. and 2449 B.C.* In Vayu Purana we have a total of 94 kings from Manu to Bhrihadbala belonging to the Ikshavaku dynasty. According to D.R.Mankad the Puranas computed the number of kings of a dynasty on the basis of units of 40 years or caturyugas. Hence the date of Manu can be arrived if we multiply 40 years (that is the number of years each ruler lived) X 94 generations = 3760 and add either 2449 or 3067 (dates of Mahabharatha War) to calculate the date of Manu, that is 6209 if the date of Mahabharatha War is taken as 2449 or 6827 if the date of Mahabharatha War is taken as 3067.

Manu Smrti – Code of Manu

Manu Vaivasvata is the author of Manu Smrti the first book on Hindu jurisprudence. As he had to organize his state composed of different groups of people, he probably had drafted the dharma shastras (codes). It is said to be based on an earlier work entitled Svayambhuva Sastra written by Svayambhuva Manu. But as Svayambhuva Manu appears to be a mythical person, the authorship of the said work could be given to Manu Vaivasvata. This book composed by Manu in the early Vedic period was later expanded, condensed, altered and readjusted to suit later conditions of life. According to P.V.Kane the extant Manu Smrti was composed between 2nd century B.C. and 2nd century A.D. and it is almost impossible to say who composed it. Probably the extant Manu Smrti was based on the original Manu Smrti composed by Manu Vaivasvata and a person who had access to the original manuscript, made additions to it and suppressing his identity published it as Manu Smrti with a view to invest the work with a halo of antiquity and authoritativeness. This interpretation we can deduce if we critically analyze the extant Manu Smrti. The present work contains 12 chapters. Except the seventh and eighth chapters which deal with the duties of kings and ministers and with law and justices, the rest of the chapters deal with castes, duties of Brahmins, pure and impure food, about vratas, shradda, yagas, kinds of marriages, etc. As we know the growth of caste system, the rituals associated with various ceremonies like yagas, marriages, etc. was a later development. So except those dealing with law, justice and governance, the rest of the topics could be interpolations.

Influence of Manu and Manu Smrti abroad

The Bible in India says that the Manu Smrti was the foundation upon which the Egyptian, the Persian, the Grecian and the Roman codes of law were built. The Laws of Hammurabi is based on the laws of Manu as Indian Kshatriyas had migrated west of Gandhara many centuries before the rule of Hammurabi at Babylonia. Vaivasvata Manu figures as a deity in the pantheon of Persia. Iranian culture reveals the great influence of the Manu Smrti and says that for the administration of the Persian empire under Darius, laws were formulated according to  Manu’s treatise. Manu is held in high esteem in Philippines and his statue can be found in the art gallery of the senate chambers of the Philippine Republic. Similarly in Myanmar (Burma) indebtedness to Manu has been acknowledged in some of their law books. The Indonesian treatises on law appear to be based on Manu Smrti. Among such works, the Kutara Manava is the oldest, the major portion of which follow the work of Manu Smrti. Another work Dawagama is entirely based on the Manu Smrti.

* See https://ithihas.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/date-of-mahabharatha-war/

References

  1. Ganga Ram Garg- Encyclopedia of the Hindu World, vol-I, Concept Publication Company, New Delhi, 1992
  2. Gulshan Rai- Five Periods of Traditional History in the Vedic Age, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Fourth Session, Lahore, 1940
  3. Har Bilas Sarda- Hindu Superiority, Rajputana Printing Works, Ajmer, 1906
  4. P. V. Kane- History of Dharmashastra, vol-I, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1930
  5. Akshoy Kumar Mazumdar- Early Hindu India, A Dynastic Study, Vol-I, Cosmo, New Delhi, 1981.
  6. K.Pruthi (Edited) – Vedic Civilization, Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi, 2004
  7. R. N. Saletore- Encyclopedia of Indian Culture, Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi.
  8. K. C. Singhal and Roshan Gupta- The Ancient History of India, Vedic Period, a New Interpretation, Atlantic Publishers and distributors, New Delhi, 2003
  9. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar- Advanced History of India (Hindu Period). Madras. 1942
  10. Sures Chandra Banerji- A Companion to Dharmashastra, D.K.Print World (P) Ltd, New Delhi, 1998
  11. Vettam Mani- Puranic Encyclopedia, Motilal Banarsidass, 1975

 

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