Casteist verses of Manusmriti?

Some verses from Manusmriti chapter 8 have been labelled as Casteist verses by some and they are spreading propaganda relating to them. In this article I will analyze all of those verses to see whether they are casteist or not.

First of all, Varna was not birth based. Rather it was quality and work based. Even if some reader strongly believes in birth based system then too they will agree that Varna is based on qualities and work only, a beef eater won’t be called Brahmin even if born in such a family. In fact, M.S 10.92 says a Brahmin can become a Shudra in 3 days just by selling Milk. Also I will be using Medhatithi’s commentary here. Now, you may ask, “Can Medhatithi never be wrong or biased?” Well, he cannot be 100% correct and there is a possibility that he may have been influenced by practices in society at that time, but that was a time when Casteism was prevalent in the society and yet, his interpretations reflect that there was no atrocities based on caste, even when his commentary is influenced by prevalent Birth based system at that time due to this very reason. Medhatithi’s Commentary is enough to prove my point.

1. Manusmriti 8.267

शतं ब्राह्मणमाक्रुश्य क्षत्रियो दण्डमर्हति ।

वैश्योऽप्यर्धशतं द्वे वा शूद्रस्तु वधमर्हति।।

According to Medhatithi In this verse Punishment is for –

(a) Causing pain by addressing foul words

(b) cursing without reason—O low-born one, may you suffer long

(c) giving false information; e.g. your unmarried daughter is pregnant

(d) defamation, attributing to him serious or non-serious offences

Punishment for Kshatriya and Vaisya = Monetary fine. Punishment for Shudra = Physical punishment, cutting tongue or death depending on magnitude of crime. Now it seems like the punishment is very harsh especially for Shudra.

But one needs to understand it. Brahmin is a person who has studied Vedas, observed Brahmcharya, did Yajñas and penances etc. A person who has devoted his life to study and knowledge, hence much respected in society due to his actions. Now if he is defamed or insulted badly, it is a crime, but punishment will depend on magnitude of crime itself.

Shudra is also NOT birth based but rather work based, a person who don’t understand concepts, Now such a person cannot do any other work but physical service/ art work etc. Vaisya is Businessman and Kshatriya is a warrior. We see highest monetary fine is for Vaisya because they had money as they were businessmen and hence wealthy. Kshatriya were fined less than that. But no monetary fine for Shudra rather they had physical punishment simply because Shudras were the essentially the working class and hence did not have much money.

Now why not harsh punishment for Vaisyas and Kshatriyas? Shudras have Tamsik Guna Pradhan

Apastamba Dharma sutra says- अधर्मचर्य्यया पूर्वो वर्णो जघन्यं जघन्यं वर्णमापद्यते जातिपरिवृत्तौ.

( जातिपरिवृत्तौ – जातेः वर्णस्य परितः वृत्तौ)

This sutra says a Dwij can become a shudra if he does adharma. Same thing said by Manumsmriti 10/65 however some people interpret it differently and that is reflected in Medhatithi’s commentary too due to Casteism in society at that time.

But Varna does change in this birth itself and we have many examples of that from Scriptures. (Read this for more information )

Hence crime of Vaisya or Kshatriya if was of such a large in magnitude, it would make them a Shudra and they will be treated as Shudras only and hence punishment will be in accordance with magnitude of crime.

These verses makes total sense in a flexible Varna system where actions ultimately leads to change of Varna in this birth itself also Justice system of Manusmriti says more punishment to learned person, a Brahmin can get 16 times the punishment for Shudra for Exact same crime.

Now somebody may say that Punishment seems harsh, well it does seem harsh but that’s the maximum limit of punishment, Imagine some innocent got punished due to defamation or ended their life due to it? then who will be responsible? Hence Punishment is in accordance with that time

There is NO Caste based discrimination here. Discrimination will be only when system is birth based which it is not.

#Hinduism #Ambedkar #Caste #Casteism #Bhim #Vedas #Manusmriti #Manu

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