The Laws of Manu (Manusmriti)
(1500 B.C. to 200 A.D.)
1. A king, desirous of investigating law cases,
must enter his court of justice, preserving a dignified demeanour, together
with Brahmanas and with experienced councillors.
2. There, either seated or standing, raising his
right arm, without ostentation in his dress and ornaments, let him examine
the business of suitors,
3. Daily (deciding) one after another (all cases)
which fall under the eighteen titles (of the law) according to principles
drawn from local usages and from the Institutes of the sacred law.
4. Of those (titles) the first is the non-payment
of debts, (then follow), (2) deposit and pledge, (3) sale without ownership,
(4) concerns among partners, and (5) resumption of gifts,
5. (6) Non-payment of wages, (7) non-performance
of agreements, (8) rescission of sale and purchase, (9) disputes between
the owner (of cattle) and his servants,
6. (10) Disputes regarding boundaries, (11) assault
and (12) defamation, (13) theft, (14) robbery and violence, (15) adultery,
7. (16) Duties of man and wife, (17) partition
(of inheritance), (18) gambling and betting; these are in this world the
eighteen topics which give rise to lawsuits.
8. Depending on the eternal law, let him decide
the suits of men who mostly contend on the titles just mentioned.
9. But if the king does not personally investigate
the suits, then let him appoint a learned Brahmana to try them.
10. That (man) shall enter that most excellent
court, accompanied by three assessors, and fully consider (all) causes
(brought) before the (king), either sitting down or standing.
11. Where three Brahmanas versed in the Vedas
and the learned (judge) appointed by the king sit down, they call that
the court of (four-faced) Brahman.
12. But where justice, wounded by injustice, approaches
and the judges do not extract the dart, there (they also) are wounded (by
that dart of injustice).
13. Either the court must not be entered, or the
truth must be spoken; a man who either says nothing or speaks falsely,
14. Where justice is destroyed by injustice, or
truth by falsehood, while the judges look on, there they shall also be
15. 'Justice, being violated, destroys; justice,
being preserved, preserves: therefore justice must not be violated, lest
violated justice destroy us.'
16. For divine justice (is said to be) a bull
(vrisha); that (man) who violates it (kurute 'lam) the gods consider to
be (a man despicable like) a Sudra (vrishala); let him, therefore, beware
of violating justice.
17. The only friend who follows men even after
death is justice; for everything else is lost at the same time when the
18. One quarter of (the guilt of) an unjust (decision)
falls on him who committed (the crime), one quarter on the (false) witness,
one quarter on all the judges, one quarter on the king.
19. But where he who is worthy of condemnation
is condemned, the king is free from guilt, and the judges are saved (from
sin); the guilt falls on the perpetrator (of the crime alone).
20. A Brahmana who subsists only by the name of
his caste (gati), or one who merely calls himself a Brahmana (though his
origin be uncertain), may, at the king's pleasure, interpret the law to
him, but never a Sudra.
21. The kingdom of that monarch, who looks on
while a Sudra settles the law, will sink (low), like a cow in a morass.
22. That kingdom where Sudras are very numerous,
which is infested by atheists and destitute of twice-born (inhabitants),
soon entirely perishes, afflicted by famine and disease.
23. Having occupied the seat of justice, having
covered his body, and having worshipped the guardian deities of the world,
let him, with a collected mind, begin the trial of causes.
24. Knowing what is expedient or inexpedient,
what is pure justice or injustice, let him examine the causes of suitors
according to the order of the castes (varna).
25. By external signs let him discover the internal
disposition of men, by their voice, their colour, their motions, their
aspect, their eyes, and their gestures.
26. The internal (working of the) mind is perceived
through the aspect, the motions, the gait, the gestures, the speech, and
the changes in the eye and of the face.
156. He who has made a contract to carry goods
by a wheeled carriage for money and has agreed to a certain place or time,
shall not reap that reward, if he does not keep to the place and the time
157. Whatever rate men fix, who are expert in
sea-voyages and able to calculate (the profit) according to the place,
the time, and the objects (carried), that (has legal force) in such cases
with respect to the payment (to be made).
399. Let the king confiscate the whole property
of (a trader) who out of greed exports goods of which the king has a monopoly
or (the export of which is) forbidden.
400. He who avoids a custom-house (or a toll),
he who buys or sells at an improper time, or he who makes a false statement
in enumerating (his goods), shall be fined eight times (the amount of duty)
which he tried to evade.
401. Let (the king) fix (the rates for) the purchase
and sale of all marketable goods, having (duly) considered whence they
come, whither they go, how long they have been kept, the (probable) profit
and the (probable) outlay.
402. Once in five nights, or at the close of each
fortnight, let the king publicly settle the prices for the (merchants).
403. All weights and measures must be duly marked,
and once in six months let him re-examine them.
404. At a ferry an (empty) cart shall be made
to pay one pana, a man's (load) half a pana, an animal and a woman one
quarter of a (pana), an unloaded man one-half of a quarter.
405. Carts (laden) with vessels full (of merchandise)
shall be made to pay toll at a ferry according to the value (of the goods),
empty vessels and men without luggage some trifle.
406. For a long passage the boat-hire must be
proportioned to the places and times; know that this (rule refers) to (passages
along) the banks of rivers; at sea there is no settled (freight).
407. But a woman who has been pregnant two months
or more, an ascetic, a hermit in the forest, and Brahmanas who are students
of the Veda, shall not be made to pay toll at a ferry.
408. Whatever may be damaged in a boat by the
fault of the boatmen, that shall be made good by the boatmen collectively,
(each paying) his share.
409. This decision in suits (brought) by passengers
(holds good only) in case the boatmen are culpably negligent on the water;
in the case of (an accident) caused by (the will of) the gods, no fine
can be (inflicted on them).
Source of electronic text: Internet
Medieval Source Book.