Yajnavalkya Smriti – Dr. Gururaj Rao

Yajnavalkya Smriti –  by Dr. Gururaj Rao, KSOU – Contact Class 2015 and 2016

Rishi Yajnavalkya (याज्ञवल्क्य) was a great yogi and mahatma. It is mentioned in the Vaayu puraana that he was the maanasa-putra of the Brahma. Brahmarata was the name of his father. Vaishampaayana was his Guru. He was one of the most favorite disciples of Vaishampaayana and so he got to learn certain special Veda mantras from his guru. Once Yajnavalkya showed disrespect towards his fellow-student. This was noticed by his guru, Vaisampayana. The guru got angry and asked Yajnavalkya to return back all the knowledge that he had taught. गुरोरधीतं गुरवे निवेदितम् | (Side note: Karna’s guru cursed him that he would forget it at the most needy moment). Whatever we learn stays in our intellect and also becomes a part of our samskaara due to which we notice child-prodigies carrying the knowledge from the earlier births.  Yajnavalkya readily gave it back, hoping to gain the knowledge again from other teachers.  गुरवो बहवः सन्ति | He removes the knowledge from his samskaara itself and spits it out as vomit. We cannot explain this scientifically. But the Rishis were capable of performing any feat due to their sakthi.  When he spits out the knowledge this way, the other shishyaas of the guru, realizing the worth of that knowledge, took the form of the tittiri birds and consumed the vomited knowledge. It is forbidden to get the remains of the food consumed by anyone. This rule does not apply to the birds and hence they took the form of a bird. They took the form of a bird or Dvija – that which has two births. The significance for the disciples to take the form of a dvija is that this changing to a bird became their second birth and they did not have to wait for the next birth. They got Dvijatva by taking the form of the dvija or bird.  These learning which were got from the Tittiri birds became the Taitireeya Upanishad.

Then, Yajnavalkya approaches his guru and apologizes. The Guru also forgives him. Before starting to learn from the beginning, he does tapas and prays to the Lord Savitra Surya Naaraayana. He prays that he should get the knowledge which no one had got until now. Thus he gains the ultimate superior knowledge from Surya Naaraayana. The story continues further in the puranas. Yajnavalkya , after gaining the knowledge from Surya, prays to Brahma for extended life. Thus he gets 5000 years of life due to Brahma’s blessings. Again and again he performs penance and gets extensions of 5000 years. When he does his penance for the fourth time, Brahma questions him the need for this extension pointing out the impermanence of life. It is said – जातस्य मरणं ध्रुवं, ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च | Yajnavalkya mentions that he wants to gain more and more knowledge. When Brahma asks Yajnavalkya as to what he had gained so far by studying day and night in the earlier years, Yajnavalkya shows three mountains and says that he had gained a handful of sand from the three mountains. By saying this, Yajnavalkya indicated the limitlessness of the knowledge where the three mountains are the three Vedas – Rig, Yajur and Saama.

Yajnavalkya learnt from Vaisampayana’s father Brahmaraatra rishi and became a great rishi. He adhered to Dharma. He was considered as a परमज्ञानी | Since Sun god came in the form of a White horse and taught him the knowledge, it is called Sukhla Yajur Veda. The works authored by Yajnavalkya are Vaajasaneyi Samhita, Yajnavalkya Smriti, Yajnavalkya Gita, Yajnavalkya Upanishad, Yajnavalkya Shikshaa, Yajnavalkya bhashyaa, and गायत्री-गूढार्थ-चन्द्रिका, explaining the secret meaning of Gaayatri mantra, about the devataa associated with each letter of the mantra, about the form of Vishnu, that is present as the antaryaami in the letters of the mantra, which are to be meditated upon.  Madhyandina Shakha, which is also called as Vajasaneyi Madhyandiniya shakha is a branch of Shukla Yajurveda.  The name Vajasaneyi is derived from Vajasaneya, patronymic (i.e., belonging to the clan) of sage Yajnavalkya, who was an authority and according to tradition, founder of the Vajasaneyi branch.

Once there was a debate and discussion on the aspects related to Dharma conducted at the city of Mithilaa. The proceedings were recorded in the Yajnavalkya Smriti. It has 3 chapters namely aachaara adhyaya, vyavahaara adhyaya and prayaschitta adhyaya. There are 1100 shlokas present. In the first two chapters, the routine duties that are to be carried out have been explained.

आचारः प्रथमो धर्मः | When describing about the Aachaara, he says that a person should gain knowledge about the aachaara before he carries out that Aachaara. He mentions about 14 Gnaana Saadhana-s or ways of gaining knowledge. Those are the four Vedas, the six Vedaanga-s (Shikshaa, kalpa, vyakarana, niruka, chandas and Jyotisha), the Puranas comprising of 18 puranas, Tarka, Mimamsa, and Dharmashashtra. These are Aapta Vaakya and hence taken to be a Pramaana or the valid means of knowledge. The inquisitiveness of the youngsters in understanding the reason behind the religious practices is not to be cut down. Tarka is this interest in the students to question and understand the knowledge. After processing the knowledge obtained, the understanding that they get is called Mimamsa. The practical instructions are captured in Dharma Shashtras.

Sarva Samarpana Bhaava

On the Aachaara, after gaining the knowledge by means of the gnaana saadhana, one should follow them. It should be done with a spirit of Sarva Samarpana bhaava. This concept is commonly seen in our culture. कुरु कृष्णार्पणं तत् | There are some scriptures which says that only the good actions should be offered to God. Yajnavalkya says that all the actions have to be offered including Nishiddha karma and the fruits of Nishiddha karma, which will be done with a sense of repentance and in an apologetic manner with a prayer to prevent one from doing such actions in future.

धर्मसाधनम्

The other aspect dealt by him is Ahimsa. परोपकाराय पुण्याय पापाय परपीड़नम् । Helping others is a good deed and harming others is a sinful act. He stresses on the need for non-violence towards all the beings however insignificant they are. He says  अहिंसा सत्यं अस्तेयं शौचं इन्द्रियनिग्रहः । दानं दमो दया क्षान्तिः सर्वेषां धर्मसाधनम् || १.१२२ || (आचाराध्यायः/गृहस्थधर्मप्रकरणम्) Non violence, truth, refraining from any stealing, cleanliness (morally as well as physically), control over senses, charity, self restraint, compassion, patience (and forgiveness) are the ways one can adopt, to follow Dharma.

As part of explaining the aachaaras or the practices to be adhered to, he mentions about the food that can be consumed and those that should be avoided. Later in the Prayaschitta Adhyaaya, he mentions about the remedial action if the person happens to consume the forbidden food under unavoidable circumstances.

दानम्

दानं ध्रुवं फलति पात्रगुणानुकूल्यात् | Alms given give fruit according to the qualities of the person accepting them. Daana is another important Aachaara or practices. Even if a person is not able to perform the austerities, if he gives daana and supports the austerities performed by another person, he would also reap a part of the fruits of those austerities. Hence Daana is very important for every one even if they are not able to follow the other practices.

The commonly mentioned three types of Daanaa are गो दान, हिरण्य-दान (or भूदान) and अन्नदान | There are different definitions of Annam. अत्ति इति अन्नम् |  That which is eaten. The mind is relaxed when one eats. So the knowledge which helps in calming the mind is also considered as Annam. So Annadaana also means ज्ञान-दान.

पितृ-यज्ञः

The details about the pitrus are described in this chapter. The panda is kept in the floor to satisfy the hunger of the pitrus, saying ते सर्वे तृप्तिमायान्तु मया दत्तेन भूतले | He insists on the importance of performing these rites. कुर्य्यात् + आचार्यपूजार्थम् + वित्तशाठ्यम् + विवर्जयेत् agnipuraana |  न विस्तरेत् श्राद्धकार्यम् – don’t make shraarddha to be a big event – Only the people who are eligible to receive the pitru-shesha should be invited for the shraarddha ceremony done for the dead relatives.  वित्तशाठ्यम्  न कारयेत् | The ceremony has to be done with devotion and sincerity. This is so because the curse of the departed elders can cause Vamsha naasha – the destruction of the clan. आयुः प्रजां धनं विद्यां स्वर्गं मोक्षं सुखानि च । प्रयच्छन्ति तथा राज्यंप्रीता नॄणां पितामहाः || १.२७० ||  (आचाराध्यायः – श्राद्धप्रकरणम्) The pleased (preetaah) fathers and grandfathers will give long life, wealth, knowledge, svarga, moksha, happiness, and kingdom.

पञ्चायतनपूजा

The worship of five deities is described. The commonly worshipped deities are Surya, Ganapati, Subramanya, and Shiva. Yajnavalkya include Lakshmi. He highlights the importance of worshipping and says about three rituals namely Ganapati kalpa, Lakshmi kalpa and Graha Shanti. Wealth is required for all tasks. Ganapati is to be worshipped to remove the obstacles. Graha Shanti is to avoid the influence of Adhyaatmika, aadhibhautika and aadhidaivika obstacles.

राजधर्म

In this Smriti, he also elaborates on the duties of the King and the Sanyaasins. In the first chapter on Aachaarana, he also describes the duties of the different varnas like Brahmana, Vaishya, Kshatriya and Shudhra.  He also describes the role of woman. यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवता | The blessings of devatas are present in the house which upholds the women. He gives importance to the opinion of women. Ultimately, everything happens by the Divine Will – सर्वं भगवदधीनम् |

Vyaavahaara

There are 25 prakarana-s in the second adhyaayaa on vyavahaara. Based on the Aachaara, the vyavahaara has to be conducted. Vyavahaara relates to the legal transactions and also to the court cases. The rules related to law, the contribution of the king, how punishments are to be given (danda neeti), how the court should be conducted, how the judge should be conduct himself, how the vaadi and the prativaadi-s are to be cross-examined, the importance of witness or Saakshi, etc. are covered. He stresses the importance of the conduct of the King as that will reflect on his people and in turn, impact the court cases that come up. Once the king is good, the people will be good as they will seem him as their ideal – राजा प्रत्यक्षदेवता | धर्म is not fixed. It changes based on the person and the situation. Considering these, the dandaa also changes on a case to case basis. There is a story where a sage protects a person from the solider by saying that he is not present. In this, the sage has adhered to his dharma of protecting the person who sought his protection.

Stree Daana

One aspect that is not generally covered in the other Smritis, which is specifically covered in this Smriti, is regarding the wealth of the women. This Smriti has been the basis for the Indian laws in this matter. This comes under the ashaadhaarana prakarana. न स्त्री स्वातन्त्रमर्हति – At no stage in life should a woman be independent (i.e., left alone and destitute) . During marriage, the couple promises each other – धर्मेच अर्थेच कामेच इमां नातिचरामि । धर्मेच अर्थेच कामेच इमं नातिचरामि ॥ In my duty, in my financial commitments, in my needs, I will not violate this lady or this man.

A man should never use his wife’s wealth. From his own earnings, he should keep a part as Aapad Daana – i.e., for emergency expenses, one part for charity, one part has to be kept aside as Stree Daana as a security for his wife and daughters, and only the remaining part could be spent for the other expenses. This Stree Daana is to be kept by the lady for her use when she faces a crisis and it is not meant for use by her husband when he requires it for any family expenses. She should give only if it a life-threatening situation for the husband. Once the money is given to the wife or the daughter, the man loses the right over that Stree Daana, while he could take back the money given to his son.

Even after the wife dies, the husband cannot claim right over the money. If their child or children are minor, then 50% of the amount goes to them and the remaining goes to the king’s treasury. If there is no minor child, then 50% of the amount goes towards charity (the fruits of which are expected to protect the children) and the remaining goes to the king’s treasury. These are to be understood in the context of the situation at those days.

Praayashchitta Adhyaaya

There are 5 prakarana-s in the third Adhyaaya on Praayashchitta. Praayaschitta is the remedial action performed to nullify the effects of the bad actions performed by a person.  जाताशौच – impurity contracted due to a birth in the family and मृताशौच – impurity contracted due to a death. Here he explains that 10 days of impurity is to be observed by the paternal relatives and 3 days by certain other relatives.

Praayashchitta Apaddharma

There are certain non-conformities permitted during times of crisis. It may not be possible to adhere to certain injunctions during a crisis. To avoid misuse of this relaxation, he clarifies what is to be considered as a crisis. When one’s life is at stake, it is ok to have some non-conformity to dharma. For example, eating outside is not permitted. But if a person is unable to bear the hunger and is suffering, it is ok for him to eat outside. In that case also, he can consume only to the minimum extent that is required. The reason for mentioning the Aapad dharma here is that separate prayachchitta has to be done for the non-conformance made during times of crisis.

Yoga

As mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: ” योगः चित्त वृत्ति निरोधः” meaning “Yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind”, Yajnavalkya stresses the importance of controlling the modifications of the mind. Only a person who has control over his mind will be able to practice Dharma. He mentions that Yoga will help in controlling the mind, which in turn will help in the adherence to Dharma. He suggests doing meditation every day. प्रातः प्रभृति सायान्तं सायादि प्रातरन्ततः यत् करोमि जगन्नाथ तदस्तु तव पूजनम् | From dawn to dusk and from dusk to dawn, whatever I do, o Lord of the world, may it be an offering to you. One should pray in the morning and night.

Rahasya prakarana

Finally while concluding the Praayaschitta adhyaaya, he mentions about Rahasya or secret Praayaschitta. Yajnavalkya classifies the mistakes into two categories, one which can be shared with others and the second type which cannot be told to others. In this second type, the person is not in a position to tell another knowledgeable person the mistake done and try to know the right parihaara for it. Yajnavalkya clarifies how to do the praayaschitta in that case. When a mistake is done unintentionally, repenting and seeking forgiveness from God will be the parihaara. Based on the severity of the committed mistake, Yajnavalkya suggests appropriate remedial actions. Yajnavalkya stresses the importance of carrying out the remedial action to avoid any bad consequences in the future in the same birth or in the future births.

Saadaarana and Asaadaarana Vyavahaara

Yajnavalkya has split the vyavahaara prakarana into Saadaarana (general) and Asaadaarana (specific) vyavahaara prakarana. The regular activities performed by the citizens, the problems that could be faced, the precautions to be taken, the loss that could be incurred, how they could approach the court for justice, and the justice that they are expected to get – all these have been explained in the Saadaarana  Vyavahaara Prakarana. In the Asaadaarana vyavahaara, the conflict resolution for special cases where there are some additional complications in the case put forth by the Vaadi and prativaadi. The king has the supreme power to give the verdict on the general conflicts. व्यवहारान्नृपः पश्येत् | For resolving the conflict, the king would appoint a sabhaa comprising of the chief preceptor of dharma, the chief of the army, and the elderly advisors. व्यवहारान्नृपः पश्येद्विद्वद्भिर्ब्राह्मणैः सह । धर्मशास्त्रानुसारेण क्रोधलोभविवर्जितः ||२.१||  The members of the sabha should be Shotreeya Brahmanas or the Kshatreeyas who are Shotreeyas. Shotreeya is one who has the knowledge of Shruti and Smriti. The person who be a Dharma Nishta adhering to the dharmic principles.  In that gathering, the arguments and the counter-arguments would be heard, and after taking into consideration the witness’s account, the verdict has to be given based on the Dharmic principles धर्मशास्त्रानुसारेण | The king and the members should be devoid of anger and greed. क्रोधलोभविवर्जितः  |

Qualities of the Sabha Members

श्रुताध्ययनसंपन्ना धर्मज्ञाः सत्यवादिनः । राज्ञा सभासदः कार्या रिपौ मित्रे च ये समाः ॥ २.२ ॥ The members of the sabha should be well-educated on the Vedas and be interested to learn more, be born in noble families known for the good qualities, be truthful and impartial towards enemies and friends. [Side note: ज्ञानिनोऽपि मौनिनः – The gnaanis keep quite to avoid saying any untruth even by slip of tongue]. The close relatives or the friends should be considered impartial by the jury. यज्ञसदृशी सभा | The Sabha is considered equivalent to the Yagna. Like the poornaahuti offered in the Yagna, the important part is the verdict by the King.

सभ्यैः सह नियोक्तव्यो ब्राह्मणः सर्वधर्मवित् || २.३ || The members of the sabha should know all the dharmas that apply to the four varnas and four ashrams. The members should not have their own preferences and aversions. Those who have their own family conflicts do not qualify to be members of the sabha as their opinion could be influenced by their experiences. They should not get excited instantly and they should know to control their emotions.  One whose profession is not accepted by the shaastras (like selling food) should not be a member. [Side note: Even selling of vidhya is prohibited]. The Sanyasins are exempt from being called to be present in the court.

[Side note: गतानुगतिको लोकः न लोक़ः पारमार्थिकः । Everyone is going towards worldly pleasures only. It would be like changing the course of the flow to make them turn towards the supreme].

पञ्चेन्द्रिय देहस्य बुद्धेश्च मनसस्तथा | द्रव्यदेशक्रियाणां च शुद्धिराचार इष्यते || ( वाधूलस्मृति )These jury members should have purity in their five senses, in their body, in their intellect, in their mind, in their things, in their place, and in their actions. They should take an oath to remain impartial while providing justice.

The importance has to be given to the disputant (वादि) who gives the compliant. When a person takes an oath then his words are to be given importance. Those who challenge by bidding money that if they are found to be at fault, they agree to pay a certain amount, are to be given importance.  Due to the confidence that he is right, the person comes forward to pay this amount.

Types of disputes

When the disputant (वादि) provides his argument, the counter-argument provided by the opponent (प्रतिवादि) is called Sampratipatti – सम्प्रतिपत्ति, if the opponent agrees to the accuser. Alternatively if the opponent denies it and says that the accusations are false, it is called Mitya – मित्या. If the opponent accuses the accuser himself for committing the crime then it is called प्रत्यवस्कन्दन. This is also called प्रत्यवस्यन्दन. It is अपूर्वन्याय when the disputant himself changes his own version of the story. In such cases, he loses the credibility and the sabha will considers this will providing the verdict.

Asaadaarana vyavahaara

While saadaarana vyavahaara can be considered to be the petty cases, the asaadaarana vyavahaara would be the more serious criminal cases. In the Asaadaarana vyavahaara or the uncommon type, there will be some rare cases with some specialty. प्रत्यभियोग is the counter-charge during the proceedings of the court that happen before a conclusion is arrived at. (Side note: As in Raghuvamsam, श्रुतौ तस्करता स्थिता, in the olden days, stealing was a rare event that people would say that they have heard about robbers). प्रत्यारोप is the manhandling or attack (by means of poison, weapons, mantras or tantric practices) on the accuser (दोषारोपकः), which is suspected to be done by the accused. In this case, the punishment will be more severe since the accused is making more mistakes to cover up his earlier mistake. मित्याभियोग are the false accusations which were proved to be false by the court through interrogation. When a party delays the case, the king should consider that party to be guilty and appoint spies to check on that person. The king should not delay the proceedings in case of Asaadaaraa Vyavahaara.

The king should find out the reactions संभाव्य लक्षण of both parties through the members of the court, or through his spies or on his own. Certain body languages like drying up of the lips, avoiding eye contact, walking restlessly, being nervous, facial expressions, etc., could indicate that the person might be lying.  The king should be smart enough to find out if these reactions are natural to that person due to the age, nature and other factors; or whether it is because of saying a lie.

गतिप्रतिभन्दक are the illegal activities like bribing or frightening other people like the witness or the jury, done by either parties to get the verdict in their favor.  These are hindrances (pratibhandakas) to the progress (gati) of the case. Such things might not become explicit. The king has to get such information through his spies. The king should gather full details (पूर्व-इतिहास) about the nature of the person before giving the verdict. एकत्र निर्णीतशास्त्रात् – the verdict should be based on the similar verdicts provided earlier. The king should also consider the accused person’s earlier cases that he has been convicted for.

अर्थशास्त्रस्तु बलवद् धर्मशास्त्रविधिस्मृतिः | The dharma shashtra are considered more important over the Arthashastra, Raaja Neeti, dhanda neeti, etc. So the king should adhere to those while giving the verdict. ब्रह्मणो न हन्तव्यः – A Brahmin should not be killed. So if a crime is committed by such a person, other alternatives are to be taken, like causing an insult or banishing the person from the kingdom, that are equivalent of killing.

There are varied means, अर्थसाधना, to prove the truth. One is the लिखित, written document. The second is the Shakshi or witness. In the absence of these two, it has to be understood through Bukthi, some divine interference, which is beyond the physical proof.

(Side note: At Kumbakonam, some 30 or 40 years back, the ownership of the Sarangapani temple was claimed by two groups – Shakti Vishishtaadvaitas and Vaishnavites. It was decided to keep the temple closed for a week and then check for some indication. In this specific case, a Hanuman vigraha appeared when they opened the temple after a week and the case was closed in favor of the Vaishnavites).

(Side note: A story in which there was a special ring that an old man has to give to one of his three sons. He made two similar ones and gave the rings to all the three sons individually telling them that they should keep it as it would bring them good luck. All the three sons benefit from their rings. After many years, they realize that all three were having the rings and they go to the court. As the jury could not decide which one is real, they tell the sons that their father had asked them to have the ring with all faith and that it would bring them good luck. So they should give up the doubt and continue with the faith that they have the special ring).

ऋणादानप्रकरण

ऋणादानप्रकरण is related to loans. In the context of wealth, it is to be noted that the king has to right to collect tax over the interest accumulated by lending money. When the loan is given for a specific interest, if the loan has not been returned on time, if the interest has not been paid on time, etc. the necessary actions to be taken are dealt in this prakarana. The next prakarana deals with the money borrowed for taking care of the cows. There is tax for possessing cows. The third type of loan is for household purposes. The fourth type of tax is related to the gains got by gambling. The fifth type is mortgage loan taken by keeping gold or some other precious thing as security. The sixth type is for personal sustenance, in the absence of which the borrower would have difficultly to even live. This is treated specially. Consideration is given for the person to get to a position where he could start earning. But if he could not return, the measures to be taken are explained in this prakarana. The seventh type is related to sales done as part of Business.

The tax on the interest on the loan will be based on the varna. The interest will vary from least to highest increasing in this order – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudhra – वर्णक्रमा पोषकम् | A Shotriya Brahmana should give 1% as tax. Jaatyaa Brahmana should give 2%. Kshatri and vaishya should give 3% and 4% respectively. Rest will give 5%. If a person resides in forest and those who have risky profession like wrestlers and those who do not have a permanent residence, then the tax will be 10% due to the insecurity. If the person moves around in the sea, then the interest increases further to 20%. He also says सर्वे सर्वासु जातिषु ॥ २.३८ ॥ that all the amounts will change according to their jati – which is not by birth. For Go-samrakshana, interest should not be levied. For other dharmic undertakings like the upanayana karma, the loan should be interest free. The non-dharmic undertakings like sale of food, grains, oil, gold, shanka, etc., the charges will be 8% for decayable material and 4% for non-decayable material. The transactions between a person from a higher jati to a person in a lower jati is treated differently from the transaction vice-versa.

If the person is not able to repay, the sons and the relatives will have to repay. If any woman had taken the loan, then the husband will have to repay. In exceptional cases, the stree dana can be used if the husband is in some crisis. Here also, it cannot be used if the husband’s crisis is due to his consumption of alcohol.

Upanidhi

The fourth prakarana is Upanidhi or safe deposits. This prakarana explains the action to be taken when there is a litigation related to deposits. Those who go on a yatra might hand over their valuables for safe custody until they return. There are different types of deposits. In one variety, the person does not disclose what is being given and that is अनाख्यात. The one where it is mentioned is called आख्यात. In such transactions, it is important to have a witness or Saakshi. In the other variety called यथास्थिति – the house is not physically handed over. It remains in its place. But the care-taker will ensure its safety in the owner’s absence.  In the fourth variety लेख्य, a list is prepared of the things that are being handed over for safe-keeping.

Saakshi

The next prakarana is about Saakshi or witness. सर्वे सर्वासु वा पुनः | The person in the same or higher Jathi or samskraara is to be taken as Saakshi. i.e., for Brahmana, another Brahmana is to be called and not a Kshatriya. The person from a lower jathi might give wrong witness out of respect for the person in the higher jathi. He refers to people in higher jathi as प्रतिलोमः and those in lower jathi as अनुलोमः | Children below 8, women and old men above 80 do not have the right to be a witness. (Side note: In those days, the eight years old boy would go to gurukula and have the required maturity). Those who are involved in risky professions are not allowed to be a witness. The vaadi and the prativaadi could bring witnesses. The King could chose whom to question. उभयानुमतः साक्षी भवत्येकोऽपि धर्मवित् – २.७२ Just one person who is a common witness for both parties is sufficient if that person is adheres to Dharma. Else, there has to be three or five and in the extreme cases upto 7 witnesses could be there. तपस्विनो दानशीलाः कुलीनाः सत्यवादिनः | धर्मप्रधाना ऋजवः पुत्रवन्तो धनान्विताः ॥२.६८॥ Those who are committed, those who are broad-minded, those who are born in a good family, truthful, having dharmic ideals – such people having rujatva quality – i.e., union of speech, mind and action. The people coming should have children and sufficient wealth – such people will hesitate to commit sins and will not fall for money.  Mentally retarded or handicapped like visually impaired person, etc. cannot be taken as a witness. Friends and people in the same profession should not come as a witness. Based on the context, if situation demands, these rules could be relaxed and there can be exceptions. The dharmic witness धर्म शाक्षी is considered to be the best form of witness. [Side note: Once there was a saint called Indiresha Vitala Dasar. He had lost his eyes. Once a thief leaves some stolen items in his hands and he escapes. The Dasar gets caught from the theft.  When asked to produce a witnesses, the Dasar says that only Lord Thimmappa should come as witness. In the King’s dream, Lord Srinivasa tells the king that his devotee is innocent].

लेख्य

The last prakarana is about written documents called लेख्य prakarana. All the transactions of the king whether general or special, should have proper written documentation. The record has to be written in the presence of a witness. The important aspects to be captured mandatorily in the document are the year, the month, the thithi, the nakshatra, the day of the week, (i.e., panchaanga – vaara, tithi, nakshatra, yoga, and karana, along with samvatsara and sthaana) the place, and the day of the transaction and the personal details about the borrower and the lender like the gotra, nakshatra, age, etc.

The document should not be spoiled by oil or turmeric. भिन्ने दग्धेऽथवा छिन्ने लेख्यं अन्यत्तु कारयेत् ॥२.९१॥ If it is torn or damaged or burnt, a new one has to be prepared in the presence of some respectable witness. Both the parties should understand and sign it and both parties should have the witness.

Yajnavalkya concludes his work saying that the king should resolve all the cases without deviating from the dharmic principles. The verdict should be based on the code of conduct or the injunctions of dharma.

[Side note: During Srinivasa Kalyana, when Kubera comes to collect his loan, he mentions that the first witness was the Ashwatta Vruksha and the second witness was the Sun].

Reference material

  1. https://sa.wikibooks.org/s/la
    https://sa.wikibooks.org/s/lb
    https://sa.wikibooks.org/s/l9
    याज्ञवल्क्यस्मृतिः
  2. https://archive.org/stream/yajnavalkyasmrit00yj
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