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In Abrahamic religions, owning both ordinary and sex slaves was legal. What do Hindu scriptures say about owning people as slaves? Did Rama and Krishna free any slaves?

  • There were no slaves in the Hindu world like the equivalent of it in the western world. – user1195 Oct 15 '16 at 2:22
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    There was no slavery in Hinduism (Vedanta). I think you may be asking about slavery in Indian culture, not Hinduism. – Swami Vishwananda Oct 15 '16 at 5:32
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    India , where most followers of Hinduism are ,never attacked any other country since from past. And nor captured people to make them slaves by using force .So the case with Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma naturally . – SwiftPushkar Oct 15 '16 at 7:05
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    @Pythagorean Mystic Devadaasi system was a social . practice. – Narasimham Oct 15 '16 at 21:59
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There were no slaves in the Hindu world like the equivalent of it in the western world

The above statement is true.But we do have the concept of "dasa/dasi" or servants or (some translate it as) slaves.But they are not the same as say sex slaves or war slaves."Servant" is the more proper word here not "slave".

The dasa or dasis are there to help the householder in his daily duties/chores.In return they get shelter,wages,fooding etc.

Few references of slaves/servants/dasa/bhritya from Scriptures are given below:

8.363. Yet he who secretly converses with such women, or with female slaves kept by one (master), and with female ascetics, shall be compelled to pay a small fine.(Manu smriti)

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4.180. With his father and his mother, with female relatives, with a brother, with his son and his wife, with his daughter and with his slaves, let him not have quarrels.(Manu smriti)

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The following verse also shows that the dasas(servants/slaves) are to be treated with due respect:

3.116. After the Brahmanas, the kinsmen, and the servants have dined, the householder and his wife may afterwards eat what remains.(Manu Smriti).

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I have found further references in Parashara Smriti as well.

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    Slave is not a true translation of the word dasa/dasi. So, the references do not portray an accurate picture. – user1195 Oct 15 '16 at 12:58
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    I already mentioned that in the answer itself.Nothing more to explain."Servant" is more appropriate than "slave" . – Rickross Oct 15 '16 at 14:11
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No, Hinduism forbids forced slavery, i.e. enslaving of others.

Verses from various Dharma Shastras:

Nārada (Theft, 28).—‘he who steals a man shall have to pay the highest fine; he who steals a woman shall be deprived of his entire wealth; and he who steals a maiden shall suffer corporal punishment.’

Bṛhaspati (22. 27-28).—‘In the case of women, men, gold, gems, the property of a deity or a Brāhmaṇa, silk and other precious things, the fine shall be equal to the value of the article stolen; or double that amount shall he inflicted as fine; or the thief shall be executed.’

Do. (22.18; Vivādaratnākara, p. 317)—‘Those who steal human beings should be burnt by the slow fire of chaff.’

Vyāsa (Do.).—‘The stealer of women shall be burnt on an iron bed by the slow fire of chaff; the stealer of man should have his hands and feet cut off and then exposed on the road-crossing. He who steals a man should he fined the highest amercement; he who steals a woman should have his entire property confiscated; and he who steals a maiden shall he put to death.’

Śaṅkha-Likhita (Do., p. 318).—‘For stealing a king’s son, the fine is 108 kārṣāpaṇas, or corporal punishment; half of that for stealing persons of the royal family, or of men and women in general.’

Also, those who have already been enslaved by force, should be liberated by a king, from the Vivada Chintamani of Vācaspati Miśra:

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However, there are other ways one can enter slavery according to the Manusmriti:

There are seven kinds of slaves—(1) captured under a banner, (2) slave on food, (3) born in the house, (4) bought, (5) presented, (6) hereditary, and (7) slave by punishment.—(8.415)

Above it has been cited that forced slavery is immoral, but why is this verse allowing it? The commentator Medhatithi answers:

Hence, ‘Dhvajinī’ means the army; he who is captured ‘under the banner’ is the captive of war, who is made a slave.

“What is stated here,—does it refer to the Kṣatriya,—the meaning being that the Kṣatriya made captive in war becomes a slave?”

Not so, we reply; since it is the Śūdra that forms the subject-matter of the context; as is clear from the preceding statement—‘it is for the purpose of servitude that he has been created.’ What the text refers to is the case where the owner of the slave having been defeated in battle, the slave is brought over and enslaved by the captor.

The next verse says even the wife and the son are "slaves" to the father:

The wive, the son and the slave,—these three are declared to have no property; whatever they acquire is the property of him to whom they belong.—(416)

Also, there is a difference between slavery and servitude according to Narada:

All this however is not right. ‘Serving’ is one thing and ‘slavery’ is another. Slavery consists in doing servile work, and in not objecting to going anywhere he may be sent to; while ‘service’ may consist in shampooing the body, guarding the family or property and so forth. All this has been dealt with in detail by Nārada.

And here Medhatithi is saying that the duty of Shudras is servitude and not slavery:

“When the Śūdra works as a slave entirely through considerations of his duty, why should there be only seven kinds of slaves?”

There is no force in this objection. Because in his case ‘slavery’ is not innate in him; it is purely voluntary wish him; he having recourse to it only with a view to acquiring merit. And further, such a slave cannot be given away or pledged;—as the bought and house-born slaves can. In fact the Śūdra in question is guided by what has been declared (under 10.128) regarding the Śūdra ‘imitating the behaviour of the virtuous, etc., etc.’; and by this it is clearly implied that slavery is not inherent in him; he takes to it only with a view to a definite result. Hence there is real ‘slavery’ only when it is involuntary. So that if a Śūdra has property of his own and lives upon it, not supporting himself by depending upon the Brāhmaṇa and others, he does nothing wrong.

  • What about this? – “What is the difference between this last and the slave born in the house?” The latter is one born of a slave-girl that may have been acquired by the master himself, while the other is hereditary. – so slavery is only limited to śūdras? – sv. Jan 25 at 18:21
  • @sv. And what about that verse you cited? You want clarification? – Ikshvaku Jan 25 at 18:27
  • @sv. Everyone can enter slavery except Brahmanas: archive.org/details/vivadachintamani00vcas/page/94 – Ikshvaku Jan 25 at 18:28
  • Why are Brāhmaṇas excluded? Manu says: "In fact, according to some people, such slaves are possible for the other castes also, in view of what has been said regarding the propriety of repaying a debt even by manual labour." What is done with a Brāhmaṇa who cannot repay a debt? – sv. Jan 25 at 18:57
  • @sv. Good question.I think "other castes also" in that quote means Kshatriyas and Vaishyas too. But for Brahmanas, I'm not sure. Maybe you can punish him in other ways like deporting him until he pays his debt. – Ikshvaku Jan 25 at 19:01

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