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In Sukra Neethi (followed by Rakshasas Mahabali, Prahlada) it is stated that there are certain circumstances under which lying has a licence (e.g., where women are concerned, where marriages have have to be fixed, when there is a threat for life that needs to be saved, loss of money or modesty of women). Sukracharya defended lying to protect Mahabali's life right before MahaVishnu as Vamanavathar. (But Bali emperor declined saying life after lying and denying Vishnu's direct request is worthless ... but that is besides the point).

The only glaring case I know is by Dharmaraja when he (half) lied to create a false impression that Ashwathhama already died in Kurukshetra battle, motive to deactivate/kill Drona.

Maintaining honesty for small things and resorting to lying conveniently when stakes are high to save the situation as in above serious threat situations sounds contradictory as regards commitment to absolute integrity... If it has sanction of Dharma then the entire group behavior may be looked down upon.

In the hoary scriptures untruth has been equated with violence and this has been brought forth as a political force in recent times by Gandhiji.

In WW II time Goebbelian propaganda and modern times disinformation using the media is resorted to for political purposes.

So is there a common guidance in our scriptures where provision is made in extra-ordinary situations when it is okay to utter or propagate untruths?

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In certain circumstances it is allowed. For example:

Manu Smriti 8.103. In (some) cases a man who, though knowing (the facts to be) different, gives such (false evidence) from a pious motive, does not lose heaven; such (evidence) they call the speech of the gods.

Manu Smriti 8.104. Whenever the death of a Sudra, of a Vaisya, of a Kshatriya, or of a Brahmana would be (caused) by a declaration of the truth, a falsehood may be spoken; for such (falsehood) is preferable to the truth.

Apart from that, we also have the following verse:

Manu Smriti 8.112. No crime, causing loss of caste, is committed by swearing (falsely) to women, the objects of one’s desire, at marriages, for the sake of fodder for a cow, or of fuel, and in (order to show) favour to a Brahmana.

But, in general, the practice is abhorred thoroughly throughout scriptures.

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Yes , another reference about your enquiry can also be found in Srimad-Bhagavatam. - Skandha 8 –chapter 19 –Verse 43. As stated by you here Shukracharya is advising Bali and trying to forbade Bali from to fulfilling Vamana’s request.

Here is the conditional verse -:

स्त्रीषु नर्मविवाहे च वृत्यर्थे प्राणसंकटे |
गोब्राह्मणार्थे हिंसायां नानृतं स्याज्जुगुप्सितम् ||43||

strīṣu narma-vivāhe ca vṛtty-arthe prāṇa-saṅkaṭe
go-brāhmaṇārthe hiṁsāyāṁ nānṛtaṁ syāj jugupsitam

In flattering a woman to bring her under control, in joking, in a marriage ceremony, in earning one’s livelihood, when one’s life is in danger, in protecting cows and brahminical culture, or in protecting a person from an enemy’s hand, falsity is never condemned.SB 8.19.43


अत्रापि बह्वृचैगितं श्रुणु मेSसुरसत्तम |
सत्यमोमिति यत् प्रोक्तं यन्नेत्याहानृतं हि तत् ||38|

atrāpi bahvṛcair gītaṁ śṛṇu me ’sura-sattama
satyam om iti yat proktaṁ yan nety āhānṛtaṁ hi tat

One might argue that since you have already promised, how can you refuse? O best of the demons, just take from me the evidence of the Bahvṛca-śruti, which says that a promise is truthful preceded by the word on and untruthful if not.SB 8.19.38

Here what Shukra is simply saying is that Saying “YES” is truth and negation is untruth , which is explained in other verses next to it.

But this does not mean that Hindu scripture at all giving free pass and sanctioning falsehood OR is saying that it is okay to utter or propagate untruths. But highly restricted to some specific conditions as stated above.

  • Where is joking written in Sanskrit version? – Anubhav Goel Jan 14 at 20:57
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This is already covered here:

Govinda, knowing that Drona, that foremost of warriors, was capable of sweeping all the Pandavas off the face of the earth, became much distressed. Addressing Yudhishthira he said, 'If Drona fighteth, filled with rage, for even half-a-day, I tell thee truly, thy army will then be annihilated. Save us, then, from Drona. under such circumstances, falsehood is better than truth. By telling an untruth for saving a life, one is not touched by sin. There is no sin in untruth spoken unto women, or in marriages, or for saving king, or for rescuing a Brahmana.


Behold, however, truth as practised is exceedingly difficult to be understood as regards its essential attributes. Truth may be unutterable, and even falsehood may be utterable where falsehood would become truth and truth would become falsehood.


On an occasion of marriage, or of enjoying a woman, or when life is in danger, or when one's entire property is about to be taken away, or for the sake of a BrAhmana, falsehood may be uttered.

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