In his column What exactly is the Manusmriti?, Devdutt Pattanaik makes the following claim.

Of the nearly 2,500 verses, more than a thousand are for brahmins, more than a thousand for kings, statecraft and governance, only eight for vaishyas and two for shudras. Clearly, the focus is not the entire society, but the brahmins, and their relationship with the kings.

What are those 10 verses which are meant for vaiśyas and śūdras?

  • Devdutt Pattanaik is the new guru like Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhava. He writes widely about various aspects and texts of Sanatana Dharma, but in most places his opinions need to be supported. While not disputing his claim, why couldn't he have specified the verses, after all ten verses should not take more than a few lines. Obviously this question will lead to opinion based answers and is not ikely to satisfactorily settle the query. – Suresh Ramaswamy yesterday
  • Check the answer I posted below. Took a bit of research, but I now know which verses he's referring to. @SureshRamaswamy – sv. 22 hours ago
  • 'but in most places his opinions need to be supported' - agree, my question is essentially asking for the sources. I made an assumption that his sources are correct. 'why couldn't he have specified the verses' - not sure but I guess to keep the newspaper article/blog post short? 'Obviously this question will lead to opinion based answers' - how so? There are tons of questions on this site asking for references to verses, stories and anecdotes quoted by acharyas in their commentaries. Should we close those questions as well because it may lead to 'opinion-based answers'? – sv. 21 hours ago

From Wikipedia, the author of that article - Devdutt_Pattanaik is an Indian author known for fictional work and interpretations of ancient Indian scriptures

Someone with a scientific bent of mind would not 'believe at first sight' that there are only ten. They would ask 'Are there 10 verses..' instead of 'What are the 10 verses..'

Any case, the list of verses meant for Vaisya & Sudra are several.

You can easily look up Manu Smriti english translation, hit Ctrl+F and search for 'Vaisya' or 'Sudra', which took me literally 1 minute, and I found 16 matches for Vaisya and 11 matches for Sudra in https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/manu/manu02.htm

There are many more in rest of chapters.
Also, many injunctions are common for all varnas, so it's not 'only for Brahmanas'.

Just to pick one of the several silly claims made by him:

Manusmriti is a code of conduct put together by brahmins

Manusmriti was composed by Manu, who was a Kshatriya, not a Brahmana.
There are way too many other misconceptions in that article to waste time correcting them.

Clearly, that fellow has not read Manu Smriti, yet makes random claims about it.

  • According to Parashara Smriti Manu just recalls all the laws at beginning of a Kalpa. So, he is not exactly the composer. – Rickross Nov 8 at 12:50
  • @Rickross, yes. the same is said of Brahma 'Yatha Purvam Akalpayat' - he creates universe as it was before. So, Brahma is also not exactly the creator, maybe the copier, yet we give him that respect because no one else did it now. Similarly Manu Smriti. Everything has been done before, but the one who does it now is given the title. – ram Nov 8 at 19:24

I am not sure what he means by saying that "there are only two verses for the Sudras". There are many more such verses which either contain instructions for a Sudra or are related to them in some way. Here are three of them for example:

2.24. Let twice-born men seek to dwell in those (above-mentioned countries); but a Sudra, distressed for subsistence, may reside anywhere

2.31. Let (the first part of) a Brahmana’s name (denote something) auspicious, a Kshatriya’s be connected with power, and a Vaisya’s with wealth, but a Sudra’s (express something) contemptible

2.62. A Brahmana is purified by water that reaches his heart, a Kshatriya by water reaching his throat, a Vaisya by water taken into his mouth, (and) a Sudra by water touched with the extremity (of his lips).

So, which one among the three verses given above does he consider as not being written for the Sudras?

Similarly, we can show that number of verses which are about/on the Vaishyas is more than eight.

The three verses given above are talking about Vaishyas too so we just need to produce six more. I have given eight more:

2.65. (The ceremony called) Kesanta (clipping the hair) is ordained for a Brahmana in the sixteenth year (from conception); for a Kshatriya, in the twenty-second; and for a Vaisya, two (years) later than that.

2.80. The Brahmana, the Kshatriya, and the Vaisya who neglect (the recitation of) that Rik-verse and the timely (performance of the) rites (prescribed for) them, will be blamed among virtuous men

2.127. Let him ask a Brahmana, on meeting him, after (his health, with the word) kusala, a Kshatriya (with the word) anamaya, a Vaisya (with the word) kshema, and a Sudra (with the word) anarogya.

2.155. The seniority of Brahmanas is from (sacred) knowledge, that of Kshatriyas from valour, that of Vaisyas from wealth in grain (and other goods), but that of Sudras alone from age

2.190. This duty is prescribed by the wise for a Brahmana only; but no such duty is ordained for a Kshatriya and a Vaisya.

3.13. It is declared that a Sudra woman alone (can be) the wife of a Sudra, she and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Vaisya, those two and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Kshatriya, those three and one of his own caste (the wives) of a Brahmana.

3.23. One may know that the first six according to the order (followed above) are lawful for a Brahmana, the four last for a Kshatriya, and the same four, excepting the Rakshasa rite, for a Vaisya and a Sudra.

3.24. The sages state that the first four are approved (in the case) of a Brahmana, one, the Rakshasa (rite in the case) of a Kshatriya, and the Asura (marriage in that) of a Vaisya and of a Sudra.

So, either we are not understanding what he is trying to say or he himself has got it all wrong.

Pattanaik appears to be quoting from Patrick Olivelle's translation of Manusmṛti but does not quote him fully.

Olivelle first presents an overall schematic of the Manu in the introduction to his translation, then goes on to argue that in the Rules of Action in Normal Times, only 10 verses are allocated exclusively to vaiśyas and śūdras.

We can then view the overall structure of the MDh schematically:

  1. Origin of the World: 1.1–119
  2. Sources of the Law: 2.1–24
  3. Dharma of the Four Social Classes: 2.25–11.266

    3.1. Rules Relating to Law: 2.25–10.131

    3.1.1. Rules of Action in Normal Times: 2.26–9-336

    3.1.1.1. Fourfold Dharma of a Brahmin: 2.26–6.97
    I have explained to you above the fourfold Law of Brahmins, a Law that is holy and brings imperishable rewards after death. Listen now to the Law of kings. (6.97)

    3.1.1.2. Rules of Action for a King: 7.1–9-325
    I have described above in its entirety the eternal rules of action for the king. What follows, one should understand, are the rules of action for the Vaiśya and the Śūdra in their proper order. (9.325)

    3.1.1.3. Rules of Action for Vaiśyas & Śūdras: 9-325–36
    I have described above the splendid rules of action for the social classes outside times of adversity. Listen now to the rules for them in the proper order for times of adversity. (9.336)

    3.1.2. Rules of Action in Times of Adversity: 10.1–129

    3.2. Rules Relating to Penance: 11.1–265
  4. Determination Regarding Engagement in Action (karmayoga): 12.3–116

    4.1. Fruits of Action: 12.3–81

    4.2. Rules of Action for Supreme Good: 12.83–115

...

The Rules for Vaiśyas and Śūdras

Manu's discussion of Vaiśyas and Śūdras, the last two of the social classes, is extraordinarily brief. Eight verses are devoted to the Vaiśya and just two to the Śūdra. Even granting that, according to the ritual principle of parsimony discussed earlier, much of the material for these two classes was included in the discussion of the Brahmin, one would have expected something more than just ten verses.

The reason for this brevity is unclear, but I think it must be understood within the context of the socio-political motives behind Manu's composition. Simply put, Manu's interest lay not in the lower classes of society, which he considered to be an ever-present threat to the dominance of the upper classes, but in the interaction between the political power and Brahmanical priestly interests, interests that were under constant threat ranging from the Asokan imperial polity to the foreign invasions around the turn of the millennium.

Anyway, here are those 10 verses (9.326-9.335) that he's referring to:

Section XLIII - Duties of the Vaiśya and the Śūdra

After having his sacraments performed, the Vaiśya shall take a wife and apply himself entirely to agriculture and the tending of cattle.–(326)

Prajāpati, having created cattle, made them over to the Vaiśya; while to the Brāhmaṇā and the Kṣatriya he made over all creatures.–(327)

The Vaiśya shall never conceive the wish–‘I will not tend cattle;’ and so long as the Vaiśya is willing, they should not be tended by any one else.–(328)

He shall find out the relative value of gems, pearls, corals, metals, woven cloths, perfumes and condiments.–(329)

He should be acquainted with the manner of sowing seeds, with the good and bad qualities of the soil; he should know all kinds of weights and measures.–(330)

Also the excellences and defects of commodities, the advantages and disadvantages relating to countries, the profit and loss on merchandise and also cattle-breeding.–(331)

He shall know also the wages of servants, the several languages of men, the manner of keeping goods, and also their purchase and sale.–(332)

He shall put forth his best efforts towards increasing his property in a righteous manner; and he shall zealously give food to all beings.–(333)


For the Śūdra the highest duty conducive to his best welfare is to attend upon such Brāhmaṇa house-holders as are learned in the Vedas and famous.–(334)

If he is pure, attendant upon his superiors, of gentle speech, free from pride, and always dependent upon the Brāhmaṇa,–he attains a higher caste.–(335)

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    Downvoting an answer without any comments particularly when it is showing hard work and probably has made the correct observation too is very bad. This is the only thing that angers me.. :P – Rickross Nov 12 at 8:53
  • There is a serial downvoter who's downvoting all my posts. But that doesn't bother me. @Rickross – sv. Nov 12 at 18:28
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    Oh then you can complain on Meta. Mods can intervene and undo the unfair voting if that has happened. Whatever it is, this trend of casting downvotes without giving any reasons is just disgusting. – Rickross Nov 13 at 6:31
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    There is a serial downvoter who's downvoting all my posts --- Yes I hv chkd that just now. People are downvoting questions which don't deserve any. This shd be complained about on Meta IMO. Unfortunately for all those posts I hv already upvoted so can't do anything to compensate. – Rickross Nov 13 at 7:02
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    It's not only about the downvotes that he got on his recent Qs. There are a few very good Qs by him that also got downvoted along with. For eg - What is hinduism's view on abortion? a good Q got downvoted recently. Is staying aloof in a moral crisis a sin? - another grt Q got downvoted on the same day. So, that's why @sv. is thinking that he is a victim of unfair voting. I am very good at finding out who downvotes what :P and I probably know who has downvoted those two good Qs from sv. ram – Rickross yesterday

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