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Who was the author of the Manusmriti?

Now many of you might say "Manu", but it's actually not quite clear from the text itself.

First of all, the word "Manusmriti" means "recollection of Manu", where "smriti" means "recollection."

And second, the first line of Medhatithi's Manuscript of the Manusmriti says this:

The Great Sages, having approached Manu, paid their respect to him in due form, and finding him seated with mind calm and collected, addressed him these words—(1).

And the last verse:

The twice-born man who reads these Ordinances of Manu, shall be ever equipped with virtue and shall attain whatever state he may desire.—(126)

It's referring to Manu in the 3rd person, which means that Manu did not write the verses of the Manusmriti.

If you continue reading, you'll notice that the Manusmriti reads like a story with a certain narrator.

So who was this narrator who wrote the Manusmriti?

From scripture, we know that Valmiki wrote the Ramayana and Vyasa narrated the Mahabharata, which was penned by Ganesha.

But who wrote or penned the Manusmriti?

According to Medhatithi on this Manusmriti verse which talks about the nature of the Dharma Shastras, he says the words of Manu were recorded in an "unbroken lineage."

Which basically means this, according to Indologists:

enter image description here

  • Do you want the traditional answer or the historical one? If you don't care for what indologists think, how is that image at the bottom relevant to your question? – sv. Jan 23 at 21:58
  • @sv. Sorry, I mean Manusmriti, not dharmashastras. – Ikshvaku Jan 23 at 22:01
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    You hv selected an answer that says the author of Manu Smriti is Bhrigu!! .. – Rickross Feb 2 at 11:52
  • I hv updated my answer .. and needless to say that the author is most definitely not Bhrigu @Ikshvaku – Rickross Feb 26 at 16:33
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So who was this narrator who wrote the Manusmriti?

It depends on whether you are looking for the traditional answer or an academic (non-faith) scholarly opinion. Based on your citing the example of Vyasa/Ganesha for the Mahabharata, it appears you are looking for the former.

In that case, the narrator of the Manu-Smriti is Bhrigu Maharshi.

If you look at the ending colophon of every chapter in the Manu-Smriti, it says:

iti mānave dharmaśāstre bhṛgu-proktāyāṃ saṃhitāyām

meaning that the Mānave dharmaśāstra is from the Saṃhitā spoken by Bhṛgu.

Here's an example from the end of the first chapter (version edited by Mahamahopadhyaya Ganganatha Jha)

enter image description here

To be clear, the Manu Smriti is a smaller portion of the Bhrigu Samhita that is authored by Bhrigu. It is not clear if Bhrigu quotes Manu verbatim or whether he is paraphrasing / summarizing / rewording the content of what Manu spoke. This is not very different from the Bhagavad Gita (words of Krishna) appearing in the Mahabharata (written by Vyasa).

  • But who wrote or spoke the words "iti mānave dharmaśāstre bhṛgu-proktāyāṃ saṃhitāyām," clearly it can't be Bhrigu; it would also be odd if Manu said that. So someone receiving the conversation between Manu and Bhrigu must have said that. – Ikshvaku Jan 23 at 22:20
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    If Bhrigu was the author then why is it called Manu Samhita and not Bhrigu Samhita? If Manu speaking the laws does not imply that he is the author then how does Bhrigu speaking the laws imply that Bhrigu is the author? – Rickross Jan 24 at 6:01
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    @Ikshvaku A colophon is inserted by the editor of a manuscript. Presumably, in the past when texts were preserved in leaf manuscripts, they would bundle chapters together. The colophon would identify the book and author of the chapter. You will find colophons in the Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. These are not written by the author. In this case, the editor of the ManuSmriti manuscript has said in the colophon "Thus ends the first chapter from the Maanava Dharma Shastra from the Samhita spoken by Bhrigu". Just like the Gita is a portion of the Mahabharata, the MS is a portion of the BhriguSamhita. – hashable Jan 24 at 19:00
  • @Rickross Samhita just means a collection. There is nothing that prevents Manu Samhita from being a part of Bhrigu Samhita. Also, it is not completely obvious if Bhrigu is quoting Manu verbatim or paraphrasing him whenever he is talking about Manu's words. Also here the term "author" means author of the work in which the MS is included as a part just like the Gita is included in the Mahabharata. I have clarified this in the answer. – hashable Jan 24 at 21:06
  • Your answer does not prove that any person is the author whether it is Manu or Bhrigu and Bhrigu certainly is not the author... because it is Manu who recalls the laws at the beginning of every Kalpa.. attribution of any sort goes to Manu only ... although it is not at all clear whether he himself "composed" the laws or not ..@hashable – Rickross Jan 25 at 6:39
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Manu Smriti does not mention whether the laws are composed by someone or not. It is somewhat addressed in the following verse from Parashara Smriti:

Na kashchitvedakartA cha vedam smritvA chaturmukham |
Tathaiva dharmAn smarati manuh kalpAntareantare ||

The author of the Veda there is none ; (he) the fourfaced (God), at each succeeding revolution of a Kalpa, recalls to mind the Veda ; and so does Manu remember the law (at each succeeding revolution of a Kalpa)

PS 1.21

Since Veda's authorlessness and Manu's recalling of the laws are mentioned together here, this is, IMO, hinting towards the fact that the laws are eternal as well in nature and eventually of a divine origin.

And, Manu simply does the job of recalling the laws which were sprouted from God.

Also, we have the following verse from Yajnavalkya Smriti's 1st chapter:

enter image description here

Manu, Atri, Vishnu, Harita, Yajnavalkya, Usana (or Shukracharya), Angira, Yama, Apastambha, Samvarta, Katyana, Vrihaspati, Parashara, Vyasa, Sankha, Likhita, Daksha, Gotama, Satatapa and Vashishta are the promulgators of Dharma Shastras (Smritis).

The exact word used in the Sanskrit original is DharmashAstrayojakA and not DharmashAstra rachaitA (which means authors of the Dharma Shastras).

Various meanings for the word Yojaka can be found from a dictionary and are as follows:

connectors, hyphen, arranger, user, preparer, manager etc ...

So, it seems they (including Manu) were not the authors of the respective texts but mere compilers/arrangers of the laws which eventually has a divine origin.

UPDATE:

Manu Smriti itself shows the "divine" nature of the laws contained there in.

Needless to say, Bhrigu, who was the son of Manu, was not the author of Manu Smriti.

See the following verses:

Manu Smriti 1.57. Thus he, the imperishable one, by (alternately) waking and slumbering, incessantly revivifies and destroys this whole movable and immovable (creation)

1.58. But he having composed these Institutes (of the sacred law), himself taught them, according to the rule, to me alone in the beginning; next I (taught them) to Mariki and the other sages.

1.59. Bhrigu, here, will fully recite to you these Institutes; for that sage learned the whole in its entirety from me.

The imperishable one composed the laws - this shows the divine nature of the laws, as was also evident from Parashara's quote which says Manu simply recalls them

Also, what Bhrigu was doing is simply narrating the laws. He was not the author of the laws.

  • This IS the answer. – user17294 Feb 23 at 16:47
  • But the slokas quoted in devanagari are having some minor mistakes.And the last word of the fourth line is missing a letter.Kindly check – user17294 Feb 23 at 16:50
  • धर्मशास्त्रयोजकाः is having seven letters whereas in anustup there should be eight letters in each half as they are in the other parts of the slokas. – user17294 Feb 23 at 16:55
  • Okay bro @Partha will hv to chk .. also I'm simply quoting from a PDf .. – Rickross Feb 24 at 7:41

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