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This is a chicken-and-egg problem.

Did the dharma śāstras and smṛtis come first and then people started following them or people already had some unwritten rules and they were then codified into formal laws like the Manusmṛti?

Please note the tag below and answer this from a historical standpoint.

  • what do you mean by dharma sastras - sruti? – Swami Vishwananda Feb 5 at 4:14
  • We can find historical perspective on this in "History Of Dharmasastra's by P V Kane." but considering the length of the text (volumes) its difficult to find exact passages. – SwiftPushkar Feb 5 at 7:26
  • @SwamiVishwananda en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma%C5%9B%C4%81stra – sv. Feb 5 at 16:38
  • @SwiftPushkar That's a great book, I read bits and pieces of it. – sv. Feb 5 at 16:39
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The Smritis or the Laws came first.

Parshara Smriti states that at the beginning of a new Kalpa Manu simply recalls the laws.

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)

ParAshara Smriti 1.21

It does not say that Manu creates .. he simply recalls the already existing laws.

But human beings were created much later, by the descendants of Manu, as the following verse confirms:

Manu Smriti 1.61. Six other high-minded, very powerful Manus, who belong to the race of this Manu, the descendant of the Self-existent (Svayambhu), and who have severally produced created beings,

  • I was hoping for an answer that didn't involve kalpas/yugas/divinity. The history tag was a euphemism for that :) – sv. Feb 5 at 16:43
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    But if I can answer from scriptures, as I hv done, then I shd be allowed to do so... It is not a chicken-egg problem if u think human beings composed the laws .. coz then humans came first and then the laws .. But going by the scriptures it's the other way .. @sv. – Rickross Feb 6 at 6:21

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