Can someone clarify my doubts about some of the translations of the following verses I have read on this forum?

Shloka 1:

मैथुनं तु समासेव्य पुंसि योषिति वा द्विजः । गोयानेऽप्सु दिवा चैव सवासाः स्नानमाचरेत् ॥ १७४ ॥ (Manu Smriti)

It is claimed that this means that 'unnatural' sex with a man and 'sex with a woman on a cart' requires repentance. However, it seems the actual text only says that 'sex with a man or a woman on a cart, or in water, or during the day' requires repentance.

Shloka 2:

ब्राह्मणस्य रुजः कृत्वा घ्रातिरघ्रेयमद्ययोः । जैह्म्यं च मैथुनं पुंसि जातिभ्रंशकरं स्मृतम् ॥ ६७ ॥ (Manu Smriti)

It is claimed that this penalises 'sexual intercourse with a man,' ..... however, we don't have the context here. How do we know it is talking about the sexual intercourse of a man with a man. It could be talking about sexual intercourse of a woman with a man under certain conditions. Also, if the context proves that this indeed is talking about sexual intercourse between any two men under any circumstances, how does it mean that it proscribes 'homosexuality' by itself, since it does not penalise other kinds of sexual acts between two men and only talks about Sodomy.

Kindly Clarify

2 Answers 2


Shloka 1

As translated by Jha:

11.174. If a twice-born man commits an unnatural offence with a male, or has intercourse with a female, in an ox-cart, or in water, or during the day, he should take a bath along with his clothes.

I don't take this as referring to homosexuality because intercourse is mentioned in the context of a female, whereas male is mentioned in the context of an "unnatural offence". Aside from this, it doesn't make much sense. What's the significance of committing an unnatural offence or having intercourse in an ox-cart or in water during the day? We don't have that context.

It could also mean if a man has sex with a woman other than a twice-born (maithunaṃ tu samāsevya puṃsi yoṣiti vā dvijaḥ). You could also take it as a man or () woman who has sex with a twice-born. In the current context, the second part of the verse sounds like repentance or cleansing. But, maithunaṃ does not only mean sexual intercourse. Literally, it means “couple”, “pair”, “connection”, “marriage” or “union". Symbolically, it represents union of Jivatman (feminine) and Paramatman (masculine).

In this context, the second part of the shloka becomes the outcome of the marriage - being in a cart pulled by cows or abiding in water during the day, and bathing in clothes. This is also symbolic. "Ox-cart", goyāne: go means cow and yāna means "going", "journey" or "vehicle". However, go can also mean such things as ray of light or heaven. Thus, it becomes "carriage or journey to heaven".

The meaning of water (ap) ranges from being one of the five elements all the way to the divine or causal waters - one's original abode. Lastly, whilst snānam can be taken as referring to bathing in the sense of cleansing, it also refers to bathing in the waters of one's original abode - the Self. In this context, the purifying or cleansing is not of the body but the mind. The Maitreya Upanishad says,

2.2. Purifying the mind of its impurities is Snāna.

Shloka 2

Jha's translation:

11.67. Causing pain to a Brāhmaṇa—smelling at things that should not be smelt, or at wine, cheating and sexual intercourse with a man, all this is declared to lead to loss of caste.

Jaihmyaṃ ca maithunaṃ puṃsi jātibhraṃśakaraṃ smṛtam. This is what Jha translates as "cheating and sexual intercourse with a man, all this is declared to lead to loss of caste." However, jaihmyaṃ is more accurately translated as "deceit" or "falsehood". This is the primary cause of relegating oneself to a lower class.

Jha translates jāti as "caste" and puṃsi as man. It does not necessarily mean sex with a man but, rather, deceit/falsehood and sexual intercourse cause one to fall to a lower class (jāti). In this context, it is referring those practices which are Adharmic. So, it is the man (puṃsi) who is subject to the loss or falling.

Jāti can also be translated as "birth/rebirth", amongst other things, and bhraṃśa ("loss") "falling down", "decline", "decay". Essentially, destruction. These Adharmic practices have this effect. Perhaps the interpretation of jāti which highlights the impact of Adharma best is it meaning one's "genuine or true state". At birth, one is in their true state; they only fall or decline later. In other words, the state one is in at birth (the Self). It should be noted that puṃsi ("man") can also mean the Self. So the shloka is saying actions one can get entangled in and attached to. These Adharmic practices cause one to fall down from their original state; Dharma is cultivating and regaining that.

As you said, just from the translation, we don't have the context. Sanskrit words have multiple applications and meanings and this is typically overlooked in a translation where the translator has committed to only one possible context. The words can be used in a seemingly everyday context, whilst other uses of the same words can have a deeper meaning. For example, puṃsi -"man" or "Self" - or the similar 'puruṣa', also "man" and "Self".


The answer given by @Lewis makes things over-complicated.

Viṣṇusmṛti states

पुंस्ययोनावाकाशेऽप्सु दिवा गोयाने च सवासाः स्नानमाचरेत् । [53:4]

Gaṅgānātha Jhā quotes this verse as supplement for Manu:11:173. He gives the following translation

For intercourse with a man, for unnatural crime with a woman, for wasting one’s manhood in the air, or in water, or during the day, or in a ox-cart — one must bathe in his clothes.

With whatever little knowledge of basic Sanskrit was obtained, the following translation is suggested.

One must bathe with his clothes on for ejaculating in a man, in a place other than the vagina (अयोनि), in the sky (the commentator Nandapaṇḍita interprets आकाशे as आकाशऽन्तरिक्षे करव्यापारादिना which means that the term 'in the sky' refers to masturbation), in the waters, in daylight & in an ox-cart.

While the term गमन has been interpreted to mean only 'ejaculation' in this context, some authorities might interpret the same term to include 'copulation' (sexual activity without ejaculation) too.

The term 'ejaculating in a man' hasn't been interpreted in detail by any commentator in either Viṣṇusmṛti or Manusmṛti. However, 'ejacution in a man' can occur in these 3 contexts

  1. Homosexuality (sexual activity exclusively between 2 adult men)
  2. Pedophilia (sexual activity between an adult man & a pre-pubescent/pubescent boy)
  3. Prison-rape (where a physically stronger man rapes one of his weaker prison-inmates in order to satisfy his own sexual cravings. Cases where heterosexual male soldiers are well-recorded to have raped other men held captive by them in times of war as an act of asserting dominance can also be considered within this criteria.)

While translating verse that refer to 'ejaculating in a man', some people tend to restrict it's application to the 1st context, ignoring the other 2 contexts, thereby creating confusion.

Regarding homosexuality, there is very little reference to the phenomenon in Hindu literature.

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