Manu, Code of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Manu, Code of


(Sanskrit, Manava Dharma Shastra), an ancient Hindu collection of rules of conduct in private and social life according to the system of views and the religious dogmas of Brahmanism that were dominant in ancient Indian slaveholding society.

Hindu tradition ascribes the compilation of the code to the mythical progenitor of the human race, Manu. The Code of Manu was written in Sanskrit and contains 2,650 couplets (slokas) divided into 12 books. The first book contains ancient Hindu ideas about the origin of the universe, human society, and social castes (varnas). The second book provides rules of conduct for students. The third and fourth books contain rules of conduct for the householder (marriage customs, religious rites). The sixth book gives the rules for ascetic life. The seventh deals with the duties of kings and the government of the state. The eighth book describes legal procedure and law practice. The ninth and tenth books are devoted to family relations, punishments for different crimes, and rules for members of the varnas. The 11th book deals with penance and vows for the atonement of sins. The 12th book describes the retribution in the afterlife for bad deeds in the present life.

The Code of Manu, in its extant form, must have been compiled between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D. The greater part of the code dates from the time of the Mauryan Empire, that is, from the fourth to the second century B.C.; however, all books contain more ancient material. The Code of Manu is a valuable source for the study of the social and economic history and culture of ancient India.


Manava-dharmasastra: The Code of Manu. Critically edited by J. E. Jolly. London, 1887.
Zakony Manu. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from Sanskrit.)


Kane, P. V. History of Dharmasastra, vols. 1-5. Poona, 1930-58.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.