Is the Manusmriti written to favor a particular Varṇa?


NOTE: Manusmriti critics have cherry-picked certain verses from the Manusmriti to show that Manu was unfair towards Shudras and partial towards Brahmins. The purpose of this answer is to provide the rest of the other verses that censure bad Brahmins and praise good Shudras, to show that the critics cherry-picked those verses unfairly, and that Manu is actually fair towards all castes.

In reality, the Manusmriti censures bad Brahmins and bad Shudras, and praises good Brahmins and good Shudras.

Is the Manusmriti pro-Brahmin and written by casteist Brahmins to oppress Shudras?

No, because upon a closer look at the Manusmriti, its intention is to secure the welfare of all living beings.

If the Manusmriti is pro-Brahmin, then how could it have verses like this?

8.102 - ‘He shall treat like Śūdras the Brāhmaṇas who tend cattle, who engage in trade, and who are craftsmen, actors, menial servants or money-lenders.’

(Brâhmanas) who neither study nor teach the Veda nor keep sacred fires become equal to Sûdras;

And they quote a verse of Manu on this (subject), 'A twice-born man, who not having studied the Veda applies himself to other (worldly studies), soon falls, even while living, to the condition of a Sûdra, and his descendants after him.'

'(A twice-born man) who does not know the Veda (can)not be (called) a Brâhmana, nor he who lives by trade, nor he who (lives as) an actor, nor he who obeys a Sûdra's commands, nor (he who like) a thief (takes the property of others), nor he who makes his living by the practice of medicine.'

2.103 - But he [the Dvija] who does not stand during the morning-twilight, and who does not sit through the evening-twilight, should be excluded, like the Sūdra, from all that is due to twice-born persons.

11.90 - A twice-born person, having, through folly, drunk wine, shall drink wine red-hot; he becomes freed from his guilt, when his body has been completely burnt by it.

Gautama (23.1).—‘They shall pour hot wine into the mouth of a Brāhmaṇa who has drunk wine; he will be purified by death.’

Baudhāyana (2.1.18, 19, 21).—‘If he [a Brahmana] has drunk Surā he shall scald himself to death with hot wine.

3.133 - As many mouthfuls as the person [Brahmana] ignorant of the Veda swallows out of the offerings to gods and Pitṛs [at a Sraddha], so many flaming spikes, spears and iron-balls does the man [Brahmana] swallow after death.

Hārīta (Do.).—‘Even those born of noble families and endowed with learning,—if they be of base conduct and addicted to wicked deeds,—they are even regarded as demons. Those addicted to the killing of birds, fish and deer, serpents and tortoise and other animals are all Bad Brāhmaṇas. Who serves a Śūdra, who is supported by the King, the village-sacrificer, those living by killing and capturing—these six are Low Brāhmaṇas.

5.19 - The mushroom, the village-pig, garlic, the village-cock, onions and leeks,—the twice-born man eating these intentionally would become an outcast.

5.53 - In normal times the twice-born man conversant with the law shall not eat meat unlawfully; having eaten it unlawfully, he shall, after death, be devoured by them helplessly.

5.35 - But when invited according to law, if a man [Brahmana] does not eat meat, he becomes, after death, a beast, during twenty-one births.

And many more verses. Of course, there are many verses praising Brahmanas, but as shown above, there are many verses deprecating bad Brahmanas. So, how can anti-Hindus cherry pick certain verses and portray the Manusmriti as pro-Brahmin? That is unfair, biased, and illogical.

Now let's address another related criticism.

Is the Manusmriti anti-low caste?

No it is not. Dharma is conducive to one's welfare. According to Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa Sutra 1.1.2:

Dharma is that which is indicated by the Veda as conducive to the highest good.

Therefore, how can anyone say that Dharma is wrong or evil?

Here is the Dharma of Shudras:

9.334 - 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.

9.335 - 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.

Viṣṇupurāṇa (Parāśaramādhava-Ācāra, p. 419).—‘It is only through attending upon the twice-born that the Śūdra becomes entitled to perform the Pākayajñas; and thereby becoming blessed, he wins the worlds [earth and heaven].—The Śūdra also shall make gifts, and perform the Pākayajña-sacrifices, as also the rites in honour of Pitṛs.’

Why should Shudras serve Brahmanas aside from it being their primary duty? Because according to the Mahabharata:

Mahābhārata—Anuśāsana (Do.).—‘Finding the Śūdra oppressed with bad traits due to the quality of Tamas, Pitāmaha ordained attendance upon the twice-born as his duty. Through his devotion to the twice-born, the Śūdra drops off all those traits due to the quality of Tamas; and by attending upon the twice-born, the Śūdra attains the highest good.—Harmless, devoted to good deeds, worshipful towards gods and the twice-born, the Śūdra becomes endowed with all the rewards of Dharma.’

Shudras are in fact, oppressed by the quality of Tamas, and not by serving Brahmanas! It is by serving Brahmanas that Shudras become Sattvic, and then are no longer oppressed!

Also, some rights given to Shudras that higher castes don't have:

2.23 - But the region where the spotted deer roams by nature is to be known as the ‘land fit for sacrificial acts’; beyond that is the ‘land of the Mlecchas.

2.24 - The twice-born people should seek to resort to these countries [where the spotted deer roams by nature]; the Śūdra may however, when distressed for a living, reside in any land.

10.122 - He shall serve Brāhmaṇas either for the sake of heaven, or for the sake of both; when he has attained the title of the ‘Brāhmaṇa,’ this implies the accomplishment of all his purposes.

10.124 - They [the Dvijas who are served by a Shudra] should provide out of their family, a suitable maintenance for him [the Shudra servant], after considering his own capacity, and the man’s skill and the burden of persons to be supported by him.

10.125 - Remnants of food and worn-out clothes shall be given to him; as also the grain-refuse and old furniture.

10.126 - For the Śūdra there is no sin; nor is he worthy of any sacraments; he is not entitled to any sacred rites; but there is no prohibition against sacred rites.

10.127 - If those [Shudras] who, knowing their duty, and wishing to acquire merit, imitate the practices of righteous men, with the exception of reciting the sacred texts, they incur no guilt; they obtain praise.

11.93 - Wine [Sura] indeed is the dirty refuse of grains, and sin also is called ‘dirt’; for this reason the Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya shall not drink wine [but the Shudra can].

Gautama 10.67 - If Âryans and non-Âryans interchange their occupations and conduct (the one taking that of the other, there is) equality (between them).

'There is equality between them, i.e. the one need not serve the other. A Sûdra need not serve even a Brâhmana, (much less) any other (twice-born man) who lives the life of a non-Âryan (Sûdra). A Sûdra, even, who conducts himself like an 'Âryan must not be despised by men of other castes, who follow the occupations of non-Âryans, on account of his inferior birth.'--Haradatta.

On the other hand, there are verses that seem to be anti-caste, such as these:

8.270 - If a once-born person insults a twice-born one with gross abuse, he should suffer the cutting off of his tongue; as he is of low origin.

8.271 - If he mentions the name and caste of these men with scorn, a burning iron nail ten inches long shall be thrust into his mouth.

8.272 - If through arrogance, he teaches brāhmaṇas their duty, the king shall pour heated oil into his mouth and ears.

However, these verses stand on the same footing as verses like these:

Gautama (23.1).—‘They shall pour hot wine into the mouth of a Brāhmaṇa who has drunk wine; he will be purified by death.’

11.103 - He who has violated his Preceptor’s bed shall confess his crime and lie down upon a heated iron-bed; or embrace a blazing image. By death he becomes purified.

11.104 - Or, having cut off his penis and testicles, he shall take them in his joined hands and walk straight on towards the ‘region of evil spirits,’ until he falls down [dead].

Therefore, it is not right to select some verses and say "the Manusmriti is anti-Shudra."

Therefore, the Manusmriti was not written by casteist Brahmins who wanted to oppress Shudras.

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