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Vadhula Smriti

No text by the name ‘Vadhula Dharmasutra’ is known to have ever existed, analogous to the Dharmasutras of Baudhayana, Apastamba and other Taittiriya charanas. However, a Vadhula Smriti exists, and has been published twice.

Printed Editions:

In 1988, Nag Publishers of Delhi published a collection of 56 Smrti texts, in six volumes. Vadhula Smrti is number forty-six in this collection. The edition gives no information on the manuscripts used, and no textual variants are given. The text comprises of 224 shlokas.

Recently, a critical edition has been published [CHAUBEY 2000]. This edition gives detailed information on the manuscripts used, and gives textual variants in the footnotes. The division of the text into individual shlokas is more correct, and therefore there are 233 shlokas instead of 224 in the previous edition. The major reason for this discrepancy is that the new edition considers 15 shlokas as comprising of 2 padas only, whereas the previous edition uniformly considers each individual shloka as comprised of 4 padas. Either way, the Smrti is a fairly short text and is not subdivided into chapters or other sections.

The following description of the text is based on this critical edition, and the editor’s preface to the same.

Authorship of Vadhula Smrti:

The Vadhula Smrti does not appear to be the composition of Muni Vadhula himself. It is a rather late text, composed by an adherent of the Vadhula Taittiriya Sakha of Yajurveda. Several reasons lead us to this conclusion –

First, the Smrti refers to Muni Vadhula by name and as ‘dharmavit’ and ‘munisardula’. While it is common in Indian textual tradition for the author to refer to himself in the third person in his own texts, it is rather unusual to refer to oneself in superlative terms of excellence.

Second, Vadhula Muni is one of the oldest authors of a Kalpasutra. This is evidence from the archaic language and style of the text vis-à-vis other Kalpasutra texts, and also from other literary evidence. Towards the beginning of his Prayogaklrpti,[1] the author Sivasrona quotes, from an unknown source, a shloka according to which Apastamba was a grand-disciple of Vadhula, and through Agnivesya.[2] However, the Vadhulasmrti quotes a differing opinion of Apastamba in verses 150-151.[3] While it is not impossible for one to quote differing opinions of a grand-disciple, it is quite improbable nevertheless.

Third, the Vadhulas possess a grhya text[4] named Vadhulagrhyaagamavrttirahasya, which is authored by Acharya Narayana Mishra of Sangamgrama. Numerous verses of the Vadhulasmrti are found as integral part of the vrttirahasya, which according to CHAUBEY [2000:xvi], appears to be older than the Vadhulasmrti. However, this is merely a conjecture, and no certain conclusion can be made from this particular piece of evidence.

Fourth, Vadhulasmrti is often omitted in lists enumerating authoritative smrtis. For instance, the tradition list of eighteen canonical Dharmasastras do not mention Vadhulasmrti. Alberuni names twenty-six smrtis but does not name Vadhula’s works. Numerous medieval Dharma-digests, such as the Smrtichandrika (13th century C.E.) do not mention although verses occurring in the Vadhulasmrti are cited but attributed to other Sages such as Manu, Yajnavalkya, Yama etc. Again, this is merely an argumentum e silentio, and is not conclusive, though suggestive. Curiously, P. V. Kane also does not mention Vadhulasmrti in his magnum opus on the history of dharmashastra. Perhaps, he was not aware of the existence of independent manuscripts of this text.

Fifth, the Vadhulasmrti is distinctly a Vaishnava text.[5] It directs the pious to sing the praises of Lord Vishnu upon waking up in the morning (shloka 4), specific statements deal with the partaking of the washings of Sri Vishnu’s icon (e.g., shloka 32), rules for different varnas for wearing the tripundra (shloka 101ff.) are given in great detail, meditation on Sri Vishnu during Brahmayajna together with a recitation of the Purushasukta (Rgveda 10.90) is enjoined (shloka 161) and so on.

Sixth, it relates some rules on untouchability, which are conspicuous by their absence per se in ancient Smrtis.

Seventh, the Mahopanishad is cited as an authority for declaring the virtues of wearing the Urdhvapundra (shloka 103). This Upanishad itself is typically dated after 500 C.E.

Many other reasons could be cited, but the above are sufficient to conclude that the Vadhulasmrti is a recent text, and is definitely not the composition of the same Muni who is linked to the authorship of Vadhula Kalpasutra.

Relationship of Vadhulasmrti to Taittiriya Sakha:

Numerous conclusive indications are available that connect our text with Taittiriya Yajurveda. From an examination of the text, it is certain that it belongs to the Vadhula branch of Taittiriya Yajurvedins.

First, manuscripts of the text are found in conjunction with manuscripts of other Vadhula texts (such as Vadhula Srautasutra).

Second, the three conditions whereby an ‘aatmarudha’ destroys his interiorized sacred fires are derived from Vadhula Anvakhyana 6.15.8

Third, Vadhulasmrti rubricates numerous Vedic mantras for ablutions, expiations and atonements etc., in verses 21, 79, 80, 81, 82, 85, 86, 88, 89, 90 etc. and all these mantras occur in the Taittiriya Aranyaka. Shloka 92 alludes to Apastamba Mantrapatha 2.20.23. Numerous other mantras are cited from the Taittiriya Samhita. However, under one verse each, Vajasneyi Samhita 2.34 (shloka 92), Maitrayani Samhita 1.4.3 (shloka 160) and Rgveda 8.93.4 (shloka 134) are also referred to.

Contents of Vadhulasmrti -
Hindu tradition views a pious Brahmin as teacher to laypersons, as a bearer of the sacred word, as an living embodiment of holiness, as a guide to the rulers, and as an authority on Dharma. He is naturally expected to lead a life full of austerities, to be pure in word, thought and deed, and to remain immersed in his pious vocations at all times. His entire life is therefore designed to be an endless holy rite, a prayer, a meditation, an offering to the devatas, and as a shining light to others. In order to be an exemplar to others, and be faithful to his privileged duties, the Brahmin must take utmost care throughout his life to be pure. The day is a basic unit of one’s life, and Vadhulasmrti attempts to prescribe the methods and techniques whereby all pious Hindus, and those of Brahminical vocation in particular, can lead a dharmic life by regulating even their small daily actions, day after day. Many of these regulations are clearly impractical in our times.

The Vadhulasmrti is a very short text of only 233 shlokas. It commences in the usual manner, in which various saints and sages approach Vadhula Muni with reverence and request him to expound the tenets of religious observances.

The Vadhulasmrti deals merely with the daily, and optional rites of a Veda reciting Brahmnin from the Braahmamuhurta (early morning) to the Sandhya performed at sunset. The day starts with meditation on Sri Vishnu. Each act – bathing, discharging urine, cleaning teeth etc., is accompanied with a pious act such as recitations of mantras, or observance of certain precautions or offering of water to the devatas, one’s ancestors and so on.

Cleanliness or purity is considered two-fold: external as well as internal. The morning Sandhya is performed a little before sunrise, the mid-day around noon, and the last one is performed when the sun has set partially. The three Sandhyas are respectively called Gayatri, Savitri and Sarasvati. Each Sandhya is accompanied by sacred recitations (japa).

Pranayama (physical and spiritual exercises dealing with control of breath and life-forces) is also enjoined for the pious, and various rules to be observed for the same are listed. Regular study of the Veda, and performance of Homa are mandatory for the pious, and Vadhulasmrti enjoins the proper way of doing these.

A few quotations from Vadhulasmrti:

The verses cited below are not representative of the text. They are quoted only if they are of relevance to lay Hindus. My selection is bound to be idiosyncratic, decided by my own preferences.

“Purification is of two types- external and internal. External purification is achieved through water and clay. Internal purification results from cleansing of one’s inner thoughts (and emotions).” Shloka 19

(This verse occurs in several Smritis)

“He who eats without offering oblations (to devatas), eats worms (so to speak).

He who eats before feeding others, eats poison (so to speak).” Shloka 76

“As many phenomes/letters of the Veda one employs to earn money,

he gets tainted with the sin of that many killings of Brahmins.” Shloka 162

“The following persons are chandalas – who indulges in violence against others, cruel, who cohabits with another’s wife, he who seizes the possessions of others, and he who lacks compassion.” Shloka 177

“Sruti and Smrti are the two eyes of Brahmins. He who is bereft of one is one eyed, and if bereft of both, is completely blind – thus it is said.” Shloka 197

“Devatas consider him alone a Brahmin, who is fearful of quarrels as he would be of a snake, who is afraid of honor as if it were death, and who is afraid of (sexual relations with) women, i.e., is celibate, as he would shun a corpse.” Shloka 199

“I consider such a person alone as a Brahmin, who is of a peaceful nature, gentle, who has conquered anger, who has conquered his soul and who has conquered his sense organs. All others are but Sudras.” Shloka 200

“The body of a Brahmin is not meant for enjoyment of pleasures. It is meant to forbear great austerities in this life, so that infinite bliss (of moksa or salvation) may result upon death.” Shloka 201


CHAUBEY, Braj Bihari. 2000. Vadhula-Smrti, Critically edited with Hindi translation, detailed Introduction and several Indices. Katyayan Vaidik Sahitya Prakashan:Hoshiarpur

______. 2001. Vadhula-Anvakhyanam, Critically edited with detailed Introduction and Indices. Katyayan Vaidik Sahitya Prakashan: Hoshiarpur

[1] Manuscript no. 923 at the Government Oriental Manuscript Library, Chennai, p. 377. This text deals with the Srauta sacrifices in the Vadhula tradition, and is cited by CHAUBEY [2000:xv]

[2] The Grhyasutra of Agnivesya also exists and has been published.

[3] The difference of opinion pertains to the precautions that should be observed by an ‘aatmarudha’ Brahmin. If a Brahmin establishes the sacred fires and then needs to travel, he establishes the sacred fires inside himself symbolically. Such an ‘ahitaagni’ person is then termed as ‘aatmarudha’. According to Vadhulas (verse 150), such a person should not take a bath, should not talk to a sinner and should not cohabit with his wife except in acceptable periods, or else his interiorized sacred fire gets extinguished. According to the differing opinion of Apastamba (verse 151) however, no such restrictions need to be observed because an aatmarudha is always ritually pure.

[4] A Vadhulagrahyasutra also exists in manuscript, and is being edited by Yasuke Ikari from Japan.

[5] This is hardly surprising, because numerous Sri Vaishnava scholars from Tamil Nadu and elsewhere belong to the Vadhula gotra.