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(1) Smriti means memory

(2) Another name of Dharm Shaastra. The part of scripture which is "remembered" as against "Shruti" which is heard or revealed. The term is applied to the works that deal with law and code of ethics. There are about 20 Smriti in existence written between 300 BC and 1200 AD. The most famous of them are "Manu Smriti" and "Yaagyavalkya Smriti". They contain instructions on character, conduct, charity, inheritance, business, Government, and religion.

Bhavishya Puraan, 1/21 says that Smriti are of five kinds - (1) Drisht Smriti,  (2) A-Drisht Smriti,  (3) Drishtaa-drisht Smriti,  (4) Anuvaad Smriti, and  (5) A-Drishtaa-drisht Smriti. -----All Smriti's root is Ved.

Names of Smriti

Manu, Paraashar, Yaagyavalkya, Gautam, Harita, Yam, Vishnu, Shankh, Likhit, Brihaspati, Daksh, Aangiras, Prachetaa, Samvart, Achanas, Atri, Aapastamb and Satatap are the 18 sages who mastered the Ved with their superhuman power and derived the Smriti from them. Their works are known after them like Manu Smriti, Yaagyavalkya Smriti, Paraashar Smriti and so on, and they contain all that we need to know about all the Dharm to be adhered to and all the rituals to be performed during our entire life.

Apart from these Smriti, there are 18 subsidiary Smriti called Upasmriti. It is customary to include the Bhagvad Geetaa among the Smriti.

The authors of these Upasmriti are :Jaabaali, Nachiketaa, Skand, Laugakshee, Kashyap, Vyaas, Sanat Kumaar, Shaantanu, Janak, Vyaghra, Kaatyaayan, Jaatukarnya, Kapinjal, Baudhaayaan, Kanada, Vishwaamitra, Paithinasa, Gobhil.

There are some Smritis which do not contain instructions with regard to all observances. For instance, some do not mention Sandhyaa Vandan. The reason must be that it is such a common rite that everybody is expected to know it. Then some omit the Shraaddha ceremony and some others are silent on various types of Sootak (for instance, that due to the birth of a child in the family or death of a relative). Certain matters are taken for granted. Maybe the same that they are very common to know.

There is a wrong impression about the Dharm Shaastra even among those who treat them with respect. They think that the rules and duties of the Smriti were formulated by their authors on their own. They call these authors lawgivers who, in their opinion, laid down "laws" that reflect their own views. Further they think that the Dharm Shaastra were composed in the same way as our Constitution. Such a view give rise to another idea. We keep amending the Constitution whenever we find that it stands in the way of certain measures being introduced. It is asked, on the same logic, why the Dharm Shaastra too should not be changed according to the beliefs and ideas of the present times. People ask why should not the Shaastra be changed to suit the times? The government changes then why not Shaastra?

The Vaidik word cannot and must not be changed at any time and on any account. The same applies to the rules and laws laid down in the Smriti. One may not be capable enough, or worthy enough, to persuade you to live according to the Shaastra, but changing them is certainly not people's function.

The greatest of the Mahaa Kavi, Kaali Daas, makes a reference to the Smriti in his Raghuvansh.
Tasyah khuranyasapavitrapamsum
Apamsulanam dhuri keertaneeya
Maargam manusyesvaradharmapatni
Shruterivartam Smritira

The Upamaan is always superior to the Upameya. If a face is compared to the lotus or the Moon, the lotus or the Moon must be more beautiful than the face. Here Sudakshinaa, of matchless purity of character, following her husband Dileep is likened to the Smriti closely following the Ved. No better authority is needed to support the view that the Smriti are in accord with the Ved.

The sages had intuitive knowledge of the Ved. As mentioned so often they did not compose them - they saw them. There was no intellectual effort on their part in this. "Shrutim pashyanti munayah" (the sages see the Ved). They just used their intelligence only to examine what they saw and, remembering it all, derived from the Ved the duties and rites for various castes. This they gave us in a codified form called Smriti - as "Smriti" means memory. For the sages the Ved constituted an experience that just happened to them. The Smriti or the Dharm Shaastra are derived from their memory of it. "Sanskaar - janyam Gyaanam Smrtih", the Nyaaya Shaastra definea Smriti thus. It means that Smriti is knowledge derived from Sanskaar. Here "Sanskaar" means "Atindriya". But what exactly is it?

There is no second opinion regarding the fact that what is called "Shraut" (directly mentioned in the Ved) is wholly authoritative. But what is not directly mentioned in Shruti but included in Smriti - that is Smaart - is not to be taken to be less authoritative. Smaart never contradicts Shraut. In some matters Smriti may go beyond Shruti, but that too is fully authoritative being based on the inner spirit of Shruti. Just as the Sthal Puraan fill in the gaps in the major Puraan and the epics, so the Smriti speak of what is left out in the Ved. We use terms "Shruti Pramaan" and "Smriti Pramaan" (the authority of the Ved and the authority of the Smriti), but making such a distinction does not mean that we should treat Shruti and Smriti different or that we should think that the one is inferior to the other.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 03/01/13