The tradition of learning came to a standstill in the
north, and the centre
of Vedic culture, which was shifted to the south, even centuries before the Christian Era,
developed there gradually under the fostering care of many powerful Hindu dynasties. The
conservative Hindu society clung all the more to the old laws to preserve itself from
total destruction in face of the threat of a new foreign civilization. A tremendous
attempt to adjust the old laws to the new times is to be seen and the
commentators, at this juncture, had to twist the meaning of the old laws to make them
effective in the new. Hence we find all the commentaries and digests contending in a
scrupulous examination of terms, the scope of their application, their limitations, and on
various such other details, which perhaps did not even strike the authors themselves when
they framed the laws. Through the scrupulous scrutiny of the commentators the simple law
became complex and unintelligible.
This prosaic period in legal literature can be described as analogous
to the Brahmanical period of the Vedic age. The prosaic period that followed the glorious
creative period of the Vedas saw the Brahmanas endeavoring to explain the Vedic texts, and
developing ceremonies based, on these texts. The growth of these ceremonies and their
complexities is tremendous, when compared to the simple rituals of the Vedas themselves.
Several schools sprang up in different localities, which often indulged
in bitter controversies on certain points of disagreement, even on a trifling part of a
ceremony. Innumerable instances of such divergences and controversies can be in met within
the Brahmanas themselves. Similarly in this prosaic period that followed the creative
period of law-codes, the commentators tried to evolve from the old laws a network of legal
rules that could be suitable to the new developments.
Hence we find them often differing in regard to the meaning and scope of
a single word in a verse. Though opinions diverged, they reverted to a common source. As
the Rig- Veda was to the Brahmanas, so was the Mitakshara to these commentaries and
digests stands in the same relation to the main schools of as the Atharva-Veda did to the
Rig-Veda in the Vedic period.