The systems of law that followed the great ritualistic period of the
Brahmanas were known as Dharma sutras. The scope of these books is much wider than that of
the Grihyasutras, which treat of the rituals of domestic life.
Though the Dharma sutras do not omit to mention the rituals of domestic
life, they deal specially with the rules of conduct, law and custom. The secular side of
law is not dealt here prominently, though some important problems are referred to here and
The metrical Smriti followed the Sutra period ; of these the
codes of Manu and Yajnavalkya have gained precedence over all others.
Several other Smriti were composed after them, namely, Vishnu, Narada,
Parasara and others, but they covered the same ground as Mann or Yajnavalkya.
These were followed by the age of commentaries, the authors of which
tried to explain and expand the scope of the laws to the needs of the time. It was these
commentaries that were taken as the ultimate, source of law in the pre-British period. Of
these Medhatithi commentary on Manu and Vijnanesvara commentary on Yajnavalkya
are the most important.
Commentaries were followed by Digests on Hindu Law. Of these,
Dayabhaga, Dattakamimamsa and Mitakshara have directed the lives of Hindu men and