|III. The Period Covered By Law-Books.
It is difficult to locate
exactly these books at their accurate periods in these centuries. Even the biographical
materials relating to the authors are very rare. Hence conflicting are the opinions of
scholars regarding the dates of these books. But roughly speaking the entire Hindu
literature covers a period of 6,000 years, from 4,000 B.C. the time of the Vedas to the
The period or the Dharmasutras begins from the seventh century B.C. The
age of the Smritis begins with Manu who is assigned to the second century
B.C. Yajnavalkya, is assigned to the first century A.D. Narada and Vishnu lived in the fourth
century. The period of the commentaries commences with Medhatithi, the earliest
of commentators, who lived and wrote in the tenth century.
Mitakshara is assigned to the eleventh century and Jimutavahana, the
author of Dayabhaga lived and wrote in the next century. The period of the
Digests commences after a lapse of three centuries. Nandapandita wrote his
digest between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Nirnayasindhu and
Vyavahara mayukha flourished in the seventeenth century.
Dharma sindhu lived in the eighteenth
century. After the earliest of the lawgivers, Gautama, the birth and influence of
Buddhism and the high ethical standards of the new religion had their influence in
the later Smriti. The period of the commentaries saw the advent of a new religion and culture-
Mohammedanism. This had its influence in narrowing the scope of the laws.
The digests were composed under the
influence of Mohammedan rulers, which accounts for the introduction of the secular side of
law. But it is remarkable that Hindu society clung fast to its old culture through these
centuries of devastation and change of kings and emperors and the Hindu Law remained
almost the same; and Mayne hit the nail right on the head when he remarked that "it
has the oldest pedigree of any known system of jurisprudence and even now it shows no
signs of decrepitude." (Mayne-Hindu Law, 1st Edition).