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Shankha Smriti – Work On Dharmashastra – The Author Shankha

Shankha Smriti is one of the authoritative works on dharma. It is ascribed to Shankha, who is considered one of the eighteen main authorities on Dharmashastra. It consists of 330 verses divided into eighteen chapters. There are a few prose passages in chapters eleven and twelve. The metrical Shankha Smriti was probably compiled from Dharmasutra (in prose) ascribed to Shankha. This is different from Likhita Smriti (93 verses), Laghu Shanka Smriti (71 verses) and Sankha Likhita Smriti (32 verses), the last two being late compilations. Shankha is mentioned along with his brother Likhita in the Puranas and treatises on dharma that quote many verses from Shankha Smriti.

Shankha Smriti describes the duties of the four varnas and some of the different sacraments, commencing from the nuptials. The rules governing the four ashramas (stages in life) are dealt with.

Eight types of marriages, rules governing the selection of bride, six kinds of bathing – daily, occasional, optional – as part of an act for the removal of dirt and/or bathing in sacred water, and five daily rites are explained. It describes modes of repletion of the Gayatri mantra, offering libation to the manes, purification ceremonies, etc. The text shows a rigorous approach to the practice of dharma. Rites relating to marriage are conspicuously absent in the prose Dharmasutra.

From Kumarila Bhatta’s Tantra Vartika, a commentary on Purva Mimamsa Sutra of Jaimini, we know that Dharmasutra of Sankha Likhita was especially studied by the followers of Shukla Yajur Veda.

Dharmasutra of Shanka presents an advance state of opinion on many matters concerning dharma. It refers to several kinds of ordeals. Its treatment of partition and inheritance is more informative than that of Apastamba or Baudhayana. The region of Aryavarta is described as stretching from the east of Sindhu Sauvira to the west of Kampilya, unlike Baudhayana’s description. It gives many details about geography, cosmogony, etc.