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Medhatithi – Commentator On Manusmriti

Medhatithi (825 – 900 CE) is the author of an erudite and extensive commentary on Manusmriti. He often refers to the usages, customs, and conditions that prevailed in Kashmir which would indicate that he came from there. For instance, he mentions that the monopoly of the sale of elephants is a privilege of the kings of Kashmir, where saffron abounds (Manusmriti VIII.4). He says (Manusmriti II.24) that in the Himalayan regions of Kashmir, it is not possible to bathe every day in a river in the cold seasons. He says that northern people wrap their heads with satakas (garments).

Medhatithi was immersed in the tenets of Purvamimamsa philosophy, and his commentary is full of vidhi and Arthavada (injunctions and recommendations) of Mimamsa. On Manusmriti III.45, regarding cohabitation, Medhatithi discusses whether this is a niyama (rule) or parisamkhya (optional). He remarks that these are only arthavadas and are to be explained in a metaphysical sense, and not literally. He quotes Jaimini’s Purva Mimamsa Sutra frequently, and applies them to the interpretation of Smritis (revealed texts at every step). He states that, where the Smritis differ, there is either one correct opinion or all provisions of the Smritis on the point are to be added up. He refers to Shankaracharya, Kumarilabhatta, and Ishwarakrishna.