(HINDUS, JAINS and the BUDDHA – continued)
The uncertainties that came with the collapse of India's great Maurya Empire of 321 to 185 BCE may have inspired a new book of laws, called the Laws of Manu. These were books that combined Hinduism with sacred law that kings and commoners alike were obliged to follow. The Laws of Manu drew from the Vedas, where Manu was described as the world's first king, as the father of the human race and the one who had received the plans of the god of creation: Brahma. The Laws of Manu include Manu's story about Brahma's creation of the universe. Manu brought together, in the form of maxims, Brahma's commandments regarding ritual, custom, caste and other institutions.
Modern-day scholars have considered the Laws of Manu texts as a composite created across centuries, maybe between 200 BCE and CE 200. One scholar, Patrick Olivelle, has argued that the structure of the text suggests a single author. Nothing is known as to who this author might be, but authorship is believed to belong to one or more Brahmins with conservative leanings. The Laws of Manu expressed the values of the Brahmin priesthood. It claimed that authoritarian rule and class privilege were best for everyone. The Laws of Manu claimed that one should give no pain to any creature – not tightly consistent with the ritual sacrifice of early Hinduism. Another commandment held that in childhood a female had to be subject to the authority of her father. When she married she was to be under the authority of her husband. She was to remain cheerful, clever in the management of her household affairs, careful in using utensils, economical in spending, and to do nothing independent of male authority. As a widow or in old age she was to be under the authority of her sons. According to the Laws of Manu, if a female sought to separate herself from her father, husband or son, she made her family contemptible.
The Laws of Manu declared that rulers were obliged to be considerate in judging and punishing their subjects. It claimed that punishment kept the world in order, that punishment properly applied kept all people happy, but applied without consideration it destroyed everything. The Laws of Manu claimed that without punishment, inferior people would "take the place" of their superiors, that the castes would be corrupted by intermixture, that "all barriers" would fall and "men would rage against each other."
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