Q: Manu on Pouring Lead in Sudra Ears

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Fri Feb 4 18:59:18 UTC 2000

Re Vedaadhikara of sudras etc, there is this
interesting sloka (9.21) in the drama, Mrichhakatikam
which many of you may be familiar with:

vedArthAnprAkRtastvam vadasi na ca te jihvA nipatitA
madhyanhe vIkSHase'rkam na tava sahasA dRSHTirvicalita
dIptAgnau pANimantah kSHipasi sa ca te dagdho bhavati
cAritryAccArudattam calayasi na te deham harati bhUh.

The translation is as follows:

You, a low caste fellow, are explaining the sense of
the vedas and yet your tongue does not fall off! You
are gazing at the sun at mid-day, and still your eyes
are not suddenly struck blind! You are putting your
hand inside the blazing fire and yet that hand of
yours is not burnt! You are depriving Charudatta of
his good name and still the Earth does not gulp down
your body!

(From M.R. Kale)

This sloka is spoken to Shakara, the villain, by the
judge who's come to inquire into the disappearance of

In the notes ("commentary of Prithvidhara enlarged
where necessary"), the first line is explained as "
Your action in impeaching Carudatta is as heinous as
that of an outcast expounding the Vedas, the penalty
for which is the falling off of the tongue".

The series of bad acts in the sloka seems to attract
retribution only from Providence not from the hand of
the law giver. Even the judge, possibly a Brahmin,
seems to acknowldge that.

Is it possible to infer from the tone of the sloka
that sudras ("low born" or whatever prAkRta connotes)
could and did recite the Vedas at the time of this
drama. Perhaps it was only the Brahmins who thought
they viz., the Sudras ("low born") ought not.

Historically is it possible to compare the times of
this drama and the time of specific prescription like
"pour molten lead into the ears" etc..

Appreciate any input in this regard.

Thanks and Warm Regards,


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