Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Manu, Parasara, Yajnavalkya, Gautama, Harita, Yama, Visnu, Sankha,
Likhita, Brhaspati, Daksa, Angiras, Pracetas, Samvarta, Acanas, Atri,
Apastamba and Satatapa are the eighteen sages who mastered the Vedas
with their superhuman power and derived the Smrtis from them. Their
works are known after them like Manusmrti, Yajnavalkya-smrti, Parasara-
Smrti and so on, and they contain all that we need to know about all the
dharmas to be adhered to and all the rituals to be performed during our
Apart from these eighteen, there are eighteen subsidiary Smrtis called
Upasmrtis. It is customary to include the Bhagavadgita among the Smrtis.
What we find in one Smrti may not be found in the other. There may also
be differences between one Smrti and another. These give rise to doubts
which are sought to be cleared by works called "Dharmasastra
There are some Smrtis which do not contain instructions with regard to
all observances. For instance, some do not mention sandhyavandana. The
reason must be it is such a common rite that everybody is expected to
know it. Then some omit the sraddha ceremony and some others are
silent on various types of "pollution" (for instance, that due to the
a child in the family or death of a relative). Certain matters are taken
granted. After all, we do not have to be told about how to breathe or
The nibhandanas do not leave out any rite or dharma. Differences
between various Smrtis are sought to be reconciled in them.
Each region follows its own nibhandhana. In the North, it is the one
authored by Kasinatha Upadhyaya. In Maharastra, it is the Mitaksara: it
has the force of law and is accepted as such by the law courts.
Nirnayasindhu by Kamalakara Bhatta is also accepted as an authority
there. In the South, Vaidyanatha-Diksitiyam by Vaidyanatha Diksita is
followed. These are the important authorities for householders.
Sannyasins follow Visvesvara-samhita. In Tamil Nadu the Dharmasastra
means the Vaidyanatha-Diksitiyam. The nibandhana has been translated
The Dharmasastras are not as difficult to follow as the Vedas and can be
understood with a little knowledge of Sanskrit.