Manu (from the Sanscrit man, to think; literally, the thinking being) is the name of the reputed author of the most renowned law-book of the ancient Lindus, and likewise of an ancient Kalpa sutra (q.v.). It is matter, however, of considerable doubt whether both works belong to the same individual, and whether the name Manu, especially in the case of the author of the lawbook, was intended to designate a historical personage. In several passages of the Vedas (q.v.), as well as of the Mahaibhlirata (q.v.), Manu is spoken of as the progenitor of the human race, and in the first chapter of the law-book ascribed to him he declares himself to have been produced by Virij, an offspring of the Supreme Being, and to have created all the universe. Hinldu mythology, moreover, recognizes a succession of Manus, each of swhom created, in his own period, the world anew after it had perished at the end of a mundane age. The word Manu — kindred with our "man" — belongs therefore, properly speaking, to ancient Hindu mythology, and it was connected with the renowned law-book in order to impart to the latter the sanctity on which its authority rests. This work is not merely a law-book in the European sense of the word; it is likewise a system of cosmogony, or, as Sir William Jones has it, "comprises the Indian system of duties, religious and civil." It propounds metaphysical doctrines, teaches the art of government, and, among other things, treats of the state of the soul after death. The chief topics of its twelve books are the following;
1. Creation; 2. Education and the duties of a pupil, or the first order; 3. Marriage and the duties of a householder, or the second order; 4. Means of subsistence, and private morals;
5. Diet, purification, and the duties of women; 6. The duties of an anchorite and an ascetic, or the duties of the third and fourth orders; 7. Government, and the duties of a king and the military caste; 8. Judicature and law, private and criminal; 9. Continuation of the former, and the duties of the commercial and servile castes; 10. Mixed castes, and the duties of the castes in time of distress; 11. Penance and expiation; 12. Transmigration and final beatitude.
It is the opinion of Maine (Ancient Law) and other eminent scholars that the code of Manu was never fully accepted or enforced in India, and remained always an ideal of the perfect Brahmanic state. It is supposed, by Wilson, Lassen, Max Müller, and Saint Martin, to have been written about B.C. 900 or 1000. The text of this work has been published in several editions both in India and Europe. An excellent English translation of it we owe to Sir W. Jones (Calcutta, 1796; 2d ed., by Haughton, Lond. 1825), and a very good French translation to A. Loiseleur Deslongchamps (Paris, 1833). See Johbintzen, Ueber das Gesetzbuch des Malnu (Berl. 1863); Max Miiller, Chips from a German Workshop (Index to vol. 2); Elphinstone, Hist. of India (3d ed.), p. 226 sq.; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, 1:194 sq.; James Freeman Clarke, Ten Great Religions, p. 100 sq. SEE HINDUISM.