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The Minor Law Books (SBE33), by Julius Jolly, [1889], at

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19. Proof by Ordeal.

* 247. If no witness is forthcoming for either of the two litigant parties, he must test them through ordeals and oaths of every sort.

* 248. 248 (Let him cause a Brahman to swear by) truth, (a Kshatriya) by his (horse or other) vehicle, and by his weapons, (a Vaisya) by his cows, seeds or gold and so on, (or all) by venerable deities or deified ancestors, by their pious gifts or meritorious deeds.

249. 249 Where a heavy crime has been committed, the ruler shall administer one of the ordeals. In light cases, on the other hand, a virtuous king shall swear a man with (various) oaths.

* 250. Thus have these oaths been proclaimed by Manu for trifling cases. In a suit concerning a heavy crime, divine test should be resorted to.

251. 251 Holy Manu has ordained that five kinds of ordeals should be administered to those involved in a doubtful case (which has become the object of a lawsuit), especially if the matter under dispute is of a recondite nature.

* 252. 252 The balance, fire, water, poison, and, fifthly, consecrated water, are the ordeals ordained for the purgation of high-minded persons.

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* 253. 253 (Those ordeals) have been ordained here by Nârada for the purpose of proving the innocence of criminals who are defendants in a lawsuit, (and) in order that right may be discerned from wrong.

* 254. 254 During the rains let the (ordeal by) fire be administered. In the autumn season the balance is declared to be (the proper kind of ordeal). The (ordeal by) water should be applied in summer, and the (ordeal by) poison in the cold weather.

* 255. 255 The distressed shall not be caused to undergo the (ordeal by) water, nor shall poison be given to the bilious, nor shall the ordeal by fire be administered to persons afflicted with white leprosy, or with blindness, or with bad nails.

* 256. 256 An ordeal should never be administered to persons engaged in performing a vow, to those afflicted with a heavy calamity, to the diseased, to ascetics, or to women, if the dictates of justice are listened to.

257. 257 Where no one declares himself ready to

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undergo punishment, an ordeal cannot take place. An ordeal shall be administered to litigants where there is reason for it, but not otherwise.

258. 258 Therefore an intelligent, virtuous, righteous, and wise (king or chief judge) should abstain carefully from administering any one out of the (five) ordeals, unless both parties consent to it.

* 259. 259 The ordeal by water must not take place in the cold weather, nor the ordeal by fire in the hot season, nor must the (ordeal by) poison be administered to any one during the rains, nor the (ordeal by) balance in stormy weather.


100:248 In this rule are indicated the various oaths to be administered according to the caste and individual character of the offender. A. Manu VIII, 114.

100:249 249, 250. These two verses are intended to indicate the difference in point of applicability between an ordeal and an oath. A.

100:251 Holy Manu has said that those against whom a charge of an aggravated nature has been brought, shall have to undergo one out of the five ordeals, in order to clear themselves from suspicion, especially when a secret transgression is concerned. A.

100:252 In this paragraph the author proceeds to enumerate the five ordeals singly. A. Yâgñavalkya II, 95; Vishnu IX, II.

101:253 The five ordeals have been proclaimed by the great sage Nârada, for the justification of those impeached on account of their suspicious conduct, by showing where the wrong lies and where not. A.

101:254 The five ordeals should be administered, each of them, at those very seasons, and not at any other season. A. Vishnu IX, 25, 28, 30.

101:255 255, 256. Vishnu IX, 23, 25, 27, 29.

255. In the case of the persons here mentioned, the ordeals referred to should be avoided, on grounds of disease and of incapacity to undergo them. A.

101:256 'Persons engaged in performing a vow,' those who have performed the ceremony initiatory to a Soma sacrifice. A.

101:257 An ordeal should not take place, unless there should be a special reason for it, such as an accusation. Therefore an ordeal must not be administered, unless there be a plaintiff who declares himself ready to take the punishment on himself in case of defeat. p. 102 A. Yâgñavalkya II, 96; Vishnu IV, 20, 21. The reading na divyam (for na vinâ?) seems wrong. Or translate, 'but there is no ordeal for plaintiffs.'

102:258 A king or chief-judge, who is endowed with the qualities here mentioned, should administer an ordeal with the full approval of both parties in a cause, but not otherwise. A.

102:259 The times or seasons here referred to should be avoided in the case of the ordeal by water and of the other ordeals, because they are illegal. A. Vishnu IX, 24, 26, 28, 30.

Next: 20. The Ordeal by Balance