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

20. The Ordeal by Balance.

* 260. 260 Wise legislators conversant with every law have proclaimed, after mature consideration, the following rules regarding the mode of performing the ordeal by balance, which may be administered in every season.

* 261. 261 The two posts should be dug in every

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case to the depth of two Hastas below ground. (The whole of) their length is ordained to amount to six Hastas in extent.

* 262. The beam of the balance should be four Hastas in length, and the height of the two posts (above ground) should be the same. The intermediate space between the two posts should measure one and a half Hastas.

* 263. 263 The beam of the balance should be made straight, of Khadira or of Tinduka wood, quadrangular and (provided) with three Sthânas and with hooks (by which the strings supporting the scale are suspended) and with other (contrivances).

* 264. 264 He should cause it to be made of Khadira wood or Simsapa wood, or in default of such, of

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[paragraph continues] Sâla wood, (which must be) without notches and withered portions, and devoid of rents.

* 265. 265 These kinds of timber should be used for preparing the beam of the balance, (which should be erected) either in the midst of a public assembly, or before the gates of the royal palace, or in sight of a temple, or in a cross-road.

266. 266 (The balance) must be dug firmly into the earth, after having been covered with perfumes, garlands, and unguents, and after the performance of purificatory and auspicious ceremonies with sour milk, whole grain, clarified butter, and perfumes.

267. 267 This ordeal should always be administered in the presence of the guardians of the world, who must be invoked to be present for the protection (of virtue and justice), and in sight of everybody (who cares to look on).

* 268. 268 It is ordained that all ordeals should be

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administered in the forenoon, the person (to be tested) having fasted for a day and a night, taken a bath, and wearing his wet dress.

269. Excepting cases of high treason, an ordeal shall not be administered, unless the plaintiff comes forward and declares himself ready to undergo punishment in case of his being defeated.

270. The king may inflict ordeals on his own servants, even without the one party declaring himself ready to undergo punishment. On the other hand, in the case of other persons accused of a crime, (he should administer ordeals) according to law (only).

* 271. 271 After having well fastened the two scales by the hooks of the beam, he should place the man in the one scale and a stone in the other.

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* 272. He should weigh the man on the northern side, and the stone on the southern side. There (in the southern scale) he should (place) a basket and fill it up with bricks, mud, and grains of sand.

273. 273 In the first weighing, the weight (of the man) should be ascertained with the aid of experienced men, and the arch marked at that height which corresponds to the even position of the two scales.

* 274. Goldsmiths, merchants, and skilful braziers experienced in the art of weighing, should inspect the beam of the balance.

* 275. After having first weighed the man, and having made (on the arches) a mark for the beam, in order to show the (even) position of the scales, he should cause him to descend from the balance.

* 276. 276 After having admonished him with solemn imprecations he should cause the man to get into the scale again, after having fastened a writing on

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his head. There must be neither wind nor rainfall (at the time when this ordeal is being performed).

277. 277 When he has ascended (the scale), a Brahman, holding the scale in his hand, should recite the following: 'Thou art called dhata (a balance), which appellation is synonymous with dharma (justice).

* 278. Thou knowest the bad and good actions of all beings. This man, being arraigned in a cause, is weighed upon thee.

279. 279 Thou art superior to gods, demons, and mortals in point of veracity.

[Thou, Balance, hast been created by the gods in time out of mind, as a receptacle of truth.

* 280. Deign to speak truth, therefore, O propitious being, and deliver me from this perplexity. If I am an offender, take me down.

* 281. If thou knowest me to be innocent, take me upwards.] Therefore mayst thou deliver him lawfully from the perplexity in which he is involved.'

282. After having addressed him, (invoking) the guardians of the world and the gods, with these and other such speeches, he should cause the man who has been placed in the scale, to descend once more and should ascertain (the state of the matter).

* 283. If he rises, on being weighed (for the second time), he is undoubtedly innocent. If his

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weight remains the same as before, or if he goes down, he cannot be acquitted.

* 284. 284 Should the scales break, or the beam or the hooks split, or the strings burst, or the transverse beam split, (the judge) shall pronounce a formal declaration of his innocence.


102:260 260-284. Vishnu X; Yâgñavalkya II, 100-102.

260. 'After mature consideration,' after having duly considered that the ordeals by fire, water, and poison are subject to many interruptions or obstacles arising from time, locality, &c., wise men have devised this ordeal by balance, which may be performed during any season. That is the meaning. A.

102:261 The apparatus for performing the ordeal by balance, which is described in this and the following paragraphs, consists of the p. 103 following elements: 1. Two wooden posts, supporting a transverse beam. The two posts should be fastened in the ground at a distance of one-and-a-half Hastas (1 Hasta = about 18 inches), facing the west and east. The part above ground should be four Hastas long, and the part below ground two Hastas, the whole length of each post amounting to six Hastas. 2. The beam of the balance, by which the scales have to be suspended. The beam itself, which should measure four Hastas, and should be made of Khadira or other strong wood, should be suspended by means of an iron hook and chain in the middle of the transverse beam. 3. The beam of the balance should be surrounded in the middle and at the two extremities, by three Sthânas (belts?) by which two iron hooks should be fastened. 4. The two scales should be suspended at the two ends of the beam, by the iron hooks, and by four strings each. 5. Each of the two scales should move in a wooden arch (torana), which serves the purpose of marking the position of the scales. See Mitâksharâ and Stenzler's paper on Ordeals (vol. ix of the Journal of the German Oriental Society), to which a drawing has been added for the purpose of illustrating the statements of the Smriti writers regarding this kind of ordeal.

103:263 Read rigvî in the text.

103:264 Wood of the Khadira tree is the most eligible sort of wood. Then comes Tinduka wood, and lastly Simsapa wood. A.

104:265 The various places here mentioned are the favourite abodes of Dharmarâga (the king of justice), when he appears on earth. A. The Vîramitrodaya and other compositions quote two verses of Kâtyâyana, to the effect that ordeals should be administered to felons in sight of a temple; to those who have offended against the king, before the gates of his palace; to low-caste persons, in a cross-road; and to other offenders, in the midst of a public assembly, or court of justice.

104:266 It appears from the statements of other legislators, that the ceremonies to be performed on this occasion are perfectly analogous to those which have to take place on the occasion of preparing a sacrificial stake (yûpa).

104:267 'In sight of everybody,' not in a solitary spot. A.

104:268 268-270. This is a digression relative to certain exceptions to the rule in pars. 257, 258. Yâgñavalkya II, 96, 99; Vishnu IX, 22.

268. An ordeal is ordained, when the plaintiff declares himself ready to undergo punishment. Where, however, any outrage has been committed against the royal family, an ordeal should be administered even without a declaration of this sort. A.

105:271 The essential features of the proceedings described in pars. 271-284 may be summarized as follows: 1. The person to be tested by this ordeal should be placed in the one scale, and a basket filled with stones and sand placed in the other scale, as an equivalent. 2. The basket having been made precisely equal in weight to the man with the help of goldsmiths and other persons skilled in the practice of weighing, the position of the beam should be marked on each of the two arches. 3. After that, the man should be allowed to descend from the scale. The judge should admonish him, and he should get into the scale again, after a bill recounting the charge raised against him has been fastened on his head. 4. A Brahman should address the balance with prayers. 5. The man having descended once more from the scale, the result of the second weighing should be compared with the result of the first weighing. If he has risen, i.e. if he has proved lighter than the first time, he shall be acquitted; if the scale has gone down, or if it has remained in the same place as before, he must be pronounced guilty. 6. If any part of the balance has broken during the proceeding, he has to be acquitted.

271. The term 'a stone' seems to denote an equivalent here and in the next paragraph. The sequel shows that the equivalent consists of a basket filled with stones and other objects.

106:273 273-275. Goldsmiths, merchants, braziers, and other persons familiar with the art of weighing, should ascertain whether the man and the equivalent are precisely equal in weight, and whether the beam of the balance is quite straight, by pouring some water (on the beam of the balance?). A. According to the Pitâmaha-smriti, the water shall be poured on the beam of the balance. If it does not trickle down from the beam, the beam may be supposed to be straight. The way in which the position of the scales and of the beam of the balance has to be marked on the two arches, may be gathered from the Yâgñavalkya-smriti, which ordains that a line shall be drawn (across the arches).

106:276 He should cause the man to get into the scale once more, after having reminded him of his good actions and of the preeminence of truth, having invoked the deities, and having fastened on his head a bill recounting the charge, and containing an imprecation. The whole proceeding must not take place in windy or rainy weather. A. The Vîramitrodaya and other compilations quote another text of Nârada, according to which no verdict should be given if the scales have been moved by the wind.

107:277 This quibble is based on the fact that the two words Dhata and Dharma commence with the same syllable.

107:279 279-281. The words enclosed in brackets cannot be genuine. They appear to be a quotation from the Yâgñavalkya-smriti (II, 101, 102), which has been added as a marginal gloss by a copyist, and has subsequently crept into the text. Yâgñavalkya puts this entire address in the mouth of the defendant himself, whereas all the other Smriti writers put it in the mouth of a third person.

108:284 It seems strange that the accidents mentioned in this paragraph should be viewed as proofs of innocence. Vishnu, Kâtyâyana, and Vyâsa rule that the proceeding shall be repeated in every such case. Brihaspati says that these accidents shall be taken as proofs of guilt. The reading mûrtitah may be wrong (for punah sa? 'he shall cause the proceeding to be repeated'). See Vyâsa.

Next: 21. The Ordeal by Fire