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

23. The Ordeal by Poison.

* 318. 318 Now I shall proclaim the excellent rule regarding the ordeal by poison: at what time, in what manner, and in what form it should be administered.

* 319. 319 The exact quantity of the poison (to be given) having been fixed by persons conversant with the essence of law, it shall be weighed, and given to the defendant in the autumn season, when winter sets in.

320. 320 A man acquainted with law, must not (administer this ordeal) in the afternoon, nor in the

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twilight, nor at noon. It must be avoided, likewise, in the autumn, summer, spring, and rainy seasons.

* 321. 321 Spoiled poison, shaken poison, scented and mixed poison, as well as Kâlakûta and Alâbu poison, should be carefully avoided.

* 322. Poison from the Sriṅga plant, which grows in the Himâlayas, of an excellent quality, having (the required) colour, flavour, and taste, and preserving its natural condition, should be given to members of the Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sûdra castes.

* 323. 323 Let him give to the defendant one-eighth less than the twentieth part of a sixth part of a Pala of the poison, mixed with clarified butter.

* 324. 324 Six Yavas should be given in the rainy season; five Yavas in the hot season; seven or eight in the winter season; in the autumn season this ordeal must not take place.

* 325. 325 ‘Thou, O poison, art the son of Brahman.

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[paragraph continues] Truth and virtue are thy support. Clear this man from guilt. Become (like) Ambrosia to him, through truth.’

* 326. 326Let the man be kept in a shadowy place without taking food, for the whole remainder of the day. If he remains free from convulsions such as are generally caused by poison, he is declared innocent by Manu.


114:318 318-326. The ordeal by poison consists of the swallowing of a mild poison by the defendant. He is innocent if he digests the poison without being affected by it. Vishnu XIII; Yâgñavalkya II, 110, 111.

114:319 The autumn season, Sarad, comprises the two months of Âsvina and Kârttika, or from middle of September to middle of November. The winter season comprises the two months of Aprahâyana and Pausha, or from middle of November to middle of January. Mitramisra, who quotes this text in the Vîramitrodaya, asserts that the term 'the winter season' must be taken in this place to include the dewy season, Sisira, as well, i.e. the time from middle of January to middle of March.

114:320 Though the season of Sarad has been referred to in par. 319, it must be reckoned among the prohibited seasons according to par. 320. A. This observation seems to be just, because the performance of this ordeal in the Sarad season is prohibited in par. 324 as well. Vasanta, the spring season, extends from middle of March to middle of May. Grîshma, the hot season, extends from middle of May to middle of July. Varshâ, the season of the rains, extends from middle of July to middle of September.

115:321 Spoiled, shaken, scented, and mixed poison should be avoided, because it has been changed from its natural state (into something different). Kâlakûta and Alâbu poison should be avoided, because it is too strong. A. Kâlakûta is a certain deadly poison contained in a bulbous root or tuber. According to a well-known myth, the Kâlakûta poison was produced at the churning of the ocean, when it threatened to destroy the whole world, and was therefore swallowed by Siva. Alâbu is the bottle-gourd.

115:323 There are 960 Yavas to a Pala. The fraction, therefore, is as follows:—960 ∙ 1/6 ∙ 1/20 ∙ ⅞ = 7 Yavas. In par. 324, the author says that seven or eight Yavas of poison should be given in winter, i.e. in that season when this ordeal is ordinarily administered. Vishnu lays down generally that seven Yavas of poison should be given.

115:324 This rule shows that the prohibition which has been levelled in par. 320 against the performance of this ordeal in the rainy and summer seasons, must not be interpreted too strictly.

115:325 This is the prayer which should be addressed to the poison. A.

116:326 Here ends the chapter of the ordeal by poison. A.

Next: 24. The Ordeal by Sacred Libation