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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: February 2013

Notes on the Technical Term Sāhasa: “Fine, Pecuniary Penalty”



Sāhasa is a well-known technical term in classical Hindu law. It has its regular place in the enumerations of vivādapadas, i.e., the —normally eighteen— “titles of law.” For example in Manu's list of vivādapadas (8.4–7), the śloka containing titles ten to fifteen runs as follows:

sīmāvivādadharmaś ca pāruṣye daṇḑavācike ∣

steyaṃ ca sāhasaṃ caiva strīsaṃgrahaṇam eva ca ∣∣

“(10) Disputes regarding boundaries, (11) assault and (12) defamation, (13) theft, (14) robbery and violence, (15) adultery” (trans. Bühler: 253).

There may be some doubt about the exact connotation of the term sāhasa even within a single text such as the Manusmṛti and Bühler's “robbery and violence” may only be partly valid. On the one hand, sāhasa seems to refer to “violent appropriation,” different from steya only insofar as the latter indicates appropriation in the absence of the owner and, hence, without violence. Thus MDh 8.332:

syāt sāhasaṃ tv anvayavatprasabhaṃ karma yat kṛtam ∣

niranvayaṃ bhavet steyaṃ hṛtvāpavyayate ca yat ∣∣

“An offense (of this description), which is committed in the presence (of the owner) and with violence, will be robbery; if (it is committed) in his absence, it will be theft; likewise if (the possession of) anything is denied after it has been taken” (trans. Bühler: 312). On the other hand, sāhasa is clearly distinguished from steya; says MDh 8.345:

vāgduṣṭāt taskarāc caiva daṇḑenaiva ca hiṃsataḥ ∣

sāhasasya naraḥ kartā vijñeyaḥ pāpakṛttamaḥ ∣∣