“According to Vrihaspati and Yājnavalkhya, villages, townships, guilds of merchants and mechanics, communities of Brāhmans, and heretics and other bodies should, when expecting common danger or when inspired by a desire to properly discharge their secular and religious duties, or those relating to their trade or profession, in the case of mercantile or other guilds, enter into an agreement among themselves for the protection of their common interest and the proper performance of their duties.
“The duties, specified under their agreements which these bodies were required to execute in writing, and which thereby acquired a moral and legal sanction, were the repair of public halls, prapas (places where drinking water is supplied to travellers, wells, cisterns, etc.), temples, tanks and gardens, the performance of the purificatory rites for the poor and the destitute, and arrangements for the cremations of dead paupers, distribution of gifts among the people desirous of performing religious acts, and supporting people in time of famine and distress.
“It is these duties which were known as samuhakrita-sambit, or the course of conduct or duty established by the public bodies.
“The samuhas were free to take up other duties also, provided that they were not inconsistent with, or antagonistic to, their main duties.”1
“Headmen (commissioners) residing in towns and forts, and managing the affairs of Pugas (mercantile and other guilds), Srenis (bodies of men, following the same trade or profession), and Ganas (communities of Brāhmans or of other people distinct from the Srenis) should punish wrongdoers by administering rebuke or censure, as well as with social ostracism and banishment.
“And the favour or disfavour thus meted out by them (to the people), when in accordance with the precepts of religion and morality, should be accepted by the king; for general approval had already been accorded to whatever these might do (in the ordinary course of their duties).”2