Talk:The Dharmasutras

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

It seems that originally many dharmasutras formed part of the Kalpasutras and were studied in distinct sutracaranas. Some of the extant dharmasutras signify the unmistakable terms that they presuppose the Grhyasutra of the carana to which they belong. To get to the point of this it is inevitable to compare Apastamba Dharmasutra[1] with Apastamba Gryhasutra [2] and Baudhayana Dharmasutra[3] with Baudhaya Gryhasutra[4].

The Dharmasutras belonging to all sutracaranas have not come down to us. There is no dharmasutra completing the Aśvalayana Śrauta and Grhya sutras ; no Manavadharmasutra has yet come to light, though the Manava śrauta and Grhyasutras are extant; in the same way the Sankhayana Śrauta and Grhya sutras, but no Sankhayan sutra. It is only in the case of the Apastamba, Hiranyakesin, Baudhayana Sutracaranas that we have a complete kalpa with its three components of Srauta, Grhya and Dharmasutras.

The Tantravartika of Kumarila contains very interesting observations of this point. It tells us that Gautama dharmasutra and Gobhilya grhyasutra were studied by the Chaudogas[5] Vaṣiṣṭha[6] by the Rgvedins, the dharmasutra of Sankha-Likhita by the followers of Vajasaneya-samhita and the sutras of Apastamba and Baudhayana by the followers of the Taittiriya sakha[7]. The Tantravartika[8] establishes it as a siddhant on Jaimini[9] that all the dharma and grhya sutras are authoritative for all Aryan people. From this it appears that although originally all sutracaranas might not have possessed dharmasutras composed by the founder of the carana or ascribed to him, yet gradually certain dharmasutras were specially taken over or appropriated by certain caranas. As the dharmasutras were mostly concerned with rules about the conduct of men as a members of the Aryan community and did not deal with ritual of any kind, all dharmasutras gradually became authoritative in all schools.

The dharmasutras were closely connected with the grhyasutras in subjects and topics. Most of the Grhyasutras treat of the sacred domestic fire, the divisions of Grhya sacrifices, the regular morning and evening oblations, sacrifices on new and full moon, sacrifices of cooked food, annual sacrifices, marriage, pumsavana, jatakarma, upanayana and other samskaras, rules for students and snatakas and holidays, sraddha offerings, madhuparka. In most cases the Grhyasutras confine themselves principally to the various events of domestic life; they rarely give rules about the conduct of men, their rights, duties and responsibilities. The dharmasutras also contain rules on some of the above topics such as marriage and the samskaras.

Brahmacarya and snatakas and holidays, on sraddha. It is therefore not to be wondered at that in the Apastamba gryhasutra. The topics of the duties of the Brahmacarin the house-holder, of atithis and of sraddha are meagerly as compared with the Apastamba-dharmasutra. The dharmasutras very rarely describe the ritual of domestic life ; they merely emphasize it ; their scope is wider and more ambitious ; their Principal purpose is to dilate upon the rules of conduct, law and custom. Some sutras are common to both the Apastamba-grhya and the dharmasutra. Sometimes the grhyasutra appears to refer to the dharmasutra. There are certain points which distinguish the dharmasutras ( the more ancient of them at least ) from smrtis.

  • ( a ) Many dharmasutras are either parts of the Kalpa belonging to each sutracarana or are intimately connected with the grhyasutras.
  • ( b ) The dharmasutras sometimes betray some partiality in their vedic quotations for the texts of that Veda to which they belong or in the caranas of which they are studied.
  • (c) The authors of the (older) dharmasutras do not claim to be inspired seers or superhuman beings, while the other smritis such as those of

Manu and Yajnavalkya are ascribed to Gods like Brahma.

  • ( d ) The dharmasutras are in prose or in mixed prose and verse; the other smrtis are in verse.
  • (e ) The language of the dharmasutras is generally more archaic than that of the other smrtis.
  • ( f ) The dharmasutras do not proceed upon any orderly arrangement of topics, while the other smritis[10] arrange their contents and treat of the subjects under three principal heads viz. ācāra, vyāvahara, and prāyaschitta.
  • (g) Most of the dharmasutras are older than most of the other smrtis.

Synopsis Many of them formed part of the Kalpa and were studied in distinct sutra-caranas dharmasutras of Apastamha and Baudhayana presuppose grhyasutras of their carava no dharmasutras extant corresponding to the śrauta and grhya sutras of Asvalayana, Saikhayana and Manava-Tantravartika on what dharmasutra was studied in what particular Vedic 5. All dharmasutras were gradually authoritative in all the schools, close connection between grhyasutras and dharmasutras on certain topics, scope of dharmasutras, grhyasutras sometimes refer to dharmasutras, points of distinction between dharmasutras and other smrtis.


  1. Apastamb Dharmasutra I. i. 4. 16
  2. Apastamba Gryhasutra I. 12 and II, 5
  3. Baudhayana Dharmasutra II. 8. 20 x
  4. Baudhayana Gryhasutra S. II. II. 42 and other sutras
  5. They are the Samavedins.
  6. It means dharmasutra.
  7. Taittiriya Sakha 55
  8. Tantravartika p. 179
  9. Jaimini Sutra I. 3. ii
  10. It is the oldest of them, viz. Manusmriti.