By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Parasara Smrti, ParAZara SmRti, Paraashara Smrriti
If the Vedas and the Upaniṣads give the basic philosophy of the religion, the dharmaśāstras comprising the smṛtis, the purāṇas and the nibandhas, give the rules and regulations that guide a person in his personal and social life. One of the more ancient smṛtis extant now is the Parāśara Smrti. It has twelve chapters and 602 or 592 according to its own statement at the end verses.
Content of Parāśara Smṛti
The following is a brief summary of its contents.
- Chapter 1 has 65 verses. It explains about:
- The knowledge of dharma
- Four yugas
- Six daily duties like bath, sandhyā ritual and Vedic studies
- Proper means of livelihood for the three lower varṇas
- Chapter 2 has 20 verses. It explains about the duties of a householder.
- Chapter 3 has 55 verses. It explains about the aśauca and purificatory processes.
- Chapter 4 has 34 verses. It explains about:
- Punishment for a wife who deserts her husband
- Remarriage of women under certain conditions
- In praise of chaste widows
- Chapter 5 has 24 verses. It explains about minor expiations.
- Chapter 6 has 75 verses. It explains about the expiations for prāṇihatyā.
- Chapter 7 has 44 verses. It explains about the purification of various articles such as vessels of wood and metal and about women in menses.
- Chapter 8 has 50 verses. It describes the expiations for the killing of cows and oxen unwillingly and constitution of a pariṣad of brāhmaṇas.
- Chapter 9 has 60 verses. It is taking proper care of one’s cows.
- Chapter 10 has 43 verses. It explains about the certain expiations like cāndrāyaṇa and sāntapana.
- Chapter 11 has 55 verses. It is about the expiations for the violation of the rules regarding the partaking of food and purification of wells polluted by animals.
- Chapter 12 has 77 verses. It discusses about:
- Various kinds of bath
- Bath for purification
- Expiations for mortal sins like murder of a brāhmaṇa, consuming liquor, stealing of gold and so on
This smṛti contains several views considered as peculiar like eulogizing the practice of satī. Numerous verses in it also occur in other smṛti-works like those of Manu and Baudhāyana. Later writers of nibandhas quote Parāśara frequently. Mādhavācārya has written a voluminous commentary called Parāśaramādhaviya on this smṛti.
- Nibandhas means digests.
- Aśauca means ceremonial impurity.
- Prāṇihatyā means the killing animals and human beings.
- Pariṣad means assembly.
- Satī means the self-immolation by a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband.
- He was also called as Vidyāraṇya and lived in 14th cent. A. D.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore