By Swami Harshananda
If the Vedas and the Upaniṣads give the basic philosophy of Hinduism, the dharmaśāstras, comprising the smṛtis, the purāṇas and the nibandhas (digests), give the rules and regulations that guide a Hindu in his personal and social life.
One of the more ancient smṛtis extant even now, is the Parāśara Smrti. It has twelve chapters and 602—or 592 according to its own statement at the end—verses.
The following is a brief summary of its contents.
Chapter 1 (65 verses)
Knowledge of dharma; on the four yugas; six daily duties like bath, sandhyā
ritual and Vedic studies; proper means of livelihood for the three lower varṇas.
Chapter 2 (20 verses)
Duties of a householder.
Chapter 3 (55 verses)
Aśauca (ceremonial impurity) and purificatory processes.
Chapter 4 (34 verses)
On suicide; punishment for a wife who deserts her husband; remarriage of women under certain conditions; in praise of chaste widows.
Chapter 5 (24 verses)
Chapter 6 (75 verses)
Expiations for prāṇihatyā (killing animals and human beings).
Chapter 7 (44 verses)
Purification of various articles such as vessels of wood and metal; about women in menses.
Chapter 8 (50 verses)
Expiations for the killing of cows and oxen unwillingly; constitution of a pariṣad (assembly) of brāhmaṇas.
Chapter 9 (60 verses)
Taking proper care of one’s cows.
Chapter 10 (43 verses)
Certain expiations like cāndrāyaṇa and sāntapana.
Chapter 11 (55 verses)
Expiations for the violation of the rules regarding the partaking of food; purification of wells polluted by animals.
Chapter 12 (77 verses)
On 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 eulogising the practice of satī (self-immolation by a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband).
Numerous verses in it also occur in other smṛti-works like those of Manu and Baudhāyana.
Later writers of nibandhas quote Parāśara frequently.
Mādhavācārya (= Vidyāraṇya) (14th cent. A. D.) has written a voluminous commentary called Parāśaramādhaviya on this smṛti.
See also BRHATPARĀŚARASAMHITĀ.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore