Talk:Sources of Dharma

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia
Revision as of 03:30, 19 June 2019 by Deval Sancheti (Talk | contribs)

The Gautamadharmasutra'" says that the Veda is the source of dharma and the tradition and practice of those that know it. So Apastamba' says ‘ the authority ( for the dharmas ) is the consentus of those that know dbartim and the Vedas.[1] The Manusmfti*® lays down five different sources' of dharma ‘ the whole Veda is ( the fore- most ) source of dharma and ( next ) the tradition and the practice of those that know it (the Veda); and further the usages of virtuous men and self-satisfaction.’ Yajnavalkya^’ declares the sources in a similar strain ‘ the Veda, traditional lore, the usages of good men, what is agreeable to one’s self and desire born of due deliberation — this is traditionally recognised as the source of dharma,’ These passages make it clear that the principal sources of dlmnita were conceived to be the Vedas, tlie Smrtis, and customs. The Vedas do not contain positive precepts (sidhis) on matters of dharma in a connected form ; but they contain incidental references to various topics that fall under the domain of dharmasastra as conceived in later times. Such information to be gathered from the Vedic Literature is not quite as meagre as is commonly supposed. In another place*^ I have brought together about fifty Vedic passages that shed a flood of light on marriage, the forms of marriage, the different kinds of sons, adoption of a son, partition, inheritance, iraddha, stridhana. To take only a few examples. That brotherless maidens found it difficult to secure husbands is made clear by several Vedic passages.

Like a woman growing old in her parents house, ^©ray to thee as Bhaga from the seat common to all*’*. Vide also Rgvedai I 124. 7; IV. 5. 5 and Atharvaveda I. 17. i and Nirukta III, 4-5 These passages constitute the basis of the rules of the dharmasutrav and the Yajnavalkya-smrti against marrying a brothcrless maiden'^'. 'jJ^his bar against marrying a brothcrless maiden seems to have been d ue to the fear that su<:.h a girl might be an appointed daughter and that a son born of such a girl would be alliliated to his mother-js father. This custom of putrikd is an ancient one and is alluded to in the Rgveda, according to Yaska’*. Rgveda X. 85 is a very interesting hymn as regards marriage ; verses from it arc used even to this day in the marriage ritual.’^’ It shows that in the remote Vedic age the marriage rite resembled in essence the Brahma form as described in the Dharmasutras and Mann.’" But the purchase of a bride (i. e. what is called Asura marriage in later literature ) was not unknown in the Vedic age. A passage of the Maitrayaniya.samhita (I. 10. II ) is referred to in the Vasisthadharmasiitra”* in this connection, viz, ‘ she who being purchased by the husband The Gandharva form is hinted at in the words’ ’ ‘ when a bride is fine- looking and well adorned, she seeks by herself her friend among men ’, The importance of the ttiinisii son was felt even in the remote Vedic ages. ‘ Another ( person ) born of another’s loins, though very pleasing, should not be taken, should not be even thought of (as to be taken in adoption’ ’ )’. The Taittiriya-saiiihiia (VI. 3. 10. 5) propounds the well-known theory of the three debts*'. The story ^ ardfimi' w;wfm?nTFTr«f>Tl 5 i’JT(^, 1 w. 25 Vide Rgveda III. 31. 1. and Nirukta III. 4. 26 e, g. the verse ^ X. 8.5. 36 ). Vide qr. 11. 4. 14.

where the word ‘purchase’ is tried to bo explained away and also VI. 1. 15. of Sunahiepa the Aitareya-brahmana ( VII. 3 ) suggests that a son could b^lidoptcd even wlicn there was an mirasa son. The Taittiriya-sjainihta (VII. 1.8. i) tells the story of Atri who gave an B in adoption to Aurva. The Ksetraja son of the Dharma- often relerred to in the earliest Vedic literature. ‘ What T ) invites you ( Asvins ) in his liouse to a bed as a widow other-in-law or a young damsel her lover’^‘\ The Taittiri- a makes it clear that a lather could distribute his wealth is sons during his own life time ' Mann divided his property among his sons’ Another passage of the same SaiUhita seems 10 suggest that ilie eldest son took the whole of the father’s \\ calth ‘ therefore people establish tlieir eldest son with wealth ’-U liven in the Vedic ages the son excluded the daughter from inheritance son born of the body does not give the paternal wealth to ( his ) sister’»u A passage of the 'raittiriya-saiiihita is relied upon by ancient and modern writers on dlun nuhulstra for the exclusion of women in general from inheritance ‘ therefore women being destitute of strength take no portion and speak more weakly than even a low person’^^'. The Kgveda eulogises the stage of studenthood and the Saiapathabrahmana speaks of the duties of the Brahmacarin such as not partaking of wdne and oil’ering every evening a sainidh to lire’' . The This passage is relied upon by This passage U referred to for explanations of this verse.

Here thd portion spoken of is really that of the soma beverage. Vide Ik 2. 47 for reliance on this passage and also ( on 3 ;yyq-^ q, II. 6. 14. 1 J and (para. 21 and 336). Vide also I^* 4. 2. 13 for a similar passage. reads Compare II- 177- Vide ^I* 3* 3. 1 for samidh.

Taitiiriya-sariihita (VI. 2. 8. s) relates^* how Indra consigiaed Yatii to wolves (or dogs) and how Prajapati prescribed a PrayascitliS^for him. The Satapathabrahmana speaks of the king and the learned Bt ahmana as the upholder of the sacred ordinances. The Taittiriyas.^thhita says ‘ therefore the Siidra is not fit for sacrifice*'’. ’ The Brahmapa tells us that when a king or other worthy guest cots^ people offer a bull or a cow*'. The Saiapatha-brahniana speaks \’edir study as yai^ia and the Taittiriya-aranyaka*- enumerates th h\ c yajiias, which are a prominent feature of the Manusmrti. Tlu Rgveda eulogises the gifts of a cow, horses, gold and clothes**. .\nother passage of the Rgveda ** ( thou "art like a prapa in a desert ) is relied upon by Sahara on Jaimini (I. 3. 2) and by Visvarupa on Yajiiavalkya as ordaining the maintenance of prapits ( places where water is distributed to travellers ). 'I’he Rgveda condemns the selfish man who only caters for himself*'. The foregoing briet discussion will make it clear that the later rules contained in the Jluininisulriis and other works on dharmashastra had their roots deep dow n in the most ancient Vcdic tradition and that the authors of the ilhtinintsiilnis were quite justified in looking up to the Vedas as a source of But, as said above, Vedas do not profess to be formal treatises on ilhnniin •, they contain only disconnected statements on the various aspects of ili'iU Dici ; we have to turn to the smrtis for a formal and connected li vatment of the topics of the dbiiniinsiislni.

Synopsis: According to Gautama, Apasumba, Vasi.stha, Manu, Yajnavalkya - principal sources were Veda, smrtis and custom - Vedas do not contain positive precepts on dharma, but give information incidentally - examples from Vedic literature suggesting dharmasastra rules.


  1. Vasisthadharma-sutra I. 4-6