Talk:The Dharmasutra of Gautama

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Gautama dharmasutra is the oldest of dharmasutras among those we have. The Gautama-dharmasutra was especially studied by the followers of the Samaveda. The commentary on the Caranavyuha tells us that Gautama was one of the nine subdivisions of the Ranayaniya school of Samaveda. A teacher Gautama is mentioned frequently in the Latyayanaśrautasutra[1] and in the Drahyayanasrauta[2] of the Samaveda.

The Gobhilagrhya[3] which belongs to the Samaveda cites Gautama as an authority. Therefore a complete Gautamasutra embodying Śrauta, Gṛhya and Dharma doctrines once existed. There are other indications pointing to the close connection of the Gautama-dharmasutra with the Samaveda. Chapter 26 of the dharmasutra about kṛicchra penance is the same as the Samavidhana Brahmana[4]. Among the purificatory texts mentioned in Chandogya Dharmasutra[5] there are nine that are Sāmans. The mention of the five utterances[6] resembles the number in the Vyahṛtisāma though the order is different. It is however to be noted that Gautama is a generic name. In the Kathopanisad, both Naciketas[7] and his father[8] are styled Gautama. In the Chāndogyopaniṣad there is a teacher named Haridrumata Gautama[9]

Era Previous to Gautama Dharmasutra

Besides Manu, Gautama frequently quotes certain views ascribed to the ‘Ācāryas’[10]. What teachers are meant by the word ‘Ācāryah’[11], it is difficult to say. Probably the word means ‘the general traditional view of most writers in that particular śāstra on a particular point. In numerous places, Gautama refers to the views of his predecessors in the words ‘eke’[12] and ‘ekeṣām’,[13]. This proves that Gautama was preceded by great literary activity in the sphere of dharmasutra. Gautama seems to be a reminiscence of the Nirukta.

Different Versions of Gautama Dharmasutra

The Dharmasutra of Gautama has been printed several times by different editions like Dr. Stenzler's edition of 1876, the Calcutta edition of 1876, Anandashrama edition with the commentary of Haradatta and the Mysore Government edition with the bhāsya of Maskari which was translated by Buhler.[14] The Anandasrama edition of 1910 has been used as a reference in this work.

Contents of Gautama Dharmasutra

According to Haradatta, the dharmasutra has 28 chapters. The Calcutta edition adds one chapter on Karmavipāka after chapter 19. In many places Gautama unmistakably refers to his own previous dicta.

The following are briefly the contents of the Gautamadharmasutra :

  1. Sources of dharma, rules about interpretation of texts, time of Upanayana for the four varnas, the appropriate girdle, deer skin, cloth and staff for each Varṇa, rules about śauca and ācamana, method of approaching the teacher.
  2. Rules about those not invested with sacred thread, rules for the brahmacarin, control of pupils, period of study
  3. The four asramas, the duties of brahmacarin, bhikṣu and vaikhānsa
  4. Rules about the house-holder, marriage, age at time of marriage, eight forms of marriage, sub-castes
  5. Rules about sexual intercourse on marriage, the five great daily sacrifices, the rewards of gifts, madhuparka, method of honoring guests of the several castes
  6. Rules about showing respect to parents, relatives (male and female) and teachers, rules of the road
  7. Rules about the avocations of a brahmana, avocations for him in distress, what articles a brahmana could not sell or deal in
  8. The forty saṅskaras and the eight spiritual qualities such as dayā, forbearance
  9. The observances for a snātaka and house-holder
  10. The peculiar duties of the four castes, the responsibilities of the king, taxation, sources of ownership, treasure-trove, guardianship of minor’s wealth
  11. Rājadharma, the qualities of the king’s purohita
  12. Punishments for libel, abuse, assault, hurt, adultery and rape, theft in the case of the several varnas and rules about money-lending and usury and adverse possession, special privileges of brahmanas as to punishments; payment of debts, deposits
  13. Rules about witnesses, falsehoods when excusable
  14. Rules of impurity on birth and death
  15. Srāddha of five kinds, persons not fit to be invited at Srāddha
  16. Upakarma, period of Vedic study in the year, holidays and occasions for them
  17. Rules about food allowed and forbidden to Brahmanas and other castes
  18. The duties of women, niyoga and its conditions, discussion about the son born of niyoga
  19. The causes and occasions of prayascitta, five things that remove sin[15], purificatory Vedic prayers, holy food for one who practices japa, various kinds of tapas and gifts, appropriate times and places for japa
  20. Abandoning a sinner who does not undergo prayascitta and the way of doing it
  21. Sinners of various grades, mahāpātakas, upapātakas
  22. Pryascittas for various sins such as brahmahatyā, adultery, killing a kṣatriya, Vaiśya, Śūdra, cow and other animals
  23. Prayascitta for drinking wine and nasty things, for incest and unnatural offences and for several transgressions by brahmacarin
  24. Secret prāyaścitta for mahāpātakas and upapātakas
  25. The penances called Kṛcchra and Atikṛcchra
  26. The penance called Cāndrayāṇa
  27. Partition, strīdhana, reunion, twelve kinds of sons, inheritance

Diction of Gautama Dharmasutra

The Gautama-dharmasutra is written entirely in prose and it contains no verses either quoted or composed by the author himself, as is the case with other dharmasutras. Here and there occurs sūtras that look like portions of Anuṣṭubh verses[16]. The language of Gautama agrees far more closely with the standard set up by Pāṇini than the dharmasutras of Badhāyana and Āpastamba. It is not very easy to account for this difference. It is obvious that commentators and generations of students that were brought up in the tradition of the Pāṇinean grammar tampered with the text and improved it in accordance with their notions of correct Sanskrit. But why this process should not have been carried out to the same extent in the case of Āpastamba it is difficult to say. A conjecture may be hazarded that the Āpastamba dharmasutras being a well-knit component of the Āpastamba Kalpa and being studied as such was less liable to being tampered with than the Gautama dharmasutra, which probably did not in its origin belong to any particular kalpa.

The same commentator, Haradatta, explained both Gautama and Apastamba. Haradatta was a great grammarian who shows in several places that the current reading was ungrammatical from the Paṇinean stand-point and that he preferred readings that were in consonance with Pāṇini's rules. The Tantravartikā[17] appears to discuss the various readings in Gautama[18]. A few sutras quoted from Gautama in the Mitākṣara[19], the Śmṛticandrikā[20] and other works are not found in the extant text.

Other Works Mentioned in Gautama Dharmasutra

The literature known to the Gautama-dharmasutra was extensive. Besides the Vedic saṃhitās and Brahmaṇas it mentions the following works ;

  • Upaniṣads[21]
  • Vedāṅgas[22]
  • Itihāsa[23]
  • Purāṇa[24]
  • Upaveda[25]
  • Dharmśāstra[26]
  • Sāmavidhāna-brāhmaṇa
  • Taittirīya Āraṇyaka[27]

False Controversy Created by Buhler

The śramaṇaka in Gautama[28] is, according to Haradatta, the Vaikhānasa-śāstra is either composed by Vikhanas or treating of the duties of hermits. Gautama refers to Anvīkṣiki[29]. The only teacher of dharmas he quotes by name is Manu[30], who is cited for the proposition that there is no expiation for the three sins of brahmahatyā, drinking wine and violation of the bed of the guru. Haradatta says that in the extant Manusmṝti the same propositions are laid down about brahmahatyā and sūrāpāna[31], but that as to violation of gurutalpa, a passage from the Manusmriti, has to be found yet.

From this Buhler drew the conclusion that Gautama refers to the dharmasutra attributed to Manu and not to any versified Manusmṛt. But Buhler is not right in drawing this inference. In the first place in spite of what Haradatta says there are verses in extant Manusmṛiti[32] which say that death is the expiation for violation of the guru’s bed. In the second place there is nothing to show, even if Haradatta was correct, that Gautama refers only to a dharmasutra of Manu and not to any other versified work.

References About Gautama

The earliest reference to Gautama as an author on dharma occurs in the Baudhāyanadharmasutra. Baudhāyana discusses the authority of usages peculiar to the north or the south and quotes Gautama by saying that it is wrong to hold certain customs which must be held authoritative in certain countries even though opposed to Vedic tradition and smṛti. It refers to Gautama dharmasutra[33] here. In another place Baudhāyana opines that a Brāhmaṇa, if he cannot make a living by teaching, officiating as a priest or by gifts, should earn his livelihood as a Ksatriya and quotes the views of Gautama as opposite to this.

Similarities in Gautama Dharmasutra and Baudhayana Dharmasutra

The extant Gautama on the other hand teaches the same view as that of Baudhayana. Buhler made the plausible suggestion that the sutra in the extant Gautama, is an interpolation. Govindasvāmi, the commentator of Baudhāyana, suggests that another Gautama is referred to by Baudhayāna. It is possible to suggest that in the Ms. of Gautama used by Baudhāyana, the sutra about living as a Kṣatriya, did not occur and the next sutra about living as a Vaiṣya only is denoted. Chapter 19 of the Gautama- dharmasutra forms an introduction to prāyaścittas. In this chapter Gautama seems to have been borrowed wholesale by Baudhāyana[34] with slight changes. The conclusion that Baudhayana borrowed the facts from the Gautama Dharmasutra can be concurred as the content on prayascitta in Baudhayana Dharmasutra occurs in the middle of the discussion and not as an introduction, which is the case in Gautama dharmasutra. Baudhayana refers to penances in several places.[35] There are besides many sutras in both Gautama and Baudhayana that exhibit a close correspondence.[36][37][38][39][40]

Similarities in Gautama Dharmasutra and Baudhayan Dharmasutra

The Vasisthadharmasutra also quotes the views on impurity of death from Gautama dharmasutra in two places.[41] The first refers to Gautama dhamasutra[42] but the second view cannot be traced in the extant Gautama. Chapter 22 of Vasistha dharmasutra is borrowed from the chapter 19 of Gautama dharmasutra. There are besides many sutras that are the same or almost the same in Gautama and Vasistha dharmasutras.[43][44][45][46][47][48][49]

Other Drawn References from Gautama Dharmasutra

  • The Apastamba dharmasutra[50] speaks of Smrti which declares that till the ceremony of upanayana is not performed, there is no adhikāra for homa. This probably refers to the references in Gautama dharmasutra.[51]
  • Gautama is referred to in the Manusmrti[52] as the son of Utathya.
  • Gautama is one of the authors enumerated in Yajnavalkya[53].
  • Apararka quotes a verso from the Bhaviṣyapurāṇa which speaks of Gautama's prohibition about drinking.
  • Kulluka[54] quotes a verse from the same purana which refers to Gautama[55].
  • Kumarila in his Tantravartika quotes over a dozen sutras from Gautama which present the same text as there in Gautama dharmasutra.
  • Gautama dharmasutra verses[56] are quoted by Saṅkara in his bhasya in Vedantasutra[57].
  • Visvarupa in his commentary on Yajnavalkya quotes numerous sutras from Gautama.
  • In Medhatithi's bhāsya on Manu the writer, the most frequently quoted verses are from Gautama dharmasutra then any other writer. [58]

Era When Gautama Dharmasutra Came into Existence

The foregoing discussion about the literature known to the Gautama Dharmasutra and the authors and works that mention Gautama or quote the dharmasutra helps us in arriving at the approximate age of the dharmasutra. He is separated by a long interval from the Saṃvidhāna Brāhmana. He is later than Yaska and wrote at a time when Paniṇi’s system was either not in existence or had not attained a pre-eminent position. The extant text was known to Baudhayana and Vasistha and was in the same state long before 700 A. D. The sutra betrays no knowledge of the onslaught delivered on Brahmanism by Buddha and his followers. He uses the term bhikṣu, to stay in one place in the rains, which reminds one of the Buddhist ‘ bhikkhu ’ and ‘ Vasso’. Gautama cites the opinion of some that Yavana is the offspring of a Ksatriya male and a śudra female.[59] It is supposed by many scholars that the Yavanas became known to the Indians only at the time of Alexander’s invasion and hence every work in which the word yavana occurs must be later than 320 B. C. Buhler[60] seems to suggest that the sutra where the word Yavana occurs in Gautama may be an interpolation. This is not a satisfactory explanation. One may ask, if Buhler believes that the Indians borrowed their alphabet centuries before Alexander from the neighbors of the Greeks, why it is improbable that the Indians may not have heard of the word Yavana centuries before Alexander and why Yavanas may not have resided In India long before that date. Taking all these things into consideration the Gautama-dharmasutra cannot be placed later than the period between 600-400 B. C. Haradatta wrote a learned commentary on the Gautama-dharmasutra called Mitākṣara. At various places Haradatta has quoted the explanations of other commentators of Gautama[61]

The bhāsya of Maskari, son of Vāmana, is also a learned one, but may probably be later than Haradatta, since the interpretations which he quotes as given by others are found to be those of Haradatta[62] Asahāya seems to have written a bhāsya on Gautama.[63]. The Mitākṣara, the Smrticandrika, Hemadri, Mādhava and other writers quote a sloka-Gautama.[64]Aparārka, Hemadri and Mādhava quote Vrddha-Gautama, while the Dattakamīmaṃsā[65] quotes Vrddha-Gautama and Brhad-Gautama side by side on the same point. These are the later works. Jivānanda publishes a smrti of Vrddha-Gautama in 22 chapters and about 1700 verses[66], where it is said that Yudhisthira asked Krsna about the dharmas of the four castes. This smrti seems to have been originally taken from the Āśvamedhikaparva of the Mahābhārata, as Madhava and others cite 30 verses occurring in it as from that parva[67]

Ad/Cr Mr. Batakrishna wrote, in Indian Historical Quarterly (volume Ill for 1927, p. 607), an exhaustive note on the mutual relations of Gautama, Baudhayana and Apastamba. He holds that Gautama is not the oldest extant author, that Apastamba and Gautama stand in the same relation as Manu and Yajnavalkya, that Baudhayana dharmasutra is not older than Apastambadharmasutra, that the reference to the views of some in Gautama 15. 30 may easily be to Apastamba Dharmasutra II. 7. 21. Some of the reasons on which he relics for these views have already been examined in the body of the work. That the extant sutra of Gautama has been in some places revised may be admitted; but that Gautama as an author on dharma preceded Apastamba’s work cannot be denied. There is nothing of chronological value so far as Gautama is concerned in Apastamba’s rejection of the view of Svetaketu that even a married man should continue Veda-study. That Apastamba says nothing about mixed castes is on a par with his silence as to niyoga and the secondary sons. Apastamba knew the lowest castes such as Candala and Paulkasa and Vaina ( Apastamba Dharmasutra S. 11. 1. 2. 6 ). As to beef-eating allowed by Apastamba, ide p. 45 of text and Satapatha Brahmana ( Satapatha Brahamana B. E. vol.26 p. II) where beef-eating is not allowed to a dikshita. Doctors of law were not agreed on many points of dharma and hence no certain chronological conclusion about individual authors can be drawn merely from their views on certain points. It is not correct to say as Mr. Ghose does that Apastamba knows no fines for crimes. Apastamba does say that in case of dispute between litigants elders were to decide, that in case of doubt they were to decide by inference or divine proof, that witnesses were to tell the truth and that if the witnesses were found to be false they were to be fined (II. ii. 29. 5-8 ). This shows that fines were not unheard of in Apastamba’s days and if he omits a statement the reason must be sought for elsewhere than in his being prior to all dharmasutras. Fines for crimes are as old as the Taittiriya Samhita II. 6. I0. 2

After the words ‘the sutra is in close relation to one of the oldest schools of the Yajurveda, viz. Kafha’ the following should be added ‘ Vacaspati in his Sraddha- kalpa alias Pitrbhaktitarangini says that the siitra of Visnu is meant for students of the Katha.s.ikha, as Visnu is a sfitra- kara of tliat ^akha’ ; *IT flit ttftpasnfe'R ^ of in the India Ollicc, folio 17a ( 1 . O. p. 556 No. 1750 ). The siitra referred to is 86. 9. Sec. II p. 71 Vide Ind. Ant. vol. 25 for 1896 pp. 147-48 for an account of the ms. of the 1 laritadharinasutra found by the late Pandit Vaman Sastri Islampurkar.

Synopsis Gautama’s is the oldest extant dharmasutra - specially studied by followers of Samaveda - Gautama one of the nine subdivisions of the Ranayaniya school of Samaveda - Gautamadharmasutra points to close connection with Samaveda - Gautama refers to his own previous dicta - contents of 28 chapters of Gautamadharmasutra - the work is entirely in prose - Gautama’s language agrees more with Panini’s rules than Apastamba’s - explanation of this - Haradatu prefers Paiiinian readings of Gautamti’s text - some sUtras of Gautama quoted in the Mitaksara and other works not found in extant text - extent of literature known to Gautama - the only author named is Manu - the meaning of ‘ScarySh’ whose views are cited by Gautama - earliest reference to Gautama on dharma is in Baudhayana- dharmasutra - BaudhUyana ( III. 10) borrows chap. 19 of Gautama - close correspondence between many other sutras of Gautama and Baudhayana - Vasistha ( 4. 34 and 36 ) refers to views of Gautama -Vasi§tha’s 22nd chap, is borrowed from 19th of Gautama - many sutras the same in Gautama and Vasistha - Gautama referred to by Manu as son of Utathya - Gautama referred to by Yajnavalkya, Bhavisyapurana, Kumarila, Saihkaracarya, MedharitW “ Gautapia’s reference to Yavava - probable age between 600 – 400 B. c. - Haradatta and Maskarin commented on Gautama - Asahaya also did so - sloka - Gautama and Vrddha.


  1. Latyayanaśrautasutra 1. 3. 3 and I. 4. 17
  2. Drahyayanasrauta I. 4. 17, IX. 3. 15
  3. Gobhilagrhya III. 10. 6
  4. Samavidhana Brahamana I. 2, Burnell’s ed.
  5. Chandogya Dharmasutra 19. 12
  6. These five utterences are called as Vyahaṛtis.
  7. Kathopanisad II. 4. 15, II. 5. 6
  8. Kathopanisad I. i. 10
  9. Chāndogyopaniṣad IV- 4- 3 59
  10. Ācāryas e. g. III. 35, IV. 18
  11. It occurs in the Nirukta, Kautilya and various other works.
  12. Gautama Dharmasutra 2. 15, 40 and 56, 3. I, 4. 17, 7. 23
  13. Gautama Dharmasutra 28. 17 and 38
  14. It was translated by Buhler in S. B. E., Vol. II. with an introduction.
  15. They are japa, tapas, homa, fasting and gifts.
  16. Anuṣṭubh verse number 23. 27
  17. Tantravartikā page 99
  18. Gautama Dharmasutra I. 45
  19. The sutra ‘utpatyaiva arthsvāmitvam labhante.
  20. The sutra 'dvyamśam va purvajah'.
  21. Upaniṣads 19.13
  22. Vedāṅgas 8.5 and 11. 19
  23. Itihāsa 8. 6
  24. Purāṇa 8.6 and ii. 19
  25. Upaveda 11. 19
  26. Dharmaśāstra ii. 19
  27. First six sutras of the 25th chapter 11.18
  28. Gautama Dharmasutra 111 . 26
  29. Anvīksiki XI. 3
  30. Manusmriti 21. 7
  31. Manu II. 89 and 146 respectively
  32. Manusmṛti XI. 104-105
  33. Gautama dharmasutra ii. 20
  34. Baudhāyana III. 10
  35. Baudhayana dharmasutra II. i, III. 5. 10 and IV. I. 4
  36. Gautama dharmasutra 111 . 25-34 and Baudhayana dharmasutra II . 6. 17 about Vaikhanasa
  37. Gautama dharmasutra 33 and 35 and Baudhayana dharmasutra 11 . 6. 29
  38. Gautama dharmasutra 15. 29 and Baudhayana dharmasutra 11 . 8. 2
  39. Gautama dharmasutra 23. 8-10 and Baudhayana dharmasutra II. i. 12-14
  40. Gautama dharmasutra 24. 2 and Baudhayana dharmasutra II . 3. 8
  41. Vasisthadharmasutra 4. 34 and 36
  42. Gautama dharmasutra 4. 4 I
  43. Gautama 3.31-33 and Vasistha 9. 1-3
  44. Gautama 3. 26 and Vasistha 9.10
  45. Gautama 1.44 and Vasistha 3. 37
  46. Gautama I. 40 and Vasistha 3. 38
  47. Gautama I. 28 and Vasistha 3.38
  48. Gautama I. 28 and Vasistha 3. 49
  49. Gautama I 5-7 and Vasistha I 24-26
  50. Apastamaba dharmasutra ll. 6. 15. 25
  51. Gautama dharmasutra II. 1-3
  52. Manusmriti 111.16
  53. Yajnavalkya I. 5
  54. Manusmriti XI. 146
  55. Gautama dharmasutra 23.2
  56. Gautama dharmasutra ii. 29 and 12. 4
  57. Vedantasutra III . I. 8 and I.3.38
  58. Manu 11 . 6, VIII. 125 &c.
  59. Gautama dharmasutra 4. 17
  60. S. B. E. vol. 11 . Intro,
  61. Mitākṣara 9. 52; 10. 12, 56, 66; II 17 ; 12. 32; 21 . 9
  62. Gautama 12. 30, 13. 20-22
  63. Gautama dharmasutra vide section 54
  64. Vide Parāśara-Mādhaviya, vol I, part I, p. 7
  65. Dattakamiṃasā p. 72
  66. Part II, pp. 497-636
  67. Vide Parāśaramādhaviya vol, I, part I, pp. 108-110