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Mahabharata as a Dharmasastra

  • Date Submitted: 10/31/2011 08:51 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 47.6 
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Dharmaśāstra is a genre of Sanskrit texts and refers to the śāstra, or Hindu branch of learning, pertaining to dharma, religious and legal duty. The voluminous textual corpus of Dharmaśāstra is primarily a product of the Brahmanical tradition in India and represents the elaborate scholastic system of an expert tradition. Because of its sophisticated jurisprudence, Dharmaśāstra was taken by early British colonial administrators to be the law of the land for Hindus in India. Ever since, Dharmaśāstra has been linked with Hindu law, despite the fact that its contents deal as much, or more, with religious life as with law. In fact, a separation of religion and law within Dharmaśāstra is artificial and has been repeatedly questioned. Dharmaśāstra is important within the Hindu tradition—first, as a source of religious law describing the life of an ideal householder and, second, as symbol of the summation of Hindu knowledge about religion, law, ethics, etc.

Contents [hide]
1 Contents of Dharmaśāstra
2 Principal texts
3 Major English translations
3.1 Best for beginners
3.2 Other major translations
3.3 Early translations with full-text online
4 References
5 Credits


Contents of Dharmaśāstra
All Dharmaśāstra derives its authority with reference to the Vedas, though few, if any, of the contents of most Dharmaśāstra texts can be directly linked with extant Vedic texts. Traditionally, Dharmaśāstra has, since the time of the Yājñvalkyasmṛti, been divided into three major topics:

1.ācāra, rules pertaining to daily rituals, life-cycle cites, and other duties of four castes or varnas
2.vyavahāra, rules pertaining to the procedures for resolving doubts about dharma and rules of substantive law categorized according the standard eighteen titles of Hindu law
3.prāyaścitta, rules about expiations and penances for violations of the rules of dharma
A more descriptive catalog of the contents of Dharmaśāstra (culled from the contents of P.V. Kane's History of...

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