History of Hinduism

Dharmaśāstra
Sanskrit texts on law and conduct ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1000 BCE Jan 1

Dharmaśāstra

India

Dharmaśāstra is a genre of Sanskrit texts on law and conduct, and refers to the treatises (śāstras) on dharma. Unlike Dharmasūtra which are based upon Vedas, these texts are mainly based on Puranas. There are many Dharmashastras, variously estimated to be 18 to about 100, with different and conflicting points of view. Each of these texts exist in many different versions, and each is rooted in Dharmasutra texts dated to 1st millennium BCE that emerged from Kalpa (Vedanga) studies in the Vedic era.


The textual corpus of Dharmaśāstra were composed in poetic verses, are part of the Hindu Smritis, constituting divergent commentaries and treatises on duties, responsibilities and ethics to oneself, to family and as a member of society. The texts include discussion of ashrama (stages of life), varna (social classes), purushartha (proper goals of life), personal virtues and duties such as ahimsa (non-violence) against all living beings, rules of just war, and other topics.


Dharmaśāstra became influential in modern colonial India history, when they were formulated by early British colonial administrators to be the law of the land for all non-Muslims (Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs) in South Asia, after Sharia i.e. Mughal Empire's Fatawa al-Alamgir set by Emperor Muhammad Aurangzeb, was already accepted as the law for Muslims in colonial India.


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Last Updated: : Mon Sep 26 2022