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Women In The Sacred Laws
Kulapati's Preface The Author
Foreword Prologue
The Dharma Sutras Contemporary Evidence
The Manu - Samhita The Later Law-Books
Digest On Hindu Law Espirit Des Lois
Major Sections

THE DHARMA SUTRAS

In the whole range of Sanskrit literature ‘ Dharma’ is one of the few words with a comprehensive meaning. It is a word that means variously: sacred law, duty, justice and religious merit. It also denotes any act, which can give heavenly bliss and ultimate liberation to the human soul. In ordinary usage it has a wider meaning, as it includes the customs and practices of any caste or community. Hence the special manuals of the sacred law are called ‘Dharma Sastras’ or ‘law-books’; they fall under the category of Smriti literature, i.e., and 'traditional records.’

These law-books have governed and moulded the life and evolution of the, Hindu community from age to age. These are, traditionally, supposed to have their source in the Rig-Veda, but a survey of the entire literature will show how little is the connection of these sacred laws with the Vedas. Among religious and legal literature, their place is only next to the Grhya- Sutras or the laws of domestic rituals. The lawgivers have described these common Iaws of society, only after describing the Srauta and Grhya-Sutras.

Of these treatises the Dharma-Sastra of Gautama has been taken to be the earliest law-book; for both Baudhayana and Vasishtha, who are also reckoned among the earliest, quote Gautama as their authority, and an entire chapter of Gautama appears in Baudhayana, which has been borrowed in turn by Vasishtha.

Gautama has been assigned to the Sama- Vedic school on the following grounds: 

  1. The twenty-sixth chapter of his book, describing the difficult penances, is similar to the Sama-Vidhana, one of the eight Brahmanas of the Sama- Veda; 

  2. In enumerating the purificatory text he indents on the Sama Veda;  

  3. Gautama uses five Vyahrtis,1the last being Satyam; Vedic treatises, gene rally, mention three: Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah ; but the Vyahrti Saman uses five, of which Satyam is one. 

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Women In The Sacred Laws
About The Dharma Sutras
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