Gautama Dharmasūtra

by Gautama | 1879 | 41,849 words

The topics in this Dharmasūtra are devoted to the student, the order of a person's life (āśramas), the householder, occupations of the four classes, the king, impurity, ancestral offerings, women and marriage, property, inheritance and penances. Gautama's Dharmasūtra is believed to be the oldest of the four Hindu Dharmasastras, It survives as an i...


COMPARED with the information collected above regarding the origin and the history of Āpastamba's Dharma-sūtra, the facts which can be brought to bear on Gautama's Institutes are scanty and the conclusions deducible from them somewhat vague. There are only two points, which, it seems to me, can be proved satisfactorily, viz. the connection of the work with the Sāma-veda and a Gautama Caraṇa, and its priority to the other four Dharma-sūtras which we still possess. To go further appears for the present impossible, because very little is known regarding the history of the schools studying the Sāma-veda, and because the Dharmaśāstra not only furnishes very few data regarding the works on which it is based, but seems also, though not to any great extent, to have been tampered with by interpolators.

As regards its origin, it was again Professor Max Müller, who, in the place of the fantastic statements of a fabricated tradition, according to which the author of the Dharmaśāstra is the son or grandson of the sage Utathya, and the grandson or great-grandson of Uśanas or Śukra, the regent of the planet Venus, and the book possessed generally binding force in the second or Tretā Yuga[1], first put forward a rational explanation which, since, has been adopted by all other writers on Sanskrit literature. He says, Hist. Anc. Sansk. Lit., p. 134, 'Another collection of Dharma-sūtras, which, however, is liable to critical doubts, belongs to the Gautamas, a Caraṇa of the Sāma-veda.' This assertion agrees with Kumārila's statement, that the Dharmaśāstra of Gautama and the Gṛhya-sūtra of Gobhila were (originally) accepted (as authoritative) by the Chandogas or Sāmavedins alone[2]. Kumārila certainly refers to the work known to us. For he quotes in other passages several of its Sūtras[3].

That Kumārila and Professor Max Müller are right, may also be proved by the following independent arguments. Gautama's work, though called Dharmaśāstra or Institutes of the Sacred Law, closely resembles, both in form and contents, the Dharma-sūtras or Aphorisms on the Sacred Law, which form part of the Kalpa-sūtras of the Vedic schools of Baudhāyana, Āpastamba, and Hiraṇyakeśin. As we know from the Caraṇavyūha, from the writings of the ancient grammarians, and from the numerous quotations in the Kalpa-sūtras and other works on the Vedic ritual, that in ancient times the number of Vedic schools, most of which possessed Śrauta, Gṛhya, and Dharma-sūtras, was exceedingly great, and that the books of many of them have either been lost or been disintegrated, the several parts being torn out of their original connection, it is not unreasonable to assume that the aphoristic law-book, usually attributed to the Ṛṣi Gautama, is in reality a manual belonging to a Gautama Caraṇa. This conjecture gains considerably in probability, if the fact is taken into account that formerly a school of Sāma-vedīs, which bore the name of Gautama, actually existed. It is mentioned in one of the redactions of the Caraṇavyūha[4] as a subdivision of the Rāṇāyanīya school. The Vaṃsa-brāhmaṇa of the Sāma-veda, also, enumerates four members of the Gautama family among the teachers who handed down the third Veda, viz. Gātṛ Gautama, Sumantra Bābhrava Gautama, Saṃkara Gautama, and Rādha Gautama[5], and the existing Śrauta and Gṛhya-sūtras frequently appeal to the opinions of a Gautama and of a Sthavira Gautama[6]. It follows, therefore, that at least one, if not several Gautama Caraṇas, studied the Sāma-veda, and that, at the time when the existing Sūtras of Lāṭyāyana and Gobhila were composed, Gautama Śrauta and Gṛhya-sūtras formed part of the literature of the Sāma-veda. The correctness of the latter inference is further proved by Dr. Burnell's discovery of a Pitṛmedha-sūtra, which is ascribed to a teacher of the Sāma-veda, called Gautama[7].

The only link, therefore, which is wanting in order to complete the chain of evidence regarding Gautama's Aphorisms on the sacred law, and to make their connection with the Sāma-veda perfectly clear, is the proof that they contain special references to the latter. This proof is not difficult to furnish, For Gautama has borrowed one entire chapter, the twenty-sixth, which contains the description of the Kṛcchras or difficult penances from the Sāmavidhāna, one of the eight Brāhmaṇas of the Sāma-veda[8]. The agreement of the two texts is complete except in the Mantras (Sūtra 12) where invocations of several deities, which are not usually found in Vedic writings, have been introduced. Secondly, in the enumeration of the purificatory texts, XIX, 12, Gautama shows a marked partiality for the Sāma-veda. Among the eighteen special texts mentioned, we find not less than nine Sāmans. Some of the latter, like the Bṛhat, Rathantara, Jyeṣṭha, and Mahādivākīrtya chants, are mentioned also in works belonging to the Ṛj-veda and the Yajur-veda, and are considered by Brāhmaṇas of all schools to possess great efficacy. But others, such as the Puruṣagati, Rauhina, and Mahāvairāja Sāmans, have hitherto not been met with anywhere but in books belonging to the Sāma-veda, and do not seem to have stood in general repute. Thirdly, in two passages, I, 50 and XXV, 8; the Dharmaśāstra prescribes the employment of five Vyāhṛtis, and mentions in the former Sūtra, that the last Vyāhṛti is satyam, truth. Now in most Vedic works, three Vyāhṛtis only, bhūḥ, bhuvaḥ, svaḥ, are mentioned; sometimes, but rarely, four or seven occur. But in the Vyāhṛti Sāman, as Haradatta points out[9], five such interjections are used, and satyam is found among them. It is, therefore, not doubtful, that Gautama in the above-mentioned passages directly borrows from the Sāma-veda. These three facts, taken together, furnish, it seems to me, convincing proof that the author of our Dharmaśāstra was a Sāma-vedi. If the only argument in favour of this conclusion were, that Gautama appropriated a portion of the Sāmavidhāna, it might be met by the fact that he has also taken some Sūtras (XXV, 1-6), from the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka. But his partiality for Sāmans as purificatory texts and the selection of the Vyāhṛtis from the Vyāhṛti Sāman as part of the Mantras for the initiation (1, 50), one of the holiest and most important of the Brahmanical sacraments, cannot be explained on any other supposition than the one adopted above.

Though it thus appears that Professor Max Müller is right in declaring the Gautama Dharmaśāstra to belong to the Sāma-veda, it is, for the present, not possible to positively assert, that it is the Dharma-sūtra of that Gautama Caraṇa, which according to the Caraṇavyūha quoted in the Sabdakalpadruma of Rādhākanta, formed a subdivision of the Rāṇāyaṇīyas. The enumeration of four Ācāryas, bearing the family-name Gautama, in the Vaṃsa-brāhmaṇa, and Lāṭyāyana's quotations from two Gautamas, make it not unlikely, that several Gautama Caraṇas once existed among the Sāma-vedi Brāhmaṇas, and we possess no means for ascertaining to which our Dharmaśāstra must be attributed. Further researches into the history of the schools of the Sāma-veda must be awaited until we can do more. Probably the living tradition of the Sāma-vedīs of Southern India and new books from the South will clear up what at present remains uncertain.

In concluding this subject I may state that Haradatta seems to have been aware of the connection of Gautama's law-book with the Sāma-veda, though he does not say it expressly. But he repeatedly and pointedly refers in his commentary to the practices of the Chandogas, and quotes the Gṛhya-sūtra of the Jaiminīyas[10], who are a school of Sāma-vedīs, in explanation of several passages. Another southern author, Govindasvāmin (if I understand the somewhat corrupt passage correctly), states directly in his commentary on Baudhāyana I, 1, 2, 6, that the Gautamīya Dharmaśāstra was originally studied by the Chandogas alone[11].

In turning now to the second point, the priority of Gautama to the other existing Dharma-sūtras, I must premise that it is only necessary to take into account two of the latter, those of Baudhāyana and Vasiṣṭha. For, as has been shown above in the Introduction to Āpastamba, the Sūtras of the latter and those of Hiraṇyakeśin Satydṣāḍha are younger than Baudhāyana's. The arguments which allow us to place Gautama before both Baudhāyana and Vasiṣṭha are, that both those authors quote Gautama as an authority on law, and that Baudhāyana has transferred a whole chapter of the Dharmaśāstra to his work, which Vasiṣṭha again has borrowed from him.

As regards the case of Baudhāyana, his references to Gautama are two, one of which can be traced in our Dharmaśāstra. In the discussion on the peculiar customs prevailing in the South and in the North of India (Baudh. Dh. 1, 2, 1-8) Baudhāyana expresses himself as follows:

'1. There is a dispute regarding five (practices) both in the South and in the North.

'2. We shall explain those (peculiar) to the South.

'3. They are, to eat in the company of an uninitiated person, to eat in the company of one's wife, to eat stale food, to marry the daughter of a maternal uncle or of a paternal aunt.

'4. Now (the customs peculiar) to the North are, to deal in wool, to drink rum, to sell animals that have teeth in the upper and in the lower jaws, to follow the trade of arms and to go to sea.

'5. He who follows (these practices) in (any) other country than the one where they prevail commits sin.

'6. For each of these practices (the rule of) the country should be (considered) the authority.

'7, Gautama declares that this is false.

'8. And one should not take heed of either (set of practices), because they are opposed to the tradition of those learned (in the sacred law[12]).'

From this passage it appears that the Gautama Dharma-sūtra, known to Baudhāyana, expressed an opinion adverse to the authoritativeness of local customs which might be opposed to the tradition of the Śiṣṭas, i.e. of those who really deserve to be called learned in the law. Our Gautama teaches the same doctrine, as he says, XI, 20, 'The laws of countries, castes, and families, which are not opposed to the (sacred) records, have also authority.' As clear as this reference, is the case in which Baudhāyana has borrowed a whole chapter of our Dharmaśāstra. The chapter in question is the nineteenth, which in Gautama's work forms the introduction to the section on penances and expiation. It is reproduced with a number of various readings[13] in the third Praśna of Baudhāyana's Dharma-sūtra, where it forms the tenth and last Adhyāya. Its contents, and especially its first Sūtra which connects the section on penances with the preceding ones on the law of castes and orders, make it perfectly clear that its proper position can only be at the beginning of the rules on expiation, not in the middle of the discussion, as Baudhāyana places it[14]. This circumstance alone would be sufficient to prove that Baudhāyana is the borrower, not Gautama, even if the name of the latter did not occur in Baudhāyana's Dharma-sūtra. But the character of many of Baudhāyana's readings, especially of those in Sūtras 2, 10, 5 11, 13, and 15, which, though supported by all the MSS. and Govindasvāmin's commentary, appear to have arisen chiefly through clerical mistakes or carelessness, furnishes even an additional argument in favour of the priority of Gautama's text. It must, however, be admitted that the value of this point is seriously diminished by the fact that Baudhāyana's third Praśna is not above suspicion and may be a later addition[15].

As regards Baudhāyana's second reference to Gautama, the opinion which it attribute, to the latter is directly opposed to the teaching of our Dharmaśāstra. Baudhāyana gives II, 2, 4, 16 the rule that a Brāhmaṇa who is unable to maintain himself by teaching, sacrificing, and receiving gifts, may follow the profession of a Kṣatriya, and then goes on as follows[16]:

'17. Gautama declares that he shall not do it. For the duties of a Kṣatriya are too cruel for a Brāhmaṇa.'

As the commentator Govindasvāmin also points out, exactly the opposite doctrine is taught in our Dharmaśāstra, which (VII, 6) explicitly allows a Brāhmaṇa to follow, in times of distress the occupations of a Kṣatriya. Govindasvāmin explains this contradiction by assuming that in this case Baudhāyana[16] cites the opinion, not of the author of our Dharmaśāstra, but of some other Gautama. According to what has been said above[17], the existence of two or even more ancient Gautama Dharma-sūtras is not very improbable, and the commentator may possibly be right. But it seems to me more likely that the Sūtra of Gautama (VII, 6) which causes the difficulty is an interpolation, though Haradatta takes it to be genuine. My reason for considering it to be spurious is that the permission to follow the trade of arms is opposed to the sense of two other rules of Gautama. For the author states at the end of the same chapter on times of distress, VII, 25, that 'even a Brāhmaṇa may take up arms when his life is in danger.' The meaning of these words can only be, that a Brāhmaṇa must not fight under any other circumstances. But according to Sūtra 6 he is allowed to follow the occupations of a Kṣatriya, who lives by fighting. Again, in the chapter on funeral oblations, XV, 18, those Brāhmaṇas 'who live by the use of the bow' are declared to defile the company at a funeral dinner. It seems to me that these two Sūtras, taken together with Baudhāyana's assertion that Gautama does not allow Brāhmaṇas to become warriors, raise a strong suspicion against the genuineness, of VII. 6, and I have the less hesitation in rejecting the latter Sūtra, as there are several other interpolated passages in the text received by Haradatta[18]. Among them I may mention here the Mantras in the chapter taken from the Sāmavidhāna, XXVI, 12, where the three invocations addressed to Siva are certainly modern additions, as the old Sūtrakāras do not allow a place to that or any other Paurāṇic deity in their works. A second interpolation will be pointed out below.

The Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra. shows also two quotations from Gautama; and it is a curious coincidence that, just as in the case of Baudhāyana's references, one of them only can be traced in our Dharmaśāstra. Both the quotations occur in the section on impurity, Vās. IV, where we read as follows '[19]:

'33. If an infant aged less than two years, dies, or in the case of a miscarriage, the impurity of the Sapiṇḍas (lasts) for three (days and) nights.

'34. Gautama declares that (they become) pure at once (after bathing).

'35. If (a person) dies in a foreign country and (his Sapiṇḍas) hear (of his death) after the lapse of ten days, the impurity lasts for one (day and) night.

'36. Gautama declares that if a person who has kindled the sacred fire dies on a journey, (his Sapiṇḍas) shall again celebrate his obsequies, (burning a dummy made of leaves or straw,) and remain impure (during ten days) as (if they had actually buried) the corpse.'

The first of these two quotations or references apparently points to Gautama Dh. XIV, 44, where it is said, that 'if an infant dies, the relatives shall be pure at once.' For, though Vasiṣṭha's Sūtra 34, strictly interpreted, would mean, that Gautama declares the relatives to be purified instantaneously, both if an infant dies and if a miscarriage happens, it is also possible to refer the exception to one of the two cases only, which are mentioned in Sūtra 33. Similar instances do occur in the Sūtra style, where brevity is estimated higher than perspicuity, and the learned commentator of Vasiṣṭha does not hesitate to adopt the same view. But, as regards the second quotation in Sūtra 36, our Gautama contains no passage to which it could possibly refer. Govindasvāmin, in his commentary on the second reference to Gautama in Baudhāyana's Dharmaśāstra II, 2, 71, expresses the opinion that this Sūtra, too, is taken from the 'other' Gautama Dharma-sūtra, the former existence of which he infers from Baudhāyana's passage. And curiously enough the regarding the second funeral -actually is found in the metrical Vṛddha-Gautama[20] or Vaiṣṇava Dharma-śāstra, which, according to Mr. Vāman Ṣāstrī Islāmpurkar[21], forms chapters 94-115 of the Aśvamedha-parvan of the Mahābhārata in a Malayālam MS. Nevertheless, it seems to me very doubtful if Vasiṣṭha did or could refer to this work. As the same rule occurs sometimes in the Śrauta-sūtras[22], I think it more probable that the Śrauta-sūtra of the Gautama school is meant. And it is significant that the Vṛddha-Gautama declares its teaching to be kalpacodita 'enjoined in the Kalpa or ritual.'

Regarding Gautama's nineteenth chapter, which appears in the Vasiṣṭha Dharmaśāstra as the twenty-second, I have already stated above that it is not taken directly from Gautama's work, but from Baudhāyana's. For it shows most of the characteristic readings of the latter. But a few new ones also occur, and some Sūtras have been left out, while one new one, a well-known verse regarding the efficacy of the Vaiśvānara vratapati and of the Pavitreṣṭi, has been added. Among the omissions peculiar to Vasiṣṭha, that of the first Sūtra is the most important, as it alters the whole character of the chapter, and removes one of the most convincing arguments as to its original position at the head of the section on penances. Vasiṣṭha places it in the beginning of the discussion on penances which are generally efficacious in removing guilt, and after the rules on the special penances for the classified offences.

These facts will, I think, suffice to show that the Gautama Dharmaśāstra may be safely declared to be the. oldest of the existing works on the sacred law[23]. This assertion must, however, not be taken to mean, that every single one of its Sūtras is older than the other four Dharma-sūtras. Two interpolations have already been pointed out above[24], and another one will be discussed presently. It is also not unlikely that the wording of the Sūtras has been changed occasionally. For it is a suspicious fact that Gautama's language agrees closer with Pāṇini's rules than that of Āpastamba and Baudhāyana. If it is borne in mind that Gautama's work has been torn out of its original connection, and from a school-book has become a work of general authority, and that for a long time it has been studied by Pandits who were brought up in the traditions of classical grammar, it seems hardly likely that it could retain much of its ancient peculiarities of language. But I do not think that the interpolations and alterations can have affected the general character of the book very much. It is too methodically planned and too carefully arranged to admit of any very great changes. The fact, too, that in the chapter borrowed by Baudhāyana the majority of the variae lectiones are corruptions, not better readings, favours this view. Regarding the distance in time between Gautama on the one hand, and Baudhāyana and Vasiṣṭha on the other, I refer not to hazard any conjecture, as long as the position of the Gautamas among the schools of the Sāma-veda has not been cleared up. So much only can be said that Gautama probably was less remote from Baudhāyana than from Vasiṣṭha. There are a few curious terms and rules in which the former two agree, while they, at the same time, differ from all other known writers on Dharma. Thus the term bhikṣu, literally a beggar, which Gautama[25] uses to denote an ascetic, instead of the more common yati or sannyāsin, occurs once also in Baudhāyana's Sūtra. The same is the case with the rule, III, 13, which orders the ascetic not to change his residence during the rains. Both the name bhikṣu and the rule must be very ancient, as the Jainas and Buddhists have borrowed them, and have founded on the latter their practice of keeping the Vasso, or residence in monasteries during the rainy season.

As the position of the Gautamas among the Sāman schools is uncertain, it will, of course, be likewise inadvisable to make any attempt at connecting them with the historical period of India. The necessity of caution in this respect is so obvious that I should not point it out, were it not that the Dharmaśāstra contains one word, the occurrence of which is sometimes considered to indicate the terminus a quo for the dates of Indian works. The word to which I refer is Yavana. Gautama quotes, IV, 21, an opinion of 'some,' according to which a Yavana is the offspring of a Śūdra male and a Kṣatriya female. Now it is well known that this name is a corruption of the Greek Ἰαϝων, an Ionian, and that in India it was applied, in ancient times, to the Greeks, and especially to the early Seleucids who kept up intimate relations with the first Mauryas, as well as later to the Indo-Bactrian and Indo-Grecian kings who from the beginning of the second century B. C. ruled over portions of north-western India. And it has been occasionally asserted that an Indian work, mentioning the Yavanas, cannot have been composed before 300 B. C., because Alexander's invasion first made the Indians acquainted with the name of-the Greeks. This estimate is certainly erroneous, as there are other facts, tending to show that at least the inhabitants of north-western India became acquainted with the Greeks about 200 years earlier[26]. But it is not advisable to draw any chronological conclusions from Gautama's Sūtra, IV, 21. For, as, pointed out in the note to the translation of Sūtra IV, 18, the whole section with the second enumeration of the mixed castes, IV, 17-21, is probably spurious.

The information regarding the state of the Vedic literature, which the Dharmaśāstra furnishes, is not very extensive. But some of the items are interesting, especially the proof that Gautama knew the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka, from which he took the first six Sūtras of the twenty-fifth Adhyāya; the Sāmavidhāna Brāhmaṇa, from which the twenty-sixth Adhyāya has been borrowed; and the Atharvaśiras, which is mentioned XIX, 12. The latter word denotes, according to Haradatta, one of the Upaniṣads of the Atharva-veda, which usually are not considered to belong to a high antiquity. The fact that Gautama and Baudhāyana knew it, will probably modify this opinion. Another important fact is that Gautama, XXI, 7, quotes Manu, and asserts that the latter declared it to be impossible to expiate the guilt incurred by killing a Brāhmaṇa, drinking spirituous liquor, or violating a Guru's bed. From this statement it appears that Gautama knew an ancient work on law which was attributed to Manu. It probably was the foundation of the existing Mānava Dharmaśāstra[27]. No other teacher on law, besides Manu, is mentioned by name. But the numerous references to the opinions of 'some' show that Gautama's work was not the first Dharma-sūtra.

In conclusion, I have to add a few words regarding the materials on which the subjoined translation is based. The text published by Professor Stenzler for the Sanskrit Text Society has been used as the basis[28]. It has been collated with a rough edition, prepared from my own MSS. P and C, a MS. belonging to the Collection of the Government of Bombay, bought at Belgām, and a MS. borrowed from a Puṇa Śāstrī. But the readings given by Professor Stenzler and his division of the Sūtras have always been followed in the body of the translation. In those cases, where the variae lectiones of my MSS. seemed preferable, they have been given and translated in the notes. The reason which induced me to adopt this course was that I thought it more advisable to facilitate references to the printed Sanskrit text than to insist on the insertion of a few alterations in the translation, which would have disturbed the order of the Sūtras. The notes have been taken from the above-mentioned rough edition and from my MSS. of Haradatta's commentary, called Gautamīyā Mitākṣarā, which are now deposited in the India Office Library, Sansk. MSS. Bühler, Nos. 165-67.

Footnotes and references:


Manu III, 19; Colebrooke, Digest of Hindu Law, Preface, p. xvii (Madras ed.); Anantayajvan in Dr. Burnell's Catalogue of Sanskrit MSS., (p. 57; Pārāśara, Dharmaśāstra I, 22 (Calcutta ed.).


Tantravārttika, p. 179 (Benares ed.), .


Viz. Gautama I, 2 on p. 143; II, 45-46 on p. 112, and XIV, 45-46 on p. 109.


Max Müller, Hist. Anc. Sansk. Lit., p. 374.


See Burnell, Vaṃsa-brāhmaṇa, pp. 7, 9, 11, and 12.


See the Petersburg Dictionary, s. v. Gautama; Weber, Hist. Ind. Lit., p. 77 (English ed.); Gobhila Gṛhya-sūtra III, 10, 6.


Weber, Hist. Ind. Lit., p. 84, note 89 (English ed.)


See below, pp. 292-296.


See Gautama I, 50, note.


A Gṛhya-sūtra. of the Jaiminīyas has been discovered by Dr. Burnell with a commentary by Śrīnivāsa. He thinks that the Jaiminīyas are a Sūtra-śākhā of the Śāṭyāyana-Talavakāras.


My transcript has been made from the MS. presented by Dr. Burnell, the discoverer of the work, to the India Office Library. The passage runs as follows: Yathā vi bodhākyanīyaṃ dharmaśāstraṃ kaiścid eva paṭhyamānaṃ sarvādhikāram bhavati tathā gautamīye gobhilīye (?) chandogair eva paṭhyate || vāsiṣṭhaṃ tu bahvṛcair eva ||





Baudhāyana's treatment of the subject of penances is very unmethodical. He devotes to them the following sections: II, 1-2; II, 2, 3, 48-53; II, 2, 4; III, 5-10; and the greater part of Praśna IV.


See Sacred Books of the East, vol. xiv, p. xxxiv seq.


Baudh. Dh. II, 2, 4, 17.


See p. lii.


In some MSS. a whole chapter on the results of various sins in a second birth is inserted after Adhyāya XIX. But Haradatta does not notice it; see Stenzler, Gautama, Preface, p. iii.


In quoting the Vāsiṣṭha Dh. I always refer to the Benares edition, which is accompanied by the Commentary of Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita Dharmādhikārin, called Vidvanmodinī.


Dharmaśāstra saṃgraha (Jībānand), p. 627, Adhy. 20, 1 seqq.


Parāśara Dharma Saṃhitā (Bombay Sansk. Series, No. xlvii), vol. i, p. 9.


See e.g. Āp. Śr. Sū.


Professor Stenzler, too, had arrived independently at this conclusion, see Grundriss der Indo-Ar. Phil. und Altertumsk., vol. ii, Pt. 8, p. 5.


See p. lvii.


Gaut. Dh. III, 2, 11; see also Weber, Hist. Ind. Lit., P.327 (English ed.)


See my Indian Studies, No. iii, p. 26, note 1.


Compare also Sacred Books of the East, vol. xxv, p. xxxiv seq.


The Institutes of Gautama, edited with an index of words by A. F. Stenzler, London, 1876.

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