Vasistha Dharmasutra

by Georg Bühler | 1882 | 44,713 words

The Dharmasutra of Vasistha forms an independent treatise and has no relationship with the Kalpasutra. The chapters of this text are divided in a way that resemble the practice of later Smritis. This Dharmasutra has a unique characteristic, it cites the opinions of Manu at many places. This led scholars like Bühler among others to form a hypothesis...

1. Now, therefore, the desire to know the sacred law for their welfare (should arise) in (initiated) men.[1]

2. He who knows and follows the (sacred law is called) a righteous man.

3. He becomes most worthy of praise in this world and after death gains heaven.[2]

4. The sacred law has been settled by the revealed texts and by the tradition (of the sages).

5. On failure of (rules given in) these (two sources) the practice of the Śiṣṭas (has) authority.

6. But he whose heart is free from desire (is called) a Śiṣṭa.

7. (Acts sanctioned by) the sacred law (are those) for which no (worldly) cause is perceptible.[3]

8. The country of the Āryas (Āryāvarta) lies to the east of the region where (the river Sarasvatī) disappears, to the west of the Black-forest, to the north of the Pāripātra (mountains), to the south of the Himālaya.[4]

9. (According to others it lies to the south of the Himālaya) and to the north of the Vindhya range (being limited east and west by the two oceans).[5]

10. Acts productive of spiritual merit, and customs which (are approved of) in that country, must be everywhere acknowledged (as authoritative);

11. But not different ones, (i.e. those) of (countries where) laws opposed (to those of Āryāvarta prevail).[6]

12. Some (declare the country of the Āryas to be situated) between the (rivers) Gaṅgā and Yamunā.[7]

13. Others (state as) an alternative, that spiritual pre-eminence (is found) as far as the black antelope grazes.[8]

14. Now the Bhāllavins quote also (the following) verse in the Nidāna:[9]

15. 'In the west the boundary-river, in the east[10] the region where the sun rises,--as far as the black antelope wanders (between these two limits), so far spiritual pre-eminence (is found).

16. 'Those religious acts which men, deeply versed in the knowledge of the three Vedas and acquainted with the sacred law, declare to be lawful, (are efficient) for purifying oneself and others.'[11]

17. Manu has declared that the (peculiar) laws of countries, castes, and families (may be followed) in the absence of (rules of) the revealed texts.[12]

18. Sinful men are, he who sleeps at sunrise or at sunset, he who has deformed nails or black teeth, he whose younger brother was married first, he who married before his elder brother, the husband of a younger sister married before the elder, the husband of an elder sister whose younger sister was married first, he who extinguishes the sacred fires, (and) he who forgets the Veda through neglect of the daily recitation.[13]

19. They state that there are five mortal sins. (mahāpātaka),

20. (Viz. violating) a Guru's bed, drinking (the spirituous liquor called) surā, slaying a learned Brāhmaṇa, stealing the gold of a Brāhmaṇa, and associating with outcasts,[14]

21. Either by (entering into) spiritual or matrimonial (connexion with them).[15]

22. Now they quote also (the following verse): 'He who during a year associates with an outcast becomes (likewise) an outcast; not by sacrificing for him, by teaching him or by (forming) a matrimonial (alliance with him), but by using the same carriage or seat.'[16]

23. A minor offence causing loss of caste (ūpapātaka, is committed by him) who (after beginning an Agnihotra sacrifice) forsakes the sacred fires, and by him who offends a Guru, by an atheist, by him who takes his livelihood from atheists, and by him who sells the Soma (plant).[17]

24. Three wives (are permitted) to a Brāhmaṇa according to the order of the castes, two to a Kṣatriya, one to a Vaiśya and to a Śūdra.[18]

25. Some declare (that twice-born men may marry) even a female of the Śūdra caste, like those (other wives), without (the recitation of) Vedic texts.

26. Let him not act thus.[19]

27. For in consequence of such (a marriage) the degradation of the family certainly ensues, and after death the loss of heaven.

28. There are six marriage-rites,[20]

29. (Viz.) that of Brahman (brāhma), that of the gods (daiva), that of the Ṛṣis (ārsha), that of the Gandharvas (gāndharva), that of the Kṣatriyas (kṣātra), and that of men (mānuṣa).

30. If the father, pouring out a libation of water, gives his (daughter) to a suitor, that (is called) the Brahma-rite[21]

31. If (the father) gives his daughter, decking her with ornaments, to an officiating priest, whilst a sacrifice is being performed, that is called the Daiva-rite.[22]

32. And (if the father gives his daughter) for a cow and a bull, (that is called) the Ārsha-rite.[23]

33. If a lover takes a loving female of equal caste, that (is called) the Gāndharva-rite.[24]

34. If they forcibly abduct (a damsel), destroying (her relatives) by strength (of arms), that (is called) the Kṣātra-rite.[25]

35. If, after making a bargain (with the father, a[26] suitor) marries (a damsel) purchased for money, that (is called) the Mānuṣa-rite.

36. The purchase (of a wife) is mentioned in the following passage of the Veda, 'Therefore one hundred (cows) besides a chariot should be given to the father of the bride.'[27]

37. (It is stated) in (the following passage of) the Cāturmāsyas, 'She (forsooth) who has been bought by her husband (commits sin, as) afterwards she unites herself with strangers.'[28]

38. Now they quote also (the following verse): 'Lost learning comes back; when the family is lost all is lost. Even a horse becomes estimable on account of its pedigree; therefore men marry wives descended from an (unblemished) family.

39. The three (lower) castes shall live according to the teaching of the Brāhmaṇa.[29]

40. The Brāhmaṇa shall declare their duties,

41. And the king shall govern them accordingly.

42. But a king who rules in accordance with the sacred law, may take the sixth part of the wealth (of his subjects),[30]

43. Except from Brāhmaṇas.[31]

44. It has been declared in the Veda, 'But he obtains the sixth part of (the merit which Brāhmaṇas gain by) sacrifices and charitable works.'[32]

45. (It is further stated in the Veda), 'The Brāhmaṇa makes the Veda rich; the Brāhmaṇa saves from misfortune; therefore the Brāhmaṇa shall not be made a source of subsistence. Soma is his king.'[33]

46. Further (another passage says), 'After death bliss (awaits the king who does not oppress Brāhmaṇas).'

Footnotes and references:


1. The word 'now' serves, in this as in analogous cases, various purposes. It marks the beginning of the book, serves as an auspicious invocation (maṅgala), and indicates that something else, the initiation, must precede the study of the sacred law. 'Therefore' means 'because, after initiation, the neophyte is to be taught the prescribed rules regarding personal purification:--Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita. For the wording of the Sūtra compare the be-ginning of Jaimini's Mīmāṃsā-sūtras.


-6. Gautama I, 1-4; XXVIII, 48.


The Sūtra contains a limitation of Sūtra 5. It indicates that the customs of the Śiṣṭas, for which worldly motives are perceptible, have no authority, and are not to be followed. The principle enunciated is one inculcated by the Mīmāṃsakas (P: M. S. p. 2 I, 3, 3-4). See also Āpastamba I, 1, 4, 5-10; I, 4, 12, 8; and Introduction, p. xxvii. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita has misunderstood the Sūtra. He reads, against the MSS., agṛhyamāṇakāraṇo ’dharmaḥ, 'unlawful acts are those for which no motive, i.e. no sacred source such as the Vedas, is perceptible.'


The region where the river Sarasvatī disappears is the Pattiālā district in the Pañjāb. The Pāripātra mountains belong to the great Vindhya range, and are probably the hills in Mālvā. The position of the Kālakavana or Black-forest is not accurately known. But it must probably be sought in Bihār. All the MSS. as well as Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita read in this Sūtra prāgādarśanāt instead of prāgadarśanāt, 'to the east of the region where the river Sarasvatī disappears.' This circumstance gains some importance by the fact that the Mahābhāṣya on Pāṇini II, 4, 10, quotes the same definition of the Āryāvarta, giving, however, instead of adarśanāt prāgādarśāt, 'to the east of Ādarśa, i.e. the Ādarśa mountains.' It seems to me not improbable that our Sūtra, too, had originally prāgādarśāt, and that some Paṇḍit who knew nothing about the Ādarśa hills, but remembered Manu II, as, and Baudhāyana I, 1, 25, where the word vinaśanāt, 'the disappearance of the Sarasvatī,' undoubtedly occurs, added the syllable na and forgot to correct the ā, after prāg.


The translation follows Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's commentary, which recommends itself on account of the analogous definition of Āryāvarta given by Manu II, 22.


My translation follows the text given by Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita and p. 3 B., and the explanation of the former, because it seems to me that the general sense which they give, is the correct one. I feel, however, not certain that the word. pratilomakadharmāṇām, 'of those countries where opposite laws prevail,' is more than a care less correction. The majority of the MSS. read pratilomakakṣadharmāṇaḥ (kalpadharmāṇaḥ), which by itself is difficult of explanation. But, as the text of the next Sūtra contains an apparently superfluous phrase, I fear, we shall have to admit that the text is here disfigured by corruptions, which with our present MSS. it is impossible to remove with certainty.


Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita reads this Sutra 'etad āryāvartam ityācakṣate gaṅgāyamunayor antaretyeke,' and takes it as one sentence, the subject of which is 'eke.' I feel no doubt that this explanation is utterly untenable, and that the first four words have nothing to do with this Sutra, the second part of which occurs also in the Baudhāyana Dharma-sūtra I, 1, 27. My opinion is that they originally belonged to Sūtra 11, though the state of the MSS. at my disposal does not allow me to say how Sūtra 11 has to be corrected. The general sense of Sūtra 12 is, however, perfectly certain.


Manu II, 23; Yājñavalkya I, 2. It deserves to be noted that the black antelope (black-buck), Oryx cervicapra, selects for its home the well-cultivated, rich plains of India only, and is entirely wanting in the sandy, mountainous or forest districts, which are now, just as in ancient times, the portion of the aboriginal tribes.


Regarding the Bhāllavins, see Max Müller, History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, pp. 193, 364. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita thinks that Nidāna means deśanirṇaya, 'the disquisition on the countries,' which is the title of a section which occurs in most modern compilations on law. But it will be safer to take it as the name of a Vedic work, identical with or similar to that quoted in Śaunaka's Bṛhaddevatā, Weber, Hist. Ind. Lit., p. 81.


Sindhur vidhāraṇī or vidharaṇī, as B. reads, cannot be p. 4 taken with Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita, as 'the ocean,' because in the latter sense sindhu is a masculine. It must be a boundary-river, probably the Sarasvatī. By sūryasyodana, 'the region where the sun rises,' the udayagiri or 'mountain of the east' may possibly be meant.


This verse, too, is marked as a quotation by the concluding word iti, though it is not necessary that it should be taken as a quotation from the Nidāna. Here, and in the sequel verses ending in iti are marked as quotations by hyphens.


Manu VII, 203; VIII, 41; Gautama XI, 20. Jāti,' castes,' which sometimes, and perhaps as appropriately, has been translated by 'tribes,' denotes in my opinion those numerous subdivisions of the four great varṇas, which we now find all over India, and which can be shown to have existed for a very long time. Usually the word 'caste' is also applied to them.


Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita explains vīrahā, 'he who extinguishes the sacred fires,' by 'the destroyer of his sons or of his spiritual clients' p. 5 (yajamāna); but the rules given below, XX, 11, and XXI, 27, in the section on penances, confirm the explanation given above.


Viṣṇu XXXV, 1-2. Guru means here the father, see below, XX, 15.


Viṣṇu XXXV, 3-5. Spiritual connexion, i.e. becoming the teacher or priest of an outcast, or his pupil or spiritual client (yajamāna).


Identical with Manu XI, 181. It must be understood that spiritual or matrimonial connexion with an outcast causes immediate degradation, as Viṣṇu states expressly.


Viṣṇu XXXVII, 6, 31; Gautama XXI, 11. Regarding the precise meaning of pratijahnuyāt, 'offends,' see below, XXI, 27.


-25. Manu III, 13; Yājñavalkya I, 57; Pāraskara Gṛhya-sūtra I, 4, 8-11.


-27. Manu III, 14-19.


Āpastamba II, 5, II, 17-20.


Viṣṇu XXIV, 19; Āśvalāyana Gṛhya-sūtra I, 6, 1.


Viṣṇu XXIV, 20; Āśvalāyana Gṛhya.-sūtra I, 6, 2,


Viṣṇu XXIV, 21; Āśvalāyana Gṛhya-sūtra I, 6, 3.


Viṣṇu XXIV, 23; Āśvalāyana Gṛhya-sūtra I, 6, 5.


Viṣṇu XXIV, 25; Āśvalāyana Gṛhya-sūtra I, 6, 8.


Viṣṇu XXIV, 24; Āśvalāyana Gṛhya-sūtra I, 6, 6.


Śāṅkhāyana Gṛhya-sūtra I, 14; Pāraskara Gṛhya-sūtra I, 8, 18; Āpastamba II, 6, 13, 12. Though Vasiṣṭha's quotation is less complete than Āpastamba's, still the following Sūtras show that he knew the conclusion of the passage, and does not take it as an authority for the sale of a daughter.


Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita makes a mistake by connecting the word 'cāturmāsyeshu' with the next Sūtra. He is right in saying that 'the Cāturmāsyas' is the name of a book. It is, however, not a separate work, but the kāṇḍa or section of a Vedic work treating of the Cāturmāsya sacrifices (see Max Müller, Hist. Anc. Sansk. Lit., p. 355). The particular work from which our quotation has been taken, is either the Maitrāyāṇīya Saṃhitā, or the Kāṭhaka. For, as Dr. von Schroeder informs me, Maitrāyāṇīya Saṃhitā I, 10, 11 reads 'anṛtaṃ vā eṣā karoti yā patyuḥ krītā satyathānyaiś carati,' and the title of the kāṇḍa is Cāturmāsyāni. Professor Weber, Ind. Stud. V, 407, has found the same words in the Cāturmāsya section of the Kāṭhaka XXXVI, 5. In the translation I have added the beginning of the passage which Vasiṣṭha omits, according to the Maitrāyāṇīya Saṃhitā.


-41. Gautama XI, 25-27.


Viṣṇu III, 22-25. Though the ambiguous word dhana, 'wealth,' is used in the text, it seems not doubtful that Vasiṣṭha alludes to the land-tax, which generally consists of one sixth of the produce.


Viṣṇu III, 26.


Viṣṇu III, 27--28. Pūrta, 'the merit gained by charitable works,' i.e. by planting trees, digging wells, and so forth. The words 'iti ha,' placed at the end of the Sūtra, indicate that it is a quotation, and that vijñāyate, 'it is declared in the Veda,' has to be understood from Sūtra 46. Gautama XI, 11, too, alleges that the rule is based on a Vedic passage.


Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa V, 4, 2, 3. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's division of the quotation into several Sūtras is unnecessary. His explanation of anādya, which he takes to mean 'the first of all,' is wrong. He asserts that the Brāhmaṇa is said 'to make the Veda rich,' because by sacrificing and so forth he fulfils its object and protects it. But the phrase is probably corrupt. If it is said that Soma is the king of the Brāhmaṇas, the object is to indicate that an earthly king is not their master, see Gautama XI, 1.

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