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. The four castes are distinguished by their origin and by particular sacraments.[1]

2. There is also the following passage of the Veda, 'The Brāhmaṇa was his mouth, the Kṣatriya formed his arms, the Vaiśya his thighs; the Śūdra was born from his feet.'[2]

3. It has been declared in (the following passage of) the Veda that (a Śūdra) shall not receive the sacraments, 'He created the Brāhmaṇa with the Gāyatrī (metre), the Kṣatriya with the Tṛṣṭubh, the Vaiśya with the Jagatī, the Śūdra without any metre.'

4. Truthfulness, suppression of anger, liberality, abstention from injuring living beings, and the procreation of offspring (are duties common to) all (castes).[3]

5. The Mānava (Sūtra states), 'Only when he worships the manes and the gods, or honours guests, he may certainly do injury to animals.'[4]

6. 'On offering a Madhuparka (to a guest), at a sacrifice, and at the rites in honour of the manes, but on these occasions only may an animal be slain; that (rule) Manu proclaimed.'[5]

7. 'Meat can never be obtained without injuring living beings, and to injure living beings does not procure heavenly bliss; therefore the (sages declare) the slaughter (of beasts) at a sacrifice not to be slaughter (in the ordinary sense of the word).'[6]

8. 'Now he may also cook a full-grown ox or a full-grown he-goat for a Brāhmaṇa or Kṣatriya guest; in this manner they offer hospitality to such (a man).'[7]

9. Libations of water (must be poured out) for all (deceased relatives) who completed the second year and (their death causes) impurity.

10. Some declare that (this rule applies also to children) that died after teething.

11. After having burnt the body (of the deceased, the relatives) enter the water without looking at (the place of cremation),[8]

12. Facing the south, they shall pour out water with both hands on (those days of the period of impurity) which are marked by odd numbers.[9]

13. The south, forsooth, is the region sacred to the manes.

14. After they have gone home, they shall sit during three days on mats, fasting.[10]

15. If they are unable (to fast so long), they shall subsist on food bought in the market or given unasked.[11]

16. It is ordered that impurity caused by a death shall last ten days in the case of Sapiṇḍa relations.

17. It has been declared in the Veda that Sapiṇḍa relationship extends to the seventh person (in the ascending or descending line).[12]

18. It has been declared in the Veda that for married females it extends to the third person (in the ascending or descending line).

19. Others (than the blood-relations) shall perform (the obsequies) of married females,[13]

20. (The rule regarding impurity) should be exactly the same on the birth of a child for those men who desire complete purity,[14]

21. Or for the mother and the father (of the child alone); some (declare that it applies) to the[15] mother (only), because she is the immediate cause of that (event).

22. Now they quote also (the following verse): On the birth (of a child) the male does not become impure if he does not touch (the female); on that (occasion) the menstrual excretion must be known to be impure, and that is not found in males.'

23. If during (a period of impurity) another (death or birth) happens, (the relatives) shall be pure after (the expiration of) the remainder of that (first period);[16]

24. (But) if one night (and day only of the first period of impurity) remain, (they shall be pure) after two (days and nights);[17]

25. (If the second death or birth happens) on the morning (of the day on which the first period of impurity expires, they shall be purified) after three (days and nights).[18]

26. A Brāhmaṇa is freed from impurity (caused by a death or a birth) after ten days,[19]

27. A Kṣatriya after fifteen days,

28. A Vaiśya after twenty days,

29. A Śūdra after a month.[20]

30. Now they quote also (the following verses): 'But (a twice-born man) who has eaten (the food) of a Śūdra during impurity caused by a death or a birth, will suffer dreadful (punishment in) hell and be born again in the womb of an animal.'

31. 'A twice-born man who eats by appointment in the house of a stranger whose ten days of impurity, caused by a death, have not expired, after death will become a worm and feed on the ordure of that (man who fed him).'

32. It has been declared in the Veda, '(Such a sinner) becomes pure by reciting the Saṃhitā of the Veda for twelve months or for twelve half-months while fasting.'[21]

33. On the death of a child of less than two years or on a miscarriage, the impurity of the Sapiṇḍas lasts three (days and) nights.[22]

34. Gautama (declares that on the former occasion they become) pure at once.[23]

35. If (a person) dies in a foreign country and (his Sapiṇḍas) hear (of his death) after ten days (or a longer period), 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) his corpse.[24]

37. When he has touched a sacrificial post, a pyre, a burial-ground, a menstruating or a lately confined woman, impure men or (Cāṇḍālas and so forth), he shall bathe, submerging both his body and his head.[25]

Footnotes and references:


IV. Manu I, 87.


Rig-veda X, 90, 12.


Viṣṇu II, 17.


Mānavam, 'the Mānava (Sūtra),' means literally 'a work proclaimed by Manu' (manunā proktam). It is probable that the work referred to by Vasiṣṭha is the lost Dharma-sūtra of the Mānava Śākhā, which is a subdivision of the Maitrāyaṇīyas, and on which the famous metrical Mānava Dharmaśāstra is based. The words of the Sūtra may either be a direct quotation or a summary of the opinion given in the Mānava-sūtra. I think the former supposition the more probable one, and believe that not only Sūtra 5, but also Sūtras 6-8 have been taken bodily from the ancient Dharma-sūtra. For Sūtra 6 agrees literally with a verse of the metrical Manusmṛti, and at the end of Sūtra 8 several MSS. have the word iti, the characteristic mark that a quotation is finished, while the language of Sūtra 8 is more antiquated than Vasiṣṭha's usual style. If my view is correct, it follows that the lost Mānava Dharma-sūtra consisted, like nearly all the known works of this class, partly of prose and partly of verse.


Identical with Manu V, 41; Viṣṇu LI, 64; and Sāṅkhāyana Gṛhya-sūtra II, 16, 1. I take piṭridaivata, against Kullūka's and Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita's view, as a bahuvrīhi compound, and dissolve it by pitaro daivataṃ yaśmiṃstat, literally 'such (a rite) where the manes are the deities,' The other explanation, '(rites) p. 27 to the manes or to the gods,' which is also grammatically correct, recommends itself less, because the rites to the gods are already included by the word yajñe, 'at a sacrifice.' As to the Madhuparka, see Āpastamba II, 4, 8, 8-9, and below XI, 1.


Manu V, 48, and Viṣṇu LI, 71, where, however, the conclusion of the verse has been altered to suit the ahiṃsā-doctrines of the compilers of the metrical Smṛtis. The reason why slaughter at a sacrifice is not slaughter in the ordinary sense may be gathered from Viṣṇu LI, 61, 63.


Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa III, 4, I, 2; Yājñavalkya I, 109. 9-10. Viṣṇu XIX, 7; Manu V, 58. Regarding the length of the period of impurity, see below, Sūtras 16, 26-29.


Viṣṇu XIX, 6.


Viṣṇu XIX, 7; Gautama XIV, 40. 'On those days of the period of impurity which are marked by odd numbers,' i.e. 'on the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth, as has been declared by Gautama.'--Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita.


Viṣṇu XIX, 16; Gautama XIV, 37.


Viṣṇu XIX, 14.


Viṣṇu XXII, 5.


Gautama XIV, 36; Pāraskara Gṛhya-sūtra III, xo, 42. Others than the blood-relations,' i.e. 'the husband and his relatives.' The MSS. have another Sūtra following this, which Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita leaves out. Tāśca teṣām, 'and they (the married females shall perform the obsequies) of those (i.e. their husbands and his Sapiṇḍas).' It seems to me very probable that the passage is genuine, especially as Pāraskara, Gṛhya-sūtra III, 10, 43, has the same words.


Viṣṇu XXII, 1.


Gautama XIV, 15-16, The Sūtra ought to have been divided into two.


Viṣṇu XXII, 35.


Viṣṇu XXII, 36.


Viṣṇu. XXII, 37. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita explains prabhāte, 'on the morning (of the day on which the first period of impurity expires),' in accordance with Nandapaṇḍita's explanation of Viṣṇu's text by 'during the last watch (of the last night of the period of impurity).' See also the slightly different explanation of the identical swords by Haradatta, Gautama XIV, 8.


Viṣṇu XXII, 1.


Viṣṇu XXII, 4.


Regarding the penance prescribed here, the so-called anaśnatpārāyaṇa, see below XX, 46, and Baudhāyana III, 9.


Viṣṇu XXII, 27-30.


Gautama XIV, 44, and introduction to Gautama, p. liii.


Introduction to Gautama, pp. liii and liv.


Viṣṇu XXII, 69. Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita and MS. B. read pūya, p. 31 'pus,' instead of yūpa, 'a sacrificial post.' The reading is, however, wrong, because the parallel passages of most Smṛtis enjoin that a man who has touched a sacrificial post shall bathe. The cause of the mistake is probably a mere clerical error. The MSS. repeat the last word of this chapter, apa ityapaḥ. The reason is not, as Kṛṣṇapaṇḍita imagines, that the author wishes to indicate the necessity of bathing when one touches a person who has touched some impure thing or person. It is the universal practice of the ancient authors to repeat the last word of a chapter in order to mark its end, see ej. Gautama note on I, 61. If it is neglected in the earlier chapters of the Vāsiṣṭha Dharma-sūtra, the badness of the MSS. is the cause.

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