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Gautama's Dharmasutra

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Title: Gautama's Dharmasutra  
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Subject: Dharmaśāstra, Kalpa (Vedanga)
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Gautama's Dharmasutra

Gautama's Dharmasūtra is believed to be the oldest of the four Hindu Dharmasastras,[1] It survives as an independent treatise, not forming part of the Kalpa-sūtras; it therefore contains no praśnas (questions) or books.[2] Lingat suggests that although this text is now independent, it may have once formed a part of the Kalpa-sūtras.[3]

Authorship and dates

Gautama is a Brahmin family name; its members founded the Samaveda Shakhas (Vedic schools).[4] This Dharmasastra dates from approximately 600-400 BC.[5]

Organization and content

The topics of this Dharmasūtra are arranged methodically. Bühler states in The Classical Law of India that although there have been some alterations to the texts, their general character remains unaffected.[6] The 26th chapter in the Dharmasūtra (on penance) is taken from the Sāmavidhāna Brāhmaṇa, indicating the relationship of Gautama to Sāmaveda. The division of chapters in this Dharmasūtra resembles that of later smṛtis (traditional texts).[7] It is divided into 28 readings (known as adhyāyas), of uneven length.[6] This Dharmasutra is written entirely in prose – unlike the other Dharmasutras, which also contain verses.[6]

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.[8]


Maskarin and Haradatta have commented on this Dharmasūtra – Maskarin in 900-1000 CE, before Haradatta (who also commented on Apastamba).[9] Olivelle states that Haradatta borrowed freely from Maskarin's commentary.


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