Dharma: Hindu Dharma
DHARMA: HINDU DHARMA
The term dharma, central to Hindu conceptions of morality, tradition, and national identity, is a notoriously difficult one to define. Standard definitions relate the word variously to the individual's duty to observe custom or law, to the individual's conformity to duty and nature, or to divine law itself. An examination of the word in context, however, quickly reveals that all of these simple definitions gloss over numerous complexities and contradictions. This is primarily due to the fact that dharma both embraces and tries to bridge a foundational ambiguity in Hindu thought.
Hindu cosmologies, histories, and normative traditions describe a wide gap that separates that which is essentially true and eternal from its historic and contingent manifestations. The broadest and most compelling way of putting the matter is in the distinction between Veda (transcendent knowledge) and itihāsa (history), or between śruti (revelation) and smṛti (tradition based on memory). Śruti represents the source of absolute authority—revealed knowledge—while smṛti is the tradition that humans obey in order to live the sanctioned life. At the heart of Hinduism, then, is this paradox: the tradition that tells Hindus how to live in the world is a tradition of recollection, and memory must bridge a daunting gap between the present and the timeless absolute.
The concept of dharma encompasses this paradox and reflects Hindu cosmology's understanding of the ambiguous relationship between absolute truth and history and time, between revelation and remembrance. This can be seen, for example, in the story that holds that Prajāpati composed a book on dharma that, at one thousand chapters, was so vast it had to be reduced to a mere four thousand ślokas in order to accommodate human frailty (Nāradasmṛti, Introduction). It can also be seen in the belief that at the end of each cosmic age (yuga ) the Veda will disappear, requiring recurring dharma legislation at the beginning of each successive new age (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 3.2). Something eternal and absolute remains forever, but what we as humans see of it changes, gets lost to forgetfulness, and must be gleaned from limited memory in order to serve as a binding moral tradition. These profoundly important ideas must be taken into account in any attempt to understand the concept of dharma and the nature of ethical discourse within Hinduism.
The Lexical Diversity of Dharma
Dharma is generally understood as a concept that encompasses several meanings, including morality, law, religion, and tradition, as well as the nature of reality or the nature of individual members of society. For contemporary and western scholarship this is far too ambiguous: the conceptual distinction between the nature of reality and morality, or between religious and legal rules is too important to gloss over by means of one term. Nonetheless, the lexical meanings of dharma remain extremely diverse and the decision to translate the word into one term or another remains difficult and context-sensitive.
In fact, the wealth and subtlety of meanings denoted by dharma belies any brief definition. Even a cursory glance at the numerous textual examples reveals a number of broad meanings. Like the term ṛta, which refers to the Vedic conception of cosmic and social order, dharma is depicted as a cosmological principle that encompasses both the structure of reality and the essential rightness of this structure. It is Varuṇa's dharma that separates Heaven and Earth, and Mitra-Varuṇa are the two guardians of this order, whose laws are truth itself (Ṛgveda 6.70.1; 5.63.1). Both of these gods are wise with dharma (Ṛgveda 5.63.7). This conception extends to the much later dharma texts. Manusmṛti (Manu), for example, argues that the practice of appointing a childless widow to another man is unacceptable because it destroys the eternal dharma or the natural order of things (9.64).
Dharma often recurs in the plural nominal form in Vedic literature, referring either to religious laws or ritual practices. Agni is said to cherish the laws (dharmani ) (Ṛgveda 5.26.6; 8.43.24). Soma, like a steer, which is both powerful and fecund, ordains laws (Ṛgveda 9.64.1), while Varuṇa enforces them (Ṛgveda 7.89.5), but the sacrifices are the first laws (Atharvaveda 7.51). In fact, several Vedic gods are given the name Dharma or some variation of it, most notably Agni, who is called Svadharma—"whose very self is the law" (Ṛgveda 3.21.2). Other gods who bear the name Dharma are Savitṛ, Viśvadeva, Mitra, and Varuṇa. And, of course, Dharma himself is a Vedic god (Ṛgveda 8.35.13) and the post-Vedic divine father of Yudhiṣṭhira in the Mahābhārata (1.1.69).
The strong religious and ritual meanings of dharma extend to post-Vedic literature, including Dharmasūtras and Dharmaśāstras, but more specialized meanings are added as well. Dharma can mean "Law" as a sacred normative order of reality, as in the Āpastamba Dharmasūtra, in which a student is encouraged to take delight in dharma (5.11). A similar meaning attaches to dharma in Manu, in which the birth of a brāhmaṇa is described as the eternal physical form of dharma (1.98).
The renowned cosmological doctrine of the four yugas (aeons) entails the successive deterioration of dharma. In Manu, dharma is compared to a bull that loses one leg in each age following the initial Kṛtayuga. This conception, along with the implication that the loss of dharma leads to a deterioration of health and longevity in each age, resembles the Vedic doctrine of ṛta in which moral and natural factors are inseparable. A sense prevails here that dharma implies some substance that increases or diminishes with the rise or fall of order—or, for that matter, with the observance of rituals or good and bad actions. This "substance" has often been translated as "merit" in texts that use dharma in the following sense: "Four things increase and thrive for a man who habitually greets other people … long life, dharma, fame and strength" (Manu 2.121; 3.131). This sense of dharma overlaps with the ethical and eschatological domain of karma in its psychological implications as puṇya (merit) or pāpa (demerit or sin)—the attendant consequences of doing right or wrong. Perhaps "virtue" would be a fair translation for dharma in the sense of a quality that attaches to individuals who follow the law—though the distinction between the law that is followed and the virtue that increases may be arbitrary here.
The meanings of dharma extend far beyond the topics mentioned above to areas that circumscribe the social domain, particularly law and morality. A paradigmatic expression of this usage is the famous statement in the Śanti Parvan of the Mahābhārata that dharma restrains the evil acts of men and helps the acquisition and preservation of wealth (12.91.5). In other words, dharma can be broadly understood as the law that underlies social order—a juridical equivalent of law as cosmic order, or a principle of absolute justice: "Because of dharma alone people are sustained in their separate stations" (Mahābhārata 12.110.11). The broad principle that upholds social order and economic activity becomes instantiated in the work of the king as the dispenser of justice: "No one should violate the justice (dharma ) that the king dispenses" (Manu 7.13). The king is the guardian of dharma in this sense, and the paradigmatically righteous king, Yudhiṣṭhira in the Mahābhārata, is the dharma rāja.
But dharma also refers to the specific laws that the king enforces, such as the law (dharma ) for the division of inheritance (Manu 1.115), the duties of husband and wife (Manu 8.7), the duties of the priest (Manu 12.71), and others. The distinction made between rules of conduct that are enforced by the court ("positive law") and those that are sanctioned by religious principles (God's revenge, hell, karman ), does not apply here. The legal concept of vyavahāra (legal transaction), often contrasted with dharma, simply refers to the manner by which a legal dispute is brought to the attention of the court, not to the source of authority or sanction. In other words, whatever particular problem the king addresses (settling inheritance disputes; defining the boundary between the rights of two castes), the issue is always regarded as a matter of dharma, in this case, rāja dharma.
Dharma and Authority
The complexity and richness of dharma reflects not so much the failure to make conceptual distinctions as the multiplicity and durability of the traditions in which the term figures. A great number of texts over millennia simply cannot speak with one voice. Nonetheless, Hindu theorists began to synthesize and unify the conception of dharma from an early age. Their theories seek to ground dharma as rule of conduct in some type of metaphysical foundation such as the Vedic conception of ṛta. Possibly the oldest such theory is found in the Gautama Dharmasūtra, which lists three sources (mūla ) of dharma (1.1–2). These are Veda, tradition, and good custom. Later dharma texts (such as Manu and Yājñavalkya) added a fourth, namely "self-contentment" (ātma-tuṣṭi ) or conscience. The doctrine of the four sources (or "feet"—pada ) of dharma achieves two primary goals: one is technical, the second ideological. Technically, the four sources reflect a hierarchy of prestige and therefore the ranking of applicability among rules. One may look to tradition only where the Vedas are silent and to good custom only where the first two say nothing. In a conflict between rules—for instance, the widow's right to inherit as opposed to her obligation to perform satī (self-immolation) on the funeral pyre—the rule that originates in a higher source of dharma prevails.
The ideological goal of this doctrine is to ground dharma (as contingent law and morality) in a transcendent and fixed source of authority. The law on the books, the customary practice in the region, even moral common sense, ultimately point to the Veda and to the sacred order of reality.
Despite the efforts of some scholars, such as P. V. Kāne, to show that the Vedas do cover a wide array of dharma topics, and even specific rules, most contemporary scholars agree that the Vedic texts (saṃhitā ) contain little in the way of explicit rules of conduct. Consequently, the Veda should be regarded as a source of authority, a metaphysical constitution, so to speak, rather then a positive source for rules of conduct or ethical reasoning. This recognition underlies the later synthesizing theories of Mīmāṃsā philosophers. When the foundational Mīmāṃsā text, Jaimini's Mīmāṃsāsūtras (c. 100 bce), states that dharma is a beneficial act indicated by Vedic injunction, it is attempting to ground the authority of contingent rules of conduct on the eternal validity of Vedic language and its meanings (1.1.2). In other words, the Mīmāṃsā philosopher, like his colleagues within the Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika schools, is aware of the gap that separates present circumstances and the justifying norm, which is said to be eternal and immutable. The commentaries on the Mīmāṃsāsūtras, such as that of Kumārila, argue that what makes dharma binding even as it changes over time, is precisely this grounding of the language of dharma in the language of Vedic injunctions. What makes dharma known are the rules of interpretation based on Mīmāṃsā hermeneutics of Vedic language, primarily the distinction between injunction (vidhi ) and statement of fact or embellishment (arthavāda ). In short, the doctrine of the four sources of dharma in its basic form, and the philosophical-grammatical speculations on the link between dharma and Veda, reflect a sharp awareness of the problematic nature of law and morality in relation to ultimate authority.
The Literary Sources of Dharma
Among its many lexical meanings dharma can indicate "tradition" in a very broad sense, or, as sanātana dharma (eternal dharma ), it can refer to the normative tradition loosely identified with Hinduism. However, in the narrower technical sense of rule of conduct (religious, moral, legal), dharma is found mainly in a large but clearly circumscribed literary corpus.
The Vedic Saṃhitās do contain some references to matters of dharma, and the newer Gṛhyasūtras are systematic expositions of procedures for domestic and life-cycle rituals. However, the explicit and comprehensive enumeration of dharma rules begins with the Dharmasūtras, which originally belonged to Kalpasūtras associated with specific Vedic schools. The four major Dharmasūtras are attributed to Gautama, Baudhāyana, Vasiṣṭha, and Āpastamba. The texts, written in the post-Brāhmaṇa period but notoriously difficult to date, were probably composed between 600 and 200 bce. The sūtra texts were composed in a brief aphoristic prose style, and they are regarded as parts of the smṛti (rather than Veda) tradition within the broad classification of the four sources of dharma. Far grander in scale and elaboration are the Dharmaśāstras, written in śloka (a four-part meter) verse using the classical Sanskrit that was the hallmark of the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata as well. The Śāstras cover the same topics as the Dharmasūtras but they expand and add detail, and they reflect many of the social changes that took place in the intervening centuries. The major, and oldest, works are Mānava Dharmaśāstra (or Manusmṛti ), Yājñavalkyasmṛti, and Nāradasmṛti. Like the preceding sūtra texts, these works are impossible to date with precision. The most renowned and often-discussed of all dharma texts, Manusmṛti, reveals the hand of several compilers and contains both internal and external evidence of a contradictory nature (see Doniger and Smith, 1991). Its dating is very broadly placed between the third century bce and the second or third century ce. Yājñavalkya and Nārada are slightly more recent, as are additional dharma texts such as Parāśarasmṛti, Bṛhaspatismṛti, and Kātyāyanasmṛti.
Roughly contemporary texts with the early Dharmasūtras, and serving as respected sources of dharma, are the two great epics, the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. The latter is a consciously framed model of good conduct, and the twelfth book (Śanti Parvan) is a virtual encyclopedia of dharma. Georg Bühler believed that a full 10 percent of the ślokas in Manu were shared with the Mahābhārata, and P. V. Kāne gives the nod of precedence to the Dharmaśāstra. The Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya, though specializing in matters of statecraft and polity over law and morality, was nonetheless a valuable source of rāja dharma, or the rules that apply to the king. It dates to the first two centuries bce, perhaps to the court of Candragupta Maurya.
Far more specialized as sources of dharma are the commentaries (bhāṣya ) that have been attached to the Dharmaśāstras, especially Manu and Yājñavalkya. The oldest is Bhāruci's commentary on Manu—an incomplete work, possibly of South Indian origins. The most prestigious commentary on Manu from the perspective of adjudication, is Medhātithi, dating to the ninth or tenth century. However, the Manvartha Muktāvali of Kullūka, a fifteenth century work composed in Banaras, is far more comprehensive and clear. The Dharmaśāstra of Yājñavalkya also inspired several commentaries. By far the most important was the Mitākṣarā, authored by Vijñāneśvara in the eleventh century. This large work had a vast influence on family law, especially matters of succession and inheritance, throughout India, with the exception of Bengal, where the Dāyabhāga digest of Jīmūtavāhana (twelfth century) prevailed. The Anglo-Indian courts turned the Mitākṣarā into the virtual law code for personal law under British dominion.
While commentaries were being composed in medieval and early modern India for the sake of clarifying and promoting legal schools, large compendia or digests (nibandhas ) also began to appear. These were collections of quotes from the older dharma texts, logically arranged under various headings, with occasional brief commentaries. The most prominent among the many digests were the Kṛtyakalpataru of Lakṣmīdhara (twelfth century), which was a vast collection of nearly 30,000 ślokas. The Smṛti Candrikā of Devanna Bhaṭṭa is a South Indian digest from roughly the same period and contains a very important commentary on the Dharmaśāstra. Additional works of note include the Vivāda Ratnākara of Caṇḍeśvara, the Smṛti Sindhu of Nanda Paṇḍita, and the Vyavahāra Mayūkha of Nīlakaṇṭha Bhaṭṭa.
It is important to note that along with the specialized sources of dharma there have always been the informal or popular sources of moral and religious norms. Among many others, these include mythical and folk narratives contained in the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa (along with explicit dharma sections), oral and theatrical performances in temples or during festivals, the Pañcatantra and Hitopadeśa (collections of stories about moral and pragmatic conduct), the Kathāsaritsāgara, the plays of Kālidāsa and other dramatists, the Purāṇas, and devotional songs.
The Topics of Dharma
Because the concept of dharma is so fluid and encompasses so many domains, it is difficult to limit the range of dharma to a fixed set of "topics." In a sense, everything is dharma. Still, the most prestigious and systematic literary source of dharma, Manu, does consciously enumerate a number of clearly defined areas. Manu 1.111–118 serves as a general table of contents for the work as a whole and includes the following major topics, among others: rituals of change (saṃskāras —"rites of passage"), the duties of a student, rules for marriage, sacrifices and last rites, rules that describe and restrict means of livelihood, food, purification, the duties of women, rules for the ascetic, matters relating to the king and court procedure, rules for husband and wife, inheritance, protection of the state, rules for time of emergency, expiation, and rules that apply to foreigners and heretical social groups.
The central domain of dharma, which gradually came to be equated by several texts with dharma itself, is varṇāśramadharma: the duties of the four social classes (varṇas ) and the four stages of life (āśramas ) (Viṣṇusmṛti 1.48; Yājñavalkyasmṛti 1.1). The social classes include the brāhmaṇa (priest), kṣatriya (warrior), vaiśya (merchant), and śūdra (laborer). The Dharmaśāstras explicitly regard these as social categories rather than specific or definitive occupations. All kṣatriyas are not warriors and many brāhmaṇas perform tasks different than officiating in rituals. Still, the rules that indicate the appropriate duties (svadharma ) befitting each social class are firm, enforced by the rule of law and fortified by the threat of ritual pollution and the retributive psychology of karman. Some svadharma rules may be suspended during times of emergency (āpaddharma ). The rules or duties that apply to all members of society are designated sādhāraṇa (or sāmānya ) dharma. These are not very numerous and, though prestigious, they have never gained the sanctity one sees invested within Judaism in the Ten Commandments. There are several lists of sādhāraṇadharma but Manu specifies nonviolence (ahiṃsā ), truthfulness, not taking other people's property (asteya ), purity, and restraint of the senses as the dharma of all the varṇas. The Vāmana Purāṇa describes a tenfold dharma common to all, adding generosity, forbearance, quiescence, not demeaning oneself, and ascetic discipline to Manu's list (Kāne, 1968–1975, vol. 2, p. 11).
The doctrine of the four stages of life, so central to the Dharmaśāstras, follows the older Dharmasūtra version (Gautama Dharmasūtra, Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra ), which included only three stages: the student (brahmacārin ), the householder (gṛhasthin ), and the forest-dweller (vānaprasthin ) who is not a complete renouncer. Only from the sūtra texts of Āpastamba and Vasiṣṭha onwards does a fourth āśrama emerge—that of the saṃnyāsin who renounces all social relations and identity in full pursuit of mokṣa (liberation). The addition of the fourth stage of life represents, according to Patrick Olivelle, the attempt to resolve a perceived tension between the competing values of dharma and mokṣa in the enumeration of life's four supreme values: kāma (love), artha (wealth), dharma (morality), and mokṣa (liberation). In broader terms yet, the addition of the fourth stage of life is another effort to encompass, by means of dharma, both contingent reality and transcendent or ultimate value. The synthesis corresponds to the contemporaneous drive to ground dharma in Veda as transcendent authority (prāmaṇa ). Both types of synthesis may have been historic reactions to the challenges of heterodoxy (Buddhism, Jainism), or more specifically, the threat that the quietist or monastic life (nivṛtti ) posed to the pursuit of active engagement (pravṛtti ) in social life. Hence, in Manu both nivṛtti and pravṛtti are regarded as domains of dharma, and the fourth stage of life (saṃnyāsa ) is fully integrated into the āśramadharma. In a different vein, the roughly contemporary Bhagavadgītā resolves the tension between meditative inactivity and varṇa duty (svadharma ) by postulating yet other integrative concepts—devotion (bhakti ) to God (Kṛṣṇa) and selfless action.
Dharma, Time, and Social Reform
The dharma texts, which tipped their hats to the eternal Veda as their eternal source of authority (in theory), contained several rules of conduct that later communities were bound to find unworthy of their values. A small number of hermeneutic and ideological devices were constructed either by the compilers of dharma texts or by subsequent theorists to admit changes into an ostensibly immutable tradition. Chief among these were the doctrines of Kālī-varjyas (rules unfit for the Kālī age) and āpaddharma (rules for time of emergency). But additional techniques included the Mīmāmṣā distinction between injunctive text (vidhi ) and mere explanatory passages (arthavāda ), as well as the concept of loka-vidviṣṭa —norms that are odious to the public despite their origin in dharma texts.
The dharma literature does not provide more than a few dozen explicit examples of exceptions to the immutability of dharma. But the principle is familiar and prestigious, and so it may be invoked to substantiate legal and social reforms when the time is right. The most notorious examples among the fifty or so Kālī-varjya rules are the prohibitions against nīyoga —the pairing of a childless widow with her deceased husband's brother, the remarriage of widowed virgins, eating meat, or killing a brāhmaṇa aggressor (in self-defense) (Kāne, 1968–1975, vol. 3, pp. 930–968). The rules of āpaddharma tend to loosen prohibitions against upper-caste freedom: A brāhmaṇa may study under a kṣatriya, upper-caste members may engage in low-caste professions (which are usually polluting), a vaiśya may lend money at interest, and, most notoriously, a high-caste Hindu may steal and eat polluting meat. This latter case is illustrated in the famous story of Viśvāmitra who stole dog meat from a caṇḍāla (untouchable) during time of drought and famine (Manu 10.108; Mahābhārata 12.141.90), as well as in the lesser-known stories of Uṣati Cakrāyaṇa and, earliest of all, Vāmadeva (Ṛgveda 4.18.13).
Like the ranking of the four sources of dharma, these concepts were intended to situate law and ethics in the historic and contingent world while preserving dharma' s authority as grounded in Veda. However, when pressure for reform began to build up under Anglo-Indian courts in the nineteenth century, these devices were seldom explicitly invoked by either reformers or conservatives, although they occasionally figured in substance. The abolition of satī (widow burning), known as the Bengal Satī Regulation of 1829, was the first major case to test the Dharmaśāstra and the judicial autonomy given by the British to Hindu law in modern times. Reformers claimed that satī did not originate in smṛti (authoritative tradition—Dharmasūtras and Dharmaśāstras) but in custom, and that it was "revolting to the feelings of human nature." The opponents of reform appealed both to smṛti (although the texts were sharply divided on the matter) and to the sanctity of "immemorial" practice in matters of religious belief. In other words, both sides appealed to the prestige invested in the hierarchy of the four sources of dharma, but the reformers also introduced the matter of loka-vidviṣṭa. Similar legal battles followed (for instance, the Caste Removal of Disabilities Act of 1850; the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act XV of 1856). In the case of widow remarriage, the opponents of reform appealed to the Kālī-varjya principle as showing that precisely because the Kālī age was morally depraved: widows, even the very young and virgins, should not be allowed to remarry. These conservatives showed that the principle of overriding positive legal rules could be used as a tool for protecting the status quo and not only for reform. The reformers, as usual, argued that the rule they wished to reform was not Sastric but rooted in custom, and that the change promoted social morality by enshrining what the British called "equity." Backed by British courts and power, reformers consistently won the legal battles, but social practice was far slower to change.
Due to the fact that Hindu dharma has always encompassed religious, social, and juridical matters, twentieth-century legislation has been strongly shaped by the culture of dharma. The social and legislative battles of the nineteenth century continue to influence various aspects of Hindu law today in topics such as marriage, succession, adoption, guardianship, caste law, and minority rights. In other words, conflicting interpretations of dharma still effect social policy in India today. Moreover, the question of dharma has spilled out of the courtroom and legislature to become part of a far more impassioned ideological contest over what constitutes Hindu consciousness (Hindutva ) in the face of competing values such as feminism, social equality, and religious pluralism.
The concept of sanātanadharma, which both conservatives and liberals now often equate with normative Hindu identity, emerged in the early years of the nineteenth century in response to Anglo-Indian social legislation. The orthodox opponents of Ram Mohan Roy (members of the Dharma Sabha) used it as an ideological response to the reformers' claim on the Veda as a source of equity and a blueprint for reform. Sanātanadharma thus became conflated with Hindu identity and national pride. This is how even such figures as Aurobindo Ghose and India's president-scholar Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan used the term. For social and religious conservatives, "satīdharma " could then be defended—as it is still defended in some nationalist circles today—as a voluntary affirmation of national and religious ideology by Hindu women of courage. And, although no one justifies dowry murders (the killing of brides whose dowry was deemed unsatisfactory), or the violence toward Dalits (scheduled castes, tribes) over matters of land or labor, the remedy for such tragedies has been complicated by the ideological contest over the meaning of dharma and the seemingly ageless conflation of religious and ethical discourse within matters of dharma.
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Derrett, J. Duncan M., trans. Bhāruci's Commentary on the Manusmṛti. 2 vols. Wiesbaden, Germany, 1975.
Doniger, Wendy, and Brian Smith, trans. The Laws of Manu. Harmondsworth, U.K., 1991.
Gharpure, J. R., trans. Hindu Law Texts: Yājñavalkya Smṛti with Commentaries by Vijñāneśvara, Mitra-miśra, and Śūlapāṇi. 7 vols. Bombay, 1936–1942.
Mandlik, Vishwanath Narayan, ed. and trans. Vyavahāra Mayūkha. New Delhi, 1982.
Olivelle, Patrick, ed. and trans. Rules and Regulations of Brahmanical Asceticism: Yatidharmasamuccaya of Yādava Prakāśa. Albany, N.Y., 1995.
Olivelle, Patrick, trans. The Dharmasūtras: The Law Codes of Āpastamba, Gautama, Baudhāyana, and Vasiṣṭha. New York, 1999.
Creel, Austin. Dharma in Hindu Ethics. Calcutta, 1977. A detailed and systematic ethical analysis of dharma.
Derrett, J. Duncan M. Religion, Law, and the State in India. New York, 1968.
Gupta, Ram Chandra. The Wonder That Is Hindu Dharma. Delhi, 1987. A close and textually detailed study of dharma in a variety of legal, religious, and social contexts.
Kāne, Pānduranga Vāmana. History of Dharmaśāstra. 2d ed. 5 vols. Poona, India, 1968–1975. A monumental historical and textual study of dharma, both in its narrower senses and more broadly as the ritual and scriptural traditions of ancient India.
Lingat, Robert. The Classical Law of India. Translated by J. Duncan M. Derrett. Berkeley, Calif., 1973. A clear and concise introduction to dharma as legal tradition and as religious ideology in history.
Narang, Sudesh, Urmi B. Gupta, and Urmila Rustagi, eds. Dharmaśāstra in Contemporary Times. Delhi, 1988. Collection of essays linking Dharmaśāstra to social and legal issues in recent decades.
Olivelle, Patrick. The Āśrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution. New York, 1993.
Saraswati, Baidyanath. Thinking about Tradition: The Indian Vision. Varanasi (Banaras), India, 1988. Analytical and normative essay on the meaning of dharma as tradition.
Sternbach, Ludwik. Juridical Studies in Ancient Indian Law. 2 vols. Delhi, 1965–1967.
Weinberger-Thomas, Catherine. Ashes of Immortality: Widow-Burning in India. Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman and David Gordon White. Chicago, 1999. Phenomenological and historical study of satī ideology.
Ariel Glucklich (2005)