Post-Vedic Brahmanical Dharma
Chapter 5 is about how Brahmanical authors seek to shape consensus in a post‐Vedic society affected by Buddhism and other nāstika traditions or “heterodoxies” by composing dharma texts in new genres, beginning with the dharmasūtras, and soon including dharmaśāstra (headed by The Laws of Manu) and the two “epics”: the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa. The chapter looks at how the dharmasūtras introduce consensus as one of the “sources of dharma” and underscore it practially by commending the householder life and the ”five great sacrifices” that a householder is to perform daily. It then looks at novel features of Manu, including its mixing of narrative and normative elements, and compares them with similar features of the epics. Unlike the dharmasūtras, Manu introduces a cosmological frame centered on the god Brahmā, and works in mini‐narratives about the king and the rod of punishment (daṇda) he should deploy in upholding dharma. The chapter unfolds the issues that classical Brahmanical dharma texts come to treat as basic, showing their development through them. These issues include varṇa (caste) and āśrama (life pattern or life‐stage); the theoretical origin of mixed classes; common portrayals of Śūdras and women; and increased attention to rājadharma or the dharma of kings.
Keywords: dharmasūtra, dharmaśāstra, nāstikas (heterodoxies), Laws of Manu (Manu), Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇa, sources of dharma, five great sacrifices (mahāyajñas), varna, āśrama, mixed classes, norm and narrative, Brahmā, daṇḍa or rod of punishment, rājadharma or dharma of kings
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