Sri Chandramoulisvaraya Namah:
Publication No.  61

Out of his supreme and causeless compassion towards all moving and non-moving creatures, Srimad Aapasthamba Maharishi has bestowed the jewel of a book called ‘Aapasthamba Dharma Sutram’ for the progress of all. The fact that Veda Dharma Sastra Paripalana Sabha has published this book with Tamil translation under instructions and with blessings of Sri Acharyapada of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham with the aim that all astikas (believers) should improve spiritually by knowing the contents of this book is very important in the service of propagation of Dharma. This can fetch a great benefit to the Astika world.

It is but natural in the present context that there is interest in knowing the greatness of our esteemed Acharya Sri Aapasthamba Muni and his works conveying the essence of Vedas and understanding the principles of dharma therein, which are conducive to good of the world. Unfortunately, owing to the spread of western culture in respect of language, food, dress etc. in our sacred Bharata desa, we have forgotten for a long time our own Vedas and other authoritative texts and explanatory texts like Kalpasutras, Smritis etc. Many of us may not be aware of even the names of the authoritative texts of our Vedic religion.

The Rishi (Aapasthamba) teaches us in his Dharma Sutram the practices to be followed by men right from birth till end and duties to be performed in everyday life. They also contain the Raja dharmas to be practised by kshatriya during his reign for protecting his subjects. The Dharma Sutram prescribes dharmas for varnas and asramas including prayaschitta (expiation ritual), division of property among heirs etc.

Hence Dharma Sutram is like the law of Vedic religion. It is of the form of do’s and don’ts. Let us now look at some of Aapasthamba’s rules, as an example, leading to the welfare of the world and justice for all men and all creation including even non-moving objects.

Benefit of Dharma Sutram
Dharma sutram teaches the discipline to be followed by man in his daily life and as a member of the society. We can see that besides teaching of dharmas pertaining to varnas and asramas, various guidelines relating to how man should live in social, economic and political spheres are described here. The very life in the world has Dharma as its basis. Sruti states that Dharma is the foundation for all the worlds and that if that foundation quakes, the superstructures will also shake and fall off.

It is only our Vedic Hindu religion that has organised life in the world on the basis of Dharma in this manner and protected it. This special feature is not found in other religions. Dharma sutras are largely responsible for this.

A Speciality: Bhagavatpada’s commentary
There is a special value for Aapasthamba Sutram, not shared by other sutras: Adya Sri Bhagavatpada Acharya has written a commentary on the ‘Adhyatma Patalam’ in this Sutram. That Srimad Acharya, who incarnated as spark of Iswara, became a world teacher, overthrew non-Vedic religions and re-established the Vedic religion, wrote a forceful and clear commentary on a part of Aapasthamba Sutram like he did for Brahmasutram, Upanishads etc. shows the greatness of Aapasthamba and his Sutram. What is the place of ‘Adhyatma yoga’ preaching Atmagnana (Knowledge of Self) in the middle of Dharma sutram? The commentary of Sri Bhagavatpada describes how the supreme state of Atmagnana and removal of defects like desire, anger, greed, delusion and pleasure, which afflict the beings are in fact part of Dharma. The way Sri Acharya refers to Aapasthamba as ‘Bhagavan’ and ‘Acharya’ in many places in his commentary points to the greatness of Aapashamba.

Subjects covered
The following are the subjects covered sequentially in Aapasthamba Dharma Sutram:
Authority of Vedic religion, Time for Upanayanam, rules for brahmachari, time for study, time for rest, householder’s duties, Details of Panchayagna, Pooja etc., rules for eating, Pancha maha patakas (five great sins), Prayaschitta (expiation) etc., rules for Sraadham, rules for Vanaprastham and Sanyasam, duties of kings, means of livelihood, trade etc., division of property, dealings etc.; many other related dharmas and common dharmas are mentioned here and there.
Vedas and Rishis
Aapasthamba quotes as authority the three Vedas in general as well as in specific cases. He has also referred to Atharvana Veda. Among Rishis, he quotes as authority Kaanva, Pushkarasaadi, Varshyayani, Haaritha et al. Even where he has difference of opinion, he quotes them. Names like Gautama, Bodhayana, Manu, Parasara et al do not find mention. Puranas, specially Bhavishya Purana, have been referred to.

Was Aapasthamba disciple of Bodhayana?
Yagneswara, the commentator of Bodhayana sutra, says that Aapasthamba was the disciple of Bodhayana. But this is not borne out in the tradition of followers of his sutram. Aapasthamba does not seem to have mentioned the name of Bodhayana anywhere in his sutram.

As regards the so-called opposing points of view between the sutras of Bodhayana and Aapasthamba pointed out by white analysts, we will enquire at some other time.

Is it seen or unseen fruit?
There is now an important question: If dharmas prescribed in Dharmasutras are practised by man, is the fruit enjoyed here in this world, or is it welfare in the next world? If mundane benefit is absent, we have to fault our Hindu religion as one of blind faith, with no visible use in practice. If mundane benefit alone is there, this religion will also become a worldly religion in a way. The way shown by Aapasthamba on this difficult question is acceptable to all. The Sutrakara says that it is a religion which has a mix of both. In certain sutras, he criticises mundane benefit in exclusion and says that practices aimed at only mundane welfare will become fruitless at the end, resulting in blemishes leading to naraka etc. He adds: “Pleasure is the cause of pride; a proud man will transgress dharma; he will then go to naraka” and shows the ills of ‘seen’ (drishta) benefits.

Aapasthamba, who thus condemns practising dharma only for mundane benefit, mentions in many places mundane advantages like long life, health, progeny, wealth, strength etc. as fruit of dharma. He describes those also as dharma. He says that it is dharma to live in a village where firewood, water etc. are available in plenty; one should not cross a river by swimming with hands; if boat is in bad condition such that it will not safely reach one to the other shore, one should not get into it; one should not bathe with a stick; one should talk with women only to the extent needed. For such numerous rules, it is only the ‘seen’ (drishta) benefit that is appro-priate. By living in a village where firewood, water etc. are available in plenty, life will be comfortable. By swimming in river, there could be danger. By talking much with women, good character may be lost. Such worldly benefits are there for such rules.

Where seen benefits are there, it is by sheer nature that man is inclined towards them. There is no need in such cases for Sastra or interest in dharma. When hunger sets in, one eats automatically; here a rule compelling one to eat is unnecessary. If one wants comfortable life, he lives in a good village. Where is the need for Sastraic rule for this? The result will then be that as seen benefit is perceived for all common dharmas like non-violence, truth, non-stealing etc. and for many special dharmas, there is no need for Sastraic teaching on these matters.

Mimamsakas lay down certain rules, like ‘pound the paddy’. (Note: Mimamsa, meaning enquiry or investigation, is one of the six chief Darrsanas or systems of Indian philosophy. Mimamsaka is the investigator). It is clear from practice that if paddy is to be turned into rice, it has to be pounded in a mortar. Then why the rule ‘pound the paddy’? Mimamsakas aver that this rule is for teaching that paddy should be pounded only in a mortar and it should not be turned into rice by peeling off the skin with hand nails.

But it appears that Aapasthamba did not accept this explanation. His prime view is that for all dharmas the ‘unseen’ (adrishta) benefit is important. He feels that adherence to dharma will decline if seen benefit is accepted. His sutras bear this out. His view is that all rules are aimed at unseen benefit.

However though seen benefit is mentioned in many of the rules, it helps us traditionally by acting in consonance with unseen benefit, though not directly perceptible. As living in a village with good supply of water and firewood is helpful for proper practice of a man’s dharmas like bath, fire worship etc., it becomes a traditional dharma contributing to unseen fruit. In the same manner, Aapasthamba’s view is that seen benefits like long life, health, progeny etc. are helpful for dharmas with unseen fruit and hence should be regarded as dharmas only.

What is the purport of the Sutrakara who says that unseen fruit exists even for rules of dharma like washing hands and feet? Does he think there is no seen benefit? Or does he think that seen benefit is secondary?

Nobody can say that there is no seen benefit in the rules of dharma, which show the way to live worldly life well. The Sutrakara also does not refute this. He only criticises attaching prime importance to worldly benefits and practising dharmas for the sake of those benefits. He makes this clear in one of his Sutras. Hence Aapasthamba himself explains through examples that worldly benefits will accrue on their own when dharma is practised as per Sastraic rules and that they are acceptable. He says in a Sutra that when mango tree is grown for the sake of mango fruit, besides that main benefit, one gets automatically additional benefits like shade, good smell etc. Similarly by practice of dharma, in addition to getting the prime aim of unseen fruit, one gets automatically worldly benefit also. Hence he has concluded in his Dharmasutram that unseen fruit is the prime aim of practice of dharmas and that seen benefit is only secondary. This indeed is the purpose of Vedic religion. This can be described in modern terms as ‘Godly life’.

Some Examples
Let us now look into some of Aapasthamba’s teachings in his Dharmasutram on social dharma, politics etc. and how he was interested in activities of welfare of the world and a few other important matters. As his Dharmasutram contains many wonderful truths throughout, we will take up a few examples.

Teachings to Students
Aapasthamba teaches in detail the rules to be observed by students during the period of study of Vedas etc. Modern educationists should certainly pay heed to many important teachings meant to safeguard the discipline of the student including his instructions on the respect to be shown by the student to the teacher, the way he should speak to him, the way he should sit in front of him, rules to be observed till the end of brahmacharya period, time of study, time when study (of Vedas) is not permitted (Anadhyayana kalam) etc. Educational officers, who regret the current decline in conduct and quality of humility of students, should get Aapasthamba’s teachings translated in Indian languages, print and distribute them among students. It is certain that considering the way our Rishis have laid down rules of discipline for students by way of religion and dharma, it cannot be found in any other religious or official scheme. Let us now look at what Aapasthamba has to say about the causes of students’ present day decline in conduct.

He prohibits students from witnessing dances, dramas etc. during study. In these days when cinema and dances have increased and spoiled the man, it is not necessary to explain the necessity of this rule. It is good that our ancestors stopped this under the authority of religion and dharma. Similarly Aapasthamba also prohibits students from visiting (non-religious) assemblies and places of gambling etc. Another important rule is to be noted. He prohibits students from participating in ‘Janavada’. The term ‘Janavada’ has been interpreted to mean affairs related to common public. ‘Janavadi’ has been mentioned in Veda also. The affairs referred to here are social, economic, political, professional and trade related to public. It is also called ‘Vaarta’. It is of course necessary to know these matters to conduct worldly life. It is also an art. However Aapasthamba feels that a student during his period of study should restrict himself to mere knowing “Janavadas’ and not engage in serious pursuit of them. This he explains by the term ‘Seela’.

It is noteworthy that the Sutrakara has prescribed many duties for the teacher also, like he has for the student. He says ‘The teacher should show love to his student like his own son and teach him all vidyas without concealing anything.’ Further he says that though service of the Guru is essential, the teacher should not engage the student frequently in his personal work, thus obstructing his study; if he does so, he loses his right as a teacher. He mentions: ‘Acharyopi- anacharyo bhavati srutat pariharamana:’ Is it not very important to have this kind of educational scheme, impartial to the disciple and Acharya? There are many more such teachings.

Earning wealth and enjoying pleasures
The enemies of Hinduism indulge in false propaganda that Hinduism teaches non-attachment and thus spoils worldly life. This notion Aapasthamba destroys. He permits earning wealth in dharmic way; he also says that worldly pleasures should be enjoyed without contravening dharma. He adds that by dharmas, just as man conquers the next world and enjoys pleasures there, he also conquers this world and enjoys pleasures here. Further in the section dealing with means of livelihood, he lays down activities like trade etc. to be performed by men of each varna for livelihood. It is important in his Dharmasutram that he permits earning wealth and that trade activities of buying and selling, which can be performed by brahmana, with restrictions on the materials to be sold are described in detail, along with rules for living in times of emergency. It can be seen from this Dharmasutram that Hinduism does not just emphasise restrictions of dharma and well being in the next world, leaving man to suffer for necessities of life here in this world.

Honouring Guest and charity of food
The broad aims and concern for the welfare of all creatures of Vedic Hindu religion can be seen from this Dharmasutram. It is noteworthy that Vaisvadevam, hospitality to guest, including those who arrive unexpectedly and serving food to all creatures are all prescribed as dharma in the course of daily karma. Sastra prescribes that the rich man should share his extra wealth with poor people by way of gift of food, clothing etc. The rules of Dharmasutram state that every day, as soon as food is ready, Vaisvadeva karma should be done and food served to guests, including unexpected arrivals, sick, lower castes like chandalas, animals like dogs, tiny creatures like worms, ants etc. This can be characterised as Dharmic socialism. The rule of Vedic religion is that the householder should set apart one-fifth of his wealth for spending on relatives, friends, servants and guests including those who arrive unannounced. Following this, Aapasthamba has spelt out many lofty and broad -based aims in his Vaisvadeva Prakaranam. Householder should, after completing Deva Pooja and Vaisvadevam, come out and see whether any guest has arrived, before himself sitting for lunch. He should wait for some time. If guest arrives, he should be fed first. The Sutrakara has prescribed many more courtesies for the guest. After the guest has finished his meal, the householder should eat the balance food. Further, children, old persons, sick persons and pregnant woman should be made to eat before him.

Worship of guest (Atithi) is of two types. One is part of Vaisvadevam. This is primary Atithi Pooja. In this only brahmanas can be included. If persons of kshatriya, vaisya, sudra varnas come, they should be honoured as guests who have arrived unannounced (Abhyaagata). The procedure of the host eating after the guest has eaten or other such honours do not apply to them. To such people, food must be served as per the rules of dharma for their jati and varna only. This type of Pooja is also called Atithi Pooja in Sastras. This is secondary Atithi Pooja. Maadhaviyam makes it clear that in case of castes other than brahmanas, e.g. kshatriyas, only food is to be served. Hence it is concluded that for other castes like kshatriyas, food is to be served after or along with the householder and not before.

But the Sutrakara says that no distinction should be made between Atithi and Abhyaagata in matters of food and other courtesies. He instructs that they should be honoured by giving ghee, oil, curd, milk, other eatables etc. They should be welcomed warmly. The householder should not exhaust the stock of ghee, curd etc. and keep them ready always for guests. Further, the guests should be provided with place to stay, high level cot, mattress, pillow, blanket, oil for rubbing on feet etc. There is another special condition. Though Atithi Pooja is necessary, food should be served to them without hindering servants working daily at home. Their share should not be reduced. The Sutrakara lays down that the host may himself, his wife or son may remain hungry, but the share of food of servants should not be reduced. Such wondrous rules are innumerable.

Charity of Food even for Lowly creatures
Selfishness is natural in the nature of the world. Who will look after creatures, which have no means of living? Has any religion ruled that they should also be fed and their lives saved? Our Vedic religion alone prescribes such compassionate dharma. Our religion has made it obligatory for every householder to feed every day lowly creatures like worms, insects, fly, ant and dog, lowly jatis like chandalas and eaters of dog-meat and the sick suffering from illnesses like leprosy etc. Aapasthamba makes it clear in his Sutram that after completing Vaisvadevam, the hungry dog, chandala etc. should be fed. Food is Prana (life-breath). For the living, food is essential. Knowers of dharma opine that all creatures have a right to receive food from one who has food. Upanishads also mention the unity of food and Prana. Sruti says, ‘for man, food is Prana’. Bodhayana also confirms this in his Sutram. Hence food, which is indeed of the form of Prana, is essential for the living.

Manu also says, ‘Dog, chandala, eater of dog’s meat and the sick with illnesses caused by serious sin should be given food on earth without dirt.’ Vyasa also says that they should be fed outside the home on earth. Kullookabhatta says that this act should be done with separate food. A mantra in Vishnu Purana says that the hungry creatures like ant, worm and insect should be fed. Even now, this dharma of feeding all creatures prevails in some cultured families.

In this Vedic religion, the high and low nature of castes has been accepted. The principle is that it is the result of karmas of past lives. The present day populace cannot lift or bring down anyone in caste. Though this difference exists as per Sastras, it is clear that the Vedic religion does not tolerate even for a second the sufferings of low caste people for comforts like food, clothing etc. This truth should be observed with a broad mind by the modern protestors.

Doing good to labourer is also Dharma
Aapasthamba has laid down a rule of dharma that by offering land, wealth etc. to brahmanas in danam, the kings will attain worlds which have no end. But an important condition in that danam is to be noted. He says that this danam should be done in such a way that the interests of labourers and servants do not suffer. This shows the kindness of the Rishi to the labourers. He safeguards their rights.

The principle in this matter should be observed. Giving danam of land to brahmanas is dharma; it will fetch religious merit for the next world. Is it not clear that just as that danam is dharma, safeguarding of labourers’ interests is also dharma? Is it not clear that giving danam to brahmanas by hurting the labourers is adharma? It is established in this Sutram that just as Liberation is attained by giving danam to brahmanas, it is also attained by protecting the rights of labourers.

From the many examples we have seen so far, it is clear that our religion has introduced socialism based on dharma in our society in a peaceful way. The modern day socialists, who mouth socialism, but commit adharma by shutting their doors of houses tight, displaying boards saying ‘No entry without permission’ and driving away guests by guarding the entrance with dogs, can come to know of the lofty ideals of Hinduism and kindness to the poor from our Dharmasatras. Knowers of Dharma would vouchsafe that if we continue to perform dharmas, charity and Atithi Poojas etc. as laid down in our Sastras, we can prevent forced equality in our country.

If Labourers go on Strike
The Sutrakara, who provides safeguards to the labourer, specifies also the punishment in case he goes on strike without proper reason.

If an agriculturist takes land on rental, but does not do farming, the king should collect the income from him, if he is resourceful and pass it on to the owner. If the labourer goes on strike, but has no resources, he should only be punished; compensation should not be levied. Such rules are noteworthy.

Rules of eating Food
In the ‘Bhojana Prakaranam, the Sutrakara lays down excellent rules of hygiene. He prohibits consuming food sold in restaurants. He prescribes many subtle rules of dharma: One should not eat in a boat; on a bed; with footwear on; with headgear on; food contacted by feet, cloth; seen by dog; with people not fit to eat with; food served with disdain. He has also prescribed rules on food items that are fit for consumption, items to be avoided, person in whose company one can eat, person not fit etc. By following these rules, we can attain good health.

There should be no Fear of theft
Aapasthamba has prescribed a number of safeguards for national security and protection of citizens in Rajadharma Prakaranam. It is verily a constitution. We shall explain two aspects. The king, in whose rule, there is no fear of theft in the town, village or forest, is the true do-gooder. It is the king’s moral duty to enable people to lead a fearless life. For this purpose the army should be deployed to a distance of 1 yojana (13 km) around a town and 1 krosa (1/4 of a yojana) around a village. If there is theft in such a protected place, the king should compensate through the army guards, if the stolen material is not retrieved. It can only be observed in dharmic rule that if theft has taken place due to the negligence of the guards and the stolen goods are also not traced, compensation to the citizen has to be paid from the royal treasury. Dharmasastra also prescribes that honorarium is to be paid to the guards, if they catch the thief and retrieve the stolen goods.

Citizens should not suffer from hunger, disease, cold and heat
The Sutrakara also mentions another very important matter. In the king’s rule, nobody should suffer from hunger, disease, cold or heat for want of comfort or lack of availability of comfort. This is a very lofty political principle. It is the king’s responsibility to ensure that citizens do not suffer from hunger. This is moral responsibility. The reason for suffering could be absence of food or non-availability even if present. The king has the responsibility to prevent the hunger in both cases.
Similarly the king has the responsibility to ensure that diseases do not afflict the people and if they occur, to cure the afflicted. The idea is that he should set up hospitals and provide medical treatment. Further the king’s responsibility includes protection of citizens from cold and heat; i.e. Aapasthamba instructs that housing should be provided by the king to those homeless, who suffer from heat and cold.

There is an important aspect to be noted here. The Sutra says ‘kachchit’ (anyone). The Sutrakara intends that the above protection should be provided to anyone living in the kingdom, irrespective of whether he is rich or poor, of low or high caste, landlord or farmer, proprietor or labourer, without any disparity. To show that this right is irrespective of any disparity, he uses the term ‘kachchit’.

In addition to this fundamental right being provided to everyone in our dharmic rules of governance, that the king is compelled to make suitable provision is to be noted. This dharmic system is unknown in any other country’s politics.

Protection even to small creatures
Anywhere in the world, religion and government laws safeguard the living comforts of human beings alone. There is no religion which safeguards very tiny creatures like fly, ant, worm or insect. It is only our Vedic religion which does this in a dharmic way. In addition to stipulating offer of food to these creatures, our rules enjoin their non-killing.  Aapasthamba divides the creatures into those with bone and those without bone and instructs that no creature should be killed and if killed, the Prayaschitta (expiation) for the sin committed (separately for the two classes). This is also punishment. There is specific reference to rat, frog, mongoose etc. in the context of non-killing. Hence anyone who respects Sastras will not dare to kill even very tiny creatures. This is also a special feature in our Dharmasastras.

More Provisions
Similar principles taught by Aapasthamba on dharmas related to women and kings, common dharma, taxation etc. are innumerable. To describe all of them here is impossible. To read for oneself is the best. We shall point out a few as examples.


The Sutrakara does not permit any division between dharma and governance. There is no place for such division. Governance is but a part of dharma. That a kingdom run on the basis of dharmasastra alone will be stable is an important lesson learnt from this Dharmasutra.

An important aspect- Determination suited for circumstance
Some of the matters covered in this Sutra are not in practice. It is due to informed resolution suited to our times that Prayaschittas (expiation rituals), Aasoucham (ceremonial impurity), procedure for partition of property etc. are not in practice today as stipulated in Aapasthamba Sutra. Some dharmas like Prayaschitta, aasoucham etc. have been mentioned differently in different Smritis and Sutras. Nibandhanakaras (Compilers of dharmasastras), who are masters of Pramanas (authorities), mimamsa (logic of enquiry) etc. have examined all aspects and resolved differences of opinion with due consideration to time, place and circumstance. They have instructed as to what is to be practised, based on the conclusions logically drawn. That is reflected in the traditional practice of our respected religious people. Hence it is possible that some of the instructions of Aapasthamba might have gone out of practice, owing to determination based on time, place and entitlement. The reason is the conclusion of Nibandhana alone. Further the Sutrakara has enunciated dharmas required for all yugas, types of rightful claimants and regions. The rightful claimants should examine them and disregard them as required. Some dharmas are instructed only for a different yuga and do not apply to this yuga. One such is Asavarna marriage (between persons of different varnas).  There is a Sutra, which mentions Asavarna marriage and the succeeding progeny. But this was for a different yuga and does not apply to Kaliyuga. Rishis and Nibandhanakaras have thus resolved this matter. Even in earlier yugas, if Asavarna marriage was practised, it was not for dharma; it was for lust only. Manu deplores such marriages in his Smriti. Vasishtha also says it is not a dharmic marriage. Such a marriage was restricted only to the three varnas (brahmana, kshatriya and vaisya), who participate in Vedic study, upanayanam and yaga. Marriage with sudra was not accepted for brahmana even in earlier yugas; it was rejected. Manu makes this clear. This type of Anuloma marriage was in practice only among the three varnas. That too has been totally banned in Kaliyuga by Rishis. Hence the authors of Dharmasastras themselves have stated that Asavarna marriage etc. as mentioned in Aapasthamba Sutra are not to be followed by us in this yuga; it is for other yugas and other rightful claimants. Similarly Niyoga is also not dharma for this yuga. (Niyoga is the relation indulged in by a childless widow with the brother or any near kinsman of her deceased husband to raise issue.) Aapasthamba himself criticises Niyoga. There is also a view that Niyoga is never for brahmanas.

The right of sudra to cook food for the three varnas is also a matter pertaining to different yuga. When Asavarna marriage was in practice, this might have been a custom. This is also banned in Kaliuga. Thus some of the matters covered in Aapasthamba Sutra are to be adopted or rejected, depending on determination of Nibandhanas. This is the principle of Vedic religion.

Works of Aapasthamba
Maharishi Aapasthamba was himself embodiment of Veda. His Sutras are entirely Vedic. He was appointed as ‘Sutrapravartaka’ Rishi by Brahma in order to firmly establish, protect and propagate Vedic dharmas. He carried out his divine duties responsibly and authored Sutras with great mastery. The commentators of Sutras accept that among Sutra works, Aapasthamba Sutras have a special place owing to their style and deep meaning.

Aapasthamba has written Sutras for complete Yajurveda, known as Adhvaryu branch (of Veda). They are of three types: Sroutham, Grihyam and Dharmam. In Sroutha Sutras, he explains yaga karmas as per rules of Yajur Veda. Grihya Sutram deals with Smartha karmas like upanayanam, marriage etc. Dharma Sutram goes into common dharmas.

Aapasthamba wrote Sutras, consisting of 30 Prasnas (sections). They cover dhamas of Sroutham, Grihyam and Smartham. In 5 Prasnas starting from the 25th, Grihyas and Smarthas are covered. Here Smartham refers to Prakrita Dharma Sutram.  24 Prasnas deal completely with Sroutha karmas. In the 25th, Paribhasha, Houtram and Pravaram are covered; in the 26th, usage of mantras in marriage etc.; in the 27th, Grihya usages including Pitru medham; in the 29th and 30th Prasnas, kalpasutras for yagavedis (altars for yagas). This is the division of subjects in Aapasthamba’s 30 Prasnas; this is clear from the ‘karika’ of Kapardi.

Sroutha Sutras
In Yajurveda, yagas related to ‘Tretagni’ (the three sacred fires) are prescribed. The rituals to be performed specially by Adhvaryu are mentioned there. Aapasthamba has written Sutras on rituals of yagas from Agnihotram, Darsa Purnamasam to Visvasrujamayanam in accordance with Yajurveda. For these Sutras, one Sri Doorthaswami, a great soul equal in stature to Maharishi, has written a commentary, which is profound and terse. There is a famous ‘vrittigrantha’ (gloss) called ‘Ramandar’, which explains the above commentary and provides guidance on each Sutra. This is celebrated as the best authoritative text by the performers of yagnas. The author of this gloss is the great and renowned man called variously as ‘Sri Ramagnichit’, ‘Sri Bhattanathar’ and ‘Sri Vishnuchittar’, hailed as ‘Periyazhvar’ by Vaishnavas, the father of Sri Andal. He has composed Prabandhas called ‘Tiruppallandu’ etc. Sri Vedanta Desika has confirmed in his work ‘Rahasyatrayasaram’ that the gloss on Kalpasutras was written by Periyazhvar or Sri Vishnuchittar.

Though names like Bhattanatha and Vishnuchitta are not seen in the ‘Ramandar’ book, his ‘Sarma’ name of Srirama is seen. In the term ‘Ramandar’, ‘Andar’ means lord. It appears that in his lineage it was usual to use the term ‘Andar’. His daughter Goda was called ‘Andal’ (feminine form of Andar) following this practice. Commentators say that it is possible that her father was called ‘Rama Andar’. Until we get any proper evidence contradicting this, we should accept this argument.

Another great man called Sri Rudradatta has also written a gloss for Aapasthamba Sroutha Sutram.

Some more Rishis have also written Sroutha Sutras for Yajurveda. The ones written by Bodhayana, Bharadvaja, Satyaashaada, Kaatyaayana, Hiranyakesi, Manu, Varaha, Vaikanasa et al are still in use. However we find more comprehensive coverage in Aapasthamba Sutra. It is also noteworthy that Sutrakaras of Purva Mimamsa like Jaimini have based their work on Aapasthamba Sutras and their logic. Sastra permits acceptance from other branches of Veda, matters not covered in the branch under consideration and not contradictory to other provisions in that branch of Veda. In the same branch there are cases of differences in Kalpa on certain matters. Some Anukalpas are cited by commentators in this context based on other branches. In this respect Aapasthamba Sutra helps a great deal.

Grihya Sutram
Rituals of samskaras like upanayanam, marriage etc. and karmas performed with ‘Ekagni’ (one sacred fire) are covered in Grihya Sutras of Aapasthamba. The sequence of rituals in Aapasthamba Grihya Sutras follows generally the one in Grihya mantras called ‘Ekagni Kandam’ and ‘Mantra Prasnam’. Grihya Sutram is brief and clear. Commentaries of Sudarsana and Haradatta on this are available. Some details relating to Grihya Sutras can be found in the Tamil translation of that work.

Pitrumedha Sutram
The final element of Grihya dharmas is the post-death karma called ‘Pitrumedham’. Hence Aapasthamba has written Pitrumedha Sutra as the last part of Grihya. Aapasthamba sought to write on the rituals of usage of all mantras of Yajurvda. There is no basis for the argument advanced by some that the Pitrumedha Sutra found in Taitriya Aranyaka is not in accord with this and hence the Sutra now available is Bharadvaja Sutra indeed. How can we say that Aapasthamba, who wrote Sutras covering the entire Yajurveda, failed to write only this?

In addition to the commentary of Kapardi on Apara Sutra, there is also the gloss written in modern times by Painganadu Mahamahopadhyaya Sri Ganapathi Sastrigal, called ‘Ganapatya Vritti’. An important aspect of this work is that Sri Sastrigal has written the meaning of all mantras of Pitrumedham.

Kalpa Sutram
This is a strange Sutram of all the works of Aapasthamba. This covers the vedis (altars) to be used in yagas, the Agnikundas, their dimensions, the method of construction of different vedis for Garudasayanam, Rathachakrasayanam etc., the dimensions of bricks (ishtakas) etc. This is an excellent work of mathematics. This is called ‘Kalpam’ because the yagasalas, bricks etc. have to be measured with a rope. This is Geometry. Western scholars agree that the science of Geometry spread in the world based on this Kalpa Sutram meant for yagavedis. In the book on Indian history written by Ramesh Chandra Dutt, he praises the mastery of Rishis in geometry and confirms that modern Geometry is based on the Kalpa Sutras for yagavedis only.

“These interesting Sulva Sutras have been made known to the western world by Dr.Thiabut. The publication of this work only confirms the conclusions of Von Schrader that Pythogoras learnt not only his theory of transmigration, but his mathematics also from India in the sixth century before Christ.” (R.C.Dutt, History of civilisation in Ancient India- P.11).
“Dr.Thiabuat has deserved the thanks of all oriental scholars by publishing the fact that Geometry, as a Science, was first discovered in India. The Greeks of a later age cultivated the Science with greater success, but it should never be forgotten that the world owes its first lessons in Geometry not to Greece, but to India.” (Ibid P.126)
“The result of these operations was the compilation of a series of Geometrical rules, which are contained in Sulva Sutras, which form a portion of the Kalpa Sutras.” (Ibid P.129; Journal Asiatic Society of Bengal 1875/225)
“Geometry, like Astronomy, owes its origin in India to religion.” (Ibid P.126)
“Whatever science is closely connected with the ancient Indian religion must be considered as having sprung up among the Indians themselves and not borrowed from other nations. Geometry was developed in India from the rules for construction of the altars.” (J.A.B. 1875- P.257)
“The practical necessity for Geometrical studies no longer existed in India, when Hindus began to worship in the Pauranic age, and the setting up of sacred fires in the worshipper’s house was discontinued and the construction of altars was forgotten.” (R.C.Dutt H.C. A.I.P. 132)

This Sutra is very tough; not easy to understand. Karavinda’s commentary and Sundaratajiya gloss are available for this. One should read this to know Aapasthamba’s expertise of mathematics.

Aapasthamba Smriti
Maharishi Aapasthamba did not stop with writing works of Sutras; but he has also authored Smriti entirely in the form of slokas. This is well known as Aapasthamba Smriti. Ancient Nibandhanakaras like Vignaneswara and Aparaarka and others have cited Aapasthamba Smriti passages as authority in many places. In this Smriti, miscellaneous dharmas and special Prayaschittas have primarily been mentioned by Aapasthamba.

Aapasthamba’s Period
A brief mention of his place and time would be in order. There is no uniform opinion among historians about his time and place. There is no proper basis also available. Hence historians have reached conclusions based on guesswork and imagination. This is not acceptable to Vedic religionists.

Westerners like Max Muller and a few followers of his from India say that Aapasthamba’s period was 5th century B.C. No basis for this has been shown.
It is known that Aapasthamba’s period was before Panini, the Vyakarana Sutrakara and Patanjali, the commentator. A sutra by Aapasthamba in the Yupasamskara Prakaranam has been translated by Patanjali in his commentary. In a Panini Sutra, there is reference to Kalpasutram. Further, in another Sutra, he refers to Badarayana as the son of Parasara. Badarayana was Jaimini’s teacher. Jaimini himself cites Aapasthamba Sutra in many places. Hence many historians guess that Kalpasutras, specially Aapasthamba Kalpam were prior to Panini.

Yagnavalkya in his Smriti refers to Aapasthamba as the pioneer of Dharma Sastra. We also see Jaimini, the Mimamsa Sutrakara, citing Aapasthamba in many places. Jaimini brings out in many places the opinions of Aapasthamba as Purva paksha (the first part of argument) and some as authority. This shows that Aapasthamba preceded Jaimini.

As Yagnavalkya in his Smriti refers to Parasara along with Aapasthamba, we are led to think that Aapasthamba was the contemporary of Parasara, i.e. he preceded Vyasa. Hence Vaidikas have to accept that Aapasthamba’s time was before the advent of Kaliyuga. That Dr.Bhagavat Datta of Lahore puts Aapasthamba’s time as Kali 450, i.e. 4550 B.C. is also to be noted. As per his conclusion, the period of Rishis ends at Kali 450; there are no Rishis in Kaliyuga thereafter. To establish that Aapasthamba was present in Kaliyuga, it would not be appropriate to cite his own Sutra, which states that Rishis will not come up in Kaliyuga as there is no proper Vedic study as per rules. He only forecast the state in Kaliyuga, rather than stated the condition when he was alive.

Starting from the time of upanayanam, we have the practice of announcing the kula, gotra, sutra and Vedic sakha (branch) to which we belong and add that we act as per the particular Rishi’s sutra dharma. Do we not assure with Agni as witness, in the assembly of brahmanas and in the presence of Acharya that having mentioned a certain Sutra, like Aapasthambasutra, Aasvalayanasutra, Bodhayanasutra etc., we act as per that Sutra? When we announce on every occasion that we act as per Aapasthambasutra, should we not think of what we know about Aapasthamba or his Sutras? Should we not know at least what has been stated in his Sutras? It is good fortune that as a result of the dissemination of information by Veda Dharma Sastra Paripalana Sabha, functioning under the directions of Srimad Acharyapada, there is a sign that this deficiency will be removed. It is a matter of gratification that even those who were slothful so far have come forward to know the contents of Dharma Sutras etc.

AgnihotramGopala Desikacharya 


Translated by: P R Kannan, Navi Mumbai


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