Grhastha: The Householder in Ancient Indian Religious Culture

ISBN : 9780190696153

Patrick Olivelle
320 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Aug 2019
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For scholars of ancient Indian religions, the wandering mendicants who left home and family for a celibate life and the search for liberation represent an enigma. The Vedic religion, centered on the married household, had no place for such a figure. Much has been written about the Indian ascetic but hardly any scholarly attention has been paid to the married householder with wife and children, generally referred to in Sanskrit as grhastha: "the stay-at-home." The institution of the householder is viewed implicitly as posing little historical problems with regard to its origin or meaning. This volume problematizes the figure of the householder within ancient Indian culture and religion. It shows that the term grhastha is a neologism and is understandable only in its opposition to the ascetic who goes away from home (pravrajita). Through a thorough and comprehensive analysis of a wide range of inscriptions and texts, ranging from the Vedas, Dharmasastras, Epics, and belle lettres to Buddhist and Jain texts and texts on governance and erotics, this volume analyses the meanings, functions, and roles of the householder from the earliest times unti about the fifth century CE. The central finding of these studies is that the householder bearing the name grhastha is not simply a married man with a family but someone dedicated to the same or similar goals as an ascetic while remaining at home and performing the economic and ritual duties incumbent on him. The grhastha is thus not a generic householder, for whom there are many other Sanskrit terms, but a religiously charged concept that is intended as a full-fledged and even superior alternative to the concept of a religious renouncer.


Introduction Patrick Olivelle, University of Texas at Austin
Prologue Whitney Cox, University of Chicago
Chapter One
The Term Grhastha and the (Pre)history of the Householder
Stephanie Jamison, UCLA
Chapter Two
Pasanda: Religious Communities in the Asokan Inscriptions and Early Literature
Joel Brereton, University of Texas at Austin
Chapter Three
Grhastha in Asoka's Classification of Religious People
Patrick Olivelle, University of Texas at Austin
Chapter Four
Grhastha in the Sramanic Discourse: A Lexical Survey of House Residents in Early Pali Texts
Oliver Freiberger, University of Texas at Austin
Chapter Five
Gahavai and Gihattha: The Householder in the Early Jaina Sources
Claire Maes, University of Texas at Austin
Chapter Six
The Late Appearance of the Grhastha in the Vedic Domestic Ritual Codes as a Married Religious Professional
Timothy Lubin, Washington and Lee University
Chapter Seven
Grhastha, Asrama, and the Origin of Dharmasastra
Patrick Olivelle, University of Texas at Austin
Chapter Eight
The Householder in Early Dharmasastra Literature
David Brick, Yale University
Chapter Nine
Householders, Holy and Otherwise, in the Niti and Kama Literature
Mark McClish, Northwestern University
Chapter Ten
The Grhastha in the Mahabharata
Adam Bowles, University of Queensland, Australia
Chapter Eleven
Grhasthas Don't Belong in the Ramayana
Aaron Sherraden, University of Texas at Austin
Chapter Twelve
Householders and Housewives in Early Kavya Literature
Csaba Dezso, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary

About the author: 

Patrick Olivelle is Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin. He was President of the American Oriental Society. The author of over 30 books and 50 articles, his books have won awards from American Academy of Religion and Association of Asian Studies. His major publications include: Yajnavalkya: A Treatise on Dharma; Hindu Law: A New History of Dharmasastra; Reader on Dharma: Classical Indian Law; King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India; Visnu's Code of Law; The Life of the Buddha; Manu's Code of Law; Upanisads; and Asrama System.

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