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Lectures on Dharmasastra

Indian texts in historical context seminar: Textual history and social reality in the Manavadharmasastra

Professor Patrick Olivelle
7 May 2004

Related: Dharmasastra, Text

Texts of Hindu sacred law and the construction of women's lives (as part of 'Towards equality: writing/reading gender in texts of Hinduism' workshop)

Professor Mandakranta Bose
19 May 2006

In India the treatises of law founded upon the sacred books of the Hindus had a far-reaching and defining influence on social life. As foundational documents of the Hindu way of life which codified social relations as well as personal belief as religious imperatives, these texts have exerted the deepest influence on the lives and conduct of women through history and their teachings have not yet entirely lost their force. In this lecture I shall consider some of the provisions in Hindu sacred law that moulded the lives of women, as derived from the writings of Manu and other ancient Hindu lawgivers, as well as some later writers on this basis we shall attempt to understand the intimate connection between the religious framework and the social, which has laid the basis of women's status, roles, rights and duties in Hindu society.

Related: Dharmasastra, Gender

Towards equality: Women neither as goddess nor as victim (as part of 'Towards equality: writing/reading gender in texts of Hinduism' workshop)

Dr Sanjukta Gupta
19 May 2006

This talk will introduce the theme of the worskshop and will address the problem of traditional representations of women as Goddess or Victim and will provide a historical overview of the problem. This will set the scene and provide the background for the discussion that follows.

Related: Dharmasastra, Gender

The concept of nivrtti as translated in the lives of women in Hinduism: A survey (as part of 'Towards equality: writing/reading gender in texts of Hinduism' workshop)

Professor T.S. Rukmani
19 May 2006

Nivrtti denotes disengagement with worldly conventions. Of course it is used more in the context of samnysins/samnyasinis in connection with the pursuit of moksa (liberation). But this paper intends to release the word nivrtti from this narrow application and look at it in a wider context. The paper will examine the instances in the texts which have representations of women who go against the conventional, mother/warrior image. For instance is the brahmavadini/scholar woman like Gargi for instance, discarding by choice the role of a married woman and opting for a life of scholarly/spiritual search? Again is Savitri exerting her independence and opting to marry Satyavan in spite of her father's advice? Sulabha again could be someone who did not want to marry anyone because she was far superior to all those who wooed her. She makes the deliberate choice to become a bhiksuni. There are any number of these examples in Sanskrit texts which will form the basis of the talk.

Related: Dharmasastra, Gender

A super-gift or a conduit: The place of a daughter in the Indian marriage exchange

Graduate Seminar
Pulane Lizzie Motswapong
30 Apr 2007

The seminar will examine Hindu ideas of love and the idea of divine love ('love beyond'). The seminar will pay particular attention to the Narada Bhakti Sutras.Ancient Hindu lawgivers have always viewed spiritual merit as arising from the spirit of dana. Marriage dana especially kanyadana has been considered as such.

A father, by giving away his kanya was assured of spiritual merit. In ancient India the kanya was designated as the super-gift and all the other gifts which accompanied her were secondary. Marriage gifts continue to form an integral part of modern marriage system, (in the form of dowry); the kanya continues to be given away but her role is subsumed by the property she carries with her to the marital family and as a result she is reduced to a conduit.
The shift in status of the daughter from super-gift to a vehicle that facilitates the dowry custom has closely and significantly affected the status of women in contemporary Indian society. The practice has spread all over India and its wider ramifications are visible in the spate of cases of bride-burning, suicides, and harassment. This paper will compare and contrast the role of the daughter in the exchange while taking into account factors that may have contributed to this shift in the status of a kanyadana.

Related: Dharmasastra, Society

The Temple in Sanskrit Legal Literature

Shivdasani Conference 2007
Professor Patrick Olivelle
21 Oct 2007

Session 12 of the 2007 Shivdasani Conference.

This paper will examine the relationship between temples and the ideologies and practices underlying the mainstream of the Brahmanical tradition and the ascetical institutions of ancient India. The "Hindu" temple is a relatively new institution rising in the early centuries of the common era. Brahmanical ritual both in its public and domestic expressions had existed without temples for over a millennium. Ascetic institutions both within and outside the Brahmanical tradition developed in a temple-less religious landscape, and their ideologies were anti-ritual focused on wandering and mental cultivation.
With the development of temple culture within "Hindu" traditions, accommodations and conflicts between the emergent religious culture and the older traditions were bound to occur. Focusing on the textual tradition, this paper will examine some of these conflicts and accommodations.

Related: Dharmasastra, Temple and Text

Forming a Canon: The Literary and Political History of Dharmasastra

Majewski Lecture
Professor Patrick Olivelle
25 May 2009

This lecture will deal with the early history of the Hindu legal tradition and the formation of its canon of texts within the political contexts in which they were produced.

Related: Dharmasastra