Āpastamba Dharmasūtra | 1





1. And now we shall explain the accepted customary Laws, 2. the authority for which rests on their acceptance by those who know the Law 3. and on the Vedas.


4. There are 4 classes:

1. Brahmin,
2. Kṣatriya,
3. Vaiśya, and
4. Śūdra.

5. Among these, each preceding class is superior by birth to each subsequent.

6. Those who are not Śūdras and are not guilty of evil deeds may undergo initiation, undertake Vedic study, and set up the sacred fires; and their rites bear fruit.

7. Śūdras are to serve the other classes; 8. the higher the class they serve, the greater their prosperity.


3. Initiation

9. Initiation is the consecration of a person seeking Vedic knowledge carried out according to Vedic rules, 10. for a Brāhmaṇa declares:

The Sāvitrī verse is recited for the sake of all the Vedas.

4. Teacher

11. ‘From darkness they surely enter into further darkness -
- an ignorant man who performs an initiation,
as also the person whom he initiates’,

- states a Brāhmaṇa.

12. So, to perform the initiation, he should try to get a learned and steadfast man born in a family noted for Vedic learning, 13. under whom he should complete his Vedic studies, unless that man deviates from the Laws.

14. The teacher (ācārya) is the person from whom a man gathers (ācinoti) the Laws.

15. He should never offend the teacher, 16. for he gives birth to him by means of Vedic knowledge. 17. That is his most excellent birth; 18. his parents give birth only to his body.

5. Time of Initiation

19. A Brahmin should be initiated in the spring,
a Kṣatriya in the summer, and a Vaiśya in the autumn;

a Brahmin in the 8th year from conception,
a Kṣatriya in the 11th, and a Vaiśya in the 12th.

20. When initiations are performed with an objective in mind,

21. a person seeking eminence in Vedic knowledge should be initiated in the 7th year,
22. a person seeking long life in the 8th,
23. a person seeking power in the 9th,
24. a person seeking an abundance of food in the 10th,
25. a person seeking strength in the 11th,
26. and a person seeking cattle in the 12th.

27. In the case of a Brahmin there is no lapse in postponing the initiation until the 16th year,
in the case of a Kṣatriya until the 22nd year,
and in the case of a Vaiśya until the 24th year,

so as to ensure that the person has the capacity to carry out the observances that we are about to describe.

6. Failure to be Initiated

28. If his time for initiation has lapsed, a man should live observing the rules of a student of the 3 Vedas for one season 29. and then undergo initiation.

30. For a year thereafter he should take a daily bath, 31. after which time he may receive Vedic instruction.

32. When both the father and grandfather of a man have not been initiated, they are all called ‘Brahman-killers’. 33. People should refrain from visiting them and from eating or contracting marriages with them.

34. They may, if they so choose, do a penance -

35. - such a person should perform for a year the same penance that was prescribed for a season when the initial time for initiation had lapsed 36. and then undergo initiation.


Thereafter, he should take a daily bath 1. for as many years as the number of uninitiated persons in his family:

2. He should take this bath while reciting the 7 Pāvamānī verses that begin: ‘Whether near or afar...’, as well as the purificatory formulas called Yajuḥpavitra, Sāmapavitra, and Āṅgirasa; 3. or else, while reciting just the Calls.

4. Thereafter, he may receive Vedic instruction.

5. When no one can remember that any of a man’s ancestors back to his great-grandfather had been initiated, they are all called ‘cremation grounds’. 6. People should refrain from visiting them and from eating or contracting marriages with them.

They may, if they so choose, do a penance - such a person should live observing the rules of a student of the 3 Vedas for 12 years and then undergo initiation.

Thereafter, he should take a daily bath while reciting the Pāvamānī verses and the rest. 7. He may then be taught the rites to be performed by a householder 8. but not receive Vedic instruction.

9. And after he has completed that, his sacramentary rite is performed in the same manner as when the initial time for initiation has lapsed. 10. Afterwards, everything is done as at the regular initiation.

7. Residency

11. An initiated person should reside as a student in his teacher’s house 12. for 48 years, 13. or for 3/4 of that time, 14. or for half that time, 15. or for 1/4 of that time; 16. the minimum is 12 years.

17. A student who seeks to acquire Vedic knowledge may not reside with anyone else.

A Student’s Code of Conduct

8. General Rules

18. Next, the student’s code of conduct:

19. He shall submit to his teacher in all things except those that entail a sin causing loss of caste. 20. He shall promote his teacher’s welfare, never contradict him, 21. and occupy a lower seat and bed.

22. He shall not eat ritual food, 23. spices, salt, honey, or meat.

24. He shall not sleep during the day, 25. wear perfume, 26. engage in sexual intercourse, 27. or show himself off.

28. He shall not wash his body. 29. When anything dirty stains it, however, he may wash it out of his teacher’s sight. 30. If he bathes, he should not be boisterous in the water but plunge in like a stick.

9. Insignia

31. He shall have his hair matted; 32. or, keeping just the topknot matted, let him shave the rest.

33. The girdle of a Brahmin should be a triple string of Muñja grass, twisted clockwise if possible;

34. that of a Kṣatriya a bowstring 35. or a string of Muñja grass trimmed with pieces of iron;

36. and that of a Vaiśya a woollen string 37. or, according to some, a plough cord or a string made with Tamāla bark.

38. A Brahmin’s staff should be of Palāśa wood,
a Kṣatriya’s the prop root of a banyan tree, and
a Vaiśya’s of Badara or Udumbara wood.

Some prescribe just a wooden staff without regard to class.

39. His garment should be 40. made of hemp, flax, or antelope skin.

41. Some, however, prescribe a garment dyed ochre.


1. It should be dyed madder for a Kṣatriya 2. and yellow for a Vaiśya.

3. The skin of a Hariṇa deer or a black Eṇa doe is prescribed for a Brahmin; 4. if he wears a black skin, he should not use it as a spread to sit or sleep on.

5. The skin of a spotted Rurū antelope is prescribed for a Kṣatriya,
6. and that of a billy goat for a Vaiśya.

7. A sheep skin is suitable for all classes, 8. and so is a shawl of sheep wool.

9. For a Brāhmaṇa declares:

‘A person who desires to increase his Brāhmanic might should wear only antelope skins, and a person who desires to increase his Kṣatriya might should wear only cloth garments, while a person who desires both should wear both.’

10. Over his upper body, however, he should wear only an antelope skin.

10. General Rules

11. He shall not watch dancing, 12. nor visit casinos or fairs.
13. He shall not be given to gossiping 14. but keep things confidential.
15. He shall not engage in recreational activities in places frequented by his teacher.
16. He shall speak with women only as much as is required.

17. He shall be gentle, 18. calm, 19. controlled, 20. modest, 21. firmly resolute, 22. energetic,
23. not given to anger, 24. and free from envy.

11. Food

25. Morning and evening he shall go out to beg with a bowl, soliciting from those who are not degraded or heinous sinners, and bringing all he receives to his teacher.

26. For a Brāhmaṇa declares:

‘When women refuse a steadfast student, he robs them of their sacrifices, gifts, oblations, offspring, cattle, sacred learning, and food supply.

One should never refuse a group of students come to beg, therefore, for among them there may be one who is like that and who keeps that vow.’

27. Alms-food should not be considered leftovers by inference, but only through perception or testimony.

28. A Brahmin should beg placing ‘Madam’ at the beginning,
29. a Kṣatriya placing ‘Madam’ in the middle, and
30. a Vaiśya placing ‘Madam’ at the end.

31. After he has collected the alms-food, he should place it before his teacher and announce it to him. 32. He should eat it when the teacher invites him to do so.

33. If the teacher is not at home, he should announce it to a member of the teacher’s family, 34. and, if they also are not at home, to some other Vedic scholar.

35. Let him never go out to beg just for his own benefit.

36. After he has eaten, he should wash his bowl himself.

37. Let him not leave any food uneaten:

38. If he is unable to do so, he should bury the leftovers in the ground, 39. throw them in water, 40. or place them before an Ārya 41. or before a Śūdra who is a family servant.

42. When he is away from home, he should eat after offering some of the alms-food in the sacred fire.

43. Alms-food is hailed as a sacrificial oblation at which the teacher plays the roles of the deity 44. and the offertorial fire.

45. When, after feeding his teacher,


1. he eats what is left over–– 2. that is indeed the leftovers from a sacrificial oblation. 3. When he gives to the teacher other things as he obtains them, they are truly the sacrificial fees. 4. This is the sacrifice performed daily by a student.

5. The teacher should not give him any leftover items of food 6. items such which are forbidden to him by Vedic texts, however, as spices, salt, honey, and meat.

7. His other restrictions are also intimated by this rule, 8. for a Vedic text has greater force than a practice from which the existence of a corresponding Vedic text has to be inferred.

9. We notice here, moreover, a motive for such a practice, 10. for one derives pleasure from it.

11. It is permissible to eat the leftovers of one’s father or an older brother, 12. but not if it would result in breaking the Law.

12. Fire Worship

13. At dusk and dawn a student should fetch a pot of water, 14. and every day he should gather firewood from outlying areas and pile it on the ground.

15. After sunset he should not go out to gather firewood. 16. At dusk and dawn, after he has lighted the fire and swept around it, he should put firewood into it according to the instructions.

17. Some say that he needs to perform the fire worship only at dusk.

18. After he has lighted the fire, he should sweep around it with his hand and not with a broom, 19. but before lighting it he may do as he pleases.

20. Let him not use the remainder of the water from the fire worship to carry out mundane activities or for sipping, 21. nor sip water that has been stirred with the hand or poured into one hand.

13. Conduct towards the Teacher

22. He should forgo sleep 23. and every day take care of his teacher with activities that procure righteousness (dharma) and wealth.

24. After taking care of his teacher, he should say when he goes to sleep:
I have taken care of the man who takes care of the Law.

25. If the teacher breaks a rule through carelessness or deliberately, the student should point it out to him in private; 26. and if the teacher persists, he should either perform those rites himself 27. or make him desist.

28. Now, they say that a student who gets up before and goes to bed after his teacher never sleeps:

29. A student who totally dedicates himself in this manner accomplishes in that very state all the rites carrying rewards, as well as those that pertain to a householder.


14. General Rules

1. The term ‘austerity’ is used with reference to the rules of conduct.

2. When someone breaks these rules, the application to Vedic study and the knowledge of the Veda will slip away from him, as well as from his children; 3. he will fall into hell, and his life will be shortened.

4. As a result of breaking these rules, seers are not being born in recent generations.

5. Through a residue of their merits, however, some people are reborn as seers on account of their Vedic learning, 6. as, for example, Śvetaketu.

7. Whatever other science besides the Veda a steadfast man learns from his teacher, it will bear fruit for him just like the Veda:

8. They point out, moreover, that when such a person thinks of anything, speaks about anything, or looks at anything with a will to accomplishing it, it will happen exactly as he wills.

9. Activities pleasing to the teacher, those promoting his own well-being, and pursuing his studies: 10. undertakings other than these do not belong to a student.

11. When a student is faithful to his private Vedic recitation, takes delight in the Law, and is observant, upright, and gentle, he will attain success.

15. Conduct towards the Teacher

12. Rising each day during the last watch of the night, he should stand before the teacher and extend to him the morning greeting: ‘I am so-and-so, sir!’, 13. and, before the morning meal, to other very elderly persons living in the same village. 14. He should also greet them when he meets them after he returns from a journey 15. or if he desires heaven or long life.

16. With joined hands, let a Brahmin greet by stretching his right hand level with his ears, a Kṣatriya level with his chest, a. Vaiśya level with his waist, and a Śūdra very low.

17. When returning the greetings of a person belonging to one of the higher classes, the last syllable of his name should be lengthened to three more.

18. When he meets the teacher after sunrise, however, he should clasp his feet;

19. at all other times he should exchange greetings, 20. although, according to some, he should embrace the teacher’s feet even at other times.

21. After he has pressed his teacher’s right foot from the bottom to the top with his right hand, he should clasp it at the ankle.

22. Some say that he should massage both feet with both hands and clasp them both.

23. He shall remain fully attentive all day long and at the time of Vedic study never let anything distract him from his lesson, 24. as also while he is attending to his teacher’s work.

25. At times when Vedic recitation is forbidden, he shall recite it mentally.
26. And he should recite the Veda only when he is called upon to do so.


1. Every night he should get his teacher ready for bed by washing and pressing his feet, 2. and, when permitted, lie down to sleep himself 3. taking care not to stretch his legs towards the teacher.

4. According to some, however, it is not wrong to stretch the legs in that way if the teacher is lying on a bed.

5. In the presence of his teacher, moreover, he should not speak while lying down:

6. If the teacher speaks to him, however, he may answer him while remaining seated 7. or, if the teacher is standing, rising to his feet.

8. Let him walk behind the teacher when he is walking 9. and run after him when he is running.

10. He should not come near the teacher wearing shoes, covering the head, or carrying anything in the hands. 11. He may do so, however, when he is on the road or in the middle of doing something, 12. provided he does not sit too close to the teacher.

13. Let him approach the teacher as he would a god, without idle talk or distracting thoughts and attentive to his words.

14. He shall not sit cross-legged. 15. If the wind is blowing from him towards the teacher, he should change his place. 16. He shall not sit supporting himself with his hand, 17. or leaning against anything.

18. If he is wearing two garments, he should wear one of them over his left shoulder and under his right arm, 19. but if he is wearing a single garment, he should wrap it around his lower body.

20. Let him face the teacher even when the teacher is not facing him, 21. sitting neither too close nor too far, 22. but at a distance where the teacher, while seated, can reach him with his hands.

23. He shall not sit where the wind blows from the teacher to him. 24. A single student should sit on his teacher’s right, 25. while a group may sit as space permits.

26. When the teacher is not provided with a seat and remains standing, he should not sit down.

27. Likewise, while the teacher remains seated, he should not lie down, 28. and when the teacher is doing something, he should, if he is capable, offer to do it himself.

29. In the presence of the teacher, moreover, he should not clasp the feet of a person of lesser dignity than the teacher, 30. greet such a person using the name of his lineage, 31. rise to meet him, or get up after him, 32. even if that person happens to be his teacher’s elder.

33. But he should move away from that place and from his seat.

34. Some say that he may address a pupil of his teacher by name, even if that pupil happens to be an elder of his.

35. Towards a person who is revered for reasons other than being his teacher, however, he should behave as towards his teacher, even if he happens to be a person of lesser dignity than his teacher.

36-7. After he has eaten in the presence of his teacher, moreover, he should neither give away his leftovers nor sip water without getting up.

38. After asking the teacher ‘What shall I do?’,


1. he should get up; or he may get up silently. 2. Let him not move counter-clockwise but walk around his teacher clock- wise and then leave.

16. General Rules

3. He should not look at a naked woman 4. or cut anything from plants or trees to smell it.
5. He should refrain from using shoes, umbrellas, and vehicles.

6. ‘Let him not smile, 7. or, if he smiles, let him do so covering his mouth’––so states a Brāhmaṇa.

8. He should not kiss a woman with his mouth, 9. covet her in his heart, 10. or touch her without a good reason:

11. A Brāhmaṇa states:
He shall keep his body dirty, his teeth stained, and his speech true’.

12. He shall regard those who taught his teacher the same subject that he is studying from him as his own teachers. 13. When he sees his teacher clasp the feet of other persons, he should also clasp their feet.

14. If he has several teachers, the alms-food he gathers comes under the control of the teacher to whom he is currently attached.

15. A student who has returned home should offer the alms-food to his mother; 16. the mother should present it to her husband, 17. and the husband to the teacher.

18. Or else, it may be used for ritual (dharma) purposes.

17. Conclusion of Study

19. After learning as much as he can, he should present the fee for Vedic study, a fee that is procured righteously (dharma) and according to his ability.

20. If his teacher has fallen into hardship, however, he may seize it from an Ugra or a Śūdra.

21. Some maintain that it is lawful at all times to seize wealth for the teacher from an Ugra or a Śūdra.

22. Let him not brag about what he has given 23. or gloat over what he has done.
24. He should refrain from praising himself and disparaging others.
25. When he is ordered to do something, he should go ahead and do just that.

26. If the teacher is incompetent, however, he may live with another.

27. With the exception of clasping the feet and eating the leftovers, he should behave towards his teacher’s wife as towards his teacher 28. and conduct himself in the same manner towards a person whom the teacher deputes to teach him 29. and towards older classmates.

30. With the exception of eating the leftovers,
he should behave towards his teacher’s son as towards his teacher.