Gautama Dharmasūtra | 4



1. Study, sacrifice, and giving gifts pertain to all twice-born classes.

1. Brahmin

2. In addition to these, teaching, officiating at sacrifices, and receiving gifts pertain to Brahmins, 3. but only the former are obligatory.

4. Vedic instruction may be imparted outside the above mentioned rules to a teacher, relative, friend, or elder, or when it is imparted in exchange for knowledge or money.

5. A Brahmin may also engage in agriculture and trade if he does not do the work himself, 6. and in lending money on interest.

2. King and Kṣatriya

7. To a king pertains, in addition, the protection of all creatures, 8. as also meting out just punishment.

9. He should support Brahmins who are Vedic scholars, 10. non-Brahmins who are unable to work, 11. those who are exempt from taxes, 12. and novice students.

3. War

13. He should also take measures to ensure victory, 14. especially when danger threatens; 15. travel about in a chariot armed with a bow; 16. and stand firm in battle without fleeing.

17. He commits no sin if he kills someone in battle, 18. except the following:

- those who have lost their horses, charioteers, or arms;
- those who join their hand in supplication or have dishevelled hair;
- those who are fleeing or hunkering down;
- those who have climbed on to a ledge or a tree;
- messengers; and those who say they are cows or Brahmins.

19. If another Kṣatriya depends on the king for his livelihood, he too must participate in the king’s undertakings.

20. The victor should take the booty of battle, 21. but the mounts go to the king, 22. as well as a choice portion of the booty unless it has been won in single combat.

23. Everything else, however, the king should distribute equitably among his men.

4. Taxes

24. Farmers shall pay 1/10, or 1/8, or 1/6 of their produce to the king as taxes.

25. According to some, there is a tax of 1/50 on cattle and gold.

26. There is a duty of 1/20 on merchandise,
27. and 1/60 on roots, fruits, flowers, medicine, honey, meat, grass, and firewood.

28. The grounds for taxation is the king’s duty to protect the people;
29. he should always be attentive to them.

30. The king shall obtain his livelihood by means of this additional duty of his.

31. Every month each artisan shall work 1 day for the king.

32. This applies also to people who live by manual labour
33. and to those who operate boats and carriages.

34. The king should give them food when they work for him.

35. Every month traders should give the king a piece of merchandise below its market value.

5. Ownership

36. If someone finds lost property whose owner is unknown, he should disclose it to the king. 37. The king should have it publicized and keep it safely for a year, 38. after which time a quarter goes to the finder and the rest to the king.

39. Ownership is established by inheritance, purchase, partition, possession, and discovery;

40. additionally, acceptance for Brahmins, 41. conquest for Kṣatriyas, 42. and wages for Vaiśyas and Śūdras.

43. A treasure-trove is the property of the king, 44. except when it is found by an upright Brahmin. 45. According to some, even a non-Brahmin who discloses a find should receive 1/6.

46. When property is stolen by thieves, the king should recover 47. or pay compensation from it and return it to its rightful owner his treasury.

48. He should keep the property of children safely until they reach the legal age or have completed their studies.

6. Vaiśya and Śūdra

49. To a Vaiśya pertain in addition agriculture, trade, animal husbandry, and lending money on interest.

50. The Śūdra is the 4th class with a single birth:

51. Speaking the truth, refraining from anger, and purification apply to him also. 52. According to some, he should simply wash his hands and feet in place of sipping water.

53. He should make ancestral offerings; 54. support his dependants; 55. be faithful to his wife; 56. serve the upper classes; 57. seek his livelihood from them; 58. use their discarded shoes, umbrellas, clothes, and mats and the like; 59. and eat their leftovers.

60. He may also support himself by working as an artisan.

61. The Ārya whom he serves must support him even when he is unable to work, 62. and under similar circumstances he should support the upper-class man 63. using his savings for that purpose.

64. When he is given leave, he may use the word ‘Homage!’ as his mantra.

65. According to some, he may offer sacrifices on his own using cooked food.

66. All should serve the people belonging to classes higher than themselves.
67. If Āryas do the jobs of non-Āryas and vice versa, they become equal.



1. The king rules over all except Brahmins.

2. He should be correct in his actions and speech 3. and trained in the triple Veda and logic.

4. Let him be upright, keep his senses under control, surround himself with men of quality, and adopt sound policies. 5. He should be impartial towards his subjects 6. and work for their welfare.

7. As he sits on a high seat, all except Brahmins should pay him homage seated at a lower level, 8. and even Brahmins should honour him.

9. He should watch over the social classes and the orders of life in conformity with their rules, 10. and those who stray he should guide back to their respective duties (dharma), 11. ‘for the king,’ it is stated, ‘takes a share of their merits (dharma).’

12. He should appoint as his personal priest a Brahmin who is learned, born in a good family, eloquent, handsome, mature, and virtuous; who lives according to the rules; and who is austere.

13. He should undertake rites only with his support, 14. ‘for a Kṣatriya, when he is supported by a Brahmin,’ it is said, ‘prospers and never falters.’

15. He should also pay heed to what his astrologers and augurs tell him, 16. for, according to some, his welfare depends also on that.

17. In the fire within the assembly hall, he should perform rites to secure prosperity in connection with a propitiation, festive day, military expedition, long life, or auspiciousness, as well as rites to stir enmity, to subdue or slay his enemies, or to bring them to their knees.

18. His officiating priests shall carry out the other rites as prescribed.

8. The Judicial Process

19. His administration of justice shall be based
on the Veda, the Legal Treatises, the Vedic Supplements, and the Purāṇa.

20. The Laws of regions, castes, and families are also authoritative
if they are not in conflict with the sacred scriptures.

21. Farmers, merchants, herdsmen, moneylenders, and artisans exercise authority over their respective groups. 22. He should dispense the Law after he has ascertained the facts from authoritative persons of each group.

23. Reasoning is the means of reaching a correct judgment.

24. Having reached a conclusion in this manner, he should decide the case equitably.

25. If there is conflicting evidence, he should consult those who are deeply learned in the triple Veda and reach a decision, 26. for, it is said, acting in that way, he will attain prosperity.

9. Punishment

27. ‘Brahmins united with Kṣatriyas’, it is stated, ‘uphold the gods, ancestors, and human beings.’

28. The word ‘punishment’ (daṇḍa), they say, is derived from ‘restraint’ (damana); therefore, he should restrain those who are unrestrained.

29. People belonging to the different classes and orders of life who are steadfastly devoted to the Laws proper to them enjoy the fruits of their deeds after death;

and then, with the residue of those fruits, take birth again in a prosperous region, a high caste, and a distinguished family, with a handsome body, long life, deep Vedic learning, and virtuous conduct, and with great wealth, happiness, and intelligence.

30. Those who act to the contrary disperse in every direction and perish.

31. The teacher’s advice and the king’s punishment protect them;
32. therefore, one should never belittle the king or the teacher.


Criminal and Civil Law

10. Abuse and Assault

1. If a Śūdra uses abusive language or physical violence against twice-born people, the part of his body used for the crime should be chopped off.

2. If he has sex with an Ārya woman, his penis should be cut off and all his property confiscated; 3. if the woman had a guardian, then, in addition to the above, he shall be executed.

4. And if he listens in on a Vedic recitation, his ears shall be filled with molten tin or lac; 5. if he repeats it, his tongue shall be cut off; 6. if he commits it to memory, his body shall be split asunder.

7. If, while he is occupying a seat, lying on a bed, speaking, or walking on the road, he seeks to be their equal, he should be beaten.

8. If a Kṣatriya hurls abusive words at a Brahmin, he shall be. fined a hundred; 9. if there is physical violence, the fine is doubled.

10. A Vaiśya guilty of the same crime shall be fined 1 and a 1/2 times as much as a Kṣatriya.

11. A Brahmin guilty of the same crime against a Kṣatriya, on the other hand, shall be fined fifty, 12. half that amount if it is against a Vaiśya, 13. and none at all if it is against a Śūdra.

14. If a Kṣatriya is guilty of the same crime against a Vaiśya, or a Vaiśya against a Kṣatriya, the fine shall be the same as that levied on a Brahmin vis-à-vis a Kṣatriya, and on a Kṣatriya.. vis-à-vis a Brahmin, respectively.

11. Theft

15. When a Śūdra steals, he must be made to repay the loss 8-fold, 16. and the fine is progressively doubled for thieves belonging to each of the prior classes.

17. If the felon is a learned man, he should be punished more severely.

18. For stealing small amounts of fruits, vegetables, or grain, the fine is 5 Kṛṣṇalas.

12. Property Damage

19. The owner is at fault when his animals cause damage; 20. but if a herdsman was looking after them at the time, then it is the herdsman’s fault.

21. If the damage is done to an unfenced field by the side of a road, then the fault lies with both the herdsman and the owner of the field.

22. For damage done by a cow, the fine is 5 Māṣas; 23. by a camel or a donkey, 6; 24. by a horse or a buffalo, 10; 25. by sheep or goats, 2 for each.

26. If the whole field is destroyed, the fine is the value of the crop.

27. If a man consistently neglects what is prescribed and does what is forbidden, his property, beyond what is necessary to clothe and feed himself, shall be confiscated.

28. One may gather grass for a cow, wood for the fire, and flowers from vines and trees as if they were his own, and, if they are not fenced in, also fruits.

13. Rates of Interest

29. The legal (dharmya) rate of interest is 5 Māṣas a month for 20.

30. According to some, this rate does not apply for longer than a year. 31. If the loan remains outstanding for a longer period of time, the principal is doubled.

32. No interest accrues if the lender makes use of the borrower’s collateral, 33. or when the borrower is eager to settle the debt but is prevented from doing so.

34. The types of interest are:

cyclical rate, periodic rate, 35. contractual rate, manual labour, daily rate, and use of the collateral.

36. In the case of animal products, wool, farm produce, and beasts of burden, the interest shall not exceed 5 times the loan.

14. Ownership

37. When others make use of the property of a person who is neither mentally incapacitated nor a minor before his very eyes for 10 years, it belongs to the user, 38. unless the user is a Vedic scholar, a wandering ascetic, or a royal officer.

39. There is no such limit on the period of use in the case of cattle, land, and women.

15. Debts

40.Those who inherit the property of someone have to pay his debts. 41. Sons are not accountable for a surety’s bond, a business debt, a bride price, debts relating to liquor or gambling, or fines.

42. So long as a person has a blameless reputation, he is not accountable for an open or sealed deposit, something borrowed or purchased, or a collateral for a loan that is lost without his fault.

16. Punishment

43. A thief, his hair dishevelled and carrying a pestle, should go to the king proclaiming his deed. 44. He is cleansed by being killed or released, 45. but by not killing him the king assumes the sin.

46. There shall be no corporal punishment of Brahmins; 47. they are punished by extricating them from such deeds, publishing their crimes, sending them into exile, and branding them.

48. If a king fails to punish, he should perform a penance.

49. A man who knowingly becomes an associate of a thief shall be treated like a thief, 50. as also a man who illicitly (adharma) receives goods from him.

51. Punishment should be meted out after taking into account the type of a man he is, his strength, the gravity of the crime, and how often he has committed it.

52. Alternatively, the man may be pardoned
according to the verdict of an assembly of men learned in the Vedas.


17. Witnesses

1. If there is conflicting evidence, the truth shall be ascertained by means of witnesses:

2. They should be numerous, of blameless reputation with respect to their duties, worthy of the king’s trust, and neither friendly nor hostile towards either party.

3. They may even be Śūdras.

4. Unless a Brahmin is listed in the plaint, however,
he should not be forced to testify at the behest of a non-Brahmin.

5. Witnesses should not speak until they are convened and questioned;
6. but if they then refuse to speak, they commit an offence.

7. If they speak the truth, they will go to heaven;
if they do the contrary, hell awaits them.

8. Even those not listed in the plaint may be obliged to give evidence. 9. No objection can be raised against a witness in cases involving violence 10. or for things he may have said inadvertently.

11. If the execution of the Law is thwarted, the guilt falls on the witnesses, the assessors, the king, and the transgressor.

12. According to some, the witnesses are to be placed under oath to speak the truth; 13. if they are not Brahmins, the oath should be administered in the presence of divine images, the king, and Brahmins.

14. If a witness gives false testimony

- with regard to small farm animals, he slays 10;
15. - with regard to cattle, 10 times as many;
- with regard to horses, 10 times as many as for cattle;
- with regard to human beings, 10 times as many as for horses.

16. If he gives false testimony with regard to land, he slays all; 17. and if he steals land, he goes to hell.

18. - The penalty for false testimony with regard to land applies also to water 19. and sexual intercourse;

20. - the penalty in the case of farm animals applies also to honey and ghee;
21. - the penalty in the case of cattle applies also to clothes, gold, grain, and the Veda;
22. - and the penalty in the case of horses applies also to carriages.

23. When a witness gives false testimony, he should be reprimanded and punished. 24. It is not an offence to give false testimony if a man’s life depends on it, 25. but not if it is the life of an evil man.

26. The king shall be the judge, or else a learned Brahmin.

27. Witnesses should appear before the judge. 28. If they are unable to appear, the judge may wait for 1 year. 29. But in cases affecting cows, draught oxen, women, and begetting children, he should summon them immediately, 30. as also when the matter is urgent.

31. Of all the Laws, speaking the truth before the judge is the most important.