Gautama Dharmasūtra | 5



1. Death Impurity

1. A 10-day period of death impurity affects people belonging to the same ancestry as the deceased, unless they are officiating as priests in, or are consecrated for, a sacrifice, or are Vedic students.

2. In the case of Kṣatriyas, the period of impurity lasts for 11 days;
3. in the case of Vaiśyas for 12 days – 4. or, according to some, for a fortnight -;
5. and in the case of Śūdras for a month.

6. If during that period another period of impurity arises,
they become pure at the end of the time remaining from the first period of impurity;

7. but if only 1 day remains, then at the end of 2 days;
8. and if it happens on the morning after the conclusion of the first period,
then at the end of 3 days.

9. When people are killed while defending cows or Brahmins,
their relatives become pure immediately;

10. as also when they are killed due to the king’s anger 11. or in a battle;

12. and when they die voluntarily by walking without food or drink, by fasting, by a sword, in a fire, by poison, by drowning, by hanging, and by jumping from a precipice.

13. Relationship caused by ancestry ceases with the 5th or 7th generation.

14. These same rules of impurity come into effect also at the birth of a child; 15. they apply to the parents 16. or just to the mother.

17. When there is a miscarriage, the period of impurity lasts for as many days as the months since conception, 18. or else for 3 days.

19. If someone hears of a relative’s death after 10 or more days, the period of impurity lasts 2 days plus the intervening night, 20. as also at the death of a maternal relative not belonging to his ancestry or of a fellow reciter of the Veda.

21. For a fellow student, the period of impurity lasts for a day,
22. as also for a Vedic scholar who lives close by.

2. Contact with a Corpse

23. When someone comes into contact with a corpse,
the period of impurity lasts for 10 days if it is done for a consideration.

24. The period of impurity for such contact in the case of Vaiśyas and Śūdras is the same as that given above, 25. or for as many days as there are seasons in a year:

26. The latter rule is applicable also to the 2 higher classes; 27. or else their impurity lasts for 3 days,

28. as also when someone comes in contact with the corpse of his teacher, the teacher’s son or wife, a man for whom he performs priestly functions, or his pupil.

29. If a person of a lower class comes in contact with the corpse of a higher class person, or a person of a higher class with the corpse of a lower class person, then the period of impurity is what is prescribed for the class to which the dead man belonged.

3. Contact with Impure Persons

30. When a man touches an outcaste, a Chāṇḍāla, a woman who has just given birth or is menstruating, a corpse, or someone who has touched any of these,

- he becomes purified by bathing with his clothes on;

31. - as also when he has gone behind a corpse 32. or touched a dog.

33. According to some, the spot touched by the dog should be washed.

4. Libations to the Deceased

34. Those who belong to the same ancestry should offer water to a deceased person whose tonsure ceremony has been performed 35. and for the wives of such a person; 36. according to some, also for their married relatives.

37. - All should sleep and sit on the floor;
- remain chaste; 38. not wash themselves;
39. - not eat meat until the funeral oblation has been offered;
40. - offer libations of water on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th day after the death;

41. - discard the garments worn during these rites; 42. but on the last day give them to people of the lowest class.

43. Parents must offer these libations to a child who has teethed.

5. Immediate Purification

44. When infants, people who have gone to a distant region, wandering ascetics, and people who do not belong to the same ancestry die, a person is purified immediately;

45. - as also kings, lest their duties be impeded;
46. - and a Brahmin, so as not to interrupt his daily Vedic recitation.



1. Next, the ancestral offerings:

2. One should offer them to one’s ancestors

- on the new-moon day,
3. - or else after the 4th day of the fortnight of the waning moon
4. - or on any day of that fortnight according to one’s faith.

5. If materials, location, or Brahmins of special significance are at hand, however,
one does not have to observe any restriction with regard to time.

7. Quality of Invitees

6. One should obtain the best possible food, get it prepared to the best of one’s ability, 7. and feed an uneven number of Brahmins - but at least 9 8. or as many as he can afford – 9. Brahmins who are Vedic scholars, gifted with eloquence and beauty, mature in years, and virtuous.

10. It is best to feed people who are young;
11. according to some, they should be of the same age as the deceased ancestor.

12. One should not use this rite to strike a friendship.

13. In the absence of a son, those belonging to the same ancestry, those belonging to the same ancestry as his mother, or his pupils should make the ancestral offering; 14. and if even these are unavailable, his officiating priest or teacher.

8. Types of Food

15. By offering sesame, beans, rice, barley, and water, the ancestors are satisfied for a month; by offering fish or the meat of antelope, Rurū antelope, rabbit, turtle, boar, or sheep, for several years;

by offering cow’s milk or milk pudding, for twelve years; by offering the meat of a Vārdhrāṇasa crane, sacred basil, or the meat of a goat, a red goat, or a rhinoceros, mixed with honey, for an unlimited time.

9. Unfit Invitees

16. He should not feed the following:

a thief; a man who is impotent; an outcaste; an infidel or a man who lives like an infidel; someone who has relinquished his sacred fires;

someone who has married a younger sister with an unmarried older sister or an older sister whose younger sister is already married;

someone who officiates at the sacrifices of women or a group of men;

a goat herder; someone who has given up fire sacrifices, drinks liquor, or behaves improperly; a false witness; a door-keeper;

17. the lover of a married woman and that woman’s husband; 18. someone who eats the food of a man born from an adulterous union or sells Soma;

an arsonist; a poisoner; a man who has broken his vow of chastity as a student; someone who is in the service of a guild; someone who has sex with a forbidden woman; a sadist;

a man whose younger brother gets married before him or who gets married before his older brother;

someone whose younger brother has set up the ritual fires before him or who has set up the ritual fires before his older brother;

someone who is suicidal; a man who is bald-headed or has bad nails, black teeth, or white leprosy; the son of a remarried woman; a gambler;

someone who does not engage in the soft recitation of prayers; a servant of the king; someone who cheats by using false weights and measures; the husband of a Śūdra woman;

someone who neglects his private Vedic recitation; a man with spotted leprosy; a usurer; someone who lives as a merchant or artisan;

someone who is fond of archery, playing music, keeping the beat at performances, dancing, and singing; 19. and those who have divided the paternal estate against their father’s wishes.

20. According to some, he may invite his pupils and people belonging to his ancestry.
21. He should feed more than 3 persons, or a single distinguished person.

10. Sexual Abstinence

22. If someone has sex with a Śūdra woman soon after eating at an ancestral offering, he will plunge his ancestors in her excrement for a whole month.

23. That whole day, therefore, he should remain chaste.

11. Pollution and Remedies

24. An ancestral offering is ruined if it is seen by a dog, a Chāṇḍāla, or an outcaste.

25. Therefore, he should offer it in an enclosed place; 26. alternatively he should scatter sesame seeds over the offering, 27. or a man who purifies those alongside whom he eats may remove the defilement.

28. These are the persons who purify those alongside whom they eat:

a man who knows the 6 Vedic Supplements; a man who sings the Jyeṣṭhā Sāmans; an expert in the 3 Nachikēta fire altars; a man who knows the 3 ‘Honey’ verses;

a man who knows the Trisuparṇa; a man who maintains the 5 sacred fires; a bath-graduate; a man who knows the Vedic Hymns and Brāhmaṇa texts; a man who knows the Law; and a descendant from a line of Vedic scholars.

29. The above rules apply also to sacrificial offerings.

30. According to some, however, the prohibition of a bald man and those listed after him applies only to ancestral offerings.



1. After commencing the annual course of study on the full-moon day of July–August or August–September, he should study the Vedas 2. for 4.5 months, or 5 months, or else during the time the sun moves south.

3. During this period he should remain chaste, refrain from shaving, and abstain from meat.

4. Optionally, these rules may be observed for just two months.

13. Suspension of Vedic Recitation

5. He should suspend Vedic recitation:

- during daytime when the wind whirls up the dust;
6. - at night when he can hear the wind blow;
7. - when the sound of a lute, drum, side drum, chariot, or wailing is heard;
8. - when dogs are barking, jackals are howling, and donkeys are braying;
9. - when the sky turns crimson; when a rainbow appears;
- when there is frost on the ground; 10. when clouds appear out of season;
11. - when he has the urge to void urine or excrement;
12. - in the middle of the night, at the time of twilight, and while standing in water;
13. - when it is raining –
14. but, according to some, only when the water is running down the eaves -;
15. - when Venus and Jupiter are surrounded by halos,  16as also the sun and the moon;
17. - when he is frightened, travelling in a vehicle, lying down, or has lifted his feet;
18. - when he is in a cremation ground, at the village boundary,
- on a highway, or in an impure state; 19. when there is a foul smell;
- when there is a corpse or a Chāṇḍāla in the village; when a Śūdra is nearby;  
20. - and when he experiences an acrid belching.

21. The recitation of the Ṛigvedā and the Yajurveda, moreover, is suspended as long as the recitation of the Sāmavēda is heard.

22. When there is a lightning strike, an earthquake, an eclipse, or the fall of a meteor, Vedic recitation is suspended until the same time the next day; 23. as also when there is thunder, rain, or lightning during twilight when the fires are visible.

24. When these happen during the rainy season, however, the suspension lasts only that day.

25. When there is lightning during the night, moreover, the suspension lasts until the last watch of the night; 26. but if it occurs during or after the third part of the day, the suspension lasts the whole night.

27. According to some, a meteor has the same effect as lightning with respect to the suspension of Vedic recitation, 28. as does thunder when it occurs in the afternoon 29. or even at dusk.

30. If there is thunder before midnight, the suspension lasts for the whole night; 31. if it happens during the day, the suspension lasts throughout the daylight hours, 32. as also when the king of that realm dies, 33. and when one student goes on a journey and another stays behind with the teacher.

34. The suspension lasts for a day and a night when there has been a social disturbance or a fire; when he has finished reciting one Veda; when he has vomited; when he has eaten at an ancestral offering or at a sacrifice to humans; 35. on the new-moon day – 36. alternatively, the suspension here may last for two days -; 37. and on the full-moon days of the lunar months October–November, February–March, and June–July.

38. At the 3 8-day offerings during the 3 fortnights of the waning moon following the full moon of November– December, the suspension lasts for 3 days; 39. according to some, the suspension takes place only at the last of these eighth-day offerings.

40. When the annual course of study is commenced and concluded, the suspension is in effect on that day, as well as on the preceding and following days.

41. In the opinion of all authorities, when rain, lightning, and thunder occur together, the suspension lasts for 3 days, 42. as also when there is heavy rain.

43. On a festive day Vedic recitation is suspended after the meal. 44. Immediately after commencing the annual course of study, recitation is suspended during the first 1-4 ‘hours’ of the night.

45. According to some, Vedic recitation is always suspended in a town.

46. Even mental recitation is suspended when a person is impure.

47. After making an ancestral offering, the suspension lasts until the same time the next day, 48. as also when uncooked food is distributed at an ancestral offering.

49. Vedic recitation is also suspended for reasons given in each Vedic branch.