Duties of a Householder (Grihastha – Dharma)

The vow for studying the three vedas with a guru is for 36 years (or whenever the undertaking comes to an end). After a man has acquired the knowledge of the vedas, he is supposed to either enter the householder stage of life or take up “Sanyas” and abandon this material world of desires and become a “Parivrajaka” (whichever way appeals to him).

Since Life is considered more difficult than Death, the householder phase is considered more difficult than the “Sanyas” phase. Rigveda hence challenges a subject to take up the householder phase, perform all the duties a man should maintain in a material world, acquire wealth and progeny through a woman and then enter the next phase of “Sanyas”. If a householder, after acquiring wealth and progeny, performs all his duties as a husband and a father and then becomes a Sanyasin, he is said to have achieved the Brahman living in a material world full of desires, which is far more difficult compared to achieving the Brahman living in a non material world.

According to ManuSmriti, following are some of the duties of a man when he enters the Householder stage of life

1.  A man should marry a woman who is of the same class and has the right marks, a woman who is neither a relative on the man’s mother’s side nor belongs to the same lineage on his father’s side. A man should not marry a woman of the same Gothra and should not marry a woman from the following 10 families

  • A family that has abandoned maintaining the rites.
  • A family that does not have male children.
  • A family where noone has learned the Vedas
  • A family where members have hairy bodies, piles, weak digestion, epilepsy, white leprosy or black leprosy.

2. A man should not marry a girl who is red head or has an extra limb, has no body hair or has too much body hair. One who talks too much or is sallow, one who is named after a constellation, a tree, a river or who has a low caste name or is named after a mountain, a bird, a snake, or has a menial name. A man should marry a woman who has a pleasant name, who walks like a goose or Elephant, whose hair on the head is fine, whose teeth are not big and whose limbs are delicate. A wise man should not marry a woman who has no brother or whose father is unknown.

3. Only a servant woman can be the wife of a servant, she and one of his own class can be the wife of a commoner. A man falls when he weds a woman who is not from his class. A Brahmin who climbs into bed with a servant wife and begets a son with her, loses the status of a Brahmin. A man can make certain sacrifices and maintain rituals only with the assistance of a wife of the same class.

4. There are eight ways of marrying a woman, the first six are allowed for a Brahmin, the last four for a ruler, commoner or a man from the servant class.

  • Brahmya – When a father gives away his daughter in full consent.
  • Prajapatya – The joint performance of sacred duties performed by the husband and the wife without prior consent of the wife’s father.
  • Aarsha – A marriage performed and regularized by the groom when he gifts two cows to the bride’s father in exchange of getting his wife.
  • Daiva – The giving away of a daughter to the officiating priest.
  • Gandharva – The man and woman marrying secretly without anyone’s permission or knowledge (witness).
  • Asura – The giving away of a daughter in exchange of price.
  • Rakshasha – A marriage performed after the bride has been abducted and without her consent.
  • Paisacha – A marriage performed after the bride was poisoned/intoxicated or while she is sleeping.

5. If a son born to a woman who has had a Brahma marriage does good deeds, he frees from guilt ten of the ancestors who came before him, ten later descendants and himself as the twenty first. A son born to a woman through a Prajapatya marriage frees seven ancestors and descendants, while a son born to a woman through an Aarsha marriage frees three ancestors and descendants.

6. A man should have sex with his own wife during her fertile season. When he desires to make love, he should go to the woman to whom he is vowed except on the days of the lunar junctures. The fertile cycle of a woman lasts for 16 nights, this includes 4 special days that wise men despise. The first four, the eleventh and the thirteenth are not approved for union and causes great pain and discomfort to the wife.

7. A union which occurs on the even night results in the birth of a son while a union which occurs on an odd night results in the birth of a daughter. If the semen of a man is greater than that of the woman, a male child is born while if the semen of the woman is greater than that of the man, a female child is born.

8. A wise man should not take a “Bride price” for his daughter, for a man who takes a bride price out of his greed sells his child like a pimp.

9. Where the women of a family live a miserable life, the family is soon destroyed. The family thrives if the woman in the family are happy and not miserable. The principal duty of a householder is to ensure that the female members in the family are not miserable, well guarded and happy.

10.  A son can be abandoned from the family if he performs a bad deed (e.g theft, murder, robbery) but a daughter, never!.

The householder can never abandon a daughter from the family unless she is married to a man and neither the householder can abandon his mother or his wife. It is the householder’s duty to guard the women in his house against addiction and gambling for unguarded women will eventually bring sorrow upon both families.

11. A father who does not give away her daughter in marriage at the right time is to be blamed, a Husband who does not have sex with her at the right time is to be blamed and a son who does not guard his mother when her husband is dead is to be blamed.

12. A husband should take efforts to ensure that his progeny is clean. The husband enters the wife, becomes an embryo and is born again on earth. This is why a wife is called “Jaya” because the man is born (“Jayate”) again through her. The wife brings forth a son who is just like the man she makes love with, this is why the husband should guard his wife zealously in order to keep his progeny clean.

13. The six things that corrupt a woman are – drinking, associating with bad people, being separated from their husbands, wandering about, sleeping and living in other people’s house.

14. The householder should not let his unmarried daughter remain outside the house when the sun is not shinning, for this world is a cruel jungle and the unmarried daughter is extremely vulnerable when left outside the house when the sun has set. The father should always ensure that the unmarried daughter is with the company of friends where at least one of the friend is a female, with the company of her brother or daughter in law, his wife, a Brahmin or a married woman. The householder should never let the daughter keep the company of women who have been abandoned by their husbands.

14. A householder can punish his son physically but never physically punish his daughter or wife. Physical violence towards a daughter or a wife causes violation of Dharma and a man falls from his position if he uses physical form of punishment towards his wife, daughter, daughter in law. A man who physically punishes his daughter, slaps or beats his wife, pulls her by her hair or torments her body in any form, burns in hell.

Whatsoever may be the crime of the woman or the daughter, under no circumstances the householder should physically punish his daughter or wife. The woman in the house represent “Prakriti” and physical violence against  women in the family is a direct contradiction to the theory that the “Purush” is here to “Preserve and protect nature”, not destroy it.

15. A woman is said to be the Field and a man is said to be the Seed. All creatures with bodies are born from the union of the seed and the field. The offspring is regarded the best when both the seed and the field are ripe, in season and when all the conditions are ideal. Of the seed and the field, the seed is given more importance for the offspring of all living beings are marked by the mark of the seed. We refer to a tree by its seed e.g a mango tree, an apple tree and not by the field where it has grown. Similarly, a person is known by his Lineage, the seed of his/her father and not by the womb.

Whatever sort of seed is sown in a field prepared at the right season, precisely that sort of seed grows in it, manifesting its own particular qualities.  The seed develops none of the qualities of the field where it is sown. When farmers at the right season sow seeds of various forms in this earth even in one single field, each seed grows up according to its own qualities. It never happens that one seed is sown and another grown.

A wise man who understands this will never sow his seed into another man’s wife. A man must try to restore his semen during the Brahmacharya phase, thereby improving the quality of his “seed” and must sow his seed into a woman’s field with whom he is vowed with. The field should be properly irrigated before the seed is sown and if the seed is sown in the wrong season, a crooked or broken tree will be formed.

16. The householder should offer a guest, as soon as he arrives, a seat, some water and food that has been ritually prepared and cooked in his kitchen. If a Brahmin stays and is not honored when he departs, he takes away all the credit for good deeds that the householder may have performed in his lifetime. The householder is supposed to regularly give alms to a beggar and to a chaste student of the Veda. A guest who comes with the setting sun should not be turned away by the householder and neither the guest should be allowed to stay in the house without eating. The householder and his family is supposed to eat only after the guests have finished eating their meals.

17. A ruler is not a guest in the house of a Brahmin, a commoner is not the guest in the house of a ruler, a servant is not the guest in the house of a commoner. The arriving guest should finish his business and leave the house as early as possible and should save the host from “Dharmasankat”.

18. At a ceremony for the dead, one should feed a Brahmin who is neither a friend nor an enemy. One should not feed anyone who has not studied the Veda, a weakling, a gambler or an impotent man.

19. The householder should treat his son with a stick for 10 years but when he enters 16, he should treat him as his friend. It is the householder’s duty to appoint a learned Brahmin as the Guru of his son and drive his son away from his home, so he can learn his education, earn a living and come home as a scholar.

20. The householder should take permission from a Brahmin before offering gifts of whatever form. If the Brahmin greedily accepts the gift from a fallen householder, he goes speedily to his doom, just like a pot of unbaked clay dissolves in water.

21. The householder should refrain from addiction of any form. Tobacco, alcohol and women are the three forms of addiction the householder must avoid.

22. The householder should not eat wearing only one garment, nor take a naked bath. He should not urinate on the road, on a ploughed land, on ashes, in water, on the ruins of a temple, nor on an ant hill, on the bank of a river, on a cave, the summit of a mountain. He should relive himself only when he has covered the ground with mud, leaves and grass. During the day, he should discharge the urine facing North while at Night, he should face South. Urinating on Fire or water, or on a cow destroys the householder’s wisdom.

23. The householder should not sleep in an empty house, nor awaken a superior. The householder should not carry on a conversation with a woman who is menstruating (includes his wife). A householder should not look at a rainbow, nor stay in a mountain or a foreign country for a long time.

24. The householder should not live in a kingdom ruled by a servant, should not eat food that has had its oil extracted from it nor go about eating too late in the evening. The householder should not wear second hand clothes. The householder should bathe three times a day – just before Sunrise, at noon and just after Dusk. The householder should abandon the village where there are no friends, no river, no employment, no physician and is ruled by a tyrant king.

25. A vedic graduate who has just entered the householder stage should stay chaste on the new and full moon days and on the Eigth and fourteeth days of the Lunar fortnight, even during his wife’s fertile season. He should not go for a bath after eating, nor when ill, nor in an unknown body of water.

26. The householder should never despise a ruler, a snake and a Brahmin even if they are weak in strength. The householder should try to recite Veda at the appropriate time of the day and should distribute his knowledge only when he is asked by a scholar or a Brahmin.

27. Even if he is eligible to accept gifts, a householder should refrain from accepting gifts that are unnecessary for his brilliant energy that comes from the Veda is lost through accepting gifts that are not required for the fulfillment of his needs. An Ignorant man who goes about accepting gold, land, a horse, a cow, food clothing is reduced to ashes, as if he were wood.

28. The meaning of everything is controlled by Speech. Everything is set into motion by speech, hence the householder should try to control his speech and speak only when it is required.

Manusmriti is an excellent treatise on how one should live the life of a householder and it gives us hundreds of thousands of vedic principles on Grihastha life, which is beyond the scope of just a blog post. If you want to learn more, please refer to a book on Manusmriti where finer details of Grihastha life has been properly documented (with examples).

 
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