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GṛhasthaThe Householder in Ancient Indian Religious Culture$
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Patrick Olivelle

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190696153

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190696153.001.0001

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Gṛhastha in Aśoka’s Classification of Religious People

Gṛhastha in Aśoka’s Classification of Religious People

(p.43) 3 Gṛhastha in Aśoka’s Classification of Religious People

Patrick Olivelle

Oxford University Press

Aśoka in his inscriptions (3rd century BCE) uses the term pāṣaṇḍa to refer to organized religious groups, prominent among whose members were the homeless ascetics (pravrajita). He also refers to people who “stayed at home” (gṛhastha), juxtaposing this term to the two preceding ones. Aśoka’s gṛhastha householder is clearly a person dedicated to holiness, just as the ascetic. It is also probable that the pāṣaṇḍa groups contained both ascetics and householders either as members or in some kind of less formal affiliation. It is from this usage of the term that gṛhastha entered the Brahmanical vocabulary—especially within the newly created theological classification of the four āśramas—and became the central figure in the new genre of literature, Dharmaśāstra, that was invented probably around the third or fourth century BCE.

Keywords:   Aśoka, Aśokan edicts, pāṣaṇḍa, pravrajita, gṛhastha, householder, ascetic

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