- The Indian literary genre of Dharmashastra (authoritative scripture prescribing the rules of right conduct) began around the fourth century B.C.E. It included the subgenre of Dharmasutras, or aphoristic works about DHARMA. Traditionally, the LAW S OF MANU (Manusmriti or Manavadharma-shastra) is considered the first and most authorita-tive text, written by the legendary MANU.Dharmashastra literature prescribes the laws, norms, rules, and regulations of life for both the individual and the community. It covers social norms, ethics, and moral tenets but also includes direction on the proper performance of rituals and ceremonies. It is usually quite specific concerning diet, domestic law, the proper conduct of kings, and, most important, the proper conduct of each caste. Major Dharmashastras were written by Apastamba, Gautama, Baudhayana, and Vasishtha, among others.Further reading: Wendy Doniger with Brian K. Smith, The Laws of Manu (London: Penguin Books, 1991); P. V. Kane, History of the Dharmasastra (Ancient and Medi-eval Religious and Civil Law in India), 5 vols. (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1968); Patrick Olivelle, The Dharmasutras (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1999).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.