The ashramas were the four traditional stages of life that BRAHMIN males were expected to follow, according to the authoritative Hindu texts. People of other twice-born castes, such as Brahmins, warriors, or merchants, could optionally take on the ashramas. SHUDRAS and Dalits (Untouchables) were not included in this system.
   The four traditional ashramas are BRAHMACHA-RYA (studentship), grihastha (householder stage), VANAPRASTHA (entering the forest), and SANNYASI (mendicancy). Usually, one was permitted to leave household life after one had seen one’s grandchil-dren. During the vanaprastha stage of life, which ordained austerities in the forest or wildlands, one could optionally be accompanied by one’s wife, as long as chastity was maintained.
   Further reading: Irina Glushkova and Anne Feldhaus, House and Home in Maharashtra (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998); Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); ———, Manu’s Code: A Critical Edition and Transla-tion of the Manava-Dharmasastra (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); ———, trans., Sannyasa Upa-nishads: Hindu Scriptures on Asceticism and Renunciation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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