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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the key term, dharma, one of the more complicated concepts in the history of Indian ideas. It investigates the history of the word dharma in order to gauge the meaning and significance of the term through its development into one of the most important concepts in the brāhmaṇic and Hindu traditions. The chapter surveys the development of what the author shall refer to as the conservative brāhmaṇic concept of dharma that crystallised in the dharmasūtras. It explores challenges to this conservative model mounted by other traditions that we could loosely term 'ascetic', challenges which would have a profound effect on brāhmaṇic conceptions of dharma already by the time of the Manusmṛti; Mānava Dharmaśāstra (MS). Finally, the chapter discusses the usage of dharma in the edicts of Aśoka, because it represents an important counterpoint to its usage in the brāhmaṇic tradition.

Keywords: brāhmaṇic; dharma; dharmasūtras; Hindu tradition; tradition



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