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Aushanasa Smriti – Treatise On Code Of Conduct By Ushanas

Aushanasa Smriti is a treatise on code of conduct by Ushanas. Ushanas as a law giver is known from very early times. The Mahabharata (Sabha Parva 55-14, Shanti Parva 56. 29030, 57.3), Kautilya’s Arthashastra (111.61), and several Dharmashastra commentaries and digest writers quote Ushanas on all the branches of dharma, viz., achara (conduct and custom), vyavahara (law), and prayaschitta (expiation), and that too in all genres like prose, verse and aphorism.

At least three texts bearing the name Aushanasa Smriti are known, each one is different from the other, each confining itself to different topics, and presumably of different authorship, but based on the age-old Ushanas tradition.

Aushanasa Smriti I, in fifty one verses, is devoted entirely to the analysis, identification and depiction of a large number of mixed castes and subcastes, descended both forward and backwards (anuloma and pratiloma), from the four main castes. The names and professions of the sub castes, sometimes with etymologies are also given; for instance, napita refers to that class of barbers who shave (vapana) above the navel (nabhi), and manikara refers to jewelers.

Aushanasa Smriti II is a longer text about six hundred verses, divided into nine chapters, the different chapters dealing with different aspects of dharma. The first chapter describes instructions to the Vedic student in detail. Some of the verses herein are highly educative. Verse thirty five states – There is no equal to the mother, and no teacher equal to the father. Chapter II takes up the dos and don’ts for keeping oneself pure and clean in daily observances.  Chapter III gives directions for chanting the Gayatri mantra (Rig Veda II 62.10). Conduct towards elders and Shraddha (ancestral worship) are also dealt with. Chapters V-VI deal elaborately with asaucha (impurity) due to birth and death in family while Chapter VII is again the theme of ancestral worship. Chapters VII and IX classify and enumerate the major and minor sins and prescribe penances for the same. Aushanasa Smriti II ends with declaration that the ideal antidote for sins is the repetition of the Gayatri mantra ten thousand times (IX.110).  

Aushanasa Dharmashastra III, available in prose, is divided into seven chapters dealing with different topics of dharma, including asaucha (impurity at birth and death in the family), castes and subcastes, prayaschitta or expiation for sins committed, shraddha or ancestral worship and ritual, on enumeration of the things that should not be parted with, major inauspicious acts and punishments for the same and enumeration of things which are inherently pure.