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Rules For Householder in Hinduism – Grihastha Ashram Rules

Grihastha Ashram (householder) is the second stage in the way of life in Hinduism. Griha means home and stha an occupant. The grihastha is one who has a family. Here are the Grihastha ashram rules.

The concept of ashrama (stages), with prescribed duties and privileges, is a distinctive feature of the Hindu way of life. This particular stage of the householder has given much attention by the law-makers. It is said to be the most important of the four stages, because the other three stages depend upon it for survival and proper functioning (Manusmriti 3.77). Depending upon what type of religious activity a grihastha accepts, Vaikhanasa Grihya Sutra describes four types, whole Garuda Purana (46) speaks of two types of grihastha. The Mahabharata describes the characteristics of an ideal grihastha in terms of his duties (Anusasana Parva 141.25.27).

A man enters Grihastha ashrama by taking a wife through marriage, which is a sacrament, after the successful completion of brahmacharya ashrama (the earlier stage of student hood) (Manusmriti 3.2 and 3.4). There are duties and privileges attached to this stage. Most of the duties are to be performed jointly by husband and wife.

As a part of his duties, the grihasta has to keep a fire at home, known as garhapatya agni (the fire of householder), along with his wife (Ashtadhyayi 4.1.33). He has to discharge his debts to his ancestors, gods and the seers (rishis), atithis (guests) and bhutas (living beings are added to the list) by performing pancha maha yajnas (five great sacrifices) in his daily routine (Satapatha Brahmana

His second most important duty is to support the family by following the family occupation or any other suitable occupation (Daksha Smriti 2.32). Though he may get ancestral property in the form of land, house and other economic means of income, he is expected to generate his own sources of income and keep the family earnings growing continuously (Manu 4.5-6).

He has to see that all dependents on him are well fed before he takes his meals (Sesha bhojana) (Atharva Veda 9.6.38, Satapatha Brahmana and Manusmriti 3.115, 118).

He is to look after the clothing, medicine, education and other important needs of the members of the family, servants, poor relatives and other dependents.

To perform so many duties, he is allowed many privileges also. It is at this stage that he may wear costly and fancy clothing, relish delicacies, enjoy performing arts like dance, singing, painting, etc. He is permitted to spend upon luxuries like scents, ornaments, jewelry and other objects of sensuous pleasures from his surplus income.

An active sexual life is not only permitted but is prescribed as one of the purusharthas (aspirations) at this stage, within the limits of religious restrictions (Manusmriti 5.150-151, 9.101-102, Padma Purana Srishti Khanda 45.57). He has to fulfill the expectations of his wife regarding sex life and to see that she leads a happy married life.

He has to beget children in order to repay his debt to his ancestors; otherwise they may not attain moksha.

The wife has special privileges as patni or grihasvamini. Even if he dislikes her, she has a right to his support. Vijnaneshwara goes to the extent of saying that, even an adulterous wife has a right to the support of her husband (his commentary on Yajnavalkya Smriti, 1.70-72).

While a householder is allowed to earn and spend, he should also be charitable. The Brahmachari (student0 and the sannyasin (mon0 depend upon the householder for support. The elderly members of the family who leave home and go to the forest (vanaprastha) can always fall back upon the householder in times of need. He has to donate for other purposes also.

The atithi (guest) is to be honored and given favorable treatment by the householder (Manusmriti 3.101). Many instances of householder – guest interactions are described in many scriptures, folklore and historical writing. Atithi devo bhava (guest is god)is a dictum to be followed by the householder.

As a member of groups, he has to contribute physically and also by participating in the activities of those groups, as also to the cause of the village of which he is a resident, and respond positively to the commands of the ruler.

Source - 
The Science of Social Organisation (1935) Bhagavan Das - Theosophical Publishing House (Chennai)
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV page 363 - IHRF 2011