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The collective name for the four extant works of this type: the Āpastamba, Gautama, Baudhāyana, and Vasiṣṭha Dharmasūtras, probably composed between the 3rd and 1st centuries bce. Classified as belonging to the Kalpasūtra literature of the Vedāṅga (and therefore as smṛti), these are the sole survivors of what was once a much larger body of largely prose work from this period dealing with dharma—in this context, less the question of civil law (although this is touched on) than the ritual, moral, and social questions of how people should conduct themselves in relation to varṇa and āśrama in the light of Vedic injunction and customary practice. These and other concerns were taken up in an expanded form in the Dharmaśāstra literature, to which, in the widest sense, the Dharmasūtras belong.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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