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According to Dharmaśāstra, the duty (dharma) thought to be enjoined on an individual by virtue of their birth into a particular varṇa, and modified according to their gender and stage of life (āśrama). Put simply, it is, for example, a kṣatriya's svadharma to rule, a śūdra's to serve. Neglect of one's svadharma is thought to bring dire karmic consequences for the individual, and disorder for society (i.e. it affects dharma at both the micro and macro levels). As Kṛṣṇa tells the vacillating warrior Arjuna in the Bhagavadgītā (3.35): ‘It is better to practise your own inherent duty (svadharma) deficiently than another's duty well. It is better to die conforming to your own duty; the duty of others invites danger'. See also dharma; varṇāśramadharma.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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