By Dr. Devakinanda Pasupuleti

Every Indian knows the meaning of the word 'Dharma'. However, just like the word 'Puṇya', there is no equivalent word to 'Dharma' in English vocabulary and hence any translation doesn't do complete justice to this Sanskrit word.

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Ashtottaram 9


ॐ धर्मभूम्यै नमः


(Dharma: "That which supports, sustains or upholds")

The word dharma is derived from the Sanskrit root-verb "dhr." Which means "to uphold",' "to support", and "to sustain". As is the case with many Sanskrit words, it is rather difficult to translate. It has been variously translated as- 'religion,' 'law,' 'duty,' 'religious ordinance or rite,' 'code of conduct' and so on depending upon the context. There are other names for dharma: puṇyam, śhreyās, sukrutam, vrusham, and so on. Our scriptures wax eloquently about dharma (righteousness and universal code of conduct) and its role in Hindu society.

Dharma is viewed as the foundation of the world. Pixabay

There is a famous quotation in the Mahābhārata, "Dharma evahatohanti dharmorakshati rakṣhitah". It is dharma that destroys (us) when destroyed; it is dharma again that protects (us) when protected by (us). Gāndhāri, the mother of the Kauravas, says "yatodharmasya tatojayah"– '(where there is dharma, there victory also is)'. Consequently, we are advised to accumulate dharma in our lives: 'Anityāni śarīrāni vibhavonaiva śāśvatah, nityam sannihitomṛtyuḥ kartavyo dharma-saṇgrahah'-([our] bodies are short-lived, wealth does not last long, death is constantly knocking at our door, [so] accumulation of dharma is a must).'

That which upholds this created universe, supports it and sustains it, without which the universe just falls apart is dharma. From this point of view, dharma is akin to God. It is what the Upanishads describe as sat or tat, the very essence of one's being. Dharma has four pādās (legs) sataym (truth), soucham (purity of mind and body), daya (compassion) and tapas (austerity). So dharma is viewed as the foundation of the world. Whatever the conduct or the way of life helps us to reveal this fundamental principle in us can also be called dharma, though in a secondary sense. Hence religious rites, ceremonies and observances, fixed principles of conduct, privileges, duties and obligations of a person depending upon his/her stage of life and status in the society, rules of law, customs and manners everyone of these can be included under the term dharma.

The way of life helps us to reveal the fundamental principle in us can also be called dharma. Pinterest

We belong to the land of Yudhishtara (Dharmaraja) who eloquently said, "I don't follow dharma because it gives me something or I get something from it; I follow dharma because it is my duty."

Hence, what else can we call our land but "Dharmabhūmi"?

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