By Swami Harshananda
Gārhasthya literally means ‘the state of being the master of the house’.
Significance of Varṇa-āśrama System
The varṇa-āśrama system was a basic institution that guided the society during the ancient and medieval days. The varṇa system, based on the principle of division of labor helped in the smooth running of the society. On the other hand, the āśrama system first prepared the individual to become a worthy member of the society and later transcend it so that the ultimate goal of life, mokṣa or liberation, can be achieved more easily.
Types of Āśramas
There are four āśramas mentioned in the scriptures. They are:
Origin of the Word Gārhasthya
The term ‘gārhasthya’ has been derived from the words ‘gṛha’ which means ‘house’ and ‘grhastha’ which means ‘one who stays in the house’ or ‘one who is established in the married state’. Hence the word grhastha can be deduced as the state of the householder.
Significance of Gārhasthya
Gārhasthya has been considered as the center or the pivot of whole society. The gṛhastha is the only earning member among all the four groups. After finishing his education and training in the gurukula, a student (brahmacārin) was expected to return home, marry a suitable girl and raise a family. He thus becomes a gṛhastha.
Duties of Gārhasthya
The gṛhastha was obliged to earn well by dhārmic or right means and live a happy, decent, life. He should be useful socially. His principle duty was accounted as the pañcayajñas or the five daily sacrifices. Other duties prescribed for him were:
- Eating only twice a day
- Honoring guests that come to one’s house (especially the holy persons)
- Taking care of the basic needs of all the members of the family and the dependents
- Treating the elders in the family (like the parents, grand-parents, elder brothers and so on) with due respect and not getting angry with them
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore