Brahmacharyashrama (ब्रह्मचर्याश्रमः)

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Brahmacharyashrama (Samskrit : ब्रह्मचर्याश्रमः) is the first of the four ashramas that a person passes through in his life time. It includes the stage of a child, teenager and the early years of youth i.e., starting from the age of about five to twenty years. This is the formative and impressionable age as recognized by our ancient seers, hence the dharmas of this ashrama promote total dedication to holistic personality development of the child along with rigorous learning of the vedas and shastras.

Thus, brahmacharyashrama, is essentially a period of study and discipline. In ancient India, teachers usually lived in forest hermitages, the Gurukulas. The students, both rich and poor, lived together in the house of their preceptor and studied the Vedas and the sciences. In this stage, the guru was a student's spiritual father and was thus, served with faith, devotion and reverence.[1]

ब्रह्मचारी ॥ Brahmachari

The student life begins with the Upanayana ceremony that is known as 'second birth'.[1] A child roughly about the age of 5 or 6 years is initiated into Brahmacharyashrama by performing the Upanayana samskara. Early history points to the evidence of this important samskara being in vogue from the vedic ages. Such a child who has undergone the Upanayana samskara is called a Brahmachari.

Manu broadly defines a Brahmachari as follows[2].

यद्यस्य विहितं चर्म यत् सूत्रं या च मेखला । यो दण्डो यच्च वसनं तत्तदस्य व्रतेष्वपि ॥२.१७४॥

सेवेतेमांस्तु नियमान् ब्रह्मचारी गुरौ वसन् । सन्नियम्येन्द्रियग्रामं तपोवृद्ध्यर्थमात्मनः ॥२.१७५॥[3]

yadyasya vihitaṁ carma yat sūtraṁ yā ca mekhalā । yo daṇḍo yacca vasanaṁ tattadasya vrateṣvapi ॥2.174॥

sevetemāṁstu niyamān brahmacārī gurau vasan । sanniyamyendriyagrāmaṁ tapovr̥ddhyarthamātmanaḥ ॥2.175॥

Summary : After upanayana one who undertakes the (brahmacharya) vrata and learns veda according to the injunctions laid down, only that person who has during the upanayana, having worn the skin (चर्म), the girdle (मेखला), the sutra (सूत्र yajnopaveeta) and staff (दण्डः) undertakes the vrata (is a brahmachari). Following the niyamas a brahmachari resides along with the Guru and increases his tapas by controlling his senses.

Grhyasutras also contain information about the acharas and vidhis to be followed by a brahmachari. Khadira grhyasutras summarize the important things that are marks of a brahmachari.

मेखलाधारणभैक्षचर्यदण्डसमिदाधानोपस्पर्शनप्रातरभिवादा नित्यम् | (2.5.16)[4]

mekhalādhāraṇabhaikṣacaryadaṇḍasamidādhānopasparśanaprātarabhivādā nityam | (2.5.16)

Meaning: Wearing the mekhala (girdle made of munji grass), activity of bhiksha, touching (bearing) the staff and samidhas (for doing the agnikarya) and (guru) abhivada (respectful salute) every morning are to be done everyday. Shabdakalpadruma defines a brahmachari as

ब्रह्म ज्ञानं तपो वा आचरति अर्जयत्यवश्यम्। उपनयनानन्तरं नियमं कृत्वा गुरोः सन्निधौस्थित्वा साङ्गवेदाध्ययनं करोति यः । स द्बिविधः उपकुर्व्वाणः नैष्ठिकश्च । प्रथमाश्रमी ।[5]

brahma jñānaṁ tapo vā ācarati arjayatyavaśyam। upanayanānantaraṁ niyamaṁ kr̥tvā guroḥ sannidhausthitvā sāṅgavedādhyayanaṁ karoti yaḥ । sa dbividhaḥ upakurvvāṇaḥ naiṣṭhikaśca । prathamāśramī ।

Meaning: One who practices and definitely earns Brahma jnana and tapas. After Upanayana one who undertakes to follow the set of rules (laid down for a brahmachari) and learns vedas (sanga meaning along with the Vedangas) by residing near a Guru is a brahmachari. He is of two types : Upakurvana and Naishthika. He is one who belongs to the First Ashrama (Brahmacharya is the first among the four ashramas).

ब्रह्म वेदस्तदध्ययनार्थं यद्व्रतं तदपि ब्रह्मतच्चरतीति ब्रह्मचारी । brahma vedastadadhyayanārthaṁ yadvrataṁ tadapi brahmataccaratīti brahmacārī ।[6]

Clarifying further about Brahma (ब्रह्म) here it means Veda i.e., one who is engaged in the study of vedas is a brahmachari.

ब्रह्मचर्यधर्मः || Brahmacharya Dharma

A child is said to have been initiated into Brahmacharyashrama with a chief goal of veda adhyayana and has to follow the rules laid down for them.

Many texts such as Grhyasutras, Dharmasutras, Puranas and Itihasas describe the ashrama dharmas. For example,

  • Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 7 Adhyaya 12 - ब्रह्मचर्यवानप्रस्थाश्रमयोर्धर्माः)

According to the Bhagavata Purana, a brahmachari should dwell in the house of his preceptor. He should be self-controlled and comply with what is agreeable to the preceptor. He should behave humbly like a servant, and entertain very strong affection to his teacher.[7]

ब्रह्मचारी गुरुकुले वसन् दान्तो गुरोर्हितम् । आचरन् दासवन्नीचो गुरौ सुदृढसौहृदः ॥ १॥[8]

brahmacārī gurukule vasan dānto gurorhitam । ācaran dāsavannīco gurau sudr̥ḍhasauhr̥daḥ ॥ 1॥

Manusmrti elaborates both on the personal as well as social duties of brahmachari.

दिनचर्या ॥ Daily Routine

Elaborating on the Dinacharya of a brahmachari, Swami Sivananda says,

"He rises early, bathes and does Sandhya and Gayatri Japa. He studies scriptures. He takes simple food in moderation and takes plenty of exercise. He sleeps on a hard mat and does not use soft beds and pillows. He is humble and obedient. He serves and respects elders. He attempts to be chaste in thought, word and deed."[1]

  • According to the Bhagavata Purana, in the morning and in the evening, a brahmachari should wait upon the preceptor and worship the fire deity, the Sun and other prominent deities. Observing perfect silence at both the twilights (and in the mid-day), he should repeat the Gayatri mantra with a concentrated mind (while persorming Sandhya).[7]

सायं प्रातरुपासीत गुर्वग्न्यर्कसुरोत्तमान् । उभे सन्ध्ये च यतवाग्जपन् ब्रह्म समाहितः ॥ २॥[8]

sāyaṁ prātarupāsīta gurvagnyarkasurottamān । ubhe sandhye ca yatavāgjapan brahma samāhitaḥ ॥ 2॥

  • If (and when) called by his preceptor, he should study the Vedas (at his feet) with perfect concentration in a disciplined manner. He should bow down to his teacher's feet with his head, both at the beginning and the completion of the lesson.[7]

छन्दांस्यधीयीत गुरोराहूतश्चेत्सुयन्त्रितः । उपक्रमेऽवसाने च चरणौ शिरसा नमेत् ॥ ३॥[8]

chandāṁsyadhīyīta gurorāhūtaścetsuyantritaḥ । upakrame'vasāne ca caraṇau śirasā namet ॥ 3॥

वेशभूषा ॥ Attire

The Bhagavata Purana says,

मेखलाजिनवासांसि जटादण्डकमण्डलून् । बिभृयादुपवीतं च दर्भपाणिर्यथोदितम् ॥ ४॥[8]

mekhalājinavāsāṁsi jaṭādaṇḍakamaṇḍalūn । bibhr̥yādupavītaṁ ca darbhapāṇiryathoditam ॥ 4॥

Meaning: With his hair braided, he should wear a mekhala (a girdle of munja grass), the deer-skin and (two pieces of) cloth, the yajnopavita (sacred thread) and carry with him a staff, a kamandalu (water-pot of gourd) and a handful of darbha grass as prescribed (in the Shastras).

And according to the shastras, a brahmana student should carry a staff of Palasha tree, a kshatriya od Bilva tree and a Vaishya of the Audumbara (Indian fig) tree.[7]

आचारधर्मः || Code of Conduct

The Bhagavata Purana describes the ideal nature of a brahmachari as follows:

सुशीलो मितभुग्दक्षः श्रद्दधानो जितेन्द्रियः । यावदर्थं व्यवहरेत्स्त्रीषु स्त्रीनिर्जितेषु च ॥ ६॥[8]

suśīlo mitabhugdakṣaḥ śraddadhāno jitendriyaḥ । yāvadarthaṁ vyavaharetstrīṣu strīnirjiteṣu ca ॥ 6॥

Meaning: He should be of a good character, moderate in eating, alert and prompt (in work), of reverential faith in shastras and self-controlled. It is only when absolutely necessary and to that much extent only that he should deal with women (eg. for getting alms) or with those who are influenced by women.[7]

The Manusmrti elaborates further as follows:

अध्ययनम् ॥ Learning activities

  • Adhyayana or self study is the primary duty of a student in the Brahmacharyashrama. Hence, it is said,

    चोदितो गुरुणा नित्यं अप्रचोदित एव वा । कुर्यादध्ययने यत्नं आचार्यस्य हितेषु च । । २.१९१ । ।[3]

    codito guruṇā nityaṁ apracodita eva vā । kuryādadhyayane yatnaṁ ācāryasya hiteṣu ca । । 2.191 । ।

    Meaning: Both when ordered by his teacher, and without a (special) command, (a student) shall always exert himself in studying (the Veda), and in doing what is serviceable to his teacher. (2.191)[9]
  • The Bhagavata Purana enumerates that having stayed in the preceptor's house, a dvija should study and understand to the best of his ability and to the extent of his requirements, the meaning of three Vedas (Rk, Saman and Yajus), along with their (six) auxilliaries (namely, Shiksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chandas and Jyotish) and the Upanishads (Vedanta or philosophical treatises).[10]

उषित्वैवं गुरुकुले द्विजोऽधीत्यावबुध्य च । त्रयीं साङ्गोपनिषदं यावदर्थं यथाबलम् ॥ १३॥[8]

uṣitvaivaṁ gurukule dvijo'dhītyāvabudhya ca । trayīṁ sāṅgopaniṣadaṁ yāvadarthaṁ yathābalam ॥ 13॥

गुरुभक्तिः ॥ Behaviour towards the Guru

In Brahmacharyashrama, the stage of gaining knowledge, the importance of a Guru is unparalled. A student therefore, should be ever engaged in doing service to his preceptor.[1] In fact, the behaviour of students towards their Gurus is specifically elaborated in detail in order to educate the young minds about the value of a Guru in life.

  • Respectful behavior towards gurus is regarded as one of the foremost duties of a brahmachari. Talking of respecting superiors, Manu says,

शय्यासनेऽध्याचरिते श्रेयसा न समाविशेत् । शय्यासनस्थश्चैवैनं प्रत्युत्थायाभिवादयेत् । । २.११९ । ।

ऊर्ध्वं प्राणा ह्युत्क्रामन्ति यूनः स्थविर आयति । प्रत्युत्थानाभिवादाभ्यां पुनस्तान्प्रतिपद्यते । । २.१२० । ।[3]

śayyāsane'dhyācarite śreyasā na samāviśet । śayyāsanasthaścaivainaṁ pratyutthāyābhivādayet । । 2.119 । ।

ūrdhvaṁ prāṇā hyutkrāmanti yūnaḥ sthavira āyati । pratyutthānābhivādābhyāṁ punastānpratipadyate । । 2.120 । ।

Meaning: One must not sit down on a couch or seat which a superior occupies; and he who occupies a couch or seat shall rise to meet a (superior), and (afterwards) salute him. For the vital airs of a young man mount upwards to leave his body when an elder approaches; but by rising to meet him and saluting he recovers them. (2.119 and 120) He further adds that he who habitually salutes and constantly pays reverence to the aged obtains an increase of four (things), (viz.) length of life, knowledge, fame, (and) strength. (2.121)[9]

अभिवादनशीलस्य नित्यं वृद्धोपसेविनः । चत्वारि तस्य वर्धन्ते आयुर्धर्मो यशो बलम् । । २.१२१ । ।[3]

abhivādanaśīlasya nityaṁ vr̥ddhopasevinaḥ । catvāri tasya vardhante āyurdharmo yaśo balam । । 2.121 । ।

Elaborating further on the guidelines it says,

शरीरं चैव वाचं च बुद्धीन्द्रियमनांसि च । नियम्य प्राञ्जलिस्तिष्ठेद्वीक्षमाणो गुरोर्मुखम् । । २.१९२ । ।

नित्यं उद्धृतपाणिः स्यात्साध्वाचारः सुसंवृतः । आस्यतां इति चोक्तः सन्नासीताभिमुखं गुरोः । । २.१९३ । ।

हीनान्नवस्त्रवेषः स्यात्सर्वदा गुरुसन्निधौ । उत्तिष्ठेत्प्रथमं चास्य चरमं चैव संविशेत् । । २.१९४ । ।

प्रतिश्रावणसंभाषे शयानो न समाचरेत् । नासीनो न च भुञ्जानो न तिष्ठन्न पराङ्मुखः । । २.१९५ । ।

गुरोस्तु चक्षुर्विषये न यथेष्टासनो भवेत् । । २.१९८ । ।

नोदाहरेदस्य नाम परोक्षं अपि केवलम् । न चैवास्यानुकुर्वीत गतिभाषितचेष्टितम् । । २.१९९ । ।

उदकुम्भं सुमनसो गोशकृन्मृत्तिकाकुशान् । आहरेद्यावदर्थानि भैक्षं चाहरहश्चरेत् । । २.१८२ । ।[3]

śarīraṁ caiva vācaṁ ca buddhīndriyamanāṁsi ca । niyamya prāñjalistiṣṭhedvīkṣamāṇo gurormukham । । 2.192 । ।

nityaṁ uddhr̥tapāṇiḥ syātsādhvācāraḥ susaṁvr̥taḥ । āsyatāṁ iti coktaḥ sannāsītābhimukhaṁ guroḥ । । 2.193 । ।

hīnānnavastraveṣaḥ syātsarvadā gurusannidhau । uttiṣṭhetprathamaṁ cāsya caramaṁ caiva saṁviśet । । 2.194 । ।

pratiśrāvaṇasaṁbhāṣe śayāno na samācaret । nāsīno na ca bhuñjāno na tiṣṭhanna parāṅmukhaḥ । । 2.195 । ।

gurostu cakṣurviṣaye na yatheṣṭāsano bhavet । । 2.198 । ।

nodāharedasya nāma parokṣaṁ api kevalam । na caivāsyānukurvīta gatibhāṣitaceṣṭitam । । 2.199 । ।

udakumbhaṁ sumanaso gośakr̥nmr̥ttikākuśān । āharedyāvadarthāni bhaikṣaṁ cāharahaścaret । । 2.182 । ।


  • Controlling his body, his speech, his organs (of sense), and his mind, let him stand with joined hands, looking at the face of his teacher.(2.192)
  • Let him always keep his right arm uncovered, behave decently and keep his body well covered, and when he is addressed (with the words), ’’Be seated,’’ he shall sit down, facing his teacher. (2.193)
  • In the presence of his teacher let him always eat less, wear a less valuable dress and ornaments (than the former), and let him rise earlier (from his bed), and go to rest later. (2.194)
  • Let him not answer or converse with (his teacher), reclining on a bed, nor sitting, nor eating, nor standing, nor with an averted face.(2.195)
  • Within sight of his teacher he shall not sit carelessly at ease. (2.198)
  • Let him not pronounce the mere name of his teacher (without adding an honorific title) behind his back even, and let him not mimic his gait, speech, and deportment. (2.199)
  • The Brahmachari is also ordained to fetch a pot full of water, flowers, cowdung, earth and Kusa grass, as much as may be required (by his teacher), and daily go to beg food. (2.182)

This is ordained as his constant behaviour also towards other instructors in science, towards his relatives to whom honour is due, towards all who may restrain him from papa (पापम्), or may give him salutary advice. Infact, the son of the teacher who imparts instruction (in his father’s stead), whether younger or of equal age, or a student of (the science of) sacrifices (or of other Angas), deserves the same honour as the teacher.(2.206 and 208)[9] Because,

यथा खनन्खनित्रेण नरो वार्यधिगच्छति । तथा गुरुगतां विद्यां शुश्रूषुरधिगच्छति । । २.२१८ । ।[3]

yathā khanankhanitreṇa naro vāryadhigacchati । tathā gurugatāṁ vidyāṁ śuśrūṣuradhigacchati । । 2.218 । ।

Meaning: As the man who digs with a spade (into the ground) obtains water, even so an obedient (pupil) obtains the knowledge which lies (hidden) in his teacher. (2.218)[9]

  • Obedience towards Mata, Pita and Guru is declared to be the best form of austerity. By honouring them all that ought to be done by man, is considered accomplished; It is clearly considered the highest duty, every other act is a subordinate duty. (Manu 2.229 and 237) Hence it is said,

तयोर्नित्यं प्रियं कुर्यादाचार्यस्य च सर्वदा । तेष्वेव त्रिषु तुष्टेषु तपः सर्वं समाप्यते । । २.२२८ । ।[3]

tayornityaṁ priyaṁ kuryādācāryasya ca sarvadā । teṣveva triṣu tuṣṭeṣu tapaḥ sarvaṁ samāpyate । । 2.228 । ।

Meaning: Let him always do what is agreeable to those two ie. mother and father, and always (what may please) his teacher; when those three are pleased, he obtains all (those rewards which) austerities (yield).[9]

Because, all duties are considered to be fulfilled by him who honours those three; but to him who honours them not, all rites remain fruitless. (Manu 2.234)[3]

स्त्रीषु व्यवहारः ॥ Behaviour with women

The Bhagavata Purana mentions that a person other than a householder, who has taken the great vow of celibacy, should avoid all talk with young women. For, the senses are (by nature) so powerful and violent that they carry away the mind of even a Yati (recluse) who is expected to be perfectly self-controlled.[7]

वर्जयेत्प्रमदागाथामगृहस्थो बृहद्व्रतः । इन्द्रियाणि प्रमाथीनि हरन्त्यपि यतेर्मनः ॥ ७॥[8]

varjayetpramadāgāthāmagr̥hastho br̥hadvrataḥ । indriyāṇi pramāthīni harantyapi yatermanaḥ ॥ 7॥

It also specifies that a youthful brahmachari (student) should not allow a personal service like combing the hair, massaging, bathing and anointing to be done by a woman from his teacher's family, especially if they are young (Bha.Pur.7.12.8). For, verily a young women is like fire and a man like pot containing clarified butter (Bha.Pur.7.12.9). Moreover, so long as by self realization one has not firmly determined that his body, senses or the universe etc. are illusory and the jiva has not attained perfect mastery over himself by identifying himself with the Supreme being, the notion of duality (between a man and a woman) will continue to persist (provoking thereby the desire to enjoy) through false attribution of gunas (Bha.Pur.7.12.10).[7]

केशप्रसाधनोन्मर्दस्नपनाभ्यञ्जनादिकम् । गुरुस्त्रीभिर्युवतिभिः कारयेन्नात्मनो युवा ॥ ८॥

नन्वग्निः प्रमदा नाम घृतकुम्भसमः पुमान् ।

कल्पयित्वाऽऽत्मना यावदाभासमिदमीश्वरः । द्वैतं तावन्न विरमेत्ततो ह्यस्य विपर्ययः ॥ १०॥[8]

keśaprasādhanonmardasnapanābhyañjanādikam । gurustrībhiryuvatibhiḥ kārayennātmano yuvā ॥ 8॥

nanvagniḥ pramadā nāma ghr̥takumbhasamaḥ pumān ।

kalpayitvā''tmanā yāvadābhāsamidamīśvaraḥ । dvaitaṁ tāvanna viramettato hyasya viparyayaḥ ॥ 10॥

Personal habits

According to Manusmrti, a student who resides with his teacher must observe the following restrictive rules, duly controlling all his organs, in order to increase his adhyatmik merit. (2.175)

  • Every day, having bathed, and being purified, he must offer libations of water to the gods, sages and manes, worship (the images of) the gods, and place fuel on (the sacred fire). (2.176)[9]

नित्यं स्नात्वा शुचिः कुर्याद्देवर्षिपितृतर्पणम् । देवताभ्यर्चनं चैव समिदाधानं एव च । । २.१७६ । ।[3]

nityaṁ snātvā śuciḥ kuryāddevarṣipitr̥tarpaṇam । devatābhyarcanaṁ caiva samidādhānaṁ eva ca । । 2.176 । ।

  • Let him abstain from honey (wine), meat, perfumes, garlands, substances (used for) flavouring (food) (ie. tasty and savoury dishes), women, all substances turned acid, and from doing injury to living creatures; From anointing (his body), applying collyrium to his eyes, from the use of shoes and of an umbrella (or parasol), from (sensual) desire, anger, covetousness, dancing, singing, and playing (musical instruments); From gambling (playing dice), idle disputes (gossip), backbiting (slander), and lying (untruth), from looking at and touching women, and from hurting others. (2.177,178 and 179)[9][1]

वर्जयेन्मधु मांसं च गन्धं माल्यं रसान्स्त्रियः । शुक्तानि यानि सर्वाणि प्राणिनां चैव हिंसनम् । । २.१७७ । ।

अभ्यङ्गं अञ्जनं चाक्ष्णोरुपानच्छत्रधारणम् । कामं क्रोधं च लोभं च नर्तनं गीतवादनम् । । २.१७८ । ।

द्यूतं च जनवादं च परिवादं तथानृतम् । स्त्रीणां च प्रेक्षणालम्भं उपघातं परस्य च । । २.१७९ । ।[3]

varjayenmadhu māṁsaṁ ca gandhaṁ mālyaṁ rasānstriyaḥ । śuktāni yāni sarvāṇi prāṇināṁ caiva hiṁsanam । । 2.177 । ।

abhyaṅgaṁ añjanaṁ cākṣṇorupānacchatradhāraṇam । kāmaṁ krodhaṁ ca lobhaṁ ca nartanaṁ gītavādanam । । 2.178 । ।

dyūtaṁ ca janavādaṁ ca parivādaṁ tathānr̥tam । strīṇāṁ ca prekṣaṇālambhaṁ upaghātaṁ parasya ca । । 2.179 । ।

  • Let him always sleep alone, let him never waste his manhood; for he who voluntarily wastes his manhood, breaks his vow. However, a twice-born student, who has involuntarily wasted his manly strength during sleep, must bathe, worship the sun, and afterwards thrice mutter the Rik-verse (which begins), “Again let my strength return to me.” (2.180 and 181)[9]

एकः शयीत सर्वत्र न रेतः स्कन्दयेत्क्व चित् । कामाद्धि स्कन्दयन्रेतो हिनस्ति व्रतं आत्मनः । । २.१८० । ।

स्वप्ने सिक्त्वा ब्रह्मचारी द्विजः शुक्रं अकामतः । स्नात्वार्कं अर्चयित्वा त्रिः पुनर्मां इत्यृचं जपेत् । । २.१८१ । ।[3]

ekaḥ śayīta sarvatra na retaḥ skandayetkva cit । kāmāddhi skandayanreto hinasti vrataṁ ātmanaḥ । । 2.180 । ।

svapne siktvā brahmacārī dvijaḥ śukraṁ akāmataḥ । snātvārkaṁ arcayitvā triḥ punarmāṁ ityr̥caṁ japet । । 2.181 । ।

Begging for Alms

भैक्षेण वर्तयेन्नित्यं नैकान्नादी भवेद्व्रती । भैक्षेण व्रतिनो वृत्तिरुपवाससमा स्मृता । । २.१८८ । ।[3]

bhaikṣeṇa vartayennityaṁ naikānnādī bhavedvratī । bhaikṣeṇa vratino vr̥ttirupavāsasamā smr̥tā । । 2.188 । ।

It is said that, He who performs the vow (of studentship) shall constantly subsist on alms, (but) not eat the food of one (person only); the subsistence of a student on begged food is declared to be equal (in merit) to fasting.(2.188)[9] The Bhagavata Purana enumerates that a brahmachari should beg for alms both in the morning and in the evening, and offer it to his teacher. If permitted, he should partake of the food, if not (as a test or a punishment or as occasionally required on days of observing fast), he should fast.[7]

सायं प्रातश्चरेद्भैक्षं गुरवे तन्निवेदयेत् । भुञ्जीत यद्यनुज्ञातो नो चेदुपवसेत्क्वचित् ॥ ५॥[8]

sāyaṁ prātaścaredbhaikṣaṁ gurave tannivedayet । bhuñjīta yadyanujñāto no cedupavasetkvacit ॥ 5॥

Some of the guidelines stated in the Manusmrti in this regard are as follows:

  • A student, being pure, shall daily bring food from the houses of men who are not deficient in (the knowledge of) the Veda and in (performing) yajnas, and who are famous for (following their lawful) occupations. (2.183)[9]

वेदयज्ञैरहीनानां प्रशस्तानां स्वकर्मसु । ब्रह्मचार्याहरेद्भैक्षं गृहेभ्यः प्रयतोऽन्वहम् । । २.१८३ । ।[3]

vedayajñairahīnānāṁ praśastānāṁ svakarmasu । brahmacāryāharedbhaikṣaṁ gr̥hebhyaḥ prayato'nvaham । । 2.183 । ।

  • Let him not beg from the relatives of his teacher, nor from his own or his mother’s blood-relations; but if there are no houses belonging to strangers, let him go to one of those named above, taking the last-named first; Or, if there are no (virtuous men of the kind) mentioned above, he may go to each (house in the) village, being pure and remaining silent; but let him avoid Abhishastas (those accused of mortal papa). However, at his pleasure he may eat, when invited, the food of one man at (a rite) in honour of the gods, observing (however the conditions on his vow), or at a (funeral meal) in honor of the manes, behaving (however) like a hermit. (2.184, 185 and 189)[9]

गुरोः कुले न भिक्षेत न ज्ञातिकुलबन्धुषु । अलाभे त्वन्यगेहानां पूर्वं पूर्वं विवर्जयेत् । । २.१८४ । ।

सर्वं वापि चरेद्ग्रामं पूर्वोक्तानां असंभवे । नियम्य प्रयतो वाचं अभिशस्तांस्तु वर्जयेत् । । २.१८५ । ।

व्रतवद्देवदैवत्ये पित्र्ये कर्मण्यथ र्षिवत् । कामं अभ्यर्थितोऽश्नीयाद्व्रतं अस्य न लुप्यते । । २.१८९ । ।[3]

guroḥ kule na bhikṣeta na jñātikulabandhuṣu । alābhe tvanyagehānāṁ pūrvaṁ pūrvaṁ vivarjayet । । 2.184 । ।

sarvaṁ vāpi caredgrāmaṁ pūrvoktānāṁ asaṁbhave । niyamya prayato vācaṁ abhiśastāṁstu varjayet । । 2.185 । ।

vratavaddevadaivatye pitrye karmaṇyatha rṣivat । kāmaṁ abhyarthito'śnīyādvrataṁ asya na lupyate । । 2.189 । ।

  • Having brought sacred fuel from a distance, let him place it anywhere but on the ground, and let him, unwearied, make with it burnt oblations to the sacred fire, both evening and morning. (2.186)[9]

दूरादाहृत्य समिधः सन्निदध्याद्विहायसि । सायंः प्रातश्च जुहुयात्ताभिरग्निं अतन्द्रितः । । २.१८६ । ।[3]

dūrādāhr̥tya samidhaḥ sannidadhyādvihāyasi । sāyaṁḥ prātaśca juhuyāttābhiragniṁ atandritaḥ । । 2.186 । ।

  • He who, without being sick, neglects during seven (successive) days to go out begging, and to offer fuel in the sacred fire, shall perform the penance of an Avakirnin (one who has broken his vow). (2.187)[9]

अकृत्वा भैक्षचरणं असमिध्य च पावकम् । अनातुरः सप्तरात्रं अवकीर्णिव्रतं चरेत् । । २.१८७ । ।[3]

akr̥tvā bhaikṣacaraṇaṁ asamidhya ca pāvakam । anāturaḥ saptarātraṁ avakīrṇivrataṁ caret । । 2.187 । ।

निषिद्धाचरणम् ॥ Forbidden activities

According to the Bhagavata Purana, those who have taken the vow of brahmacharya (celibacy) should avoid the use of collyrium, unguents, massage of the body, dealings with women, painting or viewing pictures of women, meat, spirituous liquor (in the case of those who are permitted to drink, honey in the case of brahmanas), garlands, sandal pigment and ornaments.[10]

अञ्जनाभ्यञ्जनोन्मर्दस्त्र्यवलेखामिषं मधु । स्रग्गन्धलेपालङ्कारांस्त्यजेयुर्ये धृतव्रताः ॥ १२॥[8]

añjanābhyañjanonmardastryavalekhāmiṣaṁ madhu । sraggandhalepālaṅkārāṁstyajeyurye dhr̥tavratāḥ ॥ 12॥

समावर्तनं गुरुदक्षिणा च ॥ Samavartana and Gurudakshina

According to Manusmrti, the vow of studying the three Vedas under a teacher must be kept for thirty-six years, or for half that time, or for a quarter, or until the (student) has perfectly learnt them. It says, a student who has studied in due order the three Vedas, or two, or even one only, without breaking the rules of studentship, shall enter the order of householders. (Manu 3.1 and 2)[11]

The initiation to the Grhasthashrama happens after the student having bathed, with the permission of his teacher, performs, according to the rule, the Samvartana. Samavartana is the rite to be performed at the completion of one's education just before returning home from the preceptor's house. It is said, a person who is thus, famous for the strict performance of his duties and has received his heritage, the Veda, from his father, shall be honoured, sitting on a couch and adorned with a garland, with the present of a cow and the honey-mixture.[12]

तं प्रतीतं स्वधर्मेण ब्रह्मदायहरं पितुः । स्रग्विणं तल्प आसीनं अर्हयेत्प्रथमं गवा । । ३.३ । ।[11]

taṁ pratītaṁ svadharmeṇa brahmadāyaharaṁ pituḥ । sragviṇaṁ talpa āsīnaṁ arhayetprathamaṁ gavā । । 3.3 । ।

Also, at the end of his student career, a student gives a present to his preceptor according to his ability before returning home to enter the household life.[1] The concept of Gurudakshina is highly respected in the Bharat's Gurukula tradition. Manusmrti says, with the permission of his teacher, when he is about to take the final bath (the ritualistic bath for samavartana signifying completion of studies), he is advised to procure a present for the venerable man (his guru) according to his ability, which may be a field, gold, a cow, a horse, a parasol and shoes, a seat, grain, or even vegetables, and thus give pleasure to his teacher. (Manu 2.245 and 246)[3]

According to the Bhagavata Purana, after having presented, if at all he can afford to do so, with what is desired by his preceptor (as gurudakshina) and having obtained his permission, he (the student) should

  1. enter the householder's life or
  2. retire to the forest (for performing penance, etc.) or
  3. renounce the world to wander as a Yati (recluse) or
  4. stay with his preceptor (as a lifelong brahmachari)[10]

दत्त्वा वरमनुज्ञातो गुरोः कामं यदीश्वरः । गृहं वनं वा प्रविशेत्प्रव्रजेत्तत्र वा वसेत् ॥ १४॥[8]

dattvā varamanujñāto guroḥ kāmaṁ yadīśvaraḥ । gr̥haṁ vanaṁ vā praviśetpravrajettatra vā vaset ॥ 14॥

While, the guru also gives his the final instructions to the student through a convocation address at the conclusion of their studentship before sending him home. One such address as recorded in the Taittiriya Upanishad is summarised as follows:

Speak the truth. Do your duty. Never swerve from the study of the Veda. Do not cut off the line of progeny (after giving the preceptor the fee he desires). Never swerve away from truth. Never swerve from duty. Never neglect your welfare. Never neglect your prosperity. Never neglect the study and the teaching of the Vedas.

Never swerve from the duties to the deities and the forefathers. Regard your mother as a deity. (Matrdevo Bhava). Regard your father as a deity (Pitrdevo Bhava). Regard your teacher as a deity (Acharyadevo Bhava). Regard your guest as deity (Atithidevo Bhava). Let only those actions that are free from blemishes be done and not others. Only those that are good acts to us should be performed by you and not others.

You should remove the fatigue of Brahmanas who are superior to you by serving them with seats, etc. Gift should be given with faith, in plenty, with modesty and sympathy. If there be any doubt regarding rites or conduct, then look up to the lives of great men and follow their examples. This is the injunction. This is the teaching. This is the secret of the Vedas. This is the Supreme’s word of command. This should be observed. Thus is this to be meditated upon.[1]

नैष्ठिकब्रह्मचर्यम् || Naishthika Brahmacharya

A student is given the opportunity to choose to live his entire life in the teacher's house as a Brahmachari. However, with a few instructions. It is said,

यदि त्वात्यन्तिकं वासं रोचयेत गुरोः कुले । युक्तः परिचरेदेनं आ शरीरविमोक्षणात् । । २.२४३ । ।

आचार्ये तु खलु प्रेते गुरुपुत्रे गुणान्विते । गुरुदारे सपिण्डे वा गुरुवद्वृत्तिं आचरेत् । । २.२४७ । ।

एतेष्वविद्यमानेषु स्थानासनविहारवान् । प्रयुञ्जानोऽग्निशुश्रूषां साधयेद्देहं आत्मनः । । २.२४८ । ।[3]

yadi tvātyantikaṁ vāsaṁ rocayeta guroḥ kule । yuktaḥ paricaredenaṁ ā śarīravimokṣaṇāt । । 2.243 । ।

ācārye tu khalu prete guruputre guṇānvite । gurudāre sapiṇḍe vā guruvadvr̥ttiṁ ācaret । । 2.247 । ।

eteṣvavidyamāneṣu sthānāsanavihāravān । prayuñjāno'gniśuśrūṣāṁ sādhayeddehaṁ ātmanaḥ । । 2.248 । ।

Meaning: If (a student) desires to pass his whole life in the teacher’s house, he must diligently serve him, until he is freed from this body. (A perpetual student) must, if his teacher dies, serve his son (provided he be) endowed with good qualities, or his widow, or his Sapinda, in the same manner as the teacher. Should none of these be alive, he must serve the sacred fire, standing (by day) and sitting (during the night), and thus finish his life.[9] And the fruit of such diligence is given as freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

एवं चरति यो विप्रो ब्रह्मचर्यं अविप्लुतः । स गच्छत्युत्तमस्थानं न चेह जायते पुनः । । २.२४९ । ।[3]

evaṁ carati yo vipro brahmacaryaṁ aviplutaḥ । sa gacchatyuttamasthānaṁ na ceha jāyate punaḥ । । 2.249 । ।

Meaning: A Brahmana who thus passes his life as a student without breaking his vow, reaches (after death) the highest abode and will not be born again in this world.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Swami Sivananda (1999), All About Hinduism, Uttar Pradesh: The Divine Life Society.
  2. Pt. Girija Prasad Dvivedi. (1917) The Manusmriti or Manavadharmashastra. Translated into Hindi with notes, index and critical introductions. Lucknow : Newul Kishore Press. (Adhyaya 2 Page 53)
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 Manusmrti, Adhyaya 2
  4. Khadira Grhyasutras (See Patala 2 Khanda 5)
  5. Shabdakalpadruma (See Brahmachari (ब्रह्मचारी))
  6. Shabdakalpadruma (See Sabrahmachari (सब्रह्मचारी))
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare, The Bhagavata Purana (Part III), Ancient Indian Tradition & Mythology (Volume 9), Edited by J.L.Shastri, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass,
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 Bhagavata Purana, Skandha 7, Adhyaya 12.
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 9.13 9.14 The Laws of Manu, Translated by G.Buhler, Chapter 2
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare, The Bhagavata Purana (Part III), Ancient Indian Tradition & Mythology (Volume 9), Edited by J.L.Shastri, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass,
  11. 11.0 11.1 Manusmrti, Adhyaya 3
  12. The Laws of Manu, Translated by G.Buhler, Chapter 3