The concept of dharma is the most central and core concept of Hindu philosophy, "all the other principles and values flow from the beautiful fountain of Dharma" (Srinivasan n.d., 1). Consequently, the Hindu scriptures present many examples of its importance in a variety of ways. The two epics Mahabharata and Ramayana are particularly interesting in their presentation of dharma.
Dharma is Sanskrit word with many different connotations that are mostly of ethical nature. Thus far, there has not been a parallel word found for it in English or any language that truly signifies the essence of it. It comes from the root word, dhr, which literally means to uphold, sustain, and maintain a thing in its being. "It is the very norm which sustains the universe, the principle of a thing by virtue of which it is what it is" (Gupta 1991, 2).
Dharma can be translated as right action, right conduct, virtue, moral law etc; however, these words even fall short of explaining the true meaning of dharma. The concept of dharma is subtle and is therefore very hard to grasp. Many have made attempts to define dharma, but have not yet aroused any intellectual minds. If one of the scholars defines dharma as "a mode of life or a code of conduct, which regulated a man's work and activities as a member of society and as an individual to bring about the gradual development of a man and to enable him to reach what was deemed to be the goal of human existence" (Sukthankar 1998, 80); then, the other scholar defines it as "that which holds a thing together, makes it what it is, prevents it from breaking up and changing into something else, its characteristic function, it's peculiar property, it's fundamental attribute, its...
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..., rajadharma, kuladharma, and so on. Even though, the times have changed and so has the social structure of the society; an individual can still relate himself to the dharmas described in the Mahabharata one way or the other and learn to succeed in life by learning from the successes of those Mahabharata characters who have followed dharma and failures of the characters of the epic who have not followed dharma.
The concept of dharma, that has taxed many scholarly minds, can be described, after analyzing it in the context of one of the greatest epics, as a foundation of everything from universe to an individual. It can be considered as the very foundation of life. Therefore, to maintain this foundation and to maintain life; one should observe dharma, that is to fulfill his duties to god; himself; his family; and universe in accordance, throughout his lifetime.
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