Contents: Preface. Introduction/Patrick Olivelle. Part One: Vedic and Prakrit Sources. 1. The Term Ghastha and the (Pre)history of the Householder/Stephanie Jamison. 2. Pasanda: Religious Communities in the Asokan Inscriptions and Early Literature/Joel Brereton. 3. Ghastha in Asoka's Classification of Religious People/Patrick Olivelle. 4. Ghastha in the Sramanic Discourse: A Lexical Survey of House Residents in Early Pali Texts/Oliver Freiberger. 5. Gahavai and Gihattha: The Householder in the Early Jaina Sources/Claire Maes. Part Two: The Sanskrit Sastras. 6. The Late Appearance of the Ghastha in the Vedic Domestic Ritual Codes as a Married Religious Professional/Timothy Lubin. 7. Ghastha, Asrama and the Origin of Dharmasastra/Patrick Olivelle. 8. The Householder in Early Dharmasastra Literature/David Brick. 9. Householders, Holy and Otherwise, in the Niti and Kama Literature/Mark McClish. Part Three: Epic and Kavya Literature. 10. The Ghastha in the Mahabharata/Adam Bowles. 11. Ghasthas Don't Belong in the Ramayana/Aaron Sherraden. 12. Householders and Housewives in Early Kavya Literature/Csaba Dezso and Eotvos Loránd. Index.
For scholars of ancient Indian religions, the wandering mendicants who left home and family for a celibate life and the search for liberation represent an enigma. The Vedic religion, centered on the married household, had no place for such a figure. Much has been written about the Indian ascetic but hardly any scholarly attention has been paid to the married householder with wife and children, generally referred to in Sanskrit as ghastha: "the stay-at-home." The institution of the householder is viewed implicitly as posing little historical problems with regard to its origin or meaning.
This volume problematizes the figure of the householder within ancient Indian culture and religion. It shows that the term ghastha is a neologism and is understandable only in its opposition to the ascetic who goes away from home (pravrajita). Through a thorough and comprehensive analysis of a wide range of inscriptions and texts, ranging from the Vedas, Dharmasastras, Epics, and belle lettres to Buddhist and Jain texts and texts on governance and erotics, this volume analyses the meanings, functions, and roles of the householder from the earliest times unti about the fifth century CE. The central finding of these studies is that the householder bearing the name ghastha is not simply a married man with a family but someone dedicated to the same or similar goals as an ascetic while remaining at home and performing the economic and ritual duties incumbent on him. The ghastha is thus not a generic householder, for whom there are many other Sanskrit terms, but a religiously charged concept that is intended as a full-fledged and even superior alternative to the concept of a religious renouncer.