The lesser known and explored of the two pillars of Hinduism- asrama and varna-asrama is the name given to a system of four distinct and legitimate ways of leading a religious life: as a celibate student, a married householder, a forest hermit, and a world renouncer.
In this, the first full-length study of the asrama system, Olivelle uncovers its origin and traces its subsequent history. He examines in depth its relationship to other institutional and doctrinal aspects of the Brahmanical world and its position within Brahmanical theology, and assesses its significance within the
history of Indian religion. Throughout, he argues that the asrama system is primarily a theological construct and that the system and its history should be carefully distinguished from the socio-religious institutions comprehended by the system and from their respective histories.
About the Author:
Patrick Olivelle is Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at the University of Texas, Austin.