Date of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

South Asia Regional Studies

First Advisor

Ludo Rocher

Second Advisor

Deven Patel

Third Advisor

Daud Ali


From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century C.E., a śāstra of a new type on the topic of Śūdras was composed and circulated among Dharmaśāstrins. These śūdradharma texts were primarily concerned with the ritual life of Śūdras—the rites, sacraments, and forms of religious knowledge to which they were entitled in śruti and smr&#;ti. But they also included expositions on the generation of Śūdra jātis according to the theory of varn&#;asankara and descriptions of the ways of life and occupations of Śūdras. This is a study and translation of one of these texts, the Śūdrācāraśiroman&#;i of Kr&#;s&#;n&#;a Śes&#;a, among the most brilliant and eminent pan&#;d&#;its of late medieval Sanskrit, celebrated as both grammarian and poet. In the series of essays that accompany the translation, I analyze the text and piece together the fragmentary evidence for its date and authorship. Śūdradharma texts were one response of the Brahmin intellectual elite to the challenges to traditional dharma and dominance arising from the changing socio-economic conditions of Sultanate and Mughal India. They represent a shift in Dharmashastric discourse from the ritual exclusion of Śūdras as the sign of their social subjection to fuller integration into the Brahmanical fold. As an effort to deepen the ritual regulation of low castes in a time of and caste instability and anxiety (the improved but precarious class position of many Śūdras) and social ferment (the Bhakti movements) they were adjunct to a more general reassessment of varn&#;&#;a and the identity and place of Brahmins and Ks&#;atriyas. Śūdradharma texts like the Śūdrācāraśiroman&#;i preserve the Vedic privilege and ritual primacy of Brahmins while adjusting to the new realities of caste by the qualified inclusion of sat, i.e., “good” Śūdras as a new client base for ritual services. The Śūdrācāraśiroman&#;i was composed in typical nibandha style, but in the form of a concise and comprehensive handbook for Brahmins to instruct and guide Śūdras in their daily ritual life.