Doctrines Sva-dharma means literally "own dharma" and has been translated as "own duty" and "particular responsibilities." Dharma is derived from the Sanskrit root dhr, "sustain, support, uphold," and has a wide range of meanings, including truth, cosmic law, reality, righteousness, correctness, integrity, duty, and caste duty. The term Sva-dharma is a brahmanic creation that came relatively late and applies especially to the meanings of dharma as duty and caste duty. Thus it is duty according to one's caste (varna or jati; see Social Castes), one's age group within the caste, and one's stage of life (asrama). This system of social responsibilities is varnasramadharma and the term is nearly synonymous with Sva-dharma.
Every person has unique duties and responsibilities and this "own dharma" or Sva-dharma is unique to that person because everyone has different capacities for righteousness. This capacity is determined by one's birth, which is a result of karma, actions in a previous life.
Because of differing levels of purity between the castes, everyone cannot be expected to meet the same standard of social behaviour. However, the duties of the different members of the different varnas and asramas interact and support each other. It is necessary to follow one's Sva-dharma so that the carrying out of one's duties and responsibilities maintains harmony in society and the world. Brahmanic doctrine holds that social and cosmic harmony is dependent on following one's Sva-dharma at all times.
Interpretation of questions of dharma come from sruti, divine revelation in the form of the Vedas; smrti, the sacred tradition of the Vedangas, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Puranas, and the Dharma-shastras; practices of the wise; and conscience, this having the least weight.
Today Sva-dharma can be more liberally interpreted according to one's personal understanding of the position reached in life and the best course to take in the future to achieve the final goal.

History Dharma in the Rg Veda (c. 1200 BCE) concerned the actions of the gods that brought about or maintained cosmic harmony. In classical Vedic literature dharma is the system of activities which guides the world to uphold rta, universal harmony with all things in the world having a correct place and function. This proper action of the gods was linked to ritual and ascetic practises.
With the composition of the Brahmanas (c. 900 to 600 BCE), it was not only the actions of the gods that involved the laws of the cosmos but also rituals performed by priests, which were prescribed in the texts. These rituals were to obtain a favourable rebirth. Dharma came to be closely aligned with the concept of karma, present actions determining the conditions of one's future life. Through the following centuries dharma and karma came to be strongly linked.
Dharma from at least the second century BCE, as seen in the Laws of Manu, was applied to normal social life and came to mean all one's obligations by which one fits in with nature and society. This became the system of varnasramadharma.
Conflicting views in Hindu theory and practice over such concepts as ahimsa, non-injury, needed to be resolved. The basic structure of the Bhagavad Gita is the view that taking part in a war is perfectly acceptable as long as it can be interpreted as one's Sva-dharma. There are common moral obligations for everyone and these are known as sadharanadharma, dharma pertaining to everybody. Brahmanic doctrine says one must follow one's Sva-dharma at all times even if it means breaking the rules of sadharanadharma. Therefore the soldier must fight. But in the flux of religious thought in India, Vedantic traditions, Jainism, and Buddhism taught that the rules of sadharanadharma always overrule those of Sva-dharma.

Symbols See Symbols in Social Castes.

Adherents All Hindus.

Main Centre
 Each of the castes has its own main centre.