The rules of moral conduct have been universally applied in Modern India. The common among these is the general Hindu way of greeting the elderly people. When a person meets an elder irrespective of the place he salutes the latter either by bending down or by touching the elder's feet. Women show respect by covering their faces with a veil in the presence of the elders. On ceremonial occasions, she salutes her elders by touching their feet. Younger people greet elders first and need to observe some rules of social etiquette. For example, they need to avoid laughing loudly or expressing opinions unless they are asked. One has to avoid addressing them by name. A youngster needs to be obedient and patient and decent in his manners.
One should help a person in need. He should believe in God and should honour and respect them. He should pay a visit to temples and observe appropriate fasts and feasts as per the social traditions. The first category principles can be considered as positive injunctions which should be pursued to lead a healthy life in the community. It is considered that non-conformity to these rules results in an individual's moral degradation and disregard in the community.
In the second category those principles are included which is required for acquisition of extra merit and moral advancement of an individual. This category of rules of dharma includes phenomena such as alms-giving to Brahmins, mendicants, temples, instruction of temples, cowsheds, special devotion to the gods and Brahmins. Non -performance of the rites and actions of the second category dharma does not lead to any degradation as in the first one.
The third set of principles of dharma consists of pessimistic rules that are considered essential for a person to follow. These are prohibitions and are concerned with what a person should not do. These prohibitions are based on popular notions about cleanliness and pollution. These notions are deeply rooted in mystical beliefs and supernaturalism and therefore have been termed as 'ritual rules'. For example it prescribes who one may marry and whom one shall not marry. It also guides dietary behaviour patterns of people, as well as the rightful ways in which people can earn their living. Non-observance of these rules gives the disobeyer a 'demerit entry'. If these rules are violated a person is considered as polluted. If a person commits ritually prohibited acts, he becomes impure ritually.
The principles of dharma are grouped under the following:
(i) General rules of dharma which is meant to be observed by all Hindus in the community;
(ii) Caste dharma that is based on individual caste traditions;
(iii) Rules of dharma common to a patrilineage;
(iv) Special rules; and
(v) Rules of dharmas which are meant to be observed in times of distress.
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