Ashrama (stage)

An Ashrama in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in Indian texts of the ancient and medieval eras.[1] The four ashramas are: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciate).[2]

The Ashrama system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism.[3] It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy, where it is combined with four proper goals of human life (Purusartha), for fulfilment, happiness and spiritual liberation.[4]

Ashram system

Under the Ashram system, the human lifespan was divided into four periods.[5][6] The goal of each period was the fulfilment and development of the individual. The classical system, in the Ashrama Upanishad, the Vaikhanasa Dharmasutra and the later Dharmashastra, presents these as sequential stages of human life and recommends ages for entry to each stage, while in the original system presented in the early Dharmasutras the Ashramas were four alternative available ways of life, neither presented as sequential nor with age recommendations.[1][7]

The Ashram system
Ashram or stage Age (years)[8] Description Rituals of transition
Brahmacharya
(student life)
Till 24 Brahmacharya represented the bachelor student stage of life. This stage focused on education and included the practice of celibacy.[2] The student went to a Gurukul (house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru (teacher), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline, working to earn dakshina to be paid for the guru, learning to live a life of Dharma (righteousness, morals, duties). Upanayana at entry.[9][10] Samavartana at exit.[11]
Grihastha
(household life)
24–48 This stage referred to the individual's married life, with the duties of maintaining a household, raising a family, educating one's children, and leading a family-centred and a dharmic social life.[2][12][13] Grihastha stage was considered as the most important of all stages in sociological context, as human beings in this stage not only pursued a virtuous life, they produced food and wealth that sustained people in other stages of life, as well as the offsprings that continued mankind.[2][4] The stage also represented one where the most intense physical, sexual, emotional, occupational, social and material attachments exist in a human being's life.[14] Hindu wedding at entry.
Vanaprastha
(retired life)
48–72 The retirement stage, where a person handed over household responsibilities to the next generation, took an advisory role, and gradually withdrew from the world.[15][16] Vanaprastha stage was a transition phase from a householder's life with its greater emphasis on Artha and Kama (wealth, security, pleasure and sexual pursuits) to one with greater emphasis on Moksha (spiritual liberation).[15][17]
Sannyasa
(renounced life)
72+
(or anytime)
The stage was marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, generally without any meaningful property or home (Ascetic), and focussed on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life.[18][19] Anyone could enter this stage after completing the Brahmacharya stage of life.[1]
Other Languages
हिन्दी: आश्रम
Bahasa Indonesia: Caturasrama
italiano: Ashrama
ქართული: აშრამა
lietuvių: Ašrama
magyar: Ásrama
മലയാളം: ആശ്രമങ്ങൾ
Nederlands: Asrama
português: Ashramas
русский: Ашрама
संस्कृतम्: आश्रमव्यवस्था
татарча/tatarça: Ашрама
українська: Ашрама