Ahimsa paramo dharma, is it taken from Mahabharata?

Many sources over internet say so and claim that it is a half-truth and the remaining half is Himsa dharma tadaivacha. Is it true?

Who is the orator of the shloka and to whom is it addressed and in which context are they discussing this?

  • 6
    It doesn't look like there is any scriptural basis to your second question regarding 'Dharma himsa tathaiva cha' (So too is all righteous violence). It may be even wrongly attributed by the same sources to Swami Chinmayananda (see here, here and here) to sound authentic and argue that 'ahiṃsā paramo dharma' is only "half-truth" and everyone's missing the whole picture. Nov 9, 2015 at 0:11
  • so far as i remember, i read Ahimsa Paramo dharma himsa dharmasthathaiva chha in Manusmriti. I am almost sure but dont have the book with me.
    – user17294
    Jan 28, 2019 at 15:17

4 Answers 4


Yes, this shloka is present in Mahabharata.

1) Adi Parva of Mahabharata: Sauti Muni talking about Rishi Sahasrapat tells Rishi Ruru about the characteristics of a brahamana.

अहिंसा परमॊ धर्मः सर्वप्राणभृतां समृतः

तस्मात पराणभृतः सर्वान न हिंस्याथ बराह्मणः कव चित

Verily the highest virtue of man is sparing the life of others. Therefore a Brahmana should never take the life of any creature.

2) Vana Parva of Mahabharata: In the Vana Parva, Markandya Muni is narrating the discussion between a brahamana named Kausika and a poultry-monger named Dharmavyadha who lived in Mithila. The Kausika asks the fowler 'How shall I know what is virtuous conduct.' In answering, Dharmavyadha states that

अहिंसा सत्यवचनं सर्वभूतहितं परम

अहिंसा परमॊ धर्मः स च सत्ये परतिष्ठितः

सत्ये कृत्वा परतिष्ठां तु परवर्तन्ते परवृत्तयः

Among holy men, virtue is differentiated in three ways--that great virtue which is inculcated in the Vedas, the other which is inculcated in the dharma shastra, and virtuous conduct And virtuous conduct is indicated by acquisition of knowledge, pilgrimage to sacred places, truthfulness, forbearance, purity and straight-forwardness.

3) Anusasana Parva of Mahabharata: In the Anusasana Parva, Yudhisthira is asked by Lord Krishna to ask Bhishma any questions he may have as this will be his last opportunity to do so. Yudhisthira states that Bhishma has told him that 'ahimsa paramo dharma' and is asking about it in the context of conducting sraddha in which meat is offered.

अहिंसा परमॊ धर्म इत्य उक्तं बहुशस तवया

शराथ्धेषु च भवान आह पितॄन आमिष काङ्क्षिणः

Thou has told it many times that abstention from injury is the highest religion. In Sraddhas, however, that are performed in honour of the Pitris, persons for their own good should make offerings of diverse kinds of meat.

The above points are taken from hindupedia.com

  • 2
    But is ther any clue about "Himsa dharma thadaivacha"?
    – hanugm
    Nov 7, 2015 at 6:46
  • 4
    @hanugm: It doesn't look like there is any scriptural basis to your second question regarding 'Dharma himsa tathaiva cha' (So too is all righteous violence). It may be even wrongly attributed by the same sources to Swami Chinmayananda (see here, here and here) to sound authentic and argue that 'ahiṃsā paramo dharma' is only "half-truth" and everyone's missing the whole picture. Nov 9, 2015 at 0:12
  • kindly correct thevsanskrit quotations. they are becoming meaningless in some caes
    – user17294
    Jan 28, 2019 at 16:04

There is no shloka in mahabharata that says Himsa dharma tadaivacha. I downloaded mahabharata from bombay.indology.info and grepped for the shloka. This is the header from that website.

This site houses the electronic text of the Mahābhārata. Based on John Smith's revision of Prof. Muneo Tokunaga's version of the text, it was subjected to detailed checking by a team of assistants based in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune, and is made available with BORI's agreement.

The following are the results

@MacBook-Ai ~/Downloads/mahabharata Tue Mar 27 13:00:59  
$ grep 'अहिंसा परमो ' *
MBh01.txt:01011012a अहिंसा परमो धर्मः सर्वप्राणभृतां स्मृतः
MBh03.txt:03198069c अहिंसा परमो धर्मः स च सत्ये प्रतिष्ठितः
MBh13.txt:13116001a अहिंसा परमो धर्म इत्युक्तं बहुशस्त्वया
MBh13.txt:13116025a अहिंसा परमो धर्मस्तथाहिंसा परं तपः
MBh13.txt:13117037a अहिंसा परमो धर्मस्तथाहिंसा परो दमः
MBh13.txt:13117038a अहिंसा परमो यज्ञस्तथाहिंसा परं बलम्

This was the script I used.

$ cat links.txt
$ wget -i links.txt 
$ cat MBh* | shasum
3c9ee04dcf4b2f7f438e864f52d6476bd93172cf  -

The shloka almost similar to this, appears in Ishvara Gita, which is part of Kurma Purana

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AhinsaayaH paro dharmo naastyhinsaa param sukham |

vidhinaa yaa bhaveddhinsaa tvahinsaiv prakirtitaa ||

                               - Ishvara Gita   Chapter11:Verse 5 

There is no other virtue better than Non-Violence, nor is there any other comfort better than the same. The Violence, which is performed as per the provisions of the Scripture(as last resort for dealing with extreme injustice, and not for own personal ego or perpetrating injustice) - is also considered as Non-Violence.

conclusion for part 1 of your question: so instead of searched phrase "Ahimsa paramo dharma", here occrus "AhinsaayaH paro dharmo", which is same in meaning and similar in words

conclusion for part 2 of your question: so instead of searched phrase "Himsa dharma tadaivacha", here occurs "vidhinaa yaa bhaveddhinsaa tvahinsaiv", which is same in meaning.

Just as an addition, a related shloka from bhagvad gita gita 8.07:

  तस्मात्सर्वेषु कालेषु मामनुस्मर युध्य च।

tasmāt sarveṣhu kāleṣhu mām anusmara yudhya cha
mayyarpita-mano-buddhir mām evaiṣhyasyasanśhayam

Krsna says: 'Therefore, Arjuna, you should always remember Me and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting the war(war for establishing dharma) . With your activities(which includes prescribed activity of fighting the war) dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me , you will attain Me without doubt'.


When we visit an old heritage monument, we may think that aesthetically, it may be better to have some further improvement. But we should not attempt any such improvement on it, as the heritage has to be protected. In the same manner, if the original Mahabharat did not contain the second stanza, it is not correct to invent it or add it at this stage.Anybody can have their own interpretations; that is a different matter. But the Mula i.e. the original has to be preserved in its original form for posterity.

  • 4
    Welcome @venu ! Can you please add scriptural references?
    – YDS
    Jun 18, 2018 at 14:41

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