The Hindu way of life has been influenced, to a very large extent, by the dharmaśāstras. These dharmaśāstras, chronologically speaking, fall into three categories:

  1. The dharmasūtras and the Manusmṛti (6th century B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era);
  2. The versified smṛtis (upto A.D. 800);
  3. The commentaries and nibandhas or digests (A.D. 800-1800).

One of the well-known nibandhas or digests is the Bhagavanta-bhāskara of Nīlakaṇṭha (17th century), a son of Śaṅkarabhaṭṭa, who was a profound scholar of Mīmāṁsā. Nīlakaṇṭha composed this encyclopaedic work of religious and civil law, in honour of his patron Bhagavantadeva, a Bundella chieftain of the Sengara clan that ruled at Bareha, near the confluence of the rivers Jumna (Yamunā) and Chambal.

This work has been divided into 12 sections called ‘mayūkhas’ (or ‘rays’), the topics dealt with being: saṁskāra (sacraments), ācāra (personal conduct), kāla (time), śrāddha (afterdeath ceremonies), nīti (ethics), vyavahāra (social behaviour), dāna (gifts), utsarga (dedication for public benefit), pratiṣṭhā (foundation of temples for public good), prāyaścitta (expiations for sins), śuddhi (purificatory rites) and śānti (propitiatory rites).

The rules given in this work are considered as a great authority in certain parts of India even now.