What is the meaning of the term “Svadharma”?


Swadharma in scriptures means the duties (Dharma) prescribed for someone (Swa) based on his Varna.

It is one set of duties for a BrAhmin, another set for a Kshatriya and so on.

Here is a verse from Manu Smriti that is quite clear in explaining the concept:

Varam swadharmo viguno na pArakyah swanushthitah |
Paradharmena jivan hi sadhyah patati jAtitah ||

10.97. It is better (to discharge) one’s own (appointed) duty incompletely than to perform completely that of another; for he who lives according to the law of another (caste) is instantly excluded from his own

Opposite of Swadharma is Paradharma (someone else's duty).

So, according to the above verse, one should be following those duties that are prescribed for one's own Varna and not those that are prescribed for others. If someone, by discarding one's own Varna Dharmas, follows those of others, then that results in loss of caste.

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