Dharma is a multivalent term of great importance in Indian philosophy and religions. In a Hindu context, it means one's righteous duty, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by a person's age, class, occupation, and gender. In modern Indian languages it can be equivalent simply to religion, depending on context. The word dharma translates as that which upholds or supports, and is generally translated into English as law.
According to the various Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, beings that live in accordance with Dharma proceed more quickly toward dharma yukam, moksha or nirvana (personal liberation). The antonym of dharma is adharma meaning unnatural or immoral.
In traditional Hindu society, dharma has historically denoted a variety of ideas, such as Vedic ritual, ethical conduct, caste rules, and civil and criminal law. Its most common meaning however pertains to two principal ideals: that social life should be structured through well-defined and well-regulated classes (varna), and that an individual's life within a class should be organized into defined stages (ashrama, see dharmasastra).
Dharma also refers to the teachings and doctrines of the founders of Buddhism and Jainism, the Buddha and Mahavira. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomenon".