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Hindu Law Introducing the subject and the course Law 314 / Religion 335 Hindu Law in Theory and Practice Dr. Timothy Lubin, Washington and Lee University.

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Presentation on theme: "Hindu Law Introducing the subject and the course Law 314 / Religion 335 Hindu Law in Theory and Practice Dr. Timothy Lubin, Washington and Lee University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hindu Law Introducing the subject and the course Law 314 / Religion 335 Hindu Law in Theory and Practice Dr. Timothy Lubin, Washington and Lee University Fall 2007

2 Why Study Hindu Law? To understand how law emerges from the intersection of religion, state, and society – e.g.: How do divine commands and ritual duties become part of a legal code? What happens when religious beliefs and customs are regulated by the state? Should divine or priestly authority count more than the state’s authority?

3 Why Study Hindu Law? For a unique case study of how a modern secular state deals with the legal implications of religious statuses, customs, and institutions: How does a secular state deal with disputes over religious property, rights of temple admission? What is the legal definition of a religion? Can the law be used to bring about reforms and improvements in society?

4 ‘Hook-Swinging’ (a vow-fulfilling practice disapproved by the British)

5 Suttee (‘self’-immolation of widows)

6 Thuggee (sacrificial murder)

7 ‘Temple Prostitutes’

8 Framing Issues Categories –What counts as ‘law’ in pre-modern India? –What counts as ‘Hindu’? Periods –Pre-modern –Colonial –Post-Independence

9 What Counts as ‘Law’? … if there are no lawyers, no juries, no legislature, no prisons, little case law?! What there is: –Detailed codes of right and wrong conduct –Jurisprudence: scholarly legal opinion –Judges, tribunals –King and his officers to try and punish criminals –Evidence (documents, witnesses) –Fines, punishments, expiations, social sanctions –Records of decisions

10 Law & Morality Law & Custom Dharma = Virtue, Righteousness Codes (Shastras) claim authority from the Veda (revelation) Religious duties and social duties mingle King does not make Dharma, but makes adjudicates disputes, decides what accords with Dharma Acara = Good Custom, Model Conduct Despite the invocation of Veda, most rules reflect practices approved by scholars Vyavahara = usage, standard practice; also: legal process cf. Nyaya = lawsuit; judgment Acara varies by region, family, trade association

11 Periods Premodern –Mauryan (4 th -3 rd BCE) to Gupta (4 th -6 th CE) dynasties –‘Medieval’: Early (to 1200) and Late (1200-1700) Colonial –East India Company ‘Raj’ (rule) (1600-1857) –British Imperial Rule (1857-1947) Post-Independence –The Constitution of 1950 –The Hindu Code Bills


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