Hindu law

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Washington & Lee University
Law 314 / Rel. 335
Fall 2007

Hindu Law in Theory and Practice
Dr. Timothy Lubin, 23 Newcomb Hall, x8146, lubint wlu.edu
This course introduces Hindu law in both historical and comparative perspectives. We
begin with introductory reflections on the nature and role of law in society, the
relationship between religion and state in the law in general, and in Indiain particular.
Other topics covered include the triple origins of Hindu law in priestly codes, political
theory, and local custom; Dharma as religious law and as jurisprudence; actual legal
practice before the modern period; colonial attempts to codify Hindu law; Hindu personal
law in modern India; and the controversy over religion and secularism in the courts today.
Attention is given toconstitutional definition of the category ‘Hindu’, attempts to
legislate against suttee (“widow-burning”) and other disapproved religious practices, and
the role of the courts in disputes over sacred spaces. We close with some comparisons
with legal reasoning about religion in America, Israel, and England, based on court cases.
The course is especially pertinent for students interested incomparative legal theory; the
intersections of law, religion, and politics; religious practices and ethnic identity; and the
role of law in shaping or reforming society.
Students will turn in a short (400-word) analyses of the material read and discussed each
the week, guided by questions posed by the instructor. The grade for the course will be
based on these analyses (50%) and a circa 3500-wordresearch paper (50%). During the
last three weeks, students will make 15-minute presentations in class on their research
topic, based on a preliminary draft of the paper. Active participation in class discussions
may raise the final grade; unexcused absences may lower it.
Robert Lingat, Classical Law of India (U. Cal. P., 1974).
Donald R. Davis, Jr., The Boundaries of Hindu Law(Torino: CESMEO, 2004).
Timothy Lubin, Jayanth Krishnan, and Donald R. Davis, Jr., eds., Law and Hinduism: An
Introduction (Cambridge U.P., draft) (L&H).
Course Reader

A Hindu ‘courthouse’ in Indonesia

Tentative Schedule (readings subject to change):
6 Sept.
Overview of the subject and the course (slides)

Week I: Foundations
11 Sept. (slides)
Winnifred Sullivan and RobertYelle, “Law and Religion: An Overview,” Encyclopedia of
Religion, vol. 8, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005), pp. 5325–5332.
Richard Lariviere, “Law and Religion in Hinduism,” Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 8, 2nd ed.
(Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005), pp. 5343–5347.
Lingat, The Classical Law of India, pp. 28–51.
13 Sept.
Handouts: “Sources for the Study of Early HinduLaw” and “Vedic Sages Speak of Right and
Donald R. Davis, Jr., “Historical Overview of Hindu Law” (L&H).
Ludo Rocher, “Law Books in an Oral Culture: The Indian Dharmaśāstras,” Proceedings of the
American Philosophical Society 137(2), 1993, pp. 254–267.

Week II: Origins: Priestly Ritual Codes and Kauṭilya’s ‘Political Science’
18 Sept.
Patrick Olivelle, “Textual Sources of Hindu Law”(L&H).
Selections from Baudhāyana-Gṛhya-Sūtra and the Dharmasūtras.
20 Sept.
Kangle, selections from Kauṭilya’s Artha-Śāstra (ca. 2nd c. CE):
ch. 2.10 (on the royal edict).
ch. 3 (on procedure, marriage, inheritance, property, contracts, gifts, personal injury, and gambling).
ch. 4 (on regulation and oversight of manufacturing, commerce, and finance; on criminal process
[detection, arrest,prosecution, punishment]; and on rape).

Week III: The Classical Codes of Dharmaśāstra: Brahmanical Jurisprudence
25 Sept.
Lubin, “Authority” (L&H).
Lingat, pp. 207–232.
Olivelle, selections from Manu’s Code of Law (New York: Oxford UP, 2005), pp. 3–18, 37–50,
27 Sept.
Olivelle, Manu, pp. 154–155, 160–161, 167–205.

Week IV: The Classical Codes of Dharmaśāstra:...
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