The Spirit of Hindu Law

The Spirit of Hindu Law

Law is too often perceived solely as state-based rules and institutions that provide a rational alternative to religious rites and ancestral customs. The Spirit of Hindu Law uses the Hindu legal tradition as a heuristic tool to question this view and reveal the close linkage between law and religion. Emphasizing the household, the family, and everyday relationships as additional social locations of law, it contends that law itself can be understood as a theology of ordinary life. An introduction to traditional Hindu law and jurisprudence, this book is structured around key legal concepts such as the sources of law and authority, the laws of persons and things, procedure, punishment and legal practice. It combines investigation of key themes from Sanskrit legal texts with discussion of Hindu theology and ethics, as well as thorough examination of broader comparative issues in law and religion.


Review of the hardback: 'It has been said that Hindu law is only the imagination of Hindu lawyers with no Sanskrit, but the Sanskritists are now coming to the rescue. In The Spirit of Hindu Law Donald R. Davis, Jr. provides not only an authoritative reading of ancient texts, but a challenging view of law itself. The presentation is conceptual and not historical, comparative and not contextual, and the author rightly insists that we can learn from and not simply about one of the oldest legal traditions of the world. It is a splendid book.' H. Patrick Glenn, McGill University

Review of the hardback: 'Donald Davis has made the study of traditional Indian law accessible and interesting to both the layman and the scholar who has otherwise considered the subject dull, forbidding, or out of the mainstream of Indian culture and religion. He contextualizes his material more astutely than has ever been the case in a major study of Hindu law, and easily addresses a number of topics relevant to many other fields of inquiry, including history, anthropology, sociology, and religious studies. This is a book with which every serious student of India should become familiar.' Frederick M. Smith, University of Iowa

Review of the hardback: 'The Spirit of Hindu Law is a learned yet accessible and lucidly written overview of Hindu modes of legal thinking through detailed examination of Dharmasastra texts and commentaries. Focusing on Hindu law in its close connection to theology and ordinary life, Davis opens up a complex world of legal concepts and practices to the specialist and non-specialist alike. Illuminating comparisons are drawn throughout to our own Euro-American legal tradition, including a fascinating analogy between the Mimamsa hermeneutic project and the modern-day filing of federal income tax forms! This volume will appeal to anyone interested in Indian intellectual history, the study of South Asian religions, and comparative ethics and law. Anne E. Monius, Harvard Divinity School

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