The sources of Hindu Law
From thousands of years people living in the Indian subcontinent have been leading their lives by following the guidelines and concepts given in the Vedas. These guidelines have evolved into rules followed by the people and enforced by the rulers and have thus become de facto law. In this modern times, the same laws have been retrofitted to suit present conditions and have been codified in the form of several acts of which the important ones are - Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956, and Hindu Succession Act 1956.
Application of Hindu Law
A precise definition of Hinduism does ...view middle of the document...
Persons who are not governed by any other religious law will be governed by Hindu Law.
Origins of Hindu Law
It is believed that Hindu law is a divine law. It was revealed to the people by God through Vedas. Various sages and ascetics have elaborated and refined the abstract concepts of life explained in the Vedas.
Sources of Hindu Law
Sources of Hindu Law can be divided into two parts - Ancient and Modern.
1. Ancient Sources
Before the codification of Hindu Law, the ancient literature was the only source of the law. These sources can be divided into four categories:
Shruti means "what is heard". It is believed that the rishis and munis had reached the height of spirituality where they were revealed the knowledge of Vedas. Thus, shrutis include the four vedas - Rig, Yajur, Sam, and Athrava along with their Brahmanas. The Brahmanas are like the apendices to the Vedas. Vedas primarily contain theories about sacrifices, rituals, and customs. Some people believe that Vedas contain no specific laws, while some believe that the laws have to be inferred from the complete text of the Vedas. Vedas do refer to certain rights and duties, forms of marriage, requirement of a son, exclusion of women from inheritance, and partition but these are not very clearcut laws.
(During the vedic period, the society was divided into varns and life was divided into ashramas. The concept of karma came into existence during this time. A person will get rewarded as per his karma. He can attain salvation through "knowledge". During this period the varna system became quite strong. Since vedas had a divine origin, the society was governed as per the theories given in vedas and they are considered to be the fundamental source of Hindu law. Shrutis basically describe the life of the Vedic people.)
The vedic period is assumed to be between 4000 to 1000 BC. During this time, several pre-smriti sutras and gathas were composed. However, not much is known about them today. It is believed that various rishis and munis incorporated local customs into Dharma and thus multiple "shakhas" came into existence.
Smrit means "what is remembered". With smrutis, a systematic study and teaching of Vedas started. Many sages, from time to time, have written down the concepts given in Vedas. So it can be said that Smrutis are a written memoir of the knowledge of the sages. Immediately after the Vedic period, a need for the regulation of the society arose. Thus, the study of vedas and the incorporation of local culture and customs became important. It is believed that many smrutis were composed in this period and some were reduced into writing, however, not all are known. The smrutis can be divided into two - Early smritis (Dharmasutras) and Later smritis (Dharmashastras).
Dharmasutras- The Dharmansutras were mostly written in prose form but also contain verses. It is clear that they were meant to be training manuals of sages for teaching...