Hindu law

Massive celebration of Durga Puja in India

Hindu law, as a historical term, refers to the code of laws applied to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs in British India.

- Hindu law

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Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

Highest court of appeal for certain British territories, some Commonwealth countries and a few UK bodies.

Arms as used by the Privy Council Office (United Kingdom)
Court 3 in Middlesex Guildhall, the normal location for Privy Council hearings.

In particular, the Appeals Committee had to hear cases arising from a variety of different legal systems in the colonies, such as Hindu law, with which its members were unfamiliar.


A historic pandit's statue in a museum

A Pandit (पण्डित; पंडित; also spelled Pundit, pronounced ; abbreviated Pt. or Pdt.) is a man with specialised knowledge or a teacher of any field of knowledge in Hinduism, particularly the Vedic scriptures, dharma, or Hindu philosophy; in colonial-era literature, the term generally refers to Brahmins specialized in Hindu law.


Believed to be the first ancient legal text and constitution among the many of Hinduism.

A Balinese Hindu family after puja at Bratan temple in Bali, Indonesia

It was one of the first Sanskrit texts to be translated into English in 1776, by British philologist Sir William Jones, and was used to construct the Hindu law code, for the East India Company administered enclaves.

Religious law

Religious law includes ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions.

Wood tablet from Jebel Moya, inscribed with an ethical code of conduct, relating to Moses (line 7) and Pharaoh (line 12)

Examples of religiously derived legal codes include Jewish halakha, Islamic sharia, Christian canon law (applicable within a wider theological conception in the church, but in modern times distinct from secular state law ), and Hindu law.

Henry Thomas Colebrooke

English orientalist and mathematician.

A bust of Henry Thomas Colebrooke currently owned by the Royal Asiatic Society

Also in 1805, Lord Wellesley appointed him honorary professor of Hindu law and Sanskrit at the college of Fort William.


A ' on the Yajnavalkya Smriti best known for its theory of "inheritance by birth."

Detail from the sarcophagus of Roman jurist Valerio Petroniano (315–320)

Along with the Dāyabhāga, it was considered one of the main authorities on Hindu Law from the time the British began administering laws in India.


Massive celebration of Durga Puja in India

The Dāyabhāga is a Hindu law treatise written by Jīmūtavāhana which primarily focuses on inheritance procedure.

Hindu code bills

The Hindu code bills were several laws passed in the 1950s that aimed to codify and reform Hindu personal law in India, abolishing religious law in favor of a common law code.

Law minister B. R. Ambedkar in 1950

As Derrett says in his book on Hindu law, "We find the Hindus to be as diverse in race, psychology, habitat, employment and way of life as any collection of human beings that might be gathered from the ends of the earth."


Raghunandana (c.

Rigveda (padapatha) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century. The red horizontal and vertical lines mark low and high pitch changes for chanting.

His writings include 28 Smriti digests on Hindu law and a commentary on Dayabhaga.


Term used in social science for the act or practice of a person marrying a spouse of higher caste or social status than themselves.

Esther is crowned in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld.

Both terms were coined in the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century while translating classical Hindu law books, which used the Sanskrit terms anuloma and pratiloma, respectively, for the two concepts.