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A Short History of Jaina Law

Flügel, Peter (2007) 'A Short History of Jaina Law.' International Journal of Jaina Studies, 3 (4). pp. 1-15.

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Abstract

The nineteenth century English neologism ‘Jaina law’ is a product of colonial legal intervention in India from 1772 onwards. 'Jaina law' suggests uniformity where in reality there is a plurality of scriptures, ethical and legal codes, and customs of sect, caste, family and region. The contested semantics of the term reflect alternative attempts by the agents of the modern Indian legal system and by Jain reformers to restate traditional Jain concepts. Four interpretations of the modern term 'Jaina law' can be distinguished: (i) 'Jaina law' in the widest sense signifies the doctrine and practice of jaina dharma, or Jaina ‘religion’. (ii) In a more specific sense it points to the totality of conventions (vyavahāra) and law codes (vyavasthā) in Jaina monastic and lay traditions. Sanskrit vyavasthā and its Arabic and Urdu equivalent qānūn both designate a specific code of law or legal opinion/decision, whereas Sanskrit dharma can mean religion, morality, custom and law. (iii) The modern Indian legal system is primarily concerned with the 'personal law' of the Jaina laity. In Anglo-Indian case law, the term 'Jaina law' was used both as a designation for 'Jain scriptures' (śāstra) on personal law, and for the unwritten 'customary laws' of the Jains, that is the social norms of Jain castes (jāti) and clans (gotra). (iv) In 1955/6 Jaina personal law was submerged under the statutory 'Hindu Code', and is now only indirectly recognised by the legal system in the form of residual Jain 'customs' to be proved in court. The article traces the process in modern Indian legal history of narrowing the semantic range of the modern term 'Jaina law' from 'Jain scriptures' down to 'Jain personal law' and finally 'Jain custom', which may lead not only in the official obliteration of Jaina legal culture, which continues to thrive outside the formal legal system in monastic law, ethics and custom, but also of Jaina 'religion'.

Item Type: Articles
Keywords: Jainism, Hinduism, Jaina law, Hindu law, Jaina ethics, Jaina monasticism, Jain Modernism, J.L. Jaini, C.R. Jain, Maharaja Govind Nath Ray v. Gulab Chand, Bhagawandas Tejmal v. Rajmal, Bal Patil v Union of India,
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions > Centre of Jaina Studies
ISSN: 1748-1074
Copyright Statement: With permission of the editor.
Depositing User: Peter Flugel
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2008 13:31
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/3169

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