Hindu Law

A New History of Dharmasastra

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Patrick Olivelle, Donald R. Davis
The Oxford History of Hinduism
  • New York, NY: 
    Oxford University Press
    , February
     576 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Through pointed studies of important aspects and topics of dharma in Dharmasastra, this comprehensive collection shows that the history of Hinduism cannot be written without the history of Hindu law. Part one provides a concise overview of the literary genres in which Dharmasastra was written with attention to chronology and historical developments. This study divides the tradition into its two major historical periods -- the origins and formation of the classical texts and the later genres of commentary and digest -- in order to provide a thorough, but manageable overview of the textual bases of the tradition. Part two presents descriptive and historical studies of all the major substantive topics of Dharmasastra. Each chapter offers readers with direct knowledge of the debates, transformations, and fluctuating importance of each topic. Readers will also gain insight into the ethos or worldview of religious law in Hinduism, enabling them to get a feel for how dharma authors thought and why. Part three contains brief studies of the impact and reception of Dharmasastra in other South Asian cultural and textual traditions. Part four draws inspiration from "critical terms" in contemporary legal and religious studies to analyze Dharmasastra texts. Contributors offer interpretive views of Dharmasastra that start from hermeneutic and social concerns today.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Patrick Olivelle is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on the ancient Indian legal tradition of Dharmasastra. Olivelle has won several prestigious fellowships, including Guggenheim, NEH, and ACLS. He was elected Vice President of the American Oriental Society in 2004 and President in 2005. He is the editor of A Dharma Reader: Classical Indian Law(Columbia University Press, 2016).

Donald R. Davis is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His current research broadens his interest in the practice of Hindu law in historical perspective, using materials beyond the Dharmasastra texts and from many parts of medieval India.



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