Recovering the indigenous legal traditions of india: Classical hindu law in practice in late medieval kerala [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Indian Philosophy 27 (3):159-213 (1999)
The collection of Malayalam records entitled Vanjeri Grandhavari, taken from the archives of an important Namputiri Brahmin family and the temple under its leadership, provides some long-awaited information regarding a wide range of legal activities in late medieval Kerala. The organization of law and the jurisprudence represented by these records bear an unmistakable similarity to legal ideas found in dharmastra texts. A thorough comparison of the records and relevant dharma texts shows that landholding Namputiri Brahmins, who possessed enormous political and economic power in the region, mediated the implementation of dharmastra into the legal system. From this comparison arise new understandings of law and legal categories such as custom and positive law. Moreover, such comparisons begin to elucidate the problems involved in Western assumptions that it is textual law, not its interpretation and application by humans, which controls behavior. The Vanjeri records demonstrate not only the importance of dharmastra as a historical document but also the manner and extent to which dharmastra provided the foundation for legal systems in Kerala as well as in other regions of India.
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