Dharma and Indian Jurisprudence

Dharma is the word used in the Hindu religion for giving justice in ancient times and they define Dharma as the person’s moral and social obligations both as an individual and also as a member of the society. In modern times Dharma is replaced by the Common law, the kings were replaced by the Courts and the Judges and the procedure has been changed. Jurisprudence is the study of law which helps to make society more interactive towards each other.


During the ancient period, Hindus use word Dharma in place of Law. They define Dharma as a person’s moral and social obligations, both as an individual and also as a member of society. The basic ideology based on the framework of Hindu law through the importance of scared law. The principal aim of Dharma is to regulate human behavior in its cosmic and human context.

Jurisprudence is the knowledge of the law and the study of the Theory and Philosophy of law. It differs from the social sciences. Many Philosophers have a different view for the meaning of Jurisprudence which makes it difficult to define.

Dharma and its Historical Background

Dharma has been derived from the Vedic concepts of Rita which means the straight line. And the Rita refers to the Law of Nature.

Dharma in Sanskrit means to support, hold up, or bear. Dharma is based on the legal system which says that every individual owed a duty towards the other members of the society and also the right possessed by every man. In ancient times people believed in karma which defines their Dharma. And that’s why Yudhistir from Mahabharat known as Dharma Raj. It is a concept which helps for the upliftment of the living beings. Therefore, which ensures the welfare of living beings is called the Dharma. It seems to cut across so many conceptual distinctions- legal, social, religious, moral, etc those attaching importance to these divides which seem to be less challenging than confusing. It indicates the highest commendation that is rightness, Justice, goodness, purpose rather than chance.

According to the Historical significance Dharma attempts to exemplify the concepts and practices which played across politically, legally, literary, ethically holds life together. It refers to religious ethics in Ramcharitmanas. The Atharva Veda signifies Dharma as “Prithivim Dharmana Dhritam” which implies this world is upheld by the Dharma. Also, Dharma is Santana which has eternal values and is not bounded by time nor by space.

The source from which knowledge of Hindu law is derived id Dharma. Its ancient framework is the law of smritis. It also enounces the rules of Dharma.

Nature and Scope of Dharma

The earliest mention of Dharma occurs in the Vedic era in Rig Veda to mean the foundation of the universe and believes that God created life by using the principles of Dharma. Therefore salvation (moksha) is the eternal Dharma for humans according to Hinduism. Lately, Upanishads refined the concept of Dharma and made it more moralistic.

It also has legalistic meaning in Hindu legal code like Manusmriti to explain the legal duties of the people. Manusmriti deals with religion, administration, economics, civil and criminal laws, marriage, succession, etc. The main function of a king is to uphold the Dharma. Its meaning and scope have expanded with time with the ideals of law and justice. The ultimate source of all social, legal, political, and spiritual rights is divinity.

Indian Jurisprudence

The word Jurisprudence is derived from the Latin word ‘jurisprudentia’ which splits into two that is Juris whose literal meaning is the law and prudential whose literal meaning is skill or knowledge so the word Jurisprudence means the knowledge of the law and its significance. The Roman civilization is known as the bedrock of all human civilizations which also has explained the meaning and the nature of law.

Jeremy Bentham is known as the Father of Jurisprudence. He was the first person who analyzes what is the law. And Sir Austin is the Father of English Jurisprudence.

Jurisprudence is knowledge of things divine and human; the science of just and unjust

Jurisprudence provides guidelines to the judges and the lawyers in ascertaining the true meaning of the laws passed by the legislature by providing the rules and regulations of interpretation. The subject matter of Jurisprudence includes the study of concepts such as the nature of law, the legal system, legal institution, etc. It brings the important principles of law and the legal concepts to light.

The definition of Jurisprudence defined by Salmond as the body of principles that tribunal recognize and apply while administering justice. Also known as the science or philosophy of positive law. 

Salmond explains Jurisprudence is concerned with investigating law while legal theory seeks to understand the law academically.

Roscoe Pound defines Jurisprudence as the law to mean principles that public tribunals recognize and enforce. 

Austin defines it as Law is the command of sovereign and their non-obedience leads to the imposition of sanctions.

Keeton defines it as the study and systematic arrangement of the general principles of law.

Evolution of Jurisprudence

Jurisprudence originated in Roman civilization which defines the meaning and the nature of law. It was limited to the concept of law, morals, and justice then also confused with each other. With the fall of the Roman Empire slowly the Jurisprudence disappeared and the idea of secularism emerged. After which many theories were proposed with regards to the evolution of the state and the nature of law by many philosophers like Hugo Grotius, John Locke, Rousseau, and Blackstone. And the idea of collectivism and social welfare was evolved. The idea of positive law and the positivistic approach needed and the boundaries of the law were demarcated and its scope was limited.

Purpose of Law and the Concept of Justice

The most important function of the state is to ensure justice to its citizens. Every state possesses the capability to administer justice according to its legal system. Even, in ancient times, the prime duty of the ruler is to guarantee justice to their subjects.

The meaning of Justice is representing something that is just and right that is the Judgement should be just, impartial, fair, and right.

Modern Jurisprudence says justice means the implementation of concepts like equality and liberty. It also the recognition and implementation of laws made by the legislature that is the Parliament. And the function lies in the judicial organ mainly the Supreme Court of India.

Therefore justice means the recognition, application, and enforcement of laws by courts.

Importance of Jurisprudence

  • The purpose of Jurisprudence is to study the law, legal concepts, and analyze the concept to facilitate a better understanding of legal complexities.
  • It is also useful for solving legal problems in the practical world. While analyzing the legal concepts of the legal problem, it helps the legal professional in sharpening their legal acumen.
  • Jurisprudence has a relation with other social science such as sociology, political science, ethics, etc. Therefore while doing research in Jurisprudence it helps people to be social.
  • Jurisprudence is known as the grammar of law as it helps in effective expression and application of legal concepts.
  • It stresses the importance of considering present social needs over the ideas while dealing with the legal problems.
  • It has several fundamental legal concepts to facilitate its effective application in solving legal problems.

Indian Perspective

The Hindu legal system is one of the most ancient legal systems and is based on the concept and philosophy of Dharma. It includes the concept of Nyaya or justice – the law which sustains the entire universe. In Hindus, the concept of Dharma is found to be in ancient times known as “Dharmashastras” which ensures that humans exist in harmony with the entire universe.

Some of the important Code of law are as follows:-

Manu Smriti-

It Consists of a systematic collection of rules of the Dharmashastras which covers all the branches of the law. The language written in Manusmriti is simple which made it a more authoritative source. 

Narada Smriti-

It Consists of substantive as well as procedural laws.

Substantive laws are the laws that define the Offence and Punishment while procedural laws are the laws that define the procedure of the crime.


It Consists of the political treaties of Hindus.

The modern Indian legal system is based on the common law system. And also India us a secular country. So the ancient Hindu legal system has lost its relevance in the modern world.


Many thinkers have questioned the existence of the Jurisprudence as the most important subject of law. The main purpose of this subject is to regulate society to maintain law and order. It also ensures that society remains connected with the philosophy and the thinkers. Without the Jurisprudence, the law would be reduced to a formalistic science and will not facilitate its goal of regulation and will lead it to a situation of chaos and conflicts between the law and society.


  1. https://www.toppr.com/guides/legal-aptitude/jurisprudence/schools-of-jurisprudence-concept-of-dharma/
  2. https://www.legalbites.in/jurisprudence-meaning-importance-and-indian-perspective/
  3. http://racolblegal.com/dharma-and-the-development-of-jurisprudence/

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