South Indian Hindu legal authorities of the middle period

-700 CE bAlakrIDA a commentary on the yAGNYavAlkya smR^iti was composed by vishvarUpa in Shringagiri in Karnataka.

-?700 CE bhAruchi wrote commentaries on the viShNu dharmashastra and the manusmR^iti.

-1120 CE mitAksharA was written by viGNYAneshvara who was the prime minister of the chAlukya king vikramAditya-04. It was a definitive work on Hindu law that gained currency throughout much of India and continues to be authoritative to this date. It was based on the yAGNYavalkya dharmashAstra. He also wrote the work Asaucha dashaka or a brief set of sholkas on ritual pollution.

-1120 CE The shilahara king aparAditya, who ruled over Goa and the Konkans wrote a great compendium on Hindu law entitled the yAGNYavalkya smR^iti bhAShya. Though it traces it antecedents to yAGNYavalkya’s law book, it is a rather independent volume of law in that era. aparAditya also composed a work on nyAya atomism and logic: the nyAyasAra TIka.

-1150 CE nArAyaNa shAstri, a disciple of viGNYAneshvara composed a compendium on civil law entitled the vyvahAra shiromaNi.

-1200 devana bhaTTa in Karnataka wrote the extensive digest of various smR^itis: smR^iti chandrika

-1260s paNDita haradatta in Tamil Nad wrote his famous commentaries on dharma sUtras of Apastamba and gautama. Some authorities believe he lived in the 800s of CE and also authored a work on the grammar of pANini. They may have been distinct

-1260 hemAdri, the prime minister of the yAdava king of Maharashtra, mahAdeva yAdava, wrote a great Hindu encyclopedia: the chaturvarga chintAmaNi. It is one of the most voluminous Sanskrit works ever composed and covers at length topics like vratas, dAna, tIrtha, moksha, parisheSha, prAyashchitta and vyavahAra. All aspects of Hindu law were encompassed in the encyclopedia along with other topics like geography and ritual. On legal aspects he often mentions devana bhaTTa.

-late 1200s varadarAja in Tamil Nad wrote the vyvahAra nirNaya which tries to interpret the legal principles based on mImAsa.

-1350s mAdhava vidyAraNya, minister of the Vijayanagara empire wrote the parAshara mAdhavIya, which followed at its core the law book of parAshara. However, it independently developed several aspects that were not covered by the hoary smR^iti.

-1350s His brother, sAyaNa, wrote the puruShArtha sudhAnidhi which covers several aspects relating to personal law.

-1375 vishveshvara wrote a text called mitAkShara subodhini that develops on the earlier work of viGNYAneshvara.

-1500 harita venkaTAchArya, a shrivaiShNava scholar composed the smR^iti ratnAkara which survives to this date amongst shrivaiShNava brahmins.

-1510 paNDita dalapati wrote the voluminous text nR^isimha prasAda, a work in 12 chapters that covers all aspects of Hindu civil and ritual law. dalapati was an effective politician who had infiltrated the court of the Nizam Shah and managed to induce the Sultan to allow Hindus to be ruled independent of the Shariat under their own legal code.

-1510 lakShmIdhara, the famed Tantrik from Orissa wrote the sarasvati vilAsa, which systematically deals with the contradictions in aparAditya, viGNYAneshvara and bhAruchi’s work and attempts a conciliatory synthesis.

-1600 vaidyanAtha dIkShita in Tamil Nad wrote the smR^iti muktAphala which is considered as an authoritative text on legal issues by the smArta brahmins of Tamil Nad.

This brief survey shows that Hindu law was not static as is commonly painted in Leftist and secularist history-writing on India. While the legal issues were based on the earlier legal tradition comprising of dharma sUtras followed by the smR^itis or the dharma shAstra, they typically diverged from their precedents. The divergence allowed discussion of new legal issues uncovered by the earlier legal sources and importantly account for the changing times. Attempts were made to compile legal digests by drawing out material from diverse earlier authorities, as well as develop new systems by recombination and reconciliation of earlier sources. In several cases, new concepts may be slipped in with different degrees of conservative or reformist opinion.

However, it should be kept in mind that many of the issues are mainly relevant to the Arya varNas and their pre-occupations. It is clear that the fourth varNa was sort outside of the consideration of many of the points discussed in the smR^iti and hence their complaints about enforcement of oppressive laws by the Arya varNas are rather unjustified on occasions.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on January 5, 2005.

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