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The Concept of Dharma in Indian Jurisprudence


Dharma is a vital idea with different implications in Indian religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and others. The idea of dharma was at that point being used in the chronicled Vedic religion, and its importance and reasonable degree has developed more than a few centuries. Indian law is wealthy generally in view of the different wellsprings of law it rises up out of. It gets legitimacy and acknowledgment from different strict laws, nearby traditions, and customs. Dharma shapes the fundamental establishment of Indian law. Because of its significance in Hindu practices, Dharma assumed a major part in forming Indian law. To see how present-day family and progression laws arose, we need to know the idea of Dharma first.

Concept of Dharma 

To comprehend the idea of Dharma, we need to initially understand what that word implies. Despite the fact that there is no exacting interpretation of “Dharma” in English, numerous individuals use it in various settings. Quite possibly the most well-known implications of Dharma are “duty”. Contingent upon different settings and strict implications, Dharma regularly accepts various implications. For instance, Buddhists allude to Dharma as a cosmic law, while Jains and Sikhs use it to mean strict ways. 

According to Hindu jurisprudence, Dharma means duty in various contexts. This could mean either strict obligations or even friendly, lawful and otherworldly obligations. A few groups likewise utilize the word to mean exemplary nature, which gives it a moralistic understanding. In simply legitimate terms, a few groups allude to the idea of equity as Dharma. 

A few old Hindu writings characterize Dharma and ideas like law, equity, and religion conversely. Subsequently, there seems, by all accounts, to be no differentiation among Dharma and law by and large. In any case, we should comprehend that Dharma has a strict and moralistic premise too.

Origin of Dharma 

Dharma began from Vedas which are Sruti (heard information) and they are the preeminent wellspring of information for people, as the portrayal of what is heard from the old ministers that is Sruti and they contain portrayal on all that could be within reach going from military to governmental issues to ordinary citizens’ life. Its different sources are Smriti, which are the understanding of Vedas and four sages have propounded the dharma sastras and are called Smriti Kars. They are: 

  1. Manu 
  2. Yagnavalkaya 
  3. Brihaspati 
  4. Narada 

The other source has been Puranas which are eighteen in number and contains data about the creation and lines of God, sages and rulers and itemized portrayal of yugas. Every one of the sources are on a similar stride and nobody has matchless quality over the other. 

Thought which caused individuals to hold fast to the Dharma can be outlined by one section from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad which is, “punyo vai punyena Karmana bhavati, Papah Papeneti”, signifying ‘everybody turns out to be acceptable by acceptable deeds and terrible by awful deeds’, at the end of the day ‘each one gets what he really asks for and what’s benefit is characterized by Dharma.

Sources of Dharma

The most punctual notice of “Dharma” happens in Vedic writings like the Rig Veda to mean the establishment of the universe. These strict writings asserted that God made life utilizing by instilling standards of Dharma into every single living animal. Along these lines, salvation (or “moksha”) is the unceasing Dharma for people as indicated by Hinduism. 

Later Hindu writings like the Upanishads incredibly refined the idea of Dharma and made it more moralistic. Since this was the time span when country states began developing, Dharma achieved a legalistic meaning. Hindu lawful codes like Manu smriti utilized Dharma to mean strict and legitimate obligations of individuals. As such, Dharma turned into a prescriptive idea as it depicted what individuals ought to or ought to not do. This understanding of Dharma proceeded and its follows exist even in current Hindu laws. 

Indeed, even Hindu stories like Ramayana and Mahabharat allude to Dharma. They say that playing out one’s Dharma is a definitive point of each person. Since the primary capacity of a lord is to maintain Dharma, these writings frequently allude to authentic figures as “Dharmaraja”. 

In this way, we can consider that to be as an idea arose and was refined from numerous strict Hindu writings. Its importance and degree extended with opportunity until it came to be related with the standards of law and equity. This is actually how we comprehend Dharma today.

Nature of Dharma

In contrast to different schools of jurisprudence, Hindu jurisprudence gives more accentuation to obligations over rights. This is on the grounds that Dharma, in its different undertones, recommends a definitive obligation of each individual. The idea of these obligations may change from one individual to another, yet it’s anything but a focal topic. For instance, a ruler’s Dharma is to maintain strict law, while that of a rancher is to give food. 

Another feature of Dharma is that it greatly resembles natural law schools of jurisprudence. This is on the grounds that antiquated Indian statute accepts that it is God who conceded rights to individuals. Along these lines, a definitive wellspring of all friendly, lawful, political and profound rights is heavenly nature. 

In spite of being a profoundly strict idea in nature, Dharma is multi-layered. It contains laws and customs directing a wide scope of subjects. For instance, messages like Manu smriti manage religion, organization, financial matters, common and criminal laws, marriage, progression, and so on.

Decline Of Dharma and Advent of Positive Law

With the advent of Muslim rule followed by British rule, Dharma (Hindu) began losing its sparkle and roots. During Muslim principle, the spot of dharma was taken by koranic lessons, however numerous practices remained, henceforth it remained chiefly immaculate. Yet, with the beginning of British standard, and their obliviousness of the Indian laws devastatingly affected the idea of Dharma as they discovered no laws here to oversee individuals and they began to fix the issue by either bringing in western law or say normal law with the gadgets of balance, equity and great inner voice or forcing western laws through codification in fields where no law was offered by either the Hindu’s or Muslim’s Natural law, lessons and customs. In any case, the social equality and freedoms delighted in by individuals were removed. Indians were dealt with mercilessly and subjective stifled in each circle of life going from political to social and prudent. Indians retaliated for the rights and freedoms that they delighted in under the steady gaze of under the Law of Dharma. During his well-known champaran preliminary, Gandhiji commented that he defied the law not to show irreverence to British law, ‘but rather in dutifulness to higher law of our being – the bad habit of heart’, by which he implied Dharma.

Post-Independence Era

The battle for freedom was the battle for fundamental rights and common freedoms that one as an essential individual ought to appreciate and the equivalent was remembered, while making The Constitution of India. Hindu law (Dharma) began to been systematized by the progressions in standpoint and ways of life, as it was understood that antiquated way should respect practical methodology of life. The standards of regular law (Dharma) discovered its way into the constitution in the method of crucial rights. Dharma was systematized Dharma as we as a whole know was an obligation based overall set of laws however the current general set of laws turned into a right based one. Obviously, these rights come are not outright that they also have certain limitations. Right to fairness, opportunity of development and most love capable right to life are a portion of the key rights gave. However, there are plentiful confirmations from the historical backdrop of the world too from our own to show the abuse of force whether it been the Hitler’s Nazi or the scandalous Emergency forced by Indira Gandhi and what followed is sufficient to scrutinize the very soul on which our constitution was established. 

The legal executive gave a choice in Habeas Corpus case on a day really alluded as ‘the dark day of Indian lawful history”, which further deflected the belief of individuals in legal executive. In this choice the individual freedoms and essential rights were removed subjectively and the Honourable Supreme Court in not so honourable choice defended it for individual additions, at the same time, not long after the mix-ups were begun to be adjusted. The central rights were made total in renowned I.C. Golaknath case, and later the teaching of fundamental design was propounded by the honourable Supreme Court in His Highness Keshvananda Bharti case, the mentality changed from outright to relative yet law can never be static henceforth total, else it gets ambiguous and pointless. The tenet subsequently established can be said to have following highlights:

  1. Supremacy of the Constitution;
  2. Republican and Democratic form of Government;
  3. Secular character of the Constitution;
  4. Separation of powers between the legislature, executive and the judiciary, and
  5. Federal character of the Constitution.

A Comparison of Dharma and Modern law 

Dharma implies routineness of order generally acknowledged, it incorporates religion, obligation, and inseparable of a quality or an order, though present-day law depends on reasons and incorporates strict viewpoints. Dharma is obligation-based idea, anyway the current law centres around rights instead of obligations. Dharma in itself included ethics, morals and noble lead of a man however the current framework doesn’t perceive the good or moral qualities and as opposed to direct or intention, it presently centres around the demonstration and the outcomes. Dharma pre-assumes a powerful and ties together by the dread of a similar extraordinary yet then again, the law depends on sensibility and ties through lawful assents given by courts (human). Law in present day sense is bound to rights, legitimate obligations and so forth Furthermore, not with exemplary lead and subsequently, is specific in nature while Dharma is all inescapable and all inclusive. The law pre-assumes actually what for man ‘should be’ and depends on sensibility. 

The idea of government assistance state, which is the idea of state today, is found to have establishes in Dharma. The Human Rights and essential rights have prodded from Dharma and Rigveda unmistakably shows abundant confirmations.


Dharma and law as seen above may appear to be interestingly, yet the philosophy behind them is same. Everywhere, law is a piece of Dharma without disharmony and they establish single incorporated entirety. Dharma on one hand is taken to be strict, however it isn’t the case and the equivalent has been endorsed by the honourable Supreme Court much of the time as pointed in above areas. Dharma has been and is directing our lead, ethics and laws in fluctuating degree. One may not discover any connection between the two on the face yet on a profound examination both are interrelated coordinated entirety. ‘Dharma’ is one of the numerous wellsprings of present-day law and is moulding society. Thus, one might say that ‘dharma’ and law are firmly related and joined. Dharma by finishing the assessment of time has shown its unceasing person.


  • Ambujam vs T.S. Ramaswamy, AIR 1973 Delhi 46, 8 (1972) DLT 292. Codification of Hindu marriage related laws into Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  • Emergency turns 39‏, On June 27, 2014 by A. Mandhani, Available at: http://www.livelaw.in/emergency-turns-39%E2%80%8F/
  • Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, AIR 1967 S.C. 1643.
  • His Highness Keshvananda Bharti v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1462-63.
  • Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1978 1 SCC 248. The Supreme Court pointed out, “These fundamental rights represent the basic values cherished by the people of this country since the Vedic times and they are calculated to protect the dignity of the individual and create conditions in which every human being can develop his personality to the fullest extent.”

This article is written by Anushrut Singh Rajawat from University of Petroleum and Energy Studies.


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