The Hindu Moses

Robert A. Yelle

in The Language of Disenchantment

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199924998
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980444 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

The Hindu Moses

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Chapter 5 addresses another aspect of the colonial critique of Hindu ritual. As part of their administration of India, the British incorporated the ancient texts of Hinduism known as the Dharmaśāstras, which they believed contained Hindu law. The Dharmaśāstras, however, contained not merely laws for inheritance, succession, and the enforceability of contracts, but also a cosmology, an ethic, and especially a ritual code premised on the caste system, which attempted to maintain the separation and purity of the castes through prescriptions of diet and social intercourse. To the British, such provisions were extraneous to a system of positive, secular law, and reflected a primitive stage at which law had not yet become distinct from religion. Far from religiously neutral, such attitudes toward Hinduism expressed theological presuppositions concerning the separation of religion from law, and of both of these categories from ritual. The Christian condemnation of Jewish ritual law as empty ceremonial, replaced by the spiritual religion of the Gospel, informed colonial comparisons between Hindus and Jews, as well as the forcible secularization of Hindu law and the disestablishment of its ritual dimensions.

Keywords: law; ritual; Judaism; Mosaic law; ceremonial law; typology; supersessionism; Dharmaśāstra; secularization; John Duncan Martin Derrett

Chapter.  10011 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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