Hindu Law

Schools of Hindu Law: Concepts, Advantages, Criticism

Schools of Hindu Law: Hindu Law is a system of laws that governs the personal matters of Hindus, such as marriage, inheritance, adoption, and succession.

Schools of Hindu Law: Hindu Law is a system of laws that governs the personal matters of Hindus, such as marriage, inheritance, adoption, and succession. It is based on the principles of dharma, which refers to duty, righteousness, and moral values in Hindu philosophy. Hindu Law is not codified, and it is primarily based on ancient Hindu scriptures, such as the Vedas, the Smritis, and the Puranas, as well as customs and traditions followed by Hindus for generations.

Historical Origins of Hindu Law

Hindu Law traces its roots to ancient India, where sages codified principles of dharma into texts known as Smritis. Key Smritis like the Manu Smriti, Yajnavalkya Smriti, and Narada Smriti outline guidelines on personal law, including marriage, inheritance, and property rights.

Different schools of thought emerged based on their interpretations of the Smritis and other texts. 

There are two main schools of Hindu Law, the Mitakshara School and the Dayabhaga School of Hindu Law. The Mitakshara School is based on the commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smriti by Vijnanesvara, a medieval Hindu jurist. It is prevalent in most parts of India, except for the state of Kerala. The Dayabhaga School is based on the commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smriti by Jimutavahana, a medieval Hindu jurist. It is primarily followed in the state of West Bengal and other parts of eastern India.

Mitakshara School of Hindu Law

The Mitakshara School, one of the oldest and widespread schools of Hindu Law, finds its basis in Vijnanesvara’s commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smriti. This school predominates in India, excluding Kerala.

Key Concepts:

  1. Joint Family: Mitakshara recognizes the joint family concept, where property is held jointly and inherited by male members in an unbroken male lineage. Property is considered undivided, and male members possess equal rights.
  2. Coparcenary: This refers to joint property ownership by male members of a Hindu joint family. Sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons have equal shares in the property by birth.
  3. Right to Survivorship: Mitakshara acknowledges the right to survivorship, where a coparcener’s share passes to surviving coparceners upon death, rather than through succession.
  4. Hindu Succession Act, 1956: This legislation, based on Mitakshara principles, initially favored male coparceners in inheritance. However, it was amended in 2005 to grant equal rights to daughters in ancestral property, aligning with gender equality principles.


  • Promotion of Family Unity: Joint family and coparcenary concepts foster unity and lineage preservation.
  • Preservation of Ancestral Property: Mitakshara safeguards ancestral property from alienation without coparceners’ consent.
  • Ensuring Family Property Continuity: Survivorship rights prevent property fragmentation and ensure its retention within the family.


  • Gender Bias: Mitakshara’s initial exclusion of female coparceners contradicts gender equality principles as it recognizes only male coparceners and does not give equal rights to females in matters of property inheritance.
  • Potential Injustice: Survivorship rules may disadvantage heirs of deceased coparceners without male heirs.
  • Lack of Individual Property Control: Joint ownership can lead to intra-family disputes over property management and control.

Despite criticisms, the Mitakshara School’s foundational principles continue to shape Hindu Law, with recent legal reforms aiming to address gender disparities and adapt to evolving societal norms.

Join our Telegram Group for Daily current affairs Updates

Dayabhaga School of Hindu Law

The Dayabhaga School of Hindu Law, predominantly adhered to in West Bengal and other parts of eastern India, finds its roots in the commentary on the Yajnavalkya Smriti by the medieval Hindu jurist, Jimutavahana. Distinguished from the Mitakshara School, the Dayabhaga School introduces unique principles and practices.

Key Concepts of Dayabhaga School:

a) Individual Property: Unlike the Mitakshara School’s emphasis on joint family property, the Dayabhaga School acknowledges individual ownership. Here, property is inherited and owned by individuals rather than by the joint family as a whole. The absence of coparcenary underscores each individual’s independent ownership and control over property.

b) Testamentary Succession: Testamentary succession, a feature recognized by the Dayabhaga School, grants individuals the right to devise their property through a will according to their preferences. In contrast, the Mitakshara School does not acknowledge wills, and property devolves to coparceners following strict rules of succession.

c) Hindu Succession Act, 1956: Significant amendments to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, have impacted the Dayabhaga School. The amended Act mandates equal inheritance rights for daughters, aligning them with sons in matters of succession. This legislative change fosters gender equality within Hindu Law, altering traditional Dayabhaga principles.


  • Individual Property Recognition: By endorsing individual property over joint family property, the Dayabhaga School permits greater flexibility in property management and disposal, empowering individuals with autonomy over inheritance matters.
  • Gender Equality: The Dayabhaga School ensures equal property rights for both genders, adhering to principles of gender equality and fostering inclusivity in property inheritance practices.
  • Testamentary Freedom: Contrary to the concept of survivorship, the Dayabhaga School upholds testamentary freedom, enabling individuals to dictate property distribution through wills, thus honoring their wishes posthumously.


  • Limited Application: The Dayabhaga School’s restricted adoption beyond West Bengal and eastern India leads to conflicts and disputes when individuals from different Hindu Law schools are involved, complicating legal proceedings.
  • Fragmentation of Property: Individual ownership under the Dayabhaga School may lead to property fragmentation, making management and disposal more complex compared to the unified approach of joint family property.
  • Deviating from Tradition: Some critics argue that the Dayabhaga School’s focus on individual property weakens the traditional joint family structure inherent in Hindu society, potentially undermining familial unity and cohesion.

In essence, while the Dayabhaga School offers distinct advantages such as autonomy and gender equality, its limited adoption and departure from traditional norms evoke criticisms regarding its applicability and impact on familial dynamics.

Current Status of Hindu Law Schools

In recent years, legislative reforms have significantly altered the landscape of Hindu Law, championing gender equality, individual rights, and social justice. The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 stands as a pivotal legislation, revolutionizing inheritance and succession norms within Hindu Law by granting daughters equal rights, thereby advancing gender parity.

It’s imperative to recognize Hindu Law as a fluid and adaptive legal system, continuously shaped by shifting societal, cultural, and legal paradigms. Subject to court interpretations and legislative revisions, Hindu Law evolves in response to contemporary needs and values, ensuring alignment with principles of equality, social justice, and individual autonomy.

In summary, India’s Hindu Law schools, namely Mitakshara and Dayabhaga, possess distinct principles, practices, and traditions that have evolved over time. Influenced by commentaries, judicial rulings, and legislative changes, these schools adapt to contemporary demands. While Mitakshara prevails across most regions, Dayabhaga holds sway in West Bengal and parts of the east, while Kerala boasts its unique legal framework. As society progresses, Hindu Law must continually evolve to uphold principles of fairness and equity for all individuals, irrespective of gender or caste.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button