ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How Courts Deal in Practice with Hinduism

Filing Religion: State, Hinduism, and Courtsof Law edited by Daniela Berti, Gilles Tarabout andRaphael Voix, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016;pp 358, `1,095.


The relationship between state and religion is a contentious one, possibly more so in India than in many other countries. The volume under review, edited by three social anthropologists, focuses on one aspect of this relationship—court interventions in Hindu temples, practices and sects—and how they have shaped Hinduism at large. The essays in this book are not restricted to India. One of the contributors looks at Nepal, the only Hindu majority nation other than India, bringing in a welcome comparative perspective.

In their introduction, the editors note that the volume is about how “courts deal in practice with Hinduism” (p xvi). Drawing on and expanding the works of, among others, authors such as Christopher Fuller (1988), Rajeev Dhavan (2001), Marc Galanter (1989) and the reviewer himself, the volume concludes that the “courts are crucial actors in the considerable transformations that religions have undergone in South Asia over the last few centuries” (p xi). In making their case, the contributors explore a wide range of issues, from the ban on the entry of women into Sabarimala during its annual pilgrimage, something which continues to stoke controversy and vex the courts, to the sensational case of the Tarakeswar mahant from colonial times.

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Updated On : 7th Nov, 2017
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