The Constitution of India through an amendment of 1976 prescribes a Fundamental Duty ‘to have compassion for living creatures’. The use of this notion in actual legal practice, gathered from various judgments, provides a glimpse of the current debates in India that address the relationships between humans and animals. Judgments explicitly mentioning ‘compassion’ cover diverse issues, concerning stray dogs, trespassing cattle, birds in cages, bull races, cart-horses, animal sacrifice, etc. They often juxtapose a discourse on compassion as an emotional and moral attitude, and a discourse about legal rights, essentially the right not to suffer unnecessary pain at the hands of humans (according to formulae that bear the imprint of British utilitarianism). In these judgments, various religious founding figures such as the Buddha, Mahavira, etc., are paid due tribute, perhaps not so much in reference to their religion, but rather as historical icons—on the same footing as Mahatma Gandhi—of an idealized intrinsic Indian compassion.
This collection of studies aims to contribute to a better understanding of the relationships between justice and the exercise of power in various societies of Africa, Asia and Europe. The growing awareness that we have of judicial practices around the world leads to a renewed questioning of their link with the actual power relationships structuring the socio-political field.
Many Hindu temples in Kerala are called 'groves' (kāvu), and encapsulate an effective grove – a small spot where shrubs and trees are said to grow 'wildly'. There live numerous divine entities, serpent gods and other ambivalent deities or ghosts, subordinated to the presiding god/goddess of the temple installed in the main shrine. The paper discusses this situation along two main lines. One is to trace the presence of these groves and of their dangerous inhabitants to religious ideas found in Kerala about land and deities, and about forests as a major source of divine (wild) power. The other is to point out recent discourses ascribing an antique ecological purpose and consciousness at the origin of temple groves, thus equating ecology with a strictly contained – and tiny – 'wilderness'.
The Indian and the Nepalese Constitutions posit a separation between a secular domain regulated by the state and a religious domain in which it must not interfere. However, defining the difference between the two has proved difficult. Moreover, the state is directly and increasingly involved in various ways in the direct administration of many religious institutions. Given that the legal status of Hindu idols is recognized, deities may sue or be sued; and the courts are frequently asked to decide on various rights linked to religious functions and bodies. Such decisions often have a far-reaching impact on rituals and on religious specialists, and contribute to (re)defining religious categories and practices. Indeed, it is our view that the courts' apparently ‘technical’, legalistic action actually shapes the place religion occupies in Indian and Nepalese society, perhaps even more so than the ideology of any political party.
Indian concepts for which the terms 'sin' and 'expiation' are regularly given are respectively pāpa and prāyaścitta (Skt.). They are often associated with the notion of karma: briefly said, the misfortune which one experiences may be explained as being the consequence of one's own acts committed in a previous life and those past actions are termed 'sinful' in English translations. A 'sinner' may however alleviate to some extent the consequences of his 'sins' by practicing 'expiations'. Put into English in this vocabulary, things look familiar, perhaps a bit too much. My argument is that in the context of astrology, what is rendered as 'sin' or 'expiation' corresponds to a more ambivalent conception of wrong deeds, of their consequences, and of the solutions they call for, than what may be found in Christian-inspired cultures. This suggests in turn that the contrast drawn between 'the 'transcendental' and the 'practical' aspects of religion, may not be a very fruitful one.
The history of the Indian legal order shows an intricate construction of institutions and codifications which relate to the British legal system, to Hindu or Muslim traditions (partly reinvented), and, since independence, to various international interactions. The question of culture - local, religious, or national- has thus regularly been at the core of juristic concerns, whether to leave place to aspects of personal law according to more or less reified representations of culture, or to impose a reformist legal agenda. Scholarship in this domain has followed two main trends: one is the study of the cultural components of Indian law; the other is the study of the cultural use of the Courts. The present chapter aims at presenting another, less explored, approach, focusing on Court proceedings and how they tackle with the cultural components of the cases to be decided in practice.
A partir d'une réflexion préliminaire sur un tableau de Courbet figurant un chêne centenaire, choisi pour l'affiche d'un colloque sur "Les Ancêtres" réunissant anthropologues et psychanalystes, et dont est issu cet ouvrage, il s'agit de mettre à jour quels modèles possibles pourraient rendre compte des diverses conceptions de l'ancestralité que l'on rencontre en Inde. Deux aspects sont ainsi mis en avant. D'une part, les conceptions de l'ancestralité sont diverses : elles se côtoient et interagissent dans une même région, dans un même village, et présentent un caractère parfois éclaté, voire hétérogène, pour une même personne. D'autre part, les représentations sous-jacentes mettent l'accent sur des liens et des circulations. Certes, elles prennent des formes différentes parmi les hautes castes ou parmi les basses castes, mais dans les deux cas la vision qui domine repose moins sur des images d'enracinement ou de ramification, que sur celles de chaîne ou de cycle.