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Author: Raju Kumar, III Year of B.A.,LL.B from Central University of South Bihar.

Co-author: Varsha Rani, III Year of B.A.,LL.B from Central University of South Bihar.

If we talk about the earlier/ primitive human civilization, the man lively stock was mainly hunting of animals or supply of animals. At that primitive time for existence of life there was conflict between the man and the animals. So there was no demand of law in society because law needs to modify conflicts between the man and the man.

As we know that the society is always tends to developing by passing of time. So as the civilization develops the man lively stock were change to agriculture and trade. With the advent of agriculture and trade, men were connected to other men and the saving of wealth starts, economy established in the society in the form of agriculture yields, trade and labor Further the theory of mine and thine developed in the society in the form of maximum benefit and minimum loss in the economy.

The society developed as in the scenario mentioned above then conflicts between man and man starts so to settle out these conflicts the law developed in the ancient India.


In this civilization there is no any historical sources for evidence of legal system. It means there is no any proof of what kind of legal system or what kind of law prevails in the Harrapan civilization.

VEDIC PERIOD (1500 BC -- 600 BC)

Law exists from this Vedic period. It means the sources of law in Ancient Legal System of India starts from the Vedic period.


The Ancient Legal System starts from the Vedic period. The Ancient Legal System has been categorized in to three categories as per the development phase of the legal system.

1. The Vedic period or Pre Sutras Period

2. Dharma Sutras Period

3. The Smriti Period or Post Sutras Period

The Vedic Period or Pre Sutras Period

Vedas are shrutis. The Shruti means that which was heard and handed down from generation to generation verbally. The sources of the the Shrutis was believed to be divine. The collection of four Vedas, six Vedangs along with eighteen Upanishads are collectively called as Shrutis.


S. No Vedas Description01Rig Veda Oldest religious text in the world. It consists of 1028 hymns and is divided into 10 mandalas or books02Sama VedaIt is a collection of hymns, taken from the 8th and 9th mandalas of the rigveda and used for the purpose of singing during rituals. The origin of Indian music has been traced to it.03 Yajur Veda It presecribes the rituals for performing different sacrifice with the hymns, documenting the social and political milieu of the period.04 Atharva Veda It contains 711 hymns. It contains Charms and spells in verse, to word off evil forces and diseases.


Smriti is not meant for chanting. Smriti is meant for memorization. Vedangas (Veda+ Anga, Limbs of vedas) are part of Smriti literature.

S.No VedangsDiscription01Siksha (phonetics)Siksha means the teaching of the correct pronunciation of the hymns and mantras of the Vedic literature.02Kalpa (rituals canon)The kalpa contains the sacrificial practice of the Dharma Shastras03 Vyakaran (grammar)Panini is the 1st known grammarian of India. Panini wrote Ashtadhyayi, 8 chapters. Ashtadyayi- 1st book on grammar.04 Nirukta (explanation)Nirukta deals with the origin of the word.05Chandas (Vedic meter)Chandas divides the Vedic mantras in padas or verses.06Jyotisha (Astrology)Jyotisha describes the motion of sun and the moon and laid down the foundation of Vedic jyotish.


The Eighteent Upanishads are:-- Isavasya, Brahadaranyaka, Jabala, Hamsa, Paramahamsa, Subala, Mantrika, Niralamba, Trisikhibragmana, Mandalabrahman, Advayataraka, Paingala, Bhikshuka, Turiyatita, Adhyatma, Yajnavalkya, Satyayani, Tarasara

The Shrutis contains some sources of Dharma. Dharma is used as law in Vedas. There is no any actual traces of word law in Vedic period. Instead of word law the word Dharma is used. The word Dharma is used to mean justice (nyaya). The word nyaya means what is right in given circumstances, moral, religious, pious or righteous conduct, being helpful to living beings , giving charity or alms, duty, law and usage or custom having the force of law.

It is difficult to trace the word law in Vedas except the following indication. These induction are positive (vidhis) or negative (nishedas) indication. There are several Vidhis and Nishedas which formed foundation of smiriti law in sutras period. Some of such Vidhis and Nishedas in the Vedas are as follows:--

  • Tell the truth

  • Never hurt anyone

  • Never tell untruth

  • Treat your father and mother as God

  • Follow Dharma

  • Perform only such acts which are not forbidden. .......etc


SHABHA SMITIShabha was local assembly at village leval that deals with small matter. Smiti was national assembly and judicature. It deals with the large disputes and the cases which were not solved out in shabha.Shabha was a lower court Smiti was higher court to shabha and it was a national leval court Shabhavada, a legal expert person who decided the cases in shabha.King himself decided the cases in the smiti.Few members participate in the shabha Whole folk community take participate in smiti.

In ancient time the true king was regarded as who protect the Shabha and Smiti. Means the true king is the king in which period the Shabha and Smiti works in a proper smooth way without any discontinuity and hindrence.

In Vedas term used as law can be described as:--

Satya (सत्य) :-- The social law

Rta/Rit (रित) :-- The natural law/ The moral law


In earlier civilization the man mainly depends upon the hunting and supplying of animals for existence of their life so there were no need of law. As the civilization developed and the conflict between man and man arise the need of law enables the evolution of ancient legal system which starts from the Vedic period. The Ancient Legal System has been categorised in to three categories ie:- (the Vedic or Pre Sutras Period), (the Dharma Sutras Period), (the Smriti Period or Post Sutras Period). Basically this write up deals with The Vedic or Pre Sutras Period of the Ancient Legal System of India. In this period we go throuh the four Vedas, six Vedangs and the eighteent Upanishads. Mainly the word Dharma is used as a law. Shabha and Smiti are the two institutions that protect the Dharma and delivered the justice (nyaya).


Dr. S.R Myneni, Indian History Allahabad Law Agency

Manohar Pandey , General Studies , Arihant Publications (India) Limited


Nandan Dhanuwanshi
Nandan Dhanuwanshi
Mar 09, 2022

Well Done Dude 👍

Chandan Sharma
Chandan Sharma
Mar 09, 2022
Replying to

Thanks a bunch for such creativity to both cusbian Raju sir and Varsha ma'am.

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