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Hindu Law Of Inheritance In Ancient Hinduism – Dayabhaga

Dayabhaga, which means division of wealth, refers, primarily, to the inheritance and division of the wealth of a person after his death. The division of paternal property by the children as per Hindu law in ancient Hinduism is dayabhaga.

The concept and law in its religious dimension, has its origin in Vedic ideas about the religious competence and duty of patrilineal descendants to liberate the souls of their ancestors by performing prescribed rites. This follows the belief that their s no salvation without begetting children. Manusmriti states – through a child one conquers the world, through a grandchild one obtains immortality and through a great grandchild one gains the world of sun (IX.137). This statement resonates with the debt theory, i.e. the discharging of the debt due to ancestors, gods, and sages. Debt due to ancestors is connected with ancestor worship, which can be linked with inheritance rights.

The two components of the term, Dayabhaga, are controversial. The word daya means wealth that becomes another’s property simply due to the fact of relationship. Bhaga or Vibhaga is defined as the allotment to individuals of definite portions of wealth-aggregates over which many persons have joint ownership. Partition involves the location of ownership. For at least a thousand years, there have been two schools that differed widely on these two subjects. They are known as Mitakshara School represented by Vijnaneshwara, the celebrated commentator of Yajnavalkya Smriti and the Dayabhaga School, represented by Jimutavahana. The latter school is predominant in Bengal and the former in the other parts of India.

The Mitakshara School divides daya into two types, unobstructable (apratibandha) and obstructable (sapratibandha). The former refers to the case of sons, grandson, and great-grandsons who, by virtue of their relationship alone, automatically gain ownership of the ancestral property held by the father and grandfather. However, when a man receives the property of a paternal uncle, it is an “obstructible inheritance”, because of the existence of a son could present an obstruction to the nephew’s succession. According to the Dayabhaga School, all daya is obstructable, inasmuch as ownership arises in another only on the death of the previous owner. The doctrine of this school is called ownership arising from survivorship (uparamasvattvavada).

The three most important works of the Dayabhaga School are:

  • Dayabhaga of Jimutavahana,
  • Dayatattva of Raghunandana and
  • Dayakramasangraha of Sri Krishna Tarkalankara.

The Mitakshara School has four secondary schools –

  • The Banaras School, for which the Viramitrodaya of Mitra Mishra is the authority;
  • The Mithila School, which has Vivadaratnakara of Chandeshwara and Vivadacinatamani of Vachaspati as authorities
  • The Maharashtra School, with Vyavaharamayukha of Nilakantha as the authority
  • The Dravida School, for which Smrtichandrik of Debbana Bhatta, Parasaramadhaviya of Madhavacharya, the Vaidyanathadikshitiya of Vaidyanatha Dikshita and Sarasvativilasa of Prataparudra are authoritative.

Source – 

  1. Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume III – page 338-9 – Rupa – IHRF 2011.
  2. Legal and Constitutional History of India Vol. 1 (1990) Jois. M . Rama – N M Tripathy Mumbai.