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Mythic Jurisprudence: Unravelling the gap between law and mythology

Since we were children, whenever we heard stories about Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, the Pandavas, and other mythical legends, we always wondered, "Are these stories true?" However, the answer to this question cannot be unambiguous since there is a lack of any form of solid proof that can show the veracity, or even the disprovenance, of these tales. Nonetheless, the principles outlined in these stories are critical for people to understand the concepts of justice and law because these stories frequently lay out certain foundations of the legal system and societal structure in a simple manner, and this has served as inspiration for the modern legal system too.

Mythic jurisprudence refers to an idea or a discipline that deals with the study of how mythical legends, texts, and characters influence legal concepts, moral reasoning, and the development of legal systems. This type of approach could be influential in understanding complex legal problems and principles, and one of the best examples could be the "Complete Justice" principle enshrined under Article 142 of the Constitution, for which the judiciary has still not found a definitive answer.

However, when we study the Mahabharata, the great Hindu epic, and observe the conduct of Lord Krishna during the whole story, one would understand that complete justice simply means the greater good, or societal welfare. Similarly, the sensitive matters of same-sex marriages and the legalization of prostitution can also gather support from these mythical stories, which also form an important core in our culture. The stories of Vidura and Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata help us understand the rules of interpretation of statues in a reliable manner since Yudhishthira was known for his strict interpretation and Vidura for her purposeful and broader interpretation that was aimed at ensuring justice. The classic texts of Yakshaprashna and Viduraneeti provide much more details for understanding these concepts properly.

The story of Lord Ram in the epic Ramayana inspires the qualities of good leadership and administration, which can be attributed to the oaths required to be taken by our leaders, which require them to stay truthful and honest in discharging their duties, and the idea of an egalitarian society. Similarly, the stories of Duryodhana, Ravana, and Kansa serve as a warning to the people to make them aware of what a crime is, which is much simpler than reading a specific clause in a 200-page bare act.

Mythic jurisprudence does not have to be restricted to a single faith or group because practically all religions and cultures have a myth or a legend linked to them. For instance, Christian myths and legends offer a different perspective on certain legal issues, and the same is true for other religious traditional myths and legends too.

This eventually helps in comparative analysis of different religions and traditions across the world, which helps in evolving the modern legal system much more broadly and provides scope for a healthy debate because once you remove the religious stigma associated with a particular principle and just see it as a principle that could be applied as a law, the debates take on a different color than those of communalism and fundamentalism.

The same myths and tales have also played a role in long-term environmental and animal protection. For example, tigers are protected since they are regarded as the vehicle of Goddess Durga, and particular portions of forest are designated as "God's Forest," which means no animal or forest in that portion will be harmed by the indigenous people residing there, and they would not let anybody harm the forest too.

However, it is necessary to be aware of some of the limits of the idea of mythic jurisprudence, even though it presents some exciting opportunities for investigating the connection between mythology and the legal system. Myths come from certain times and places in history and culture. If you try to use mythological stories in different legal systems and cultures, you might miss the subtle differences in cultural values, legal practices, and social rules.

To avoid exaggeration or wrong perception, it is important to think about the specific cultural setting in which the story arose, which is why the involvement of the general public in the decision-making process becomes much more important as it is the general public that will be more aware of their regional and cultural myths and traditions. In contrast to empirical evidence, interpretative reasoning is the mainstay of mythic jurisprudence.

Although mythical stories may provide insights and inspiration, it is important to support any application of mythological stories to legal concepts with empirical research, case studies, and other legal sources to guarantee sound and well-supported findings.

The study of mythic jurisprudence encourages us to delve further into the cultural, moral, and symbolic components that shape our legal systems. We may create a greater awareness of the historical and cultural settings that impact our understanding of justice, ethics, and society's values by incorporating mythology into legal discourse.

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