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Open Access Judicial processes and legal authority in pre-colonial Bali

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Judicial processes and legal authority in pre-colonial Bali

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image of Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia

Law codes with their origins in Indic-influenced Old Javanese systems of knowledge comprise an important genre in the Balinese textual record. Written in Kawi – a term encompassing Old Javanese, Middle Javanese and High Balinese – the legal corpus forms a complex and overlapping web of indigenous legal texts and traditions that encompass the codification and administration of civil and criminal justice as well as concepts of morality and right conduct. The most significant codes include the Adhigama, Kuṭāramānawa, Pūrwādhigama, Sārasamuccaya, Swarajambu, Dewāgama (also called Krĕtopapati) and Dewadanda. Each of these law codes belongs to a shared tradition of legal thought and practice that is linked to Sanskrit Mānavadharmaśāstra traditions. Manu’s code, most notably the aṣṭadaśawyawahāra section detailing the eighteen grounds for litigation, was adopted as the model of legal textual principle in the early stages of contact between ancient India and the Indonesian archipelago. Over the course of many centuries, this model informed legal and juridical practice and was adapted and modified to suit indigenous needs. The law codes remained in use in Java until the advent of Islam towards the end of the fifteenth century, and in Bali until the colonial period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Balinese legal textual corpus comprises dozens of interrelated manuscripts, some complete and some fragmentary. They provide significant insights in to pre-colonial judicial practices and forms of government. This article provides a survey of the corpus of legal texts and explores the nature of law in pre-colonial Bali.

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