Hindu law is not a law as understood in modern times. A law in the present sense would mean an act framed by the legislature of a State. Hindu law has not been made by legislature but it is the law made by the Divine Being and which has been re-built in the Vedas.
It is the Dharma, i.e. the duties and rules of conduct- moral, religious, and political, enjoined by the Almighty on the Hindu community. Thus, it covers all the laws which are kept separate under the modern system of law.
Thus, Hindu law as understood in the ancient times was not the command of the political sovereign of community. Rather, it was the command of the Supreme Being applicable to both- the King and his subjects, the ruler and the ruled. The King and his subjects were equally subjected to the law. In order to bring certainty to them, the laws were codified by the writers of Dhramashastra. Thus, the nature of the Hindu Law is essentially different from the laws of the land.
According to the Hindu Law, those violate the Dharma shall be destroyed and those who follow it shall be protected. This is applicable both to the King and his subject. Later on, this law was applied to the Hindus by the authority of the following:
i. Acts of the Parliament
ii. Imperial Legislation
iii. Provincial Legislation
iv. Principles of Justice, Equity and Good Conscience.
The concept of Hindu law is deeply rooted in the Hindu philosophy and Hindu religion. The ancient Hindu social structure and its continuance in modern times is, to a great extent, outcome of the Hindu philosophy and religion.
The ultimate aim of life, according to Hindu law is to achieve salvation or Moksha from the physical world. Human being is mortal but the soul is immortal. When a person dies, the soul is in a free state and it acquires a new form of re-birth. Thus the change of birth and death continue till the soul attains Moksha from this world.
According to the Dharmashastra, there are four goals of human life- Artha, Dharma, Kama and Moksha. Moksha or salvation is the ultimate goal. As a matter of fact, Artha and Kama are concerned with this world, whereas, Dharma and Moksha are concerned with the next world. A life in accordance to Dharma leads to happiness and pleasure in this life also.
Hindu social structure is the outcome of Hindu philosophy. According to Hindu philosophy, the attainment of salvation is the ultimate goal of life and can be achieved by performing good deeds.A person suffers pain as well as pleasure in his life according to the good or bad deeds that he may have done. The entire human life is controlled by his past deeds.
The Hindu social structure may be referred alongside the concept of Ashrama- Dharma. according to Shastric concept of human life, it has been considered that the average life of a human being is a hundred years. It is to be divided into four stages of twenty five years each. The division is related to the division of the four Ashramas:
An individual could get salvation from this physical world by performing the prescribed duties under these four Ashramas. Though the Dharma dominated all the four stages of Ashramas, yet the attainment of the other three objectives are not less essential than Dharma and the human beings should conduct their lives in accordance with Dharma.