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Abstract

This essay examines the similarities and differences between legal and other precepts outlining corporal punishment in ancient and medieval Indian and early medieval European laws. Responding to Susan Reynolds’s call for such comparisons, it begins by outlining the challenges in doing so. Primarily, the fragmented political landscape of both regions, where multiple rulers and spheres of authority existed side-by-side, make a direct comparison complex. Moreover, the time slippage between what scholarship understands to be the “early medieval” period in each region needs to be taken into account, particularly given the persistence of some provisions and the adapatation or abandonment of others. The paper goes on to consider how the body and face are presented as sites of injury and punishment, and asks whether the prescriptive measures actually played out in practice. Despite tangible links between the Indian subcontinent and Europe during the period under review, it is concluded that direct influence of one set of laws upon the other is unlikely.