The Law of The Stick

Subject: Indian tale.

Author: Erin P. Moore

Book: Gender, Law and Resistance in India.

Original performance: “A clever Brahman received a buffalo from his patron. The buffalo was fat and looked as if it had a lot of milk. Taking the buffalo the Brahman walked the direction of his village. The road was deserted and dangerous. Halfway there the Brahman saw a man carrying a walking stick [lathi] in his hand. The man tried to make friends with the Brahman and walked with him for a while. After a bit he stopped and said “Brahman, Maharaj, your buffalo if very strong, give it to me. “Why give it to you?’ the Brahman said.” No reason” the man said, swinging his stick in the air. “Quickly, give me the buffalo. If you don’t give me the buffalo immediately, with this I’ll smash your skull to pieces. To the extent possible, I want to save myself from the sin of killing a Brahman. Otherwise, I’ll put an end to you.

The Brahman was startled. He too was strong. But upon looking at the stick in the mans hands he became worried. He thought for a moment then said happily “ brother, if you want to take this buffalo, give me something in exchange. If you take it without paying, wont this is a sin for you? I am a Brahman. If you give me something, it wont be a sin.” “What do I have to give you?” the man said. “If I had something id give you for sure.” “You have a stick,” the Brahman said, smiling to himself. “Give this to me. I am a Brahman- what does the stick mean to me? I am a Brahman and in this way you can save yourself from sin. I understand your dharma. Exchange the stick for the buffalo and you will be saved from sin.”

On hearing this, the man was very pleased. He thought, “this Brahman, what a fool he is! He is exchanging just a stick for this sturdy buffalo.” He immediately gave his stick to the Brahman. “Move aside, move aside! “The Brahman said loudly. “Move away from my buffalo. If you don’t I’ll break your skull.” He swung his stick in the air. “What is this Maharaj?” the man said nervously. “Why wont you give me the buffalo in exchange for me stick?” “You don’t know?” the Brahman scolded him.” The one who owns the stick owns the buffalo, now go away.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: this story is shared by villages in Rajasthani to display their vision of justice that “might makes right.”

Thoughts about the piece: This piece is interesting because it exhibits the view of justice held by the villagers of Rajistani, which is very different to those of the West. While the west believes in trial and equal sharing, the unfair might of the powerful is what drives justice in these villages.


Moore, Erin P. Gender, Law, and Resistance in India. Tucson: U of Arizona, 1998.