THE AUTHOR AND THE WORKS ON POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY
V. Nagarajan (b.1930) after his graduation from University of Madras migrated to Nagpur where he did his post-graduation in Sociology. He was on the faculty of Hislop College from 1955 to 1966. His thesis in Political Sociology, Society Under an Imperial State with special reference to Kautilya’s Arthasastra was awarded Ph.D.
In 1966 he joined Porwal College, Kamptee, Nagpur as Principal. Even after his retirement in 1990 he was engaged in examining the studies in Indology from the perspective of Political Sociology. His thesis, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India From Manu To Kautilya was awarded D.Litt. in 1990. This work published in 1992 was followed in 1994 by his work, Origins of Hindu Social System, an analysis of the social classification and stratification prescribed in Manusmrti. In 1997, he came out with his work, Foundations of Hindu Economic State, which was a radical departure from his 1965 thesis based on Kautilya’s Arthasastra. In 1999 his work, Hindu Social Dynamics which was published in three volumes drew its data from the epics and ancient chronicles and traced the transition of the Hindu Society from the pre-varna Vedic social order to the post-Vedic social system based on four varnas.
Prologue to Hindu Political Sociology finalized in 2000 retraced the ground covered in the earlier works.
In 2001 his thesis on Krshna’s Gita as Rajavidya was finalized. In it he brought out Krshna’s Theory of Administration of the Polity and his counsel to the school that was drafting Manava Dharmasastra.
Manusmrti had to be reexamined and its Social Polity and Institution of Justice were presented in a the study in Socio-Political Constitution (2022) devoid of biases and prejudices that have marked most of the studies on this important work.
This treatise is followed by an intense study of the major Upanishads from the point of view of Hindu Political Sociology (2004). This is the first time that the Upanishads have been drawn on for tracing the salient features and orientations of Hindu Political Sociology. This work is further examined from the constitutional angle in Brahma-sutras and Neo-Vedic Socio-Political Constitution (2005).
Intensive studies that have been made of the great epic, the Mahabharata, while tracing the theorems pertaining to Hindu Political Sociology led to the outline of the concept of Hindu Social Welfare State, Dharmarajya.
This website is
His findings and interpretations are presented here as books on Passage to Hindu State.
Gita enjoys the same status as The Bible and The Koran. In fact it is a major contribution of Krishna (who has later been deified) to sociopolitical thought and reorganization of the social polity of Ancient India. Dr. Nagarajan's previous works deal with the transition from the pre-varna Vedic society of Ancient India to the post-Vedic varna society which survives to this day.
Every one of the seven hundred verses of the Gita has been examined critically with reference to this transition and creation of a new rational social polity. All religiosity and ethnicity have been kept out in order to arrive at a schemata that may be applicable to all societies and civilizations. Many misconceptions about ancient India and myths and stereotypes have been dispelled in these works.
Manusmriti, the most discussed Hindu law is being re-examined from a rationalist angle by Dr. Nagarajan in his works.
As with his previous works, the new research by Dr. Nagarajan is expected to be immensely useful to research scholars and students in Indology and ancient civilizations and also the students of comparative polity and religion besides to those associated with the task of governance of South Asia.
Hindu State is not a theocratic state. It is a combination of Dharmarajya which is an egalitarian liberal state striving for social welfare and social justice and Artharajya that enthuses everyone to strive for economic progress through investment of savings, through entrepreneurship and equitable distribution of dividends among all social sectors.
This compilation brings out the significance of this aspect of Hindu Social Polity among many other significant ones . It also underlines that neither Vedas (Srutis) nor the later codes (Sastras) have unlike the Upanishads and Brahmasutras presented a constitution that would subordinate the head of the state and the executive and the legislature to the judiciary and the judiciary to a committee of veterans.
This compilation highlights the features of the different constitutions that were in force during the Vedic and the Upanishadic periods. They have till now remained elusive
Will Hindu movements, ideologues and activists relearn the features of the Hindu State and try to rebuild one that weaves together social justice and economic progress?
Exoticism and mysticism need to be discarded and rigorous rationalism adhered to while trying to understand Ancient India.
CONSTITUTION AND FEATURES
STRUGGLE AGAINST AUTOCRACY
AGAINST BALI AND USANAS
Incarnations of Vishnu
Kashyapa had become a legend in his own times. Aditi, Diti and Danu were three of his eight wives. They were said to be daughters of Prajapati Daksha. The Daityas and Danavas, the offspring of Diti and Danu, were as much a part of the larger society as Adityas, the offspring of Aditi were. They were not demons. If the warlords, Daityas, were dreaded and the plutocrats, Danavas, despised, the aristocrats, Adityas, were honoured. But Kashyapa himself treated all the eight social sectors including the Asuras or Daityas, the Yakshas or Danavas and the Devas as the ‘offspring’ of Aditi. He discouraged the tendency to decry the Asuras and Yakshas, Gandharvas and Apsarases and Nagas and Sarpas.
His call for union without uniformity and non-interference by others in the customs of any group led to his being acclaimed as the ancestor of all social groups. Urukrama and Vivasvan are treated as the sons of Kashyapa and Aditi. Urukrama or Vamana is revered as an incarnation of Vishnu while Vivasvan is held to be the ‘father’ of Manu Vaivasvata. The approved neo-intellectuals and neo-Kshatriyas like the traditional classes of intellectuals and warriors are traced to Aditi. We should not read beyond this in these lineages. However we should not discard the legends pertaining to the incarnations of Vishnu as mere fiction. We have to dwell on their implications for social dynamics.
Varaha (Boar) incarnation was connected with the slaying of Hiranyaksha, Narasimha with the slaying of his brother, Hiranyakasipu and Vamana with the dethroning of Bali, grandson of Hiranyakasipu. According to some chroniclers, Matsya (fish) incarnation dealt with Hayagriva and Kurma (tortoise) dealt with the churning of the ‘ocean’ by the two rival groups, nobles and feudal lords Devas and the Asuras. These and the events pertaining to the exploits of Parasurama, Dasaratharama, Balarama and Krishna ‘took place’ within a period of about a century. They were not separated from one another by millennia.
The first editions of the legends, Puranas, were well acquainted with them. While the Vaishnavaites lauded the roles of Vishnu in them, the Saivaites condemned several of them. The editors of the Bhagavatam were hard put to defending these, for more than others they tried to be objective in their approach to these events.
Socio-political Aspects of the Conflict:
Varaha versus Hiranyaksha
Young Hiranyaksha went about as a lone warrior, Ekavira, carrying a trident and an iron mace, challenging one and all to duel with him. The nobles and their leader, Indra, hid themselves from this ferocious brother, companion and representative of the feudal lord (asura), Hiranyakasipu (Bhagavatam 3-17-22). As he entered Varuna’s domain, the troops of the latter fled. They were warriors only in name. The western region, which Varuna (often described as the god of the oceans) guided as ombudsman, was noted for minimal and diffused governance, vairajyam, bordering anarchism. The warrior reached Vibhavari, the capital of Pracetas and asked Rshabha Pracetas to battle with him.
The official, designated as Pracetas or Rshabha or Nandi, had to be first approached by any supplicant before the latter was permitted to meet the head of the state who functioned under the Purusha constitution. Purusha became the head of the state by his all-round ability to lead the society. Neither Varuna nor Pracetas was a king. Varuna, one of the eight functionaries of the Vedic social polity, functioned as regent during interregnum. Pracetas was a senior counsellor and scholar. He might have assumed the role of the King himself and performed a Rajasuya sacrifice to become eligible to carry out the functions of the King as judge and arbitrator.
Purusha and Pracetas
This Pracetas had subdued the Daityas and Danavas, the feudal lords and the plutocrats. He was not prepared for war and said that he and his men had decided to abjure war and follow a policy of subsidiary peace (upasamam, peace between two rulers who are not equal in strength and status) (29). He advised Hiranyaksha to seek a reply from the Viraj, the ancient (purana) Purusha. The Viraj whose subordinate and regent this Pracetas was, had earlier held the rank of Purusha. While the Viraj presided over a group (mandala) of five states and had tenure of ten to twelve years, the Purusha was the ruler of only one state but held his post for life, that is, for twenty to twenty-four years.
We would avoid going by the description that has come down since the medieval times that the expression, Viraj, the purana Purusha referred to God Vishnu who is believed to be in existence since the very beginning and is eternal. Pracetas as a subordinate ruler or regent could enter into truce but not into peace. Unlike the Viraj and the Purusha, he was not a sovereign. We are introduced to the intricacies of the political setup under the Arthasastra of Pracetas Manu who belonged to the Rudra school of political thought.
Hiiranyaksha learnt from Narada (a statesman and mediaor) that in the new setup, this chief, Purusha was in Rasatala, a land that the Daityas claimed to be theirs. They were residents of this marshy land which was full of trees. The former Purusha, later described as Varaha (hippo, rhino, pig?), was wandering there like a forest animal. He wanted to make this land secure for the sages and the nobles, rshis and devas. Hiranyaksha accused him of having killed the feudal lords (asuras) from his secret hideouts. In 3-18-10, the Daitya is described as gramasimha, suggesting that he had jurisdiction only over the villages and not over the forest covered marshy lands, which were open to all. The Purusha claimed that he and his men had taken over this land and were prepared to fight. This struggle is compared to the one between the elephant (Gajendra, a Pandya chieftain and technocrat who did not heed Agastya’s warning) and the crocodile (Hu-hu, a Gandharva chieftain who hosted a conclave of heterodox intellectuals) in the Gajendra-moksham episode.
Tvashtas vs. Maruts
Who was this Purusha? Bhagavatam (3-19-25) calls him Adhokshaja, one born to Adhoksha. This rare epithet of Vishnu means the axle at the lower level and is connected with the concept of Vairajarupa. Vairajam (diffused governance) and Vairupam (absence of a definite social structure) marked the western region. The Rann of Kutch, an area below the sea level, might have been meant by the term, Adhoksha. This verse also suggests that Hiranyaksha was the son of a smith, Tvashta, and the Purusha was a Marutpati, a chieftain belonging to the Maruts, one of the four traditional groups of nobles. (Adityas, Vasus and Rudras were the other three groups.) There was a conflict between the Maruts and the Tvashtas over the right to occupy this marshy land, Rasatala, and exploit its mineral resources. Both the groups must have belonged to the region to the west of the Aravallis. The Maruts wanted to hold this land on behalf of the sages and the nobles.
Two Alliances----Trisamdhi vs. Chakra
The verse 3-18-12 indicates that in the assembly of the nobles and the feudal lords and others, Hiranyaksha had vowed to wipe the tears of his kin who had lost in the internecine war for control over Rasatala. He was placed in charge of an infantry. He himself was on a chariot. In the battle with maces he had an upper hand but when the Purusha resorted to the discus, chakra, the Daitya took up the trident but could not succeed. [The battle had taken the colour of one between Vaishnavaites and Saivaites, followers of Vishnu who wielded the discus and those of Siva who wielded the Trident as their weapons.] The former (followers of Vishnu) admired and advocated the policy of confederation of social groups on the periphery (chakram) to keep away anti-social elements from harming the approved sections of the unarmed core society who were committed to peace.
The concept of Trisamdhi (or Trident) brought together, the three social worlds (the urban patriciate, the rural commonalty and the forest society) against the recalcitrant elements among the feudal chieftains. The followers of Siva approved it. Hiranyaksha resorted to this concept and alliance to offset the might of the above confederation. But he failed and got killed in the duel with Purusha Varaha. It was a major battle between two socio-political alliances.
This event might have taken place closer to the period of Manu Svarochisha when a new Viraj had taken over in the western region known for its Vairajam and Vairupam. It was also a period when the concept, Pracetas, as a political authority became prominent. Hiranyaksha met his death at the hands of Varaha and his brother, Hiranyakasipu, at those of Narasimha, a leader of free men (naras). Hiranyakasipu’s son, Prahlada, was a student of Narada. The conflicts between the feudal warlords and the supporters of the liberal cultural aristocracy are not to be interpreted as conflicts between god and satan or gods and demons or even between good and evil. They were conflicts between different socio-political systems and interests.
Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada, Virochana, Bali
Prahlada had rejected the principles of polity advocated by the school of Usanas, which was patronized by the feudal lords. He was granted the status of Prajapati, chief of the people, and his rule was legitimized. Bhishma was an ardent admirer of Prahlada’s policy of creating a ‘cultured’ society with the ruler setting a personal example. Both Krshna and Badarayana held him in high esteem. Prahlada, Narada and Angirasa were Prajapatis who respected one another.
Virocana, son of Prahlada, was however faulted by Kashyapa for still being under delusion, a drawback that the asuras were guilty of. He did not persevere adequately to realize the Truth. Virocana was a rival of Purandara Indra. Virocana’s son, Bali, emerged as a despot though he was (unlike Hiranyakasipu) respectful to the learned. Bali enjoyed the support of the veteran political grammarian Usanas.
Usanas was a Bhargava, a member of the Bhrgu clan. (Parasurama, who pulled down several despots, too was a Bhargava.) Urukrama, a descendant of Kashyapa by Aditi, is pitted against Bali, a descendant of Kashyapa by Diti. To be precise, Urukrama was a student of Kashyapa. Bali was a Daitya like Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu. The Bhagavatam in the thanksgiving verse says that the ‘spirits’ of Bhrgu, Daksha, Angirasa and Kashyapa were happy with the discomfiture of Bali.
By Daksha, it must have meant Pracetas, one of the ten Prajapatis who contributed to Manava Dharmasastra and was known as Pracetas Manu, the author of an Arthasastra text. These Prajapatis were dead or had retired from the socio-political scene when Bali was deposed.
Urukrama, one who walked with wide steps, was born to Prshni, a dwarfish woman in the house of a Prajapati, during the tenure of Manu Svarochisha. This Prajapati must have been Kashyapa (‘son’ of Marici). Kashyapa and his wife, Aditi, appear to have brought up this child who too was dwarfish. Urukrama was known also as Vamana and had opted to remain a bachelor. Brhaspati anointed him as a student, Brahmachari. In other words, Vamana, the foster-son of Kashyapa, was trained in the school of thought promoted by Brhaspati. Brhaspati was a Brahmavadi, a socio-political ideologue known for his advocacy of materialism and economic power. He belonged to the school of Angirasa and Atharva. Urukrama might have joined the Kaumara-Brahmachari movement that was established during the tenure of the second Manu, Svarochisha for promoting mass education.
Urukrama authorized to use Brahmadanda
Urukrama received his danda, the staff that symbolized a celibate and monk, from Soma. This cryptic statement implies that Soma (a follower of Atri) who was the chief of the council of seven sages during the tenure of the sixth Manu, Chakshusha, empowered him to use Brahmadanda. He was empowered to punish those who violated the provisions of the socio-political constitution enshrined in Atharvaveda (Brahma). During the later Vedic period, Brhaspati and Indra were the officials who looked after the interests of the commonalty, prthvi, and the patriciate, divam, the two major strata of the agro-pastoral core society. The frontier society of forests and mountains was under the charge of the official designated as Soma. Soma was essentially a sober sage but had with respect to the frontier society of forests and mountains the same authority as Indra had with respect to the core society.
The Identity of the Supporters of Vamana
The verses 8-18-15 to 17 indicate that Vamana had the support of bhumi, vana and dhio, the three social worlds, the commonalty of the rural areas, the forest society and the urban patriciate. The support of the followers of Brahma and Siva and also of Yaksha is claimed for him. In other words, the traditional intelligentsia who followed Brahma, the Prajapati of Brahmavarta (the Sarasvati-Drshadvati basin), the Saivaites who opted to stay out of the Varnasrama scheme and the plutocrats (yakshas) of the other society encouraged Vamana.
On hearing that Bali was performing an Asvamedha sacrifice on the banks of the Narmada in a field known as Bhrgu-kaccha, with Bhrgus (Usanas and his followers) as his priests, Urukrama proceeded there with heavy steps. (He did not sneak into that area.) The Bhrgus might have taken the help of the Atharvans (followers of Atharvaveda or Brahma who were ideologues known as Brahmavadis) in performing that sacrifice. The Bhrgus and Bali welcomed Vamana befitting the status of a Brahmarshi (a scholar in all the four Vedas). They treated him not as a socio-political activist that a Brahmavadi was, or a common priest who officiated at household sacrifices but as a revered Brahmarshi who was essentially a meditator engaged in spiritual pursuits and who knew the provisions of the socio-political constitution, Brahma. The Asura leader, Bali, offered him a cow, gold, residence, food, villages, animals and also a Brahman girl in marriage. But Vamana could not accept these gifts as he was not a Brahmarshi and as he had taken the vow to remain celibate (kaumara-brahmachari) for life (32).
Vamana's Apologia and Bali's Forefathers
Addressing Bali as janadeva (as one who was a noble, deva, according to the native population, jana of Janasthana), Vamana described Bali’s offer as being in tune with his kula (clan) and in accordance with dharma (that is, in tune with the social values of Tvashtas). Vamana might have belonged to the austere Valakhilyas who were short. Tvashtas were manufacturers of iron tools and weapons of war. The Valakhilyas of the Aravallis were technocrats. Kratu who represented the Tvashtas on the Board of Ten Prajapatis nominated by the first Manu to draft the Manava Dharmasastra was a Valakhilya.
Vamana pointed out that the presence of the Bhrgus was evidence of Bali’s fame and that the ‘soul’ of his grandfather, Prahlada, would be pleased. He praised Bali’s ancestors for meeting promises given to Brahmans, professional priests. He tried to justify Hiranyakasipu seeking revenge for the death of his brother at the hands of Vishnu. (Vishnu must have been the name of the Purusha who killed Hiranyaksha.) Hiranyakasipu searched for Vishnu who had hidden himself (?). It was Narayana who was pitted against this feudal lord and not Vishnu. Urukrama treated these events as ones related to battles and to a false sense of ego and as one not involving higher goals or objectives. He evaded justifying the killing of the two Asura brothers. He kept out the disputations between Hiranyakasipu and his son, Prahlada. He lauded Hiranyaksha for his lone conquests and for meeting the challenges of the opponents in battle.
Reservations about the deeds of Varaha and Narasimha
This was not a mere shrewd attempt to trick Bali into complacency before depriving him of his ill-gotten wealth. Vamana was genuinely representing the non-orthodox Kashyapan interpretation of the events behind the two ‘incarnations’ (Varaha and Narasimha) of Vishnu that were then criticized severely by the Pasupatas as unjust warfare. Vamana praised Virocana for his affinity to the Brahmans.
There was a complaint that Virocana’s life was cut short by Brahmans. Vamana defends that Virocana gave up his life not to Brahmans but to the nobles, who approached him disguised as Brahmans. Vamana incarnation too was an act of deception by Brahmans, according to some critics. The Bhrgus had granted the feudal warlords a status equal to that of the nobles and stood by them. But Vamana pulled down Bali. He did so though Bali was not against Brahmans. Of course Bali was not a deist. Vamana was not upholding the interests of the class of Brahmans. Vamana was putting forth the Kashyapan approach when he refused to approve the killing of Hiranyaksha by Vishnu, son of Adhoksha, and of Hiranyakasipu by Narasimha (and of Virochana by Purandara).
Why Vamana opposed Bali
Bali had established a leviathan by distorting the state and hence Vamana, a Kashyapan and follower of Brhaspati, opposed him while the Bhrgus, especially Usanas, defended himi. The verses 8-19-15 to 26 of the Bhagavatam present the justification for Vamana's asking for only three steps of land. One should not accept as gift what is more than what he needs. Vamana does not deviate totally from Bhrgu who has prescribed that only a Brahman is entitled to accept gifts but Bhrgu has not prescribed any limits for the gifts though he calls for contentment. Vamana finds fault with even Prthu Vainya and Gaya (who were patronized by Manu Vaivasvats whose junior contemporaries they were for being ambitious). Bhrgu held these two rulers in high regard. Kashyapa had praise for Prthu who replaced Vena as Rajarshi. The Rajarshi of Gaya gave protection to Manu Vaivasvata and spread his mission of making every one committed to truth (satya) and non-violence (ahimsa) through a large cadre of Visvedevas for this purpose. Every one in north India, Aryavarta was encouraged to take this pledge, Aryavrata.
Vamana advises that a Vipra (a Brahman who is constantly going from place to place, educating all) should be satisfied with what he happens to get by chance. He was such a Vipra. Vamana does not seek anything for himself. His request is for the restoration to its owners the wealth that Bali had taken over. It is a demand on behalf of the common man who under Bali’s benevolent monarchy has to beg for meeting his needs and is not able to get them as a matter of right. Bhargava Usanas too could not recognize Vamana, a protege of Kashyapa. He suspected that it was Vishnu who was working through the son of Kashyapa and Aditi and tried to stop Bali, son of Virocana, from handing over the promised gift (Bhagavatam 8-19-30). Usanas had no good opinion about the patriciate. [Vishnu mentioned by Usanas might have been a chieftain of the Talajanghas who were inveterate enemies of the Bhrgus. Talajanghas were associated with the Haihayas to whom the great emperor, Kartavirya Arjuna, belonged.]
Kartavirya fell at the hands of Parasurama. The Haihayas had killed Jamadagni, father of Parasurama and a member of Vaivasvata’s council of seven sages. Usanas must have been aware how Kashyapa received as gift from Bhargava Parasurama all the ‘twenty-one’ states that the latter had taken over and then restored them to the Kshatriyas. Parasurama was expelled from Aryavarta. Usanas was for a strong state while Parasurama was for a stateless society. [Vamana and Kashyapa did not approve either.] Usanas treated Vamana as a student of hypnotism and magic (maya-manavaka).
Usanas on Vamana's Intents
Usanas feared that Vamana might deprive Bali of his place (sthanam), status of an Isvara, wealth, sovereignty and recognition in citations as a ruler and give them to Sakra (Indra). [Was this Sakra a son of Kartavirya Arjuna?] Was the term, sthana, a reference to Janasthana, the territory over which Bali had jurisdiction, and of which he was a ‘benevolent’ charismatic ruler (Isvara)? Usanas feared that Vamana might deprive Bali also of his control over the villages and the lands and estates of the nobles and the hollow mines (kham). [It is not rational to interpret the last two as implying skies or heaven where the gods are supposed to reside and antariksham, the hollow ether inhabited by other supernatural beings.] These Vamana would cover with his first two steps, Usanas feared. Usanas wondered where he would place his third step. He cautioned Bali that the gifts if made would leave him without any means of livelihood. Usanas had however not gauged Vamana's intents correctly.
Bali's state had taken over the open pastoral lands and also the villages. This affected the villagers adversely. The nobles were in possession of lands that they had conquered or acquired or inherited. But Bali did not give them the necessary charter and kept them for himself. He had declared the mines to be state property. These originally belonged to the plutocrats, the technocrats and the proletariat who belonged to the frontier society. All the three social worlds had been deprived of their wealth. Vamana intended to force Bali to restore these to their rightful owners. If the three social worlds, Bhu, Bhuva and Sva (agro-pastoral lands, forests areas and the estates of the urban patriciate) were lost, Bali would be in trouble. Bali would lose not only these but also his own territories and the perks and benefits he was enjoying. Bali sensed that he had been trapped.
Usanas on Valid Gift
Then issues pertaining to gifts were debated. If the rights of an individual to bestow gifts were withdrawn, only the Brahmans would suffer. For, they alone were eligible to receive gifts. Usanas had to tread softly and warily on this issue. When is charity declared to be a gift? Santi is valid gift. When does danam not qualify to be called a gift? (19-36) Usanas, the interpreter of state laws, says that a bestowal that prevents the person who bestows from further pursuing the duty of bestowing, of performing sacrifices, of strenuous endeavour (tapas) and pursuit of vocation in the social world (to which he belongs) that is connected with his economic means (vitta) is not a valid gift. [It may be noticed here that Usanas takes up a platform that was proto-varna. He uses the term, loka, social world, and not the term, varna, social class. The duties mentioned above, danam, yajna and tapas, were common to all the three social worlds. Only the vocations and means of livelihood differed.]
How much may one gift from his income
Usanas explains that one should distribute his income or wealth into five heads, dharma (religious duty, in common parlance), yasa (future glory through accumulation or investment), artha (current economic needs), kama (sex and pleasure) and svajana (one’s own family including children, kinsmen and elders).There has to be a limit on how much should be spent on duties like bestowal of gifts to Brahmans and sacrifice for the welfare of the needy. It cannot be more than one fifth of the total wealth or earnings of the donor. This rule was applicable to all the three social worlds. Bali would be violating this rule if he gifted away all his wealth, Usanas pointed out. [The charter of demands presented to Prthu had six heads including these five. The sixth was kara (tax). Manu Vaivasvata had suggested this. Bali was not under the jurisdiction of this Manu.]
Asuras and Rta, Satya and Dharma
Usanas tried to instruct Bali in the presence of the Bhrgus and Vamana on when a bestowal could be construed as a valid and binding gift. Was it binding on Bali to keep his word? Usanas drew attention to a Bahu-rchai verse. It was a work attributed to a sage who belonged to the other society, which was governed by the rules laid down by the plutocrats. Usanas told the respected Asura chief that what is pronounced is considered to be promise (satyam), valid forever, only if it is preceded by the term, Om (19-38). The Pranava (Om) was an orientation that every one who desired to be treated as a member of the core Arya society had to accept. (The plutocrats, Yakshas, had accepted it, but not the feudal lords, Asuras. Like the Gayatri chant, it was a basic orientation.)
Otherwise the utterance was ‘anrta’, not according to the laws that the entire (early) Vedic society accepted. The feudal lords had accepted the laws of nature, Rta but not Dharma, the code of right conduct outlined by Bhrgu and other Prajapatis who functioned under the direction of Manu Svayambhuva. They had not disputed the laws based on truth, Satya, though the Satyavratas (who had taken the pledge to adhere to truth under all circumstances) were against the Rakshasas, Yakshas and Asuras. Bali had not uttered Om. Hence what he said was but an offer, a proposal, and not a promise, Usanas argued. He tried to outwit Vamana.
Had Bali become liable to be proceeded against under the civil laws based on Satya? Then Usanas presents his interpretation of Satya. If the individual, Atma is visualized as a tree, Satya may be compared to its flowers and fruits. The tree must be allowed to grow, if we are to expect flowers and fruits from it. These benefit others and not that tree itself. Satya, truth, followed by an individual must benefit others. Rta is the root and Satya is the fruit while Atma is the tree. (We refrain from translating atma, as soul.) Let the advocates of Satya not destroy the tree, the individual, and the root, the principles of Rta, Usanas urges. Rta requires that every one should have his means of livelihood. It is the universal law of survival. Satya which Manu Svayambhuva and the great sage, Vasishta advocated and Dharma, which the Brahmarshis proclaimed, are secondary while Rta, the law of Nature, is primary. It covers the principle of survival and growth.
Even as an uprooted tree dries up, the Atma or the individual (not the ‘soul’ here) who is not protected by any social body, deprived of the protection of the laws based on Rta will wither. As Usanas questions the validity of Satya as the base for policy (niti) (8-19-42), Bali deliberates on the statements of his preceptor and accepts them as Satya.
Bali on Satya and Dharma
Bali was a householder for whom that only is dharma, which does not hinder the securing of economic needs (artha), the pursuit of pleasure (kama) and economic activities for future fame (yasa). (8-20-2) But how could a descendant of Prahlada afford to become a cheat, lured by wealth? Asatya is the greatest adharma. Bali could assure that he would not speak untruth (asatya) but could not promise that he would speak out the truth. He could assure that he would not do any deed proscribed by dharma but could not consent to perform all the duties prescribed by it. Bali had heard bhumi (Mother Earth, the commonalty personified) say that she could bear any man except a liar (20-4). Usanas avoided declaring that satya is dharma. It may be noted that the puritanical Upanishadic sages assert that Satya is Dharma and that Dharma is Satya thereby rejecting the argument that Dharmasastra could compromise with asatya, untruth, in the name of expediency. They rejected the laws of expediency.
Bali hesitates to dupe Vipras
Bali did not fear anything more than outwitting or duping a Vipra. The Vipras were unselfish and never expected remuneration for their services to the masses whether they taught the latter or officiated as priests or were members of the jury in cases of dispute. The Vipras did not stay in one place and were not subordinate to the state. It would be highly unwise to attempt to dupe these Vipras who were known for their uprightness and self-sacrifice. Bali cited how Dadhichi (who gave his spine to help Indra to score over the Asuras) and Sibi (who offered his own flesh to save a dove from a vulture) sacrificed themselves for others.
Asuras left only with personal savings for yasa
He expressed anguish that the Daityas had been deprived of all their lokas (the areas belonging to the three social worlds) and had been left only yasa (20-8). Bali (the descendant of a Tvashta, a smith) had been deprived of the lands and mines needed for his livelihood as a Daitya (a feudal lord). He had however been left the savings that he could use for his future needs (yasa).
He had to surrender all the wealth that he had annexed but was permitted to retain the savings from his current earnings. If Usanas thought that he should not part with these savings where would Bali get the wealth needed to meet his commitments? Bali suspected that Vamana was Vishnu. Bali was however resolute on bestowing the promised gift on the vata, the young Brahmachari, Brahman student (Vamana). He would do so even if the latter were Vishnu and whether he had come there to bless him or as an enemy.
He would give whatever agricultural land (kshiti) Vamana desired. (Bali hoped that he would not be deprived of the mines which provided him his means of livelihood as a smith.) Even if Vamana tried to kill him in an improper way, Bali would not resort to violence, for the very assuming of the form of a Brahman indicated that Vishnu (a Kshatriya) was afraid of Bali. If he were really Vishnu who deserved paeans, he would fight against Bali and not ask for alms, the latter argued. Bali decided to follow Satya rather than the counsel of his preceptor. Despite the curses showered on him by Usanas, he proceeded to perform the rituals for gifting away all his achievements and gains.
What did Vamana ask for and what did Bali give? What are the implications of this peaceful transfer of authority? These questions have not been answered correctly by later chroniclers. Only the Bhagavatam enables us to gain a correct insight. The implications of the three steps are outlined here on the basis of the Bhagavatam, a chronicle which was closer to the times when Bali was overthrown. (The readers should not be misled by those who present Vamana as an incarnation of God Vishnu.) They reveal highly significant socio-political issues. (It is wrong to state that Bali after losing earth and heaven offered his head. It is wrong to praise Vairochana Bali as a benevolent agriculturist ruler.)
The gross and unfortunate failure to have and present a proper appraisal of the distortion of the dynamics of the social polity of ancient India by Bali and his guide, the famous political thinker, Usanas (Sukracharya) in the proper light has to be recognized and the social history of ancient India be rewritten.
First Step: Retrieval of the Three Social Universes (Trijagat) Gandharvas, Kimpurushas and Kinnaras
By his first step, Vamana covered the areas belonging to the three social universes (jagats) of Gandharvas, Kimpurushas and Kinnaras. Bali had taken over the vast territories claimed by these ‘nomadic’ groups and these are now retrieved for them from him. According to later chroniclers, the Gandharvas were groups of singers who entertained the gods and Apsarases were danseuses who lured the gods, kings and sages. Such interpretations only bare the ignorance of the later generations about the composition and structure of the Vedic society.
Gandharvas did not belong to any of the three organized social worlds, patriciate, agro-pastoral commonalty and the industrial frontier society, whose members were settled clans and communities and had prescribed residential areas and permitted vocations. Gandharvas and Apsarases were not organized on the basis of families and households and did not pursue any economy oriented vocation and were not settled communities. They claimed the right to move across any territory and were allowed passage.
The Kimpurushas were later equated with monkeys. They were large social groups that were denied the right to dig the soil and hence could not be engaged in agriculture or in mining. They too had to move from one region to another, living on fruits and leaves plucked from trees. They were not denied access to vocations involving manual labour. They were talented persons but were dispossessed of lands and property.
The Kinnaras were musicians and couriers and were employed by the chiefs of the forest society to convey their messages to those in the core society and had the right to move along the highways and even by by-paths unharmed. They were free men not bound by social ties. They were not eunuchs. They were not assertive and adventurous as the kimpurushas were.
The rights of these three social universes, jagats, who were also known as blessed peoples (punya-jana), were restored to them as a first step in social reorganization. They were respected for their spreading noble atmosphere of cultural values (punya-gandha, holy aroma) The vast territories with no recognized domiciles were thrown open to the social universes in a move to encourage them to get settled as organized communities. [It is unfair, unwise and academically unsound to treat these groups as socially or racially or ethnically different from the rest of the society.] Vamana claimed for the three social universes (jagats), the third society, the right to reside in the open areas annexed by Bali. The free men, naras (nrs) (who had parted company with their families, clans and vocational communities to be able to pursue their own permitted activities), the nobles (devas) and the sages (rshis) would get access to these territories.
The lower ranks of the Gandharvas were known as Naras. The officials of the government and even troops were recruited from among these free men, naras. Gandharvas ranked lower than the nobles and the sages. But the commoners unlike the free men (naras) were organized and settled economic communities. They had to keep away from these territories.
Bali's act of dispossession declared void
Vamana demanded that the residents of these freed territories be free to operate on the land, that is, cultivate the lands and in the mines. They should be free to go in all directions, stay at higher levels. All chasms and ravines and river economy should be thrown open to them (8-20-21).
The Asura king had surreptitiously come in possession of these lands and had restricted entry to these from his strategic position in Janasthana, in the central Narmada valley. That control is declared void. Where were these lands located? It may be safely inferred that the areas south of Narmada were liberated from Bali. The ensuing verses describe the reactions of the different groups to this first step. It was a highly significant move to reorganize the society by getting a very large section of the population settled as organized vocational communities and as free men in the peninsula, control over which had been taken over surreptitiously by Bali. The feudal warlords and not the aristocrats and plutocrats were responsible for the social, economic disfranchisement of a vast section of the larger society. Vamana demanded that this denial should be annulled and these cadres offered suitable arable lands to get settled like the commoners. Yet the effects of disfranchisement have continued down the ages.
The Second Step: Restoration of Three Institutions
Mahaloka, Janaloka and Tapaloka
The verse 8-20-34 of the Bhagavatam shows how Urukrama covered three lokas by his second step. These were mahaloka, janaloka and tapaloka. (According to some mahaloka meant pastoral lands. This interpretation is not sound.) If by the first step the three social universes (jagats, mobile populations) benefited, by the second three important social organisations which ranked above the three organized social worlds (lokas), and social universes (jagats) were restored their rights and importance.
The seven lokas, bhu, bhuva, sva, maha, jana, tapa and satya, were indeed seven constituents of the Vedic social polity. Bhu referred to the agro-pastoral plains and to the commoners engaged primarily in agriculture and pasture and secondarily in trade to procure other needs of the population of this core society. Bhuva meant the frontier society of the forests and mountains, which was engaged in industrial economy, and was dominated by the plutocrats, the technocrats and the industrial proletariat. Sva indicated the autonomous patriciate of the agro-pastoral core society. This society is not to be looked down upon as uncivilized tribes. The patriciate, devas, dominated the core society. (The three social worlds, bhu, bhuva and sva, also called prthvi, antariksham and divam had been surrendered by Bali even before Urukrama took his first step to liberate the territories of the three jagats.)
Mahaloka referred to the council of the senior sages, who were legislators known as maharshis. Bali had wound up this council on the advice of Usanas. Vamana called for its restoration.
Vamana restored another state institution, Janaloka, the assembly of legislators and representatives of the people which too had been dissolved by the feudal chieftain. It was not a legislature but was highly influential. Bali had neither legislature nor a house of representatives of the people. The voice of the people was silenced by him.
Tapaloka was a body of planners and researchers. They were engaged in rigorous endeavour, tapas, to discover new methods and invent new tools. This body had always been free from state control. Tapasvis were not dependent on either the aristocrats or the plutocrats. The feudal warlords did not appreciate the immunities enjoyed by these academicians and researchers and wound up this council and cadre. Vamana called for its restoration.
The seventh social world and constituent of the Vedic social polity was known as 'Satyaloka', the judiciary that stood by Satya, Truth. Bali did not function against the code based on the principles of truth. He ignored this judiciary but did not dissolve it or distort its functioning. These seven social worlds pertained to the country that was situated on the banks of Svardhuni (8-21-4). It is likely that Bali had taken over this country under his protectorate. He violated the autonomy of the three bodies, mahaloka, janaloka and tapaloka.
Did that country belong to Jambhavan, a Rksha? Jambhavan has been presented as a bear. He was a friend of Dasaratha of Kosala and helped Rama, son of Dasaratha, to retrieve his wife from Ravana of Lanka. Jambhavan was a witness to the discomfiture of Bali as 8-21-8 indicates. He was the first to inform Rama about this event. (Bali had by then been banished to the Western Ghats.)
As these two steps divested Bali of vast areas and weakened him, his followers became panicky. They felt that Bali, who had been initiated into Satyavrata, was deceived by Vamana. They thought it their duty to kill the latter. The followers of Vishnu (who had stayed in the background) took up their weapons. Bali noticed that his troops would be overpowered and dissuaded them from resorting to arms.
The jana, that is, the native people of Janasthana, could not overcome the times he said. Feudal lords have always tried to impress on the commoners that the former were their well-wishers and protectors. The Daitya and Danava chiefs, Asuras and Yakshas, feudal lords and plutocrats, who had gathered at Bhrgu-Kaccha (Baruch?) for the Asvamedha sacrifice, were chased to Rasa, the marshy lands (21-25). [Purusha Varaha had killed Bali’s forefather, Hiranyaksha, who tried to dislodge him from Rasatala.]
Bali was taken prisoner. The son of Aruna (a ‘son’ of Kashyapa) understanding the desire of Prabhu brought the ropes of Varuna and tied Bali. Prabhu was the designation of the head of the larger civil society of the Vedic times. Aruna was considered to be the charioteer of the sun. He was an official subordinate to Varuna. Bali was taken in civil bondage by an official on behalf of Varuna, the ombudsman of the western region whose civil society was headed by an official designated as Prabhu. Varuna could take any one in civil bondage for violation of the provisions of the Viraj constitution (8-21-26). Urukrama had outwitted Bali.
Chroniclers have not been able to present with clarity what were the three steps taken by Urukrama to liquidate feudalism and despotism. Vamana asked where the third step was to be placed. By the first step, Bali had surrendered the land between Tapati and Indu that was said to be the area under the influence of the Mrga star and was also known as Udubi (21-30). This land of the commoners, bhuloka, was given to the three mobile social universes, jagats (Gandharvas, Kimpurushas and Kinnaras), to enable them to get settled as agro-pastoral communities. (It must have been the land to the south of the Tropic of Cancer.)
By the second step, Bali had to part with his influence over the svarloka, the property and rights of the patriciate which he had taken over. As he could give no more, Bali had to go to prison (niraya) for five years (8-21-32, 33). He was accused of having duped a Vipra. [The Vipra was an officer of the constitution bench. It was presided over by an expert in Atharvaveda or Brahma, which enshrined the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times. Three Vipras representing the other three Vedas assisted this expert, known as Brahman.]
“Thereupon, Bali asked Vamana to keep his third step on his head”. (22-2) [This is obviously a later interpolation, a playing up to the presentation of Bali, as a victim.]
But Bali was not convinced that Urukrama (Vamana) had been just to him. Bali considered it to be civil bondage for unpaid debts. He had only taken over the wealth of others temporarily and had only failed to return it to the owners. It was not misappropriation for personal purposes, he implied. But the arrest of Bali had a wider import. It was made for violation of the constitution of Janasthana. Feudal lords and despots have always duped the people, both rich and poor and the law. Every janapada province and janasthana district was governed by a constitution which was preferably uniform for the entire subcontinent.
Prahlada on Bali's Plight
The feudal lords accepted the Narayana cult after Hiranyakasipu was killed. [This cult insisted that God is present in all living beings and even in all inanimate objects whether natural or created.] Prahlada had suffered at the hands of his own father, Hiranyakasipu (8-22-8). Bali, his grandson, had accumulated wealth for his wife and children. The savings under the head, svajana, were meant for them. They now despised him as he had lost it and the people of his native land, Janasthana, threatened him (8-22-9, 10). Bali lost faith in all. Prahlada who was yet alive and was a dark-coloured monk dressed in yellow clothes held this punishment to be improper. Prahlada (who was a follower of Narada) knew that the Prabhu (who held the position of Viraj) had installed Bali as Indra and had now taken away that position from him. [The terms, Prabhu and Viraj, are not to be construed as referring to God.] But Bali was retained as the army general with the rank of Indrasena.
Indra, during the Vedic times, controlled the treasury (to which the nobles were the main contributors), led the army (formed mainly from the private armies of these nobles), presided over the assembly of nobles (sabha) and headed the eight-member ministry of Adityas. Many socio-political thinkers disapproved concentration of powers in the hands of one official. Vamana was nominated as Upendra or Deputy Indra with the right to control the treasury, which had been taken away from Bali.
Prahlada expected this higher and ultimate authority Virata Prabhu (who was the head both of the larger state and the expanded society) to treat all equally and Bali fairly. This was the approach of Kashyapa who advocated the concept of Viraj and union without uniformity and granted recognition to all the social sectors while rejecting the division along the lines, aristocrats, feudal lords and plutocrats. Was Urukrama's action a violation of the understanding that was given to Prahlada and the Asuras when some of them laid down arms? Did Urukrama deviate from any assurance given by Kashyapa? Kashyapa had thrown open the post of Indra to all the eight sectors of the larger society, Viraj.
Vindhyavali on Bali's Plight
Bali’s ‘wife’, Vindhyavali, that is, the representatives of the people of Janasthana that was in the Vindhyas, intervened to tell Upendra that though the three social universes, jagats, had been given territories open to all had been brought into existence by him with good intentions, only fools had established themselves there (8-22-20). Urukrama's move to convert the social universe of the cadres like Gandharvas into settled communities, a social world, was a failure in the opinion of the natives of Janasthana.
Vamana had not intended or anticipated such misuse of the Narmada valley by those who did not belong to that area. Throwing it open to all was an act of ignorance or miscalculation. [It is imperative that we do not adhere to the belief that Vamana was an incarnation of God Vishnu and do not treat all scrutiny of the conduct of Vamana or Parasurama or even of Rama and Krshna as sacrilege.] Only the natives, jana, could be relied upon to tend their lands properly, it was urged.
According to Vamana, neither residence nor pursuit of a beneficial employment or vocation led to establishing ownership (svamya) over lands in these areas meant for Gandharvas, Kimpurushas and Kinnaras. For, according to the constitution of Viraj, these regions were open to all and no group could claim exclusive ownership there. To use Kautilyan terminology, they would have been no-man’s land, sunyadesa. They could not be brought under any nation-state and the original residents were allowed their autonomy. But they could not prevent others from entering these regions for residence and livelihood. The new residents were yet jagats, not lokas. Bali had violated this provision of the constitution of Viraj. Even the people of Janasthana, which was located in the Vindhyas, had not grasped the gravity of this violation, the Bhagavatam implies.
Urukrama was not Vishnu whose troops stood by. Nor was he the Virata Prabhu, the head of the larger society, who ordered the arrest of Bali. He was a Kashyapan who was nominated as Upendra, Deputy Indra, of that Janapada. Upendra was a post that was equal to that of Brhaspati who during the middle Vedic era controlled civil polity, the treasury and the armoury under the Vratya scheme, in tune with the provisions of the Indra-Brhaspati agreement. Vamana belonged to the Atharvan school of Brhaspati (who upheld civil law based on Truth, Satya).
Banishment of Bali
The Bhagavatam makes Brahma plead for Bali who was bereft of all. When the three lokas, maha, jana and tapa, were liberated (that is, when the council of senior sages, maharshis, the assembly of representatives of the people and legislators and the council of researchers in the Svardhuni area that Bali had taken over were restored), Brahmavarta (the land of Brahmarshis, the Sarasvati-Drshadvati basin) heaved a sigh of relief. Brahma, the chief justice and chief of the people of Brahmavarta, says that Bali surrendered these lands without any reservation. Hence, he need not be punished. This chief, Brahma, later became Manu Savarni.
(Manu Surya Savarni was a contemporary of Parikshit. Badarayana who outlined the principles of jurtsprudence, Brahma-vidya was a member of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Surya Savarni.) But even the sages had not weighed Bali’s excesses correctly. It is explained that Bali’s fault lay in his disrespect to the loka, that is, to the common people and to Urukrama (who represented them). Hence he was deprived of his wealth (24). It was assured that Bali was not deposed because he was an asura by birth. Birth, work, age, form and expertise were all in Bali’s favour but his rigid approach (stambha) went against him (8-22-26). [Hiranyakasipu too was guilty of such a rigid approach and that approach failed him and he was torn to pieces by Narasimha. Bali had failed to learn a lesson from that fall.] All the factors had to be taken together before punishing one (8-22-27).
Even in his fall, Bali was a Satyavrata, one who adhered to his pledge to abide by truth (30). Bali had not disturbed the authority of the judiciary (Satyaloka) of the middle Vedic era. So it was declared that he would be reinstated (after five years) as Indra during the tenure of Manu Savarni (22-31). Till then he would be banished to Sutala, constructed by Visvakarma (architect and engineer) as a health resort (22-32). It was a place for repentance in solitude. Bali feared to go there, as it was not safe. It was a prison without walls. He was assured protection from being attacked by any ruler, whether kim or apara, whether of kimpurushas or the rebellious Daityas who were not favourable to (apara) him (34). Bali was under the protection of Manu Savarni in the southwest peninsula when Rama passed through that area on his trek to Lanka. Sutala was close to the territory of Vali and Sugriva, leaders of Kimpurushas who had been treated unjustly by Bali. He feared being attacked by Ravana of Lanka but the latter did not think it prudent to confront Bali who was still a force to reckon with. The conduct and role of Vairochana Bali who was thwarted by Vamana has not been properly appreciated since the Bhagavata chronicle was composed by Badarayana.
The Prabhu (overlord of the extended commonalty) promised to be nearby to guarantee him protection (35). Who was this Prabhu? Sutala must have been in the area between Tapati and Godavari. Prahlada might have spent his last days there in penance. As Bali was banished to Sutala, the three vistapas were given back to Indra (of Janasthana) with the Dandaniti scheme of governance as originally envisaged coming again into force. Indra could function only as directed by the members of the bodies of the legislature. Autocracy could no longer hold sway. The social universes, jagats, were not under the governance of Indra or his deputy. Indra and Brhaspati (or Upendra) had jurisdiction only over the aristocracy and the commonalty of the core society.
Bhagavan, Head of the Academy
The jagats, social universes, were to be under the supervision of Bhagavan who had a status similar to that of Brahma, the Prajapati of Brahmavarta. He must have been later called, jagatguru, teacher of members of the unorganized social universe, jagat. Bhagavan was the designation of the head of an academy and has later come to be interpreted as ‘God’. Neither Brahma nor Bhagavan has to be visualized as God. Bhagavan was essentially a revered teacher. This teacher had a hand in drafting the constitution that would grant the king and the state, jurisdiction only over matters not under established social and economic organizations. Who was the head of this Bhagavata school of thought, it needs to be identified. The three vistapas were placed under the protectorate of Purandara Indra. Vamana was a liberator. He belonged to the group of Haris and was to be respected as Narayana, the Bhagavatam states (8-23-13). He was not Bhagavan. He was not Vishnu.
The visualization of Vamana as God Vishnu who took Visvarupa, a huge form covering the entire cosmos, in order to humble Bali needs to be set aside for arriving at a rational appraisal of his role.
Bali was not an emperor controlling earth, sky and the lower world. He was but a fort-based chieftain who had his base in the Vindhyas. He exceeded his authority and jurisdiction and annexed territories not owned by any and which were open to all. The disputation between Vamana and Bali can be understood correctly only in the light of the liberation of these territories from Bali. It was not a conflict between Aryas and Non-Aryas or one between deists and atheists or even one between Devas and Asuras.
Vamana versus Usanas on Bali
Vamana was asked to justify his action before an assembly of rtvijas (who were professionals, officers in charge of protocol, rules and regulations, and performance of duties) and Brahmavadis (who were socio-political ideologues). The rtvijas were mainly Bhrgus who stuck to the procedure prescribed and the letter of the law while the Brahmavadis were practitioners of realpolitik. Bhargava Usanas was a master of statecraft. Urukrama (Vamana) asked him to explain the legal position. Usanas had to account for the faults committed by Bali, as he had been Bali’s advisor.
The Brahmavadis knew the point of view of the upholders of the socio-political constitution, brahma-drshtam. They upheld the principles of the constitution as enshrined in the Atharvaveda, Brahma, cited instances and held that the procedural errors (karma chhidram) committed by his disciple were equivalent to distortion (vaisamyam) in performance of duties (karma). In other words, Bali distorted the constitution while functioning as a ruler though he might have adhered to the procedure laid down. He had distorted the spirit of law. (8-23-14)
Vamana does not allege that Bali failed in his duties and hence he deserved to be impeached. Usanas was required to consider how Bali had deviated from his duties. This disputation was on an issue distinct from the one on which the Prabhu ordered Bali to be taken in civil bondage by Varuna for violating the provisions of the Viraj constitution.
Trijagat, Triloka, Trivistapa
We come across three terms, trijagat, triloka and trivistapa. Trijagat referred to the three social universes, Gandharvas, Kimpurushas and Kinnaras who were not settled communities and had their distinct social, cultural, economic and political orientations. Triloka here referred to the three socio-political institutions of the Vedic times, maharloka, janaloka and tapaloka, council of sages, assembly of legislators and academy of researchers. The conventional three social worlds (lokas), bhu, bhuva and sva were urban patriciate (divam), rural commonalty (prthvi), and frontier society (antariksham).
Trivistapa referred to the three sources of revenue, under the heads dharma, svajana and yasa, collected by the state and kept in the hands of the incumbent to the post of Indra as trust money.
The Third Step and the Retrieval of the Three Vistapas,
Trusts for Dharma, Svajana and Yasa
We have traced how Bali, guided by Usanas, manipulated the rules to get riches. Unlike Vena, who was burnt by his angry people he was cautious enough to lull the people and not to precipitate a revolt. Bali had taken three-fifths of the earnings and wealth of the individuals under the heads, dharma, yasa and svajana, and allowed them to use two-fifths under the heads, artha and kama, to meet their current economic needs and pursue pleasures of life.
To be precise, Bali directed the people to surrender to the state three-fifth of their earnings and assured them that the state would look after the social and spiritual obligations of the individuals (dharma), their future needs and prosperity (yasa) and the security of their families (svajana). He had not refused to meet the obligations under the three heads. As there was no prescribed source of revenue for the state (unlike the tax, kara, equivalent to one-sixth of the earnings as proposed in the charter given to Prthu), Bali distorted the older scheme while coveting the three portions of the trust wealth, vistapas.
Usanas defends his counsel to Bali
Usanas put forward the thesis that if the person who was the master (host) at a sacrifice (yajna) and the person (guest) (yajna purusha) to whom the sacrifice was offered were satisfied in all respects, it was enough to make that sacrifice a valid one. There could be thereafter no complaint preferred about deviation. Usanas was distorting even the spirit of sacrifice, yajna. This thesis does not mean that ends justify means. It raises the question: Who are concerned in the deal or agreement? Every act is an act of sacrifice. The witnesses do not have the right to raise objections. They may intervene to give their views only if there is a dispute between the donor and the recipient, between the benefactor and the beneficiary at the act of sacrifice, yajna. If the two do not complain, then the act is perfect and valid, Usanas argues.
Urukrama finds fault with the Usanas approach
All procedural errors with respect to policy and technique (mantra and tantra), to place and time (desa and kala) and to reality (vastuta) could be overlooked, if the sacrifice was made with devotion (to the Purusha, to the social leader invited as the guest at the sacrifice meant to validate its purpose), Usanas argued (8-23-16). But this argument did not satisfy Urukrama. He wanted to know whether Bali was interested in the welfare of the people. Bali had presented his state as a welfare state. Were the people satisfied? If they were satisfied, procedural errors (in collecting revenue and wealth and in distributing them to the needy) should be overlooked, Usanas argued. But Urukrama, the Hari, ordered Usanas to make amends for the discrepancies in the yajna where the latter officiated as a priest (official, guide).
Usanas and the Viprarshis (intellectuals who as roving sages spread knowledge and good cultural practices and who claimed the right to officiate at the sacrifices, yajnas, performed by any one whether he was initiated or not) as impartial jurists were required to correct the procedural errors (18). [It is not sound to translate the term, Vipra, as professional Brahman.] Urukrama who belonged to the school of Brhaspati that prescribed civil law pertaining to economic transactions (vyavahara) would not accept the attempt at simplifying the procedure by which there need be no witness to a deed or contract and no appeal or retraction after the two parties had expressed satisfaction.
Both the Bhrgus and the Viprarshis (who were not as detached as the Brahmarshis were from worldly affairs) who stood by Dharmasastra conceded that the letter of the law had been violated. Usanas, the exponent of Dandaniti, too had to agree.
The Atharvan view was that procedural errors resulted in a distortion of the purposes of the acts done. The claim that Bali had only good intents and had no ulterior motives did not convince Vamana as it did not meet the requirements of the penal code of the constitutional law (Dandaniti as approved by the Vedas, especially the Atharvaveda, Brahma).
There had been misappropriation of the wealth of the people that Bali could keep only in trust. The contributions collected by him under the three heads (dharma, yasa and svajana) were not only unauthorized, they were used to flaunt his power and pelf. He had annexed the open pastoral lands and taken over the mines. These had affected certain social groups adversely. His asvamedha sacrifice and gifts to Brahmans were not valid expenditure incurred under the head, dharma. The feudal chieftain was trying to become an overlord and was encouraged by Usanas and the younger Bhrgus. Hence, Bali had to be divested of his authority as a ruler.
What Bali had done was the creation of a totalitarian state while giving the impression that he was introducing a state that would work for social welfare and ensure social security and would also be a nation-state, keeping out poachers and migratory groups. [It is necessary that we arrive at a correct picture of the polity that Bali tried to create, for while some during his own times and later have extolled him, others have not.]
Mahendra and Upendra
As the Bhrgus made amends and consented to return to the rule of the accepted laws (which were not meddled with under the pretext of simplification of procedure), Vamana, the Hari, handed over the supervision of the three social cadres (lokas), maha, jana and tapa, to Mahendra. Mahendra was the senior among all the Indras and controlled the patriciate of all the states in his jurisdiction. He had a status higher than that of a King, Rajan, who had control over only a small territory. It may be noted here that the pre-Prthu constitution treated the Viraj, the head of the federal state as being on par with Mahendra, the chief of the federation of nobles of all the member states of that federation.
The earlier Atharvan polity had deprived the king of access to the state treasury and control over the army. These were placed under the care of Indra, the head of the assembly of nobles and chief of the eight-member ministry. Purandara (who had destroyed the forts of the feudal lords, asuras) held the position of Indra then. Urukrama did not want to be in charge of the patriciate, divam. He had (like Brhaspati) jurisdiction only over the commonalty, prthvi.
Urukrama as Upendra: Deputy Chancellor of Exchequer
The Bhagavatam describes Upendra’s duties in the verses 8-23-23, 24. The task of protection of the Vedas and the nobles (Devas) was assigned to him. It meant protection of the intellectuals who had mastered the Vedas and ensuring that the cultural aristocracy performed its duties as expected of it and unhindered by the feudal elements. Upendra was in fact a Brhaspati. He was also given the responsibility to look after social laws (dharma), development (yasa) and national exchequer (sri). He was required to make arrangements for auspicious events and performance of vratas (fulfillment of pledges taken by the individuals and the officials of the state).
Unlike the Pasupata Brhaspati system (as developed by the Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva), the (Vaishnavaite) Upendra takes over the role of Rtvija in addition to the duties of Brhaspati. As Rtvija assisted by four (or sixteen) officials Upendra would ensure that the officials of the state who received contributions to the treasury (made at the sacrifices performed by the householders) were voluntary and valid ones (being attested by the Rtvija in the presence of his assistants). The system of tax (kara) had not yet come into force. As Brhaspati he would be the administrator of civil law. He ensures that the aristocracy does not fail to perform its duties. Of course he continues to be the guardian of the interests of the commonalty. The chronicle claims that Vamana was a member of the Hari cadre. Prthu too belonged to this cadre. The two episodes belonged to the period immediately posterior to Manu Tamasa who had authorized the compilation of the four Vedas. They (hence) do not find a place in the Vedas.
Upendra as Trustee of People's Contributions
The financial contributions made for religious and social duties (dharma), and the savings on account of yasa, for successful accomplishment of new undertakings, and the contributions to the national exchequer would be under the charge of Upendra. He was not merely teacher or priest of the nobles. Upendra like Brhaspati was an influential official of the state. (The contribution under svajana, endowments for children, is not mentioned here. The householder must have been trusted to retain it and use it for the purpose meant. Bali had misappropriated it while taking it over.)
Administrative Duties of Upendra
Upendra is also in charge of social and administrative classification and stratification (kalpam svarga and apavarga). He could determine who could be admitted to the nobility (svargam) and who should be demoted and sent to a lower class (apavargam). In the absence of the post of Varuna, Upendra undertakes this task of classification and prescription of tenure (kalpam). He becomes the controller of, chakram, of the tenures of the prominent officials, vibhutis, and their rotations. Bali’s system of administration needed a major correction, Vamana pointed out to Usanas and the Brahmavadis. While Indra the head of the house of nobles looked after only the three state institutions, mahaloka, janaloka and tapaloka, (council of legislators, house of the people and chamber of intellectuals and researchers) Upendra had all the residuary powers. The three contributions under the heads, dharma, yasa and svajana did not belong to the executive.
Upendra as Naraprajapati
Upendra emerged as the spokesman and chief of the free men, as Naraprajapati. These free men (naras) whose services were indented for state purposes including the manning of its police and army were not governed by the laws of clans and communities. They were to be absorbed in the social polity as subjects, praja, answerable to this high civilian chief. The organized commonalty, manushyas, was directly under the eight-member ministry. Upendra was not a member of that ministry. He was also not the chief of the people, Prajapati, who was empowered to admit new members to the commonalty of manushyas as prajas, though not born within the jurisdiction of the nation-state, janapada. The free men, naras, who were not bound by the codes of clans and communities, had to be made to follow the rules of discipline. Upendra was expected to regulate the activities of these free men, naras, and be the guardian of their interests. This description of the role of Vamana (Urukrama) in the dismantling of feudalism and protection of those sections of the population who were adversely affected by Usanas’s misguidance needs to be properly appreciated and the inane description that he retrieved the three worlds, heaven, earth and hell, svarga, bhumi and patala should be discarded if we have to gain a proper appreciation of the Vedic polity.
I have to reiterate that for arriving at a correct appraisal of ancient Indian social polity it is necessary to discard the stereotypes and clichés introduced by the western Indologists and adopted by many Indian scholars. We have to recognize that these Indologists were misled by the Indian scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The latter had lost sight of the features of the Vedic and early post-Vedic polity and allowed the concepts that had emerged after 400 BC (and some even after 800 AD). We have to interpret the significant features of the so-called incarnations of God Vishnu. Of these Vamana’s exploits as pointed out here has totally eluded the comprehension of later chroniclers and modern scholars.
The translation of the phrase, ‘devas and manushyas’, as ‘gods and men’ has to be kept aside and has to be understood as meaning the two strata of the core society, ‘nobles and commoners’. The expression, ‘triloka’ meant three social worlds (lokas), each with its distinct orientations. These were patriciate (divam) of the agro-pastoral core society, its commonalty (prthvi) and the other industrial society of the frontier areas (antariksham). The translation of these three terms as heaven, earth and intermediate areas is wrong and needs to be discontinued. Similarly the translation of the terms, devas, devatas and asuras as gods, demigods and demons needs to be avoided. We have to distinguish between the terms, loka and jagat and not treat them as identical. Loka implied a social world with settled groups and communities with their distinct orientations while jagat implied a population on the move ans not settled in any particular area. There were numerous cadres among these populations but they were grouped under the three sectors, gandharvas, kimpurushas and kinnaras, the free intellectuals, the social leaders of the forest and mountain areas and the free individuals especially of the later areas.
Bali had defranchised the members of the three social worlds (nobles, agro-pastoral commonalty and industrial frontier society) and depropertied them. He retracted these steps even before Vamana commenced his trial. Bali was guided by Usanas, one of the greatest political thinkers and activists of that period. Vamana made him consent to grant freedom for the three social universes, jagata, to settle in any territory and to allow them to convert themselves as social worlds, lokas in specific areas if the settled native populations, jana, did not want to entertain them. But these natives had to permit these mobile groups to live beside them but without adversely affecting their traditional means of livelihood and vocations.
This step was viewed by the natives as having been taken without their consent and hence undemocratic. To this day everywhere there are reservations about such attempts. Natives of any area, agricultural, pastoral, forest or mountain, or littoral do not want to lose their areas, resources and vocations to any other group. The protection given to the three social universes who were all human beings like the commoners and the nobles was the first step taken by Vamana. He corrected a distortion in the concept, ‘sons of the soil’ (jana) which was championed by Usanas.
Many scholars have not understood what the concept, ‘seven lokas’ meant. These were agro-pastoral commonalty (bhumi, bhu), affluent frontier society (bhuvana, bhuva), patriciate (svarga, sva), legislature (maha), assembly of the natives (jana), academy of researchers (tapasvis), and judiciary which upheld the laws that validated only deeds and sayings based on truth (satya). Of these seven social worlds of the middle Vedic social polity, Bali had consented to withdraw his control over the first three social worlds even before his trial began. By the second step he withdrew his ban on the next three, maha, jana and tapa. Bali had not dared to meddle with the judiciary (satyaloka), though he was equivocal on the issue of the obligations under the puritanical laws that were based on the importance and value of one’s commitments to truth.
The restoraon of the pristine ‘purity’ of the Vedic social polity required that the state should cease to determine how one should utilize his earnigs. Earlier Vedic core society had required that the working class should surrender half its earnings to its masters who belonged to the rich leisure class which claimed ownership of all lands and property. Later it was agreed that one fourth of the earnings should be surrendered as sacrifice to meet the needs of the three classes, nobles, sages and elders who were not earners. Then it was agreed that a householder could spend one-fifth of his earnings to meet the needs of these three classes under the head, social obligations including charity (dharma). He could retain two fifths to meet his economic needs (artha) and pleasurable pursuits (kama). He was expected to retain one-fifth for the needs of his offspring and other dependents (svajana). One-fifth of the earnings were invested in better life in the future through present gains (yasa). In this pre-tax scheme the householders were free from state control.
Later the earnings were divided into six sectors including these five. The sixth was tax imposed by the state (kara) which system was introduced by the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata. Vamana was anterior to Vaivasvata and was faced with a practice by which compulsory surrender (bali) earlier demanded by the feudal lords. The latter guided by Usanas agreed not to use coercion to meet their needs and those of the state administration. Instead they took charge of the three portions under dharma, svajana and yasa and allowed the householders two portions to meet their immediate needs and lead a happy married life. He had no obligations to maintain the ruling class, the educators, the elders, the offspring and their dependents and plan for their own future.
Bali’s state guided by Usanas extracted three-fifths of the earnings while freeing the earner of all social obligations and assuring present needs and joy. The earner could not and need not plan his future for the state would plan it even as he need not protect his children and other dependents. He would not starve and would have joy. Totalitarianism becomes acceptable because it permits the individual food and other needs and entertainment for him and his wife. It claims to be benevolent despotism and to free the earner of all obligations to other members of his family and to the society. It is a secular (to be precise, hedonist) state as it converts the commoner into a non-social being honouring the motto, “eat and enjoy now; you need not worry about others or about your own future”. Such a commoner is pleased and will not ask for more or for any thing else. This analysis brings out for the first time the socio-political factors highlighted by Badarayana which have unfortunately been lost sight of by so-called deists and the scholars engaged in metaphysics and in unraveling mysticism.
Salient aspects of Hindu Social Polity and the relations between the structure of the society and relationships among its identifiable sections and the state have eluded modern authors. Dandaniti, one of the major works on political policy which has been attributed to Usanas (Sukracharya) dealt with how to deal with deviation from social norms, civil conduct and economic obligations. In this respect it was penal law which was enforced by the political authorities, whether they were cultural aristocrats or feudal lords or plutocrats or technocrats or assertive rulers. The last did not belong to any of the other four sectors but had emerged from the commonalty and were not committed to any sect or creed. Dandaniti was secular and not ideolgically oriented. All rulers implemented it, some harshly and others gently. It did not attempt to ‘civilize’ the people but it did control their conduct and forced them not to deviate from the norms. It did not try to amend the social norms or give them specific directions. It was respected and obeyed when so implemented.
Vamana noticed that Usanas’s protégé, Bali, had been particular in not disturbing the systems and social practices of any of the three social sectors, aristocracy, agro-pastoral core society and the industrial society. The clans and communities continued to be engaged in their traditional vocations and the families were not prevented from getting their economic needs met and their domestic life not deprived of its gentle pleasures. As long as the ruler or the ruling sector ensures this contented life there would be peace in the society and the ruling class could remain complacent though it may not take any measures beyond alleviating the periodical sufferings of the masses. Usanas knew that the people would stand by their ruler and even empathise with him if he falls on bad days. They do not scrutinize his conduct and do not worry about his cultural orientations and theological preferences. This is political loyalty.
The settled native population, jana, whether in the agro-pastoral plains or in the industrial sector that was confined to mountains and forests and was referred to as the other native population, itara-jana, do not transgress into each other’s realm. They do however depend on the other socio-economic sector for meeting their needs. The traders were meeting these needs even without state protection. This society did not expect state protection. Any state intrusion was looked askance at. Bali guided by Usanas declared all lands to be state property but ensured that every socio-economic unit was secure in its home. There was no uprising against the state. It was a self-sufficient dicholtomous society.
Yet Vamana felt it necessary to take radical steps to provide secure succour to those cadres which were not aided either by the organized society or by the state. They were engaged in spreading noble social values and good cultural values (punya-gandha). These cadres belonged to a stratum between the ruling elite and the masses. It may be noted that modern Indologists whether Indian or European have failed to notice the diverse social, cultural and political roles they have played.
The cadres brought under the category of gandharvas like apsarases, vipras, vidyadharas, charanas, tapases, siddhas, guhyakas, were not engaged in economic activities. Their presence in their midst was not to the liking of the masses who were organised and settled as clans and communities and plied their respective traditional vocations and was even felt to disturb their calm and ambitionless life. The ruling elite too were not enthusiastic in welcoming the seeds of cultural renascence and wholesome moral and ethcal values sown and promoted by tham. It was from this middle sector the two sectors, class of intellectuals and jurists and class of administrators and warriors (Brahmans and Kshatriyas) emerged. From the masses, arose the two sectors, propertied and self-reliant class of Vaisyas and the propertyless workers, Shudras. The emergence of these four classes was the product of social dynamics and not desire of ‘God’ or dictates by any book of law.
Vamana noticed the presence of persons with leadership (purusha) traits and free men (naras) in the frontier society who like Gandharvas were not engaged in economic activities. The natives who were organised and engaged in industrial activities did not permit entry to these two vast cadres, kimpurushas and kinnaras, though they were not untalented. Vamana sought settlements for them too. It was resisted. These three constituted social universes (jagats) constantly on the move or staying in areas not claimed by the agro-pastoral native population (jana) or by those engaged in industrial activiries.
Vamana’s first step in socio-economic reorganisation including new settlements was to secure for them the right to be engaded in activities other than those engaged in by the other two sectors of native population. But the settlement and of and inducement given to these three sectors, gandharvas, kimpurushas and kinnaras did not succeed. This settlement itself did not get the approval of the native populations though there was no displacement of the natives or threat to the pursuit of their traditional occupations. These three cadres were not a threat to the political elite which immense freedom for its individual members and self-governance. These cadres, as a result, could remain out of both realms, political and economic, and be engaged in activities that were elevating to them, and to the society at large.
It has never been easy to prescribe social, economic and political laws common to all the three classes, elite, middle cadres and masses. Social security was what the masses needed. They did not ask for economic progress or political freedom and even to get them educated, culturally enriched, and civilized. The few of the elite did not tolerate interference, direct or indirect, in their ways of life and norms and values they had cherished for ages. They claimed to be a cultural aristocracy and were individualists. Neither the masses nor the middle class had access to their realm of self-glorification. It was only political reorganisation that wiped out the differences between aristocrats and plutocrats and between these two and the feudal warlords could enable the masses to flavor economic progress and the intellectually oriented to determine the course of socio-economic progress.
The ruling elite have been either cultured and civilized and gentle or coercive in its methods of administration. Dandaniti, penal law has been used by both. The gentler section of the elite depended more on liberalism and education to ensure that social norms were not breached by any one. Both altruistic aristocracy and selfish plutocracy adopted gentle means to make the people remain contented and safe. But technocrats who were amoral did not hesitate to oblige the coercive feudal lords. The efforts to elevate the masses and enable them to lead a contented and secure life are to be judged by their success or failure in raising the status of the commonalty to become equal to that of the middle class, whether the elite continues to have sway over the social polity or not.
Vamana noticed that the feudal lord had wound up the two houses of legislation, the council of scholars (mahaloka) and the assembly of representatives of the people (janaloka) and also the planning council (tapaloka) who were not subordinate to the ruling elite. He reinstated them and made the state democratic and progressive. He also noticed that Bali had not meddled with the judiciary (satyaloka) which upheld the concept of the ultimate test of truth. The Upanishadic period declared that both social and state laws (dharma) were identical with the puritanical laws based on the above concept (satya) and while upholding the right of the individual to act according to his natural traits (rta), to life and property cautioned him against inhuman conduct. Bali, the head of a feudal state however ignored the judiciary. Social and economic progress is not dependent on the caliber and bent of the judiciary.
The Upanishadic sages who noticed the dormancy of the Vedic judiciary which stood by the concept of ultimate success of truth without any conscious endeavour to activate it, put forth the concept of socio-political constitution (Brahma) and the principles of jurisprudence that should prevail as the highest social power. Brahmaloka, the assembly of jurists, ranked superior to the bench of judges (satyaloka). They debated the caliber expected of the jurists from among whom the members of the bench would be selected.
The Chief Justice (designated as Brahma) would be nominated by the head of the state whatever designation he was assigned and would be free to select his colleagues from the members of that assembly. He should have arisen from the lower ranks of the society and experienced the lives of all strata from being within them and become an unattached individual eligible to be called as Vaisvanara. He had to be the spokesman of the entire social cosmos (visva) and not only of a specific social world or community (loka) with its own specific interests and values or of a social universe (jagat) that held forth exalting cultural values.
Another major aspect of tehe relationship between members of the society and the governing elite is the freedom that the former could exercise with respect to their social life. Once the commoners were fully subordinate to the ruling elite and had to function almost as slaves tilling the lands of the patriciate. They were delighted when they were offered the status of equal partners with the elite owning the lands and charging half of the grains that the tillers produced. The masses had no right to the land or the equipment needed to cultivate. They were further delighted when they were freed from bondage and allowed to surrender voluntarily one-fourth of their earnings to the ruling elite. The commoner had to foot the expenses of his family including those of the elders and children and for the guidance they got from the teachers who were sages.
At a still later stage when Dandaniti came into force, the commoners were allowed to retain all their earnings and spend them equally on socio-cultural activities (dharma), current economic needs (artha), pleasure (kama), needs of the retired elders and the children (svajana) and activities that would lead to the success of their economic ventures if they were eager on these (yasa). The fifth part might be forgone if they were not materialistic and opted for renunciation.
Feudal lords however allowed them only the two portions meant for economic needs and for happy married life. The other three portions which were to be originally placed under the officer in charge of public trusts (vistapas) were taken over by the despot. Because the state had no funds to meet the needs of administration and protection of life and property and the system of voluntary sacrifice by the commoners had ceased to operate. It was subordination and deprivation of the people while assuring them that the funds would be used for fulfilling their duties to the society and their non-earning members and for economic progress.
Dandaniti, penal law was not tuned to maintaining cordial relations between the weak commoners and the mighty state. It was amoral. Vamana was eager to make ecery earning member capable of meeting his need and be wise in allocating his earning for the five purposes equally. This would make them responsible and reliable members and head of their families. Dandaniti did not ensure that the masses would become self-reliant and have faith in the state, that is, in the ruling elite. It would have faith only if the state is honest and non-exploitative.
STRUGGLE AGAINST AUTOCRACY
THE PRTHU CONSTITUTION
The Rajarshi of Anga and his son, Vena
Vena's reign coincided with the tenures of the sixth and seventh Manus, Chakshusha and Vaivasvata. According to the Mahabharata, he was a descendant of Brahmarshi Kardama. According to Bhagavatam, he was a descendant of Dhruva, brother of the third Manu, Uttama. Uttama, who was killed by a plutocrat (Yaksha), was said to be a grandson of the first Manu, Svayambhuva. Kardama was a contemporary of this Manu.
The Bhagavatam blames Vena's mother, Sunita, for the calamity that took place under Vena. The Mahabharata absolves her and faults her husband who was a Rajarshi of Anga. This ruler was disappointed with the way Vena was brought up by his mother, Sunita. The soft scholarly ruler who functioned in accordance with the Rajarshi constitution disappeared from his palace and it was suspected that his son, Vena, had got him killed and claimed that the king had become a recluse.
Both the works say that the sages ‘cursed’ Vena and he died. They used Vag-vajra, pronouncement by the chief of the nobles calling for his execution. After Vena's death, Prthu who was highly respected as a facet (amsa, disciple) of Narayana was installed as Kshiti-Indra, the ruler of the agricultural lands, the legends say. The Atharvaveda lines in Bk.8-10, the Viraj allegory, are based on this recognition of Prthu as Kshiti-Isvara and as a protégé of Manu Vaivasvata. (Many annotators have failed to notice that the status of an Indra was not identical with that of an Isvara. Indra was only an official of the state pressing over its eight-member executive and controlling finance and defence while Isvara was a liberal charismatic head of the state.)
The Bhagavatam explains why Vena, the wielder of Danda, coercive power, as King, was himself awarded the punishment called Brahmadanda by the sages who were scholars in Dharma. Even if he were a sinner, the Prajapati or chief of the subjects or people was never to be insulted by the senior subjects (prajabhi) because he bores prowess (ojas) and personal grandeur (sva-tejas). Prajapati, eldest member of the council of sages and elders who convened both the houses of the legislature, assembly of nobles and council of sages, sabha and samiti, ranked higher than the king (rajan) who was head of the state. Yet this unusual incident happened. The Bhagavatam explains the circumstances that led to the revolt, which has been immortalized in the history of ancient India.
The Rajarshi of Anga was childless. He conducted an Asvamedha sacrifice under the direction of the Brahmavadis, socio-political ideologues and activists who stood by the constitution enshrined in the Atharvaveda (Brahma). But the nobles, who were required to be witnesses, kept away. There must have been dissension. Many scholars did not accept the claim of the Atharvans that they alone were entitled to officiate at the sacrifice that sanctified the regime of the King concerned.Thereupon he performed another sacrifice arranged by the members of his samiti, council of scholars. The nobles were present at this sacrifice and accepted the gifts.
Vena was born after that sacrifice. But the people had reservations about Sunita’s father who was considered to be irreligious. The Mahabharata asserts that her father was Dharma or Chief Justice of a state in charge of ensuring that the approved social norms were adhered to by all and that her upbringing of Vena is not to be faulted. But it does not condone Vena. It was an age when both the seed and the soil were emphasized to ensure that the offspring was genetically and culturally, that is, by nature and by nurture, of a high standard. Vena was later declared a Nishada, a social reject. While some suspected Sunita had not brought him up well, some others blamed Vena’s father as licentious.
When the Rajarshi disappeared and search became futile, Bhrgu and others who held the welfare of the people to be the highest consideration said that free men (nrs) were behaving like like animals in the absence of a ruler (goptari, herdsman), and that it was imperative to first end the interregnum. The commoners functioned within the framework of the codes of their clans and communities. But the free men, naras or nrs, were not covered by such social codes. They had to be placed under the control of the state headed by a king. Else they were likely to become uncivilized and misbehave. The Brahmavadis met Sunita, the mother of the Vira (Vena who belonged to the group of Viras, a newly raised cadre of nobles) and without securing the consent of the constituents of the state they enthroned Vena. They preempted the other likely moves.
Young Vena adopted a tough policy in administration. The rebels were put down and many hid themselves. He gathered around him a group of eight Vibhutis or chiefs and claimed that he was superior to the Mahabhagas, the rich contributors to the treasury and influential members of the Sabha. The latter who were nobles and traditional aristocrats resented this disrespect and their waning influence. Guided by the Vibhutis, he promulgated a ban on all sacrifices and gifts in charity to the Brahmans. This was a challenge to the priestly order. He also banned in general all religious (dharma) practices. [It was atheism and outlawing religion and was not mere Saivaite antipathy to the Brahmans.]
The Viras to whose cadre Vena belonged were affiliated to the Rudras who were held in veneration by the Saivaites (followers of Siva). The Haris were affiliated to the Adityas who were closer to the Vaishnavaites (followers of Vishnu).
The annoyed sages gathered their colleagues and discussed the miscarriage of their intents. Out of fear of anarchy they had consented to the installation of Vena as the King but now the people were trapped between brigands and a cruel King. (4-14-8) According to their plan they would first try to persuade him to change his policy. If they failed in this, they would join the public, who were against him from the very beginning. He would be first condemned by the public (lok-dhik-kara) and then the sages would pronounce that he be burnt to death.
The sages pleaded (4-14-13to22 of the Bhagavatam) for restoration of the right to practise Dharma as prescribed. Even a government that follows a policy of materialism or pursuit of wealth should permit these practices they argued. They called for protection of the taxpayer from the cruel ministers and the corrupt chiefs. (Corruption is not of recent origin. It is in-built in bureaucracy.) They demanded freedom to practise Varnasrama Dharma both in the town (pura) and in the country (rashtra), and the right to perform sacrifices, yajnas, and to accept gifts. Vena had objected to the immunity enjoyed by Brahman priests with respect to the gifts they received. He had taken the maximum share from the national exchequer and attempted to enrich himself further by taxing the gifts made to the Brahmans and the religious orders. The followers of Bhrgu demanded an end to the exploitation of the taxpayers. They extended a concealed threat of refusal to pay taxes if he did not heed their advice, while they offered the support of the Brahmans (jurists) and the nobles among others, if he conceded their demands.
Vena countered that what the sages claimed to be dharma was indeed adharma. (4-14-23). [This claim is not to be interpreted as one accusing the sages of promoting an irreligious act of sedition.] He wanted the jurists, Brahmans, to accept that the King was an Isvara in the form of a Nara. [This claim has later been interpreted to mean that the King is God in human form and has to be worshipped and never questioned or disobeyed by the subjects.] In fact, the chronicler meant that the King was a rich charismatic leader (Isvara) who conducted himself as a free man (nara) and like the naras was not bound by the codes of any clan or community or class. But the jurists (Brahmans) refused to concede the claim that he was not bound by any social code.
He claimed that as a chief of free men he was also the embodiment of the will of all the nobles (sarvadevamayanrpa). He demanded that the first sacrifice should be paid to him. In other words, the King of free men (nrs) had taken over the roles of all nobles and hence it was no longer necessary and permissible to offer the first sacrifice to the order of nobles. [It is unsound to interpret that the king though a man had the powers of all the gods.] Vena had abolished the assembly of aristocracy. Despots do not enjoy the support of the masses who are organised as settled clans.
The Indictment, Vag-vajra
The traditional system required that sacrifices be offered to nobles, sages and elders for getting any action consecrated. [Devas were not Gods. They were also human beings but were superior to the commoners who looked up to them for protection and help.] Vena claimed that he had taken over the roles of all the nobles and dissolved that cadre. Hence whatever was in the past paid to the nobles should now be paid to the King who would protect the interests of all free men.
This claim enraged the Brahmans and they declared him to be unholy and called for his being killed, before he burnt others. They declared that he was unfit to sit on the throne given to him by free men and the nobles. The ruler had to secure the support of both the nobles and the commoners if he were to be treated as having rational legitimacy.
The commonalty was formed of clans and organized communities. They did not permit any of their members to exercise his individual will and required him to toe its own stand. But the naras who were not bound by their families or clans or communities could exercise their right to grant legitimacy to the rule of the king. Vena claimed to be a ruler who had the support of such free men. But in reality these free men (naras) were his subordinates and were manning the state bureaucracy and could not speak against him.
Vena lost his legitimacy when he abolished the aristocracy which ranked superior to the king and ignored the organized commonalty and began to rule with the aid of his docile subordinates who he claimed were free men, naras. Vena had distorted the polity and lost the legitimacy to sit on the throne. The angry and strong pronouncement of the sages is called Vag-vajra, the utterance that is as powerful as the vajra (hardened spine used as weapon by Indra). It is the punishment (Brahmadanda) declared by the jurists to be valid. It was the punishment prescribed in the Atharvan constitution for a serious violation of its provisions. [It would be wrong to interpret that the Brahmans who belonged to the sacerdotal class interfered in secular polity and called for the death of the King. They were Atharvan jurists and were members of the constitution bench.] Vena was burnt to death. His half-burnt body was preserved by Queen Mother, Sunita for some time (by a scientific process, vidya-yojena).
The Conflict was essentially Economic
The Brahmavadis who advocated Dandaniti, the policy of coercive power, as outlined by the school of Usanas did not object to Vena’s secularism. He does not seem to have interfered with the religious practices prevalent in the rural areas (rashtram) but had banned them only in his capital (pura), which was dominated by the rich, the Mahabhagas, the aristocrats. They had resisted his utilizing the funds from the exchequer for his personal purposes.
Vena's ban on gifts was more out of financial considerations than out of opposition to dharma (religion as commonly understood) per se. The income of the Brahmans from gifts received and the expenditure incurred by others on gifts to the Brahmans were both exempt from taxes. He did not want to leave these gifts out of the tax net. Vena realized that the Brahmans had a hold in the rural areas and avoided a collision there. The conflict took the colour not of one between the city and the rural areas or of one between Kshatriyas and Brahmans, but of one between a neo-urban secular culture and the mainly rural forces of tradition.
The Mahabhagas, the rich aristocrats, cast their lot with the traditionalists. It was essentially an economic conflict rather than a conflict between the secular state and the religious orders. The followers of Bhrgu did not call for a theocratic state. In fact, they refused to be carried away by the postulate of the divinity of the king. They demanded approval for the provisions pertaining to gifts, which Bhrgu had introduced in his definition of the dharmas, rights and duties of the different socio-economic classes, varnas. Usanas and other Brahmavadis who belonged to the pre-Bhrgu shool of political thought that supported Dandaniti which supported the policy of coercion refused to abide by this definition. The neo-Kshatriyas and the neo-Vaisyas would not have enjoyed immunity and this would be discrimination against them.
The Stand of the Bhrgus: an Enigma
After Vena was put to death by mob fury, abetted by the Bhrgus and the professional Brahmans, Queen Sunita ruled as regent. The people were panicky. They had none to protect them against the brigands (4-14-37). Property was being looted. Civil war broke out and anarchy took over (14-40). Bhrgu and his colleagues were accused of taking undue interest in political affairs and precipitating anarchy. The editors of the chronicle, the Bhagavatam, defend them and say that the Bhrgus were performing only their duty when they exercised their moral authority in using Brahmadanda [constitutionally valid use of coercive powers] and pronounced Vena’s excommunication and declared him liable to incur the highest amercement. The Bhrgus were interpreting the provisions of the socio-political constitution enshrined in Atharvaveda (Brahma) on punishment (Danda) for violation of that constitution.
To prove that they were not interested in gaining political power, the Bhrgus withdrew after Vena’s fall, to their abodes. Though they could subdue the warring factions they did not do so. They held that it was against the Svadharma (the code of duty accepted by the individual voluntarily) of the Brahmans to assume political power. But a Brahman who was required to maintain equipoise and treat all as equals could not however neglect the weak lest his 'Brahmam' should diminish (41). [Modern scholars who have failed to note the implication of the term, Brahmam, have passed it by translating that it meant spiritual power.]
Brahmadanda and Rajadanda
Coercive Powers of Judiciary and Executive
An intellectual who functions as a jurist while interpreting the constitution has to be composed, balanced and neutral, but at the same time he has to protect the weak against the mighty. Otherwise his authority as a jurist will diminish. The Bhrgus were not priests or teachers seeking benefits through gifts. They were upholders of the constitution. In the struggle between the weak and the mighty, the Brahman jurist has to support and protect the former.
Brahmadanda, the authority of the judiciary to punish the guilty, does not supplant Rajadanda, the coercive power (allowed by the constitution) of the political executive headed by the King. The moral authority of the intelligentsia even when exercised from the seat of the chief justice does not replace the sovereign power of the state. It is invoked only when the ruler transgresses the limits of power. Dharma, as Bhrgu understood, called for the protection of the weak against the mighty, while Dandaniti enabled the mighty to control the weak. The followers of Bhrgu felt it expedient to enthrone one from the lineage of the Rajarshi of Anga, with the eligibility of Vena to sit on the throne having been struck down. Prthu was selected. This time the Bhrgus took the lead and the Brahmavadis followed their lead.
It may be noted here that the followers of Atharvacharya and Angirasa were known as Brahmavadis and so too those of Kashyapa. The followers of Bhrgu and Usanas too were among the main contributors to the Atharva anthology but were not among the Brahmavadis, the socio-political ideologues. The conditions that the Brahmavadis placed on Prthu's enthronement reveal how they had mastered the monster of unbridled power that Vena represented. The Bhrgu theory of the State (Rajadharma as presented in Manusmrti Bk.7) has to be understood in the background of the events that led to the overthrow of Vena. The earlier scheme of eight functionaries intended to diffuse authority had failed and power came to be concentrated in the hands of one person. The structure was maintained but the nomination of undesirable persons to the eight posts led to atrocities. Effective prevention of this evil had to be provided, the sages found.
The Choice of the Successor: Nishada or Prthu
Nishada was a rejected dark and dwarfish child who was directed to perform the last rites for the excommunicated ruler, Vena. This young child might have been an offspring of Kratu, a brother of the Rajarshi of Anga and hence a half-brother of Vena. Kratu might have been named after Prajapati Kratu of Valakhilyas, the short-stature sages who were also Tvashtas, technocrats. Prajapati Kratu was a member of the Board of Ten Prajapatis who drafted the Manava Dharmasastra. Bhrgu was its chief editor. The first Manu, Svayambhuva had nominated this Board headed by Marici. (Kratu might not have been a natural son of Anga’s parents.) Valakhilyas must have dominated the polity of Anga. Valakhilyas and Sarasvatganas were nominated as Prthu’s counsellors according to the Mahabharata. Prthu was guided by the schools of Usanas and Garga.
Nishada was docile and was ready to carry out the directions of the sages but was not preferred. The sages stressed choice of a confident and responsible ruler. The choice fell on Prthu of the lineage of the Rajarshi of Anga. He seems to have been an offspring of Kala, a twin-sister of that Rajarshi. If Vena had left a daughter, Archi, she had married Prthu and this would have satisfied Queen Mother Sunita. Later chroniclers felt it advisable to honour the principle of hereditary legitimacy. Prthu was not associated with the lineage of the Rajarshi of Anga.
Hari (Krshna?) is said to have played a key role in the installation of Prthu as the new king. He was a sobering influence on the contending parties. The Mahabharata describes Prthu as wearing protective armour and carrying a shield and a bow and arrows. He was an expert in archery. It is said that with the end of his bow Prthu broke the hills and levelled the lands. He cultivated seventeen crops, that is, he ruled for seventeen years. He brought law and order to the country and was a conqueror. He bestowed Anupa, a marshy country, on a Suta and the kingdom of Magadha on Magadhas.
Who was the Suta? Does Anupa refer to the Rann of Kutch? Prthu must have offered Karna, a Suta (who was later offered during the interregnum the position of an autonomous ruler of Anga), the post of governor of Anupa instead. Prt0hu was godfather of Kunti, mother of Karna and the Pandavas. Kunti was known also as Prtha.
Prthu must have recognized the Sutas and the Magadhas as equivalent to Kshatriyas and as eligible to be appointed as rulers. These were powerful mixed classes and had been kept at a distance by the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas. But unlike the Nishadas, they were not social rejects. Prthu belonged to Madhyadesa, the region between the western Sarasvati, the eastern Sarasvati and Narmada. This region had gone dry after the disappearance of Sarasvati and its tributary, Drshadvati. The Valakhilyas and Sarasvatganas from among whom he selected his supporters belonged to this region, which was uneven and arid. He attempted to bring it back under cultivation. These events were closer to the times of Manu Vaivasvata and do not belong to the dawn of civilization and beginning of agriculture per se. (Some have treated Prthu as a son of Vaivasvata, the first Man. This is irrational. Neither was Manu the first Man nor Prthu the first king. He was only a protégé of Manu Vaivasvata.) Vena had distorted Dandaniti. As Prthu ascends the throne, this distortion is corrected. We develop here the basis of this new state of Prthu on the basis of the Bhagavatam.
The Charter of Demands and the Prthu Constitution
Prthu was not willing to swallow the words of flattery showered on him by the kingmakers (officials and chieftains who installed him as a king). Some scholars have wondered whether the Suta and the Magadha were included in the list of the officials (rajakrtrs) who conducted the ceremony where the king was anointed as such. It is incorrect to describe Suta as herald and Magadha as drummer. Such interpretations betray a lack of acquaintance with the structure of the early democratic State that Prthu headed. Sutas and Magadhas were later recognized as influential and respected mixed classes.
Prthu demanded that he be told the specific conditions attached to his installation. The vachaspatis, the scholars who read out the constitution and the proclamation, were bewildered. But it was declared that Prthu was born to a senior noble (deva-varya) and belonged to the lineages of Anga and Vena. They added that under instruction from the munis (sages who observed silence) they (rajakrtrs) shall spread the fame of Prthu-Hari, for his liberality and laudable activities. (Bhag 4-16-3) Prthu was being supported by the Haris, a new group of nobles who accepted him as a member of their cadre. Vena belonged to the cadre of Viras who were rivals of Haris. These two cadres had been elevated to the rank of nobles by the fourth Manu, Tamasa.Then they read out the conditions that had been imposed by the sages while approving the choice of Prthu.
(1) King as Dharmabhrta and Dharmasetu
The king should be the best of dharmabhrtas, persons bearing the responsibility to ensure the prevalence of dharma and who execute the works of dharma type (religious works, in common parlance). He should involve the social world (loka), particularly the commoners (prthvi) in these activities. He should be the protector (gopta) of the bridge between the different approved practices (dharmasetu), between different creeds, as commonly understood. It would be simplistic to interpret this role as one bringing together diverse religions and their followers.
It is however a positive approach towards ensuring social integration and not merely requiring the king as the head of the state to remain impartial and neutral when faced with social conflicts. He should chastise those who worked against this (4-16-4). The new state will not be indifferent to or be against dharma. (We have to scrupulously refrain from translating dharma as religion.) A positive neutrality and non-partisan approach coupled with active steps to bridge the gulf between diverse practices is expected of the king, the head of the state. Both Bhrgus and the Brahmavadis who followed Kashyapa would have stressed this approach. (This replaces the negative secularism of Vena.)
In the context of the debates veering round the issue, theocratic and secular states, it is useful to recognize that these debates have gained currency only after the last decades of the 18th century. The socio-political constitutions of the Vedic period were not required to deliberate on these issues as they were concerned primarily with issues that were mundane and were called upon to solve all social and economic disputes on the basis of the assertion that ‘right is mightier than might’ the laws that acknowledgement of averments which were rigorously within the ambit of ‘truth’. These constitutions were not required to deal with issues that were basically spiritual or ethical or theological.
Only by the end of the Vedic period when the concept of dharma diluted the rigour of the above laws and wide social options were made available, both the socio-religious leaders and officials of the state were called upon to define the scope of social and economic laws, dharma, vis-à-vis state laws, rajadharma that defined the powers, rights and duties of the state officials (including the king, rajan). Along with rajadharma, prajadharma, duties and rights of the individuals and social groups were determined and defined to avoid the rise of despotism. Dharma as social laws and rajadharma (and prajadharma) as state laws, were not allowed to infringe on the jurisdictions of the other. Kuladharmas, Jatidharmas, Lokadharmas, Srenidharmas, Samghadharmas, and Desadharmas were social laws of the clan, community, social world, economic corporation, economic unions and treeitories. All of them were recognized and the head of the state was required to ensure that none of them lost their binding force. This was the intent of the term, ‘dharmabhrta’.
Svadharma allowed every individual to choose the best way of life and pursuits that were in tune with his innate propensity. Manavadharma allowed such individuals to pursue their vocations and reside in areas and countries of their choice. Both thse freed the individuals from social control as well as state control. The Prthu state was required to uphold both svadharma and manavadharma. But the state was required to be a bridge between all these laws and ensure that there were no social or economic or political conflicts.
(2) King Personally Responsible
The second main ground for the overthrow of Vena was that his amatyas and adhyakshas, secretaries of state and heads of departments, exercised authority without responsibility. This led to corruption and harassment. Prthu is required to abolish the posts of governors (lokapalas) and be personally responsible for the protection of the people. (Lokapalas were autonomous governors.They had no judicial powers.) A new system of administration is recommended by which the king will have to answer for the miscarriage of justice. (Kautilya was aware of this aspect. Manusmrti too does not advocate the institution of the posts of lokapalas. These posts were present in the polity of Kosala which was based on Tamasasmrti and was guided by Vasishta.)
(3) Rational Revenue Expenditure
At the prescribed time, the due share (of the budget) should be used for the welfare of the people. Vasu, tax in kind, shall be exacted at the appropriate time and distributed among all the people (4-16-6). The Vibhutis, lokapalas, amatyas and adhyakshas whom Vena appointed adopted arbitrary and unjust methods while collecting taxes and in the distribution of revenue expenditure. The rural areas suffered most. Prthu is asked to ensure that governance is carried in accordance with the strict rules prescribed in Dandaniti. Vena had discarded them. Rationalization is called for.
(4) King not immune
The King will not enjoy immunity from criticism. He can be impeached. He cannot evade it by casting the blame on the officials. Vena (and some others) had misused the concept of royalty as vimuktasanga prakrti, a constituent of the state that is independent of all bodies that have their personal interests. The Rajarshi constitution had stipulated that the king as the head of the state should not support any interest group. He should not also pursue his own interests. This concept was deliberately distorted by Vena who claimed that the king was not a constituent (prakrti) of the state representing specific economic interests. Prthu constitution had safeguards against such distortion. The new state does not absolve the king from accountability. He would be taken to task for the errors and crimes committed by him and also by his officials.
(5) Agriculture as National Economy
Perhaps the most significant condition was that the King should accept for the nation an economy based on agriculture (4-16-7). This statement accords with the Atharvaveda lines where Viraj, the cow, yielded agriculture to Prthu when Manu Vaivasvata was beside the cow as the calf. Agriculture was the main issue in the revolt against Vena. In the manifesto of the Vratya Prajapati prepared after consulting all chiefs of the peoples (Prajapatis), charismatic leaders (Parameshtis) and elders (Pitaras), food was given the highest priority. It is regretted that scholars of both the medieval and modern times have failed to appreciate the constitution of the nation-states that were sponsored by the Vratya (dispassionate) Prajapati (chief of the people), Mahadeva (who has later been deified). This constitution described in Atharvaveda Bk 15 occupies a crucial place in the evolution of the Hindu State.
For development of agriculture financial aid from the state was essential. If the nobles who controlled the national exchequer did not give assistance Prthu should himself protect the people by taking over the role of Indra (4-16-8). [It is naive to interpret that if the rain gods failed, the King should release grains from his store.] Indra was the chief of the house of nobles, Sabha, and presided over the Samsad (the joint legislature of Sabha and Samiti, the house of nobles and the council of scholars and elders). The Samsad, which could legislate also controlled the exchequer. Tthe King had to move it moved it for withdrawal of funds from it, I pointed out while describing the normative pattern of the two bodies as prescribed in Atharvaveda Bk.7-12. This condition was intended to subordinate the nobles to the State and gently coerce them to come to the help of the commoners.
(6) Open Policy
In the conduct of the affairs of the state, especially in matters pertaining to welfare measures, an open policy should be adopted. The Rgveda mentions how the King placed the proposed welfare measures before the Sabha. Prthu and some others argued that a King had to keep his policy non-manifest and the purposes of his activities confidential. His grave accomplishments had to be kept secret (upagupta). How could he reconcile this need for secrecy with the demand for an open policy? (4-16-10). The Brahmavadis and the kingmakers had to concede the validity of this argument. But experience had taught them that this concession was likely to again lead the king to rule without assistants, concentrating all powers in his hands.
Vena had argued that he was sarvadevamaya, concentrating in his hands, the powers not only of Indra, Vayu, Ravi (Surya) , Yama, Dhanada (Kubera), Agni, Soma and Varuna (the eight ministers) but also of the authorities like Vishnu, Brahma (Virincha) and Siva (Girisha) and the officials called Parjanya (Rain) and Kshiti (Agriculture). Vena claimed total authority. [Inclusion of the Trinity, Vishnu, Brahma and Siva (Mahadeva, Mahesh) must have been a later interpolation. These three who have been later deified must have been earlier envisaged as officials (Viraj, Brahma, Prajapati) holding the positions of the nominal head of the federal state, the chief justice and the head of the nation-state.] A way had to be found out and the discussions led to the proposal that the King depend on Pracetas and confide in him. The King had to deliberate at least with one official of the state before taking any step. (Kautilya too made such consultation obligatory so that the king did not become an autocrat.)
(7) Appointment of Pracetas
In order to keep policies secret and to control wealth (vittha), the King should cover himself like Pracetas, known for his limitless greatness (4-16-10). The concept of a single minister in whom all authority is vested and who covers the King is advocated. The concept of a confidential politico-economic authority to aid the King is advanced. The Brahmavadis, socio-political ideologues and activists, did not support authoritarianism. Prthu occupies a stage between Usanas’s Dandaniti and Kautilyan Arthasastra. [Kautilya objected to dependence on one minister. He preferred to have three ministers at least to avoid the dangers of collision between two ministers and collusion between the two.] Dandaniti facilitated autocracy in the name of strong and good government.
Place of Pracetas in the Constitution
Here it is implied that Pracetas will control the treasury and be privy to the King's Counsel. The King is the head of the state but he cannot take over the treasury even if the rich nobles refused to release funds from the treasury to help the commoners, in need. He may relieve Indra, the guardian of the treasury, if the latter has been found to be non-cooperative, but cannot himself become Indra. Pracetas would be the Chancellor of the Exchequer and controller of economic activities even if the post of Indra continued to exist and so too the house of nobles with the power to veto. Prthu must have accepted some of the provisions of the Arthasastra of Pracetas, which preceded that of Kautilya.
A Pracetas was one of the ten Prajapatis nominated by Manu Svayambhuva to draft the Manava Dharmasastra and reorganize the society. Pracetas represented the Rudra school of thought and succeeded Daksha as a member of the Board of Ten Prajapatis. Neither Pracetas nor Daksha had the authority that Varuna had as ombudsman and regent during interregnum (caused by the death or retirement or exile of the incumbent King). Varuna could ensure that the King and all other officials of the state followed the provisions of the Atharvan constitution. He exercised the highest magisterial authority for this purpose.
Pracetas was deputy to the King with politico-economic powers divided between the King and Pracetas. The King controlled the army and foreign policy while Pracetas looked after civil administration including economy and judiciary. Where the head of the State was designated as Purusha, the official designated as Pracetas could be entrusted with internal administration and security and delegated all powers except going to war with other countries or entering into treaties with them. [Pracetas as proposed here is equivalent to the Prime Minister of Kautilyan State. He had powers that were earlier vested in Brhaspati, head of the bureaucracy.]
In the Bhagavatam, the Prthu structure provided for Pracetas as chief of economic affairs, the chief counsellor, who would be answerable to the public. His status is between that of the Prime Minister and that of Sannidhata or Mahanandi who could bar direct access to the King. Sannidhatas and Mahanandis were notorious for preventing the King from learning the needs of the people and their opinions on vital issues. Even if the King was declared to be a Purusha, the leader of the people, his power and influence were getting restrained as Maryada-Purusha.
In Kosala, Bharata consented to hold the status of Mahanandi and be regent like Varuna during the absence of Rama who had the rank of Purusha a ruler with life tenure. [To be precise, Rama was only Maryada Purusha. Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Satrugna together had tenure of twenty-four years, with each occupying the throne for five years like any ordinary kin (rajan) and Rama as 'karta', an additional four years. Rama and Lakshmana spent their fourteen years in exile while Bharata exercised their powers as regent.] Pracetas ensured that the wishes of the Purusha were carried out. He could give counsel to the ruler whenever he felt it necessary and exercise residual powers. Pracetas replaces Vena’s cabal of Vibhutis which was a distortion of Krshna’s concept ‘vibhutis’.
(7) Impersonal Governance
Prthu shall collect information, internal as well as external, through a cadre of scouts objectively and preside over the affairs in a disinterested manner. He shall function not as a man with body and soul but as the spirit and soul of the state (Bhagavatam 4-16-11, 12). Objectivity leads to impartiality in rendering justice. Even the sons of his enemies shall not be punished if not guilty and his own sons shall be punished if guilty. Immunity that Prthu needed was granted only in the discharge of his duties. Appointment of Pracetas had reduced personal risk. [Kautilya calls for formation of the institution of chakshus (spies) who would be providing the ruler with authentic information about the happenings and trends so that he might take corrective steps.] The Bhrgus (and the Brahmavadis) attempted to lift the king above the level of a constituent with personal interests, prejudices and animosities and install him as a presiding chief with no personal or familial interests.
(8) Charisma---No Cabal
Prthu is required to function independent of cabals (chakram). He should be at the apex of charisma, a height that cannot be assessed by intellect (4-16-14). For this purpose, he has to please his subjects (praja) befitting the meaning of raja. Bhishma gives this interpretation in his theory of Rajadharma. The King should be firm, stand by truth, serve the Brahmans (friendly guides, as Bhishma envisaged) and the elderly, protect those who seek his shelter, be kind to the weak, treat his wife as his equal, respect other women as mothers, be affectionate as a father and be a messenger (kinkara) of the Brahmavadis.
(9) Messenger of the Brahmavadis
With the emergence of Kashyapa as the chief of seven sages, during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata, a rapprochement between the Bhrgus and the followers of Angirasa who were Brahmavadis became possible. The Bhrgus took the lead in overthrowing Vena. After the regency of Queen Mother, Sunita, Brahmavadis emerged as the socio-political wing of the intellectuals, Brahmans in contrast to the socio-cultural role that the Brahmarshis continued to play and plead for. What should be the relation between the King and the Brahmavadis? The King has to be the guardian and executor of their will. This aspect too has eluded both the medieval and modern scholars.
Svayambhuva when he was only a Kshatriya ruler of a small territory in the Sarasvati basin before he was appointed as Manu was prepared to be the guardian of the Brahmans but would not be the executor of their will. At that time, only Brahmarshis were on the stage and not the activists, Brahmavadis nor the priestly order of Brahmans.
The Prthu constitution stipulated that the ideologues, Brahmavadis, would have no cadre to promote their cause and the state would follow their recommendations without being coerced. The King personally undertook the task proposed by them. [Vena was against the intervention of the Brahmanical order in the affairs of the state. Nor did he give room to other sects.] Prthu would be the kinkara, messenger of these ideologues but was not their servant or agent. The people would not dare to disregard the import of the message that had the backing of the state though it was not a law incorporated in the sociopolitical code. He was however not subordinate to the ideologues. The acts of the head of the state would be based not on what he considered as the besr ones but on what the group of experienced and independent ideologues deemed to be the best. The state would have no ideology of its own while the ideologues had no cadre of their own to propagate or implement their views.
Prthu was asked to give priority to agriculture. But Prthu constitution was not handicapped by the imposition of any particular policy in it. The King was free as an individual to promote their views, and causes. Though the state is non-partisan, the King is envisaged as the head of the executive whose course of action will be determined by the group of ideologues, whom he is aligned with. The Prthu constitution did not envisage a state without a policy. But the policy would be determined by ideologues and not by the king. The king is not the state.
(10) The King's Associates
Prthu would have to treat all bodies of individuals (dehis) as dear to himself and the Nandivardanas as friends (4-10-18). This verse implies more than what meets the eye. It indicates the sources of his support. Dehi means corporate body like sreni and samgha, corporation and guild, who demanded a status equal to that of the state. Prthu came on the scene after the elaborate science of political policy, Dandaniti, had been composed and had come into force. This compendium on valid means of political control took into account the existence of various social, economic and political groups, which followed their own discrete interests though functioning within the territory over which the King claimed suzerainty. Prthu was not the first King. He was also not the first to rule under the constitution envisaged by the then recently drafted Dandaniti.
Dandaniti as claimed by Usanas subordinated all Dharmas (codes of law) whether they were those of the clans or of communities or of economic corporations or of regions to the principles and policy laid down in it. Prthu’s was not such an authoritarian constitution.
The Nandivardanas (who were followers of Rudra) must have rejected Dandaniti and supported the Pracetas school of thought. To be precise, the constitution that Prthu accepted was more democratic and more liberal than the earlier ones and certainly not authoritarian. What Usanas advocated was based on vast experience and was intended to ensure maintenance of law and order and to bring about uniformity in practices. But it was not democratic. As the movement with which the Bhrgus had cast their lot threw out Vena, Prthu should recognize who his supporters were. He could not afford to antagonize the corporations by interfering with their separate identities and their autonomy.
They did not come under the jurisdiction of any constituent (anga or prakrti) of the state other than the one over which the King had personal control. He should gain their support by treating them as his equals. Nandivardanas must have been a branch of the Valakhilyas who supported Prthu. The muktasanga were the monks who were connected with the revolt against Vena. They led the liberation movement. Prthu was advised not to ignore them. Thus the sources of support are identified.
(11) Prthu is made chief of the three aspects of the state, Kutastha, Atma and Kalaya.
Kutastha implies the static condition that can be understood even by the uneducated, that is, even by those who have not studied the science of polity. Verse 4-24-34 (of the Bhagavatam) refers to Kutastha-svarochisham. The Brahmavadis led by Angirasa, one of the chief authors of the Atharvaveda, had during the tenure of the second Manu Svarochisha advanced this concept. Angirasa was the head of the council of seven sages during his tenure. The state shall not expand its power internally or externally. It was what the Vratya Prajapati intended. It recognized the right of every unit to pursue its own interests and policy and develop itself under the concept of Svarajam. The non-expanding state allays the fears of the masses as Kashyapa underlines in AV Bk.8-9, the Viraj section. Such a state with limited powers is stable, kutastha. But it could not aid progress of the society or economy.
Atma or self is related to nirarthakam. The King shall protect the individuals who do not belong to the organized economic structure and who do not pursue economic goals. The hermits and the disabled are covered by this concept. They are distinct from the corporate bodies (dehis that is, kulas, jatis, srenis), which are not dependent on the state. The King too is an individual (atma) pursuing his own non-material interests and not those of the social unit to which he originally belonged. He is made responsible for the welfare of the individuals of the other non-economic units, by this definition. Prthu constitution advocates a social welfare state guaranteeing protection to the economically weak and is not an economic state that is a tool in the hands of economic organizations. It however does not violate the autonomy of these bodies. The individual is not necessarily an economic man. He may have other objectives.
Kalaya is the repository of residuals. The King is the chief of the varied (nanatvam). He has to maintain the variety (diversity) in the social and cultural practices of the people. This was the assurance given by Kashyapa. Dandaniti does not stand for any particular social system or creed. Prthu was not called upon to uphold or protect Varnasrama Dharma, it may be noted. Clans and communities govern themselves. But those who are not so protected are to be protected by the state. Some are outside social and economic organizations. These residuals, varied as they are, are to be brought under the protection of the king and their variety maintained. The state has to ensure social pluralism by becoming the guardian of unprotected individuals and the diverse small groups that are outside the organized social economy. The role of the state begins where that of the organized society ends.
(12) Ekavira, the Lone Warrior
Vena could not become a conqueror as the rich nobles, Mahabhagas, resisted his withdrawal of funds from the treasury to which they were the main contributors. The aggressive power of the Kshatriyas, warriors, could not be externalized and this resulted in their oppression of the masses. The chakram of Vibhutis, the cabal of chieftains, exercised authority in his name, leading to corruption and harassment and finally to the revolt by the people.
The new state recommended by the followers of Bhrgu offered the King an opportunity to move in the mandala, circle of states. He could expand his influence and become the Viraj controlling all the five states (sva, mitra, ari, madhyama and udasina, those of his own, his friend’s, his enemy’s, that of the immediate but neutral ruler and that of the distant and indifferent ruler) adopting the six-fold policy (shadgunyam) described in the Arthasastra.
Kshatriya valour is externalized. But Prthu has to do so as Ekavira, the lone warrior rather than as the King of his state. This warrior is a leader with his own followers drawn from free men (naras) and from the personal retinue that he is entitled to as noble (deva). He is a protector using these two sections of the state army, naradevanatha. Prthu is allowed heroic exploits without involving his primary state. The Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva, did not envisage the concept of circle of states (mandala), the basis of foreign policy. Kautilya developed this scheme and covered the entire Chakravarti-kshetra, the area under the jurisdiction of the controller of the chakram, the confederation of states, structured like a wheel with all units attached to the hub, which the emperor is. [This Chakravarti-Kshetra extended from the Himalayas to the seas, the entire subcontinent.]
Prthu was not marked for it. But his contemporary, Bharata, was. Of course, earlier, Asvamedha and Rajasuya sacrifices were in vogue and were not uncommon. But the earlier Dandaniti, which was based on the concept, kutastha, did not favour expansion of the state through war and conquest. It was non-imperialistic though it facilitated despotism. As externalization of Kshatriya power was felt necessary, these sacrifices came to be recognized. The state army was to be used only for maintaining internal security and for warding off aggression by the enemy.
(13) Prthu as Agrarian King
Prthu should use his position as Ekavira, going beyond the present lands, to bring new areas under the plough. He is a Prajapati, chief of the people, who has to provide employment for his subjects. [The Prajapati was an official who was entitled to admit the people of the areas newly annexed as domiciles, prajas, of the enlarged state and subjects of its ruler.] Prthu is basically a ruler of the lands on the banks of the river, Mahi. He is Mahipati. As Indra, he will level the land, breaking the clod wit the end of his bow. Military prowess promotes agriculture in the new land, extracting from it all that it may yield. He will personally wield the Bow of Indra made from the bones of the goats and the cows. It stands not only for war and conquest but also for tilling and agriculture as the rains stop and the clouds pass and the rainbow traverses the clear sky. [This bow signified the policy of assimilation (blue) of all friendly groups and extermination (red) of the recalcitrant enemies under the blue-red policy described in the Atharvaveda.] As he goes round on his exploits, he will frighten the criminals (4-16-23).
Prthu is an agrarian king who brings new lands under cultivation. But his exploits as Ekavira can not go on forever. At the end of his hundredth conquest and Asvamedha sacrifice, performed at the source of Sarasvati, his campaign will end. For, Purandara will take away the horse from him. Purandara was the Indra during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata. This Manu must have put a restriction on such conquests for bringing new lands under the plough. Prthu has to retire and invite Sanatkumara, the Upanishadic sage, and get instructed on the quest of the Ultimate (25).
Prthu constitution does not require the warrior to die on the battlefield. It does not permit the king to be a ruler till his death. He has to retire after his tenure (of five years as an ordinary king or twelve years as a Viraj or twenty-four years as a Purusha) is over. Prthu set an example by personally tilling the land. Janaka of Videha too did so. Bk. 4-17 of the Bhagavatam shows that there was a failure of crops before Prthu was installed as the King. He had to give priority to agriculture. Unlike Videha in the eastern Ganga plains, Madhyadesa where Prthu ruled was full of moors and was semi-arid. The verse 4-17-23 shows that the agro-pastoral economy of his country was affected badly by drought. The conversion of pastoral lands into agricultural lands might have led to huge loss of livestock. Hence it was recommended that hills and uneven lands should be brought under the plough and that livestock should not be slaughtered.
The above conditions provide the basis of the new state. They form a Magna Carta. Prthu was not a primitive king. He appeared on the scene during historical times. The Vena-Prthu episode pertained to a limited region but the charter is of immense import to the theory of the state. The Bhagavatam, in its earliest form, was sufficiently close enough to his times to record the memories of this episode accurately. There is no impact of Vaishnavaism on this narrative. There is no call for the spread of Varnasrama Dharma or even of the Vedas. The Prthu episode was close to the decades when Manava Dharmasastra was drafted. This code accepted most of the features of the Prthu constitution. It condemns Vena and praises Prthu for his humility.
Vaivasvata constitution became the take–off stage for Prthu’s. Prthu was an agriculturist and not a professional warrior or an aristocrat or a hereditary prince. He was elected as the ruler after the despot Vena was burnt to death by the agriculturists. Prthu was required to adopt a constitution whose provisions have been followed by the Hindu states since the last decades of the Vedic era. Many of these provisions have been incorporated in Manusmrti, a socio-political code.
Pracetas who was one of the ten members of its editorial board was the main contributor to its section on political policy. This thinker was also author of a politico-economic code, Arthasastra. Prthu constitution required that the head of the state was a charismatic figure, Isvara and belong to the commonalty most of whom were engaged in and dependent on agricultural economy. The king should give the highest importance to agriculture. The internal affairs of the state were looked after by the official, Pracetas who had wide knowledge and broad outlook. The King (rajan) was expected to devote his time to bringing the moors and rocky areas under the plough and also to take part in conquests and political expansion. But he had to do so, on his own without using the funds of his state and its army. Economic entrepreneurship and political expansionism are not to be state financed.
The ruler had to adopt an open policy in administration and be transparent though in affairs that were connected with the security of the state he might keep some of his activities and plans secret. But even these he had to share with his confidante and counselor, Pracetas. Prthu was required to protect all customs, ways of life and traditions and beliefs and also function as a bridge between them. He was the unifying figure in a society with diverse dharmas. He had to respect all the dharmas. Pracetas of the Prthu constitution had a rank lower than that of the Rajapurohita of the Rajarshi constitution described by Kautilya.
The ruler was personally accountable for the acts of omission and commission of the members of his cabinet and other members of the executive. He had no immunities. This cabinet continued to be modeled on the eight-member executive of the Vedic times which has been retained by most of the later Hindu states. Of course Prthu was required to replace the member representing the rich plutocrats by one who represented the commonalty attached to agro-pastoral economy. Prthu constitution discarded plutocracy.
Prthu constitution did not follow either of the bicameral patterns, sabha-samiti and paura-janapada. It did not follow any of the diarchies, Indra-Agni, Indra-Brhaspati, Indra-Upendra, two Indras one representing the nobles and the other the commoners. It opted for Purusha-Pracetas pattern where the head of the state was a dynamic leader, Purusha, taking his subjects towards prosperity and ensuring them protection of life and property, while the sober broad-minded counselor, Pracetas looked after social security and rights of all sections and strata of the larger society.
Prthu, a benevolent, charismatic, dynamic and progressive agrarian social leader (Isvara) headed a federal state. He was assisted by Mahendra, chief of the committee of finance ministers of this federation. Unlike the Vedic states which allowed Indra to eclipse the Rajan by virtue of his control over the house of nobles, the Prthu constitution protected the sovereignty of the head of the state.
Prthu constitution as interpreted by Sanatkumara (an outstanding social counselor who remained away from limelight) asked the King as the head of a confederation of states to enable people of every region and sector of his state to become rich and ensure total freedom for every individual to determine his own career. It was not merely quest for an affluent state but was also an endeavour to create an egalitarian social economy. Prthu was asked to adopt a bold optimistic attitude and bring about this prosperity so that none remained poor. Everyone would have personal property. This was however not idealism or fond dream.
Prthu constitution aimed at creating a society which had very little gap between the rich and the rest. It was for Pracetas, the expert in political economy to ensure that the society became so. Prthu constitution was the model that Manusmrti recommended for all the autonomous small states. Prthu constitution however did not envisage a constitution bench or a chief justice who would be equal to the head of the state or of the executive or be superior to them. On this aspect Manusmrti adopted a distinct approach. Prthu’s was a secular state that enabled all good social orientations to flourish and brought them together in the spirit of unity despite diversity.
To those Indian scholars who often cite the importance of the British Magna Carta we would appeal that they recognize the features of the different socio-political constitutions of Ancient India and decide for themselves how far these constitutions have laid the foundation for democracy.
Recapitulation: Towards the Kautilyan State
Manu Vaivasvata did not dilate on who could become the head of the state and what powers he should have. The head of the state was required to take into account the views both of his supporters and of their opponents. He insisted on governance by consensus even as during the early Vedic era the assembly (sabha) and the council (samiti) had to arrive at unanimous decisions after deliberation on all issues. He brought all the three strata, aristocracy, independent middle class and the commonalty (devas, gandharvas and manushyas) under a common legal system of privileges and duties. Egalitarianism characterized this move.
The neo-Vedic state was not a small one headed by an aggressive chieftain designated as rajan and elected by his peers who too like him were aggressive. It also departed from the system of a federation of five states, the capital and four janapadas around it headed by a Viraj. This head of the Vedic federal state was expected to penetrate into areas (not to conquer and annex them or colonize them but to externalize the innate trait of aggressiveness) beyond this federation allowing the city and the four janapadas to govern themselves through the paura-janapada system. He was assisted by the chef of the people, Prajapati who admitted new members to the privileges of free citizens, equal in status to the natives.
Yajnavalkya bypassed this system and called for an end to the practice of incursions and made the Prajapati who was elected by a council of elders the head of the steadily expanding but stable nation-state. Prajapati was assisted by Mahendra who headed the committee of five Indras, officers of the exchequer of the five constituents of the state. Prajapati headed the state and the army that was meant only for defence of the federation. He also headed the constitution (Brahma) bench and the judiciary which ensured that every citizen would get protection for his life and property.
Later the Prajapati was subordinated to Brahma, an independent officer of the judiciary heading a four-member bench though as head of the nation-state he had selected that jurist from the senior members of the college of jurists. This experiment was short-lived.
The house of liberal cultural aristocracy lost all powers, administrative and judicial. It survived and flourished by agreeing to induct new members for short durations as intellectual aristocrats. The concept of small independent and viable states without concentration of power in any single authority as envisaged by Mahadeva was adopted again. The ruler could not use the state funds or the state army to bolster his image as a conqueror. The janapada could be enlarged and constituted into a nation (rashtra) comprising four janapadas controlled from the capital city by a charismatic leader. If that leader was but a native (jana) of that federation and preferably an agriculturist like Prthu he was given the designation, Janaka.
During the early post-Vedic decades marked by neo-Vedic emphases the social order was found wanting in resilience. It would undo the sharp cleavage and wide gap between the small rich leisure class of nobility who owned all the lands and the vast poor and property-less uneducated working class. It was being bridged by the emergence of a stratum of intelligentsia and bourgeoisie of mainly landlords. Democratization of the aristocracy and the empowerment of everyone to own personal property, it was expected would facilitate this change. Everyone would be self-reliant and none would be serving others.
The class of common workers available for service, even as the leisure class of cultural aristocrats, feudal lords and plutocrats noted for conspicuous consumption whom it served, would cease to be there, it was expected. But the framers of the constitution hesitated to aim at the creation of a classless society.
The constitution could by supporting the two strata of the middle class (free intellectual aristocracy and free individuals, deva-gandharvas and manushya-gandharvas) ultimately witness the withering of the two classes, the small aristocracy and the large working class and the society becoming a single large self-reliant educated class.
It would be democratized and govern itself free from a proud, ambitious and covetous ruling class, it was expected. It was also expected to provide protection for life and property by training a new judicial order and elevating it to the highest position. Social equity required that social distance was negated. This step made the head of the constitution bench, Brahma and the largely unwritten constitution (Brahma) rank superior to the head of the state and his executive whether this head was a rajan or viraj or prajapati or janaka or a svami or isvara. A dynamic charismatic talented and trained social leader, purusha, could rise from the free commonalty to occupy one of these positions as head of the state.
But the head of the judiciary had to be one who had experienced (not merely observed from a distance) life at different levels of the society, from the poorest to the richest but not belonging to any of them and thereby had been equipped to become a free man representing the wills and desires of all, a vaisvanara. Vaisvanara was a stoical, sympathetic and impartial social leader (purusha) who wanted the society and the state to meet the genuine needs of every individual at whatever economic lebel he might be. Ultimately he could become an impartial, selfless chief justice, Brahma, the highest position in social polity. Even Manu could not ignore what the vaisvanara (who had not yet occupied the seat of Brahma) recommended.
Such a chief justice who could correctly represent the cause of the entire society could however not succeed in getting his just verdict executed, as he was not a powerful head of the state and as he lacked dynamism. He was gentle, knowledgeable and simple but not awesome which the head of the state was expected and required to be. This dilemma led to the re-emergence of the feudal order with the new kings being despots brushing aside all counsel and feuding amongst themselves.
In this process social welfare activities were neglected. ‘Might is right’ became the motto of these rulers whether in intra-state affairs or in inter-state relations. Both had to be regulated, the reformist socio-political thinkers realized. Within the state, the king who was mightier than other chieftains and officials and social leaders held the plutocrats and technocrats to ransom. For the latter had to answer to the people for their excesses and deceits and not he. Like the cultural and intellectual aristocrats, the rich plutocrats and the technocrats too surrendered meekly to the despots.
As we continue outlining the features of the Hindu State that emerged before it slowly declined, it would be advantageous and even imperative to free ourselves from certain stereotypes that we have absorbed uncritically during the last three centuries. [Let us not equate it with the princely states headed by non-Muslim rulers. Most of these non-Muslim princely states adopted the political structure that the stronger Muslim states had and later the one recommended by the British regents attached to their courts.]
As pointed out earlier, we have to deem the pre-1000 AD states as Hindu states which had floundered while continuing the models that were available at the end of the Battle of Kurukshetra (c3100 BC according to Hindu tradition and c1440BC according to western Indologists and their docile Indian adherents). The Indian academicians of the 19th and 20th centuries had failed to trace the features of the state of the Vedic and Upanishadic eras and also that of the decades subsequent to them. ‘Passage to Hindu State’ brings out this failure and its causes.
The liberal nobles, whose stratum had been pruned of the cruel amongst them, were known as devas. 19th century Indologists committed a serious error in presenting them as ‘gods’ of a polytheistic Vedic society. Devas and manushyas were not ‘gods and men’ but were liberal nobles and commoners who were settled as organized clans and communities and were the two recognized social worlds of the core agro-pastoral society. The two strata were not opposed to each other.
The vast middle class cadres who were not settled in any particular area or organized as clans and communities with distinct cultural identities were a fluid social universe. This class was expected to merge in either of the two classes, aristocracy and commonalty. But the cadres of this middle class did not want their pursuits hampered by such merger. However many of them were split on the basis of their aptitudes into two classes, intellectuals and warriors, jurists and administrators, Brahmans and Kshatriyas. Neither of them had personal property.
With the rise of this middle class, the nobles were not able to defend their position as a cultural aristocracy capable of exercising political control. The aristocracy lost its pre-eminent position with the emergence of an influential bourgeoisie having personal property and an agrarian proletariat capable of resisting economic exploitation and political domination by the rich plutocracy and technocrats. These two classes, Vaisyas and Shudras predominated in the city and rural areas respectively.
The emerging Hindu state underplayed the importance and influence of the Rajanyas (who claimed to be traditional aristocrats) as warriors. They were neither aristocrats nor warriors. Most of them were landlords, Bhojas, and belonged to the local communities. But many of them pretended to belong to the two ancient ‘royal’ lineages, Surya (solar) and Soma (lunar). These Rajanyas would have marital alliances with royal families of other regions but not with local clans. Many historians and chroniclers have been carried away by these impressive claims. These claims have only vitiated the socio-economic relations throughout the subcontinent and caused rivalries and violent conflicts among the ruling classes.
The nearly fifty small nation-states brought into existence by the end of the Vedic era had rulers, Rajans, who had come to power by routing their rival Rajanyas. They had no control over the two houses of legislature, sabha and samiti which were manned by nobles and scholars and elders. But these two houses slowly waned as decay set in in the caliber of the social leaders.
The Vedic state had no use for Rajans and functioned under the aegis of these two houses and the eight or twelve member executive drawn from the representatives of the different social sectors in the governing elite, sabha. We need to study the different constitutions of ancient India without giving Rajanyas undue importance. Attempts to give the Rajanyas (princes) sophisticated training in administration on par with scholars and jurists had little success.
The Rshabha constitution of the early Vedic era presented the head of the state as the first among equals who constituted the ruling elite. He was depended on by the docile commoners for protection. But he controlled all economic activities and took charge of all they produced. It was a totalitarian state where the commoners enjoyed no rights. (It was based on the concept, ‘might is right’.) They could not but obey their masters if they wanted to survive. The practice of the rajan, the head of the state being elected by his peers was allied to the Rshabha constitution.
The expressions, Bharata-Rshabha and Purusha-Rshabha had specific connotations. The former was a socio-political leader who was self-effacing but undertook the burden of governance of the state. Such position was envisaged by the first Manu, Svayambhuva who was held in esteem by Jatamuni Bharata and his successor Rshabha who was a sage and political chief. The latter refers to the conventional socio-political leader who was aggressive and domineering and also.enterprising.
The system of bicameral legislature with the chief of the people, Prajapati, convening the two bodies of sober and unselfish members took away economic power and political power from the Rajan and his team of Rajanyas and vested these in the nobles who were guided by sages and elders. The upper house of the legislature controlled the treasury and the army and the other house was in charge of the civil judiciary and the civil administration.
Indra-Agni diarchy was interested in ensuring social justice for the commoners, without diluting the status distinctions between them and the cultural aristocracy. Indra-Brhaspati diarchy ensured that the entire core society of nobles and commoners stayed unarmed and yet secure. It also promoted the interests of the rich among the commoners. It created a civil administration managed by the bourgeoisie as distinct from the central administration headed by Indra who controlled both the treasury and the army while Agni controlled the judiciary. Most of the states were functioning along one of these two systems which were against feudalism and chieftains, Rajanyas, who did not differ much from feudal warlords.
The Viraj constitution envisaged a federal system. Initially, the Viraj was like the Rshabha elected by his peers as the first among equals. This election was accompanied by violent conflicts. But later he was elected by a vast body of heads of families and their consorts, purushas and stris. This change also put severe restraints on the powers of the Viraj. He had tenure of only ten years and was required to function as advised by the chief of the people, Prajapati and the mother-figure, Aditi who looked after observance of rules of ethics by all. The two houses of legislature were in their place and a cabinet of eight executives, Adityas, functioned under her supervision.
The Viraj had neither economic power nor political power and was allowed to make intrusions on his own into areas beyond the borders of his federal state but without assistance from it. The Prajapati too could come in contact with such areas but only spread the orientations of his native society among their population and grant them the status of prajas and the rights that the natives, jana enjoyed. Both the natives and the new domiciles were entitled to protection of life and property and have personal property.The federation of five states, the capital and the four regions round it over which the Viraj presided, had eight social sectors. None in the areas under the Viraj was denied the right to life and property. Virajam was a social polity that ensured unity without uniformity and union of units that were assured autonomy, svarajam.
The federal state could not be ruled by a despot or have any particular cultural system as its value system. It was democratic and expected the two houses of legislature to arrive at unanimous decisions after deliberations on every issue. If the Viraj was re-elected for second tenure of ten years he was recognized as a Purusha and the state would come under Purusha constitution. This constitution upheld meritocracy and efficient administration was expected to encourage social and economic progress and establish colonies in areas which had no viable states.
Only manual workers, manushyas, of the core society were settled in these distant colonies, and they were subjected to the same social and economic laws as prevailing in the core society. But unlike the core society these colonies had no cultural elite. Colonization of distant lands by the capable sections of the commonalty left only the weaker sections of the commonalty, known for anomie behind in the core society and at the mercy of its bourgeoisie. Colonization was only transplantation of workers leaving behind in the core society a bourgeoisie unassisted by an able proletariat and creating in the colonies an economically weak proletariat.
Meanwhile Mahadeva constitution helped in establishing numerous small economically viable social welfare states all over the subcontinent. The Prajapati rather than the Rajan was the most influential authority in these states. This constitution retained the two houses of legislature but deprived the nobles of control over the treasury and the army. The Rajan continued to be the head of the state but the Prajaoati was superior to him and was head of the nation as well as the state exercising political control and was superior to the army General. [Some states had military regimes that controlled both the army and the civil administration.]
It needs to be noted that the king was elected by his peers while the Prajapati was the eldest among the elders. The Viraj was elected by a large body of active heads of families while the Prajapati was from among the elders who were no longer active in the field of economic activities and were only social counselors.
The activities of the Rajan were confined to the core polity and territory while the Prajapati contacted the people outside the borders of that state and influenced them to join the expanded core polity and accept its ethos and place their wealth at the disposal of that society. The Viraj, the head of the federal state, went beyond these areas too and headed a borderless state. He did not control the state administration or its economy or polity or army but was venturesome like the Purusha. Rulers defended only the populated areas in their state. Some defended only their fortified capitals.
The judiciary headed by an official designated as Agni ensured that laws were followed by all, but this judiciary had no control over the executive which was in charge of civil administration and economy. Four autonomous institutions, house of nobles, judiciary, army and bureaucracy got institutionalized and they were like the Rajan and the Rajanyas subordinate to Prajapati, the chief of the nation-state.
The Mahadeva constitution was an economic state that guaranteed food and other needs to all sectors of the population. But it did not envisage an ethnic state though most states by virtue of the policy of non-expansion were states dominated by and working for their natives, jana. The Mahadeva constitution too did not provide for a supreme court or for a chief justice. The house of nobles assisted by the chief of the people functioned as the court of appeal. It had the authority to pardon the indicted and punish those guilty of sedition.
The Rajan who was allowed the claim to be the head of the state had neither power, to pardon or to punish. These powers which Indra, the head of the house of nobles enjoyed since the earliest times continued to be vested in Indra. But he was not a sovereign. He was subordinate to the Prajapati, the head of the nation-state and not to the Rajan, the ornamental head of the state. He was not superior to Aditya (the General and chief administrator) or Agni (Civil Judge) or Brhaspati (the new Chancellor of the excheqeur). These officials also were directly under the Prajapati even as the Rajan was.
Unlike the Viraj federation which had no state borders and where the pastoral people grazed their cattle in the open lands and punished the intruders, the small nation-states constituted by Mahadeva had delimited the borders which the state officials were expected to honour. They were expected to protect and administer the state with defined borders and not transgress them. These were social welfare states and their economy was dependent on the natural and human resources available in their respective territories. They were not imperial or colonial powers. They were essentially small self-governing social welfare states
Meanwhile Dandaniti of Usanas curtailed the predominant status that the aristocrats enjoyed claiming that they were not better than the feudal lords in self-aggrandizement. It announced that it protected the economic needs and interests of the commonalty and dispossessed the aristocrats, plutocrats and technocrats. It struck down the rights of the different cadres of the free intelligentsia to settle down in the areas reserved for the natives. Dandaniti of Usanas in practice distorted the provisions of the Atharvan constitution and wound up the assemblies of legislators and representatives of the commoners and the academies. It made introduction of new laws impossible. It did not wind up the judiciary but ignored it. Like the Rshabha constitution it recognized the principle, ‘might is right’.
The commoners, especially the natives were assured that their cultural rights and duties, dharma, would be taken care of by the head of the state and their dependents and offspring (svajana) would be looked after by him. Whatever they saved for the future (yasa) was taken over by the state and they were allowed only what they needed to meet their current economic requirements and lead a happy domestic life. These distortions were corrected by Vamana who followed the policies laid down by his teacher, Kashyapa. Vamana took over as Upendra, deputy Chancellor of the Exchequer and as Naraprajapati, a chief of the people who did not come under the category of members of organized clans and communities of commoners or natives of the territory and were free men (naras) or were only domiciles with political rights (as prajas) but without being required to be absorbed in the local community.
But Vamana could not succeed in making the free men and women and the different cadres, who did not pursue productive economic activities acceptable to the natives who were settled clans and communities and the natives. It was left to Krshna to prevail on the natives to accept the free men who manned the bureaucracy and the army and the cadres which had value systems different from theirs. It was not easy to prevail on the sons of the soil to accept as equal to them those who were not such sons.
The neo-Vedic (Upanishadic) era witnessed the waning of the influence of the nobility, with its democratization. Aristocracy became a cadre formed from the representatives of landlords and bourgeoisie. A commoner if he had leadership traits could ascend to be on the threshold of the nobility. At the same time an aristocrat could prefer to give up his attachments to his cadre of nobility which was in fact erstwhile bourgeoisie and attach himself to the commonalty by accepting the status of a social leader, purusha. The beginning of the neo-Vedic era saw the presence of four social strata, cultural aristocracy, feudal lords, a vast free middle class and the working class of commoners. With the expelling of the feudal lords, the middle class cadres who spread cultural values gained importance.
The new Upanishadic state witnessed the presence of seven strata, working class of commoners, educated free men and women manning the army and the bureaucracy, free intelligentsia, intellectual aristocracy, born aristocrats, elite executives and select ruling group of cultural aristocrats. Above them ranked Indra who controlled the treasury and the army and headed the assembly of nobles and the eight or twelve-member executives drawn from the aristocracy. Brhaspati, an Atharvan ideologue who determined the state policy and headed the civil administration ranked above Indra. It was a major change from the Vedic tradition where Indra was superior to Brhaspati. The chief of the people, Prajapati who convened the two houses of legislature was superior to Brhaspati but Brahma, head of the judiciary who interpreted the constitution was superior to Prajapati, Bhaspati and all others.
Of interest is the stipulation that Prthu as the head of the executive, should carry out the directives given by the ideologues. They would decide what the executive should do in the interests of the people and the state. These ideologues who were Atharvan jurists interpreting the constitution would however cease to be activists. They did not belong to the ecclesiastical order. Brahmavadis the policy-makers who were advocates of the principles of jurisprudence were not part of the executive headed by the king or superior to or subordinate to it.
Many Upanishadic sages underlined the caliber, status and role of Brahma, the Chief Justice and head of the four-member constitution bench. He was however not a dynamic social leader Purusha. He was not associated with the executive or with the legislature. They did not favour a state headed by an aggressive chieftain, Rajan whether he enjoyed hereditary legitimacy or was the head of an oligarchic group or was a charismatic personage. Some Rajanyas were closer to cultural aristocrats and were intellectuals. They were vibhutis, influential members of the executive and claimed a status higher than that of the jurists.
A typical Vedic state was a federal setup administered by a eight-member executive of nobles looking after the interests of the eight sectors of the larger society and headed by a dynamic ruler who had the rank of Viraj. The neo-Vedic state headed by a Rajanya had twelve ministers who were social leaders looking after different social sectors. It was envisaged by Pracetas’s Arthasastra (politico-economic code). Some of these dynamic ministers had the status of Rajan. Soma, a sober intellectual and one of these twelve chiefs, had a status higher than the rest. He was the chief administrator and chief judge (maharaja and mahabrahmana). Though highly influential he remained humble and subordinate to the Rajan, the head of the state. An independent judiciary is not necessary to ensure rendering justice and administrative discipline, Pracetas felt.
In most of the setups members of the executive drawn from among different social sectors were their internal controllers or governors or leading lights and guides. They were known as purushas or lokapalas or tejasvinis or jyotis. The jyotis were superior to the rulers and the intellectuals and the cultural aristocrats. The tejasvinis were charismatic personages who even the head of the state had to honour and seek inspiration from. These guides were farsighted and led the people safely. But they too were next to the chief justice, Brahma. Brahma was however next in status to the invisible, whose features were non-manifest (avyakta) and who represented the abiding ethos of the society.
While the caliber required in a social leader, Purusha, to occupy a high position in the state could be assessed by his ability to exhibit his talent in lower positions, the one required in one to be approved as the Chief Justice was very high. He had to know the traditions of all the organized settled clans and communities and social worlds and the non-settled cadres of the social universes and the attitudes of those who were leading lives as free unattached discrete individuals whether in the social periphery or within organized groups and the plight of those leading lives of poverty and helplessness in the subaltern. Only a free man, nara who had experienced the lives at all the strata, from the lowest to the highest and in all the social sectors and was a vaisvanara was suitable to be nominated as Brahma.
Of course he had to be highly educated, broad-minded, impartial, thoroughly unselfish and stoical. He had jurisdiction over the aristocrats as well as the commoners and the vast middle class. As the core society absorbed more population his caliber had to be further higher. He was an unattached individual, atma, superior to all such individuals. As interpreter of the socio-political constitution and as the head of the four-member constitution bench his appointment eclipsed the powers of all the social and political institutions and their heads. He could not be removed except by the academy of jurists and could hold his position as Brahma for his life-term, even as a Purusha did. But even he found it difficult to get his verdicts executed by the officials.
Whether he was known as Brahma or Paramatma he too needed an official superior to him to ensure that he did not transgress the limits of his authority. This authority (like Soma) who was always alert would step in only when transgression took place. He is known as Parabrahma. Neither Paramatma nor Parabrahma was a constitutional authority for the latter authority is subordinate to and answerable to the constitution bench. Neither of them dealt with the head of the state and the executive directly. The highest authority who could make the head of the state and the executive fall in line was known as Parampurusha, highest social leader. Democratization led to de-recognition of the aristocracy as it lost its caliber as a liberal, sober, cultural elite. A similar threat was faced by the judiciary too.
In every one of the five units of the federal state, a committee of five members panchajana, representing the nobility, the intelligentsia, the executive, the bourgeoisie and the workers scrutinized the verdicts given by the chief justice and his interpretation of the constitution. In a federal state comprising the capital and the four regions around it, all the twenty-five representatives, pancha-panchajana met to study the validity of the verdicts given by the supreme justice who heard the appeals against the verdicts given by the chief justice of the unit.
The chief justices and the supreme justice with the designation, Brahma and Parambrahma respectively were no longer treated to be infallible. It is odd for the chief justice and other members of the judiciary to claim that being unattached intellectuals their verdict could override the right of the panchas to examine those verdicts before deciding whether to accept them or not. The constitution and the constitution-bench could not suppress democracy.
The Upanishads and the Brahmasutras have as their main concern, the relationships between the concepts, atma, vaisvanara, Purusha, Brahma, Parampurusha, Paramatma and Parabrahma. They are also concerned with the status of Isvara as a charismatic head of the society, especially of the people of the social periphery. In later days the terms, virata-purusha, brahma, isvara, paramatma have come to denote ‘God’. The terms, isvara, mahesvara, lokesvara, sarvalokesvara, sarvesvara etc signify different levels of social and political statuses of the awesome but charismatic benevolent leaders of the social polity.
As has been pointed out the attempts to create a position, Brahma, the chief justice who could overrule all other authorities in the state if they violated the constitution did not succeed. Most rulers were arbitrary in their decisions, in awarding favours and punishments even if they were not despotic feudal warlords. A constitution that would make all answerable to the representative bodies like sabha and samiti, paura and janapada and subordinate to dignitaries like Indra, Agni, Varuna, Brhaspati, Prajapati, Pracetas and Rajapurohita was felt necessary. Of these constitutions the paura-janapada model was later deemed to be the most realistic.
Kautilyan state was headed by a Rajarshi a highly educated and humble ruler nominated by a three-member committee from among the successful trainees in the state academy (which was open to all). It was the caliber of the trainee rather than his descent which was to be respected. As pointed out earlier he would be selected from the alumni of the royal academy by a committee comprising the outgoing Rajarshi, the political guide, Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister. It was stipulated that the ruler should not take any decision without consulting his assistants. The monarch was there but it was not monarchy.
The assistants should not have been his schoolmates or club-mates or strangers to the country or mere professionals or even only members of his party. The ministers were expected to be drawn from different schools of thought but should have been trained as heads of the different branches of the executive. The latter were selected on the basis of a twenty-four point test and assigned to the suitable bureau. The Rajarshi, Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister were the members of the selection committee.
Objectivity in decisions arrived at after deliberations, was emphasized. Impartiality of the executive had to be ensured. All decisions had to be preceded by open discussions in a large assembly of scholars and by small committees of ministers. They had to take into account all aspects of the project that the ruler and his team of ministers desired to undertake. It was not a static state. But dynamism had to be combined with prudence and foresight. Kautilya was for a just, efficient, honest and progress–minded government. He was not satisfied with status quo.
The ruler and his team should seek the views of the experienced political guide, Rajapurohita, on how to meet unexpected difficulties. He was in charge of prevention and control of disaster. If a ruler lost the confidence of his cabinet and larger council of secretaries of the state he had to go. The king too was an executive as some departments like relations with other rulers and intelligence wings were directly under his charge. Some others were under his indirect supervision. Most of the bureaus were headed by secretaries of state. But all these heads were answerable to the ruler and the cabinet.
The circle of five states was composed of those of the protagonist, his ally, his foe, the neutral king and the distant (remote) king. Of these the friend was given the status of a unit of the political structure of the kingdom of the protagonist ruler.
The Hindu polity that came into prominence during the early post-Vedic decades had seven constituents, king, bureaucracy, city, rural areas, treasury, army and political ally. Of these, the bureaucracy (amatyam), city and its council (paura), the rural areas and the assembly of their representatives (janapada), the treasury signifying the economic structure (treasury) and the army (sena) were described as the constituents of the state (rajya) of the king (rajan). The king (rajan) was distinguished from the state (rajyam). He was not the owner of the state. He was only the head of the state. His ministers (mantris) and assistants (sahayas) helped him to protect and control the state. His sovereignty was assured by his external ally (mitra) in the circle of states.
The afflictions of the unit headed by the king (rajan) were to be studied, in the context of those of the five units (bureaucracy, fortified city, janapada or rashtra, treasury and army) of the state (rajyam). The afflictions of the ally had an impact on the defence forces (sena) of the state and the king’s position and security. Of course the king could suffer on account of the deficiencies in the structure and composition of his unit. The constitution paid special attention to ensuring that the head of the state was not afflicted by the deficiencies in the structure of and internal relations of this unit.
The differences in the several descriptions of the structure of the state in the epic, Mahabharata and the comprehensive social code, Manusmrti are significant. But these descriptions are not as instructive as those of Kautilyan Arthasastra (politico-economic code). [The reader may wonder why the same concepts and propositions are referred to frequently. He may note that this treatise as well as the other volumes of the Passage to Hindu State resort to the technique of vorticism by which the author steadily raises the level of discussion as in a whirlpool and this requires the dealing with a particular position frequently and clarify it.]
Kautilya enumerates the units of the structure as existing during his times as king (rajan), ministry (mantris and amatyas), country (desa, rashtra), fortified capital (durga), treasury (kosa) and army (danda) and friend (mitra). Dialectics dictated that the powers enjoyed by the head of the state and the bureaucracy were to be studied under the principle of dichotomy and diarchy. The comparative importance of the rural areas and the fortified city and of economic power as signified by treasury and political power by army, police and magistrates too is to be studied under the principles of dialectics. He was not the first to dwell on the state with seven organs (angas) but was rhe first to deal with them as constituents (prakrtis) with their own specific characteristics and traits and realms of function and to take into account the implications of the differences between the features of a state headed by a traditional ruler (rajan) and those of a state led by an ambitious leader (svami) who had no traditional legitimacy but evoked admiration and loyalty.
The importance of the friend (mitra) and that of the non-friend (amitra) in inter-state relations are to be similarly considered under dialectics. ‘Amitra’ included the neutral king and the distant indifferent king who had not taken side in the protagonist king’s moves to control his circle of states. Kautilya was the first to postulate that the state structure should include not only its subordinate units and allies but also an independent observer and director (amitra). This aspect has eluded 20th century scholars.
Kautilya recommended radical changes in the earlier setup and included ministers in the unit of the ruler (svami) and kept the princes and queens out of it. Svami was not a hereditary ruler. He was a charismatic individual with his personal human and material resources. He was expected to be a conqueror bent on bringing under his aegis all the twenty-five states of his confederation (chakra) and then score over the other confederation and thereby bring the entire subcontinent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south under his parasol.
This objective required the charismatic leader to decide on his own what reforms he should introduce in the different units of his state before or while embarking on his spree of conquests. He included the ministers who were experienced executives in his personal constituent. Besides getting valuable counsel from them on every measure he kept personal watch on their activities. The eight or more members of his cabinet were allowed to control the other constituents, especially the bureaucracy, without being influenced by their expectations and desires. A Rajarshi did not embark on conquests. Some Rajarshis refused to employ troops even for defending their territories.
By absorbing the citizens of the capital city in the janapada and keeping it as a fort affording him and his ministers and assistants security against external aggression and internal insurgency and revolts Kautilya brought a radical change in the structure of the state and function of the government. The urban council of rich traders and legislators had to sit along with the rural assembly for deliberations. This would ensure that neither the people of the rural areas who were mainly agriculturists and herdsmen did not harm the people of the urban areas and were not harmed by the latter. The distinction between the bourgeoisie and the landed gentry became narrow and so too the one between rich masters and poor workers. Kautilya was a shrewd reformer.
The basic state of the early post-Vedic era was a janapada which belonged to its natives who determined its social, economic and political policies. Its head was known as janadhipa or janaka. He was a native of that janapada. It was a small, economically viable and socially as well as economically integrated unit. It had agrarian plains as well as pasture lands and moors, forests and mountains. It had both a core society engaged mainly in agriculture and pasture and a frontier society engaged in industries. Unlike in the Vedic era the two societies were interdependent and were both part of the enlarged janapada. There were also several cadres, groups and individuals not engaged in economic activities. The Kautilyan janapada had clans and communities among the settled population and also cadres and individuals who were not settled as families. It had a centrally located capital city which housed the bureaus of administration and trading houses and those who rendered tertiary services. The statutory army was stationed in forts away from the capital and closer to the borders. The central treasury was located in one of them.
The janapada had four districts each with a capital and a civil court. Each district (sthana) had two counties (drona) one of which was mainly agricultural and the other industrial. Almost all the needs of the janasthana were met by the two. The two counties were normally adjoining. Each county had about ten bunches of twenty villages each. Each village, the basic administrative unit, had about one hundred native families which owned the lands in and around it.
The size of the land held by a family depended on its size and the largest holding was not more than thrice of the smallest. Every family owned agricultural property and had franchise which was exercised through its head. The objective was to make every one self-reliant and self-employed. There was no need to engage labourers as servants for any purpose. The class of domestic employees ceased to exist and all were free citizens. There was no service sector in the rural areas.
The dichotomy between a small leisure class of nobles controlling all lands and noted for conspicuous consumption and a large working class of commoners working for them and accepting whatever food the former condescended to give them ceased to characterize the social polity and economy.The village with all its families owning their medium-sized personal lands and cultivating them unaided by labourers was self-sufficient. It was a self-governing autonomous basic socio-economic unit. This was what the scholars of the Upanishadic era like Sanatkumara (counsellor of Prthu) urged. Their expectations were realized under the pattern of polity that Kautilya introduced.
The families in the villages were divided into and organized as clans and constituted a native vocational community. Each village had at least two clans which in many places engaged in feuds. But every clan was asked to avoid inbreeding. Inter-clan marriages were insisted on. At the same time they had to be intra-community marriages. It was the local community which barred entry of outsiders into the village through marriages or purchase of lands. Every clan and community had its own social code which also took care of its economic interests and political autonomy. The administration of neither janasthana nor janapada could encroach on this comprehensive autonomy and social customs and traditions and the value systems, dharmas, based on these. Socio-cultural and politico-economic codes could not infringe on these which were zealously guarded by the elders.
Most economic disputes were settled within the village. Only inter-village disputes on water and access were referred to the courts established at the junction of the counties. No royal edict could be issued on matters that clearly fell in the jurisdiction of the village community. The local community produced before their civil judges the encroachers and pushed them out. It was not necessary for the head of the state to be called upon to evict them.
As pointed out earlier, every janapada had about a million workers engaged in agro-pastoral economy and an equal number in industrial economy (comprising cottage, small, medium and large industries). Many engaged in the latter had to be mobile in search of new natural resources and lacked homes. Their clans and communities were thus not as well-knit as the agrarian ones. In every district (janasthana) of the natives and in every janapada there were settled clans and communities as well as some non-settled ones. Their codes, customs, traditions and orientations could not be identical. It was not wise and feasible to streamline then.
A janapada had a population of about two million in the agrarian sector and another two million in the other economic sectors. Half of them were economically self-sufficient and the other half were dependent on them. Besides it had a population of a few thousands in the urban sector. Most of them were free men and women not subject to the codes of any clan or vocational community or economic corporation or workers’ guild. But they had to abide by the political code of that janapada or desa. This urban population would get disowned and starved if it violated the autonomy of the rural areas.
There were both intellectuals and non-intellectuals, among the non-economic cadres. The former manned the academies and the judiciary and the latter the lower level of bureaucracy and the army including the police. The approaches of those of their higher ranks and the lower were distinct. Individualism flourished among them while it remained subdued in the organized sectors. As a result while common will prevailed in clans, communities, corporations and guilds, individual will got expressed only in the non-organized sector of middle class cadres, both intellectual and non-intellectual connected with academies, judiciary, bureaucracy and militia. Hence there could be no exercise of individual will through political franchise (a modern political concept) without undermining the binding force of dharmas of the clans, communities, corporations and guilds.
While the heads of the bureaus found suitable were given life-tenure others were discharged periodically and replaced by new recruits. Internal affairs, especially of the rural areas and collection of revenue were in charge of the high official, Samaharta, who was required to ensure social equity. The central treasury, commerce and trade and supervision of the bureaus were in the hands of Sannidhata who was close to the ruler. He was an expert in economy like Pracetas. He restricted direct contact with the head of the state like the official designated as Mahanandi. There was awe about the Rajarshi though he was not an autocrat or despot.
The paura-janapada pattern of state was marked by urban-rural dichotomy with the former concerned only with trade and commerce and external relations and the latter with agro-pastoral economy and in the Kautilyan pattern with minor and medium service-oriented industries also. If exploration for ‘rich’ mines interested the urban polity, exploration for other ores and minerals fell within the jurisdiction of the integrated janapada.
Small towns located in the janapada areas were meant for decentralized administration and not to enforce the privileges of the urban elite. The capital remained far away and its political and economic affairs and culture had little impact on the rural areas. It was the city that was concerned with issues pertaining to privileges and sovereignty and not the rural areas which took little interest in who headed the capital and how he gained power. Rural areas had their bureaucracy headed by officials like parthiva, bhupati, nrpati, samaharta etc. It was manned by free men (naras) as village officials.
The concepts, eighteen bureaus and eight cabinet ministers with one of them as the prime minister have been adopted by several states down the ages. So too the concept of sannidhata as chief treasurer acting on behalf of the head of the state has been adopted by them. The king was not an ornamental head of the state. The important departments of intelligence and foreign affairs were retained by the king.
The king had a small standing army of warriors born in Kshatriya families at his disposal but the units of the larger army were controlled by regional governors, lokapalas who also co-opted the troops of the forest and mountainous areas as the latter were bold and trained to fight. The king was encouraged to be a conqueror and spend half of the year in the forests and win the loyalty of their residents. He might be in some states the nominal head of the judiciary but was concerned only with issues pertaining to treason and revolts. Brahma was the head of the four-member constitution-bench. He was nominated by the head of the state (king) from among the senior jurists on the advice of his political guide.
Of interest is the new executive of twelve social leaders (purushas) heading different social cadres and having the honour of being called Rajan but only one of them, designated as Soma being competent to judge his peers and even the head of the state and issue them directives as head of the political judiciary. He was called maharaja and mahabrahmana. This recommendation of Pracetas Manu could not take off as no executive would like to be assessed and directed by one of its members. Besides, no head of the state would feel comfortable with his subordinate functioning as ombudsman and taking the former to task for acts of omission and commission.
Pracetas Manu proposed a Purusha pattern of constitution by which the most suitable from among the twelve dynamic members of the executive would be assigned a status and role similar to that of the chief justice, Brahma. These executives unlike in the Atharvan constitutions were not representatives of specific socio-economic sectors or ranks. The unorthodox specification of duties is of special interest.
Aditya was in charge of all those discrete individuals who had got isolated from their earlier protective clan or community or economic organization or state. Soma was in charge of the weaker sections of the society who were not either Brahmans or Kshatriyas. The talented of the society were under the care of an official designated as Vidyut or Tejasvini. The official designated as Akasa ensured social stability. The invincible army was led by Vayu, who was a Marut. The official designated as Agni was expected to protect and promote peace, tolerance and forbearance.
This school of thought took note of the presence of a counter-society whose orientations were distinct from those of the core society noted for gentleness. The activities of this counter-society were under the observation of an official designated as Apa or Varuna.
The idealistic sections and activities of the society were looked after by an official designated as Adarsa. Deviant behaviors were kept under check by an official designated as Sabda, who drew attention to the rules of conduct prescribed by the ‘scriptures’. The people of the outskirts were under the care of the official designated as Dikpala. The official designated as Chhaya or Mrtyu warned everyone of the severe penalty of death that awaited those who did not adhere to their duties. Above all, all individuals who were free from social and state control and functioned in accordance with their conscience were suitably guided by the official designated as Atma. The above recommendation, a unique one could not take off as it was too idealistic.
The followers of Pracetas Manu had claimed that those who had opted for one of the four classes, Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras were citizens of the world and could not be treated as subjects of any particular state. They were manavas. His twelve member ministry was not required to be concerned with the three social worlds or the expanded core society envisaged by the Vedic and Upanishadic sages or with the eight social sectors of Kashyapa. Let us not translate all the terms manushyas, naras, purushas and manavas as ‘men’. They were distinct concepts, commoners (mostly labourers), free men, social leaders (and heads of families) and citizens of the world.
While, in the Kautilyan pattern the samaharta and sannidhata controlled the rural and urban bureaucracies, in the Manusmrti pattern, the rural bureaucracy patronized by the parthiva was almost autonomous. It was difficult for the sannidhata to make the samaharta surrender the revenue due to the king. The parthiva unlike the samaharta had some wings of the institution of spies under him and was answerable directly to the head of the state. He was in charge of law and order and prevented intrusions by persons who were not supporters of the king.
The fifty small nation-states (rashtra-rajya) brought into existence by Prajapati Mahadeva after intense tours studying the socio-economic conditions of the peoples at different levels were constituted into two confederations. Each confederation (chakra) of twenty-five states was composed of five circles of states. Each circle (mandala) had five states. Each state (rajya) had five units, a capital city surrounded by four rural zones (rashtras or janapadas). Each janapada had four districts. Each district (sthana) had two counties (drona), one agricultural and the other industrial. The two confederations (chakras) and the five circles (mandalas) did not necessarily have their units adjoining each other. They were not ethnic divisions. It was a politico-economic setup that took into account the features of the terrain.
Kautilya wanted that every janapada should include urban areas and agricultural lands, surrounded by open pastoral lands and forests and mountains on all sides serving as the borders. Industrial operations were confined to moors, forests and mountains. Consumer goods like textiles and carpentry, vehicles and tools were produced in areas outside villages and towns. Physicians who utized medicinal herbs had to stay outside the purely agrarian village.
While the sovereignty of every one of the fifty states (integrated janapadas) was to be honoured, the janapada would be headed preferably by a janaka, who was born in that area and was elected by its natives (jana). Each state (rajya) of the rashtra-rajya pattern was headed by a rajan (often translated as king) who was elected by a college of rajanyas who were aggressive and assertive chieftains from among themselves.
Only if the state is headed by a sober, gentle and yet assertive personage, like the Rajarshi it could be expected to give primacy to both social welfare measures and economic progress. It might have a Rajan (king) or a Janaka as an ornamental head with a Prajapati (chief of the people, of the domiciles) as the most influential functionary and as the head of the nation (rashtra) and controller of the administration as well as of deployment of troops.
The Prajapati could admit to the janapada or the state persons and groups who were not part of the native population but had developed orientations similar to the natives. They were known as prajas and got rights equal to those enjoyed by the settled natives. The rashtra consisted of the natives and those admitted to the privileges of the natives. Such admission led to their being entitled to protection of their lives and property even as the natives were. They too were domiciles of the janapada. Prajas were not subjects of the king. [It is unsound to translate the term, Prajapati, as father or as patriarch.] Persons who came to the janapada without personal property were not eligible to become prajas. No janapada admitted poor immigrants.
In the Janaka pattern the head of the state was bound by the desires of the natives whom he represented. In the Prajapati pattern, the powers and influence of the Rajan, the head of the state were very limited. The Rajan was an ornamental head of the state while power and influence were wielded by the Prajapati, the eldest of the committee of sixteen elders and a dynamic social leader (purusha) who controlled sixteen departments of the state.
In the Rajarshi pattern the head of the state had been trained in the royal academy in dialectics, science of work and social control, humanities, science of economy and science of political policy and also in martial arts. He was well-equipped and trained to control and direct the permanent bureaucracy and head a council of ministers versed in all aspects of the administration. But unlike the Rajan he could not embark on conquests or extend the borders of his state. He headed the administration which had been instituted as the steel frame of bureaucracy. It could not be wished away.
The Rajarshi was assertive but not aggressive. He could streamline social welfare measures but not unilaterally introduce reforms or progressive steps. He had to protect his subjects from aggression and insurgency. He was looked upon to mete out justice and be trained to be the chief justice, Brahma or appoint a suitable person as Brahma and allow him to co-opt his assistants from among independent intellectuals who as vipras had wide knowledge and broad outlook and went beyond the formal knowledge that they had acquired in the schools and were engaged in educating and culturing the masses.
The institution of justice was not a part of the bureaucracy or subordinate to it. The Rajarshi was its guardian. His training in dialectics and the different sciences equipped him to steer the judiciary. He could not proclaim any new law or practice but had to follow the tradition and allow the academy of jurists and his counselors to suggest ways to meet the exigencies without violating the constitution. He was not a judge presiding over the bench of his equals. He could not be appealed to against the verdict of the court. He had to implement the verdict of the court. He could issue edicts only on issues where there were no traditions or written laws or councils of elders to guide him and the people.
The differences in the several descriptions of the structure of the state in the epic, Mahabharata and the comprehensive social code, Manusmrti are significant. But these descriptions are not as instructive as those of Kautilyan Arthasastra (politico-economic code). Kautilya enumerates the units of the structure as existing during his times as king (rajan), ministry (mantris and amatyas), country (desa, rashtra), fortifiedcapital (durga), treasury (kosa) and army (danda) and friend (mitra).
Kautilya recommended radical changes in the earlier setup and included ministers in the unit of the ruler (svami) and kept the princes and queens out of it. Svami was not a hereditary ruler. He was a charismatic leader with his personal human and material resources. He was expected to be a conqueror bent on bringing under his aegis all the twenty-five states of his confederation (chakra) and then score over the other confederation and thereby bring the entire subcontinent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south under his parasol.
This objective required the charismatic leader to decide what reforms he should introduce, in the different units of his state before or while embarking on his spree of conquests. He included the ministers who were experienced executives in his personal constituent. Besides getting valuable counsel from them on every measure he kept personal watch on their activities. The eight or more members of his cabinet were allowed to control the other constituents, especially the bureaucracy, without being influenced by their expectations and desires. A Rajarshi did not embark on conquests. Some Rajarshis even refused to employ troops for defending their territories. By absorbing the citizens of the capital city (pura) in the janapada and keeping it as a fort affording him and his ministers and assistants security against external aggression and internal insurgency and revolts Kautilya brought a radical change in the structure of the state and function of the government. The urban council of rich traders and legislators had to sit along with the rural assembly for deliberations. This would ensure that neither the people of the rural areas who were mainly agriculturists and herdsmen harmed the people of the urban areas and were not harmed by the latter. Kautilya was a shrewd reformer.
JUST AND VALID CONQUEST: THE DHARMAVIJAYI
KAUTILYA AND ECONOMIC FACTORS IN POLITICAL POLICY
War and Economic Gains
A king’s primary state may lose trained men and suffer depletion of gold and wealth. But if by victory, he is able to offset this loss he may march against his enemy, Kautilya says. Ten types of gains are distinguished by the Arthasastra. None of these ten types of gains envisages permanent annexation of the conquered territory.
Adaya is gain which is the vijigishu’s (conqueror’s) own and he need not share it with his ally nor is it restricted by any obligation to the latter. It is the compensation paid by the defeated king to purchase peace. Conquest is an economic enterprise.
Prati-adaya is returnable profit. The vijigishu is allowed to operate the mines, forests, irrigational works and trade routes of the defeated ruler for a specified period and improved and then returned in a better condition to the defeated king. There is no rancour as there is no permanent annexation of these by the conqueror.
Prasadaka is the situation when the vijigishu functions as a trustee of the temporarily annexed area and he benefits the local population even as he recovers his dues. The people are happy with the benefactor.
If the exploitation of the land or mines does not yield any benefit to the vijigishu and hence his native population resent it, the colony is a liability. This is termed prahopaka. If the gain proves hollow, he loses prestige. If the gain leads to increase of his personal wealth, then his chief executives, amatyas may turn against him and there will be dissatisfaction in his primary state. A colony under the king’s personal control becomes his svabhumi and is in reality not an advantage to him. It upsets the distribution of power in his primary state. It is an illusory gain.
Hrsvakala is plunder while on march. Tanukshaya is emaciation of the enemy who is worshipped by his people. It is a diplomatic gain, for the enemy cannot operate his resources to the disadvantage of the conqueror (vijigishu) after he has been proved to be but a minor chieftain.
When the defeated king is forced to provide the capital needed for the project and the conqueror pays the wages of the workers and the gains are enjoyed by the conqueror exclusively it is called alpavyaya. (A mode of reparations imposed on the defeated king.)
The gain which can be used in the vijigishu’s primary state for the development of its economy is a source of further wealth and is greatly acclaimed as mahan-vrddhayudaya. Katya is harmless wealth gained without troubles. Dharmya is wealth acquired through envoys (prasastrs). It is the best for he need not indulge in battles. The enemy agrees to contribute for specific pious social projects in the king’s primary state. The reader may usefully embark on an appraisal of the imperialist conquests of the ancient, medieval and modern times both in India and by Europen powers other continents.
Kautilya agrees that imperialist wars are followed by exploitation of the human and economic resources of the defeated countries, but he denies that such exploitation is necessarily to the disadvantage of the local population in the conquered lands. Wisdom demands avoidance of ruthless exploitation for not only the inhabitants of these lands are enraged, but the population in the primary state of the conqueror too are disturbed by it. The extent of exploitation is limited not by the desires of the conqueror or by ethics but by his need to maintain a balance among the power structures in his own primary state. This balance should be at a level higher than the one prevailing before the commencement of conquests by him.
External expansion is a function of the internal power equation though wars are launched by kings and not by states. If the Rajaprakrti is not held back by internal imbalance in its relations with the dravyaprakrtis of the primary state, the svami can become a conqueror (vijigishu) and then a chakravarti, head of a confederation of states. He should have a clear grasp of what constitutes an economic gain and what are not pure gains. Such conquerors are mostly charismatic leaders and do not enjoy traditional legitimacy in their own primary states or rational legitimacy either having not been born in royal families or elected or approved by elected representatives of the nobles and the commoners.
Pure Gains and Impure Gains
Apadartha are dangerous gains and anartha are self-destructive gains while samsaya denotes doubtful gains. If an economic gain to the conqueror increases his enemy’s prosperity by ridding him of his liability or if it is returnable as pratyadaya or if its retention leads to loss of wealth or power for the conqueror, it is dangerous gain. For instance, a buffer zone may expose, when gained, the conqueror, to a powerful enemy who would have otherwise hesitated to enter it or ignore it. When a defeated king is prepared to accept the vijigishu’s suzerainty, if the latter annexes his territory, it will be a dangerous step, as it will annoy the entire circle of states most members of which are his rivals. Certain gains may cause trouble from the enemy’s ally or from the rear-enemy.
An acquisition which threatens the conqueror’s standing with respect to his own population and to his divyaprakrtis (bureaucracy, rural areas, capital city, treasury and army) (which enjoyed the protection of the house of nobles, devas) is self-destructive. Most conquerors depended on newly raised troops and not on their small standing armies and did not have unlimited access to the treasury which was controlled either by the house of nobles (sabha) or the civil administration directed by the house of the representatives of the people (samiti). It may be approved by the circle of states (mandala) of which he is a member but not by his own Rajasampada (that is, by his political guides and counselors and his group of experts in foreign affairs and committees of officials gathering crucial intelligence). It may arouse internal rivalry making him vulnerable to external threat. Some gains may be beneficial in the beginning but later turn to be dangerous or self-destructive and some gains may not be expedient at first but later prove to be beneficial. These too are doubtful gains.
The Arthasastra then outlines the course of action for effective control over the mandala (comprising the territories of the conqueror, his friend, his enemy, the neutral king and the distant indifferent king, svami, mitra, amitra or ari, madhyama and udasina) through the application of economically beneficial and economically ruinous, artha and anartha, gains. The vijigishu is advised against exploiting other territories in a manner that would unsettle the political order in his state. He may be accused of being greedy and violating conventions. His acquiring economic power in addition to political power may be resented by different economic interest-groups and by his ministers.
New wealth has to be of optimum size to be held effectively as personal land, svabhumi. The gain has to be commensurate to the outlay as in economic enterprises. If he is not a natural vijigishu in the mandala scheme, acquisition of wealth itself will place him in a dangerous position. For the natural vijigishu (svami), the enemy (ari), the madhyama and the udasina are superpowers and not the ally (mitra). A fifth king trying to play this role which any of the other four may do endangers his own position. [Historians may reinterpret the developments during the recent centuries as well as of the medieval times in the light of this theorem.]
In the case of the vijigishu, the expedition must enable him to consolidate his position and hence only pure gains must be sought by him. The pure gains are divided into three types: artha (material), dharma (cultural) and kama (sensual). The purely material gains (artha-artha) should be preferred to the other two, Kautilya says. He recommends and allows conquest of lands and acquisition of wealth. [It may be noted here that the Mahadeva and Prthu constitutions that were in force when the Mahabharata war took place did not permit these though they did not object to a king embarking on expeditions against other kings to prove that he was superior to them in valour and might.]
The demand for acceptance by the conquered of the cultural practices and faith (dharma) of the conqueror is neither visualised nor advocated. There were in ancient India no wars to spread religions. The vijigishu was interested in becoming a rich and powerful emperor controlling the chakra (confederation of states comprising over fifty states or janapadas). He was not aiming at being honoured for having done noble and good deeds. He was not a missionary. Dharma-artha was not rejected as a desirable objective. But the work of liberation of peoples from evil ways and from misery was given a second place compared to the objective, becoming a superpower, politically and economically. Great wars were never wars of liberation. The least preferred was the gaining of women and sensuous objects. Similarly, self-destructive (anartha) gains are of three types, economically harmful (anartha), immoral (adharma) and causing grief (soka). [The two great epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana and those of Greece and Rome and West Asia may be re-examined in this light.]
Success in war is achieved by a combination of the four stratagems, conciliation, gift, rift and coercion (sama, dana, bheda and danda). There are fifteen different combinations of these, Kautilya points out. He explains that dharma is the basis (mula) of artha and kama is the fruit of artha. Despite his being an advocate of economic determinism (artha eva pradhana), Kautilya does not go against this stand of the commoners. His approach is not heretical though he may be heterodox. Pursuit of wealth must be rooted in morality and noble cultural values (dharma). If the acquisition of wealth promotes all the three values, dharma, artha and kama, it leads to the satisfaction that all has been achieved (siddhi), Kautilya says.
Three Types of Conquerors
The path of the vijigishu (one aspiring to be victorious in war) like that of the entrepreneur, is not paved with roses. He has to often face a stronger opponent and surrender. Even such surrender is a strategy. The weaker king must wait for the next opportunity and meanwhile retrieve his position in the mandala, circle of states. Kautilya distinguishes three types among the conquerors: dharmavijayi, lobhavijayi and asuravijayi. [Kautilya was building his theorem on the basis of the traditional trilateral distinction among the ruling elite, the aristocrats (devas), the plutocrats (yakshas) and the feudal lords (asuras).]
The dharmavijayi adopts the accepted notions concerning the duties of the conqueror. (He is not a religious crusader.) Even in war, he follows the laws of ethics and morality. He will be satisfied with mere obeisance and the weaker king will seek his protection. An agreement of peace may be safely entered into with him. The lobhavijayi, the greedy conqueror, is satisfied with gifts of land and wealth. Battle of intrigues, mantrayuddha, is useful in tackling him. The asuravijayi lets loose terror on the entire kingdom and seizes land and treasure and women and may even kill the defeated king. He deserves to be killed, even by treachery, if necessary. The dharmavijayi is not a crusader, not one who proselytises through sword or even through propaganda. He does not exploit the conquered lands.
The conqueror’s expeditions may be in sparsely populated wild tracts or in thickly populated areas. The territory annexed may be new (navo) or originally belonging to him (bhutapurva) though now in the hands of others or inherited from his ancestors (pitraya) but in the hands of others (especially his kinsmen). When he acquires a new territory, he should conduct himself in such a way that he is perceived to be better than the earlier ruler. He should observe the rules scrupulously, bestow rewards and remit taxes. He should follow the advice of the local leaders and fulfil the promises given. He should try to be one with the local people culturally, observe their festivals and amusements. The local leaders of the villages, communities (jatis) and guilds (samghas) should feel that they are repected by him. He may abolish harmful (economic) practices and introduce better ones. [Kautilya does not permit the conqueror to dabble with the faiths of the local population.] Unreliable officials may be transferred to remote areas without being vindictive.
Chakra: Confederation of States
The chakra (wheel) scheme is based on the conflict between two confederations, sva and para, that of the conqueror and that of his rival. Each chakra has control over a number of regions (desas or janapadas) which enjoy different levels of autonomy. This causes internal strains endangering its very existence. The enlargement of the primary state leads to the emergemce of two super-powers equally poised and all the small states are absorbed in one or the other. The disputation between Kautilya and the Acharya (teacher) takes place as the charismatic leader, purusha, has emerged as the head of one of the two chakras waiting for a final showdown. Kautilya’s internal reorganisation and safeguards and also his grip over the chiefs are a prelude to this showdown. When there is internal trouble in the confederation, the ruler resorts to punitive taxes. Still it is not possible to remove the afflictions of his confederation.
Controlling Internal Dissensions
The Acharya argues that internal revolts cannot be put down through force. On the other hand, the threat from the inimical chakra can be warded off through retaliatory war or an agreement of peace, he says. Kautilya rules out the possibility of any agreement of peace between the two confederations at this stage. The enemy will cause sufferings through plunder, slaughter, arson and destruction and all the areas will be affected, he warns. It is a total war between two recalcitrant opponents. But in a civil war only one region is affected, he says. The chief leaders (purusha mukhya) of the constituent (prakrti) which revolts can be won over or destroyed and control re-established.
As the primary state establishes control over the conquered areas and brings them under its chakra, their chiefs are reinstituted by Kautilya. The earlier methods of administration are not disturbed. Only their foreign relations and the right to enter into treaties are controlled by the overlord. Punitive measures are not the only methods to ensure subordination of these chiefs. Hence the threat from the rival confederation is more serious and is perpetual. It is directed against all the areas in the chakra (confederation) of the conqueror, vijigishu, Kautilya explains.
Within the chakra, the peoples (prakrti) may have differences; and this is an open invitation to the enemy to invade it. The reinstated king and the overlord may have differences. Since, in the confederation, dual authority is exercised in every region, the people are benefited doubly in wages and remission of taxes, the Acharya notes. He witnesses how in their eagerness to win over the masses, both the overlord and the subordinate king patronise them.
Kautilya notes that the Acharya’s approach only indicates that the latter holds the attempt to establish a confederation is futile and does not lead to the emergence of a rich state. The Acharya was of the view that the confederation of the type advocated by Kautilya did not establish emotional integration among the peoples of the different regions and between the chakravarti (director of the confederation where power passes from one ruler to another by rotation acknowledged openly or implicitly) and the vassals and their subjects.
Kautilya argues that by winning over the chiefs of the peoples of the conquered areas, this impolicy with respect to disturbed areas can be ended. He does not resort to force to put down inter-people quarrels within the chakra. They can be used to advantage by the overlord. (Divide and Rule policy). But the quarrels between the kings (who have been made Isvaras, administrators because of their popularity) result in harassment of the peoples and it needs double the effort to settle them. Whether the quarrel is between a subordinate king and another like him or between him and the overlord, the people suffer. The settlement of differences is not easy. Kautilya does not advocate the notion of a unitary state. He prefers dyarchy of the chakra (confederation) model. But he noticed that there was overwhelming support to the move that the entire Indian subcontinent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south be brought within one such confederation of states by the Svami, the charismatic leader and vijigishu. He was not a traditional king.
Six-fold Policy (Shad-Guna)
Vatavyadhi (Uddhava) held that inter-state policy was based on the two situations, peace and war (samdhi and vigraha) (7-1-2). This simplism was rejected by the Acharya (Krpa?) and also by Kautilya. They followed the traditional identification of six alternatives, samdhi, vigraha, asana, yana, samsraya and dvaidhibhava. The features of these policies described in Arthasastra have interested modern statesmen.
Samdhi is described as panabandha. It has the force of and based on an economic contract. A condition of peace is based on monetary pledges. Normally a weak king must make peace with his potential (and powerful) enemy. Vigraha is a state of hostility involving deployment of forces and total breakdown of relations and also harming the enemy. Asana is waiting for external forces to change the balance of power. Yana is marching for confrontation at the front line. Samsraya is seeking protective alliance (perhaps with the Udasina king who is indifferent). Dvaidhibhava is an attempt at preventing one’s two neighbouring enemies from joining hands by entering into a treaty with one and by declaring hostility to the other. (This policy has not been presented correctly by many.)
The conqueror (vijigishu) is advised to adopt that policy which would enable him to build forts, construct dwellings and commercial roads, establish new plantations and villages, exploit mines and forests and at the same time harass the enemy. He is not satisfied with receiving tributes from the weaker kings. He wants to control trade-routes and establish new colonies. Kautilya holds that competition and conflict between two economically developing states is inevitable. If they are growing at the same rate, they are advised to make peace with each other. But a king should not adopt that policy which would cost him loss of profit from his own works while it entails no such loss to the enemy, as it leads to his decay rather than to that of his enemy in economic and hence political and military power.
Even though the project of conquest may result in decay and reduced power within his primary state, if the king feels that acquisition of land from the enemy will offset his loss, he is advised to neglect the temporary decline and embark on aggressive war. It was not the state as a whole but it was the king (rajan or svami) who declared war. He did not need to wait to ensure that he was drawing only on internal surplus to finance his conquests. Wars were not fought by peoples or nations or even by states. Nationalism per se does not lead to wars, aggressive or even defensive. It is more a withdrawal from likely confrontation with other states and peoples than false pride in the heritage of one’s native country.
Kautilya was keenly aware of this reality and to its economic and moral implications. The guiding principle for all aggressive war is the obtaining of a better economic situation for the conqueror’s primary state at the end of the war than the one prevailing before the war. Hence temporary decay need not be a restraint on launching an attack or an economic project. The postulate that an economically prosperous state can afford to be imperialistic, politically, militarily and economically is valid. At the same time, it has to be recognised that a prosperous state which experiences a temporary decay tends to become militarily aggressive. Preparation for war may result in temporary stagnation (sthana) in the conqueror’s state. But it is permissible to go to war if it is productive of more benefits to him than to his enemy.
Treaty of Peace (Samdhi): Economic Factors
The Acharya (teacher) voices the view that if both the neighbouring states are stationary (economically) or are progressing at the same rate, they should forge peace (samdhi). Kautilya adds some provisos. If the terms of peace are such that the conqueror is able to undertake productive works of importance and at the same time weaken the enemy, then the treaty should not be broken. If the conqueror enjoys benefits from his projects and also from those undertaken by the enemy, the treaty should be honoured. If he is able to reduce the enemy’s labour force and increase his own with that, the treaty is to be welcomed.
The enemy may by a proviso be required to seek the conqueror’s protection when pressed by another enemy of his, instigated by that conqueror. (Enemy’s enemy is a friend.) Then he may compel the enemy to enter into another treaty more beneficial to himself (that is, to the conqueror). [The reader may examine the treaties entered into by modern states and colonial powers on the basis of this counsel.] The treaty may also require the erstwhile enemy to harass another of the conqueror’s enemies. [The reader may re-read from this angle the events that led to the wars that Independent India got into and also those that took place during its long period of history.] A treaty of peace is entered into by a king with his potential enemy. It has to be entered into only after crippling the latter so that the conqueror benefits more than his weakened inimical neighbour.
Samdhi is a treaty not only between two equals but also between two unequals. However to augment one’s own resources a truce may be arrived at before weakening the enemy. If the enemy is not a neighbour but is a member of a rival circle of states, in order to break it, the conqueror may enter into a treaty with him and then allow him to be destroyed by that circle. This is pragmatism. (7-1-32)
Conditions for Other Policies
Arthasastra advises that open hostility, vigraha, may be resorted to, by the conqueror only when manpower and the terrain are favourable to him and when the enemy is afflicted by internal troubles. The ally of the conqueror is to be encouraged to attack the enemy situated between the two, forcing the subjects of the enemy to flee the country of the latter. The conqueror would use the migrants to put down his enemy. War has been between kings and not between peoples. [The wars engaged in by medieval European and also by Asian chieftains have been of this type.]
Asana is observed when the conqueror and his enemy have equal advantages and when neither can attack the other without damaging his own strength. It is a state of No-war, and not a state of peace. Yana (marching the troops forward) leads to confrontation. It is recommended if by that the enemy’s positions can be damaged without the conqueror damaging his. Samsraya (protective alliance) is to be resorted when the vijigishu’s internal economy is on the decline, so that he may first regain equilibrium and then economically develop before embarking on conquets. Dvaidhibhava, the dual policy, helps in increasing one’s own resources through a treaty of peace with one of the two enemies and destroying the resources of the second enemy. The empire is to be built by adopting all the six policies. Bk.7 of the Arthasastra with over seven hundred maxims on six-fold policy constitutes a major interest of Arthasastra, the establishment of suzerainty by the vijigishu over the entire chakravarti-kshetra (confederation).
Kautilya vs. the Acharya: on war
May the conqueror keep quiet after declaring war against the enemy? The Teacher warns that turning back the enemy may swallow him if he did so (7-4-8). Kautilya clarifies that his suggestion about no-war (sthana) is not to be treated as a general rule. Its intent is to check the march of his enemy against the latter’s enemy who is an ally of the vijigishu. That ally of the conqueror needed the diversion of the forces of their common enemy. When that happens that ally would be in a position to recoup and be of aid, Kautilya explains. Should the conqueror who seeks to expand his territory make war against an enemy whose subjects are poverty-stricken or against one whose subjects are indisciplined?
While the former are dissatisfied as their needs are not met, the latter are rebellious. Kautilya advises against attacking the former for the people though poor may yet love their king. Which type of renegade should be welcomed back? The Teacher was against welcoming one who had failed to profit from his works or had lost his influence or had made his learning a commercial article or was inquisitive to see different countries. The weak and the disloyal and the incompetent and the adventurist who had left the company of the king who seeks to expand his territories and extend his influence should not be welcomed back, he said (7-6-30). Kautilya notes that the above suggestion indicates a sense of fear and shows intolerance.
Loyalty to the state or to the king or to the leader cannot call for the surrender of one’s right to pursue one’s own interests. Kautilya calls for a rational and pragmatic approach to the issue of accepting a renegade to one’s fold. It was agreed that the renegade who had harmed the victory-seeker earlier should not be taken back. But if he had harmed the enemy after association with the latter, he might be taken back. The maxims 7-13-29 to 32 suggest that the Teacher was against open war and preferred diplomatic war while Kautilya advocated open war despite losses sustained initially by the vijigishu. [Kangle has not presented Kautilya’s stand correctly.] Kautilya could not have underestimated the importance of diplomatic war and use of psychological means to unnerve the enemy. Kautilya was pragmatic but not unethical.
In 7-15-13, Kautilya suggests that when overwhelmed by the enemy the conquest-seeker would be advised to abandon his fort while the Teacher favoured his fighting recklessly regardless of the losses sustained by him. Kautilya however advised the conqueror to come to terms with the enemy. Discretion is the better part of valour.
Kautilya vs. the Acharya: On Mutual Alliances (Bk.7 Ch.9)
Arthasastra Ch 9 to 12 of Bk.7 describes the conditions under which the conqueror should enter into a pact with another king in pursuit of common goals. Of the different benefits accruing from such a pact, acquisition of a friend is by itself very valuable but securing gold is more useful and gaining lands is the best. [No treaty of friendship and co-operation is worth the paper on which it is written if it does not enable the country that is a party to it to acquire the lands that it needs and longs for.] The Teacher, an idealist rather than a pragmatist, opted for a friend who would be constant though not submissive to the vijigishu, a ruler who wanted to expand his territory and increase his influence, for he would not harm. Kautilya opted for a temporary but submissive ally. In international relations, there are are no permanent friends. Kautilya’s touchstone was the nature of the help rendered by the ally, not mere words of friendship.
If a temporary friend (among the submissive ones) was to be selected he should be one capable of giving greater aid than others, the Teacher urged. But Kautilya was not sure that such a friend would really help in contributing the outlay needed for the common endeavour, for he would expect from the vijigishu a similar large outlay. [Experts in international agreements may note.] Hence he preferred a long-standing, submissive friend with limited resources to a temporary one with large resources. For, the vijigishu’s is not a short-term project.
The ally must be able to mobilise his resources quickly. Kautilya’s deuteragonist, the preceptor, recommends alliance with the ruler of a large country though he may be slow in mobilising his resources, for when mobilised it would be a formidable (military) alliance. But Kautilya is for alliance with the ruler of a smaller country, who is ready to assist in the joint endeavour. The treaty is sought by the vijigishu. The weaker ally is malleable and does not put strict terms for aid. [Tacticians may note.]
The Teacher expects scattered (demobilised) troops from the ally rather than his standing army for the vijigishu would not be able to command the latter. But Kautilya insists that he should ask for the standing army which though initially unwilling to accept the new commanders can be persuaded by various methods to be used by him. The scattered troops (ex-servicemen) cannot be easily persuaded to leave their vocations and go to the front. The standing army was always small and no king was able to part with any regiment without weakening his position. Kings recruited most of their troops from among the ordinary workers, especially, from among the tillers who were idle for most time.
While the Teacher prefers an ally who can supply troops, Kautilya opts for one who can extend financial aid. The standing Kshatriya troops and even the raw recruits of a country cannot be easily compelled to serve the ruler of another country. Kautilya hence would not seek to strengthen the army of the vijigishu by such troops. If endowed with money, he would be able to raise an army and other goods. He prefers a friend who would cede a territory to the vijigishu. That territory can provide both men and money required for war. This friend was a valuable ally though not declared a military ally.
Kautilya found that the constitution did not permit the king (rajan or svami) to embark on conquests and did not permit him to raise more troops than necessary for protection of the people. The treasury was not at the disposal of the king. The ambitious conqueror had to use his personal wealth to finance his dreams and hence sought a weak ally who would cede a portion of his territory from where the former could collect tributes and also raise additional troops. In case the pact is financially advantageous to the vijigishu, a long-term agreement which would result in a larger gain rather than a short-term one for a small gain has to be preferred Kautilya says.
If the pact permits the vijigishu access to a new land, which type of land should he prefer? The Teacher suggests that a fertile land be accepted though its populace would be perpetually against the new ruler. For, it would yield the wealth needed for maintaining the army. Revolts could be put down by the army. Kautilya fears that it would amount to gaining only troubles. A land with temporary enemies is better. They can be crushed or won over. And the border lands which the submissive ally might cede should be avoided as they are infested by robbers, aliens and wild tribes though they may have forts and are militarily advantageous. [This theorem is valid even today.]
In the case of uninhabited lands (which should hence be preferred to the interior agricultural lands) and the border lands, elephant-forests should be preferred to timber-forests, Kautilya felt. [Elephants were needed for transport and also for the army.] The lands thus acquired from a weak submissive ally were to be distributed among the colonisers from the conqueror’s native country. While distributing the lands amongst them he should be discreet. The Acharya was against sending in the settlers for by their indiscretion they might bring the vijigishu into trouble. But Kautilya was confident that the vijigishu could prevent such indiscreet acts. New plantations were necessary and they should be set up in the acquired uninhabited land and the settlers are to be supervised gently so that they do not secede from their native land.
Like settling people on unihabited lands, undertaking of new projects like construction of forts, planting trees and laying trade-routes is important. Kautilya needs docile workers rather than adventurists for this. He prefers to acquire lands with vast mines of inferior ores like iron, and lead and tin to those with small mines of precious stones. He prefers to gain access to safe land-routes rather than to shorter but risky water-routes. The Teacher recommends acquisition of access to northern Himalayan routes (through a pact with the ally), but Kautilya finds the southern routes to the seas more beneficial.
Kautilyan policy of expansion led to establishing new colonies in the mine-rich uninhabited lands to the south of the Indo-Gangetic plains and to the expansion of the mega-state southwards resulting in bringing the entire subcontinent including the southern peninsula under the suzerainty of the vijigishu. The pact with the weak ally should facilitate the opening of unsettled lands and land-routes especially to the south and gains from industrialisation that could be carried out only in those lands that were not within the agricultural belt. Kautilyan state was expanding southwards. The vijigishu had secured an ally who allowed him access to the southern peninsula. [Who was that vijigishu and who was that ally?]
Economic Sanctions and Emigration (Bk.7 Ch.9)
Kings are advised not to give room to such causes as would lead to impoverishment, greed and disaffection among their subjects and to take remedial measures immediately. The conqueror should think twice before attacking an enemy who commands the loyalty of his subjects. Economic sanctions against an enemy who is a charismatic ruler rather than economic inducements to his people to change sides are recommended.
The masses are attached to their ruler on the basis of his charisma, while the rich are not. The latter attend only to their personal economic interests. Economic sanctions against the masses imposed by the vijigishu can still be alleviated by their charismatic ruler. They may even become enraged against the conqueror and call for war. (Statesmen may note.)
The collapse of the charisma of a ruler may be gauged when the masses begin to emigrate. Kautilya distinguishes three types of dissatisfied among the subjects of the enemy, the impoverished, the greedy and the disaffected. A state subjected to economic sanctions by the powerful conqueror has to change its economic policy. It cannot afford to lose its manpower. Liberal subsidies and supply of grains are needed to retain the common people within the state. Still this cannot prevent the emigration of the skilled personnel, yugyapurusha. [Kautilya did not give credence to the notions of patriotism and nationalism.] They have to be paid more to be retained in the country. (Brain-drain needs to be avoided by every country.) Kautilya’s counsel is valid for all times and for all ambitious rulers.
Kautilya does not expect economic incentives to succeed in winning over all the sections of the population. The defending king may win over the greedy officials by allowing them to plunder the wealth of others, thereby preventing its falling into the hands of the conqueror. Arthasastra recognises that resistance by the masses can be overcome in course of time, as their ability to endure calamity wanes. Organised resistance is shattered by removing the leaders from the scene.
Types of Treaties (Bk.7 Ch.6)
Seven types of treaties between the conqueror (vijigishu) and his neighbour (samanta) with equal power and hence a potential enemy, are described by Kautilya. These treaties are with respect to division of operations between the two in a third country. They emphasise either (a) the place of operation or (b) its timing or (c) the work to be done or (d) both place and time or (e) both place and work or (f) both time and work or (g) all the three, place, time and work. Kautilya was importing into the field of political conquests the principles of agreement between an entrepreneur and his collaborator in the field of an economic venture in a third country. The vijigishu should choose the type which gives him an advantage over his equally strong ally.
Sometimes a pact without any condition on monetary obligations may have to be arrived at. Pacts are never merely political in tones; they are mainly economic in their notes. Assuming that there are four states bordering one another, the samanta would engage one of them in conflict and the vijigishu the fourth and annex it. There is no common area of operation. The vijigishu is not expected to attack the samanta (potential rival) as long as the latter is not isolated and weakened considerably. In this alliance, the mandala scheme proper is not involved (15).
Stages in Treaties
The pact between the conqueror and the neighbouring equally powerful king has four stages---akrtachikirsha; krtaslekshanam; krtavidushanam; avashirnakrya (7-6-16). [We depart from the interpretations given by Shama Sastry, Ghoshal and Kangle.]
Stage One: A new treaty is entered into, utilising the four stratagems, sama, dana, bheda and danda, pacification, gifts, rifts and coercion, making it operative without break and indicating whether the two parties are equal or who is superior to the other.
Stage Two: The pact is made secure by appointing mutual observers so that disputes do not arise.
Stage Three---It provides for the treaty to be ended if it is established that betrayal by one of the parties has taken place.
Stage Four---It provides for effecting reconciliation through their subordinates or friends. These four are not forms of treaties but are factors and stages indicated in the treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation. This is a treaty of mutual fidelity, a rare commodity in politics, domestic or international. Arthasastra identifies three types of hostility, open war (pratyakshayuddham), diplomatic war (koota-yuddham) and silent war (tushmi) (now popular as cold war). In the third, there is a breakdown of all relations; even the diplomatic channels through a third party to arrive at a reconciliation or truce are not available. Treaties need not be between heads of states only. The head of a state may enter into a treaty with influential persons in one of the constituents (prakrtis) of another state, without binding the head of that state. An agreement may be entered into with a deposed ruler or chief. Kautilya had taken into account the various features of inter-state relations that prevailed during his times and was not a mere theoretician.
Colonization (Bk.7 Ch.11)
The occupation of the no-man’s zone (sunyadesa) by two kings whose territories are adjacent and who hence are potential enemies but have entered into a pact for a common purpose is discussed by Kautilya and his deuteragonist, the Teacher. Kautilya brought it under pasture. Kautilya recommends that the vijigishu prefer a smaller irrigated land to a vast dry land, lands yielding foodgrains to those yielding commercial crops. Food has to be given priority. However lands yielding spices and medicinal herbs may be preferred to those yielding foodgrains.
Dry lands may be useful for constructing forts and defence works and may be selected if there is no excess agricultural population or if it is not possible to divert the excess agricultural population to the newly acquired irrigated lands. Kautilya agrees that annexation of arable lands helps in enriching the treasury and the granary which is needed to feed the workers engaged in mines and industries. But the main aim is to increase the wealth of the country and this needs mines, precious stones and minerals. Only an industrialised country can become a great power. This was recognised by Kautilya. The object is to secure control over the circle of states. While annexing forest areas, elephant forests are to be preferred. Timber forests meet the needs of the consumers only and not of the army.
Kautilya prefers a colony with a scattered population to one peopled by a sreni, a politico-economic organisation with its own financial resources. Organised people are intolerant of calamities and get enraged quickly, he warns. Colonization is intended to increase agricultural produce and stock the granary and draw from it to feed the craftsmen and the soldiers. Hence the colonies should be peopled by Shudra agriculturists, he suggests. [Kautilya had suggested that the push should be towards the south rather than towards the north. He sent the surplus Shudra agricultural workers of the north to settle in the unoccupied arable lands of the south. The rich landlords and traders, Vaisyas, of the north were not sent there.]
An acquired land with all the four classes may turn into a self-sufficient community utilising its surplus to feed its own non-working population and weakening the king’s hold over it. He cannot hold it for a long time. Kautilya did not want Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas to be sent to the colonies established in the unihabited arable lands of the southern peninsula, it follows.
Some tracts might have been cultivated earlier but abandoned because of reduced fertility. Arthasastra advises that virgin lands be preferred to these for establishing new settlements. However the rich who can invest their own resources may be given the rights to colonize such infertile lands. Pasture and manufacture of consumer goods are their main attractions. Arthasastra does not recommend colonizing a thinly populated dry land, though easily defendable, for the object is to increase wealth.
Colonizing is not easy. Only a strong and high-born king who is a charismatic leader can succeed in this project. A colony cannot be held only by military strength, for the loss sustained in wasteful colonization will adversely affect the morale of the army. A colony is not to become a slave-camp set up to exploit its potentials. The rich colonizer should be generous to his associates and men. If greedy, he will come to grief, being unsupported. If unrighteous, the founder will be chased out by the settlers and the old residents. He will have to respect their respective customs. If he is indiscreet, he will be vulnerable to attacks by the enemy and also liable to be destroyed by his monarch. The colonizer’s interests demand absolute loyalty to his king. Colonization was a political move intended to provide the vijigishu with an advantage, militarily and economically, enabling him to tap the resources of the colony. It had to be a planned affair. It was made inevitable by the compulsions of the mandala scheme. It was expansion abetted and initiated by powerful kingdoms and had military as well as economic significance. The remoter the settlement was, the greater was the need for entrpreneurship.
In a settlement, we notice the presence of natives who are weak politically and economically and also of imported labour. A small but rich external alite and a comparatively large military contingent with its own chieftain are present. He may cause the emergence of a struggle for the overthrow of the conqueror and establish his own rule. Several attempts at colonization might have been abortive. In successful colonization, local customs are respected. Wise colonizers do not take religious leaders and proselytisers along with them. Kautilya was aware of all these aspects and insisted on these.
The Protector and the Vassal
Bk.7 Ch. 15, 16 Arthasastra describe three types of subordinate kings in the empire, the administrator, the governor and the viceroy. The defeated king is made the administrator of his country. Though he enjoys the status of Isvara, he is not free to acquire land even from a friend and thus his strength is permanently reduced. He rules for life-time but cannot install a heir-apparent without the permission of the vijigishu.
The latter may interfere with even marriages in his family if they had a political import. Isvara was a political status and not god as interpreted by theologians. The conqueror has the right to permit or prevent the construction of forts by the Isvara. [Isvaras as liberal heads of administrative units governed the areas in the social periphery rather than in the capital, pura, or the rural reas, janapadas.] He reserves the right to settle his own population in the vassal’s territory. They are not the subjects of the vassal. The vassal cannot enter into contracts, economic or otherwise, with the settlers without the permission of the protector. The local people are the subjects of the protector also. Ultimate coercive power is thus vested in the conqueror (vijigishu).
Historians may examine the features of the Mughal and British empires in the light of the above theorem which was advanced by Kautilya several centuries earlier. It needs to be said here that these features have made the present author wonder whether Bk.7 of the Arthasastra had undergone major doctoring to secure for the British colonial authorities the legitimacy that they badly needed. They tended to argue that they were governing in accordance with the principles approved by the socio-political codes in vogue in India for several millennia and that they had not violated these or imposed on the peoples of India British and European practices and Christian ethics.
Did the British administrators gain access to Kautilyan Arthasastra long before it came to limelight in 1900s? It has however to be acknowledged that the principles of colonization advocated in the extant text of Arthasastra do not sound to be discordant with Kautilya’s policy.
Powerful kings who subordinate themselves to the overall protection by the conqueror enjoy certain privileges. They may march their troops against their enemies provided the rear-enemy of the vijigishu will not rise against the latter. They are free to adopt the four stratagems, sama, dana, bheda and danda, with respect to their enemies but they cannot adopt the six-fold policy. That is, they cannot enter into a treaty of peace with any ruler or declare war or adopt any of the other four policies. Such a king is not the head of a sovereign state (who is entitled to adopt the six-fold policy, shadgunyam). Such kings are in effect military governors and are free to engage in military actions against enemies.
The vijigishu may allow a powerful vassal freedom to decide whether a king defeated by the latter is to be reinstated or not. In such decisions, the viceroy must follow the rules prescribed in Dandaniti. He has to justify that his action is in the vijigishu’s interests. He is free to silence his potential enemies by ceding lands. He functions almost as an independent king. The conqueror does not challenge the sovereignty (svamitva) of this king over his own lands, which entitles the latter to surrender his land to his enemy to secure peace.
A sovereign is one who is free to retain, to acquire and to cede lands. He functions almost as an independent king when he embarks on his conquests on his own and enters into treaties. But he cannot offend the conqueror or undertake any project against the latter. The viceroy is free to protect his subjects and punish the guilty. But he is not free to annex the lands of the defeated kings or covet their wives or wealth. Hence his sovereignty is partial and restricted. If a king has been slain, his kin should be installed in his place. In other words, the viceroy cannot seek to enlarge his own territory. His emergence as an independent powerful ruler is prevented. Since the vijigishu himself had adopted the policy of restraint towards him, the vceroy had to adopt a similar policy towards the kings conquered by him. Otherwise it would upset the mandala scheme. The viceroy appears to be an independent king when he wields danda and enters into treaties.
This critique of the emergence of empires will be appreciated if the emergence of empires since the times of the Mauryas and their contemporaries in India, China, Middle East, Greece and Rome are re-examined closely without blind disapproval for feudalism and imperialism by modern political thinkers both of the Marxist and non-Marxist schools. The entire scheme outlined above has to be the bedrock of national policy with respect to international affairs and not to be treated as applicable only defence of the treeitory or its expansion. Statesmen cannot afford to overlook its deep implications and allow it to be handled only by military school as subsidiary study for academically oriented personnel.
It is also not adequate to pay encomiums to Kautilya and overlook its aapplicability to modern times. Statesmen of the country should be aware that they alone are masters of a heritage conceived in a particular historical context, that is, in the emergence of the Mauryan empire. Statesmen all over the world seek to know its value and applicable to situations where there is only economic imperialism and not political imperialism. Economic colonialism the bedrock of imperialism is still in operation in the scenario of amities superpowers, new and old struggle with one another for supremacy as well as for e conomic power. Primism and complacency are not to be allowed to dominate political policy for the world is no longer narrow and state borders have lost importance in the changing scene.