TRANSITION TO POST-VEDIC SOCIAL POLITY
DHARMARAJYA and RAJADHARMA
YAYATI AN ENIGMA
Janamejaya requested Vaishampayana to narrate once again in the presence of the Brahmarshis, the scholars who were eminent jurists, the history of the Kuru lineage. He wanted that they should accept as valid his claim to the Kuru throne. Vaishampayana told the king who had been found not guilty (of wanton genocide) that he was proceeding to narrate the history of the Rajarshis who had mastered the codes of dharma, artha and kama and had the knowledge that would free one from sins. He would recount the lives and careers of Daksha, Manu Vaivasvata, Bharata, Kuru, Puru (of the lineage of Ajamida), Yadavas, Kauravas and Bharatas.
The chronicler goes back to the times of the chief of Prachinabarhis and his ten sons who were brilliant personages equal to the great sages who were legislators (maharshis). These persons were said to be gentle and pious and were natives of that place. They had the rank of Agni, the representative of the pure intelligentsia of the commonalty (jana) of that area. Prachinabarhis, a gandharva city might have been located in Panchala. Pracetas, a descendant of that chief of Prachinabarhis, was born to these sages, Pracetases (by an apsaras of the forests). This chronicler however does not dwell on this aspect. It was implied that she was required to have sex with all these ten scholars in accordance with the apsara orientation that treated polyandry to be a valid practice. Pracetas was known also as Daksha according to Vaishampayana.
Praja and Jana; the role of Daksha
Addressing Janamejaya as a social leader with plutocratic traits (purushasreshta) Vaishampayana tells him that it was Daksha who introduced the concept of praja and the method of absorbing into the native population (jana) all those who were willing to accept its orientations irrespective of their earlier ones. He was hence known as the chief of the people, Prajapati.
Daksha, a sage and successor to Pracetas (to be precise to the ten scholars), along with Virani (daughter of Virana) trained a thousand persons in his ways. [They are treated to be his sons.] Narada taught this assembly the philosophy that would lead one to liberation (moksha). Narada was an economist too. He engaged them in the trade mission to reach the ends of the different directions and they did not perhaps return to Dakshas school. Obviously they must have preferred earning wealth abroad to staying in the land and pursuing the philosophy of contentment and pursuing the path of liberation.
Daksha wished to create a new social order and selected a small group of fifty (presented in the allegory as his fifty daughters) of whom he assigned ten to promote dharma and placed thirteen at the disposal of Kashyapa and the rest twenty-seven at that of Soma. The last were expected to form the several sections of the economic structure (na-kshatra) that was not involved in polity.
Those who assisted Kashyapa were visualised as organisers of the different sectors of the larger social polity. Aditi was the eldest of the thirteen wives of Maricis son, Kashyapa. Indra and other nobles and Surya were the offspring of Kashyapa by Aditi, according to the legend. In other words, the Adityas who were assigned the task of administration of the larger society functioned under the supervision of this mother figure, Aditi. She was a liberal aswell as a purist.
Surya and Yama: Vivasvan and Vaivasvata
Surya (Vivasvan) supervised the work of the official designated as Yama, the enforcer of the prohibitory orders. Yama was also known as Vaivasvata. This official was different from Manu Vaivasvata, a protg of Vivasvan, a devarshi and associate of Prajapati Vishnu. Manu Vaivasvata, a scholar and highly efficient person (samartha), was devoted to dharma. The lineage, Prachinabarhis, Pracetases, Pracetas or Daksha, Aditi and Vivasvan by which the authority to organise and control the society was passed on to the successor ended with Manu Vaivasvata. [The chronicler implies that the legend that Vaivasvata had ten sons and one daughter is not credible.] The chronicler says that the famous (Puru) lineage of the commoners (manushyas) is traced to Manu Vaivasvata. Brahmans, Kshatriyas and others (other classes) are called Manavas because they originated in Manu. To be precise, Manu Vaivasvata gave approval to the scheme by which the four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras were formed. Those persons among the commoners (manushyas) who joined this scheme were called manavas.
The chronicler says that at that stage there was no cleavage between Brahmans and Kshatriyas. Brahmans who were disciples (sons in common parlance) of Manu taught the Kshatriyas the Vedas and their branches (angas). In other words, Brahman scholars should not deny the recognized Kshatriyas the knowledge of the socio-political constitutions and other fields incorporated in the Vedas and Vedanta.
Prthu and Vaivasvata constitution
The later chronicler treated Vaina, Trshnu, Narishiyat, Nabhaga, Ikshvaku, Karusha, Saryati, Prshadra and Arishta as the nine sons of Manu. He counted Ila, the daughter, as the eighth offspring of Manu. He claimed that Prshadra followed Kshatriya dharma. Nabhaga and Arishta were not granted any share in Manus wealth. It seems that as Prshadra had once fled from war he should not be recognized as a Kshatriya. Many annotators have failed to distinguish between Vena, the autocrat, and his successor, Vaina Prthu who was an agriculturist and ideal ruler. Vaina (Prthu) followed the socio-political constitution advocated by Manu Vaivasvata and Kashyapa. It was Prthu rather than Ikshvaku who was praised by Kashyapa while Krshna and others considered Ikshvaku to be the eldest and best among the sons of Vaivasvata.
The later chronicler clarifies that Manu had fifteen other sons among the commoners (bhumi) and that they were all destroyed because of mutual conflicts. In other words, the social groups, which refused to give up their dislikes for one another and to accept and merge in the scheme of four classes (varnas) and four stages of life (asramas), faded away in due course.
Pururavas discarded Sanatkumara's counsel
The chronicler was misled when he presumed that Pururavas was the son of Ila, daughter of Manu Vaivasvata. He was the son of Ila, an apsaras, by Budha, a vidyadhara. The myth that she was bisexual and was both father and mother to Pururavas has to be studied rationally. Ila brought him up on her own as an apsaras, without the assistance of his progenitor. According to this chronicler, Pururavas ruled thirteen islands and received the assistance of and was popular with other living beings (pranis), especially those belonging to the subaltern and were at the bare subsistence level though he was a commoner (manushya) with his own means of livelihood. Pururavas belonged to the agro-pastoral commonalty of the plains though he lived in the midst of the islanders who were fishermen and followed the apsara culture that required the women to look after their homes while the men were away for long periods.
The chronicler notes that Pururavas who was arrogant with power, picked up quarrels with Brahmans and deprived them of their jewels. He discarded the counsel given by Sanatkumara who came down from Brahmaloka, that is, came from the academy of jurisprudence. He lost balance being greedy for wealth and proud of his might and was indicted by the maharshis (who were legislators). This led to his fall.
Vaishampayana noted that Pururavas had six sons by Urvasi, an apsaras. (According to other accounts, the two had only one son, a warrior, and that the other five were the sons of Pururavas by another woman who looked like Urvasi.) He holds that Nahusha and four others were born to Ayu by Svarpanavi. He endorses the account that with the help of Urvasi, Pururavas introduced among the commoners the gandharva practice of instituting the three domestic fires (agni) to sanctify the homes. The gandharvas had accepted the orientation of autonomous self-assessment behind these three fires and this procedure was introduced among the commonalty (manushyas) who had for a long time been required to abide by the verdicts given by the clan (kula) councils.
Nahusha and Dharma, code of justice: inclusive Vedic Polity
Nahusha (son of Ayu) was an intelligent and brave ruler, who gave his vast lands a stable administration on the basis of the code of justice, dharma. There is no indication that he succeeded Pururavas. The social polity that he presided over had elders (pitrs, asuras who had the status of jyeshtas and enjoyed precedence over other cadres), nobles (devas), sages (rshis) and students of jurisprudence (brahmans), free intelligentsia (gandharvas), technocrats (nagas), militants (rakshasas) and the three classes (Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas). The class of Shudras had not yet been formed, the chronicler implied. Nahusha must have functioned under a socio-cultural code that gave precedence to the former authoritarian feudal lords (pitrs) over the liberal and gentle aristocrats (devas).
Nahusha exercised powers of Indra
Later chroniclers had no good opinion about Nahusha. While he was praised for exterminating the gangs of highwaymen he forced the sages to pay tribute to him. He did not allow their claim that they were exempt from the laws that others had to obey. The system of bali, compulsory tribute, was in force. The gifts that the sages received from the householders had to be shared with the state, he argued. He did not exempt the Brahmans from physical labour. He subordinated the nobles (devas) and exercised the powers of Indra. He was later treated as an evil-minded python though he had earlier been a bright, hard-working, powerful and enthusiastic administrator. Yayati was the second of the six sons of Nahusha. [Yati, the eldest son had become an executive who was trained in jurisprudence, Brahmayogi.]
Yayati a commoner treated both feudal lords and nobles as equal
He was an emperor and administrator of the commonalty (bhumi). Yayati honoured both pitrs (that is, asuras, authoritarian feudal lords) and devas (liberal nobles) and benefited all the native population (jana), [that is, all the five groups of native peoples]. He had by his two wives, Devayani and Charmishta many talented and brave sons. [Devayani was the daughter of Sukra while Charmishta, her friend, was the daughter of an asura chieftain.]
Yadu and Turvasu are traced to Devayani and Drhyu, Anu and Puru to Charmishta. The first two were noted for sobriety (sattva), as a daughter of a Brahman scholar brought them up, and the other three were noted for preponderance of aggressiveness (rajas), as their mother was the daughter of an asura. But Vaishampayana avoids highlighting this distinction among the five groups of native peoples (panchajanas) who claimed Yadu, Turvasu, Drhyu, Anu and Puru as their patrons.
Yayati followed Rajarshi constitution; Puru agreed to follow it
Yayati, son of Nahusha, governed his subjects for several years in accordance with the provisions of the social code, dharma, until he grew old and weak. The legend regarding his exchanging his age with the youth of his son, Puru, needs to be interpreted rationally. Among his five sons, only Puru was prepared to function under the provisions of the Rajarshi constitution that Yayati followed.
According to Sukra (Usanas, a great political thinker) a ruler who undertook to function under the Rajarshi constitution (in preference to Dandaniti and other political codes) should observe celibacy. As a result, Yayati was prevented from pursuing sexual pleasure, kama, one of the four values of human life, purusharthas. Yayati retired from his social and political duties and went to a pleasure resort with his two wives and an apsaras, Visvasi, while Puru took over the administration of his country.
Yayati sought the status of Brahma, impartial judge
But Yayati did not get the expected contentment. He realised that neither pursuit of lust nor acquisition of wealth could give one the necessary contentment. Only when one does not harm any living being (prani) (at the bare subsistence level) either by his deeds or by his thoughts or by his words, he can enjoy the happiness that is attached to the concept, Brahmam. Only a stoic who is fearless and of whom none is afraid, and who has near their neither likes nor dislikes, is fit to be in the status of Brahmam. Brahman, the supreme impartial judge, was superior to the Rajarshi. Yayati opted to become the supreme impartial and unambitious judge, Brahma, after a brief interlude as a pleasure-seeking retired ruler.
Failed as judge and became king again
But Yayati did not succeed as a judge and (giving up sex and lust) returned to his position as king. On his final retirement he handed over his regime to Puru who functioned as regent during the absence of the former. Janamejaya noticed that according to the records, the lineage ran as Daksha, Aditi (and Kashyapa), Vivasvan, Vaivasvata, Ila, Pururavas, Ayu, Nahusha, Yayati, Puru and Yayati again. He wanted to know how Yayati happened to marry Devayani, daughter of Sukra. Marriage between a Kshatriya and a Brahman girl was rare.
Rivalry between feudal lords (asuras) and liberal nobles (devas):
Sukra versus Brhaspati
Vaishampayana offered to tell him how Yayati (who had the powers of Indra as he was the son of Nahusha) and Vrshaparva sought the hand of Devayani, daughter of their teacher, Sukra. [Nahusha was not a king. He only officiated as Indra and that too for a brief period and was removed from that position as he exceeded his authority.] Vaishampayana recalled how the nobles (devas) and feudal lords (asuras) developed mutual enmity on the issue of the governance of the three social worlds (lokas) and the animate and inanimate beings. The nobles adopted the sage, Brhaspati, as their counsellor (purohita) and their enemies, the feudal lords (asuras) Sukra, son of Kavi (Bhrgu) to help them in their victory in this conflict. These two scholars (Brahmans) were always bent on each overcoming the other (in ideological disputes). [They were Brahmavadis, ideologues as well as socio-political activists.]
Sukra is reported to have revived through his skill the asuras whom the devas had killed during the war between the two. The asuras could not be wiped out. They re-emerged after defeat to fight against the nobles. But Brhaspati though a great intellectual did not revive the devas who were killed on the battlefront for (according to the legend) he did not know the medicine Sanjivini that could revive the dead. Brhaspati represented the civil society of commoners who were engaged in their respective occupations and did not approve power and wealth being concentrated in the hands of the leisure class that the nobles were. He would opt for a new aristocracy that did not sponge on the wealth created by the working class that the commoners were.
Kaca, son of Brhaspati vs Devayani, daughter of Sukra
Thereupon the nobles requested Kaca, son of Brhaspati, to secure the skill that Sukra had and offered to him a share in what they received in the sacrifices (yajnas) performed by the people. Sukra was always found in the company of Vrshaparva and from there he saved the asuras. He did not save others. Kaca should serve him and please him and also his daughter, Devayani. Then he could secure that medicine, they said. Devayani could be pleased through good conduct, the nobles told Kaca. Kaca introduced himself as the grandson of the sage, Angiras, and as the natural son (aurasa) of Brhaspati and requested Sukra to accept him as his disciple. He promised to follow total celibacy. Sukra agreed to honour him and Brhaspati by making him his student. Vaishampayana would not allow Sukra, the great political thinker, to be condemned though the latter was a counsellor of the feudal lords (asuras). Brhaspati was a counsellor of the commoners (manushyas) and the liberal nobles (devas).
Kaca undertook the vow of celibacy as pronounced by Usanas (Sukra). While attending on Usanas, young Kaca tried to delight Devayani in every way but was cautious not to break the vow of celibacy. Devayani too tried to please him in secret but without breaking his vow. The asuras who noticed their friendship killed Kaca when he had taken out the sages cows for grazing. Devayani confessed to her father her love for Kaca and threatened to kill herself. Then Usanas, it is said, revived him. The asuras were bent on killing Kaca, the son of Brhaspati, and tried different methods to kill him. They did not hesitate to even mix his ashes with the liquor that they gave to Usanas.
Incited by Devayani's intense sorrow, Usanas decided not to help the asuras who had worked against their Brahman teacher. We may bypass the descriptions that are intended to add colour and enchantment to the story of the escape of Kaca from death. Usanas offered to teach him the secret of the medicine, Sanjivini, if only he was not Indra who had come in the guise of Kaca, the son of Brhaspati. Sukra realised the evils of drinking and directed that the Brahmans (scholars including jurists) should treat as part of their duty to desist from drinking. He directed that all Brahmans and nobles and all the peoples (janas) should abstain from liquor. He chided the asuras for their folly and declared that Kaca was entitled to a share in the offerings made at the sacrifices, yajnas as he had taken a risk to help the nobles, devas.
Kaca was eager to return to the company of the nobles (devas) whose counsellor his father, Brhaspati, was. Devayani appreciated him for keeping his vow of celibacy during his stay at the residence of his teacher, and her father, Sukra. She had great regard for his grandfather, Angiras, and father, Brhaspati, and expressed her desire to marry him. But Kaca expressed his inability to marry her, as he had to revere her as the daughter of his teacher and hence equivalent to his sister. He advised her to continue to attend on her father and his teacher.
This advice upset Devayani who cursed that his mission to get the medicine for the use of the nobles would fail as he had rejected her pure love. Kaca pointed out to her that he had only pointed out the dharma, code of conduct that had to be followed with respect to sages (rshis) and members of their abodes. He warned her that she would never be able to get the son of a sage as her husband as she had violated that discipline. On his successful return, Indra and other nobles were delighted and honoured Brhaspati, his father and told him that he would have a share in the receipts at sacrifices. The chronicler and the later annotator point out that the abodes of the sages had their distractions despite their codes of discipline.
Charmishta, daughter of Vrshaparva, an Asura and
Devayani, daughter of a sage
The great epic contains numerous tales that have their messages. Purandara Indra who had received through Kaca the medicine that would revive the nobles (devas) who were fatally injured in their battles against the feudal lords (asuras) was known for indulging in teasing young women who were bathing. Devayani and Charmishta became his victims when he mixed up their clothes and they began to quarrel with each other. The latter was the daughter of Vrshaparva, an asura chieftain, who studied under Sukra. Charmishta was required to study under Sukras daughter, Devayani. The latter accused her of having violated the code of conduct and worn her teachers clothes. Charmishta felt annoyed and disparaged Devayanis father (Sukra) as one cringing before her father, Vrshaparva, like a bonded labourer (dasa).
The chronicler pointed out that Devayani was the daughter of one who flattered the master and begged for and accepted alms from him while Charmishta was the daughter of a master who was praised and only gave gifts and never asked for gifts. Charmishta teased her as behaving like a beggar and like an unarmed person who was afraid of the armed. Charmishta while ragging her pushed Devayani into a well, the story says. The later annotator notes that as she had regained the traits of an asura Charmishta did not repent her action even after returning to her town from the teachers abode. According to the story, Yayati, son of Nahusha, rescued Devayani from the well. That virgin looked like a flame (agni, a devata), i.e. she had as a teachers daughter the status of (and played the role of) a civil judge (agni) who imposed on the guilty the penalty of courses of purificatory acts.
Yayati and Devayani: Different patterns of marriage
Yayati understood that she was the daughter of a Brahman and lifted her out of the well. As he had taken her hand, he had to become her husband, Devayani pointed out. But Yayati said that he was a Kshatriya and that it was not proper for him to marry a Brahman girl. Besides, he was afraid as her father, Sukra, was a teacher of all social worlds. In Yayatis view, Sukra taught the asuras (who were equal to nobles, devas) as well as the commoners and the people of the frontier society. Devayani told him that she would marry him with her fathers permission (by Arsha marriage), as Yayati was not bold to marry her (by Kshatriya or Gandharva marriage) without her fathers permission. Kshatriya marriage was marriage by conquest while rakshasa marriage was marrying the girl after taking her away by force.
When Devayani told her father how Charmishta had spoken ill of him, Sukra rejected the charge and claimed that Devayani was not the daughter of a courtier who sought the favour of the master but was the daughter of one who did not flatter others but was praised by others. Vrshaparva and Indra and also Nahusha knew this, he said. The medicinal formula of reviving the dead Sanjivini (whose efficacy never wanes in this world) was an unequalled power given to him by Isvara, he said. Isvara was the benevolent and charismatic chieftain of the social periphery who was later presented as God.
Dandaniti claimed to be a social welfare code
The annotator comments that Sukra considered it improper for him to indulge in self-praise though he was the only person who knew that formula. She knew what Sukras strength was; it lay in forgiveness that the pious practise. According to the socio-political constitution, Brahma, Sukra was always the chief, Prabhu, of the bhumi and the svarga and all other places, that is, the rural areas and the urban areas and also all other areas. In other words, the political code, dandaniti, that Sukra had outlined, was applicable to all these areas. It was a social welfare code, and did not countenance a harsh regime, according to the chronicler.
Sukra counsels that only one who bears with all criticisms and controls his anger can conquer all the worlds. Only removal of the rage by tolerance is said to be manliness. One who stays untroubled by troubles given by others is eligible to succeed in his undertakings. Between one who performs yajna every month for a hundred years and one who never gets angry the latter is superior. Lust and rage are bad. According to Sukra only sacrifice (yajna), endeavour (tapas) and gift (dana) that are performed by one who does not get angry will prove beneficial. Sukra was putting forth the duties that were prescribed for all commoners. His was an approach that prevailed before the duties of the different classes (varnas) were prescribed separately. It belonged to the social order that prevailed before the varnasrama scheme came into force.
He explained that one who was given to rage was unfit to become a social controller and director (yati) or a sage (rshi) or be even a commoner who performed sacrifices (yajnas). One who gave in to rage would not gain the benefits of having been one who functioned in accordance with code of dharma. Sukra pointed out that such a person would not be eligible to be a member (of the representative body) of either the commonalty or the nobility. Son, servant, friend, brother, and wife would all leave the company of one who is given to rage, Sukra cautioned Yayati.
Yayati's times: Laws based on Dharma and Satya were both in force
If Yayati did not overcome rage he would lose the immunities secured by adherence to the laws based on dharma and satya. (The rigorous laws based on truth, satya, were in force during the middle and even later Vedic times. The liberal laws based on dharma came into force by the end of the Vedic times. During the times of Yayati and Sukra both were in force.) Sukra told Devayani that the wise did not resort to childish and senseless enmity, for the ignorant did not know the advantages of forbearance. Devayani in reply to this exhortation and counsel presented a studied and pragmatic response.
Though a young girl she had understood the subtle aspects of dharma. She knew the gains of patience and censure. But a teacher who seeks the betterment of his student should not tolerate the conduct of a student who does not follow the general principles of duty (dharma) and deviates from the code of conduct of a student, she argued. A disciple who could be ordered by the teacher had deviated and become useless for the latter. She did not like to live in the midst of the undisciplined. (She was condemning both Vrshaparva and his daughter, Charmishta.) A scholar who cares for reputation should not live in the midst of those commoners who disparage the conduct and clan of others, she said. He should live only in the midst of those pious persons who respect correctly the conduct and clans of others. Living in their company is said to be the best. She was drawing attention to the weaknesses in that residential school which was open to all.
If the commoners are always eager to restrain themselves though they have no wealth they would become good persons. Those who are guilty of moral turpitude and commit sins are chandalas only, even if they are rich. Devayani (to be precise, the annotator) explains that one is not born a chandala. [Later annotators are seen to be eager to defend the claim that some are chandalas by birth.] Those who deviate from the vocations assigned to them and seek wealth and clan status and other skills are guilty of the deeds done by chandalas, she says. They are guilty of motiveless malignity and of disparaging others. The pious should not live with them. One who lives with sinners will himself become a sinner. One certainly gets attached to the good or bad that he moves amidst. Hence hatred is undesirable, the pragmatist says.
Devayani had been upset by the comments made by Vrshaparvas daughter, Charmishta. According to Devayani, no act in the three social worlds (lokas) is worse than a poor person cringing before his wealthy opponent. [Most of the servants who were required to work as bonded labourers under the feudal lords were indeed prisoners of war.] Death is better for such a person, the realists say. One who keeps company with the vile is put to shame in due course. From their mouths emerge words that cross all limits of decency. One who is hit by them sorrows day and night. They hit the delicate points of the opponent. Hence a wise man does not utter those words. The wounds caused by weapons or by fire get cured in due course but not those caused by harsh words. Devayani was pleading to her father to abandon the company of the asuras.
Sukra a moderate puritan: Immunities of Reformed Feudal lords
Sukra, a great scholar belonging to the Bhrgu lineage, then went to Vrshaparva and told that king in anger without further thought that ones sin, like a cow, did not yield fruit immediately. If done repeatedly in due course it cuts ones roots. A tree whose roots are cut ceases to bear fruit, he pointed out. One who neglects the vices in him and in his sons and grandsons will suffer even as excess of food eaten disturbs ones health, he warned. Sukra was not a puritan but he advocated moderation. He accused the asura ruler of having conspired to kill Kaca, son of Brhaspati, who was living in his house as a student and who was known for his patience and conquest of his organs and was sinless and who knew the code of right conduct, dharma.
Sukra complained that Charmishta had insulted Devayani and in enmity and rage pushed her into a well and that hence Devayani was unable to reside in the abode Vrshaparva had assigned to her and her father in his town. Sukra could not reside there without her help and so would be leaving his country. As Vrshaparva had attempted to kill Kaca who was not to be killed and as there was an attempt to kill Devayani, Sukra would leave him and his kinsmen. Vrshaparva should not be angry with him for he could not live there without Devayani and would live where she did. Her desire would be his desire also, Sukra declared. Vrshaparva confessed that he had through Charmishta insulted and beaten Devayani and thus lowered his status but he did not confess to the attempt to kill her and also to the attempts to kill Kaca. Did he think that Sukra was lying? Sukra accused him of evading acknowledging his crime instead of crushing it.
Vrshaparva was unnerved by this remark. He submitted that he had not implied that Sukra, son of Bhrgu, was guilty of violating the rules of dharma or of uttering a falsehood (asatya). He acknowledged that Sukra was functioning in accordance with the code of dharma and also that of satya. The former was liberal and tolerated deviation from the norms while the earlier code of satya was rigorously puritanical. So he appealed to Sukra to take a favourable view with respect to the asuras and not to go away from them. His exit would be a catastrophe for them. They would have no alternative to committing suicide in the absence of his support to them.
Vrshaparva was a feudal lord who had opted to abide by the new liberal laws that dharma promulgated. He threatened that if Sukra left him and joined the nobles (devas) he would surrender all and immolate himself. The asura leaders would come under the jurisdiction of the civil judge, Agni, and like the commoners (manushyas) would not be eligible for any immunity that they had enjoyed till then as elders (pitrs) on par with the nobles (devas) and sages (rshis), the asura chieftains knew. Sukra then offered to help him to gain wealth and security even as Brhaspati aided Indra to gain them if Vrshaparva could convince Devayani to stay behind.
Rajapurohita, Guardian of state wealth formed from voluntary offerings
Vrshaparva knew that Sukra was by the provisions of the constitution, overlord and protector (prabhu) of all the wealth that the asuras had in the world of the commoners (bhumi). It was this authority that had prevented Indra and the other nobles (devas) from declaring war against them and releasing the wealth to the commoners. Dandaniti had placed the treasury of the state in the charge of the political counsellor so that the elite whether they were liberal nobles or feudal warlords would not misuse it to harass the commoners. Mahadeva constitution had placed the treasury (sura) in the hands of Brhaspati, the political counsellor in charge of civil polity and commoners (prthvi, manushyas).
The chronicler was pointing out to Janamejaya that Usanas (Sukra) had placed the treasury formed from the voluntary offerings of the commoners not in the hands of the gentle nobles and their chief, Indra (as the earlier Atharvan constitution did) or in the hands of Brhaspati, the head of the civil administration (as the Indra-Brhaspati agreement and the Mahadeva constitution did) but in the hands of the Rajapurohita, a post envisaged in the Rajarshi constitution. This move was necessary as the nobles and feudal lords had consented to give up their earlier privileges and function as kings of the commonalty being governed by the same laws as the commoners were. Dandaniti refused to prescribe two sets of laws, one for the rulers and another for the governed.
Sukra as Rajapurohita was superior to the king
The asura chieftain consented to pacify Devayani. But Devayani did not know that the constitution had recognised the Rajapurohita as the overlord and protector (prabhu) of the kings wealth. The king (raja) should himself acknowledge to her that this was so. Vrshaparva had to concede that Sukra was not his subordinate but his superior and that he had always praised and worshipped him. He and his kinsmen fell at her feet and offered to meet all the conditions she imposed for her agreeing to stay back in his kingdom.
Devayani stipulated that Vrshaparva should send Charmishta along with several girls to attend on the former and to accompany her wherever she went. Vrshaparva agreed, for it was said that one should give up one individual for the sake of the family and a family for the sake of the village and a village for the sake of the country. To save oneself a king might give up all his lands (bhumi). Hence he directed Charmishta and other girls to attend on Devayani and obey her orders.
Charmishtas governess told her that the Brahman (Sukra) was threatening to abandon his disciples (Vrshaparva and other asuras) for the sake of Devayani and that she should therefore act as Devayani desired. Charmishta agreed and prayed that Sukra and Devayani should not quit for her mistake. She offered to accompany Devayani as an attendant (dasi) to whomsoever Sukra gave her in marriage. The tale shows Devayani taunting her for having her insulted her as being the daughter of a beggar and courtier. [Charmishtas offering to serve her is interpreted as a sacrifice that she was making to comfort her sorrowing kinsmen.] Then Devayani and her father agreed to enter the town of that asura chieftain.
Yayati, son of Nahusha, came across the Brahman girl, Devayani once again while she was playing in a grove. Charmishta, the daughter of an asura ruler, was attending on her. Devayani said that she was the daughter of Sukra who was the teacher of the asuras and that her companion and governess was Charmishta, the daughter of Visvaparva, an asura chieftain. Yayati was curious to know how Devayani, the daughter of a Brahman teacher could get the handsome daughter of an asura chieftain who was a lady belonging to the elite as her companion and governess. He had not seen such a beautiful woman among the aristocrats (devas) and free intellectuals (gandharvas), the plutocrats (yakshas) and their entertainers (kinnaras) or among the commoners (bhumi). [Later, the gandharvas have been presented as dancers and musicians, who entertained the gods,]
Yayati did not approve the treatment that was being meted out to Charmishta, who belonged to the ruling elite. Either it was misfortune or Devayanis endeavour that should have caused Charmishtas fall in status for he felt that Charmishta was more beautiful than Devayani. Devayani did not know yet the status of Yayati. Addressing him as a leading personage (purushasreshta) she said that none should violate the rules of conversation. Devayani noticed that Yayati was dressed and looked like a king and spoke like a Brahman (jurist). She wanted to know who he was and from where he came and whose son he was.
Yayati introduced himself as Yayati, a king (raja) and as the son of a king and as one who had gone through the Brahmacarya stage of formal studiy of Vedas. Devayani continued to be haughty and expressed her desire that he should become her friend and husband. But Yayati wanted to make Charmishta his queen. He pointed out to Devayani that he was not fit for her. Yayati told Sukras daughter that in her fathers view, a king was not fit for marital alliance with her. One was prohibited from marrying the wife of another, ones sister, a girl born in a higher community (jati), a girl belonging to the same gotra, a fallen woman (patita), a daughter-in-law, a beggar and a diseased girl, he recalled. (This statement may have suffered some interpolations later.)
No differences between Brahmans and Kshatriyas
Devayani (daughter of Sukra, a great teacher) argued that a deep study would indicate that there were no differences between the two communities, Kshatriyas and Brahmans, which were mutually related. She pointed out that Yayati was indeed a sage (rshi) and the son of a rshi. She (Sukra, to be precise) treated Nahusha as a sage (rshi) rather than as an administrator (holding the rank of Indra for a brief period). Sages taught Brahman as well as Kshatriya youths. [As long as one was in the abode of a sage he or she had to conduct himself or herself as his son or daughter.] A sage did not distinguish between a Brahman and a Kshatriya while imparting training. But Yayati would hold that all the four classes (varnas) had emerged from the same (social) body but that they differed from one another in the duties (dharma) prescribed and in their practices (functions) and that the class of Brahmans was the best among them. He was pointing out that Sukras stand differed from that of his senior, Bhrgu.
Yayati cited the purushasukta as an authority
Devayani would now acknowledge Yayati as the son of Nahusha, an intellectual belonging to the class of artisans who did not belong to either of the two varnas, Brahmana and Kshatriya. Yayati was however a noble personage (purusha) who was citing the authority of Purushasukta. She argued that since he had taken her hand earlier (while pulling her out of the well) and since no other purusha had followed this dharma of lending a hand of protection with respect to her who was in distress, she had to accept him as her husband. She insisted that as he was a son of a sage and was himself a sage (rshi) it was improper for any other person (purusha) to touch her hand.
But Yayati treated her as the daughter of a Brahman (jurist) who had immunity against being harmed by vengeful workers and other mobile groups (sarpas) and by civil judges (agni) who have wide jurisdiction and who set the limits within which a commoner has to function. [The claim that a Brahman could no tbe burnt by agni or bitten by sarpas has to be interpreted in a rational way.] Every intelligent commoner (manushya) had to recognise that the Brahman (jurist) was unapproachable.
Yayati explained that a sarpa (vengeful worker) might harm an individual. Sarpas (mobile workers) were not against whole communities or clans. [The chronicler, Vaishampayana, was narrating his account to Janamejaya whose predecessor, Parikshit, had been killed by Takshaka, a sarpa. It is not to be treated as an uprising against the whole class of Kshatriyas.] An armed man may kill another individual. But the wrath of a Brahman might destroy many countries and towns (paura-janapadas), he feared. [The chronicler was alluding to the wrath of Parasurama who deprived twenty-one states of the Kshatriyas, of their coercive power.]
Hence Yayati hesitated to follow the practice and rule of panigraha, which was valid for kshatriyas and gandharvas and nobles, devas, and even for sages, rshis, but not for Brahmans. He would follow the rule of kanyadana, the father or the guardian bestowing the girl as a virgin before she attained the age of consent. This rule was followed in Brahma marriage and also in Arsha (Rshi marriage). Yayati declared that he would not accept her unless her father gave her to him in marriage in accordance with the practice of kanyadana.
Devayani then told the king that he might marry her without fear after her father had given her to him without his asking for her hands. Sukra had the status of a Brahman (chief judge). She asked her governess to inform him that she had resorted to the right she had to select her own groom (svayamvara). On hearing the report in detail, Sukra presented himself before the king. On seeing the Brahman, Yayati who was a king saluted him.
It was an issue of who was superior, the chief judge or the king. The former had to make his services available whenever needed by the head of the state, but the chief judge ranked higher than the latter, according to dandaniti, principles of political control that Sukra had outlined. Dandaniti as in force during the later Vedic times placed the treasury in the hands of the Rajapurohita, a political counsellor who knew the Atharvan constitution, Brahma and was hence a Brahman, and made him chief justice, a position superior to that of the king.
Devayani submitted that the king who was a son of Nahusha had caught hold of her hand and rescued her. None had touched it earlier. She requested her father to give her to him in marriage and asserted that she would not accept any other husband in the world, that is, the world of sages.
As she was above the minimum age of consent Sukra did not have the right to give her in marriage to any one without her consent. It would be Arsha marriage, daughter of a sage marrying the son of a sage (and a sage himself) with the two rules, kanyadana and svayamvara met. [Brahma marriage provided only for kanyadana and Gandharva marriage provided for panigraha and Kshatriya marriage provided for svayamvara.] Sukra pointed out that duty (dharma) had to be distinguished from desire (kama).
Dharma and different types of marriage
Devayani happened to take the hand of Yayati and accepted him as her husband after having desired to marry Kaca. Marriage between Devayani, daughter of Sukra and Kaca, son of Brhaspati, would not have been within the provisions of Arsha marriage. But the one between Devayani and Yayati was based on desire (kama) rather than duty (dharma). Sukra declared that if a Brahman girl accepted as her husband one of another class voluntarily, the issue of committing a major offence of varnasamkara (mixed classes) might be raised. It might not be raised if she was given in marriage to one of another varna without her consent.
So Sukra ordered the king to accept as his queen his daughter, Devayani whom he had given to the latter by the provisions of kanyadana. Before accepting her, Yayati requested the jurist (Brahmana) who was a son of Bhrgu (the chief editor of the social code, Manava Dharmasastra and great legislator, maharshi) to ensure that he was not in the future declared guilty of the great offence against the code of dharma, causing varnasamkara.
Sukra offered to suggest a method by which Yayati would not be accused of having violated the code of marriage. He might seek whatever boon he wanted. He need not regret this marriage with Devayani. He could accept her as his wife by one of the dharma types. Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa and Paisaca types were not recognised as dharma marriages. Asura type involved sale and purchase of the bride. It was based on monetary considerations and was of the artha type. Gandharva and the other two types were based on lust (kama). Brahma, Arsha, Daiva and Prajapatya types were called dharma types.
Sukra was not a noble (deva) or a chief of the people (prajapati). He could resort to Brahma and Arsha types, both of which granted the father the right to give away his daughter in marriage to a groom of his choice. If Devayani resorted to svayamvara it might result in her and Yayati being hauled up for violation of the rules prohibiting varnasamkara and their offspring being debarred from all social functions. Sukra advised them not to resort to svayamvara.
While Yayati should be friendly with Devayani though there was a difference in status with his being a king and her not belonging to a royal family, he should always honour Charmishta who was the daughter of an asura king and would accompany Devayani. He should however not sleep with her or meet her alone or touch her. Yayati agreed and married Devayani according to the prescribed rites and received huge wealth as gift along with the asura attendants. Honoured thus by Sukra and the asuras he left for his city along with Charmishta and Devayani and their retinue of asura girls.
While Devayani occupied her chamber in the royal palace, her friend and attendant, Charmishta had to stay in a nearby grove along with the other maids attending on the queen. Soon after Devayani gave birth to her first child, a son, Charmishta enticed Yayati. She told him that normally one should not utter a lie but that there were exceptional circumstances when one might utter a lie. These included flattering of women, teasing, occasions of marriage, occasions when one is about to lose his life and property. But Yayati would not be taken in. He held that a king had to be a model to his people and he did not want to utter a lie even if it created problems in the affairs of the state.
Charmishta however argued that ones husband and her companions husband were being treated as one. Marriage meant being one. She was twisting the meaning of the expression, becoming one. She claimed that Sukra had while giving her as a gift at the time of marriage had praised her that both she and Devayani deserved being honoured. Yayati should not make it untrue. Yayati was noted for his giving gold, jewels, pearls, clothes, ornaments, cattle and land to those who sought them. But these did not involve ones body. Giving oneself and giving a son were the best of gifts (dana), she argued. He had proclaimed that he would donate whatever the people asked for her. She sought him and a son as gift. He should not belie his proclamation. Like Kubera he had to make them true.
Dharma as social right and duty
Here the chronicler makes Charmishta address Yayati as rajasreshta, a plutocratic ruler like Kubera, a yaksha. The feudal lords, asuras were often treated as elders, jyeshtas, and the rich plutocrats, yakshas, as sreshtas. Yayati was ready to give her wealth and kingdom if she so desired, as he had taken the vow to give what one asked for. She wanted a son from him. She wanted not wealth (artha) nor sex (kama) but her social right and duty (dharma) from him. The best dharma for one was to have a son. She wanted to have a son to be able to perform the duties devolving on her because of her membership of a particular cadre or social world (lokadharma) in the best way.
Charmishta pointed out to the king that only a wife, a servant (dasa) and a son did not have separate wealth (personal property). This was the law then. Whatever they got became the property of their owners. This argument and the claim that Brahmadeva had created women for bearing sons and for looking after their husbands seem to be later interpolations but they reflect the asura outlook. Charmishta was the daughter of a feudal chieftain (asura). Charmishta disapproved women remaining unmarried and not bearing children.
Unmarried and sonless women were not entitled to any social or economic or civic rights. They were considered to have wasted their lives without gaining any security for the future. She was reflecting not orthodoxy but the feudal outlook that women were not entitled to remain free and without encumbrances. Male chauvinism and despotism were upheld not only by men who shared the asura feudal outlook but also by the women who belonged to such feudal families. These women did not consider themselves to be victims of an unjust social system. Yayati consented to help her to meet the needs of her asura dharma. He had sex with her and she bore a son by him. Yayati had been from the beginning attracted more by Charmishta than by Devayani.
But without his making any advances to her she became his wife even as wealth falls to the lot of the people without their seeking it. Through Yayati, son of Nahusha, the chronicler was criticising the economy and the attitude of the nobles and the rural population who did not exert themselves but yet came across wealth by chance. Yayati noticed that Devayani had become wild with rage on his betrayal of the promise he had given her and her father. As nectar was necessary for the nobles and clouds for crops, he needed Vrshaparvas daughter, Charmishta, according to the chronicler.
Addressing Janamejaya as Bharatas successor, Vaishampayana recounted to him the conversation between Devayani and Charmishta. Charmishta lied that she had become pregnant by a sage who had studied Vedas and was devoted to dharma. Charmishta claimed that she wanted to know how to experience sex (kama), which was within the code of conduct prescribed by dharma. Sex without intent to bear a son was against dharma. She agreed that what she did was wrong. But Devayani did not believe this account. She wanted to know who that twiceborn (dvija) was, where he lived and what his gotra was. Charmishta claimed that she felt powerless to ask him those questions as he was glowing like sun and was a tapasvi. If it was true and if she had a son by a revered Brahman then Devayani would have no objection.
The five sons of Yayati
Yayati had two sons, Yadu and Turvasu, by Devayani. In the federation of five native peoples over which he presided, they held the positions of Indra and Vishnu. By that time Yayati had come under the Rajarshi constitution. But the chronicler accuses him of having made her consume liquor, lose balance of mind and blabber. It would appear that later annotators were eager to absolve Yayati of the charge of having deliberately led her to madness and establish that, the son of Nahusha had good intents. He had three sons, Drhyu, Anu and Puru by Charmishta who however had taught them to state that they were the children of a Vedic scholar and sage though they identified only Yayati as their father.
Challenged by an annoyed and enraged Devayani, Charmishta defended herself saying that she meant by the term, rshi, a rajarshi and not a brahmarshi. Devayani accused her subordinate of having acted against the interests of the former and conducted herself like an asura (who was unafraid of committing sins and misleading others). Charmishta explained that it was true her husband was a sage, rshi and that she was not afraid as she had acted according to rules of justice, nyaya, and code of conduct, dharma. The arguments advanced by Devayani and Charmishta need to be given the attention required and not are not to be passes by as mere wrangling.
Charmishta had accepted Yayati as her husband even when Devayani did, for according to the code of conduct, dharma, one might accept as her husband her companions husband. Of course, she had to respect her senior, Devayani, who was also a Brahman girl. But she had to respect the Rajarshi more. Her teacher and Devayanis father had given both Devayani and Charmishta and hence the king, her revered husband was protecting her in that grove.
Devayani was not pacified and went to complain to her father, Sukra, against Yayati and Charmishta. She claimed that adharma had defeated dharma and that status distinctions had been reversed and that she had been discriminated against, for while she had been given only two sons, Charmishta had been given three. Devayani accused the king who was known for his knowledge of dharma, of having irresponsibly violated dharma. When she addressed Sukra as the son of Kavi, that is, of Bhrgu she was implying that the king had violated in particular the socio-cultural code (dharma) that Bhrgu (and other maharshis) had legislated.
Maharaja. Head of the executive and judiciary
Sukra who had outlined dandaniti, principles of penal laws, pointed out that Yayati who as a maharaja was the head of the executive as well as the judiciary, had wantonly rendered injustice (adharma) though he knew what justice (dharma) was. Sukra pronounced that Yayati would be covered by invincible old age that would while disabling him from sexual acts disable him also from discharging his duties as a king and judge. Yayati was required to step down from his position as maharaja.
Yayati tried to defend his conduct (by citing the arguments referred to in the previous paragraphs) and pleaded pardon. However Sukra had not removed him from the position of a king, raja, which did not permit one to be a judge. Sukra would address him as the son of Nahusha (who had crossed the limits of power that he had as a regent). Yayati, like Nahusha, was appointed as Rajarshi under the Rajarshi constitution. He had to function under the guidance of the political grammarian and counsellor, Rajapurohita. Pointing out his habit of uttering falsehood, which was a violation of the provisions of the code of conduct (dharma), Sukra noted that lying (asatya) was equivalent to stealing (steya) and was punishable. But he refrained from pronouncing the penalty for asatya. Yayati however lost his youth and became old suddenly.
He appealed to Sukra citing the provisions of the socio-cultural code drafted by Bhrgu (to whose clan Sukra, a sreshta belonged). In the frontier society of the forests and mountains, the plutocrat (sreshta) who had suffered loss of wealth by theft had the right to punish the thief. He was not required to refer the crime to an independent judge. Yayati pleaded that Devayani had not given him pleasure in his youth and hence he had gone astray. He was pointing out that he had a valid grouse against Sukra and his daughter.
Sukra refused to withdraw his verdict but permitted him to exchange his age for the youth of another person. The laws of the other society permitted a son or a brother to undergo the penalty on behalf of the guilty. In the core society one has to bear the consequences of his acts, good or bad. They cannot to be transferred to others, not even to sons. Sukra extended to Yayati the benefit of the provisions of law (dharma) that were being applied to the other people (itara jana) 0f the frontier society (antariksham).
Yayati requested the Brahman (judge) to permit him to hand over his kingdom, benefits accruing from good deeds (punya) and fame to the son who would exchange his youth for the fathers old age. Yayati pleaded that he should be allowed to abdicate the throne rather than be deposed as an ineffective and undesirable old ruler. Sukra permitted Yayati, son of Nahusha, to contemplate on the verdict given by him as interpreter of the socio-political constitution and transfer his age to another, as he desired. It would not be treated as a sin, as an offence against the code of ethics, dharma.
Rajarshi constitution vis-vis Dandaniti
The Rajarshi constitution that Nahusha and Yayati functioned under did not permit the ruler to hand over authority to his son, unilaterally. He had to act in consultation with the Rajapurohita (or Brhaspati) and the head of the eight-member ministry (Indra) while selecting the successor. If Yayati had to appoint his son in his place he had to function under the provisions of Sukras dandaniti that did not permit the head of the state to be the chief judge. Such appointment of a successor would be not as regent but as a full-fledged king. Sukra did not allow Yayati any leeway.
Yayati who was angered by Yadu who refused to exchange his youth for Yayatis age, declared that Yadus descendants would not be eligible to be rulers. The chronicler was explaining why the Yadavas were not recognized as kings. Turvasu too refused to oblige him. Yayati exiled him to rule over borderlands where people who had deviated from dharma and good practices lived. Such lands had men lower than all the recognised classes (varnas) and who ate meat and did not respect teachers and who were brutal (tiryakjati) and sinners and were aliens (mlecchas).
Drhyu wanted to enjoy possession of elephants, horses and chariots and women and refused to help his father out. Yayati declared that Drhyu would have to live in lands, which could be approached only by boats and not chariots and horses and other animals used for transport. Drhyus were later known as Bhojas. They did not have kingdoms. In other words, like the Yadavas (Yadus) the Bhojas (Drhyus) were not recognised as sovereign rulers.
While Yadu was allowed to continue as ruler and only his descendants were declared ineligible to be rulers, Drhyu too along with his descendant was declared ineligible to be a ruler. Bhojas were only landlords. Yayati was annoyed with Anu who disparaged all old men for failing to perform the agnihotra rites at the proper time and for not observing the rules of fasting. He pronounced that the Anus would die young and would not have the right to perform agnihotra sacrifices.
But Puru, the youngest of the five sons agreed unhesitatingly to his fathers proposal. According to the chronicler Puru thought that Yayati was doing so under the directions of his teacher. Puru held that a teachers counsel was capable of helping the commoners (manushyas) to gain benefits for their virtues (punya) and a place in the comity of nobles (svargaloka) and long life (short of immortality as devas are said to have). Puru realized that as Indra had the blessings of his teacher (guru) he was able to gain sole lordship over all the three social worlds (lokas) (nobility, commonalty and frontier society).
Brhaspati not a Rajapurohita
Puru however failed to distinguish between the role and authority of Brhaspati who guided the nobles (devas) and that of Sukra who guided the feudal lords (asuras). It may be clarified here that unlike Sukra, Brhaspati did not claim to be a Rajapurohita and did not exercise the powers of the chief judge though he was an eminent jurist, Brahmana. He was essentially a politico-economic ideologue and guide of the nobles and the commoners.
Puru agreed to be like a powerless aged head of the state as long as Yayati desired. Yayati retained the administration in his hands after handing over the accumulated assets and liabilities of his first tenure to the new guardian, Puru, who would hold them under the directions issued by Indra and Brhaspati who headed the nobility (divam) and council of political economy of the commonalty (prthvi). It was a second tenure for Yayati. He had at his disposal only what young Puru had earned. He used it for his personal enjoyment and for performing his duties (dharma) at the due times. He honoured (placated) the nobles (devas) at the sacrifices (yajna) and the ancestors (pitrs) at the annual memorial rites.
Through kind help Yayati pleased the poor and by removing their poverty, the noble (uttama) scholars (Brahmans) and through food and drink, the guests. By protecting their wealth he pleased the Vaisyas and through compassion the Shudras. Through just execution of the provisions of the penal laws he made even the thieves feel satisfied that they were rendered justice. He would not be arbitrary or cruel in the exercise of his magisterial powers. By adhering to the code of dharma he made all the (native) peoples (jana) happy (ranjana) befitting the new role of the king (raja).
Yayati and Puru
Yayati during his second tenure as king was a ruler functioning under the provisions of Dharmasastra that had recognised the formation of the four classes (varnas). He was not a warlord nor did he have the army at his disposal. He was but an administrator (paripalana) of the kingdom (rajya). Youthful and brave, he enjoyed life within the framework of dharma and protected the commoners (manushyas). He had the powers of a Rajarshi which institution did not deny the king permissible pleasure but prohibited uncontrolled lust.
After having enjoyed in the company of the apsaras, Visvasi, for the prescribed number of years, Yayati handed over the duties of administration of the state to Puru and took back charge of the position of elder king that Puru had occupied. He had learnt that desire led to further desire and that it was better not to pursue pleasure. Happiness lay in renouncing desire and pleasure. So he would concentrate his mind on Brahma, abandoning likes and dislikes, pleasure and pain and giving up all attachments would wander in the forest with animals.
But some took objection to the coronation of Puru bypassing Yadu, the eldest son and other sons, Turvasu, Drhyu and Anu. Yayati was required to act according to the provisions of dharmasastra. He asked the Brahmans and other classes (varnas) to note that his eldest son, Yadu, did not deserve in any way to be given the kingdom (rajyam). He narrated how Yadu and the other sons had not obeyed his orders to come to his help and how only Puru, the youngest son, had helped him.
Law of Primogeniture
Of significance is the discussion on the law of primogeniture that rose over Puru bypassing elder brothers. The elders had not treated one who acted against his father as a son (putra). Only one who followed the instructions of his parents and is favoured by them and does not deviate from principles of morality and ethics and behaves, as a son ought to with regard to his parents, is called a putra. The later annotator adds that put means hell and that sorrow is understood as hell. As the son saves his parents from sorrow in the present life and in the future life they desire a son. [This argument ignores the daughters.] The chronicler says that only a son who resembles his father in revering the elders (pitrs), nobles (devas) and sages (rshis), is called the eldest (jyeshta) son. He had to continue the tradition of the family and clan to which he belonged.
According to Vaishampayana, during the times of Yayati, the feudal lords (asuras) had withdrawn from the war against the nobles and were given a status equal to the retired elders (pitrs). The nobles (devas) consented to treat them as senior (jyeshta) to them even as they agreed to treat the plutocrats (yakshas) of the parallel economy of the forests as respectable persons (sreshta). The status of a senior person (jyeshta) could not be given to a mute or to a blind person or a deaf person or to a leper who could not perform his duties or to a thief or a sinner or one who did not perform his duties even if such a person was born as the eldest.
Only one who does good deeds to this social world (loka) of commonalty and to the other social world (of forests) to which the elders have retired deserves to enjoy the (additional) share that is due to the eldest (jyeshta) son. Only he may be called a son (putra). The others are not. Procreating them was a waste. Those who know the principles of the social code (dharma) say that the elders (pitrs) gain the benefit of good deeds (punya), only if they beget a son. According to the Veda a father says that a son is born from his heart. All traits connected with the body of the father are formed in that of the son. Hence the Veda (sruti) called him a putra.
Yayati pointed out that only Puru accepted his request and obeyed his directions. Hence he was the son who was eligible to receive his wealth. He had been a friend to Yayati, while fulfilling his desire. Yayati said that Sukra, son of Kavi (Bhrgu who had codified the dharmasastra) had said of his own accord that the son who resembled the father (Yayati) should be the king (raja) and ruler of the commoners (bhumi). Only the son who does as the father desires is eligible for the share that comes under daya (responsibility to continue the tradition).
With these arguments Yayati requested the people to perform the coronation of Puru. Yayati was relying on the rules that were recommended by Sukra, the author of dandaniti and the Vedas. The people of the city and the country agreed that the Vedas and the dharmasastras and the sages (rshis) of the past had said that the son who had noble traits and was always favoured by the parents was eligible for all benefits, and was senior though younger in age. Besides Sukra had declared that the son who had met his desire was eligible to get the kingdom and it could not be contradicted.
New system of succession
Yayati had experimented with a new system of succession. Instead of asking the young successor (Puru) to function as crown prince under his aged and experienced father and learn the principles of administration he appointed the youth to the position of a senior guide like Rajapurohita and learn how to be impartial and sober and then take over the lower post of Rajarshi and succeed in that assignment with felicity. It may be remarked here that modern scholars who have been impressed by the story of Yayati have invariably failed to note the intents behind the above experiment and the rejection of the law of primogeniture.
Yayati performed the coronation of Puru with the consent of the people. He appointed his other sons as rulers of the distant borderlands and after handing over his kingdom to Puru, accompanied by the jurists (Brahmarshis) who too retired along with him and by his wives, Devayani and Charmishta went to reside in the forest to perform tapas. The later chronicler adds that Yadavas were descendants of Yadu and Yavanas of Turvasu. Bhojas were the descendants of Drhyu. The alien communities (mlecchas) were said to be descendants of Anu. [Their regimes were not recognised.} Pauravas were descendants of Puru.
Yayati while he stayed in his forest abode followed the rules prescribed for the stage of life (asrama) known as vanaprastha. He spent his time in the company of intellectuals including jurists (Brahmans) and then went to the social world of the nobles (devas). But he was not allowed to stay there for a long time, as he was not qualified to be a member of the intellectual aristocracy although he had as a maharaja functioned as a king as well as a judge. (Not all kings were eligible to preside over the courts of justice.) The house of nobles (svargaloka) led by Indra was a house of legislature. Yayati could not be a permanent member of that body. But after a long association with the pious he was readmitted to its privileges.
Janamejaya wanted to know the intricacies of this arrangement. Why was Yayati expelled from the house of nobles? Why was he in a middle stage instead of being forced to join the commonalty of the plains (bhumi)? Vasuman, Ashtaka, Pratardana and Sibi too were kings who were similarly required to stay at a level between the nobles and the commoners. What good did Yayati do that helped him to enter the house of nobles (svarga, heaven in common parlance) again? Janamejaya asked Vaishampayana, who too was a scholar (Brahmana), to explain the enigma to the jurists (Brahmarshis) assembled there. Janamejaya was baffled as Yayati, from whom the Kuru lineage descended, had status and authority equal to the Vedic official, Agni, who while functioning as the head of the council of scholars, samiti, and the civil judge, was entitled to sit in the house of nobles, sabha, as a deva.
Yayati's second tenure
When the king attended the house of nobles, he occupied a seat on the same level as Indra, its chairman. How then Indra could expel Yayati from the proceedings of that house, Janamejaya wondered. Yayati after his second tenure functioned as an aged presiding officer without playing an active role in administration or functioning as chief judge. During that pre-retirement period and after retirement to the forest he was following the provisions of the liberal constitution outlined by Visalaksha who envisaged an enlightened sober Kshatriya aristocracy at the helm of the society. [It may be noted that Sakuntala, mother of Bharata, too belonged to this school of thought. Visalaksha was closer to the Samkara school of thought, who advocated the Rajarshi constitution.]
Janamejaya was eager to know about Yayatis experiences while as a member of the commonalty and also while as a member of the nobility. After a long austere life in the forest Yayati passed away. This death is presented as ascent to svargaloka (heaven in the deep skies). To be precise, he had been admitted to the company of the nobles (devas) when he was seriously ill having given up all food. There the nobles, especially the Saddhyas, the seven Maruts and the eight Vasus attended on him. The Maruts were storm troopers as well as physicians and were nobles though later they were treated as equal to Daityas (asuras). They were one of the four traditional groups of nobles. The Vasus who were promotees from the cadre of landlords and owners of cattle were administrators of the commonalty. The Adityas in whose hands power was vested and the Rudras who looked after the interests of the forest society including its intellectuals are not mentioned here. These two groups too were nobles.
Vaishampayana says that Yayati who had the status of king of kings lived for many years visiting the social world of the nobles (devaloka) and that of the intellectuals and jurists (brahmaloka). While in the forest abode as a respected member of the cadre of rajanyas, as a Rajasreshta, he went to meet Indra. He had no power then, having handed over authority to Puru but he had a high status. Indra, the head of the house of nobles, wanted to know the truth about the transfer of power and what Yayati had told Puru while handing over the kingdom to him.
Yayati said that he had told Puru that the entire land between Ganga and Yamuna was his and that he was the king (raja) of the central plains (bhumi). His (four) brothers would be chiefs of the remote regions (in the four directions). As rulers they were expected to ensure that no commoner (manushya) caused impoverishment, or deceived, or was angry with, or was jealous of, or hated others, or caused others to do so. Yayati addressing Puru as one who had on merit become a king, a rajasreshta, said that intellectuals should not disrespect mother, father, elder brother (jyeshta), a learned person, a sage and a patient person.
Yayati who had become a stoic told Puru while handing over power and kingdom that one who had power (sakti) would be always tolerant and that only an impotent commoner (manushya) would get angry. The stoic held that the cruel would dislike the gentle, the weak the strong, the ugly the handsome, the poor the rich and the laggard the active. The stoic refused to support either the poor or the rich, either the weak or the mighty, either the learned or the ignorant. He was impartial between the two. One who does adharma acts will dislike one who adheres to dharma and one with no good character will dislike one whose character is good. These are the traits of Kaliyuga, Yayati told Puru. To be precise the chronicler was instructing Janamejaya on Yayatis orientation. [Kaliyuga began only when Parikshit insulted Rshi Samika. Yayati was no longer in the picture when Parikshit was king.]
Puru as Rajendra
Yayati took care to address Puru as Rajendra. It indicated that the latter had the status of a King and also the powers of Indra, that is, control over the army and the treasury and the authority to preside over the house of nobles and over the eight member ministry. Indra who wanted to know from Yayati what he had told Puru must have realised that his powers were curbed by this new arrangement. The King would be superior to Indra, who was no longer Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Yayati asked Puru to return to the socio-political constitution of the Krtayuga, the age of constructive activities that prevailed a few centuries earlier. It did not approve social distinctions among the four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras and treated them all on par. Only merit of the individual mattered and not the class one was born in or assigned to. Those who did noble deeds were applauded irrespective of their class. Yayati asked Puru, a Rajendra, to ensure that the common man was engaged in noble work. Yayati pointed out that Purus brothers did not know the traits of the world of commoners and were hence sent to remote areas by their father. (Puru had not pushed them out.)
Indra (who was the chief of the house of nobles and the eight-member ministry) wanted to know more details about happenings in the worlds from Yayati who knew dharma and extolled higher dharma. Among those who get angry one who does not express his anger is superior. Among the impatient one who stays patient is superior. Yayati was giving counsel on practical life realising that the dichotomy between good and bad was too simplistic and impractical. There are shades of goodness and shades of evil. Man is superior to the non-human beings.
Yayati implied that among the commoners those who did manual work were superior to those who did no work or did only lower type of service. Among the uneducated too there are some who are learned and they have to be given respect. One should not abuse another even if the latter abuses him. Forbearance will burn that abuser. The abused will get the benefits of the good deeds done by the abuser. One should not pain others by deeds or by words. [One should not receive the surpluses from those who do not have enough. This was an instruction on not collecting tributes forcing the poor to sacrifice even the little that they had earned.]
Yayati advocated the creation of a civilised society where one did not speak words that pained others and contributed to misfortune and sins. One who follows honest methods acts in tune with honest persons, that is, does not offend honest persons. He should have been respected by the pious before he issued his orders as an administrator and should be protected by the pious after his retirement as an honest official. He should always tolerate the utterances of the dishonest and undesirable persons even if they cross the limits of propriety. Yayati was counselling Puru on how to behave in the presence of his officials and others. There is nothing better in the three social worlds (lokas) to attract the friendship of others than compassion, friendship and generosity, Yayati told Puru. He should never utter a harsh word. While he should worship and give aid to those who deserved to be worshipped, he should never seek aid from others, Yayati counselled Puru.
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