RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF THE KING, RAJADHARMA
In the verse (7-1) the chief editor of Manusmrti states that he is proceeding to explain the duties of the king (Rajadharma), the functions of the nrpa, the chief of free men, how this post came into being and how he can attain the highest fulfillment of those functions. It is not pertinent whether this official, nrpa, or the head of the state, Rajan, has been formally assigned to the Kshatriya class, varna, or not. Of importance is how this official could rise to become the head of the state and perform the duties and exercise the rights of the latter in accordance with the political code, Rajadharma. The functions of the nrpa are not all identical with those of the king, Rajan.
At this stage we need not enter into a debate on whether Dandaniti, science of polity, was outside the pale of ethics, which Rajadharma was expected to conform to. It is the duty of the ordained Kshatriya who is trained in the conduct (samskara) prescribed by the socio-political constitution enshrined in Atharvaveda (Brahma) to protect from encroachment all these duties (of the four different classes and the four different stages of life). (2 )He is expected to defend the rationale (nyaya) behind all the rights and duties of members of these classes and these stages. [It is not sound to interpret that the injunction was only to protect all the taxpayers.]
It is not necessary to discuss here the issue of whether non-Kshatriyas could become rulers. The editors of Manusmrti are concerned first with how nrpa, a chief of free men (who did not belong to any clan or community) could be absorbed into the Kshatriya varna and entrusted with the task of implementing the new socio-political code. He has to make every one adhere to his duties and perform the functions recommended for his class or that of the clan to which he belonged.
The theory of the evolution of the state outlined by the editors of Manusmrti takes us back to the stage when the (unidentified) Prabhu proposed the institution of the post of the king (raja) for the protection of all. It was a time of anarchy (arajaka) and the people of this social world (loka) were dispersing in all directions out of panic. (3) Prabhu was the designation given to the most outstanding leader of the society, who could give directions to all. However he did not exercise coercive power. It is not sound to interpret that this term referred to God and that the king was considered to be the representative of God.
The anarchy referred to above prevailed a few decades before the constitution as outlined by Rajadharmacame into force.It was a period when the Bhrgus had demilitarized several states, as their rulers had become tyrants. This anarchy led to large-scale displacement of the agro-pastoral commonalty. Parasurama, the leader of the Bhrgus had not given alternative political structures and this led to anarchy. The editors of Manusmrti including Bhrgu and Pracetas presented an alternative polity, which is described in this section. Hindu Political Sociology has to be freed from vague generalizations and obscurantism and placed on sound bases.
The new head of the state, raja, would part with the powers and functions of Indra, Anila, Yama, Surya (the impenetrable), Agni, Varuna, Chandra and Vittha (Kubera). Autocrats like Vena had concentrated the powers of all the officials designated as above in their own hands. The new constitution required that the king should give up these powers forever. (4) [The term, matra, is not to be translated as particles or as essential constituents.] The new constitution created the system of the king, the head of the state, assisted by a cabinet of eight ministers who would exercise the powers that had devolved on them. A regime without such a ministry in place was unconstitutional it was pronounced. The king could no longer exercise these powers.
While the king (raja) was deprived of these powers, they were bestowed on the nrpa, the chief of the local administration who had jurisdiction over the rural hinterland, rashtra. In the city, the elite were enabled to have a ministry of their own led by Surendra (with its members drawn from the nobility) but in the rural areas where there was no such nobility, more powers had to be given to the nrpa. [It is necessary not to treat the two terms, nrpa and raja as denoting the same authority.] (5) Burnell translates this verse as: Because a king (nrpa etc,), is formed from parts of these chiefs of the gods (Surendratejas) therefore he excels in glory all beings (sarvabhuta). It is imperative that Indra and others are not visualized as Gods. They were men and were officials drawn from the nobility whose members resided in exclusive areas in the city or in garrisons.
The nrpa, a pious man had jurisdiction over the free men (naras) who were not under the discipline of the clans (kulas) and communities (jatis) but had been assigned to the four classes (varnas) on the basis of their aptitudes, vocations and orientations. Many free men (naras) did not take up their positions in these newly created classes, varnas. Those persons who accepted this assignment were known as manavas. The new constitution placed all discrete individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery under his jurisdiction. He exercised the powers of these eight officials with respect to the territory inhabited by them also. The ancient state has to be studied keeping in mind this demographic distribution. The impressive charismatic authority (tejas) of the nrpa surpassed the authority of the wills of all individuals.
The translation of the next verse (6) as, Like the sun, he burns the eyes and minds of men; no one on the earth can even gaze at him is not convincing. Some medieval commentators have interpreted that even the Brahmansdare not look at the king straight in his face. This is distortion of the very spirit of the constitution recommended in Manusmrti. The nrpa was vested with extraordinary powers while the raja was required to part with these powers, as pointed out above. The nrpa had great charismatic authority, which was compared to the heat of the sun, Aditya. The vision (chakshu) and mind (manas) of the commonalty (bhuvi) were overcome by the influence the nrpa exercised. They could not act against his desires for he had charismatic authority over the free men (naras) and all the discrete individuals (bhutas).
He was able to exercise a similar influence over the organized agro-pastoral population also. [In fact, the state depended on him to collect tax from the agriculturists. Aditya was in charge of this collection.] His personal charismatic influence (svaprabhava) enabled him to exercise the powers vested in the eight officials (of the Vedic times) designated as Agni, Vayu, Arka (Surya), Soma (Chandra), Dharmaraja (Yama), Kubera, Varuna and Indra. (7) This is not to be interpreted as supernatural power being vested in the king. Such distortion is a modern phenomenon and a deliberate one intended to make the people of India submit to the new rulers. The Bhrgus were toying with the idea of installing a young boy as the successor to Vena, the autocrat whom they had overthrown and got killed. After much deliberation, Prthu, a young leader of the agriculturists was elected as the new ruler.
According to verse (8) even a young boy as the chief of an agro-pastoral terrain (bhumi) was not to be treated with contempt as but a commoner (manushya) (and as not belonging to the nobility). For he is granted the status of a devata on par with a deva, an aristocrat, though he appears in the form of but a free man (nara) without the adornments of a noble. [Neither deva nor devata was a god.] Prthu was an agriculturist chieftain.
The Bhrgu constitution suggested that the nrpa, leader of the free men who was placed in charge of the local administration of the rural areas and the social periphery might be given the status of a devata (which the plutocrats of the industrial economy had). Rural administration might be placed in the hands of a commoner, manushya, and no minimum age prescribed for this purpose. Such manushyas would conform to the traditions of their clans or communities and would not go astray. [Devas and devatas are not to be presented as immortals and manushyas as mortals, as but men. All of them were human beings. The aristocrats, devas, ranked higher than the plutocrats, devatas.]
Fire burns only the individual who approaches it wrongly (contemptuously). But the fire of the state burns his entire clan (kula) along with its cattle and hoard of wealth. (9) Burnell translated the term,kula, wrongly as race. What was burnt was not only the individual punished by Agni, the presiding officer of the peoples court as in the case of Vena, the despotic ruler of Anga, who was ordered to be burnt to death for his excesses. (Prthu succeeded Vena and a new constitution was introduced.) The king who had taken over the role of Agni, the head of the civil judiciary, could destroy the entire offending clan and its wealth.
The state presided over by the king (raja) had far more powers than the nrpati or bhumipati who could discipline only individuals (who were either free men or agricultural workers) but not whole clans. Though they recommended devolution of powers to the local administration and to the eight members of the ministry, the editors of Manusmrti knew that the king should be able to exercise those powers under extraordinary circumstances. [The head of the council of scholars, samiti, was designated as Agni. He also as judge presiding over the civil court and had jurisdiction over all the commoners.]
Having fully considered the nature of the task he had undertaken and the place and time of its execution, the king assumes the form (rupa) (of the representative) of the larger society (visva) again for fulfillment of the purposes of the social and moral laws (dharma). [This was the approach of Krshna.] The king may be permitted to become an emperor in order to fulfill certain larger social purposes and not be required to remain a powerless head of a small state. The new democratic constitution aimed at disabling autocracy did not prevent launching of new social enterprises targeting a larger society. But it was not for imperialism. (10) It needs to be stated that the translation given by Buhler, Having fully considered the purpose, his power, and the place and times, he assumes by turns many (different) shapes for the complete attainment of justice is unacceptable. It reveals failure to take into account the context in which Manusmrti was drafted and the concepts then in vogue.
The use of the term, visvarupam is significant. It is a concept associated with the picture of the technocrat, Visvarupa, of the frontier society and also with the identification of Krshna with the figure and role of that personage. The editors of Manusmrti acknowledge that the head of the state has to identify himself with all the sections of the larger society unlike the bhumipati or nrpati who represented only the commoners, manushyas or only the free men, naras. They did not claim that the king had divinity in him. Rajadharma required and recommended that the king be flexible in his methods and adopt a holistic approach while dealing with the different sections of the larger society.
The king was considered as one favoured with wealth (padmasri) and valour that gave him victory. He could become so angry that he pronounced death sentence on those who annoyed him. He had the splendour (tejas) of all. The king retained with him the control over the treasury and the army that was required for conquest. He retained with him the power to pronounce death sentence on the enemies of the state. Of course, all the eight cabinet ministers had to function under his aegis and he might exercise the powers of these ministers by himself. Devolution and delegation of powers does not mean that the king has been denied these powers. [It is unsound to interpret that the king had the powers or lustre of all gods.] (11)
Manusmrti describes Rajadharma, the rights and duties of the ideal king in this section. It has not presented him as omnipotent like God. It has to be pointed out that the expression, Rajadharma, has been bandied about even by persons in high places without a proper grasp of the provisions of this code, even as the term, dharma, has been used imprecisely. The man who in his attraction to other persons or goals despises the king undoubtedly perishes. The king does not pardon the enemies of the state. For, the king makes up his mind to destroy such a person. (12) The king has powers of discretion which when exercised pleases some and annoys others.
The code of conduct of the King, Rajadharma, does not deny him these powers. As the overlord (adhipa) of all free men (naras) he does distinguish some for special treatment. None should transgress the decrees issued by him in this connection. He was free to favour those whom he liked and punish those whom he disliked. Neither may be objected to or opposed by any one. (13) This was a provision of the constitution, which protected the king from the charge of partisanship. The reality is that even the ideal ruler who depends on the support of individual free citizens cannot be but partial to some. A ruler may not be partial to any particular clan or community or class, but he cannot remain totally impartial when his support comes from free men and their leaders who are not bound by clans and communities. Clannishness need not necessarily result in partisanship in governance and democracy of free men does not necessarily ensure impartiality.
William Jones translates the next verse (14) as: For his use, Brahma formed in the beginning of time the genius of punishment, with a body of pure light, his own son, even abstract criminal justice, the protector of all created things. Both western and Indian scholars who followed this translation have been misled about the content and intent of this verse. Buhler translates it as: For the Kings sake the Lord formerly created his own son, Punishment, the protector of all creatures (an incarnation of) the law, formed of Brahmans glory. Jha translates it as: For his sake, the Lord, at first created Punishment, which is Law born of the Lord Himself, an incarnation of divine glory and the protection of all creatures.
The term, Isvara was not then used in the sense, God. It was the designation of the charismatic chief of all the unorganized individuals, bhutas, of the social periphery. His rank and role was on par with that of Deva, the noble, the liberal aristocrat of the agro-pastoral core society and of Devata, the acquisitive plutocrat and the disciplinarian-cum-technocrat of the industrial frontier society of the forests and mountains both of whom led organized clans and communities.
It is wrong to identify Isvara with Brahma and interpret this section under the impression that the latter was the God of Creation and was referred to as Prajapati or Father. Isvara has also been identified with Siva, Rudra and Mahadeva. Dandaniti, the science of polity (exercise of coercive power), was first outlined by leading thinkers of the Rudra school of thought.
This science drew on the socio-political constitutions enshrined in the Atharvaveda (Brahma) and retained the salient features of the latter to which Mahadeva was a major contributor. Rajadharma was the product (successor to) of the thought of this school, especially that of Samkara. The editors of Manusmrti take pains to assert that they are not departing from this tradition. [It is not rational to translate sarvabhuta as all creatures.] The head of the state as Isvara is a benevolent charismatic chief. Brahma was the chief justice who headed the constitution bench and was an intellectual par excellence.
Rajadharma (dharma, in short) tried to protect the interests of all the discrete individuals (bhutas) of the unorganized social periphery by settling them in villages (goptaram). The term, danda, has to be interpreted in a wider sense as referring to the science of polity that preceded Rajadharma but was posterior to Brahma, Atharvaveda. [It is not to be interpreted as Punishment and as son of God. The western Indologists were not on the right track. The medieval commentators too had lost sight of and link with the concepts of the early post-Vedic times.]
The new code settled many of these individuals (bhutas) in village communes (sthavara) and some were still leading a life of nomads (cara). All of them were afraid of the ruler (naradhipa) and they had to allow their services to be used by the latter as he desired. They had to follow the code of svadharma prescribed for each of them (15). This ruler could not prescribe the duties of the members of organized clans (kulas) and communities (jatis). But he could prescribe for the individuals outside these each his individual, personal code (svadharma) based on his aptitude (svabhava) and the vocation (svakarma) selected by him.
These individuals were afraid of transgressing this code. This chief (naradhipa) was free to draft the services of any of these individuals, as he needed for his purposes. He could not take such liberty with others who were members of organized clans and communities. The explanation attempted by the medieval commentators on whom modern Indologists have depended heavily is irrational and betrays hiatus with the times when Manusmrti was first drafted. The western Indologists and their Indian adherents failed to comprehend the theme of Rajadharma in Manusmrti.
The free men (naras) who were not under the discipline of their clans and communities, had to be disciplined (sampranaya) by the ruler if they followed unjust (anyaya) ways of life. While doing so he had to take into account their power (sakti) and knowledge (vidya) and the time when and the region where the offence was committed. The editors of Manusmrti did not treat all free men as delinquents who did not abide by social discipline. Many of these free men were educated and talented and capable. Their services were to be utilized for the state and they had to be prevailed on to give up improper and illegal methods adopted by them to earn wealth. (16)
The next verse (17) has been translated by Jha as: That punishment is the King, the Man; that is the Leader and the Ruler and that has been declared to be the surety for the Law of the Four Stages. Buhler translated it as: Punishment is (in reality) the king (and) and the male, that the manager of affairs, that the ruler, and that is called the surety for the four orders obedience to the law. Jones translated it as: Punishment is an active ruler; he is the true manager of public affairs; he is the dispenser of laws; and wise men call him the sponsor of all the four orders for the discharge of their several duties.
Danda stands for Dandaniti, the science of polity that was outlined before the concept of Rajadharma came into vogue. It is not sound to translate this term as Punishment. Dandaniti visualized the king (raja) as an assertive social leader (purusha). The translation of the term, Purusha, as the male is to be deplored. It means more than what the term, man, does. Like the terms, manushya, manava and nara, purusha has a specific connotation. The four terms should not be used indiscriminately as man.
Not all commoners (manushyas) or all free men (naras) are visualized as having the ability to lead the society. The administration is expected to have officials who have the talent to lead it. They are not mere obedient servants of the king. They have to ensure that all adhere to the code prescribing four asramas, stages of life, student, householder, retiring to the forest abode and asceticism. These four stages were made obligatory for the entire society including the clans and communities, classes and individuals of the periphery and the free men in the midst of the organized sections. There might have been reservations on the implementation of the scheme of four classes, with each clan having its own code of conduct, dharma. But asramadharmas, the code of conduct for the four stages of life was acceptable to all.
The king as an assertive social leader (purusha) and as the head (neta) of the executive was expected to enforce the codes of the four stages of life. Danda, coercive power in accordance with the provisions of Dandaniti, is exercised over all citizens, over all born in the territory over which the ruler has jurisdiction and who have consented to be under his rule, who are his prajas. The term, prajas is not to be used in a loose way to denote subjects and certainly not to be translated as creatures.
Buhler translates the next verse (18) as: Punishment alone governs all created beings; punishment alone protects them; punishment watches over them while they sleep; the wise declare punishment (to be identical with) the law. Jha too translates along this line. Prajas had a contractual relationship with the raja. They had consented to be residents of his state and be governed (sasti) by the code set in Dandaniti and protected by it.
This code permitted the establishment of an army and a police patrol that would be ever awake and protect them. The individual could protect himself when he was awake but needed another to protect him when he was asleep. This service was provided by the state. The intellectuals (budhas) of the social periphery knew of this advantage and recommended that individuals of the population of the periphery consent to the political laws, dharma, that put forth the advantages of consenting to be governed by this version of Dandaniti.
The individuals were advised to cease treating the coercive power of the state as a hindrance to their activities. Rajadharma was a modified version of Dandaniti. It promised protection to all those who needed it and when they needed it. Danda is not to be transliterated as Punishment if we are to comprehend the meaning and implications of this epigram.
If the regulatory powers (samyaka) granted to the ruler and the government are exercised after due investigation, they would please (ranjana) all the citizens (prajas). If exercised without due investigation they would cause destruction of all. Not only the subjects but the king and the officials too would suffer. Rajadharma would underline investigation of all aspects of crime and not mere suppression and prevention of crime and protection against criminals. (19)
The nest verse (20) is translated by Buhler and also by Jha as: If the king did not without tiring inflict punishment on those who deserved punishment, the stronger would roast the weaker, like fish on a spit. If the king (raja) fails to use the provisions of Dandaniti and punish those who deserved punishment (and protect those who needed protection), the mighty would delight to harass the weak as the sadist delights when the fish on the spike struggles for survival. The king (rajan) gets happiness when he ensures all his subjects happiness (ranjana).
Dandaniti does not abet sadism. The state and its coercive power are needed to protect the weak against the mighty. It is not exercise of coercive power by the mighty over the weak. Manu Sraddhadeva or Vaivasvata was earlier Rajarshi Satyavrata of the Dravida country. The matsya (fish) incarnation of Vishnu is associated with his experiences. According to matsyanyaya, the law of the fishes, the larger fish swallow the smaller. This is the law of nature, Rta. Rajadharma, the modified version of Dandaniti repudiated this earlier law and called for a state that would protect the weak against the mighty.
The later editors of Manusmrti who followed Manu Sraddhadeva explain that in the absence of the state the spirit behind sacrificial offerings would be violated. Crows and dogs are visualized as scavengers and are expected to eat the cakes and food kept for them. But at times they tend to violate the sanctity of the rites.
Similarly the institution of rights of ownership (svamyam) is likely to be violated by some and hierarchy upset in the absence of the state and the exercise of coercive power. Buhler translates: Ownership would not remain with any one, the lower ones would usurp the place of the higher ones. (21) The argument that the state does not protect the weak but helps the mighty and the rich to fleece the weak and the poor could not be easily rebutted. These editors promise protection of private property and social stability.
Jha tries to defend the iniquitous system that had developed in the name of varna distinctions. Chandalas would become high and Brahmans and others would become low, succumb to inferiority; Shudras would come to preach the law, and the Vedic law would cease to be obeyed. This verse does not speak of or justify the empowering of the state to dispel this fear. It talks of rights to property and economic strata and not of socio-religious privileges of the Brahmans. It is not enough to give protection to private property. Every one should be enabled to have personal property so that encroachment on the property of others or living on the crumbs thrown by others does not take place.
All the social worlds (sarva loka) were brought under the purview of the modified version of Dandaniti. Even the free men (naras) were brought under it though they claimed that they should be free to determine what was desirable and moral and what was not. It is rare to spot a nara, free man, who is not guiltless. The nara had walked out of his clan and community. The new law is applicable to all the organized clans and communities that have welcomed protection of the rights to property and also to the free men who have renounced the right to property.
The settled populations that are governed by the concept, loka, accept the provisions of Dandaniti and pay the taxes due to the state from their property. But the social universes, jagats, who comprise populations on the move, resist implementation of the system of tax, which is to be paid in return for protection of property by the state. These populations refuse to part with any portion of what they earn and enjoy and argue that they do not need protection. They are against a socio-economic system based on inequality of possessions.
Dandaniti threatens to use coercive power to make these mobile social universes (jagats) fall in line with the settled communities of the social worlds, lokas. [It needs to be noted that unless we are particular about defining the subtle distinctions among the terms used and the sociological concepts behind them we would not be able to interpret ancient Indian codes correctly.]
Buhler translates this verse (22) as: The whole world is kept in order by punishment, for a guiltless man is hard to find; through fear of punishment the whole world yields the enjoyments (it owes). Jones translated it as: The whole race of men is kept in order by punishment, for a guiltless man is hard to be found: through fear of punishment, indeed, this universe is enabled to enjoy its blessings. The western Indologists, it has to be pointed out, failed to notice the subtle distinctions and grasp their implications and presumed that Manusmrti imposed a legal system that defended use of coercive power, as men were naturally prone to commit crimes and sins. This presumption was unwarranted.
Buhler translated the next verse (23) as: The gods, the Danavas, the Gandharvas, the Rakshasas, the bird and snake deities even give the enjoyments (due from them) only, if they are tormented by (the fear of) punishment. Jones translated it as: Deities and demons, heavenly songsters and cruel giants, birds and serpents, are made capable, by just correction, of their several enjoyments. Jones as a jurist tried to interpret the concept of Danda in a balanced manner, as punishment for correction. Jha translates it as: It is only pressed by Punishment that Devas, Danavas, Gandharvas, Rakshasas, Birds and Reptiles subserve the experiences (of others).
It is imperative to recognize that devas were not gods. They were aristocrats who formed the ruling elite of the core society. The danavas were plutocrats who dominated the industrial economy of the frontier society of the forests and mountains. Both these groups, aristocrats and plutocrats, were brought under the new code, Dandaniti. They too had to pay taxes from the benefits they got by their control over the economy.
The intellectuals of the social periphery had forced a debate on the extent to which the new political code was impartial and just. They were told that the rich elite would no longer be exempt from taxes and from the civil and criminal laws that the commonalty was subject to since the times of the original Dandaniti. The Gandharvas whose lower ranks were known as naras, free men, and who had only recently then set up homes but had no accumulated wealth were brought under the new code. [It was only long after the withering of this social cadre that the Gandharvas and Apsarases were known as divine singers and danseuses.]
The guards employed by the plutocrats of the frontier economy had revolted against their master and captured power and wealth. These rebels were referred to as Rakshasas. The term Pataga was used to refer to all fast moving (flying) persons. As a generic term it stood for birds, bees, grasshoppers and locusts. The groups who moved fast from one territory to another were not spared. Similarly, the uragas or sarpas (serpents, as commonly understood) moved silently away and were mainly migrant labour, the proletariat on which the frontier industrial economy depended.
All these groups too had been given the status of Prajas, citizens, and were required to pay the taxes on the income they got from their vocations that were given protection by the new state. All these groups were no longer a threat to the commonalty and need no longer fear extortion by the state. The new Dandaniti, Rajadharma effected this arrangement.
All the different sectors of the larger society were to be brought under the system of four classes, varnas, with the rights and duties of the members of each class defined. All the varnas would become corrupt and all the bridges (barriers?) would be broken if there was wavering in implementation of Dandaniti. All the social worlds (lokas) that had been brought under the new classification (four classes, varnas) would be enraged against one another, it was warned. (24)
Jones translates the next verse (25) as: But where punishment, with a black hue and a red eye, advances to destroy sin, there, if the judge (neta) discerns well, the people (praja) are undisturbed (na muhyanti). Jha would say: There the people are not misled provided that the Governor discerns rightly. The neta, the chief of the administrative unit concerned is expected to be stern in implementing the provisions of Dandaniti, putting down violations. Then the citizens including those who have consented to stay in the realm and be governed by these provisions would not be misled by wrong impressions about the power of the state to ensure discipline.
Jones translates the next verse (26) as: Holy sages consider as a fit dispenser of criminal justice that king, who invariably speaks truth, who duly considers all cases, who understands the sacred books, who knows the distinctions of virtue, pleasure and riches. Jha translates it as: They declare that king to be the just governor who is truthful of speech and who acts after due consideration, who is wise and who knows the essence of virtue, pleasure and wealth.
That king (raja), who is an ideologue adhering to the laws based on truth (satyavadi) has to be balanced in his meting out justice as the chief executive of the state. He has to take into consideration after due examination, all the factors, dharma, artha and kama. In other words, he should not be narrow-minded in his approach or dogmatic. The editors of Manava Dharmasastra did not renegade on the commitment to truth (satya), the basis of all laws. But they advocated a holistic approach, the characteristic of social and moral laws, dharma. These laws did not condemn pursuit of sexual pleasure (kama) or of wealth (artha). The distinctions among the three values of life, dharma, artha and kama had however to be borne in mind, the sages who drafted Manusmrti insisted.
Buhler translates the next verse as: A king (raja) who properly inflicts (punishment) prospers with respect to (those) three (means of happiness); but he who is voluptuous, partial and deceitful will be destroyed, even through the (unjust) punishment he inflicts. Jones translates it as: Such a king, if he justly inflict legal punishments, greatly increases those three means of happiness; but punishment itself shall destroy a king who is crafty, voluptuous and wrathful.
Jha translates it as: The king who metes out punishment in the proper manner prospers in respect of his three aims; he who is blinded by affection, is unfair or is mean is destroyed by that same punishment. Jha is closer to the mark than the other two. Dandaniti provided for the punishment of the king who resorted to low (kshudra) methods. The term 'kshudra means methods a civilized person would not resort to. It is also implied that a king who behaved like an uncivilised worker and did not respect the educated persons would become liable to be penalised. (27)
In the verse (28) the king is warned, Punishment, which is a tremendous force hard to be controlled by persons with undisciplined minds, destroys the king who has swerved from duty, along with his relatives. (Jha) Buhler translates it as: Punishment possesses a very high lustre and is hard to be administrated by men with unimproved minds; it strikes down the king who swerves from his duty, together with his relatives (sabandhavam). Jones, a jurist, translated it as: Criminal justice, the bright essence of majesty, and hard to be supported by men with unimproved minds, eradicates a king (nrpa) who swerves from his duty together with all his race.
Dandaniti may not be treated as pertaining only to the implementation of criminal law. (The use of the term, race, is unwarranted.) Here, the editors warn the nrpati who has already given up his claims to his share in his family estate that if he failed to follow the rules prescribed by Dandaniti and was found to be partial to his brothers, he is liable to be punished and so too his brothers who have benefited from his misdeeds. It was expected that the nrpa would not remain attached to any family or community. He had to be a pious and unattached free man.
The new Dandaniti visualized the centrally stationed and mature king as an impartial dispenser of justice. He had to be assisted by trained (krta) individuals for this purpose. Danda has a dignity and grandeur (mahat and tejas) that does not yield to attempts at making it pliable for low personal purposes. The powers that Dandaniti places in the hands of a king (raja) who has mastered the three codes, dharma, artha and kama cannot be vested in a local administrator, nrpa, who has neither mastered these nor has the assistance of masters in these.
The latter may be advised to adhere to Dharmasastra alone and to those provisions of Dandaniti incorporated in it. If he violates these he and his kinsmen would be hauled up. It is implicit that the kinsmen had induced or compelled the former member of their family who had taken over as the civil administrator to violate the provisions of the political code, Dandaniti, and favour them. They rather than he were at fault.
The administrator of the rural areas (rashtram) is cautioned that the centrally located king would penalize him. He would be deprived of the garrison (durga) placed at his disposal and of his authority over the rural areas (rashtram) and over the people whether settled groups (acara) or mobile (cara) groups. He would be deprived of the right to come in contact with the silent sages (munis) and nobles (devas) who passed through the rural areas to the frontier areas (antariksham). (29)
These sages and nobles too would be affected adversely for want of protection with the deviant administrator discharged from his post, even as both the settled communities and the mobile groups would be affected. [The expression, cara and acara, is not to be translated as movable and immovable things. Antariksham is not to be treated as referring to heavenly regions. It referred to the frontier society of the forests and mountains. Devas referred to nobles and not to gods.] The medieval commentators on whom the Indologists of the modern times have depended for guidance had lost sight of the concepts pertinent to Vedic social polity.
Jha following Medhatithi took the stand: The upshot of all that has been said from the first verse to this is as follows; --The kingdom has to be ruled by a Kshatriya of impartial mind; this can not be done without punishment; hence this should be meted out, in his own kingdom and elsewhere (svarashtra and pararashtra) in strict accordance with law (sastra), after a full investigation of the exigencies of time and place, relating to each case; if it is inflicted otherwise, there is destruction of both worlds (loka). Medhatithi and other medieval annotators and the commentators of the modern times who have followed them have not been able to present a credible and accurate picture of the Vedic polity.
These commentators have not presented correctly the relation between Dharmasastra and Dandaniti as revised by Rajadharma and that between the central government and the rural administration. [Jones and Buhler were wrong when they said that the sages and gods could not ascend the sky as they lost the oblations due to them.]
(Manusmrti Bk. 7-30 to 36)
The king cannot provide just and rational (nyaya) administration as prescribed by the amended version of Dandaniti without assistance (sahaya). It cannot be carried out by a dunce or by an avaricious person or by one who has not received intellectual training needed for it. So too one attached to sensual pleasures cannot cater such administration. (30) [It is necessary not to translate the term, danda, loosely as punishment.]
Just administration or meting out justice as prescribed in Dandaniti, the science of polity, is possible only for one who is pure (uncorrupt), is honest (satyasandha) (who stands by his word) and adheres to the code (sastra), has good assistants and is wise enough to discern (dhimata) between virtue and vice. (31) [It is not necessary to translate the term, sastra, as Law or as sacred law or as scriptures.] It may be inferred that the assistants too should be equally uncorrupted, honest and trained intellectuals.
Buhler translates the next verse (32) as: Let him act with justice in his own domain, with rigour chastise his enemies, behave without duplicity towards his friends, and be lenient towards Brahmans. Within his realm (svarashtra) the ruler is the judge meting out justice. He cannot favour his friends or discriminate against those who are not his friends. He has to keep aside the distinction between svapaksha and parapaksha, his party and the party of his opponents.
All are his subjects and all are to be treated as his friends. Only in interstate relations there are friends and enemies. Assuming that he has personal enemies within his country, he cannot use any provision of Dandaniti to punish them. He can only chastise and deter them by raising his brows, bhrushadanda. He can only be straightforward in his treatment of his friends. He cannot extend secret help to them. He cannot pardon their offences. He can be and should be lenient only to the Brahman scholars. Even in their cases there can be no pardoning of offences.
Not only the king, the head of the state, but also the official (nrpa) who was in charge of the free men in the rural hinterland, rashtra, was required to conduct himself so. The nrpa might have been only an agriculturist depending on the sale of the crops harvested by him. Still his fame spreads among the commoners (loka) like the drop of oil on water. (32) Even an agriculturist ruler who does not have a rich treasury or a strong army may be a popular administrator. On the other hand, the fame of a ruler who does not conquer his personal likes and dislikes diminishes like a drop of ghee on water. (33,34)
The (centrally located) king, raja, is envisaged as the high protector (abhirakshita) of the personal (sva) rights and duties (dharma) vested (nivishta) in all in accordance with (anupurva) classes (varnas) and stages of life (asramas). (35) The social code,Dharmasastra, has prescribed these rights and duties. Every individual who exercises his rights and performs these duties in conformity with the provisions of this code needs protection. The duty and task of giving this protection is assigned only to the head of the state. Other officials cannot act on their own for either enforcing this code or for penalizing any one who violates it.This note is implicit and is not to be missed.
State law (rajadharma) and social law (dharma) have their specific jurisdictions and the two have a common area, which may be called personal law (svadharma). The three meet at the apex, a position occupied by the raja. The duties of the king and his subordinates with respect to the protection of the subjects, praja, are proposed (36) to be set forth in the subsequent verses.
(7-37 to 53)
The commoner-king, parthiva, was advised to call on the Brahmans and elders soon after getting up in the morning and follow their advice in administration (sasana). These scholars were well versed in the three disciplines of study (traividya), humanities including social history (the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama), economics (Varta) and political science (Dandaniti). (37)These Brahmans were essentially teachers and were masters of all the fields of study connected with the administration of the state. They were not priests.
He was asked to wait on the aged scholars (vipras) who knew the Vedas. Even the guards, Rakshas (Kshatriyas) always worshipped and served the aged. The Vipras unlike the Brahmanas mentioned in the previous verse were not professional teachers. They went about visiting all households, rich or poor, to teach their members and assist them in their rites. But they did not expect any remuneration for this service. They were satisfied with the respect shown to them. They were aged Brahmans who had left their families to proceed on this voluntary mission. [It is not proper to interpret the term, Rakshas, here as referring to Rakshasas who were banished soldiers.] (38)
The parthiva was a ruler who was committed to follow the political code and constitution as adopted by the commoner-king, Prthu, who was an agriculturist and not a member of the class of warriors, Kshatriyas. This commoner-ruler who was not so well educated as the Kshatriya who had formal education ought to get taught by the senior teachers who were not attached to residential schools. Manusmrti notes that a ruler need not be a member of the Kshatriya varna. Such a ruler would however not be referred to as raja who was traditionally a member of a higher stratum among the Kshatriyas and was almost equal to a Deva, aristocrat. [This aspect is not to be lost sight of while discussing Hindu polity.]
Buhler translates the next verse (39) as: Let him, though he may already be modest (vinaya) constantly learn modesty from them; for, a king who is modest never perishes. Jones translates it as: From them, though he may have acquired modest behaviour by his own good sense and by study, let him continually learn habits of modesty and composure; since a king (nrpa) whose demeanour is humble and composed never perishes. Jha translates it as: Though his mind be already disciplined, he shall always learn discipline from them; the king with a disciplined mind never perishes. The editors of Manusmrti like those of the Arthasastra were anxious to ensure that the kings were not aggressive. Assertiveness and aggressiveness were the dominant traits in the rajanyas of the Vedic era. The commonalty and the scholars both resented their arrogance and cruelty.
A socio-economic revolution led to the selection of Prthu as the new ruler. Not all the new rulers were educated. Some were agriculturists. Some rose from the ranks of free men, naras, who had walked out of their families, clans and communities, as these could not allow them to develop their personal talents as they desired and stand on their own legs. The nrpati, chief of such free men, had received formal education that taught him to be modest.He was a gentle and pious person, a sadhu. The nrpati was a modest person (vinitatma). Still he went to the elderly tutors to learn modesty from them. The more one learns, the more he realizes his own ignorance. This realization makes him humble.
Manusmrti recommends that local administration be placed in the hands of the leader of free men who is not bound by clan or class loyalties and who is educated and modest.
Many kings (raja) who lacked humility have perished along with their belongings. Many who lived in forests have gained kingdoms (rajyam) through personal modesty. (40) This is not a reference to hermits who lived in forests and were requested to accept rulership. The rajanyas like the aristocrats, devas, lived in towns, which were noted for their sophisticated culture. The people of the rural areas lacked this culture, which was characterized by humility born of education. Most villagers were uneducated. The residents of the forest were considered to be cruel and crude. The editors of Manusmrti try to dispel this stereotype. Even the dwellers of forest may be educated and modest and eligible to be selected as kings, they point out.
While this stand cannot be taken exception to, the next two verses have suffered malevolent criticism and condemnation at the hands of modern demagogues who are ill-informed and prejudiced against Brahmans, varnasrama dharma and Manusmrti. Manusmrti cites the cases of Vena, Nahusha, Sudasa of Paijvana, Sumukha and Nimi as rulers who had lost for lack of humility (41),and of Prthu, Manu, Kubera and Visvamitra as persons who had gained through humility (42).
Vena and others mentioned were commoners who were elevated to the status of parthiva, commoner-ruler. They lacked the education that could make them humble and as they failed to come in contact with senior tutors and acquire the cultured conduct necessary for the role of such a ruler of the commonalty they were indicted and removed from their posts. They suffered at the hands of the commoners whom they ill-treated.
Vena, the autocrat, was burnt to death by the agriculturists and they elected Prthu in his place for the latter had humility born of education, though it was informal education. Nahusha, an artisan rose to become Indra, head of the house of the sophisticated aristocrats, but lost it, as he became arrogant. On the other hand, Savarni who was an artisan rose to become a Manu. (This seems to be a reference to Manu Samvarni mentioned in the Valakhilya hymns of the Rgveda.) Sudasa, the disciple of the sage of Paijvana, was freed from his status as a serf and could have risen in social status but being addicted to gambling he lost all his restored wealth and was banished to the forests. But Kubera, disciple of the sage, Visrava, was wise enough to be humble and regained the wealth that he had lost to Ravana, the ruler of Lanka.
Sumukha, a chieftain of the social periphery, mobilized its men against the nobles of the city of Ayodhya and was beheaded for his insolence. Rama was the prince of Ayodhya at that time. Nimi of Mithila, a Janaka, who preceded Siradvaja (Ramas father-in-law) neglected his duties and sadistically watched his city burn. He disrespected the counsel given by Usanas. He was deposed. On the other hand, as Visvamitra, son of Gadhi, could become humble he gained the status of a Brahmana, a socio-political counsellor. Rama was one of his students. Social ascent was open to those who learnt to be humble while fall awaited those who were arrogant. Only perverted minds would object to these comments. [Vide Hindu Social Dynamics for a critique on the careers of these personages]
The ruler is advised to learn from those who had mastered the three disciplines of study (humanities, polity and economy, the three Vedas, Dandaniti and Varta) the three Vedas and the science of polity (Dandaniti) that have been declared as permanent (sasvati) (social and political) legislation. He has to learn the methodology of knowledge (Anvikshiki) and self-analysis or introspection (atmavidya) from them. From the organized people (loka) he can learn the basics required for embarking on traditional vocations (Varta). (43) The former does not give scope for departure from the established norms while Varta, economics, is considered to be pragmatic and flexible. Whether it is inflexible socio-political legislation or flexible and pragmatic methods of economic enterprises, Anvikshiki and Atmavidya are helpful.
It may be noted here that Anvikshiki, the methodology of acquisition and application of knowledge comprised the fields of samkhya, yoga and lokayata, dialectics, science of exertion and social control. Atmavidya, often imprecisely identified with spiritualism, was self-analysis and estimation of ones own abilities, interests and needs. The ruler is called upon to pay attention to his personal development with respect to all these aspects. [It may be remarked here that Medhatithi and later commentators held Chanakya and other political grammarians as experts in Dandaniti. These commentators were against the logical systems followed by the Buddhists and Charvakas. Manusmrti preceded these schools. It has to be studied shorn of the bent given to it by the medieval and modern commentators.]
The next verse (44) reads: Day and night he must strenuously exert (yogam) himself to conquer his senses (indriyas); for, he alone who has conquered his own senses can keep his subjects (prajas) under his influence, leash (vasa). The ruler was asked to shun the ten ruinous vices springing from love of pleasure (kama) and the eight from wrath (krodha). (45)
The ruler of the land (mahipati) who is given to lust (kama) is soon deprived of his links with the pursuit of the goals as prescribed by the codes of artha (economy) and dharma (social polity). Wrath deprives one of control over his own person (atma). [It is not sound to translate atma as soul here.] (46) The set of ten vices springing from pursuit of pleasure (kama) are enumerated as hunting, gambling, daydreaming, censuring, womanizing, intoxication, dancing, singing and listening to music (the triad) and listless vagrancy. (47)
Tale-bearing, violent crime (sahasa), betrayal, envy, slandering, misuse of wealth, verbal assault and violence (dishevelling) are the set of eight vices springing from wrath. (48) Both these sets of vices emanate from greed according to wise men. The ruler has to conquer them and it requires great effort. (49) In the set of vices associated with lust, the most pernicious in order are, drinking, gambling, womanizing and hunting. (50) In those connected with wrath, the worst are assault (danda), cruelty of speech and misuse of wealth. (51) In this class of seven vices, which spread everywhere, each one, which precedes the vice enumerated next, is more serious than the succeeding one, a self-disciplined person should know. (52) This is a lesson for all. Between an affliction that is caused by such vice and death, the affliction caused by a vice is more painful, it is said. A vicious man sinks down and down, but one who dies without vices ascends to heaven. (53)
The king is asked to appoint seven or eight secretaries of state (sachivas). These sachivas were members of the executive rather than counsellors, ministers (mantris).The traits or qualifications expected of them are enumerated as: being rooted in that state (maula), knowledge of the codes of administration (sastra), valour, ability to acquire the object set on, descended of a respectable clan and well tested. (54) It is not specified that these officials should have been hereditary servants of the king. It needs to be stated here that even the ruler was not required to belong to a ruling dynasty or clan. A commoner or an artisan too could be elected as a king.
Jha has translated this verse as: He shall appoint seven or eight ministers, with respectable status, versed in law, of heroic temperament, experienced in business, born of noble families and thoroughly tested. Buhler translated it as: Let him appoint seven or eight ministers whose ancestors have been royal servants, who are versed in the sciences, heroes skilled in the use of weapons and descended from noble families and who have been tried. Jones translated it as: The king must appoint seven or eight ministers who must be sworn by touching a sacred image and the like; men whose ancestors were servants of the king; who are versed in the holy books; who are personally brave; who are skilled in the use of weapons; and whose lineage is noble.
It may be noticed that Jones was anxious to read or introduce into the formation of the cabinet the method followed in Britain. Only lords and knights could be appointed as sachivas, he wanted to ensure. Students of Hindu Polity have to be alert to this imperceptible but deliberate distortion of the structure and functioning of the Hindu Polity.
The concept of a cabinet of eight ministers or officials with a King who had no control over any of them and was only a nominal head of the state was the Vedic tradition. The concept of seven officials attached to the seven constituents or organs of the state was an early post-Vedic approach. The sachivas were expected to be aware of the provisions of both Arthasastra and Dharmasastra. They might not have been well versed in Vedas. It was not insisted on that they should be believers in God. This was not insisted on even in the case of the kings. Medhatithi refers to the four tests, virtue (dharma), wealth (artha), lust (kama) and fear (bhaya), used to determine the suitability of the candidates for these and other posts. The description given by him follows the line of the Arthasastra.
Even an easy undertaking is hard to be accomplished by one without assistance. How much more is it for a state(rajyam) emerging as a great one (mahodayam) without assistance! Jones and Buhler interpreted rajyammahodayam as referring to a state that yielded great revenues. They were presenting the picture of the colonial state that they were establishing in India and were drawing on Manusmrti to justify its structure and functioning. (55)
Buhler translates the next verse (56) as: Let him daily consider with them the ordinary (business, referring to) peace and war, (the four subjects called) sthana, the revenue, the (manner of) protecting (himself and his kingdom), and the sanctification of his gains (by pious gifts). Jones translated it as: Let him perpetually consult with those ministers on peace and war, on his forces, on his revenues, on the protection of his people, and on the means of bestowing aptly the wealth which he has acquired. Jha translates it as: With these he shall always discuss all ordinary business relating to peace and war, as also the state, the sources of revenue, the means of protection and the consolidation of what has been acquired.
The ruler was expected to attend to the routine affairs of the state constantly, along with these secretaries of the state. These included treaties of peace (samdhi), war (vigraham), being stationary (sthana), mobilizing of all resources (samudayam), secret fortification (gupti) and pacification (prasamanam) of acquisitions (labdha). Medhatithi and other medieval commentators must have been guided by a picture of the needs of the state of their own times. Jha adopts the line taken by Medhatithi.
The approach adopted by Manusmrti is not identical with that recommended by Kautilyan Arthasastra which is more rational, holistic and pragmatic than the former. The six-fold policy to be adopted in inter-state relations according to Kautilyan Arthasastra was application of the conditions pertaining to samdhi, vigraha, asana, yana, samsraya, and dvaidhibhava. Manusmrti has presented a different scheme in the verse (56) above.
Manusmrti did visualize minor wars and intrusions into other areas to acquire wealth but did not promote war for establishing economic empires. Even minor acquisitions of territories and their wealth would pose problems as indicated by prasamanam. Turbulence needed to be avoided. Manusmrti presented a cabinet that discussed issues pertaining to the security of the state in addition to normal ones. Jha was wrong when he translated sthanam as state and concluded with Medhatithi that it included danda, kosa, pura and rashtra. He translated these as army, treasury, city and kingdom.
Having ascertained the opinions of these officials severally and collectively, he shall, in his affairs, do what is beneficial to himself (atmana), Jha translates verse (57). The recommendations of the cabinet were not binding on the ruler. But consultation with the cabinet was binding. He had the authority to veto its recommendation. But this power was to be exercised only in matters that pertained to his personal privileges and interests and to the fields of administration in his exclusive jurisdiction. Jones uses the expression, in public affairs while others use in his affairs.
The next verse (58), a highly significant one, is translated by Jones as: To one learned Brahmana, distinguished among them all, let the king impart his momentous counsel, relating to six principal articles. Buhler translates it as: But with the most distinguished them all, a learned Brahmana, let the king deliberate on the most important affair of the state which relate to the six measures of royal policy. Jha, following Medhatithi, translates it as: With the learned Brahmana, however, who is the most distinguished of them all, the king shall discuss the highest secrets pertaining to the six-fold statecraft.
Manusmrti directs the king (raja) to secure the highest confidential counsel with respect to this six-fold policy (shadgunyamsamyutam) from the Brahmana who was the most distinguished among the counsellors (mantris). These were not sachivas, secretaries of state, referred to in verse (54) above. [For an in-depth analysis of the provisions of Kautilyan Arthasastra, vide my earlier work, Foundations of Hindu Economic State.] Medhatithi notes that this Brahmana was highly learned and was well versed in the science of polity, and hence was trustworthy.
The Brahmana was a jurist who had specialized in constitutional law (Atharvaveda or Brahma). He was not a mere scholar or priest belonging to the class (varna) of Brahmans. Arthasastra describes him as Rajapurohita who had a status equal to, if not superior to that of the saintly king, Rajarshi. According to Manusmrti, this Brahmana was the most trustworthy among the members of the inner cabinet which discussed the application of the six-fold policy and inter-state relations that were not within the jurisdiction of the seven (or eight) member executive. It would be wrong to presume that this verse subordinated the state to the clergy.
Jha translates the next verse as: He shall always, in full confidence, entrust all business to him; and having, in consultation with him, formed his resolution, he shall do what has to be done. (59)
All the projects envisaged (sarvakarya) are forwarded to this jurist (Brahmana) for his opinion and suggestions and decided on in consultation with him. Only thereafter works on them are to be begun (karma samarabhet). It was not enough for the cabinet committee of ministers to decide what the seven or eight member executive was to do. Its plan of action and its purpose had to be vetted by the jurist (the Brahmana or the Rajapurohita) and the king in consultation with him took the final decision.
Jha translates the next verse (60) as: He shall also appoint other ministers, who are pure, wise, firm, experts in collecting revenue and thoroughly tested. Jones translates it as: He must likewise appoint other officers; men of integrity, well informed, steady, habituated to gain wealth by honourable means, and tried by experience. Buhler translates it as: He must also appoint other officials, (men) of integrity, (who are) wise, firm, well able to collect money, and well tried.
Amatyas were officials who directed the Kautilyan bureaucracy. They were selected by a public service commission and then subjected to the four-point test before they were graded and assigned to the different departments. Of these departments, the most extensive and crucial was that of the samaharta who was in charge of internal revenue especially in the agrarian sector. Honest, wise and firm officials were appointed to these posts.
In addition to these officials of the organized bureaucracy, the ruler might appoint free men of high ranks (nrbhi) who were not subordinate to clans and communities as required for the performance of the state duties (kartavya) entrusted to them. They had to be industrious, clever and skillful. These were open appointments and these men were not part of the secret service. (61)
Manusmrti does not bind the king to working exclusively through the bureaucracy. [This led in due course to the withering of the organized state and the emergence of despotism and arbitrariness in rule.] This verse might have been an enabling provision later interpolated here.
Jha translates the next verse (62) as: From among them he shall employ the brave, the expert, the high-born and the honest ones in work relating to finance, such as mines and stores, and timid ones in the interior of the palace. Buhler interprets akarakarmanta as mines, manufactories and storehouses. Jones translated this verse loosely as: Among those let him employ the brave, the skillful, the well-born and the honest, in his mines of gold or gems, and in other similar works for amassing wealth; but the pusillanimous in the recesses of his palace.
The rural areas were under the local administration headed by nrpati assisted by the samaharta, collector of revenue and his team of free men of high calibre. The administration and exploitation of the interior areas where mines and manufactories were situated required employment of men who were brave and alert, and who belonged to high clans and were honest. Those who were not brave but were talented, highborn and honest could be appointed to posts in the palace.
The three fields, the capital and the palace, the agrarian hinterland and the industrial interior are to be distinguished from one another. They each required different types of men. In the case of men sent to the mines and manufactories they had to be vouched for by their clans. But in the case of men employed in the rural hinterland the men employed had to be free from the influence of their clans. In the case of employment to the posts in the palace docility was preferred to bravery. [Vide Foundations of Hindu Economic State]
As ambassador he shall appoint one who is well versed in all the sciences (sastras), who understands hints, expressions and gestures, who is honest, expert and born of a noble family. (63) That royal ambassador is commended who is loyal, honest, clever, possessed of good memory, conversant with place and time, handsome of body, fearless and eloquent. (64) Manusmrti points out the need to appoint suitable men as ambassadors. It summarizes, The army and other units covered by dandaare dependent on the calibre of the amatya (who is a civilian selected by the public service commission after careful screening). On the danda (army, police and magistrates) depend the governmental activities.
On the nrpa, the civil administrator of the rural hinterland depend the treasury (formed from agricultural revenue) and the hinterland (rashtram). On the ambassador depend peace and its opposite (war). (65)nrpa, the civil administrator who was a leader of free men and the raja Medhatithi comments that the king should look after the treasury and the kingdom directly. He had failed to notice the significant distinction between the who was a sovereign. Modern commentators too have missed this note.
The term, danda, covered not only the army but also the police and the civil and criminal courts that were vested with magisterial powers. It is on these that the governmental activities depend. Manusmrti did not envisage a military government. Its ruler was not expected to rule through terror and coercive power. The army had a separate structure though it too had civilian officials attached to it. But it was not so concerned with decisions pertaining to peace and war as the ambassadors were. The latter were civilian officials of very high calibre and were selected from noble families.
Jha reads the next verse (66) as: For, it is the ambassador who brings together allies and also alienates them; the ambassador transacts that business by which people (manava) become disunited. Buhler translates this verse as: For the ambassador alone makes (kings) allies and separates allies; the ambassador transacts that business, by which (kings) are disunited or not. Jones read it as: For it is the ambassador alone who unites, who alone disjoins the united; that is, he transacts the business by which kingdoms are at variance or in amity. The translations reflect the then prevalent impressions about the duties of the ambassador rather than what the editors of Manusmrti wanted to convey.
These editors were putting forth the views of the school of Arthasastra promoted by Pracetas Manu. According to the politico-economic constitution of these Manavas, the ambassador carried out that work which caused disunity among the people of the country where he was sent. Manusmrti itself accepted both bringing together and causing dissension among those united as his duties. The term, manavas is not to be translated as kings or as kingdoms or as people. The manavas had accepted the scheme and code of four social classes and four stages of life (varnasrama dharma) but were not subject to the codes of clans and communities or even of countries.
No king was able to extract political loyalty and subservience from these manavas. They were citizens of the world as it were. The ambassador has to create dissensions among these manavas who resided in a territory but did not owe total allegiance to its ruler. It is implicit that he would not be able to unsettle the loyalty of organized clans and settled communities.
Buhler translates the next two verses (67,68) as: With respect to the affairs let the ambassador explore the expression of the countenance, the gestures and actions of the (foreign king) through the gestures and actions of his confidential (advisers) and (discover) his designs among his servants. Having learnt exactly (from his ambassador) the designs of the foreign king, let (the king) take such measures that he does not bring evil on himself. Jones went off the mark when he translated the term bhrtya as referring to the ministers of that alien king. Kautilyan Arthasastra deals with this aspect more incisively.
Buhler reads the verse (69) as: Let him settle in a country, which is open and has a dry climate, where grain is abundant, which is chiefly (inhabited) by Aryans, not subject to epidemic diseases (or similar troubles), and pleasant, where the vassals are obedient and his own (people easily) find their livelihood. Jha translates this verse as: He shall take up residence in a country (desa) which is open, which is fully supplied with grains, inhabited almost entirely by men of gentle birth (Arya), free from diseases, pleasant, where the vassals (samanta) are obedient and where living is easily found.
Jones read it as: Let him fix his abode in a district containing open Champaign; abounding with grains; inhabited chiefly by the virtuous; not infected with maladies; beautiful to the sight; surrounded by submissive mountaineers, foresters or other neighbours; a country in which the subjects may live at ease. The term 'Arya indicated landlords and traders and they had taken the vow to abide by truth (satya), which gave them the status of free citizens. They were self-reliant while earning their livelihood. Most of the populations were suchAryas. The term samanta referred to the feudal chieftains who acknowledged loyalty to the king.'Jangalam referred to moors, which were open areas that had not been brought under cultivation. The palace or town had to be located in such moor rather than in fertile cultivated areas.
The ruler may reside in one of the six types of forts mentioned in verse (70): bow-fort (dhanurdurga); earthen-fort (mahidurga); water-fort (apdurga); arborial-fort (varksha); human-fort (nru-durga); hilly-fort (giridurga), Jha points out. Buhler translates this verse as: Let him build (there) a town, making for his safety a fortress, protected by a desert or a fortress built of (stone and) earth or one protected by water or trees or one formed by (an encampment of armed) men or a hill-fort. Jones reads it as: There let him reside in a capital, having by way of a fortress, a desert rather more than twenty miles round, or a fortress of earth, a fortress of water or of trees, a fortress of armed men or a fortress of mountains.
Jha, on the basis of Medhatithi, rejects the notion that dhanurdurga meant a fort located in an inaccessible desert. It meant one surrounded by a strongly-built wall, built of bricks, double-storied, more than 12 cubits high, with its base like the palm and its top like the monkeys head. The arborial fort was surrounded to a distance of four miles by densely packed large trees. The human fort was garrisoned by an army of four divisions and filled with arms and heroic persons. The hilly fort was inaccessibly high, with a single pathway leading to it, supplied with water from an underground stream. The aquatic fort was surrounded by unfathomable water. Earthen embankments surrounded the earthen fort. Among all these forts, the hilly fort had many distinguishing characteristics. Hence the ruler must use, try all means in his prowess to get established comfortably (samasraya) in it. (71)
The first three types, dhanur, mahi and apa, are inhabited by animals meant for hunting, animals (and men) living in underground (caves) and fish and boatswomen (apsarases). They were sanctuaries reserved for animals roaming in open spaces or marshy lands or in water. Forts might be constructed there but they would not be safe. Plavangas who moved quickly over the trees (wrongly interpreted as monkeys), free men (naras) and the immortals (who unlike the commoners of the plains were not liable to be sentenced to death, (amaras) occupy the forests, the plains and the hills. (72)
The elite and their forces were located in the hilly forts while the infantry was stationed in the garrisons on the plains and the rapid motion forces were hidden in the forests. As enemies do not hurt these beings when they are sheltered by their fortresses, even so foes can not injure a civic administrator (nrpa) who has taken refuge in his fort. (73) The nrpa is told that being stationed in a fort is not to be deemed as cowardice. It should be welcomed for the advantage it gives. One archer standing on a rampart is a match in battle for one hundred (foes); one hundred archers are equal to an army of ten thousand. Hence have the sciences of polity prescribed construction and use of forts; the editors of Manusmrti explain. (74) The fort should be fully equipped with weapons, with money and grain and with conveyances including beasts of burden.
Manusmrti visualizes a fortified capital on a hill. It would accommodate Brahman counsellors, artisans, and machines and have fodder for animals and water reservoirs too. Unlike the sanctuaries, the hill-fort would not be a pleasure-resort. By Brahmans, all scholars including physicians and scientists are meant and not priests only. (75) In the centre of the fort, he shall get built for himself a spacious palace, well guarded, equipped for all seasons, resplendent and supplied with water and trees. (76) The fort was not an administrative capital or a residential place for the elite. It did not house the treasury or the main army. It was not a pleasure-resort or a place for regular residence but was a place where the administrator and chief of free men (nrpa) could take refuge when necessary.
Domestic Duties of the King
(7-77 to 86)
The fortified palace could be the normal residence of the king. Having occupied it, he should wed a wife who belonged to his own class, varna, and to a noble clan, kula. She was expected to be charming, beautiful and of excellent qualities. She was equipped with auspicious signs, that is, the consort was not to have been a widow or be but a mistress. (77) He was advised to nominate a 'purohita (a political counsellor, Rajapurohita) and select 'rtvijas, priests who were to conduct domestic rites every day. They would tend the three domestic fires (Garhapatiya, Ahavaniya and Dakshina) that consecrated the home. The Rtvijas were basically officers in charge of protocol and supervisors of official acts. (78) The king (raja) shall offer various sacrifices (yajna) at which large sacrificial fees (dakshina) are paid; and for the purpose of social duties, charity, (dharmartha), he shall bestow on the vipras (scholars who are constantly on the move teaching all people) enjoyment (bhoga, luxuries) and wealth (dhana). (79)
Manusmrti directed its ideal liberal ruler to collect the annual land revenue (one-sixth of the produce) through trustworthy officials. In his transactions with the commoners (people, loka) he was advised to follow the rules prescribed in codified procedural (agama) logic (tarkasastra). The civil administrator (nrpati) should conduct himself as an aged father (pitr) who was to be protected by the people as part of their duty. He was not to use force to extract taxes or tributes from the rashtra, the rural hinterland. (80)
This ruler (nrpati) who governed the rural hinterland (rashtra) from his fort (durga) was a civil administrator functioning not through bureaucratic machinery but through a team of selected free men (naras, nrs) who were not attached to clans. They were under the control of departmental heads (adhyakshas) rather than under the executives (amatyas) who were answerable to ministers (mantris).
Buhler translates the verse (81) as: For the various branches of business let him appoint intelligent supervisors; they shall inspect all the acts of those men who transact his business. Modern commentators have not been able to grasp the structure and functioning of the personalized administration most of the petty rulers adhered to. These rulers were advised not to be greedy and cruel but to develop themselves as cultured and highly educated persons.
They were asked to receive with honour the vipras who had on graduation come out of their residential schools seeking support from the king for their activities as teachers and social guides. For the nrpas, the civil administrators, the continuing (unending) (akshaya) education and counsel they received in political constitution (Brahma) from these scholars was a great treasure (nidhi) to be cherished. Hence the ruler was asked in verse (79) to entertain the vipras and in verse (80) to refer to agama (procedural) precedents and tarkasastra, logic, while collecting the annual revenue from the rural hinterland. He could get guidance from these scholars and it would be an asset in governance.(81,82)
The king was not directed to respect the members of the class of Brahmans. The translations given by modern commentators have missed this point. Jha, following Medhatithi has translated this verse as: He shall honour those Brahmans who have returned from their teachers house; for kings, this is interminable; and has been called Brahmic treasure. Buhler translates it as Let him honour those Brahmans who have returned from their teachers house (after studying the Veda); for that (money which is given) to Brahmans is declared to be an imperishable treasure for kings.
Jones too had not understood the intent of this verse. He translated it as: To Brahmans returned from the mansions of their preceptors, let him show due respect; for that is called a precious unperishable gem, deposited by kings with the sacerdotal class. These translations have misinterpreted and distorted the nature of the dependence of the rulers on scholars who were experts in polity and constitution. Manusmrti was for a secular state where the state utilized the services of the scholars and was not a theocratic state where the clergy dominated.
Jones translated the next verse (83) as: It is a gem, which neither thieves nor foes take away; which never perishes: kings must therefore deposit with Brahman that indestructible jewel of respectful presents. Buhler read it as: Neither thieves nor foes can take it, nor can it be lost; hence an imperishable store must be deposited by kings with Brahmans. Jha toed this line. It appears that Medhatithi followed a version that advised the king to bury the treasure in a secret place. Later Brahmans must have tampered with that version and called on the kings to trust them with their wealth. They assured that the royal treasure would then be safe from thieves and foes.
Buhler translates the next verse (84) as: The offering made through the mouth of a Brahmana, which is neither spilt nor falls (on the ground) nor ever perishes, is far more excellent than Agnihotras. Jones read it as: An oblation in the mouth or hand of a Brahman is far better than offerings to holy fire: it never drops; it never dries; it is never consumed. Jha, following Medhatithi, reads it as: What is offered into the mouth of the Brahmana, which is neither spilt nor spoilt, nor wasted, is far superior to the fire-offerings. Jha held that the objections raised against gifts given to Brahmans and to feeding them were irrational.
Jha translates the next verse (85) as: The gift to a non-Brahmana is equable; that to a nominal Brahmana is two-fold; that to the teacher a hundred thousand-fold; and that to a person thoroughly learned in the Veda endless. Buhler read it as: A gift to one who is not a Brahmana (yields) the ordinary reward; a gift to one who calls himself a Brahmana, a double reward; a gift to a well-read Brahmana, a hundred thousand-fold (reward); a gift to one who knows the Veda and the Angas (Veda paraga, a reward) without end. Jones read it as: A gift to one not a Brahmana produces fruit of a middle standard; to one who calls himself a Brahman, double; to a well-read Brahman, a hundred thousand-fold; to one who has read all the Vedas, infinite. The verse deals exclusively with the gifts made by the king. He was free to help any one but was advised to be liberal in his gifts to Brahmans for the advantages he would get in return would be more thereby.
Of course one who was just a member of the class of Brahmans needed to be helped more than those of other classes. The aid given to a teacher (acharya) would bring very high reward in return, compared to the above two. The acharya was a teacher in diplomacy and he needed to be encouraged. Not all teachers taught Vedas and not all of them were members of the Brahmana varna. Offerings made to experts in Vedas would bring infinite reward, it is asserted. The reward that one would receive for the gifts given by him would accrue to him after his death and it would be proportionate to the merit of the recipient of that gift. (86) It is not the quantum of the gift but to whom it was given that would count. The ruler had to honour the Brahmans from his personal earnings and not from the treasury.
While looking after (palaya) his citizens (prajas), if a king (raja) is challenged by his enemies whether equal to him or superior or inferior, he shall not shrink from battle, bearing in mind (the lessons he has learnt about) the provisions of Kshatra Dharma. Kshatra Dharma would have required him to defend himself when attacked. Kshatra Dharma would require him to take the lead in attacking those who threatened the lives and ways of life of others, of the subjects. It would require him to sacrifice his own life if necessary to protect others (87). (Vide my earlier work, Evolution of Social Polity Of Ancient India for an analysis of the stand taken by Bhishma on these concepts in his exposition on Rajadharma)
Jha, following the medieval commentator, Medhatithi, says: It is the duty of the Kshatriya that whenever he is challenged he must fight, whoever the challenger may be and he shall take no account of the caste or age or training or ambition etc. of the other party. This duty the king has to bear in mind. Jones read it as: A king, while he protects his people, being defied by the enemy of equal, greater or less force, must by no means turn his face from battle, but must remember the duty of his military class. Was a king required to be a Kshatriya soldier taking part personally in battles? Manusmrti explains that the three duties of a king were, not shrinking from battle, protecting the people and attending on Brahmans. This is the best means for a king to secure happiness as Buhler and others interpret this verse (88). It is likely that this verse was a later interpolation.
Jones translated the next verse (89) as: Those rulers of the earth (mahikshita), who desirous of defeating each other exert their utmost strength in battle without ever averting their faces, ascend after death directly to heaven (svarga). Buhler translated it as: Those kings who, seeking to slay each other in battle, fight with the utmost exertion and do not turn back, go to heaven. Jha translates it as: Kings, seeking to slay each other in battle and fighting with great energy, without turning back, proceed to heaven.
The term, mahikshita, referred to agriculturist chieftains rather than to Kshatriya kings whose main task was administration (palanam) of the country and ensuring security for their citizens (prajas). These chieftains fought against one another for possession of and control of lands that would lead to their being recognized as members of the elite. Medieval commentators faced the issue of justifying the new Kshatriya orientation of being constantly engaged in duels, battles and wars to the neglect of the commoners and shedding blood for no justifiable reason.
Were the kings justified in calling upon their subordinates to fight and die for the personal causes and greed of their masters? The medieval commentators tried to defend the constitution of a separate military class that served the interests of the ambitious and greedy feudal lords more than the peace-loving populace and the orientation that there being many means of livelihood, living by military service is sure to lead to heaven. Military service was not social service and it was certainly not constructive work. The soldier dies not for any noble cause, or for his nation, but for his master who most often has no qualms.
These commentators argued: As regards the argument that it is not for dying that men are engaged in military service, in reality when soldiers are paid their wages, it is for no other purpose than fighting, specially as no other purpose is mentioned. The men were engaged by the master with the view that they would be ready for all kinds of work and would help him in all his undertakings. So when a war breaks out, it becomes their duty to do everything for their master, even up to the giving up of the body; and thus alone is he able to repay his master.
When, however there is no war, if the servant happens to die, then he dies a servant (not freed from bondage); as the repayment of the debt is accomplished only if he accomplishes some purpose of his master, similar to that for which he has been engaged. The soldiers were mostly men who were recruited for doing the work of his master and were being paid regularly and could not refuse to fight when required by the master to fight for the purposes of the latter. They were not appointed only to till the lands though most soldiers were drawn from the class of tillers and the rulers were basically landlords who owned vast agricultural lands. It would not be wrong to state that most of the soldiers were in effect, bonded labourers rather than free men motivated by high objectives. These commentators were hard put to defending the indefensible, immoral exploitation of the tillers by the mahikshitas who were but feudal lords.
The next verse (90) advises the king: When he fights with his foes in battle, let him not strike with weapons concealed (in wood), nor with (such as are) barbed, poisoned, or the points of which are blazing with fire. The king is told that it has to be an honest duel or battle whether he himself fights or engages others to fight for him. Let him not strike one who (in flight) has climbed on an eminence, nor a eunuch, nor one who joins the palms of his hands (in supplication) nor one who (flees) with flying hair nor one who sits down nor one who says, I am thine. Nor one who is sleeping, nor one who has lost his coat of mail, nor one who is naked nor one who is disarmed nor one who looks on without taking part in the battle nor one who is fighting with another foe. (91,92) An unjust war too has its ethics and chivalry!
Nor one whose weapons are broken, nor one afflicted with sorrow nor one who has been grievously wounded, nor one who is in fear nor one who has turned to flight; (but in all these cases let him) remember his duty (dharma) (of honourable warriors). War too has to be merciful! (93). The next verse (94) shows the chink in the arm. Buhler translates this verse as: But (the Kshatriya) who is slain in the battle, while he turns back in fear, takes upon himself all the sin of his master, whatever (it may be).
Always the servant bears the blame for failure and the master takes all the credit for success. And whatever merit the man slain after having turned back may have earned for the next world, all that his master takes off.(95)
Men do not die for nothing. They are given inducements to fight and win. Chariots, horses, elephants, umbrellas, wealth, grains, animals, women, all goods and baser metals belong to him who wins them. (96) But the spoils of war are not to be taken away only by the warriors who actually fight. They are to be shared with the ruler. The kings who have engaged them to settle scores with the enemies of the former demand the cream of the booty. They shall present to the king the choice portion, such is the Vedic declaration, the later editors of Manusmrti say but the commentators have not shown where in the Vedas this has been declared.
They have referred to a verse in Aitareya Brahmana. The tendency to make rash claims to defend the indefensible marauders needs to be deplored. What has been cited was in fact a bargain between Indra, the leader of the nobles, devas, and the devatas, the chieftains, of the frontier society who came together to defeat and exterminate the highly despised and dreaded feudal chieftain, Vrtra Asura. It has been added in verse (97) that what has not been won individually shall be distributed by the king among all the soldiers. The editors of Manusmrti say in the next verse (98): Thus has been declared the blameless eternal law of warriors; the Kshatriya, striking his enemies in battle, shall not deviate from this law. Jha was referring to the ancient (eternal) code pertaining to war that permitted such distribution of spoils of war. Not only the king but other warriors too were expected to follow this pragmatic Kshatriya dharma.
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