RAJARSHI CONSTITUTION AND
THE KAUTILYAN ECONOMIC STATE
The Preamble to the new Constitution
Svapaksha and Parapaksha
Earlier Dandaniti envisaged a political state. But Kautilya stressed the concept of an economic state.
Adherence to the codes laid down by the science of economic occupations, Varta, helps the king to secure grains, cattle, gold, forest produce and labour (AS.1-4-1). Kautilya was dealing with an agro-pastoral state that had made inroads into the forest economy through trade and surplus labour.
The surplus from the economy helps him to consolidate his control over his personal supporters (svapaksha) and also over the supporters of others (parapaksha). [It is not sound to interpret the latter as the party of the enemies.]
Svapaksha included all those who were members of the unit Svami or Rajan. Not all in the state composed of the seven organs (angas) or constituents (prakrtis) were the kings men. The king was not the state. He was but a member of one of the seven units of the state. The secretaries of the state (amatyas), the janapada assembly that controlled the rural areas, the paura or urban council dominated by the bourgeoisie, the treasury (kosa), the police, army and magistracy that together constituted the mechanism of coercive power (danda) and the ally (mitra) were the other six units of the state. Each of these seven units had its own structure and organization (sampada) and it could not be dismantled.
Economic Determinism and Political Power
The economic benefits accruing from adherence to the prescribed procedures of the science of economy (varta) helped the king to control the treasury (kosa) and the army (danda). The control over the other units was weak and was not total. Kautilyan Arthasastra holds that economic power and political power exercised through the treasury and the army attracts all to the king. Economic determinism is entered into. Kautilya redefines the role of political power (danda) and the object of Dandaniti. Power is a means and not an end in itself.
Danda (political power that is represented by the sceptre or rod or by the army) is a means for securing the welfare (kshema) of the actions taken (yoga) (to be precise for the definite continuance of the results of the steps taken during the course of administration) in conformity with the four sciences (vidyas), Anvikshiki, Trayi, Varta and Dandaniti. The ends or objects of these political actions are defined and determined by the other sciences. Power is a means for ensuring social and economic welfare (yogakshema).
The Scope of the Four Sciences
Kautilya does not favour the concept of the supremacy of the state or political power advocated by the school of Usanas. The science of Anvikshiki covered Samkhya that upheld reason, Yoga that stressed stoicism and Lokayata that outlined the mechanisms of social control. (It is not sound to translate Lokayata as materialism.) The Vedas provide the basis for determining what Dharma, the morally, ethically and socially correct conduct is. Varta (economic occupation) leads to Artha, which defines what is economically beneficial. A political constitution cannot define these on its own.
Kautilya redefines the purpose of Dandaniti
Kautilya redefines the purpose of Dandaniti (political policy) as (a) to gain what is not yet gained, (b) to preserve what is gained, (c) to develop what is thus preserved as gain and (d) to distribute what is thus developed among the different bureaus (tirthas) of the state (AS.1-4-3).
This statement may be treated as the Preamble to the Constitution of the State as envisaged by Kautilya.
It visualizes not a mere social welfare state but a state that would ensure social and economic progress, all-round development and equitable distribution of the accrued benefits among all social sectors that were administered by these bureaus or tirthas.
Kautilya wanted the state to be an instrument for planned social development. He was not for a free economy or for a speculative economy. He was for private entrepreneurship and regulated economy. (But he was not for regimentation). He did not favour colonial exploitation. Kautilyan state cannot be equated with a Marxist state though he stood by the concept of economic determinism or with a fascist state though he was for a strong state. His state was not totalitarian.
He did not permit living on capital. He called for steady increase in capital. The capital has to be kept secure and not consumed recklessly, the Preamble directs. The capital can be increased only by investment in productive operations. Consumerism prevents savings and hampers increase in investment. It is hedonism and not economic wisdom. It will lead to economic ruin (anartha). Savings and profits are not to be frittered away. Social welfare projects have to be preceded by a thrust towards economic development. The Preamble directs the profits accruing from investment of capital to be made available for the expenses on the projects of the different bureaus.
Dandaniti as interpreted by Kautilya and incorporated in the politico-economic code, Arthasastra, not only gives the ruler control over the treasury and the army but also makes him the head and chief executive of an economic state. Planned development has to be initiated by the state.
Economy cannot be left to the sweet will of the speculators and to the vagaries of nature. Social progress, lokayatra, depends on the control, which the state has over this process including fair distribution of the benefits of development among all social sectors. Only a surplus economy can lead to social progress and all-round development. Traditional Dandaniti fell far short of Kautilya's expectations and purposes. With this preamble to the constitution of the economic state enshrined in AS.1-4-3 we step further into economic determinism.
Kautilya for all-round development
Kautilya's deuteragonist, the unidentified preceptor, argues that the threat of use of power (danda) should be always present to ensure social progress (lokayatra). The Acharya (Krpa?) (teacher) holds that social progress cannot be achieved through voluntary efforts alone. Coercive power is imperative, he holds (1-4-5,6). Kautilya rejects this stand.
Kautilya knows that a soft state will be held in disdain but he does not countenance reign through terror. He is for just exercise of power for this alone the people will respect. Power exercised properly should benefit the subjects (prajas) in terms of all the three social values and aims, dharma, artha and kama (7 to 11).
The Kautilyan economic state aims at the progress, social, moral and cultural (dharma), economic (artha) and emotional (kama), of all the sections of its population.
It is wrong to presume that it was a totalitarian state, indifferent to dharma, to social values and ethics and that it stressed only economy, artha. Only the feudal state directed by Usanas and headed by feudal lords like Bali, stressed artha and kama, wealth and pleasure alone and neglected cultural values (dharma).
Protection of the weak against the mighty
Kautilya points out that improper exercise of power annoys even the senior citizens who have retired to their forest abodes and have only minimal needs and more so the householders who are engaged in economic activities. At the same time, failure to use power leads to the law of fishes, matsya-nyaya, by which the larger fish swallow the smaller. The state should not be neutral between the strong and the weak, for it would allow the mighty to become mightier and the weak, weaker. Kautilyan state exercised its power to protect the weak (12to14). Kautilya was warning the prince under training against abuse of power.
The state should not be a supporter of the rich traders and the feudal lords. If a state fails to protect the weak and the pious it loses the raison dtre for its existence. The economic state is not a capitalist state though it recognizes and stresses the value of protecting and increasing the capital. Protected by state power, the weak prevail over the mighty (1-14-15).
The state is not in direct conflict with the rich and powerful. In a class war the state was required to be with the weaker sections of the society. But who the weak are has to be determined objectively.
Kautilya called upon the king to enable and ensure that every individual followed his svadharma, carried out his duties and exercised his rights as a member of the social class (varna) to which he was assigned (1-4-16).
Kautilyan state was more than a social welfare state. It was a state that guaranteed social justice and social security.
Training the Saintly King, Rajarshi, as the Head of the State
Kautilya was interested in the training of the princes and officials of the state. The course recommended by him covered the four disciplines of study (vidyas), Anvikshiki, Trayi, Varta and Dandaniti, methodology of acquisition and application of knowledge, social heritage, economy and polity.
Kautilya amends the stand taken by Usanas on the importance of Dandaniti, science of polity vis--vis the other disciplines and declares that if power (danda) is exercised not arbitrarily but to ensure social progress, it may be treated as the root (mula) of all other disciplines of study (1-5-1).
Kautilya does not accept a constitution that does not ensure social progress (lokayatra), social justice, freedom of the individual and protection of the weak. Exercise of power (danda) must be rooted in humility (vinaya), he advises (1-5-2). Then only it will lead to the welfare (yogakshema) of all discrete individuals (sarva bhuta). To be precise, yogakshema meant the security of the fruits of the work performed.
Knowledge and Humility, Vidya and Vinaya
He exhorts the prince to practise being humble and respectful. Humility is twofold. Some are humble by nature and some become trained to remain humble (1-5-3,4). Nurture cannot annul nature. Humility is not an asset gained through deeds. (Kriya hi dravyam, vinayati na adravyam, runs the famous Kautilyan maxim.)
The Atharvan school had insisted that only those who excelled in aggressiveness, rajas, should be considered for appointment as kings. But Kautilya insisted on humility, vinaya, a trait associated with gentleness and sagacity, sattva. He would tame the rajas of the princes. His approach was similar to Krshna's.
While describing the conventional method of education followed by his school, Kautilya calls for reflection on what had been taught and for rejection of wrong views and for intentness on truth only. Vidya and vinaya, knowledge and humility are acquired by accepting what the teacher says as authentic (1-5-5,6). It was not regimentation of thought. As long as a student was under a particular teacher, he was not to question that teachers assertions. Decorum and discipline had to be kept.
Schooling of the Prince
The student is introduced first to script and arithmetic (1-5-7). [It is not sound to hold that scripts came into vogue only after the long Vedic era.] Then he is placed under a preceptor and as directed by him, he is sent to learn the three Vedas and Anvikshiki from the scholars who have specialized in these. [We have to give up some of the stereotypes about the ancient methodology of education.] (1-5-8). Varta, the science of economy, was learnt from the heads (adhyakshas) of the bureaus (tirthas) and Dandaniti, the science of polity, from theoretical and practical exponents in that field. The preceptor, Acharya, was a personal guide and not a master of all subjects.
The princes and other students had to remain celibate till sixteen years of age. They were advised to be in constant touch with the learned even after leaving the school. Post-school education for princes covered training in arms and warfare. It is implicit that schools, which provided instruction in the three Vedas and in Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata, were not military schools. The students also listened to discourses on history and the social and economic codes, Dharmasastra and Arthasastra. The discourses were open to all. Kautilya emphasizes both theory and application. From study, awareness (prajna) is secured, and from awareness, application (yoga) is made possible. Yoga leads to self-control. This is called efficacy of knowledge (vidya-samarthyam), ability to acquire knowledge from the prescribed disciplines of study (12 to 16).
Trained Rajarshi may be given all powers
Kautilya stresses training for princes, as the subjects tend to emulate their ruler. A cultured and educated (vidyavinita) ruler will have no rivals and will be able to rule the commonalty (prthvi) without sharing it with others. In other words, sharing of powers need not be insisted on if the ruler is an educated and cultured person. There should be no objection to vesting sovereignty in one person if he is a saintly king, a trained Rajarshi (1-5-17). Kautilya endorses the Prthu constitution that removed the post of Mahendra, as it was a check on the rights and powers of the elected king.
His aim was to bring the entire Prthvi (the sub-continent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south) under one Chakravarti, an emperor, who would be an unrivalled Rajarshi.
Kautilya did not favour both dyarchy (dvairajyam) and total devolution of powers to the lower units (vairajyam). The latter was closer to anarchism. He was against armed oligarchy, the trait of the Atharvan polity. He did not endorse the concept of a powerless president or a ruler with severely restricted powers, though he was against autocracy.
Traits of a Rajarshi
Endowed with knowledge and humility, vidyavinaya
A Rajarshi was not a powerless, weak and docile ruler whiling away his time in futile speculations on life, death and life after death. He excelled in rajas but did not allow it to overcome wisdom. He can become a conqueror, vijigishu. But he has to first conquer himself. Lust, greed, arrogance, anger, pride and foolhardiness are the six internal enemies, which the prince (and every man) must overcome before he can hope to overcome his external enemies. Conquest of the senses (indriyas) is the purpose to be met by education (vidya) and humility (vinaya). Vidya leads to vinaya and vidyavinaya leads to conquest of senses, indriyajaya (1-6-1,2).
The six senses are indirectly correlated to the six internal constituents (prakrtis) of his own state that he has to keep under his control before he may launch his project to conquer the whole country.
Rajavidya or Rajayoga is the science that lays down the procedure for mastering one's senses and one's political fields.
Kautilya then draws attention to the then recent events and personages to highlight the fall of the greedy and the success of those who had conquered their senses. He criticizes Dandakya, Karala, Ravana, Duryodhana, Janamejaya, Talajanghas, Pururavas, Ajabindhu, Vatapi, Dambhodva, Kartavirya and the Vrshnis. He honours Agastya, Jamadagni and Dvaipayana and asks his students to emulate Parasurama who (by that time) had conquered his senses. He praises Rajarshi Ambarisha (1-6-3 to12). Kautilya must have been a witness to the careers of these personages. [Vide my earlier work on Hindu Social Dynamics (1999) for a scrutiny of the careers of these personages of the later Vedic and early post-Vedic period.]
Prajna, awareness of one's duties and abilities
A ruler who has conquered his senses and the six evil tendencies can become a Rajarshi. Through association with elders, he cultivates his awareness (prajna) (1-7-1). He knows the importance of Chakshus who gathered knowledge through observation while moving from place to place. [Kautilya respected empiricism but suspected intuition.] The Rajarshi who presided over a welfare state was a scholar and counsellor. He was not aggressive and did not seem to be even assertive. But he was active. He had definite powers and duties. He is not to be ostentatious and is not to associate with economically harmful (anarthya) persons.
Non-involvement in economic transactions
He does not get involved in any economic transaction (vyavahara), which is against the principles of dharma and artha (1-7-2). He had to follow Dharmasastra and Arthasastra with respect to civil law pertaining to economic transactions. [Kautilyan Arthasastra does not ignore or look down on or reject the provisions in Dharmasastra on these aspects.]
According to the Brahmarshis, the king was to be a nirarthaka prakrti, an individual or member of a constituent (prakrti) of the state with no personal economic interests. Rajan was one of the seven constituents, prakrtis, of the state. While the others represented and pursued the economic interests of specific classes and cadres, the king was not expected to do so. They envisaged a non-economic state headed by a selfless sage. These sages were engaged in spiritual pursuits and in socio-cultural activities only. The Rajarshi had to meet this expectation of the Brahmarshis.
Kautilyan Rajarshi does not avoid economic power, artha
The Rajarshi, as visualized by Kautilya, did not keep away from power and wealth (artha) though he was not attached to them. Kautilya does not advocate self-denial. The Rajarshi is not a fakir. Kautilya allows him the right to pleasure (kama) but exhorts him not to violate the codes of dharma and artha (1-7-3). The earlier Arthasastras had taken the position that equal importance should be given to all the three aspects, dharma, artha and kama. They felt that excessive importance given to one harmed the other two (1-7-4,5). Kautilya did not depart from this orientation. He however did not follow the view of the Brahmarshis. Modern critics have failed to note this aspect.
Kautilya and Economic Determinism, Primacy of Artha
But Kautilya came forward with the stand that Artha should be given primacy. Artha eva pradhana, he declared (1-7-6). Kautilyan Arthasastra broke new ground with this assertion and the champions of Dharmasastra were rattled. The latter felt called upon to defend Dharma against the onslaught by Artha. Some were glad that a materialist had challenged the champions of religion. It is necessary to present the views in their proper perspective. Kautilya was not against dharma and he did not undermine its importance. He was not against rituals and expiation of sins. Nor was he for them. He was pragmatic.
He points out that both dharma and kama have their roots in artha (1-7-7). In the absence of the necessary economic means, it is not possible for one to follow the path of dharma (the socially, morally, ethically correct conduct) or to have pleasure, kama (recognized as desirable, necessary and obligatory but within the fold of marriage). The above thesis has to be examined in its proper context, the role of the Rajarshi as the head of the state and as an individual in quest of truth in his role as Rshi, as an intellectual. Kautilya exhorts the Rajarshi not to underestimate the importance of artha and kama. The Rajarshi had not effaced himself totally. He was selfless even while protecting and promoting the economic interests of all his subjects.
Bounds of Sovereignty---Rajamaryada
The Arthasastra tradition preferred (to be precise, it permitted) monarchy but it abjured autocracy. It needs to be recognized that Kautilya was not the first to describe or prescribe the provisions of Arthasastra. He however departed from his predecessors like Bahudantiputra and Pracetas. The king has to work within bounds, maryada. These bounds are set by the very presence of preceptors (acharyas) and ministers of state (amatyas) who restrain him from being involved in dangers. They counsel him in private through gestures and suggestions. Even a sagacious ruler, a Rajarshi, cannot rule by himself, the prince under training is told.
Rulership (rajatvam) is possible only with the aid of others (sahaya-saddhyam) (AS.1-7-8, 9). A single wheel does not roll on (chakram ekam na vartate), he is asked to note. [In other words, he should not try to imitate the chief of Ekachakrapura who had no counsellors and no council and had no associates and assistants and had only subordinates to execute his orders. Such a town or state will remain stagnant. Stagnation leads to decay. Ekachakrapura had no army either. It was misinterpreted as an egalitarian state without coercive power and with no executive and with no judiciary either.] (Vide Vol.3 Hindu Social Dynamics)
Acharyas and Amatyas not appointed by the King
According to the amended Rajarshi constitution, the head of the state was also the head of the executive. But he had to abide by the counsel given by the Acharyas and Amatyas. He shall appoint and be assisted by secretaries, Sachivas.
This provision of the Rajarshi constitution rules out the king acting according to his pleasure, however highly he may be educated. It needs to be noted that the king was not empowered to appoint Acharyas and Amatyas.
He could not select his counsellors. They were selected and appointed by the Samiti and the Sabha, the council of scholars and the assembly of nobles. This limited his sovereignty.
[It is nave and simplistic to translate the term, Rajamaryada, as dignity of the king. I have pointed out how Rama of Kosala who was described as Maryada Purusha, as a ruler entitled to rule for prescribed tenure but with limited powers was gently told that he could not dismiss Jabali, a teacher and counsellor though the latter was a heretic and expressed views contradictory to the Kosala laws based on satya (truth).]
Kautilyan Rajarshi bound to abide by the counsel
In the Rajarshi pattern of governance to set in motion the wheels of the state and to help the king, the institution of sachivas (cabinet secretaries) was necessary. This pattern recommended by the Indra school of Arthasastra did not meet Kautilya's requirements.
Bahudantakam, a work on polity attributed to the son of Bahudanti (a lady with prominent teeth) who held the post of Indra in one of the states of the later Vedic period and was a counsellor of the great emperor, Mamdhata, must have recommended the creation of this institution. The King must appoint sachivas and listen to their reports and views, he counseled Mamdhata. They were bound to present their views on every issue and had the right to be heard. However their views were not binding on the king.
In the amended constitution, the King had not only to hear the views of the acharyas and the amatyas but also abide by their suggestions. He could not overrule the counsel given by them. They spoke for the samiti and the sabha, the two constitutional bodies, council of scholars and elders, and the assembly of nobles. This was Rajamaryada, sovereignty limited by these two bodies.
In the Kautilyan pattern of the state, the Amatyas were superior to the Sachivas but ranked lower than the ministers, mantris. To be precise, senior and successful amatyas were to be promoted as mantris. The King could not appoint the mantris, ministers, directly.
Criteria for selection of Amatyas, Secretaries of the State
Bk.1-8 of the Arthasastra discusses the criteria that should guide the king in the choice of Amatyas, that is, in the formation of the government. Kautilya, Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Pisuna, Dvaipayana, Bhishma and Uddhava were great political thinkers. They were engaged in a disputation on social and political problems, which had arisen from the collapse of the pattern of small nation-states (brought into existence by Mahadeva). The collapse was caused by the high-handedness of rulers like Kartavirya Arjuna and retaliation by Bhargava Parasurama. We draw the attention of the readers to the implications of the stand taken by each of these thinkers to the framing of the new constitution.
Bharadvaja for ideological affinity
Bharadvaja suggests that the king should appoint his schoolmates whose integrity and calibre he had observed from close quarters as amatyas. They would have belonged to the same school of thought as the king did. Ideological affinities would ensure smooth coordination in work.
The Rajarshi constitution had prescribed the academic qualifications necessary for one to be recognized as a ruler. Similar qualifications were prescribed for the ministers and amatyas.
Bharadvaja's stand was likely to lead to one-party system. It was inconsistent with the principle that the Rajarshi should treat svapaksha and parapaksha, those who belonged to his group and those who belonged to the groups of others on par and be above partisan politics.
Bharadvaja, it has to be kept in min, was for a commoner-king. He had been the counsellor of the emperor, Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Sakuntala. [I am attributing all the views attributed to Bharadvaja, student of Bharadvaja to the Vedic teacher and sage himself. It would be wrong to bring Drona, a student of this teacher, into this picture.]
Visalaksha for identity in approach
Visalaksha was a spokesman of the patriciate. He endorsed the need for identity in approach (sadharmana) especially in confidential (guhya) matters. But he did not permit schoolmates being appointed as amatyas as they would have known the weaknesses of the king. He preferred clubmates and similarity in virtues as well as sufferings (samana shila vyasana) so that conflicts between the king and the amatyas might be avoided. He was however not for a one-party government.
Democracy, even parliamentary democracy, is not new to India.
Instead of looking down on the social polity of Ancient India and treating all ancient Indian rulers as feudal chieftains who were not concerned about the sufferings of the masses or visualizing them as all having been endowed with divinity, we should be rational. Bharata's mother, Sakuntala, was known as Visalakshi, a student of Visalaksha. She was a daughter of Visvamitra, a colleague of Bharadvaja and a Kshatriya ruler. Visvamitra admired Visalaksha who belonged to the Samkara-Rudra school of political thought.
Parasaras insist on confidentiality of counsel
Badarayana (Dvaipayana) and his associates who were disciples of Parasara (a follower of Vasishta, an opponent of Visvamitra) cautioned against the king becoming a prisoner in the hands of such clubmates and schoolmates. The Parasaras insisted that the sovereignty of the king must not be jeopardized and that secrecy of state affairs should be protected. They insisted that the amatyas should be loyal, honest, talented and dependable. But the king should have the upper hand.
Formation of a ministry was not easy. Both Visalaksha and the Parasaras neglected the need for training in administration. They were concerned with the authority of the king rather than with good government. Visalaksha was aristocratic in approach and the Parasaras were feudal.
An amatya was an officer of the state and not the king's personal friend or lieutenant. He was to be a counsellor of the king and not his yes-man or Man Friday.Dvaipayana was a half-brother of the veteran statesman, Bhishma.
Pisuna for rule by experts in economy
Pisuna charges that the Parasaras give undue importance for devotion (bhakti) and that they neglected intellect (buddhi) while appointing amatyas. He calls for the appointment of independent intellectuals and does not want mere loyal servants as amatyas.
As Dushyanta's finance minister, he represented the spirit of commercial economy that pervaded before Bharadvaja consented to guide Bharata. Pisuna had to wander as an exile with no ruler willing to utilize his expertise. Another such exile was Kanika Bharadvaja who later became finance minister under Dhrtarashtra (who was sired by Dvaipayana).
Pisuna emphasizes not general or personal talent in leadership (purushasamarthyam) or capacity to acquire vast knowledge (vidya-samarthyam) but experience and talent in economic administration (arthasamarthyam). He was for rule by experts in economy.
The amatyas should be able to estimate in advance the economic benefits (artha) of every work (karma) and be able to realize them. Pisuna's cabinet was a business board with no pretensions of loyalty to the king or to an ideology. Pisuna was a free-lancer distrusted by every king.
Bhishma for loyalty to the throne
Bhishma does not endorse the total rejection of the Parasara stand. He holds that the amatya should be selected from a family traditionally loyal to the royal dynasty. Loyalty to the throne rather than to the individual incumbent is what he expects of the amatya.
Creation of parallel lineages of kings and ministers was expected to provide stability in administration and guarantee the security of the state. Bhishma (son of Santanu, nicknamed Konapadanta or the man with crooked teeth) provides two wheels but this does not impress Kautilya. It may be remarked here that even as there was traditional monarchy, there were families traditionally associated with the administration as ministers or other officials (amatyas) or as political guides, acharyas. Bhishma found merit in this practice. It ensured continuity of policy and administration.
Uddhava for a bureaucracy of professionals
Uddhava (a rheumatic patient, Vatavyadhi) was an alienated intellectual associated with Krshna's ministry. He warns that such ministers tend to corner all royal wealth and behave as masters. Uddhava calls for new professionals as amatyas. He allows some merit in Pisuna's stand.
Such amatyas would respect the wielder of Danda, as being in the position of Yama or Judge with power to punish those who violate the rules and would not dare to disobey him.
This introduces a new constitutional role for the King. The King, according to Uddhava school of thought should be the head of the state and the executive and also of the judiciary.
Vatavyadhi (Uddhava) wanted that the amatyas should be selected from a pool of candidates with requisite qualifications.
Such a cabinet of professionals would be impersonal and highly talented and follow the letter of the law and the spirit of the constitution without exhibiting personal loyalty even to the head of the state (svami). [The svami was not a rajan. He was not a King. He was a charismatic leader.]
This cabinet was a body of talented executives refusing to do what was prohibited (yamas) and adhering to what was prescribed (niyamas).
Loyalty to the throne does not feature in the case of a political structure headed by an elected leader or by a charismatic leader or by a plutocrat. This cabinet was highly bureaucratic but not as efficient as Pisuna's Board.
Bahudantiputra for governance by favourable aristocracy
Kautilya, at this stage, listens to the views of an Indra. He was a son of Bahudanti (nickname for a lady with many teeth) and the author of an Arthasastra text, Bahudantakam. This Indra was a counsellor of Mamdhata, one of the five great emperors of that period. The other four were Marutta, Bhagiratha, Kartavirya and Bharata.
This Indra felt that Vatavyadhi's cabinet was full of scholars who however lacked practical experience. Indra recommended that the king should appoint as amatyas only those who were highborn (abhijana), upright (shoucha), valorous (shourya) and favourable (anuraga) to the ruler. They had to be aware of what they were required to do and what they were doing (prajna).
Both the king and the amatya should be able to think and feel alike. Anuraga is neither ideological affinity nor personal devotion and loyalty. It is born of class similarity.
Bahudantakam was closer to the aristocratic temper of Vaisalaksham and accommodated Bharadvaja's puritanism but ignored Pisuna's call for a cabinet of unattached experts. Kautilya agreed with this Indra but only partially.
Kautilya: Tested, experienced and talented social leadership
Kautilyan maxims are highly pregnant with implications that have eluded modern scholars who have proceeded under the impression that his work was written during the third century BC. Kautilya was on the scene when the battle of Kurukshetra was fought though he was essentially a political grammarian and was not a participant in the feuds that led to that battle.
Kautilya insists on the total ability of a person to provide social leadership (purushasamarthyam), which he says must be judged from his ability to do the work (karya-samarthyam). Bharadvaja spoke of general talent born of studies (vidya-samarthyam) and Pisuna of talent in managing the economy and making profit (arthasamarthyam). But Kautilya would have for every job, the person most talented for that job. He called for efficient executive machinery and could not ignore Pisuna and Uddhava.
First appointment only as Amatya, Secretary of State
Kautilya advises that talented persons (subject to their meeting the requirements of Bahudantakam) should be appointed as amatyas, secretaries of the state. But they are not to be appointed directly as ministers. This is a very important distinction made by Kautilya between the two ranks. The right of the king or the head of the state to appoint ministers of his choice is severely restricted by the Kautilyan constitution.
Amatyam, an Impersonal and Permanent State Machinery
Amatyam or secretariat is a separate political structure, anga or prakrti, directing the bureaucracy. The tenures of these secretaries are not dependent on the pleasure of the king. Classmates, clubmates, kinsmen and flunkies could not hope to enter it. The aspirants had to be found (by the service commission) suitable for the posts. Kautilya's was not an attempt at compromise or even at consensus. It was a step towards the creation of impersonal and permanent state machinery that would survive the whims of kings and their fortunes.
The Traits expected in an Amatya
Bk.1 Ch.9 of Arthasastra lays down the qualifications needed in one to be selected to the Amatya cadre and the procedures to be adopted for selecting and appointing candidates to this cadre. At least half of the twenty-four traits mentioned must be present in a candidate to be appointed for the lowest cadre and at least three-fourths of these traits for appointment to the middle cadre. An aspirant to the highest cadre must meet all the prescribed conditions.
All the persons, who are selected for the posts of amatyas must be natives of the janapada and been born in noble families (abhijata). Kautilya rejected Pisunas proposal to select officials of the state from a transregional cadre of experts. Kautilya was far more demanding than the other thinkers.
The other traits expected are: amenability to being restrained by the ruler, having been trained in constructive work, having good observation, thinking before acting, perseverance, dexterity, eloquence in reporting events, and logical thinking as indicated in rebuttal and repartees, confident exposition of ideas, enthusiasm, ability to influence others, ability to bear adversities, uprightness, friendliness, firm loyalty, good morals (shilam), physical strength, good health, not being fickle, amiability and being without animosities.
Kautilya had arrived at this list of essential traits after taking into account the expectations and experiences of the scholars and statesmen cited by him and after examining their merits and demerits.
Rajavrtti: Official Duties of the King
Distribution of duties: pratyaksha, paroksha, anumeya
Kautilya classifies the duties of the king as direct (pratyaksha), indirect (paroksha) and inferential (anumeya) (1-9-5).
The departments that the king directly looked after, like the institution of spies and foreign affairs, were covered by the first (pratyaksha).
Some other departments were under his charge but others supervised the official work in those departments on his behalf. He could not observe directly what was happening in different and distant areas because the work was being carried out simultaneously in many places. These were covered by the term, paroksha. It was a mega-state.
The works under the paroksha category were assigned to the amatyas. They were not answerable to the local authorities. They reported directly to the king.
Framing an estimate of what is yet to be done from knowledge of what has been done is inferential (anumeya). The work yet to be done is estimated before the budget is prepared. This was under the jurisdiction of the cabinet ministers, mantris. The king headed the cabinet.
The Kautilyan King vis--vis the Cabinet of Ministers
Many modern scholars have failed to present the above distribution of powers correctly. The ministers (mantris) had no jurisdiction over the departments directly under the king (pratyaksha) or those administered on his behalf by selected amatyas (paroksha).
The cabinet could not interfere in the work of the king and his secretariat and the king could not start any work without its sanction.
It is academically unsound and inadvisable to presume that ancient India of the Mahabharata times lacked such rational administration.
Some of the talented amatyas were appointed as ministers (mantris). The amatyas were executives and were directly under the king as the head of the executive. He was not a mere presiding officer. But he was not all-powerful. He had to listen to and abide by the counsel given by his cabinet of ministers.
The Prime Minister was not the head of the executive. Ministers were not executives.
Rajapurohita--Political Counsellor---Not a religious post
The Rajapurohita ranked higher than the ministers (mantris) and was almost equal to the King, Raja.
The affairs of the state that were not looked after directly by the king or by the amatyas on his behalf or by the ministers (independently) were entrusted by the Rajarshi constitution to the Rajapurohita. These were highly delicate issues. These too were affairs of the state. The ministers (mantris) and the amatyas could not be associated with them.
The Rajapurohita was a high constitutional authority even as the Rajarshi was. He too was a secular authority like the Rajarshi. He cannot be equated with the archbishops and cardinals of the Christian states of the medieval times.
The Hindu State has never been a theocratic state, not even under Asoka who promoted Buddhism.
A correct perspective of the various stages of the evolution of the social polity of Ancient India is essential if we have to arrive at a proper appraisal of the status and role of the Rajapurohita.
Rajapurohita, an expert in Atharvaveda and Dandaniti
In the Manava system of polity the Rajapurohita was given a status in between the chief of the people (Prajapati) and the head of the civil administration (Brhaspati). (By Manava system we mean the system advocated by Pracetas Manu in his Arthasastra.)
He had to be an expert not only in the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama and in their subsidiaries but also in the Atharvaveda.
Only one belonging to a noble family and of good character and was well versed in all the four Vedas could be appointed as Rajapurohita (1-9-9). An expert in Atharvaveda (Brahma) was known as a Brahmavadi. [The socio-political constitution of the Vedic times was incorporated in the Atharvaveda.] He was not necessarily of the social class known as Brahmana varna.
The Rajapurohita had to be an expert in the science of political policy, Dandaniti also. This post had nothing to do with religion. India did not have a state religion until some Muslim rulers introduced Islam as such. The Rajapurohita was not a representative of any creed. It was not necessary that he should be a deist. Jabali, a counsellor of Dasaratha, was closer to the Charvakas who were alleged to be atheists and hedonists.
While the amatyas dealt with the affairs of the commoners (manushyas), they could not discuss policies pertaining to the nobles (devas). The latter were beyond the purview of the civil state (even as the Lords Temporal were, before the Reformation in Europe).
The nobles got this exemption by virtue of the Indra-Brhaspati agreement. By this agreement, the nobles gave up their powers to override the decisions of the civil administration and the voice of the commoners came to be heard.
The King had to be recognized by the two officials, Indra and Brhaspati. They represented the aristocracy (divam) and the commonalty (prthvi). By this agreement, the commoners would respect the wealth, status and rights and immunities of the nobles and the former would be free to govern themselves. All Dasas serving the nobles, Devas, would become free citizens, Aryas. Even lands were given to such Aryas. It marked the end of feudalism.
Rajapurohita as Liaison-Officer
When the posts of Indra and Brhaspati ceased to be the norm and the Manava Dharmasastra system of eight ministers became common and popular, the Rajapurohita was the officer who provided liaison between the civil state, headed by the Rajan, now hailing from the commoners and the traditional patriciate, devas. When
the kings were no longer selected from among the nobles, they had no direct access to the latter. Many of the kings were not even Kshatriyas. The Rajapurohita was expected to infer the intents of the nobles, devas. [Daiva-nimitta meant the intent of the noble and not omens or portents of divine pleasure.]
These Purohitas (they were not priests) had access to the nobles and were of crucial importance to the new monarchical structure, which could not afford to overlook the expectations of the nobles, to whom the families of the commoners felt eternally grateful.
For, many members of these families had been earlier serving the nobles as Dasas and had been freed from their bonds of debt, Rnamukti, and discharged from their services and even helped to establish themselves as independent landlords. It was a peaceful social change effected at the height of the conflict between the liberal nobles (devas) and the feudal lords (asuras). The new monarchical states could not ignore these nobles, for otherwise the commoners would get disturbed and feel insecure. They still expected material and monetary aid from their erstwhile employers and masters, the nobles.
Rajapurohita and Disaster Control
Another field where the experience and expertise of Rajapurohitas was drawn upon was disaster control. They were experts in Atharvaveda, which contained suggestions for remedial actions against calamities caused by or traced to shortcomings in the actions of the nobles (devas) or the commoners (manushyas). The expression, deva-manusha is not to be interpreted as divine vis-a-vis human. The Rajapurohita was not a wizard or a magician or a shaman. A gross misconception about the contents of the Atharvaveda has led to such wrong presentation.
The Rajapurohitas were scholars, academicians and ideologues, Brahmavadis, presiding over the Department of Research, Trends, Policy and Remedial Action or Disaster Control. They were distinct from Rajagurus or Acharyas who were professional teachers guiding the ruler on the codes, Dharmasastra and Arthasastra.
The sweep of the study specialized in by the Rajapurohita was wider than that of the Amatyas and Mantris who were specialists in their respective fields of administration.
The Rajapurohitas were independent socio-political thinkers and activists with foresight and were not executives like the amatyas or mere counsellors like the mantris. They were not priests.
Rajapurohita: A Constitutional Authority
The king was directed to follow (unquestioningly) the directions given by the Rajapurohita, even as a student follows his teacher, a son his father and a servant his master (svami) (AS.1-9-10). This provision of the Rajarshi constitution restricted the powers of the king as a sovereign. The Rajarshi was held in check by this higher constitutional authority. But as some events have shown, even the Rajapurohita was not infallible.
The Rajapurohita could not claim the status of Prajapati (chief of the people) who represented the will of the entire nation (rashtram), of the elite as well as the masses.
Unlike Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu and Wolsey, the Rajapurohita was not an extra-constitutional power-centre. He was not the representative of any ecclesiastical order. His was a secular post even as that of the Rajarshi was.
Rajadharma vis--vis Dandaniti
It may be noted here that according to Manusmrti (11-33), Dharma, the politically and constitutionally correct conduct, as laid down by Angirasa and Atharvacharya, the chief editors of Atharvaveda, was superior to Danda, the coercive power of the king as described and provided for in Dandaniti.
The socio-political constitution provided in Atharvaveda was superior to the political code, Dandaniti. Rajadharma as implicit in the Atharvaveda placed restrictions on the exercise of coercive power by the king. The king had to be from among the Kshatriyas and the Rajapurohita had to be an expert in Atharvaveda, the constitution.
The prince was required and expected to receive training in the academy headed by the Rajapurohita. This was a constitutional requirement. Such a trained king having also the benefit of the counsel of ministers (who also are similarly trained but not necessarily under the same teacher) should adhere to the codes (Sastras on Dharma and Artha). He can then win and remain invincible, Kautilya says (1-9-11). It is not sound to interpret this as an axis between despots and priests.
Rajapurohita and the Council of Ministers: Mantriparishad
It was obligatory for the king to have acquired the prescribed academic qualifications including training in Nitisastra, Policy Science, and so too it was for the ministers. The king was not to be one excelling only in aggressiveness, rajas.
A constitution, which fails to provide such high qualifications for the head of the state and for the members of the executive, cannot be said to have provided a government for the people. It does not deserve respect.
The king was required to constitute a cabinet of ministers and adhere to its counsel and work within the framework of the constitution. He had no discretionary powers with respect to the counsel given.
Kautilya outlawed autocracy. Lest the king should appoint only his yes-men as ministers, the procedure for selection of amatyas and ministers and the formation of the council of ministers had to be incorporated in the constitution of the state. The king's pleasure was not enough.
In the Rajarshi constitution, the Rajapurohita had a voice in the selection of ministers.
Only in the case of the king, the head of the state, it was insisted that the candidate selected should be a Kshatriya, a trained warrior. He should be preferably from a clan of warriors, for he was commander-in-chief and had to personally lead the army in war. This barred the appointment of Brahmans, Vaisyas, Shudras and persons from mixed classes as kings. But they could be appointed as amatyas (secretaries of state) and (mantris) ministers.
Manava Dharmasastra had accepted the pattern of a cabinet of eight ministers representing the eight large sections of the population of the integrated society. It however did not state from which social class, varna, these ministers should be drawn. It followed the pattern that was in vogue before the four-varna system was introduced.
Some states which followed Bhishma's suggestion had a larger council of ministers, 4 Brahmans who were versed in the four Vedas, 8 Kshatriyas to represent the army and the administrative machinery, 18 Vaisyas who represented the populace, which had property and were engaged in agriculture, pasture and trade and 3 Shudras representing the working class. (It appears that out of 21 members selected from the commonalty, vis, 18 headed the bureaus and were Vaisyas while 3 were from the workers.)
In this normative pattern of a large council of ministers of the economic state, landlords and traders had a dominating position.
Earlier the commonalty had not been divided into two classes, Vaisyas and Shudras, and the total number of ministers was 33 of which 4 four belonged to the judiciary, 8 to the executive and 21 to the commonalty, to Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vis respectively. This was an adaptation of the Vedic pattern of thirtythree nobles (devas) governing the commonalty (manushyas).
Strength of the Ministry
Bhishma increased the representation of Kshatriyas from 8 to 18 and placed the 18 bureaus under them. His was a political state rather than an economic state. None of the above states was a theocratic state dominated by the religious orders. Kautilyan Arthasastra does not specify varna or class composition or prescribe the strength of the ministry.
The school of Pracetas Manu (author of an Arthasastra text), referred to as Manavas, recommended a cabinet of 12 ministers.
The school of Brhaspati suggested a cabinet of 16 ministers and the school of Usanas a larger cabinet of 24.
Kautilya allowed the king freedom to determine the strength of the ministry. A larger state would require a larger cabinet. But the larger council of ministers would have met only for specific purposes.
The four-point purity test and selection of officials
The King, the Rajapurohita and three or four ministers formed a Board for selection of amatyas from among those who had passed the 24-point test. The eligible candidates were subjected to a 4-point purity test.
The candidates who passed the piety (dharma) test were to be appointed as Dharmasthas, officers of the judiciary. They were in charge of investigation of crimes and removal of thorns, anti-social elements. They were also in charge of public institutions like temples, orphanages and rest houses.
The candidates who passed the economy (artha) test were appointed as officials under the Samaharta and the Sannidhata, the two powerful ministers in charge of Internal Revenue and Treasury respectively. They had the rank of adhyakshas, heads of bureaus (tirthas).
The candidates who passed the lust (kama) test were placed in charge of recreation centres (vihars) in the rural hinterland (bahya) and in the interior centres of production (abhyantara).
The candidates who passed the fear (bhaya) test were appointed to posts close to the king as security officers or as envoys.
All the above four services belonged to the amatya cadre. It had three levels, lower, middle and higher.
The judiciary did not enjoy a special position. It was not superior to the other cadres of the bureaucracy engaged in supervising economic activities or organizing cultural activities or ensuring the security of the state.
Selection of Cabinet Ministers by a Three-member Board
Only those candidates who had passed all the four tests, dharma, artha, kama and bhaya, could be appointed as cabinet ministers. They were expected to be pious and incorruptible, free from lust, competent, fearless, brave and loyal. They had to be from respectable families, which were native to the janapada. They could not be foreigners by birth.
Selection and testing of officials and secretaries of the state (amatyas) including officers of the judiciary (dharmasthas) for elevation to the posts of ministers (mantris) was done by a smaller board of three members, the King, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister. To be precise, Dharmasthas were executive magistrates rather than independent judges.
The King could not become an autocrat. Nor was he a powerless, ornamental head of the state.
Unlike the earlier Rajarshi who was essentially a counsellor and not an executive, the Kautilyan King was an executive guided by the Rajapurohita on delicate issues and by the ministers (mantris) on other issues. However he could not overrule them. The Kautilyan King was more pragmatic and less idealistic than the earlier Rajarshi.
The amatyas, officials, who failed the four-point test, were sent to the mines and remote areas (1-10-15). These areas were not hospitable. Inefficient persons were not recruited to the bureaucracy. But not all amatyas were honest.
Formation of Non-partisan Bureaucracy and Cabinet
Kautilya did not favour regimentation of thought and ideological obstinacy. The officials and ministers were not all from the same school of thought. Merit alone determined the choice of candidates as amatyas and their later elevation as ministers. This provision could not be set aside by the King or by the Rajapurohita.
There could be no partisanship in the formation of cabinets or of the bureaucracy. The cabinet too was impersonal and non-partisan.
Kautilya knew that correct decisions could be arrived at only after weighing the merits and demerits of the different points of view and adopting Samkhya dialectics for this purpose.
The king used the intelligence bureaus and the secret agents to consolidate his position. These bureaus were statutory bodies and could not be used for any non-constitutional purpose.
They were provided for by the constitution to protect the state against subversion and to enable the king to assess public opinion and mobilize support for his measures and run a responsible and responsive government. It was not a reign through open or secret terror.
Kautilya called for abandoning the tendency to gather information through channels other than the ones that were so structured by the constitution as to provide objective and complete intelligence before proceeding on a project. He also warned against badly structured agencies and against dependence on personal surmises including intuition.
The constitution required that the king should first secure the support of his own party (svapaksha) and that of others (parapaksha) before he planned to embark on a work (karya) (1-15-1). This was a significant directive.
He was not permitted to rule without assistants. He could not become an autocrat. Whether he had been elected by a college of Rajanyas or by the taxpayers directly or had been nominated by his father as his successor, the king was the leader only of one of the groups in his country. He did not represent the entire nation.
The king had his rivals inside that group and opponents outside it. He had to first overcome this rivalry and opposition even if he had a popular mandate on account of his charisma. He had to establish that his was a government of all the people.
They had not elected him to head a one-party government or a minority government or even a majority government and certainly not an autocracy. All these types of government are distortions of democracy which requires a government of all the people for all the people by an executive that is non-partisan and reflects the interests and views of all sectors.
Rajan and Svami, Legitimacy Traditional and Charismatic
The king was not the state. As an anointed king (Rajan) or as the charismatic leader of the society (Svami) he was the head of only one of the seven units of the state. He was not the head of the other six state structures (prakrtis or angas) (amatyam, janapada, pura, kosha, sena and mitra, bureaucracy, rural administration, urban corporation, treasury, army and department of foreign relations). The Janapada administration was controlled by the Samaharta, the Treasury by the Sannidhata the fortified City by the Nagarika and the Army by the Senapati. Amatyam, the central executive, was under the control of the Mantriparishad, the council of ministers.
In the Kautilyan scheme, the unit, Rajan, included the King, the Rajapurohita, the cabinet ministers, the institution of chakshus, observers (intelligence agencies), department of envoys, the crown prince and other princes and the queens.
In the state headed by a Svami, the princes and the queens could not feature in this unit.
The unit, Rajan, included all the members of the Electoral College of Rajanyas, giving the impression that it was a rivalry-ridden oligarchy rather than direct charismatic democracy.
Governance by Consensus
The Svami had no pretensions to traditional legitimacy. He was a charismatic leader and he too was required to gather the support of all groups in the social polity before embarking on any project. He had to ensure unanimous support by the leaders of all parties. It was not only a practical necessity but also a constitutional requisite. The departments of Intelligence, Vigilance and Propaganda were used to secure unanimous support for the project. Election or selection or nomination did not give the ruler the right to execute any work as he pleased.
He could not overrule the bureaucracy and the paura-janapada assemblies. (Paura-janapada assemblies were successors to sabhas and samitis of the Vedic times.) The native people (Vis, Jana) were sovereign.
Autocracy is illegitimate. Even rule by the majority is not legitimate. Only governance with the consent of all is legitimate.
The Arthasastra recognizes the presence of several interest groups and grants them freedom of thought, expression and action. It does not accept governance by one party, even as it does not allow rule by one individual. Arthasastra visualizes governance by consensus.
Deliberations and Consultations
All undertakings should be preceded by discussions among and deliberations by ministers. The ministry could not be bypassed (1-15-2).
It was not to be asked to only ratify the action taken by the king or his agent. The king might overrule it only at his own risk. He could not ignore it. He could not commence any new project until a ministry was formed and its consent taken.
Of course, the executive could continue to complete the earlier projects. He could not modify these projects agreed to nor stop them. He could not embark on conquests.
All these are implied in the terse formula, mantra purva sarva arambha. But such consultations had to be in complete secrecy (1-15-3). No unauthorized person should be present at the cabinet meetings. Any one who was found divulging secret counsel was liable to be exterminated (1-15-6).
The issue of secrecy of counsel led to an interesting discussion among the leading political thinkers. They had to consider the size and functions of the cabinet committees.
Bharadvaja for a government by bureaucracy: No Cabinet
Bharadvaja held that as every minister had his personal counsellor, no project could be kept secret after discussions. He would hence suggest that the king deliberate alone. He dispensed with the small cabinet of counsellors (mantris). Consultations with ministers should not be mandatory, Bharadvaja held. Only those who were required to execute the work should be informed and that too when it was about to be begun (AS.1-15-13 to 15).
His king kept several plans close to his chest and was not candid. Bharata constitution was not as democratic as that of Prthu's.
Bharata was controller of all and his rule was guided by the policy advocated by Rshabha which was accused of envisaging a totalitarian state.
He distrusted the cabinet (of ministers), as it was not a responsible executive body. He preferred a government by amatyas (secretaries of state), ayuktas (commissioners appointed for specific duties) and sachivas (office secretaries) who were all executives. It is a misnomer to describe the ministry as the executive of the state. The bureaucracy run by amatyas, ayuktas and sachivas is the real executive.
VIsalaksha for large consultative recommendatory Body
Visalaksha, the liberal thinker with an aristocratic temper, points out that the duties of the king are of three types, pratyaksha, paroksha and anumeya. Of these the first two were executive duties and were carried out with the assistance of sachivas, amatyas and other officials.
The cabinet was concerned with the new proposals that fell under the category, inferential (anumeya). It needed the advice of the elderly intellectuals. Only experienced and senior executives, amatyas could be promoted as ministers, mantris.
All should be consulted for even youngsters might give valuable suggestions. He recommends a large consultative body concerned with plans for the future.
Its suggestions would however be only recommendatory and not mandatory for the king to follow.
With the sabha and the samiti in position, there was no need to have a separate ministry.
Discussions in the house of nobles were confidential. But the samiti of intellectuals and elders was open to all (19 to 22).
Badarayana for secrecy of counsel: Mandatory
Badarayana and his colleagues, the school of Parasaras, were sore that Visalaksha had brushed aside the issue of guarding the confidentiality (rajaguhyam) of the counsel given by the ministers (mantrarakshanam) to the king and was projecting how valuable advice could be acquired as counsel (mantrajnanam) through wide consultations.
The Parasaras opted for a consultative committee deliberating on hypothetical steps rather than on the actual projects (which were being kept away from sight). They made it obligatory for the king to act according to the advice given by that committee.
This would meet both objectives, mantrajnanam and mantrarakshanam (acquisition of counsel and confidentiality of counsel), they felt (23,24).
Pisuna for full Cabinet Discussions and Mandatory Decisions
Pisuna objected to hypothetical steps and wanted the actual projects to be deliberated by the cabinet committee so that counsel could be fruitful (mantrasiddhi) and also remain confidential. Pisuna made its decisions binding on the king. The cabinet would plan and decide what to be done and how. The king had to get them executed (30,31).
Kautilya modifies Pisuna's suggestions: No fixed Cabinet
Kautilya accepted Pisuna's stand but with certain amendments. There would be only ad hoc committees of cabinet ministers and no fixed cabinet. He sets aside the convention by which the king was guided (or controlled) by a cabinet of eight ministers. Each project would be considered by a committee comprising the king and the ministers concerned.
Kautilya however outlaws autocracy. Ministers are necessary and consultations with them are mandatory. The king should consult at least three ministers to be able to avoid collision as well as collusion between ministers. He shall not act alone (33, 34, 35).
Elected Svami and Nominated Counsellors
Kautilyas Prime Minister was only the most senior of the ministers. He had no special powers. The King was indeed a svami who had charismatic appeal and was a leader with personal lands and was not bound to any organization. The Svami was elected as ruler, directly by the taxpayers while the Prime Minister and other ministers were persons promoted from the cadre of amatyas who were bureaucrats.
The cabinet committee would represent different points of view. All the members would rarely unite against the king. If they did so it would amount to a great fault (mahadosham), a political calamity (39). He will have to go.
Kautilya was for government by checks. Kautilya's was a multiparty government (to use modern terminology and concept).
A cabinet should not become a cabal or a caucus overriding the head of the state, the only authority with a popular mandate. [The stereotype that hereditary monarchy was the norm needs to be discarded.]
The ministers had not been elected to rule. They had been nominated to advise the king.
A very large cabinet cannot be expected to arrive at a conclusion and to maintain secrecy of deliberations (40).
Kautilya's was a mega-state with many janapadas and with eighteen bureaus under amatyas and some directly under the king and with a separate judiciary. The latter too was an executive body and its members could be promoted to the cabinet of ministers.
Dharmasthas were on par with amatyas but their work could not be supervised by the cabinet.
The constitution should not be too rigid. The king as the head of the state and its executive needs powers to deal with an emergency but these should not be used to defeat the purpose of the constitution or its spirit. Kautilya protects the authority of the king but does not allow him to become an autocrat.
Kautilya and the other six statesmen, Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Badarayana (a Parasara), Pisuna, Bhishma (Kaunapadanta) and Uddhava (Vatavyadhi) were discussing the provisions of a constitution that would enable the success of democracy.
The king was the only authority with a popular mandate and he should not become a powerless presiding officer at the mercy of his shrewd ministers.
Thorough Consultations and Rational Planning: Artha-Yoga
Consultations with ministers have to be on specific issues. They are asked to give their views on (a) the means to be adopted for commencing the work; (b) the human and material resources needed to complete it; (c) when and where to execute the work; (d) remedial steps to be taken in case of mishaps; and (e) when the work shall be deemed to have been completed.
Kautilya was more thorough as an economic planner, than Pisuna was. It was total and rational planning for he applied the principles of samkhya dialectics to determine what could be deemed to be meaningful economic exercise (artha-yoga).
Cabinet as the Planning Council and Executive of Experts
Kautilya was not satisfied with merely securing endorsement of the cabinet committee for the pious (dharma) objectives of the king.
The cabinet had to prepare and sanction the budget and raise and make available the funds needed for the execution of the projects approved.
It was mandatory for every member of the committee to express his opinion on the proposal with reasons (not merely voting for or against) and for the committee as a whole to give its collective opinion with reasons (even as a bench of the judiciary does).
The members of the cabinet were experts trained in samkhya and yoga even as the Rajarshi was. Kautilya's was not a government dominated by crude and uneducated warlords. Kautilya was against suppression of dissidence. He respected the democratic spirit of Visalaksha.
Constitution to fix powers and duties of individual Ministers
But he did not allow dilatory tactics. The deliberations should be quick and thorough and be gone through before the commencement of the work. The ministers could not take things lightly (1-15-46). Kautilya wanted the powers and duties of the ministers to be specified in the constitution.
None could escape under the cover of collective responsibility. None was exempt or immune, not even the king. [Vena had been impeached and burnt to death. His successor, Prthu, an agriculturist chieftain, was required to function under a new constitution approved by Manu Vaivasvata and his council of seven sages.]
The king headed an impersonal government. The ministers were not political chieftains. They were experts in their respective fields. They had controlled the bureaucracy from within. They arose from within that bureaucracy through sheer merit, hard work and wide experience to become members of the highest planning council and executive of their state.
Duties of the non-partisan council of ministers
The Kautilyan constitution directs that the council of ministers shall consider the views of the kings supporters (svapaksha) and those of others (parapaksha) (51).
The state has to be non-partisan. [Majority rule is not what is meant by democracy.]
The ministry shall (a) cause to be initiated what has not yet been done and (b) get executed what has already been begun. It shall (c) improve what has already been done and (d) supervise the excellence of the works already undertaken (52).
It is not enough to have a social welfare state. The state has to be committed to and be capable of ensuring the economic progress of the society.
The Kautilyan council of ministers has to supervise the work of the executive and ensure that the projects approved by it or by its predecessors are completed.
The council of ministers has to keep the king in check and the executive on its toes. The state is a continuing entity, though governments are temporary. Successor governments cannot retract on projects commenced by their predecessors.
Every successor government shall endeavour to be seen as a better executive than the previous one and not as one who merely 'demolishes' what its predecessor has done.
[Bali's successors had an onerous task for he was very popular though his government was overthrown for distorting the constitution. The distortions had to be corrected by his successor government.]
Work of the Cabinet Committees
Every project is preceded by deliberations at the meetings of duly formed committees. It cannot be a partisan project.
These were ad hoc committees and not standing executive committees.
They only prepared the budget, outlined the details and showed how to mobilize the resources needed. The plan was placed before the council of ministers, Mantriparishad, and the latter got it executed by the bureaucracy headed by the amatyas.
The king as the head of the executive shall have the power to inspect the works under progress (53). No minister could interfere in the work of another minister.
The king had to correspond with the officials not present at the project site before giving directions for corrective measures deemed necessary by him (54).
The king, the head of the state, was not a non-entity with respect to the functioning of the bureaucracy. Experts manned the bureaucracy and it gave stability to the state. It checked the waywardness of the king and his cronies. It had to be treated with respect even as it had to treat the king with respect.
Hindu State was far more advanced and rational than stereotypes have made it out to be. It was definitely not in favour of autocracy.
Recommendations of Bahudantakam
Bahudantakam, the politico-economic code outlined by an Indra (who was the son of Bahudanti, the lady with prominent teeth), made it obligatory for the ruler to have a large council of scholars and accept its opinions.
This council had about a thousand members who were observers, Chakshus, gathering data for the perusal of the king and his ministers. [This was similar to the one suggested by Visalaksha who too was an author of a political treatise. Visalaksha was a champion of the liberal Kshatriya aristocracy.]
But in fact the ruler followed the recommendations of his two eyes. The recommendations of the large samiti had no mandatory force. But the observations and reports, which the two ministers in charge of the economy, Samaharta and Sannidhata, submitted were more valuable, Indra held. These could not be bypassed. This Indra was the tutor of Mamdhata, the veteran of the solar dynasty.
Kautilya had his reservations on this suggestion. The two ministers often complained against each other and the King had to support the Sannidhata who was in charge of the central treasury against Samaharta, the minister for internal revenue, who was found to often fail in his duty and thereby cause loss to the exchequer.
The constitution provided for an academy of scholars to formulate policies and to assess public opinion and trends.
But its recommendations were not binding on the king.
Kautilya did not discard the traditional council of sages, samiti, and he could not wind up the house of nobles (sabha). Kautilya's Institution of Spies, Chakshus, was in fact a modified version of the council of scholars (samiti). But it became infamous as many kings misused it to secure power and personal wealth.
On important issues the king had to convene a meeting of cabinet ministers and the larger council of ministers (AS.1-15-58). This council might have more than 24 members (allowed by Usanas) heading the different bureaus, the independent ones and those directly under the king.
There was a four-tier set-up: small ad hoc cabinet committees; cabinet ministers who were not heads of bureaus; council of ministers including the amatyas who were heads of bureaus; and academy of scholars.
The academy was convened to get general guidance, assess public response and expectations. The council of ministers had to lay down policies and the king had to abide by the opinion of the majority of this council. It was like an assembly sanctioning budgets. But it could not introduce new laws. It was called in for deliberating on important issues like war, revolt and calamities. But it could not declare war.
Cabinet decisions had to be unanimous. It too had experts who might hold divergent views. They were called in for crystallizing and execution of important plans. The small ad hoc committees dealt with immediate issues and those on which there were no controversies. The king had little leeway. He had to function within this framework.
Independence of the Council of Ministers
A project once sanctioned by the council of ministers and commenced by the executive could not be called off by any subsequent resolution of the council. But if it failed to give a direction at a moment of crisis, the king could act independently (59).
The king was responsible for maintenance of secrecy of deliberations and for the security of the state (60).
The ministers reserved the right not to give any opinion, if in their view the incumbent king did not deserve to be a ruler (61). The refusal of the experts to give an opinion indicated lack of confidence in him. Silence meant an emphatic no.
The council of ministers was not constituted at the king's pleasure and he could not dissolve it. Its refusal to endorse his proposal meant that he had to step down or be thrown out.
There is no rational legitimacy for the continuance in power of a king who does not enjoy the support of his council of ministers, which is a continuing entity of non-partisan experts, though the people might have elected him because of his charisma.
Hereditary monarchy was not the norm. It rarely survived two or three generations and when it did so it was because it was backed by the charisma of its incumbents. Hereditary monarchy was not as widely prevalent as presumed by modern Indologists. This leads to the issue of selection of the successor.
Choice of Successor: Need for Rational Legitimacy
However charismatic a king was and however strong his claim to traditional legitimacy was, the king had to function within the bounds prescribed by the constitution, as Rajamaryada. It was a corollary to his official duties, Rajavrtti. The king was not divine. He was not almighty. He was not always able to determine who his successor should be and when he should take over. Interregnum was not rare. The king was not the state. The bureaucracy and the ministry continued to function even during the interregnum.
The king needed rational legitimacy to stay in power though personal charisma got him the throne or his fathers did. Neither hereditary monarchy nor the law of primogeniture was common. Traditional legitimacy was weak and could not be pressed forcefully in the absence of personal charisma.
Victory in war did not grant legitimacy to the rule by the conqueror. Countries and thrones could not be sold or surrendered. Most modern Indologists have failed to recognize this feature of ancient Indian polity.
Safety of the ruler and the rebellious princes
Bharadvaja was against institutionalizing hereditary monarchy, a malignant growth in the body politic. He wanted the janakas to be elected directly by the sons of the soil, the native population, jana, who were mostly agriculturists (1-17-5).
He would exterminate the ambitious rebellious princes even before the king intervened. The political counsellor, Rajapurohita, of Chakravarti Bharata, argued that needs of the state should have precedence over filial bond.
But Visalaksha, teacher of Bharata's mother, warned against the extinction of the Kshatriya seed that Bharadvajas move was leading to (1--17-8). Visalaksha would rather intern the rebellious prince.
Varuna was the ombudsman and also the officer in charge of the prison during the Vedic times. But Parasara cautioned that this handing over of the prince to the custody of Varuna, the ombudsman who took over the reins of the country during the interregnum, might result in the overthrow of the king in a coup and scuttle the smooth transfer of power to the elected successor. He would send the rebellious prince away to the fort of the governor of the frontier region (antapala) (1-17-11).
[This scholar must have endorsed the banishment of the Pandavas (sons of Pandu) to the forest garrison. An attempt was made by their rivals to burn them with that building but with the help of their uncle, Vidura, the Pandavas escaped. Only later did Dvaipayana learn of their escape and their presence in the abode of the Saligrama sage in the no-mans land.]
Pisuna would send away the rebellious prince to be restrained by a distant and subordinate ally (samanta) of the ruler (1-17-14). Pisuna himself had been sent away by Bharata to Sindhudvipa with such a rebel. Pisuna had been the finance minister of Dushyanta, father of Bharata.
Bhishma (Kaunapadanta) would send that prince to his maternal uncles (1-17-17). [Dasaratha of Kosala sent away his son, Bharata, to his uncle in Kekaya.]
Uddhava (Vatavyadhi) would advise against this move, as his uncles would espouse that princes claims and hamper the selection of a proper successor. He would allow the rebellious prince to dissipate himself in lowly pleasures (1-17-21).
Kautilya for Positive Training for the Successor
This crude alternative appalled Kautilya. He objected to casting the prince to living death (1-17-22).
Kautilya was for a positive training for princes and for all officials. The prince is to be placed under the care of the Rajapurohita from his birth. The Ambhiyas (the school in which Bhishma was trained) recommended a dual policy. They would allow the prince to come in contact with both virtues and vices and choose by himself between good and evil. Kautilya objected to exposing one deliberately to evils and wanted training be given only in dharma and artha and not exposure to adharma and anartha, immorality and economic ruin (1-17-33).
He rejected the approach of Bharadvaja and amended that of Visalaksha. Many princes revolted against their fathers and usurped the throne. Even if the rebellious prince is the only son, he must be imprisoned (1-17-41).
If a prince has noble traits, he may be appointed as a general or as a crown prince. These were posts provided for in the constitution. They carried respect and also duties and powers. They were political assignments and had constitutional import. The king had to share with them some of his powers (43).
Three Types of Princes
Kautilya distinguishes three types of princes among his trainees. Some were wise and some could be made wise and some had evil intent. [Samkhya dialectics opted for trilateral analysis rather than for simplistic dichotomy.] By the term, buddhiman, Kautilya meant those who would under all circumstances adhere to what was being taught as the socio-cultural and politico-economic codes, Dharmasastra and Arthasastra. Some do not always adhere to these and they can be made to adhere to them. They can be brought back when they stray from the right path. Those of the third type are always harmful. They are essentially after low pleasures and are hedonists (1-17-46). The people should get at least the second best as their ruler.
The Functions of the Three-member Selection Board
The incumbent king, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister formed a board of three members, which selected the successor from among the princes and other eligible candidates. [Vide Hastinapura Tangles in Vol.3. Hindu Social Dynamics]
A minister too could take over as the King if the Board decided so.
There is no absolute (so-called divine) right to inherit the throne. Only if a son was assessed to be suitable, he would be allowed to head the state (or the family) after his father's death or retirement.
The law of primogeniture was not in force even in the ordinary family. It is academically unsound to hold every attempt by a minister or by the general or by a subordinate ruler or fief to take over power as an attempt at usurping the throne or to describe any prince other than the eldest as a pretender. It is necessary to examine whether the successor had the necessary rational legitimacy under the conventions laid down in the constitutions of ancient India.
Kautilya's solution tried to avoid interregnum, which was a nightmare to the people. One who was duly appointed as crown prince would succeed on the kings death or retirement. The crown prince was not necessarily a son or a brother of the incumbent king.
The academicians who were in charge of training of the candidates would have rejected the undesirable ones and recommended a small panel from which the Crown Prince would be selected. The Board of three members could consider not only the then incumbents sons but also his brothers and their sons who too had undergone this training and also any commoner who had been trained.
The king-to-be would not be elected by his peers or directly by those who paid taxes but would be selected from this panel of trained candidates after receiving the recommendations of the head of the state academy.
The institution of Chakshus (spies, in common parlance) had a role to play in preparing confidential reports about the candidates. Election by peers resulted in violent struggles and disturbance of law and order.
Election by the masses or by the taxpayers demanded charisma or economic means which both did not guarantee that the candidate elected would be competent to lead the country.
Hereditary Monarchy and Kautilya's Recommendation
Hereditary monarchy was not prescribed but it was not debarred. It was neither mandatory nor recommended. Yet it was preferred.
If the king died without a son approved to succeed him, the queen was permitted to bear a son for him by niyoga, intercourse with a brother of the deceased or another nominated person. Or the son of his daughter could succeed. Such successor must be found suitable to be the ruler.
Kautilya did not extend this proviso to other domestic situations for succession to property or repayment of debts. Inheriting the throne was not the same as inheriting property.
The debates between Kautilya and his contemporaries rose from the political situation of their times. Kautilya recommended a better alternative in 1-17-53. The kingdom should belong to a clan, family-oligarchy, kula samgha. All the brothers (dayadas) would be joint rulers. Such samghas could not be conquered easily.
Duties of the Crown Prince and the Constitution
The constitution did not specify the duties of the Crown Prince and other princes. The king could not delegate any of his powers to them or assign them any duty as he pleased. This lacuna led to conflicts.
Kautilya recognized the need to specify their powers and duties. It meant abridging the powers of the king and assigning some of them to the Crown Prince. This led to dyarchy, governance by two almost equal authorities, dvairajyam. The evil of autocracy could be curbed by the move to get the eldest son installed as the Crown Prince.
A recalcitrant son may be exterminated or allowed to dissipate himself, Kautilya concedes but not a duteous one.
Life tenure for the king had created more problems than limited tenures that often brought in interregnum, which was near-anarchy. (1-18-14,15,16)
Stability of the State
It may be noted here that the commoners expected the members of the ruling dynasty or oligarchy to be staid and function in the interest of the subjects. But it often got embroiled in internal rivalries that threatened the sovereignty and integrity of the state.
Even selected and trained rulers could not maintain the dignity of the post of the Rajarshi. Not only young and ambitious princes but also obstinate, aged rulers who refused to step down were to be blamed for the woes of their subjects. [Vide Vol.2 and 3 of Hindu Social Dynamics for an analysis of the issues that troubled the final Vedic and early post-Vedic decades.] Thinkers like Kautilya tried to introduce structural reforms in the Rajarshi constitution to ensure continuity in administration despite the weaknesses rulers and officials suffered from and succumbed to.
Rajarshi constitution emerges as the most pragmatic and ideal constitution and mode of governance among the ancient Indian constitutions.
It was first recommended by Samkara of the Rudra School of socio-political thought and then amended by Krshna. Kautilya gave it a a definite composition which is brought out in this chapter.
As the reader peruses this account he may reflect on the constitutions of modern states including those of modern India and their shortcomings and note whether it is possible and worthwhile to make it the base for a new democracy that will usher in social stability, justice and progress.
Of course it does not unlike the neo-Vedic constitutions discussed by the Upanishads attempt to build a judiciary that would be superior to the executive and the legislature and would be subject to a higher group of veterans.
It provides a good government for the people but disregards concepts like adult franchise whose values have been found to be illusory.