HINDU STATE C
Recapitulation: Towards the Kautilyan State
Manu Vaivasvata did not dilate on who could become the head of the state and what powers he should have. The head of the state was required to take into account the views both of his supporters and of their opponents. He insisted on governance by consensus even as during the early Vedic era the assembly (sabha) and the council (samiti) had to arrive at unanimous decisions after deliberation on all issues. He brought all the three strata, aristocracy, independent middle class and the commonalty (devas, gandharvas and manushyas) under a common legal system of privileges and duties. Egalitarianism characterized this move.
The neo-Vedic state was not a small one headed by an aggressive chieftain designated as rajan and elected by his peers who too like him were aggressive. It also departed from the system of a federation of five states, the capital and four janapadas around it headed by a Viraj. This head of the Vedic federal state was expected to penetrate into areas (not to conquer and annex them or colonize them but to externalize the innate trait of aggressiveness) beyond this federation allowing the city and the four janapadas to govern themselves through the paura-janapada system. He was assisted by the chef of the people, Prajapati who admitted new members to the privileges of free citizens, equal in status to the natives.
Yajnavalkya bypassed this system and called for an end to the practice of incursions and made the Prajapati who was elected by a council of elders the head of the steadily expanding but stable nation-state. Prajapati was assisted by Mahendra who headed the committee of five Indras, officers of the exchequer of the five constituents of the state. Prajapati headed the state and the army that was meant only for defence of the federation. He also headed the constitution (Brahma) bench and the judiciary which ensured that every citizen would get protection for his life and property.
Later the Prajapati was subordinated to Brahma, an independent officer of the judiciary heading a four-member bench though as head of the nation-state he had selected that jurist, Brahma, from the senior members of the college of jurists. This experiment was short-lived.
The house of liberal cultural aristocracy lost all powers, administrative and judicial. It survived and flourished by agreeing to induct new members for short durations as intellectual aristocrats. The concept of small independent and viable states without concentration of power in any single authority as envisaged by Mahadeva was adopted again. The ruler could not use the state funds or the state army to bolster his image as a conqueror. The janapada could be enlarged and constituted into a nation (rashtra) comprising four janapadas controlled from the capital city by a charismatic leader. If that leader was but a native (jana) of that federation and preferably an agriculturist like Prthu he was given the designation, Janaka.
During the early post-Vedic decades marked by neo-Vedic emphases the social order was found wanting in resilience. It would undo the sharp cleavage and wide gap between the small rich leisure class of nobility who owned all the lands and the vast poor and property-less uneducated working class. It was being bridged by the emergence of a stratum of intelligentsia and bourgeoisie of mainly landlords. Democratization of the aristocracy and the empowerment of everyone to own personal property, it was expected would facilitate this change. Everyone would be self-reliant and none would be serving others.
The class of common workers available for service, even as the leisure class of cultural aristocrats, feudal lords and plutocrats noted for conspicuous consumption, whom it served, would cease to be there, it was expected. But the framers of the constitution hesitated to aim at the creation of a classless society.
The constitution could by supporting the two strata of the middle class (free intellectual aristocracy and free individuals, deva-gandharvas and manushya-gandharvas) ultimately witness the withering of the two classes, the small aristocracy and the large working class and the society becoming a single large self-reliant educated class.
It would be democratized and govern itself free from a proud, ambitious and covetous ruling class, it was expected. It was also expected to provide protection for life and property by training a new judicial order and elevating it to the highest position. Social equity required that social distance was negated. This step made the head of the constitution bench, Brahma and the largely unwritten constitution (Brahma) rank superior to the head of the state and his executive whether this head was a rajan or viraj or prajapati or janaka or a svami or isvara. A dynamic charismatic talented and trained social leader, purusha, could rise from the free commonalty to occupy one of these positions as head of the state.
But the head of the judiciary had to be one who had experienced (not merely observed from a distance) life at different levels of the society, from the poorest to the richest but not belonging to any of them and thereby had been equipped to become a free man representing the wills and desires of all, a vaisvanara. Vaisvanara was a stoical, sympathetic and impartial social leader (purusha) who wanted the society and the state to meet the genuine needs of every individual at whatever economic lebel he might be. Ultimately he could become an impartial, selfless chief justice, Brahma, the highest position in social polity. Even Manu could not ignore what the vaisvanara (who had not yet occupied the seat of Brahma) recommended.
Such a chief justice who could correctly represent the cause of the entire society could however not succeed in getting his just verdict executed, as he was not a powerful head of the state and as he lacked dynamism. He was gentle, knowledgeable and simple but not awesome which the head of the state was expected and required to be. This dilemma led to the re-emergence of the feudal order with the new kings being despots brushing aside all counsel and feuding amongst themselves.
In this process social welfare activities were neglected. ‘Might is right’ became the motto of these rulers whether in intra-state affairs or in inter-state relations. Both had to be regulated, the reformist socio-political thinkers realized. Within the state, the king who was mightier than other chieftains and officials and social leaders held the plutocrats and technocrats to ransom. For the latter had to answer to the people for their excesses and deceits and not he. Like the cultural and intellectual aristocrats, the rich plutocrats and the technocrats too surrendered meekly to the despots.
As we continue outlining the features of the Hindu State that emerged before it slowly declined, it would be advantageous and even imperative to free ourselves from certain stereotypes that we have absorbed uncritically during the last three centuries. Let us not equate it with the princely states headed by non-Muslim rulers. Most of these non-Muslim princely states adopted the political structure that the stronger Muslim states had and later the one recommended by the British regents attached to their courts.
As pointed out earlier, we have to deem the pre-1000 AD states as Hindu states which had floundered while continuing the models that were available at the end of the Battle of Kurukshetra (c3100 BC according to Hindu tradition and c1440BC according to western Indologists and their docile Indian adherents). The Indian academicians of the 19th and 20th centuries had failed to trace the features of the state of the Vedic and Upanishadic eras and also that of the decades subsequent to them. ‘Passage to Hindu State’ brings out this failure and its causes. They were not scripture.
The liberal nobles, whose stratum had been pruned of the cruel amongst them, were known as devas. 19th century Indologists committed a serious error in presenting them as ‘gods’ of a polytheistic Vedic society. Devas and manushyas were not ‘gods and men’ but were liberal nobles and commoners who were settled as organized clans and communities and were the two recognized social worlds of the core agro-pastoral society. The two strata were not opposed to each other.
The vast middle class cadres who were not settled in any particular area or organized as clans and communities with distinct cultural identities were a fluid social universe. This class was expected to merge in either of the two classes, aristocracy and commonalty. But the cadres of this middle class did not want their pursuits hampered by such merger. However many of them were split on the basis of their aptitudes into two classes, intellectuals and warriors, jurists and administrators, Brahmans and Kshatriyas. Neither of them had personal property.
With the rise of this middle class, the nobles were not able to defend their position as a cultural aristocracy capable of exercising political control. The aristocracy lost its pre-eminent position with the emergence of an influential bourgeoisie having personal property and an agrarian proletariat capable of resisting economic exploitation and political domination by the rich plutocracy and technocrats. These two classes, Vaisyas and Shudras predominated in the city and rural areas respectively.
The emerging Hindu state underplayed the importance and influence of the Rajanyas (who claimed to be traditional aristocrats) as warriors. They were neither aristocrats nor warriors. Most of them were landlords, Bhojas, and belonged to the local communities. But many of them pretended to belong to the two ancient ‘royal’ lineages, Surya and Soma. These Rajanyas would have marital alliances with royal families of other regions but not with local clans. Many historians and chroniclers have been carried away by these impressive claims. These claims have only vitiated the socio-economic relations throughout the subcontinent and caused rivalries and violent conflicts among the ruling classes.
The nearly fifty small nation-states brought into existence by the end of the Vedic era had rulers, Rajans, who had come to power by routing their rival Rajanyas. They had no control over the two houses of legislature, sabha and samiti which were manned by nobles and scholars and elders. But these two houses slowly waned as decay set in in the caliber of the social leaders.
The Vedic state had no use for Rajans and functioned under the aegis of these two houses and the eight or twelve member executive drawn from the representatives of the different social sectors in the governing elite, sabha. We need to study the different constitutions of ancient India without giving Rajanyas undue importance. Attempts to give the Rajanyas who ranked between senior warriors-cum-officials and aristocrats sophisticated training in administration on par with scholars and jurists had little success.
The Rshabha constitution of the early Vedic era presented the head of the state as the first among equals who constituted the ruling elite. He was depended on by the docile commoners for protection. But he controlled all economic activities and took charge of all they produced. It was a totalitarian state where the commoners enjoyed no rights. (It was based on the concept, ‘might is right’.) They could not but obey their masters if they wanted to survive. The practice of the rajan, the head of the state being elected by his peers was allied to the Rshabha constitution.
The expressions, Bharata-Rshabha and Purusha-Rshabha had specific connotations. The former was a socio-political leader who was self-effacing but undertook the burden of governance of the state. Such position was envisaged by the first Manu, Svayambhuva who was held in esteem by Jatamuni Bharata and his successor Rshabha who was a sage and political chief. The latter refers to the conventional socio-political leader who was aggressive and domineering and also.enterprising.
The system of bicameral legislature with the chief of the people, Prajapati, convening the two bodies of sober and unselfish members took away economic power and political power from the Rajan and his team of Rajanyas and vested these in the nobles who were guided by sages and elders. The upper house of the legislature controlled the treasury and the army and the other house was in charge of the civil judiciary and the civil administration.
Indra-Agni diarchy was interested in ensuring social justice for the commoners, without diluting the status distinctions between them and the cultural aristocracy. Indra-Brhaspati diarchy ensured that the entire core society of nobles and commoners stayed unarmed and yet secure. It also promoted the interests of the rich among the commoners. It created a civil administration managed by the bourgeoisie as distinct from the central administration headed by Indra who controlled both the treasury and the army while Agni controlled the judiciary. Most of the states were functioning along one of these two systems which were against feudalism and chieftains, Rajanyas, who did not differ much from feudal warlords.
The Viraj constitution envisaged a federal system. Initially, the Viraj was like the Rshabha elected by his peers as the first among equals. This election was accompanied by violent conflicts. But later he was elected by a vast body of heads of families and their consorts, purushas and stris. This change also put severe restraints on the powers of the Viraj. He had tenure of only ten years and was required to function as advised by the chief of the people, Prajapati and the mother-figure, Aditi who looked after observance of rules of ethics by all. The two houses of legislature were in their place and a cabinet of eight executives, Adityas, functioned under her supervision.
The Viraj had neither economic power nor political power and was allowed to make intrusions on his own into areas beyond the borders of his federal state but without assistance from it. The Prajapati too could come in contact with such areas but only spread the orientations of his native society among their population and grant them the status of prajas and the rights that the natives, jana enjoyed. Both the natives and the new domiciles were entitled to protection of life and property and have personal property.
The federation of five states, the capital and the four regions round it over which the Viraj presided, had eight social sectors. None in the areas under the Viraj was denied the right to life and property. Virajam was a social polity that ensured unity without uniformity and union of units that were assured autonomy, svarajam. The federal state could not be ruled by a despot or have any particular cultural system as its value system. It was democratic and expected the two houses of legislature to arrive at unanimous decisions after deliberations on every issue.
If the Viraj was re-elected for second tenure of ten years he was recognized as a Purusha and the state would come under Purusha constitution. This constitution upheld meritocracy and efficient administration was expected to encourage social and economic progress and establish colonies in areas which had no viable states.
Only manual workers, manushyas, of the core society were settled in these distant colonies, and they were subjected to the same social and economic laws as prevailing in the core society. But unlike the core society these colonies had no cultural elite. Colonization of distant lands by the capable sections of the commonalty left only the weaker sections of the commonalty, known for anomie behind in the core society and at the mercy of its bourgeoisie. Colonization was only transplantation of workers leaving behind in the core society a bourgeoisie unassisted by an able proletariat and creating in the colonies an economically weak proletariat.
Meanwhile Mahadeva constitution helped in establishing numerous small economically viable social welfare states all over the subcontinent. The Prajapati rather than the Rajan was the most influential authority in these states. This constitution retained the two houses of legislature but deprived the nobles of control over the treasury and the army. The Rajan continued to be the head of the state but the Prajaoati was superior to him and was head of the nation as well as the state exercising political control and was superior to the army General. It needs to be noted that the king was elected by his peers while the Prajapati was the eldest among the elders. The Viraj was elected by a large body of active heads of families while the Prajapati was from among the elders who were no longer active in the field of economic activities and were only social counselors.
The activities of the Rajan were confined to the core polity and territory while the Prajapati contacted the people outside the borders of that state and influenced them to join the expanded core polity and accept its ethos and place their wealth at the disposal of that society. The Viraj, the head of the federal state, went beyond these areas too and headed a borderless state. He did not control the state administration or its economy or polity or army but was venturesome like the Purusha. Rulers defended only the populated areas in their state. Some defended only their fortified capitals.
The judiciary headed by an official designated as Agni ensured that laws were followed by all, but this judiciary had no control over the executive which was in charge of civil administration and economy. Four autonomous institutions, house of nobles, judiciary, army and bureaucracy got institutionalized and they were like the Rajan and the Rajanyas subordinate to Prajapati, the chief of the nation-state.
The Mahadeva constitution was an economic state that guaranteed food and other needs to all sectors of the population. But it did not envisage an ethnic state though most states by virtue of the policy of non-expansion were states dominated by and working for their natives, jana. The Mahadeva constitution too did not provide for a supreme court or for a chief justice. The house of nobles assisted by the chief of the people functioned as the court of appeal. It had the authority to pardon the indicted and punish those guilty of sedition. The Rajan who was allowed the claim to be the head of the state had neither power, to pardon or to punish. These powers which Indra, the head of the house of nobles enjoyed since the earliest times continued to be vested in Indra. But he was not a sovereign. He was subordinate to the Prajapati, the head of the nation-state and not to the Rajan, the ornamental head of the state. He was not superior to Aditya (the General and chief administrator) or Agni (Civil Judge) or Brhaspati (the new Chancellor of the excheqeur). These officials also were directly under the Prajapati even as the Rajan was.
Unlike the Viraj federation which had no state borders and where the pastoral people grazed their cattle in the open lands and punished the intruders, the small nation-states constituted by Mahadeva had delimited the borders which the state officials were expected to honour. They were expected to protect and administer the state with defined borders and not transgress them. These were social welfare states and their economy was dependent on the natural and human resources available in their respective territories. They were not imperial or colonial powers. They were essentially small self-governing social welfare states
Meanwhile Dandaniti of Usanas curtailed the predominant status that the aristocrats enjoyed claiming that they were not better than the feudal lords in self-aggrandizement. It announced that it protected the economic needs and interests of the commonalty and dispossessed the aristocrats, plutocrats and technocrats and struck down the rights of the different cadres of the free intelligentsia to settle down in the areas reserved for the natives. Dandaniti of Usanas in practice distorted the provisions of the Atharvan constitution and wound up the assemblies of legislators and representatives of the commoners and the academies. It made introduction of new laws impossible. It did not wind up the judiciary but ignored it. Like the Rshabha constitution it recognized the principle, ‘might is right’.
The commoners, especially the natives were assured that their cultural rights and duties, dharma, would be taken care of by the head of the state and their dependents and offspring (svajana) would be looked after by him. Whatever they saved for the future (yasa) was taken over by the state and they were allowed only what they needed to meet their current economic requirements and lead a happy domestic life. These distortions were corrected by Vamana who followed the policies laid down by his teacher, Kashyapa. Vamana took over as Upendra, deputy Chancellor of the Exchequer and as Naraprajapati, a chief of the people who did not come under the category of members of organized clans and communities of commoners or natives of the territory and were free men (naras) or were only domiciles with political rights (as prajas) but without being required to be absorbed in the local community.
But Vamana could not succeed in making the free men and women and the different cadres, who did not pursue productive economic activities acceptable to the natives who were settled clans and communities and the natives. It was left to Krshna to prevail on the natives to accept the free men who manned the bureaucracy and the army and the cadres which had value systems different from theirs. It was not easy to prevail on the sons of the soil to accept as equal to them those who were not such sons.
The neo-Vedic (Upanishadic) era witnessed the waning of the influence of the nobility, with its democratization. Aristocracy became a cadre formed from the representatives of landlords and bourgeoisie. A commoner if he had leadership traits could ascend to be on the threshold of the nobility. An aristocrat could prefer to give up his attachments to his cadre of nobility which was in fact erstwhile bourgeoisie and attach himself to the commonalty by accepting the status of a social leader, purusha. The beginning of the neo-Vedic era saw the presence of four social strata, cultural aristocracy, feudal lords, a vast free middle class and the working class of commoners. With the expelling of the feudal lords, the middle class cadres who spread cultural values gained importance.
The new Upanishadic state witnessed the presence of seven strata, working class of commoners, educated free men and women manning the army and the bureaucracy, free intelligentsia, intellectual aristocracy, born aristocrats, elite executives and select ruling group of cultural aristocrats. Above them ranked Indra who controlled the treasury and the army and headed the assembly of nobles and their eight or twelve-member executives drawn from the aristocracy. Brhaspati, an Atharvan ideologue who determined the state policy and headed the civil administration ranked above Indra. It was a major change from the Vedic tradition where Indra was superior to Brhaspati. The chief of the people, Prajapati who convened the two houses of legislature was superior to Brhaspati but Brahma, head of the judiciary who interpreted the constitution was superior to Prajapati, Bhaspati and all others.
Of interest is the stipulation that Prthu as the head of the executive, should carry out the directives given by the ideologues. They would decide what the executive should do in the interests of the people and the state. These ideologues who were Atharvan jurists interpreting the constitution would however cease to be activists. They did not belong to the ecclesiastical order. The policy-makers who were advocates of the principles of jurisprudence were not part of the executive headed by the king or superior to or subordinate to it.
Many Upanishadic sages underlined the caliber, status and role of Brahma, the Chief Justice and head of the four-member constitution bench. He was however not a dynamic social leader Purusha. He was not associated with the executive or with the legislature. They did not favour a state headed by an aggressive chieftain, Rajan whether he enjoyed hereditary legitimacy or was the head of an oligarchic group, or was a charismatic personage. Some Rajanyas were closer to cultural aristocrats and were intellectuals. They were vibhutis, influential members of the executive and claimed a status higher than that of the jurists.
A typical Vedic state was a federal setup administered by a eight-member executive of nobles looking after the interests of the eight sectors of the larger society and headed by a dynamic ruler who had the rank of Viraj. The neo-Vedic state headed by a Rajanya had twelve ministers who were social leaders looking after different social sectors. It was envisaged by Pracetas’s Arthasastra (politico-economic code). Some of these dynamic ministers had the status of Rajan. Soma, a sober intellectual and one of these twelve chiefs, had a status higher than the rest. He was the chief administrator and chief judge (maharaja and mahabrahmana). Though highly influential he remained humble and subordinate to the Rajan, the head of the state. An independent judiciary is not necessary to ensure rendering justice and administrative discipline.
In most of the setups members of the executive drawn from among different social sectors were their internal controllers or governors or leading lights and guides. They were known as purushas or lokapalas or tejasvinis or jyotis. The jyotis were superior to the rulers and the intellectuals and the cultural aristocrats. The tejasvinis were charismatic personages who even the head of the state had to honour and seek inspiration from. These guides were farsighted and led the people safely. But they too were next to the chief justice, Brahma. Brahma was however next in status to the invisible, whose features were non-manifest (avyakta) and who represented the abiding ethos of the society.
While the caliber required in a social leader, Purusha, to occupy a high position in the state could be assessed by his ability to exhibit his talent in lower positions, the one required in one to be approved as the Chief Justice was very high. He had to know the traditions of all the organized settled clans and communities and social worlds and the non-settled cadres of the social universes and the attitudes of those who were leading lives as free unattached discrete individuals whether in the social periphery or within organized groups and the plight of those leading lives of poverty and helplessness in the subaltern. Only a free man, nara who had experienced the lives at all the strata, from the lowest to the highest and in all the social sectors and was a vaisvanara was suitable to be nominated as Brahma.
Of course he had to be highly educated, broad-minded, impartial, thoroughly unselfish and stoical. He had jurisdiction over the aristocrats as well as the commoners and the vast middle class. As the core society absorbed more population his caliber had to be further higher. He was an unattached individual, atma, superior to all such individuals. As interpreter of the socio-political constitution and as the head of the four-member constitution bench his appointment eclipsed the powers of all the social and political institutions and their heads. He could not be removed except by the academy of jurists and could hold his position as Brahma for his life-term, even as a Purusha did. But even he found it difficult to get his verdicts executed by the officials.
Whether he was known as Brahma or Paramatma he too needed an official superior to him to ensure that he did not transgress the limits of his authority. This authority (like Soma) who was always alert would step in only when transgression took place. He is known as Parabrahma. Neither Paramatma nor Parabrahma was a constitutional authority for the latter authority is subordinate to and answerable to the constitution bench. Neither of them dealt with the head of the state and the executive directly. The highest authority who could make the head of the state and the executive fall in line was known as Parampurusha, highest social leader. Democratization led to de-recognition of the aristocracy as it lost its caliber as a liberal, sober, cultural elite. A similar threat was faced by the judiciary too.
In every one of the five units of the federal state, a committee of five members panchajana, representing the nobility, the intelligentsia, the executive, the bourgeoisie and the workers scrutinized the verdicts given by the chief justice and his interpretation of the constitution. In a federal state comprising the capital and the four regions around it, all the twenty-five representatives, pancha-panchajana met to study the validity of the verdicts given by the supreme justice who heard the appeals against the verdicts given by the chief justice of the unit.
The chief justices and the supreme justice with the designation, Brahma and Parambrahma respectively were no longer treated to be infallible. It is odd for the chief justice and other members of the judiciary to claim that being unattached intellectuals their verdict could override the right of the panchas to examine those verdicts before deciding whether to accept them or not. The constitution and the constitution-bench could not suppress democracy.
The Upanishads and the Brahmasutras have as their main concern, the relationships between the concepts, atma, vaisvanara, purusha, Brahma, Parampurusha, Paramatma and Parabrahma. They are also concerned with the status of Isvara as a charismatic head of the society, especially of the people of the social periphery. In later days the terms, virata-purusha, brahma, isvara, paramatma have come to denote ‘God’. The terms, isvara, mahesvara, lokesvara, sarvalokesvara, sarvesvara etc signify different levels of social and political statuses of the awesome but charismatic benevolent leaders of the social polity.
As has been pointed out the attempts to create a position, Brahma, the chief justice who could overrule all other authorities in the state if they violated the constitution did not succeed. Most rulers were arbitrary in their decisions, in awarding favours and punishments even if they were not despotic feudal warlords. A constitution that would make all answerable to the representative bodies like sabha and samiti, paura and janapada and subordinate to dignitaries like Indra, Agni, Varuna, Brhaspati, Prajapati, Pracetas and Rajapurohita was felt necessary. Of these constitutions the paura-janapada model was later deemed to be the most realistic.
Kautilyan state was headed by a Rajarshi a highly educated and humble ruler nominated by a three-member committee from among the successful trainees in the state academy (which was open, to all). It was the caliber of the trainee rather than his descent which was to be respected. As pointed out earlier he would be selected from the alumni of the royal academy by a committee comprising the outgoing Rajarshi, the political guide, Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister. It was stipulated that the ruler should not take any decision without consulting his assistants.
The assistants should not have been his schoolmates or club-mates or strangers to the country or mere professionals or even only members of his party. The ministers were expected to be drawn from different schools of thought but should have been trained as heads of the different branches of the executive. The latter were selected on the basis of a twenty-four point test and assigned to the suitable bureau. The Rajarshi, Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister were the members of the selection committee.
Objectivity in decisions arrived at after deliberations, was emphasized. Impartiality of the executive had to be ensured. All decisions had to be preceded by open discussions in a large assembly of scholars and by small committees of ministers. They had to take into account all aspects of the project that the ruler and his team of ministers desired to undertake. It was not a static state. But dynamism had to be combined with prudence and foresight. Kautilya was for a just, efficient, honest and progress–minded government. He was not satisfied with status quo.
The ruler and his team should seek the views of the experienced political guide, Rajapurohita, on how to meet unexpected difficulties. He was in charge of prevention and control of disaster. If a ruler lost the confidence of his cabinet and larger council of secretaries of the state he had to go. The king too was an executive as some departments like relations with other rulers and intelligence wings were directly under his charge. Some others were under his indirect supervision. Most of the bureaus were headed by secretaries of state. But all these heads were answerable to the ruler and the cabinet.
The circle of five states was composed of those of the protagonist, his ally, his foe, the neutral king and the distant (remote) king. Of these the friend was given the status of a unit of the political structure of the kingdom of the protagonist ruler.
The Hindu polity that came into prominence during the early post-Vedic decades had seven constituents, king, bureaucracy, city, rural areas, treasury, army and political ally. Of these, the bureaucracy (amatyam), city and its council (paura), the rural areas and the assembly of their representatives (janapada), the treasury signifying the economic structure (treasury) and the army (sena) were described as the constituents of the state (rajya) of the king (rajan). The king (rajan) was distinguished from the state (rajyam). He was not the owner of the state. He was only the head of the state. His ministers (mantris) and assistants (sahayas) helped him to protect and control the state. His sovereignty was assured by his external ally (mitra) in the circle of states.
The afflictions of the unit headed by the king (rajan) were to be studied, in the context of those of the five units (bureaucracy, fortified city, janapada or rashtra, treasury and army) of the state (rajyam). The afflictions of the ally had an impact on the defence forces (sena) of the state and the king’s position and security. Of course the king could suffer on account of the deficiencies in the structure and composition of his unit. The constitution paid special attention to ensuring that the head of the state was not afflicted by the deficiencies in the structure of and internal relations of this unit.
The differences in the several descriptions of the structure of the state in the epic, Mahabharata and the comprehensive social code, Manusmrti are significant. But these descriptions are not as instructive as those of Kautilyan Arthasastra (politico-economic code). [The reader may wonder why the same concepts and propositions are referred to frequently. He may note that this treatise as well as the other volumes of the Passage to Hindu State resort to the technique of vorticism by which the author steadily raises the level of discussion as in a whirlpool and this requires the dealing with a particular position frequently to clarify it.]
Kautilya enumerates the units of the structure as existing during his times as king (rajan), ministry (mantris and amatyas), country (desa, rashtra), fortified capital (durga), treasury (kosa) and army (danda) and friend (mitra). Dialectics dictated that the powers enjoyed by the head of the state and the bureaucracy were to be studied under the principle of dichotomy and diarchy. The comparative importance of the rural areas and the fortified city and of economic power as signified by treasury and political power by army, police and magistrates too is to be studied under the principles of dialectics. He was not the first to dwell on the state with seven organs (angas) but was rhe first to deal with them as constituents (prakrtis) with their own specific characteristics and traits and to take into account the implications of the differences between the features of the state headed by a traditional ruler (rajan) and those of a state led by an ambitious leader (svami) who had no traditional legitimacy but evoked admiration and loyalty.
The importance of the friend (mitra) and that of the non-friend (amitra) in inter-state relations are to be similarly considered under dialectics. ‘Amitra’ included the neutral king and the distant indifferent king who had not taken side in the protagonist king’s moves to control his circle of states. Kautilya was the first to postulate that the state structure should include not only its subordinate units and allies but also an independent observer and director (amitra). This aspect has eluded 20th century scholars.
Kautilya recommended radical changes in the earlier setup and included ministers in the unit of the ruler (svami) and kept the princes and queens out of it. Svami was not a hereditary ruler. He was a charismatic individual with his personal human and material resources. He was expected to be a conqueror bent on bringing under his aegis all the twenty-five states of his confederation (chakra) and then score over the other confederation and thereby bring the entire subcontinent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south under his parasol.
This objective required the charismatic leader to decide on his own what reforms he should introduce in the different units of his state before or while embarking on his spree of conquests. He included the ministers who were experienced executives in his personal constituent. Besides getting valuable counsel from them on every measure he kept personal watch on their activities. The eight or more members of his cabinet were allowed to control the other constituents, especially the bureaucracy, without being influenced by their expectations and desires. A Rajarshi did not embark on conquests. Some Rajarshis refused to employ troops even for defending their territories.
By absorbing the citizens of the capital city in the janapada and keeping it as a fort affording him and his ministers and assistants security against external aggression and internal insurgency and revolts Kautilya brought a radical change in the structure of the state and function of the government. The urban council of rich traders and legislators had to sit along with the rural assembly for deliberations. This would ensure that neither the people of the rural areas who were mainly agriculturists and herdsmen did not harm the people of the urban areas and were not harmed by the latter. The distinction between the bourgeoisie and the landed gentry became narrow and so too the one between rich masters and poor workers. Kautilya was a shrewd reformer.
The basic state of the early post-Vedic era was a janapada which belonged to its natives who determined its social, economic and political policies. Its head was known as janadhipa or janaka. He was a native of that janapada. It was a small, economically viable and socially as well as economically integrated unit. It had agrarian plains as well as pasture lands and moors, forests and mountains. It had both a core society engaged mainly in agriculture and pasture and a frontier society engaged in industries. Unlike in the Vedic era the two societies were interdependent and were both part of the enlarged janapada. There were also several cadres, groups and individuals not engaged in economic activities. The Kautilyan janapada had clans and communities among the settled population and also cadres and individuals who were not settled as families. It had a centrally located capital city which housed the bureaus of administration and trading houses and those who rendered tertiary services. The statutory army was stationed in forts away from the capital and closer to the borders. The central treasury was located in one of them.
The janapada had four districts each with a capital and a civil court. Each district (sthana) had two counties (drona) one of which was mainly agricultural and the other industrial. Almost all the needs of the janasthana were met by the two. The two counties were normally adjoining. Each county had about ten bunches of twenty villages each. Each village, the basic administrative unit, had about one hundred native families which owned the lands in and around it.
The size of the land held by a family depended on its size and the largest holding was not more than thrice of the smallest. Every family owned agricultural property and had franchise which was exercised through its head. The objective was to make every one self-reliant and self-employed. There was no need to engage labourers as servants for any purpose. The class of domestic employees ceased to exist and all were free citizens. There was no service sector in the rural areas.
The dichotomy between a small leisure class of nobles controlling all lands and noted for conspicuous consumption and a large working class of commoners working for them and accepting whatever food the former condescended to give them ceased to characterize the social polity and economy.The village with all its families owning their medium-sized personal lands and cultivating them unaided by labourers was self-sufficient. It was a self-governing autonomous basic socio-economic unit. This was what the scholars of the Upanishadic era like Sanatkumara (counsellor of Prthu) urged. Their expectations were realized under the pattern of polity that Kautilya introduced.
The families in the villages were divided into and organized as clans and constituted a native vocational community. Each village had at least two clans which in many places engaged in feuds. But every clan was asked to avoid inbreeding. Inter-clan marriages were insisted on. At the same time they had to be intra-community marriages. It was the local community which barred entry of outsiders into the village through marriages or purchase of lands. Every clan and community had its own social code which also took care of its economic interests and political autonomy. The administration of neither janasthana nor janapada could encroach on this comprehensive autonomy and social customs and traditions and the value systems, dharmas, based on these. Socio-cultural and politico-economic codes could not infringe on these which were zealously guarded by the elders.
Most economic disputes were settled within the village. Only inter-village disputes on water and access were referred to the courts established at the junction of the counties. No royal edict could be issued on matters that clearly fell in the jurisdiction of the village community. The local community produced before their civil judges the encroachers and pushed them out. It was not necessary for the head of the state to be called upon to evict them. Wars between neighbouring states were avoided by this provision.
As pointed out earlier, every janapada had about a million workers engaged in agro-pastoral economy and an equal number in industrial economy (comprising cottage, small, medium and large industries). Many engaged in the latter had to be mobile in search of new natural resources and lacked homes. Their clans and communities were thus not as well-knit as the agrarian ones. In every district (janasthana) of the natives and in every janapada there were settled clans and communities as well as some non-settled ones. Their codes, customs, traditions and orientations could not be identical. It was not wise and feasible to streamline then.
A janapada had a population of about two million in the agrarian sector and another two million in the other economic sectors. Half of them were economically self-sufficient and the other half were dependent on them. Besides it had a population of a few thousands in the urban sector. Most of them were free men and women not subject to the codes of any clan or vocational community or economic corporation or workers’ guild. But they had to abide by the political code of that janapada or desa. This urban population would get disowned and starved if it violated the autonomy of the rural areas.
There were both intellectuals and non-intellectuals, among the non-economic cadres. The former manned the academies and the judiciary and the latter the lower level of bureaucracy and the army including the police. The approaches of those of their higher ranks and the lower were distinct. Individualism flourished among them while it remained subdued in the organized sectors.
As a result while common will prevailed in clans, communities, corporations and guilds, individual will got expressed only in the non-organized sector of middle class cadres, both intellectual and non-intellectual connected with academies, judiciary, bureaucracy and militia. Hence there could be no exercise of individual will through political franchise (a modern political concept) without undermining the binding force of dharmas of the clans, communities, corporations and guilds.
While the heads of the bureaus found suitable were given life-tenure others were discharged periodically and replaced by new recruits. Internal affairs, especially of the rural areas and collection of revenue were in charge of the high official, Samaharta, who was required to ensure social equity. The central treasury, commerce and trade and supervision of the bureaus were in the hands of Sannidhata who was close to the ruler. He was an expert in economy like Pracetas. He restricted direct contact with the head of the state like the official designated as Mahanandi. There was awe about the Rajarshi though he was not an autocrat or despot.
The paura-janapada pattern of state was marked by urban-rural dichotomy with the former concerned only with trade and commerce and external relations and the latter with agro-pastoral economy and in the Kautilyan pattern with minor and medium service-oriented industries also. If exploration for ‘rich’ mines interested the urban polity, exploration for other ores and minerals fell within the jurisdiction of the integrated janapada.
Small towns located in the janapada areas were meant for decentralized administration and not to enforce the privileges of the urban elite. The capital remained far away and its political and economic affairs and culture had little impact on the rural areas. It was the city that was concerned with issues pertaining to privileges and sovereignty and not the rural areas which took little interest in who headed the capital and how he gained power. Rural areas had their bureaucracy headed by officials like parthiva, bhupati, nrpati, samaharta etc. It was manned by free men (naras) as village officials.
The concepts, eighteen bureaus and eight cabinet ministers with one of them as the prime minister have been adopted by several states down the ages. So too the concept of sannidhata as chief treasurer acting on behalf of the head of the state has been adopted by them. The king was not an ornamental head of the state. The important departments of intelligence and foreign affairs were retained by the king.
The king had a small standing army of warriors born in Kshatriya families at his disposal but the units of the larger army were controlled by regional governors, lokapalas who also co-opted the troops of the forest and mountainous areas as the latter were bold, and trained to fight. The king was encouraged to be a conqueror and spend half of the year in the forests and win the loyalty of their residents. He might be in some states the nominal head of the judiciary but was concerned only with issues pertaining to treason and revolts. Brahma was the head of the four-member constitution-bench. He was nominated by the head of the state from among the senior jurists on the advice of his political guide.
Of interest is the new executive of twelve social leaders (purushas) heading different social cadres and having the honour of being called Rajan but only one of them, designated as Soma being competent to judge his peers and even the head of the state and issue them directives as head of the political judiciary. He was called maharaja and mahabrahmana. This recommendation of probably Pracetas Manu could not take off as no executive would like to be assessed and directed by one of its members. Besides, no head of the state would feel comfortable with his subordinate functioning as ombudsman and taking the former to task for acts of omission and commission.
Pracetas Manu proposed a Purusha pattern of constitution by which the most suitable from among the twelve dynamic members of the executive would be assigned a status and role similar to that of the chief justice, Brahma. These executives unlike in the Atharvan constitutions were not representatives of specific socio-economic sectors or ranks. The unorthodox specification of duties is of special interest.
Aditya was in charge of all those discrete individuals who had got isolated from their earlier protective clan or community or economic organization or state.
Soma was in charge of the weaker sections of the society who were not either Brahmans or Kshatriyas.
The talented of the society were under the care of an official designated as Vidyut or Tejasvini.
The official designated as Akasa ensured social stability.
The invincible army was led by Vayu, who was a Marut.
The official designated as Agni was expected to protect and promote peace, tolerance and forbearance.
This school of thought took note of the presence of a counter-society whose orientations were distinct from those of the core society noted for gentleness. The activities of this counter-society were under the observation of an official designated as Apa or Varuna.
The idealistic sections and activities of the society were looked after by an official designated as Adarsa. Deviant behaviors were kept under check by an official designated as Sabda, who drew attention to the rules of conduct prescribed by the ‘scriptures’.
The people of the outskirts were under the care of the official designated as Dikpala. The official designated as Chhaya or Mrtyu warned everyone of the severe penalty of death that awaited those who did not adhere to their duties.
Above all, all individuals who were free from social and state control and functioned in accordance with their conscience were suitably guided by the official designated as Atma. The above recommendation, a unique one could not take off as it was too idealistic.
The followers of Pracetas Manu had claimed that those who had opted for one of the four classes, Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras were citizens of the world and could not be treated as subjects of any particular state. They were manavas. His twelve member ministry was not required to be concerned with the three social worlds or the expanded core society envisaged by the Vedic and Upanishadic sages or with the eight social sectors of Kashyapa. Let us not translate all the terms manushyas, naras, purushas and manavas as ‘men’. They were distinct concepts, commoners (mostly labourers), free men, social leaders (and heads of families) and citizens of the world.
While, in the Kautilyan pattern the samaharta and sannidhata controlled the rural and urban bureaucracies, in the Manusmrti pattern, the rural bureaucracy patronized by the parthiva was almost autonomous. It was difficult for the sannidhata to make the samaharta surrender the revenue due to the king. The parthiva unlike the samaharta had some wings of the institution of spies under him and was answerable directly to the head of the state. He was in charge of law and order and prevented intrusions by persons who were not supporters of the king.
The fifty small nation-states (rashtra-rajya) brought into existence by Prajapati Mahadeva after intense tours studying the socio-economic conditions of the peoples at different levels were constituted into two confederations. Each confederation (chakra) of twenty-five states was composed of five circles of states. Each circle (mandala) had five states. Each state (rajya) had five units, a capital city surrounded by four rural zones (rashtras or janapadas). Each janapada had four districts. Each district (sthana) had two counties (drona), one agricultural and the other industrial. The two confederations (chakras) and the five circles (mandalas) did not necessarily have their units adjoining each other. They were not ethnic divisions. It was a politico-economic setup that took into account the features of the terrain.
Kautilya wanted that every janapada should include urban areas and agricultural lands, surrounded by open pastoral lands and forests and mountains on all sides serving as the borders. Industrial operations were confined to moors, forests and mountains. Consumer goods like textiles and carpentry, vehicles and tools were produced in areas outside villages and towns. Physicians had to stay outside the purely agrarian village.
While the sovereignty of every one of the fifty states (integrated janapadas) was to be honoured, the janapada would be headed preferably by a janaka, who was born in that area and was elected by its natives (jana). Each state (rajya) of the rashtra-rajya pattern was headed by a rajan (often translated as king) who was elected by a college of rajanyas who were aggressive and assertive chieftains, from among themselves.
Only if the state is headed by a sober, gentle and yet assertive personage, like the Rajarshi it could be expected to give primacy to both social welfare measures and economic progress. It might have a Rajan (king) or a Janaka as an ornamental head with a Prajapati (chief of the people, of the domiciles) as the most influential functionary and as the head of the nation (rashtra) and controller of the administration as well as of deployment of troops.
The Prajapati could admit to the janapada or the state persons and groups who were not part of the native population but had developed orientations similar to the natives. They were known as prajas and got rights equal to those enjoyed by the settled natives. The rashtra consisted of the natives and those admitted to the privileges of the natives. Such admission led to their being entitled to protection of their lives and property even as the natives were. They too were domiciles of the janapada. Prajas were not subjects of the king. [It is unsound to translate the term, Prajapati, as father or as patriarch.] Persons who came to the janapada without personal property were not eligible to become prajas. No janapada admitted poor immigrants.
In the Janaka pattern the head of the state was bound by the desires of the natives whom he represented. In the Prajapati pattern, the powers and influence of the Rajan, the head of the state were very limited. The Rajan was an ornamental head of the state while power and influence were wielded by the Prajapati, the eldest of the committee of sixteen elders and a dynamic social leader (purusha) who controlled sixteen departments of the state.
In the Rajarshi pattern the head of the state had been trained in the royal academy in dialectics, science of work and social control, humanities, science of economy and science of political policy and also in martial arts. He was well-equipped and trained to control and direct the permanent bureaucracy and head a council of ministers versed in all aspects of the administration. But unlike the Rajan he could not embark on conquests or extend the borders of his state. He headed the administration which had been instituted as the steel frame of bureaucracy. It could not be wished away.
The Rajarshi was assertive but not aggressive. He could streamline social welfare measures but not unilaterally introduce reforms or progressive steps. He had to protect his subjects from aggression and insurgency. He was looked upon to mete out justice and be trained to be the chief justice, Brahma or appoint a suitable person as Brahma and allow him to co-opt his assistants from among independent intellectuals who as vipras had wide knowledge and broad outlook and went beyond the formal knowledge that they had acquired in the schools and were engaged in educating and culturing the masses.
The institution of justice was not a part of the bureaucracy or subordinate to it. The Rajarshi was its guardian. His training in dialectics and the different sciences equipped him to steer the judiciary. He could not proclaim any new law or practice but had to follow the tradition and allow the academy of jurists and his counselors to suggest ways to meet the exigencies without violating the constitution. He was not a judge presiding over the bench of his equals. He could not be appealed to against the verdict of the court. He had to implement the verdict of the court. He could issue edicts only on issues where there were no traditions or written laws or councils of elders to guide him and the people. He was not a svami who had no nead or group to obey, nor an isvara, a liberal charismatic leader who expected personal loyalty, nor a murti who was an ornamental head of the state.
The differences in the several descriptions of the structure of the state in the epic, Mahabharata and the comprehensive social code, Manusmrti are significant. But these descriptions are not as instructive as those of Kautilyan Arthasastra (politico-economic code). Kautilya enumerates the units of the structure as existing during his times as king (rajan), ministry (mantris and amatyas), country (desa, rashtra), fortifiedcapital (durga), treasury (kosa) and army (danda) and friend (mitra).
Kautilya recommended radical changes in the earlier setup and included ministers in the unit of the ruler (svami) and kept the princes and queens out of it. Svami was not a hereditary ruler. He was a charismatic leader with his personal human and material resources. He was expected to be a conqueror bent on bringing under his aegis all the twenty-five states of his confederation (chakra) and then score over the other confederation and thereby bring the entire subcontinent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south under one parasol.
This objective required the charismatic leader to decide what reforms he should introduce, in the different units of his state before or while embarking on his spree of conquests. He included the ministers who were experienced executives in his personal constituent. Besides getting valuable counsel from them on every measure he kept personal watch on their activities. The eight or more members of his cabinet were allowed to control the other constituents, especially the bureaucracy, without being influenced by their expectations and desires. A Rajarshi did not embark on conquests. Some Rajarshis even refused to employ troops for defending their territories. By absorbing the citizens of the capital city (pura) in the janapada and keeping it as a fort affording him and his ministers and assistants security against external aggression and internal insurgency and revolts Kautilya brought a radical change in the structure of the state and function of the government. The urban council of rich traders and legislators had to sit along with the rural assembly for deliberations. This would ensure that neither the people of the rural areas who were mainly agriculturists and herdsmen harmed the people of the urban areas and were not harmed by the latter. Kautilya was a shrewd reformer.
STATE AND SOCIAL CHANGE
As pointed out by Kautilya who followed samkhya dialectics it is necessary to distinguish whether the policy adopted by the governing elite is a good one or a bad one and so too the one adopted by the masses. He posited that some of the policies (aya) of the ruling elite were within the framework of the socio-political constitution and some were not considered ones (anaya) and that similarly some of the policies advocated by the commoners were indeed considered ones (naya) and that some were patently ill-conceived ones (apanaya).
What should prevail is the good policy whether that of the rulers or that of the ruled. Adoption of the attitude that the will and desires of the former would always prevail leads to the commoners losing confidence in their ability to develop their talents and the need to do so, that is, loss of purushatva, confident leadership. All codes whether socio-cultural or politico-economic called for paurusham, confidence in and expression of one’s ability to reach higher goals and lead others. This trait is needed in both elite and commonalty.
Purushatva expected everyone to become perfect and successful in developing himself into one leading a life in tune with ethics and morality (dharma), and also become a self-reliant person with no further wants. He must be able to lead a happy married life before he retired from his domestic duties. The higher goal, freedom from all bondages would be striven for after that. These four values were known as purusharthas and no school of thought decried it though some might have wondered whether it was possible for everyone to pursue all these objectives. The reality was that there were some who were uneducated and some poor and some unhappy. Kautilya valued freedom (moksha) from all bonds including from the possibility of rebirth (if there was one) and attaining endlessness (ananta), the pursuits advocated by Brahmanas and Sramanas respectively.
Despite these if everyone had to progress both culturally and economically and if civilization in the true sense is to flourish all inequities have to be dispelled. The ruling elite however gentle and liberal it may be is a leisure class noted for conspicuous consumption. Both ‘liberal’ aristocracy and exploitative plutocracy have to be divested of all immunities. None should need to work for others. Both the small leisure class and the vast working class have to cease to be. The middle class pursuing all the four values, dharma, artha, kama and moksha should absorb both these classes so that the aroma of noble culture would pervade everywhere and true lasting civilization based not on desires but on expression of diverse talents of everyone in the society would be built.
It was feasible and not utopian. But neither socio-cultural codes nor politico-economic codes tried to make it feasible. Inequity and inequality were allowed to flourish though they were deplored. Hindu state was well-planned and run satisfactorily in most areas but it was unable to be at the base of a noble culture and a grand civilization, or be on the apex. The values cherished by the middle class were to keep away from the poor and ignorant and to imitate the happy rich and the proud pedants. Neither of the latter two sections could contribute effectively to true culture and civilization.
Yet Hindu state has to be admired for its consistent opposition to feudalism and autocracy. It did strive to guard the liberty of life and security of personal property. It refused to endorse primacy of state laws and stagnancy. It kept away from exploitative capitalism that promotes poverty and from anarchist individualism that questions the need for social laws. It expected the people and the state to save some amount from their current income after meeting their needs and invest the savings in projects that would increase the share of their wealth.
While the individual might utilize one-fifth of his earnings to meet his social and cultural obligations (dharma), two fifths would be used for his current economic needs (artha) and pursuit of pleasure (kama) within the fold of marriage. One-fifth would be saved to meet the needs of his dependents (svajana) including his offspring. One-fifth would be available for his continuing ambitious ventures (yasa). It was a tax-less state. The state should not be permitted to handle the three trust funds, dharma, yasa and svajana. The first Manu, Svayambhuva, expected the nobility and their head to function as reliable guardians of the three trust funds, vistapas. The fifth portion was expected to be invested in such a way that it would create more wealth which could be used by him for meeting his obligations to his society, to enrich himself, to keep his wife happy and his offspring and other dependents free from poverty. Manu Vaivasvata counseled that the earnings should be used in such a way that five-sixths would continue to be used for the above purposes and one-sixth paid to the state as tax.
This tax would be used to provide him and his property security and to administer the state. Kautilya wanted this practice to be continued and suggested that the state should after meeting its expenses on the above obligations to the tax-payers invest the rest of the revenue in projects that would yield profit. While the invested amount would constitute a permanent trust to which the revenue from the taxes collected every year would be added, only the profits gained every year from the investments would be allotted to the several departments (bureaus, tirthas) of the state for completing their respective projects. Such a state would not end itself in deficit and bankruptcy.
Neither an individual nor a state should live on borrowings. There should be only surplus after meeting the inevitable expenses of the state, namely defence, maintenance of law and order and ensuring justice. No deficit budgeting was permitted for any bureau. So too none should need to borrow. There has to be no profiteering through state trade. State trade advocated by Kautilya was meant as a means for preventing profiteering by the traders.
Of course, the farmers and other producers should not be driven to losses. State might advance loans to the needy but should not indulge in usury. Even as every family had to be self-sufficient, practise frugality and stay away from profligacy, the state too should be economical without being stingy or exploitative or indifferent to its subjects and not profligate. Pursuit and exhibition of power and pelf are not signs of noble culture and great civilization and should not be the objective of or resorted to or allowed by an economic state. Its first commitment is to its subjects and to work unceasingly for social welfare. It should seek to be known as a just state rather than a powerful state.
To become a successful welfare state it requires greater alacrity and sincerity and determination and wisdom than the ambition to become an economically affluent and politically and militarily powerful state. The latter are short-lived and do not have the resilience that the former has. Hindu state has sought to encourage simplicity and optimism rather than ambition and profligacy leading to consequent periodical social upheavals. None of the great socio-political thinkers of the early post-Vedic era advocated establishment and protection of varnasrama dharma as the duty of the state.
It was left to sages and intellectuals and pious leaders to spread the varnasrama orientations in the society. It is wrong to equate varnasrama dharma with Hindu dharma though it had an honoured place in Hindu Dharma during later centuries. What the state was expected to do was to define the rights and duties of everyone who opted to follow a particular way of life according to his aptitude. This was called ‘svadharma sthapanam’.
A teacher or scholar might guide an individual to recognize his specific talents and aptitudes to select his course of life from the many permitted ones. The state accepted this choice and acquainted him with what rights and duties were associated with that chosen way. But it did not permit him to abandon his chosen value system svadharma midway and opt for another, paradharma, however promising the latter might appear to be compared to the former. Hindu state was for social and economic stability and social and economic progress through stability and hence cautioned the individual against change of ways of life, against converting to another ‘religion’. Such conversions would invite social and even political sanctions.
To recall, the early and middle Vedic era identified three social worlds (lokas), elite (divam), commonalty (prthvi) and frontier society (antariksham). The former two were part of the agro-pastoral core society and the last constituted the other industrial society of the forests and mountains. In an integrated society, the three lokas, were arranged in the hierarchical order, commonalty (bhu or prthvi) affluent frontier society (bhuvans or antariksham), and nobility (sva or divam).
By the end of the Vedic era, social polity was conceived as having seven social worlds (lokas), bhu, bhuva, sva, maha, jana, tapa and satya. While the Vedic polity acknowledged the first three as characteristic of all patterns of social polity, the neo-Vedic polity paid attention to mahaloka in addition to the above three.
Mahaloka referred to the great sages, maharshis, who were legislators and social guides. Janaloka was the janapada assembly of representatives of the commoners, jana or natives. It had three sectors, jana, itara-jana and punyajana. The core society of agrarian commonalty of the agro-pastoral economy, manushyas and the ruling elite, liberal aristocrats (devas) was meant by jana, natives. The latter were called abhijana. The other industrial society of the forests and mountains was referred to as itara-jana. The cadres of the free middle class who were not settled in any particular areas and pursued spread of culture including knowledge were referred to as punya-jana. All the three sectors had their representatives in the integrated janapada assembly which was essentially a political institution. [We should not describe the native communities of the plains as castes and those of the forests and mountains as tribes.]
The scholars who were engaged in research and were in quest of new knowledge and kept away from all social, economic and political activities were known as tapasvis and constituted tapaloka. The highest community was that of the civil judiciary (satyaloka headed by the official designated as Agni) that upheld locating truth (satya) should be as in the middle Vedic era its main objective so that everyone was given justice.
Every integrated janapada, the basic Hindu state of the Vedic era had all these seven social worlds. Some gave mahaloka, the council of legislators a rank higher than that of janaloka, the house of representatives of the people. The head of the state, janadhipa was elected by the janaloka, the house of representatives of the natives of the district. The traditional three social worlds, commonalty of the agro-pastoral core society, the frontier industrial society and the elite comprising the aristocrats of the core society and the plutocrats of the other society formed the base of the new state. But the independent middle class whose cadres and individuals were not engaged in economic activities were earlier given the status of non-settled and unorganized social universe (jagat) and later that of an organized and social world (loka) with its distinct orientation.
Known as punya-jana (holy people, in common parlance) it too was entitled to send representatives to the janaloka. The agrarian sector comprising its working class, landlords and traders and leisure class of liberal cultural aristocrats was called jana, native population. The rich plutocrats who were the governing elite of the frontier society and technocrats and industrial proletariat were called other people (itara-jana).
All these three wings had their representatives in the janaloka. In an integrated janapada (as in the large body of Visvedevas meant to elect nobles, devas) which had about six million people in the agrarian sector, an equal number in the industrial sector and about six hundred thousand in the middle class of privileged intellectuals, the janaloka had three thousand representatives forming the electorate. Such small states could be administered easily in the best of the desirable ways.
Compared to the Vedic state, this medium-sized state of the Kautilyan pattern was becoming a mega-state causing severe strain in every aspect of life and in administration. The three sectors deputed a hundred members each to three electoral bodies who in turn sent thirty-three members each to the new democratized governing elite, divam.
The three thousand representatives (and also the three hundred deputies) were known as visvedevas, and the thirty-three as devas. Neither were gods. They belonged to the upper stratum, abhjana, of the larger universal society, visvam comprising all social worlds (lokas) and all social universes (jagats), settled and organized communities with distinct orientations and unorganized non-settled cadres and individuals without common orientations. The latter were highly suitable to function as legislators, members deliberating on and engaged in research and planning for the future. The members of the civil judiciary had to be sober and impartial, sagacious and free from personal ‘material’ interests. Mahaloka, Tapaloka and Satyaloka were such entities whose members were independent intellectuals.
Satyaloka (jurists who followed the primacy of the laws based on truth) of the middle Vedic era and its equivalent, Dharmasabha (social counselors who upheld the liberal laws which accepted the validity of all conventional practices) of the later Vedic era were subordinate to the assembly of jurists, Brahmaloka. Some held that the puritanical laws based on truth (satya) and the liberal laws based on ethics (dharma) were identical. The highest socio-political authority was Brahma, the chief justice who interpreted the socio-political constitution whether written or unwritten. Dharmarajasabha of Yudhishtira was legislature whose members were the highest executives of the country or invitees from other areas and also retired social counselors.
The Upanishadic era acknowledged the presence of four sectors, bhu, bhuva, sva and maha in the integrated society. Despite its faith in the laws based on indisputable truth and in its ultimate triumph, it recommended the constitution of an academy of jurists, Brahmaloka admission to which free individuals who had given up all social attachments and economic interests were eligible. None of the high dignitaries, Prajapati, Brhaspati, Indra, Aditya, Soma, Agni, Rajapurohita, Rajarshi, Maharaja, Viraj, Janaka, Purusha, Pracetas, Vaisvanara, etc had a status and influence and impeccability equal to that of Brahma.
But the above counsel of the Upanishad sages could not be translated into reality. Another issue that vexed these sages was the status and role of the individual, atma, (imprecisely translated as ‘soul’) who was not attached to any social body. It was only such a person who could equip himself with such knowledge and spirit that could enable him to get admitted to the academy of jurisprudence and be considered for the high position of Brahma.
As it was pointed out by Asvapati of Kekaya to Uddalaka and his juniorcolleagues it was only a person who had gone through the lives of people at all socio-economic levels and had developed a holistic attitude would realize that none can represent another and that the concept of common will is illusory. The very base on which ancient representative bodies functioned claiming that they were speaking for a particular clan or community or cadre or corporation stood questioned. The viraj constitution of the Vedic era claimed that union despite diversity was necessary to guard the autonomy, svaraj, of its units and their basic elements, the individuals with their specific identities, atmas.
The Upanishad sages wanted that every individual should be able to experience autonomy (svarajam), that is, his personal attitude (svabhava) should be allowed its expression. He should be free to choose his vocation (svakarma), his consort (svamithuna), his sport (svakrida), his own code of ethics (svadharma). Freedom of the individual was defined by this statement. No state institution or social body could violate this principle. Everyone was master of his career and destiny. He had however to realize that if he did not identify himself with his social group the latter would disown him. Only where the autonomy of an individual impeded the enjoyment of a similar autonomy by another person the recognized institution of justice should step in to resolve the conflict. [It is wrong to state that the ancient Hindu society was characterized by authoritarian patriarchy that denied the individual freedom to follow his pursuits.]
Everyone was enabled to function independent of control by any social or state body and no such body could claim to represent any individual, atma. Many such individuals therefore were left without protection. They were at the lowest level of the society struggling for existence and were at the mercy of the vagaries of nature and in constant fear. They had no property and had only their skin to protect them from such vagaries. They had to struggle for existence and learnt that only the fittest would survive in the merciless competition among human beings and with other species. Such a human being at the lowest life was known as jivatma. [The simplistic distinction between jivatma and paramatma as the souls of a common man and God respectively was of later practice.]
In the hierarchy of individuals we notice the presence of pranatma, bhutatma, mahatma, sadatma, santatma, jnanatma, prajnatma, vijnanatma, and paramatma above the jivatmas. They were all individuals not subordinate to any social group. These terms are not to be consigned to metaphysics. They pertain to political sociology. The influence that was exercised by them over social polity or by the latter on them was brought out by the Upanishadic sages in their discussions and debates.
If those (jivatmas) at the lowest socio-economic level were struggling for existence, those (pranatmas) immediately above that level contributed to emergence of the social ethos on which the resilience of the social world depended. This ethos had nothing to do with the ways of life and values upheld and orientations (in other words, dharma) of that social world (loka) or of the clans (kulas) and communities (jatis) or strata (srenis) covered by it.
Not all individuals are equal. Nor do all have the same functions in the society with respect to maintaining its ethos and spreading it and elevating it thereby promoting its culture and civilization. It involved the absorption of those who could contribute to this ethos and rejection of those who could not do so. It also needed some who would contribute to maintenance of social balance and some who would radiate that ethos to the neighbourhood and some who would constantly elevate that social world and its individual members culturally and in civilization. The last were known as pranatmas. Unless they are present the social world and its units would petrify and decay.
Every state and every ideologue has to recognize this aspect. The concept of equality should not be allowed to hamper the growth and development of culture and civilization. Social and economic changes take place constantly. In that process some are left behind or get isolated. They are relegated to the social periphery. Ex-servicemen and ex-landlords and former workers on agricultural lands or in pasture belong to this category. They live as discrete individuals with no protection from any social group and with no current identity. They (bhutatmas) have to be rescued from anti-social elements. Some of them are organized as gangs (ganas). Their contribution to the ethos of the social world may be very little. But they can be depended on to provide security to that social world as a valuable buffer.
Mahatmas were great individuals who had developed a broad outlook and were able to function effectively as legislators. They might not have been as knowledgeable as the maharshis were and did not deem themselves to be spokesmen of or function as individuals attached to any social group. They were looked up to with awe and regard though their counsel might not have been heeded by all (though admired).
Sadatmas were humble individuals with worldly experience and they fitted in any assembly of cultural leaders. Their opinions were sought by all whenever people were in a dilemma on what course they had to take. Santatmas were those who were stoical and none could vex them. The balance that they maintained in the face of upheavals inspired others to emulate them.
The individuals who knew all the knowledge that earlier works provided and maintained their identity as intellectuals were known as jnanatmas. Those who in addition had through empirical studies were aware of the latent changes in their social and physical environment were known as prajnatmas. Those who had acquired through application of samkhya dialectics knowledge of past happenings that had till then remained elusive and through extrapolation could recognize what the present could lead to and what could happen to it were known as vijnanatmas, (like) scientists. They were however not as great as paramatmas.
Paramatmas were great individuals whose influence in the larger universal society often silent and invisible or sometimes obvious was the highest in the society. [The term, Paramatma has later come to denote God, the Great Soul.] Of course, the term, atma, has often been used to distinguish between the soul and the body and to denote conscience by which one is guided to stick to the right path or come to right conclusions when in doubt.
Every social group, stratum and world has its own ethos. Unless a member of that body identifies himself with its ethos he will stand isolated. He will not get its protection. His will would not count. It is the will of a social world (loka) which is a sum of the wills of all its member-units that goes to shape its polity. A state which comprises all the social worlds, and all cadres other than these, and those on the periphery has to abide by the wills of all these. The ideal state has to be federal and not unitary. It has to accept decentralization, diffusion of powers and authority. Centralization and authoritarianism are taboo. That government that governs least governs best. This does not mean absence of governance. Anarchism proper is total self-governance and is not anarchy.
Hindu state recognized this aspect and most states down the ages survived by steady resilience and by allowing storms to weaken and fade away. The ideal state was not dependent on dynasties and was constantly drafting the talented to man its forces and the bureaus. It remained stable and capable of progress though only moderate and did not collapse. A state or its unit that is at standstill refusing to snatch the opportunity or seeking one to meet the needs of an ever-changing society will stand repudiated by those whom it claims to serve. Hindu state was not so ignorant as not to recognize this aspect of polity.
Every stratum or sector of the society has developed its own system of values and all its members are required to accept them and abide by them. A deviant cannot find a place in it. No person from outside it can thrust his own or another alien system of values on it. One outside it cannot become acceptable to it unless he consents to and follows it. And one who has renounced his position in his native group or denounced it cannot expect that group to continue to give protection to him. This is neither fundamentalism nor reactionary. This does not mean barring all social changes. Only this recognition of value of internal control or direction can bring about change in value systems becoming felt advantageous. No people can be governed by anyone among them or by outsiders without their consent or acquiescence. Autocrats and conquerors knew that even a worm would squirm and seek to wriggle out.
Change in value systems cannot be brought about by the state legislative bodies most of whose members are everyone alien to a stratum other than his own. Even insistence on acceptability of common values will not succeed. Of course majority rule as a parliamentary practice can only end in constant disturbance to social relations. Majority rule is a self-defeating proposition. Autonomy of every stratum and sector has to be acknowledged. Hindu State did not interfere in this autonomy of any stratum or sector to change or not to change its traditional value system.
This principle calls for recognition that the concept of common will that permits outsiders to interfere in the autonomy of every system and individual will that calls for permission for everyone to follow or bring about a change in the value system of his social group are both illusory.
Every value system has to be strengthened by the state on behalf of the larger society and none should be condemned by it as obsolete or irrational. It has to ensure that these value systems (dharmas) are able to interact and that there must be bridges between them. State is one such bridge. This is positive rajadharma. Modern secularism denies the validity of value systems. It tends to be subversive of the society and its culture and civilization. Social stability requires that the value system of a social group should not be disturbed by any step that the state proposes to take. Social change has to be through the urge for it from all within that social group and not through any campaign for it by any individual from outside it or even one from within it who has come in contact with other social groups and become enamoured of their value systems.
Every extant value system is resilient whether that resilience is for the good of the social group that has upheld it or not. None of these systems may be relegated by the state as antiquated or superstitious. The very fact that the value system of a social group has exhibited resilience is adequate not to meddle with it. The state cannot be and is not to be an instrument for change whether imperceptible or flagrant departure from the past. However social progress utilizing new techniques is necessary, for stability leads to stagnation and stagnation to decay. Every individual and every group desires to be on socio-economic ascent even though everyone is exhorted to be content with what he has and not covet others’ wealth. But progress is not to be at the cost of stability. At the same time efforts at progress should not destabilize the society and the state. Hindu economic state realized the importance of this theorem and made everyone recognize that he has to plan for his future and set aside a portion of his earnings for this purpose.
He is not to be hedonistic and carried away by the voice that tells him, enjoy now what you have now for the future will take care of itself. Such voice echoes only self-defeating fatalism. Man determines his destiny by himself. Stability, social change and social progress and social ascent of everyone are facilitated by an optimistic social polity.
The post-Vedic state which had learnt lessons from the different patterns of Vedic and neo-Vedic states wondered how to protect its constitution and the socio-cultural and politicoeconomic codes and introduce reforms without offending the traditional practices and outlooks. Manusmrti tried to define Rajadharma along lines significantly different from those of Bhishma, a champion of the martial class, who wanted the intellectuals to function as friends and guides and amicus curiae, rather than as administrators.
Bhishma’s state asked for equal importance to political power and economic power. It was almost feudalistic and had in the larger council of ministry, eighteen Kshatriyas (feudal chieftains) and eighteen Vaisyas (members of the bourgeoisie and the landed gentry) controlling the eighteen bureaus. It allowed a small bench of four members representing the four Vedas to function as the civil judiciary. These members were ministers. Unlike Manusmrti it did not recognize the expert in Atharvaveda, Brahma as the chief justice. This civil judiciary could be easily overruled by the chieftains and the captains of economy. The workers had three representatives. They were heard but could not assert themselves. Politico-economic states (artharajya) vest powers in the bureaucracy rather than in the aristocracy whether cultural or intellectual. Kautilya’s state too did so but it recognized democratized aristocracy as built by Vaivasvata and Upanishadic sages as a stratum necessary to curb autocracy of the feudal order. The latter could never be wiped out forever. It raises its head again and again like the hydra and has to be repeatedly crushed as Krshna said.
This outline of the continuing changes in the features of the social polity has important lessons not only for modern India but also for the modern world. Social welfare states have to provide for such democratized inclusive aristocracy with veto powers and the right and duty to function as a court of appeal until an impartial and dependable judicial system is created. The latter when built should have no bar to contend with but build relations directly with the different sectors and strata of the society. Such relations need not be through the state. The judges should not live in ivory towers without a direct knowledge of what these sectors want and how their outlooks are constantly undergoing change.
Despotism of the judiciary (which when confined exclusively to socio-cultural fields deteriorated into an ecclesiastical order willing to exhort and not to punish or deter) is as repugnant as despotism of the feudal order. Both bar social progress, it is alleged. Hence Manusmrti influenced by Krshna wanted fresh training of the judiciary. Kautilya presented the four bases of arbitration which gave royal command only the last option to arrive at a verdict where exhortation to abide by the principles of truth as determined by the Vedic texts in force (before dharma code was prepared) and by opinions of the elders on the customs and rules concerning settling economic disputes fail.
The king or the head of the state cannot intervene until the social and economic institutions fail to ensure peace and stability. The ‘king’ is not to be an ornamental head of the state. The head of the state is the highest court of appeal. This role he took over as the cultural aristocracy became dormant. The role of the state begins where the powers of the society end. This principle has to be incorporated in the constitution in order to protect the spirit of democracy, self-governance. A constitution that permits the state to become a leviathan needs to be repudiated by all lovers of freedom of the individual and culture and civilization of the society. Power-hungry leaders should be prevented from tinkering with the socio-political constitution.
Brahma is comprehensive socio-political constitution and is to be bolstered, by social laws (dharmas) which do not offend the traditions of any social group. Most individuals are honest. It is wrong to presume that threat of punishment forces everyone to obey laws. Dandaniti was superseded by both Dharmasastra and Arthasastra after the counsels of the Vedas got clouded in mysticism on failure to apply dialectics, Samkhya, to understand them through methods of extrapolation. We have to realize that some of the clauses in Manusmrti and original couplets of Arthasastra have been misinterpreted and mispresented during the last two centuries. Though these codes cannot be treated as sacrosanct they are treated as guidelines for outlining the constitution of the Hindu State.
The head of the state shall be elected by all the heads of families, men, who are active, and are earners and have discharged all their social and economic debts and their consorts. Senior citizens, youngsters who are still in schools may not be given any responsibility in determining the policies of the state. Earners who are not senior citizens and are unmarried, both men and women, may be given franchise. It may be required that such electors for social, economic and political positions should be in the age group forty to sixty. Manusmrti has deemed one in this age group as one belonging to a stage (madhyastha) between an active householder and a retired senior citizen, grhasta and vanaprasta.
The senior citizens were exempt from all taxes and social responsibilities and were required to be maintained by the state if they had no offspring or were not maintained by the latter. Those who were below the age of forty were not deemed to have gained the maturity needed to participate in responsible public activities.
We have to take into account the existence of both nuclear and joint families and also basic families. The couple who have not yet had offspring and constitute basic families and are living under the supervision of the elders may not be given franchise. Their elderly parents are expected to take care of their needs. A nuclear family may be deemed to have come into existence when the husband and wife have two natural children whether they reside under the same roof as the elders in the family (patriarchal or matriarchal) do or not. A couple without offspring was not deemed to be a family.
Universal adult franchise and lowering the minimum age for exercising franchise and to be able to decide in the houses of legislature how everyone should conduct himself and meet his or her needs is not a wise move. It is to place the destiny of others in the hands of immature electors and representatives who too are immature. Such representatives cannot be placed on par with sages and elders who have wide experience, insight and foresight. Society should not harm itself by wrong interpretation of democracy being based on individual will or on common will or on both.
Any socio-political policy and system should protect and promote the interests of all. Culture and civilization have to survive and continue to grow. If the draft of a constitution permits the power-hungry to exploit the ignorance of the masses and the innocence of the youth and adolescents to get into positions of responsibility it should be looked askance at. It is easy to mislead the masses but it is difficult to rescue them.
Meritocracy sometimes brings about a huge gap in assessing what the society and its different sectors need and what is feasible. Of course the meritorious may be not mere idealists. They can be realistic and pragmatic too. But they should not compromise ethics. Dharmarajya kept this in view. Artharajya gave primacy to pragmatism and did not feel it obligatory to abide by uncompromising ethics. It allowed for exigency but its major economic theorems were based on rules that should not be breached. Manusmrti provided for a state that upheld ethics and at the same time promoted the genuine, common and desirable economic interests. It too allowed for exigency.
The debates in the seven-member committee of statesmen and political grammarians compered and monitored by Kautilya decided what the best method to run an administration was. The discussions between the protagonist Kautilya and his deuteragonist (Krpa) analyzed the shortcomings in the then existing politico-economic structure and arrived at ways to rectify them. Kautilya did accept those recommendations of his colleagues which he found valuable.
Manusmrti however does not detail the debates that took place in the seven-member councils of sages during the tenures of the first seven Manus. It only lists the laws framed and the corollaries to them added from time to time to meet the new situations. It is relatively and mainly a permanent legislation but not either inflexible or too flexible. Cautioning against social fluidity that is correlated to unplanned social change is not to be dubbed as fundamentalism. The latter term needs to be used carefully. It only implies that certain principles and values are common for all times and for all sectors of the population and that social change should be steered without affecting these adversely.
Manusmrti as has been pointed out recommended small states with the king, Rajan, stationed in the city, pura and the rural areas, rashtra around it enjoying autonomy. The latter would be headed by a parthiva (parthipa) who would be guided by the principle that all disputes should be settled amicably keeping in mind the rules detailed in the socio-cultural code (dharmasastra) or in the politico-economic code (arthasastra).
If these codes are unable to guide him and the rural courts set up by him he should be guided by the customs that are brought to his notice by the elders of those areas. The head of the family should be free to punish its member who has transgressed its customs. Social discipline as enforced by families, clans and communities and other social organizations is not to be denied validity. Only inter-clan or inter-community disputes would be taken up by the rural courts. Their members were pious elders of that area. Every large family will have its own court. Its verdict cannot be set aside by any other court.
Major offences that defied such courts would be referred to the four-member constitution bench headed by the chief justice designated as Brahma. He was appointed by the king and he co-opted three scholars belonging to different schools of traditional law (Vedas). He would listen to the views of each one of them before giving his verdict. He would not allow his views to mould their views. He will not lead or intervene in their deliberations. No issue was referred to the king except the ones pertaining to the charges of treason and rebellion.
Those who manned the rural bureaucracy including its militia and police were free men, naras, and the chief administrator was called nrpati. He was a pious man. In Manusmrti, the governor, parthiva, of the rural areas was essentially a landlord and used the militia under him to protect the region from bandits and thieves from abroad. He was also in charge of the scouts who gathered information about their movements and designs. Prthvipati (distinct from the prthvipati, chief of the two united confederations) had jurisdiction over the predominantly agro-pastoral commonalty and mahipati over the agricultural lands. It is unsound to treat the terms, nrpati, bhupati, parthiva, mahipati and prthvipati as all implying or referring to the king (rajan), head of the state.
The city and the rural areas cannot have the same economic codes and rules for their social economies are distinct from each other. So too the rural areas and the industrial areas cannot have the same economic codes. The politico-economic code has to take into account this aspect.
The state has to be the trustee of the savings of the rural population and invest them in such a way that the gains from such investment are used for rural economic projects of different types. Kautilya and other thinkers did not want these savings to be used for meeting the needs of the army or of the ruling elite. If the samaharta and parthiva are honest and efficient these would succeed and the rural areas would have economic progress. The two officials though appointed by the head of the state should not be hampered by the finance minister or sannidhata whose priority is to enrich the central treasury. The sannidhata’s main role should be to extend financial aid to all those who are in need. His main source of income should be contributions from the urban councils and those engaged in industries and trade.
Minor trade in the rural areas should be protected against exploitation by money-lenders. Kautilya replaced money-lenders by authorized bankers. All funds needed for development of the rural areas should be at the disposal of the nrpati, parthiva and samaharta. They should ensure for all the residents of the rural areas social security before embarking on new projects.
Industrial areas and urban areas have to be clubbed together for purposes of economic development that is needed for defence of the state and for ensuring for it advantage in the comity of states, in the circle or federation of five states and in the confederation of five circles and in the theatre of conflict between rival states.
For each viable and integrated small state, a cabinet of eight ministers with three looking after political affairs and five after economic affairs as recommended by Bhishma whether of the paura-janapada pattern or the rajya-rashtra pattern may be favoured. Pracetas Manu, author of an Arthasastra text recommended a twelve member cabinet. It functioned under an unchallenged and confident statesman-king (like Ajatasatru). Brhaspati an economist and Atharvan ideologue recommended a sixteen member cabinet. It however functioned under the Prajapati. Usanas was for a larger ministry of twenty-four members. It was too large to be managed by any head of the state, Kautilya held.
Of course some bureaus would be concerned mainly with rural areas and some with the industrial areas. The government at the centre which is in intimate touch with the urban councils should be guarded against control by the bourgeoisie with vested interests and the elite that are exposed to hedonistic trends. The two groups, bourgeoisie and plutocrats cannot be expected to promote social welfare measures. They are not adequately altruistic. The head of the state should actively discourage conspicuous consumption and ensure that the statutory autonomy granted to the rural areas, the janapada or the rashtra is not violated.
Central bureaucracy is often authoritarian and rural bureaucracy is indifferent. Both have to be pulled up as Kautilya advised. The residents of the rural areas may not be rich but should not be poor. The city is noted for its contribution to civilization, while the rural areas to culture. Culture is resilient and lasts almost forever while civilizations are ephemeral and noted for rapid rise and fall. It is the ethos of the people of the rashtra, that is, the rural areas of a state, rajyam and not the policies of the government of the state that deserves respect.
We would draw attention to the exposition by Asvapati head of the royal academy of Kekaya to Uddalaka and his students on who was eligible to hold the position of Brahma, the chief justice. Asvapati dealing with traits of the chief jurist said that he must know what ‘atma’ meant and who vaisvanara was. Every individual must be considered as one whose basic need is food and as one who has his preferences with respect to other needs. The person who has the traits of a jurist must have been educated in an academy that understands by the concept of the soul (atma) of the universal free man (vaisvanara) this principle of equal rights and freedom of every one to pursue careers and objects pleasing to him. Only such a person can be the master of himself (atma). He will not be bound by other bonds.
Asvapati was explaining the different criteria that an aspirant to the post of a judge had to fulfill. While Prachinasala deemed the patriciate (divam) as representing the will of the universal society of the free men (vaisvanara), Uddalaka deemed the organized commonalty (prthvi) as doing so. Satyayajna, Indradyumna, Jana and Budila had indicated other and diverse views with respect to this issue. Asvapati noticed that Uddalaka was for the firmly rooted (pratishtha) commonalty being treated as the ones whose voice spoke the will of the individual (atma) representing that of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara).
Asvapati also noticed that Uddalaka spoke not only for the natives of the agrarian tract but also for those who were admitted to its polity as prajas and for the pastoral society. Both men and animals need to be fed. Everyone needs food; everyone should be free to pursue the career that pleased him. Asvapati agreed that Uddalaka too recognized this. As Uddalaka was trained in an academy that adhered to this stand he was eligible to hold the position of a jurist (brahma-varchas).
According to the constitution (brahma) an independent person (atma) could represent the will of the universal society of free men as vaisvanara. One has to stand on his own feet (atma-pada), Uddalaka had suggested when he mentioned prthvi or commonalty as what could stand for all individuals (atma). Asvapati gathered all the six scholars and gave them an advice common to all schools of thought. He pointed out that each of them was enjoying the benefits of his status as a counsellor under the impression that the individual members (atma) who were not attached to any social body of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara) were all different (prthag) from one another. Such a person cannot represent the entire society that is, all the social worlds, all the individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery and all the individuals (atmas, who were not attached to social bodies).
One should deem and revere atma as a concept denoting all the members of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara). He should deem it as a measure that reduces the size of the macro-society to a very great extent and enhances to a great level the properly-oriented individual (who is a society in microcosm). This realization will enable one to share food (feelings and orientations) with all social groups and individuals. In short one should see the entire macro-society as not different from oneself.
Asvapati of Kekaya was concerned with establishment of a social system and principles of jurisprudence that would encourage every individual to identify himself with every other individual and with the entire society, especially of the region where he lived. He corrected the wrong notions that his students had about the traits of Vaisvanara, the ideal representative of the universal society of free men.
The head of this society would be one who was renowned for his influence over all. He would perceive it as having a form comprising that entire large society (Visvarupa). Its basic members (pranas) would be following diverse careers. Its unified body would reflect the mega society. It would treat wealth as unwanted accretion. It would be firmly established in the commonalty as desired by Uddalaka. Asvapati was addressing Prachinasala and others who belonged to rich families of the commonalty and called upon them to ensure that the needs of the individuals at the bare subsistence level were first met. Otherwise the governing council would take them to task for causing unrest among the weaker sections of the population.
Only scholars who belonged to the higher social stratum and who were not guilty of exploiting or ignoring the weaker sections and who attended to the needs of the latter first before securing for themselves, comforts and luxuries could be appointed to the judiciary. They knew who was entitled to be called Vaisvanara and would treat all members of the larger society as equals, and as entitled to rights equal to the ones they themselves enjoyed and hence they could be appointed to it.
Of significance is the exposition of Ajatasatru, contemporary of Janaka of Videha and a liberal social thinker and ruler of Kasi to Gargya of the Garga school of socio-political thought. (Garga was the political guide of Prthu. Gargi another member of this school became a student of Yajnavalkya, counsellor of that Janaka.) Ajatasatru followed the pattern of cabinet of twelve ministers recommended by Pracetas Manu.
Gargya must have realized that the role of a purusha (social leader) was far more demanding and intricate than that of ensuring adherence to the constitution, Brahma. Ajatasatru had a vision that placed him as one far superior to other conquerors.
Atma was in charge of maintenance of individual identity. Gargya wanted to know what the role of the personage, purusha, who was in charge of individual identity (atma), was. Ajatasatru explains that this personage encouraged everyone to maintain his separate identity and exercise self-restraint and self-regulation so that he does not get lost in anonymity or in mass endeavour and mass acts. Not only every adult but also his offspring (praja) is encouraged to develop such identity. The latter would not be but a replica of the father, one following blindly the tradition set by his forefathers without making any effort to develop his own personality.
The political structure envisaged here calls for a supervisor who would guide everyone to develop his identity and not allow it to be lost in conformity that social groups and the state impose on their members and subjects. Ajatasatru had explained the roles performed by the personages nominated to the posts that were designated as Aditya, Soma, Vidyut, Akasa, Vayu, Agni, Apa, Adarsa, Sabda, Dik, Chaya and Atma.
It may not be possible to replicate the Hindu State of the later Vedic and early post-Vedic ages. But we have to recognize what aspects the scholars of those periods highlighted and draw lessons for correcting the distortions made by modern socio-political thought which is unduly influenced by methods and theories and theorems of the West that have failed in the countries of their origin. Hindu State is not to be treated as taboo or anathema. It needs to be revived and re-organized to meet the challenges of modern times. The pattern of state that came to the fore soon after the Vedic era may be called Hindu State.
Adidharmas (comprising kuladharmas and Jatidharmas, laws of the clans and the native communities) that were unwritten social laws in force during the early Vedic era were based on the concepts of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest. They acknowledged the presence in every one, of all the three innate traits (gunas), gentleness, assertiveness and inertness (sattva, rajas and tamas) but in different proportions. This led to acceptance of two principles, ‘might is right’, and ‘no two persons are alike in all respects’. The principle, ‘might is right’ rationalized as just, the emergence of powerful states and social groups (and individuals) and their invincibility.
The latter principle upholds individualism (svabhava) and the right of everyone to have his orientations (svadharma) in accordance with his aptitudes. It also upholds the right of everyone to chart his career and vocation (svakarma) and have as his consort (svamithuna) in tune with his nature and aptitude and to be autonomous (svarajya), free from control by any social group and from control by state on these aspects of life.
It rationalized the concepts of individualism and inevitability of presence of inequality and inequity in every social group and between social groups. The concept, Rta, rhythm in nature including human nature validated both autocracy and individualism, both despotism and anarchism. These permissive laws, Rta, of the early Vedic era, later called Adidharma, comprised the enduring codes of clans and native communities (kuladharmas and jatidharmas) which have not be interfered with or struck down by either Sanatana dharma or Sasvata Dharma.
The permissive laws based on Rta encouraged the members of different social groups to function free of any social sanction and weakened the society to such an extent that the controllers of the state found themselves free to exploit and enjoy unchecked the fruits of the labour of the commoners. Despotism and totalitarianism prevailed over individualism which called for freedom from both social and state control.
The laws of the early Vedic era (Adidharma) based on Rta or expression of natural traits (svabhava) presented two alternatives, Rshabha constitution (of benevolent despotism) and anarchism (Vairajyam). If the controllers of the state were able to assert their authority over the docile commoners, they also allowed the strongest among their own ranks to hold all powers and lead the society as he deemed to be the best way of exercise of coercive power. Rshabha (bull, in common parlance) was a benevolent despot whom none defied. Anarchism (Vairajyam) prevailed when the controllers of the state failed to be assertive and principles of use of coercive power (Dandaniti) stood unused.
At Yudhishtira’s request, Markandeya narrated the life of Manu Vaivasvata. This Manu was said to be the son of Vivasvan (Surya) and to be equal to Brahmadeva (the head of the constitution bench) in influence. He was a legislator (maharshi, great sage) before he became Manu. By his valour and influence and charisma and by his strenuous effort to know the unknown he became superior to his ‘father’, Vivasvan and to his ‘grandfather’, Brahma. Manu Vaivasvata acquired a status superior to those of Prajapati (chief of the people) and Brahma (chief of the constitution bench of the highest judiciary). When he was a king he performed tapas standing in the waters of Visala (at Badari) for many years.
Once when he was performing tapas on the banks of Sirini, (an overflowing branch of a river at its estuary) a small fish was said to have accosted him and told him how he was afraid of the bigger fish. Markandeya must have meant that a fisherman living on his small catches must have complained about those who had large catches. While appealing to the king to save him from the latter he said that the stronger (fish) lived on the weak (fish).
The fishermen could not abandon their permanent vocation and means of livelihood. The small fisherman was in danger of being drowned in the flood. On behalf of his group of small and weak fishermen he promised to help the king in return for the protection that he would give them against the stronger and larger ones. The weaker sections of the population prayed to the king to protect them against the powerful ones and promised him support in return. Allegory is not to be dismissed as meaningless fiction.
The legend says that a small fish (fisherman) given protection by him warned the king of the impending flood (to be precise, revolution, pralaya) that would wash away all the social worlds. He was asked to get ready a boat and get into it along with seven sages with all seeds (to sow a new generation). A whale would come in the form of a horned fish and tow the boat across the roaring waters of the sea. According to the legend it took him to the Himalayas which were safe from the floods of the sea. It introduced itself to the sages and the king as Brahma and Prajapati, the chief of the people.
Those were the times the two statuses were held by the same dignitary. Brahma declared that Manu Vaivasvata was entitled to constitute the cadres of liberal nobles and feudal lords and commoners and declare who would be entitled to be treated as subjects (prajas) of the expanded social polity and also all the social worlds and settled populations and mobile groups.
According to Markandeya, Manu Vaivasvata introduced the concept of prajas and declared who would be eligible for the status of prajas. Legends and myths have to be interpreted in a rational manner without being carried away by stereotypes. Manu Vaivasvata advocated the policy of the state protecting the weak against the mighty and extending the eligibility for protection to all those who consented to be the subjects of the king and pay the prescribed taxes.
Manu Vaivasvata was the product of a total revolution (deluge) that overcame the larger society. He was required to bring to an end the social system by which the stronger sections of the population lived on the weaker and the weaker sections had been given freedom to emerge stronger and similarly exploit those who were lower than them in the socio-economic ladder. He was asked to explore the possibility of creating a larger commonalty and establishing a contractual state where all those who agreed to be its subjects and paid taxes became eligible for protection by the state. However, he would not remove the two sectors of the ruling elite, the liberal nobles and the feudal order.
Markandeya was the only witness to the social reorganisation effected by the incumbent to the position of Brahma, the head of the constituent assembly convened when the laws based on satya were pronounced and right became might and might was no longer right. Markandeya had accepted that Brahma was his teacher of study of the constitution, Brahma.
Yudhishtira referred to how Markandeya had witnessed the periodical restructuring of the social order by successive incumbents to the position of Brahma, the head of the body of jurists who implemented the socio-political constitution of the larger society. Markandeya had been a member of that body and by his strenuous effort had scored over the Brahmas, heads of that body and made them accept his views on several occasions. Yudhishtira noted that the sage was known to be a devotee of and close to Narayana, a member of the intellectual elite. The chronicler claimed that Markandeya who was endowed with determined detachment and training by his special skill in yoga (creative activity) had seen Brahma in the act of reorganisation of the society. [Rationalism requires that Brahma is not presented as the God of Creation and as the determiner off the destinies of different individuals, cadres and species.]
Markandeya, a Brahmarshi (an authority on the socio-cultural constitution of the Vedic times) was kept out of the jurisdiction of Yama (god of death, in common parlance) (who could assess the works of a commoner and pronounce when he should die). Markandeya had been allowed to always remain a young scholar (kumara-brahmachari) and not get aged, that is, not required to go through the last three stages of life.
His mission would be completed when a mass society without social differentiation marked by distinct sectors, administrators and warriors, intelligentsia of the plains, intelligentsia of the forests and mountains, free intelligentsia-cum-warriors who were not confined to either of the two societies, dispersed population of the open space and agro-pastoral commonalty represented by the officials designated as, surya, agni, soma, vayu, akasa and prthvi was established as a result of the massive social change initiated by the deluge (pralaya).
The formation of an undifferentiated mass society was expected to bridge the gap between the settled communities and the mobile groups (that is, between lokas and jagats) and result in the disappearance of the sections of the ruling elite like liberal nobles, feudal lords and great technocrats. Yudhishtira seems to have taken into account the merger of the plutocrats (yakshas) in the aristocracy.
At that stage only Markandeya would approach Brahma, the chief of all living beings at the subsistence level and head of the constitution bench to ensure that the new classless society did not undermine the values cherished till then, by recreating the social atmosphere of intense struggle for existence and survival of the fittest that prevailed during the early Vedic times and which Markandeya had noticed personally. Yudhishtira wanted to hear from him an authentic report on these developments for that sage knew all the developments in the different social worlds (lokas).
Markandeya was drawing a bleak picture of the times ahead. He feared that the pastoral economy would decline. The scholars would become guilty of speaking ill of the impartial judges (offence of Brahmahati) and would cease to assert their freedom of speech and action and would become servants of the states headed by rulers who did not follow the laws based on truth and were given to lying. Markandeya feared that poverty would force the alms-seeking scholars to pester the native population of the agro-pastoral plains who were greedy but ignorant and followed irreligious and dishonest rituals only for personal fame. The householders would be harassed and terrorised by high incidence of taxes.
Markandeya ‘predicted’ that by the end of the fourth epoch, kali yuga, that was in the process of emerging the scheme of four stages of life would have vanished. This schee was short-lived. The elite headed by Indra would have ceased to favour the people with grants needed for every season, a practice that had emerged when the laws based on Rta (the scheme of rights under natural laws) were in force. Everywhere the fruits of noble and generous deeds (dharma) would be found to be decreasing. At the same time the native peoples would be found to be eager to resort to violence and would be guilty of violation of the rules of purity. As a result of adharma sorrows would increase, Markandeya warned Yudhishtira.
Addressing him as a protector of the agro-pastoral commonalty, he cautioned Yudhishtira that under the changed system of values a commoner who did noble deeds of generosity (dharma) would be deemed to be but one having a brief life ahead of him. During the last stage of the kali epoch (the post-Mahabharata epoch), there would be no noble deeds (dharma) and people (jana) would cheat on weights and measures while selling the goods that were permitted to be sold. While the king (rajan) stayed in his capital the agro-pastoral areas were under bhumipati or prthvipati. The latter would have to be alert against the fraud committed by the landlords.
The rural administration was under the chief of the free men (naras) who manned the rural bureaucracy. Markandeya asked that chief (nara sreshta) to be aware that most of the traders resorted to deceit. The number of those who followed the social laws, dharma, became less and the native peoples who committed serious crimes increased in number. Dharma would become weak and adharma would become strong as a result, he warned. By the end of that epoch, the commoners who followed dharma would become poor and die early while those who no longer adhered to dharma would become rich and live longer.
When the epoch was on the wane, the subjects (prajas, citizens of the expanded social polity) would abandon the path of dharma (settling disputes on the basis of truth, satya) and in public forums in the towns they would argue their cases through methods that were against the principles of dharma. Markandeya implied that in the villages, dharma could survive as there were witnesses who could not be manipulated. But the cover of anonymity that towns provided led to success of adharma.
Manu Vaivasvata had approved bringing the rural commonalty (bhumi, manushyas) under the scheme of four classes but most of the villagers were poor and ignorant agricultural workers who did not have personal property. The intelligentsia had either migrated to the city or been stationed in the social periphery and in the forests. Only a few agriculturists could become owners of land. Traders had no place in the village and they could not amass wealth there.
Markandeya noticed that even acquisition of a little wealth led the rich to behave in an arrogant way. Those with whom goods were entrusted for safe keeping betrayed that trust and tried to attach the goods and shamelessly deny having received them. Varnasrama dharma failed to curb greed and promote honesty and truth. The earlier puritanical laws based on truth (satya) required the state to protect the property of the subjects, whether earned or inherited. The new scheme while introducing the concept of contractual state gave protection only to the right to pursue one’s vocation which was approved by it and left a vast area of administration in a nebulous state for it did not favour the emergence of powerful states. The new state had little hold on the rich traders. It also neglected the weak people of the subaltern as they had no wealth and paid no taxes. The commoners were eased out of the towns and wild animals and birds took over the areas assigned to the visitors from the rural areas. Social decline would be widespread.
He predicted that the level of the water in the seas might go down on account of the eruption of the volcanoes under them destroying the aquatic plants. The volcanic lava might flow into the already dry lands surging up from the bottom of the earth. Markandeya implied that the people of the subaltern might rise up in revolt against the three sectors of the ruling elite, nobles, feudal lords and plutocrats. The uprising would destroy the socio-economic world of technocrats and the acquisitions and property of the people of the plains and then all the resources of the mines and the subaltern working there. The massive revolt of the incensed industrial proletariat might ultimately destroy it and their means of livelihood, Markandeya, an interpreter of trends in civilisation predicted.
Besides agricultural and industrial resources and the workers in these fields, the upper strata of the society comprising the aristocrats, feudal lords, technocrats, plutocrats and their guards and the free intelligentsia-cum-warriors (gandharvas) too would be affected severely and the entire integrated social polity and its economy would be affected by this widespread uprising, he warned.
Markandeya noticed that according to the principles of the socio-political constitution expounded by Brahmadeva, the non-violent reaction of the elite (lasting twelve years) and pouring generous aid to the lower ranks of the society would check the severity of the massive revolt of the industrial proletariat and the subaltern against the existing socio-economic order. ‘As the seas once again rose up and its waters crossed the shores and the clouds became thin’, the economy and culture of the commonalty would be restored to previous levels he said.
The emergence of an undifferentiated large commonalty with settled communities, mobile groups, cadres of nobles and feudal lords losing their identity and frontier society and commoners ceasing to be distinct from one another in their orientations and both wild animals and gentle plants vanishing and the dispersed people of the open space (akasa) too ceasing to remain so, made Markandeya anxious. It was not a healthy reorganisation of the society based on egalitarianism though the process leading to it was given momentum with the uprising of the subaltern and the revolt of the proletariat.
Markandeya recounting his early life said that when saddened by the possibility of an undifferentiated mass society emerging to only end the lives of all the beings at the bare existence level he happened to see an innocent infant clinging to the branch of a large tree left there by the deluge. The chronicler told Yudhishtira (Janamejaya) that Markandeya, a Bhrgu, looked like a young boy (had got into the body of that divine infant as the innocent were exhorted to believe) and was the spokesman of a new generation who had developed dislike for a long life and for the life of a commoner. The identification with the new and innocent generation enabled ever-young Markandeya to observe the integrated social polity of towns, forests and plains, the three social worlds, the rich aristocracy based in the towns, the industrial workers of the forest society and the agriculturists of the rural areas.
The imagery of the sage seeing through the eyes of the innocent boy took Markandeya around all the mountains and forests and plains to notice the lives of their denizens. Addressing Yudhishtira as a prominent free man, as the chief of the agrarian tracts and the noble who took care of the interests of the commoners who were subordinate to the codes of their clans and communities Markandeya explained what he saw after the old order was restored. He wanted to be restored his boyhood days.
He saw Indra and all the cadres of nobles and also the scholars who lived in secrecy, the elders, the industrial workers, technocrats, the good messengers dressed in leaves and feathers, gandharvas and apsarases (who belonged to the free intelligentsia), sages, plutocrats, intransigent sectors of feudal elements and greedy plutocrats, controllers of the macro-economy (nagas) and workers of the micro-economy (simmikas). He also saw the enemies of the nobles. The settled communities and the mobile individuals and groups which he had seen earlier as a man, he saw again as a young boy. Markandeya was made to realise that an integrated social order (not based on impractical egalitarianism) was the best alternative to social unrest. The past order should be revived.
Markandeya then described to the Pandavas his view of the sage, Narayana. Even the nobles did not have a realistic picture of the status, role and power of Narayana who was later visualised as Vishnu, one of the trinity, Siva and Brahma being the other two. Because Markandeya was devoted to his father (a Bhrgu) he was able to meet that sage personally. Narayana resided in the midst of waters (nara). Narayana created and destroyed all living beings. Markandeya did not favour the concept of Trinity, Brahma as the creator, Vishnu as the protector ad Siva as the destroyer.
Markandeya would attribute to him the role of recognising the rights of all the people at the lower rungs of the society and also withdrawing that recognition and segregation at the appropriate time when they would be admitted to higher ranks by their own merit. He played the roles of Vishnu (an Aditya), the protector, and Brahma the head of the judiciary. Narayana associated himself with the roles of Indra who headed the aristocrats of the core society and also of Kubera who headed the plutocrats of the frontier society. In his view, the magistrate designated as Yama, ensured the welfare of the commoners who had renounced their active lives. But Narayana did not dissociate himself from the Rudra school of thought of the forests one of whose members Siva was. Narayana approved the role of Soma, the head of the intelligentsia of the forest.
Markandeya was presenting the stand that the sages who composed the Vedic hymns, took regarding the roles of these officials of the integrated society. He also noticed that Narayana approved the scheme of social organisation presented by Kashyapa who had identified eight large sectors of that inclusive society and who would keep only the intransigent among the feudal lords out of it. Kashyapa, an Atharvan, headed the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata. Obviously, Markandeya had great regard for him.
Markandeya asserted that the sage, Narayana, was for the creation of distinct social worlds and for the protection of their separate identities. Narayana extolled the practice of Yajna, sacrifice. Narayana, the sage, was claimed to have performed hundreds of yajnas on behalf of the nobles offering the prescribed fees. At the same time the Vedic scholars worshipped him through yajnas. So too the kings who were rich and senior kshatriyas and longed for a place among the nobles and the rich Vaisyas who wanted to be elevated to the aristocracy but belonged to the commonalty of the plains performed sacrifices in his honour.
The chronicler then introduces the imagery by which Narayana the sage and social leader (Purusha) by his prowess acquired the services of the four classes (varnas), Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras. The imagery of Brahmans being the face of Purusha, Kshatriyas his two arms, Vaisyas his two thighs and Shudras his two legs is referred to here. Narayana called for the acceptance of all the four Vedas. The chronicler of the later times introduces the claim that they were authored by Purusha, the God, and were meant to extol Him and seek His favour.
Rshi Narayana told Markandeya that those who were engaged in noble efforts and were calm and restrained in mind and longed for liberation and were free from lust, rage and hatred and were not after fame and were free from sins and were gentle and serene and were not egotistic and were always aware of the directions given by the science of the essential individual or soul (adhyatma) and were scholars always contemplated on and worshipped him.
Narayana was identified with the Vedic officials, Agni, Yama, Surya and Vayu, who were on the scene during the major social revolution (pralaya). Narayana approved the roles those officials were performing when the people of the subaltern rose against the ruling elite. These officials were not connected with the ruling elite, aristocrats, feudal lords and plutocrats against whom the deprived sections could have had grouse.
Narayana asked Markandeya to realise that the social order that the latter perceived was created by him to enable accomplishment of the objectives that the nobles were engaged in. The rules pertaining to truth, generosity, severe meditation and non-violence were prescribed under his directions. Narayana had prescribed severe restrictions on the movements of the intellectuals of the larger social body without banning their right to move about in all its sectors for carrying out their mission.
Narayana told Markandeya that commoners who were sinners and were greedy and who had bad traits and were unfit and were fools could not attain the highest status that the virtuous could. That status should be considered to yield the greatest benefits. The chronicler then puts in Narayana’s mouth the famous words of Krshna in the Bhagavad-Gita that whenever dharma was on the decline and adharma was on the rise he would make himself available (incarnate himself) for setting things right. He would be born in the houses of those who had done noble deeds whenever the cruel feudal lords and militants who could not be killed by the nobles appeared in the social world of commoners.
The chronicler said that by his ability to create illusion, the sage, Narayana created the cadres of nobles, commoners, free intelligentsia and mobile technocrats and rebel militants of the social periphery, settled communities as well as mobile individuals and also dissolved these cadres. The chronicler extolled him as the soul (atma) of the social world of commoners and also as one who provided happiness to all the three social worlds. His ideal social leader was invincible and could go to any place and had no end (anta). He was the director of all the state organs (indriyas) and resembled Trivikrama who measured the cosmos with his huge feet (and humbled Bali and Usanas).
Narayana told Markandeya, the scholar and jurist (Brahman), that he was directing the wheel (chakra) of the destroyer by himself. This wheel was invisible and involved the destruction of all beings (pranis, especially those at the bare subsistence level) and functioned during all times. He told the ascetic that by resorting to illusion he had secured a place among all those living beings but none had identified who he was.
The infant whom Markandeya came across when there was a huge deluge introduced himself as Narayana who was awake and active while Brahma was asleep, that is, was protecting all the worlds that had lost their identities before they were brought under a new scheme of social organisation. Narayana told Markandeya, a Brahmarshi (a sage who knew the socio-political constitution) that playing the part of Brahma, he had presented him a picture of the social world that would come into existence after the social order that had distinctions between organised and settled groups and mobile individuals had been dissolved under the impact of upsurge of the subaltern resulting in reversal of roles and powers among the different classes, high and low.
Narayana told him that though the nobles and the feudal lords (the two sectors of the ruling elite of the core society) were unable to recognise the true form of the former, he had made the latter identify him as the protector of all the distinct social worlds that were insulated against the effects of massive social change and such reversal of roles, while the undifferentiated mass society in upsurge that Markandeya saw outside frightened him.
Rshi Narayana told him that when Brahma, the head of the constitution bench, awoke from his stupor caused by the upsurge and reversal of social statuses and roles, Narayana would with the latter bring back into existence the populace of the open space, the influential guides, the peoples of the moors and of the littoral regions and the remaining settled communities and mobile populations who had escaped extermination in the deluge, the social revolution for a classless mass society. Markandeya told Yudhishtira that the sage, Narayana, disappeared after assuring him resurrection of the old social order as the massive social revolution through upsurge of the subaltern subsided.
Markandeya was no longer upset about the threat to social order by the impending upsurge. He was able to visualise the formation at the end of the epoch of upsurge of the subaltern and the masses, of an expanded and inclusive society whose subjects would be marked by diversity. He claimed that Krshna (Govinda) who was a kinsman of the Pandavas was the person who led the uprising of the population (jana) who were denied their basic rights as the natives of their region. Krshna who was born among the Vrshnis was Hari, the Janardana, who led the upsurge of the subaltern and the social periphery. He directed the Pandavas to seek Krshna’s protection.
PEACE AND WAR AND LEADERSHIP
Inter-state Relations and Six-fold Policy
(Manusmrti 7-154 to 180)
Kautilyan Arthasastra is not the only text that explores polity. Manusmrti, though popular as a socio-cultural (religious) code too has lessons to give on polity.
Its cabinett discussed the entire eight-fold business concerned and on the five-fold group in its real character, on affection and disaffection and on the conduct of his circle. Following Medhatithi, Jha presents three sets of eight-fold business. The first set reflects a polity that sought security and progress. 1. Undertaking of what has not been done 2. Doing of what has not been done 3. Refining of what has been done 4. Acquiring fruits of the act done 5.Conciliating (sama) 6. Alienating opponents from one another (bheda) 7. Giving (dana) 8. Employing force (danda).
The second set is more economy-oriented but is bent on enterprise, expansion and defence: 1.Trade 2.Building of embankments and bridges 3.Fortification 4. Repair of the fortifications 5. Catching elephants, 6.Digging mines 7.Colonizing uninhabited places 8. Clearing forests
The third one attributed to the political philosophy of Usanas (Shukra) dealt with internal polity. 1.Acquiring 2.Spending 3.Dismissing 4.Forbidding 5.Propounding the right code of conduct 6.Investigating cases (vyavahara) 7.Inflicting punishment (danda) 8.Imposing purificatory penance.
It is explained that acquiring referred to receiving revenue. [Sukra does not envisage an expanding state.] Expenditure stands for gifts made to the servants. Dismissing referred to giving up the company and services of the wicked. Forbidding referred to checking the improper activities of the officers. The fifth, anuvacana referred to rules of conduct pronounced that were to be followed. Vyavahara covered the vocation of the individual (svakarma) in accordance with the code of varnasrama. Danda came into play to decide what was to be done in the case of disputes among his subjects. Purificatory penances were to be prescribed for mistakes committed due to carelessness.
The five-fold group referred to the five sections of the Institution of Spies: 1.Kapatika who discovered the hypocrites. They were scholars who paraded themselves as knowing the highest law (parama dharma).
2. Pravraja was a fallen ascetic. He was in fact intelligent and pure. He would be present at places where food and wages were distributed to the workers. He would keep out mendicants. Pravraja was later considered to be a heretic, as he did not practice the code for sanyasis, ascetics, prescribed by Manusmrti.
3. The householder (grhapati) in distress was an agriculturist reduced to poverty but who was clever and pure.
4. Vaidehika was a merchant in trouble. These two were to operate from places assigned to them.
5. The disguised ascetic (tapasa) either completely shaven or with matted hair took up lodgings close by the city and was accompanied by a large number of disciples appearing to be living on very little food and claiming supernatural powers as a prophet. [The structure of this Institution of Spies and its method of work are immature compared to the systematic one built up in Kautilyan Arthasastra.]
Having appointed this five-fold group, the king shall, through these, learn all about affection and disaffection among the people of the other king, as also among his own political guides and ministers. He shall also ponder over the conduct of his circle (mandala) of states (the five kings, svami, mitra, ari, madhyasta and udasina, self, friend, foe, neutral and indifferent). He has to discuss about the strength and plans of all these rulers with his cabinet. Manusmrti did not however envisage the ruler of its ideal state as a conqueror.
The cabinet takes into account the presence of the madhyasta (intermediate, neutral king), the udasina (indifferent distant king), the satru (neighbour and enemy) and the conqueror (vijigishu) and asks the ruler to take note of their movements. [This structure of the circle of states is different from the one given by the highly systematic politico-economic code of Kautilya. Kautilya’s ideal ruler was a charismatic leader and conqueror.]
These (four) constituents (prakrtis) are the foundation (mula, root) of the circle (mandala) of states. There are eight others and the total is declared to be twelve. It appears that the medieval commentators were unable to explain how the editors of Manusmrti arrived at this picture. The state was visualized as having a ruler, five internal constituents (ministry, city, rural areas, treasury and army) and two external constituents (mitra and amitra, friend and non-friend). Even as this ruler has to be alert about the movements of the rulers of the other four states (madhyasta, vijigishu, udasina and satru) in his circle, the friend (mitra) and non-friend (amitra) too had to be alert about those in their respective circles.
These twelve rulers have each five internal constituents (a) amatya, bureaucracy, often loosely described as ministry, (b) rashtram, rural hinterland, often wrongly translated as nation or kingdom or state, (c) durga, fort, often identified as city (pura), (d) artha, treasury and (e) danda, army. (Kautilya refers to them as amatya, janapada, durga, kosa and danda.) There are sixty internal constituents and twelve rulers, making the total number of relevant constituents (prakrtis) seventy-two. All these seventy-two constituents are to be watched.
Jones and his guides of the later 18th century and so too their successors of the 19th and early 20th centuries did not have a correct grasp of the interstate political structure presented by Manusmrti, which was pre-Arthasastra. All these (seventy-two) constituents (of the different states), the conqueror shall win over by means of the four expedients (conciliation, gift, rift and threat), severally and collectively, by his leadership traits (paurusham) and policy (naya). He has to constantly ponder over the adoption of the six-fold policy, alliance (samdhi), war (vigraha), march (yana), halt (asana), dual policy (dvaidhibhava) and shelter (samsraya). Medhatithi was unable to comprehend correctly the niceties of the six-fold policy dealt with in detail by the Arthasastra.
Perhaps the latter work was not available to him. He could not envisage the ruler emerging as an emperor by resorting to this policy. He envisaged only a stable expanded state. The ruler shall have recourse to halting, to marching, to alliance, to war, to dual policy or to seeking shelter after having considered his business.
But the king should know that alliance and war are of two kinds; so also both marching and halting; and seeking shelter has been declared to be of two kinds. War has been declared to be of two kinds that which is waged in season or out of season, for his own purpose, and that which is waged on some wrong done to an ally. Many scholars have failed to take note that war was the sequel to an agreement between two allies to defend each other against a common enemy. This agreement permitted the two allies to individually pursue their own campaigns uninterrupted by the other. Kautilyan Arthasastra gives an exhaustive picture of the different aspects of the political scenario in international relations. Manusmrti is sketchy in its approach. Alliance, endowed with future possibilities is of two kinds, that in which the act of marching is undertaken in common (by the allies) and that in which it is otherwise. The first is prompted by one’s own prosperity and the other to help an ally. There have been variations in the texts.
Marching is said to be of two kinds that undertaken by the king by himself alone on the sudden approach of an emergent condition and that undertaken by him accompanied by his ally. Medhatithi, a commentator of the medieval times, notes that when some trouble befalls the enemy he may be attacked immediately lest he should recover and become strong. The two kinds of halting are that which is necessary for one who has gradually become weakened either by chance or through previous acts and that which is necessitated by considerations for his ally. [The term, daivat, has been translated here as by chance. To be precise, the king must have got the permission of the house of nobles (devas) for his attack on the inimical country. The failure to get this permission would have brought the movement of troops to a halt.]
When for the accomplishment of some purpose the master (svami, leader with a personal charisma who is not ordained as a king) takes up one position from the point of view of military strength and is required to take up another from that of his charisma and glory, this is called dvaidhibhava, dual policy by those conversant with the details of the six mea0sures of policy (shadguna). This definition does not accord with that given by Kautilyan Arthasastra.
The svami does not have rational legitimacy as indicated by his march being halted for want of permission of the house of nobles. He proceeds on conquest, sometimes leading the state army and at other times on his own with his personal guards. When the enemies harass the adventurous ruler he seeks protection under a powerful ruler, in order to stabilize his economic condition. He needs financial assistance with the house of nobles having refused assistance and his state army kept back. But he does not want his charisma to dwindle by accepting defeat or by accepting a subordinate position under a ruler who could help him with men and money. He should hence seek the protection of pious men who would help him if his cause were just and his venture justified. Manusmrti did not encourage adventurous war and unbridled ambition.
When the ruler who wishes to dominate the circles of states is unable to do so, he should abide for the time when his superiority would be certain and when little harm would be done to his position. Till then he should enter into protective alliance with another stronger ruler. But when he thinks all his subjects are exceedingly contented and that he himself is most exalted in power, then let him make war. He would be advised to be realistic and not rash. The king may launch war only when all the constituents of his state are highly contented and he himself is in an exalted position. He should not be kept back by the representative bodies of his state and refused military and financial assistance by them. When he thinks that his personal army is happy and well-nourished and that of his opponent is the reverse, then he shall march against him.
The charismatic leader, svami, is not to depend on the state army except for defence of his state. But when he happens to be weak in conveyances and forces, then he shall sit quiet, gradually conciliating his enemies with special care. The king (raja) is entitled to lead his state army. He is aware that the enemy is stronger in every respect. The king is able to accomplish his purpose by resorting to the tactic of pincer deployment of his forces. This king (raja) enjoys rational legitimacy and is supported by his house of nobles and assembly of people’s representatives. The svami enjoyed charismatic legitimacy but not rational legitimacy. Neither of them enjoyed traditional legitimacy, that is, neither was born in a lineage of rulers of that country.
When he happens to be very much open to attack by external forces, he shall take shelter with a just (dharmika) and strong chief of the free men (nrpati). When his personal troops are weak and the state army is not made available to him even when he is being harassed by a strong external force (which is not necessarily that of his inimical neighbour) the depleted king is advised to fall back on a chief of free men in the rural hinterland of any state who is a pious leader and is also militarily strong and who would give him asylum and not take undue advantage of the predicament of the refugee. The nrpa is not a recognized king (raja). Still he may be influential and powerful.
The king who is stationed in the fort that has become vulnerable is advised to forget his pride and fame and accept asylum in the rural areas administered by a nrpati who can protect him as he has a volunteer force at his command. Most nrpatis were pious and respected leaders. The harassed king may seek refuge under a chieftain who could put down the non-cooperative constituents of his state and the army of the enemy. He shall ever serve him in all ways as he would serve his teacher. In interstate relations as described by Kautilya, the charismatic ruler (svami) who tried to become a conqueror but suffered a serious setback was advised to seek asylum under the distant and indifferent but highly powerful king, udasina.
Manusmrti, on the other hand, visualizes a situation where the svami who aspired to be a conqueror has been emaciated and is unable to function as a sovereign ruler, raja. He is required to seek the protection and counsel of the leader, nrpati, a pious civil administrator who is not a member of any organised social group like a clan or community and is a leader of free men and who is in a position to regain for him the support of his people, ministers and government and keep at bay the inimical external forces even as a Rajaguru (political counsellor) would do under the Rajarshi scheme. It is likely that this move may not help him. If even there he should perceive something wrong on the part of the person who shelters him, then, even in that (emaciated) condition he shall without hesitation resort to war.
Seeking refuge even under a sincere and strong chieftain may have its defects. The latter would protect but not encourage the adventures of the svami who thereupon is impelled to discard that protection and resort to other means of winning the war. A ruler who is denied sovereign rights and support of the house of nobles and of the army is reduced to the level of the chief of the commonalty. He is but a prthvipati, a position superior to that of nrpati but not necessarily so intimately connected with the free men from among whom the troops were raised.
This commoner-king deprived of riches and army should adopt all the four expedients (sama, bheda, dana and danda) and act in such a manner that his ally, the indifferent ruler and enemy do not become superior to him. He shall fully think over the future and the present condition of all undertakings, as also the good and bad points of all past ones (before resorting to war). One alive to both the good and bad points in regard to the future, is quick in his decisions relating to the present and understands the consequences of his acts in the past, is never overpowered by his enemies.
Manusmrti is a socio-cultural code, Dharmasastra, though it deals also with economy and polity. But it gives more importance to morality than the Arthasastra that sometimes permits expediency to override morality does in some contexts. The charismatic leader, svami, who belongs to the organized commonalty and cannot do anything not desirable to or is not desired by the clans and the communities engaged in economic activities is yet free to embark on conquests. But he shall arrange everything in such a manner that his allies or the indifferent ruler or the enemy may not get the better of him; this is the sum-total of state policy (naya).
State and War (7-181 to 200)
When the head of the wider commonalty, society (prabhu) undertakes a march (yanam) against the rashtra, hinterland, of the enemy, he shall advance slowly towards the capital, pura, of the enemy. He would lead his people’s troops towards the capital of his enemy. He would not make the people of the inimical state flee their villages and hamlets in panic. But the capital would be targeted.
The Prabhu is an overlord who claims authority over a group of nations some of which might have been induced by their kings to disown his authority. The Prabhu thereupon proceeds with the people’s army to put down those kings stationed in their garrisons and regain the loyalty of these rashtras. The Prabhu did not have a personal army or a state army at his disposal.
The agriculturist chieftain, mahipati, would commence his expedition in winter or early in spring depending on the condition of his forces. He would avoid the months of sowing seeds and harvesting crops and also the rains and the heat. Most troops were drawn from agricultural workers. He might march at other times also, if he perceived certain victory. Then he should pick up a quarrel, and march forward. He might march also when some trouble had risen from the enemy.
Having duly made arrangements at the base, as also those pertaining to the expedition, having secured a foothold and having duly deputed his spies, having cleared the three kinds of roads and having equipped his own six-fold force, he shall advance against the capital of the enemy in the order and manner prescribed for warfare. This chieftain, who marches against his enemy, is not an aristocrat, deva or sva. (The deva was not subordinate to any king.) The status of this chieftain is described as svaka, lower than that of an independent landlord who claimed to be an autonomous aristocrat, sva. The mahipati, the agriculturist chieftain, as directed by the prabhu, the head of the society, leads his own troops drawn mainly from the agricultural workers against the city of the enemy.
The leader who thus marched against his enemy should first establish a rear-guard and supply the fort with grains and fit it with machines, moats etc. The three kinds of roads are those passing through the open country, the marshy ground and the forest respectively. These had to be levelled for free movement of the six types of troops, elephants, horses, chariots, infantry, stores and mechanics. Some have traced the six types as the original standing army, the mercenaries, the troops of the military corporations, the troops of the ally, the troops surrendered by the enemy or who have deserted the enemy, and the forestmen. Though this ruler was leading a people’s army, it too had to be organized in the manner prescribed so that it did not land itself in trouble through lack of discipline. There have been changes from time to time in the enumeration of the types of troops used.
Manusmrti warns the chieftain to be on guard against the ally who might be secretly serving the enemy and also against one who had gone away and returned. The latter is the more troublesome enemy. Medhatithi traces four types among the renegades who have returned. (a) Some had gone away for some reason but have come back for a reason contrary to the above. These men are not totally trustworthy. (b) Some have come back for some reason but not contrary to the reason given for going away. These are fickle-minded. (c) Some have come back for the same reason for which they had gone away. These may be taken back. (d) If they are found to have been deputed by the enemy they are not to be taken back.
He shall march on the road arraying his army in the form of a staff or in that of a cart, or a boar or an alligator or a needle or the garuda-bird. The rod, needle and vulture arrays were recommended for plain roads and the others for hilly or marshy tracts, the commentators say. From where he apprehends danger there he shall extend his forces. And he himself shall always encamp in the lotus array. The leader (svami) would be surrounded in all directions by his men. The commander-in-chief of the state army and the chief of the force would be stationed in all (the four) directions; the direction from which the ruler apprehends danger, he shall stipulate as the chief (isa) (which he would personally look after). On all sides he shall station reliable pickets, with whom signals have been arranged, who are experts in standing firm as also in charging, fearless and loyal.
He shall make a small number of men fight in close formation; but a large number he may spread out as he likes. He shall make them fight, arraying them in the form of the needle or the spine. The king rarely led the troops and only directed them from his fortress. Here the ruler himself leads his men. On even ground he shall fight with chariots and horses; on marshy grounds with boats and elephants; on grounds covered with trees and thickets with bows; and on firm ground with swords and shield and other weapons. .
Manusmrti was first drafted when the region between Ganga and Yamuna was the centre of learning and valour. It was a period before the eastern Ganga basin with Kasi and Mithila emerged as great centres of learning noted for the composition of the great Upanishads and after the Sarasvati-Drshadvati basin lost its central place as the cradle of Vedic civilization and culture. The editors of Manusmrti who belonged to the Mahabharata times say: "He shall make the (free) men, naras, born in the countries of Kurukshetra, Matsya, Panchala and Surasena fight in the vanguard; as also those that are tall and agile."
It was a period when the four-fold classification of the society as Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras was newly introduced. The people of the Ganga basin during the Vedic times followed the Gandharva and Apsara cultures. The lower ranks of the Gandharvas who were not bound to householder discipline were known as naraloka, the social world of free men. Most of the troops were recruited from their ranks and given the orientation meant for the class of Kshatriyas, warriors and guards. These naras were to be placed in the vanguard. The leader, having arrayed his forces, shall encourage them and thoroughly, test them.
Even while they are engaging the enemy he shall mark their behaviour. Some men are likely to be half-hearted while others go to battle whole-heartedly. After having besieged the foe, he shall halt, and proceed to harass the foe’s rural hinterland, rashtra. He shall destroy the tanks as also walls and moats; he shall assail the enemy and shall frighten him during the night. The editors of Manusmrti who drafted this section could recommend such inhuman steps as they were pragmatic and not idealistic.
The editors of Manusmrti were not so irrational as to ask the conqueror to wait for good omens and for permission of the gods. The conqueror had marched to lay siege to the fort of another ruler but was not able to go beyond his brief. He was required to obtain the permission of the house of nobles of his own state before launching the attack. He could not commit his state on his own for he was taking state stores and wealth along with him to meet the needs of his personal troops and those of the state army under the commander-in-chief.
No king was a sovereign free to do as he decided or desired. It was not enough to get the approval of his ministry for it was his creature.The sober elite, devas, of his country retained the authority to pull him back from the final fringe before the actual war began.They formed the sabha or assembly, upper house of the legislature and controlled the finances and army of the state.
By conciliation, by gifts and by driving wedge among the men of his opponent, either severally or collectively, he shall try to conquer his enemy, never by war. This blanket ban on war proper must have been imposed by the (later) editors of Manusmrti who despaired of the harm it did to the people at large by sanctifying Kshatriya dharma and by instituting the class of Kshatriyas. The latter was a recognized means of externalizing the aggressive tendencies of the rulers so that the peoples of their countries might breathe freely. Since between two combatants victory is found to be uncertain, as also defeat, he shall avoid fighting. War was a gamble and gambling was to be deplored. But in the event of the three aforesaid expedients failing, he shall fight in such a manner as to conquer his enemies completely. In actual war, there is no place for scruples and mercy. The battle is fought to win. The commentators seem to be upset by this reality. They say: He shall not create imaginary difficulties, and he shall also eschew all treacherous ways of fighting, as also all such operations as would bring about either the utter annihilation of the enemy or too much harassment.
Consolidation of Conquered Territories (7-201 to 226)
Having gained victory, he shall worship the nobles of his country who permitted him to launch the war and the Brahmans, the scholars and jurists who stood by dharma (the code of conduct, especially of a ruler, rajadharma), grant remissions and cause promises of safety (amnesty) to be proclaimed. Principles of just governance (Rajadharma) do not vary from state to state. They are not governed by the orientations and faith of a particular ruler or a specific nation or group that is dominant in a given area. The jurists, Brahmans, stand by those principles rather than by the social and state laws of a given nation.
The conqueror is advised to grant remissions on taxes instead of resorting to looting the conquered territory. He must aim at winning over the commoners and not do anything that would increase their bitterness. He should not be revengeful but offer amnesty to all who surrendered to him. This was a pragmatic move rather than idealism and taking a high moral ground.
If even after bestowing such favours, he finds that the people of the city and the rural areas and their representatives (paurajanapada) are still loyal to their former chief (svami) and that any government of the conqueror’s in that occupied territory, will not last long, the latter shall, having briefly ascertained the wishes of all the people, set up there a member of the lineage of the previous chieftain andl conclude a treaty (with the representative body of that area). The new head of the state should enjoy the confidence of all the people of the conquered area. The conqueror was not to annex it.
There can be no treaty with a puppet as the successor. It has to be with the paurajanapada bodies and the ministers. A renegade is not to be appointed as the new ruler or a fanatical partisan of the dethroned family. Since the term, svami, rather than raja is visualized as the conqueror it is inadvisable to talk in terms of continuance of a royal dynasty as an imperative. The people of the conquered areas were for continuance of the rule by the defeated leader’s loyal associates though they did not insist that the successor should be invariably the eldest son of the deceased or dethroned ruler. [The officials of the British East India Company and of the Crown were eager to find out what procedure should be followed while putting into place their puppets in the Indian states overrun by them.]
The historians and jurists consulted by both British and Indian Indologists advocated continuance of the ruling dynasty and entering into agreement with one of its members. They did not hesitate to introduce in Manusmrti clauses (or highlight the clauses that were already in force) to satisfy the conquered people that they would continue to be ruled in accordance with their own laws and constitutions and win over the local chieftains and intellectuals. Ruling families were overthrown while making them and the people stay complacent.
The conqueror shall make authoritative all that is declared to have been in accordance with constitutional law (dharma) (of that country). He could not impose a new constitution on the conquered country. Every country had a right to frame its own law but whatever law or constitution was adopted had to meet certain basic conditions. He shall honour the new head and the major social leaders with precious gifts. It was not bribery. It was to ensure that they were not his enemies.
It needs to be stated here that the medieval commentators and also the modern writers have lost sight of the structure and functioning of the Vedic social polity. Devas and manushyas, nobles and commoners, were the two strata of the core society of the Vedic times. When it was brought under an organized state, it was agreed upon that the commoners would govern themselves but before any new venture was undertaken they would consult the nobles and secure their permission. While the nobles made finance available for these ventures, the commonalty provided human resources. There was no question of consulting gods or praying for their blessings.
Deva meant a noble and not a deity. It is also wrong to interpret that the term, daiva, meant fate or destiny. Let us keep aside both religion and superstition while discussing the roles of these two strata in decision-making. But the issue here is a specific political endeavour undertaken by the adventurous and ambitious ruler who did not get the fulsome support of the house of nobles for his move.
Leadership: A note on Daiva, Manushya and Purusha
The charismatic leader, svami, who was essentially a commoner ruler with limited rational legitimacy, was not able to get the approval and support of the nobles easily. What they wanted him to do he could not gauge correctly for want of access to their deliberations. Daivadharma is not to be treated as fate. It consists in merit resulting from previous acts, in the form of what are prescribed, and what are forbidden by the aristocrats cultural as well as intellectual. The term destiny, implying predestining does not convey the note correctly. The interpretation that between destiny and human exertion, the latter becomes after one’s death, the cause of the former, appears to be convincing to those who believe in the theory of rebirth. Manusmrti was drafted soon after the Vedic period and when the sages had expressed the desire to keep away from the mundane activities of the commoners and their leaders.
Medhatithi summarizes the stand of the Smrti: Daivam should be understood as what is done by one personally in his earlier body (deham). The work of a social leader, purusha, is what he does during this life. This is unsatisfactory. Let us keep aside the concept of rebirth while interpreting this verse. The assessment made by the nobles about one’s activities was with respect to his deeds in his previous positions and not with respect to his current deeds. As a commoner, manushya, he might have exhibited little dynamism but as a social leader, purusha, he has been continually exhibiting both valour and awareness of his limitations. This latter aspect has to be taken into account before extending assistance and unless he acts first and proves his merit and eligibility for assistance the nobles would sit back. Would a leader, purusha, be able to push ahead without unflinching support from the nobles? This debate underlies the enigma here. This verse has thrown up certain basic issues on this matter and these have to be re-examined.
The Vedic times witnessed the determination of what acts done were to be assessed on the basis of the paradigm mentioned above: Rules of procedure (vidhi), legislation (vidhana), consistent self-regulation and self-restraint (niyati) and personal aptitude (svabhava) were to be taken into account and also the socio-political constitution (Brahma) and the direction given by the charismatic leader (isvara) in the case of the social periphery who worked (yoga) in the areas away (antar) from the agrarian plains (bhu) and were known as bhutas.
The vocation normally pursued and the directions given by the noble in the case of the core society are relevant factors. In the case of the free-lancers Gandharvas etc. the positive contribution of the act to the society at large has to be noted. In the case of individuals (bhutas) of the unorganized social periphery the issue of how far they are able to work together was the relevant issue.
In the new organized society, it became difficult for the commoners and even for the social leaders to visualize how their acts were assessed and further directions given by the nobles who functioned from the backstage. [The medieval commentators had lost sight of this panorama that lit the Vedic horizon.] As pointed out, a commoner may rise to become a leader and the latter may become a noble on fulfillment of certain social duties. While there is a noticeable hiatus between the status of a commoner and that of an aristocrat, the gap between the social leader and the arisrocrat is considerably less. The role and status of a noble need the help of the efforts of the leader and the effort put in by the the leader needs the backing of the noble. The two are interdependent. Else the will of the noble, will get accomplished without the endeavour of the social leader. But it is not so.
Similarly if there is no relationship between the will of the nobles, and the acts engaged in by the leaders, then there would be no uniformity in results achieved. Causal efficiency requires the operation of both the factors. The commentator quotes Vyasa: All human undertakings are the effects of two types of work, daiva and purusha. Apart from these two there is nothing else. There is no role for chance or for the will of any supernatural or preternatural power in this social act, the enterprise of the commoners, determined by the will of the house of the nobles and inspired and directed by the leadership of the dynamic purushas. [This is not to deny the existence of God.]
The wills of the nobles and the needs of the commoners define the policy (naya) to be followed and what is to be avoided as impolicy (anaya) while administering the social world of workers including executives of the state (karmalokam). Kautilya, an expert in Samkhya dialectics posits the presence of four factors. Aya implied a policy found by the nobles, devas, to be beneficial, and anaya, a policy found by them to be harmful. Naya and apanaya are the policies found beneficial or harmful according to the commoners, manushyas.
Some advocated that all actions of the commoners be determined solely by the purposes had by the nobles. This was beneficial especially for the physically handicapped who were rewarded for their past good deeds. On the other hand, persons with enough means at their command, able-bodied, brave and clever and versed in the sciences were unhappy despite their efforts. Liberalism of the nobles benefited the weak while it neglected the meritorious. The nobles have not contributed to social progress though they have looked after the needs of the weak. This approach of the liberal nobles, which does not reward work, is deplored. It is complained that people go on experiencing gains and losses brought about by the nobles alone independent of the leadership traits of the meritorious.
But the popular theory is: We are experiencing in this world the results of past deeds and in the other social world we shall experience those of our present deeds. When commoners know this they would engage themselves in social duties (dharma). These scholars cite the verse: I know what is righteous, dharma, and yet I do not act up to it; and I know what is sin and yet I do not desist from it; I come out with things as I am prompted by the giver (dhata, the liberal noble); I have no other director (sasayita) than him. [Deists would identify Dhata as God.] Though the commoners may know what is right and what is wrong they do not try to decide their course of action by themselves but prefer to act as directed by the liberal governors.
But those persons who would recommend dependence entirely on the leadership provided by the purushas say: The work of the leader (purushakara) is the only cause of all activities. It is an active social leader (purusha) who participates in the socio-economic activities of the agrarian population (manushyas) who will benefit and be able to rise to the higher social stratum, that of the nobles. The commentators point out that it often happens that leadership influence though exercised is laid flat when overpowered by the will of the high individuals of the aristocracy. But even if the aristocracy is weak if strong leadership helps it, it succeeds in producing results. The will of the aristocracy, when weak, is set aside by the leadership; even the intelligent (cetana) work (karma) is baffled by the more powerful will of the aristocracy. This would treat the aristocracy to be superior to the intelligentsia but inferior to the class of constructive and participant social leaders who are with the masses.
Hence the editors of Manusmrti say that the will and power of the nobles is incomprehensible. We cannot fathom in what way it comes about and how it operates. As it is futile to discuss the role of the will of the aristocracy among the commoners it is the role of leadership that is going to be described as forming the subject matter of the treatise. The work that the socio-economic leader does is creative. What a common man, does is routine work (kriya). This can be noticed in agricultural operations. In fact people undertake only that operation of which the beginning, the middle and the end can be perceived. As regards daivam, (unfathomed) intent of the noble, it is not concerned with how men in trouble should act. Hence it need not be given much importance, some say. Only the work of the common man we can think over and then do what has to be done. The unsystematic worker comes to grief. He must be saved from it.
When the ruler is equipped with all the three powers (sakti) (prabhu, utsaha and mantra, state, human and material resources, tempo of the troops and strategy as explained by the Arthasastra) and endowed with due efforts by those who have the traits of social leadership there arises in his mind a keen desire to conquer other countries (pararashtra). Then the nobles and the commoners come together and all purposes are accomplished.
In that accomplishment, talent and direction of the nobles contribute to excellence. The rest are made possible by the calibre of the leaders. When the conqueror is aided by the counsel given by the nobles, the enemy is afflicted in terms of both nobles and commoners. Talented leadership (paurusham) and mature counsel of nobles (daivam) are on par in efficacy, the conqueror has to note. It has been said that when the commonalty function without being duly united with the nobility it is with great difficulty that it leads to completion (of the project).
It implies that if the leadership of the core society of nobles and commoners functions in defiance of the will of the aristocracy, in regard to all the eight forms of activity, either it succeeds with great difficulty or all its effort is futile. Hence even though there may be difficulties yet no one shall rest satisfied with resigning himself to the will of the nobles. On the other hand, when leadership works along with the aristocracy then the effort put in by the leader leads to the fulfilment of the purpose of that leadership with the help of their counsel. For, it would be in line with the objects and methods set forth in the counsel given by the nobles. [Social leadership cannot afford to ignore or reject the counsel given by the enlightened and experienced aristocracy that has no axes to grind.]
When the five sectors of spies function in accordance with the objective and impartial direction given by the nobles and their reports are taken into account there will be no difficulty in reaching all goals. In some cases when the leader puts forth his effort in the field even though the nobles are unable to extend support, it brings its due reward. Sometimes the field is as if it were dead and then all his effort is futile.
It has often been found that though one tries repeatedly the result does not accrue if the necessary aid from the nobles does not come to his rescue. Even though, the will of the aristocracy is favourable to exercise of leadership and guidance, without the latter the field of work will not bear fruits. Only when the result has been obtained it can be inferred that the will of the nobles was favourable. If the expected result is not there despite the effort put in by the leader it has to be presumed that there was no support from the nobles to that effort. Others have argued that it is not for want of support from the nobles but because of inaction (by those who were required to work) and want of leadership that the crops fail and the seeds sown are wasted. [Neither the aristocracy nor the leaders were connected with the feudal lords whether the latter were gentle or aggressive.]
The will of the nobility was represented in the Vedic polity through the officials. It was fulfilled by the leadership. Leaders are present in all fields. As the aristocracy does not favour annexation of the conquered territory, the conqueror has to install a member of the ruling lineage or oligarchy of that country, restore its constitution and return. Or having made peace with his enemy, he may return accompanied by him. This would give the conqueror the three-fold reward of obtaining an ally, gold and (ceded) land. In his circle of states, having paid due attention to the ally who forms his rear-guard and also to the ally who occupies the position next to the said ally, the conqueror shall obtain the result of his expedition either from his friend (mitra) or from the non-friend (amitra).
It was pointed out that the parthiva, ruler of the agrarian plains does not prosper so much by gaining gold and land as he does by obtaining a firm ally, even though the latter be weak, if fraught with future possibilities. Even a weak ally is highly commended if he is righteous, dharmya, functions according to the principles of rajadharma and grateful, has the constituents of his state content and is loyal and persevering in his undertakings.
The unattached intellectuals (budhas of the social periphery) describe that enemy to be most troublesome who is intelligent (prajna, has wide knowledge), belongs to a high clan, is brave, alert, liberal, grateful (to his own supporters) and firm (in his commitments to them). [The term, budhas, is used in a restrictive and precise sense and not loosely translated as the wise ones.]
The editors of Manusmrti then describe how an indifferent ruler is to be identified. He has the dignity of a free citizen with his own property. He knows the traits of leadership required to guard that independence. He has valour and compassion and constant robust objectives. This stoical chieftain is in fact a civil administrator and chief of free men (nrpa). Even though the land (occupied by him) is safe, fertile, and conducive to rearing of cattle he shall give it up without thinking about his personal interests. He is not an agriculturist who is deeply attached to his land. He is an udasina, an indifferent stoic. It appears that the medieval and later commentators had failed to note that this nrpati was bold enough to give asylum to a ruler who had been denied support by the nobles and also by his ministers. The nrpa, a pious civil administrator, was an Arya owning fertile pastoral lands but was ready to relinquish his rights and his interests rather than lose his freedom (to a conqueror).
One shall protect his wealth for times of need. At the expense of his wealth he shall protect his wife. He shall at all events protect himself even by giving up his wife and his wealth.This may sound realistic to some and reprehensive to others. But the rulers often did not have even these simple options to save their own skin. An unattached intellectual of the social periphery (budha) who sees all kinds of troubles frequently cropping up simultaneously shall build up for use all four means (sama, dana, bheda and danda) collectively as well as severally. He tries to be pragmatic and is not bound by the orientations imparted by any clan or community. He shall strive for the accomplishment of his purpose by taking his stand on all the three: (a) the employer of the expedients (b) the end to be attained by the expedients and (c) (the merits of) the expedients themselves. Without this positive training in policy, one would get dubbed as a thief. The properly trained person enters peace. Another may use his prowess. Both these should be equipped with a knowledge of policy (naya) (that would be advantage for the purpose on hand).
KAUTILYA AND THE FOUR BASES OF ARBITRATION
King (Raja) as Dharma Pravartaka (3-1-38)
The concluding verses of this chapter of Arthasastra describe the policy that the judges have to adhere to while settling disputes. Modern Indian jurists have discussed threadbare the implications of these verses and yet it requires fresh attention. For, Vishnugupta, the later editor of the Kautilyan Arthasastra had preferred not to present these verses in prose formulae and had allowed them to stand as Kautilya, had formulated several centuries earlier.
Shama Sastri translates the verse 38 as: In view of his power to uphold the observance of the respective duties of the four castes and the four divisions of religious life and in view of his power to guard against the violation of dharmas, the king is the fountain of justice. Kangle translates it as: When all laws are languishing, the king here is the progenitor of laws, by virtue of his guarding the right conduct of the world consisting of the four varnas and asramas. Kangle was closer to the mark but he erred as he translated dharma as law and dharmapravartaka as progenitor of laws. It is imprecise to equate dharma with law or justice or religion or charity. Shama Sastri erred in translating varna as caste and asrama as division of religious life. It is not proper to describe the king as the fountain of justice or as the promulgator of laws.
The Kautilyan King was not a judge. He was an executive who upheld dharma, the social code, the principles of the socio-cultural constitution by which the rights and duties of the individual had been instituted in accordance with one’s socio-economic class and stage of life. The great sages (appointed by the first Manu, Svayambhuva) who were also chiefs of the peoples (prajapatis) had drafted this code and Manu Vaivasvata had ratified it. It outlines the do’s and don’ts and is a social rather than a religious code. It was man-made and not god-sent. The judges were required to settle the disputes keeping themselves within the limits of the authority given to them by the state. The King had no authority to lay down new social or economic laws or religious laws.
It is wrong to introduce the British view of jurisprudence that all powers were originally vested by the Almighty in the King (His representative on earth) and were in due course shared with or delegated to the representatives of the people by the King. The European Indologists of the 19th century interpreted ancient Indian works from the classical western angle and their Indian admirers adopted the same angle in their eagerness to make Hinduism acceptable to western Christian liberal democracy. In Hindu Jurisprudence, the King was not a sovereign at any stage. He was only the chief executive of the state and was subordinate to the social constitution based on the principles of Dharma. He was not a legislator or a judge. The king might pass directives but he could not prescribe do’s and don’ts with respect to social, cultural or moral laws for any class or stage of life.
Kautilya, though he was not an ardent champion of varnasrama dharma, agreed that the King should protect the codes of conduct prescribed for the four classes and the four stages of life. The society had accepted them and they were in vogue. This code was a consensus arrived at by great sages who belonged to different schools of thought and represented different sections of the larger society. The King could not alter its provisions or annul them. He had the duty and power to protect it and implement its provisions. Kautilya however accepted that the King would intervene and exercise his powers only when there was a total collapse of this sociol constitution. When all sections of the social world (that is, the commonalty) drift away from the code of conduct prescribed for them in accordance with varnas and asramas, that is, when all the dharmas face extinction, the King as upholder of dharma can and should restore order [This is in line with Krishna’s stand in the Bhagavad-Gita.] Even at this stage he cannot pronounce new dharmas, new approved ways of life. He cannot intervene until that critical stage is reached.
Dharma is not to be equated with Faith or Belief in God or an Ultimate, which is the basis of Religion. It is a social code when it is based on Trayi, (the Three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama) It is a political code when it draws sustenance from the fourth Veda, Atharva. Manusmrti treats Danda, the coercive power, vested in the king as being subject to Dharma, the constitution of the state as outlined by Angirasa and Atharvacharya (main authors of Atharvaveda). It is not proper to presume that Dharma is what God has ordained. It is what has been defined, described and prescribed by the great sages, by the chiefs of the people as ways of life best suited for social equilibrium and for the development and progress of the individual as well as the society.
[It is not rational to describe the King as the Defender of the Faith which a Christian ruler was authorized by the Pope to be or which a non-catholic Christian king claimed to be. Such a wrong interpretation was encouraged by the British rulers of India and followed by many of the Indian scholars of the 19th century and early 20th century.]
Kautilya insists that while protecting the codes of conduct practised by the people of this social world who have accepted the scheme of four classes and four stages of life, the King must ensure that the dharmas prescribed for all (sarva) do not get extinct. It has to be noted here that the concept, sarva dharma is misunderstood and misused nowadays. Sarva dharma means the codes of conduct prescribed as common to all human beings, irrespective of their social status, economic pursuits, age, sex and creed. Kautilya has used it in this sense and not as all religions. Dharma is not to be equated with achara. It means more than the social practice in vogue. It is socially, morally and ethically right conduct, the ideal to be brought into practice. A large section of the society was not governed by varna and asrama codes. Many had not yet been assigned to any class. Many more belonged to mixed classes.
Kautilya felt it necessary (even as Manusmrti did) that certain duties should be made obligatory for all. Varnasrama Dharma had not then provided for such universally accepted duties. It was not comprehensive though theoretically every man or woman could be assigned to one or the other of the four varnas based on his or her vocation and innate trait and attitude. Every one whether assigned to one of the four classes or not passes through the four stages of life though the duration of each stage varies according to his or her class. In reality the earlier code had recognized only the right to subsistence rather than livelihood and to sex (preferably within the folds of marriage). Even modern states do not in the ultimate analysis go beyond this.
Autocrats too do not deny these rights to their subjects. In other words, among the four pursuits and values of life (purusharthas), artha and kama were open to all while dharma and moksha were not. The sarva dharma scheme (of Kautilya and also of Krshna) has to be examined against this background of the inadequacies of varnasrama dharma. It supplemented and not superseded the latter.
Non-violence (ahimsa) and adherence to truth (satya)
Every citizen was required to refrain from violence, to practise ahimsa, non-violence. The king had the right and duty to intervene to prevent violence. The state assured protection to the body and life of the individual. It could not inflict corporal punishment or pronounce capital sentence. There could be no trial by ordeal. They could only fine the culprits or order their imprisonment. Only the king could, as a last resort, after all other punishments had failed to deter the anti-social elements, award corporal punishment or order execution of death sentence. (Of course, Brahmans and women were exempt from these too.) Next in importance is the call to adhere to truth (satya). Perjury was frowned upon. The courts had to ensure that truth prevailed. Neither wealth nor birth in a high family could be allowed to affect this directive.
A third rule which both Dharmasastra and Arthasastra (and in fact other schools of thought too and all creeds) insisted on was observance of purity. Uprightness was expected of all. Corruption and adultery invited severe punishment. [Shoucham was later interpreted as personal hygiene. It led to physical distance and then social distance and the evil of untouchability.] The codes, Sastras, had given it (shoucha) a wider and just meaning, purity of intent, thought and deed. The judiciary had to be alert. The state had to put down corruption and evil intents.
While Manusmrti took serious note of thefts and violations of the rights to property and called for observance of non-theft (asteya) as a duty of every individual, Arthasastra goes to the basics and treats entertainment of jealousy (asuya) as a serious flaw. It calls for absence of jealousy (anasuya). [It may be noted here that assignment of an ineligible person to a particular poat or rank or class was meant by the term, asuya. It evoked jealousy. The codes insisted on avoiding such asignments.] Jealousy leads to domestic and social unrest. The state has the duty to remove the causes of jealousy.
Manusmrti abhorred licentiousness and called for self-restraint. Arthasastra calls upon all to show compassion and forbearance. The king has to ensure a society and a judicial process imbued with this spirit. [The tendency to present Kautilya as an immoral, merciless and crooked political counsellor is to be deplored and given up.] Kautilya’s King is an upholder of Dharma, in a broad sense. He was not the head of a theocratic state. Even the king of Manusmrti did not preside over a theocratic state.
Dharma, Vyavahara, Charitra and Rajasasana (39,40)
Perhaps no other statement of Arthasastra has attracted the attention of the modern Hindu jurists so much as the couplet 39. Still it needs deeper examination and calls for a refusal to treat modern western jurisprudence as the standard one against which ancient Hindu Law should be adjudged. The judges trying economic disputes will be able to give balanced and authoritative verdicts only if they bear in mind the comparative authority of the four bases (chatuspada) of wrangle (vivada), dharma, vyavahara, charitra and rajasasana. Of these, the latter authority supersedes the earlier one it is stressed. This stand has led to severe condemnation of the Kautilyan dictum as glorifying the State, the temporal authority and as undermining the importance of Dharma and spiritualism. Kautilya has also been criticized for holding Artha to be more important than Dharma. Some scholars have welcomed the subordination of religion to State and material needs. These critics do not have a correct appreciation of what is meant by Dharma. The former groups of scholars too have not been precise in their definitions of this term. Both groups do not have a proper insight with respect to Kautilyan policy and what he meant by Dharma. Every one of the four bases needs clarification and further guidance.
The next verse provides the clarifications. Dharma is based on Satya (truth) and Vyavahara on Sakshi (witness). Charitra is based on the views of the Samgraha (assemblage of elders, pumsa). The King’s order (Agnya) is called Rajasasana. These clarifications were issued to the judges and magistrates at all levels.
Shama Sastri translated the four terms as Sacred Law, Evidence, History and Edicts of Kings. Jolly translated them as Virtue, a Judicial Proceeding, Documentary Evidence and an Edict from the king. K. V. R. Iyengar read them as Truth, Matter in Dispute, Customary Law and King’s or Court Order. He tended to restrict the application of the Kautilyan dictum to the courtroom, to the bar and the bench. Kangle translated them as Law, Transaction, Custom and Royal Edict. Scholars have differed from one another on what was meant by Dharma as the above statements show. But they had refrained from translating it as Religion. Some others have presented it as Justice. It has to be stressed that by the term, Dharma, Hindu thinkers do not mean ‘Religion’. Religion calls for faith in and obedience to a supernatural power. Dharma does not.
Shama Sastri translated the term, charitram as history. Jolly went off the mark when he described it as documentary evidence. Kangle understood it as custom based on commonly held view of men. Some commentators of Brhaspatismrti treat it as: Whatever is practised by a man, proper or improper, but is in accordance with local usage is called charitram, custom.
The Kautilyan dictum declaring the comparative superiority among the four authorities (cited by a litigant in his defence) gave a fillip to Hindu Jurisprudence and it was later developed within the narrower circle of a lawsuit. Modern jurists have wrongly bypassed its implications. P.V.Kane points out that Yajnavalkya represents on numerous points of law, a very great advance upon Kautilya’s doctrine and that Kautilya does not contain distinct direction upon the four stages of lawsuit (plaint, reply, proof and judgment) nor upon the threefold aspects of proof (documents, witnesses and prescription). We would point out here that Kautilya was a contemporary of Katyayana, brother-in-law of Yajnavalkya. Katyayana was economic advisor to Dasaratha of Kosala while Yajnavalkya adorned this chair in the court of the Janaka of Mithila. Kautilya cannot be treated as not having made any contribution to Hindu Jurisprudence.
A.S.Nataraja Iyer says: Narada, a later jurist, who adopted Kautilya’s ordering, used the four aspects, dharma, vyavahara, charitram and rajasasana, as the four feet of vyavahara and not of vivada. Naradasmrti was post-Kautilyan but Narada was a senior contemporary of Kautilya. Kautilya was not a jurist. He was a dialectician trying to reconcile differences. According to Katyayana, a colleague of Vasishta, Kashyapa, Bharadvaja and Pisuna (hence of Kautilya), dharmanirnaya signified disposal of dispute on the admission of the defendant who desired to stick to dharma. Vyavahara was disposal in the regular course after the parties had joined issues, and charitra was disposal in accordance with the usage of the community (regardless of conformity with the sastras) and rajasasana was King’s order.
Brhaspatismrti meant by dharma, dharmanirnaya which would be adjudication with reference to probabilities on oath (by both parties) as a result of ordeal. Vyavahara would be adjudication on the evidence of witnesses and documents, while charitram would be adjudication on circumstantial evidence or usage. Rajasasana implies adjudication by the king without the aid of these means or in defiance of sastras or the advice of the councillors. Like Naradasmrti it was a considerably later work though Brhaspati was like Narada senior to Kautilya.
The Four Bases
When in a dispute that has come up for adjudication by the court, if both the parties accept what is known to be the truth (satya), the dispute ends. There can be no two sides to the truth. [But it is a tall order to expect all to abide by truth.] Dharma is Satya and Satya is Dharma, the Upanishads declare. Truth has to be declared on oath. Bringing out truth by ordeal is not recommended. Dharma, as far as court proceedings are concerned is based on truth and not on compassion or a charitable disposition. It does not permit compromise. Perjury attracts severe punishment. Hence most adhere to truth.
It is necessary here to note that social, economic and political relations during the early Vedic period were based on the principles of Rta. These principles held that every man (and every being) tries to protect himself (or itself) in a system where only the fittest can survive and where might is right. During the middle Vedic period when the organized state came to exist the laws based on Satya came to the fore. These laws held that truth should prevail over might. By the end of the Vedic period, the principles of Dharma were outlined. They called for an end to this confrontation between the two schools, Rta and Satya and for a system based on consensus and just compromise. The Upanishadic sages were eager to establish that the two codes, the liberal one based on Dharma and the stringent one based on Satya did not contradict each other. (Kautilya was on the scene when this reconciliation was effected.)
In all legal proceedings on issues that were not strictly economic in nature, the codes based on both Satya and Dharma prevailed. These codes were not as liberal as the ones based on Dharma were nor as puritanical as those based on Satya were. Of course, they would not be permissive like the codes based on Rta were. The disputes in question were socio-cultural rather than socio-economic in nature and origin. (It is not sound to treat the expression, socio-cultural, as referring to religious practices.) But most of the disputes that came up for adjudication before the Kautilyan court were economic in nature. It is so today too and everywhere.
What is spoken or acknowledged may not always be the truth, though most men generally speak the truth and are conscientious, and are willing to abide by it. If the facts are not obvious and are disputed, it becomes economic dispute, vyavahara. Then witnesses are to be called in and examined. This procedure is laid down for the village courts and county courts. Kautilya recognizes the difficulties in producing witnesses. But no transaction is valid without the presence of and endorsement by witnesses. It has to be in the open and not in secret. At this stage mere declaration on oath is not enough. This does not mean that dharma has been superseded or set aside. The question of probability and the issue of reliability of the witnesses come to be insisted on. The bench has a real job on hand in this case. In the earlier case, where the issue was dharma it just watched while the two parties agreed to abide by truth and it was more a facilitator rather than an active arbitrator. The fear of trial by orderal loomed large.
Sometimes the dispute pertains to who has been in possession of a particular property over a long period and it cannot be decided on oath or even by weighing the statements of the witnesses (that is by affirmation or by attestation). Then the elders of the community are to be called for a meeting. [Most of these meetings took place at the headquarters of the union of villages. They dealt with inter-village and inter-clan disputes.]
They are asked to state the position as known to them. The bench cannot give a verdict without consulting them. The opinion of the elders on the traditional ownership of the property in dispute will be binding on all. The bench may try vyavahara cases but has no power of discretion or option where dharma or satya clinches the issue or where the elders of the community pronounce their stand.
The bench cannot set aside the orders issued by kings (whether present or past) by which, certain families or individuals have been assigned or granted particular lands or facilities. The judiciary is not above the society and hence it has to respect the views of the elders. It is also not above the state. [These elders had retired from all economic activities and no longer entertained any economic interests though they were solicitous of the welfare of their offspring.] The edict has to be called for and neither party can question its validity. This is the only logical interpretation that can be entertained in the light of the economic disputes described in the earlier statements. There was no conflict between the state and the judiciary or the religious authority with the issue being decided in favour of the state. The issue was about the status and role of the judiciary. It was not expected to function as a power superior to the king or to the society.
Impartiality and the King's Duties
[The verse 41 presents the viewpoint of the commoner and may be a later interpolation.] If the subjects (praja) are protected in accordance with dharma (that is, the personal duty, svadharma, of the king, raja) the king will attain heaven, that is, he will become eligible to be admitted to the aristocracy. If he fails to do so or causes injury with his rod (danda) the contrary will happen, he is warned. [He is warned that though he may be born in an aristocratic family he may lose his status and be treated as but a commoner without any special privileges.] He is asked to realize, that that only is danda (that represents the king’s power) which protects (raksha) the other (para) social world (loka) and this (imam). [He has to protect the interests of the two social worlds, commonalty and patriciate, to whichever social world he may belong. It is imprecise to interpret this clause as implying that the king is superior to the commonalty as well as to the nobility.]
His authority to use coercive power against the disobedient persons would stand withdrawn if he failed to protect both his friends and his opponents. He is told that if he is arbitrary and cruel in his use of coercive power, he stands to lose his present position. This admonition is for the judges too. They have to be impartial. The king is asked to treat all accused on par, whether it is his own son or an enemy. Impartiality is expected of the king and also of the judges. The Kautilyan scheme did not provide for appellate courts. Whether he belongs to the nobility or to the commonalty, the king has to treat both on par.
Dharma, Vyavahara, Samstha and Nyaya
Shama Sastri translates this couplet as: The king who administers justice in accordance with sacred law (dharma), evidence (vyavahara), history (samstha) and edicts of kings (nyaya) which is the fourth, will be able to conquer the whole world (mahi) bounded by the four quarters. He was imprecise and failed to recognize the difference between charitra and samstha and similarly between rajasasana and nyaya. Kangle translates it as: For a king, giving decisions in accordance with law (dharma), transaction (vyavahara), settled custom (samstha) and edict (nyaya) as the fourth, would conquer the earth up to the four quarters. [We have to bear in mind the 20th century Indian translators of Kautilyan Arthasastra have been influenced unduly by the western Indologists who did not have a correct picture of the ancient Indian social polity.] Kangle too failed to recognize the differences. Both have hesitated to face the implications of the differences underlying the two couplets, 39 and 43. Kangle explains it away: It is possible that the difference in terminology stems from a difference in source. He holds that by dharmena, dharmasastra law is meant. Samsthaya is probably the same as charitra, he says. Some versions have lokachara, he notes. The compiler had not drawn on a second version of Kautilya’s dictum.
There was a basic difference between the two contexts. In 43, the King (raja) does not feature. The instruction given is to the conqueror of all the agricultural tracts (mahi), to the mahipati who is a ruler of agricultural lands. He is not empowered to proceed by the declaration of the elders on who was the traditional owner (of the land or property in dispute) and is not expected to honour the orders of the earlier kings (whom he has dethroned or succeeded). [Rural areas threw up several disputes over lands and their boundaries as seen in Manusmrti.]
The disputes referred to in 43 pertained to economic organizations and institutions (samsthas) like corporations (srenis) and guilds (samghas). The disputes referred to in 39 were within the same family or between families, mainly in the rural areas, though these too were economic in nature. They were however localized and disposed off quickly on the basis of affirmation or attestation or opinion of the elders or the king’s directive. The objective was to minimize litigation. Not much of principles of jurisprudence were felt necessary to deal with family disputes over property. But economic institutions could not be disposed off easily. They were powerful and could keep the state at bay. Unless a procedure acceptable to both the contending organizations was adopted, the king would not succeed in his object. He would not be able to exercise his suzerainty even within his territory. This procedure (which was not necessary in family disputes) is explained in the couplet (sloka) 43 and the ensuing couplets.
The basic courts that met at samgrahanas (village union level) and at dronamukhas (tahsil or county headquarters) must have adopted the procedure described in 3-1-39 and 40. But the courts, which met at the district (pradesa or sthaniya) headquarters and at the intersections of regions (janapada samdhis), were required to follow the procedure indicated in 3-1-43. These were not appellate courts. They had original jurisdiction. Of course, the basic principle and comparative superiority of the succeeding among the four authorities, dharma, vyavahara, charitra and rajasasana, was not to be lost sight of by any court. Verdicts could not be based on political expediency or be subjected to arm-twisting by powerful economic bodies. The judiciary had to be independent, fearless and impartial.
In the higher courts, nyaya held sway and not the king’s executive diktats (rajasasana). Jurisprudence had to be on its toes and not on its knees. Rajasasana was not a judicial verdict. The king was not a judge. [The British rulers of India were eager to float the concept that the emperor was the highest judge and that rajasasana, the king’s edict or charter or verdict could not be questioned even as it was in ancient India. A deliberate misdirection seems to have been effected while providing commentaries on these couplets.] Rajasasana was an executive order, which the village and tahsil courts could not set aside or ignore. The kings had given charters in favour of some of their supporters or to appease some rivals and detractors. These could not be challenged without inviting revolt. Nyaya techniques which were guided by logical systems and ensured that fairness and justice were assured were not unknown to Kautilya who had mastered samkhya and yoga. These did not deal with the above sensitive political disputes.
Samstha and Dharmasastra, Sastra and Vyavahara
Shama Sastri translates this couplet as: Whenever there is disagreement between history (samstha) and sacred law (dharmasastra) or between evidence (vyavahara) and sacred law (sastra), the matter shall be settled (nirnaya) in accordance with sacred law (dharma). This translation grants dharmasastra and dharma roles not intended by Kautilya and is in conflict with couplets 39 and 40 mentioned above, which treat Dharma procedure as nothing more than adherence to truth. Kangle translates it as: He shall decide with the help of law (dharma), a matter in which a settled custom (samstha) or a matter based on a transaction (vyavahara) contradicts the science of law (dharmasastra). This translation is imperfect. According to the text (44), when there is a contradiction between samstha and dharmasastra or between sastra and vyavahara, the matter shall be decided in accordance with the intent of dharma and not by the letter of dharmasastra. The spirit behind dharma shall prevail and not the wordings of the codes. This aspect has been lost sight of by translators and critics of Arthasastra. Kautilya does not allow any code, sastra, to subvert dharma. What is the intent of dharma?
Where the intent of the constitution of the organization, samstha, (to which the plaintiff and the respondent both belong and which has laid down its own economic regulations) is not clear, the intent of dharma has to be ascertained and followed as authoritative. Dharma is not identical with what is described in dharmasastra, the socio-cultural constitution of the four-fold society, as rules for the resolution of economic disputes (vyavahara). The court has to resolve the contradictions between the provisions of the constitution of the particular economic organization, corporation or guild, and those of the socio-cultural constitution of the general society (that is, the contradictions between the constitution of the economic institution, samstha and dharmasastra). Similarly, it has to resolve the contradictions between the constitution of the politico-economic organization (state) as described in the Arthasastra or Nitisastra or Vyavaharasastra and the economic practices in vogue, vyavahara. The resolution of these contradictions had become imperative because diverse economic interests operated in the expanded and integrated janapada.
The bench had been constituted for this specific purpose namely, reconciliation of ideals with realities and adoption of a pragmatic approach so that the intent of dharma was not lost sight of while pursuing material gains. Strict adherence to the letter of dharmasastra may result in rejection of the constitutions of the samsthas. Kautilya did not intend this to happen. He would appeal for adherence to the more basic and acceptable concept, dharma.
This dharma is the constitution of the state as acknowledged by Manusmrti and is superior to danda or the coercive power vested in the king. It has been outlined in the Atharvaveda. It overrules all sastras (dharma, artha, niti and vyavahara) edited during later periods. This code, sastra, in its authoritative form was not available even to Kautilya.
Kangle opines: The idea is, when Samstha or Vyavahara is in conflict with dharma, the latter prevails. True, dharma prevails, but the conflict is not between samstha and dharma or between vyavahara and dharma. All social and economic constitutions are subordinate to a higher concept, dharma, which stresses, non-violence, truth, purity, absence of jealousy, compassion and forbearance. The state is bound to follow it and so too, every organization and group and every individual. It is not letter of the law but the composing spirit of justice that has to prevail.
Kautilya accepted dharma. He did not prevaricate on the issue of its supremacy. He was however heterodox and pragmatic when he claimed that artha was superior to the other two values, dharma and kama. But he did not accept the then extant codes on dharma, as they were imperfect. He was a dialectician who applied the techniques of samkhya to cull directly from the three Vedas (Rg, Yajur and Sama) what constituted dharma and what was its opposite, adharma. So he advised that the techniques of the nyaya system of adjudicating and rendering verdicts should be adopted for resolving all disputes and conflicts.
What appears to be correct and just, as the process of rigorous reasoning is gone through is nyaya. [The king has to be impartial between his supporters and others. Hence when there are conflicts among rules and codes, he should not pass any executive orders.] Nyaya (which is not edict or rajasasana) should be allowed to take its own course. The king has to await the findings of the judiciary. Kautilya wanted unanimous and authoritative verdicts from the independent judiciary. They should be based on Nyaya, principles and procedure of justice. (Nyaya was not a theoretical system of logic only. It was intrinsically related to the social values cherished by all, especially by the sober and impartial intelligentsia.) The King presided over the bench but could not veto its decisions. He had no vote either. The Kautilyan king did not and could not control the judiciary.
Sastra and Dharmanyaya (3-1-45)
Shama Sastri translates this couplet as: But whenever sacred law (sastra) is in conflict with rational law (dharmanyaya), then reason (nyaya) shall be held as authoritative (pramanam) for the original text (on which the sacred law has been based) is not available. He equates dharmanyaya with king’s law. [It is apparent that there was an attempt to pull down the importance of dharmasastra texts by claiming that they were not the original ones, which commanded the respect of the ancients as incorporating sacred law. It was also attempted to install in its place the authority of the British Privy Council.] Kangle translates this verse as: Where (a text of) the science (sastra) may be in conflict with any edict in a matter of law, there the edict (nyaya) shall prevail; for there the written text loses its identity. Shama Sastri tries to establish that the method of reasoning has to be resorted to, as the original text is not available. Kangle proceeds on the assumption that what the king pronounces is nyaya and is binding and not the sastras. Kautilya did not intend this.
There were verdicts given earlier by councils convened to define dharma so that doubts might be erased. But even these verdicts might have been in conflict with the versions of codes (sastras) available to courts. These parishads (constituted under Manusmrti) had ten members of whom two were experts in the nyaya system comprising hetu, tarka and nirukta. The verdict given by this parishad under the provisions of dharmasastra was treated as dharmanirnaya. Hence earlier verdicts could not be applied mechanically while trying the dispute on hand. Kautilya advises the court to follow the technique of nyaya (a separate discipline like samkhya) for resolving this conflict also. He emphasizes reason and rejects precedents, which are described in the (three) Vedas.
Breloer inferred that the judge was thus given opportunity to build up new legal sentences outside and even contrary to the ‘holy law’. This freedom was what the Protestants who sought to escape from the authority of the Roman church wanted. Kautilya should not be equated with these Protestants. Dharma does not imply holy law. It is a set of principles agreed to by all sections of the civilized society. Dharmasastras too were secular compositions and could be questioned and amended by parishads (councils) constituted for this purpose.
Each of the three Vedas had one representative on the parishad. The three stages of life, studentship, domestic life and retirement (brahmacharya, grhastha and vanaprastha) had each one representative. There was one expert each for the four disciplines, hetu, tarka, nirukta or etymology and dharma. Even the verdict of such a body may have to be subjected to further scrutiny by the process of reasoning, nyaya, by the bench, if it is in conflict with the code. The dharmapataka must have followed a particular text. It could not be vouchsafed by any one (even in Kautilya’s times) as the authoritative text. Who can vouchsafe that the present edition of Manusmrti was the original one prepared by the ten Prajapatis nominated by the first Manu, Svayambhuva? During Rama’s times, the dharmasastra text prepared by Vasishta and authorized by Manu Tamasa was in vogue. The one composed by Bhrgu (authorized by Svayambhuva and endorsed by Vaivasvata) insisted on nyaya. The issue was between what was reasoned and hence just and what was unalterable fact. Kautilya stresses the value of the former for the higher courts and that of the latter for the lower courts.
If there is a conflict between the text of the code, sastra (whether dharma or artha), and the rules governing economic transactions, vyavahara, the basic principles underlying dharma may be referred to for guidance. In major economic disputes, the verdict of the relevant economic organization (samstha) was binding. But in minor ones, the opinions of the elders clinched the issue on traditional or longer ownership. But if the verdict of the samstha clashed with dharmasastra, nyaya techniques that included all courtroom formalities had to be resorted to.
The samstha (sreni or samgha) had been approached because there was a conflict between the code and the wordings of the document pertaining to the actual transaction. There was a conflict between principles and practice (in economic affairs). Here the appellate body was the samstha. It was not being proceeded against. It was however not a judiciary unlike that latter appellate body which discussed the validity of the verdicts given by earlier courts as setting p0recedents.
The decisions of the institution, samstha could be appealed against, but not those of the Kautilyan bench comprising three dharmasthas and three amatyas. The samstha (chambers of commerce or corporations of financiers or guilds of workers) could be appealed to and appealed against. But the courts could be only appealed to by the aggrieved party and not appealed against (even to the king). The parishad (council of ten scholars) too could be appealed to and appealed against. The Bench of six members was an administrative tribunal from the point of view of dharma as well as that of artha, of social and moral justice as well pragmatic economic conventions. It could be appealed to and not against.
Rajasasana was an executive order. It was not a judicial verdict. It could be set aside but only by another order of the same king or of his successor. But a judicial verdict could not be set aside by a ruler, though it may be re-examined by a court of the same standing. Courts refrained from setting aside royal edicts. The bench of three dharmasthas (jurists) and three amatyas (members of the executive) however was autonomous, though it was constituted by the state. It followed the nyaya technique.
The Judicial Process (3-1-46,47)
Shama Sastri translates verse 46 as: Svayamvada (self-assertion), on the part of either of the parties, svapaksha or parapaksha, has been found faulty (dosha). Examination (anuyoga), honesty (arjava), evidence (hetu) and asseveration by oath (sapata), these alone can enable a man to win the case (arthasadhaka). Kangle reads it as: A distinctly seen (drshta) offence (dosha), voluntary admission (svayamvada), straight-forwardness (arjava) in questions and answers (anuyoga) to one’s own and the opposite party and oath lead to a favourable decision (arthasadhaka). The differences between the two translations cannot be ignored. The king should not ignore either party to a dispute when he presides over a bench hearing a dispute of paramount importance. The king presenting his own case during those hearings is an obvious fault, as he has to be neutral. It was a case of state versus private citizen. The king was identified as the svapaksha and the citizen as the other party, parapaksha. The case of the state has to be presented by Drshti, the minister in charge of the department of intelligence and not by the king personally. He was to look after the interests of the state and the king as his solicitor. [Drshti and Arthasadhaka were designations of two of the eight ministers in the Kosala cabinet.]
If the king has to argue his own case, it implies that this department has not been functioning properly or that the state has distanced itself from the king. The king cannot preside over the bench when he is one of the litigants. [There have always been king’s men as distinct from others.] [Dhrtarashtra presided over the bench hearing the dispute between his sons and the sons of Pandu. He lacked Drshti, the institution that provided independent intelligence.] What are the means (sadhaka) to achieve one’s objective, especially economic (artha) goals? How can one recognize the intent of the codes?
Anuyoga (examination for follow-up), arjava (ascertaining honesty), hetu (establishment of motive) and sapata (value of oath) are the steps to be followed even by the king. All those invited to participate in the trial proceedings were entitled to present their views. It was not an issue between two private litigants. It had become a constitutional issue before a bench whose verdicts would be binding on all. It was an issue of resolving a fundamental contradiction between the constitution of the samstha (which it had adopted for its internal working and to which the state or the king was not a party) and the Dharmasastra that was binding on all. The verse 47 is applicable to routine trials. Shama Sastri translates it as: Whenever by means of deposition of witnesses (sakshivaktavya), the statements of either of the parties are found contradictory (purvottara artha vyagatha) and whenever the cause of either of the parties is found by the king’s spies (chara) to be false, then the decree shall be passed against that party. Kangle reads it as: In case of contradiction between an earlier and a later statement, in case of blame-worthiness of witnesses, and in case of escape from custody of the prison-guard (pradeshtr), loss of suit shall be declared. [The Kautilyan king was not a judge.]
The simpler cases were supervised by the pradeshtr, the district magistrate. He could use spies or scouts (chara) to verify the facts and was stationed in the district capital. [He also looked after the prison. But that was his secondary function,] If a witness contradicts himself, his statements are rejected. He is liable to be punished. The reports of the scouts were accepted by the pradeshtr and loss of suit was decreed against the party at fault. This was magisterial procedure. In 3-1-46, the constitution bench examined the laws. It was not presided over by the king. In 3-1-47 facts were ascertained by the district court.
KAUTILYA AND RIGHTS OF FREE CITIZENS
ARYABHAVA AND DASABHAVA
All Are Born Free (AS Bk,3 Ch.13)
Kautilya's famous declaration, Never shall an Arya be subjected to dasabhava (3-13-14) deserves more attention than it has received so far. It was a constitutional directive to the judges, to the Dharmasthas. It called on them to protect the rights of the Aryas, the citizens and domiciles of Aryavarta. Both Shama Sastri and Kangle erred seriously when like most Indologists, Indian as well as western they translated dasabhava as slavery.
Dasabhava meant bonded labourhood, labour which the master was entitled to extract from his employee in accordance with the provisions of the agreement between the two. Often the employee was a minor boy or girl and the agreement was with the guardian of that minor. This agreement, bond, set in abeyance some of the rights which every citizen (Arya) had but not any of the rights which one had as an assertive human being (Purusha) to pursue the four values of life, dharma, artha, kama and moksha. An Arya was a free citizen of Aryavarta. All the domiciles of Aryavarta (north India) were known as Aryas. [Aryas were not a race or a linguistic group or an ethnic group. The reader may note that we do not discuss the issue of nativity. Wherever that domicile had been born, he was an Arya by domicile.]
All these domiciles of Aryavarta irrespective of their social status or economic occupation, Shudra or Vaisya, Kshatriya or Brahmana were declared by the Kautilyan state as Aryas. Earlier only owners of property, that is, Vaisyas, were known as Aryas. Kautilya dropped this requirement, making this status open, for all. It is not sound to trace master-slave relationship in the Arya-Dasa dichotomy. Most of the dasas were free citizens earlier. They had become bonded labourers under some rich creditors, not all of whom were vicious.
All men and women, whether domiciles of Aryavarta or aliens (whether Aryas or Mlechchas), are born free irrespective of the status of their parents or place of birth. Even a child born to a dasa is born free. So too, a child born to a prisoner (civil or criminal or political) is born free.Every man (and woman) has the right to remain and grow as a free citizen of Aryavarta. [During Kautilya’s times and even by the time Manava Dharmasastra was adopted, most of the Indian subcontinent was known as Aryavarta. The lands beyond the seas around it were known as Kaivarta.]
Consent necessary to become a dasa
Kangle agrees that the dasabhava of a minor is declared invalid whether that minor (boy or girl) is an Arya or alien, Mlechcha. But he feels that 3-13-4 declares the dasabhava, the status of servitude of an Arya as illegal permits the servitude of the alien. The above statement does not warrant such an interpretation. Even the aliens were eligible for protection of their freedom. The entire chapter discusses the issue when an Arya is deemed to have become a dasa and how a dasa can be redeemed and become an Arya once again. One is born free and may become a dasa on his personal volition. He may not be made a dasa against his will or without his consent. A child’s consent is not valid. Hence no one may employ a child as a dasa. Child labour was debarred. Children cannot be mortgaged or sold by their parents or by others. An adult Arya could not be employed as a dasa without his specific consent, the statement (3-13-4) implies.
Not all Shudras were Dasas and Not all Dasas were Shudras
An Arya was a self-employed citizen or an employer or a labourer who was free to choose his master and stipulate the conditions of his service. The master had to pay the wages in accordance with the service rendered by his employee and the latter could leave the service whenever he wanted. He would be a Shudra or Vaisya or Kshatriya or Brahmana in accordance with his vocation.To whatever class (varna) he belonged, he was an Arya, provided as an employee he got his wages or payment for work done or service rendered and could leave the service at his option. Where an employee was not free to choose his master or leave him or stipulate the conditions of his service, he was described a dasa, irrespective of his vocation or class (varna). Not all Shudras were dasas and not all dasas were Shudras. [The reader has to be on the alert against political propagandists masquerading as academics.]
Dasatva (servitude) without consent is invalid
Kautilya proclaims that no Arya child or adult may be sold or pledged by his (or her) family to serve a third person as a dasa (or dasi). The parents, especially the fathers used to claim that as they had procreated their sons and daughters (svajana), they were entitled to sell or pledge them. He declares this claim as untenable. The parents are not to treat their child as a commodity, which may be sold or pledged against loan taken. A child is a human being, born free and not an animal or property. [Manava Dharmasastra banned the feudal (asura) practice of giving away girls in marriage after receiving bridal money, sulka, for it was sale of girls.]
An adult may not be made a dasa, a servant, against his will. But he may become a dasa by his own volition. For, an Arya is born free and is free to renounce his (or her) freedom and become a dasa (or dasi) after attaining the age of consent (fifteen). The judiciary had to bear in mind this right given to the Arya by the then constitution.
It was for the adult citizen to determine whether freedom was in his interest or dasa status was. [Champions of liberty and human rights may note that this stand was taken after following Samkhya dialectics and methods of reasoning accepted by the Nyaya system.] The presumption that the status of a free citizen is invariably a more advantageous one than that of bonded labourer is unwarranted. Of course no one prefers dishonourable starvation or rejects a honourable livelihood.
The judiciary has to first determine what has made one to be in dasa status before considering the issue of his redemption from it. Kautilyan constitution declares that no Arya boy (or girl) or man (or woman) may be deprived of his (or her) rights as a free citizen by any one including his (or her) father (or mother).
Penalty for forcing one into the status of a bonded labourer
If the parent sells his (or her) son (or daughter), he was fined 12 or 24 or36 or48 panas depending on whether the victim was a Shudra or a Vaisya or a Kshatriya or a Brahmana. If the offender was one other than a parent of the victim, he was fined 48 to96 panas if the victim was a Shudra or 200 to 500 panas, in case of a Vaisya victim or 500 to 1000 panas in case of a Kshatriya victim. If the person sold was a Brahmana, the offender (who was not a parent of that victim) might be given even death penalty. The buyer or the pledgee of the bonded labourer, dasa, was similarly fined, it may be inferred.
The defendant had to prove that the alleged victim was a major who had given his (or her) consent to be sold or mortgaged, that is, had voluntarily become a dasa (or dasi) to help his (or her) family out of its difficulties. If the defendant could not prove it, he was punished and the court set free the victim. [The reader is advised against getting diverted from the main issue by the apparent discrimination on the basis of varna stratification.]
Duty to redeem the members pledged as dasas
Often senior members of the family, who had been compelled to borrow money to tide over its economic distress, pledged the lives and services of its younger members to its creditors. These dasas (many of whom were children) were bonded labourers and had to be redeemed by their parents and other elders. In some cases the day of redemption never dawned. The Arya family was asked to redeem such a person pledged at the earliest opportunity. Kautilya tried to end this unsavoury practice of bonded labour without causing pecuniary loss to the honest among the creditors. Of course, no creditor could accept children as pledges. Only adults who gave their consent could be accepted as (usufructory) pledges.
But becoming a dasa was easy while getting out of that status was not. Many families found it difficult to raise the capital borrowed against the pledge. The pledged person was asked to patiently await redemption as he had given his consent to work for the creditor. He was a pledge whose services could be used by the creditor. If the pledged member ran away in the middle, he would forfeit the right to be redeemed he was warned.
The role of the Kautilyan state in redemption of dasas
The Kautilyan state was organizing redemption of bonded labour without putting the genuine creditors to loss. It was a slow process, however. If a dasa had been pledged by other members of his family but with his consent, the first attempt at escape was condoned but not the second. Any attempt to flee from the country resulted in forfeiture of the right to redemption (moksha), the dasa was warned. It is unjust and incorrect to say that the Kautilyan state thrived on slavery or on bonded labour. On the contrary it had undertaken a mission to end this practice, a byproduct of speculative economy. This chapter deals with the different aspects of this process of liberation of dasas.
Dasas and Rights of Varnas and Asramas
The dasa was accorded protection by the state and the creditor-pledgee had to honour the rules governing the rights of the pledged person as a human being and as a free citizen, Arya. The dasa (or dasi) whether sold or pledged or self-pledged continued enjoy his (or her) rights as an Arya in accordance with his (or her) varna (socio-economic class) and asrama (stage of life) . These could not be infringed by the buyer of the services of that dasa (or dasi) or by the pledgee.
[Human rights activists are expected to amend their notions about the Indian scenario and not apply to it the notions about slavery which have emerged after the end of the practice of slavery, as late as 1910s AD by the white imperialists. It was not only feudalism but also speculative market economy, which had promoted or resulted in debt bondage. Capitalism has everywhere flourished on the number of bonded labourers whether locally available or imported for exploitation by the few rich and mighty. It has not stood by the concept of rights of the individual as a human being.]
Human rights and rights of dasas
The dasa (so too, the dasi) was entitled to sex within the fold of marriage and to procreate as a grhastha as he or she was an adult and not a child. The bonded labourer if he or she was a Vaisya or a Kshatriya or a Brahmana was entitled to retirement, the vanaprastha stage and had the right to perform sacrifices (yajnas) and pursue studies.
A Shudra (an independent worker) who had been reduced to the status of a bonded labourer (dasa or dasi) was entitled only to marry and procreate. Of course the bonded labourer was entitled to food, clothing and shelter as long as he (or she) served the master. Dasatva, a form of economic deprivation, was not allowed to adversely affect the practice of the non-economic obligations of the individual as an Arya.
Dasatva was temporary servitude and not slavery
Dasatva, servitude, did not mean extraction of work without payment. The work done by a bonded labourer was evaluated at the same rate as that by a free worker whose wages were governed by statutes as laid down. The dasa was not paid wages on the spot but they were placed in the charge of the master. The master or pledgee could not appropriate them to himself. It was not slave labour. There could be no forced labour or economic exploitation of the needy employees and of families in distress, as long as the Kautilyan constitution was in force.
Class Distinctions and Servitude
The bonded labourer was normally assigned a job in tune with the vocations permitted for his (or her) varna, class. Care had to be taken that he was not given a work proscribed for his varna. It meant only the Brahmans who were intellectuals and had become dasas could not be made to do manual work or to render personal service to others. A Kshatriya who had lost his freedom and become a prisoner-of-war could be assigned physical (hard) labour. A Vaisya who had lost his property and become a civil prisoner as a debtor could be assigned (mild) physical labour although he might have been an employer earlier. Hence no one would come forward to buy or accept as pledge, a Brahman child or adult. Either the Brahman’s poverty remained not alleviated, as he did not get a job even as a bonded labourer (dasa) or he took to beggary to meet his needs for subsistence. The concept of human rights cannot afford to overlook the fact of differential treatment on the basis of class affiliation.
Temporary Suspension of Some Rights
We have to be wary of the pronouncements of demagogues and also of some ideologues who use the concepts, dasa and shudra interchangeably. A dasa was a domestic servant or an agricultural worker or an industrial worker under a written or unwritten bond where the employer had an upper hand and so too a dasi. She was not to be treated as a prostitute and sexually exploited. A shudra was a contract employee in these sectors and could walk out of the contract any time. All employees of the state or private companies are contract employees.
The dasa (or dasi) was given soft jobs or hard work, depending on his (or her) varna. He had to be treated as a free person, an Arya who was temporarily doing a job at the behest of another person and not on his own initiative and in accordance with his aptitude. His (or her) self-respect was not to be hurt. A dasa was rendering temporary service and was not in permanent servitude, it had to be remembered. He was a servant and not a slave. He had only temporarily lost or forgone the alternative to be self-employed or be an employer and if a worker he had lost the right to choose for himself another employer. Dasatva was a partial and temporary suspension of some of the rights of an Arya, a free citizen. It was certainly not slavery for eternity.
Dasas and the right to choose or refuse certain jobs
A dasa could not be asked to do a job, which was infra dig for an Arya, a free citizen (e.g. picking up an unclaimed corpse, removing others excreta or leavings of food). A Shudra too was an Arya, it has to be noted. Only those persons who had specifically consented to do these jobs for remuneration could be employed as sweepers and scavengers. Those persons who could not afford to pay these workers had to do these jobs themselves. They could not employ their dasas on these jobs.
As far as other jobs were concerned, the dasa had no right to choose. He could refuse to do only that job which was prohibited for his varna. For instance a gopala, protector of cattle could not be engaged as a butcher. But the dasa could not ask only for a job that was prescribed specifically for his varna. A dasa who belonged to the class of Kshatriyas could not ask for a military assignment only. He might be employed as an artisan or a cowherd but not as an executor. It is necessary to recognize the implications of these aspects.
Protection of women employees in the domestic sector
A dasi (female attendant) could not be asked to give bath to a naked man. Her dignity and modesty as a woman could not be violated. No dasa (or dasi) could be given corporal punishment by the master for any offence. The judiciary and the executive were expected to protect the (human) rights of these workers who were awaiting redemption from bondage. No dasi could be molested. Her chastity was not to be violated. The guilty master or pledgee was liable to forfeit the claim to the capital (mulya) advanced by him to buy or secure her services, Kautilya warned. The master did not dare to take liberties with the female employees serving him whether as a nurse in his house or as a cook (paricharika) or as a errand-girl (upacharika) or on his lands as a sharecropper (ardhasitika). A female employee who was violated became immediately free. Similarly any violence against an errand-boy (upacharaka) by a highborn domicile or subject of the state (abhiprajata) entitled him to go away. The master lost his claim to the capital advanced and could not get a substitute pledge as dasa or dasi. These new rules introduced by Kautilyan Arthasastra forced the creditors and masters not to offend the dignity and chastity as a human being, of a bonded labourer or purchased employee.
Nurses and governesses working in the houses of the rich creditors were not secure from molestation by their employers and others. If the master approached a nurse (dasi) against her will, he was liable to be fined 48 to 96 panas, the lowest penalty for assault, sahasa. If a third person approached her, the master was fined 200 to 500 panas, the middle amercement. Kautilya held the master responsible for protection of the life and dignity of the nurses and other female attendants employed by him.
If a virgin (kanya) working under him was violated against her will the master lost his claim to the sum loaned by him to buy her services as a usufructory pledge. Besides he had to pay her compensation as fixed by the judge, dharmastha. He had to also pay a fine double that amount to the state. This rule must have been introduced to enable her to get married and gain protection. The Kautilyan state took care to protect the dignity of the women employees, especially the virgins, even those bought or pledged.
Rights of a Free Citizen, Arya and Redemption of Dasas
An Arya to whichever social class he belonged was free to pursue the four values of life, dharma, artha, kama and moksha and go through all the four stages of life, brahmacharya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sanyasa. During his student days (brahmacharya), he not only gathered the skills and knowledge required for earning his livelihood but also developed the socio-cultural traits expected of a civilized person and responsible free citizen. During his married life (grhastha), he pursued material interests and got his sex needs fulfilled. During his period of retirement to his austere forest abode (vanaprastha), he was slowly cutting himself off from artha and kama, economic pursuits and sex impulses and preparing himself for the final liberation (moksha) from bonds of birth. This last stage is referred to as sanyasa.
The Kautilyan state granted the right to the members of all the four socio-economic classes (varnas) to pursue all the four values of life (purusharthas) and to go through all the four stages of life (asramas). Hence an Arya was free to renounce all economic interests. He was free to renounce his freedom. He was free to sell himself and agree to work under another person as a dasa. He would have used the money he got as wages to pay off his debts or to discharge his duty to his family.
An Arya who had become a dasa could marry. (The status of his wife was to be determined with reference to his status.) But though he himself was a dasa (and hence his wife a dasi), his offspring had to be brought up as a free person, as an Arya. [These Kautilyan dictums are not to be ignored while discussing the enigmas that shroud the careers of the Pandavas and that of Harischandra.] There could be no born dasa, though one might be born to a dasa. It is unsound to interpret the term, dasa as implying a slave.
This provision however did not apply to a child born to a person sold by another person (including his father) as a dasa. The father of the child should not have been sold without his consent. If he had been sold without his consent, it was a purely power equation. The father had failed to assert himself and resist being led away, whoever might have received the price from the master. It was slave trade. Abolition of slave trade did not come under the normal rules governing the liberation of bonded labourers, dasas. It was not the judiciary but the king himself who was then expected to get such a slave rescued.
The rights of a voluntary dasa
A free citizen, an Arya, who had voluntarily sold himself as a dasa was entitled to his other earnings provided they had been obtained without detriment to his work for his master. The master was not entitled to all the work of his dasa, bonded labourer. He could not bar the latter from serving others as a free worker during his leisure hours. The dasa was also eligible to inherit his share as a kinsman, dayada.
The dasa far from being a slave was a partially free person, if he had sold himself for any reason. The state did not discriminate between such a dasa and a free worker (shudra). Modern critics have overlooked the legal niceties introduced and acted upon by Kautilya to ensure speedy redemption of the dasas. They have wrongly proceeded under the assumption that the Kautilyan economic state was a totalitarian entity paying no respect to dharma and dharmasastra. Many of these critics have also distorted and decried dharma.
Rights of a dasa as a state employee
The use of the term, svami in the above statement is significant. The dasa who had sold his services was an employee of the ruler, a svami (a charismatic leader who had risen from the masses). He had secured a grant or loan from the svami to meet his obligations to his family or to discharge his debts. (The traditional ruler who had the status of a raja was not entitled to engage such volunteers as his servants. The svami did not ordinarily belong to the class of rajanyas or kshatriyas.)
The recepient was expected to return the same by rendering service to the ruler (svami) for an indefinite period. The additional earnings and inheritances could be used for returning the capital and regaining the status as a free citizen, Arya. Kautilya made this rule mandatory with respect to the landlord who approached the ruler for financial assistance in lieu of service rendered or promised, and recommended the same to other liberal donors. He did not permit permanent servitude of the landlord (an Arya) to the powerful charismatic ruler (svami).
Self-redemption and Dasas
Of course, there were some harsh usurers and task-masters. The benefit of this facility of self-redemption was extended to those who were dasas since birth and also to those who were pledged by their parents or by others. Where the pledger failed to redeem the person pledged, the latter had to be enabled to redeem himself (or herself).
But it was noticed that the pledgee was not prepared to lose his capital.The redemption amount was equal to the amount paid as price or as loan to secure the services of a dasa. The creditor could not demand interest on it as the dasa was working under him as usufructory pledge. The value of what the bonded labourer produced was more than three times the wages a free servant was entitled to. Only the wages were to be adjusted against the redemption amount payable. The rest of the value of the produce could be treated as profit in lieu of interest.
Hence the creditor need not be paid more than the capital advanced by him. Bonded labour, dasatva, became an acute problem because some codes permitted in addition to these services, compound interest on the loan. This made redemption of the pledge almost impossible. Kautilya prescribed limits on interest and banned cumulative interest (in all economic transactions) and thus enabled the debtor to redeem the pledge. In the case of a human pledge, interest was not allowed. [Most of the creditors were authoritarian feudal lords or shrewd moneylenders or operators of remote industrial units. It is unjust to blame the Brahman scholars who edited the codes and exonerate the real culprits, the rich and the mighty.]
Categories of Dasas: Civil prisoner and Prisoner-of-war
A person who had been imprisoned (for non-payment of loan or court fines) had to work in the civil jail and pay the amount from the wages earned there. The wages due for the work done were computed and adjusted against the fine. An Arya prisoner-of-war was to be freed after assigning him suitable work for a specified period or on payment of half the ransom (mulyam) amount for his life. If his ruler did not redeem him, he could redeem himself. Extracting labour from a prisoner-of-war was not easy. [Kautilya did not want to fill the jails with civil debtors and prisoners-of-war. The jails were meant to house anti-social elements and criminals.] Both categories came under the genre, dasas.
In this context, we may note the seven categories of dasas listed in Manusmrti 8-415: (a) prisoner-of-war; (b) he who serves to earn his livelihood; (c) one born in his master’s house; (d) one who is bought; (e) one who is given as a dasa; (f) one inherited from the ancestors as a dasa and (g) one enslaved by way of punishment. The Brahman scholars (who were jurists whether consulted by the state agencies or sought by the members of the society for friendly guidance) do not seem to have objected to the emancipation of any of these seven types of dasas, though they protested against the withdrawal of the services of the dasas assigned to them by the state to help them. [The services of dasas were available only to some Brahmans and not to all Brahmans.]
Prevention of Child Labour
Kautilya approaches the issue of redemption of dasas from different angles. They have to be redeemed by their families and if the latter failed, they had to redeem themselves. In this the state placed a significant role by transferring to itself the custody of the dasas as civil debtors. It may be remarked here that both western and Indian Indologists have totally failed in presenting this social reform movement in the proper light. Instead they have propagated the view that Kautilya was a crooked and cruel statesman who gave undue importance to material gains and worked against the social and spiritual values upheld by dharmasastras.
The Kautilyan state banned child labour and selling and mortgaging of children. Still there were some types of child dasas working in private homes. Most of them were under eight years of age. Such a child might have been born in the master’s house or been obtained by him in inheritance or been received by him as a marriage gift or been actually purchased by him. Purchase and sale of children was illegal. But the officials who had to enforce law were being hoodwinked by many masters. Besides, who would look after these children after they were freed from the custody of the masters?
The judiciary and the executive had to ensure that these children who were supposed to be in the protective care of their masters were not treated cruelly. The master should not be allowed to employ an orphan child in low work or in jobs outside the country to evade the long arms of the law. He would be proceeded against, as he was a domicile though the victim child was not. [Criminologists may note.]
Dasis and pregnancy
Sometimes the masters sold off the women working under them as dasis when they became pregnant. The masters had to accept as their own the children born to them by these women employees. If they failed to arrange for the nourishment of the child in the womb they were held to be guilty and awarded the lowest amercement (48 to 96 panas). The purchasers and witnesses to this deal were also punished. [It was presumed that the woman employee had not been impregnated by her master or by his kinsman or by his guest.] Of course, the woman employee, dasi, who had become pregnant, would become free if she had been forcibly violated by the master and impregnated. [We purposely refrain from using the term, rape in this context. Only if violence had been resorted to, this term should be used.]
State and Redemption of Dasas and Dasis
If a master did not accept the ransom amount (fixed by the court) for an Arya working under him as a dasa, he was fined 12 panas and sent to jail and kept there till he consented to release that person. The state had to resort to coercion to make the master-creditor fall in line with the state policy. Kautilya was keen that dasatva, the system of bonded labour, should be totally eradicated but it was not easy to implement this policy.
The Kautilyan state far from thriving on slave labour was engaged in a mass campaign against the feudal forces who flourished on enslavement of man to man and of man by man. The ransom was paid by the state agencies where parents and kinsmen had failed to redeem the members of their families sold off or pledged to the rich and mighty as dasas. It was a major social welfare step.
A dasa was entitled to own property. On his death, his kinsmen inherited his share of the joint property of the family, as dayadas. If there were no dayadas, his property would be taken over by the state, by the charismatic master-ruler, svami. [In a society afflicted by anarchy, the masters who were landlords became rulers and annexed the properties of their dasas.] In this rule, svami does not mean the creditor-master who employed the dasa concerned.
This rule was intended to protect the dasas who had the right to property even as Aryas had, from being secretly killed by the greedy and cruel masters with intent to appropriate their wealth. The state stepped in to protect the dasas against the machinations of their employers. But was the ruler dependable? Hence the insistence that he should be a dharmapravartaka, upholder of dharma, an evangelist. A purely economic state tends to deny the individuals the right to personal property. It enriches itself at the expense of the citizens. Kautilyan state was a social welfare state though it gave primacy to economy, artha.
Entire families as Dasas and Dasis
Kings and nobles maintained several women employees, dasis. These dasis could not refuse to have intercourse with their benefactors. Kautilya declares that a dasi who gave birth to the child of the svami (master) became free from the dasi status. [It is presumed that she was allowed to take away the child.] Her child also was declared to be free. This rule was applicable to dasis working under any master and to dasis of all categories. But this rule of liberation did not automatically extend to the mother and the child bought, gifted, pledged, born, inherited etc. the much-needed economic security.
Often entire families had become subordinate to the masters or creditors on the death of the parents. All the children became dasas. When one of the girls yielded to the master and gave birth to a child, she had the option to go away as a free person or stay back to serve the family of the master in the interests of her own family. If she stayed back, the svami had to discharge her brothers and sisters from the dasa status.
Dasi as Concubine
But she was not entitled to the status of a wife. The relationship between a husband and a wife ensured the conjugal rights of both. But the relationship between svami, a master or owner and a dasi was different from that. It was expedient for the latter to yield to the advances of her owner. [A dasi was not necessarily a courtesan.] She could after giving birth to her master’s child continue to be in her master’s service but as a free servant. In addition, she could get her brothers and sisters freed from the debt bondage that their parents had thrust her and them into. It was an act of sacrifice on her part.
Of course, she could not marry any one else nor did the master marry her. She had to remain his concubine.The patriciate (devas) was not austere. It was given to enjoyments. Their employees were known as Devadasas (Dhiodasas) and Devadasis. Instead of viewing this situation as despicable exploitation of women employees by rich and powerful masters, one has to visualize the scene of a liberal patriciate extending patronage to the needy which was different from the one where feudal lords held men and women in bondage and were cruel task-masters.
Kangle notes that Katyayanasmrti has a rule closely parallel to the ones above. Katyayana was a senior contemporary of Kautilya. This economist was a consultant of Dasaratha and Rama of Ayodhya. He was a contemporary of Kanika Bharadvaja (finance minister of Dhrtarashtra) and Pisuna (finance minister of Dushyanta). The later smrtis must have abandoned this rule. Kautilya noticed a tendency among some parents to sell or pledge the child again after it had been rescued from the dasa status. [The court had paid the redemption money.] Such an attempt was penalized. The guilty parent was fined 12 panas.
Of course, any Arya (even one redeemed from dasa status) had the right to renounce his freedom to tide over economic difficulties or for any other purpose. Freedom has to be economically advantageous. Freedom to starve is not a happy state to live in. [Breoler’s notes are not to be followed. The western scholars were unduly eager to create and spread the impression that slavery was practised on a large scale in ancient India and that most of the population who were Shudra workers were bonded labourers and were required to serve under the three higher classes.] Krshna, Kashyapa, Katyayana, Kautilya and other scholars were social activists committed to the creation of an egalitarian society. But it was not an easy mission.
KARMAYOGA AND VIPRAS: TRAINING THE JUDICIARY
According to some interpreters of Karmayoga, every act has an inescapable consequence. Those who do evil acts are bound to suffer in proportion to the wickedness of that act. The commoner is told that if the state and the society including the immediate community fail to punish that act and correct the delinquent, he might escape now but would suffer in the next life. The good acts are rewarded by the society now itself.
Bhrgu was briefing the scholars, Vipras, on their conduct after leaving their school and after having taken leave of their families. They had studied the Vedas when at school and now they have to study them in depth and regularly. They have to exert themselves (tapas) in the tasks they had undertaken as Vipras. They have to continue to acquire further knowledge in all subjects. They have to regulate their organs of sense and action and practise harmlessness and continue to serve their teacher. They had not parted company with their teacher. This would give them the best social and moral benefit.
The supporters of Karmayoga want to know whether among all those good acts mentioned above whether there was one that was declared to be more useful for a social leader, purusha. Bhrgu replies that according to the Manusmrti, among all these, knowledge of the self is the best. Among all the disciplines of study this is the best as one obtains from it the status of a noble (amrtam, immortality in common parlance). The status of a deva is higher than that of the social leader, purusha.
Anvikshiki (which included Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata), Trayi (the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama), Varta (Economics) and Dandaniti (Science of Polity) were the four main faculties in the major educational institutions. Samkhya covered all knowledge that has been gained so far (jnanam) and the new knowledge that is gained using dialectical methods (vijnanam). Atmajnanam (knowledge of the abilities and shortcomings in one’s, self) was a special branch of Yoga. The supporters of Karmayoga must have been satisfied with this statement. It is not sound to identify atmajnana with the Upanishads. The verse has been dwelt on elaborately by the medieval commentators and some modern scholars who have taken orthodox positions. According to the theory of action or duty (karma) enshrined in the Vedas, pursuit of the knowledge of what is to be known (that is, knowledge of the self) is the best of the six duties. It is not sound to treat the term, karma, as a reference to performance of Vedic rites. The six acts mentioned in verse above do not include these rites.
Vedas and Tradition
In the next verse Bhrgu was pointing out to the advocates of Karmayoga, especially the Vipras, the scholars who were engaged in educating the masses that the scheme of Karmayoga as enshrined in the Vedas included all the other duties without exception. This has nothing to do with Vedic sacrifices or with the efforts to attain salvation, moksha, freedom from worldly responsibilities. Karmayoga called for performance of prescribed and approved duties without attachment to them or to their results and rewards. The Vedic approach was not different from this, according to Bhrgu, the chief editor of Manava Dharmasastra. The Vipras gave prominence to performance of Vedic sacrifices and officiated at the last rites for all without fees and some Brahman priests objected to this. Jha translates the verse (88) as: The Vedic acts are of two kinds; (a) The active, which is conducive to happiness and prosperity, and (b) the passive, which is conducive to the highest good.
The duties (karma) assigned to the Vipras by the Vedas were of two kinds, Bhrgu explains. Some were concerned with vocations that one followed and the others with the lives of those who had withdrawn from worldly activities. The former was happiness-oriented and the latter was for spread of merit. The concept of final salvation is not dealt with here. Bhrgu stresses that the Vedic scheme of duties was not mundane nor was it exclusively spiritual.
Bhrgu explains that all activities motivated by worldly desires or even by desire for heaven or immortality are known to be of pravrtta category. Only those activities that are free from such desires and personal interests and which are preceded by knowledge of what one has to do and what would be the result of that act are hence said to be of nivrtta category. The Vipras were often required to officiate as judges in socio-economic disputes. They had to note that the respondent should prove that the crime was not committed for personal advantage, whether an immediate or distant one. He had to also establish that he was doing his prescribed duty in a disinterested manner, knowing fully the consequences of his act. He could not plead ignorance of the implications of his act.
One who performs duties that are part of his vocation can become equal to the nobles (devas, inappropriately translated as ‘gods’) He is exempt from punitive action. This is pointed out to the Vipra who is required to function as a neutral judge in civil disputes. The nobles who were superior to the king and his ministry and also to the judiciary had their own preferences and goals though these were not harmful to any sector of the society. The professional judges too adopt this approach.
The five officials of the state who controlled the different wings of the executive (bureaucracy, urban areas, rural areas, treasury and army) were required to be totally free from personal interests and preferences and observe rigorous disinterested impartiality. Their conduct is of the disinterested type. The Vipras, as social workers and also as judges, were expected to adopt this approach. They were not ideologues pursuing their personally perceived social goals or following sectarian interests and stands.
Bhrgu was explaining how the officials, especially the judges could maintain impartiality and objectivity. He was explaining his stand to the Vipras, Brahman scholars who were entitled to be members of the judiciary. They were eager to ensure that all individuals including those of the social periphery who were not organized as clans or communities or as classes were able to take part in the Vedic sacrifices. They would even risk being accused of having stolen articles from those who did not perform sacrifices needed for those who performed them. These Vipras used to officiate as priests at these sacrifices without taking fees.
The Vedic sacrifices were based on the principle that one sees himself in all beings and all beings in his self. Hence a Vipra did not distinguish between a sacrifice offered by him and a sacrifice where he officiated. Both were meant for the welfare of all beings. One who performs sacrifices in this spirit attains a status where he is a master of himself (svarajyam) and is not subordinate to any governmental or social authority. The scholar, Vipra, of this type was equal to a noble who was not subordinate to the state. [The medieval commentators who had lost touch with the Vedic social polity that aimed at enabling every individual be a master of his own destiny preferred to describe svarajyam as the status of Paramatma (God in common parlance).]
Having renounced even the said acts, the scholar who became the best of thus trained should concentrate his effort on the knowledge of Self on calmness and on the study of the Veda. This counsel is given to the best of the dvijas, twice born. Why was the Vipra advised to pay more attention to regular study of the Vedas than to performance of his professional duties that provided him the means of his livelihood? Bhrgu explains that the Brahman scholar acquires the fulfillment of his birth only by performing what he has been created for (krtakrtyam). He has been made a dvija in order to continue to study the Vedas. This second birth (janma) would become meaningless if he gives prominence to earning a livelihood rather than to keep on studying the Vedas and live according to its message.
What the elders and the nobles and the commoners, the three strata of the core society witnessed in the past is recorded in the Veda. [The category of pitrs (elders) included not only the authoritarian heads of clans but also the retired feudal lords.] The ordinance promulgated by the Veda is something impossible to adhere to and is incomprehensible. Bhrgu was dwelling on the code known as Sanatana Dharma that was based on the experiences of the ancients. He directed the Brahmans to be well acquainted with the Vedic hymns so that they might be able to perform their duties properly.
According to the Smrtis (codes composed later on the basis of what was remembered of the Vedic customs) whatever are outside the Vedas (Srutis) are based on crooked perspectives and are all of no use for securing final liberation after death (moksha). They are based on ignorance according to the Smrtis. Bhrgu does not declare any particular school of thought as unacceptable. Whether any particular school of thought adheres to the Vedas that have outlined the Sanatana Dharma is to be ascertained by reference directly to the Vedas, Vipras are cautioned.
Bhrgu was not willing to give credence to the then recent schools of thought. He stood by the early Vedic schools that upheld the laws based on Rta and which were in force during the early and middle Vedic periods before they were replaced by laws based on eternal truth, Satya. The laws based on Rta accorded with the laws of nature and were not cumbersome. Not only the scheme of the four classes and four stages of life but also the scheme of three social worlds are explained by the Vedas (that is, by Sanatana Dharma, which was held by Bhrgu to be part of the Vedas). They also cover the past of the society and the then present and also indicate how it will function and be in the future
Of significance is the recognition given to the Vedic classification of the larger society, into three social worlds, lokas. This classification cannot be annulled by any later system. The later editors of Manusmrti are keen to establish that the varnashrama scheme that would supplement the three lokas scheme has its roots in the Vedas and is hence not to be repudiated.
Manava Dharmasastra is legislation for all times as it derives its authority from the Vedas which it is claimed, is not only a record of the entire past but also an ordinance that governs the lives of the peoples of all ages to come. Dharmasastra as social legislation covers all aspects of life and all sectors of the society. It is catholic in outlook and not dogmatic though it prescribes a few rules binding on all the members of the society and expects all to refrain from anti-social activities. Which sound, which touch, which shape, which taste and which smell is to be appreciated, one learns by reference to the Veda. What he learns depends on his innate trait and his vocation (karma). The Vedas do not impose uniformity. They cater to a wide spectrum of preferences in all fields, it is implied.
The ancient Vedic ordinance, Sanatana Veda-sastra, supported all individuals of the social periphery (bhutas), Bhrgu points out. Hence it was applicable not only to the settled communities but also to the unattached discrete individuals and those at the subsistence level (jantu), in addition to the four classes (varnas) and the three social worlds (lokas) that comprised organized and settled clans and communities with their distinct and protected vocations. Bhrgu treated Sanatana Dharma expounded by Manu Svayambhuva as part of the Vedas. They too get benefit by resorting to the means suggested by the Vedas, he thinks.
The supporters of Karmayoga were eager to ensure that people at all levels of economy were able to benefit from the ordinance that they referred to. The posts of chief of the army (senapati), of ruler of the hinterland (rajyam) and leadership (netrtvam), of the police and of the magistracy (danda) and lordship over all social worlds (sarvaloka adhipatya) are to be assigned to only those who are versed in the (socio-political) ordinance (sastra) based on the Vedas, Bhrgu says. This verse does not indicate that the king was personally an adjudicator. He was not advocating a theocratic state.
Even though a Vedic scholar, a king cannot be expected to punish only the guilty. One who knows the provisions of the Veda would get consumed by the stains arising from his acts in the course of the discharge of his duties. He would not be criticized by the scholars even if the innocent happen to suffer along with the guilty as he takes stern steps to put down crimes. This seems to be a later interpolation.
Knowledge of Vedas and the Duties of a Brahman Jurist
One who knows the meaning and philosophy of the ordinance (sastra) based on Vedas is fit to be appointed as a jurist (Brahma-bhuya) in this social world (of academicians) (loka) in whatever stage of life he may be, according to Bhrgu. He was explaining Dharmasastra to a council, which had advocates of Karmayoga and free scholars, Vipras. This socio-political constitution does not declare that only one in the vanaprastha (retirement) or udasina (disinterested) stage should be selected for the judiciary that required impartial and disinterested discharge of duty.
For a place in the judiciary, a practitioner of the laws as laid in the codes based on the Vedas, must be given more weight than a jnani, that is, one who is versed in the knowledge of the past and the present, accumulated and included in the Vedas. This jnani is better than one who strictly adheres to the text of the code. The latter is however better than an ignoramus.
The Vipras were expected to give the most attention to constant study of and reference to the Vedas while discharging their duties. The next in importance was tapas, exertion in achieving the impersonal goals they had severally set for themselves. The Vipras who were to be admitted to the judiciary had to be also always engaged in studying all subjects and spreading their knowledge. By these they obtain the greatest benefit and benefit all. By tapas, intense exertion, they get rid of all defects and by knowledge they obtain immortality, that is, the status of intellectual aristocrats. Vidya covers study of the three Vedas, economics (Varta), political science (Dandaniti) and Anvikshiki (samkhya, yoga and lokayata). The Vipras are qualified to handle any affair or dispute pertaining to the social polity.
One who desires to be pure in his interpretation and implementation of social laws while handling official duties (karya) as judge has to pay attention to the three, what is patently visible, what has to be inferred and the code (sastra). He has to also take into account the different approved social practices (agamam). This is a direction to the Vipras. They have to be objective and impartial and also honour all the different traditions while functioning as judges. Of course this direction is applicable to all officials of the state and other social and economic bodies, which are required to abide by the codes.
The judges were required to honour what the sages had counselled as dharma and what was not in conflict with the ordinances (sastra) based on the Vedas. They were thus prevented from referring to the writings and sayings of the heretical schools in defence of their verdicts.
Bhrgu then offers to counsel his students and others on the confidential sections of Manava Sastra, the science and code to be followed by all those (manavas) who had accepted the scheme of four classes and four stages of life. These manavas were not bound by the laws of the clans and communities or by those of economic organizations or even by the laws of the states under which they happened to live. They claimed to be citizens of the world and might voluntarily accept any of these and could not be punished if they chose not to follow them.
If a Vipra was confronted with conflicts in laws while dealing with these followers of Manava Dharmasastra how was he to give his verdict? The Brahman jurist was superior to the Vipras who were invited to assist the chief judge (often referred to as Brahmadeva), who was an expert in Atharvaveda (Brahma), the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times. Where the Manava Dharmasastra failed to give a definite direction, the Vipras should refer to what these jurists, Brahmans who knew the constitution followed as dharma. These unrecorded practices of and positions taken by the Brahman jurists would have to be followed by the Vipras. [The principles that guided these jurists were available in Brahmasutra, a manual compiled by Badarayana.]
The Council of Ten Members
The causes advanced for a particular act that has taken place must be visible and physically verifiable. The Brahman must have studied Vedas and the allied works (Upanishads, Brahmanas and Aranyakas) for a correct appraisal of valid social and moral laws (dharma). He must be able to cite from the Srutis (Vedas) the evidences in favour of his stand. Then only he would be treated as a competent person, sishta, who could be depended on for directions on points on which the Manava Dharmasastra is silent. Bhrgu concedes that there are lacunae in the Dharmasastra edited by him and drafted by the ten scholars appointed by Manu Svayambhuva.
A council (parishad) of ten members could reexamine it or at least a committee of three members who followed their prescribed occupations could do so. Whatever they declared to be law, the legal force of that, one must not dispute, Bhrgu states. The council of ten members would have one expert in each of the three sciences (Vidyas), Trayi (the three Vedas, Rg, Sama and Yajur), Varta (economics) and Dandaniti (political science). There would be one member from each of the three stages of life, brahmachari, grhastha and vanaprastha, a student, a householder, and a retired elder. (The monks, sanyasis, were not expected to participate in the proceedings of any organization.) The other four would be experts in the science of reasoning to ascertain the cause (hetu), logic and science of disputation (tarkasastra), and etymology (nirukta) which was not limited by immediate or contextual appropriateness and dharma texts.
As the next verse provides for a smaller group of three members representing the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama, it is suggested that the expression, three Vidyas be interpreted as a reference to Trayi, Varta and Dandaniti. Kautilya treated Anvikshiki as a separate discipline and as more important than these three. He covered Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata by Anvikshiki. But as he points out, the school of Manavas (followers of Pracetas Manu, an author of Arthasastra) treated Anvikshiki as a special branch of the three Vedas rather than as a separate discipline, Vidya.
Bhrgu was trying to convince the supporters of Karmayoga that his scheme was not in conflict with their stands. Manusmrti provided for experts in its council of ten members. The medieval commentators had lost touch with the social polity of the Vedic and early post-Vedic times and gave more importance to the three Vedas than the earlier scholars did. Some of them covered the Vedangas (Upanishads, Aranyakas and Brahmanas) too under Vedas and tended to ignore the Atharvaveda. The Brahman jurists were Atharvans and should have specialised in fields that were connected with jurisprudence rather than in metaphysics and theology.
It would have been very difficult to convene a council of ten experts and the later administrators in rural areas would have opted for a council of three Vedic scholars or even referred the dispute to one who was a Vedic scholar instead of to a large assembly of Brahmans who were ordinary teachers or priests. Some who followed the social practices of Brahmans were either landlords or moneylenders.
The Committee of Three Members
To settle doubts about dharma, a committee of three members who were experts in Rgveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda could be convened. The calibre needed for a parishad is not present in an assembly of thousands of invitees who do not observe the vows and are only Brahmans by birth and earn their livelihood as Brahmans. Bhrgu rejects the suggestion that the right to lay down the law should be given to only a huge assembly of educated persons and not to the only scholar or a committee of three members or to a council of eleven members. The editors of Manusmrti are not in favour of pronouncement of verdicts on doubts about what is morally and ethically correct, by large assemblies convened for that purpose
The incompetent among those who were invited were being deterred from participating in such assemblies and giving their opinions. The competent few and not the incompetent many are to be relied on for judicious verdicts. These verses must have been interpolated later when there was a trend to convene samghas to determine what dharma was. Bhrgu was addressing the Vipras and supporters of the theory of Karmayoga. The Vipra who followed his advice would gain the highest status in the society.
The expression, bhagavan, was used to show respect to the highest authority of any school of thought. Manu Svayambhuva like Manu Sraddhadeva had the status of a deva, a member of the nobility. Probably he belonged to the Maruts, one of the four groups of traditional nobles of the Vedic times. He desired to benefit all the social worlds (lokas).
The Vipras were advised not to be eager to attend Dharma Parishads, which were convened to secure endorsement for laws that surreptitiously allowed immorality to flourish. They were broad-minded in their approach. But they should not allow this to be exploited by crooked rulers. Bhrgus played a major role in throwing out such rulers who sponsored these samghas.
It is not sound to introduce the concept of divine spirit in this advice. The medieval commentators are seen to have read deep metaphysical notes in this verse, which was basically a warning and guidance to the judges and rulers who had often to overlook objectivity and impartiality. They were asked to place themselves in the position of the subjects and seek the welfare of all equally. The intelligent (mati) ruler does not lean towards adharma.
It has to be pointed out again that these verses do not deal with the relation between the soul of the human being (jivatma) and the divine soul (paramatma). The wills of all the nobles and chieftains (devatas), especially of the frontier industrial society are taken into account by the leader of the enlarged society who directs all the members of the organized groups (saririnas) in accordance with the policy and methods outlined by Karmayoga. The editors of Manusmrti acknowledge this factor as they address the supporters of the school of Karmayoga. The rights of the individual to select and pursue his vocation diligently in accordance with the policy outlined by this school are asserted. The chieftains mentioned above must have consented to honour the exercise of these naturally evolved rights and assured that the plutocrats and technocrats amongst them would not dictate terms.
The commentators of the medieval times and their followers of modern times have failed to note that Soma (Indu), Agni, Mitra and Prajapati were officials of the Vedic social polity and that Vishnu and Hara were great charismatic personages. It may be noted that the verse has been interpreted in a manner that brings together the three aspects of God as Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) but not in the same manner as made popular later (as Gods representing Creation, Protection and Destruction). The editors of Manusmrti were trying to correlate the concept of Purusha with this larger social polity. The chief administrator of this polity has to be aware of these roles and functions that are interdependent and complement one another.
The supporters of the school of Karmayoga were eager to know whether Bhrgu had a concept equivalent to Purushotthama or Parampurusha (noblest personage). This director or administrator (prasasitaram) of the affairs of the social polity and all its members and sectors functions in a subtle manner and his presence is almost unnoticed like the atom of an atom (of gold). This subtle role may perhaps come to be known only in dream by the Unconscious Mind.
Who is described as Parampurusha? Is the concept of Brahma, that is, the theory of social evolution presented by the school of Brahmavarta, identical with the concept of Purusha, that is, the theory of social evolution presented by the Purushasukta? Bhrgu asserts that the two are identical. The invisible but essential supreme controller of the polity is compared to the vital breath by some other thinkers. Still others compared him to Agni, who as Jatavedas (a born genius) knew everything and represented the intellectuals as well as the commonalty and whose voice the nobles listened to with respect. Agni was the presiding officer of the people’s court during the Vedic times. He also presided over the council of scholars, Samiti while Indra presided over the house of nobles, Sabha. The Prajapati, the chief of the people, convened the two bodies. He was the greatest of the social leaders, Parampurusha.
The controller of the larger social polity who is present among all the discrete individuals (sarva bhutas) influences their life (samsara). He controls the heads of the five wings of the administration (pancha murti) included in the rajyam. He determines the cycle of emergence, growth and decay of social institutions including family. In the previous verse the editors explained who could become the greatest social leader and administrator, Parampurusha. Here his role with reference to all the individuals including those of the unorganized social periphery is pointed out. Bhrgu’s approach is in consonance with that of the school of Karmayoga promoted by Krshna The chief administrator (by whatever designation he is referred to) who personally perceives the wills (souls, atma) of all discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) in his own, that is, who identifies himself with all individuals and treats all as equal is suitable for the position of the highest official of the state, Brahma, the jurist who is entitled to interpret the socio-political constitution.
The middle Vedic era saw the permissive laws of Rta being superseded by the puritanical laws based on the concept that truth would triumph ultimately. It was not mere negation of the laws based on Rta, that is, failure of individualism, anarchism and emergence of state control over all aspects of life. The concept of a responsible and non-despotic state with internal checks and purposes emerged during this era.
It witnessed diarchy where the rich and mighty rulers as well as the poor and weak commoners could share powers and would all be heard and be subject to reasoned laws based on the principle that truth should be adhered to by all whatever the cost and accepted as laws binding on all. This approach succeeded with the rout of feudal lords and power passing into the hands of liberal cultural aristocracy which was guided by sages and supported by elders who had no personal or vested interests. State power was minimal. The concept of virajam assured that the state would be a union without uniformity and would ensure the autonomy of every one of its units.
The power of Viraj, the head of the state would be externalized and the diverse social and economic sectors would not be dependent on him. Internal administration and the two houses of legislature (sabha and samiti, house of nobles and council of sages and elders) would be under the control of the Prajapati, the chief of the people, both the natives, jana, and the new members admitted by him as domiciles. He extended to both the status of prajas and the same set of rights and duties. Both were called prajas. The new domiciles had to bring with them their wealth (rayi) and not depend on or exploit the natives. The prajas were not merely subjects of the state but were rashtrikas (nationals) with political franchise and were determiners of state policy.
By the end of the Vedic era, fifty small viable nation-states with internal checks were established across the subcontinent, thanks to the initiative taken by the charismatic chief of the people, Prajapati Mahadeva. The electoral college of aggressive chieftains, who were oligarchs continued to elect one from them as rajan, head of the state. But he could not exercise coercive power over either the commoners engaged in productive economic activities or over the aristocracy or the intelligentsia who were not engaged in such economic activities. He could not use the army or state funds for any venture within the country or abroad.
The rajan though elected by his peers was a nominal head of the state installed by assertive administrators of the villages, forest areas, and the urban patriciate. It was not monarchy. It was an unwritten contract, the rajan owing loyalty to his electors and the latter acknowledging him as the sole but powerless head of the state. All the small nation-states had at their helm such heads of state. Despotism had been put down and the four institutions of the state, house of nobles, council of jurists, army and controllers of the treasury and economy were autonomous but owing loyalty to the Prajapati, the head of the nation-state (rashtra-rajya).
The power of the Viraj had earlier been externalized so that he would not coerce the members of the federal state that he headed and its people. The Prajapati who earlier had a rank next to the Viraj took over the duty to regulate the functions of the different re-constituted state institutions. Mahadeva while allowing the Rajan to function as ornamental head of the state dissolved the federal setups (Virajam), with the consent of these heads of eight-fold federal social polity. The new small viable nation-state with an economic policy that would meet the needs of all the eight different socio-economic strata retained the two houses of legislature, sabha of nobles and samiti of sages and elders.
The Prajapati convened these two bodies while they functioned under the officials designated as Indra and Agni respectively. But Indra was divested of the control over the army and the treasury which he earlier enjoyed. These were placed in the hands of officials designated as Aditya and Brhaspati who headed the army (sena) of traditional warriors and civil and financial administration (sura) respectively. Aditya could not deploy the army and the police without the permission of the Prajapati. The latter became the head of the central bureaucracy also.
None of the four officials, Indra, Agni, Aditya and Brhaspati was subordinate to the Rajan, the ornamental head of the state or was superior to the other three. The aristocracy determined the policy of the state and the council of scholars functioned as the judiciary. All these five dignitaries had to honour and function under the Prajapati, the chief of the people. The rights of the people were guarded by him.
Mahadeva enjoyed the confidence of the entire nation (rashtram) and the obedience of the army and the bureaucracy. No other leader has been able to enjoy such regard as he was absolutely selfless and had sacrificed all his wealth and gains including his body (health) for the mission that he had undertaken. His was a comprehensive socio-political conquest of the minds and hearts of all the people of the nation, rashtram, of which these fifty small nation-states were parts. They were not under any autocrat.
The Viraj constitution outlined by Kashyapa who later became the head of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata, envisaged eight social sectors of the period when the four classes (varnas) Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras had not yet been formed. The feudal lords had not yet been defeated and expelled to the social periphery and they continued to enjoy precedence over the liberal aristocrats. Sages and elders continued to occupy a high position in the social polity.
Mahadeva constitution which was posterior to the Viraj constitution dismantled its federal setup and proposed small autonomous states. It was a period when the independent middle class of Gandharvas had been converted into two classes based on the innate traits of its members. The gentler intellectuals were assigned to the judiciary and the assertive to the army and the higher ranks of the state bureaucracy. The nobles were kept away from these two sectors. The commonalty had not yet been divided into two classes, owners of property and poor workers. The four classes were nobles (Devas), intellectuals-cum-jurists (Brahmans), soldiers-cum-officials (Kshatriyas) and commonalty (Vis). [The concept of four socio-economic vocational classes (varnas) had not yet taken root.] Mahadeva constitution was accepted by all the socio-political sectors in the entire country after considerable debates. Mahadeva has to be credited for its adoption. It was in force during the later Vedic era and the decades immediately posterior to it. It laid the foundation for the early Hindu state.
The independence of the judiciary was honoured and so too that of the civil administration. These were however not allowed to dilute the concept of institutionalizing non-coercive state power for defence and for maintenance of social order. This power was to be exercised not by the judiciary or by the masses or by the aristocrats or by oligarchs but by select personnel of the civil and military establishments under the supervision of the chief of the people, Prajapati, who was the head of the nation-state.
The scholars of the middle Vedic era and the later Vedic era reviewed the patterns of state that were present in different parts of the country before arriving at the two alternatives, Dharmarajya and Artharajya. None of these patterns gave preference to hereditary monarchy. Of course birth in a royal family gave the aspirant prince an advantage over others as he was acquainted well with the functions of the ruler and the constraints under which he had to function and had got education in the state academy. These patterns visualised emergence of a dynamic social leader, Purusha, to the position of the head of the state. He had life tenure while other heads of the state like the rajan or viraj or samrat and even chakravarti had only limited tenures. They were constrained to work within the framework of state structure whose institutions they could not alter or overlook.
The Purusha, a charismatic and talented leader and bold pioneer, too had to honour these institutions and the spirit of the socio-political constitution, Brahma. But he could at the same type make them realize that he was (unlike the head of the state under Rshabha constitution which preceded the sophisticated holistic Viraj constitution of Kashyapa) not to be dreaded or suspected or disliked. The Purusha could give the society and the state a positive and holistic leadership and ensure protection, social welfare, economic security and social and economic progress. He could however not override the constitution bench and the chief justice. The provisions of the constitution, Brahma, were clarified by the Upanishads which insisted that no individual or group at any socio-economic level, even the lowest was discriminated against or left unprotected and uncared for.
The powers of this social leader, Purusha, however charismatic he was were defined and delimited (even as that of a king, Rajan was) so that he could not become an autocrat or venture into purposes within his state or outside that would endanger the society under his jurisdiction and the state that he headed. If the different state institutions like the house of nobles and the council of scholars, the army, the financial institutions or the bureaucracy got weakened he should be able to revive them but without violating the provisions of the constitution.
The early Vedic period witnessed the rise of individualism and faith in anarchism as modes of resistance to domination by social groups like clans and communities and by the oligarchies that wielded state power (danda) and even to the benevolent despotism of the head of the state who claimed to protect and lead the weak and docile masses and functioned under the Rshabha constitution which entrusted all powers in the assertive leader. There were no representative bodies.
The Purusha constitution of the Upanishadic period expected the head of the state, to be enterprising. It eclipsed the Viraj constitution of the Vedic period that expected the head of the federal state to boldly embark on intrusions into new areas. The middle Vedic period was marked by the filling of this lacuna and support to the concept of dichotomy, bicameral legislatures, administration by diarchic patterns of sharing power and exercising mutual checks. Efforts at preventing autocracy succeeded after the commoners threw their lot with the liberal aristocrats and the feudal warlords were exiled to the periphery and the intrasigent among them were exterminated.
Prajapati, the chief of the people, who headed the nation-states and administered with the aid of a bureaucracy of sixteen elders and admitted new members to the predominantly agro-pastoral native polity if they brought along with them new wealth, became a model worth emulation. But he was too sober and choosy and though respected and obeyed lacked the dynamism needed to embark on new ventures.
Of course, he could be trusted with the task of meting out justice and ensuring that no official or institution transgressed the laws based on truth, non-violence and compassion. Rajarshi institution was successor to such Prajapati institution. However institution of a constitution bench that clearly defined what was morally just and legally valid and socially imperative and what was not was felt necessary.
The head of this bench, designated as Brahma was guided by precedents and views of the elders (even as the Prajapati was) had to be an impeccable intellectual par excellence. He would be superior to all state authorities and even to the Prajapati, the chief of the people and head of the new open nation-state. But neither Prajapati nor Brahma had the dynamism that was expected of the Purusha. The two were distinct posts with distinct duties and powers. Brahma, the chief justice was superior to the Prajapati.
While the Viraj constitution permitted the head of the state, to make inroads into areas outside his territorial jurisdiction but refrain from exercising more power than necessary within the federal state that he headed, the Prajapati acquired accretion to the native population in terms of numbers and wealth through spread of cultural influence based on the principle of unrestrained humanism and brotherhood and promise of justice.
The Purusha constitution which was successor to these two models invigorated the masses and all strata and sectors of the society and promised both socio-economic security through an efficient bureaucracy and politico-economic progress through enterprise. The last tended to validate imperialism and even establishment of colonies abroad. A new definition of Indra-Brhaspati and Indra-Agni and Agni-Brhaspati diarchies of administration facilitated the success of the Purusha constitution.
The Upanishadic Brahma constitution that expected the creation of a selfless liberal and holistic intellectual aristocracy committed to truth and justice could not be translated into reality. For, very few had experienced personally life at all socio-economic levels, to be able to put forth the needs, aspirations and views of all. The concept of a wholesome common will, represented by the ideal head of the state, was found illusory. Individual will too can not acquire validity unless the concept of different stages of individuals with their own identity, Atma, is recognized and honoured. Not all individuals are alike either in their innate traits or in their objectives.
Both individual will and common will had to be re-described to lay the foundation for a democratic regime. The final decades of the Vedic era were marked by democratization of the institutions of the state and structure of the society. From the simple dichotomy of a ruling class of aristocrats noted for conspicuous consumption and as a parasitic leisure class vis-à-vis a vast working class of commoners surrendering nearly half of their earnings for maintaining the three cadres of nobles, sages and retired elders who were not engaged in economic activities, to the trilateral formation of a predominantly agro-pastoral commonalty, an urban patriciate and an industrial frontier society of the forests and mountains it was a major development. This passage is not to be left unnoticed.
Democratization saw Kashyapa recognizing eight social sectors, feudal lords, liberal aristocrats, sages, retired elders, commoners, plutocrats and their forces, technocrats and mobile industrial proletariat and the large free middle class cadres of intellectuals. After the feudal lords were convincingly routed and shunted to the periphery even as the undesirable guards of the plutocrats were, the three social worlds had to visualise this periphery as a reformatory and as a new socio-cultural entity where the ex-servicemen and the dropouts from all the three organised social worlds settled as discrete individuals. It was guided by the non-orthodox intelligentsia and protected by charismatic chiefs who were liberal towards their adherents and harsh against their detractors. Another step in the direction of democratization was acceptance of the non-settled mobile cadres and individuals of the middle class, as a separate social world eligible for the same rights as the three organized and settled social worlds were.
Democratization also overtook the aristocracy and its new members were recruits from the higher ranks of all the other three social worlds, agrarian commonalty of the plains, industrial frontier society of the forests and mountains and the new social world of predominantly intellectual middle class without personal property or homes. Democratization was given further fillip when Manu Vaivasvata laid the foundation for the new paura-janapadas. The king who headed the state had to honour the two representative bodies, urban patriciate and the non-urban commonalty and function as directed by them. The king could not be an autocrat or act arbitrarily. He had to give equal weight to his supporters and to others. He had to permit debates on the merits of every issue and act according to the decisions arrived at after those debates.
Manu Vaivasvata who championed this move was guided by a council of seven sages headed by Kashyapa who was liberal and holistic in his approach. Vaivasvata’s protégé, Prthu was an agrarian king. The constitution which he was required to adhere to called for protection of all socio-cultural orientations (dharmas) and for the state functioning as a bridge uniting them. This constitution made autocracy impossible and promoted open policy, glasnost, and called for accountability of every official and minister including the king. They had to implement the policies dictated by the jurists. The ruler was no longer an ornamental head of the state. He was the head of the executive. The bureaucracy could not meddle with laws proclaimed by this constitution or act arbitrarily.
A permanent rural bureaucracy was built by this constitution and it has survived for several centuries. It has been put on rails by Manava Dharmasastra (Manusmrti) finalized during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata and made a permanent socio-political constitution. The valour of the king with the caliber of a Purusha was externalized while the ministry and the bureaucracy looked after internal administration guided by an official designated as Pracetas along the lines of the principles outlined in Pracetas Manu’s Arthasastra.
Meanwhile the concept of three social worlds was amended and seven social worlds were identified, bhu, bhuva, sva, maha, jana, tapa and satya. They were the simple agrarian commonalty, rich industrial frontier society, urban patriciate whose members were autonomous and not bound by any state law, the house of legislators, the larger representative body of the people of the larger integrated society, the academy of researchers and the members of the civil judiciary who implemented the puritanical laws based on truth. Till the seven ranks got statutory recognition with their members and their duties and privileges codified, the integrated state had four social ranks, bhu, bhuva, sva and maha, with the legislators (maharshis) standing apart from and above the other three.
Not all janapadas were headed by trained and supportive rulers, janadhipas and janakas. While some were headed by assertive rulers, rajans, some were under authoritarian feudal lords who systematically deprived the commonalty, the frontier society and the patriciate (bhu, bhuva and sva) of their wealth and privileges. Bali of Janasthana in the Vindhyas was such a shrewd despot, who was guided by Usanas, author of the political treatise, Dandaniti. He wound up the three social worlds, maha, jana and tapa. But instead of winding up the judiciary he pretended to be a champion of the puritanical laws based on the principle of inviolability of truth.
Bali who had not adopted the principle of moderate, reasonable and fixed tax, kara, as proposed by Manu Vaivasvata and adopted by Prthu, continued the policy of forcible extraction (bali) that all feudal lords resorted to. He misused the concept of jana, ‘sons of the soil’ to keep out all the cadres and individuals, mostly of the educated middle class from janapada. Vamana rehabilitated them and also restored the three social words that Bali had wound up and recovered from him the three trust funds under the heads, dharma (culture), svajana (meant for dependents) and yasa (enterprise).
Vamana was recognized as Upendra, deputy chancellor of the executive under the Kashyapan constitution and as Naraprajapati, chief of the people who included free men not attached to any social group, clan or community. Though Bali was exiled his followers objected to the condition that the mobile non-economic cadres should be settled in the janapada and extended all the privileges that the natives enjoyed. The native groups did not want to share their privileges with others.
The concept of an overriding socio-political constitution, Brahma, as recommended by the sages of the Upanishads had not been enforced as it was too idealistic and the concept of social laws, Dharma, binding on and supporting all the social worlds had not yet come into vogue. The new nation-states, janapadas, were required to accept all the native clans and communities of both the agrarian and industrial sectors and the new domiciles (prajas) on par.
Every janapada had to be an economically viable unit. It was not an ethnic unit. Very few of the janapadas and states could build the institution of an independent judiciary headed by the official designated as Brahma or by Dharma who ranked next to the former. Pracetas Manu’s Arthasastra which recommended a new pattern of assigning roles to the twelve members of the central executive did not have a separate judiciary.
One of its members designated as Soma, head of the sober intellectual aristocracy could overrule the acts of the other powerful ministers and even those of the king. He was hence called Maharaja. He was also the highest justice of the constitution bench, as Mahabrahmana. He rarely used his powers but was always alert and took actions suo moto against other members of the executive and against even the head of the executive if they failed in their duties. This built-in mechanism could not obviously succeed. No intellectual who was a part o the executive however impartial he was could bring the executive including the ruler to its knees.
However the state needed a highly assertive and dynamic social leader, Purusha, as the head of the executive. A ruler who only presided over the executive but could not issue directions to its members after personally selecting them and assigning them their duties cannot be deemed to be the highest official of the state. Purusha might refuse to bow down to the chief justice claiming that the progressive executive (headed by a pioneer and assertive social leader, Purusha) need not function within the provisions of the constitution.
This called for instituting the post of Parampurusha (on the lines of Maharaja) to take action against the ruler as directed by the head of the constitution bench. It was not subversion of the authority of the head of the state which the new powers of Soma could lead to. It was necessary to ensure the supremacy of the constitution and that no member of the executive of the state subverted it. But the constitution bench itself and even its head might falter. No man is infallible. To ensure that this did not happen the post of Parabrahma (on the lines of Mahabrahmana that Soma was), who would be alert but rarely intervened was proposed.
It was possible for even a small nation-state or janapada to have the posts of Raja, Maharaja and Parampurusha, Brahma, Mahabrahmana and Parabrahma instituted. The two powers of Parampurusha and Parabrahma could be exercised when necessary by the same person. But Purusha and Brahma were distinct posts.
The sages of the Upanishads felt that this purpose would be best served by expecting the chief justice, Brahma to be one already recognized as a Vaisvanara, a free man who had experienced life at all levels of the larger society from the lowest and weakest to the highest and talented. He would have been free from social bonds and personal desires and biases and prejudices and ideological convictions. This would make him impartial and would win for him the admiration of all. This was too idealistic.
The state in practice allowed the head of the state, rajan, to appoint a suitable person as the chief justice, Brahma and that person would co-opt experts from different fields to sit as members of the bench. All points of view should be allowed to be expressed freely and weighed by the chairman of the bench who was an expert in socio-political constitution before he gave his verdict. He would not be bound by the verdict of the majority. He knew all the fields and hence was the best among the members of the bench. He would however not discard the views of other members unless he found them to be blatantly wrong or tilted.
No verdict given by a small group of jurists would be binding on any issue if it was not unanimous. Only a decision of a large body of members with different views could become acceptable even if not unanimous. While a five-member representative group (panchajana) may be urged to give a binding unanimous verdict on any issue it is not reasonable to expect a large twenty-five member board (pancha-panchajana) to give a binding unanimous verdict.
Both the verdicts, that of the smaller group and that of the larger group which functioned like juries have to be scrutinized and amended if necessary by the four-member constitution bench. The final verdict given by its head, Brahma would stand and had to be implemented by the executive including the head of the state.
The judiciary too was thus democratized. If the head of the executive, a Purusha, refused to or found it difficult to implement that final verdict, the Parampurusha or Uttama-purusha who enjoyed undisputed respect among the masses as well as all classes and elite groups would be approached to direct the members of the executive to get it implemented. But the Parampurusha too could not sit on judgment about the merit, rationality and fairness of the verdict given by a constitution-bench.
Hence the Parambrahma, head of the veteran jurists, would have to be approached to give his opinion. He would be like the Mahabrahmana of Ajatasatru’s cabinet. He would along with other members of the council of veterans silently scrutinize its merit in the light of past experiences and earlier verdicts and step in only when the four-member constitution bench and the head of the chief of the people and the heads of the two houses of legislature requested him. [It may be remarked here that the scholars of the last two centuries have failed to notice this aspect.]
The tenure of the chief justice, Brahma was not fixed nor his wages. He had no need for wealth. Only one who had met all his obligations to his family or clan or community could be accepted as a member of the judiciary. He could pursue any social welfare activity after retirement and even return to his post when required. His verdicts would be honoured as precedents and would be preserved. His was not a thankless job. He was however as a human being likely to err. But he would be his own judge. No judge may judge another judge. The constitution however provided a council of five representatives (panchajana) one each from the cultural aristocracy, the intelligentsia, the bureaucracy, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat to be the watchdog and assessors of the judicial pronouncements. Democracy requires that no major section of the society be excluded from judging the judges.
The sages wanted that every member of every one of the five sectors should be imbued with the orientations of every one of them. This reduced the possibility of verdicts being vitiated by narrow personal or sectarian interests or class and status distinctions and by non-holistic approaches. No value system can remain uninfluenced by others.
In the case of a federal setup, all the five autonomous units, the capital and the four janapadas around it would depute their assessors and the board of twenty-five (pancha-panchajana) would be convened to assess the verdicts of the chief justice, Brahma and the other members of the constitution-bench. There could be no despotism either of the executive or the judiciary. These recommendations of the sages of the Upanishads were however found impractical for no man is perfect.
Among the socio-political thinkers who have been highly realistic the more important ones are Krshna (‘author’ of Bhagavad-Gita), Bhishma (expounder of the concept of Rajadharma), Bhrgu (chief editor of Manava Dharmasastra, Manusmrti) and Kautilya (author of Arthasastra). Bhagavad-Gita can be examined as science of polity (Rajavidya) that presented the training that a nominee to the position of Rajarshi under an experienced theoretician-cum-administrator (Rajapurohita) should have. [Krshna had selected Arjuna instead of his brother, Yudhishtira for this training and as his second in command.]
Bhishma dealt with practicable and desirable ethics of polity in his exposition of Rajadharma which he expounded to Yudhishtira who though victorious wanted to abdicate the throne. Yudhishtira was an advocate of Dharmarajya, a social welfare state, aiding the needy through valid voluntary donations received. Earlier the liberal aristocrats received donations from the rich at the formal sacrifices (yajnas). But the feudal lords collected levy (bali) imposed on the subjects. The democratic state replaced it by fixed tax, kara.
Yudhishtira propounded the concept of a social welfare state that depended on only voluntary donations for extending aid to all the needy. The term, dharma, was interpreted as charity. Bhishma dwelt on the functions of the Rajapurohita but did not visualise the king as a Rajarshi, a sober intellectualistic head of the state. Bhrgu’s Manusmrti accepted the principles of Rajadharma that Bhishma advocated. But his state did not have a Rajarshi at its head. It was modeled on the state headed by Prthu, a protégé of Manu Vaivasvata. Bhrgu however respected the Arthasastra of Pracetas Manu even as Bhishma did.
Bhrgu’s polity was a blend of Prthu constitution and Pracetas’s polity. It gave permanence and autonomy to the rural bureaucracy and the institution of justice. It was a state designed for ensuring social justice, social security and social welfare. This rural bureaucracy has survived for centuries. It however was not designed to ensure socio-economic progress through gains from intrusions into new areas. Dharmarajya was a social welfare state presided over by Dharmaraja who was committed to the principles of ethics. It was a just but soft state.
Arthasastra on the other hand gave finesse to the Rajarshi constitution and streamlined the bureaucracy without violating the principles of democracy and expounded the concept of economic determinism. Presence of the system of elections is not the desideratum for describing a particular system of governance as democracy. The touchstone for describing a state as democratic is in assessing whether it is functioning in the interests of all the people or for only one or some sections of it. Kautilya was not against ethics and Dharma. His was Artharajya, an economic state. It aimed at continual economic progress and was against consumerism and greed even as Krshna’s model was. It gave priority to reforms in all fields of polity and social welfare and to social justice through economic progress.
Kautilya was a junior contemporary of Bhishma who called for parity between those who exercised political (and military) power and those who exercised economic power. Kautilya did not agree. He was for gaining political power through economic power. He was an advocate of economic determinism as he gave primacy to economy. His administration was more thorough than that of Bhishma or that of Bhrgu. Kautiya was not impressed with the concept of small nation-states and also with the concept of paura-janapadas. He included the urban areas in the integrated viable state It was no longer predominantly agrarian only.
The quazi-feudal states had fortified capitals surrounded by rural areas, pura-rashtra or pura-desa dichotomies. Paura-janapadas did not want the city to be a fortified (durga) one nor the rural areas exposed to military control exercised from forts located in the midst of these areas. Kautilya was not in favour of the city becoming centre of conspicuous consumption in the name of promoting culture and civilization. He wanted the towns to function as administrative centres whether they were located in the agrarian areas or industrial areas of the janapadas. He proposed the durga-janapada pattern which did not depend on the mercy of the urban patriciate. It was for a strong economic state.
Bhishma and other scholars of the Mahabharata period accepted that every nation-state (janapada or rashtra) should have seven organs (angas) or constituents (prakrtis), king (rajan), bureaucracy (headed by officials holding the rank of amatyas), fortified capital, rural areas, treasury, army and external ally. This pattern advocated by the Arthasastra of Pracetas Manu was accepted by Manusmrti edited by Bhrgu and by the Arthasastra authored by Kautilya. Of these the five organs other than king and the external ally were referred to as rajyam (kingdom). They were subordinate to the ‘king’ (rajan). The state was not his property.
The mal-functioning of any of these five organs and its correction were not contingent on whether the head of the state was in his position or not and how he became that head. While examining whether the Hindu State that was consistent with the principles of both Dharmarajya and Artharajya met at any particular stage the objectives of socio-economic stability as well as progress for all the sections of the population or not is to be considered.
Kautilya who adhered to the rules of samkhya dialectics recognized the dichotomy rajan and rajyam. It did not however mean that the rajyam belonged to the rajan. He argued that among the six units other than that of the rajan or svami, the afflictions of the amatyam (bureaucracy) were more serious than those of the janapada and these more serious than the ones of the fort (seat of political power), and the afflictions of the treasury (economic structure) more than the ones of the army and the latter were more serious than those of the external ally (mitra) who stood the king in good stead in interstate relations and the afflictions suffered by that ally more serious than the one (amitra) who was not so friendly but was not inimical.
Every recognized janapada administered by the tested and trained bureaucracy was to be headed by a king (rajan) who was of the caliber of a Rajarshi. He was highly educated but was modest (vidya-vinaya) and functioned under the guidance of an experienced Rajapurohita who was a retired Rajarshi. The ministers, the department of chakshus (often translated as spies), envoys and the department of foreign affairs and certain other departments of the bureaucracy were part of the structure called rajasampada.
While the Rajan was elected by a small college of assertive chieftains, the Rajarshi was selected by an expert committee comprising the retiring Rajarshi, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister from among the outstanding trainees in the royal academy. It was not imperative that he should be a native of that janapada or state, but birth in a respectable family of that janapada would give him precedence over other candidates. Some Rajans claimed hereditary legitimacy. But this was not granted.
In neither case, Rajan or Rajarshi, as in the case of the Svami or Isvara hereditary legitimacy was expected. The selected candidate had rational legitimacy as he had to be approved by the peoples of all the units of the federation represented by their houses of legislature and where such houses did not exist by the heads of the clans of the janapadas.
Kautilya noted the presence of charismatic leaders who led the state. Such leader was referred to by him as Svami. This term was an alternative to Deva who was a liberal aristocrat and had the privilege of owning unlimited personal property and retaining personal retinue and personal troops and venturing on new projects on his own. It was an alternative also to the term Isvara who was a benevolent charismatic chieftain of the social periphery with unquestioned authority but did not venture into new projects, like conquest or exploitation of new areas for minerals etc.
The terms, deva, svami and isvara have later been used imprecisely as referring to ‘God’. The svami or the isvara was not expected to wield either hereditary legitimacy or rational legitimacy but had to be a charismatic social leader. Unlike in the Rajasampada where the Rajan’s consorts and sons were ex officio members with privileges and protection and even right of consultation and exercise of minor powers, the Svami had no member of his family included in it. He was on his own.
The svami was able to move in his circle of states unhindered by any constituent of his state. But he had to be careful that he did not annoy the other members of the house of nobles of which he was a member. An Isvara was not a member of any house of nobles. The Svami could not be one who had been a commoner. In none of the cases, Rajan, Rajarshi, Isvara and Svami, the head of the state was elected by universal adult franchise or even by a college of heads of families (purushas) as it was required in the election of the Viraj.
Unlike the other heads of states, the Svami was free to embark on conquest and increase his influence in the inter-state circles. But he too like others was not eligible to deploy the state army for personal exploits. The Isvara or Isa had only militias of ex-servicemen at his command. They were called to duty only for defence of the state or the followers of that socio-political chieftain. The Svami too could not deploy his troops to coerce or influence the other internal units of the state. He could however raise an army of his own with his personal resources and lead them.
It is not sound to interpret that the Svami was the head of a non-monarchical democratic state. Unlike the Rajarshi, the ideal non-monarch heading a social welfare state, the other heads including the Svami and the Isvara were committed to personal glory rather than to social welfare per se. Only the Viraj, head of the federal setup of four autonomous integrated janapadas and the autonomous urban council, who was elected by a large body of heads of families and their consorts, was a model democratic ruler.
Viraj headed the federal state and could make intrusions into areas outside his federal state and gain what his state did not have and make them available to his people. Internal administration and the legislative bodies were looked after by the Prajapati and issues of ethics and culture by his assistant, Aditi. [Aditi was later described as Prajapati Daksha’s daughter. She was the eldest among the consorts of the retired heads of families.] Aditi had the power to grant pardon to those who were penitent. No other state official could pardon any one found guilty by authorities (like Yama, Daksha and Varuna).
Aditi also guided the eight members of the executive. They were hence referred to as Adityas. Prajapati too exercised influence over the non-agrarian people of the areas outside the core agro-pastoral janapada. But his influence was restricted to inviting them to bring with them their property other than lands and houses and become domiciles of the janapada. He gave them the same rights and facilities and protection as the natives, jana, had. Neither the Viraj nor the Prajapati annexed the territories outside the borders of his state or converted them into colonies. The dynamic social leader, Purusha, unlike the Svami who was an aristocrat had belonged to the commonalty and headed one of its families.
If a Viraj who had tenure of ten to twelve years was re-elected he was described as Purusha with life tenure (twenty to twenty-four years) and became free to embark on projects and conquests without any restriction. He did not depend on the aristocracy or the state treasurer to sanction funds for this purpose. The army that he led was not a statutory army. Most men of his army or employees on his project were attracted by the prospects of gaining new wealth.
The head of the state and all the members of the executive should have the traits expected of a Purusha. They must have leadership traits and talents required for performing the duties of the official assigned to or opted for by him. These traits are both innate and acquired during the course of training prescribed. A social leader, purusha may lead the group from the forefront or be at the rear to ensure that none of his group stayed back or be in the middle. The group is not to be static. It has to be always kept going ahead to reach the goal prescribed for that active group.
The Purusha who has risen from the commonalty may by training, reach the threshold of the class of nobles but cannot be its member. He may be even introducing new aspirants to the nobility but cannot be one enjoying the privileges of an aristocrat, whether cultural or intellectual. He was accountable to the masses or the group that he led. A svami or an isvara or a rajan was not accountable to anyone. A Rajarshi, who was expected to have the traits of a Purusha, was accountable to the population that he headed from whatever rank of the society he had risen.
Kautilya visualized a state headed by a Rajarshi. He had risen from a stratum or social sector that unlike the aristocrats had no privileges and immunities. He had been a leader of that social group or sector or stratum before he was admitted to the state academy and trained in the duties that he had to perform if he was selected for the post of Rajarshi. The academy was meant for training all officials of the state, at higher, middle or lower levels. The ministers, mantris, who were members of the cabinet directly under the head of the state, had been trained officials, amatyas. These ministers were selected by a committee comprising, the Rajarshi, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister.
This selection board went through the reports on the merits of the recruits with respect to twenty-four traits prescribed and assigned them to one of the four fields of administration, social duties and justice (dharma), departments concerned mainly with economic affairs (artha), sports, art and entertainment (kama) and dangerous (bhaya) occupations like those of the soldiers, envoys, king’s guards. The basic training for all these sectors was the same. The allocation of the trainees to the different fields and further special training took place on the advice of the above three authorities in consultation with the head of the academy.
This head was called Rajaguru. He was the king’s teacher. Unlike the Rajapurohita he did not have state duties. He was a philosopher and guide whom the king could turn to whenever he was in a dilemma. Like the Rajapurohita he too was not connected with any ecclesiastical order. In many states the scholar, Brhaspati was visualized as Rajaguru.
The benefits that would accrue to the eighteen bureaus (tirthas) was the only consideration while selecting and assigning duties to the secretaries of the states (amatyas) and heads (adhyakshas) of departments.. True, only candidates who belonged to respectable native families (abhijana) were admitted to the academy. The choice was however not on the basis of one’s community (jati) or class (varna). It was not marred by nepotism. The selected candidate underwent training at the cost of the state. But the selection itself had to be objective and unbiased.
All officials of the state from the lowest level of the bureaucracy and army to the head of the state were alumni of this academy. Only merit counted. The course comprised dialectics (samkhya), different branches of systematic and synchronized endeavour (yoga) like (Brahmayoga meant for service on the judiciary, Rajayoga meant for governance, Karmayoga meant for executives and ordinary workers), social control (lokayata, often wrongly presented as materialism), the three Vedas that dealt with history, tradition, culture and ethics, economy and vocations (varta) and policy of coercive state control (dandaniti) and martial arts signified by archery (danurvidya). The Rajarshi must have mastered all these disciplines. It was meritocracy.
Arthasastra wanted a stable, efficient and honest government with an autonomous permanent bureaucracy. It was not too centralized. It recognized that the state could be stable only if there was no unrest in any of the three areas of the economy, central, rural and industrial. Kautilya discussed with his deuteragonist the causes of the unrest and how to overcome them. He was not in favour of a too centralized administration. But his administration was unlike that of Manusmrti not a decentralized one, with the rural areas not dependent on the central government. Rural bureaucracy as envisaged by Manusmrti continued to be intact even during prolonged interregna.
Kautilya’s Rajarshi constitution provided for Indra-Brhaspati diarchy that would become active during interregna. The house of nobles headed by the official designated as Indra would become active then. Similarly the civil administration which during the Vedic era looked after by the economist and expert in laws concerning economic disputes (vyavahara), Brhaspati, would become active. [The Atharvan constitution had not been rescinded.] These two officials were however not so prominent as they were during the Atharvan era. Similarly as in Manusmrti, the ombudsman, varuna, was in place but was not in the limelight. The Atharvan constitution had not been rescinded.
The Vedic system of governance was not dispensed with totally by the Rajarshi. The two Kautilyan officials, Sannidhata and Samaharta were successors to the Indra-Brhaspati diarchy. These two were appointed from among the executive of the rank of ministers after the Rajarshi trained in the duties of Indra and Brhaspati took over the reins of the state. The eighteen bureaus and other units of the administration were distributed between Sannidhata and Samaharta. The central administration headed by Sannidhata was empowered to ensure that the rural administration headed by Samaharta did not fail to account for its acts of omission and commission. Central finances should not be put to loss.
Every small economically viable integrated state was headed by a ruler of the caliber of Rajarshi whether he was designated as Rajan or Janaka or Janadhipa or Isvara or Svami or Prthvipati. None of them was a hereditary ruler or could pass on the mantle to his son. Of course a son could be one of the aspirants. Only if he was trained in the state academy he could be recognized as a Rajarshi. The fifty nation-states did not have identical political structures.
Rajan was to be elected by a college of aggressive chieftains as in the past. A Janadhipa had to be elected by a council of representatives of all the three sectors, agro-pastoral, industrial and the independent middle class of intellectuals (jana, itarajana and punyajana) of his district. The members of this council were referred to as abhijana (equal to aristocrats) or aisvaryaprakrti (the wealthy equal to plutocrats). During the Upanishad period they were called Visvedevas, who from among themselves elected the thirty-three devas, nobles entitled to hold their ranks for life.
Janaka belonged to the native commonalty (jana) especially of the agrarian population (bhu) including the former agriculturists (bhutas) who had taken refuge in the periphery after their discharge from military service. He was an intellectual and not a warrior. He headed a state that had no army and no rich treasury. It had a trained rural bureaucracy but no house of nobles. Its civil administration was looked after by an official designated as Brhaspati or Pracetas. Brhaspati guided the eighteen bureaus while Pracetas supervised the twelve-member ministry manned by efficient social leaders to look after the conventional eight socio-political sectors and the newly identified politico-cultural sectors.
Where the Rajan or Janaka was guided by Pracetas who like the official designated as Soma was the watchdog superior to the executive and its head which the Janaka was. Janaka was also the chief justice if he was suitably trained in jurisprudence and protector of the constitution, Brahma. If the Janaka was a Rajarshi trained in jurisprudence he would head both the executive and the judiciary. Else the Janaka had to be guided by Brhaspati, an expert in socio-political constitution as well as economy and by Pracetas an expert in politico-economic constitution, Arthasastra.
Kautilyan Arthasastra did not provide for a post designated as Chief Justice, Brahma or for a socio-cultural authority designated as Dharma. The civil judiciary, Dharma, was a part of the bureaucracy. It dealt with all laws including those connected with economic affairs, vyavahara and civil and political ones, danda. But the chief judge, Dharma worked under the supervision of the Rajarshi and the Rajapurohita. He was not required to answer to the Sannidhata or to the Samaharta. He was part of the executive though he was associated primarily with the judiciary. He was in charge of social welfare institutions and their activities.
Manusmrti following the Prthu constitution provided for an eight-member executive. Indra, Agni, Ravi, Vayu, Soma, Yama, Varuns and Prthvi were the designations of these members. The official who was designated earlier as Yama (wrongly understood as God of Death) was in charge of implementing the prohibitory orders that had been issued earlier by Prajapati Daksha. Yama was also referred to as Dharma which earlier had only prescriptions and prohibitions (niyamas and yamas). The incumbent to the latter post which was connected with the civil judiciary could be an aristocrat or even a plutocrat. It was not an ecclesiastical post.
Prthvi looked after agro-pastoral economy, Indra after the patriciate, Soma after the frontier society, Vayu after the mobile population, Ravi (Aditya, Surya) after the army and Varuna after law and order and legal obligations. Prthu’s predecessor had Kubera, a representative of the plutocrats as one of the eight members of the executive. Prthu replaced him by Prthvi marking that the new state would depend on agro-pastoral economy and not encourage plutocracy. His constitution preferred to go back to the days when the core society was based on agro-pastoral economy. Manusmrti followed Prthu model. Neither was for a theocratic state.
Indra was the head of the house of nobles (devas), head of the cabinet and finances which was in position in only some areas. In some other areas especially the non-urban areas where such a house was not present, the incumbent to this post was referred to as Isvara. He did not belong to the cultural aristocracy of devas. In some proto-paura-janapadas, the urban areas were looked after by an official designated as Indra, and the non-urban areas by an official designated as Isvara. [Indra who was stationed in the city might once a year visit the rural areas to accept the tributes paid by them. He could not collect taxes or levies.]
The small nation-state envisaged by Manusmrti was economically integrated with a socio-cultural code, Dharmasastra, and a politico-economic code, Arthasastra, applicable to all sections of its population. Every one of the fifty states that were brought under the united confederation of states, Prthvi, was free to have special provisos added to the model comprehensive code that Manusmrti was. Manusmrti had accepted several provisions of the Prthu constitution that was defended by sages like Kashyapa and Sanatkumara. Every one of the states was expected to be of the paura-janapada pattern and its head, rajan, was elected by an oligarchy of assertive chieftains who were not very different from feudal warlords. Janadhipa, Janaka, Vibhu, Prabhu, Rajarshi, Isvara, Bhumipati, Mahipati, Prthvipati, Visvapati, Ekarat, Adipathi, were designations of the head of the state. Their roles and the powers that they exercised were not identical. Under the Prthu constitution while the head of the state flaunted the title, Isvara, he was a Prthvipati, chief of the Prthvi.
Prthvipati had control over the land and its inhabitants. One who had control over the lands only was called Bhumipati. One who controlled all the inhabitants who had been granted the status of subjects (prajas) of the state and its citizens was called Prajapati. One who headed the bureaucracy manned by free men who were not bound by the codes of any clan or community was called nrpati. The governor of the rural areas of that state was called Parthiva. The Parthiva of Manusmrti was expected to govern the rural areas with the aid of the eight ministers designated as Indra, Agni, Ravi, Soma, Vayu, Prthvi, Yama and Varuna. Ravi was not in charge of the army. A separate representative for the commonalty was provided for only in the Prthu and Manusmrti constitutions. Ravi was in charge of collecting revenue from the agriculturists.
It was not obligatory for the head of the state, Rajan or Janaka or Rajarshi to constitute such an eight-member ministry. He controlled the troops needed to protect the rural areas (rashtra) under him. These troops were not placed under Indra who was in charge of the central treasury only. Indra and Ravi performed the functions that had been assigned by Kautilya to sannidhata and samaharta respectively.
The Parthiva had scouts needed to inform him about the movements of anti-social elements on the borders of his territory. He had a small group of judges to assist him in punishing those guilty of violating law and order. He could impose fines and exile the undesirable persons. They could not be sent to the prison as there was no prison in his jurisdiction. [In the Vedic times the guilty was sent to work in the galleys of Varuna.]
The Parthiva could not impose death sentence. Rajan, the head of the state was only an executor of the death sentence pronounced by a special juridical body formed at the instance of the commonalty. Economic offences were dealt with by the bureaucracy in the absence of economic corporations and guilds of workers. Social and cultural offences were dealt with by the family or clan or community courts. The head of the state was under constant watch by the house of nobles. With the Vedic system of bicameral legislature, sabha and samiti, house of cultural aristocrats and council of sages and elders losing its lustre and the intellectual aristocrats claiming a status equal to that of the cultural aristocrats and also the cultural aristocrats being constrained to accept the plutocrats on par with them, the new aristocracy was no longer an exclusive club. The assembly, sabha, was presided over by Indra. He was traditionally a liberal cultural aristocrat controlling the treasury and the army and the eight-member ministry. The king, the head of the state had little influence.
States and Confederation
In the plutocratic states, the official designated as Kubera was the head of the assembly though not all the members of the sabha were plutocrats. In a technocracy-oriented state where laws were stringent, the official designated as Varuna was the chief. This state ensured that none failed in performing his duties. Technocracy which encourages control over natural resources also tends to exercise similar control over human resources. In a police state the magistrate, Yama, presided over the administrative council. None of these states was in a position to enforce new laws. Where the official designated as Indra presided over the assembly the liberal aristocrats had their way.
Where the official designated as Dharma presided, ethics got more attention than finance or law and order. This body could introduce new socio-cultural rules. Where the administrative body was presided over by Brahma, the socio-political constitution itself could be amended. Every sabha co-opted members who had special knowledge about the fields that were their main concern. A state could have all these patterns of sabha or some only. Brahma-sabha was the most influential among these. Neither Dharma-sabha nor Brahma-sabha was an ecclesiastical order. Every state was free to adopt one pattern in preference to other patterns and shift from one pattern to another as it deemed fit. It might also adopt any two or more patterns simultaneously.
As pointed out earlier, the fifty small nation-states or paura-janapadas spread over the entire subcontinent, Prthvi, did not have an uniform political structure. Their assemblies prevented any monarch or member of an oligarchy from functioning as an autocrat. All the states were required to recognize the liberal social laws based on the principles of Dharma had greater authority than the puritanical laws of the middle Vedic period which postulated that truth (satya) would win and not the laws that permitted inhumanity and functioning against the principles of human nature (anrta). The Upanishadic sages called upon the trainees in the state academy to ensure that all verdicts were given after determining in each case what the truth was. But in personal conduct the principles of Dharma were to be followed.
Dharma called for liberalism and compassion, adherence to truth and non-violence, not stealing the property of others, performance of the traditional rites, uprightness. Dharma or social laws which were formulated with the intent to reduce conflicts were however subordinate to the socio-political laws, Brahma, which had more binding force than Dharma.
Dharmasabhas after scrutinizing the different social laws declared that the only call that could be valid was the appeal to all to be generous and not be selfish or miserly. They refused to endorse the claim that the state had the right to raise funds as it deemed necessary. They however permitted the state to raise funds through voluntary donations only and prescribed that the state should disburse without any provisos these funds among those who needed economic assistance.
Brahmasabhas allowed the state to assume all the powers needed to enforce any measure that would ensure that every individual and every social group adhered to the socio-political constitution which was common to all the states. They did not interfere with the social laws pronounced by the Dharma-sabhas. Rajadharma, the powers and responsibilities of the state whatever its structure was prescribed by the Brahmasabha, the central constitution bench. It was a democratic body and invited some former rulers of repute and sages, scholars and specialists in different fields. It held its session in public and every one of the invitees was entitled to speak at the session.
The social laws (Dharma) could not override the state laws (Rajadharma) and neither the universal socio-political constitution, Brahma. The Upanishads were concerned with Brahma, the functions of the grim Chief Justice, which were superior to those of Dharma, the regulator, mentor and guide of the people.
In a rural area governed by the Parthiva with the aid of the eight officials one who was in charge of ensuring that the provisions of the social laws, Dharma was honoured. But at the level of the integrated janapada or state headed by Janaka or Rajarshi, which did not have the benefit of an eight-member ministry, a Brahmasabha of intellectuals, especially jurists was in position. It was attended by all sections of the aristocracy, middle class and commoners and administrators. It was headed by Brahma an expert in socio-political constitution and open discussions took place there on issues pertaining to the constitution. The Janaka or the Rajarshi could preside over the state Brahmasabha if trained in jurisprudence, brahmavidya, and was not dependent only on precedents or on intuition (atma) called conscience.
In some large states headed by liberal rulers with a holistic outlook the larger twelve-member ministry along the lines recommended by Pracetas Manu was in position. There was no separate Brahmasabha or Dharmasabha. The sober official designated as Soma was superior to the other executives who flaunted the designation of Raja and were in charge of specific departments and strata of the larger society. He was called Maharaja though he was functioning under a king, Rajan.
The head of the state was not the head of the executive or of the judiciary. Soma could overrule the King too if he found that the state failed to perform its duties properly and that justice was not rendered by him. He was normally concerned with his department but was alert about the happenings in the different strata and the way in which the king functioned. He would act suo motu in his capacity as Maharaja and Mahabrahmana. Soma would be called upon as an independent intellectual to take over the functions of the head of the state and head of the judiciary if these posts fell vacant. He could pass judgments on the actions of the king and other powerful ministers and also get those implemented without being required to depend on some other powerful personage.
But Soma too was not the highest state authority. There was to be a jurist superior to the Maharaja who could issue orders to the executive including the head of the state and as Mahabrahmana to all officers of the judiciary including its head. The post of Chief Justice, Brahma was sometimes held by the king himself. Such a king was subordinate to the Mahabrahmana. The highest ever-observant official of the judiciary was called Parabrahma. He could also be Parampurusha who could get all the verdicts passed by Parabrahma executed. Parampurusha was a social leader par excellence. The sages of the Upanishad era wanted that the highest authority should be the unwritten socio-political constitution, Brahma whose exponent was the chief justice, Brahma. He ranked far higher than the head of the state, Rajan. Parabrahma could identify the provisos of the constitutions of the different patterns of state that would endure and stand the test of reason.
In every state Prajapati, chief of the nation-state and guardian of the interests of all those who were granted the status of Prajas (often translated as subjects of the state) had a rank next to the chief justice, Brahma. Brhaspati, head of the civil administration and economic institutions had a rank next to the Prajapati. Indra, head of the assembly of nobles and head of the eight-member executive had a rank next to Brhaspati. This executive was superior to the born aristocrats, that is, the higher echelons of the society.
Anyone could be trained to become Brahma. But the training itself was an arduous one and very few could be considered for selection. The nominee should have been acquainted with the lives and orientations of the people at all economic and social levels. He should be able to decide issues on their merit without bias or prejudice. Brahmavidya, science of jurisprudence would be useful to only one who had learnt the science of Purushavidya, providing efficient leadership and Atmavidya, study of how one could function without being subjected to the rules and regulations and orientations of his social group.
Purushavidya dealt with social leaders of different calibers, low, middle, high and outstanding. Atmavidya would require intimate knowledge of the traits of one (jivatma) who struggles for even bare existence, and one (pranatma) who is part of the roots of the society which lay the foundation for the social ethos to develop and ultimately blossom. It also tells how to identify the traits and expectations of those (bhutatmas) who had dropped out of his social group for lack of ability to meet its expectations and ranked between jivatmas and pranatmas.
Atma meant awareness of one’s personal identity as distinct from that of his social group. It also meant conscience that enables one to take the correct decisions and steps without being influenced by others. Above these (jivatmas, pranatmas and bhutatmas) we have mahatmas (who were eligible to be members of the legislature), sadatmas (who were eligible to be members of the assembly of the respected and civilized persons), santatmas (members of the judiciary that called for strict adherence to truth), jnanatmas, prajnanatmas and vijnanatmas (who were scholars) and paramatmas. [None of these individuals, atmas, shared the traits expected of purushas, social leaders. They were introverts, as it were while the purushas were extroverts.]
Among those who contribute to the spread of the ethos of the society of the janapada we notice the acceptance of those who belonged to the immediate neighbourhood (prana), and the rejection of some who could not get absorbed (apana) in that society, some who spread that ethos equally among all its members (samana) and some who spread it beyond the boundaries of that society (vyana). Those persons, who contribute to raising its level of culture (udana), stand in contrast to those, who are at the base of that society (pranis).
The last (pranis or pranatmas) are superior to those (bhutas) who have dropped out of the core society. This distinction among the pranas which is latent in the Upanishads later got blurred under the influence of the science of yoga. Yoga itself meant science of synchronized work. It had three main sectors, Karmayoga, Buddhiyoga and Rajayoga, the training of the executives and ordinary workers, the training of the intellectuals and the training of the administrators including the rulers.
A review of the Vedic polity and the Upanishadic (neo-Vedic) polity and the early post-Vedic polity leads to the stand that every autonomous medium-sized paura-janapada should be an economically viable unit. The non-urban areas of the janapada would have two interdependent native economic sectors, agro-pastoral and industrial. The sectors not engaged in productive economic activities would be accommodated by the city and towns and would constitute their population and their needs would be looked after by the two economic sectors. A janapada would have four districts with each district having two areas, one rural area and the other industrial.
The head of the paura-janapada would be of the caliber of a Rajarshi. Five such nation-states, paura-janapadas (states studied as urban-cum-rural socio-economic polities) would constitute a circle (mandala) of states. The head of that circle would have proved to be superior to others in the circle (his ally, his opponent, the neutral ruler and the distant indifferent one). He would be of the status of Viraj or Maharaja.
Each state or janapada which had a Janaka or Svami or Rajarshi as its head had five units, bureaucracy, rural assembly, urban council, treasury controlling all economic activities and statutory army. These five together constituted the state (rajyam). They were in position even when there was no king (rajan). They were permanent units. Within his state the ruler would be coordinating the activities of the officials of the capital and the four districts and their subordinate units, counties, groups of villages and the discrete villages. If he succeeds in becoming the head of the circle of five states he would be entitled to the title of Samrat and have the power to arbitrate on differences that might arise among the five states (janapadas or nation-states).
Five such circles of states (mandalas) each with five internal units headed by a ruler preferably of the caliber of a Rajarshi constituted a confederation (chakra) of states. The head of the circle (mandala) of five states (rajyams) was designated as Samrat. To avoid conflicts this post should be filled in by rotation by a Viraj or Maharaja. Similarly the post of the head of the confederation (chakra) was filled in by rotation among the five Samrats. That head of the confederation would be designated as Chakravarti. This norm often stood unhonoured.
To summarize, the twenty-five states which are members of the confederation (chakra) are arranged as five circles (mandalas) of states each. Each of these five states has five internal constituents, bureaucracy (amatyam), rural areas (janapada), fortified capital (durga), treasury (kosa) and army including police and magistracy (danda). These five together constitute the state (rajyam). They are permanent institutions established by the constitution irrespective of who the head of the state is, and how he is chosen and what functions he has to perform and what powers and privileges he has.
The fifty nation-states of the sub-continent were constituted into two confederations (chakras) which co-existed and the united confederation was called Brahmachakra. The heads of the two confederations held the position of prthvipati alternately with the entire subcontinent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south being called prthvi. All the fifty states were brought together under a common constitution, Brahma. The ten circles (mandalas) were connected with each other and also each with the centre. These twenty links ensured that none of the circles of five states each got delinked from the master-constitution, Brahma and its exponent, Parabrahma. The two confederations (of twenty-five states) which were headed by chakravartis were interwoven even as the circles of five states each were. Internal rivalries among the five states of a circle (mandala) and the five circles of a confederation (chakra) and between the two confederations could be minimized only through suitable provisions of the common constitution, Brahmachakra.
It promulgated the concept of rotation of authority and the acceptance of the autonomy of every one of the fifty nation-states and the heads of the two confederations ensuring that none of their members attacked the territory of a member of the other confederation. Conflicts between heads of states were inevitable. The constitution of Prthvi had to also ensure that all the fifty nation-states were denied the right to deploy their police or troops in areas outside their borders. The erstwhile symbol of victory in war, asvamedha yajna was discouraged.
Rajans, Rajarshis, Maharajas, Virats, Samrats were not eligible to enforce their authority on areas beyond their authority. Only the head of the confederation (chakra) could raise an army. There were two armies headed by the two chakravartis and each had control only over the twenty-five states of that confederation. [The famous war of ten kings of the Vedic era was in fact one between heads of two chakras, each with five circles, mandalas.]
The combined army was deployed only for defence against powers external to the prthvi (sub-continent) which dared to attack it. Every nation-state would have an autonomous fortified capital surrounded by four rural areas (janapadas) which together constitute a rashtram. Every nation-state is entitled to frame its constitution which defines the duties and powers of its head and stipulates how he is to be chosen. This constitution pays attention to the civic, political and economic (artha) aspects of the governance of the state. It also defines what social aspects (dharma) are to be promoted by the head of the state and by these autonomous institutions.
Every-nation-state will have an appellate judiciary that would decide whether the decisions and directions given by the lower judiciary (officials concerned with different aspects of dharma) and the different sectors of the executive (concerned with the different aspects of artha, economy) and by the head of the nation-state were valid and tenable according to the constitution or not. Its head would be nominated by the head of the state and designated as Brahma. He would co-opt three members to assist him but his verdict would be final and could not be appealed against.
The constitution of the federal state, pura-rashtra with a capital surrounded by four autonomous janapadas would be finalized by a board of twenty-five members, with each of the five units sending five representatives. They would represent the five sectors of the population, liberal aristocrats, intellectuals including jurists, bureaucracy including the armed forces, police and magistracy, the landlords and other sections of the bourgeoisie and the working class of commonalty.
Every one of these five representatives would put forth not the viewpoint of his sector only but the one that would hold the five viewpoints as equally valid and equally valuable. Absence of a common approach among these sectors of the social polity is more harmful than assertion of sectarian interests. This board would regularly scrutinize the judicial process adopted by the four-member judiciary headed by Brahma. Social affairs including control of crimes and offences would be supervised by the five representatives of the state and their head would be the representative of the intelligentsia and designated as Dharma.
The fifty small economically viable integrated states were encouraged to adopt an uniform economic policy that would assure for their population the basic need, food for those at the level of jivatmas (individuals struggling for bare existence in a world of competition). The other requirements in addition to food were to be made available for those who were above that level and were able to stand on their own legs to enable them to pursue the vocations that they had opted for in accordance with their aptitudes.
Those who were dependent entirely on the state for their survival could not be expected to be choosers. It may sound odd and even repulsive but it is absurd to claim that all are born equal and that all should have equal rights. The rights granted to individuals and groups should be correlated to the duties that they have to perform and their ability to perform those duties. Of course every individual has to be protected by the state whether he is required to pay taxes or not, whether poor or rich. Every earner is to be taxed in proportion to his earnings.
Every individual should be enabled to have his personal property. The rights of every individual to choose his vocation in tune with his aptitude and innate trait and enjoy autonomy without constraint by social groups including the state have to be assured by every state. This is Rajadharma.
Where social groups are unable to protect their respective members the state will have to step in. The rights and duties of the individual (svadharma), of the social group (kuladharmas, jatidharmas, srenidharma, varnadharmas, lokadharmas and desadharma) and of the state (Rajadharma) are to be defined by the constitution, Brahma of that state.
No authority in the state or social group would be free to violate these or deviate from these. The deviant would lose the protection of the state and if his deviation was inexorable was liable to be exiled or even exterminated. No state should give asylum to the exiled. The higher law (Brahma) protects those who protect the above laws (dharmas). Of course every state is free to determine the rights and duties of the people in its jurisdiction. Some states may be permissive, some puritanical, some liberal and tolerant and some harsh on violations. The deviants might choose the country (desa) that meets their expectations.
The head of the circle (mandala) of states must have acquitted himself as the best among the five states in ensuring peace, progress and welfare. All the three earlier methods, drawing lots, duels and wars were ruled out. Wars were however not inevitable. Economic sanctions and grants could decide how the two rival rulers would settle their differences and temper their aspirations.
Every state was a federation of an urban enclave and four rural areas, janapadas around it. The four rural areas together constituted a rashtra. The head of the rural bureaucracy including the police manned by free men (naras) who were not functioning as members of any social group was called Narapati. The head of the natives of that area, janapada was called Janaka. There were residents in the neighbourhood and in the rashtra who were extended the rights enjoyed by the natives, jana. All those to whom the rights of self-determination were extended were called Prajas. Their head, a charismatic personality was called Prajapati. A Prajapati could be also the head (Narapati) of the rural bureaucracy manned by free men. If he was eligible to hold both the posts, he was called Naraprajapati.
The federal state (Virajam) with eight sectors, four agrarian and four industrial and non-agrarian, had a democratically elected house of thirty-three nobles. They were elected by a large body of representatives of the three classes, integrated elite, integrated middle class and integrated commonalty, all natives of that federal state (abhijana, punyajana and jana). It was an integrated state and there was no longer a distinction between jana and itara-jana (natives and others) and between loka (social world, settled organized population with a common orientation) and jagat (social universe of unorganized non-settled mobile groups and individuals with no common orientation).
The Virajam could also have a council of sixteen intellectuals and jurists and sixteen elders. The two bodies of legislature, house of nobles and the council of intellectuals and elders were convened by the Prajapati. The Parthiva nominated by the Prthvipati (administrative head of Brahmachakra, the national dual-confederation) was required to constitute an executive of eight members (of the Vedic pattern) representing and looking after the interests of the eight socio-economic sectors of the federal state.
The above is the picture of the structure of the Hindu State that emerged by the end of the long Vedic era. The head of the united confederation of fifty states, Prthvipati, had to follow the same constitution irrespective of which of the two chakravartis, head of a confederation held the post of Prthvipatii. If the two Chakravartis failed to arrive at a compromise or if either of them failed to get recognition and consequently the Prthvipati was unable to carry out his duties as the head of the conjoint confederation (nation) as the constitution, Brahma would yet be in force. And Parabrahma (to whom all the chief justices, Brahmas of the fifty states who were in position were subordinate) would hold the authority to issue instructions that the Prthvipati would have normally issued after consulting the other Chakravarti.
Most of these instructions would be in line with the precedents set down the ages and follow prescribed rules (vidhi) and the rest would be unique (avidhi) and would be determined by samkhya and nyaya techniques. The constitutions of the fifty states had all to follow the guide-lines given in the central constitution.
[According to the Svetasvatara Upanishad which propounded the concept of Brahmachakra of fifty states, the individual (atma) who is not bound by the social body but is capable of protecting that body is born and grows in stature by means of his resolve to survive against all odds and carry out his mission, his ability to be aware of the traits of his environment through touch and sight and his attractions and by the availability of ample food and drink. According with his deeds (karma) the soul assumes different forms depending on the situations. He chooses many shapes, gross and subtle in accordance with his innate traits. The teacher says that the individual has of his own united with those bodies through the traits of his acts (kriya) and innate (atma) traits (gunas) and seems to be one different from his original self.
The teacher was explaining how it was the same personage though essentially a stoic, not engaged in any work or attached to any social or personal interests who could play different roles and present himself in different forms while carrying out the mission that he had resolved on. One is freed from all (social and personal) bonds if he recognizes the noble (deva) as one who is without beginning and without end (as immortal, in common parlance) and who has from amidst social chaos created a larger society with many structures and embraces that larger society.
According to some thinkers who were legislators the inherent nature of an individual is such that he may be deluded by happenings around him. Some others would attribute such being deluded to (the passage of) time. In other words social change which is bound to happen as times change perplexes individuals. The teacher would however notice that it is change prescribed by the socio-political constitution (Brahma). This change is because of the Brahma-wheel by which old order yields place to new with new incumbents taking over the reins of administration at the instance of the noble who is held in great esteem (mahima) in the social world (of jurists).
The teacher would describe the controller of this social change as one who always envelops this entire larger society and as jna, as one who knows (all that has happened and is happening) and as one is the creator of times and as one having all noble traits and as one who had studied all sciences (sarvavid). Controlled by him the scheme of work (karma) unfolds itself. This work was distributed among the officials (mahabhutas, elements of nature as often interpreted) designated as prthvi, apa, agni, vayu and kham who headed the five sectors of the larger society.
The great personage had determined what work the officials were expected to do and assigned them each his work. Then he retired from his work and entered into the activity (yoga) of bringing about equality in accordance with the social philosophy (tattva) developed by him. He determined whether the work was to be done by a single individual or by two persons together or by a committee of three members or by a larger board of eight members. He also prescribed the time within which the work was to be completed and the subtle personal qualities that were expected in the members of this executive.
The charismatic chief of the larger society began determining what duties required specific traits in the officials to whom they were to be assigned and then distributed them among the then incumbents. The teacher implied that it was not felt necessary to appoint new persons to those posts. The chief did not embark on a total change of the administrative machinery. If the incumbent did not have the required traits the work assigned and done would be destroyed and as the duty is performed in a poor way he introduces other persons qualified to carry them out in accordance with his social philosophy (tattva) (behind the creation of a larger society where every unit would have members excelling in every one of the three traits and not assigned to separate classes). The teacher claims that this charismatic chief (a member of the Rudra school of thought) was the first to propound the above scheme and philosophy and to attempt a union between the original purpose and the circumstance (nimitta, the immediate cause) that called for the scheme being embarked upon. His plan is seen to be one not limited to a particular time (past or present or future). The form of the larger society does not indicate the presence of separate parts (kala).
He is a noble who is desired by all the existing discrete individuals (bhutas) who had a respectable past. One has to keep him in his thoughts (cittam). The teacher tells his students not to be satisfied with comparing that great chief (Siva) with the tree or with time. Because of the charismatic chief (isa), Bhaga, who brings dharma (justice) and removes sin the entire cosmos, is undergoing change (parivarta). That he is the personage on whom the larger society rests is known to the cultural aristocrats (amrta).
The teacher advised his students to know that the chief he was referring to was accepted by all the charismatic benefactors (isvaras) as being superior to them and as having the status of Mahesvara. He (who was normally stationed in the social periphery or in the forests or mountains) was the highest devata among the devatas (the nobles of the frontier society).
He was the chief of the heads of clans and groups. He was a noble and the charismatic chief (isa) of the bhuvana, a sector of the frontier society. What the purpose of his mission (karya) and the organs (karana) of the (state) through which Mahadeva functioned while bringing about the organization of the larger society were are not known. It can be said that there is none seen to be equal to or superior to him. However his great power (sakti) is revealed in his various acts.
That great chief was a born genius and had the innate strength to carry out that mission, the teacher told his students. Mahadeva who was known as the chief of the people (prajapati) and known as the Vratya for his dispassion had no master in the world, was not the subject of any head. He functioned on his own. He was not functioning under any charismatic leader (isa) for he himself was an isa. The newly inducted domiciles were known as prajas and they along with the natives (jana) constituted the population of the larger commonalty.]
Each state had its own constitution providing for Dharmasastra and Arthasastra (socio-cultural code and politico-economic code), as required for the best administration of that state taking into account its demography and economic resources. None of the states was permitted to extend its jurisdiction. The jurisdiction was settled from time to time by the circle (mandala headed by the Samrat) of which it was a member. The Samrat was the final authority to examine and pass verdict on the disputes between discrete states. This policy was determined to avert open wars resulting from the resorting to the six-fold policy recommended by the Arthasastra and endorsed by the Dharmasastra.
The social laws (dharmas) in force in a state were prepared by the council (samiti) intellectuals, jurists and elders of that state and endorsed by the constitution bench (Brahma) of that state. These laws did not interfere with the laws of the clans, communities or corporations and guilds in vogue since ancient times. These social laws were not to be overlooked or meddled with by any politico-economic measure (artha) that the administrators took.
The constitution bench had to be on alert and take suo motu action whenever there was a violation or bypassing of the social laws. Economic disputes between individuals and groups would require petitioning the court to intervene and arbitrate. But violation of social laws would have to be taken note of by the community concerned and the one found guilty should be punished by the community court. The action taken was to be intimated to the head of the state but the latter could not alter it.
Only offences against the state, its property and personnel would be dealt with by the state and its court. The official nominated for this purpose would take notice of the offence or crime without his attention being drawn to by any petitioner, any private citizen or public official. This power and duty was not assigned to the king or to the house of nobles or to the eight-member ministry and executive. If that bench failed to take the required step the people would be affected adversely. The King and the executive were not entitled to frame either the politico-economic or the socio-cultural policy of the state. A larger council of ideologues-cum-activists, Brahmavadis some of whom were radicals (ativadis) framed the policy and advocated it and required the king and the executive to implement it. The policy was debated in the urban council and rural assemblies (paura-janapadas) by the king’s supporters and others (svapaksha and parapaksha) and a consensus was reached before implementing it.
It was parliamentary democracy which however did not accept that the majority would have their way and the minority should obey them. Neither the elite many of whom were aggressive feudal lords or greedy plutocrats nor the masses most of whom were ignorant could determine by themselves the policy or direct the implementation of a policy. It had to be governance only with the consent of all. If a new law or rule failed to get accepted by all the existing laws would stay. The state is conservative because no new law is able to get approval of all easily and without debating its merit thoroughly. The bureaucracy was instituted on the basis of merit and objectivity. It was conservative in approach.
Neither possession of economic resources and political power (arthasamarthyam) or excellence in knowledge (vidyasamarthyam) or efficiency in carrying about prescribed work (karyasamarthyam) was found adequate. The officials selected were required to have in addition leadership traits (purushasamarthyam) to find a place in the administration at any level, especially the higher ones. States were not expected to remain static and stagnant. Social progress (lokayatra) needs both expertise and enterprise, it was recognized. Enterprise and venture into new areas should not however smack of imperialism and colonialism.
The structure and functions of the Hindu State that had evolved by the end of the long Vedic era have been discussed in the compilation ‘Passage to Hindu State’. Hindu State was a combine of Dharmarajya championed by the socio-cultural code, Manava Dharmasastra edited by Bhrgu and the politico-economic code, Arthasastra authored by Kautilya. This state had for its major tributaries, the constitution of the federal state, Virajam as presented by Kashyapa of the school of Marici and the constitution of the small nation-states as finalized by Prajapati Mahadeva of the Rudra School of socio-political thought.
To recall, the federal state headed by Viraj stood for union without uniformity that assured the autonomy (svarajam) of its units. The four rural areas and the city had their own heads of states designated as rajan (one who was assertive by nature). The rajan was elected by a college of assertive chieftains from among their own ranks. In the beginning the Viraj was elected by the rajans from among themselves. Later he was elected by a vast electorate comprising the male heads of the families and their consorts (purushas and stris). In some areas instead of the wives who could not but obey their husbands, independent women, naris, were enrolled as electors. But there was no adult franchise.
There were no other rules of eligibility, like educational qualification, belonging to a particular clan or community or vocation pursued imposed on these electors and the elected ruler. But only heads of families who had discharged all economic liabilities or had sons and grandsons who would discharge them later if incurred could be electors or elected representatives. The Viraj, head of the federal state, had tenure of ten to twelve years while a rajan like any other official had tenure of four to five years. If a Viraj was re-elected he would have twenty to twenty-four years of tenure and would be designated as Purusha. His activities pertained to intrusions into areas beyond the jurisdiction of his federation of states while that of a rajan was limited to his small state.
Between the two was the dignitary designated as Prajapati. He convened the two houses of legislature, sabha or house of thirty-three nobles and samiti, the council of sixteen jurists and sixteen elders. The two bodies were headed by officials designated as Indra and Agni respectively. Next to Prajapati was the elderly mother-figure, Aditi, who supervised the work of the eight-members of the executive, called Adityas. Indra headed this executive and Agni ranked next to him. Indra looked after the treasury and the army while Agni headed the judiciary. Prajapati was entitled to admit to a state, persons from areas outside its territory if they brought along with them their liquid assets. They were given the same rights as the natives, jana had and both the natives and the new members were called prajas. He guarded their economic interests.
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