RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF THE KING, RAJADHARMA
Position of the King (Manusmrti 7-1 to 13)
The chief editor of Manusmrti proceeds to explain the duties of the king (Rajadharma), the functions of the nrpa, the chief of free men, how this post came into being and how he can attain the highest fulfillment of those functions. It is not pertinent whether this official, nrpa, or the head of the state, Rajan, has been formally assigned to the Kshatriya class or not. Of importance is how this official could rise to become the head of the state and perform the duties and exercise the rights of the latter in accordance with the political code, Rajadharma. The functions of the nrpa are not all identical with those of the king, Rajan.
At this stage we need not enter into a debate on whether Dandaniti, science of polity, was outside the pale of ethics, which Rajadharma was expected to conform to. It is the duty of the ordained Kshatriya who is trained in the conduct prescribed by the socio-political constitution enshrined in Atharvaveda to protect from encroachment all these duties (of the four different classes and the four different stages of life). He is expected to defend the rationale behind all the rights and duties of members of these classes and these stages. [It is not sound to interpret that the injunction was only to protect all the taxpayers.]
It is not necessary to discuss here the issue of whether non-Kshatriyas could become rulers. The editors of Manusmrti are concerned first with how nrpa, a chief of free men (who did not belong to any clan or community) could be absorbed into the Kshatriya varna and entrusted with the task of implementing the new socio-political code. He has to make every one adhere to his duties and perform the functions recommended for his class or that of the clan to which he belonged.
The theory of the evolution of the state outlined by the editor of Manusmrti takes us back to the stage, when the (unidentified) Prabhu proposed the institution of the post of the king (raja) for the protection of all. It was a time of anarchy (arajaka) and the people of this social world were dispersing in all directions out of panic. Prabhu was the designation given to the most outstanding leader of the society, who could give directions to all. However he did not exercise coercive power. It is not sound to interpret that this term referred to God and that the king was considered to be a representative of God.
The anarchy referred to above prevailed a few decades before the constitution as outlined by Rajadharma came into force. It was a period when the Bhrgus had demilitarized several states, as their rulers had become tyrants. This anarchy led to large-scale displacement of the agro-pastoral commonalty. Parasurama, the leader of the Bhrgus had not given alternative political structures and this led to anarchy. The editors of Manusmrti including Bhrgu and Pracetas presented an alternative polity, which is described in this section. [Hindu Political Sociology has to be freed from vague generalizations and obscurantism and placed on sound bases.]
The new head of the state, raja, would part with the powers and functions of the officials, designated as Indra, Anila, Yama, Surya, Agni, Varuna, Chandra and Kubera. Autocrats like Vena had concentrated the powers of all the officials designated as above in their own hands. The king could no longer exercise these powers. The new constitution required that the king should give up these powers forever. The new constitution created the system of the king, the head of the state, assisted by a cabinet of eight ministers who would exercise the powers that had devolved on them.
A regime without such a ministry in place was unconstitutional it was pronounced. While the raja was deprived of these powers, they were bestowed on the nrpa, the chief of the local administration who had jurisdiction over the rural hinterland, rashtra. In the city, the elite were enabled to have a ministry of their own led by Surendra (with its members drawn from the nobility) but in the rural areas where there was no such nobility, more powers had to be given to the nrpa. [It is necessary not to treat the two terms, nrpa and raja as denoting the same authority.] It is imperative that Indra and others are not visualized as Gods. They were men and were officials drawn from the nobility whose members resided in exclusive areas in the city or in garrisons.
The nrpa, a pious man had jurisdiction over the free men (naras) who were not under the discipline of the clans and communities but had been assigned to the four classes (varnas) on the basis of their aptitudes, vocations and orientations. Many free men did not take up their positions in these newly created classes, varnas. Those persons who accepted this assignment were known as manavas. The new constitution placed all discrete individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery under his jurisdiction. He exercised the powers of these eight officials with respect to the territory inhabited by them also. The ancient state has to be studied keeping in mind this demographic distribution. The impressive charismatic authority of the nrpa surpassed the authority of the wills of all individuals.
The nrpa was vested with extraordinary powers while the raja was required to part with these powers, as pointed out above. The nrpa had great charismatic authority, which was compared to the heat of the sun (the authority of the chief administrator of the Upanishadic times), Aditya. The vision and mind of the commonalty were overcome by the influence the nrpa exercised. They could not act against his desires for he had charismatic authority over the free men and all the discrete individuals.
He was able to exercise a similar influence over the organized agro-pastoral population also. [In fact, the state depended on him to collect tax from the agriculturists. Aditya was in charge of this collection.] His personal charismatic influence enabled him to exercise the powers vested in the eight officials (of the Vedic times) designated as Agni, Vayu, Arka (Surya), Soma (Chandra), Dharmaraja (Yama), Kubera, Varuna and Indra. This is not to be interpreted as supernatural power being vested in the king. Such distortion is a modern phenomenon and a deliberate one intended to make the people of India submit to the new rulers.
Even a young boy as the chief of an agro-pastoral terrain was not to be treated with contempt, as but a commoner. For, he is granted the status of a devata on par with a deva, an aristocrat, though he appears in the form of but a free man, without the adornments of a noble. [Neither deva nor devata was a god.]
The Bhrgu constitution suggested that the nrpa, leader of the free men who was placed in charge of the local administration of the rural areas and the social periphery might be given the status of a devata (which the plutocrats of the industrial economy had). Rural administration might be placed in the hands of a commoner, and no minimum age prescribed for this purpose. Such commoners would conform to the traditions of their clans or communities and would not go astray.
Fire burns only the individual who approaches it wrongly (contemptuously). But the fire of the state burns his entire clan along with its cattle and hoard of wealth. What was burnt was not only the individual punished by Agni, the presiding officer of the people’s court as in the case of Vena, the despotic ruler of Anga, who was ordered to be burnt to death for his excesses. The king who had taken over the role of Agni, the head of the civil judiciary, could destroy the entire offending clan and its wealth.
The state presided over by the raja had far more powers than the nrpati or bhumipati, who could discipline only individuals but not whole clans. Though they recommended devolution of powers to the local administration and to the eight members of the ministry, the editors of Manusmrti knew that the king should be able to exercise those powers under extraordinary circumstances.
Having fully considered the nature of the task he had undertaken and the place and time of its execution, the king assumes the form (rupa) (of the representative) of the larger society (visva) again for fulfillment of the purposes of the social and moral laws (dharma). [This was the approach of Krshna.] The king (rajan) may be permitted to become an emperor in order to fulfill certain larger social purposes and not be required to remain a powerless head of a small state. The new democratic constitution aimed at disabling autocracy did not prevent launching of new social enterprises targeting a larger society. But it was not for imperialism.
The use of the term, visvarupam is significant. It is a concept associated with the picture of the technocrat, Visvarupa, of the frontier society and also with the identification of Krshna with the figure and role of that personage. The editors of Manusmrti acknowledge that the head of the state has to identify himself with all the sections of the larger society, unlike the bhumipati or nrpati who represented only the commoners or only the free men. They did not claim that the king had divinity in him.
Rajadharma required and recommended that the king be flexible in his methods and adopt a holistic approach while dealing with the different sections of the larger society. The king was considered as one favoured with wealth and valour that gave him victory. He could become so angry that he pronounced death sentence on those who annoyed him. He had the splendour of all. The king retained with him the control over the treasury and the army that was required for conquest. He also retained with him the power to pronounce death sentence on the enemies of the state. Of course, all the eight cabinet ministers had to function under his aegis and he might exercise the powers of these ministers by himself. Devolution and delegation of powers does not mean that the king has been denied these powers.
Manusmrti describes Rajadharma, the rights and duties of the ideal king in this section. It has not presented him as omnipotent like God. It has to be pointed out that the expression, Rajadharma, has been bandied about even by persons in high places without a proper grasp of the provisions of this code, even as the term, dharma, has been used imprecisely. The man who in his attraction to other persons or goals despises the king undoubtedly perishes. The king does not pardon the enemies of the state. For, the king makes up his mind to destroy such a person. The king has powers of discretion which when exercised pleases some and annoys others.
The code of conduct of the King, Rajadharma does not deny him these powers. As the overlord of all free men he does distinguish some for special treatment. None should transgress the decrees issued by him in this connection. He was free to favour those whom he liked and punish those whom he disliked. Neither may be objected to or opposed by any one. This was a provision of the constitution, which protected the king from the charge of partisanship. The reality is that even the ideal ruler who depends on the support of individual free citizens cannot be but partial to some. A ruler may not be partial to any particular clan or community or class, but he cannot remain totally impartial when his support comes from free men and their leaders who are not bound by clans and communities. [Clannishness need not necessarily result in partisanship in governance and democracy of free men does not necessarily ensure impartiality.]
On Dandaniti, the Science of Polity (7-14 to 29)
The term, Isvara was not then used in the sense, God. It was the designation of the charismatic chief of all the unorganized individuals, bhutas, of the social periphery. His rank and role was on par with that of Deva, the noble, the liberal aristocrat of the agro-pastoral core society and of Devata, the acquisitive plutocrat and the disciplinarian-cum-technocrat of the industrial frontier society of the forests and mountains both of whom led organized clans and communities. It is wrong to identify Isvara with Brahma and interpret this section under the impression that the latter was the God of Creation and was referred to as Prajapati or Father. Isvara has also been identified with Siva, Rudra and Mahadeva.
Dandaniti, the science of polity (exercise of coercive power), was first outlined by leading thinkers of the Rudra school of thought. This science drew on the socio-political constitutions enshrined in the Atharvaveda (Brahma) and retained the salient features of the latter to which Mahadeva was a major contributor. Rajadharma was the product (successor to) of the thought of this school, especially that of Samkara. The editors of Manusmrti take pains to assert that they are not departing from this tradition. [It is not rational to translate sarvabhuta as all creatures.] The head of the state as Isvara is a benevolent charismatic chief. Brahma was the chief justice who headed the constitution bench and was an intellectual par excellence.
Rajadharma tried to protect the interests of all the discrete individuals (bhutas) of the unorganized social periphery by settling them in villages. The term, danda, has to be interpreted in a wider sense as referring to the science of polity that preceded Rajadharma but was posterior to Brahma, Atharvaveda.
The new code settled many of these individuals (bhutas) in village communes and some were still leading a life of nomads. All of them were afraid of the ruler of free men (naradhipa) and they had to allow their services to be used by the latter as he desired. They had to follow the code of svadharma prescribed for each of them. This ruler (naradhipa) could not prescribe the duties of the members of organized clans and communities. But he could prescribe for the individuals outside these, each his individual, personal code (svadharma) based on his aptitude and the vocation selected by him.
These individuals were afraid of transgressing this code. This chief was free to draft the services of any of these individuals, as he needed for his purposes. He could not take such liberty with others who were members of organized clans and communities. The explanation attempted by the medieval commentators on whom modern Indologists have depended heavily is irrational and betrays hiatus with the times when Manusmrti was first drafted. The western Indologists and their Indian adherents failed to comprehend the theme of Rajadharma in Manusmrti.
The free men who were not under the discipline of their clans and communities, had to be disciplined by the ruler if they followed unjust ways of life. While doing so he had to take into account their power and knowledge and the time when and the region where the offence was committed. The editors of Manusmrti did not treat all free men as delinquents who did not abide by social discipline. Many of these free men were educated and talented and capable. Their services were to be utilized for the state and they had to be prevailed on to give up improper and illegal methods adopted by them to earn wealth.
Danda stands for Dandaniti, the science of polity that was outlined, before the concept of Rajadharma came into vogue. It is not sound to translate this term as Punishment. Dandaniti visualized the king (raja) as an assertive social leader (purusha). The translation of the term, Purusha, as ‘male’ is to be deplored. It means more than what the term, man, does. Like the terms, manushya, manava and nara, purusha has a specific connotation. The four terms should not be used indiscriminately as ‘man’.
Not all commoners or all free men are visualized, as having the ability to lead the society. The administration is expected to have officials who have the talent to lead it. They are not mere obedient servants of the king. They have to ensure that all adhere to the code prescribing four stages of life, student, householder, retiring to the forest abode and asceticism. These four stages were made obligatory for the entire society including the clans and communities, classes and individuals of the periphery and the free men in the midst of the organized sections. There might have been reservations on the implementation of the scheme of four classes, with each clan having its own code of conduct, dharma. But the code of conduct for the four stages of life was acceptable to all. The king as an assertive social leader and as the leader of the executive was expected to enforce the codes of the four stages of life.
Danda, coercive power in accordance with the provisions of Dandaniti, is exercised over all citizens, over all born in the territory over which the ruler has jurisdiction and who have consented to be under his rule, who are his prajas. This code permitted the establishment of an army and a police patrol that would be ever awake and protect them. The individual could protect himself when he was awake but needed another to protect him when he was asleep. This service was provided by the state. The intellectuals (budhas) of the social periphery knew of this advantage and recommended that individuals of the population of the periphery consent to the political laws, dharma, that put forth the advantages of consenting to be governed by this version of Dandaniti.
The individuals were advised to cease treating the coercive power of the state, as a hindrance to their activities. Rajadharma was a modified version of Dandaniti. It promised protection to all those who needed it and when they needed it. If the regulatory powers granted to the ruler and the government are exercised after due investigation, they would please all the citizens. If exercised without due investigation they would cause destruction of all. Not only the subjects but the king and the officials too would suffer. Rajadharma would underline investigation of all aspects of crime and not mere suppression and prevention of crime and protection against criminals.
Dandaniti does not abet sadism. The state and its coercive power are needed to protect the weak against the mighty. It is not exercise of coercive power by the mighty over the weak. Manu Sraddhadeva or Vaivasvata was earlier Rajarshi Satyavrata of a Dravida country. The matsya (fish) incarnation of Vishnu is associated with his experiences. According to matsyanyaya, the law of the fishes, the larger fish swallow the smaller. This is the law of nature, Rta. Rajadharma, the modified version of Dandaniti repudiated this earlier law and called for a state that would protect the weak against the mighty.
The later editors of Manusmrti who followed Manu Sraddhadeva (Vaivasvata) explain that in the absence of the state the spirit behind sacrificial offerings would be violated. Similarly the institution of rights of ownership (svamyam) is likely to be violated by some and hierarchy upset in the absence of the state and the exercise of coercive power. It is not enough to give protection to private property. Every one should be enabled to have personal property so that encroachment on the property of others or living on the crumbs thrown by others does not take place.
All the social worlds were brought under the purview, of the modified version of Dandaniti. Even the free men were brought under it though they claimed that they should be free to determine what was desirable and moral and what was not. It is rare to spot a free man, who is guiltless. The nara had walked out of his clan and community. The new law is applicable to all the organized clans and communities that have welcomed protection of the rights to property and also to the free men who have renounced this right.
The settled populations that are governed by the concept, loka, accept the provisions of Dandaniti and pay the taxes due to the state from their property. But the social universes, jagats, who comprise populations on the move, resist implementation of the system of tax, which is to be paid in return for protection of property by the state. These populations refuse to part with any portion of what they earn and enjoy and argue that they do not need protection. They are against a socio-economic system based on inequality of possessions.
Dandaniti threatens to use coercive power to make these mobile social universes fall in line with the settled communities of the social worlds, lokas. The western Indologists, it has to be pointed out, failed to notice the subtle distinctions and grasp their implications and presumed that Manusmrti imposed a legal system that defended use of coercive power, as men were naturally prone to commit crimes and sins. This presumption was unwarranted.
It is imperative to recognize that devas were not gods. They were aristocrats who formed the ruling elite of the core society. The danavas were plutocrats who dominated the industrial economy of the frontier society of the forests and mountains. Both these groups, aristocrats and plutocrats, were brought under the new code, Dandaniti. They too had to pay taxes from the benefits they got by their control over the economy.
The intellectuals of the social periphery had forced a debate on the extent to which the new political code was impartial and just. They were told that the rich elite would no longer be exempt from taxes and from the civil and criminal laws that the commonalty was subject to since the times of the original Dandaniti. The Gandharvas whose lower ranks were known as naras, free men, and who had only recently then set up homes but had no accumulated wealth were brought under the new code. The guards employed by the plutocrats of the frontier economy had revolted against their master and captured power and wealth. These rebels were referred to as Rakshasas.
The term Pataga was used to refer to all fast moving persons. As a generic term it stood for birds, bees, grasshoppers and locusts. The groups who moved fast from one territory to another were not spared. Similarly, the uragas or sarpas (serpents, as commonly understood) moved silently away and were mainly migrant labour, the proletariat on which the frontier industrial economy depended.
All these groups too had been given the status of Prajas, citizens, and were required to pay the taxes on the income they got from their vocations that were given protection by the new state. All these groups were no longer a threat to the commonalty and need no longer fear extortion by the state. The new Dandaniti, Rajadharma effected this arrangement. All the different sectors of the larger society were to be brought under the system of four classes, varnas, with the rights and duties of the members of each class defined. All the varnas would become corrupt and all the barriers would be broken if there was wavering in implementation of Dandaniti. All the social worlds that had been brought under the new classification (four classes, varnas) would be enraged against one another, it was warned.
The neta, the chief of the administrative unit concerned is expected to be stern in implementing the provisions of Dandaniti putting down violations. Then the citizens including those who have consented to stay in the realm and be governed by these provisions would not be misled by wrong impressions about the power of the state to ensure discipline.
That king (raja), who is an ideologue adhering to the laws based on truth (satyavadi) has to be balanced in his meting out justice as the chief executive of the state. He has to take into consideration after due examination, all the factors, dharma, artha and kama. In other words, he should not be narrow-minded in his approach or dogmatic. The editors of Manava Dharmasastra did not renegade on the commitment to truth (satya), the basis of all laws. But they advocated a holistic approach, the characteristic of social and moral laws, dharma. These laws did not condemn pursuit of sexual pleasure or of wealth. The distinctions among the three values of life, dharma, artha and kama had however to be borne in mind, the sages who drafted Manusmrti insisted.
Dandaniti provided for the punishment of the king who resorted to low methods. Punishment, which is a tremendous force hard to be controlled by persons with undisciplined minds, destroys the king who has swerved from duty, along with his relatives. Criminal justice, the bright essence of majesty, and hard to be supported by men with unimproved minds, eradicates a king (nrpa) who swerves from his duty together with his people.
Dandaniti may not be treated as pertaining only to the implementation of criminal law. The editors warn the nrpati who has already given up his claims to his share in his family estate that if he failed to follow the rules prescribed by Dandaniti and was found to be partial to his brothers, he is liable to be punished and so too his brothers who have benefited from his misdeeds. It was expected that the nrpa would not remain attached to any family or community. He had to be a pious and unattached free man.
The new Dandaniti visualized the centrally stationed and mature king as an impartial dispenser of justice. He had to be assisted by trained individuals for this purpose. Danda has a dignity and grandeur (mahat and tejas) that does not yield to attempts at making it pliable for low personal purposes. The powers that Dandaniti places in the hands of a king (raja) who has mastered the three codes, dharma, artha and kama cannot be vested in a local administrator, nrpa, who has neither mastered these nor has the assistance of masters in these. The latter may be advised to adhere to Dharmasastra (socio-cultural code) alone and to those provisions of Dandaniti incorporated in it. If he violates these he and his kinsmen would be hauled up. It is implicit that the kinsmen had induced or compelled the former member of their family who had taken over as the civil administrator to violate the provisions of the political code, Dandaniti, and favour them. They rather than he were at fault.
The administrator of the rural areas is cautioned that the centrally located king would penalize him. He would be deprived of the garrison placed at his disposal and of his authority over the rural areas and over the people whether settled groups or mobile groups. He would be deprived of the right to come in contact with the silent sages and nobles who passed through the rural areas to the frontier areas.
These sages and nobles too would be affected adversely for want of protection with the deviant administrator discharged from his post, even as both the settled communities and the mobile groups would be affected. The medieval commentators and modern Indologists have not presented correctly the relation between Dharmasastra and Dandaniti as revised by Rajadharma and that between the central government and the rural administration.
INSTITUTION OF JUSTICE
CONSTITUTION OF THE COURT OF JUSTICE
(Manusmrti Bk. 8-1 to 26)
At the very outset of this essay it has to be brought to the attention of the reader that unless we free ourselves from the stereotypes that we have been inured to during the last two centuries it will not be possible for us to arrive at an objective appreciation and assessment of the sociopolitical constitution incorporated in the Manusmrti.
It is necessary to keep in mind that this constitution came into force more than five millennia back and had survived the vagaries of time and the shocks of submission to conquerors from abroad and deviations from the prescribed norms by rulers and their mentors. As we examine every one of the clauses of the extant code we would dwell on the charges levelled against it. The main charge and loud complaint voiced against this has been that it is unjust. Is this charge and complaint really valid?
The ruler of the agro-pastoral plains, parthiva, was expected to follow the provisions of the constitution that Prthu adopted. [He is not referred to as a rajan, a dynamic chieftain who belonged to the cadre of aristocrats.]
The Prthu constitution did not stipulate that the ruler should be a Kshatriya warrior by vocation or a Rajanya by birth. He could be but a commoner and an agriculturist chieftain, a kshiti-Isvara. He was also known as the chief of the agro-pastoral commonalty, as prthvipati.
During the later Vedic period the agro-pastoral core society had two major strata, the rich governing elite, the devas, nobles who were a leisure class and who formed an enlightened cultural aristocracy and the commonalty, manushyas, prthvi or bhumi, who were engaged in agriculture, pasture and trade.
The Prthu constitution marked a radical departure from the Atharvan polity that witnessed the dynamic Rajanyas, who were closer to the nobles, devas, and the feudal lords, asuras, electing a king, Rajan, from among themselves.
It superseded the Atharvan constitution, which was given a definite form by Mahadeva, the Vratya Prajapati, and which was accepted as a consensus solution by most of the regions of the Indian subcontinent during the century preceding the tenure of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata. It had the approval of Manu Vaivasvata and Kashyapa, the chief of his council of seven sages.
The followers of Bhrgu, the chief editor of Manusmrti, had led a revolt against Vena, the autocratic ruler of Anga, a province to the southwest of Mathura, and installed Prthu, a charismatic agriculturist chieftain as the king.
The new ruler was elected by all the commoners (who were taxpayers) directly and he was required to get approval for all his policies and projects from the paura-janapada assemblies that represented the rich families of the city and the rural landlords. The nobles (devas) were not under his jurisdiction and he had to get their approval for all his new projects. They had effective control over the contributions to the state treasury and even over the army.
But the civil administration and the courts of justice were under the new civilian ruler who was assisted by the bureaucracy operated by the talented officials, known as amatyas, by the secretaries of state, sachivas, and by the ministers, mantris. He could not act by himself.
The Prthu constitution got freed from the main weakness of the then Rajarshi constitution that stood for the election of a highly educated but sober intellectual as the head of the state. The Rajarshi took all decisions and gave directions personally to all his subordinates including the judges. Vena misused this weakness in the Rajarshi constitution and became a greedy autocrat.
The Parthiva was guided by Brahmans, scholars who had mastered the socio-political constitution, Atharvaveda or Brahma. They were jurists while the ministers were but political counsellors. It is wrong to presume that in ancient India the king was subordinate to the ecclesiastical order or that he and his political executive had to meet its expectations. These Brahmans were not ordinary priests or teachers by profession.(8-1)
Buhler translates the verse as: A king desirous of investigating law cases must enter his court of justice, preserving a dignified demeanour, together with Brahmanas and with experienced councillors. Jones translated it as: A king desirous of inspecting judicial proceedings must enter his court of justice, composed and sedate in his demeanour, together with Brahmans and counsellors, who know how to give him advice.
Jha, following Medhatithi, read it as Desirous of investigating cases (vyavahara), the king shall enter the court (sabha) with a dignified demeanour (vineeta) along with Brahmanas and councilors (mantris) versed in counsel (mantram).
It may be noted here that administration and protection, palanam, of the subjects, the citizens, prajas, is the vocation, pravrtti, assigned to the king. The Kshatriyas earned their livelihood by carrying arms, the Vis (Vaisyas) by trade (vanika), by tending cattle (pasu) and by agriculture (krshi) and the Shudras by attending on the twice-born communities (dvijatis). [Manusmrti (10-79)]
The nrpa, the civil administrator of the interior who belonged to the stratum of free men, naras, has to be distinguished from the raja who belonged to the higher cadre of dynamic and powerful chieftains and theKshatriya who was a professional soldier. The nrpa who follows and implements the above vocational divisions reaches the unexcelled social world (loka) (of nobles). Thereby dharma flourishes in the social world (of commoners). Other classes (varnas) who earn a livelihood by following the Kshatriya vocation are entitled to kingship (rajya-adhikara).
In the new dispensation not only ordained Kshatriyas who bear arms but also members of other classes are declared to be eligible for the position of a king provided they give up their other vocations and become soldiers.Only soldiers can rise to become kings. But it was not necessary that these soldiers should have been born to soldiers. One cannot be an agriculturist and also a soldier.
The Smrti holds the nrpa as one who administers and protects all the social worlds (sarva loka) (that is, the agro-pastoral commonalty, the leisure class of nobles and the industrial frontier society). His duty (karmanishta) as ordained is to look after the welfare of the common people (sadharana loka). The commentators do not attach much importance to the needs of the elite or to those of special vocational groups. Common weal of the common people is what the nrpa is expected to attend to.
Administration, paripalanam, is essentially removal of sufferings of the people. These sufferings are of two types, manifest and non-manifest. When the mighty harass the weak and rob them of their wealth it is manifest trouble. It is non-manifest suffering when the mighty suffer in the other (itara) social world through the sin accruing from his transgressing the law (vidhi). It may be noted that the mighty if guilty were exiled to areas under the jurisdiction of the other society (itarajana), to forests and mountains, to suffer there. Commoners (manushyas) of the core society of the plains were not able to see the sufferings of these exiles.
The subjects, prajas, often act towards one another in hatred and jealousy and hence go by the wrong path and become subject to unnoticed defects (dosham) (in conduct). As a result the state (rajyam) is ruined (nasa). Only sovereignty, aisvaryam, emanating from the wealth of the people (prajas) is defined as rajyam. In other words, it is wrong to define rajyam as what is owned by the sovereign, raja.
When the wealth of the people gets destroyed where would be the state, rajyam? [Rajyam is basically an economic entity. It can be described as economic state.] Protection of sovereignty of the state requires that importance is given to settlement of economic disputes. The nrpa, civil administrator, is hence an important official.
When economic disputes (vyavahara) are investigated and settled in accordance with the codes (sastra) and their coercive power (danda) through fear the litigants do not deviate from their respective path. Hence they become protected from both types of trouble, the manifest oppression and deprivation of the weak by the mighty and the non-manifest suffering of the mighty as exiles in the midst of the frontier society. The kings wealth is from taxes and fines. He does not have any other lawful (dharmashta) means of livelihood.
He cannot pursue any vocation other than administration of the state nor have any personal property, which would yield him other incomes. Any obstacles to this would hence lead the state into trouble. It follows that for preserving the state he has to perform his duty (kartavyam) of overseeing the settlement of economic disputes in accordance with the procedure laid in the science of economic laws, vyavaharadarsanam.
The term, vyavahara is annotated as: It is the name given to that action of the plaintiff and the defendant which they have recourse to for the purpose of reclaiming their rights. Or it may stand for the non-payment of debts and such other matters themselves, which often become the subjects of dispute and as such fit for investigation, which thus becomes the duty (kartavyam) of the ruler. Here, the commentator uses the expression, gocharasamartha to indicate the ruler. It indicated one who was competent to look after the movements and activities of the people of the village (go).
The nrpati was essentially a free man who was also a stoic with no personal interests and was perhaps a cowherd rather than an agriculturist or trader when he was invited to take over the assignment as a civil administrator.
Most disputes were settled in the villages themselves and only a few were referred to higher authorities. The parthiva was not a Kshatriya ruler. He was a landlord as the medieval commentators recognized. He was not a scholar and had to depend on Brahman scholars who were jurists appointed by the council of scholars, samiti, and on the ministers, who were appointed by the house of nobles, sabha.
Neither the king (rajan) at the centre nor the parthiva who was the administrator of the rural areas was empowered to appoint the jurists and the ministers. Theparthiva, though not highly educated, is modest in his bearing. He is not visualized as one desirous of giving a decision; he is only desirous of investigating the dispute as it has a bearing on the political economy of his state. The jurists, Brahmans, and ministers, mantris, who accompany him, are the persons competent to arrive at a solution and recommend the solution that would be pronounced as royal edict, raja ajnya.
The next verse (8-2) is read by Jha as: There, either seated or standing, raising his right hand, subdued in dress and ornaments, he shall look into the suits of the suitors. Jones translated that he would examine the business of the litigant parties. Buhler uses the expression, business of the suitors.
This was not necessarily an appellate court. It was basically a court to which special cases were referred to as the lower ones managed by the nrpati, a pious stoic, could not solve for want of opinions of the expert jurists and counsellors.
The commentator says: This teaching regarding the king himself looking into the suits is with special reference to the inflicting of punishments (danda). The manual that described the procedure to be followed by the state while investigating a civil dispute was guided by the principles of dandaniti, political science. To be precise, dandaniti dealt with the principles and policies to be followed while exercising coercive power over others.
The nrpati could impose fines on the delinquents but could not imprison them. He could not take any stand on the conflicts in practices prevalent among different clans and communities. But the parthiva had to look into these aspects in order to maintain peace in his territory. The entire investigation had to follow the procedure prescribed as raja darsana.
The implication is that by doing so, his act would be linked to his right and duty to protect (raksha adhikara) (the people). As this duty and power had not been given to any one else in this code, the 'parthiva could not appoint deputies or delegate this power to others. If he does not hear, it will not be heard at all.
The parthiva is seen to be presiding over a special but open political court in his chamber. As for helping in the settling of doubtful points, the result of this investigation interests all persons (not the litigants only). As such like the rules of expiation, this also falls within the province of the learned Brahmans, the jurists.
One who repented was required to perform expiatory rites to be accepted back into the family or clan or community. These rites were not prescribed by the state. They were regulated by the social constitution that bound all individuals and all ranks of the society equally.
The Brahmans could only read them out for observance and only they could point them out, as they were conversant with the language and terms used. Similarly, they could help in settling doubts, which though economic in nature had social and political implications.
On dilemmas that pertain to what is in accordance with or is in conflict with social constitution, dharma, on dharmasankata, let him (the Brahman) proclaim. It may be noted here that the rural administrator (parthiva), the civil administrator (nrpati), the king (raja), the minister (mantri), the secretary (sachiva) and the bureaucrat (amatya), all belonged to the political system and were not entitled (as they were not able) to solve the dilemmas pertaining to social laws.
If the social laws of different classes or communities or clans were in conflict with one another, only the Brahman jurist could declare what was correct or more reasonable than others. But even he could not dictate on disputes over practices within the same clan or community or vocational group.
It needs to be pointed out here that the Brahman could not either as a teacher or as a priest or as a jurist interfere with the practices of any clan or community or pronounce on their validity. The clans and communities were autonomous social groups and had their own bodies to settle internal disputes.
However when a case is being investigated where the parties belong to the same profession, if some other persons belonging to that profession find that the points in dispute are such as would affect them all, then they are all entitled to take part in the investigation.
In the rural hinterland, the decisions given on economic disputes(vyavahara) on the basis of the rules of the clan (kula) were considered liable to be set aside by those of the economic corporation (sreni); and these by those of the oligarchy (gana) of the heads of kulas and srenis.
The latter could however be set aside by the authorized person (adhikrta) and his verdict by the civil administrator, nrpati. In other words, these ganas had to recognize the authority of the state, which was represented by the arbitrator appointed by it or by the nrpati who was not a member of any organized clan.
This stand of Naradasmrti is posterior to the practice prescribed by Manusmrti. Despite the passage of several centuries and imposition of Islamic and British laws by the later rulers this socio-economic hierarchy with respect to settlement of disputes has survived to this day.
The expression, kulani, means a community of persons born as brethren (bandhujanasamuha). [It does not permit admission of persons not born as such. Adopted sons and appointed sons who are not born members of the clan do not have a voice in the matter being discussed by this community. The daughters who had been given away in marriage and their spouses too have no voice in it. But all generations of that clan are entitled to speak out.] The parties shall abide by the verdicts given by the clan. [Most disputes would have been settled at this level. It is foolish not to give the clan the importance due to it.]
If however one of the litigants expresses lack of faith in the clan-court, then the case shall be referred to the corporation, sreni. We prefer to use the term guild for samgha where all the members had equal status. Thesreni had internal ranking based on the contribution made by the members. It was a body of traders and promoters who earned their livelihood from equivalent economic ventures (samanavyavahara). They were more influential than the brethren (bandhus) for the latter were afraid of the brothers and kinsmen of their wives (jnatis) and did not exercise a check on the person who deviated from the right path (dharma).
The members of the corporation fought shy of any matter going before the king (raja), as that would lend the kings officers (rajapurushas) an opportunity to interfere in the work of the corporation (srenidharma). Hence they always took sufficient security from the parties concerned against their deviating from the decision arrived at.
The council (parishad) of the corporation could impose fine (danda) on the delinquent. The ganas were vocational groups, which moved about as organized groups. They investigated the cases of disputes among themselves and for enforcing the decisions they appointed committees. In the case of members of the sreni, they could act singly also, but in the case of the gana they acted collectively. [It is not advisable to translate the term, gana, as tribe.]
The sreni might appoint a member of the same clan as an arbitrator. Even others conversant with the basis of the case could be appointed as such. The adhikrta who was empowered to give his verdict was a scholar and jurist, Brahmana, who was learned in the three disciplines of study (traividya), the three Vedas, Varta and Dandaniti, humanities, economics and political policy. [The presumption that the Brahmana was eligible to speak only on matters pertaining to theology is unsound.]
It had been laid down that such authorized person was entitled to pronounce verdict on dilemmas pertaining to social and other laws, dharmasankata. Such a person could overrule the decisions of the clans, the srenis and the ganas, because of his learning. The superiority of the nrpa, the civil administrator who headed the free men at the disposal of the state as volunteers not bound by any clan or corporation or organized group, rested on his great power (sakti).
When a case has been decided by a nrpa who is himself learned, there is no occasion for what is said in the words: If a party, even though (legally) defeated, thinks that he has not been justly (nyayena) defeated, he shall be fined twice the amount of the suit and the case reopened. This stand of Yajnavalkya did not accept that the decision of the ruler was final.
Only if the nrpa was learned in the three disciplines and had mastered the methods laid down in nyayasastra and followed them, he could be empowered to function as the supreme arbitrator in civil disputes. It was not enough for a ruler to be pious or to be strong or both. He had to be learned also but very few were so. Similarly the cases decided by other arbitrators too could be reopened. No Rajan (king) had the final say and no Brahman (judge) either.
Of course, it is easy to complain that judges have not decided rightly. But when the king (raja) who is superior to the civil administrator (nrpati) himself decides unjustly to whom one should appeal against his verdict?
Another interpretation is that the person authorized (adhikrta) by the civil administrator (nrpa) is to be treated as the Brahmana who is in the place of the king (raja). This jurist, Brahmana was entitled to represent the head of the state. The head of a household may be nominated to settle all disputes among its members.
He may deal with all cases except those acts that were conducive to depravity. He might not inflict corporal punishment though he had disciplinary powers. In the case of minor offences he acts like the king but he must report the serious offences to the latter. The rights of the several persons pertain to different types of cases.
The king could inflict punishments (danda) including corporal punishment. The Brahmana jurist could only pronounce judgments. The motive of the king in looking into cases consists in the proper administration of the state while that of others lies only in settling doubts for the benefit of others so that there is no case of cross-purposes arising.
It is implied that the king may go in for political expediency while the jurists and others may have public interest as the main determinant. The king(raja) should settle the disputes through careful investigation. [Otherwise if the parties come to an agreement by themselves, where would be the supremacy of the king?]
The next verse (8-3) has been translated by Buhler as: Daily (decide) one after another (all cases) which fall under the eighteen titles (of law) according to principles drawn from local usages and from the institutes of the sacred law. Jones translated it as: Each day let him decide causes, one after another, under the eighteen principal titles of law, by arguments and rules drawn from local usages and from written codes.
Jha reads it as: He shall look into the suits, day after day, one by one, falling as they do under eighteen heads, according to principles deduced from local usage and from the scriptures (sastra). The eighteen heads are enumerated in the ensuing verses. Jha has provided a translation of Medhatithis exhaustive comments on this verse. Since most of the rules pertaining to trial of cases were developed at different times in the history of ancient and medieval India, it would be incorrect to presume all of them were available or were in vogue when the Manava Dharmasastra was first drafted.
Most of the disputes were settled within the family or the clan or in the village itself with the litigants being forced to tell the truth whether there were witnesses or not. But when the matters were referred to the king especially of a large state the procedure for hearing them had to be regulated. First and foremost, the practices in vogue in any particular region, desa, were to be honoured and not meddled with if the king did not want to have a revolt on his hand.
In issues that did not involve local usage the judiciary had to follow the codes, sastras. While many insist that it is a reference to Dharmasastra, to Manusmrti in particular, it needs to be recognized that the importance of Arthasastra is not to be overlooked.
Arthasastra dealt with the intricacies of economy in depth and refused to handle issues pertaining to ethics and morality. Dharmasastra too took economic issues into account though it refused to give primacy to economy, artha.
However in settling economic disputes, Dharmasastra was interested in maintaining status ante. It was not interested in the issue whether the offence was caused by the injustice inherent in the past system or not; and whether the disturbance to that past was intended to create a more just and a better social order or not. Dharmasastra were convinced that they were right in calling for a restoration of the status ante Advocates of and return to the immediate past.
The sastras, codes, try to protect those practices that have been found beneficial and acceptable to most of the people; and to prohibit what have been found to be harmful. Those who honoured the local practices did not wait to inquire into these factors. But the presence of the particular usage had to be ascertained and the meaning of the injunctions specified in the sastras understood correctly. The parthiva who was essentially an agriculturist was not able to do so without the help of the jurists and ministers.
The Atharvan ruler was a Rajanya, a dynamic chieftain who belonged to a social stratum that was on par with the liberal aristocracy. But he was not learned and was not a sovereign. He could not hence be a judge. In the Atharvan polity, the local community with the help of its council of scholars, headed by the official designated as Agni, decided all issues pertaining to moral, civic and social laws while sabha, the house of nobles headed by Indra decided on those pertaining to economy and political and constitutional issues.
The Rajanyas too had to accept and abide by these decisions and the officers designated as Yama, Varunaand Mitra executed these. There was no separate judiciary in the Vedic state. The two bodies, Sabha and Samiti functioned as two houses of the legislature. But with the passage to the plebeian social polity of the Manava Dharmasastra, the house of nobles dropped back and so too the council of scholars. The eight-member ministry headed by Indra came to the fore.
Meanwhile in the larger Vedic state, the house of nobles had only thirty-three members including the Viraj (the head of the circle of five kings), Prajapati (the chief of the peoples) and Mahendra (the chief of the committee of Indras who controlled finance and treasury) and a small seven-member council of seven sages. But it had a huge council with one thousand members who were trained visionaries, chakshus (spies, as wrongly construed). This system too lacked a separate judiciary. It allowed the Prajapati to play the role of the chief judicial officer with the aid of the eight-member ministry.
Manava Dharmasastra was the recipient of this legacy of a strong state aided by a powerful and rich aristocracy and guided by a large intelligentsia. Its executive itself functioned as the judiciary and when the executive was weak the king became an autocrat who functioned also as the judge without caring for precedents, practices and codes. Bhrgu, the chief editor of Manusmrti, was against such autocrats. The sages encouraged the commonalty to come to the fore and displace such Kshatriya rulers. Right became mightier than might with the former codified and the king subordinated to the constitution and to the code.
The new ruler, parthiva, who followed the Prthu constitution, was a leading member of the agro-pastoral commonalty and not an aristocrat or a plutocrat or a technocrat. He was assisted by a team of village chiefs,adhyakshas, civil administrators, nrpatis, who had limited magisterial powers and a network of informal spies drawn from the ranks of free men (naras) who were not subordinate to any clan or community.
This administration developed a political system based on the concept of seven constituents, king, bureaucracy, city, rural hinterland, treasury, army and political ally. But it still did not develop the concept and structure of an independent judiciary. It was still a quazi-feudal state without a rational and permanent bureaucracy.
However, it did not take long to develop a rational bureaucracy and along with it an independent judiciary. This development belongs to the field of Arthasastra, which refused to leave judiciary out of the orbit of polity.
Manava Dharmasastra did not develop an independent judiciary but facilitated the incipient bureaucracy to function also as the judiciary. It however laid the basis for objective investigation of economic disputes and criminal acts and awarding of just punishments in cases that did not come within the ambit of the village and domestic officials.
Arthasastra developed the formation of a cadre of dharmasthas who functioned as trustees of public property, orphans and widows, caretakers of the aged and the handicapped and also as members of the judiciary functioning along with the bureaucracy, amatyas, who had coercive power too. Manusmrti anticipated this development when it required the king to be accompanied by jurists (Brahmans), and political counsellors (mantris), when he presided over the bench at his palace to which nobles, scholars and representatives of commoners were invitees.
The later Smrtis and the medieval scholars like Medhatithi and Kulluka were anxious to ensure that Brahmans who were pure and honest, intelligent and learned, objective and conservative were associated with this politico-economic judiciary besides dominating the sociocultural bodies that functioned at the village level. The decline of the Brahmans harmed the entire judicial system and helped the mighty and the rich and the educated to exploit the weak and the poor and the ignorant. This decline was however inevitable and not unanticipated.
The parthiva, the ruler functioning under the Prthu constitution had to first inquire what had led to the dispute that was referred to him. It might be traced to doubts about the validity of the custom present in the region concerned. While the village or a group of villages may have been following a particular practice for ages and would not tolerate its violation such solidarity could not be expected of a region where diverse and even contradictory practices might have been in vogue for a long time.
Rarely one or two outsiders could settle in a village dominated by a single clan (kula) or community (jati) as secondary residents and they did not dare to raise voice against its overwhelming majority. But the administration of the region (desa) had to face diverse views and practices. And it was difficult to arrive at a common denominator that all would consent to abide by and similarly would eschew from their lives practices that were contradictory to this common practice.
When the bench headed by the parthiva met it had this task of determining the common denominator and it functioned as an arbitration board rather than a judiciary jealous to guard its supremacy. The details of the events had to be reread in the light of this common stand that was bound to vary from region to region and even in the same region from time to time.
No verdict can be treated as a precedent set forever and binding on all the population of the large state. In contrast, the code that depended on the meaning of the letter of the law had to first ascertain that meaning and decide whether the act under dispute did indeed violate that meaning. It gave little room to take refuge under the vague term, the spirit of the law.
Once the bench discusses the meaning it proceeds to examine the details of the case and give the verdict and specify the penalty imposed. The parthiva had to assign some time every day for this duty. The views of Arthasastra and the later Smrtis and commentators on the details of these proceedings are important and are dwelt on later.
The rivalry between the two strata, the executive known as Kshatras headed by the Rajan who wielded Rajadanda and the judiciary known as Brahmans who exercised Brahmadanda has to be presented properly.
he parthiva was neither a king nor a judge. He only implemented the direction given by the bench of the judiciary, which met and discussed the issues in his presence and under his presidency. He had no power to intervene in its proceedings or set aside its verdict.
Jha enumerates the eighteen heads of disputes as: (1) non-payment of debt (rna adanam) (2) deposits (nikshepa) (3) selling without ownership (asvami vikraya) (4) joint concerns (sambhuya samutthanam) (5) non-delivery of what has been given away (dattasyaanapakarma) (6) non-payment of wages (vetanasyaadanam) (7) breach of contract (samvida vyaktikrama) (8) rescission of sale and purchase (krayavikraya anusaya) (9) dispute between the owner and the keeper (vivadasvamipalaya) (10) disputes regarding boundaries (seemavivada) (11, 12) assault, physical and verbal (dharma parushya and dandavachika) (13) theft (steyam) (14) violence (sahasa) (15) adultery (strisamgrahanam) (16) duties of man and wife (stripumdharma) (17) partition (vibhaga) (18) gambling and betting (dhyutam ahvyam). These are the eighteen topics that form the basis of lawsuits (vyavaharasthiti), according to Manusmrti. (8-4 to 7)
Jones who was the first British lawyer to recommend Manusmrti as the basis for civil administration in India enumerated these titles of law as: (1) debt, on loans for consumption (2) deposits and loans for use (3) sale without ownership (4) concerns among partners (5) subtraction of what has been given (6) non-payment of wages or hire (7) non-performance of agreements (8) rescission of sale and purchase (9) disputes between master and servant (10) contents on boundaries (11,12) assault and slander (13) larceny (14) robbery and other violence (15) adultery (16) altercation between man and wife and their several duties (17) the law of inheritance (18) gaming with dice and with living creatures. These eighteen titles of law are settled as the groundwork of all judicial procedure in this world. It was not necessary to translate iha as in this world.
Naradasmrti which is considered by some to be the most systematic of the Smrtis on this aspect has enumerated them as: (1) recovery of debt (2) deposits (3) partnership (4) resumption of gift (5) breach of contract of service (6) non-payment of wages (7) sales effected by a person other than the rightful owner (8) non-delivery of sold chattel (9) rescission of purchase (10) transgression of a compact (11) boundary disputes (12) mutual duties of husband and wife (13) law of inheritance (14) heinous offences (15) abuse (16) assault (17) games (18) miscellaneous.
Brhaspatismrti says that lawsuits are of two kinds as they originate in demands regarding wealth or injuries. The former is of fourteen kinds: (1)-lending money on interest (2) deposits and treasure trove (3) invalid gifts (4) concerns of partnership (5) non-payment of wages (6) disobedience (7) disputes concerning land (8) sale without ownership (9) revocation of sale and purchase (10) breach of agreements (11) law between wife and husband (12) theft (13) inheritance (14) gambling. The latter is of four kinds: (1, 2) two kinds of insult, (3) violence, and (4) criminal connection with the wife of another man.
Kautilyan Arthasastra presents these under different heads: (1) Concerning marriage, property of a woman and compensation for remarriage of men (2) Duty of a wife, her maintenance, enmity between wife and husband (3) Vagrancy, elopement (4) Division of inheritance (5) Special shares in inheritance and distinction between sons (6) Buildings (7) Boundary disputes (8) Destruction of pasture lands, non-performance of agreements (9) recovery of debts (10) Deposits (11) Rules regarding labourers (12) Cooperative undertaking (13) Rescission of purchase and sale (14) Sale without ownership (15) Resumption of gifts (16) Robbery (17) Assault and (18) Gambling and betting. The approach of Kautilya to the issues covered here is thorough and distinct and is dealt with separately. (Vide my treatise on Foundations of Hindu Economic State.)
Jha translates the verse (8-8) as: Taking his stand upon eternal morality (sasvata dharma) he shall form his decision (nirnayam) on the suits of men (nrs) who mostly carry on (charata) disputes (vivada) in regard to the aforesaid points. Jones read it as: Among men who contend for the most part on the titles just mentioned, and on a few miscellaneous heads not comprised under them, let the king decide causes justly, observing primeval law.
It is wrong to translate sasvata dharma as primeval law. It is eternal law; law legislated for all times, past, present and future. Sanatana dharma also has the same note but it gives more value to traditional practices than to the new decrees. Adidharma is said to be the oldest of the laws. Sasvata dharma is what is legislated forever. This status is claimed for Manava Dharmasastra. It was held to be not only moral and just but also as consented to by all sections of the then larger society as a consensus.
The administrator could deal with only the disputes among free men (naras). The commoners (manushyas) who belonged to clans and communities could not present their disputes to him for arbitration.
Buhler translates the next verse (8-9) as: But if the king does not personally investigate the suits, then let him appoint a learned Brahmana to try them. Jones read it as: But when he can not inspect such affairs (karyadarsanam) in person, let him appoint, for the inspection of them, a Brahman of eminent learning. Jha reads it as: When he (nrpati) himself may not carry on the investigation of suits, he shall appoint a learned (vidvan) Brahmana to do the work of investigation.
The power and duty to investigate was vested in the local civil administrator, nrpati. He was permitted to appoint (niyukta) a learned Brahman to investigate but the latter was not given the right and duty to give a verdict. This feature of the powers of the Brahman who was appointed by the civil administrator, nrpati, as an investigator of facts stands distinct from the powers of theBrahman jurist who was appointed by the parthiva, the administrator of the rural areas, to pronounce a verdict on conflicting practices.
The medieval commentators were imprecise when they interpreted, as translated by Jha: If the man is conversant with morality (dharma), he does not allow himself to be misled. Knowledge of the science of morality (dharmasastra) comes in useful. As for the knowledge of legal procedure (vyavaharadarsanam), its presence is already implied. When the man is appointed to do the work of deciding legal cases (vyavaharanirnayam), it follows that he is possessed of that knowledge without which such cases can not be decided.
Jha translates the next verse (8-10) as: That man accompanied by three assessors shall enter the excellent court (sabha) and either seated or standing shall investigate the suits on behalf of the king. The Brahman appointed by the king is permitted to appoint three assessors to assist him. These had to be scholars (vipras) in Vedas.
The vipras were not attached to clans and were scholars who moved about educating the commoners and were not professional teachers. They were expected to give correct and unbiased views on the matters referred to them. These three vipras and the Brahmana who was a jurist authorized by the king (raja) constituted the Brahmana sabha. It had legitimacy.
The nrpati, the local civil administrator had appointed the Brahmana and the head of the state had given authority to that jurist and the three assessors selected by the latter to function as a constitution bench to hear the dispute on behalf of the king. The Brahmana who was asked to handle the issue while the nrpati stepped aside must have been a member of the body of jurists recognized by the King (Rajan) under whom the nrpati and the parthiva functioned as administrators.
The Brahmana Sabha dealt with socio-political issues that emerged from economic disputes and was not concerned with religious practices or issues pertaining to theology and soul. Brahma referred to Atharvaveda, the socio-political constitution of the Vedic age. (Ignoring Atharvaveda and granting the status of Brahma to all the Vedas were considerably later developments.) Dharmasastra emerged as the socio-cultural constitution and Arthasastra as the politico-economic constitution.
Jha translates the verse (8-11) imprecisely as: That place where three learned Brahmanas learned in the Veda sit, as also the learned Brahmana appointed by the king, they regard as the Court of Brahmana. Jones was totally off the mark when he translated it as: In whatever country three Brahmans, particularly skilled in the three several Vedas sit together with the very learned Brahman appointed by the king, the wise call that assembly the court of Brahma, the court of Brahma with four faces.
Buhler translated it as: Where three Brahmanas versed in the Vedas and the learned (judge) appointed by the king sit down, they call that the court of (four-faced) Brahma. This was a misconception about the constitution of the Brahma sabha. Jha translates Medhatithis stand as: The name of Brahman has been mentioned for the purpose of extolling the court; the sense being that the court constituted as here stated is as unexceptionable as that of Brahman himself.
The medieval commentator had lost touch with the Vedic and early post-Vedic social polity and missed the note that it was a constitution bench presided over by an expert in Atharvaveda that was meant here. The other three were scholars in the other three Vedas. The Smrtis have not held identical views on this nomination of a Brahman as a judge. Most permitted any qualified member of the three higher classes being so appointed as judge in place of the Kshatriya ruler and a Brahman preferably.
But Sukraniti felt that the king should always appoint men of the caste (class) to which he himself belonged as most members of the royal caste (Rajanyas) were likely to be well-equipped. It was a political post and it was not advisable to depend on a Brahman for the post of a judge, this work felt. Brhaspati was for a large bench of ten members. Jha points out that Sukraniti was for a bench of three or five or seven members. Both were against entrusting the work of the judiciary to only one person.
Medhatithi has not commented on the next verse (8-12): In a court (sabha) where justice is pierced by injustice and the members of the court do not remove that dart, these members also become pierced. (Jha) Buhler translates it as: But where justice (dharma), wounded by injustice (adharma), approaches and the learned (judges) do not extract the dart, there they also are wounded (by that dart of injustice). Katyayana states: Where a decision is taken by councillors against the laws, there justice is slain by injustice.
The editors of Manusmrti advise the judges: One should either not enter the hall (sabha) at all or he should speak out what is equitable (samanjasam); one (nara) who either speaks nothing or speaks falsely becomes tainted with sin (kilbisha). (8-13) Why did these editors use the word nara in this context? The free man (nara) need not have fear and should speak only the truth. The free men(naras) referred to here, had given up the membership of their original clans and communities. These naras manned the rural bureaucracy headed by the nrpati. [A vipra too was a free man.]
When called upon to report what had actually happened this employee of the local government should speak out the facts and not mislead the investigators by suppressing the facts or giving false declarations. If that free man feared to give damaging evidence he should avoid appearing before the court.
Sukraniti suggests that it being an open court any one who knows the truth can enter it and speak out. Medhatithi comments: When even an unauthorized person happens to be present, if he finds that the judges are acting wrongly, he should not remain silent. If he fears molestation at the hands of the kings officers as to why he should speak when he is not authorized to do so, then he should go away from that place. He seems to have read more than what Manusmrti meant.
Where justice (dharma) is destroyed by injustice (adharma) or truth (satya) by falsehood (anrtam), while people are looking on, there the members of the court (sabhasada) also are destroyed. (8-14) The term anrta is to be understood as what is against the law of nature. It needs to be noted that the laws of nature (rta) that were based on humanitarianism emanating from empathy (rta) guided the society of the early Vedic age. But it was also true that that age witnessed coercion of the weak by the mighty and the operation of matsyanyaya, the smaller fish being swallowed by the larger.
This contradiction was corrected during the later Vedic age that upheld satya and declared that right is might and that truth will always win. By the end of the Vedic age, both satya and rta were supplemented and even modified by the social laws, dharma, based on consensus.
The editors of Manusmrti were eager to stress that their call for protection of the people who abided by the code based on dharma, which aimed at ensuring social stability and advocated the principles of tolerance and non-violence was in no way a departure from the earlier laws based on rta and satya.
The proceedings in the court were guided by the principle that persons who stood by dharma should not be defeated by those who followed a path contradictory to it. When the liberal and tolerant codes based on Rta were superseded by the code based on rigorous adherence to truth, Satya, the latter were opposed by the sadists (anrtam) who were known as asamanjasa, unperturbed by the sufferings of other human beings. Samanjasa required that empathy should lead to the removal of the sufferings of others. Those who refused to abide by the codes based on dharma were similarly acting against the interests of those who abided by it.
Dharmasastra was not so rigid as the laws based on Satya or as liberal as those based on Rta. Even this middle path was under threat from the practitioners of adharma. The threat from the kings officers to the free man (nara) who wants to speak out the truth though not permitted to take part in the proceedings of the court is an assault on dharma. Naradasmrti too warns that where justice is slain by injustice and truth by falsehood, the members of the court who look on with indifference become doomed to destruction.
Dharma has not always been able to win, it has to be acknowledged. The editors of Manusmrti counsel: Justice (dharma) blighted (hata) blights (hanti); preserved, preserves (rakshita); hence justice should not be blighted lest blighted justice blight us. (8-15)
Manusmrti calls upon the participants in the court proceedings to ensure that the code based on the principles of dharma was protected. It was in their own interests that dharma was not harmed in any manner. [The term, dharma is not identical with the term, justice though it is closer to the latter than to the term, religion which requires faith in a supernatural power and the means prescribed for salvation.]
Medhatithi comments; Judgment should not be perverted, through fear; because justice, when violated, blights our prosperity as also the prosperity of the sinful party and his helpers.
Manusmrti adds (8-16): For justice (dharma) is the revered (bhagavan) bull (vrsha); and he who commits the violation (lam) of it, him the gods (devas) regard as low-born (vrshala); hence one shall not violate (lopaya) justice (dharma). (Jha)
Buhler translates this verse as: For divine justice (is said to be) a bull (vrisha); that (man) who violates it (kurutelam) the gods consider to be (a man despicable like) a Shudra (vrishala); let him, therefore, beware of violating justice. Mahabharata (Santiparva) has referred to the violation of justice using this imagery. This verse seems to be a later interpolation effected by the orthodox elements who had become desperate as the state and the judiciary failed to upholddharma. The followers of Siva (Rudra) who has later been deified revere the stud.
The nobles (devas) who belonged to the cadre of Rudrashad pronounced the violators of the sanctity of Vrshabhaas outcasts (vrshala). [Vrshabha was a teacher (bhagavan) belonging to the Saivaite school, which stood by the Atharvan sociopolitical constitution. The Sramanas too followed Vrshabha. These Sramanas and the Atharva Brahmans enjoyed equivalent statuses in the polity when the Manava Dharmasastra and the Arthasastra of Pracetas were first drafted.]
Jones translated this verse as: The divine form of justice is represented as Vrshabha, a bull; and the gods consider him who violates justice as a vrshala or one who slays a bull; let the king therefore and his judges beware of violating justice.
The description, divine form of justice is unwarranted and is misleading. The interpretation that the Shudras were called Vrshalas is unwarranted. It is however to be noted that the Rudras were pushed into the forests during the later Vedic times by the other three cadres of nobles (devas), Vasus, Maruts and Adityas.
Later the followers of the Rudras were refused entry into the three higher varnas, social classes, and declared as Vratyas and Shudras though they were highly religious. Vrshala was one who was unable to control his urge for sex and who exposed his penis and was a threat to civilized society.
Jha translates the next verse (8-17) as: Morality (justice) (dharma) is the only friend (suhrta) who follows one even after death (nidhana); every thing else perishes along with the body. Dharma assures one that he would have no rebirth and if he had one, he would be born in a high family. In this verse the editors tell the parties to the dispute and the assessors that only the merit accruing from upholding of justice, dharma would stand good at the end.
Suhrta or Mitra was a Vedic official who functioned along with Varuna who took into custody the person who failed to perform his duty and repay his debts to the nobles, the sages and the elders (devas, rshis and pitaras), the three non-economic cadres of the society. Mitra who witnessed the action taken against the guilty was however visualized as a well-wisher of the latter.
The Vedic official designated as Dharma, the upholder of justice, morality and social stability, was later equated with Yama, the Vedic controller who came down heavily on those who violated the prohibitory orders. (Yama is often presented as the god of death.) The editors of Manusmrti would present Dharma as a friend, philosopher and guide who recommended the pursuit of lasting spiritual benefits in contrast to the temporary and worldly gains that man tended to follow.
Buhler translates the next verse (8-18) as: One quarter of (the guilt of) an unjust (decision) falls on him who committed (the crime), one quarter on the (false) witness, one quarter on all the judges (sabhasada), one quarter on the king (rajan). The ideal situation required the king (rajan) to preside over the house of nobles and scholars, which would try the case and pronounce the verdict after allowing everyone to speak out his views.
The Brahmasabha with the Brahmana (who was an expert in Brahma, that is, Atharvaveda, the socio-political constitution) hearing the case assisted by three Vipras (who were scholars each in one of the other three Vedas) was a constitution bench. It considered only legal dilemmas and recommended what it felt to be the correct finding. It was not to be throttled by the kings men.
Of course all who were party to the miscarriage of justice would be held guilty and punished equally whether he was the delinquent or the witness or a member of the bench or its presiding officer. This verse is not to be interpreted as exonerating the guilty Brahmana judge or the king.
Jha translates the verse (8-19) as: Where, however, the person (kartaram) deserving of censure (ninda) is actually censured, there the king (raja) becomes sinless (anena), the members of the court (sabhasada) become freed (muchyanta), and the sin falls upon the perpetrator (ena). Buhler translates it as: But where he who is worthy of condemnation is condemned, the king is free from guilt, and the judges are saved (from sin); the guilt falls on the perpetrator (of the crime alone). Jones read it as: But where he who deserves condemnation shall be condemned, the king is guiltless and the judges free from blame: an evil deed shall recoil on him who committed it.
The two verses read together indicate that the constitution bench, Brahmasabha, could reexamine the case tried by the king in his open court and might find the verdict given by him and the court valid or invalid. If he had acquitted the guilty, then the guilty, his witness, the officers of the court and the king were all found to be wrong and punished. If the guilty had been penalized correctly, then the king and members of his court would be pronounced as free from procedural errors. There could be no exoneration of the criminal on technical grounds. The comment attributed to Medhatithi, Where the guilty person is not able to hide his guilt and hid guilt is duly exposed then everything turns out to be right is not to the mark.
The next verse (8-20) has raised eyebrows. Jha translates it as: Even a so-called Brahmana (brahmanabruva) who makes a living (upajivi) by his caste only (jatimatram) may at pleasure (kamam) be the propounder of the law (dharmavakta) for the king (nrpati), but not a Shudra under any circumstances.
Buhler interpreted it as: A Brahmana who subsists only by the name of his caste (jati) or one who merely calls himself a Brahmana (though his origin be uncertain) may, at the kings pleasure, interpret the law to him, but never a Shudra. Jones interpreted it as: A Brahman supported only by his class, and one barely reputed a Brahman but without performing sacerdotal rites may at the kings pleasure interpret the law to him; so may the two middle classes; but a Shudra, in no cases whatever.
The choice made by the administrator (nrpati) while appointing one to the bench is not questioned unless that assessor or judge happens to be a Shudra, an uneducated worker. A Brahman by birth (jati) and by personal claim was preferred to Kshatriyas and Vaisyas for nomination to the post of a judge.
The local civil administrator, nrpati, made the appointment and it was ratified by the king, the head of the state, and the Brahman was authorized to preside over the constitution bench. The other three members were Vipras recommended by that judge who was well versed in the Atharvaveda, the socio-political constitution and the three Vipras in the other three Vedas. [The Vedas were not theological works. While the Rgveda described the socio-cultural constitution of the Vedic times in its hymns which were chronicles of those and earlier times, Atharvaveda enshrined the socio-political constitutions of those times.]
Often the civil administrator (nrpati) was unable to get such a Brahman who was a jurist. In such a situation, he might appoint any member born in the vocational community of Brahmans who functioned as priests to earn their livelihood or who claimed to be Brahmansthough functioning as landlords or traders. This decadence was noticeable during later centuries. The medieval commentator, Medhatithi, was aware of it but he did not stress that it was the malaise of the migration of Brahman scholars to selected centres of learning and royal courts.
The judiciary (even in the districts and lower levels) required educated members on its benches. It could not afford to have uneducated workers as its members. It is irrational to treat this as social discrimination practised and incited by the Brahmanical castes against Shudra castes. Every context in which there appears to be discrimination against the Shudras who were illiterate workers and had no personal property should be examined carefully before concluding that the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas were prejudiced against them.
Jha reads the next verse (8-21) as: The kingdom (rashtram) of that king (raja) for whom the investigation of law (dharmavivechanam) is done by a Shudra, while he himself is looking on suffers like the cow in a morass. Jha rejects the stand of Medhatithi that dharmavivechanam meant decision on legal cases (dharmanirnayam).
It was the duty of the king to invite a jurist to interpret the constitution. If he failed to assert his position as the head of the state and appoint such a qualified jurist as the head of the constitution bench that would analyze its provisions and give the apt interpretation, and instead allowed the workers to have their way, it would affect the rural hinterland (rashtra) adversely. [It is incorrect to translate the term, rashtra as kingdom or as a sovereign ethnic entity of native peoples, nation. Only the term, janapada, denotes the latter entity.]
A Shudra being uneducated would not be able to study and interpret laws correctly. [One who has acquired formal education is not to be included in the class of Shudras.] There would be miscarriage of justice if an ineligible person is appointed as a judge. Most of the civil disputes concerned property and the Shudras who had no personal property did not have acquaintance with the laws governing these. Even disputes pertaining to marriage were linked to property.
Jha translates the verse (8-22) as: That kingdom (rashtra) where there is a majority of Shudras, which is infested with non-believers (nastikas) and destitute of twice-born people (dvijas), quickly perishes entirely, becoming afflicted by famine and disease. The intention was to get a vast majority of the population (especially of the rural hinterland, rashtra, educated and enabled to have personal property and freed from being servants of others.
Medhatithi and many other writers of the later times tried to avoid facing this reality and argued that this calamity was the consequence of having judiciaries filled in by uneducated Shudras and atheists among Brahmans and other classes. But this intention was not translated into reality and by the medieval times most countries suffered from illiteracy, poverty, famine and disease and a few monopolizing all lands. Some attributed this reality of decline to the spread of atheism. In fact, loss of faith in the almighty god was the consequence of this misery.
This argument cannot be brushed aside lightly. Justice cannot be tempered with mercy by those who do not believe in the existence of the great soul and who conduct themselves as the final arbiters of the destiny of all at their mercy. By the term, nastika, Medhatithi understood those persons, as were materialists (lokayatika), denying the existence of other social worlds (paralokas).
Lokayata meant social control and it denied the state and the clergy any right to interfere in the economic pursuits of the people and claimed that the latter could regulate their conduct by themselves without reference to precedents or permanent social legislation.
The followers of lokayata, most of whom were commoners and admirers of Brhaspati, rejected the need to arrive at social integration (lokasamgraha) and refused to recognize or interact with the other social worlds, the generous aristocracy and the industrious industrial society of the forests and mountains. They did not look beyond the right of the individual in the commonalty (to be precise, of a member of the bourgeoisie) to pursue his interests. They ignored the cultural aristocracy and also the intelligentsia.
Jha translates the next verse (8-23) as: Having occupied the judgment-seat (dharmasanam adhishtaya), with his body covered and mind collected, he shall salute the guardian-deities (lokapalas) and then proceed with the investigation of suits (karyadarsanam).
Jones read it as: Let the king or his judge, having seated himself on the bench, with his body properly clothed and his mind attentively fixed, begin with doing reverence to the deities, who guard the world; and then let him enter the trial of cases. Buhler read it as: Having occupied the seat of justice, having covered his body, and having worshipped the guardian deities of the world, let him with a collected mind begin the trial of causes.
The term Brahmasanam indicates that it was a constitution bench chaired by the expert in the Atharvaveda, Brahma, (assisted by the three Vipras) and not an ordinary single-member bench chaired by the civil administrator (nrpati) or by the rural administrator (parthiva) or by the king (raja). Dharmasanam would indicate an ordinary bench that would base its decisions on the social code, dharmasastra. A nrpati or a parthiva or a king (raja) could occupy this latter seat though he was not an expert in law.
It was not a political or economic session chaired by the king though these aspects were not barred from being considered. The main concern was with dharma, as Medhatithi points out. Jha was imprecise when he translated it as that seat upon which the pronouncing of judgments is the principal work done. Medhatithi explains lokapalas as the eight lokapalas (guardians of the peoples), Indra etc.
The term, lokapalas, referred to the eight-member ministry, Indra, Agni, Aditya, Soma, Vayu, Varuna, Kubera and Prthvi who represented the different sectors (cultural aristocracy, civil judiciary, coercive power of the state, intelligentsia stationed in the forests and mountains, the mobile populations, the higher judiciary dealing with duties, plutocracy and bourgeoisie) of the larger integrated society.
It is wrong to describe them as guardian deities. It is also wrong to hold that they were the recipients of the gifts or of salutation. It was the court etiquette to respect them as guardians of the peoples. [It is imperative to reject the postulate that Indra, Agni etc. were deities of the Vedic society that was noted for its worship of nature in its various forms and for polytheism. Lokapalas were human beings and administrators and not gods.]
Buhler translates the next verse (8-24) as: Knowing what is expedient (artha) or inexpedient (anartha), what is pure justice (dharma) or injustice (adharma), let him examine the causes of suitors according to the order of the castes (varna). Jha translates it as: Understanding (budhva) both desirable and undesirable to be only justice and injustice, he shall look into all the suits of the suitors according to the order of the castes.
Jones translated it as: Understanding what is expedient or inexpedient, but considering only what is law or not law, let him examine all disputes between parties, in the order of the several classes. Medhatithi seems to have noted that the king as the judge was asked not to decide the case on the basis of what would be a gain to him in terms of gold.
It was expected that the king would not seek guidance from the provisions of the Arthasastra on what was economically profitable (artha) and what was economically harmful (anartha) though it was an economic dispute. He was asked to take the guidance of Dharmasastra that stood for morality, ethics and justice. This was the counsel that the unattached intellectuals (budhas), especially of the social periphery gave him. They were the spokesmen of the individuals of the unorganized sector who were the victims in the expansionist moves sanctioned and inspired by the Arthasastra. These intellectuals (budhas) were willing to accept Dharmasastra as it protected the interests of all classes and all sectors but had reservations about Arthasastra.
While examining the cases, the judge was advised to follow the rules of varna hierarchy. This must have been a later interpolation by Brahman scholars who were afraid that the intelligentsia of the periphery (who had not accepted this hierarchy) might upset their apple cart by insisting on equality of all litigants.
Jha translates the next verse (8-25) as: He shall discover the internal disposition of men (nrs) by external signs: by variations in their voice, colour (varna) and aspect, as also by means of the eye and by gestures. Not all the members of the larger society had been assigned to one or the other of the four classes, varnas. The nrpati had risen from the ranks of the free men, nrs or naras.
The settled clans and communities could be distinguished easily on the basis of their occupations and classified as varnas. Such classification could be effected in the case of the free men (nrs) from their bearings and they could be given the advantages that the different classes claimed for themselves.
The inner mind is indicated by such variations as those of aspect, gait, gesture, speech and by changes in the eye and the face. (8-26) It was the individual who was being assessed for his honesty and for his plight. It may be noted that Varna classification and hierarchy would not be given undue importance while examining the parties and their witnesses. Every individual would be heard with equal regard as another whether he had been assigned to a particular class or not. Manusmrti was still on the anvil when the first steps to effect varna classification were taken.
RAJARSHI CONSTITUTION AND
THE KAUTILYAN ECONOMIC STATE
The Preamble to the new Constitution
Svapaksha and Parapaksha
Dandaniti envisaged a political state. But Kautilya stressed the concept of an economic state. Adherence to the codes laid down by the science of economic occupations, Varta, helps the king to secure grains, cattle, gold, forest produce and labour (AS.1-4-1). Kautilya was dealing with an agro-pastoral state that had made inroads into the forest economy through trade and surplus labour. The surplus from the economy helps the king to consolidate his control over his personal supporters (svapaksha) and also over the supporters of others (parapaksha). [It is not sound to interpret the latter as the party of the enemies.]
Svapaksha included all those who were members of the unit Svami or Rajan. Not all in the state composed of the seven organs (angas) or constituents (prakrtis) were the king’s men. The king was not the state. He was but a member of one of the seven units of the state. The secretaries of the state (amatyas), the janapada assembly that controlled the rural areas, the paura or urban council dominated by the bourgeoisie, the treasury (kosa), the police, army and magistracy that together constituted the mechanism of coercive power (danda) and the ally (mitra) were the other six units of the state. Each of these seven units had its own structure and organization (sampada) and it could not be dismantled.
Economic Determinism and Political Power
The economic benefits accruing from adherence to the prescribed procedures of the science of economy (varta) helped the king to control the treasury (kosa) and the army (danda). Control over the other units was weak and was not total. Kautilyan Arthasastra holds that economic power and political power exercised through the treasury and the army attracts all to the king. Economic determinism is entered into. Kautilya redefines the role of political power (danda) and the object of Dandaniti.
Danda (political power that is represented by the sceptre or rod or by the army) is a means for securing the welfare (kshema) of the actions taken (yoga) (to be precise for the definite continuance of the results of the steps taken during the course of administration) in conformity with the four sciences (vidyas), Anvikshiki, Trayi, Varta and Dandaniti. The ends or objects of these political actions are defined and determined by the other sciences. Power is a means for ensuring social and economic welfare and is not an end in itself.
The Scope of the Four Sciences
Kautilya does not favour the concept of supremacy of the state or political power advocated by the school of Usanas. The science of Anvikshiki covered Samkhya that upheld reason, Yoga that stressed stoicism and Lokayata that outlined the mechanisms of social control. (It is not sound to translate Lokayata as materialism.) The Vedas provide the basis for determining what Dharma, the morally, ethically and socially correct conduct is. Varta (economic occupation) leads to Artha, which defines what is economically beneficial. A political constitution cannot define these on its own.
Kautilya redefines the purpose of Dandaniti
Kautilya redefines the purpose of Dandaniti (political policy) as (a) to gain what is not yet gained, (b) to preserve what is gained, (c) to develop what is thus preserved as gain and (d) to distribute what is thus developed among the different bureaus (tirthas) of the state (AS.1-4-3). This statement may be treated as the Preamble to the Constitution of the State as envisaged by Kautilya. It visualizes not a mere social welfare state but a state that would ensure social and economic progress, all-round development and equitable distribution of the accrued benefits among all social sectors that were administered by these bureaus or tirthas.
Kautilya wanted the state to be an instrument for planned social development. He was not for a free economy or for a speculative economy. He was for private entrepreneurship and regulated economy. (But he was not for regimentation). He did not favour colonial exploitation. Kautilyan state cannot be equated with a Marxist state though he stood by the concept of economic determinism or with a fascist state though he was for a strong state. His state was not totalitarian.
He did not permit living on capital. He called for steady increase in capital. It has to be kept secure and not consumed recklessly, the Preamble directs. The capital can be increased only by investment in productive operations. Consumerism prevents savings and hampers increase in investment. It is hedonism and not economic wisdom. It will lead to economic ruin (anartha). Savings and profits are not to be frittered away. Social welfare projects have to be preceded by a thrust towards economic development. The Preamble directs the profits accruing from investment of capital to be made available for the expenses on the projects of the different bureaus.
Dandaniti as interpreted by Kautilya and incorporated in the politico-economic code, Arthasastra, not only gives the ruler control over the treasury and the army but also makes him the head and chief executive of an economic state. Planned development has to be initiated by the state. Economy cannot be left to the sweet will of the speculators and to the vagaries of nature. Social progress, lokayatra, depends on the control, which the state has over this process including fair distribution of the benefits of development among all social sectors. Only a surplus economy can lead to social progress and all-round development. Traditional Dandaniti fell far short of Kautilya's expectations and purposes. With this preamble to the constitution of the economic state enshrined in AS.1-4-3 we step further into economic determinism.
Kautilya for all-round development
Kautilya's deuteragonist, the unidentified preceptor, argues that the threat of use of power (danda) should be always present to ensure social progress (lokayatra). The Acharya (teacher) holds that social progress cannot be achieved through voluntary efforts alone. Coercive power is imperative, he holds (1-4-5,6). Kautilya rejects this stand. Kautilya knows that a soft state will be held in disdain but he does not countenance reign through terror. He is for just exercise of power for this alone the people will respect. Power exercised properly should benefit the subjects (prajas) in terms of all the three social values and aims, dharma, artha and kama (1-4-7 to 11). The fourth objective, moksha, freedom from social and economic activities and rebirth and attainment of salvation and are not dilated upon.
The Kautilyan economic state aims at the progress, social, moral and cultural (dharma), economic (artha) and emotional (kama), of all the sections of its population. It is wrong to presume that it was a totalitarian state, indifferent to dharma, to social values and ethics and that it stressed only economy, artha. Only the feudal state directed by Usanas and headed by feudal lords like Bali, stressed artha and kama, wealth and pleasure alone and neglected cultural values (dharma).
Protection of the weak against the mighty
Kautilya points out that improper exercise of power annoys even the senior citizens who have retired to their forest abodes and have only minimal needs and more so the householders who are engaged in economic activities. At the same time, failure to use power leads to the law of fishes, matsya-nyaya, by which the larger fish would be justified in swallowing the smaller. The state should not be neutral between the strong and the weak, for it would allow the mighty to become mightier and the weak, weaker. Kautilyan state exercised its power to protect the weak (12to14). Kautilya was warning the prince under training against abuse of power.
The state should not be a supporter of the rich traders and the feudal lords. If a state fails to protect the weak and the pious it loses the raison dtre for its existence. The economic state is not a capitalist state though it recognizes and stresses the value of protecting and increasing the capital. Protected by state power, the weak prevail over the mighty (1-14-15). The state is not in direct conflict with the rich and powerful. In a class war the state was required to be with the weaker sections of the society. But who the weak are has to be determined objectively. Kautilya called upon the king to enable and ensure that every individual followed his svadharma, carried out his duties and exercised his rights as a member of the social class (varna) to which he was or had opted for assigned (1-4-16). Kautilyan state was more than a social welfare state. It was a state that guaranteed social justice and social security.
Training the Saintly King, Rajarshi, as the Head of the State
Kautilya was interested in the training of the princes and officials of the state. The course recommended by him covered the four disciplines of study (vidyas), Anvikshiki, Trayi, Varta and Dandaniti, methodology of acquisition and application of knowledge, social heritage, economy and polity. Kautilya amends the stand taken by Usanas on the importance of Dandaniti, science of polity vis--vis the other disciplines and declares that if power (danda) is exercised not arbitrarily but to ensure social progress, it may be treated as the root (mula) of all other disciplines of study (1-5-1). Kautilya does not accept a constitution that does not ensure social progress (lokayatra), social justice, freedom of the individual and protection of the weak. Exercise of power (danda) must be rooted in humility (vinaya), he advises (1-5-2). Then only it will lead to the welfare (yogakshema) of all discrete individuals (sarva bhuta). To be precise, yogakshema meant the security of the fruits of the work performed.
Knowledge and Humility, Vidya and Vinaya
He exhorts the prince to practise being humble and respectful. Humility is twofold. Some are humble by nature and some become trained to remain humble (1-5-3,4). Nurture cannot annul nature. Humility is not an asset gained through deeds. (Kriya hi dravyam, vinayati na adravyam, runs the famous Kautilyan maxim.) The Atharvan school had insisted that only those who excelled in aggressiveness, rajas, should be considered for appointment as kings. But Kautilya insisted on humility, vinaya, a trait associated with gentleness and sagacity, sattva. He would tame the rajas of the princes. His approach was similar to Krshna's.
While describing the conventional method of education followed by his school, Kautilya calls for reflection on what had been taught and for rejection of wrong views and for intentness on truth only. Vidya and vinaya, knowledge and humility are acquired by accepting what the teacher says as authentic (1-5-5,6). It was not regimentation of thought. As long as a student was under a particular teacher, he was not to question that teacher’s assertions. Decorum and discipline had to be kept.
Schooling of the Prince:
The student is introduced first to script and arithmetic (1-5-7). [It is not sound to hold that scripts came into vogue only after the long Vedic era.] Then he is placed under a preceptor and as directed by him, he is sent to learn the three Vedas and Anvikshiki from the scholars who have specialized in these. [We have to give up some of the stereotypes about the ancient methodology of education.] (1-5-8). Varta, the science of economy, was learnt from the heads (adhyakshas) of the bureaus (tirthas) and Dandaniti, the science of polity, from theoretical and practical exponents in that field. The preceptor, Acharya, was a personal guide and not a master of all subjects.
The princes and other students had to remain celibate till sixteen years of age. They were advised to be in constant touch with the learned even after leaving the school. Post-school education for princes covered training in arms and warfare. It is implicit that schools, which provided instruction in the three Vedas and in Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata, were not military schools. The students also listened to discourses on history and the social and economic codes, Dharmasastra and Arthasastra. The discourses were open to all. Kautilya emphasizes both theory and application. From study, awareness (prajna) is secured, and from awareness, application (yoga) is made possible. Yoga leads to self-control. This is called efficacy of knowledge (vidya-samarthyam), ability to acquire knowledge from the prescribed disciplines of study (16).
Trained Rajarshi may be given all powers
Kautilya stresses training for princes, as the subjects tend to emulate their ruler. A cultured and educated (vidyavinita) ruler will have no rivals and will be able to rule the commonalty (prthvi) without sharing it with others. In other words, sharing of powers need not be insisted on if the ruler is an educated and cultured person. There should be no objection to vesting sovereignty in one person if he is a saintly king, a trained Rajarshi (1-5-17).
Kautilya endorses the Prthu constitution that removed the post of Mahendra, as it was a check on the rights and powers of the elected king. His aim was to bring the entire Prthvi (the sub-continent from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south) under one Chakravarti, an emperor, who would be an unrivalled Rajarshi. Kautilya did not favour both dyarchy (dvairajyam) and total devolution of powers to the lower units (vairajyam). The latter was closer to anarchism. He was against armed oligarchy, a feature and trait of the Atharvan polity. He did not endorse the concept of a powerless president or a ruler with severely restricted powers, though he was against autocracy.
Rajarshi Endowed with knowledge and humility, vidyavinaya
A Rajarshi was not a powerless, weak and docile ruler whiling away his time in futile speculations on life, death and life after death. He excelled in rajas but did not allow it to overcome wisdom. He can become a conqueror, vijigishu. But he has to first conquer himself. Lust, greed, arrogance, anger, pride and foolhardiness are the six internal enemies, which the prince (and every man) must overcome before he can hope to overcome his external enemies. Conquest of the senses (indriyas) is the purpose to be met by education (vidya) and humility (vinaya). Vidya leads to vinaya and vidyavinaya leads to conquest of senses, indriyajaya (1-6-1,2).
The six senses are indirectly correlated to the six internal constituents (prakrtis) of his own state that he has to keep under his control before he may launch his project to conquer the whole country. Rajavidya or Rajayoga is the science that lays down the procedure for mastering one's senses and one's political fields.
Kautilya then draws attention to the then recent events and personages to highlight the fall of the greedy and the success of those who had conquered their senses. He criticizes Dandakya, Karala, Ravana, Duryodhana, Janamejaya, Talajanghas, Pururavas, Ajabindhu, Vatapi, Dambhodva, Kartavirya and the Vrshnis. He honours Agastya, Jamadagni and Dvaipayana and asks his students to emulate Parasurama who (by that time) had conquered his senses. He praises Rajarshi Ambarisha. Kautilya must have been a witness to the careers of these personages.
Prajna, awareness of one's duties and abilities
A ruler who has conquered his senses and six evil tendencies can become a Rajarshi. Through association with elders, he cultivates his awareness (prajna) (1-7-1). He knows the importance of Chakshus who gathered knowledge through observation while moving from place to place. [Kautilya respected empiricism but suspected intuition.] The Rajarshi who presided over a welfare state was a scholar and counsellor. He was not aggressive and did not seem to be even assertive. But he was active. He had definite powers and duties. He is not to be ostentatious and is not to associate with economically harmful persons.
Non-involvement in economic transactions
He does not get involved in any economic transaction (vyavahara), which is against the principles of dharma and artha (1-7-2). He had to follow Dharmasastra and Arthasastra with respect to civil law pertaining to economic transactions. [Kautilyan Arthasastra does not ignore or look down on or reject the provisions in Dharmasastra on these aspects.]
According to the sages who were experts in the constitution Brahmarshis, the king was to be a nirarthaka prakrti, an individual or member of a constituent (prakrti) of the state with no personal economic interests. Rajan was one of the seven constituents, prakrtis, of the state. While the others represented and pursued the economic interests of specific classes and cadres, the king was not expected to do so. The sages envisaged a non-economic state headed by a selfless sage. These sages were engaged in spiritual pursuits and in socio-cultural activities only. The Rajarshi had to meet this expectation of the Brahmarshis.
Kautilyan Rajarshi does not avoid economic power, artha
The Rajarshi, as visualized by Kautilya, did not keep away from power and wealth (artha) though he was not attached to them. Kautilya does not advocate self-denial. The Rajarshi is not a fakir. Kautilya allows him the right to pleasure (kama) but exhorts him not to violate the codes of dharma and artha (1-7-3). The earlier Arthasastras had taken the position that equal importance should be given to all the three aspects, dharma, artha and kama. They felt that excessive importance given to one harmed the other two (1-7-4,5). Kautilya did not depart from this orientation. He however did not follow the view of the Brahmarshis. Modern critics have failed to note this aspect.
Kautilya and Economic Determinism, Primacy of Artha
But Kautilya came forward with the stand that Artha should be given primacy. Artha eva pradhana, he declared (1-7-6). Kautilyan Arthasastra broke new ground with this assertion and the champions of Dharmasastra were rattled. The latter felt called upon to defend Dharma against the onslaught by Artha. Some were glad that a materialist had challenged the champions of religion. It is necessary to present the views in their proper perspective. Kautilya was not against dharma and he did not undermine its importance. He was not against rituals and expiation of sins. Nor was he for them. He was pragmatic. He points out that both dharma and kama have their roots in artha (1-7-7).
In the absence of the necessary economic means, it is not possible for one to follow the path of dharma (the socially, morally, ethically correct conduct) or to have pleasure, kama (recognized as desirable, necessary and obligatory but within the fold of marriage). The above thesis has to be examined in its proper context, the role of the Rajarshi as the head of the state and as an individual in quest of truth in his role as Rshi, as an intellectual. Kautilya exhorts the Rajarshi not to underestimate the importance of artha and kama. The Rajarshi had not effaced himself totally. He was selfless even while protecting and promoting the economic interests of all his subjects.
Bounds of Sovereignty---Rajamaryada
The Arthasastra tradition preferred (to be precise, it permitted) monarchy but it abjured autocracy. It needs to be recognized that Kautilya was not the first to describe or prescribe the provisions of Arthasastra. He however departed from his predecessors like Bahudantiputra and Pracetas. The king has to work within bounds, maryada. These bounds are set by the very presence of preceptors (acharyas) and ministers of state (amatyas) who restrain him from being involved in dangers. They counsel him in private through gestures and suggestions. Even a sagacious ruler, a Rajarshi, cannot rule by himself, the prince under training is told.
Rulership (rajatvam) is possible only with the aid of others (sahaya-saddhyam) (AS.1-7-8, 9). A single wheel does not roll on (chakram ekam na vartate), he is asked to note. [In other words, he should not try to imitate the chief of Ekachakrapura who had no counsellors and no council and had no associates and assistants and had only subordinates to execute his orders. Such a town or state will remain stagnant. Stagnation leads to decay. Ekachakrapura had no army either. It was misinterpreted as an egalitarian state without coercive power and with no executive and with no judiciary either.]
Acharyas and Amatyas not appointed by the King
According to the amended Rajarshi constitution, the head of the state was also the head of the executive. But he had to abide by the counsel given by the teachers and executives, Acharyas and Amatyas. He shall appoint and be assisted by secretaries, Sachivas.
This provision of the Rajarshi constitution rules out the king acting according to his pleasure, however highly he may be educated. It needs to be noted that the king was not empowered to appoint Acharyas and Amatyas. He could not select his counsellors. They were selected and appointed by the Samiti and the Sabha, the council of scholars and the assembly of nobles. This limited his sovereignty. [It is naive and simplistic to translate the term, Rajamaryada, as dignity of the king. I have pointed out how Rama of Kosala who was described as Maryada Purusha, as a ruler entitled to rule for prescribed tenure but with limited powers was gently told that he could not dismiss Jabali, a teacher and counsellor though the latter was a heretic and expressed views contradictory to the Kosala laws based on satya (truth).]
Kautilyan Rajarshi bound to abide by the counsel
In the Rajarshi pattern of governance to set in motion the wheels of the state and to help the king, the institution of sachivas (cabinet secretaries) was necessary. This pattern recommended by the Indra school of Arthasastra did not meet Kautilya's requirements.
Bahudantakam, a work on polity attributed to the son of Bahudanti (a lady with prominent teeth) who held the post of Indra in one of the states of the later Vedic period and was a counsellor of the great emperor, Mamdhata, must have recommended the creation of this institution. The King must appoint sachivas and listen to their reports and views, he counseled Mamdhata. They were bound to present their views on every issue and had the right to be heard. However their views were not binding on the king.
In the amended constitution, the King had not only to hear the views of the acharyas and the amatyas but also abide by their suggestions. He could not overrule the counsel given by them. They spoke for the samiti and the sabha, the two constitutional bodies, council of scholars and elders, and the assembly of nobles. This was Rajamaryada, sovereignty limited by these two bodies. In the Kautilyan pattern of the state, the Amatyas were superior to the Sachivas but ranked lower than the ministers, mantris. To be precise, senior and successful amatyas were to be promoted as mantris. The King could not appoint the mantris, ministers, directly.
Criteria for selection of Amatyas, Secretaries of the State
Bk.1-8 of the Arthasastra discusses the criteria that should guide the king in the choice of Amatyas, that is, in the formation of the government. Kautilya, Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Pisuna, Dvaipayana, Bhishma and Uddhava were great political thinkers. They were engaged in a disputation on social and political problems, which had arisen from the collapse of the pattern of small nation-states (brought into existence by Mahadeva). The collapse was caused by the high-handedness of rulers like Kartavirya Arjuna and retaliation by Bhargava Parasurama. We draw the attention of the readers to the implications of the stand taken by each of these thinkers to the framing of the new constitution.
Bharadvaja for ideological affinity
Bharadvaja suggests that the king should appoint his schoolmates whose integrity and calibre he had observed from close quarters as amatyas. They would have belonged to the same school of thought as the king did. Ideological affinities would ensure smooth coordination in work.
The Rajarshi constitution had prescribed the academic qualifications necessary for one to be recognized as a ruler. Similar qualifications were prescribed for the ministers and amatyas. Bharadvaja's stand was likely to lead to one-party system (where a party, paksha was based on ideological affinity), It was inconsistent with the principle that the Rajarshi should treat svapaksha and parapaksha, those who belonged to his group and those who belonged to the groups of others on par and be above partisan politics. Bharadvaja, it has to be kept in mind, was for a commoner-king. He had been the counsellor of the emperor, Bharata, son of Dushyanta, and Sakuntala. [I am attributing all the views attributed to Bharadvaja, student of Bharadvaja to the Vedic teacher and sage himself. It would be wrong to bring Drona, a student of this teacher, into this picture or Kanika Bharadvaja, finance minister of Dhrtarashtra.]
Visalaksha for identity in approach
Visalaksha was a spokesman of the patriciate. He endorsed the need for identity in approach (sadharmana) especially in confidential (guhya) matters. But he did not permit schoolmates being appointed as amatyas as they would have known the weaknesses of the king. He preferred clubmates and similarity in virtues as well as sufferings (samana shila vyasana) so that conflicts between the king and the amatyas might be avoided. He was however not for a one-party government. Democracy, even parliamentary democracy, is not new to India. Instead of looking down on the social polity of Ancient India and treating all ancient Indian rulers as feudal chieftains who were not concerned about the sufferings of the masses or visualizing them as all having been endowed with divinity, we should be rational. Bharata's mother, Sakuntala, was known as Visalakshi, a student of Visalaksha. She was a daughter of Visvamitra, a colleague of Bharadvaja and a Kshatriya ruler. Visvamitra admired Visalaksha who belonged to the Samkara-Rudra school of political thought.[Consort of Visvanatha, the presiding deity at Kasi, is known as Visalakshi.]
Parasaras insist on confidentiality of counsel
Badarayana, Dvaipayana and there associates who were disciples of Parasara (a follower of Vasishta, an opponent of Visvamitra) cautioned against the king becoming a prisoner in the hands of such clubmates and schoolmates. The Parasaras insisted that the sovereignty of the king must not be jeopardized and that secrecy of state affairs should be protected. They insisted that the amatyas should be loyal, honest, talented and dependable. But the king should have the upper hand.
Formation of a ministry was not easy. Both Visalaksha and the Parasaras neglected the need for training in administration. They were concerned with the authority of the king rather than with good government. Visalaksha was aristocratic in approach and the Parasaras were feudal. An amatya was an officer of the state and not the king's personal friend or lieutenant. He was to be a counsellor of the king and not his yes-man or Man-Friday. Dvaipayana was a half-brother of the veteran statesman, Bhishma. Both were sons of the same mother but by different fathers.
Pisuna for rule by experts in economy
Pisuna charges that the Parasaras give undue importance for devotion (bhakti) and that they neglected intellect (buddhi) while appointing amatyas. He calls for the appointment of independent intellectuals and does not want mere loyal servants as amatyas. As Dushyanta's finance minister, he represented the spirit of commercial economy that pervaded before Bharadvaja consented to guide Bharata. Pisuna had to wander as an exile with no ruler willing to utilize his expertise. Another such exile was Kanika Bharadvaja who later became finance minister under Dhrtarashtra (who was sired by Dvaipayana).
Pisuna emphasizes not general or personal talent in leadership (purushasamarthyam) or capacity to acquire vast knowledge (vidya-samarthyam) but experience and talent in economic administration (arthasamarthyam). He was for rule by experts in economy. The amatyas should be able to estimate in advance the economic benefits (artha) of every work (karma) and be able to realize them. Pisuna's cabinet was a business board with no pretensions of loyalty to the king or to an ideology. Pisuna was a free-lancer distrusted by every king.
Bhishma for loyalty to the throne
Bhishma does not endorse the total rejection of the Parasara stand. He holds that the amatya should be selected from a family traditionally loyal to the royal dynasty. Loyalty to the throne rather than to the individual incumbent is what he expects of the amatya.
Creation of parallel lineages of kings and ministers was expected to provide stability in administration and guarantee the security of the state. Bhishma (son of Santanu, nicknamed Konapadanta or the man with crooked teeth) provides two wheels but this does not impress Kautilya. It may be remarked here that even as there was traditional monarchy, there were families traditionally associated with the administration as ministers or other officials (amatyas) or as political guides, acharyas. Bhishma found merit in this practice for it ensured continuity of policy and administration.
Uddhava for a bureaucracy of professionals
Uddhava (a rheumatic patient, Vatavyadhi) was an alienated intellectual associated with Krshna's ministry. He warns that such ministers tend to corner all royal wealth and behave as masters. Uddhava calls for new professionals as amatyas. He allows some merit in Pisuna's stand. Such amatyas would respect the wielder of Danda, as being in the position of Yama or Judge with power to punish those who violate the rules and would not dare to disobey him. This introduces a new constitutional role for the King. The King, according to Uddhava school of thought should be the head of the state and the executive and also of the judiciary.
Vatavyadhi (Uddhava) wanted that the amatyas should be selected from a pool of candidates with requisite qualifications. Such a cabinet of professionals would be impersonal and highly talented and follow the letter of the law and the spirit of the constitution without exhibiting personal loyalty even to the head of the state (svami). [The svami was not a rajan. He was not a King. He was a charismatic leader.] This cabinet was a body of talented executives refusing to do what was prohibited (yamas) and adhering to what was prescribed (niyamas). Loyalty to the throne does not feature in the case of a political structure headed by an elected leader or by a charismatic leader or by a plutocrat. This cabinet was highly bureaucratic but not as efficient as Pisuna's Board of Experts.
Bahudantiputra for governance by favourable aristocracy
Kautilya, at this stage, listens to the views of an Indra. He was a son of Bahudanti (nickname for a lady with many teeth) and the author of an Arthasastra text, Bahudantakam. This Indra was a counsellor of Mamdhata, one of the five great emperors of that period. [The other four were Marutta, Bhagiratha, Kartavirya and Bharata.] This Indra felt that Vatavyadhi's cabinet was full of scholars who however lacked practical experience. Indra recommended that the king should appoint as amatyas only those who were highborn (abhijana), upright (shoucha), valorous (shourya) and favourable (anuraga) to the ruler.
They had to be aware of what they were required to do and what they were doing (prajna). Both the king and the amatya should be able to think and feel alike. Anuraga is neither ideological affinity nor personal devotion and loyalty. It is born of class similarity. Bahudantakam was closer to the aristocratic temper of Vaisalaksham and accommodated Bharadvaja's puritanism but ignored Pisuna's call for a cabinet of unattached experts. Kautilya agreed with this Indra but only partially.
Kautilya: Tested, experienced and Talented social leadership
Kautilyan maxims are highly pregnant with implications that have eluded modern scholars who have proceeded under the impression that his work was written during the third century BC. Kautilya was on the scene when the battle of Kurukshetra was fought though he was essentially a political grammarian and was not a participant in the feuds that led to that battle.
Kautilya insists on the total ability of a person to provide social leadership (purushasamarthyam), which he says must be judged from his ability to do the work (karya-samarthyam). Bharadvaja spoke of general talent born of studies (vidya-samarthyam) and Pisuna of talent in managing the economy and making profit (arthasamarthyam). Kautilya would have for every job, the person most talented for that job. He called for efficient executive machinery. He could not ignore Pisuna and Uddhava.
First appointment only as Amatya, Secretary of State
Kautilya advises that talented persons (subject to their meeting the requirements of Bahudantakam) should be appointed as amatyas, secretaries of the state. But they are not to be appointed directly as ministers. This is a very important distinction made by Kautilya between the two ranks. The right of the king or the head of the state to appoint ministers of his choice is severely restricted by the Kautilyan constitution.
Amatyam, an Impersonal and Permanent State Machinery
Amatyam or secretariat is a separate political structure, anga or prakrti, directing the bureaucracy. The tenures of these secretaries are not dependent on the pleasure of the king. Classmates, clubmates, kinsmen and flunkies could not hope to enter it. The aspirants had to be found (by the service commission) suitable for the posts. Kautilya's was not an attempt at compromise or even at consensus. It was a step towards the creation of impersonal and permanent state machinery that would survive the whims of kings and their fortunes.
The Traits expected in an Amatya
Bk.1 Ch.9 of Arthasastra lays down the qualifications needed in one to be selected to the Amatya cadre and the procedures to be adopted for selecting and appointing candidates to this cadre. At least half of the twenty-four traits mentioned must be present in a candidate to be appointed for the lowest cadre and at least three-fourths of these traits for appointment to the middle cadre. An aspirant to the highest cadre must meet all the prescribed conditions. All the persons, who are selected for the posts of amatyas must be natives of the janapada and been born in noble families (abhijata). Kautilya rejected Pisuna’s proposal to select officials of the state from a transregional cadre of experts. Kautilya was far more demanding than the other thinkers.
The other traits expected are: amenability to being restrained by the ruler, having training in constructive work, having good observation, thinking before acting, perseverance, dexterity, eloquence in reporting events, and logical thinking as indicated in rebuttal and repartees, confident exposition of ideas, enthusiasm, ability to influence others, ability to bear adversities, uprightness, friendliness, firm loyalty, good morals (sheelam), physical strength, good health, not being fickle, amiability and being without animosities. Kautilya had arrived at this list of essential traits after taking into account the expectations and experiences of the scholars and statesmen cited by him and after examining their merits and demerits.
Rajavrtti: Official Duties of the King
Distribution of duties: pratyaksha, paroksha, anumeya
Kautilya classifies the duties of the king as direct (pratyaksha), indirect (paroksha) and inferential (anumeya) (1-9-5). The departments that the king directly looked after, like the institution of spies and foreign affairs, were covered by the first (pratyaksha).
Some other departments were under his charge but others supervised the official work in those departments on his behalf. He could not observe directly what was happening in different and distant areas because the work was being carried out simultaneously in many places. These were covered by the term, paroksha. It was a mega-state. The works under the paroksha category were assigned to the amatyas. They were not answerable to the local authorities. They reported directly to the king.
Framing an estimate of what is yet to be done from knowledge of what has been done is inferential (anumeya). The work yet to be done is estimated before the budget is prepared. This was under the jurisdiction of the cabinet ministers, mantris. The king headed the cabinet.
The Kautilyan King vis--vis the Cabinet of Ministers
Some modern scholars have failed to present the above distribution of powers correctly. The ministers (mantris) had no jurisdiction over the departments directly under the king (pratyaksha) or those administered on his behalf by selected amatyas (paroksha). The cabinet could not interfere in the work of the king and his secretariat and the king could not start any work without its sanction. It is academically unsound and inadvisable to presume that ancient India of the Mahabharata times lacked such rational administration.
Some of the talented amatyas were appointed as ministers (mantris). The amatyas were executives and were directly under the king as the head of the executive. He was not a mere presiding officer. But he was not all-powerful. He had to listen to and abide by the counsel given by his cabinet of ministers. The Prime Minister was not the head of the executive. Ministers were not executives. (The term, executive, should be used correctly.)
Rajapurohita--Political Counsellor-Not a religious post
The Rajapurohita ranked higher than the ministers (mantris) and was almost equal to the King, Raja. The affairs of the state that were not looked after directly by the king or by the amatyas on his behalf or by the ministers (independently) were entrusted by the Rajarshi constitution to the Rajapurohita. These were highly delicate issues. These too were affairs of the state. The ministers (mantris) and the amatyas could not be associated with them.
The Rajapurohita was a high constitutional authority even as the Rajarshi was. He too was a secular authority like the Rajarshi. He cannot be equated with the archbishops and cardinals of the Christian states of the medieval times. The Hindu State has never been a theocratic state, not even under Asoka who promoted Buddhism. A correct perspective of the various stages of the evolution of the social polity of Ancient India is essential if we have to arrive at a proper appraisal of the status and role of the Rajapurohita.
Rajapurohita, an expert in Atharvaveda and Dandaniti
In the Manava system of polity the Rajapurohita was given a status in between the chief of the people (Prajapati) and the head of the civil administration (Brhaspati). (By Manava system we mean the system advocated by Pracetas Manu in his Arthasastra.) He had to be an expert not only in the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama and in their subsidiaries but also in the Atharvaveda.
Only one belonging to a noble family and of good character and was well versed in all the four Vedas could be appointed as Rajapurohita (1-9-9). An expert in Atharvaveda (Brahma) was known as a Brahmavadi. [The socio-political constitution of the Vedic times was incorporated in the Atharvaveda.] He was not necessarily of the social class known as Brahmana varna.
The Rajapurohita had to be an expert in the science of political policy, Dandaniti also. This post had nothing to do with religion. India did not have a state religion until some Muslim rulers introduced Islam as such. The Rajapurohita was not a representative of any creed. It was not necessary that he should be a deist. Jabali, a counsellor of Dasaratha, was closer to the Charvakas who were alleged to be atheists and hedonists.
While the amatyas dealt with the affairs of the commoners (manushyas), they could not discuss policies pertaining to the nobles (devas). The latter were beyond the purview of the civil state (even as the Lords Temporal was before the Reformation in Europe). The nobles got this exemption by virtue of the Indra-Brhaspati agreement. By this agreement, the nobles gave up their powers to override the decisions of the civil administration and the voice of the commoners came to be heard.
The King had to be recognized by the two officials, Indra and Brhaspati. They represented the aristocracy (divam) and the commonalty (prthvi). By this agreement, the commoners would respect the wealth, status and rights and immunities of the nobles and the former would be free to govern themselves. All Dasas serving the nobles, Devas, would become free citizens, Aryas. Even lands were given to such Aryas. It marked the end of feudalism.
Rajapurohita as Liaison-Officer
When the posts of Indra and Brhaspati ceased to be the norm and the Manava Dharmasastra system of eight ministers became common and popular, the Rajapurohita was the officer who provided liaison between the civil state, headed by the Rajan, now hailing from the commoners and the traditional patriciate, devas. When the kings were no longer selected from among the nobles, they had no direct access to the latter. Many of the kings were not even Kshatriyas. The Rajapurohita was expected to infer the intents of the nobles, devas. [Daiva-nimitta meant the intent of the noble and not omens or portents of divine pleasure.]
These Purohitas (they were not priests) had access to the nobles and were of crucial importance to the new monarchical structure, which could not afford to overlook the expectations of the nobles, to whom the families of the commoners felt eternally grateful. For, many members of these families had been earlier serving the nobles as Dasas, and had been freed from their bonds of debt, Rnamukti, and discharged from their services and even helped to establish themselves as independent landlords. It was a peaceful social change effected at the height of the conflict between the liberal nobles (devas) and the feudal lords (asuras), which was coeval with the reign of Dasaratha, father of Rama. The new monarchical states could not ignore these nobles, for otherwise the commoners would get disturbed and feel insecure. They still expected material and monetary aid from their erstwhile employers and masters, the nobles.
Rajapurohita and Disaster Control
Another field where the experience and expertise of Rajapurohitas was drawn upon was disaster control. They were experts in Atharvaveda, which contained suggestions for remedial actions against calamities caused by or traced to shortcomings in the actions of the nobles (devas) or the commoners (manushyas). The expression, deva-manusha is not to be interpreted as divine vis-a-vis human. The Rajapurohita was not a wizard or a magician or a shaman. A gross misconception about the contents of the Atharvaveda has led to such wrong presentation.
The Rajapurohitas were scholars, academicians and ideologues, Brahmavadis, presiding over the Department of Research, Trends, Policy and Remedial Action or Disaster Control. They were distinct from Rajagurus or Acharyas who were professional teachers guiding the ruler on the codes, Dharmasastra and Arthasastra. The sweep of the study specialized in by the Rajapurohita was wider than that of the Amatyas and Mantris who were specialists in their respective fields of administration. The Rajapurohitas were independent socio-political thinkers and activists with foresight and were not executives like the amatyas or counsellors like the mantris. They were not priests.
Rajapurohita: A Constitutional Authority
The king was directed to follow (without questioning) the directions given by the Rajapurohita, even as a student follows his teacher, a son his father and a servant his master (svami) (AS.1-9-10). This provision of the Rajarshi constitution restricted the powers of the king as a sovereign. The Rajarshi was held in check by this higher constitutional authority. But as some events have shown, even the Rajapurohita was not infallible. The Rajapurohita could not claim the status of Prajapati (chief of the people) who represented the will of the entire nation (rashtram), of the elite as well as the masses. Unlike Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu and Wolsey, the Rajapurohita was not an extra-constitutional power-centre. He was not the representative of any ecclesiastical order. His was a secular post even as that of the Rajarshi was.
Rajadharma vis--vis Dandaniti
It may be noted here that according to Manusmrti (11-33), Dharma, the politically and constitutionally correct conduct, as laid down by Angirasa and Atharvacharya, the chief editors of Atharvaveda, was superior to Danda, the coercive power of the king as described and provided for in Dandaniti. The socio-political constitution provided in Atharvaveda was superior to the political code, Dandaniti. Rajadharma as implicit in the Atharvaveda placed restrictions on the exercise of coercive power by the king. The king had to be from among the Kshatriyas and the Rajapurohita had to be an expert in Atharvaveda, the constitution.
The prince was required and expected to receive training in the academy headed by the Rajapurohita. This was constitutional requirement. Such a trained king having also the benefit of the counsel of ministers (who also are similarly trained but not necessarily under the same teacher) should adhere to the codes (on Dharma and Artha). He can then win and remain invincible, Kautilya says (1-9-11). This is not between despots and priests.
Rajapurohita and the Council of Ministers: Mantriparishad
It was obligatory for the king to have acquired the prescribed academic qualifications including training in Nitisastra, Policy Science, and so too it was for the ministers. The king was not to be one excelling only in aggressiveness, rajas.
A constitution, which fails to provide such high qualifications for the head of the state and for the members of the executive, cannot be said to have provided a government for the people. It does not deserve respect. The king was required to constitute a cabinet of ministers and adhere to its counsel and work within the framework of the constitution. He had no discretionary powers with respect to the counsel given. Kautilya outlawed autocracy. Lest the king should appoint only his yes-men as ministers, the procedure for selection of amatyas and ministers and the formation of the council of ministers had to be incorporated in the constitution of the state. The king's pleasure was not enough.
In the Rajarshi constitution, the Rajapurohita had a voice in the selection of ministers. Only in the case of the king, the head of the state, it was insisted that the candidate selected should be a Kshatriya, a trained warrior. He should be preferably from a clan of warriors, for he was commander-in-chief and had to personally lead the army in war. This barred the appointment of Brahmans, Vaisyas, Shudras and persons from mixed classes as kings. But they could be appointed as amatyas (secretaries of state) and mantris (ministers).
Manava Dharmasastra had accepted the Vedic pattern of a cabinet of eight ministers representing the eight large sections of the population of the integrated society. It however did not state from which social class, varna, these ministers should be drawn. It followed the pattern that was in vogue before the four-varna system was introduced. Some states which followed Bhishma's suggestion had a larger council of ministers, 4 Brahmans who were versed in the four Vedas, 8 Kshatriyas to represent the army and the administrative machinery, 18 Vaisyas who represented the populace, which had property and were engaged in agriculture, pasture and trade and 3 Shudras representing the working class. (It appears that out of 21 members selected from the commonalty, vis, 18 headed the bureaus and were Vaisyas while 3 were from the workers.) In this normative pattern of a large council of ministers of the economic state, landlords and traders had a dominating position.
Earlier the commonalty had not been divided into two classes, Vaisyas and Shudras, and the total number of ministers was 33 of which 4 four belonged to the judiciary, 8 to the higher executive and 21 to the commonalty, to Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vis respectively. This was an adaptation of the Vedic pattern of thirtythree nobles (devas) governing the commonalty (manushyas).
Strength of the Ministry
Bhishma increased the representation of Kshatriyas from 8 to 18 and placed the 18 bureaus under them. His was a political state rather than an economic state. None of the above states was a theocratic state dominated by the religious orders. Kautilyan Arthasastra does not specify varna or class composition or prescribe the strength of the ministry.
The school of Pracetas Manu (author of an Arthasastra text), referred to as Manavas, recommended a cabinet of 12 ministers. The school of Brhaspati suggested a cabinet of 16 ministers and the school of Usanas a larger cabinet of 24. Kautilya allowed the king freedom to determine the strength of the ministry. A larger state would require a larger cabinet. But the larger council of ministers would have met only for specific purposes.
The four-point purity test and selection of officials
The King, the Rajapurohita and three or four ministers formed a Board for selection of amatyas from among those who had passed the 24-point test. The eligible candidates were subjected to a 4-point purity test.
The candidates who passed the piety (dharma) test were to be appointed as Dharmasthas, officers of the judiciary. They were in charge of investigation of crimes and removal of thorns, anti-social elements. They were also in charge of public institutions like temples, orphanages and rest houses. The candidates who passed the economy (artha) test were appointed as officials under the Samaharta and the Sannidhata, the two powerful ministers in charge of Internal Revenue and Treasury respectively. They had the rank of adhyakshas, heads of bureaus (tirthas).
The candidates who passed the lust (kama) test (that is were not given to lust) were placed in charge of recreation centres (vihars) in the rural hinterland (bahya) and in the interior centres of production (abhyantara). The candidates who passed the fear (bhaya) test were appointed to posts close to the king as security officers or as envoys. All the above four services belonged to the amatya cadre. It had three levels, lower, middle and higher.
The judiciary did not enjoy a special position. It was not superior to the other cadres of the bureaucracy engaged in supervising economic activities or organizing cultural activities or ensuring the security of the state. It was a part of the executive.
Selection of Cabinet Ministers by a Three-member Board
Only those candidates who had passed all the four tests, dharma, artha, kama and bhaya, could be appointed as cabinet ministers. They were expected to be pious and incorruptible, free from lust, competent, fearless, brave and loyal. They had to be from respectable families, which were native to the janapada. They could not be foreigners by birth.
Selection and testing of officials and secretaries of the state (amatyas) including officers of the judiciary (dharmasthas) for elevation to the posts of ministers (mantris) was done by a smaller board of three members, the King, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister. To be precise, Dharmasthas were executive magistrates rather than independent judges.
The King could not become an autocrat. Nor was he a powerless, ornamental head of the state. Unlike the earlier Rajarshi who was essentially a counsellor and not an executive, the Kautilyan King was an executive guided by the Rajapurohita on delicate issues and by the ministers (mantris) on other issues. However he could not overrule them. The Kautilyan King was more pragmatic and less idealistic than the earlier Rajarshi. The amatyas, officials, who failed the four-point test, were sent to the mines and remote areas (1-10-15). These areas were inhospitable. Inefficient persons were not recruited to the bureaucracy. But not all amatyas were honest.
Formation of Non-partisan Bureaucracy and Cabinet
Kautilya did not favour regimentation of thought and ideological obstinacy. The officials and ministers were not all from the same school of thought. Merit alone determined the choice of candidates as amatyas and their later elevation as ministers. This provision could not be set aside by the King or by the Rajapurohita. There could be no partisanship in the formation of cabinets or of the bureaucracy. The cabinet too was impersonal and non-partisan.
Kautilya knew that correct decisions could be arrived at only after weighing the merits and demerits of the different points of view and adopting Samkhya dialectics for this purpose.
The king used the intelligence bureaus and the secret agents to consolidate his position. These bureaus were statutory bodies and could not be used for any non-constitutional purpose. They were provided for by the constitution to protect the state against subversion and to enable the king to assess public opinion and mobilize support for his measures and run a responsible and responsive government. It was not a reign through open or secret terror. Kautilya called for abandoning the tendency to gather information through channels other than the ones that were so structured by the constitution as to provide objective and complete intelligence before launching a project. He also warned against badly structured agencies and against dependence on personal surmises including intuition.
The constitution required that the king should first secure the support of his own party (svapaksha) and also that of others (parapaksha) before he planned to embark on a work (karya) (1-15-1). This was a significant directive.
He was not permitted to rule without assistants. He could not become an autocrat. Whether he had been elected by a college of Rajanyas or by the taxpayers directly or had been nominated by his father as his successor, the king was the leader only of one of the groups in his country. He did not represent the entire nation.
The king had his rivals inside that group and opponents outside it. He had to first overcome this rivalry and opposition even if he had a popular mandate on account of his charisma. He had to establish that his was a government of all the people.
They had not elected him to head a one-party government or a minority government or even a majority government and certainly not an autocracy. All these types of government are distortions of democracy which requires a government of all the people for all the people by an executive that is non-partisan and reflects the interests and views of all sectors.
Rajan and Svami, Legitimacy Traditional and Charismatic
The king was not the state. As an anointed king (Rajan) or as the charismatic leader of the society (Svami) he was the head of only one of the seven units of the state. He was not the head of the other six state structures (prakrtis or angas) (amatyam, janapada, pura, kosha, sena and mitra, bureaucracy, rural administration, urban corporation, treasury, army and department of foreign relations). The Janapada administration was controlled by the Samaharta, the Treasury by the Sannidhata the fortified City by the Nagarika and the Army by the Senapati. Amatyam, the central executive, was under the control of the Mantriparishad, the council of ministers. In the Kautilyan scheme, the unit, Rajan, included the King, the Rajapurohita, the cabinet ministers, the institution of chakshus, observers (intelligence agencies), department of envoys, the crown prince and other princes and the queens. In the state headed by a Svami, the princes and the queens could not feature in this unit. The unit, Rajan, included all the members of the Electoral College of Rajanyas, giving the impression that it was a rivalry-ridden oligarchy rather than direct charismatic democracy.
Governance by Consensus
The Svami had no pretensions to traditional legitimacy. He was a charismatic leader and he too was required to gather the support of all groups in the social polity before embarking on any project. He had to ensure unanimous support by the leaders of all parties. It was not only a practical necessity but also a constitutional requisite. The departments of Intelligence, Vigilance and Propaganda were used to secure unanimous support for the project. None of the processes election or selection or nomination gave the ruler the right to execute any work as he pleased. He could not overrule the bureaucracy and the paura-janapada assemblies. (Paura-janapada assemblies were successors to sabhas and samitis of the Vedic times.) The native people (Vis, Jana) were sovereign.
Autocracy is illegitimate. Even rule by the majority is not legitimate. Only governance with the consent of all is legitimate. The Arthasastra recognizes the presence of several interest groups and grants them freedom of thought, expression and action. It does not accept governance by one party, even as it does not allow rule by one individual. Arthasastra visualizes governance by consensus.
Deliberations and Consultations
All undertakings should be preceded by discussions among and deliberations by ministers. The ministry could not be bypassed (1-15-2). It was not to be asked to only ratify the action taken by the king or his agent. The king might overrule it only at his own risk. He could not ignore it. He could not commence any new project until a ministry was formed and its consent taken. Of course, the executive could continue to complete the earlier projects. He could not modify these projects agreed to nor stop them. He could not embark on conquests. All these are implied in the terse formula, mantra purva sarva arambha. But such consultations had to be in complete secrecy (1-15-3). No unauthorized person should be present at the cabinet meetings. Any one who was found divulging secret counsel was liable to be exterminated. The issue of secrecy of counsel led to an interesting discussion among the leading political thinkers. They had to consider the size and functions of the cabinet committees.
Bharadvaja for a government by bureaucracy: No Cabinet
Bharadvaja held that as every minister had his personal counsellor, no project could be kept secret after discussions. He would hence suggest that the king deliberate alone. He dispensed with the small cabinet of counsellors (mantris). Consultations with ministers should not be mandatory, Bharadvaja held. Only those who were required to execute the work should be informed and that too when it was about to be begun (AS.1-15-13 to 15).
His king kept several plans close to his chest and was not candid. Bharata constitution was not as democratic as that of Prthu's. Bharata was controller of all and his rule was guided by the policy advocated by Rshabha which was accused of envisaging a totalitarian state. He distrusted the cabinet (of ministers), as it was not a responsible executive body. He preferred a government by amatyas (secretaries of state), ayuktas (commissioners appointed for specific duties) and sachivas (office secretaries) who were all executives. It is a misnomer to describe the ministry (cabinet of ministers) as the executive of the state. The bureaucracy run by amatyas, ayuktas and sachivas is the real executive. [Neither Dronacharya nor Kanika Bharadvaja seems to have taken such a position.]
VIsalaksha for large consultative Recommendatory Body
Visalaksha, the liberal thinker with an aristocratic temper, points out that the duties of the king are of three types, pratyaksha, paroksha and anumeya. Of these the first two were executive duties and were carried out with the assistance of sachivas, amatyas and other officials.
The cabinet was concerned with the new proposals that fell under the category, inferential (anumeya). It needed the advice of the elderly intellectuals. Only experienced and senior executives, amatyas could be promoted as ministers, mantris. All should be consulted for even youngsters might give valuable suggestions. He recommends a large consultative body concerned with plans for the future. Its suggestions would however be only recommendatory and not mandatory for the king to follow. With the sabha and the samiti in position, there was no need to have a separate ministry. Discussions in the house of nobles were confidential. But the samiti of intellectuals and elders was open to all.
Badarayana for secrecy of counsel: Mandatory
Badarayana and his colleagues, the school of Parasaras, were sore that Visalaksha had brushed aside the issue of guarding the confidentiality (rajaguhyam) of the counsel given by the ministers (mantrarakshanam) to the king and was projecting how valuable advice could be acquired as counsel (mantrajnanam) through wide consultations. Parasaras opted for a consultative committee deliberating on hypothetical steps rather than on the actual projects (which were being kept away from sight). They made it obligatory for the king to act according to the advice given by that committee. This would meet both objectives, mantrajnanam and mantrarakshanam (acquisition of counsel and confidentiality of counsel), they felt (23,24). The ministry could not be got rid of as no executive order would see the light even if it was not confidential, in the absence of recorded cabinet decisions though they were secret instructions. Confidentiality is necessary but not for covering arbitrary and unwise decisions taken by the king.
Pisuna for full Cabinet Discussions and Mandatory Decisions
Pisuna objected to hypothetical steps and wanted the actual projects to be deliberated by the cabinet committee so that counsel could be fruitful (mantrasiddhi) and also remain confidential. Pisuna made its decisions binding on the king. The cabinet would plan and decide what are to be done and how. The king had to get them executed (30,31).
Kautilya modifies Pisuna's suggestions: No fixed Cabinet
Kautilya accepted Pisuna's stand but with certain amendments. There would be only ad hoc committees of cabinet ministers and no fixed cabinet. He sets aside the convention by which the king was guided (or controlled) by a cabinet of eight ministers. Each project would be considered by a committee comprising the king and the ministers concerned. Kautilya however outlaws autocracy. Ministers are necessary and consultations with them are mandatory. The king should consult at least three ministers to be able to avoid collision as well as collusion between ministers. He shall not act alone (33, 34, 35).
Elected Svami and Nominated Counsellors
Kautilyas Prime Minister was only the most senior of the ministers. He had no special powers. The King was indeed a svami who had charismatic appeal and was a leader with personal lands and was not bound to any organization. The Svami was elected as ruler, directly by the taxpayers while the Prime Minister and other ministers were persons promoted from the cadre of amatyas who were bureaucrats. The cabinet committee would represent different points of view. All the members would rarely unite against the king. If they did so it would amount to a great fault (mahadosham), a political calamity (39). He will have to go. Kautilya was for government by checks. Kautilya's was a multiparty government (to use modern terminology and concept). A cabinet should not become a cabal or a caucus overriding the head of the state, the only authority with a popular mandate. [The stereotype that hereditary monarchy was the norm needs to be discarded.] The ministers had not been elected to rule. They had been nominated to advise the king. A very large cabinet cannot be expected to arrive at a conclusion and to maintain secrecy of deliberations (40).
Kautilya's was a mega-state with many janapadas and with eighteen bureaus under amatyas and some directly under the king and with a separate judiciary. The latter too was an executive body and its members could be promoted to the cabinet of ministers.
Dharmasthas were on par with amatyas but their work could not be supervised by the cabinet. The constitution should not be too rigid. The king as the head of the state and its executive needs powers to deal with an emergency but these should not be used to defeat the purpose of the constitution or its spirit. Kautilya protects the authority of the king but does not allow him to become an autocrat. Kautilya and the other six statesmen, Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Badarayana (like Dvaipayana, a Parasara), Pisuna, Bhishma (Kaunapadanta) and Uddhava (Vatavyadhi) were discussing the provisions of a constitution that would enable the success of democracy. The king was the only authority with a popular mandate and he should not become a powerless presiding officer at the mercy of his shrewd ministers.
Thorough Consultations and Rational Planning: Artha-Yoga
Consultations with ministers have to be on specific issues. They are asked to give their views on (a) the means to be adopted for commencing the work; (b) the human and material resources needed to complete it; (c) when and where to execute the work; (d) remedial steps to be taken in case of mishaps; and (e) when the work shall be deemed to have been completed. Kautilya was more thorough as an economic planner, than Pisuna was. It was total and rational planning for he applied the principles of samkhya dialectics to determine what could be deemed to be meaningful economic exercise (artha-yoga).
Cabinet as the Planning Council and Executive of Experts
Kautilya was not satisfied with merely securing endorsement of the cabinet committee for the pious (dharma) objectives of the king. The cabinet had to prepare and sanction the budget and raise and make available the funds needed for the execution of the projects approved.
It was mandatory for every member of the committee to express his opinion on the proposal with reasons (not merely voting for or against) and for the committee as a whole to give its collective opinion with reasons (even as a bench of the judiciary does). The members of the cabinet were experts trained in samkhya and yoga even as the Rajarshi was. Kautilya's was not a government dominated by crude and uneducated warlords. Kautilya was against suppression of dissidence. He respected the democratic spirit of Visalaksha.
Constitution to fix powers and Duties of individual Ministers
But he did not allow dilatory tactics. The deliberations should be quick and thorough and be gone through before the commencement of the work. The ministers could not take things lightly (1-15-46). Kautilya wanted the powers and duties of the ministers to be specified in the constitution.
None could escape under the cover of collective responsibility. None was exempt or immune, not even the king. [Vena had been impeached and burnt to death. His successor, Prthu, an agriculturist chieftain, was required to function under a new constitution approved by Manu Vaivasvata and his council of seven sages.] The king headed an impersonal government. The ministers were not political chieftains. They were experts in their respective fields. They had controlled the bureaucracy from within. They arose from within that bureaucracy through sheer merit, hard work and wide experience to become members of the highest planning council and executive of their state.
Duties of the non-partisan council of ministers
The Kautilyan constitution directs (as suggested by Manu Vaivasvata) that the council of ministers shall consider the views of the king’s supporters (svapaksha) and those of others (parapaksha) (51). The state has to be non-partisan. [Majority rule is not what is meant by democracy.] The ministry shall (a) cause to be initiated what has not yet been done and (b) get executed what has already been begun. It shall (c) improve what has already been done and (d) supervise the excellence of the works already undertaken (52).
It is not enough to have a social welfare state. The state has to be committed to and be capable of ensuring the economic progress of the society. The Kautilyan council of ministers has to supervise the work of the executive and ensure that the projects approved by it or by its predecessors are completed. The council of ministers has to keep the king in check and the executive on its toes. The state is a continuing entity, though governments are temporary. Successor governments cannot retract on projects commenced by their predecessors. Every successor government shall endeavour to be seen as a better executive than the previous one and not as one who merely 'demolishes' what its predecessor has done. [Bali's successors had an onerous task for he was very popular though his government was overthrown for distorting the constitution. The distortions had to be corrected by his successor government.]
Work of the Cabinet Committees
Every project is preceded by deliberations at the meetings of duly formed committees. It cannot be a partisan project. These were ad hoc committees and not standing executive committees. They prepared the budget, outlined the details and showed how to mobilize the resources needed. The plan was placed before the council of ministers, Mantriparishad, and the latter got it executed by the bureaucracy headed by the amatyas.
The king as the head of the executive shall have the power to inspect the works under progress (53). No minister could interfere in the work of another minister. The king had to correspond with the officials not present at the project site before giving directions for corrective measures deemed necessary by him (54).
The king, the head of the state, was not a non-entity with respect to the functioning of the bureaucracy. Experts manned the bureaucracy and it gave stability to the state. It checked the waywardness of the king and his cronies. It had to be treated with respect even as it had to treat the king with respect. Hindu State was far more advanced and rational than stereotypes have made it out to be. It was definitely not in favour of autocracy.
Recommendations of Bahudantakam
Bahudantakam, the politico-economic code outlined by an Indra (who was the son of Bahudanti, the lady with prominent teeth), made it obligatory for the ruler to have a large council of scholars and accept its opinions. This council had about a thousand members who were observers, Chakshus, gathering data for the perusal of the king and his ministers. [This was similar to the one suggested by Visalaksha who too was an author of a political treatise. Visalaksha was a champion of the liberal Kshatriya aristocracy.] But in fact the ruler followed the recommendations of his two eyes. He went by verified facts and empiricism and not by intuition. The recommendations of the large samiti had no mandatory force. But the observations and reports, which the two ministers in charge of the economy, Samaharta and Sannidhata, submitted were more valuable, Indra held. These could not be bypassed. This Indra was the tutor of Mamdhata, the veteran of the solar dynasty.
Kautilya had his reservations on this suggestion. The two ministers, samaharta and sannidhata, often complained against each other and the King had to support the Sannidhata who was in charge of the central treasury against Samaharta, the minister for internal revenue, who was found to often fail in his duty and thereby cause loss to the exchequer. The constitution provided for an academy of scholars to formulate policies and to assess public opinion and trends. But its recommendations were not binding on the king. Kautilya did not discard the traditional council of sages, samiti, and he could not wind up the house of nobles (sabha). Kautilya's Institution of Spies, Chakshus, was in fact a modified version of the council of scholars (samiti). But it became infamous as many kings misused it to secure power and personal wealth.
On important issues the king had to convene a meeting of cabinet ministers and the larger council of ministers (AS.1-15-58). This council might have more than 24 members (allowed by Usanas) heading the different bureaus, the independent ones and those directly under the king.
There was a four-tier set-up: small ad hoc cabinet committees; cabinet ministers who were not heads of bureaus; council of ministers including the amatyas who were heads of bureaus; and academy of scholars. The academy was convened to get general guidance, assess public response and expectations. The council of ministers had to lay down policies and the king had to abide by the opinion of the majority of this council. It was like an assembly sanctioning budgets. But it could not introduce new laws. It was called in for deliberating on important issues like war, revolt and calamities. But it could not declare war.
Cabinet decisions had to be unanimous. The cabinet too had experts who might hold divergent views. They were called in for crystallizing and execution of important plans. The small ad hoc committees dealt with immediate issues and those on which there were no controversies. The king had little leeway. He had to function within this framework.
Independence of the Council of Ministers
A project once sanctioned by the council of ministers and commenced by the executive could not be called off by any subsequent resolution of the council. But if it failed to give a direction at a moment of crisis, the king could act independently.
The king was responsible for maintenance of secrecy of deliberations and for the security of the state (60). The ministers reserved the right not to give any opinion, if in their view the incumbent king did not deserve to be a ruler (61). The refusal of the experts to give an opinion indicated lack of confidence in him. Silence meant an emphatic no.
The council of ministers was not constituted at the king's pleasure and he could not dissolve it. It was constituted by a committee of three, the Rajapurohita the Rajarshi and the Prime Minister. Its refusal to endorse his proposal meant that he had to step down or be thrown out. There is no rational legitimacy for the continuance in power of a king who does not enjoy the support of his council of ministers, which is a continuing entity of non-partisan experts, though the people might have elected him because of his charisma.
Hereditary monarchy was not the norm. It rarely survived two or three generations and when it did so it was because it was backed by the charisma of its incumbents. Hereditary monarchy was not as widely prevalent as presumed by modern Indologists. This leads to the issue of selection of the successor.
Choice of Successor: Need for Rational Legitimacy
However charismatic a king was and however strong his claim to traditional legitimacy was, the king had to function within the bounds prescribed by the constitution, as Rajamaryada. It was a corollary to his official duties, Rajavrtti. The king was not divine. He was not almighty. He was not always able to determine who his successor should be and when he should take over. Interregnum was not rare. The king was not the state. The bureaucracy and the ministry continued to function even during the interregnum. The king needed rational legitimacy to stay in power though personal charisma got him the throne or his fathers did. Neither hereditary monarchy nor the law of primogeniture was common. Traditional legitimacy was weak and could not be pressed forcefully in the absence of personal charisma. Victory in war did not grant legitimacy to the rule by the conqueror. Countries and thrones could not be sold or surrendered. Most modern Indologists have failed to recognize this feature of ancient Indian polity.
Safety of the ruler and the rebellious princes
Bharadvaja was against institutionalizing hereditary monarchy, a malignant growth in the body politic. He wanted the janakas to be elected directly by the sons of the soil, the native population, jana, who were mostly agriculturists (1-17-5). He would exterminate the ambitious rebellious princes even before the king intervened. The political counsellor, Rajapurohita, of Chakravarti Bharata, argued that needs of the state should have precedence over filial bond.
But Visalaksha, teacher of Bharata's mother, warned against the extinction of the Kshatriya seed that Bharadvaja’s move was leading to (1--17-8). Visalaksha would rather intern the rebellious prince. Varuna was the ombudsman and also the officer in charge of the prison during the Vedic times. But Parasara cautioned that this handing over of the prince to the custody of Varuna, the ombudsman who took over the reins of the country during the interregnum, might result in the overthrow of the king in a coup and scuttle the smooth transfer of power to the elected successor. He would send the rebellious prince away to the fort of the governor of the frontier region (antapala) (1-17-11).
[This scholar must have endorsed the banishment of the Pandavas (sons of Pandu) to the forest garrison. An attempt was made by their rivals to burn them with that building but with the help of their uncle, Vidura, the Pandavas escaped. Only later did Dvaipayana (a Parasara) learn of their escape and their presence in the abode of the Saligrama sage in the no-mans land.]
Pisuna would send away the rebellious prince to be restrained by a distant and subordinate ally (samanta) of the ruler (1-17-14). Pisuna himself had been sent away by Bharata to Sindhudvipa with such a rebel (Samvarana). Pisuna had been the finance minister of Dushyanta, father of Bharata.
Bhishma (Kaunapadanta) would send that prince to his maternal uncles (1-17-17). [Dasaratha of Kosala sent away his son, Bharata, to his uncle in Kekaya.] Uddhava (Vatavyadhi) would advise the king against this move, as the uncles would espouse that prince’s claims and hamper the selection of a proper successor. He would allow the rebellious prince to dissipate himself in lowly pleasures (1-17-21).
Kautilya for Positive Training for the Successor
The above crude alternative appalled Kautilya. He objected to casting the prince to living death (1-17-22). Kautilya was for a positive training for princes and for all officials. The prince is to be placed under the care of the Rajapurohita from his birth. The Ambhiyas (the school in which Bhishma was trained) recommended a dual policy. They would allow the prince to come in contact with both virtues and vices and choose by himself between good and evil. Kautilya objected to exposing one deliberately to evils and wanted training be given only in dharma and artha and not exposure to adharma and anartha, immorality and economic ruin (1-17-33).
He rejected the approach of Bharadvaja and amended that of Visalaksha. Many princes revolted against their fathers and usurped the throne. Even if the rebellious prince is the only son, he must be imprisoned (1-17-41). If a prince has noble traits, he may be appointed as a general or as a crown prince. These were posts provided for in the constitution. They carried respect and also duties and powers. They were political assignments and had constitutional import. The king had to share with them some of his powers (43).
Three Types of Princes
Kautilya distinguishes three types of princes among his trainees. Some were wise and some could be made wise and some had evil intent. [Samkhya dialectics opted for trilateral analysis rather than for simplistic dichotomy.] By the term, buddhiman, Kautilya meant those who would under all circumstances adhere to what was being taught as the socio-cultural and politico-economic codes, Dharmasastra and Arthasastra. Some do not always adhere to these and they can be made to adhere to them. They can be brought back when they stray from the right path. Those of the third type are always harmful. They are essentially after low pleasures and are hedonists (1-17-46). The people should get at least the second best as their ruler.
The Functions of the Three-member Selection Board
The incumbent king, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister formed a board of three members, which selected the successor from among the princes and other eligible candidates. A minister too could take over as the King if the Board decided so. There is no absolute (so-called divine) right to inherit the throne. Only if a son was assessed to be suitable, he would be allowed to head the state (or the family) after his father's death or retirement.
The law of primogeniture was not in force even in the ordinary family. It is academically unsound to hold every attempt by a minister or by the general or by a subordinate ruler or fief to take over power as an attempt at usurping the throne or to describe any prince other than the eldest as a pretender. It is necessary to examine whether the successor had the necessary rational legitimacy under the conventions laid down in the constitutions of ancient India.
Kautilya's solution tried to avoid interregnum, which was a nightmare to the people. One who was duly appointed as crown prince would succeed on the king’s death or retirement. The crown prince was not necessarily a son or a brother of the incumbent king.
The academicians who were in charge of training of the candidates would have rejected the undesirable ones and recommended a small panel from which the Crown Prince would be selected. The Board of three members could consider not only the then incumbents sons but also his brothers and their sons who too had undergone this training and also any commoner who had been trained. The king-to-be would not be elected by his peers or directly by those who paid taxes but would be selected from this panel of trained candidates after receiving the recommendations of the head of the state academy.
The institution of Chakshus (spies, in common parlance) had a role to play in preparing confidential reports about the candidates. Election by peers resulted in violent struggles and disturbance of law and order. Election by the masses or by the taxpayers demanded charisma or economic means which both did not guarantee that the candidate elected would be competent to lead the country.
Hereditary Monarchy and Kautilya's Recommendation
Hereditary monarchy was not prescribed but it was not debarred. It was neither mandatory nor recommended. Yet it was preferred. If the king died without a son approved to succeed him, the queen was permitted to bear a son for him by niyoga, intercourse with a brother of the deceased or another nominated person. Or the son of his daughter could succeed. Such successor must be found suitable to be the ruler. Kautilya did not extend this proviso to other domestic situations for succession to property or repayment of debts. Inheriting the throne was not the same as inheriting property.
The debates between Kautilya and his contemporaries rose from the political situation of their times. Kautilya recommended a better alternative in 1-17-53. The kingdom should belong to a clan, family-oligarchy, kula samgha. All the brothers (dayadas) would be joint rulers. Such samghas could not be conquered easily.
Duties of the Crown Prince and the Constitution
The constitution did not specify the duties of the Crown Prince and other princes. The king could not delegate any of his powers to them or assign them any duty as he pleased. This lacuna led to conflicts.
Kautilya recognized the need to specify their powers and duties. It meant abridging the powers of the king and assigning some of them to the Crown Prince. This led to dyarchy, governance by two almost equal authorities, dvairajyam. The evil of autocracy could be curbed by the move to get the eldest son installed as the Crown Prince. A recalcitrant son may be exterminated or allowed to dissipate himself, Kautilya concedes but not a duteous one. Life tenure for the king had created more problems than limited tenures that often brought in interregnum, which was near-anarchy. (1-18-14,15,16) The epics and chronicles of Ancient India cite several situations when there was interregnum and anarchy.
Stability of the State
It may be noted here that the commoners expected the members of the ruling dynasty or oligarchy to be staid and function in the interest of the subjects. But it often got embroiled in internal rivalries that threatened the sovereignty and integrity of the state.
Even selected and trained rulers could not maintain the dignity of the post of the Rajarshi. Not only young and ambitious princes but also obstinate, aged rulers who refused to step down were to be blamed for the woes of their subjects. Thinkers like Kautilya tried to introduce structural reforms in the Rajarshi constitution to ensure continuity in administration despite the weaknesses rulers and officials suffered from and succumbed to.
Kautilyan Reforms and Correction of Dysfunctions of the Constitutents of the State: Rajavyasana and Rajyavyasana
Manusmrti (IX-294) treats all the seven units (angas, organs) as together constituting Rajyam (kingdom, state). The seven units are svami, amatya, pura, rashtra, kosa, danda and suhrta (well-wisher). Arthasastra names these seven and adds amitra. It retains the term, Rajyam to refer to the five internal constituents (dravya-prakrtis related to acquisition and protection of wealth), amatya, janapada, durga, kosa and danda. It is necessary to first arrive at a correct appraisal of the structural traits of every one of these units or constituents before tracing the reforms introduced by Kautilya.
Rajavyasana and Rajyavyasana
Rajavyasana, affliction of the king (as often vaguely translated), is the situation created when the constituent, Rajaprakrti is not properly organized. Rajaprakrti included the King, the Rajapurohita, the Prime Minister, the Crown Prince and other princes, the queens, the departments of intelligence and the department of envoys. Rajavyasana leads to the failure of Rajasampada, the structure of the Rajaprakrti. This constitutional failure leads to the other constituents of the state (prakrtis) too being afflicted causing Rajyavyasana, characteristic of a sick state.
Arthasastra Bk.8 Ch.1. deals with the imperfect Rajyaprakrti, and its impact on the Rajaprakrti. It scrutinizes the views of the six schools on the afflictions experienced by the constituents in the context of inter-state relations. Where more than one constituent of a state is afflicted, it has to be examined whether its leaders should adopt an aggressive policy or a defensive one.
Policies, Daiva and Manushya: Elite and Commonalty
Aya and Anaya, Naya and Apanaya
Kautilya, who applies Samkhya dialectics, states that the calamity itself is because of the defective policy adopted either by the elite (daiva, often wrongly treated as divine) or by the commoners (manushya). A wrong policy adopted by the elite or affecting it is termed anaya and a good one with respect to the elite is termed aya. A good policy adopted by the commoners or in their interests is called naya and a bad one adopted by them or with respect to them is called apanaya. [Indologists of the 20th century have failed to grasp the significance of this analysis.] The Acharya adopts the simple formula that calamities befalling the constituents are to be rated as serious in their order of enumeration, svami, amatya, janapada, durga, kosa, danda and mitra. Other thinkers had their reservations on this. Kautilya refutes them.
Bharadvaja and Kautilya
Bharadvaja draws attention to the duties of the amatyas in the svami-prakrtisampada (the political structure headed by the svami who was not necessarily a king but was the charismatic head of the state). They were incorporated in the Arthasastra, politico-economic constitution, prepared after discussion by the thinkers. He felt that if the Kautilyan scheme was taken to its logical conclusion, the head of the state would be but a titular head with all powers vested in the ministers and all responsibilities devolving on the executives, amatyas.
In Kautilyan Prakrtisampada (structure of constituents as in Arthasastra) as distinct from the Rajasampada (monarchical structure as in Dharmasastra), the ministers were included in the amatyaprakrti and not in the svamiprakrti, Bharadvaja interpreted. They were not nominees of the king but were promoted from among the amatyas, the bureaucrats. Hence if in a state there is no amatyaprakrti, bureaucracy, or if it does not function effectively, the administration will collapse and the king will become vulnerable to intrigues endangering his life, Bharadvaja fears.
Kautilya points out that Bharadvaja has not understood his scheme correctly. Kautilya had not advocated a mere titular head of the state. The right to appoint ministers (mantris), the Rajapurohita and the heads of bureaus (adhyakshas) still vested in the king. Of course, he has to follow the procedure and not his pleasure. It was a civil state and not feudal despotism. The king also looks after remedial measures to be taken when the personnel (purusha) and the constituents of the state in charge of its wealth, dravya-prakrtis (amatyam, janapada, durga, kosa and danda) are afflicted by calamities. Kautilya had amended the traditional Rajarshi constitution. In Kautilya's scheme, the Rajapurohita is no longer in charge of this department. It has been taken over by the king who alone enjoys charismatic legitimacy, i.e. support of all the sections of the population. Also he has the right to remove the amatyas who do not function properly. He continues to enjoy the powers to reward the deserving and punish the erring officials. (He however could not dismiss the ministers.)
Amatyas answerable to the Svami
Bharadvaja, a conservative, did not favour the amatyas eclipsing or eroding the king's authority. Kautilya advocates responsible government through secretaries of state, amatyas, but they are not unaccountable to the head of the state. The latter however interfered only when necessary. Hence the Svamiprakrti must be well endowed and adequately empowered, so that the other constituents (their chiefs and personnel) functioned effectively (8-1-16). In Kautilya's view (8-1-18), the Svami is the koota-sthana of the prakrtis, that is, the point of convergence of the other constituents of the state. He holds that the rise or fall of the other constituents is correlated to the efficiency or inefficiency of the Svami, the charismatic head of the state (8-1-17). It is necessary to have a correct appreciation of the divergences in the approaches of Kautilya and Bharadvaja and other thinkers on the implications of the provisions of the new constitution they had agreed to.
Svami exercises power imperceptibly
The Svami is not visualized as a powerless head of the state or as a Purusha to whom, access is only through the official designated as Pracetas or Sannidhata or through the Prime Minister. However, the amatyaprakrti (bureaucracy) is authorized to regulate the other four prakrtis, janapada, durga or pura, kosa and danda. But the channels between the svami, the head of the state, and these constituents have not been closed. The svami has direct access to them and not a limited one or an indirect one as wrongly presumed by Bharadvaja.
Kautilya's Svami exercises real power but imperceptibly. He is not an autocrat. He exercises charismatic influence over all the constituents of the state, and not bureaucratic authority as the amatyas do. He was (often a rich landlord) elected directly by all the taxpayers and was the only authority with a popular mandate. [Of course, not all rulers were so elected.] The amatyas were however allowed to function freely within their respective jurisdictions and were not normally overruled. Kautilya's Svami oversees the affairs of the executive, being the chief executive of the state and does not merely preside over the meetings of the council of ministers. Bharadvaja’s doubts about the relations between the svami and the amatyas are thus removed. [Bharadvaja was the counsellor of Bharata who was an outstanding charismatic ruler.]
Visalaksha and Kautilya
Visalaksha expresses concern over the difficulties experienced by the rural administration Janapada. The treasury, army, mines (that is, the industrial sector), labour, transport and the central warehouse, all depend on the janapada, he notices (20). Kautilya had brought, agriculture, pastoral lands and traditional trade and also the industries and the industrial workers and those who provided transport facilities under the administration of the expanded janapada. Bharadvaja, Visalaksha and the other thinkers were aware of his schemata and the features of the new janapada and the reorganization of the economy as well as of the bureaucracy and the judiciary proposed by Kautilya. They were his contemporaries and were involved in the drafting of the politico-economic constitution of the mega-state, incorporated in the Arthasastra. Only if this factor is recognized it would be possible to present Kautilya’s policy correctly.
Kautilya abolishes autonomous city and regional boards
Visalaksha is impressed by Kautilya’s proposals. He points out that since the expectations from the janapada are very high and varied, if the administration of the janapada is weakened, both the Svami and the amatyas (that is, both the head of the state and the members of the central executive) would become powerless. He felt concern as Kautilya had abolished the autonomous paura and janapada assemblies that were in charge of urban and rural administration respectively and vested the governance of the city and the rural areas in commissioners drawn from the amatya cadre.
Kautilya had appointed a new Board of three dharmasthas (judges) and three amatyas (secretaries of the state) to deal with civil and economic disputes. The amatyas so appointed were nominees of the king. Though they were natives of the janapada, they were not elected representatives. It is not democracy enough, complains the liberal democrat, Visalaksha. (This democrat had an aristocratic temper and was condescending to the poor. Many who claim to be democrats are boors.) He insists that the wishes of the people be honoured even as their interests are guarded.
Bureaucracy too a Representative Body
Kautilya gently points out that it is not proper to underestimate the role of the amatyas, for it is they who initiate all the works. Though a project is formally placed before the council of ministers (mantriparishad) by the king for deliberation and sanction, in practice it is the amatyaprakrti (bureaucracy), which begins all the works by first placing before the king the need for launching that project.
It is a bureaucracy that is responsive to the needs of the people though it is not a representative body like the paura or janapada assembly. Similarly successful completion of the works (karmasiddhi) of the janapada depends on the commissioners. The executive is the real representative of the people, Kautilya implies. [The paura and the janapada assemblies were dominated by traders and landlords respectively. They were economic captains and feudal chiefs who had no popular mandate, Kautilya knew.]
Status, Duties and Functions of the Bureaucracy Redefined
Kautilya draws attention to the redefined functions of the bureaucrats. The amatyas have to provide the means for yogakshema, protection of the efforts undertaken both on the king’s (svami’s) lands (svabhumi) and on the lands of others, that is, of private citizens (parabhumi). They have to also take remedial measures in case of natural calamities. The king had assumed personally the responsibility for ensuring that these measures were taken by the amatyas. These fell under paroksha category of the king’s duties, rajavrtti. The amatyas were not looking after the king’s affairs only.
Kautilya had to explain that the amatyas were a constituent of the civil state accountable to the people and not the king’s agents as in a feudal state. The entire project of settlement on open lands (sunyanivesa) had been entrusted to the amatyas who were bureaucrats. Earlier, it was unplanned and whoever took forcible possession of them could not be evicted and their presence there could not but be validated by law. The amatyas had to end this law of the jungle. The people could not end it by themselves.
Kautilya implied that the amatyas who belonged to the civil services protected the interests of the commoners against the powerful feudal lords who took illegal possession of open lands. [The terse statements convey more than what transliterations effected by Shama Sastri, Kangle and others do.] [Settlement of the discrete individuals and nomadic groups in the open areas retrieved from the feudal lords who had annexed them by force in the absence of any state machinery exercising control over them was necessary, Krshna felt, as pointed out by me in my thsis, Krshna’s Bhagavad-Gita as Rajavidya.]
Devolution of Power to Amatyaprakrti, Bureaucracy
Further, magisterial authority to punish (danda) the guilty, the power to collect taxes and also the power to remit taxes have been delegated to them by the king. They have been included under the paroksha category of king’s duties (rajavrtti) and not under the pratyaksha, his direct duties. It was a major devolution of powers incorporated in the constitution, Kautilya points out to Visalaksha and others. The king was not an autocrat despite his immense popularity and mandate. There was devolution of powers to the trained amatyas, the real representatives of the people of the janapada and not concentration of all powers in the hands of the Svami. The term, kootasthana has to be interpreted correctly. Visalaksha and other thinkers had to realize that Kautilya did not advocate centralization of powers or dictatorship.
If Visalaksha slyly implies that the amatyaprakrti (the executive), though seemingly powerful, is not a representative body of the people and is not free to act by itself and therefore lacks autonomy, Kautilya denies it is so. Kautilya emphasizes its vast authority and autonomy. Hence, if this prakrti were incapacitated (either by autocracy or by irresponsible democracy which is in fact surrender to plutocrats and feudal lords who control the paura and janapada assemblies), the janapada would come to grief and along with it the entire state. Thus Kautilya allays the fears of Visalaksha about erosion of democracy by bureaucracy. The amatyas were from the upper strata, abhjata, whose elitist culture was upheld by Visalaksha, the democrat. [Democracy did not spring from the commonalty.]
The Parasaras and Kautilya
The Parasaras were disturbed that Kautilya had degraded the importance of durga, the fort. The durga-rashtra or pura-rashtra or paura-janapada was the traditional system of governance. It gave prominence to the fortified capital and the metropolis and treated the rural hinterland with derision. Some modern writers have held urbanization as a sign of civilization and have looked down on rural areas and agriculture. The treasury and the army were traditionally located in the forts and the people took refuge there when attacked. The fort was a stronger power than the paura-janapada (championed by Visalaksha) and was of assistance in defence.
The Parasaras (Dvaipayana and his colleagues) exhibit their lack of faith in the masses when they argue that the janapadas treat both the king and the enemy on par. [Nationalism that is championed by the king stationed in the fortified capital does not receive a favourable response among the rural masses who are the natives of the janapada. In other words, according to the Parasaras, nationalism and patriotism, which charismatic leaders invoke, are not native to the janapada or rashtra. These concepts are upheld only by the feudal lords stationed in the forts and by the urban patriciate.]
Kautilya provides separate administrations for fort and city
The Parasaras were not impressed by the Kautilyan scheme to make the new janapada the pivot of the new economic state. Bharadvaja was a radical conservative while Visalaksha was a liberal aristocrat and democrat, an elitist. The Parasaras were however champions of feudalism. They might not have objected to treating the paura-janapada as a single unit and to separating the administration of the fort (durga) from that of the capital (nagara, pura) as proposed by Kautilya. Kautilya sought to bring the city (pura) closer to the janapada.
But Kautilya’s plan to establish a charismatic relationship between the Svami and the people is not likely to succeed, they argue. After all, wars are between kings and if the masses remain indifferent to the fortunes of the feuding warlords, they cannot be blamed. The masses do not care who rules them as long as they get their minimum needs, especially food, met. Hence, for the Svami, the fort will be more useful and it should not be neglected, the Parasaras argue. They too do not stand for hereditary monarchy or for a king, Rajan, from the patriciate. They accept the proposal to have Svami, a charismatic ruler with a popular mandate.
Resurgence and the features of the New Janapada
Kautilya thereupon takes pains to clear the doubts regarding the features of the new janapada. The forts, the treasury, the army, the bridges and dams (setu) and normal economic activities (varta) have their roots (mula) in the janapada he says (8-1-29). It is the people of the janapada who contribute to valour (the army ranks), firmness, alacrity and plenty. Kautilya decries transregional warrior-groups and intellectuals who disdained being attached to the soil. He has faith in the janapada, the predominantly rural masses. He plans to check migration of groups whether workers or intellectuals or soldiers, for feudalism thrived on this migration and availability of mercenaries. It is among the masses the manpower necessary for defence and civil administration has to be searched for. Even the amatyas and ministers are from within the janapada, though from its elite. [Nationalism, according to Kautilya, is not feudalism. It reflects self-confidence.]
Janapada as the backbone of the national economy
The janapada, that is, the rural area, is the backbone of the national economy and it provides the surplus needed for building a strong state headed by a commoner who is a charismatic leader with a popular mandate. Kautilya cautions the Parasaras that the demography of the new state should not be ignored. The forts are situated on the mountains and the people live in the plains. In an agrarian country, absence of forts is a handicap, he agrees. In a janapada of warrior-groups, absence of a large agrarian population will be a handicap. The new janapada, Kautilya explains, will have both agrarian tracts and mountainous and forest areas. Its economy depends on the surplus from the newly irrigated lands. Hence any calamity befalling it will be more harmful than the weaknesses in the fortification.
Pisuna and Kautilya: Importance of Economic Power
Pisuna was the finance minister of Dushyanta but had to go on exile after Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Sakuntala, took over power. Sakuntala belonged to the school of Visalaksha. She was a daughter of Visvamitra who was a colleague of Vasishta and Bharadvaja. Bharadvaja became the counsellor of Bharata. Visvamitra was a supporter of Bharata. Parasara was a disciple of Vasishta who was bete noire of Visvamitra. Pisuna, using Kautilya’s own arguments, claimed that the treasury, kosa, was more important than the fort or the janapada, the mitra or amitra (34).
Pisuna took note of Kautilya's amended scheme of eight prakrtis, constituencies, which were to be taken into account while dealing with interstate relations in the circle of states. Not only, the friend but the unfriendly neighbour too was to be taken note of as a factor pertaining to the political structure of the state. Pisuna gives the utmost importance to the wealth in the treasury. Economic power can control all these constituents, prakrtis. Even maintenance and protection of the fort need money.
Kautilya's new settlement policy
Pisuna draws attention to the new settlement policy of Kautilya. It involved migration (desantarita) of large groups. They had to be encouraged through subsidies. Pisuna does not get carried away by Kautilya’s claim that he was encouraging formation of new nation-states with the janapadas being administered by amatyas drawn from the janapada itself and not from a transregional pool and that he encouraged regional troops. Pisuna was a free-lancer and was not attached to any particular state (rajya) or nation (rashtra) or region (desa). Kautilya had to resettle vast sections of the population and had not approved the concept of ethnicity or the sons of the soil. Pisuna too did not endorse such a concept. Kautilya preferred to be pragmatic while Pisuna insisted on abandoning the very concept of regional loyalty or sub-nationalism.
Kautilya rejects Pisuna's demand for decentralized financing
Kautilya had introduced the institution of military police (dandabala vyavahara) to control crimes. This needed finance. He had proposed to divert internal production economy from the fortified towns to the new industrial centres in the hinterland. He also planned a network of army camps, which did not depend exclusively on the forts. Why should he then keep the treasury in the fort? Pisuna feared that all the projects would suffer, if the fort with the treasury in it fell to the enemy.
Pisuna demands a decentralized system of financial operations. But Kautilya does not yield. That, he knows, would mean handing over the surplus to the bankers. The treasury would not be under the state if Pisuna’s scheme of granting it the status of an autonomous corporation superior to all other constituents of the state (except the Svami and the amatyaprakrti) were accepted.
Kautilya's support for governance from the fort
Kautilya wants a huge reserve fund and is against transferring control over it from the state to private bankers. The fort is under the army and under the direct control of the Svami. It is the headquarters of his personal troops, svadanda, and abode of the loyalists, svapaksha. The treasury and the army are dependent on the control exercised from the fort. It was the defence capital of the new state and not a mere garrison. (Kautilya’s was not a garrison state as most feudal setups were.)
Kautilyan state had forts not only in the centre of the janapada but also along the borders. One of them housed the main treasury. The allies were received in the forts and the troops of the rival confederation (chakra) of states and forest tribes were controlled from there. Kautilya refuses to move the treasury away from the fort lest it should fall to the enemies. It is obvious, he says, that rulers, who are entrenched in forts, do not get exterminated at the hands of the enemies (8-1-40). Kautilya was not in favour of the fort-based feudal lords, but he did not overlook the importance of forts. Kautilya was suspicious of free economy and free banking that were encouraged by Pisuna.
Bhishma (Kaunapadanta) and Kautilya on a large army
Bhishma, himself a great general wonders whether the army has been given the least importance in the new Kautilyan constitution. Kautilya’s standing army, though drawn mainly from the Kshatriyas, was small. He depended more on war of nerves, mantrayuddha. Bhishma (Kaunapadanta, son of Santanu who was nicknamed Konapadanta, the crooked teeth) presents the view of the traditional school of Dandaniti. According to this view, control over the ally (mitra) and dominance over the non-ally (amitra) required that the Svami excelled in Danda, that is, had a strong army. [It is not sound to translate amitra as enemy. Ari denotes enemy.] He does not share Kautilya’s faith in the six-fold policy, shadgunyam, on which the conqueror, vijigishu, is asked to depend.
Dependence on statutory army, Dandabala vyavahara
Bhishma stresses that the state has to exercise coercive power to mobilise the troops of the subordinate autonomous chieftains (paradanda) and to deploy the king’s own troops (svadanda). Both Kautilya and Bhishma depended on Danda, the separate new command, which is statutory, unlike svadanda and paradanda, which were essentially private armies. Kautilya terms the statutory army or danda as dandabala vyavahara. (Military historians to note)
The new command coordinated the troops of all chieftains including those of the king’s personal contingents. If the central command is weak, the treasury will be lost Kaunapadanta warns (8-1-43) Kautilya and Pisuna. For both the treasury and the svadanda are located in the fort, which would easily fall if its forces are not trained and deployed properly. If danda, the central military command, is weak, the dhruva (central authority, capital, kootasthana) will be lost, Kaunapadanta cautions. He feels that the Kautilyan and Pisuna emphasis on economic power emanating from the treasury will be of no avail, in the absence of such a centralized political power.
Kootasthana: centre of the mega-state and Kootaniti
It is necessary here to add a note on the contextual background to this highly significant disputation on constitutional provisions, which have eluded the modern commentators and students of Ancient Indian History. These later scholars have been trying to outline ancient Indian polity along lines alien to ancient India. Kautilya advocated the policy of making the elected king (rajan) or the central charismatic ruler (svami) the point of convergence (kootasthana) of the constituents of the state. This was the original implication of the term Kootaniti. [This has later come to be interpreted as diplomacy and even as conspiratorial techniques adopted by cabals to acquire and retain power.]
This policy was a modification of the one advocated by the second Manu, Svarochisha. Kutastha Svarochisha implied that the king should not expand his powers internally or externally. It meant a static state. Does Bhishma imply that Dhruva lost power because in deference to the wishes of his grandfather, Manu Svayambhuva, he desisted from using danda, against the covetous plutocrats (yakshas) and plundering guards (rakshas) who had killed his brother, Manu Uttama?
Svayambhuva, Svarochisha and Uttama were the first, second and third incumbents to the post of Manu. Dhruva’s lineage ended with him though the sixth Manu, Chakshusha, and the Rajarshi of Anga were claimed to be his descendants. This weak Rajarshi was eased out by his son, Vena, who was later burnt to death in an agrarian revolt against his tyranny. The constitution under which Prthu, an agriculturist chieftain was installed as ruler revived the policy, which Manu Svarochisha had advocated.
The Prthu constitution limited state authority and outlawed autocracy. The king could not use state troops for his personal conquests. Did Kautilya endorse it? He could not have; neither Bhishma who advocated Rajadharma. Bharadvaja and the other statesmen including these two had assembled to discuss the issue of protection of princes and selection of the heir-apparent under a new constitution even while the de jure ruler was handicapped with several constituents of his state in distress and disarray. This factor has to be borne in mind while interpreting the stands of these great statesmen of the years preceding the Battle of Kurukshetra.
Bhishma for greater role for army in administration
Kautilya and Pisuna had insisted on the importance of artha and kosa, the economic means. Kaunapadanta (Bhishma) argued that the funds needed could be collected whenever necessary from the mines and the agricultural lands (bhumi) and also by plundering the lands of others, if one’s army was strong (8-1-44). (The state is amoral.) He was not totally ethical and did not deserve the enormous plaudit he was given during his life-time and later too.
Bhishma wanted that the army should play a greater role in the administration for the charismatic head of the state Svami. It should be a role on par with (sadharma) that of the amatyas, Kaunapadanta insisted. He was not for a military state. He however decried the subordination of the army to the civilian authority, the amatyas. (Bhishma’s ministry had 4 Brahmans, 18 Kshatriyas, 21 Vaisyas, 3 Shudras and one Suta who recorded the proceedings.) Kautilya thereupon defends his emphasis on kosa, treasury, which is the basis of the economic state. The army can be kept satisfied only through money, or it will desert and may even kill the Svami, Kautilya warns. He is against allowing the army to maintain its ranks by plundering mines and lands.
Kautilyan theory: economic determinism and military power
Kautilya then asserts his theory of economic determinism, which distinguishes him from the other political thinkers. He points out to the veteran statesman, Bhishma, that all good work, dharma and also pleasure, kama, need financial (artha) support (8-1-49). But he does not underestimate the importance of military power or overrate that of economic power. It depends on place, time and work (karya) whether kosa or danda, treasury or army, has to be given primacy.
Kautilya was never dogmatic. He was pragmatic. The treasury is the reserve of the surplus of the economy. While the army protects the gains to the treasury, the officials of the treasury protect the gains of the treasury and also those of the army. Not all gains are from war and conquest. Kautilya was not a warmonger.
Bhishma: equal status and power for army and bureaucracy
The treasury puts all dravyas, i.e. all the five dravyaprakrtis, (the five internal constituents collectively known as rajyam) to useful work. In other words, the economic policies laid down by the officers of the treasury have to be followed by the officials belonging to all the five constituents (amatyam, janapada, durga, kosa and danda, bureaucracy, rural administration, fortified capital, treasury and army). The treasury was in the hands of the powerful minister, sannidhata, who controlled taxation, expenditure, mines, mint, currency and banking. [Pisuna had occupied such a position under Dushyanta and Vidura under Dhrtarashtra and Pandu.] However, Kautilya is silent on Kaunapadanta’s demand that danda, the central military command, should have power and status equal (sadharma) to the amatyas, the civilian authority. He silently rejects it.
Kautilya for civilian control over army
Kautilya wants civilian control over the army to continue. This system had been introduced by the Indra-Brhaspati agreement I have pointed out while describing the Atharvan polity. Brhaspati gave equal importance to economy and political and military control (varta and danda). [The reader may visualize the implications of this disputation for the modern scenario.] Kautilya was for a civilian economic state and did not advocate a military state or militarism. [He would not free the defence services from accountability to the civil state.]
Vatavyadhi (Uddhava) and Kautilya: The role of the Ally
Traditional Dandaniti had given the ally (mitra) a respectable and important position in the constitution of the state. (Its significance has eluded modern political grammarians tutored in European constitutions.) His presence as one of the essential constituents of the state gave military and diplomatic advantages to the Svami, the charismatic head of the state. The ally far from encroaching on the sovereignty (svamitva) of the Svami, over his territory, by being present at the high deliberations the latter held with his counsellors, enhanced it. Kautilya however kept him at a distance to reduce the scope for his interference in the internal affairs of the state.
The Ally and Svami as Vijigishu: Sovereign as Conqueror
Vatavyadhi did not have a correct appreciation of the inter-state relations that were based on the mandala scheme (circle of five states, svami, ari, mitra, madhyama and udasina) and the six-fold policy (shadguna: samdhi, vigraha, asana, yana, samsraya and dvaidhibhava) and alliances. Uddhava (Vatavyadhi) thought that the conqueror, vijigishu, (the charismatic leader, svami, who tried to enhance his prestige through conquests), would be able to secure financial, military and territorial aid from the ally and that if the latter was handicapped, the vijigishu, would be put to loss. Hence the troubles of the ally were more serious than the weaknesses of the Svami’s own army, he argued. (8-1-53,54)
It may be noted that among all these political thinkers, Uddhava (Vatavyadhi) alone was discussing the issue of Svami as Vijigishu and the need for a political and military ally. The others did not concern themselves with the policy adopted by the nation-state on inter-state affairs and issues pertaining to peace and war.
Ally kept away from internal unrest
Kautilya clarifies that military and political alliances should not lead to neglect of self-defence by states. The role of the ally is significant only in the context of the mandala scheme and international conflicts. Internal troubles and threats from wild tribes have to be warded off by the state army. The ally will not and should not be involved in meeting these, Kautilya warns. [The warning is valid even now. Kautilyan theorems were meant for all times.] Danda included the police (and the magistrates) too. Aid even from friendly countries should not be sought to put down internal unrest and revolts. Statesmen recognized this principle of sovereignty.
But Vatavyadhi (Uddhava) was connected with social polities (known as vairajyam) that were not states. They had total devolution of powers to the lowest unit internally while externalizing exercise of military power. The army of the conqueror, vijigishu, did not interfere in the administration of the state, which was carried on along prescribed lines by the amatyas, bureaucrats. This analysis will help the reader to arrive at a balanced picture of the features of the Kautilyan state.
Ally and Non-ally not connected with internal constituents
The constituents and sectors of a state may be grouped into two sections, Rajan and Rajyam (king and kingdom) or Svamiprakrti (the charismatic leader) and Dravyaprakrtis (the units that are sources of wealth for the ruler). The mitra (ally) and amitra (non-ally, potential enemy) are significant only for getting the Svami’s claims to sovereignty over his territory endorsed by the former or left undisputed by the latter. The two do not (and should not) have any voice in determining the relations between the Svami and the five internal constituents.
Kautilya envisages a charismatic head of the state (Svami) who is in the dhruva or kootasthana, the point of convergence of the other constituents. These constituents may get afflicted or handicapped as pointed out in the above debate participated in by Kautilya, Bharadvaja and other statesmen. These disturbances had an impact on the Svamiprakrti and how they could be met through suitable amendments to the constitution Kautilya pointed out.
The Simmering Revolt
Disturbances to the king and his political associates Rajaprakrti may emanate from abhyantara or from bahya, the Arthasastra states (8-2-2). This statement is not to be interpreted as implying internal threats and external threats or as threats from interior regions and outer regions respectively. Kautilya says that threats from abhyantara are more serious than the threats from bahya. He advises the king to keep the treasury and the army under his direct control (8-2-3). [Indian and foreign scholars dealing with Kautilyan Arthasastra have failed to arrive at a correct appraisal of the features of his new janapada.]
Abhyantara, Bahya and Atithya: Three Economic zones
There were the three sources or directions from which the goods entered the market. Kautilya adopted a new economic policy by which the non-agricultural production units were taken away from villages and towns and located at special centres. Some of them were inside the forests and near the mines. He discouraged population getting concentrated in select areas. He recommended dispersal of population to facilitate economic progress.
Abhyantara referred to the highly important internal production centres to which the artisans were moved. Bahya was essentially rural and agrarian and indicated the hinterland of port towns and administrative capitals. Atithya pertained to the special areas including the king’s personal lands (svabhumi) and the lands of the autonomous vassals. The nature of the unrest in the first two areas needs to be identified correctly for arriving at a proper interpretation of the disputation between Kautilya and Acharya.
State and the conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat
In the protected production centres in the interior, the ruling bourgeoisie senses threat from the new proletariat and is annoyed with the king’s policy (8-2-3). This threat is described as ahibhaya. Ahi or Sarpa (serpent, in common parlance) denoted the industrial proletariat which was then constantly on the move in the forests shifting its activities to areas where they located ores or which had surplus timber. The mobile proletariat (Sarpas) of the parallel industrial economy was dreaded. During the post-Kashyapan decades, the carpenters (Takshas) and the smiths (Tvashtas) who had earlier been confined to the forests and the mines and metal factories had joined the mainstream industrial economy. Many smiths (Tvashtas) smiths, and carpenters (Takshas) called themselves, Brahmans.
The intellectual proletariat and the corporations (srenis) and guilds (samghas) enjoyed a privileged status. They were a threat to the traditional bourgeoisie who were being coerced by Kautilya to invest capital in new projects. The disputation is on how far this threat to the bourgeoisie in the industrial centres located in the deep interior of the forests and mountains (abhyantara) from the working class was of serious concern to the king.
Agitated bourgeoisie vis--vis Denuded absentee landlords
In the rural areas, absentee landlords had been made to part with their lands to the tenants or to the new small peasantry. The agitated bourgeoisie of the industrial centres (abhyantara) posed a greater threat to the king than the denuded absentee landlords of the outlying areas (bahya) of the janapada, which had been reorganized along radically new lines. The king had to guard himself against the vested interests in the economic structure.
Kautilyan administration had hence to keep the bourgeoisie satisfied by preventing uprisings by the new proletariat. [King Parikshit had been killed in the revolt by the forest workers, who were led by Takshaka. His successor (Janamejaya) tried to take revenge by destroying the entire proletariat. This massacre of the innocents was frustrated by Astika who was an intellectual, Brahman, and also a technocrat, Naga.]
State needs support of rich investors
The Kautilyan economic state needed the support of the rich who invested capital in industries more than that of the idle absentee landlords. It had to ensure that the amatyas in charge of the remote (antara) industrial centres were not disaffected. Their disaffection would be more harmful than that of the people of the outlying but not remote areas. These internal compulsions made the ruler take control over the treasury and the army under his personal charge, Kautilya explains (8-2-4). The Kautilyan state was a well-organized mega-state comparable to some modern states and it faced socio-economic and political problems of a serious type like the modern industrial states.
Concentration of economic and military power in the king
He does not assign the treasury and the army, kosa and danda, to independent ministries. The other thinkers of his times did not welcome this concentration of economic power and military power in the hands of the ruler. The Svami had been constrained to take over these two ministries because of internal unrest and the simmering revolt in which some state officials (amatyas) had joined hands with the entrepreneurs. The latter were in fact the bourgeoisie that had been coerced to invest capital in new industries. Some of these officials were corrupt and had therefore been sent away from the janapada and the city to the mines and the dangerous industrial centres in the forests and mountains. Did Kautilya propose to make this concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the ruler a permanent feature and thereby entrench autocracy to the detriment of democracy? In his disputation with the six thinkers, Kautilya denied any such intent. Did he intend to return to the later Vedic pattern of polity where Indra, the head of the house of nobles led the army and controlled the treasury (sura)?
Dvairajyam and Vairajyam
In an innocuous move, Kautilya proposes that the ruler should appoint a person who will under his personal supervision (atmasamstha) look after the treasury and the army, kosa and danda. The other ministers including the Prime Minister would normally have no access to these departments, which the king personally managed (atmasamstha) besides foreign affairs and intelligence (dhutas and chakshus) It may be noted that the other ministers might look after civil administration, economy, finance and defence but were excluded only from foreign affairs and the bureaus collecting confidential data. Kautilya would make the ministers in charge of finance and defence report to the king and take orders from him directly.
The unidentified preceptor (Acharya) who is his deuteragonist in this discussion is aghast at the suggestion that there would be two rulers, the king looking after general administration and another authority controlling finance and defence. This dyarchy, dvairajyam, will be more harmful than diffusion of powers, vairajyam, he argues. Dvairajyam means governance by two authorities. It strikes at the root of the concept of sovereignty being vested in one (monarchy) or in the multitude (democracy). It evokes the picture of polarization and mutual checks. It was not new to Bharadvaja and other ancient statesmen.
Why there was need for Dyarchy
Kautilya objected to autocracy, the extreme form of monarchy when he said, chakram ekam na vartate (the only wheel does not roll on). There can be no progress under monarchy. Autocracy and even benevolent monarchy will result in a static state. (President and Vice-President, President and Prime Minister, Raja and Yuvaraja, Indra and Agni, Indra and Brhaspati, Aditya and Soma, Indra and Upendra, Rajarshi and Rajapuruhita, Purusha and Pracetas, all come under the genre, dyarchy. They involve division of powers and mutual checks.) In dvairajyam, the total quantum of power is divided between two authorities though the two may not have equal status.
Kautilya was on the scene when the Vedic era had not yet come to an end. The posts of Indra and Brhaspati who represented the aristocracy and the commonalty respectively continued to exist in many states. Earlier, Indra controlled the treasury and led the army while Agni looked after the judiciary. In some states, Indra controlled only the treasury. There was a separate post of Aditya who was in charge of the army, sena. The Mahadeva constitution had proposed four posts, Indra, Aditya, Agni and Brhaspati, and prevented concentration of powers in the hands of one or even two.
Why the Acharya hesitated
The Acharya feared that Kautilya’s suggestion would create two rival seats of power, resulting in partisanship, mutual hatred and struggle. As the (sick) king was unable to look after the top-heavy administration, which had failed to control the causes and spots of revolt, there should be total decentralization of authority and power, he said. The arguments look modern! But the context was the times of Prthu and Parikshit. Atri, Gautama, Kashyapa, Sanatkumara and other great thinkers debated the issue whether in the light of the evil effects of the autocracy of Vena (who was burnt to death by his enraged subjects, especially, the agriculturists), his successor, Prthu (an agriculturist chieftain, kshiti-isvara) should be given the powers of a sovereign. Some proposed that despite his charisma, Prthu should be placed on par with Mahendra who in those days controlled the army and was also Chancellor of the Exchequer. This would reduce the chances of the king becoming a despot. The king would be in charge of general administration, agriculture, animal husbandry and trade and foreign affairs.
Kautilya allays the fears of the Acharya
It appears that Kautilya envisaged a similar sharing of power, but would keep the official in charge of finance and army, who might have been designated as Indra, constitutionally subordinate to the Svami (or Isvara) or King. In Kautilya’s scheme this official would not be answerable to the ministry. [The King and the Crown Prince, Raja and Yuvaraja, Isvara and Indra were two such authorities. Neither Isvara nor Indra was a god.] According to the Acharya, the principle of balanced distribution of power (among the eight ministers or the six internal prakrtis and their heads) as recommended by the traditional Dandaniti school is to be followed so that there is no strain for the head of the state (who is now old and weak). Was this preceptor Krpacharya who guided Parikshit?
Vairajyam: Diffusion of Power
Instead of introducing a rival to the king, power itself should be diffused to the lowest level. The Acharya preferred Vairajyam to Dvairajyam. [Kangle’s interpretation that Vairajyam is rule by an illegitimate king, a usurper, or by a foreign king, is not tenable.] [Vairajyam is not to be identified with Virajam. Kashyapa’s concept of Virajam meant union of different units without uniformity. This union was necessary to guard the autonomy, Svarajam, of every unit.] Autonomy unto the lowest level and diffusion of power, although there is an overlord, Viraj, characterizes Vairajyam.
Such diffusion rather than mere distribution of power is feasible within the existing monarchical structure, the Acharya argues. He envisages that each authority will try to please the people and there will be a healthy competition in doing benevolent works (8-2-5). It is hence desirable, he urges. He was not encouraging anarchism. The Vairaja concept of Samkarshana (brother of Vasudeva Krshna) resulted in anarchy, with the Akruras and Akutas, two sections of the pastoral Vrshnis, destroying each other in a mad struggle for power, a la tribal warfare. (Vrshnis were not militant tribes.)
Why Kautilya preferred Dyarchy to Total Diffusion of Power
Kautilya thereupon explains (8-2-7) that his intention is not to weaken the king or reduce his sovereignty, but to strengthen the Rajaprakrti, the constituent of the state that was directly under the king. [While reading between the lines, extreme caution has to be exercised and the context has to be constantly borne in mind.] A new constitution was on the anvil and Kautilya had to convince the Acharya who was an important political grammarian and statesman and also then his deuteragonist. Kautilya proposes the appointment of a crown prince, either the king’s son or his brother, who will look after finance and army and assist the king. He laughs away the fear of mutual conflict between the two authorities and points out the possibility of equal attention to the protecting of the positive efforts (yogakshema, welfare in common parlance) of the people.
The crown prince is not an ornament or a rival. The king needs assistance. (One wheel alone can not move.) The intention is to control the ambitious amatyas (secretaries of the state). [The importance of the ministers, mantris, would not be affected though they had no control over the amatyas.] Dvairajyam of Kautilya’s vision meant not the creation of two rival centres of power, but the creation of an additional centre, an additional wheel, so that monarchy, rule by one Rajan or Svami, was not crippled by delegation of powers to the mantris, amatyas, sachivas and adhyakshas who all belonged to the bureaucracy.
Kautilya and the Acharya were in the know of the intricacies that marked the choice of a crown prince and the creation of two authorities with almost equal power. [When Vicitravirya became king, his brother, Devarata (Bhishma) controlled the army. When Bharata retired, one of his sons, Devavata became Indra and another son, Devasravas was appointed as Agni. Both belonged to the nobility while Bharadvaja nominated Bhumanyu, a commoner, as Bharata’s successor. When the Pandavas captured power, Yudhishtira appointed his brother, Bhima, as General. When they retired, Parikshit, a powerful chieftain and the only surviving son of Kuru was installed as King. Janamejaya (Bharata’s step-brother) was viceroy and crown prince.]
Vairajyam as usurping of power and economic exploitation
Kautilya held Vairajyam, as constitutionally not valid. It is usurping power from the legitimate ruler though it is claimed to be diffusion of power. The appointment of a crown prince and the delegation of powers to him by the king were within the provisions of the constitution then in force. (It may be noted here that the Rajarshi constitution as recommended by Vaivasvata was what he had accepted as the valid one.) The crown prince (who was not necessarily the incumbent king’s son) would control the treasury and the army until he was duly selected and elevated to the post of the king. The king was exercising his authority in such a way that it was not nullified by threat of revolt by vested interests.
Kautilya points out that the proposal (made by the Acharya) to drastically reduce the tenure of the officials (from life tenures) and to delimit their powers is not likely to ensure that the local authorities will not misuse their limited powers. There will be economic exploitation resulting in bankruptcy (8-2-8) and the culprits fleeing the scene after the harm is done, he warns. (Democracy sans morality) Kautilya had witnessed how what had begun as a system of self-rule and governance for limited duration had deteriorated into irresponsible exploitation for quick gains by opportunists who had no attachment to the king or to the state. (Kautilya does not refer only to foreign rule as leading to undesirable economic exploitation. Even local chiefs are often guilty of such exploitation. The reader may consider this stand in the light of the modern scenario.)
Kautilya and the Preceptor then debate on who between the two rulers, asastra-chakshu and chalita-sastra was more harmful or dysfunctional to the state. Shama Sastri treats the former as a blind king and the latter as one erring against the science. Kangle interprets that the former is blind because he is without the benefit of science and the latter as one who deliberately flouts the sastra. Sastra means here the Arthasastra, the politico-economic constitution. It has prescribed that a king should see through scouts, charanas. The institution of Charanas and Satris through which information was collected and processed before political decisions were taken was not new though Kautilya was perhaps the first to systematize it. Earlier, it was an autonomous institution and was capable of mischief though it was not vested with power.
Asastra-chakshu and Chalita-sastra
Asastra-chakshu would mean a ruler who was not able to secure authentic reports through an approved institution of observers (chakshus) and was therefore like Dhrtarashtra, a blind king. Chalita-sastra was one who deviated from the prescribed rules and did not take objective decisions and was dependent on his personal sources of information or information gathered personally.
[Valmiki asked his king to collect information by himself and not to be dependent on the intelligence wing only. One of his eight ministers was designated as Drshti. He was in charge of the department of intelligence. The designations of the other ministers were Jaya, Vijaya, Arthasadaka, Siddhartha, Asoka, Mantrapala and Sumantara. Their respective functions may be inferred from the terms used. Valmiki was a Pracetas. That is, he followed the Arthasastra of the school of Pracetas Manu. He must have had the status of Pracetas who could exercise whatever powers the king as Purusha delegated to him except that of a sovereign not accountable to the ministry or to the house of nobles.]
The Acharya for a statutory institution of spies
The Acharya says that when the prescribed procedures are not followed, the reign is marked by arbitrary actions, obstinacy and guidance by outsiders (unauthorized persons). Rajasampada, the organization headed by the King and functioning directly under him, lacking the institution of scholars-cum-observers (chakshus), one of its subsidiary units, gets weakened. The result is dependence on bureaucracy and the cabals. (Dhrtarashtra’s woes) But the chalita-sastra king does not trust his own institution of scholars, observers (chakshus), scouts (charanas) and students (sattris). He does not trust the bureaucracy also and proceeds to govern through inferences arrived at personally. The latter can be easily persuaded to halt this deviation and hence is less harmful, the Acharya opines. But Kautilya disagrees.
Kautilya on the Role of the Institution of Spies
Kautilya holds that the absence of a set of rules and a procedure for gathering data is not a major drawback. The institution of scholars is not a constitutional requisite, he implies. Kautilya cannot be accused of having created the vicious institution of spies or even of having advocated governance through spies. This institution was already in existence. A trained Rajarshi did not need it. The associate bodies, sahaya sampada, attached to help the king can be depended upon to ensure that the proper course of action was followed. The Kautilyan king, whether he was a sober Rajarshi or was a dynamic conqueror, had his personal admirers and supporters who could be termed as svapaksha and who functioned as trained members of his party rather than as cronies and retinue. They kept him informed about the activities of the ministers and amatyas who belonged to other units of the state and had their own followers. These officials, chieftains and their followers were termed as parapaksha.
Institution of Chakshus, an official check on the bureaucrats
The Kautilyan king is not made totally powerless by the mere absence of an institution of observant scholars (spies, as commonly interpreted) to help him. It had been created to ensure that the bureaucracy (amatyaprakrti) did not violate the norms or thwarted the implementation of the state policy. The Kautilyan state, contrary to what is generally presumed was not totally dependent on spies or even mainly on it nor could the king use this institution for nefarious purposes as many have alleged.
Kautilya had planned to create a cadre that would be part of the king’s charismatic structure, a party as it were. It was this structure, which was called sahaya sampada. It was not a mere retinue. Sahaya sampada was like a personal secretariat. It could function effectively by giving him processed data and by eliciting responses and assessing expectations. [This organization was different from the think-tank, the Atharvan ideologues (Brahmavadis) whose suggestions Prthu was asked to follow.]
The advanced institution of spies in the Arthasastra was formed by merging the conventional institution of charanas, scouts, and this sahaya-sampada. It was a prelude to the king’s party, svapaksha. It was quazi-statutory. Kautilya warns that a king who deliberately deviates from the procedures prescribed in the constitution will destroy himself and his kingdom, through bad administration (8-2-12). The ruler who is of the chalita-sastra type comes to grief. The king who is asastra-chakshu can overcome his handicap, the absence of an institution of spies by having an organized group of personal secretariat, sahaya-sampada. Existence of written codes by itself is not a guarantee that the kingdom will have a just rule. Is the king wantonly arbitrary or is he handicapped on account of structural weaknesses in the Rajaprakrti? The correction is to be effected in the intelligence wing.
Replacement of an Undesirable King
Wayward rulers are bound to destroy themselves. The Acharya fears that when the king is disabled or diseased, the amatyas (bureaucrats) become powerful and pose a threat to his life and harm the kingdom. He distrusts the ministers. He is for benevolent (not necessarily hereditary) monarchy. If a new king who can become popular by distribution of favours and remission of taxes is available, he should be supported and the diseased king deposed. Under such a benevolent and popular king, the people (prakrti) will remain pleased and happy he says (8-2-13). But Kautilya does not agree for even a disabled king may be able to maintain stable rule.
Kautilya for life-tenure for the king
There can be no compelling reasons for change. Kautilya had recommended life-tenure for the head of the state, assuming that the incumbent would ascend the throne only when he was about to retire from all personal economic pursuits. Most ancient kings came to the throne only very late in their life. He was preparing the crown prince who was in the prime of his life to take over on the king’s death or retirement. But the Acharya wanted that the king should be physically active and retire after a term of five or ten years in office. It was change for the sake of change. Kautilya refused to endorse this suggestion.
Opposes overthrow of good kings even if old and disabled
Kautilyan constitutional reforms were intended not to supplant the bureaucracy but to strengthen the Rajaprakrti and to push through developmental programmes. Overthrow of a king is needed only when there is a trend towards decay. A stable administration though not dynamic, is not to be disturbed. Kautilya does not depend on amatyas only for development, as they represent only sectional and vested interests. He does not countenance a new king in violation of constitutional procedures.
Though a diseased king may be deposed by the amatyas and acharyas (teachers) and a new one is installed by them with the advice that he should become popular through good deeds, that new king will think that he owes his position to his own strength and valour and will soon become a despot. Kautilya did not intend to install such a despot on the throne. Besides such a king will have no roots among the people and will be soon uprooted (8-2-18). He favours the continuation of the disabled king who had come to occupy the throne through constitutional procedures..
Supports overthrow of kings who are sinners
The change in the incumbent will be warranted if he is morally sick, if he is a sinner. It has to be ascertained that the new king is an abhijata, born in a noble family (8-2-19,20). Kautilya does not support an upstart. The Acharya opts for a strong king, jatya-aisvarya-prakrti, the traditional rich aristocrats. The elite mould the public opinion. They will not tolerate a plebeian ruler whether strong or weak (22 to24). The entire disputation is cast against the background of an urgent need to select and train a successor from a noble family without overthrowing the weak but legitimate and v25, 26).
Stages in the Evolution of Hindu State
To recapitualate, the earliest Vedic state (a) of the agro-pastoral core society had a state which was controlled by assertive and aggressive chieftains who elected one from among themselves as the rajan and head of the state. It was oligarchy. The common people were labourers working on the lands owned by these chieftains. They had to surrender half of the produce to the owners of these lands. Some tillers were bonded workers, dasas. The liberal chieftains were later referred to as devas. But most chieftains, rajans were feudal lords and were called asuras.
It was only later the commoners joined hands with the liberal nobles, devas to defeat and exile the feudal lords, asuras. At this stage (b) there were some elders and scholars who voiced the interests of the commoners (manushyas) and prevailed on the oligarchs to withdraw surrendering the task of governance to a group (samiti) comprising scholars (rshis), elders (pitrs) and liberal nobles (devas). Governance was based on the unanimous decisions taken by this body, samiti under the leadership of the noble (deva) who was the most influential among the nobles.
He was designated as rshabha (the bull whom other cattle followed). It was feared that he would acquire total powers and the economy would be under his totalitarian rule which was not necessarily despotism like that of the feudal lords, asuras. It was benevolent governance though he did not consult his followers. For, they did not know what they needed and how they could meet those needs and he knew them. This may be termed rshabha constitution voluntarily accepted by other nobles, elders (some of whom were earlier feudal lords), the wise and the commoners. This was the earliest form of Purusha constitution. Rshabha was also referred to as rshabha-purusha. His government was uni-cameral.
At the third stage [c] the governing body was organized as two bodies, the house of the nobles (sabha) and the council (samiti) of scholars and elders. These three cadres were not engaged in economic activities and they were maintained by the commoners (manushyas), especially the rich among them. The latter were prevailed upon to contribute one-fourth of their earnings in the form of ritualistic sacrifice (yajna).
The house of nobles who owned the lands and maintained their personal retinue and personal troops was presided over by an official designated as Indra who controlled the treasury and the army and headed an eight-member ministry nominated by the two legislative bodies. The house of nobles was to be paid one-fourth of their earnings by the commoners for protection.
The head of the council of scholars and elders was designated as Agni. He belonged to the upper stratum of the commonalty (vis) and headed a civil judiciary of sixteen scholars. The house of thirty-three nobles (sabha) and the council of sixteen jurists and sixteen elders (samiti) were convened by an official designated as Prajapati, chief of the people who had a secretariat manned by the sixteen elders. The head of the state was an assertive and aggressive Rajan elected by his peers but he had no control over Prajapati, Indra and Agni and the two houses, or over the treasury and the army. No taxes were paid to him. The rajan was not necessarily a member of the sabha. He and his peers (rajanyas) enjoyed respect and high status but unlike the nobles (devas) had neither power nor wealth. This was the normative form of the Vedic state. It was bicameral.
At the stage, [d] the eight ministers headed by the official designated as Indra were treated as executives. Their designations and roles changed from time to time and from region to region. Indra was their head and Agni, head of the sixteen member civil judiciary ranked next to him. In some regions, instead of Indra-Agni diarchy, Indra-Brhaspati diarchy was in vogue. Brhaspati was an Atharvan ideologue and economist who favoured the bourgeoisie. All the three officials, Indra, Agni and Brhaspati adhered to the laws based on the inviolability of truth (satya). The judiciary headed by Agni was independent and not subordinate to the ruling class of aristocrats or to the bourgeoisie.
All educated persons had to take the oath that they would abide by the laws based on truth and would not resort to violence. Satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence) became the essential traits of all civilized persons, whether educated or not, whether rich or poor. (Only one who had taken the pledge to abide by truth and non-violence was called an Arya.) Laws concerning economic transactions and disputes were to be settled on the basis of truth and without resort to violence. The compact between Indra and Brhaspati resulted in granting equal status and authority to the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie, the upper class of the commonalty.
It was a period when the liberal nobles were prevailed on by the Atharvan ideologues like Brhaspati and the civil judiciary which stood for the laws that gave importance to truth and non-violence expelled the feudal lords to the periphery and to grant freedom to their own bonded labourers and enable them to become free citizens entitled to own personal lands and property even as all the commoners were. This concession was not given to the mercenaries (dasyus) of the feudal lords and the rebelliou guards (rakshas) of the plutocrats (yakshas).
At the fifth (e) stage Prajapati Mahadeva who belonged to the Rudra school of thought retained the practice of getting the rajan, elected by his aggressive peers as the head of the state. He continued to deny the rajan any voice in the administration of the state and made him and his peers and also the four permanent institutions, house of nobles, council of scholars and jurists, central administration including the army and the civil administration including contributions to the treasury, (sabha, samiti, sena and sura headed by the officials designated as Indra, Agni, Aditya and Brhaspati respectively) answerable to the Prajapati, chief of the people and head of the national polity (rashtram and kshatram).
This move led to government by mutual checks and prevented concentration of powers in the hands of a single person. Mahadeva initiated the move to establish fifty small integrated autonomous states in the Indian sub-continent. He also drew on the vast unorganized middle class to man the judiciary (Brahmans) of sober intellectuals and the government backed by political, police, magisterial and military power (assertive kshatriyas). The aristocracy headed by Indra was deprived of the control over the treasury and the army. The treasury including all economic activities dominated by the bourgeoisie was controlled by Brhaspati.
The conflicts between the nobles and the bourgeoisie were lessened by this arrangement. It was a constitution arrived at by consensus among the Brahman jurists, and Kshatriya administrators of the different regions. It was made possible by the assurance given to all to meet their minimum needs and protect the weak and all sections of the population. Each nation (rashtra) was composed of eight regions, four in the main directions and four in the intermediate directions. No nation-state was an ethnic unit.
The term, rashtra had nothing to do with ethnicity or culture or language spoken. It was related to demography. None in the state could deploy the troops for conquest. They were meant only for defence and maintenance of law and order. Unlike Usanas’s state based on Dandaniti it was not a police state. The Prajapati, head of the nation-state was superior to Rajan, head of the state. It was democracy by consensus and division of powers.
At the sixth stage (f) federal states of the Viraj pattern comprising five politico-economic sectors, the urban administrative centre (pura) surrounded by four rural areas of natives (janapadas) came to be established. The four janapadas together formed a Rashtra. The five areas were autonomous. This Virajam pattern offered union without uniformity for ensuring the autonomy (svirajam) of the units. Virajam had eight socio-economic sectors and was marked by holism and inclusiveness.
The Viraj constitution recognized eight social sectors, including the feudal warlords, the liberal aristocrats and the plutocrats, three wings of the ruling elite. While the liberal cultural aristocrats governed the organized settled groups of the native commoners of the agro-pastoral plains and the plutocrats financed the frontier industrial society led by technocrats and the mobile industrial proletariat, the feudal lords controlled the dropouts who had taken refuge in the periphery. It also gave due importance to the sages, elders and cadres of intellectuals who were constantly on the move contributing to the spread of culture and knowledge.
The Viraj, head of the federal state who made incursions into new areas for the benefit of the peoples under his jurisdiction was elected by the heads of the five units of that federal setup. This election was often preceded by violent conflicts. He had tenure of ten to twelve years while the rajan, head of one of the states had tenure of four to five years even as other officials had. If the Viraj was re-elected he would have twenty to twenty-four years which was deemed to be life-tenure. He was designated as Purusha. He was later referred to as Virata-Purusha. In a fraternal oligarchy functioning under the Purusha constitution, each brother held the reins for a limited duration.
The Viraj was assisted by the chief of the people, Prajapati, who convened the two houses of legislature, sabha of nobles and samiti of scholars and elders. He was entitled to admit new subjects to the state from the peripheral areas. These new entrants, to become subjects of the state should share the cultural ethos of the natives and bring with them their liquid assets. No refugee or vagrant could be accepted as a lawful subject of the state.
The Prajapati was assisted by Aditi, the mother-figure, who supervised the work of the eight-member ministry, Adityas, and was guardian of the moral standards of the people and was also the only authority entitled to grant pardon. She absolved only those who were penitent. This setup was in vogue during the middle Vedic period when laws were puritanical and based on the principle of rigorous adherence to truth. This may be called Viraj constitution sponsored by Kashyapa, the head of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata.
At the next stage, (g) the Viraj was elected by a large body of electors comprising the active heads of all families, purushas and their consorts, stris. The younger members of the families had no franchise. Only one who had discharged his duties to his family and had a son who undertook to discharge the debts that might be incurred by the father was entitled to be a Purusha and exercise franchise in all matters, social, cultural, political and economic. He rarely took a decision that would go against the interests of his family including his offspring. It was indulgent and sagacious paternalism and not authoritarian patriarchy.
In some areas, instead of stris, wives who could not but obey their husbands, free women (naris) attached to the families were given franchise. Women, even the unmarried ones were not neglected. They had a voice equal to men’s in all affairs. Aditi represented them. This revised Viraj pattern where the head of the federal state was to be recognized by all the sectors of the larger society prevailed in several areas. Mahadeva, a charismatic chief of all the people of the larger nation spread over the entire subcontinent took the consent of all who headed the federal states as Viraj before discontinuing this post and retaining the practice of small nation-states.
The eighth stage (h) witnessed the beginning of democratization of the state. The house of nobles which had only traditional nobles as its members was required by Vaivasvata constitution to grant a few places to the representatives of the bourgeoisie and the rich landlords who were leaders of their areas and to representatives of the working class. The head of the state was asked to give equal importance to the views of his supporters and to those of the supporters of others. No action could be taken by him without debates in the representative bodies of the urban and rural areas.
The earlier systems of surrender of one-fourth of the earnings as insisted on by the nobles and the practice of forced extortion by the feudal lords of unlimited wealth from the subjects were discontinued. The rule of payment of one-sixth of the earnings by all, whether rich or poor, was introduced. No separate tax for protection or for administrative purposes or aid to the poor was collected. The tax of one-sixth of earnings as endorsed by Manu Vaivasvata became a permanent feature. Of course economic states had to introduce surcharges for facilities provided.
Under Mahadeva constitution the two houses of legislature, sabha of nobles, which formulated and implemented the policies and samiti, the council of jurists who prescribed the state and civil laws and of elders who defined the social laws continued to be in existence. The head of the state could not take any decision without their consent however charismatic he was. The Vaivasvata constitution replaced these two bodies by paura and janapada assemblies. Neither could overrule the other. Decisions taken had to be unanimous and after wide consultation and thorough discussion and should be unanimous..
At the ninth stage (i) Yajnavalkya constitution accepted by Janaka of Videha ensured that all the thirty-three members of the house of nobles were elected representatives. The heads of families and clans were constituted into three houses of one thousand members each of the three social worlds, nobility, commonalty and frontier society and these three bodies and their heads deputed three hundred and three members who in turn deputed ten members each to the house of nobles. The states had an alternative of forming three electoral colleges of one thousand members each for the core society of natives (jana), for the other society of forests, mountains and peripheral areas (itara-jana) and the free privileged and pious intellectuals (punya-jana). This alternative was recommended by Manu Vaivasvata. The house of nobles was transformed into a democratically elected body that was headed by Prajapati, the chief of the people.
The head of the house of representatives of the three sectors of the native population, jana, itara-jana and punya-jana was designated as Janaka. He had a status equal to Prajapati, chief of the people of the agro-pastoral core society (its elite and commonalty), the individuals from the peripheral areas and members of the independent middle class of non-settled population who had been granted rights equal to the natives. In the state of the enlarged core society as in the earlier states the laws based on truth (satya) continued to prevail. The Vedic system of constitution being interpreted and guarded and enforced by officials designated as Daksha or Pracetas, Yama or Dharma and Varuna was followed. The jurists trained in this system were referred to as satyaloka. It ranked superior to the six social worlds, agrarian commonalty, industrial society, elite, house of legislators, house of the people and academy of scientists and researchers.
At the tenth stage, (j) after this system was distorted by adherents of Usanas’s Dandaniti, policy of use of coercive power, it was found that a post designated as Brahma who guarded, interpreted the overriding constitution and implemented it rigorously was created. Brahma and his council of jurists, Brahmaloka of the Upanishad times was superior to Satyaloka of the middle Vedic times. Janaka of Videha was exhorted by Yajnavalkya to get trained in jurisprudence to be able to perform the functions of the impartial stoical chief justice, Brahma. The Upanishadic sages gave Brahma, the Chief Justice a status superior to that of the chief of the people, Prajapati. But the objective behind this proposal was not properly appreciated by many. Only a free man who had direct experience and sympathetic awareness of the outlooks and needs of all the strata and sectors of the larger society and was Vaisvanara could be elevated as Brahma. Such a person was not easy to be found.
The new Upanishadic state altered Mahadeva’s Atharvan scheme and gave Brhaspati, head of the bourgeoisie, treasury and economic affairs a status higher than that of Indra, head of the house of nobles. The council of executives drawn from those eligible to be members of that house was answerable to that house which was democratically elected (though not by adult franchise).
Vaivasvata constitution was followed by Prthu constitution (k). Prthu was a charismatic chieftain of the agriculturists. He retained the Vedic system of eight-member ministry but replaced the representative of the plutocrats by one of the commonalty. He had the status of a Purusha and looked after widening the scope of the economy while the internal affairs were managed by Pracetas, a scholar with a wide outlook.
The Prthu state required the king (designated as Isvara) to function as a protector of all social laws and to bridge the differences among them. He however could not introduce any new social law or state law. Prthu state was for social stability and economic progress. While guarding the interests of the individuals who had no economic interests, the head of the state was called upon to maintain unity in diversity and perform miscellaneous duties that were not assigned to any of the eight ministers who functioned under the guidance of Pracetas.
Pracetas Manu (author of an Arthasastra) adopted a new holistic and ational approach (stage L) while allocating duties to his twelve ministers. 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.
It was only after Manu Vaivasvata (m) approved the socio-cultural code, Manava Dharmasastra that the importance of Dharma as a concept that was accommodative and more liberal than the earlier laws gained acceptability. Its fourfold scheme of prescription of some rules of conduct and of permission for some non-prescribed ways of life, of preference by an individual for one of these and proscription of some actions as antisocial and immoral was debated from time to time but was accepted by most of the larger society and was incorporated in the social laws as well as state laws. Manusmrti (Manava Dharmasastra) followed some salient aspects of the Prthu constitution while honouring the concept and scheme of Rajadharma advocated by Bhishma as he outlined Rajadharma, state laws. It also accepted some features of the Arthasastra of Pracetas Manu. Hindu State that emerged soon after the famous battle of Kurukshetra and survived for several centuries was an amalgam of Dharmarajya which stood for a stable social welfare state and a progressive economic state, Artharajya.
The concept of Dharma which was given finesse by Yudhishtira (n) required both the individuals and social groups and also the state to deem only offering gifts and donations and receiving them were valid transactions. Performing yajna, ritualistic sacrifice, learning and teaching Vedas and performing strenuous endeavour (tapas) were not deemed to be the essential duties of the educated classes. They were asked to deem offering valid gifts (dana) as the only duty and receiving such aid as the only faultless source of income. No one was to be treated as a wage-earner.
The state too was asked to deem receipt of unsolicited donations as its only source of revenue and offering aid to all the needy from such donations as its duty. The entire system of the ruling class of nobles, sages and elders receiving one-fourth of the earnings sacrificed by the wealthy, one-half of the products of the labourers who had no personal property, unlimited tributes from vassals to guarantee their limited sovereignty, unlimited extortion from the subjects, collection of one-fifth of the earnings of the people as bali under Dandaniti (Usanas’s constitution) in return for protection offered and surrender of one-sixth of earnings by all as tax (kara) (under Vaivasvata constitution) was revoked by Yudhishtira. The state would be satisfied with the untainted donations received from the subjects.
The state would have to distribute, all the donations received to those who were in need. The state was however obliged to protect all its subjects. Else it did not intervene in the economic activities of the people. Its duty was to ensure that the mighty and the rich did not harass the weak and the poor. A member of the government was eligible to exercise only those privileges that were open to all. Dharmarajya had no halo of wealth and power. It was imperceptive and could not increase its powers even in the guise of offering assistance and protection to the poor.
It was minimal government and every individual enjoyed autonomy (svarajam) and functioned according to his nature (svabhava), had his own consort and companion (svamithuna), pursued his own chosen vocation (svakarma) and upheld the values of life of his choice (svadharma). Earlier only the aristocrats (sva) had these rights and the free middle class (asva) were under severe social and political constraints while the masses had no rights. Dharmarajya threw open svarajyam to all. All the three strata came under a common civil code, Naciketas Agni as instituted by Manu Svayambhuva.
This scheme endorsed by Sanatkumara was accepted by Prthu constitution and by Bhrgu’s Manusmrti. In fact Naciketas wanted that both the classes, aristocracy and commonalty, leisure class and working class should ceas to be and all became independent self-governing individuals. Only the middle class of intellectuals-cum-administrators would dominate social, cultural, economic and political affairs. But this suggestion was not accepted by Manu Vaivasvata. Classless society was not feasible.
Dharmarajya envisaged (o) a non-expansionist small integrated state that was mainly agro-pastoral. It accepted Rajadharma, many aspects of the duties and rights of the head of the state and its other officials as recommended by Bhishma, the veteran statesman. It distinguished among social laws, economic regulations and policies of political administration including war and peace. Manusmrti did not compromise on ethics and was not too idealistic or too lenient. It accepted the concept of a decentralized state. The head of the state stationed in the capital was expected to be a charismatic personality. He had to be endorsed by the city administration and also the representatives of the rural areas and their chieftains.
It fell short of the Vaivasvata, paura-janapada state. It was not the king (rajan) but parthiva, the governor of the rural areas who was guided by the traditional eight-member ministry. While the king appointed the chief justice, Brahman, who excelled in all the four Vedas including Atharva (Brahma) Veda, the latter chose three scholars, Vipras, to represent the other three Vedas. Vedas were recorded social and cultural and political and economic history of the three centuries preceding the Battle of Kurukshetra. Sabha-samiti pattern of diarchy yielded place to paura-janapada diarchy.
The verdict given by the chief justice after following the procedure prescribed to hear the issues was final. It could not be questioned by the other members of the bench and did not require assent by a majority. The King as head of the state appointed the Chief Justice but could not override the latter. The Chief Justice was guided by precedents, opinions of the elders and respectable persons and the procedure prescribed for examining witnesses, evidences etc to ensure that justice was rendered. The King and the ministers could not interfere in the functioning of the institution of justice, prescribing and interpreting the laws. The executive and the judiciary were both subordinate to the judiciary.
Manusmrti brought into existence a permanent rural bureaucracy. Officials designated as Parthiva, Prthvipati, Bhupati, Mahipati, and Nrpati each with his defined jurisdiction were associated with this bureaucracy. Maintenance of law and order was the duty of this bureaucracy. The police and the magistrates were under its control. The King had only the statutory army meant for defence of the state under him. The central treasury had to accept only what the rural bureaucracy sent as surplus of the revenue from tax and fines collected by the rural officials after meeting the expenses of administration.
The rural administration collected fines (danda) imposed on those who violated the prescribed rules or neglected to perform their duties. However no offender was sent to prison as there were no prisons in rural areas. Only the King could impose death penalty and not the Chief Justice, Brahma or any official, Dharmastha, who was in charge of enforcing social laws. Death sentence was imposed only for treason and revolt against the state. Other major crimes and minor offences were tried by the rural bureaucracy and the urban court. The last had an open prison attached to it. Imprisonment and hard labour as sentence were meant for deterrence rather than correction. The latter was governed by the rules of penance and social boycott.
Manusmrti has an elaborate section on economic and social laws which imposed rigorous punishment on offenders belonging to the higher ranks of the society and were lenient to the weaker sections. Social laws (dharma) including marriage and succession to property were in the jurisdiction of the family courts presided over by elders and could not be interfered with by any official, rural or urban. Economic transactions (Vyavahara) were scrutinized by the local officials and the courts established by corporations (srenis) and guilds (samghas). Only on issues pertaining to edicts issued by the King, the courts instituted by him heard the disputes and settled them. The King’s orders could be struck down if they were arbitrary.
While the urban and rural assemblies could prescribe new rules they could opine on the King’s orders. Their considered opinion would weigh with the Chief Justice, Brahma while he gave his verdict on the basis of the unalterable principles of natural justice (nyaya) and uprightness (satya). It was a government functioning under laws and not subject to the whims and fancies of, and biases and prejudices entertained by the King, the head of the state. The King had no divinity and no claim to hereditary ruler-ship. He had to function within the bounds of the constitution.
As the post of Prajapati, head of the nation-state, superior to the Rajan, the nominal head of the state and to the different institutions of the state and their heads, ceased to exist with both the house of nobles and the council of scholars and jurists losing their sheen and as the post of Brahma, Chief Justice and head of the four-member constitution bench could not find a suitable impartial and stoical person with liberal and holistic outlook, the Hindu State fell back on the Rajarshi constitution to provide the best model for governance (P).
It had been proposed by Samkara of the Rudra School of socio-political thought but was not immune to wanton distortion. Prthu constitution sought to undo that distortion and provide Isvara-Pracetas diarchy keeping the eight (twelve) ministers under check. Krshna described Rajarshi constitution proper when he envisaged the head of the state, a trained social leader kept in check by his alter ego. The relationship between the Rajarshi and the Rajapurohita was of this type. It was given the needed finis by Kautilya.The King supervised the duties allotted to and performed by the ministers, secretaries of state and heads of bureaus and had certain departments directly under him. Certain other crucial departments were under the Rajapurohita. (Vide Chapter 21 above)
Let us learn what Hindu State was like and how it could become so. Some may ask whether it is possible or necessary to adopt any of the above patterns, giving up the present socio-political structures and practices. This question deserves a considered reply provided it is not linked to blind disapproval of ancient Indian social polity as reactionary and not in tune with modern world culture. The issue of doubts on the practicability of replicating the past schemes needs to be dealt with in an objective manner.
It would be in the fitness of things to reestablish fifty small economically viable integrated states all over the subcontinent from Gandhara to Kambhoja and from Uttarakuru to Srilanka. These states would be instituted into a dual-confederation, Brahmachakra with the two competing confederations having similar objectives and functioning in collaboration and not coming into conflict with each other. Neither of the constitutions of the two confederations will be deemed to be better than the other. The twenty-five states in each confederation (chakra) and so too the five states in a circle (mandala) need not be contiguous but should be able to aid one another when in economic or political need.
Brahmachakra, the dual confederation would have a common constitution for all the ten federations (of five states each) under it. But it would not be another Rshabha constitution which facilitated the state to become a leviathan and totalitarian with the sole head of the state controlling all the lands (as sarvabhauma) and all the productive economic activities. Every state would have a diarchy at the helm of its affairs. Both monarchy and oligarchy would be kept away from. Oligarchy is not democracy. It is feudalistic. No state would be an ethnic one based on language or religion or racial descent or even cultural identity and heritage or economic pattern. Neither of the two confederations (chakras) would have an army.
The main objective of the constitution of the dual-confederation (brahmachakra) comprising fifty autonomous small economically viable states would be to provide food and other basic needs for all so that none is poor. There has to be disarmament of all sections of the population so that no state is required to have armed troops to police its territory or guard it as there would be no aggressor population or state. The state should have no coercive power. This is an imperative if democracy has to flourish. The state has to step in only where the society finds it difficult to keep everyone of its members feel secure.
State is meant for administration and its executive has to be fair to all and absolutely honest and follow the laws based on equity and equality. Every state will have two houses of legislature, the central urban council, paura, of thirty-three members elected by representatives of the three sections of the population, agro-pastoral commonalty, industrial frontier society and independent middle class cadres and individuals. The other house will look after the interests of the natives of the non-urban areas, janapada. Paura-janapada, pura-rashtra, durga-desa patterns succeeded sabha-samiti pattern of governance.
Every state (rajyam) would have a federal set-up, a capital city (pura) at the centre surrounded by non-urban areas composed of four janapadas. These four areas outside the capital would together be referred to as rashtra (loosely translated as ‘nation’). The janapada, a province would have four districts (janasthanas) and each district two counties (dronas), one agro-pastoral plains and the other industrial, located in moors, forests and mountains around the plains.
The head of the state, Viraj is to be elected by the head of the city council (paura) and by the four heads of the janapadas (designated as Janakas). The head of a district (janasthana) would be designated as janadhipa. Janaka would nominate the Janadhipas (sthanikas). The Janadhipa would be an executive of high caliber trained in the state academy. Every county (drona) would be headed by an educationist (acharya)imparting training in customary practices. He is not an executive but would be trained in all aspects of local administration. [Drona was certainly not a mere coach for sports.]
The head of the agro-pastoral county (drona) adjoining the central county would be its civil judge (designated as Agni) and that of the industrial county adjoining both would be the head of the multi-faculty academy located there (and designated as Soma). Viraj, the head of the federal state would be required to have been endorsed by all the chiefs of the eight counties, four agropastoral and four industrial and also by the head of the urban council (paura).
The latter would be designated as Indra and would be the head of the central eight-member council. The officials designated as Agni, Indra, Soma etc would have been trained in the state academy. The belts between the four agrarian counties and the four industrial counties and between the capital and non-urban areas are referred to as Isvaras. They were benevolent charismatic chieftains and were not appointed by any political authority.
The head of the rashtra would be elected by the heads of the eight counties, four rural and four industrial, and designated as Prajapati. He would be senior to Indra but subordinate to the Viraj. Indra would have no control over exchequer or the army. The Chancellor of the exchequer, sannidhata would be a trained executive appointed by the Viraj and answerable to the latter.
The rest of the central administration of non-industrial areas including the army would be headed by an official designated as Aditya and it would be answerable to the Prajapati. The Viraj would appoint a revenue minister, samaharta, for each of the four janapadas. They would be answerable to the sannidhata.
The industrial areas whose economy is determined by plutocrats, technocrats and proletariat would be under the jurisdiction of Soma a sober educationist, administrator and judicial authority. He could overrule even the head of the state and his cabinet and all members of the judiciary if their decisions are violative of the economic freedom these areas need, to ensure socio-economic progress and social security, the main objectives of Artharajya (economic state) and Dharmarajya (social welfare state).
To the extent the concept of a polity that accepts both these objectives and the recommendation that the state should be non-coercive, every state would be able to remain constantly striving for ensuring social security and economic progress. It has to be borne in mind that the objective must be to ensure that none is poor and that everyone will have his personal property, be free to pursue his own chosen vocation (svakarna), his chosen way of orderly and restrained social life (svaraja) and entertain his chosen cultural values (svadharma) in tune with his natural traits (svabhava). This is not idealism. It is a practical necessity.
To reiterate, the Hindu State that existed before the arrival of the Greeks was more a Dharmarajya than an Artharajya. Whether there was a head of the dual confederation (brahmachakra) was in position or not, most of the fifty states had a predominantly agro-pastoral economy with mainly a rural population governed by a parthiva who claimed to be functioning on behalf of the chakravarti who was referred to as prthvipati.
This confederation and the dual-confederation headed by prthvipati who followed Prthu constitution was mainly agro-pastoral and the rural areas were referred to as rashtra. Mahadeva constitution of the Atharvan period which established fifty nation-states referred only to the rural areas as rashtra. ‘Rashtra’ referred to the native population, jana. It was an economic unit with eight socio-economic sectors. Its representative designated as Prajapati was entitled to admit new domiciles to the privileges which the natives had as their birth-right. He was also entitled to admit those who had withdrawn to the social periphery for diverse reasons. The designation, ‘rashtrapati’ was not in vogue.
Prajapati was the head of the nation-state. He had become so because of his great charisma which was the product of his winning over the support and respect of all the people including the scholars, elders and administrators and the sincere promise given to ensure for everyone food and other requirements. While the executive and the army were responsible to him, he was in due course made answerable to the Chief Justice who was the guardian of the socio-political constitution, Brahma.
The economic structure dominated by the commonalty of working classes and bourgeoisie and its chief, Brhaspati, an Atharvan ideologue enjoyed more respect and more authority than Indra, chief of the leisure class of sober cultural aristocracy which had become democratized.
Naciketas explored the possibility of withering away of both the exclusive leisure class and the vast working class leaving everyone a member of the educated self-reliant peaceful unarmed middle class, an objective recommended also by Sanatkumara. Most of the population of the fifty small states belonged to this middle class. While personal talent was to be honoured the basic income of the ‘rich’ peasant was not to be more than six times that of the ‘poor’. This was egalitarianism.
None would be a servant of another person. Industrial economy was operated by entrepreneurs under the strict supervision of the state. Speculative economy would be taboo. Faith in God is not to deteriorate into faith in luck. Commercial economy had a free say only in exports and imports and not in agriculture or industry. This direction was given by Kautilyan Arthasastra.
Rural bureaucracy and rural judiciary supervised by the Parthiva on behalf of the head of the central confederation were autonomous. These institutios far from facilitating feudalism helped social democracy to flourish. Regulated meritocracy rather than populist democracy or charismatic leadership was advocated and it has succeeded to remain in force.
Concepts of individual will, common will, individualism and responsible and responsive leadership have to be re-examined in the light of the new findings. Let us not deceive the people with or be deceived by the interpretation that universal adult franchise is the hall-mark of democracy. State has to be for the good of all the people whoever is at its helm. We have to rethink on the concept that the state is composed of three independent wings, executive, legislature and judiciary. No member of the legislature will be associated with the executive and the legislature will function under the guidance of the judiciary.
Social polity and economy were stable and slowly developing after industry that for a brief period had taken hold of urban civilization had withdrawn from both urban and rural areas and yet was willing to come to their rescue as it did during the Vedic period. Industry attached to greed for wealth and power and devoid of respect for human values was not allowed to wipe out the joy of life found by the people and the sages in simplicity and honesty.
Hindu State appreciated this theorem and survived with honour for several centuries until its commitment to protect the lives and property of the people was lost sight of, making it easy for the Central Asian Muslim armies to run over the country with little resistance. The victorious everywhere become role models to be admired and Hindu State which was based on social democracy vanished under the new feudalism.
The compilation, Passage to Hindu State, is an attempt in this direction. The deliberate vagueness in which the expressions, Hindu Dharma, Hindutva, Hinduism, Hindu Rashtra and Hindu Rajya have been couched does not help us. It is not proper to be rashly assertive, nor wise to be apologetic while using these expressions.
It needs to be explored whether the people of the regions that have for various reasons and at different times dropped out of the two socio-economic political confederations (chakras), can be encouraged to rejoin them. It needs to be explored whether this objective can be fulfilled if this dual confederation is brought under a common socio-political constitution (brahma) with an absolutely sincere and learned and impartial chief justice (designated as Brahma) as its guardian.
Samkhya dialectics that Kautilya honoured requires us to recognize that there can be two distinct paths and that they may not be necessarily antagonistic to each other. Bold open debates can synthesize the two seemingly opposite stands. This endeavour at positing a thesis, reading its antithesis and arriving at a synthesis and studying the alternatives to that synthesis has to continue. No stand is final. But it is necessary not to allow basically social issues to be lost sight of by the contempt with which the mundane is treated by those scholars who claim to be guardians of spiritualism. We deal with social issues that every individual faces at whatever social level or stage of personal development he is.
A high official for this dual confederation, brahmachakra of fifty small states, designated as Prajapati who would ensure that in every area its native settlers and other new and old domiciles or dropouts are assured that none would be a threat to others and that all would enjoy the same rights and duties and respect and opportunities is needed. He would be at the helm of both the culturally varied but unified nation (rashtram) of eight social sectors as Virajam had and its central protective administration (kshatram) including its army.
The Prajapati who has won the confidence of all the eight socio-economic sectors in every area and would be the head of the nation-state will however function within the bounds of the constitution and will be answerable to the Chief Justice. This chief justice, Brahma, would however be under silent scrutiny by the head (designated as Parabrahma) of a committee of veteran jurists. The chief justice would be entitled to have the aid of a highly experienced and popular social leader (Parampurusha) to ensure that his directives were implemented by the executive.
Next to the Prajapati would be the economist (designated as Brhaspati) who would control the treasury and the armoury and all economic activities on behalf of the commonalty especially of the bourgeoisie and enforce the laws pertaining to economy. Brhaspati would be superior to Indra, the head of the democratized house of thirty-three liberal cultural and intellectual aristocrats and the eight-member ministry that would represent all the eight socio-economic sectors of the integrated state. This house would work in unison with the house of sixteen scholars-cum-jurists and sixteen retired elders. A gathering of several hundreds of representatives of the populace cannot be expected to deliberate on issues and give valuable counsel or arrive at proper decisions.
Both the houses would have as members persons who do not pursue their personal interests and are not engaged in economic activities. [Let us be optimistic and not be mere dreamers.] While sixteen members of the latter house function as civil judiciary, and the sixteen elders as members of the Prajapati’s central secretariat, the house of thirty-three aristocrats former would be a court of appeal. This arrangement would be common to all the fifty states of the dual confederation (brahmachakra). As the sabha-samiti pattern of diarchy gave place to the paura-janapada pattern the issue of reorganization of the political structure has to be examined in the light of Kautilya’s recommendations.
The compilation, Passage to Hindu State, examined the different constitutions that were in vogue during the ancient times. It has highlighted that if a state does not have at its head a sober and stoical scholar (Rajarshi) it has to opt for an assertive elder (Prajapati) as the head of the nation-state. The latter while being well-versed with the needs of the different sections of the people will be able to control both aspects of the administration, civil and military. He would have a secretariat of sixteen elders to man the administration in tune with the Brhaspati constitution.
He would be assisted by a sixteen member civil judiciary whose head would apply the same provisions of law to all the three sections of the population, the ruling elite, the middle class intellectuals and administrators and the commonalty mainly of workers. The proposed fifty small economically viable states spread over the subcontinent would have each its own socio-political constitution (Brahma), socio-cultural (Dharma) and politico-economic (Artha) codes keeping in view their respective past experiences and current needs.
The concept of Svadharma by which every one would be free to choose and follow his set of values leads to the concept of Svarajam, every one being free to choose the pattern of governance that he would live under. In other words the peoples of these states would be fully autonomous and there would be no centralization of authority.
Yet the subcontinent needs to be assured that all these peoples would have their economic needs and cultural values, personal security and opportunity for economic progress attended to. Social ascent is not to be treated as a sign of such progress. In other words economic progress has to be treated as concomitant to socio-economic security and not as conscious adoption of hedonistic way of life or as the ladder to higher social status and power. Every one of the fifty small states had a population of about three million dependent on agricultural economy and another three million on industrial economy and about six hundred thousand in administration, social services and police and army.
[This amounted to thirty-three crores as the total stable population of this subcontinent for several centuries. But the last few decades has seen an abnormal growth in this population and consequent failure of both the economies to meet the needs of the people. Of course, the average span of life has increased and violent social conflicts have decreased.] The current level of population of this subcontinent would require pegging of the population of each of the new fifty integrated states at a reasonable level of twenty million.
Each state would have a capital city with administrative and commercial offices. It would be surrounded by four provinces (janapadas) with four districts (janasthanas) each. The four provinces together would be a rashtra. Each district would have one agrarian county (drona) and one industrial county. The four agrarian counties (dronas) would be closer to the capital and the four industrial counties beyond them. The city would be separated from the agrarian tracts by a peripheral belt and the agrarian areas fom the industrial areas by a similar belt. The state itself would be separated from the neighbouring states by a similar belt. The city should not overrun the agricultural and pastoral areas of plains and the latter the industrial areas of moors, mountains and forests.
While the natives among the traditional agrarian tracts and the natives among the traditional industrial tracts would enjoy protection from unauthorized immigrants the other sections of the population, mostly mobile cadres would stay in the small capital city or the district towns. Their needs would be met by the eight economic counties. Metrpolitan cities which sponge on the rural areas need to be discouraged. The rashtra would have courts at every level and between two counties or districts to settle disputes, as provided by Kautilya.
Kautiyan judiciary was part of its trained, efficient, honest and impartial centralized bureaucracy. Manusmrti had opted for a rural bureaucracy that was autonomous and closer to the masses. Both the models were experimented with and the latter has been found to be resilient. For centralized administration with a ideal stoical head of the state, Rajarshi guided by an experienced equally non-ambitious guide, Rajapurohita, could not survive for long.
Manusmrti pattern of rural bureaucracy inspired by Prthu and Vaivasvata constitutions could ensure social and economic security though most rulers were poor, indifferent and insecure. Of course, it was inspired by Bhishma’s note on Rajadharma and Pracetas’s Arthasastra which preceded Kautilya’s.
Only if the members of the executive have all the calibers, managing things within the economic means (arthasamarthyam), completing the tasks assigned at all costs (karyasamarthyam), thorough knowledge (vidyasamarthyam) of all the fields of administration and social life, providing positive leadership (purusha- samarthyam), Kautilya’s objective of bringing the entire subcontinent can succeed. But combination of all talents in one or in some associated with state has rarely been found.
Kautilya ensured that every state had an efficient and honest bureaucracy in both the rural and urban sectors but was aware that the bureaucracy in the industrial and commercial sectors, though efficient was not honest. The central bureaucracy had hence to be trained and motivated to ensure that economic gains of the state were not frittered away by the rural bureaucracy and plundered by the frontier bureaucracy. Then only the objective mentioned above could succeed. However strong central bureaucracies could not emerge in all the states and imperial states could not survive long.
Manusmrti did not aim at imperial states or central bureaucracies. Its call for softening and decentralization of bureaucracy tended to diffusion of powers bordering anarchism (vairajyam) and the withering away of the state leading to anarchy (arajakam). It has never been easy to reconcile the two antithetical processes. But it has to be done. States might wither away but society has resilience to survive.
Kautilya showed the possibilities of economic progress through establishment of small and economically viable integrated autonomous paura-janapadas. Manusmrti on the other hand was satisfied with establishing decentralized autonomous rural bureaucracies and did not dream wealth and prosperity through industrialization. Disillusionment with the early post-Vedic states who betrayed their assurances to the industrial sector, its plutocrats, technocrats and proletariat, prevented the emergence of the dual-confederation (brahmachakra) and even survival of discrete confederations (chakras) and circles of states (mandalas). This had its alleviating benefits. There were no major civil wars for several centuries and no despots, thanks to the recommendations of Manusmrti. Social security was assured though the motivation for achieving national integration ceased to be.
Dharmarajya is a cushion for Artharajya. These terms should not be allowed to be used as cliches. Optimism and contentment were emphasized by Upanishadic sages. Manusmrti did not depart from their counsel. The country could be resilient because it did not chase the moon. Manusmrti like Kautilya refused to encourage formation of ethnic states. It was aware of the possibilities that had opened for formation of imperial, unitary states, but consented to remain content with ensuring social, economic and political security for all the people by keeping all the states decentralized and non-ethnic. It is not the conclusion arrived at in a sprawling treatise that has to be given prime importance as the manner in which and the arguments by which it is arrived at. The latter are spread over the several books of this compilation.
The heads of the state, its executive, legislature and judiciary should have an in-depth knowledge and personal experience of the lives of the people at all social and economic levels and in all the social sectors. Persons who deserve to occupy these posts and function effectively cannot be elected or selected by the present democratic procedures. Electors must have the qualifications and competence to determine who among the aspirants is best suited to be elevated to one of these posts. The chief executive, the chief legislator and the chief justice have to be all selected by small committees of qualified members from competent persons. Modern democratic procedures allow the people to harm themselves and to be harmed by placing them under undesirable chiefs. The term, ‘democracy’, is not found to have benefited the people at any socio-economic level.
Only a social leader, purusha, who has experienced the lives of the people struggling to get their bare subsistence and the lives of all the strata above these and identifies himself with all social sectors and social strata and is not attached to any particular social group and does not voice the needs and interests of a particular group to the exclusion of other groups (and is hence referred to as vaisvanara) is competent to occupy any of these high posts. Modern systems of education and training of personnel do not help the people to always feel secure and to constantly progress. They have to help themselves.
State should be minimal. All the laws that we have inherited from the British colonial rulers have to be severely scrutinized and only the few laws that are in tune with our mores and ethos should be retained. No urban council (paura) or rural assembly (janapada) would be entitled to adopt a resolution which is not endorsed by all its members. The issue of who among the three (head of the judiciary, head of the executive and head of the ste) is superior and what limits should be imposed on his powers is currently being debated in a nasty manner. This has to end. No new law should be sought to be imposed on a group by those who do not belong to that group. Coercive power of the state power (danda) has nothing to do with social laws (dharma).
It is necessary that the entire Indian subcontinent needs to be reorganized as a dual confederation (brahma-chakra) of fifty small economically viable autonomous internally integrated states of pura-rashtra or paura-janapada pattern. It will have two confederations (chakra) of twenty-five states each with distinct economic objectives. It may give primacy to agriculture, social stability and social security or to industry and commerce, economic progress and entrepreneurship. A state may opt to join any one of the two confederations. The dual confederation will have a political structure that will give encourage both confederations equally.
Each confederation (chakra) will have five circles (mandalas) with five states (rajyas) each. The head of a confederation will be designated as chakravarti. The five heads of the circles designated as samrats will occupy this post by rotation. The two chakravartis will occupy the post of the chairman of the dual confederation by rotation. No state will have an army. A state will have only a police force to maintain law and order and keep away intrudents. The head of the five states will hold the post of samrat by rotation.
The fifty states will each have its own constitution and chief justice who would get its provisions implemented. Every state will have a city council (pura) with thirty-three members and four peoples’ assemblies (janapadas) with thirtythree democratically elected members for each of its constituent non-urban areas. The four janapadas together will be called rashtra. Each janapada will have four districts (janasthanas). All the four units of the state (rajya) will be autonomous.
Each district will have two sectors, one agrarian and the other industrial. The head of the district (janasthana) will be designated as janadhipa, and that of the janapada, as janaka and that of the state (rajya) as Viraj.
The head of the rashtra comprising the four non-urban janapadas will be designated as parthiva and he will exercise the powers delegated to him by the head of the dual confederation designated as prthvipati. He will be assisted by an executive of eight members representing the eight sectors, four agrarian and four nonagraraian. The parthiva would be subordinate to the Viraj and to Prajapati who controlled both the rashtra and the central bureaucracy in charge of national security, currency, internal and external trade and warehouses.
Neither the two confederations functioning together or singly nor any of the ten circles of states will have legislative powers or judicial authority over matters internal to and concerning any of the fifty states. There would be at the head of the dual confederation a chief justice designated as Brahma who would ensure the provisions of the constitution to which these states are bound by are adhered to by all of them. There can be no conflict between the judiciary and the legislature if the chief justice has to give his consent to any legislation passed unanimously by the two houses meeting together under the aegis of the Prajapati, chief of the people. A state that (or its head and official who) fails to adhere to them would be denied admission to the protection and privileges granted by it.
In a state under the federal setup of the Viraj pattern, the head of the state may be elected by an electorate comprising one thousand representatives of the agrarian sector and one thousand of the industrial sector and one thousand of the others not engaged in productive economy. These electors would be heads of both male and female heads of families. As already said universal adult franchise is a self-defeating proposal.
The Prajapati would be entitled to admit new persons as ‘subjects’ of the state without making them a liability for the state. He will be the convener of the two houses, paura and janapada (dichotomy based on economy) or sabha and samiti (dichotomy based on non-economic factors).
The Viraj would nominate an intellectual from among the eight members of the executive as the head of a four-member judiciary as chief justice, Brahma entitled to ensure adherence by all to the constitution, Brahma, common to all states. He would co-opt three independent scholars, vipras to assist him.
This autonomy of the rashtra-rajya, a small economically viable state could not be infringed upon by any other state included in its circle (mandala) or by the head (samrat) of that circle and officials of his secretariat. It had to be defended by the head of the confederation (chakravarti) of which it was a member against intrusions by states of the other confederation (chakra). The samrat heading a circle of five states and the chakravarti heading a confederation of twenty-five states had to function as protector of the autonomy of the state under it. They could not appropriate any power other than the one allowed to them by the constitution, Brahma. The verdict given by Brahma, the chief justice of the dual confederationon, on all disputes was final. This will ensure peace in the larger nation.
While concluding this essay, it needs to be suggested that it is not necessary to shy from the expression, Hindu State (Hindu Rajya) and the expression Hindu Nation (Hindu Rashtra). The term, Rashtra, has been used as a demographic unit and not as a cultural entity. It is devoid of affinity to or pride in belonging to a particular area or being a peopke with their cultural identity and heritage. Both Rajya and Rashtra (State and Nation) are neutral terms and are incapable of evoking pride in ethnic identity or social and cultural achievements.
It is not to be claimed that the ancient people of this country called themselves as ‘Hindus’ or were known to the rest of the world as ‘Hindus’. [Rose is a rose by whatever name it is called.] It was only after 800 AD this land was referred to as Hindustan and its natives as Hindus. Whatever religious beliefs they held came to be known as Hindu Religion only after 1600AD. After 1700AD the states of this country which were not under Muslim rulers were referred to as Hindu States.
But as emphasized earlier this essay would refer to the states based on both Dharnasastra and Arthasastra as ‘Hindu State’. It was expected to protect all ways of life (dharmas) that were followed in this country and function as a bridge amongst them. It did not give preference to or promote any one of these to the exclusion of others. It emphasized social welfare, socio-economic security and social, economic and political justice. It also called for economic progress and egalitarianism. A state that was part of the dual-confederation, brahma-chakra, of fifty states stood isolated if it did not function as expected by the socio-political constitution of this confederation.
The two millennia that followed the decisive Battle of Kurukshetra (c 3100BC) between the two factions in the ruling oligarchy of Hastinapura who both lay claim to its throne witnessed the collapse of the integrated economy of these states consequent to the corruption of the ruling elite and there emerged discrete agro-pastoral and industrial states patronized by aristocrats and plutocrats respectively. The concept, Hindu State is attributed to those states that continued to function as integrated states which were both Dharmarajya and Artharajya. It is gross to immaturity to treat them with contempt as feudal states where commoners were not heard. They were democratic paura-janapadas as envisaged by Kautilya.
The ideal Hindu State of those centuries was led by an independent dynamic commoner who could inspire its people and troops, govern it with the aid of wise counselors and enjoy wide popularity and respect both in his country and the neighbouring countries. He was neither ambitious nor aggressive. But he was assertive and entrepreneurial.
This ‘Svami’ could become an emperor (samrat or chakravarti) but returned to his original people after establishing self-rule in the conquered countries, colonies and protectorates. There was no ‘empire’. His people applauded his victories but did not want him to deprive the people of the defeated states their sovereignty and right to autonomy.
No state was subordinate to another and no people were superior to others. All the states whether they engaged in feuds or co-existed in peace were assured just governance by either the simple rural bureaucracy or by the highly professional bureaucracy described by Dharmasastra and Arthasastra respectively. It did not matter for many who the king was, Rama or Ravana. He who ruled justly was the best. This became the theme down the ages.
As a result people in most areas were satisfied with the type of life that they were living then and did not try for a higher level of thinking and standard of life. Hindu culture and civilization kept itself secure in self-bound shackles. Neither during the Vedic age nor during the centuries that followed anyone promoted the slogan of patriotism and ethnic nationalism. These terms are recent contributions to political sociology.
As the aim to establish socially and economically integrated states with challenges to promote the spirit of uniform economic progress through technological expertise no longer given priority by social thinkers the states lay low and their peoples became inexorable introverts. Hindu mysticism rose and temporal affairs were neglected. Kautilya’s Arthasastra and Manava Dharmasastra no longer were guides and anomie, mrtusamsara, set in. Both Vedas and Upanishads ceased to be recognized as parts of social and political history and only vague memories and imperfect knowledge of events got enscribed as legends, chronicles of the past. Succeeding generations concerned themselves with battles between good and evil and prayed for the success of dharma, righteousness and did nothing to extricate themselves from bog and marsh until a new era dawned by 1000 BC.
India was cut off from the inclusive civilization it had built during the Vedic and neo-Vedic eras and also from the ones that had emerged in far-off lands under the inspiration of the socio-political ideologues-cum-activists of the Vedic era. This decline was stopped in several areas where a new plutocratic civilization and economic states had begun to impinge on the thoughts of the then researchers and revivalists.
The non-sectarian socio-political concepts and deliberative and silent inwardness and introspection resurrected the above codes and new Hindu states jealous of their independence and with their chieftains eager to expand their territories emerged. Both Artharajya and Dharmarajya marked their traits. However many intellectuals were disturbed by aggressive secularism and searched ways to make the people save themselves by holistic social oneness and personal aloofness from this-worldly tendencies.
Absence of rich and powerful states need not be rued nor presence of empires elated on. Hindu culture rooted in rural life and developed by the selfless sober intelligentsia has survived all the vicissitudes of civilizations rising and falling. When versions of the two codes, politico-economic and socio-cultural, were recovered from oblivion and re-examined, anomie and cheerless inwardness slowly slipped away and new integrated states capable of ensuring protection of life and property, and wedded to social justice, economic progress, equality of opportunity and expression of one’s talents and aspirations began to emerge.
Hindu State did not wither away. It proved to the world that it had remarkable resilience under home-grown rural bureaucracy and trained central bureaucracy that would keep in check both feudakism and exploitation of the poor by the rich. History does not repeat itself but does not shy from guiding us and waking us to possibilities and assertiveness giving up surrender to the inevitable and unknown destiny.
Hence the call: ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached’. But the goal has to be set by us and constantly pushed ahead until it goes beyond the realm of possibilities. Whatever the specific clauses drafted for thw constitution of the Hindu State may be, it has to acknowledge that the State would not be a leviathan or hydra and would be essentially democratic. While the entire subcontinent has to be a federal and democratic setup, its numerous states would be small, economically viable and integrated units enjoying autonomy.
They would not be ethnic units and would not be organized on the basis of linguistic or ‘caste’ or ‘religious’ identity but would be able to maintain social integration.
The pyramidal structure, a state (rajya) comprising self-sufficient villages, group of villages, two counties (one agrarian and one industrial), four districts with two counties each, four discrete janapadas with four districts each, rashtra with four janapadas and a capital (pura), a federal circle (mandala) comprising five such states, a confederation (chakra) of five such circles (twenty-five states), a dual confederation (brahmachakra) of fifty states with every unit at every level enjoying autonomy would meet the needs of our times. Every state would have its own social code and economic code. These would have clauses that are in concord with tradition. The state will not enact any social law for which a village or group of villages whose members are its natives. Even the clauses of the economic code should honour the views of the elders of the villages. Only such powers that are delegated by the lowest unit in this pyramid to the higher ones can be exercised by a state or a federation or a confederation.
The concept of dual confederation is advanced as people must have at least two options to choose from and as only the views on any aspect of life agreed upon by both the confederations would be deemed to be the universal socio-political constitution of the subcontinent. The centre dictating the units is undemocratic.
Since every state would have its impregnable social code accepted by all people, and an economic code that is flexible and is in tune with the minimum needs and changing aspirations of those people, the state would be democratic and could progress in the direction in which its people want to. It will not be dictated by the federation or the confederation or the dual confederation. Every state would adopt the principles of administration which it finds best to meet the needs of its people and do nothing to disturb its ethos.
The highest constitution, brahma, which is the touchstone by which the lower courts would judge and avoid thereby arbitrariness in judgements and violation of the principles of social codes, dharmas, would be guarded by a council of heads of the fifty states. Every state can have its own socio-political constitution detailing how its administration should be conducted and the duties expected to be performed by its officials and citizens.
All the state laws have to be within the framework of that constitution. Since brahma, the constitution of the dual confederation only declares the ways what all the states including their subjects should follow do and what they should not, it leaves scope for interpretation regarding what are not covered by these prescriptions and proscriptions, niyamas and yamas. This is non-prescription (avidhi). The bench of the central judiciary that discusses the doubts raised by a state judiciary or an individual who is not satisfied with its verdict may if necessary consult the council of veteran chief justices. The latter may intervene even of its own accord before that bench gives its verdict. Its members were called parabrahmas, the other higher judges. The head of a state by whatever designation he is referred to can issue a ‘royal’ edict only on issues that do not come within the field of social laws (dharma), traditional practices and deliberation by the elder citizens. He cannot declare what is just practice.
The unending number of times the present constitution of India has been amended only indicates the failure of its original framers to assess the ethos of this country, the goal to be set for it and to foresee the hurdles the people and the judiciary have to cross and the ambitions of the power-hungry politicians of all hues nurture. It has to go.
The claim that all men are born equal and all are entitled to and capable of reaching the highest level free from all bonds and attachments may seem attractive. But the reality is that men are born with significant differences in their nature, ability as well as aptitude. While many at the lowest level fail in their struggle for survival some are able to assert themselves over others.
Anomie characterizes the large lowest economic stratum and they need to be enabled to stand on their own legs. Very few in the higher ranks can be enthused to come to the rescue of others and still fewer can be found capable of helping others without any personal ambitions. It is the vast majority of people who are capable of standing on their own legs but are found to be free from personal ambitions and also free to give their all to those who are poor and weak may be expected to be the conveyors of the ethos of the society. They pity the weak but are helpless and they are jealous of those who are in higher positions but are unable to assert themselves against the economic, social, political pressure which the power elite exercise over them. It is this silent majority which can but fume who have to be enabled to assert their autonomy through positive individualism. Social leadership can emerge from its ranks and often does from those ranks.
The social leaders can be identified and backed while they they go ahead as entrepreneurs. They enter a world not of anomie as the weakest in the society are in or of complacency as the vast majority, are in. They push ahead steadily, cautiously and with awareness of their abilities and their limitations. If such social leaders do not look at the weak with contempt or take for granted the vast majority of commoners, then social leadership would prove beneficial to all. They are at a level lower to the elite, compsed of cultural aristocrats, plutocrats, technocrats, feudal chieftatins and intellectual aristocrats but are capable of mingling with them. They have however not to be infected by the arrogance of this elite.
The entire theorem of free individualism, atmavidya, has to be development of desire to aid the weak, be with the commoners, development of ability to push ahead and the ability and determination not to yield to the power elite, whether that power is economic or political, intellectual or cultural or technological. It is such leadership which places its services at the service of the weak and the not-so-weak and not at the feet of the elite which has to be promoted. It must assert itself and be dynamic but at the same time, gentle and stoical and yet not sophistic. It should not deceive itself lest the ground should slip and it slides into anonymity.
Who rules does not matter. How he rules is what is important. Justice has to be assured and rendered to all. It must be experienced to be so rendered. State cannot replace society but society can afford to be stateless though only for a short period. Anarchism might raise its head but it should ot decay into anarchy. The interregnum has to be used to build a new state which will be at the service of the society, of the entire society. State is not to pride irself as having sovereign powers. It should not breach this unwritten contract between it and the society. The latter has to be always represented by a positive social leadership as outlined here. When such leadership is absent or fails the society steadily slides into anomie, mrtyusamsara. This needs to be avoided.
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