HINDU SOCIAL POLITY
PROLOGUE TO HINDU POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY
ANCIENT INDIAN SOCIAL POLITY
V. Nagarajan D.Litt
First Edition 2000
C/o Sharada Nagarajan
501, Dipesh Enclave
402, Savitri Apartments
Laxmi Nagar (West)
PROLOGUE TO HINDU POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY
PART ONE: STUDIES IN ANCIENT INDIAN SOCIAL POLITY
PART TWO: KAUTILYA AND HINDU ECONOMIC STATE
1. In Retrospect
2. The Rgvedic Social Polity and the Arya Syndrome
3. The Atharvan Polity
4. The Concept of Viraj: Federal Social Polity
5. The Mahadeva Constitution and the Nation-State
6. The Struggle against Autocracy:
Vamana Vs.Bali and Usanas
7. The Prthu Constitution
8. Social ClassesVedic Times
9. Social Polity----Vedic Times
10. The Epoch of the Early Manus
Passage to Hindu State is a compilation of the revised versions of my treatises on Hindu Social Polity drafted during the five decades, 1960 to 2010. They had their beginning in my 1964 doctoral treatise, Society under an Imperial State.
In that treatise which examined Kautilya's Arthasastra, I did not depart from the chronology of ancient Indian works and their authors as followed by most of the Indian scholars of the 20th century and by many even now.
Many of these scholars had accepted almost uncritically the postulates advanced by western Indologists, the stereotypes and cliches floated by them and their interpretations of ancient Indian works. Though falling in line with many of their stands, I refrained from opting for the title, 'Society under the Mauryan Empire'.
While dwelling on the features of ancient Indian states and on how some of them grew into empires, I kept in view the rise of modern western empires and colonial powers and of bureaucracy. I drew on the social and political theorems developed by both ancient and modern western schools of socio-political thought while examining the text of Kautilya's Arthasastra and his stand on economic determinism and comparing it with the stands of the major socio-cultural codes, Dharmasastras.
Study of both ancient and modern western thought can aid us in the study of ancient Indian schools of thought. I was however cautious not to be tempted to compare Kautilya's thought with those of Thucydides and Machiavelli.
This helped me to develop paradigms by which his views on social, political and economic issues could be compared objectively with those of the thinkers and schools of thought he had mentioned. I attempted to arrive at conclusions that were valid whether they were his contemporaries or predecessors.
But I could identify those thinkers precisely only a few years after I had submitted that thesis for adjudication. Yet even while drafting that thesis, I wondered whether Kautilya, Chanakya and Vishnugupta were one and the same person who was claimed to have installed Chandragupta Maurya on the throne of Pataliputra soon after Alexander of Macedonia aborted his campaign of conquest of India to return to his native land. Alexander died on his way back.
The new findings made me rethink on my interpretation of Ancient Indian Polity and develop an outline of the stages of evolution of that polity. I drew on Rgveda and Atharvaveda and on the two epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, on Manusmrti and other Smrtis, on chronicles like Bhagavatam, Skanda Purana and Markandeya Purana, on Krshna's Bhagavad-Gita and Kautilya's Arthasastra for my 1988 post-doctoral treatise, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India.
Intense study of these and other ancient Indian works and the works on modern western social polity led to developing valid paradigms with respect to these stages in tune with post-war socio-political theorems. The latter were however not allowed to overshadow these paradigms.
In the 1964 treatise, I had taken into account the socio-political views that dominated the minds of the Indian intellectuals during the first half of the 20th century marked by the two world wars, the struggle between capitalism and communism, between democracy and despotism, between colonialism and nationalism, and by the withering of the European empires and replacement of monarchy by bureaucracy. The present composition does not retrace the aspects of social polity dwelt on in that treatise but it does not hold them to be no longer relevant. Of course as the times change rapidly new issues need attention.
By 1949, a constitution for independent but truncated India was drafted under the shadow of the horrors of partition of this subcontinent along communal lines, horrors which surpassed the ones evoked by the genocide committed during the last six centuries by the European racist powers in many parts of the world and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two Japanese cities in a nuclear attack by America.
But the eminent jurists who drafted that constitution failed to ensure that it reflected the ethos of India that had an unbroken history of over five thousand years. Some detractors would deny the very presence of such an ethos whether it is termed Hindu or Indian. Some would treat it as irrational and reactionary and not worthy of being honoured and revived.
Indian social scientists of the early post-independence decades knew how the nationalist leaders of the pre-independence decades emphasized diverse aspects of that ethos. But many of them valued more those pursuits that the pre-independence had consistently objected to. Neither the later followers of these nationalist leaders nor their critics of different shades have grasped the features of the Social Polity of Ancient India and its dynamics. Passage to Hindu State attempts to present these features in the proper light. It rigorously eschews both idolatry and wanton iconoclasm.
During the decades immediately prior to becoming free from British rule and also during the years immediately after that Indian scholars and jurists embarked on the task of presenting the polity of Ancient India in formats which they thought would be acceptable to both liberal democrats and radical socialists. But most of them failed to trace its features correctly as they lost their way in metaphysics disguised as spirituality or in parochialism.
The scholars who had refused to rewrite Indian history along the lines dictated by the Marxists too failed to get free from the stereotypes propagated by the western Indologists.
We have to gain a correct appreciation of the past to be able to regulate the present and give necessary direction for the future.
Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India was published in 1991. It was followed by Origins of Hindu Social System in 1994. It was a study based on Manusmrti and examined the issues of social distance and social discrimination.
It refined the paradigm of classes (varnas) and mixed classes (samkaravarnas) based on permitted channels of social ascent (anuloma) and prohibited ones (pratiloma). I had developed these paradigms in my 1964 thesis along with the paradigm of four social options, prescription, permission, preference and proscription.
The volume, Foundations of Hindu Economic State (1997) was a development over the lines I had taken in my earlier treatises while interpreting Kautilya's debates and theorems on polity. Extracts from these works are presented as Prologue to Hindu Political Sociology (2000).
Meanwhile the three works of 1991, 1994 and 1997 were followed by three volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics (1999) after an intense reappraisal of the epic, Mahabharata and the chronicle, Bhagavatam. Based exclusively on socio-political theorems, it was a study in social dynamics (lokayatra).
This presentation was followed in 2001 by my exhaustive critical study, Krshna's Bhagavad-Gita as Rajavidya, an essay in Hindu Political Sociology. In 2002, the treatise, Manusmrti as Socio-Political Constitution (Part One: Social Polity; Part Two: Institution of Justice) was finalised after taking into account the impact of Prthu Constitution of the later Vedic period and the Bhagavad-Gita of the Upanishadic (neo-Vedic) period on this code, Manusmrti, which has become almost a permanent guide for study of Hindu social polity despite the criticisms it has been subjected to by some politicians.
By 2004, I was able to bring out my intense critical study, The Upanishads and Hindu Political Sociology. It was followed by the major effort, Neo-Vedic Socio-Political Constitution and Brahma-sutras of Badarayana.
These studies led me to think afresh about the later Vedic and early post-Vedic Social Polity that can be traced in the saga, Mahabharata. The findings have been presented in 2007 as Transition to Post-Vedic Social Polity: Dharmarajya (Social Welfare State) and Dharmaraja, Bhishma and Rajadharma.
Krshna's exposition in Bhagavad-Gita on Rajavidya and Karmayoga and Bhishma's on Rajadharma in the Santiparva of Mahabharata preceded the socio-political constitution advocated by Manava Dharmasastra (Manusmrti) edited by Bhrgu.
Manusmrti preceded the politico-economic code, Arthasastra, of Kautilya who I have noted was a junior contemporary of Bhishma. But like Bhishma's exposition on Rajadharma, Kautilya's work was posterior to the Arthasastra of Pracetas Manu which text is not yet available.
Study of the thoughts, stands and teachings of the different socio-political schools of the period immediately preceding the Battle of Kurukshetra (c 3100 BC according to Hindu tradition) and those succeeding it enabled me to identify the features of the Hindu State that enveloped most areas of this subcontinent for over four millennia till many parts of it came under the influence first of Islamic rulers from Central Asia and then under that of European Christian empires and colonial powers.
Passage to Hindu State is submitted for scrutiny by scholars.
Book I of Passage to Hindu State presents my findings on the Vedic Polity which have remained elusive even to those who hold the Vedas, the oldest of the extant literary works of India, in high esteem. Social Polity is ever in a state of constant flux. That constancy and fluidity, stability and change experienced since the remote past to the times of the early Manus and their impact on the Vedic polity are presented succinctly in this book.
The intriguing features of the Rgvedic polity and Aryan syndrome are dwelt on in this book dispelling many wrong notions about ancient Indian society and polity.
The bicameral (sabha-samiti) Atharvan constitutions of the dichotomous agro-pastoral core society, the implications of the two compacts, Indra-Brhaspati between nobles and commoners, and Trisamdhi, the triple entente that led to the integration of the three social worlds (nobility, commonalty and frontier society) and the Blue-Red Policy advocated by the Atharvan ideologues, the structure and function of Viraj, the larger federal Social Polity, and the Mahadeva constitution of the final decades of the Vedic era that led to the formation of small viable nation-states are brought out anew.
It deals with the Vaivasvata constitution that brought into existence larger janapadas, the Prthu constitution of the agro-pastoral mega-state, and the fault-lines in the early polities that followed the principles of Dandaniti of Usanas (Sukra) and were corrected by Vamana.
Many stereotypes and cliches are discarded and the features of the Vedic polity behind myths and legends are brought out in this treatise. It also presents the diverse aspects of the Social Polity of the epoch of the early Manus while calling for a rational interpretation of the episodes keeping out both blind belief and unwarranted disbelief.
Books 2, 3 and 4 present the features of the Neo-Vedic Social Polity as traced in eleven major Upanishads. This study keeps out the fields of mysticism, metaphysics and theology and dwells on patterns of constitutions of polities headed by a dynamic social leader (Purusha) or by a stoic, intellectual and jurist (Brahma) or by a benevolent charismatic chieftain (Isa or Isvara). The traits expected in these personages, their roles and jurisdictions and the structure of the expanded core society as envisaged by the sages of the Upanishadic era are brought out.
If the Vedic Social Polity was marked by a switch from the permissive laws based on natural propensities (Rta or svabhava) to the puritanical laws based on call for adherence to truth (satya), the neo-Vedic Social Polity was marked by the presence of all the three systems, Rta, Satya and Dharma.
But it was not willing to allow domination over social life either by permissive laws of Rta or every one of the moves made by the proponents of Dharma for a liberalism that would be a compromise between Rta and Satya in the name of consensus among diverse sections of the larger society and among different schools of thought.
Every verse of eleven major Upanishads has been examined from the perspective of political sociology and the stands of the different sages and scholars are brought out. Both scholars of the medieval times and those of modern times have examined the Upanishads exclusively from the point of view of metaphysics. The differences between the Vedic polity and the neo-Vedic polity have been underlined in these volumes.
This study brings out for the first time many aspects of ancient Indian polity that have eluded the 20th century scholars who dealt with ancient Indian history, its society and culture, economy and polity.
Books 5 and 6 present the directions given by Badarayana to scholars who authored the Upanishads on the principles to be kept in mind while re-organizing the social polity so that the judiciary had more influence than the executive.
The terse sutras, formulas, known as Vedanta-sutras or Brahma-sutras were long after they were composed subjected to scrutiny from the point of view of metaphysics by the founders of the school of advaita (non-dualism) and its rivals and detractors. Max Muller followed them. My work has departed from their interpretations.
This work, Brahma-sutras, has remained obscure to modern social thinkers. These formulas have been re-examined from the point of view of neo-Vedic social polity whose highest authority would be the Chief Justice, Brahma. I have not dwelt on the interpretations presented by the schools of Samkara and Ramanuja though these have been kept in view while unravelling the implications of the formulae for Social Polity.
My concern is with the theme that the judiciary should be headed by an influential representative of the entire society, who would be impartial and stoical and would keep in rein all the members of the executive. He would have had knowledge of the lives and orientations of peoples of every one of the social sectors and strata through his personal contacts with them.
The Principles of Neo-Vedic Socio-Political Constitution are brought out in this analysis of every one of the terse formulae (sutras) whose authorship is attributed to Badarayana of the school of Parasaras.
Books 7 and 8 present my treatise, Krshna's Bhagavad-Gita as Rajavidya. I have not dealt with the way of devotion (bhaktimarga). Though Krshna gave proper guidance on how to acquire knowledge (jnanamarga) and put it to use, his emphasis was on systematic work (karmayoga). Both Buddhiyoga, endeavours and functions of intellectuals, and Rajayoga, functions of rulers, are aspects of Karmayoga, the duties of administrators, executives and workers.
This treatise examines every verse of the Gita from the point of view political sociology. It draws attention to the different aspects of the mission of social reorganization that Krshna, the head of an academy and of a socio-political movement had undertaken. I have however been careful not to offend the susceptibilities of those who revere Krshna as God.
Bhagavad-Gita is claimed by its author to be an Upanishad, a work of Vedanta (last section of the anthologies known as Vedas). Neither the Vedas nor the works brought under the category, Vedanta, are to be viewed as sacrosanct if we are to arrive at a correct appreciation of their relevance, value and contribution to political sociology.
The polity dealt with by Krshna was neo-Vedic and was concerned with training of social leaders, executives, administrators and rulers. This training was needed for successful application of the Rajarshi constitution and reorganization of the society. Krshna had taught Prajapati Vivasvan the training necessary for a ruler (Rajayoga) and Vivasvan had taught his protege, Manu Vaivasvata the same. This Manu taught Ikshvaku how to perform his duties under this constitution.
The next five books 9 to 13 present a critical appreciation of some of the many episodes of the great epic, Mahabharata. Issues pertaining to social polity and social dynamics have been discussed without any attempt at idolising any thinker or ruler or at wanton iconoclasm. Some of these episodes were originally dealt with in my trilogy, Hindu Social Dynamics (Lokayatra) (1999). They have been refined in the light of my works on Neo-Vedic Polity.
Concepts like Rajadharma and Dharmarajya, Rajarshi constitution and Dandaniti and training of Yudhishtira as Dharmaraja are examined afresh in these volumes. These concepts belonged to the decades immediately preceding the battle of Kurukshetra (c 3100BC according to Hindu tradition: C1400 BC according to the detractors who had come under the influence of western Indologists). They are early post-Vedic.
It is unsound not to keep in mind or fail to have a correct picture of the transition from the early Vedic to the later Vedic polity and from the Vedic polity to the neo-Vedic (Upanishad) polity to post-Vedic polity (that was ushered in recently before that battle).
Books 14 and 15 present Manusmrti and the building of a rural bureaucracy based on Rajarshi constitution of the Neo-Vedic Polity and on Prthu constitution of the final stages of the Vedic Polity. Any study of Manusmrti without keeping in picture the course of social dynamics of the decades prior to and posterior to the crucial battle of Kurukshetra would fail to present correctly the recommendations of Bhrgu, chief editor of the Manava Dharmasastra.
Both Bhishma's Rajadharma and Bhrgu's Manusmrti followed the politico-economic code (Arthasastra) of Pracetas Manu, which drew on the socio-political systems of the neo-Vedic period. This code of Pracetas Manu was refined by Kautilya, who was a junior contemporary of Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Pisuna, Dvaipayana (and Badarayana) and Bhishma and Uddhava.
Book 16 presents an outline of the Hindu Economic State recommended by Kautilya. His original work in Sanskrit couplets belonged to the period of Manu Savarni, Parikshit and Janamejaya. Krpacharya (Acharya), political counsellor of Parikshit, was his deuteragonist.
Kautilya was a compere and monitor at debates on social polity like Kutila, a contemporary of Angirasa Brhaspati (an economist and exponent of lokayata, social control without state intervention). Like Kutila he allowed others to present their views and stands before he took the stage to round off the session with his verdict in his terse remarks, often to their chagrin. His was the last word but it was a considered verdict resulting from a rigorous application of samkhya dialectical methods.
The text of Kautilya's Arthasastra that redefined the Rajarshi constitution and Brhaspati's economic policies was discovered several centuries later by Vishnugupta who claimed to have played a big role in overthrowing the Nandas of Magadha and edited that text and cast it in the form of pithy prose formulae. However Vishnugupta's annotation of the original text is not available till now.
There are grounds to hold that the extant text of Kautilya's Arthasastra is one doctored by the British rulers of India even as extant texts of Bhrgu's Manusmrti and some other Smrtis are ones doctored by them with the help of Hindu Sanskrit pandits. The Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita and the Brahma-sutras seem to have escaped this wilful doctoring.
Hindu State is not a theocratic state. Hinduism is not to be viewed as a religion. It refers to the ethos of the peoples of the Indian subcontinent. What had evolved as Dharma by the end of the long Vedic era and got crystallised during its last decades, that is, immediately prior to the Battle of Kurukshetra (c 3100BC, according to Hindu tradition) may be called Hindu Dharma.
It envelops what is called Adidharma (Purana Dharma), Sanatana Dharma (Srauta Dharma) and Sasvata Dharma (Smarta Dharma). None of these three was a creed or sect linked to a prophet or philosopher or worship of a God.
It is imprecise to visualise Hindu Dharma as a composite of the six sects (Saivaism, Saktam, Kaumaram, Ganapatyam, Vaishnavaism and Sauryam, which gave prime place to worship of Siva, Sakti, Kumara or Skanda, Ganapati, Vishnu and Surya respectively) that have sprung up during the post-Vedic times.
It is also wrong to treat Hinduism as a religion distinct from and antagonistic to Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism which are postVedic like the above six sects. While the later three have their main founders, the earlier six did not have such founders.
Hindu Dharma which embraces all the nine in addition to Adidharma, Sanatana Dharma and Sasvata Dharma, has no founder or first teacher. There is no sect, or creed or class ethos called Brahmanism. It is a chimera created by modern demagogues.
There is no Vedic religion, either monotheism, or polytheism or pantheism. The devas (like Indra, Agni, Varuna, Vayu etc) referred to in the Vedas and other ancient Indian works were not gods of a polytheistic or pantheistic society. They were designations of the different officials of the Vedic social polity, and their roles have varied from time to time.
Hindu Dharma evolved from the ways of life and values upheld, during the three periods, pre-Vedic and early Vedic, middle Vedic, and later Vedic and early post-Vedic. The three periods were marked respectively by prevalence of permissive laws (based on natural rhythm, Rta), puritanical laws (which called for strict adherence to truth, Satya) and liberal and supportive laws (Dharma), a path between the two.
Prior to the Vedic era and during the early Vedic era, the relations among human beings (as among and other species of life) were characterised and guided by the principles of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest and accommodation by one, of others where possible and surrender to the inevitable when necessary. (The issue of mutation of genes is not taken into account here.)
Every human being, like every other living being, functioned in tune with his innate trait (svabhava). This rhythm was known as Rta. He or she functioned as an individual and none was bound by or to any social group or institution. Neither family nor marriage was there.
Human relations were governed by the principle, might is right. It was matsya-nyaya, law of fishes by which the larger fish survived and grew by swallowing the smaller. There was no state and no protector of the weak. Every individual was a law unto himself. The middle Vedic era witnessed the ways of life in tune with Rta that validated free expression of natural traits being superseded by those that accorded with the laws based on truth (Satya) and self-restraint.
Right became mightier than might. It was a positive approach by which the mighty either allowed everyone to function according to his or her true nature (svabhava) or got eliminated by the combined forces of the society. Gentleness and compassion were deemed to be the traits (gunas) of one noted for Sattva and aggressiveness and cruelty as the traits of one noted for Rajas. The ignorant were said to be characterised by Tamas.
The socio-economic laws of the middle Vedic era were not a mere negation of the permissive laws based on natural rhythm, Rta. They were puritanical and stringent. Those who did not or could not take the pledge (vrata) to always abide by truth (satya) were advised to at least abjure perjury (na asatya). Those who did not do so either were expelled from the community.
Social laws that kept aloft all social worlds (lokas) were called Dharma. They supplemented the ethical laws that called for strict adherence to truth, Satya. But the two were not identical.
Dharma recognised the right of every individual to function in tune with his natural trait but it refused to approve the theorem that might is right. It struck a middle path between the individualism championed by the admirers of Rta as being in tune with the laws of nature and the need for social control advocated by the Satyas, adherents of Truth. Both were valid and the two sets of values, rights of the individual and duties to one's social groups were to be synchronised.
The numerous ways of life and binding codes of conduct, known, as kuladharmas and jatidharmas, by which an individual irrespective of his economic and political status was required to abide by the values upheld by the traditional social group or clan (kula) and economic community (jati) in which he was born are deemed to be the features of Purana (ancient) Dharma. The clans (kulas) and native communities (jatis) of a given region (desa) which had almost equal status were part of a social world (loka). The orientations cherished by that social world were known as lokadharma.
While kuladharmas and jatidharmas were particular that the traditional practices and values were not violated by any member of the kula or jati, the administration of the region where the kulas and jatis plied their traditional vocations ensured for them protection against intrusion by outsiders and deviation from the norms by any individual from the stands of his or her clan or community in its jurisdiction.
Lokadharma was informal and enjoyed popular support among all those who were members of the social world and were almost of equal status and shared common orientations. No social code or state law was required to ensure that lokadharma was honoured by its members.
Every individual was aware that no clan or community or social world would welcome one who was not its member.The conduct that is in tune with the ways of life held in esteem, by one's clan and community is called achara, unwavering settled practice.
Adidharma (the first social laws) did not try to arrive at a common ground for the different ways of life and conduct. It prescribed how every one of the group should function and what none of that group should do.
Kuladharmas and jatidharmas which were ancient dharmas had only prescriptions and proscriptions (niyamas and yamas). Srauta Dharma, traced to the Srutis (Vedas) and Smarta Dharma emphasized by the Smrtis (Sastras) do not question the validity of Adidharmas.
Hindu Dharma has not set aside any of the kuladharmas and jatidharmas that have come down the centuries. The practices upheld by a clan (kula) or community (jati) have not been altered or indicted by the systemised codes, Sanatana Dharma and Sasvata Dharma.
While what was proposed by Manu Svayambhuva and other early Manus belonged to the Vedic era and hallowed as Srauta Dharma and has been deemed to be ideal ways of life, the liberal code that has been approved by the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata and his council of seven sages and legislated forever (Sasvata) is deemed to be the best among the options available.
Sasvata Dharma does not prescribe or even allude to the dharmas of any clan (kula) or native community (jati) or region (desa) or economic corporation (sreni) or social world (loka), The unwritten codes of clans (kulas) and native communities (jatis) and social worlds (lokas) have not been dealt with by either Sanatana Dharma or by Sasvata Dharma. They were all upheld by the two latter systemised codes.
The state could examine and deal only with the practices of economic corporations (srenis) and the civic rules of the region (desa) over which it had jurisdiction.
The innate tendencies of men and women which were unchecked were brought under strict control by the earlier codes of clans and native communities of the region where they were settled. For instance, a man might marry a woman born in another clan (kula, gotra) but not one born in another community (jati). Every clan had its own lands and livestock and vocation or means of livelihood.
The salient aspects of Sanatana Dharma can be noticed, only by application of the methods of samkhya dialectics to bring out the values and systems emphasized by the Vedas. The Vedic hymns do not pronounce openly what were the rights and duties of the individuals and how they varied from one class to another. These are implicit and can be identified.
The legislators and sages of the Vedic times who contributed to Sanatana Dharma recognised the existence of three distinct social worlds (lokas) liberal patriciate (devas), commoners (manushyas) of the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi) and the industrial frontier society (antariksham) of the forests and mountains.
They also noted the presence of numerous cadres and individuals who were constantly on the move (cara) unlike the three settled (acara) social worlds. These cadres and individuals belonged to social universes (jagats).
The commoners born in the plains were known as jana, and those born in the forests and mountains were known as other peoples (itara jana) and the individuals and cadres of the social universes (jagats) as blessed peoples (punya jana) free from social and political control.
Sanatana Dharma recommended that these cadres and individuals should develop desirable common orientations even as the social worlds (lokas), nobility (divam), agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi) and the frontier society (antariksham) had done and convert themselves into a social world (loka).
All the four social sectors could be then envisaged as a single social universe (jagat) entitled to the same mobility (cara) as cadres like gandharvas did and to the right to be settled (acara) population as the commoners (manushyas) were. It was not enough to bring together the three social worlds (divam, prthvi and antariksham), together against the undesirable feudal warlords (asuras).
Lokasamgraha (social integration) required bringing together all the four law-abiding social worlds (nobles, agro-pastoral commoners, industrial frontier society and free middle class cadres like gandharvas). This required acceptance of common socio-cultural (dharma) and politico-economic (artha) codes (sastras) by all the social sectors.
The theorems of the dharmasastras were based on the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama, while those of Arthasastra on Atharvaveda (Brahma). Some have treated all the four as Brahma.
The scholars who taught, interpreted and implemented the provisions of the socio-cultural legislation (dharma) based on the constitution (Brahma) were known as Brahmarshis. The Atharvan activists who advocated the politico-economic (artha) steps to be taken in tune with the Atharvaveda were known as Brahmavadis. Neither group is to be identified with the priests and teachers (Brahmans) of the later times.
Sanatana Dharma envisaged the emergence of four social classes, Brahmans and Kshatriyas from among the free middle class cadres of gandharvas, apsarases, vipras, vidyadharas, charanas, chakshus, tapasvis and siddhas. It expected the agro-pastoral commonalty (manushyas, prthvi) to constitute itself into two economic classes, the employers who owned property and the workers who had no personal property, Vaisyas and Shudras.
At the initial stage the loyal servants, dasas, of the nobles, devas, were freed from bondage to their masters and given the status of Shudras, free workers. The Vaisyas had been earlier called Aryas after they had taken the pledge to abide by truth (satya) and non-violence (ahimsa).
Later all the four classes (Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras) were treated (by Kautilyan Arthasastra) as Aryas and granted the rights of free citizens. Manu Svayambhuva had recommended that only the Vaisyas be given those rights and the status of Aryas. Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Shudras (Dasas) were not eligible to own personal property.
Sanatana Dharma did not extend the provisions of these four classes (varnas) to the other two social worlds, patriciate of the core society (divam) and the industrial frontier society (antariksham). Only the middle class cadres like gandharvas were encouraged to join one of the two classes, Brahmans and Kshatriyas. Those who excelled in gentleness (sattva) were given the status and role of Brahmans (jurists) and those who were dynamic (rajasi) the roles of warriors and administrators (kshatriyas).
Krshna who was an advocate of samkhya and yoga wanted that all the then existing codes of conduct and value systems, dharmas, should be ensured protection. That is, kuladharmas and jatidharmas followed by organised and settled communities of the commoners (manushyas) would be protected.
But there were some who had left their clans and communities and were functioning as free men and free women (naras and naris).They were on par with the lower ranks of the gandharva cadres. They were permitted to choose their vocations that had not been reserved for the organized clans and communities, in accordance with their personal aptitudes.
The occupations of those who had earlier been required to leave their vocations and communities and take refuge in the social periphery and function as discrete individuals (bhutas) were given protection and they were allowed to choose an occupation suitable to their nature.
Of course, the commoners (manushyas) and members of the middle class (like gandharvas) too were extended the right to choose the occupation they were fit for and abide by the rules and regulations prescribed for those vocations, as the free men and women naras and naris were allowed,
This was known as svadharma, personal rights and duties. It was established (sthapana) by the state and the society. Those who had been extended this benefit were warned against trying to follow the vocations assigned to others and exercise their rights and duties (paradharma).
Krshna declared that these persons who were selected and assigned duties and vocations (karma) on the basis of their natural traits (gunas) would be accommodated in the appropriate class, Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra. The nobles (deva) too were allowed to choose one of these classes. But the class of nobility was not wound up.
Such individuals as were accommodated in the new scheme of four classes were called manavas and were bound by the provisions of Manava Dharmasastra edited by Bhrgu and Arthasastra of Pracetas. The State had no coercive power over them. They were citizens of the world and could reside in any state that entertained them. Of course they had to follow its civic rules as long as they resided in that region (desa).
Only the organized clans and communities, which could not leave their native lands were under the political control of the state authorities, most of whom belonged to the nobility.
Krshna expected the scholars who were engaged in drafting the Manava Dharmasastra to take into account his recommendation that work assigned to one should be in tune with that person's natural traits.
The last chapter of Manusmrti indicates that it was in tune with the principles of karmayoga, systematic work that Krshna had desired to be applied to occupations assigned to manushyas, naras, bhutas and manavas, commoners of the plains, free men, discrete individuals of the social periphery and the selected and privileged free citizens.
Social reorganisation was undertaken by Krshna who was a senior contemporary of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata who followed the principles of the science of administration of the state he had taught to that Manu's mentor, Prajapati Vivasvan. It gave prime importance to men's natural traits (gunas), gentleness, assertiveness and inertia (sattva, rajas and tamas).
Manusmrti drafted by Bhrgu and other Prajapatis (chiefs of the people) who were appointed by the first Manu, Svayambhuva, took into account this aspect and identified more than forty cadres in the larger society and stratified them in nine tiers, sattva (higher, middle and lower), rajas (higher, mddle and lower), and tamas (higher, middle and lower).
Sanatana Dharma was satisfied with assigning the members of the different middle class cadres who were not engaged in economic activities to the class of intellectuals-cum-jurists (Brahmans) or to that of warriors-cum-administrators (Kshatriyas) and the commoners engaged in agro-pastoral activities to the class of owners of property (Aryas or Vaisyas) or to that of property-less workers (Shudras).
It did not deal with the social world of nobility (devas) and the industrial frontier society (plutocrats, technocrats and proletariat) and the social periphery of discrete individuals (bhutas) and their guides.
Sasvata Dharma filled the lacuna. It dissolved the class of nobles (divam) and asked its members to join one of the three higher classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas. It allowed the members of the frontier society (antariksham) to join one of the two classes, Vaisyas and Shudras. They were not admitted to the class of jurists and humanists (which the Brahmans were) or to that of warriors and administrators (Kshatriyas).
Vaisyas (plutocrats, entrepreneurs, bourgeoisie and landed gentry) and Shudras (workers, agricultural as well as industrial and artistes who did not fit in the three higher classes) were the two classes of the expanded commonalty.
Before embarking on outlining the features of Hindu State, it is necessary to recognise that the system of four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras, is not to be presented as caste system. [It is also imprecise to present the four classes as priests, warriors, traders and menials.]
This system of four classes into which all sectors of the society were advised to merge came into prominence soon after the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata.
Manava Dharmasastra (Manusmrti) which opted for the scheme of four classes (varnas) and four stages of life (asramas) visualised that the members of the four classes would not be coerced to stay permanently in a given region as prajas and obey for ever its state laws whether just or not. They should be free to move to any territory whose administration was to their liking.
Besides every individual should be able to choose his vocation in tune with his aptitude and suitability and carry out the duties attached to that vocation and enjoy the rights that emanated from the performance of those duties.
Manusmrti accepted the concepts of svabhava, svakarma and svadharma and svaraja. Not only any community or region but also every individual should be able to enjoy the rights and perform the duties emanating from autonomy.
It provided for four-fold social options--prescription of certain vocations, duties and rights, permission for pursuing certain other duties, vocations and activities, preference of one course of life among the above two and proscription of certain deeds as anti-social.
Manusmrti recognized the existence of vocational groups not fitting in any of the four basic classes (varnas) and which shared the traits of more than one varna. They were called samkaravarnas.
It also validated social ascent through marriage of a girl with one in a higher social stratum but discouraged such marriage with a man in a lower class. It permitted individuals to do in an emergency, deeds proscribed for his class. This was called apad-dharma, law of exigency. Manusmrti was not dogmatic though it discouraged deviation from the norms.
Earlier Vaivasvata's chief counsellor, Kashyapa, had presented the concept of a federal society (virajam) with eight sectors: liberal cultural aristocrats (devas), authoritarian feudal warlords (asuras), sages (rshis), retired elders (pitaras), agro-pastoral commoners (manushyas), plutocrats (yakshas), privileged cadres of the independent middle class (gandharvas etc) and industrial society of technocrats and proletariat (nagas and sarpas).
This analysis which recognised the orientations of all the eight sectors of the larger society did not accommodate the concept of four varnas (Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras).
Devas, asuras, rshis and manushyas were four classes that belonged to the agro-pastoral core society. When the feudal lords got reformed and absorbed in the cadre of elders, Devas, rshis, pitaras and manushyas became the four classes of the core society. The first three were not engaged in economic activities and were maintained by the commoners from the surplus they produced. The three classes consented to refrain from interfering in the affairs of the commonalty.
Devas, asuras, gandharvas and manushyas were the four classes of the active social polity of the integrated core society shortly before the four varnas were created.
Devas (liberal aristocrats) and asuras (cruel warlords) were the two sectors of the ruling elite while the two classes, jurists and warriors (Brahmans and Kshatriyas) were formed by assigning the middle class of gandharva cadres on the basis of their aptitude to those ranks. The commoners (manushyas) were classified as Vaisyas and Shudras. When the class of feudal lords (asuras) was derecognised, and the class of gandharvas was bifurcated as Brahmans and Kshatriyas, the four classes were Devas, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Manushyas.
Devas were the new aristocracy (liberal nobles of the core society, authoritarian controllers of the social periphery and plutocrats of the frontier industrial society). Brahmans were jurists and intellectual guides. Kshatriyas were warriors and administrators. All others were brought under the class of commonalty (manushyas, vis). The expanded society and its state developed an unified politico-economic system.
None of the four sectors, nobility, judiciary, army and civil administration (which controlled the treasury) was superior to the other three. They were four independent institutions, sabha, samiti, sena and sura. The officials who headed them were designated as Indra, Agni, Aditya and Brhaspati.
All of them owed allegiance to the chief of the people (Prajapati) who commanded the confidence of the nation (rashtram) and the state (kshatram).
By the end of the Vedic era, fifty small viable integrated nation-states came into existence in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. They had a common economic programme and constitution which had been outlined after wide consultations with the chiefs of the peoples of every region. They were not ethnic units.
This initiative was taken by the Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva. It retained the two traditional bodies, Sabha, the house of nobles (devas) and Samiti, the council of intellectuals (Brahmans) headed by the officials, designated as Indra and Agni respectively.
In the traditional legislature, the Sabha had thirty-three members drawn from the four sectors, Adityas, Vasus, Maruts and Rudras who looked after general administration, peoples of agro-pastoral commonalty, those of moors and open areas and those of forests and mountains. The thirty-three included Viraj, head of the federal social polity, Prajapati, chief of the people, elected by a council of (sixteen) elders and Aditi, the benevolent mother-figure who guided the eight administrators (Adityas).
Samiti had sixteen intellectuals-cum-jurists (rshis) and sixteen elders (pitaras) who had retired from all economic activities and their families. This council was headed by an official designated as Agni who also headed the sixteen member judiciary.
Sabha was headed by an official designated as Indra who controlled the treasury and the army and also headed the eight-member executive. Agni too was a member of this executive and ranked next to Indra.
The two bodies were convened by the Prajapati who was senior to Indra and Agni and presided over the joint meeting when it discussed issues pertaining to constitution. Indra presided when it discussed issues pertaining to finance. The hierarchy was Viraj, Prajapati, Aditi, Indra and Agni.
Where the state was a small unit, the head of the state who excelled in aggressiveness and assertiveness (rajas) was designated as rajan. He had to score over his peers (rajanyas) who like him were aggressive and assertive.
In the case of a federal polity, its head, Viraj, was elected by a college of such heads of state who were noted for rajas. While a rajan had tenure of four to five years and the post of the head of the state was held by a member of the oligarchy by rotation, the Viraj had tenure of ten to twelve years.
Both the setups were accepted by Mahadeva in the initial stage but his constitution did not provide for the federal state. Rajan was the head of the state and was elected by a small college of rajanyas who were his peers. But he was not superior to any of the other dignitaries, Prajapati, Indra and Agni.
Mahadeva constitution did not provide for the posts of Viraj and Aditi. Prajapati was head of the nation-state. He was a charismatic personality enjoying the support of the commonalty (vis) and the elders (pitrs).
While the Rajan had no control over the treasury or the army or general administration and had to depend on his personal resources to flaunt his hollow status as head of the state, real authority and power was exercised by the chief of the people, a charismatic elder, Prajapati. The head of the state, Rajan, too had to acknowledge Prajapati, the head of the nation-state as his superior.
Prajapati convened the two houses, Sabha and Samiti and was also the commander-in-chief. Prajapati was superior to Indra, the head of the executive and Agni, the head of the judiciary and Aditya, the head of the military establishment and Brhaspati, the head of the civil administration and also Rajan, head of the political oligarchy.
The neo-Vedic state provided for Prajapati, chief of the people as the head of the nation-state. Mahendra who headed the eight (or twelve) member executive ranked next to him. Prajapati headed a sixteen member board. The sixteen departments that this charismatic leader, Purusha created, brought out by analysis (asrja) are Prana, Sraddha, Kham, Vayu, Jyoti, Apa, Prthvi, Indriya, Manas, Anna, Virya, Tapas, Mantra, Karma, Lokas and Nama.
Lives of all living beings (prana) were to be cared for. Dedication in service (sraddha) was to be ensured. The interests of the frontier society (kham) of the mines, of the open society (vayu), of the social guides (jyotis), of the fluid society depending on riverine and maritime economy (apa), of the agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi), of artistes who gave prominence to five senses (indriyas), thinkers who gave importance to mind (manas), ensuring food for all (anna), health (virya), research (tapas), counsel (mantra), work (karma), organised social worlds (lokas) and noted individuals (nama) were the sixteen departments under the direct care of this charismatic personage.
He enjoyed the support of the commonalty which included not only the natives (jana) of that state but also those to whom he had extended the privileges that the natives enjoyed. The members of this larger commonalty were called prajas of the state. They were like the natives (jana) required to pay tax (one sixth of their earnings) to be declared as prajas eligible for protection by the state.
But Indra no longer had control over the treasury and the army. The treasury was placed under the economist and socio-political ideologue (Brahmavadi), Brhaspati. He looked after civil administration. Agni was in charge of the civil judiciary.This constitution tried to co-ordinate the two patterns of diarchy, Indra-Agni and Indra-Brhaspati, then in vogue. The army was placed under Aditya who earlier was responsible only for the training of the troops but not their deployment.
As Indra and the house of nobles were divested of the power to deploy the state army this authority passed into the hands of the chief of the people, Prajapati. The vexatious conflict between Indra who controlled the treasury and the army and Brhaspati who was in charge of the armoury was resolved by the Prajapati who was senior to them.
The neo-Vedic constitution which was post-Vaivasvata and post-Mahadeva provided for an elected house of nobles. Every state would have a house of thirty-three nobles (devas). They were elected by three representative bodies each with a hundred members and a chief. The members of these bodies representing the natives (jana) of the agro-pastoral areas, the free middle class (punya-jana) and the other industrial society (itara-jana) were known as Visvedevas.
They were representatives of three large electorates each with a thousand members and a chief. They too were known as Visvedevas, nobles (devas) of the larger society (visva). Devas were elected representatives of the society. They were not gods. The house of nobles (sabha, divam) did not interfere in the affairs of the military establishment, civil administration and the judiciary.
It however remained as the respected court of appeal. It had the power to veto any project proposed by the king (Rajan) or the military establishment (Aditya) or the civil administration (Brhaspati). Its sanction was necessary to withdraw funds from the state treasury though it was under the administrative control of Brhaspati, head of economic affairs.
Though he was superior to Indra, head of the house of nobles (devas), who were representatives of a large electorate, the Prajapati did not overrule its decisions. He was however a powerful functionary directing the machinery meant for ensuring social integration and meeting the needs of all social sectors.
Political thinkers envisaged the presence of a circle (mandalam) of five states (rajyam). Each of them had seven constituents, rajan (svami), amatyam, pura (durga), janapada (rashtra), kosa, danda (sena) and mitra.
While the aggressive head of the state elected by his equally aggressive peers was called rajan, a charismatic leader who was not obliged to any such oligarchy and was an independent aristocrat was called svami. The latter might or might not have the support of the masses or any electoral college.
The ministers (mantris) were part of the constituent headed by the king. Some of them had been promoted from the ranks of the secretaries of the state (amatyas) who were prominent personages in charge of the bureaucracy of eighteen departments (tirthas).
The state had an administrative capital (pura) inhabited by rich merchants and the state officials and other employees. There were four districts with their native populations engaged in agriculture and pasture. These were called janapada.
Each pura had its council (paura) and the janapada its assembly. Some states had their capital in the fort which was a garrison and four janapadas around it. These four janapadas together constituted a nation (rashtram).
Every state had a treasury (kosa, sura, rajyalakshmi). The central treasury which received taxes and tributes from the capital and the four districts was called panchadevi. The main army (danda, sena) was located outside the capital (pura) or the fort (durga).
The mitra was the external ally who ensured that the sovereignty of this state and the security of its ruler were not endangered by any other power. He would not interfere in the affairs of the five state organs, amatyam, pura, janapada, kosa and danda which together constituted the rajyam.
Statesmen recognized that dependence on the state army was more important than relying on the support of an external ally (mitra). Economic power (kosa) was more necessary than military power (danda). The janapada with its human and material resources, was more important than economic power. The city (pura) was more important than the rural areas. The bureaucracy was more important than the city and its rich council. The units and personages who were members of the unit called rajan were more important than the bureaucracy (amatyam).
The five states in the circle (mandalam) were those of the svami, his enemy (ari), his friend (mitra, who was his enemy's enemy), the ruler who was located between all the three and took a neutral position (madhyasta) and the ruler whose territory was far from the zone of conflict and so could afford to be indifferent (udasina).
Five such circles constituted a confederation (chakra, wheel). The rajan or svami, the ambitious conqueror (vijigishu) after subduing the others of his circle or securing their subordination through various methods of inter-state policy, planned to control the other circles.
The head of a circle (mandalam) was designated as Viraj or Samrat. The five samrats competed with one another to similarly gain control over the confederation (chakra). The Viraj who controlled the confederation of twenty-five states was called a chakravarti. The fifty nation-states were divided into two rival confederations. The two chakras should opt to coexist in uneasy peace or battle out to decide which of the two chakravartis was superior.
The five circles (mandalas) of five states each might not be geographically adjacent to one another. As a result, the two confederations were bound to be interwoven rather than be located as eastern versus western or northern versus southern. In the absence of circles headed by Viraj or Samrat, the small states would be economically, politically and militarily weak. Similarly in the absence of two equally strong confederations, all the fifty heads of states could be forced one by one to acknowledge the suzerainty of a highly powerful warlord.
This situation arose when the two rival chakravartis, Bharata and Prthu had retired. The powerful emperors (samrats) Bhagirartha, Marutta, Mamdhata and Kartavirya had acknowledged the right of Bharata to be chakravarti.
One of the five heads of circles could be accepted as the head of the confederation of states, thereby avoiding violent conflicts. Prthu did not endeavour to be a chakravarti. The five circles of which his was one had opted to remain independent.
In the absence of the two heads of confederations (chakras), Jarasamdha could coerce the heads of all the fifty states to be subordinate to him. Incidentally he availed of a provision of the Mahadeva constitution which required the army of every state to defend it but did not allow it to be used for conquests of other states.
Earlier, Bhargava Parasurama, head of a military academy had been vexed with the high-handedness of the Haihaya ruler, Kartavirya Arjuna, and had demilitarised twenty-one states. Parasurama asked the rulers to settle their disputes through personal duels or dice and not to engage troops. Parasurama too was a follower of Mahadeva.
It would appear that only the heads of the federal states, those who held the rank of Viraj were permitted to maintain troops. Of course the Haihaya emperor was deprived of his control over troops. Kashyapa did not approve the steps taken by Parasurama and exiled him from Aryavarta. Both the episodes, Parasurama and Jarasamdha indicate aberrations from the norms set by Mahadeva Constitution. Every state might maintain a small contingent to protect its subjects but not use it for aggression.
A federal state (viraj) or circle of states (mandala) might be led by a chieftain who was successful in adopting proper socio-economic techniques instead of embarking on wars. Every state should be a medium-sized viable economic state able to meet the needs of its population. It cannot be a predominantly agrarian or pastoral or industrial state. It has to develop itself into an agro-industrial economy.
An ideal state would have forty percent of its population engaged in agro-pastoral economy and another forty percent in industrial economy. The rest would be engaged in non-economic services, as suggested by Kautilyan Arthasastra.
All other patterns would be aberrations. No state would be an ethnic state. It is also not necessary that all the territories of a state should be contiguous. The state (rajyam) should be so formed that it is economically self-sufficient.
Fifty such states would have to be formed throughout the subcontinent overriding all other factors.They would be constituted into two competing confederations of states (chakras) each with twenty-five states. Each confederation would have five circles (mandalas) and each circle five states.
The concept of a single union of all the fifty states was not held to be either feasible or desirable. Healthy competition between two confederations is necessary to ensure that all the fifty states are militarily, economically and politically secure.
Every state (rajya) would have five units, bureaucratic machinery (amatyam), city council (paura), rural assembly (janapada), treasury (kosa) and troops (danda).
The janapada would have eight sectors, four agrarian and four industrial. Each district of the state would have two counties (drona), one agrarian and one industrial. Each district would have an administrative centre (sthaniya). Every county would have its market and court at its headquarters.
The sthaniya or district headquarters would have a market centre and also a court. The courts would be dealing with both social and economic disputes. The district court would have three bureaucrats (amatyas) and three experts in social laws (dharmasthas).
The state troops (danda) which were meant for maintaining law and order and curbing crimes would be under the control of these district courts. The city would be under an administrator, prasastr, who would be of the rank of a senior amatya. The head of the district, sthanika, too would be of the rank of a senior amatya.
The state would have a high court with four judges, of whom, the expert in political and economic laws would be the head and the other three dealing with socio-cultural issues would be appointed by that head. The head of this court would be appointed by the head of the state, (rajan or svami) in consultation with his ministers (mantris).
Every state would have a ruler who was well educated and civil and was not associated with any of the clans, resident in that territory. He should preferably be from among the discrete individuals (bhutas) resident in the social periphery.
This would ensure that he would be in tune with the orientations of the unorganized middle class and not bound by the codes of organized and settled clans and communities or those of the classes, like cultural aristocracy, plutocracy, bourgeoisie and technocrats and proletariat or even of the intellectual aristocracy.
Of course he could not be a feudal warlord though he might be a member of the class of rajanyas noted for harshness, cruelty and aggressiveness. He would be bold, assertive and yet well-educated, sober and sagacious. This was the calibre expected of a rajarshi.
The Rajarshi constitution required that the head of the state should be selected from among the eligible candidates by a board of three members, the outgoing Rajarshi, his mentor and political guide (Rajapurohita) and the Prime Minister.
The candidate selected from the trainees in the royal academy would be trained by Indra and Brhaspati, the head of the thirty-three member house of nobles and the head of the civil administration in charge of economy. On the new Rajarshi taking over the reins of the administration as head of the state, the retiring Rajarshi could become Rajapurohita.
The two together would nominate from among the members of the house of nobles, the eight members of the executive, ensuring that all the eight sectors of the society were represented. The head of this executive would be of the rank of Prime Minister or Indra. It was advisable to have three members of the executive dealing with political issues (defence, foreign affairs and law and justice) and five with economic affairs (food, pasture, finance, industry and labour).
Dharmasastra versus Arthasastra
Hindu Social Thought, it is often claimed, has been concerned with Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, the four values of life (purusharthas) that every individual is expected to pursue. These four values have been loosely translated as religion, wealth, sex and salvation. Dharma is more than religion, ethics and morality. Some have preferred to equate it with justice and some others with charity. These translations too are imprecise.
Traditional Hindu Social Thought gave primacy to Dharma. It examined the socio-cultural codes, Dharmasastras, in depth. It treated Moksha or salvation as an adjunct to Dharma and as the final goal that the pursuit of other values should lead to. Arthasastra more than any of the heterodox denominations created a furore, when it advanced the primacy of Artha and made Dharma and Kama depend on it. Economic and political regulations govern social life, it said. In this prolonged inter-disciplinary conflict Dharma held the fort well.
During the recent decades, Arthasastra has been lauded for challenging the traditionalists, both orthodox and heterodox, who stood for the primacy of Dharma. Some have argued that Kautilya, the author of Arthasastra, himself a Brahman could not have questioned the authority of the Dharmasastras. The facile assumption is that the authors of Dharmasastras were all Brahmans and that all Brahmans unquestioningly accepted the Dharmasastra.
These apologists for Dharma have slurred over the fact that there were several Dharmasastras composed during different periods and so were there several Arthasastras. They argue that Kautilya's dictum of the supremacy of the royal edict, Rajasasana, was not intended to deny the validity of the Vedas as the basic authority from which laws derive their binding force. Even as this dictum has not been studied in its proper context, the facile assumption, again, is that the laws detailed in Dharmasastras were based entirely on the Vedas.
Search for Kautilya's Identity and his Times
Since the Grantha texts of the Kautilyan Arthasastra became available by the beginning of the 20th century, there has been no agreement on who its author was, whether it was the work of one or of many, whether its author was but a theoretician or a practical statesman, whether it was composed during the Mauryan rule or earlier or later. Could it have been pre-Mauryan? I was concerned with its contents when in 1964 I submitted my doctoral thesis, Society under an Imperial State, based on Kautilyan Arthasastra.
In 1964 I preferred to go along with the then accepted view that it was a work of the Mauryan period (c300BC). But I was unable to accept that the other thinkers whose opinions Kautilya refuted were his predecessors and that the two were separated by several centuries. I proceeded to analyze the schools of thought represented by every one of these thinkers along the two schemata, the predecessor hypothesis and the contemporaneity hypothesis to bring out the specific socio-political orientations of each of the schools and thinkers referred to in the Kautilyan Arthasastra. I compared his stands also with those of Manusmrti and other major Smrtis.
Kautilya and two streams in Kautilyan Arthasastra
I have to acknowledge that Kangle's notes published after that thesis was submitted have led me to rethink on chronology. In my thesis, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India from Manu to Kautilya (1989) I asserted that Kautilya must have preceded Mahapadma Nanda by at least five centuries. The Mauryas succeeded the Nandas of Magadha. It is not sound to identify Kautilya with Chanakya or Vishnugupta who might have helped Chandragupta to capture power from the Nandas soon after Alexander curtailed his mission of conquest of India to return to his native land.
In my work, Foundations of Hindu Economic State based on Kautilyan Arthasastra and published in 1997, I have traced two streams, the early Kautilyan that could have been contemporaneous with Parikshit and Janamejaya and a later one, which should have substantially been pre-Mauryan.
The early stream places Kautilya as a statesman who must have been present on the scene when the Battle of Kurukshetra took place. The later stream, which is essentially a free annotation of and commentary on the then available Kautilyan couplets, was intended to place the new empire on a sound basis, politically, economically and administratively.
This annotation has been attributed to Vishnugupta who claims to have recovered the weapons (sastras) and the codes (sastras) from the (archives of) Nandas. Vishnugupta does not claim to be the author of the Arthasastra. The extant text of Kautilyan Arthasastra does not mention the name of Chanakya.
I have emphasized that the date of c3100BC for the battle of Kurikshetra as held by Hindu tradition needs to be adhered to until it is convincingly proved to be wrong and another date established as the correct one. All writings on the history of Ancient India are to be adjudged on the touchstone of this date of reference as I have pointed out in my volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics (1999).
Call for a Rational Approach
The 19th century witnessed the unearthing of the texts of ancient Indian literature and the attempt to describe the social dynamics of the pre-historic and early historic periods.
Despite the reluctance of many, particularly European, scholars to allow earlier dates for the composition of several texts, the chronology of Indian works, as adopted by P.V. Kane, G.N.Jha, K. Rangaswami Aiyangar etc. came to be accepted as fairly reasonable.
But they too toed the lines of the western scholars. Social history of Ancient India came to be traced on the basis of this chronology, which though conservative defies logic and hence needs to be handled with caution.
I have in my work, Hindu Social Dynamics decried the attempts made by some nationalists to rewrite Indian history accepting myths as facts and called for rigorous rationalism and some progressive writers terming factes as fiction. Rationalism requires us to reject many of the postulates advanced by the western Indologists.
Manusmrti moulded to suit purposes of Colonial Rulers
The extant text of Manusmrti was finalized during the British rule over India. British and European scholars ably assisted by several Indian scholars perused the available texts and commentaries. They were involved in an important task that the East India Company and later the British India government under the crown had undertaken. The British administrators who in the beginning sought to introduce Roman laws and Christian ethics realized after the holocaust of 1857, the enormity of their errors.
On the resumption by the crown, of the Government of India, the Queen proclaimed that her government disclaimed the right and desire to impose their convictions on any of their subjects. The Queen assured that in framing and administering the law due regard would be paid to the ancient rights, usages and customs of India. [She seems to have disowned Macaulay.]
The importance of Manusmrti as the authority thus came to the fore. We note the generally accepted opinion that the metrical Manusmrti was probably based on a Manava Dharmasastra text now irretrievably lost and that as it stands today is posterior to Kautilyan Arthasastra. We would however point out that it is not advisable to base any outline of the social dynamics of Ancient India on the stand that Manusmrti is posterior to Kautilyan Arthasastra.
Sir William Jones, the first among the western scholars to attempt an authoritative translation of Manusmrti suggested that it might have been composed as early as 1200BC. It was presumed then that the Battle of Kurukshetra might have taken place about 1400BC and that the Vedas preceded it.
Williams put the Manusmrti at c500BC, that is, coeval with the birth of Buddhism and Jainism while Burnell gave its composition c400AD that is, posterior to the Gupta period. Others preferred a compromise and placed it between 200BC and 200AD making it post-Buddha. It is apparent that the above shifts had been necessitated by the shifts in the needs of the British administrators.
When iin 1794 Jones translated the Manava Dharmasastra a systematic judicial administration was then just begun in the British provinces of India. For the uncritical lawyers who embarked on this task, Jones's translation became an authority on the laws of Hindus. Burnell, several decades later, argued that to make it the authority was a retrograde step.
It was only after Mitakshara and Dayabhaga were translated in 1810 that the judicial administration was put on the rails. Of course there was a surreptitious search for a justification for the notorious doctrine of lapse by which the East India Company swindled the princely houses of India of their lands and wealth.
Recommending to the European world his translation of Manusmrti, Jones said: "Whatever opinion in short may be formed of Manu and his laws, in a country happily enlightened by sound philosophy and the only true revelation, it must be remembered that those laws are actually revered as the word of the Most High, by nations of great importance to the political and commercial interests of Europe, and particularly by many millions of Hindu subjects, whose well-directed industry would add largely to the wealth of Britain and who ask no more in return than protection for their persons and places of abode, justice in their temporal concerns, indulgences to the prejudices of their own religion, and the benefit of those laws, which they have been taught to believe sacred, and which alone they can possibly comprehend."
Manusmrti and significance of its polity and social policy
Till the end of the 19th century, Indian attention to Manusmrti was mainly in terms of its implications to marriage and succession among Hindus. Other aspects became prominent with the discovery of the texts of Arthasastra in the first decade of the 20th century. Burnell held that the text of Manusmrti was complete, orderly and intelligible. But he held that the first and last chapters formed an explanatory and philosophical framework and were later additions. He missed their import.
He could not comprehend their message and so did most other scholars who have dealt with the provisions of this socio-cultural code. In his view Ch 7 was an abstract on polity and affairs of the king and hence entirely foreign to the original sutras. These chapters were obviously inconvenient or irrelevant to the task the British scholars had undertaken and to which I have drawn attention. We must avoid servile and blind adherence to the interpretations they had put forth.
Undesirable Interpolations galore in Manusmrti
Burnell argued that he had followed Weber when he held that Manusmrti was post-Mahabharata. But Hopkins says that Weber had not committed himself to such a stand.
Burnell while discussing the purpose and significance of Manusmrti took the unwarranted stand that it was composed by c400AD by a northern Brahman under the southern Chalukyas. His view that the Manavas were a Brahman gotra, has had an undesirable political and social fall-out during the last century and a quarter.
Buhler, on the other hand, accepted as true, the assertion made in the Manusmrti itself and supported by Skanda Purana that Bhrgu's Samhita was the first and the most ancient recast of a Dharmasastra attributed to Manu. He too thought wrongly that Manu was the name of the author. (Bhrgu was the chief editor of the Manava Dharmasastra.)
Buhler held that the number of slokas (couplets) with regard to which real doubts can be entertained is small. They are only about a dozen and are not crucial, he says. (We find that in Manusmrti more than a hundred slokas are later interpolations.) He places the work between Mahabharata and the metrical Smrtis of Yajnavalkya and Narada. But there are no reasons adduced as to why it could not have preceded the Mahabharata. In fact there have been additions to the original version and theme of Mahabharata from time to time.
According to Buhler the Manava Dharmasastra was a recast and versification of the Manava Dharmasutracharana, a sub-division of the Maitrayaniya School, which adheres to the Black Yajurveda. He raised certain questions connected with the conversion of the locally authoritative Sutra into a law-book claiming the allegiance of all the Aryans. (The Germans were proud that they shared Aryan ancestry and were not prepared to accept Jones's stand that Manusmrti be made applicable to all Hindus. It is significant that the British would address their subjects as Hindus rather than as Aryas.)
What circumstances led to the substitution of a universally binding Manava Dharmasastra, for the manual of the Vedic school? Why was so prominent a position allotted to the remodelled Smrti? How was the conversion effected? When did it take place? All these questions asked by Buhler are yet to be answered satisfactorily.
Buhler notices two strong points in Max Muller's hypothesis.
First it substituted according to him a rational theory of historical development for the fantastic fables that characterized the speculations of the earlier European scholars. (Did it? Or did it substitute only new irrational postulates based on Aryan superiority syndrome in the name of historical progress from barbarism to civilization for myths, fables and undeciphered legends?)
Secondly it fully agreed with the view that the systematic cultivation of all the Indian Sastras had begun in Vedic schools. But his conclusion that the Dharmasastra became universally acceptable because of the establishment of law schools as distinct from the Vedic schools is not convincing.
He refers to the constitution of the Parishad (council), which was empowered to interpret law and suggests that special law schools must have existed by the time of Vasishta and Bodhayana Smrtis. He argues that the Dharmasastras were the exclusive property of the special law schools, unlike the Dharmasutras. Neither argument explains how Dharmasastra secured the binding force that is claimed for it. It is not suggested that these interpretations by the Parishad or the authority of the law school led to their incorporation in the body of the law.
Manusmrti is not a mere book of law
Buhler adds that Dharmasastras show a fuller and more systematic treatment of all topics, even while they retain the traces of the Vedic school approach. He claims that they are free from all signs of sectarian influence or of having been composed at royal command. But he has not been able to establish the causes of this independence. He contrasts the non-sectarian Manusmrti with the Vishnusmrti that advocates the worship of Vishnu.
Buhler has failed to take his findings to their logical conclusion that Manusmrti was composed before the diverse sects made their appearance. He was concerned with defending the choice of Manusmrti as the authority with respect to the sacred laws of all the Hindus.
But Buhler lost his moorings and his way when he asserted that this choice was not new and that the ancient Vedic scholars themselves selected the Manava Dharmasastra for recasting the Smrti because of the reverence they had for Manu whom they accepted as the father of mankind. He was aware that his argument was hollow.
Seven Manus and the Order of Manu
He conceded that the author of the Sutra might have been a historical personage and that the confusion between him and his mythical namesake (Manu) took place later and that it was inevitable. Buhler was flabbergasted by the mention of the seven Manus in Manusmrti. He felt that it was caused probably by a diversity of genealogies found in the various Vedic passages. There are none in the Vedas. They are found only in the Puranas, the chronicles, which followed Manusmrti.
It was not a substitution of seven Manus for one. We have to understand what the Order of Manu was. I have brought out the careers and orientations of each of the first seven occupants of the seat of Manu on the basis of the Bhagavatam, one of the earliest chronicles and other chronicles in my dissertation, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India.
Viraj, Prajapati and Manu--- Social Positions, Not Myths
Buhler noticed a relationship between Viraj and Manu. The interposition of the androgynous Viraj in Manus genealogy is foreshadowed by a curious passage in Atharvaveda 8-10 where the female Viraj is said to have been there in the beginning and to have yielded blessings to various classes of beings. According to verse 23, Manu, the son of Vivasvat, was her calf when Prithi Vainya milked from her agriculture and grain-yielding plants. It would therefore seem that Viraj who repeatedly plays a part in the Vedic cosmogony was already connected with Manu.
While Buhler more than a century back was pleasantly surprised by these curious references, no systematic analysis of the crucial concepts involved had been done until I attempted a rational interpretation of the allegory of the Viraj of the Atharvaveda and compared it with the allegory of Prthvi, the cow, in Bhagavata Purana and with the Vibhuti Yoga of Krshnas Bhagavad-Gita.
It is not helpful and proper to approach the issue with the assumption that Viraj and Manu were myths. What these social positions were have been analyzed and presented in my work, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India (1988).
Buhler, like other 19th century scholars was vexed with the reference to pralayas or successive destruction of the world through flood. Many western scholars refused to question the validity of the stand of the Bible that the whole creation took place in 4004 BC and that there was a flood a few centuries later and that some beings escaped by embarking Noahs Ark.
Referring to the Prajapatis, Buhler says: Finally, the association of the ten sages whom Manu Svayambhuva created and who in turn created other Manus in the work of creation on such passages as those quoted in Apastamba where successive destructions of the world are mentioned. This creation is declared to be the work of the Prajapatis.
The concept of Prajapati needs to be properly outlined. Viraj, Manu, Prajapati were posts in the social polity of the Vedic times. The 19th century Indologists did not have a correct appreciation of the structure of the Vedic polity. Nor was it brought out by the Indian scholars of the 20th century as they dreaded to tread a field held sacred by the orthodox. The spell was broken as I came out with my thesis Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India, smashing numerous myths and stereotypes in which it was wrapped.
Buhler held that the complete development of the myth of Manu belonged to the schools of chroniclers and ancient historians. He was shy of treating Manus as historical personages. This European view still rests on our shoulders as a millstone. I dared to unearth the genealogies and face the realities and their implications. More realities have been bared as I pursued this path relentlessly in my three volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics. Neither blind faith nor mere blind disbelief can get rid of the moss of myths. Rigorous rationalism alone can unravel the enigmas, solve the riddles and explain the aphorisms. Else, crooked demagogues would use Riddles of Hinduism to further their own mean purposes rather than sincerely seek enlightenment through reason.
A Note on Naradasmrti
Naradasmrti says that Manu composed a Dharmasastra in one hundred thousand verses arranged in a thousand chapters and that Narada reduced it to twelve thousand verses, Markandeya to eight thousand and Sumati Bhargava to four thousand. While accepting that successive abridgments might have taken place, Buhler contends that Naradas version of Manus laws cannot be held to be posterior to Bhrgus and that the actual of the two works has been inverted.
The extant Naradasmrti does not indicate that it could have been an abridgment of Manava Dharmasastra. The above claim appears to be intended to assert the status of valid customs for those that do not accord with Bhrgus version, which is the extant Manusmrti that in its doctored form has been made available by the British rulers of India as the law-book of the Hindus. Jolly considers that Naradasmrti is an independent and therefore especially valuable exposition of the whole system of civil and criminal law as taught in the law-schools of that period. The remarkable feature of Naradasmrti, as Jolly points out, is that it is the only Smrti completely preserved in Mss in which law properly so called is treated by itself, without any reference to rules of penance, diet and other religious aspects.
Naradasmrti, as it stands today, may be described as policy science, Nitisastra, dealing with Vyavahara and Danda, economy and polity. It is not on the same plane as the Dharmasastra, the comprehensive social code. The various discrepancies noted by Jolly between the extant text of Manusmrti and the Naradasmrti need not be held to establish that the latter was posterior to Bhrgus version. It is in a different lineage as far as discipline is concerned and falls between Dharmasastra and Arthasastra and has to be studied against the backdrop of the works of Brhaspati (authentic texts of which on economy are not yet available). This field is to be explored.
Meanwhile the existence of Brhan-Manu, a magnum opus, or the Manava Dharmasastra has been only suspected and the valuable opus is yet to be traced. Buhler rejects the claim made in the Mahabharata that Brahma assisted by the gods produced a Dharmasastra in one hundred thousand chapters that were subsequently reduced by Samkara, Indra, Brhaspati and Kavya (Usanas?).
I have discussed the implications of this claim in Ch.9 of Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India while dealing with Bhishmas Rajadharma. The Vaishnavaite legends hold that Bhrgu re-modelled Manus law first, then, Narada, followed by Brhaspati and later by Angirasa. There were several codes and only some of them are available now. They too have to be reexamined keeping out vexatious myths and stereotypes to be able to arrive at a holistic picture of the later Vedic and early post-Vedic epochs.
First Responses to discovery of Arthasastra in 1900s
The decades that followed Shama Sastris discovery of the Grantha text of the Kautilyan Arthasastra witnessed rewriting of the Hindu social structure, economy and polity of the pre-Mauryan and Mauryan periods. Who selected Shama Sastri of Mysore and Ganapati Sastri of Travancore, two princely states, for getting this work edited and translated may be researched usefully. The assumptions made by these scholars were too simplistic leading to anomalies. These anomalies have proceeded from the stand that Varnasrama Dharma was at some stage universal and that there were revolts against it because it was distorted to favour the Brahmans and to justify the exploitation of the Shudras and outcasts.
In my thesis, Society under an Imperial State (1964) I stated that until Varnasrama Dharma came to be postulated as a way of defining the roles of the different stratified classes and as a device for regulating the entry of new groups into the Aryan fold and as an essential orientation for the Aryan population, the village-based, agrarian, fort-protected Aryan community had its members organized into four classes.
These classes were: (a) Vaisya jatis who controlled all economic activities, with each jati being the aggregate of a number of clans united by common heritage and occupying a definite territory; (b) Kshatriya families engaged in the task of protection and subsisting on the financial assistance given by the Vaisyas in the form of taxes or on forcible extortion from those engaged in economy; (c) Brahman families whose male members acted as priests for others, were engaged in speculation of the other world, subsisted on the gifts from the rulers and the rich landlords and had (d) Shudra or Dasyu domestic servants who had earlier been de-propertied by others. This was a simplistic picture of the views shared by most scholars then.
During the British rule in India, the official definition of the term, caste, was: A caste is a collection of families or groups of families, bearing a common name which usually denotes or is associated with a specific occupation, claiming descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine, professing to follow the same calling, and regarded by those competent to give an opinion as forming a homogeneous community.
The attribution of the term, mythical, to describing the ancestor is arrogance on the part of those who proposed this definition rather than a rational note. It is unfortunate that many Indian social scientists continue to cling to this fictitious, irrational definition, which has harmed the Hindu society and hampered the systematic development of Hindu social theory.
Development of a Rational Hindu Sociological Theory
The pseudo-organic theory of the Purusha-Sukta on the origins of the varnas has been highlighted (often with gross distortion) during the last two centuries to the detriment not only to the development of a systematic outline of Hindu social thought but also to the contemporary Hindu society itself. But the socio-anthropological theory as advanced by the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (Bk1-4) has suffered neglect at the hands of modern sociologists, both Indian and western.
The theory of the samkara-varnas (mixed castes, in common parlance), which I had developed in my thesis, Society under an Imperial State (1964) was amended following further findings and presented in Ch.10 of Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India (1988) and elaborated in my next work, Origins of Hindu Social System (1994). The issue of mixed castes has vexed modern Hindu sociological theory. A proper appraisal requires examining this issue in the background of social dynamics and against the backdrop of shifts in their status. There is no 'caste' that is not allotted a status with reference to two or more of the four varnas, classes.
The new theory does not use the term, caste and prefers to use the traditional term, jati, community native to the soil where it is ordinarily resident and which is composed of several clans, kulas, among whom inter-clan marital alliance is permitted. The clan, kula, required that its member should select his spouse from another clan of the community to which his clan belonged. The vocation pursued by the clan takes a hind seat in this relation. This theory identifies varna with class rather than with community (jati). It rejects the concept of tribe and would refer to it as a micro-society. The term, janajati, that is used often to denote tribe is not a valid sociological concept.
It may be noted here since the medieval times Brahmans have got their families organized on the basis of gotras and pravaras, while Kshatriyas were known by their clans, kulas and Vaisyas by their jatis. These were all part of their respective varnas. Those groups, which did not get so recognized, were treated as Shudras or as Samkarajatis.
In my 1964 thesis, I had followed the conservative view that Varnasrama Dharma was institutionalized during the Yajurvedic period and that then the first task was to make all the scattered Aryan communities accept the normative pattern. Those who did not accept this pattern were known as Vratyas. I found it necessary to rethink on every one of the terms in the above two assumptions and this led to radically new positions with respect to the social dynamics of the period of the early Smrtis.
Now I would refrain from describing the society of the Manava and pre-Manava epochs as Aryan and retain this term Arya, to indicate the status of a free citizen. By Manava epoch I refer to the century of the early Manus. It was coeval with the last decades of the long Vedic era and overflowed into the early post-Vedic, that is, the early Upanishadic period. The social dynamics of this period of transition from the pre-Varna Vedic social order to the post-Vedic Varna social system has been examined in depth in my work, Hindu Social Dynamics.
The Four-fold Paradigm of Social options
I had (in my thesis of 1964) developed a paradigm of role allocations and cast the Manusmrti against it with reference to varna and asrama affiliations. Other fresh studies required a revision of this paradigm and the new one is presented in my work Origins of Hindu Social System. It deals with the concept of four basic varnas and the numerous samkaravarnas and refines the four-fold paradigm of social options: prescription of certain essential societal duties to distinct social groups, permission for pursuit of certain roles that are not harmful, preference for certain roles and vocations shown by different groups and individuals, and proscription of certain undesirable acts.
This paradigm has used also the theorem of Apad-dharma, duties under exigency and the theorem of favoured ascent (anuloma) and prohibited acts of ascent (pratiloma) to describe the theorem of social distance and social discrimination. (Vide my work, Origins of Hindu Social System) In Hindu Social Dynamics several syndromes connected with these issues have been critically examined with reference to the careers of prominent personages of the Manava epoch. Some of these syndromes had been earlier misrepresented as Riddles of Hinduism and used to denigrate persons revered by the masses. These had to be presented in their proper contexts and the changing values of life underscored.
Re-examination of mid-20th century postulates
In 1964, I had enunciated that the institutionalization of Varnasrama Dharma set in motion a political expansion that required externalizing Kshatriya power and that this was effected in return for the freedom secured by the masses from oppression. I noted that this externalizing brought in its trail many problems. For instance, the Kshatriyas were not expected to be owners of property either in the primary state or in the conquered areas. I noted that the degree to which there was departure from the accepted codes, in the newly conquered territories, the Aryan Kshatriyas confiscated the lands and established themselves as landlords and that the local population was transformed into Shudra working class.
As I reconsidered every one of the assumptions in the above enunciation I found the ground crumbling. Were these conquerors Aryans? Were they Kshatriyas? The assumption that they were warrior-missionaries (a la the crusaders) for the spread and defence of Varnasrama Dharma did not emerge from the grounds on which their power was externalized. The alleged role of the Kshatriyas in converting the erstwhile Vis who owned lands into de-propertied Shudra workers needed to be reconsidered. A reassessment of this picture, another version of the European theory of the Aryan invasion and subjugation of the native population, was called for.
I had traced how after the pre-feudal stage when the Vaisya landlords deprived some of their property and thereby the Shudra varna came into being, during the feudal stage, the Kshatriyas de-propertied those of the conquered areas who could have been accepted as Vaisya jatis and reduced them to the level of Shudras. At neither stage the Brahman families that were but a few were a relevant factor. They were but onlookers. I found that the models, pre-feudal and feudal, used to describe the pre-Manava and Manava-periods, that is, the pre-Varna Vedic society and the post-Vedic Varna social system required fresh scrutiny. The enigma has been re-examined in Hindu Social Dynamics.
The questions of who de-propertied whom and when, have been raised again following rejection of the theory of conquest as determining anew social and economic relations. Some might term it as countervailing benefit or effect of imperialism for no empire has lasted forever and not all empires have been exploitative. The above theorems have a bearing on the lines adopted by social scientists and historians of India since 1947. Instead of aiding social integration some of them have been engaged in acrimonious disputes over who had impoverished the native population and created the vast class of Shudras.
I dealt with the postulate that the gravitation of Vaisyas from the agrarian to the commercial economy followed political expansion. This gravitation however did not everywhere lead to the possession of lands by the Shudra agricultural workers though it led to their domination of the agrarian economy and the crystallization of the vast Shudra working class into settled groups (castes). Some of them could acquire lands, adopt the orientations meant for Vaisyas and climb the social ladder. I pointed out that Varnasrama Dharma that was intended for a basically agrarian community later came to be practised chiefly in the new urban community and later by the neo-Vaisyas of the rural areas. Was this picture an accurate appraisal of the social dynamics of the Manava epoch?
Those engaged in reconstructing the picture of the society of the Vedic and early post-Vedic times are cautioned against adopting ideological positions that seek simplistic solutions for complex social phenomena.
The period between the post-feudal gravitation of the Vaisyas to the urban economy and the emergence of the powerful paura-janapadas was marked by the intermingling between Vaisyas and Shudras on one side and between Kshatriyas and Shudras, on the other. This resulted in the emergence of new castes or communities jatis.
These were known as samkaravarnas. This process, I found later, had begun during the Vedic period itself. More factors were in operation than noticed earlier. A total recasting of the picture of the Vedic social polity has become necessary for outlining the social mechanisms that are valid for all times and for all societies. It needs to be freed from value judgments and racist overtones that have knotted it during the last two centuries in endless controversies and agony. Besides, we have to underscore the interplay between economy and intelligentsia.
Rarely do we come across a comprehensive study of the social order of the paura-janapadas of the pre-Mauryan epoch though outlines of their polity have been attempted by some and treated as curios. The Indian scholars of the early 20th century were satisfied that they could establish for Indian political administration a status not inferior to that of Greece of the same period and were not willing to discover what was there before 600 BC. They were not ready to travel back in time and did not dare to present the two great epics as chronicles of events that had taken place rather than as fiction and myths. They were not prepared to annoy the British rulers who had deliberately foisted considerably later dates for most of the ancient Indian writings and their authors.
After India became independent, Marxist view and interpretation of history took over the mantle of authority from the colonial rulers and religion. Hindu religion and its votaries have been derided and held guilty without trial for having incited exploitation of the masses. Truth was lost sight of and rationalism was marginalized.
Scholars were perplexed by the incongruities in the description of the city administration between what Kautilyan administration presented and Megasthenes's account and between designations of officials in the Arthasastra and in the Asokan edicts. The Kautilyan scheme must have reflected a pre-Mauryan epoch rather than the Mauryan. New paradigms were necessary to delve deeper and to dwell on the older times, I found.
In the new urban commercial economy, the culture of the Kshatriya elite stood apart from that of the Vaisyas who controlled the paura-janapada assemblies and the administrative machinery. I postulated that the Magadhas were the new elite admitted by the paura-janapada Vaisya chiefs into their fold, even as among the Kshatriyas, the Sutas emerged as elite.
The alliance between the two new elite groups marked the rise of the big states four centuries prior to the Mauryan period, I said. I would now place this emergence as having taken place at least two millennia earlier. I said that this alliance reduced a vast section of the Kshatriyas to the status of feudal nobility with its rural fort-based culture being distinct from the urban court-based liberal culture of the Kshatriya patriciate. While this empirical finding continued to sound plausible and sound, the specific factors, causative and descriptive had to be brought out.
An entirely new vista of the origins of the paura-janapada has opened up with the study of the Kashyapan movement. It calls for a total and radical reappraisal of the Hindu social system including the course of social dynamics veering round the paura-janapada. My search for its beginnings, course and changes has yielded a virtual mine that undermine the set notions about the Hindu social structure, though the entire dynamics is yet to be worked out. The chief factor that helped the rise of the new commercial elite, Magadhas (a term later restricted to the eastern state of Bihar) was traced to the nature of the speculative economy of the non-agrarian states.
New wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few. It provided them with immense economic and political power and opportunities to offer loans to and exploit the agrarian sector. A vast unstructured middle class came into existence and from it new vocational classes arose, the paradigm indicated. But when, it had to be determined. I traced the social dynamics of the pre-Kautilyan epoch, drawing the data from the major Smrtis and Kautilyan Arthasastra, keeping aside kings and battles with which historians were enamoured.
The Ideological Positions of Kautilya's Contemporaries
In 1964 I subjected the thoughts of the six thinkers, Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Pisuna, the Parasaras, Kaunapadanta and Vatavyadhi to a rigorous sociological analysis in an attempt to trace the class affiliation of each of them. This helped me to develop a paradigm based on the predecessor hypothesis vis--vis contemporaneity hypothesis by which on both counts, the thoughts of these political grammarians were seen as reflections of the different social classes and which Kautilya had to take into account while framing his policy. I also subjected the disputation between Kautilya and the anonymous teacher to a similar analysis. I had to revise both in the light of my new conclusions about the identity of these thinkers and about Kautilya's times.
My thesis, Foundations of Hindu Economic State (1997) conveys the new findings and their implications for Hindu social dynamics. In this process, I kept in view the European pattern of social dynamics but have avoided a strict comparison, a major error that both Marxist and non-Marxist scholars commit as they deal with macro-sociology. They forget that the gap in time between the earlier stream and the later was more than two millennia.
Bharadvaja was the political advisor of the great emperor, Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Sakuntala. Pisuna was Dushyantas finance minister. Sakuntala was a student of Visalaksha. Badarayana and Dvaipayana were the Parasaras mentioned by Kautilya. Badarayana was a member of Manu Savarni's council of seven sages. Dvaipayana or Vyasa was son of Satyavati by her first husband, Santanu (who was known by his nickname, crooked teeth, konapadanta). Bhishma (Santanu's son) was hence known as Kaunapadanta. Satyavati later married Santanu.
Vatavyadhi (the rheumatic) was perhaps a minister in Krshna's cabinet. All these personages were alive when the Battle of Kurukshetra took place (c3100BC according to Hindu tradition). Kautilya belonged to that early period and not to that of the Mauryas (c300BC), I have stressed. I find that this context presents the most rational interpretation of the diverse approaches of these scholars.
But the approaches themselves are of considerable value for political theory to whichever date we may assign this battle. The anonymous teacher, Kautilya's deuteragonist, must have been Krpa who was a member of Savarni's council of seven sages. Krpa became the advisor of Parikshit who took over power at the end of that battle between two Kuru factions. This eldest surviving son of Kuru did not take part in this battle. History of India has to be rewritten but objectively as pointed out in my volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics.
Political Power through Economic Power
In my earlier thesis, Society under an Imperial State (1964), presenting an elaborate analysis of the modification which Kautilya effected in the structure of the bureaucracy, I said that the new elite was drawn from the structured sections of the society. Following Pareto, I rejected Marx's conception of a struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and posited a struggle between the speculators and the renters. I also modified Pareto's theory of the circulation of elites and held that the paura-janapada chiefs emerged from the non-ruling mass of Shudras who were being denied the status of Kshatriyas. They found that the route to political power lay through economic power.
During the last few decades I have been trying to locate who these groups were and why they were being denied access to the Kshatriya fold. My findings find a place in my sprawling dissertation, Hindu Social Dynamics. [Extreme caution has to be exercised while drawing on the theorems advanced by modern western sociologists to interpret the course of the social dynamics of ancient India.]
Channels of Social Ascent
I have in my works published during the last decade of the 20th century described the channels of this recruitment abandoning my earlier abject acquiescence to the stands taken by Kane and others in their histories of Dharmasastras. Social ascent has not been absent. Channels of social ascent have been kept open. Varnasrama Dharma or the normative roles as prescribed by the Smrtis were slowly corroded by the element of speculation in the exploratory economy for which routes were kept open and opportunities provided and protection given by the elite of the royal courts.
As the paura-janapada chiefs became autonomous and free from the control of the Kshatriya rulers, the latter shifted their headquarters to the fortified towns thereby marking the stage of regression. There too in due course they were isolated from the economy of the janapada, I said. I have since then tried to seek an explanation for this shift from fort to town and back to fort as the centre of economic and political power.
Imperialism enemy of Democracy
In 1964, I attempted an in-depth analysis of the major social, economic and political reorganization attempted by Kautilya and was able to arrive at one, twenty years later and incorporated it in my thesis, Evolution of Social polity of Ancient India (1989) and in the work, Foundations of Hindu Economic State (1997). I had enunciated on the basis of the disputation between Kautilya and the anonymous preceptor:
As the rise of the new empire was to be over the collapse of the paura-janapadas and their chiefs and with the help of the unstructured sections that were left behind in the speculative economy, the struggle became intense and the overthrow sudden. I would state now that imperialism pulled down the democratic structure of the nation-state which Manu Vaivasvata had established on sound lines. I went ahead to trace the roots of the new elite that stood against the paura-janapada chiefs.
Replacement of Speculation by Entrepreneurship
It was not a class conflict as some Marxists presumed. In the pre-Mauryan India since at least the times of Dushyanta and Bharata, the speculative bourgeoisie had joined hands with the guilds of artisans to the detriment of the structured sections of the society. The latter were contented with what they had. The ranks of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie were recruited from the unstructured sections of the Vaisya-Shudra masses, I said. Elite cadres and professional communities emerged from the bourgeoisie and artisan sections.
This reification at the level of the new communities required the closure of the channels by which the Vaisya non-speculator bourgeoisie could recruit its ranks from the artisan Shudras. The issue of closure of doors for social ascent was not so simple as the Marxists presumed nor was it so insignificant as the traditionalists thought. The replacement of traditional speculation by entrepreneurship rigidified the distinction between the elite cadres and the vocational communities and thereby ended their collusion.
Social Tensions of the Composite Society
This theory has been borne in mind as I postulated the fusion of the two coeval societies of the Vedic period, core and frontier. The concept of lokasamgraha, integration of the social worlds, lokas, was not easy and several compromises had to be made by them in their practices and rights, I have brought out. The social tensions that this composite society faced continue to this day and are visible in all democratic and pluralistic societies.
In my 1964 thesis, I drew attention to Max Weber's view that the class struggles of antiquity were initially carried on by indebted peasants and perhaps also by artisans threatened by debt bondage. I outlined the measures taken by Kautilya to protect agriculturists from the traders and moneylenders and how the provisions of law were redefined in the interest of the producers and the state. The rigours of debt bondage were undone.
Aryas, a class of free citizens and not a race
The dasa was enabled to get redeemed from debt bondage. Who was a dasa? What was meant by Aryabhava and what was Dasabhava? I have found no reason to modify my findings on these in my thesis, Society under an Imperial State, and have stressed them in all my works.
Kautilya granted the status of free citizens (Aryas) to all the subjects and residents of the state irrespective of their class and occupation. Earlier only the Vaisyas, the traders and the landed gentry, who dominated the paura and janapada, urban and rural assemblies as taxpayers, were treated as Aryas. Aryas were a class and not a race.
The European anthropologists and orientalists committed a huge blunder in postulating the existence of an Aryan race and asserting its superiority over others. Marxists too posited the theory of Aryan invasion of India. Many of them continue to stand by this vicious fiction.
It is not enough to claim that the Aryans were natives of India and were not conquerors from abroad. It is not adequate to only vociferously refute the suggestion that the Aryans were a white race who invaded India about five millennia back and reduced the native black Dravidians into slaves, Dasas and Dasyus.
The very assumption that the Aryans and Dravidians were races and were engaged in a struggle for the possession of this sub-continent needs to be discarded. The Dravidas were the people of the southern part of this subcontinent. The Aryas were the residents of Aryavarta, the Ganga basin south of the Himalayas. Sagara one of its rulers who claimed suzerainty over the entire basin gave these residents permanent charter.
Rights of an Arya as a Free Citizen
Kautilya granted equal rights for all the four classes whether they owned lands and wealth or not and abolished the class of Dasas. All residents of all states and all areas were recognized as Aryas, free citizens. His declaration needs careful study. It implied: An Arya never loses the right to perform his obligations according to his varna, class, and exercise the rights under the law of inheritance.
An Arya or Vaisya who was a trader might lose his wealth and become a civil debtor, a Dasa. A Kshatriya might lose in battle and be captured as a prisoner-of-war, a Dasa. The status of a Dasa did not take one away from his class, varna. It entailed only the keeping in abeyance his rights till his retrieval of his obligations under the laws of his asrama, stage of life, a bachelor or an active householder or a retired senior citizen or a monk.
Kautilya on Aryabhava and Dasabhava
Kautilya's declaration implied: Aryabhava, the status of an Arya, means freedom to renounce one's freedom as well as one's economic activities on completion of one's familial responsibilities. Dasabhava means the absence of the freedom to renounce one's economic activities. But there is opportunity to regain this freedom and thereafter pursue or renounce one's economic activities. There is nothing ethnic about this distinction. It is ludicrous to state that the Dasas were black men enslaved by white Aryans.
A Dasa was an Arya who had lost his wealth and had become a civil debtor or a prisoner of war. In the same family, one brother might be an Arya and another, a Dasa, one who had lost the right to own property and is required to serve another and repay his debts. The master-slave relationship is found to be basically economic, and the rights and responsibilities of both came to be defined on the basis of the concepts developed in the field of economy. It is irrational to state that religions permitted slavery.
Kautilya's dictums were pronounced when the battle of Kurukshetra was about to take place to assert the rights of those who had lost in the gamble to regain their earlier status after undergoing the penalty. They stayed in the statutes though not implemented until his work was retrieved from the archives of the Nandas by Vishnugupta and implemented with amendments.
I drew attention to the much-discussed Arrian's chronicle of Megasthenes. All the Indians are born free and not any of them is slave: the Indians do not use even aliens as slaves, and much less a countryman of their own. Megasthenes was substantially correct. The revolt against the Nandas that took place soon after Alexander withdrew from the Indian soil was a war of liberation guided by Vishnugupta for all categories of bonded labourers. I have described its implications for civil and constitutional law in my work, Foundations of Hindu Economic State (1997). Majumdar was wrong when he said that slavery was a recognized institution of Indian society. Democracy that guarantees freedom of the individual is not new to India.
As we retrace Hindu social history, we outline the social dynamics of the ancient times of India, especially of the centuries preceding the Battle of Kurukshetra, that is, the final stages of the long Vedic era, and the decades following that historical event. We should seek to identify Hindu social ethos and its roots and present Hindu social polity and Hindu political sociology in their appropriate conceptual framework.
The monographs included in the three volumes, Social Dynamics and Social Pluralism, Roots of Hindu Social Tensions and Dharma and Transition to a New Social Order do traverse much of the grounds covered in my earlier published works, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India, Origins of Hindu Social System and Foundations of Hindu Economic State, and examine in depth some more sociological syndromes, enigmas and riddles and crucial social and political contexts pertaining to the early stages of Hindu social dynamics.
These syndromes are of considerable import to social engineering of modern Hindu society. The latter will suffer distortions and continue to be plagued by and subjected to misdirection if its protagonists do not correctly grasp Hindu social ethos. This ethos, native to India, permeates the entire population of this sub-continent and has a definite hold over that of South-east Asia as well. However it no longer has any hold over Central and West Asia. We would keep away from the tantalizing study of clash of civilisations and the tentacles of racism and spread of cultures that social and cultural anthropologists are enamoured of.
I do not intend to review or comment on or even refer to the stands taken by other scholars, Indian or Western, on the themes covered by me in these volumes. The discerning reader will be able to note where I agree with them and where I differ from them. I would seek to be rigorously academic and keep away from sensationalism and propaganda.
Most Western Indologists and their Indian admirers have tended, to promote Western Christian liberal democracy as an alternative to capitalism and also to communism. Capitalism has connived with racism, imperialism and fascism. Communism and socialism rejected religion while claiming to speak for the masses and for the proletariat. These Indologists perceived and presented Hinduism as the eastern kin of the western Christian liberal democracy.
In 1949, the Constituent Assembly of Free India overwhelmingly accepted this liberal democracy based on individualism. The last decades of the 20th century witnessed the repudiation of these and the rise of capitalism and irreligion under the guise of secularism on the shoulders of individualism.
Hinduism and Social Pluralism
Hinduism has upheld social and cultural pluralism and also political pluralism, the concepts of union without uniformity and unity despite diversity. It has rejected the concept of sovereignty of the state and has called for subordination of both the state and the individual to the society. This social pluralism has prevented the domination of the state, the society, the communities, the clans and families and the individuals by the ecclesiastical orders and enabled religions to confine themselves to the spread of morality and ethics and practice of instituted rites, samskaras.
Hindu social ethos, the ethos native to this subcontinent, is not a religion. What this pluralistic ethos is and how it has been able to attract and assimilate more and more groups and meet their diverse needs, need attention and so too its inadequacies.
Dharmasastra a socio-cultural code; not a religious code
Dharmasastra does not prescribe the worship of any particular deity. It is essentially a socio-cultural constitution though it deals with polity and economy too. This social code drafted by the end of the Vedic era was based on consensus and compromises and has not been rigid or unalterable. Varnasrama Dharma outlined by it has transcended the codes of the clans, kuladharmas, of the communities, jatidharmas and of the regions, desadharmas but has not derecognised them or superseded them.
It describes and co-ordinates the conduct of the classes and the individuals, who are both freed partially from the grip of the codes of the families, economic communities and regional administrations. Dharmasastra calls all to follow certain universal rules. It has stood as a bulwark defending the individual and protecting the society against anarchy and anarchism. It guides not only the society under a state but also the stateless society. It subordinates the state to the society.
The noblest of the values upheld by the human society constitute the four meaningful objectives, purusharthas--dharma, artha, kama and moksha which every talented human being, purusha, is called upon to pursue whether he belongs to the intelligentsia or to the ruling elite, to the bourgeoisie and the landed gentry or to the proletariat, agricultural or industrial, the four socio-economic classes or varnas, Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra and whichever stage of life or asrama he may be in, studentship (brahmacharya), householdership (grhastha), retirement (vanaprastha) or total renunciation (sanyasa).
Dharmasastra (every school had its own edition and distinct version) reveres and facilitates social pluralism and abjures fundamentalism despite its obsession with ritualism. It presents a wide spectrum of social options along the four-fold paradigm, prescription, preference, permission and proscription that cover not only occupations but also the schemata of marriages and other fields of conduct. Dharmasastra is not dogmatic.
Manava Dharmasastra based on consensus
Manava Dharmasastra, the code of conduct, recommended by the Manus (thinkers) for the commoners (manushyas) and known as Manusmrti, needs to be pruned to remove the distortions that have crept in down the centuries, especially during the centuries when the British rulers of India edited it and proclaimed the doctored version as the law-book governing all the Hindus. But this treatise and code need not be repudiated totally or left unscrutinised. It does not behove to be an ostrich.
Hindu sociologists and social activists must be rigorously rational and academic as they re-examine the factors and circumstances that led to the institutionalising of Varnasrama Dharma and its inadequacies and imperfections.
It was drafted and instituted by the organizers of the larger society, visvasrjas and chiefs of the people, prajapatis and not by the rulers of any state. It was a socio-cultural constitution given by the people to themselves. It was not thrust on them by any particular Manu or by any king. It was not the handiwork of any ecclesiastical order. It was based on consensus among the sages who belonged to different social sectors.
Rta, Satya, Dharma
It is imperative for the sociologists to trace the fine distinctions among the three concepts, Rta, Satya and Dharma, I have underlined. I have tried to trace the strains experienced by the pre-varna Vedic society, which was guided by the principle of Rta, natural propensity, Svabhava. This principle behind individualism enabled all beings and social groups to recognize their limitations and consent and seek to coexist despite the intense struggle for survival caused by variations in the genetic compositions and innate traits, gunas, of the individuals, and also resistance by the entrenched higher cadres to social ascent by the lower ones.
Not all were born equal and not all could rise to higher positions. It has been so since the remote past and also everywhere in the world. When the social relations got arranged on the basis of Rta, Varnasrama Dharma had not yet been instituted and social integration, lokasamgraha, not yet been consciously strived for. It was a close-knit social milieu with the state almost absent. It was a formless society (vairupam) and a diffused state (vairajyam), characteristic of anarchism.
The scheme of three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas (gentleness and enlightenment, aggressiveness and dynamism, inertness and ignorance) needs respectful attention. Social cadres were classified and stratified on this scale before the formulation of the scheme of four classes, varnas. The later Vedic era saw the concept of Rta being supplemented by that of Satya, truth, and the spread of the Satyavrata movement. It called upon every free citizen, Arya, to take the vow to speak and abide by truth at all costs and to solve all disputes on this basis and not to resort to violence.
Satya and ahimsa, truth and non-violence, guided the move to create a peaceful, honest, puritanical and spartan, contented and self-disciplined egalitarian society. It stressed that right is might and rejected the dreaded feudal approach that might is right. It respected the liberal aristocrats and despised the greedy plutocrats.
Society is to be governed by Dharma and not by Danda, the coercive power of the state. Dharma does not differ from Satya, the Upanishadic sages insist. But in practice, Dharma has been a middle path between Rta which was held to be too permissive and Satya which was found to be too rigid and puritanical. These three concepts, Rta, Satya and Dharma, and the three stages when the laws of nature, rules of ethics and social laws respectively governed the society are basic to Hindu Sociology.
The study of Hindu social dynamics notes that the shift in emphasis from one stage to another was slow and not total. It was an evolution and development. It was not a repudiation of Rta or a flight from Satya. Both the codes were recognized and respected by Dharmasastra. Dharma synthesized Rta and Satya.
Dharma and Svadharma: Society and State
Social laws have to be rational and yet widely acceptable and accommodative and capable of being implemented and accept the inevitability of inequality and the desirability of equality. Social laws have to be based on the principle of social pluralism and union without uniformity and the four-fold paradigm of liberal, democratic and just social options, prescription, permission, preference and proscription.
Dharma is not to be equated with religion, though the two cover some common grounds. Even an atheist may abide by the rules and principles of Dharma. India has had theocratic states only under the Muslim rulers.
But it did call upon the state to institutionalise Svadharma, the rights and duties, privileges and obligations, of every individual, in accordance with his class, varna, and stage of life, asrama. The state could not however but approve the existing codes of clans, communities, and regions kuladharmas, jatidharmas and desadharmas. It could not amend them or ignore them. The code of svadharma was required to be based on the personal aptitude, svabhava, and the innate trait, guna, of the individual.
Svadharma Sthapanam: Institution of the Rights and Duties of the Individual
This institutionalising of the rights and duties, privileges and obligations of the individuals, Svadharma Sthapanam, was felt necessary to facilitate social harmony by ensuring predictability of the conduct of all individuals and to avoid social conflicts. It was a rational step warning the individual against seeking to follow the code of rights and duties meant for others, paradharma, and not for him. He was advised to adhere to his own package of privileges and obligations, Svadharma, based on his personal trait, guna, and aptitude, svabhava, and warned against following paradharma, the dharma meant for another. It may be noted that svadharma was not claimed to be superior to paradharma.
Dharma-rajya did not steam-roll the rights and duties of the individual subjects, but streamlined them. The scheme of the rights and duties of the individuals has to be in consonance with svabhava and svadharma if he has to function effectively as a member of an organized society.
Svadharma and Desadharma
Svabhava, personal aptitude, was what pre-varna Vedic society, which was guided by Rta, recognized. Svadharma is defined by rational choice among the approved and available social options, while kuladharma is determined by the traditions followed by the family and jatidharma by social association and varnadharma by class affiliation or assignment. No individual can be free from all of these codes. One may as long as he lives in a particular territory abide by its desadharma, but has to abide by those of the new territory as he moves to it.
Desadharma is social code based on the customs of a territory and not its political code alone. [Desadharma is not the same as rashtra-dharma.] But the settled groups have to get svadharmas correlated properly to kuladharmas, jatidharmas, desadharmas and varnadharmas and not allow them to be disjointed. The state may prescribe only those Svadharmas that do not disturb the other dharmas (rights and duties) and must provide for a range of options. It however cannot afford to grant unlimited freedom to the individuals.
Mixed Classes, Samkaravarnas
The sages and social leaders of the later Vedic times identified more than forty levels of social cadres of their times and stratified them on the basis of the three innate traits, gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas, with inner gradation in each guna. These cadres could not all be assigned to one or the other of the four basic varnas, socio-economic classes. Some of them had traits of more than one varna. Hence formulation of the elaborate scheme of mixed classes, samkaravarnas, and the recognition of the rules of exigency, apaddharma, became inevitable.
Classification and stratification of social groups and cadres has to be rational and not arbitrary. These take place in all societies, though not to the satisfaction of every section of the population. The British administrators of India and their successors have while framing social and economic laws failed to adopt rational and scientific methods of classification. This has led to avoidable tensions in social relations particularly amongst Hindus.
The Three Social Worlds, Lokas, of the Vedic times
The pre-varna Vedic society was classified on the basis of three social worlds (lokas) divam, prthvi, antariksham, patriciate, commonalty and frontier society, with each having its own informal code of conduct. The Western Indologists presented these three social worlds wrongly as Heaven, Earth and Intermediate Space, peopled by gods, men and preternatural beings. Many Indian scholars have followed this wrong interpretation uncritically, to the detriment of the Hindu society and hampered the development of Hindu Sociology as a distinct rational science.
The pre-varna Vedic society was also a dichotomous societya core society of agro-pastoral plains and a frontier society of forests and mountains. The two are not to be treated as racially different from each other. The former comprised of nobles and commoners, devas and manushyas, and the latter, which was technologically more advanced and culturally more varied than the former, controlled the riverine, maritime, forest and industrial economies. The latter is not to be treated as tribal, primitive and poor. Social and cultural anthropology of ancient India needs to be radically revised shedding many of the postulates advanced by the racists.
Not all fitted in these three social worlds, lokas. Migration from one social world to another, lokantara, did take place but it was not easy. Admission to the patriciate was restricted. The process of social migration and acceptance in the new loka needs to be studied under this concept. I have dwelt with this concept from the sociological angle in the Trisanku syndrome.
Many thinkers including Krshna disapproved the resultant mixing of social worlds, lokasamkara. Krshna however advocated social integration, lokasamgraha, even while retaining the identity of every loka, social world. The interdependence of the three social worlds and their separate cultural identities were both recognized. These lokas were however not located far from one another nor were they ethnically distinct. They were not barred from mutual contacts.
There were also three social universes, jagats, whose members were not attached to the soil, bhumi or prthvi, nor were bound to economic activities. They were intellectually superior to the agro-pastoral communities and the industrial proletariat, manushyas and sarpas. They were identified as gandharvas, kimpurushas and kinnaras and were treated as blessed peoples, punya-jana. They were exempted from the civil laws of both the communities, civil and frontier. Even within the core society, there were three cadres, nobles (devas), sages (rshis) and elders (pitaras) who were not engaged in economic activities.
Several stereotypes have to be discarded and the accumulated moss scraped off, if sociologists and social activists are to recognize the course of the imperceptible transition from the above pre-varna Vedic social order to the post-Vedic varna society. The transition was not simple. It cannot be described as social revolution or as social evolution. The ancients described it as social dynamics, as social progress, lokayatra.
The core society had two major strata, the ruling elite and the masses, devas and manushyas. The servants of the nobles, devas, were described as dasas, while the mercenaries engaged by the oppressive feudal lords, asuras, were referred to as dasyus. These two antagonistic sectors of the power stratum of the core society could not be got reconciled. Modern India continues to experience their presence and influence. [This is in fact a universal phenomenon.] The transition also witnessed emergence of the three social formations, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vis, marked by the predominance in them of sattva, rajas and tamas respectively. All the three classes belonged to the commonalty.
I have traced in the volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics how these three formations each drew more members from the other social sectors, aristocracy, feudal order, plutocracy, the forest-based militia, technocrats, proletariat and independent intelligentsia and how the new larger working class came into existence. The varnas were not closed classes. The study of Hindu Sociology and Social Dynamics is placed on a definite footing. Social pluralism does not prevent modification of the existing social structure to promote social integration.
Arya Syndrome: Aryas and Dasas
The Vedic commonalty, Vis, got split into two classes, Aryas and Dasas. They were later renamed as Vaisyas and Shudras. Aryas were not a race. They were a class of self-employed, self-reliant, small farmers and petty traders. Later all the four classes or varnas were given the status of free citizens, Aryas, entitled to own personal property. Earlier only the nobles, Devas, had personal lands, svabhumi, and wealth, sura.
The rich who had hoarded liquid assets but had no interest in agricultural lands were known as Yakshas. They were plutocrats and imposed their own laws with respect to acquisition of gems and diamonds. The feudal lords were interested in acquiring lands and building forts and were known as Asuras. The commoners, manushyas, had only common property controlled by communities.
Aryas were not invaders from Central Asia. Aryan invasion of India is a myth. It is subversive of social order to propagate this falsehood. The class of Aryas, free citizens with personal property rose from the commonalty. In the same family, one brother may be a free citizen, Arya, owning property and entitled to all civic rights and another, a Dasa, a propertyless servant and hence not entitled to these civic rights and the related political franchise. Kautilya undid this discrimination.
Aryas as Satyavratas and Shudras as Nasatyas
Aryas were not a race, nor were Dasas. Asuras and Dasyus (feudal lords and their mercenaries) too are not to be described as races distinct from them. One who took the pledge, vrata, to abide by truth and non-violence, satya and ahimsa, was known as an Arya. He stood to lose his privileges and wealth if he broke this pledge.
Arya was a socio-economic status accepted by law as one lower than that of a noble, deva, and higher than that of a commoner, manushya. The Brahmans and Shudras could not be Aryas as they had no personal property and the Kshatriyas could not become Aryas, as they had to resort to violence in the discharge of their duties. Kautilya removed these handicaps. (Students of Hindu Political Sociology may note.)
The Shudras and Dasas who had no property could consent to abjure perjury and be accepted as Nasatyas, a status marginally lower than that of a Satyavrata. They were not outcasts or outlaws. Kautilya objected to linking this pledge and status with the privileges of a free citizen and to possession of wealth and declared all the four classes as Aryas.
Liberation of bonded labourers
Kautilya was more liberal and more rational than the school of Brhaspati, which stood by capitalism. (Marxists to note) He abolished the status of serfs, Dasabhava, and freed them from their commitments as bonded labourers and directed that they be reabsorbed in their original classes, varnas. No man or woman or child was allowed to be a slave of any one or be even a bonded labourer.
The liberation of the serfs was a historic movement that was coeval with the decades that witnessed the Battle of Kurukshetra. The revolt of the industrial proletariat against Parikshit and its cruel suppression by Janamejaya marked the decades immediately after that battle. It was also an era, which witnessed the replacement of capitalism by agriculture as the mainstay of the economy. Social history of India needs to be rewritten correctly.
Purushas, Manushyas, Naras and Devas
During the pre-varna Vedic times, there were three grades of free labourers, manushyas, purushas and naras. Of these, manushyas were engaged in physical labour in the fields of agriculture, pasture, industry and trade. They were subordinate to the ruling class, nobles. The purushas were talented and could undertake any type of work, physical, mental and artistic. They asserted their individuality and dynamism, rajas, unlike the manushyas who were described by Samkhya dialecticians like Kautilya as Prakrti. The Purusha-Prakrti relation was one of protective leadership and willing followers.
It is as significant for Hindu Political Sociology as the Deva-Manushya, patriciate-commoner relation is. The Purusha was a charismatic leader who did not hesitate to be engaged in physical labour. The aristocrat, Deva, was respected but kept a distance from his workers.
The purushas who could provide leadership in the field of labour were also known as sarva-karmas, who had the ability to do any work. They chose their occupation on the basis of personal aptitude rather than economic necessity. A commoner, manushya, tried to become a purusha and could become one, but he could not become an aristocrat, deva. The naras were not employees. They eked out their livelihood by non-economic activities or as self-employed persons.
The frontier society had their counterparts in Kimpurushas and Kinnaras. These are not to be described as monkeys and minstrels. All the three, manushyas, purushas and naras, were included in the larger Shudra varna, as they had no personal property and as they were workers. It was wrong. The purushas deserved a higher status.
Nagas, Nahushas, Sarpas and Mixed Classes
There was also a vast sector of mobile guilds of workers engaged in different trades and industries. During the pre-varna Vedic times they were known as Nagas, Nahushas and Sarpas. Their struggle for inclusion in the higher classes and its alleged failure has been discussed in the volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics. Many of them were accommodated in the higher mixed classes, samkaravarnas.
Hindu sociologists and activists have to take into account these aspects and keep out demagogues and obscurantism. It is necessary to have a fresh and rational study of the entire social gamut of ancient times, intelligentsia, power elite, landed gentry, bourgeoisie, proletariat, agriculture, industry and trade, feudal lords, aristocracy, plutocracy and technocracy.
The Six Social Configurations
Even before the scheme of four varnas, classes came into force, some groups like Sopakas and Pukkasas had been kept out of the villages on grounds of hygiene and the Chandalas for violation of sex codes. But many social thinkers and organisers recommended that only sex offenders be kept out of the village and community and not others. Only after many areas of India came under Islamic rule, more social groups got outcast for non-conformity. This misdirection got momentum during the British rule. Ancient scriptures did not introduce untouchability nor did they approve untouchability being practised against some communities and individuals.
Sanctification of untouchability and social segregation were instigated and welcomed by the imperialists and the Christian proselytisers supported by them. However the existence of an infra-cultural configuration down the centuries has been a reality. Ignorance, tamas, has been considered to be responsible for the failure to choose between good and evil, dharma and adharma. There has also been a configuration of the socio-economic periphery whose codes did not accord with those of the core society. Its members too suffered isolation from the core society.
The six social configurations, cultural, political, higher economic, economic periphery, lower economic and infra-cultural, headed by Brahmans, Rajanyas, Vaisyas, Nishadas, Shudras and Chandalas respectively, covered most of the organized society of the early post-Vedic times. [The scheme of six social configurations has been developed in my work, Origins of Hindu Social System (1994)]. They had absorbed most of the social cadres and communities and political groupings of the later Vedic times.
Modern Hindu sociologists have to take into account these academic and social exercises of our ancients and cease to toe the lines of the Western Indologists. The study of castes, tribes, classes and varnas, needs a major reorientation. It has to avoid the dogmatic approach of the Marxists who claim to be dialecticians and also that of the obscurantist. A holistic approach is needed and not one that would lead to further social fragmentation in the name of identity of castes and tribes and ethnic units.
Not all social thinkers and social leaders thought alike. The divergences in their approaches have been dwelt on at length and in depth in the monographs included in the three volumes on Hindu Social Dynamics. These examine the social issues of the times of Manu Vaivasvata (c.3100BC according to Hindu tradition). The rewriting of the social and political history of India cannot but call for the rejection of several postulates introduced by the Western Indologists and adopted by their Indian admirers and used for ulterior purposes by the demagogues and political activists of our times.
The post-Kurukshetra decades and centuries too have to be redrafted and the import of the Upanishads and the impact of the several cults, Saivaism, Vaishnavaism, Saktam, Ganpatyam, Kaumaram, Sauryam, Tantra, Buddhism and Jainism, and their rise and fall traced more effectively and objectively than done so far. These may be done usefully even with the extant works. These are however scrupulously left out here. They cover important and vast spans of Hindu social system and mass movements as well as intellectual debates.
It needs to be recognized that the slow withering away of the superimposing state after the times of Janamejaya and his foil, Astika, the believer who was an intellectual and jurist (Brahman) as well as a technocrat (Naga), until the rise of the Magadhas and Kalingas, two millennia later, was accompanied by the emergence of a new intellectual culture and sedate civilization rooted in villages rather than in towns and forts.
This agrarian civilisation with no surplus to squander and with no leisure class of nobles (devas) to be served by the commonalty (manushyas) led to the withdrawal of the plutocrats (yakshas) and the technocrats (nagas) and the industrial proletariat (sarpas) to the deep jungles to fester there.
The contributions of this other society (itara-jana) were all but forgotten until Vishnugupta retrieved, edited and annotated the Arthasastra of Kautilya from the Nanda archives (c.300 BC). The revised version, which is said to have aided formation of the Mauryan empire was available perhaps till the times of Harsha and was again shelved with the Dharmasastra getting the upper hand. It was as if after a short spell of turbulence and turmoil during the Kurukshetra decades, the smooth middle Vedic social life had begun to reassert itself.
Social interactions and social change were contained for over two millennia by the autonomous villages and communities. Social progress (lokayatra) came to a standstill and social control (lokayata) silenced ambitions and desires. When the society woke up again, as it were, it recalled this period of restlessness and activity. But by that time many of the social leaders of the past had come to be deified and become objects to be wondered at from a distance and too great to be emulated. The larger society however continued to be pluralistic and yet integrated.
Krshna who was later deified called for social integration and for resurgence of the cultural aristocracy (divam). He stood for the revival of the Rajarshi pattern of constitution, which had been advocated by Samkara, a socio-political thinker. Krshna was highly critical of the feudal lords (asuras) and the plutocrats (yakshas). He did not appreciate the granting of the status of devatas to the plutocrats and the technocrats and treating them on par with the aristocrats (devas). He was a student of Gora Angirasa.
Another great social thinker of his times, Kashyapa, who was the head of the council of seven sages of Manu Vaivasvata was said to have posited the existence of sharp and irreconcilable differences among the three power sectors, Adityas (who were devas), Daityas (asuras) and Danavas (yakshas).
The Adityas had consented to follow the strict moral code, the ten commandments proposed by the benevolent mother-figure, Aditi, who in the Vedic polity ranked next only to Viraj, the Head of the Council of States, and Prajapati, the chief of the people. The practices of the Daityas were antithetical to these. The Danavas were materialistic and were after wealth.
The three sectors, the contented, liberal and orthodox, the aggressive and heretic, the covetous and agnostic or heterodox, could be brought together, Kashyapa felt. He identified eight socio-cultural sectors, each with its own social mores and cultural preferences. These are reflected also in the eight forms of marriage then in vogue, I have suggested.
While examining the eight forms of marriage, Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Gandharva, Asura, Rakshasa and Paisacha, and the reservations held about some of them, I have called for a rational and radical reappraisal of our pluralistic heritage. It was guided earlier by the sages, Rshis, and later by the Brahmans.
Eight large Social Sectors of the Vedic Era
The eight large sectors of the larger society as traced by Kashyapa were the feudal lords (asuras and their mercenaries, dasyus), the liberal patriciate (devas and their docile servants, dasas), the sages (rshis who were mainly forest-based), the elders (pitaras who had retired to their forest abodes), the commoners of the agro-pastoral plains (manushyas), the plutocrats (yakshas and their guards, rakshas and entertainers, kinnaras), the free intelligentsia (gandharvas and apsarases, vidyadharas and charanas, tapasas and siddhas, vipras and chakshus) and the technocrats and the industrial proletariat (nagas and sarpas).
None of these were celestial or preternatural beings, I have urged while describing the sociological syndromes involved in every one of these social groups and cadres. They have not vanished with the arrival of the four varnas scheme.
The continued presence of these diverse social sectors has to be acknowledged by modern Hindu sociologists and social engineering suitably directed taking into account the niceties of the social and cultural pluralism reflected by these cadres and sectors. They are not to be treated as being or as having been racially or ethnically different from one another.
The issues arising from the process of integrating the eight sectors and bringing them under the scheme of four varnas have been examined in depth in these monographs. They are of significance to modern Hindu society, which is pluralistic but not adequately integrated and is torn apart by reckless demagogues and uncompromising ideologues. All the eight sectors of the larger pre-varna Vedic society were acceptable to the socio-political ideologues, Brahmavadis, of the Vedic era.