PASSAGE TO HINDU STATE
PROLOGUE TO HINDU POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY
STUDIES IN 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
The Compilation (5)
Introductory Note (17)
1. In Retrospect (41)
2. The Rgvedic Social Polity and the Arya Syndrome (89)
3. The Atharvan Polity (159)
4. The Concept of Viraj: Federal Social Polity (185)
5. The Mahadeva Constitution and the Nation-State (197)
6. Social Classes---Vedic Times (223)
7. Social Polity----Vedic Times (241)
8. The Struggle against Autocracy:
Vamana Vs.Bali and Usanas (265)
9. The Prthu Constitution (307)
10. The Epoch of the Early Manus (335)
11. Summing Up (413)
Passage to Hindu State
BOOK ONE: VEDIC POLITY
BOOKS TWO, THREE, FOUR
NEO-VEDIC POLITY: UPANISHADS: HINDU POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY
BOOKS FIVE AND SIX
BRAHMA-SUTRAS OF BADARAYANA
PRINCIPLES OF NEO-VEDIC SOCIO-POLITICAL CONSTITUTION
BOOKS: SEVEN AND EIGHT
KRSHNA'S BHAGAVAD-GITA AS RAJAVIDYA: SCIENCE OF POLITY
BOOKS NINE, TEN, ELEVEN, TWELVE
DHARMARAJYA AND DHARMARAJA
LIBERAL SOCIAL WELFARE STATE
TRANSITION TO POST-VEDIC POLITY
BOOK THIRTEEN: BHISHMA AND RAJADHARMA:
ETHICS AND POLITY
BOOKS FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN
MANUSMRTI AS SOCIO-POLITICAL CONSTITUTION
SOCIAL POLITY AND INSTITUTION OF JUSTICE
BOOK SIXTEEN: KAUTILYA AND HINDU ECONOMIC STATE
BOOK SEVENTEEN: CONSTITUTION OF HINDU STATE PRE-KAUTILYA
BOOK EIGHTEEN: MANU AND KAUTILYA
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 (approved socio-cultural activities and personal pleasurable pursuits) 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 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 (1988) In it 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.
Call for a Rational Approach
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 (1997). 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 those made by some progressive writers terming facts 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 (prose formulae) 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. (Why?)
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 Manu’s 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 nearly a century and a half 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 Krshna’s 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 Noah’s 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 Narada’s version of Manu’s laws cannot be held to be posterior to Bhrgu’s 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 Bhrgu’s 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 holds 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 Bhrgu’s 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 Bhishma’s 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 Sastri’s 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 by me following further findings and presented in Ch.10 of Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India (1988) and elaborated with precision 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 later 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 re-assessment 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 in Kautilyan Arthasastra was more than two millennia.
Bharadvaja was the political advisor of the great emperor, Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Sakuntala. Pisuna was Dushyanta’s 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. Krshna Dvaipayana or Vyasa was son of Satyavati by her first husband, Parasara, Her second husband was Santanu (who was known by his nickname, crooked teeth, konapadanta). Bhishma (Santanu's son by his first wife, Ganga) was hence known as Kaunapadanta. .
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 the 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. [Extreme caution has been exercised by me while I drew on the theorems advanced by modern western sociologists, to interpret the course of the social dynamics of ancient India.]
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.
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 distinct 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, mischievous and even deliberate distortion of social relations 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 institutionalizing 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 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 small 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.
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 every individual 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 regional laws, 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, personal rights and duties 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 and convention of conduct (lokadharma). 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 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. 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 both 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 the concept, ‘untouchables’ 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 calls 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.
THE RGVEDIC SOCIAL POLITY AND
THE ARYA SYNDROME
The Postulates advanced by European Indologists
The European Indologists of the 19th century postulated that the Aryans were a white race and that they had their original homes in Central Eurasia and from there, migrated in different directions as armed nomadic tribes. While tracing the threads of anthropological, cultural, linguistic and religious similarities among their different branches, they tried to establish that the Aryans were the oldest of all civilizations on earth and that it had spread over larger areas, survived for longer periods, was more virile and nobler than other civilizations. Belonging to such a great civilization was admirable. The fanatic fringe of this claim is noticed in Nazism. Christian imperialism would however deplore this glorification though it needed the postulate of migration and invasion to justify its own conduct.
Indian history was to begin with the unwarranted postulate that the Aryas entered the Punjab plains through the northwest mountain passes, settled there as agricultural communities, composed the Rgvedic hymns said to contain memories of their earlier experiences, then moved eastwards to the Gangetic plains and later to the south across the Vindhyas. This conquest and expansion, it is added, led to the eviction of the native black population known as Dravidians and their subjugation as Dasyus and the gruesome destruction of the more advanced urban civilization of the Indus Valley. The Aryas were described as pantheists or polytheists while the natives were either animists or phallus-worshippers. The Aryas were declared to be invaders.
Some of these postulates were deliberate distortions while others were the result of the failure to grasp the meanings of the Rgvedic hymns. The Sanskrit scholars whom these western Indologists depended on and whose service they utilized while translating the Vedas and other ancient Indian literary works were however not adequately acquainted with the features of the Vedic social polity. Some of them went along with the interpretations presented by the western Indologists.
The Aryas were not a race
The extant literary works of the ancient civilizations do not describe any of the branches of the so-called Aryan race as Aryan. The term, Arya, occurs only in less than thirty among the extant one thousand Rgvedic hymns. Nowhere among them does it connote an ethnic unit distinguished by anthropological peculiarities or linguistic identity or religious persuasion or even claims to cultural superiority. The Rgvedic poets have not described the Aryas as a superior white race distinct in appearance from others.
When Sagara wanted to distinguish between his subjects of the Ganga basin whom he called Aryas and the mountain tribes like Sakas and Barbaras, he directed that these mountaineers should dress themselves differently from the people of these plains. (Vide Vol.2. Hindu Social Dynamics) Aliens (mlecchas) were asked to dress themselves differently. The Gangetic plains were known as Aryavarta as Manusmrti points out. The areas to the north of the Himalayas and to the south of the Vindhyas were known as Kaivarta. The people of these regions had to dress themselves differently from the Aryas. These directions only indicate that the then rulers of north India were not able to distinguish between their subjects and others on the basis of their physical appearance or the language spoken or even conduct.
Social Classes not discrimination by racial colour
In Rgveda in only one hymn (3-34-9) the expression, Aryavarnam, occurs. Griffith translated it as Aryan colour and introduced an element of conflict between the Aryans and the Dravidians. This interpretation was a deliberate attempt to drive a wedge among the people of India on the basis of colour and race where there was none.
Griffith also suggested the meaning, the race of the Aryas. He interpreted Sayana, the medieval Indian annotator of the Vedic hymns as meaning by it the noblest tribe or colour, the first three classes or orders, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas. Such interpretation was not innocent. It was made deliberately rather than out of ignorance. Western Indologists tried to establish that the three upper classes, varnas, belonged to the Aryan race and were white in colour and that the Shudras were dark in colour and belonged to a different native race that was conquered and enslaved.
Visvamitra, the composer of this hymn did not mean any of the descriptions suggested by Griffith. Visvamitra, the patron and grandfather of Emperor Bharata, was engaged in battles against his rival, Vasishta. These battles were not conflicts based on colour or race, caste or tribe. Vasishta and Visvamitra were both members of the council of seven sages during the tenure of Manu Vaivasvata. Both were major contributors to the Rgvedic anthology. Visvamitra was a Kshatriya prince. He wanted to be recognized as a Brahmarshi but Vasishta objected to granting such recognition.
The conflicts described in the Rgveda were also not conflicts between Good and Evil or between God and Satan. They were personal conflicts or ones between liberal aristocrats and feudal lords, between Devas and Asuras. The suggestion that the Aryan community was composed of the three varnas, classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas, and was pitted against the Shudras or Dasas (the fourth class of workers) is not supported by any Rgvedic verse.
Who were Aryas?
The Purusha-Sukta is the only Rgvedic verse (10-90) that mentions these four varnas or classes. It too does not mention the term, varna, to describe these classes. Varnasrama Dharma has no sanction in Rgveda. It was a post-Vedic development. I have noted (Vide Ch. 2. Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India) that the Purusha-Sukta is basically an Atharvan hymn (AV 19-6). The Atharvaveda identifies the Aryas with Vaisyas (19-32-8). Kautilya, I have pointed out treated all the four varnas as Aryas. What did the Rgvedic poets imply by the term, Arya? How did it come to cover the entire community including the Shudras? Why was this term extended to cover the Brahmans and Kshatriyas too? When was it used first to refer to the propertied classes, the Vaisyas?
The Rgvedic Poets
The Vedic hymns were classified as Rg, Yajur and Sama even before the order of Manu was envisaged. Several of these hymns were lost by the time of the fourth Manu, Tamasa. Tamasa who had his seat in Kosala undertook the task of reediting them and making the then extant hymns permanent through oral tradition.
Vasishta and other sages of the period of Tamasa and his successors, Raivata, Chakshusha and Vaivasvata, were involved in this task. (Vide Ch.6. The Epoch of the Early Manus, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
We can not trace in this reediting, the hands of the senior group of sages, Marici, Atri, Angirasa, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Bhrgu, who were involved along with Vasishta, Narada and Pracetas in drafting the Manava Dharmasastra.
Of course canto 7 of the Rgveda is attributed to Vasishta while Angirasa and Bhrgu were major contributors to the Atharva anthology along with Atharvacharya and Kashyapa. So too the earlier groups of Brahmarshis like Kardama and Visruta were not involved in this task.
The extant Rgvedic hymns present the picture of the final stages of the Vedic social order as prevalent during the decades before the Battle of Kurukshetra took place.
According to Bhrgu and his colleagues this social order needed a rational and radical reorganization along the lines recommended by the first Manu, Svayambhuva. What was the earlier social order for which Vasishta, Bharadvaja and other Rgvedic poets exhibit nostalgia but which was undergoing a metamorphosis?
The opening hymn of the Rgvedic anthology asserts that Madhucchandas, a lyric poet and follower of Visvamitra, and his colleagues were but following the practices of the earlier times and that they held Angirasa in great esteem.
Angirasa and Atharvacharya were the two main contributors to the Atharva anthology. Among the seven sages of the seventh council, Vasishta, Visvamitra, Bharadvaja, and Gautama were major contributors to the Rgveda anthology. The Haihayas killed Jamadagni while Atri was reticent on most issues.
Its chief, Kashyapa was associated with the Atharvans. Vamadeva who too like Vasishta belonged to Kosala was another major contributor to the Rgveda anthology. He was a close associate of Kashyapa.
The Rgveda was a collection of hymns of the poet-sages who belonged to the period of Vasishta, Kashyapa and Manu Vaivasvata. It reflects the passage of the Vedic society from the decades prior to the tenure of the first Manu Svayambhuva, to those of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata and the decade immediately after that.
It covers a period of about a century and a half. It overlaps the social polity of the Atharvaveda. The Rgveda reveals the social order on the threshold of history and does not belong to the dawn of civilization, which must have preceded it by several millennia.
The Vedic Officials and their Designations
The concept of Manu as the first Man or as the ideal man or as the father of mankind or as a God is not reflected in the Rgveda. Manu vamsa would mean not the human race descending from Manu but the continuing order of Manus. Unlike the legends (Puranas) and Manusmrti, the Rgveda does not mention the names of the seven Manus. However we are able to distinguish between the first Manu, Svayambhuva and the seventh, Vaivasvata. Svayambhuva was the Manu who appointed Agni as the chief priest at the sacrifices, yajnas.
It is irrational to treat Agni, Soma, Indra, Varuna, etc. as the gods of the Vedic people. These were designations of certain posts in the social polity of those times.
The early Vedic social polity was dichotomous with Indra and Agni representing the ruling elite of nobles, devas, and the commoners, manushyas, respectively. Agni was treated as the envoy who conveyed the views of the plebeians to the concerned authorities.
The three social worlds, lokas, of the Vedic period were known as divam, prthvi and antariksham. (The expression, social world, rather than the terms, community or society or class, brings out the meaning of the term, loka.)
The western Indologists were not on sound grounds when they translated these terms as heaven, earth and intermediate space inhabited by gods, men and preternatural beings respectively. They were following the mythology popularized by early and medieval Christianity. All the three were social worlds on the earth and were composed of human beings only.
Purpose behind Yajna (Sacrifice) was mundane
The practice of yajna had been in vogue since long before the order of Manu was instituted. These yajnas were not spiritual. Their objectives were mundane. They were meant to please the nobles (devas) with gifts and secure benefits for the commoners (manushyas) who performed them as a communal endeavour.
Manu Svayambhuva introduced a new feature that superseded the direct relations between the nobles (devas) and the commoners (manushyas) who performed these sacrifices (yajnas). Rgvedic sages like Kanva endorsed these new ones (1-36). In the dhio-prthvi model, Agni represented the plebeians (prthvi) and Indra the aristocracy (dhio, divam). But with the Indra-Brhaspati alliance, Agni came to represent only the Brahmans (who formed the intelligentsia).
The civil administration passed into the hands of Brhaspati who was an Angirasa and looked after political economy. Brhaspati could stand his ground against pressure exerted by the aristocrats and even disarm the private troops, svadanda, of the nobles. He called for surrender of all weapons to the armoury that was placed in his charge. (Vide Ch.4 Atharvan Polity Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Any discussion of the role of Agni in the Vedas must take into account these aspects of social dynamics of Ancient India that have eluded the Indologists.
The growing chasm between the small rich leisure class of nobles (devas) and the masses of the agro-pastoral plains (prthvi) was being sought to be bridged and the purposes behind the sacrifices served when the new feature was introduced. The sacrifices were intended to maintain this patriciate (devas), the cadre of sages (the Brahmarshis, the sages of Brahmavarta) and the elders (pitaras) who were not involved in economic activities and to establish the legitimacy of the economic activities engaged in by the commonalty (manushyas). These purposes were mundane and not spiritual.
The concept of 'One God' or the Indefinable Ultimate that the Upanishads are said to expound is rarely referred to in the Vedic hymns Max Muller notes. But it was wrong to infer that the Vedic people and the sages who edited the Rgvedic hymns, were polytheists.
The sacrifices that occasioned the composition of these hymns were temporal and the nobles (devas) invoked were functionaries of the Vedic social polity and not mystic or mysterious or awe-inspiring gods.
The Vedas later treated as being imbued with impenetrable mysticism and obsolete rituals were essentially a record of the socio-cultural heritage of India as authenticated by the poet-sages of the Vaivasvata epoch like Vasishta, Visvamitra, Bharadvaja, Gautama, Vamadeva, Parasara, Kanva, Agastya and Kutsa. They were not prayers to God. Schools of thought like that of Brhaspati challenged not faith in God but the status, role and power of the functionaries (like Indra and Agni) of the Vedic social polity.
Devas were nobles nominated by Manu
Praskanva (1-45) says that the devas were born of Manu. I have pointed out (Vide Ch.6. The Epoch of the Early Manus, Evolution of Social polity of Ancient India) that under the Order of Manu every incumbent nominated a group of his choice to the assembly of devas (nobles).
Tusitas, Satyas, Bhadras, Apyas, Haris, Viras were such groups during the tenures of the first seven Manus. (Every Manu had also a council of seven sages of his choice.) These nobles occupied their seats in the assembly for only a limited number of years even as the incumbent Manu had tenure of only twelve years.
Devas were not Gods. They were not immortal. The nobles (devas) appointed to this assembly (divam, sabha), a model one to be followed by all rulers knew their proper rites (duties) and listened to Agni, says Praskanva, a senior sage. In other words, they were not arrogant and did not discard the suggestions of Agni who was the representative of the commonalty.
Manu Svayambhuva and Agni
Even as the devas were born of Manu, Agni was born of Manu's Laws, as the poet, Paruchchepa says (1-128). Manu Svayambhuva proposed the formation of the cadre of aristocrats and prescribed how they were to be selected; he similarly recommended the creation of the post of Agni, an officer of the judiciary who would represent the commonalty.
The Grtsamadas say that the words of Agni, the envoy, enabled them to speak like Manu (2-10). They were authoritative and the Devas had to abide by his directions. Vasishta (7-11) and Bharadvaja (6-10) too acknowledged the status of Agni as the chief 'priest'.
Agni is often referred to as Vaisvanara. He was the embodiment of the will of the common man. He was the pillar of the people, jana, according to Nodhas (1-59). He was recognized as Aryajyoti. Hymn 5-34 indicates that Satri, son of Agnivesya, was recognized as Agni.
Agnivesya must have been an official who represented the commonalty, prthvi or Vis. [For more details about this personage vide Ch. 13 of my work, Hindu Social Dynamics.] He must have been the Arya helped by Indra to lead away the Dasa at his will and one of the wealthy men favoured by Indra.
Indra, the head of the assembly of nobles, must have conceded the claim of Agni, the head of the council of scholars and commoners, to take charge of the serf (dasa) who was serving the nobles (devas).
Agni who represented the Brahmans (intelligentsia) and also the Vis (which included both bourgeoisie and proletariat, Vaisyas and Shudras) was able to convince the aristocracy that the latter should loosen their hold on the class of serfs and allow the civil administration and the bourgeoisie to utilize the services of the bonded labourers, Dasas.
This was a major step in social reorganization. Agni was the authority who represented the Vis, the commonalty.
As Jatavedas, he was an intellectual par excellence. He had Brahmavarchas, the authority to interpret the socio-political constitution, Brahma or Atharvaveda. He was entitled to represent the Brahmans but he belonged to the class of wealthy citizens, Aryas. It needs to be noted that honouring Agni was not fire-worship. Nor was it a sign of what has later been called Brahmanism with its telescoping of rites and theology.
In hymn 3-23 attributed to Visvamitra, Devasravas and Devavata, two sons of Bharata, approach Agni, the Jatavedas, for a pronouncement of his choice on who should be the people's ruler. Both had the status of a noble (deva).
While Devavata was selected, Devasravas was granted the status of his deputy, controlling prthvi, the commoners. The verdict was given at Ila's abode on the banks of Apya, a lake in the Sarasvati basin. Ila, an Apsaras, was the mother of Pururavas. It is likely that her abode later became a seat where representatives met to take major political decisions.
Devavata must have been assigned the status of Indra and Devasravas that of his deputy, Upendra, a status superior to that of Agni. [It may be noted here that Vamana or Urukrama who overthrew Bali, had the status of Upendra.] In hymn 4-15, Vamadeva honours Srnjaya, son of Devavata. Bharadvaja, in hymn 6-27 describes how Abhyavarti Chayamana (a son of Devavata) received help from Indra.
Bharata appears to have stepped down from rule at an early age leaving Bharadvaja to select his successor. A sort of dyarchy, dvairajyam, was proposed by this sage who was a political thinker too, to ensure that the main rivals were both satisfied.
The Manu who was ill and was helped by the Asvins, Soma and Visvedevas (1-112, 2-33, 6-21, 8-22, 9-22 and 9-96) and who was harassed by the Dasyus and who took interest in agriculture must have been Manu Vaivasvata.
He had raised the Asvins who represented the physicians and the Visvedevas, the noveaux riche from among whom new members were recruited to the traditional cadres of nobles (devas), to the status of nobles (devas). (Vide Ch.6.The Epoch of the Early Manus--Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
In 5-45, a sage belonging to the school of Atri says that Manu defeated Visisipra. The interpretation presented by Griffith that Manu represented the victorious Aryan invaders and Visisipra the conquered 'barbarians is unwarranted.
It is unwise to accept the interpretation that the Aryans (with whom most of the European Indologists of the 19th century identified themselves and paved the path for the rise of Nazism) were invaders and were highly civilized and the natives of India were barbarians.There was no such conquest, no conqueror and no conquered.
The beneficiary in the above operation was Kaksivan, a thirsty wandering merchant. Kaksivan was a Vaisya, an Arya, and a poet (who had contributed to the Rgvedic anthology). He was an ardent supporter of Sakra Indra who was then carrying on a relentless campaign against the feudal lords, asuras.
Visisipra was one of the feudal chiefs whose political theory of matsya-nyaya (the larger fish swallowing the smaller being justified as it ensured the survival of the fittest), was discredited by Manu Vaivasvata who advocated the concept of a contractual state (governance with the consent of the governed).
Vaivasvata was not an invader nor did he belong to Aryavarta originally. Certainly, he did not come from Central Asia. Earlier he was a ruler of the southern Dravida region at the estuary of Tamrapala and was known as Rajarshi Satyavrata. He was escorted by some sages to Gaya (in Bihar) and was installed as Manu Sraddhadeva.
As Vivasvan, a prominent Prajapati patronized him he came to be known as Manu Vaivasvata. Griffith's interpretation added grist to the sustained campaign let loose by some Indian demagogues that Aryans were invaders and that Manu and Indra were their leaders.
Hymn 8-27 attributed to Vaivasvata himself and addressed to the Visvedevas, the chiefs of the larger commonalty (visva), appeals for following the ancestral path, which is Manu's path. He was eager to ensure that the views expressed by the first Manu, Svayambhuva, should be honoured.
Hymn 8-27 composed by Vaivasvata envisages a second era of peace and plenty. Agni is asked to bring together for the sacrifice all the functionaries (Varuna, Aditi, Soma, Pusan, Indra, Savitr, Mitra, Aryaman, Vishnu) and all groups of nobles (Vasus, Adityas, Maruts, Asvins and Asuras).
An earlier attempt made during the tenure of Manu Raivata at reconciliation between the Devas and the Asuras, the liberal aristocrats and the feudal lords had failed. (Vide Ch.6 and 7 of Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Vishnu was a prominent Prajapati (chief of the people) and was later Viraj, overlord, and was an active supporter of Prajapati Vivasvan and his protege, Vaivasvata.
This hymn was not a yet another prayer voiced by polytheists. Its significance will emerge as we recognize the roles of the functionaries like Viraj, Prajapati, Aditi, Indra, Agni, Soma, Varuna etc. (Vide Ch.11- Hindu Social Dynamics)
Gaya, Saryata and Nabhaga (a disinherited recluse) were admirers of Manu Vaivasvata. (For a critical analysis of the careers of the 'sons' of Manu Vaivasvata, vide Hindu Social Dynamics.)
Gaya was a Rajarshi who was criticized for being ambitious. Saryata might have been connected with the conclaves in Kusasthali (Gujarat) convened by Samkarshana. (Vide Ch 15 B. The Manava Epoch and The Mahabharata, Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India and also Hindu Social Dynamics) He features in three Rgvedic hymns.
Hymn 8-15 refers to Manu and Arya. The latter is said to be a son of Pururavas and Urvasi. Other legends do not mention such a son. It is likely that their only son was granted the status of an Arya, a Vaisya.
Pururavas was the son of Ila, an Apsaras, and Budha, a Vidyadhara. This Ila was not the same as Vaivasvatas only daughter, Ila, who had married Sudyumna. Hymn 10-86 mentions Parsu as a daughter of Manu. Hymn 1-31 refers to Manu, Yayati and Angirasa. These could not have been references to Manu Vaivasvata. The Valakhilya hymns refer to Manu Samvarni.
The Rgvedic hymns were on the threshold of history and did not belong to the dawn of civilization. Their dramatis personae were not mythical it needs to be noted. Of course, some hymns do bear the imprint of timelessness and sublimity. They do elevate the anthology above the level of time-bound chronicles.
This note of classicism should not suppress the fact that most of the hymns were composed during the tenures of Tamasa, Raivata, Chakshusha and Vaivasvata.
They cover about five decades. It was a period of renascence when poets and sages who were contemporary of these Manus edited themes that might have been pre-Svayambhuva. The editing involved the dominance of mundane affairs of then import.
Indian scholiasts like Sayana though they were experts in etymology could not reconstruct this Vedic social order as they were separated from this period by over two millennia of Bhakti cult (devotionalism). Modern Indologists influenced by Greek and Norse mythologies found it perplexing.
The approach of the western scholars who claim to follow Sayana and other Indian scholiasts is best represented by Griffith's stand.
The Samhita of the Rgveda is a collection of hymns and songs brought by the remote ancestors of the present Hindus from their ancestral homes on the banks of the Indus where they had been first used in adoration of the Father of Heaven, of the Sun, of Dawn, of Agni or the God of Fire, in prayers for health, wealth, long life, offspring, cattle, victory in battles and freedom from the bonds of sin and celebration of the ever-renewed warfare between the beneficent thunder-wielding Indra, the special champion of the Aryans and the malevolent powers of darkness and the demons of drought who withheld the rain of heaven.
It was however an incorrect picture. Griffith holds that Indra was the favourite national deity of the Aryans in the Vedic Age and was the god who reigned supreme over the intermediate region of the atmosphere. Soma was recognized as the Indra of antariksham (intermediate region). He was unable to comprehend why Indra was the type of national heroism! What was Indra?
In hymn 3-34, Visvamitra says that Indra, the Vrtra-slayer, who smote the Dasyus and promoted the class of Aryas (Aryam varnam) won sva and apa, divam and prthvi, aushadi and vanaspati.
Indra, the slayer of Vrtra, had several exploits to his credit. He was Satakratu. Not all of them were known even to the sages of his times.
The Vrtra whom he killed was a Surasenaka chieftain who was a Gandharva and had been newly assigned to the Kshatriya varna by Angirasa and Narada after taking into account the social statuses of his mother and father.
It was first generation varna assignment that entitled him to be a ruler under the four-varnas schemata. But he lost his status when the rivals of its mother killed his newborn son.
A sonless person was then not eligible to head a family or be a ruler. The disillusioned chieftain, Chitraketu, joined the Vidyadhara movement that was engaged in spreading culture and knowledge and was against hedonism. He was however unable to restrain himself and reprimanded the highly revered yogi, Siva, for shameless sex.
Chitraketu was condemned to be an enemy of the society, a Vrtra, and was placed on death roll for his great offence and presumptuousness. Sakra who led the combined armies of all the three social worlds (lokas) thereafter killed him in battle. It was a major event of the last decades of the long Vedic era. (Vide Ch.6. Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Madhuchhandas, a lyric poet, identifies Sakra Indra as a son of Kusika (1-10) thereby emphasizing the close affinity between Sakra and the family (Kusika) to which Visvamitra belonged.
Sakra was not a myth nor a God nor a personification of any object or feature of Nature. He controlled his own lands that he had as a noble (sva). He also controlled the waterways (apa), the agro-pastoral lands (prthvi) and the assembly of nobles (divam), the herbal moors (aushadi), the forests (vanaspati) and the borderlands (antariksham).
He was however neither an emperor nor a knight. Sakra Indra came on the scene when the last battles against the recalcitrant feudal warlords, asuras, were being fought. They had entrenched themselves in mountain-forts as champions of feudalism against which this particular Indra, Sakra, waged a relentless war almost alone.
Divodasa, the Arya
In the intriguing hymn, 4-26, Vamadeva notices the presence of Kutsa, Usanas, Kaksivan and another dignitary who had earlier held the position of Manu and Surya. This must have been a reference to Manu Surya Savarni. Surya or Aditya (sun) was the designation of the general of a Kshatriya army.
The tenure of Manu Surya Savarni overlapped the later portion of that of Manu Vaivasvata, I have suggested. I have noted that Manu Sraddhadeva might have eased out Manu Chakshusha who had become blind and was not able to give proper guidance. It is likely that the seventh Manu had two tenures, one as Sraddhadeva and the other as Vaivasvata.
Savarni was the Manu during the reign of Parikshit and when Rama trekked southwards in search of his wife. Manu Vaivasvata had retired by that time. Parikshits predecessor, Yudhishtira, had gone to Gaya to meet Vaivasvata and obtain support for his claim but could not meet that great Manu.
He could not also meet Parasurama who was in Kalinga then as an exile and in retirement. Parasurama became a member of Savarnis council of seven sages. The events pertaining to the Battle of Kurukshetra and that of Lanka were separated by distance rather than by time.
Kutsa, son of Arjuni, was like Vamadeva, an eminent sage and was an associate of Kashyapa, chief of Vaivasvatas council of seven sages. Like Kaksivan, he too was a major contributor to the Rgvedic anthology.
Usanas was a political thinker and advisor of Bali, an asura overlord and ruler of Janasthana in the central Narmada valley. Vamana, a dwarfish disciple of Kashyapa, overthrew Bali and eased out Usanas from his position.
Vamana was known also as Urukrama, Trivikrama and Upendra. He had to battle against the combined armies of the confederation of feudal warlords (asuras) led by Sambara who came to Balis assistance.
Manu Savarni seems to have given asylum to those asura chiefs who had given up arms and even reinstated some of them. He made Bali the Indra of Chitrapada, a Gandharva region in the southern peninsula, after he had repented for his earlier high-handedness.
Meanwhile Sakra had taken over the treasury, Sura, which was retrieved from Bali. Bali was not entitled to control this treasury that had wealth held (by Indra) in trust on behalf of the people.
Prabhu Sarvabhauma is said to have restored it to Bali after the latter was installed as Indra of Chitrapada. Who this Prabhu, overlord of all regions, was, is yet to be identified. (Vide Ch.7B Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Hymn 4-26 also suggests that this Manu was offered Soma oblation. It indicates initiation of the former general as Manu. By this time, the last of Sambaras forts had been shattered.
Sakra performed this act while helping his friend, Atithigva who was a Divodasa. (devadasa) was gifted lands and installed as an Arya. Dasa, Divodasa, Sudasa and Saudasa were different stages of servitude. A serf had to go through them before he was recognized as a free citizen, Arya. (Vide Ch. 20 Vasishta and Saudasa KalmashapadaHindu Social Dynamics for an in-depth analysis of this social ascent).
The poet, Vamadeva, says that all nobles (devas) followed the directives of Indra. This hymn composed when Savarni was installed as Manu commemorates the final victory over feudalism of those times.The destruction of the forts of the feudal lords and the bestowal of lands on serfs loyal to the patriciate, devas, enabled the emergence of a new class of Aryas. This was a process that was reaching its acme when Vamadeva composed this hymn. Prastoka, Atithigva, Srnjaya appear to have been such Devadasas.
However these new Aryas were not held in esteem by the older group of Aryas as they were not adequately cultured and some of them had even a streak of cannibalism. This is seen in the career of Saudasa Kalmashapada whom Vasishta himself was not able to socialize.
The Rgveda does not describe the nobles (devas) as Aryas. It does not posit a conflict between Aryas and Dasas though it deals with threats from Dasyus to Aryas.
The dasas were docile servants of the nobles (devas). These attendants have to be distinguished from the dasyus, the cruel mercenaries engaged by the feudal lords (asuras).
The devadasas were serfs looking after the lands of the aristocrats and often had to pledge their wives and children too towards proof of loyalty to their masters. Some of them or at least their sons could rub shoulders with the princes and were known as Sudasas.
The 'sons' of these Sudasas were known as Saudasas and were almost free landlords and rulers. While the Dasas were accommodated in the Shudra varna, the Devadasas found their way into the Arya or Vaisya varna. Saudasas could even become rulers, Kshatriyas.
But the dasyus were exiled and refused entry into any of the recognized classes and were chased away even from forests where they set up their dens of criminals. They could not be absorbed in the civil society and could not be made to even serve, as it was difficult to tame them and extract work from them.
They were equated with the rebel militants, Rakshasas. It has to be deplored that some demagogues have tried to conceal these facts and have accused the civil society and its intelligentsia of having violated human rights and enslaved both the Dasas and the Dasyus and of having practised racial discrimination. This aspect needs to be noted by all students of Indology and the wrong interpretations should be weeded out.
Atharvaveda (19-32-8) mentions the four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Aryas and Shudras. Aryas were later on called Vaisyas. They were a class of traders and new independent landlords. The Divodasa despite his loyalty to a nobleman was not owner of lands. When Sakra Indra bestowed on him the lands seized from the feudal lords, asuras, the Divodasa became an Arya.
The theory of conquest advanced by western Indologists made the Kshatriyas the military wing of the Aryan race, which deprived the natives of their lands and became landlords. This theory is untenable.
Sakra Indra who was not covetous distributed the lands seized by him from the feudal lords, among his loyal servants. The Dasas and the Aryas were not ethnically different from each other. In fact, many of the Aryas had been dasas earlier. The Dasyus were marauders and were shunned. They had to be exterminated. Only perverted minds can justify their conduct.
Varuna, Indra, Vrata, Satya
According to Parucchapa, Indra troubled those who did not follow the vrata, pledge. He chased away the covetous and the tyrannous. He retrieved the wealth that belonged to the divam, nobility, and was kept concealed in a deep cave in the rocks.
At the instance of Angirasa, Indra strove to win the stall of kine and disclosed the food concealed behind the doors. In these exploits, the enemy was a night-burglar, Ahi.
Indra must have been helping the civil administration, headed by Brhaspati, a follower of Angirasa. Angirasa and Atharvacharya were the chief editors of Atharvaveda, which enshrined the socio-political constitution of Vedic India.
Indra restored the free flow of the rivers that were obstructed by such enemies who moved about in the dark to harm the agriculturists.
Sakra shattered many forts to help Puru and pulled out Sambara from his mountain hideouts and distributed his treasures. [This Puru might have been Yayatis successor.] He helped his Aryan follower, Atithigva, in battles.
The vrata, pledge, marked the sections of the population that had given up arms and consented to abide by the laws of the civil society. Its greatest exponents were the schools of Vasishta and Angirasa and in general, the Manus.
The members of the family of Atithigva eulogize Indra, the destroyer of forts, even as the sage has come from afar to help, to win for his own, all happiness of men, winning happiness each day, the poet says.Vasishta supported Sudasa, son of Divodasa. The rivalry between Vasishta and Visvamitra and the dispute between the two on this score are reflected in Canto 3 of the Rgveda. But they were not as intense as some commentators have made out.
Vasishta to whom Canto 7 is attributed does not show any sign of bitterness against Visvamitra. In the war of the ten kings, Sakra extended his support to Sudasa and the scope of the war widened. It led to the final annihilation of the feudal warlord, Sambara. This war could not have taken place long before the exile of Rama from Kosala. Sambara had twice routed his father, Dasaratha. Rama himself was accused of having exceeded his powers and killed Namuchi, an associate of Bali and Sambara.
We are unable to accept the claim that identifies Rama himself with Sakra Indra. Sambara was a staunch supporter of Bali who had been exiled from Janasthana only shortly before Rama was exiled. Rama was however not aware of the incidents leading to Balis exile. Sambara and Bali were feudal warlords. They were not non-Aryas in the ethnic or racial sense.
Varuna and Satyavrata, the Pledge to abide by Truth
Hymn 7-83 says that in the war of ten kings, Sudasa got the help of Indra and Varuna to defeat both Aryas and Dasas. Varuna, an official, was regent during interregnum. It was not an ethnic war.
Free landlords, Aryas, and their subordinates, Dasas, were ranged on both sides though most of them had found it expedient to rally behind the feudal lords rather than behind the liberal nobles.
These kings like the Asuras had not taken the pledge, vrata, to abide by truth and to settle all disputes peacefully on the basis of truth.
Varuna, the Vedic social authority, who enforced civil law, had powers of coercion needed to enforce this 'Satyavrata, the pledge every Arya was to take to abide by truth. He must have enforced it after the war of ten kings.
Varuna was the designation of the civil authority in the dichotomous, dhio-prthvi, patriciate-plebeians social polity, especially in the western regions marked by Vairajam and Vairupam, who was empowered to ensure that this ultimate democracy, anarchism and unstructured society, was adhered to by all. He could punish the transgressor however high a rank he held. It was anarchism but not lawlessness or anarchy.
In other regions, if Indra used coercive powers to control the anti-social elements, Varuna could demand the surrender of all weapons by those not authorized to exercise coercive powers. Even the other nobles had to surrender their weapons. Private armies were frowned upon.
Varuna functioned as ombudsman and regent during interregnums. (Vide Ch 4. Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India) He flaunted his title, Raja, King, and ensured that every one adhered to the pledge, vrata, to abide by civil laws and discharged his duties. [Varuna was not the God of Rain or Indra the God of Thunder. Both these were high officials of the Vedic social polity.]
The above pledge, vrata, was based on truth, satya, and non-violence, ahimsa, the two cardinal principles of all Hindu religions.
Satya, Rta and Dharma
Satya and the code of conduct based on truth gained legitimacy during the tenure of the Manus. Earlier, Rta had this legitimacy and later, Dharma acquired it.
Rta was based on human nature and marked the natural rights of man (and other beings) for survival and development. Satya marked empirical ethics which bound every individual to his commitments, while Dharma subordinated the individual to his society or community, that is, to the considered opinion of the majority members of his society on what is the right conduct irrespective of his personal stand on it. Rta permitted him to ignore his society if need be and Satya required him to stand by his commitments and Dharma denied him the right to act on his own.
Man came more and more under social control as he gave up Rta and accepted Dharma. But it is not to be construed that promulgation of Dharma displaced Rta and Satya and the social systems of the pre-Vedic and Vedic times. The Rgvedic hymns are characterized by the emphasis on Satya, though nostalgia for the earlier period based on Rta persisted.
Promulgation of the laws of Dharma by the school of Manavas along the lines recommended by the first Manu, Svayambhuva, and as drafted by Bhrgu and his colleagues was yet to take place. However first generation varna assignment had begun.
Only a Manu could promulgate the Dharmasastra. Vaivasvata was the Manu when it was promulgated. He was the Manu when most of the Rgvedic hymns were composed.
These hymns eulogizing Satya are not explicit about Dharma. Their stands on Dharma could be deduced only by the application of the methods of samkhya dialectics to the three Vedas, as pointed out by Kautilya in the Arthasastra.
According to the school of Brhaspati, while the Vedas served as a bridge between the past and the then present, their injunctions could not be treated as being valid for all times. Hence the orthodox elements condemned this school as being atheistic and heretic.
Brhaspati was however for Satya and ethics based on commitment to truth. The sages who composed the Upanishads refused to give up either Rta or Satya. They asserted the invincibility of truth, Satya, but also agreed that the laws based on Satya and those based on Dharma were not contradictory but were basically identical.
Though Vasishta was the champion of Satyavrata, Brhaspati who belonged to the School of Angirasa, a socio-political ideologue (Brahmavadi) standing by the constitution as incorporated in the Atharvaveda (Brahma), had initiated this movement. This is indicated in the opening verse of the Rgveda.
[Vasishta himself held the position of Brhaspati in Kosala polity.] Angirasa enjoyed the highest regard among all the Vedic sages. He had disappeared before the tenure of Vaivasvata began.
Angirasa, Sakra Indra and Arbuda (a Sarparshi, an ideologue who belonged to the industrial proletariat, sarpas) had entered into an agreement known as Trisamdhi, Triple Entente on behalf of the three social worlds, commonalty, patriciate and the frontier society (prthvi, divam and antariksham) to wipe out the recalcitrant feudal lords, Asuras. (Vide Ch.4. Atharvan PolityEvolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Visvedevas and Satyavrata
In hymn 10-65 Vasishta honours the Visvedevas, the charismatic leaders of the various sections of the larger commonalty, visva, for spreading the vrata of the Aryas over all the lands.
Observance of the pledge to abide by Satya entitled one to be treated as an Arya. The nobles, devas, must have spread this pledge at the instance of Manu as hymn 10-64 indicates. This Manu who had his seat at Gaya was Vaivasvata who was earlier King Satyavrata.
This pledge had more than an ethical value. It became the foundation for civil law (vyavahara). It led to the lessening of the distinction between the free landlords (Aryas), and the nobles, Devas. The latter, a rich leisure class, were transformed into a free economic class of Aryas even while enjoying the reputation of being aristocrats. The Visvedevas were the leaders of this new fused class, which was no longer exempt from the code of conduct that bound the commoners.
They had to pay taxes under the Vaivasvata constitution. It would no longer be eligible to retain the offerings received at the sacrifices, yajnas, performed by the commoners. This vrata, pledge, was applicable not only to the Aryas as owners of property, but also to all other property-owners, Devas or Yakshas or Asuras, aristocrats or plutocrats or feudal lords, and also to the free workers, Dasas, now called Shudras.
The Asvins, guardians of Shudras and agriculture, are often called Nasatyas, those who had eschewed untruth, asatya. Vasishta himself had been entrusted with the task of organizing the Shudras. (Bhrgu was in charge of the Brahmans, Angirasa of Kshatriyas and Pulastya of Vaisyas.)
Observance of truth became the rallying point for all sections of the society. This pledge was adequate to entitle one to be called an Arya, irrespective of his economic status. Kautilya treated Shudras also as Aryas. Their words were valid even as those of the Vaisyas or Brahmans or Kshatriyas were, though they had no property of their own (to be kept as surety in case the debtor failed to keep his promise).
Kautilya objected to the earlier law introduced by the school of Brhaspati which treated the evidences of the rich as more reliable than those of the poor. That school had discarded even the affidavits of the honest (that is, of the pious Brahmans) as they were poor.
The Rgveda belongs to a period when commoners too could acquire property. Earlier, only the nobles could own personal property. Of course feudal lords held property by force and plutocrats by fleecing their dependents.
Vishnu the Overlord
A prominent ally of Sakra Indra was Vishnu. In Rgveda we do not come across the concept of Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, as the Gods of Creation, Preservation and Destruction. It has often been stated that the Vedic Aryans were polytheists and that Indra, Agni, Varuna, Soma, Surya, Vishnu, Brahma, Rudra etc. were gods of their pantheon. I have refuted this claim and said that these were designations of the officials of the Vedic social polity.
Manusmrti does not mention the name, Vishnu, or any of the names by which he was known later. Nor does it mention Siva or any of his other names. [The only verse where the term, hari or hara occurs is obviously a later interpolation.] It preceded both Vaishnavaism and Saivaism, the two major streams among the Hindu sects. Rgveda was pre-Manusmrti.
Vishnu is often described as having taken three steps to crush Bali. The legends about Urukrama or Vamana, a dwarf, and Trivikrama, a tall figure, have their roots in this episode, which however had no theological note.
This step was concerned basically with distortion of the constitution by the shrewd autocrat, Bali, and his mentor, Usanas. Was Vishnu, the tall Trivikrama of the Rgveda, a God if not the supreme God? (Vide Ch.7B of Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India.)
In hymn 1-155 Dirghatamas, a blind poet, clarifies that Vishnu is no longer envisaged as a child. He is a youth developed, vast in form. The imagery of Vamana, a dwarf, was to be discarded, according to this scholar who belonged to the school of Vasishta.
The above hymn ranks Vishnu as higher than sad and Agni. I have pointed out on the basis of the Bhagavata account that Vamana or Urukrama was required to justify his action before the assembly of scholar-legislators, sad. Its verdict was final.
Dirghatamas implies that Vishnu had as overlord, Viraj, a rank that was superior to that of Agni, the official who presided over the Samiti, the Vedic council of scholars and elders. He could not be subordinated even to the legislature, sad', that was composed of sabha and samiti.
Sabha was the representative body of the nobles (devas). Indra was its chief. Only the Prajapati, the chief of the people, could convene the two houses of the legislature. The King too was subordinate to it.
But as Viraj, Vishnu was not answerable to this body. The Prajapati ranked next to the Viraj. Vishnu could not have been the dwarfish Brahman who had to explain his conduct to the legislature of Janasthana after it was liberated from Bali and Usanas. Urukrama (Vamana) had the rank only of Upendra and was junior to Indra who himself had to respect the Prajapati. This picture of the later Vedic polity needs to be borne in mind while interpreting the Vedic hymns. Neither the Bali episode nor any other connected with the so-called incarnations of Vishnu finds a place in the Rgveda.
For the Rgvedic poets, these events were not relevant to the central theme veering round the exploits of Sakra Indra. They were however interested in the relationship between Vishnu and Indra.
In hymn 1-22, Medhyatithi who belonged to the school of Kanva said that the Suris had instituted a sacrifice and had invited the nobles (devas). Vishnu was given special honour. He had passed through the seven regions of prthvi and placed three steps on them. Thenceforth, none deceive him, the poet says.
He establishes dharma. Vishnu has allowed his vrata, pledge, to be seen. He occupies a sublime place as the eye (chakshu) of divam (nobility). It would mean that Vishnu was present on behalf of the nobles as an observer of what was happening at the sacrifice and what the Suris were getting sanctified. Vishnu, the Viraj, observed every thing but did not participate in any of the exploits of Sakra Indra or of others. .
The Seven Social Worlds, Lokas
It is irrational to hold that the terms, divam, prthvi and antariksham, meant heaven, earth and intermediate space, inhabited by gods, men and preternatural beings. They referred to the patriciate mainly of the city, the commonalty of the agro-pastoral plains and the frontier industrial society of the forests and mountains.
The seven regions of the earth, prthvi, were what were supposed to have been assigned in the area between the Narmada and the Ganga. The seven communities and cadres were known as bhu, bhuva, sva, maha, jana, tapa and satya. They were in fact the seven constituents of the new social polity of that region which was under the suzerainty of Prthu, the agrarian king who enjoyed the patronage of Manu Vaivasvata. (Vide Ch.7A of Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Vamana restored this structure that was tampered with by Bali and Usanas. Vishnu, the overlord, explained to the assembled nobles the implication of the pledge of Satyavrata that made the judiciary, Satyaloka, the highest among the seven units and required all to take the oath of allegiance to it.
Griffith comments that Vishnu is never stated to be superior to Indra, Varuna, Maruts etc. and that Vishnu is even held to have derived his power from Indra. He was not correct. He did not have a grasp of the Vedic polity and the changes it was going through.
Bhu, bhuva, and sva referred to the agro-pastoral commonalty, the industrial society of the forests and mountains and the urban patriciate. They were also referred to as prthvi, antariksham and divam.
Mahaloka referred to the sages known as Maharshis who had their assigned place of assembly even as the representative body of the people (jana) that could legislate for the native population had its assigned area, janaloka. Tapaloka was the area assigned to those engaged in planning and executing new projects.
These tapasvis had their abodes in areas outside villages and towns and they were not to be disturbed. They also functioned as a wing of the Institution of Observers, Chakshus (spies, in common parlance). (Vide Foundations of Hindu Economic State, a study based on Kautilyan Arthasastra) They enjoyed immunity against prosecution for any act. They were not subordinate to the executive who had effective control over the other three sectors of the population, bhu, bhuva and sva.
All these six social sectors were however required to accept the verdict given by the judiciary that interpreted what the law based on truth, Satya, was. It was a stage when the recommendations made on the basis of Dharma were identical with this verdict based on Satya.
Usanas ignored satyaloka while he abetted Balis acts in securing control over the three social bodies, Mahaloka, Janaloka and Tapaloka, and destroyed their autonomy. The commonplace interpretation that the three steps taken by Vamana referred to the retrieval of the three worlds, lower, middle and higher needs to be set aside, I have said while analyzing this episode as described in the Bhagavatam (Ch.7B-Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India).
Vishnu, Rta and Arya
In hymn 1-156 Dirghatamas says that Vishnu was enthroned in the three worlds and helped the Arya with his part of Rta. Who was this Arya who was enabled to exercise his natural rights? What was Rta? Vamadeva in hymn 4-18 says that Vishnu exercised a sobering influence on Sakra. Visvamanas in hymn 8-25 says that Vishnu himself slew none.
Vishnu was a guide and philosopher. His role in defining the place of the Arya in the social pattern regulated by the principle of Rta is to be studied in the context of his own rank as superior to the legislature and to Agni, the chief of the Samiti, the council of intellectuals.
If Sakra Indra and Varuna upheld Satyavrata, the pledge to abide by truth, Vishnu appears to fall back on Rta, the principle of natural rights by which ones efforts at survival and growth are declared to be lawful (provided they do not harm the other members of ones society). Rta was based on the principle of svabhava, the natural tendency of the individual.
The three gunas, innate traits of man, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and are connected with Rta. Rta, which Indian metaphysics holds to be the principle of cosmic order, dominated social relations before the Sastras codified Dharma and before the principle of Satya was introduced binding the individuals to a code of conduct based on personal ethics.
The terms, Rta, Satya and Dharma should be distinguished correctly and not treated as indicating the same concept or social principle.
The Arya, the member of the new economic class of free landlords is absorbed in the traditional pattern with the assignment to him his share of Rta, his privileges and obligations depending on which innate trait svabhava, he excels in.
This assignment of privileges and obligations and the limits on them was later known as Aryamaryada and was emphasized by Kautilyan Arthasastra (Ch.3 Instituting Duties, Svadharma SthapanamFoundations of Hindu Economic State)
In hymn 1-156-4, Dirghatamas says that the Maruts were at Vishnus behest. He ranked higher than Varuna. The latter enforced civil laws and ensured that every one discharged his obligations.
But Vishnu, the Viraj, defined the rights and duties emanating from ones natural tendencies and as a free citizen, Arya. From this higher position, Vishnu granted the Arya who had risen from the masses, Vis, as an independent landlord, a share in the powers and privileges that had hitherto been the exclusive possession of the nobles.
The Maruts and their sages consented to this step, the poet implies. It must be a reference to Marici, Kashyapa and other chiefs who guided the nobles. These sages belonged to the Marut cadre of traditional nobles. A neo-patriciate is envisaged
In hymn 1-155-3 Dirghatamas gives Vishnu a place superior to that of his father. Griffith interprets that the Vedic poets treated divam and prthvi as father and mother. He presented Dhio as Father, as Heaven and also as the Highest God. We are unable to accept that they visualized such a Father God.
Vishnu derived his authority as Viraj, a rank superior to the Prajapati (wrongly understood by some Indologists as Father), from the patriciate, Devas. They accepted him to be such a superior authority. He wielded more influence than they did and also than Agni, the head of the Samiti, did.
In this hymn, Agni is referred to as Trta, the third personage, the first two being, Vishnu (the Viraj) and Indra (the head of Divam, assembly of nobles). These two are seated on their steeds and watch from the hills nearby while Agni presided over the sacrifice.
They were keeping away Kranu who posed a threat to the Suris who were performing the sacrifice. The Suris praised Vishnu, the mighty one, as preserver, inoffensive, bounteous and benign who took three steps over the realm of prthvi for (ensuring for all) freedom and life.
The Suris must have been freed from a cruel despot and were acknowledging the help given by the Viraj. (1-155-4). An ordinary man was able to notice only two of his steps, and not the third. None can equal the area covered by him in the third, it is stated. This picture has become popular.
In hymn 7-100, Vasishta expresses his gratitude to Vishnu, the Sipivista, the mysterious stranger from abroad, who comforted him on the battlefield and who gave a homeland to Manu. Vishnu had assisted Indra in destroying ninety-nine forts of Sambara.
Vasishta must have approved many of the exploits of Indra but wanted him to give up the last one he had planned against Sambara for the final liquidation of that recalcitrant powerful warlord. Vishnu must not have been present when this final battle took place.
Vishnu might have helped Vasishta in the battles where the latter supported Sudasa. Vishnu and Indra had destroyed the huge armies of the royal varchi, a feudal lord and pretender to sovereignty. Who this pretender was is to be identified.
Did Vaivasvata seek the help of Vishnu and Indra against Visisipra? (7-99) Visisipra is described as a bull-faced Dasa. [He pretended to be a member of the Rshabha school of thought.] Vishnu of the Rgveda appears to be a charismatic leader like Sakra Indra and Manu Vaivasvata rather than the one great god of some later legends.
Kutsa Hymns and Two Indras
In hymn 1-103-1, yet another obscure verse, Kutsa visualizes two Indras joining hands in battles. One of them is superior to the other and belongs to the divi, the patriciate, and the other to kshama, that is, to bhumi or earth, commonalty known for forbearance.
Kutsa calls upon the former to increase the might and glory of the Arya. According to Kutsa, the Indra-power which the sages had in the past had now passed into the hands of the ruler (Indra of Kshama) who is now allied with the Indra (of Divam) in battles.
The earlier arrangement of Sabha and Samiti, nobles and sages, headed by Indra and Agni, had given way to the arrangement of representatives of Divam and Prthvi, headed by Indra and Brhaspati. The latter was asked to look after civil administration when the Indra-Brhaspati agreement (known in Atharvaveda as Indrasamdhi) came into force.
But the constitution introduced by Kashyapa gave the head of the civil administration the status of Upendra and that of the aristocracy the status of Mahendra. The latter had all residuary powers and the authority to veto the proposals of the civil administration when necessary.
Prthu, the agrarian king, would not accept such a restraint on his powers. His stand got the support of Sanatkumara, the great Upanishadic sage, I have pointed out. Kutsa was an associate of Kashyapa.
The manushyas who have benefited extol the Indra (Sakra) who had destroyed Ahi, Rauhina, Vyamsa, Pipru, Vrtra and Kuyava and their forts. Griffith translates the term, manushyas as human race. This was a crucial error committed by the western Indologists.
The expression, devas and manushyas is not to be understood as meaning gods and men. It meant nobles and commoners, the two major strata of the core society of the agro-pastoral plains.
Sakra Indra was praised because he had provided relief for the commoners when he killed these feudal lords who were the enemies of the nobles too. The Arya who was given the status of the Indra of Kshama (bhumi or agro-pastoral commonalty) must have been a Vaisya, a rich landlord. This might have been Atithigva, a former Divodasa. Indra was not a God.
An elementary outline of the early Vedic polity
The Vedic social polity had Indra as the head of the house of nobles while Agni headed the council of scholars who represented the views and needs of the commonalty.
A college of Rajanyas who were chieftains, known for aggressiveness, rajas, elected the King (Rajan), from among its members. But all executive and legislative powers were with these two bodies, Sabha and Samiti.
However, only the Prajapati, the chief of the people who was the senior-most member of the council of elders, pitaras, fathers, and was a charismatic personage, could convene these two bodies. Agni was also the presiding officer of the peoples court whose members of the jury were from this council of elders.
When the commonalty (prthvi, bhumi, manushyas) became independent of the bounty received from the ruling elite of nobles (devas), civil administration including civil law (vyavahara) and economy (varta) came under the jurisdiction of Brhaspati. This official belonged to the cadre of Brahmavadis, politico-economic ideologues following Atharvaveda, Brahma. But not all Brahmans, intellectuals belonged to this cadre.
Indra-Brhaspati pact arrived at while the nobles were battling against Chitraketu, the VrtraAsura, warned these intellectuals against extending support to the feudal lords. Brhaspati had secured control over the armoury and virtually disarmed the private armies maintained by the Devas. (Vide Ch.4. The Atharvan PolityEvolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
The Indra-Brhaspati agreement restricted the powers of Indra, I have pointed out while examining the Atharvan Polity. It was however not wholly wholesome, to vest the power of veto in Brhaspati, a civilian authority. It became dysfunctional in execution.
Bharadvaja and others had proposed that the head of the commonalty be given status and power equal to those of the head of the aristocracy and the two be asked to operate dyarchy, Dvairajyam. But this resulted in collision of interests or collusion between the two to the detriment of others. The concept of two Indras had to be amended.
The School of Kashyapa advanced the scheme that Mahendra should represent the nobles and Upendra the commoners.
Kutsa proposed the system of two Indras, one from the nobles (divam), and the other from among the sober sections of the commonalty, Kshama. [Vamana who was Upendra had consented to the suggestion that Bali be reinstated after a period of correction at the penitentiary.]
The Right to Pardon the Penitent
Why is Kutsas Arya called, Indra of Kshama? Kutsa recalls the situation when the sages exercised coercive power.
Coercive power as exercised by Indra had two aspects, nigraha and anugraha, punishment and reward. The sages had earlier claimed the right to pardon the guilty. Indra could only punish. The right to pardon now passed into the hands of the Indra of Kshama, as the institution of sages, Samiti, lost its importance.
Punishment is a secular function, while pardoning the penitent was treated to be spiritual and was vested in the sages. Brhaspati was learned but he did not qualify to be a member of the Samiti.
Civil law did not provide for pardon. Pardoning criminal and constitutional offences was the privilege of the Sabha. In the pre-Kutsa situation, Indra had no control over the commonalty and similarly the sages had none over the patriciate. and only its chief, Indra, could exercise this power to pardon in the absence of the Samiti.
The King, Rajan, could not conduct a trial in any civil case. He could neither punish the guilty nor pardon him. He had to only carry out what the codes and the independent judiciary recommended. (Vide Ch.29. Massacre of the Innocents--Janamejaya and Sarpayajna-Hindu Social Dynamics)
Only in areas where the liberal patriciate had lost to the powerful feudal lords, the commonalty (if it was not brought under the control of these fort-based warlords) was able to assert its autonomy.
The sages were expected to exercise moral authority over the commonalty and ensure the smooth functioning of the dhio-prthvi dichotomous social polity. When the sages lost grip over the commonalty, lacking adequate troops to control the dissidents and ward off the marauders, they had to concede coercive power to Indra, the head of the house of nobles.
When Manu Svayambhuva adopted the policy of ahimsa, non-violence and non-resistance, Yajna who was then Indra had to take over control of all the three social worlds (lokas), patriciate, commonalty, and frontier society. (Vide Ch.6.--The Epoch of the Early ManusEvolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Thereafter Indra, who was the head of the divam, house of nobles, wielded excessive coercive power, the mark of sovereignty. Sakra Indra proposed to grant the Arya ruler the right to exercise sovereignty over the commoners but it would be under the over-all supervision of Sakra. He offered autonomy to the new predominantly (Arya) free commonalty. Even the sages keep out of the task of exercise of coercive control.
This change had come about during the six or seven decades intervening between the commencement of the tenure of Manu Svayambhuva and that of Vaivasvata. The Vedic social polity was undergoing a change even while the conflict between the liberal aristocracy and the feudal warlords was intensifying.
Brahmadanda, Punishment as Prescribed by Atharvaveda
Vena had misused the provisions of the Rajarshi constitution and exploited the people, especially the agriculturists. This led to a revolt led by the sages who found it necessary to invoke the provisions of the Atharvan constitution and pronounce him guilty after giving him a chance to get exonerated. The situation called for the exercise of Brahmadanda. The enraged subjects burned Vena to death. But these sages retired without establishing an alternative government it may be borne in mind. (Vide Ch.7 Prthu and Vena Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
The Atharva constitution (Brahma) permitted only the powerful chieftains who excelled in aggressiveness, rajas, to elect one from among them as King.
Brahmadanda, laws of punishment as prescribed by the Atharvan constitution could disqualify a ruler and call for his removal. But neither the sages nor the commoners could elect a ruler. This led to a political vacuum and anarchy for several years until a new constitution was adopted and a commoner could get elected as a King. Thus Prthu, a charismatic chieftain of the agriculturists came to be elected as the King.
The Dilemma in the Polity during Kutsas times
While discussing the Kautilyan policies, I pointed out that the conqueror, vijigishu, could enter into a treaty of peace with the troops of the enemy provided they were led by an Arya who was free to enter into such contracts. (Arthasastra 9-1-18)
A treaty entered into with the general of a mercenary army was not valid. But if an Arya led the national army of the country conquered, his right to commit his people to the provisions of the treaty which invariably had threat of economic sanctions incorporated in it was acknowledged by all concerned.
The Kutsa situation preceded the Mahendra-Upendra arrangement and was an alternative to the Indra-Brhaspati agreement.
The commoners, the Aryas, now have lands of their own, their own ruler, who exercise powers which were held earlier by the sages. It has to be recognized that it was a century of rapid change in social relations and in power equations.
The Kutsa situation pertains to the relation between the nobles and the commoners of the core society when the former withdrew from direct participation in the administration of the state. But the new rulers of the commonalty would have no control over the patriciate. It is not full democracy when any particular stratum is beyond the pale of the state.
This facet is indicated when Kautilya declared that the king-in-council should not deliberate on daiva policies. (Kautilya however wanted that the young prince and trainee to the position of the Rajarshi should be placed under the charge of both Indra and Brhaspati).
Indian scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries, following the Western Indologists, interpreted daiva as divine and missed the implications of the immunity granted to the erstwhile aristocracy that had willingly relinquished control over the civil administration to the elected ruler of the commonalty.
Prthu constitution following the recommendation made by Manu Vaivasvata provided for direct election of the King, Isvara, by the taxpayers. (Isvara was a charismatic chieftain who rewarded his followers liberally and cautioned others against displeasing him.)
He had to however secure the approval of the paura and janapada assemblies to ensure that charismatic legitimacy was backed by rational legitimacy. Belonging to a royal lineage, a mark of traditional legitimacy was not insisted on. .
Even the residents of the forest areas were accepted as citizens of the predominantly agrarian state provided they paid taxes on the same basis as the agriculturists and traders did. (Ch.9 Vaivasvata Constitution Foundations of Hindu Economic State)
Indra, the head of the eight-member ministry, could be from any section of the population. But he ranked next to the king who however ranked equal to Mahendra, the head of the autonomous (independent and trans-regional) assembly of nobles (devas).
The new Rajarshi constitution empowered this assembly to withdraw recognition to the King if he lost the confidence of the people or if he violated the provisions of the constitution.
The commoners, the free Aryas most of whom were later accepted as Vaisyas (as the bourgeoisie), were not under the control of the rich leisure class of aristocrats nor was the latter subordinate to the commonalty. Sakra Indra replaced the control of the commonalty by sages with control by the Arya Indra, a political chief of the commonalty. The influence of the sages was getting eroded during the last stage of the Vedic era.
The Kutsa Solution
The concluding refrains of the Kutsa hymns in Canto 1 of the Rgveda invoke Varuna and Mitra, Aditi and Sindhu, Prthvi and Divam. The Kutsa hymns were composed at an assembly of the representatives of the commoners (prthvi) and the nobles (divam) at the court of Saryata. Saryata, claimed to be one of the ten sons of Manu Vaivasvata, was a subordinate of the famous general, Sakra Indra. (In Hindu Social Dynamics, Vol.2 I have pointed out that this Manu had only one daughter and no sons.)
The functionaries, Varuna and Mitra, Aditi and Sindhu, of the western state marked by vairajyam and vairupam, were present at that assembly. Vairajyam meant diffusion of powers and it was feared that it might lead to anarchy. (Vide the disputation between Kautilya and the anonymous Teacher Ch 14 .Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
The refrains were not an invocation to Nature or to any aspect of the Supernatural. Kutsa presents the picture of the socio-political scene after Manu had recovered from a serious illness. By this time, Sambara, the chief of the confederation of feudal warlords had been slain. Vasishta himself appears to have been injured. He was comforted by the Asvins, the two representatives of the class of Shudras whose interests Vasishta protected and promoted as desired by Manu Svayambhuva.
The first Manu had his seat in Brahmavarta, the Sarasvati basin to the east of the Sindhu valley. Sakra while helping Sudasa, a protg of Vasishta, and the son of Divodasa, had secured his final victory over the alliance led by Sambara. Vasishta was comforted also by Vishnu who did not carry arms.
Kutsa says that the Asvins (who were well-versed in herbs and medicine) had helped him, Purukutsa, Atri, Antaka and Bharadvaja. They had helped also Mamdhata (the veteran of the solar dynasty) to gain control over the lands. Mamdhata was a protg of Bahudantiputra, who held the rank of Indra and was the author of an Arthasastra text known as Bahudantakam. (Vide Vol. 2 of Hindu Social Dynamics) The Asvins had extended support to Prthu, Sayu and Manu too, Kutsa recalls.
All these events must have taken place during the tenure of Vaivasvata when Sambara, the head of the confederation of feudal warlords, was a force to reckon with. Sakra was hounding him out of his mountain hideouts almost single-handed. The Kutsa hymns are more than thanksgiving verses.
Aditi, the Mother-Figure
Why does Kutsa invoke Varuna and Mitra, Aditi and Sindhu? Max Muller suggests that Aditi was the earliest name invented by the Aryas to express the Infinite, which he restricts to the visible Infinite, the endless expanse beyond the earth, the clouds and the sky.
(Indian scholars have to awake from the spell the name of Max Muller has cast on their thinking.) Muir feels that the term meant Nature. Griffith notices that the medieval Indian scholiast, Sayana, interpreted it as Earth. Benfey thinks that it meant sinlessness. Griffith and Roth consider that it symbolizes Freedom and enjoyment of Nature.
What did the Rgvedic poets mean when they referred to Aditi? Did they all have the same concept in view? Who was Aditi, the mother figure? Indra is often called an Aditya, son of Aditi. This allusion is not to Sakra Indra in particular. Savasi might have been his mother. In the Vratya section of the Atharvaveda (Bk.15),
Indra was distinguished from Aditya. While Indra represented the nobles and headed their assembly, Divam, Aditya represented the Kshatriyas and headed the army, Sena. The term, Aditya, had at some stage come to be used restrictively to refer to Surya and was related to the eastern regions. The term, Surya, too was used to refer to the army general.
Indra (Dhata), Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, Pusan, Bhaga, Daksha and Amsa were the eight functionaries who minded the affairs of the early Rgvedic social polity under the supervision of Aditi and were known as Adityas. This polity was not a monarchical structure.
Agni, Vayu, Surya, Soma, Dharma (Yama), Kubera, Varuna and Mahendra were designations of the eight officials or chiefs of the early monarchy under the scheme introduced by Manu Svayambhuva.
Hymn 10-5-7 of Rgveda suggests that though younger to Daksha, Agni was honoured as the first-born. When the earlier arrangement was revised, the intellectuals were given a special place of honour.
Earlier, Aryaman represented the free landlords and Pusan the agricultural workers. In the new scheme, Agni, the intellectual was expected to look after the interests of both.
In the pre-Manu polity, Daksha was an important functionary. After he clashed with Siva, a charismatic leader of the frontier society, he was replaced by Dharma, a position that the first Manu himself had held when he was yet a Prajapati.
Daksha would have controlled the judiciary with thirteen magistrates, Yamas, functioning under him.
According to the Rgvedic poets, among the Adityas, Agni and Indra were the favourites of Aditi. She gave more attention to their roles than to those of the other Vedic officials.
Aditi was indulgent to Indra whom she nurtured with Soma juice, that is, she made him acceptable to the intellectuals, the sages of the forest whose representative was known as Soma. Soma exercised as much influence over the frontier society as Indra did in the core society.
[It is imperative that we cease to hold that the Vedic people were polytheists and worshipped Surya (Sun), Soma (Moon), Indra (Thunder), Parjanya (Rain) and Varuna (Sea) as Gods.] The sages also visualized her as a cow that yielded milk (8-90, 9-96). They praised her as being good to all men.