HINDU SOCIAL POLITY
PASSAGE TO HINDU STATE
BOOKS FIVE, SIX
V. Nagarajan D.Litt
C/o Sharada Nagarajan
501, Dipesh Enclave
402, Savitri Apartments
Laxmi Nagar (West)
BRAHMA-SUTRAS OF BADARAYANA
NEO-VEDIC SOCIO-POLITICAL CONSTITUTION
Neo-Vedic Socio-political Constitution,
2. Chapter 1 Section 1
3. Chapter 1 Section 2
4. Chapter 1 Section 3
5. Chapter 1 Section 4
6. Chapter 2 Section 1
7. Chapter 2 Section 2
8. Chapter 2 Section 3
9. Chapter 2 Section 4
10. Chapter 3 Section 1
11. Chapter 3 Section 2
12 Chapter 3 Section 3
13 Chapter 3 Section 4
14 Chapter 4 Section 1
15 Chapter 4 Section 2
16 Chapter 4 Section 3
17 Chapter 4 Section 4
NEO-VEDIC SOCIO-POLITICAL CONSTITUTION
Badarayana was engaged along with some prominent critics in a scrutiny of the Upanishads that had been inspired by him.
He was required to defend the socio-political theorems that he had posited and which he claimed the editors functioning under his guidance had adhered to.
The terse phrases and clauses of Brahma-sutra convey his arguments in support of his stand and the objections raised by his detractors.
The formulae couched in these phrases and clauses have to be put forward correctly if we are to present a tangible outline of the features of the neo-Vedic socio-political constitution that the editors of the Upanishads were acquainted with and honoured.
Brahma-sutra is also known as Vedanta-sutra, a compilation of formulae that enable one to understand the import of the Vedas.
Our effort here is to seek a rational appraisal of the import and significance of these epigrams for social polity.
The socio-political constitution, Brahma, which Badarayana upheld was not identical with the earlier Atharvan (Brahma) constitutions but was a major recast of them.
How it drew its inspiration from the earlier constitutions and how far it agreed with them and how the new socio-cultural (dharma) and politico-economic (artha) codes were required to accept the authority of this neo-Vedic Upanishada constitution, Brahma, need to be examined.
This examination steers clear of metaphysics and mysticism while attempting to solve the epigrams and formulae of the text of Brahmasutra available now and which have left the 20th century scholars, both western and Indian, baffled.
The commentators and annotators of the medieval times too are found to have been stumped by these epigrams, which have been passed down by them as messages to those engaged in recognizing the traits of the Ultimate, Brahman, on how to attain that Supreme.
While not referring by name to any of these scholars of whom Samkara is undoubtedly the most venerable, we embark here on the task of bringing under scan the translation with the fillings of the blanks that Thibaut had made.
Thibaut (1904) was a student of Max Muller. He must have adopted these fillings at the instance of Max Muller, the leading European Indologist.
The versions and interpretations presented by modern Indian scholars of Vedanta-sutra follow the translation in English from German the version introduced by Max Muller. I would attribute them to Max Muller himself.
Some modern Indian social philosophers have refrained from acknowledging that the ancient Indian society had a constitution of its own and emphasizing that this constitution was not based on any theological position and that it recognized the existence of diversity rather than uniformity in social pursuits and aptitudes of individuals.
The Vedas and the Sastras, the Srutis and Smrtis need to be studied as such secular social constitutions recommended by sages who were social activists rather than as authoritative religious injunctions pronounced by influential religious heads and implemented by political chieftains who owed their positions to these heads.
This thesis examines the contents of Brahma-sutrasattributed to Badarayana, a member of the council of seven sages convened by Manu Surya Savarni during the tenure of Parikshit.
Some scholars have identified him with Vyasa. Vyasa who is said to have edited the Vedic anthologies, Badarayana and Dvaipayana might not have been one and the same personage but they must have all belonged to the school of Parasara, a prominent sage of the later Vedic times.
Rgveda deals with the sociocultural constitution of the later Vedic times even while being a compilation of the chronicles connected with the different prominent personages of those times.
Atharvaveda is to be referred to for tracing the characteristics of the socio-political constitution of those times. Atharvaveda was known also as Brahma and its exponents were known as Brahmavadis who were ideologues-cum-activists rather than theologians. Later, all the Vedas were referred to as Brahma.
It needs to be realised that the concept of Brahma as the God of Creation and as one of the Trinity(Brahma, Vishnu and Siva) came to the fore only during the medieval times.
According to Hindu tradition, the Vedic period came to an end by BC 3100 when Parikshit, the ruler of Hastinapura was poisoned to death, during a revolt against his arbitrary rule by the workers of the forest.
It may be stated that both the classical Vedic literature and Vedanta, that is referred to as neo-Vedic literature belonged to the centuries veering round the historic battle of Kurukshetra (c 3100 BC, according to Hind tradition).
While the classical social and political constitutions are to be traced to the Vedas, the neo-Vedic socio-political constitution is traced to the main Upanishads.
The issues of whether there was any sociopolitical constitution in operation during the Vedic times and whether the concept of fundamental rights of citizens and the concept of human rights had been developed during those times need to be considered afresh.
Indian tradition assigns the Vedic age to the period, 4000-2500BC. The period 2500-1000BC is a dark era. Little has been unearthed so far about it. The period 1000-100BC may be termed as the early medieval period when many of the Vedic works were retrieved and edited and new codes and systems were outlined. 100BC-900AD was later medieval period when these works underwent considerable scrutiny. After that India came under the influence of Islam first and then of the British and the Europeans.
We have to discard many of the myths and stereotypes propagated by the western Indologists of the 19th and early 20th centuries and adopted uncritically by the Indian scholars of that period if we are to appreciate the features of the ancient Indian social polity correctly.
It is now no longer accepted that the Aryans were a race.
The postulate of the conquest of India by Aryans resulting in the destruction of the Indus Valley civilization has been proved to be untenable.
There was no genocide and no enslavement of any section of its population.
The Arya-Dravida (white-black) and Arya-Kirata (white-yellow) racial conflicts in India as posited by the western scholars were part of a gross misuse of the science of anthropology world-over to justify the right of the Europeans to rule over the entire world.
There were no such racial conflicts in ancient India.
The presumption that in ancient India there were ethnic and racial diversities and hence cultural, religious and linguistic diversities emerged and that these diversities led to armed conflicts and genocides and resulted in enslavement of the weaker sections and weaker racial groups is unwarranted.
There is no valid evidence in favour of such a presumption that has promoted undesirable dissensions in social life during the last few centuries.
The terms, caste, tribe, ethnicity, race and nation which have been used indiscriminately and imprecisely by many writers and in codes and have harmed social polity and social relations all over the world including India should be avoided. I have taken pains to keep them out as far as possible.
Aryas constituted the middle class of self-reliant small landlords and traders of the later Vedic period. They were designated as Vaisyas when the system of four classes (varnas), Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras was proposed.
They were not distinct from the rest of the population in terms of anthropological peculiarity, cultural practices, language spoken and religion followed.
Later when the right to own property was extended to all citizens all the four classes were referred to as Aryas.
The Three Social Worlds and the Two Societies,: Core and Frontier
A rational development of the stages in social classification and stratification and consequent imposition of inequality shows that the early Vedic society of the agrarian plains had two classes devas and manushyas.
Devas were liberal nobles, every one of whom had his personal lands, personal retinue and personal troops and they formed the ruling elite and a leisure class noted for conspicuous consumption.
Manushyas (commoners) worked for them or on their own common lands. They could not but obey the orders of their rulers many of whom were cruel feudal lords.
There were four main groups, Adityas, Vasus, Rudras and Maruts among the nobles.
The commoners were organized as clans and communities. The nobles and the commoners constituted two interdependent social worlds (lokas), divam and prthvi.
There was a parallel society confined to the forests and mountains. It was technologically more advanced than the agro-pastoral core society and looked after the industrial economy. This frontier society that stayed aloof from the core society was referred to as antariksham.
The western Indologists erred when they described the three social worlds, divam, prthvi and antariksham as heaven, earth and intermediate space inhabited by gods, men and preternatural beings respectively.
They were all men and these were social worlds with distinct cultural and economic orientations.
Four Classes of Early Vedic Core Society: Asuras, Devas, Rshis, Manushyas
In the ruling class of the agro-pastoral core society there were two sections, the liberal nobles (devas) and the cruel feudal lords (asuras).
The former lived in urban areas and the latter were stationed in forts while the commoners (manushyas) lived in villages around them.
The sages (rshis) many of whom promoted interactions among the three social worlds lived in the woods on the social periphery.
The docile servants of the nobles were known as dasas and the cruel mercenaries engaged by the feudal lords were known as dasyus. They were not ethnically different from one another and were drafted from the same commonalty.
They enjoyed more privileges than the commoners (manushyas) as they were helping the ruling classes.
Asuras, devas, rshis and manushyas formed four sections, feudal lords, liberal patriciate, sages and commoners, of the early agro-pastoral core society.
Four Classes of Non-Feudal Vedic Core Society:Devas, Rshis, Pitaras and Manushyas
The industrial economy was under the control of the plutocrats (yakshas). The technocrats and the mobile proletariat who operated this economy of the deep forests and mountains were known as nagas and sarpas. These were not serpents.
Besides these there was a sector of retired senior citizens, pitaras, who had stationed themselves in their forest abodes. Some of them had been authoritarian asuras earlier.
Devas, rshis and pitaras were three cadres not engaged in productive economic activities and the commoners, manushya, had to maintain them from their earnings.
There was a vast section of the population that was mobile and was not engaged in economic activities.
Its members looked after the propagation of knowledge and development of art and arts. Gandharvas, Apsarases, Vidyadharas, Vipras, Charanas, Tapasas, Siddhas etc were different cadres that were known as blessed people, punya-jana; they were described as social universes (jagats), individuals, cadres and populations on the move.
They were not organized as clans or communities. They enjoyed more rights than the commoners (manushyas) did.
The Eight Sectors of Viraj, the Federal Social Polity
Vedic sages like Kashyapa have identified Devas, Asuras, Rshis, Manushyas, Pitaras, Yakshas and Rakshas, Gandharvas and Apsarases, Nagas and Sarpas, as the eight sectors of the larger federal social polity, Virajam.
They differed from one another in their cultural orientations and were all represented on the eight-member executive of that federal polity, which honoured the principle of union without uniformity and unity for ensuring diversity and autonomy (svarajam).
The Vedic society in every region was a loose-knit composite society. However the pattern of administration varied from place to place and from time to time, depending on the extent of diversity in the economy and culture. This feature has to be borne in mind while interpreting the Vedic and the Upanishads. hymns.
Liberal Nobles and Commoners: Devas and Manushyas: Sabha and Samiti; Indra and Agni
In the predominantly agro-pastoral core society the two classes, liberal nobles (devas) and commoners (manushyas) were represented on the sabha and the samiti respectively.
Officials designated as Indra and Agni headed these two bodies, which were convened by the chief of the people, Prajapati.
Indra controlled the treasury to which the nobles made contributions from their personal wealth and the army to which every noble sent his troops with arms. Agni presided over the council of scholars and elders, which the samiti was.He conveyed to the nobles the prayers of the commoners for aid.
The commoners contributed to the maintenance of the cadres of devas, rshis and pitrs, nobles, sages and elders, by sacrificing one fourth of their earnings in the yajnas performed.
The Executive of the Vedic Federal Social Polity, Viraj
The electoral college of aggressive chieftains elected one from among its members, as the king, rajan. He had tenure ordinarily of five years.
The Viraj was the head of a federal polity and had tenure of ten to twelve years. The heads (pitrs, fathers who were no longer engaged in economic activities) of families of the commonalty, Vis, elected the Prajapati. This chief of the people was more influential than the king and Indra and Agni.
Indra, Agni, Varuna, Soma, Aditya, Vayu, Yama, Mrtyu, Mitra, Pushan, Asvins, Aryaman, Parjanya, Daksha, Pracetas etc. were designations of the officials of the Vedic social polity and their roles and powers changed from time to time.
(They were not the names of the so-called Vedic pantheon of gods. It is wrong to describe them as aspects of nature worshipped as gods by the Aryans of the Vedic times.)
In a typical Vedic social polity, which was economically viable and predominantly agrarian, eight such officials known as Adityas constituted the ministry.
Indra, the head of the house of nobles was its head and Agni, the head of the council of scholars and elders, ranked next to him.
As democracy spread, in the federal polity, the electorate had three thousand heads of families, who had personal property. They were known as Visvedevas.
They elected from among themselves three hundred representatives and the latter elected thirty members to the assembly of nobles.
There were four main cadres Adityas, Vasus, Rudras and Maruts among these nobles.
A larger electorate of all active heads of families (whether men or women, purushas or stris) elected the Viraj, the head of the federal social polity.
The chief of the people, Prajapati ranked next to him and the benevolent mother, Aditi, who supervised the work of the executive, Adityas, and looked after the observance of social and moral codes, assisted him.
The Three Non-economic Cadres, Devas, Rshis and Pitrs
These features should help to remove the wrong impression that the Vedic society was essentially feudal in character and was totally under authoritarian warlords.
When the feudal order was liquidated at the end of a prolonged war between feudal lords (asuras who claimed to be senior, jyeshta) of the rural areas and the urban aristocrats (devas), many of the reformed feudal lords retired and were given the status of pitrs.
They too like devas and rshis were provided for from the voluntary contributions (yajnas) made by the commoners (manushyas).
The Four Late Vedic Social Classes:: Devas, Gandharvas, Pitrs and Manushyas
At the same time the concept of the core society, especially of the western Indo-Gangetic plains, was expanded to absorb the vast mobile class of Gandharvasfrom among whom the Brahmans and Kshatriyas, the members of the cadres of intellectuals (jurists in particular) and administrators, were selected.
Devas, Gandharvas, Pitrs and Manushyas were the four social classes in the new system.
The sages, rshis, were learned individuals who could emerge from the ranks of any social class, settled or mobile. Unlike the Brahmans of later times, they were not a distinct socioeconomic class.
The Three Main Classes: Devas, Gandharvas and Manushyas
Among the nobles there were three ranks, local-born aristocrats (ajanajadevas), administrators (karmadevas) and members of legislative house of nobles (devas). Indra who headed this house and the ministry ranked above them.
Among the Gandharvas there were two classes, one closer to the cultural aristocracy, devas, and the other closer to the commonalty, manushyas.
The former ranked higher than the elders, pitrs, and the latter called, naras, free men, ranked higher than the commoners, manushyas, who were mainly workers.
The privileges and immunities and the consequent bliss that a free man, nara, enjoyed were several times more than what a commoner, manushya, had.
While a commoner, manushya, was bound by the codes of his clan (kula) and community (jati) and economic corporation (sreni), and was not free to change his traditional occupation or leave his territory, the free man, nara, was able to pursue any vocation that was not reserved for or by others.
He was not bound by kuladharma and jatidharma, the first of the dharmas, social codes, to come into existence as adidharma.
But he was required to follow the code of the sreni and obey the authority of the region (desa) where he plied his trade.
The free men, naras, manned the local administration and the army. Naraloka was superior to Manushyaloka.
Both naras and manushyas had to earn their livelihood by hard work.
The higher ranks of the Gandharvas were engaged in developing arts and sciences and spreading knowledge. They were patronised by the liberal aristocracy (devas).
A large free middle class emerged from the ranks of Gandharvas. But it had like the workers no personal property.
Indra-Agni Dichotomy: Nobles and Commonalty
It may be noted here that we are dealing with apre-varna Vedic social order and with the transition to the post-Vedic Varna social system.
As pointed out earlier, in the normative Vedic polity of a small region, Indra and Agni were members of the ruling elite, a liberal aristocracy, and the commonalty was composed mainly of agricultural manual labourers.
It did not have a distinct middle class of owners of private property, with a rank between nobles, devas, and commoners, manushyas.
Gandharvas were cadres of intellectuals and are not to be visualised as having been a bourgeoisie.
They were asvas (men without personal property) while the nobles (devas) were svas (persons with personal property).
But as economic activities got diversified and became more productive, and a surplus economy became feasible with the liquidation of the exploitative feudal order, in several areas the commonalty came to be represented by Brhaspati rather than by Agni.
Agni had been functioning mainly as a civil judge and guardian of ethics.
Brhaspati who was trained in Atharvaveda (Brahma) and economy (Varta) became the custodian of the interests of the commoners of the agro-pastoral tracts (prthvi), especially of its higher ranks, the bourgeoisie (later known as Vaisyas or Aryas).
The concept of civil liberties and governance with consent and replacement of the systems of undefined voluntary contribution through yajna and limitless extortion through bali by a system of prescribed and moderate tax (kara) of one sixth of gross earnings came into vogue in due course.
This system was instituted by Manu Vaivasvata and adopted by the Prthu constitution that Manusmrti followed.
The famous accord between Indra and Brhaspati, Indrasamdhi, resulted in the control over the treasury and the arms being vested in Brhaspati. Indra was expected to lead the army and defend the country.
The nobles lost coercive power as the troops were disarmed when not on the battlefront and the civil population was totally disarmed.
Liberal cultural aristocracy and the army were subordinated to the authority of the civilian government headed by Brhaspati.
The bourgeoisie scored over the aristocracy to which royalty in most areas belonged.
It also warned the intelligentsia not to act against the interests of this alliance and coerced it to pool its mite and guidance in favour of this democratic polity.
Both aristocracy and bourgeoisie were tuned to protection of the right to individual property and life of the individual and the elimination of the practice of bonded labour, dasatva.
Mahadeva Constitution and the Four Institutions
The Mahadeva constitution went a step ahead and formed four permanent institutions, sabha, samiti, sena and sura, assembly of nobles (devas), council of scholars (Brahmans), standing army and executive (Kshatras) and civil administration including economy and treasury dominated by and for the commoners (prthvi, manushyas).
These were headed by Indra, Agni, Aditya and Brhaspati respectively and facilitated governance through mutual checks.
This holistic constitution envisaged four classes, Devas, Brahmans, Kshatras and Manushyas and reduced the power of the bourgeoisie who dominated the commonalty.
It enabled the rise of the small nation-state headed by a Rajan elected from among the college of rajanyas by its members but subordinate to the charismatic chief of the people, Prajapati, who was superior to all these institutions. It while maintaining the separate identities of the different sections of the larger population ensured for all, food and other minimal requirements.
Bourgeoisie (Brhaspati) score over Aristocracy (Indra)
Indra as the head of the house of nobles (devas) had more rights, privileges and immunities and consequently more happiness (ananda) than the other nobles. Brhaspati who was the guardian of the interests of the bourgeoisie and the common man was more influential and had more privileges and immunities than Indra.
Prajapati whom all the socio-political institutions obeyed had more rights and powers and privileges and immunities and happiness than Brhaspati, Taittiriya Upanishad points out.
Chief of the Judiciary (Brahma): More Influential than
Chief of the People and Head of the Legislature (Prajapati)
The chief judge who interpreted and enforced the socio-political constitution as incorporated in the Atharvaveda (Brahma) was designated as Brahma.
He was entitled to use Brahmadanda, to put down all delinquents including the King if he deviated from the rules prescribed in the constitution (Brahma) and legislation (Dharma).
Brahmadanda (authority of the chief of the constitution bench to punish the delinquent) was superior to Rajadanda (authority of the head of the state to punish the disorderly and disobedient).
The privileges of the chief judge were far more than what the elected chief of the citizens, Prajapati had.
Immunities and Privileges of The Chief Judge (Brahma)
Brahmananda implies the immunities and the immense happiness (ananda), the chief judge, Brahma, had as he discharged his duties.
He was a totally detached person and had risen from the lowest social stratum and been through every social rank and represented all the social sectors and ranks impartially as Vaisvanara before elevation to this highest social position.
As Manava Dharmasastra (Bk.12) recognizes, the constitution, Atharva-Angiras (Brahma), which the Atharvan ideologue and chief judge (Brahma) enforced, was superior to the social code, Dharma, recommended by the Prajapatis and approved by Manu Vaivasvata.
It treated all individuals as equal.
It may be noted that during the Vedic times, Brahmans were notconceived as a sacerdotal class. It may also be recognized that the concept of Brahma as the highest God had not emerged during the Vedic times and so too the concept of Brahma as the God of Creation was not in vogue then.
The chief justice and head of the four-member constitution bench who was designated as Brahma was superior to the head of the legislature that prescribed the social laws and was designated as Dharma.
Selection and Training of the Jurists (Brahmans)
It is not enough to state that ancient Indian religion based on spirituality treated all living beings as equal, as all of them have souls (jivatma) which are the same as the great soul (paramatma) or God.
The Upanishads explain how equality could be ensured and the minimum needs of all met. It could be ensured only if the jurists were properly selected and trained.
The teacher points out that a scholar who is trained in the (royal) academy on his departure (pretya) from it becomes an individual (atma) heading the (mundane) economy that provides food (anna) for all.
As the trainee assumes his position as the head of the state or of its judiciary, he becomes the head of all the living beings (prana) whether they are members of organized (social) groups or not. This individual (atma) will not stay constrained by membership of any social or economic group.
Earlier Laws based on Rta vis--vis New Laws based on Satya
In Taittiriya Upanishad, the teacher delivering his convocation address to his students many of whom were leaving his academy to take up their places and assignments in the new socio-political administration, explained to them what was meant as the code based on truth, Satya, and how it differed from the actions that departed from the (earlier) code based on natural tendency, Rta.
Laws based on Rta, which described the natural rights of man and other species, guided the early Vedic society.
Rta acknowledged the right of every one to pursue a course directed by his innate trait, svabhava, and recognized the prevalence of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest.In other words, Might was Right. It denied the possibility of social equality.
During the middle Vedic period the rigorous and puritanical laws based on Satya (truth) superseded the laws based on Rta.
The sage asserted that only these new laws could succeed and that mere abandoning of the laws based on Rta was not enough for the weak would not then inherit the earth. Satyam eva Jayate, Na Anrtam, he said.
Every one was required to take a pledge that he would speak only the truth and would honour and obey truth and would never resort to force.
Ahimsa and Satya were the two aspects of the pledge taken by one to enjoy the rights of a free citizen, an Arya. This pledge was known as Aryavrata.
Laws based on Dharma and Earlier Laws based on Satya and Rta
The codes based on Dharma superseded the laws based on Satya and tried to arrive at a compromise between the permissive laws based on Rta and the puritanical laws based on Satya.
Any discussion on the concept of the rights and duties of individuals has to take into account this switch from excessive liberalism and Rta to harsh puritanism and Satya and then to pragmatism and Dharma.
The regime headed by Indra and Agni in which the aristocrats had the upper hand over the intellectuals and the judiciary, belonged to the times when the informal code based on Rta was in vogue.
The regime headed by Indra and Brhaspati in which the bourgeoisie under Brhaspati, the economist, dominated belonged to the times when the formal code based on Satya came to the fore.
The teacher pointed out to his students that earlier the social cadre of constructive intelligentsia and judiciary was not in existence (asat).
From the earlier undifferentiated multitude it was (later) produced or formed (ajayata) as a separate cadre.
It formed by itself into a cadre with its own identity (atmanam).
Since it was not a structure brought into existence by an external agency like the state or an economic corporation, it was said that it was created properly (sukrta). The trait that makes that cadre to be formed well is its essence (rasa).
This cadre of jurists who were great intellectuals was known as Satyaloka or Brahmaloka.
On partaking that essence a member of that cadre becomes blissful, one experiencing ananda.
This metaphor implied that on acquiring that trait one became eligible for the immunities and privileges of the cadre concerned.
The teacher points out that unless the open space (akasa) (which has human beings but no human settlements) enables one to subsist (by bare breathing, prana) as any animal (prani) does, it cannot offer the bliss(ananda) that the impartial jurist and intellectual needs.
His presence there is necessary to give directions to its insignificant individuals (prani) who are at the bare subsistence level.
It implies that an open society with minimum restrictions but meets the minimum needs (anna) of all can provide happiness to all.
Protection of human rights cannot be ensured for all members of the larger society if it is too highly organised, for in an organised polity the mighty hold the poor under thrall.
Chief Judge (Brahma) and three Vipras of the Constitution Bench
The teacher holds that any objective which is precise and which does not offer leeway prevents the intellectual from arriving at a fearless and impartial judgement when he is called upon to interpret the socio-political constitution much of which is unwritten and has to be deduced through dialectical methods from hypothetical posers and solutions.
That unwavering intellectual who occupied the highest position in the social polity as Brahma, the interpreter of the Atharvaveda or Brahma (which incorporated the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times)and presided over the four-member constitution-bench as the supreme judge instilled fear in the minds of all the officials.
The other three members represented RgVeda, YajurVeda andSamaveda respectively and had the status only of Vipras. Vipras ranked lower than the Brahman jurists who had mastered all the four Vedas. Neither of them were professional priests or professional teachers though they were qualified to be teachers as well as priests.
Chief Judge (Brahma) and the Five Officials of the Neo-Vedic Polity
The five officials, Vayu (Vata), Surya, Agni, Indra and Mrtyu of the enlarged core society functioned under his supervision and dreaded to default in their functions.
Vayu, Indra and Mrtyu were in charge of the open terrains (akasa) including the frontier society (antariksham), the patriciate (divam) and the commoners (manushyas) respectively.
Surya or Aditya controlled the army and the administrative machinery (Kshatras) and Agni guided the intelligentsia (Brahmans). the teacher pointed out to his students.
They and the sectors under their respective jurisdiction had to function along the lines prescribed in the neo-Vedic (Upanishad) constitution proposed by the Brahmasutra.
It steered clear of the urban aristocracy and rural feudalism that were engaged in a struggle for supremacy and the industrial frontier society of the forests and mountains and sought to establish an egalitarian open society directed by a sober intelligentsia that was stationed in the calm social periphery.
This new constitution, Brahma, however threw a wet towel on the effort to arrive at an honourable compact between the agro-pastoral core society and the industrial frontier society and declared the entire industrial proletariat guilty of breach of the compact when it was the ruling aristocracy of the core society that was at fault for not granting that proletariat its due place in the integrated social polity.
The genocide (the notorious sarpayajna) perpetrated by Janamejaya on this proletariat resulted in a total withdrawal from the new open society, of the industrial sector (antariksham), which had offered its services to rebuild the urban civilisation destroyed in wars.
That industrial sector closed its doors to the expanded core society and withered away in solitude leaving the urban civilisation too to wane in the absence of technological support.
This was the beginning of the long dark era that lasted more than fifteen centuries until that sector reappeared to create a renascence.
The constitution recommended by Badarayana took into account the liquidation of the fort-based feudal order that had during the Vedic era kept the rural population in bondage and also the weakening of the urban patriciate and its dissolution in the three emerging classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vis, comprehensive intelligentsia, enlightened and sober administrators and commonalty noted for diversity of occupations.
It also noted the withdrawal of the industrial sector, antariksham, from both urban and rural areas to assigned remote pockets and the emergence of a pastoral-cum-minor service industrial sector, akasa, independent of the agrarian sector, prthvi.
The exiled feudal order, which had established a foothold outside Aryavarta in the Vindhyas, was removed from there too and a new democratic polity emerged there.
Atma, Vaisvanara and Brahma in Neo-Vedic Social Polity
We should refer to Chhandogya Upanishad for what Asvapati, the Gandharva scholar-cum-ruler of Kekaya expounded to Uddalaka Aruni, a Gautama and other scholars on the concepts of Atma, Vaisvanara and Brahma.
The exposition has to be studied in a rigorously rational manner bereft of all mysticism imported into it by the commentators of the medieval times.
We may define human rights clearly and incorporate them in the constitution and in the laws. But for ensuring that they are honoured and guarded scrupulously we have to provide a properly trained judiciary as the Upanishads point out.
Prachinasala and others were aspirants to positions on the high judiciary.
They belonged to rich houses (mahasalas) and were great scholars of Vedas but had received their training in different academic centres.
They came together to find out the meaning of the terms, atma and 'Brahma.
Uddalaka, son of Aruna, who was then studying the concept of the individual (atma) as the free man who represented the universal society (vaisvanara) escorted the rich and great scholars to Asvapati, a prince of Kekaya, and head of its cavalry, who was then studying the issues pertaining to the above concepts for instruction.
While Prachinasala deemed the patriciate (divam) as best suited to represent the will of the universal society of the free men (vaisvanara), Uddalaka deemed the organized commonalty (prthvi) as doing so.
Asvapati noticed that Uddalaka was for a member of the firmly rooted (pratishtha) commonalty being treated as the one whose voice spoke the will of the individual (atma) representing that of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara).
He agreed that Uddalaka too recognized that every one needed food and at the same time every one should be free to pursue the career that pleased him.
As Uddalaka was born in a clan (kula), to be precise, was a member of an academy that adhered to this stand he was eligible to hold the position of a jurist. He had brahma-varchas.
According to the constitution (Brahma) an independent person (atma) could represent the will of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara).
One has to stand on his own feet (atma-pada) Uddalaka had suggested when he mentioned prthvi or commonalty as what could stand for all individuals (atma).
Then Asvapati pointed out to his students that each of them was under the impression that the individual members (atma) (who were not attached to any social body) of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara) were all different (prthag) from one another.
Such a person hence cannot represent the entire society that is, all the social worlds (lokas), all the individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery and all the individuals (atmas, who were not attached to social bodies).
One should deem and revere atma as a concept denoting all the members of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara).
He should deem it as a measure that reduces the macro-society to a very great extent (pradesamatram) (on the map, as it were) and enhances to a great level (abhivimanam) the individual (who is a society in microcosm).
This realization will enable one to share food (feelings and orientations) with all social groups and individuals.
In short one should see the entire macro-society as not different from oneself.
Asvapati, a prince, was concerned with establishment of a social system and principles of jurisprudence that would encourage every individual to identify himself with every other individual and with the entire society, especially of the region where he lived.
He corrected the wrong notions that his students had about the traits of Vaisvanara, the ideal representative of the universal society of free men.
The head of this society (about whom Prachinasala spoke) would be one who was renowned for his influence (sutejas) over all.
He would perceive (chakshu) it as having a form comprising that entire large society (Visvarupa). Its basic members (pranas) would be following diverse careers. Its unified body would reflect the mega society (bahula) as Jana expected.
It should treat wealth as unwanted accretion as pointed out to Budila. It would be firmly established in the commonalty (prthvi) as desired by Uddalaka.
The Upanishadic teacher advises through the allegory of the five facets of prana, that the first bit of food that one consumes, should be an offering (homiyam) to the prana, the individual at the bare subsistence level.
It is not rational to interpret that the teacher was insisting that the individual should pay thus homage to the god within.
Whether the rights of the individual have been violated or not can be determined correctly only by a judge who has gone through the experiences of people at different social and economic levels.
Only scholars who had risen from poverty and entered the higher social stratum of intellectual aristocracy and who were not guilty of exploiting or ignoring the weaker sections and who attended to the needs of the latter first before securing for themselves, comforts and luxuries could be appointed to the judiciary.
They knew who was entitled to be called Vaisvanara and would treat all members of the larger society as equals, and as entitled to rights equal to the ones they themselves enjoyed and hence could be appointed to it.
A ruler or wealthy person who knows the purpose of the Agnihotra sacrifice may offer what remains after meeting the needs of the organized social worlds, the individuals on the periphery and the unattached persons, to those who have been expelled from the society for serious crimes (to Chandalas).
He would be treated as one offering sacrifice to the unattached individual (atma) who represents the universal society of free men, as vaisvanara and not condemned as one encouraging anti-social elements.
As all hungry children sit around their mother to be fed, all individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery sit round the sacrifice offered in front of the official designated as Agni.
He represents all members of the larger commonalty, it is implied.
The Vedic official, representing the commonalty, Agni, as Vaisvanara, meets the needs of all sections of the larger society including the Chandalas, the outcasts.
Only a judge who fulfils the qualifications (brahmavarchas) traced above, can protect the rights of every one to life and to property earned through honest work.
The Non-agrarian Population
Were the people of the forests and mountains treated justly? These have often been described as tribes.
The Kimpurushas and Kinnaras belonged to the frontier society of forests and mountains and were not engaged in agriculture or in industry.
They too were like the Gandharvas respected as punya-jana and were free to move in all areas. The former like the Gandharvas were intellectuals and were also adventurous.
The lower ranks of the kimpurushas were later known as vanaras.
It is not proper to interpret these two terms as referring to monkeys, even as the terms, nagas and sarpas are not to be interpreted as referring to serpents. They were technocrats and industrial workers belonging to the non-agrarian sector of the larger economy.
The kimpurushas and vanaras were equivalent to the purushas who were social leaders and naras who were free men of the core society.
Kinnaras were entertainers and couriers in the service of the plutocrats, Yakshas. Like many Gandharvas they belonged to the service sector and were part of the larger intelligentsia.
All those who were included in the category of punya-jana enjoyed immunity against coercion by the state of the core society or of the frontier society.
They were free to pursue their interests in any region of their choice and could not be presented in any court, lower or higher, as a party to a dispute or as a witness.
Besides them the ruling elite, the aristocrats (devas) of the core society and the plutocrats (yakshas) of the frontier society enjoyed such immunities.
It is wrong to treat devas and yakshas as terms indicating gods and demigods. They were aristocrats and plutocrats respectively.
The commoners (manushyas), the free men (naras), their counterparts of the industrial frontier society which the vanaras were, its technocrats (nagas) and its mobile industrial proletariat (sarpas) did not enjoy this immunity.
Four Classes of the Core Society: Devas, Rajanyas, Vipras Vis
By the end of the Vedic era, the core society had Devas, Rajanyas, Vipras and Vis as the four classes, liberal aristocrats, assertive and dynamic rulers, free intellectuals and the larger economic commonalty.
Most of the Rajanyas and Vipras had emerged from the Gandharva sector.
They claimed the same immunities as the Gandharvas did. They too did not own personal lands and both of them were equally well educated though there was rivalry between the two on issues pertaining to protocol.
Vis included both the landlords and traders who were first known as Aryas and later as Vaisyas and the agricultural workers who were known first as Kshudrakas and later as Shudras. Kshudrakas were independent small farmers.
Four Classes of the Commonalty: Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras
The Varnasrama scheme of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras was made applicable first to the commonalty, manushyas (Vis or prthvi).
It was a method of social classification introduced by some scholars and not as a hallowed scheme introduced by God. This scheme though envisaged during the final decades of the long Vedic era came into force only far later and it never brought all the peoples of this country under its ambit.
Members of the Gandharva sector were asked to opt for one of the first three classes, dvijas.
Most of the Devas and the Rajanyas joined the class of Kshatriyas. Their attendants, Dasas, were merged in the class of Shudras. The next step was to integrate the two societies.
Integrated Aristocracy: Devas, Asuras, Yakshas and Nagas.
Liberal Lords, Feudal Lords, Plutocrats and Technocrats
Plutocrats (Yakshas) and technocrats (nagas) had been granted the status of Devatas and were treated almost on par with the aristocrats (Devas).
In the integrated aristocracy, the erstwhile feudal lords (asuras) were granted the highest status as elders, jyeshtas and the second place was assigned to the liberal nobles (devas) and the third place to the plutocrats (devatas) who were respected as sreshtas.
The new aristocracy had three wings, political (asuras), cultural (devas) and economic(yakshas) and by the beginning of the post-Vedic period, the technocrats (nagas) were taken on it.
[It is wrong to describe the three cadres, devas, devatas and asuras as gods, demigods and demons.]
At the same time under the influence of the Upanishadic sages, the intellectual aristocracy comprising the best of the independent intelligentsia rose above it.
Liberation of Dasas and Dasyus
The inadequacies of and the inequities in the scheme of the four varnas, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras as in force during the later medieval period and during the times India was under the Muslims and the British are not to be treated as having had their roots in the Vedic and early post-Vedic society.
During the final decades of the Vedic era, there was a concerted move to free the Dasas and the Dasyus from their bondage to their masters, the nobles, Devas, and the feudal lords, Asuras. Many of the discharged Dasyus became robbers and were pushed into the periphery. The plutocrats (yakshas) and the industrial proletariat (sarpas) were called upon not to permit them entry into the areas under their jurisdiction.
Blue-Red Policy of Indra
The Dasyus joined the ranks of the militants, Rakshasas, who were earlier guards employed by the plutocrats, Yakshas, but had betrayed them.
They were anti-social elements. But even they could be taken back into the core society as brethren if they consented to abide by its laws.
This policy was known as the blue-red policy of Indra-danush, Indra's bow, rainbow. The blue interior of the rainbow signified welcoming the returning brethren who had parted company with the core society and its red exterior signified determination to fight against the recalcitrant.
Sakra Indra who adopted this policy was engaged in a prolonged struggle against the confederation of feudal lords headed by Sambara and destroyed a hundred of their forts. These warlords harassed the commonalty especially of the rural areas.
Sakra Indra adopted a policy of generosity and liberality and shunned all vindictiveness and welcomed all the feudal lords and their mercenaries, asuras and dasyus, if they surrendered and adopted a civilised life.
He also granted freedom to all the loyal servants, dasas, who served the nobles and helped them to become independent landlords, Aryas.
Dasas, the docile, humble and courteous servants of the nobles, were advised to join the class of agricultural workers, Shudras, if they did not want to join the army as soldiers, Kshatriyas, and if they did not have the wherewithal to buy lands or cattle and to trade in goods, as Vaisyas. If they were educated they could attend on Brahmans and get their protection.
These Brahmans who belonged to the lower judiciary ensured that the rich and the mighty did not harass the freed former servants of the nobles.
The interpretation, that the Brahmans of the Vedic times were members of the sacerdotal class, is untenable.
Dasas, Devadasas, Sudasas and Saudasas
While Devadasas were made small landlords and had the status of Aryas, that is, Vaisyas, and enjoyed all the civil rights the latter had, some of them (at least some of their sons) could become autonomous rulers.
Such a ruler was referred to as Sudasa. He had the status of a Rajanya but was required to function under the watchful eyes of the political counsellor.
At times a Sudasa, asserted his total independence and his conduct indicated defiance of all codes, political as well as moral.The latter was called a Saudasa.
He had to be disciplined and if he remained adamant he had to be eliminated even as a cannibal has no right to be treated as a human being.
This process of acceptance into the social fold at even higher levels docile and capable persons but elimination of the immoral and dangerous ones among the discharged Dasas has to be noted.
Brahmavadis, Trisamdhi and Indrasamdhi
The ideologues-cum-activists of the Vedic era were known as Brahmavadis who upheld the provisions of the socio-political constitution as enshrined in Atharvaveda, which was known also as Brahma.
They brought together the three social worlds, urban patriciate, rural agrarian commonalty and the industrial society of the frontier.
The triple entente (Trisamdhi) led to the weakening of the unjust feudal order (asuras) and to forming an alliance between the aristocrats (devas) and plutocrats (yakshas) and another between the agrarian proletariat (manushyas) and the mobile proletariat (sarpas) of the industrial sector of the frontier society (antariksham).
It was directed against a few recalcitrants, Vrtras, who had to be isolated from the rest of the society for promoting orientations that were disruptive of law and order.
Some of these Vrtras had belonged to the Gandharva sector while most belonged to the asura sector. (Vrtra was not the name of any particular asura).
Indra-samdhi, a compact between Indra and Brhaspati on behalf of the aristocrats (devas) and the commoners (manushyas) of the core society, was a corollary to Trisamdhi.
It called for placing the national exchequer under the control of the civilian authority, the dissolution of the private armies of the nobles, civilian control over the army and the armoury and disarming of the civilian population and the subordination of the intelligentsia and the judiciary to the civil state.
Every one of these steps brought in an enormous change in social relationships and led to the emergence of a highly well-organised and inclusive and balanced social polity upholding the interests of all and guaranteeing social equity and progress. Yet it was not utopian or an eldorado.
Agrarian Core Society vis--vis Industrial Frontier Society
The frontier society of the forests and mountains retained the right not to dissolve its troops and not to surrender its weapons to the civil authority that had jurisdiction only over the rural and urban areas. Industries were the monopoly of the frontier society and it had its own intelligentsia.
The Atharvans recognized that society was destined to remain dichotomous. But the core society was not secure from incursions by unruly, armed elements of the forests and mountains.
The agrarian core society promoted the concept of contentment while the industrial frontier society thrived on discontent.
Social Ascent, Control and Rights of Individuals and Social Cadres
The issue of human rights cannot be studied in a rational manner if we do not take into account this deep cleavage. If there is content, whether there is inequity or not, social order is not disrupted.
Of course, even in the agrarian core society, the commoners (manushyas) grumbled that the aristocrats (devas) extracted labour from them mercilessly even as men extracted labour from the animals. But the nobles were not harsh like the feudal lords (asuras).
Many of these commoners (manushyas) worked as tillers on the lands owned by the rich nobles for half the produce as wages and could not shift from one master to another. This however did not mean slavery or bonded labour.
A vast section of the population got food (anna) enough for survival but not more. The other minimum needs (annadi) like clothing and shelter were met only in the case of a small section of the masses.
Only very few who monopolised lands and other economic resources could rise to positions of power.
But this exercise of power was severely restricted by the provisions of Indra-Brhaspati agreement and those of the Mahadeva constitution, which brought into existence numerous small nation-states.
This new Atharvan polity kept the doors open for the frontier society and also for the people on the social periphery.
Social Reorganisation and the four new Classes, varnas
There is no proof that the conflicts, whether armed or not, of the Vedic period were between distinct ethnic or religious or linguistic sectors.
Hence while discussing the rights of the individuals and social cadres with respect to the Vedic era we have to hold that these pertained mainly to issues of social control and social ascent.
When the scheme of four varnas or social classes was first outlined, it was to be made applicable mainly to the commonalty, prthvi, of the agrarian core society.
The sober intellectuals among the commoners, manushyas, were encouraged to join the class of Brahmans.
The dynamic and aggressive elements were drafted for the army as Kshatriyas.
The richer among the commonalty (Vis) who had personal property were treated as Vaisyas.
The workers who had no personal property and were also not educated were included in the class of Shudras.
When the social world of nobles (devas) was dissolved, the executives among them (karmadevas) and the dynamic chieftains (rajanyas) were included in the class of Kshatriyas and assigned ranks higher than the soldiers.
The other nobles, mostly Visvedevas and Vasus and Maruts, joined the ranks of the Vaisyas, while the Adityas and Rudras were absorbed in the Kshatriya class.
It is likely many Rudras joined the class of Brahmans and many Vasus who had no landed property of their own were assigned to the class of Shudras.
The Dasas, the loyal servants of the nobles, could join any of the four classes, but most of them had to join the ranks of Shudras, as they were uneducated.
It is wrong to describe the Dasas as slaves. They were docile servants of the nobles and did not have the innate ability to assert their individuality, a prerequisite for admission to the ranks of free citizens, Aryas, who could exercise their franchise fearlessly and free from subordination to others including the members of their clans and communities.
The possession of this ability was called Aryabhava and meek submissiveness was called Dasabhava. Not all Shudras were Dasas and not all Dasas were Shudras.
Members of the free proletariat were known as Shudras while the Dasas were bonded labourers.
The east Ganga plains were the first to be known as Aryavarta where all the native citizens were granted the right to property and political franchise.
The lands to the west of Yamuna were brought under the nomenclature, Aryavarta, during the next stage when it was freed from the feudal order.
The distinction between the Indus Valley civilisation (of which Sarasvati Valley civilisation of the Vedic times was the core) and the Ganges Valley civilisation slowly got blurred and the scheme of four classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras was instituted and all those who joined this scheme were declared as Aryas and granted rights to property whether they were educated (dvijatis) or uneducated (ekajatis).
Expanded Janapada and Integration of the Two Societies
The nobles (devas) and the commoners (manushyas) were the members of the two social worlds (lokas), divam and prthvi, which together constituted the agro-pastoral core society.
The third social world, antariksham, of the forests and mountains too was integrated with the core society to form an expanded social polity or janapada.
Its chiefs, the plutocrats, Yakshas, who operated laws similar but not identical with those of the core society were given a place next only to the nobles, devas, as devatas.
They along with the reformed feudal lords, asuras, formed the three wings of the new aristocracy and their approaches to social, economic and political issues differed from one another.
Krshna was against the methods used by the plutocrats (yakshas) and the feudal lords (asuras), though his brother, Samkarshana, welcomed the compact between devas and yakshas, and the two societies, agro-pastoral core society and industrial frontier society.
Not only the ruling elite, the intelligentsia of the two societies too had to be telescoped and a new sober intellectual leadership emerged.
Earlier Agni and Soma.represented the two intelligentsia. The new integrated intelligentsia was led by Soma while Agni looked after the civil judiciary especially in the new classless sparsely populated settlements.
The technocrats of the frontier society claimed that they should be included in the class of Brahmans. But many of them were treated as belonging to the counter-intelligentsia (paisachas) that misguided the commonalty.
It is not rational to translate the terms, bhutas and paisachas as ghosts and interpret that the ancients treated the ghosts as part of the society.
The industrial proletariat (sarpas) was admitted to the expanded society and treated as equivalent to the agrarian proletariat, Shudras, who had come to own the lands that they cultivated.
The three native populaces, Jana, Punya-jana, Itara-jana
The distinction between natives and others, jana and itara-jana faded. The term, jana, denoted the native settled population of the agrarian lands while the term, itara-jana, referred to the population of the forests as well as the industrial workers many of whom were constantly on the move in search of natural resources.
The punya-jana (Gandharvas, Vidyadharas, Apsarases, Vipras etc.) merged in the two higher varnas as Brahmans or as Kshatriyas.
All the three, jana, itara-jana and punya-jana, natives of the agro-pastoral plains, other peoples who belonged to the frontier society and the free blessed peoples, were granted the status ofprajas, who had to accept the leadership of the prajapati and obey the laws as incorporated in the Dharmasastraand Arthasastra.
Absorption of the Social Periphery in the new Janapada
Besides the three organized social worlds (lokas) and the vast free populations on the move (jagats) there were individuals on the social periphery many of whom were exiles or dropouts from the organised communities. They were not outcasts.
They were known as bhutas and plans were set in motion to help them establish themselves as voluntary communes without ownership rights but with franchise equal to the prajas of the new expanded social polity, janapada. The members of the intelligentsia of this periphery were known as Budhas.
These Budhas and Bhutas who did not belong to organised clans or communities and followed the early Vedic practices based on Rta were often confused with the cadre of Paisacas who formed the counter-intelligentsia. They had been shunted to the periphery.
More than forty cadres (including the weakest ones), which had been placed in nine tiers, with three higher, middle and lower of sattva (gentle), rajas (dynamic),and tamas (inert) types were fitted in the four varnas on the basis of their natural traits (svabhava) and occupation (svakarma) and their duties were instituted as svadharma.
Manushya vis--vis Nara
It is necessary to have a correct grasp of the meanings of the various terms and concepts used by these codes and the Vedas and the Upanishads.
The terms, manushya, nara, purusha and manava should not be translated indiscriminately as man or as human being.
One who belonged to the commonalty (vis) that was organised as clans and communities, kulas and jatis, was referred to as a manushya. He abided by their orientations, defined by kuladharma and jatidharma, irrespective of the class, varna, to which his clan or community was assigned.
He did not depart from the vocations and practices that his clan was following down the ages.
One who did not abide by the practices of his clan or community and walked out to follow a vocation not reserved for or by any clan or community was called a nara.
He had no kuladharma or jatidharma but had to abide by the code (dharma) laid down by the corporation (sreni) or guild (samgha) connected with that vocation. He had to also adhere to the civil and political code (desadharma) in vogue in the region where he lived and plied that vocation. He had to also make available to the authorities of that region or state his services. This submission to the state was not expected of a manushya.
Jana vis--vis Prajas
No state could evict any clan or community from its native region though a state might permit new ones to enter and settle in areas under its domain. But the state could permit an individual from outside its territory to enter and stay in its area and ply a trade not held by a native clan or community.
Such entrants recognized by the chief of the people, prajapati, were brought under the category, praja, and he protected their interests. They had only the rights allowed by the state and not the first (natural) rights that the natives, jana (including the itara-jana and punya-jana), had.
In a democracy, the jana elected the janaka who headed the state and the judiciary and exercised gentle moral influence rather than coercive power (danda).
Naras were either individuals, who had walked out of the local clans but continued to stay in that region and pursue new vocations or were such individuals from other areas or were from the lower ranks of the Gandharvas who were a jagat and were not settled communities.But they were all subordinate to state laws, desadharmas.
Manavas as Citizens of the World: Transregional Classes
A manava did not hold himself to be subordinate to any clan (kula) or community (jati) or economic body (sreni) or country (desa) or state (rajya). He was a citizen of the world, as it were. No clan council or local administration or state authority could take any action against him.
He retained the right to voluntarily abide by the state law and practise his vocation while within its jurisdiction and leave that territory whenever he pleased.
These manavas who followed the politico-economic code, Arthasastra, outlined by Pracetas Manu preferred to stay under regimes led by the traditional aristocracy or by the liberal bourgeoisie and moved out of the territory if it fell into the hands of feudal lords or into those of the proletariat.
This code (approved by Manava Dharmasastra) provided for four trans-regional classes, intellectuals and technocrats, administrators and executives, bourgeoisie and bankers, and independent proletariat.
Svadharma, Svabhava, Svakarma
Under the rules governing, svabhava, svakarma and svadharma, one could choose an occupation compatible with his innate traits and aptitudes and abide by the codes pertaining to that occupation.
But he was not free to encroach on the rights of others, especially of the organised traditional vocational groups.
He was asked to follow the dharma he had chosen of his own accord (svadharma) and stick to it and not opt to adopt those of others (paradharma).
Manava Dharmasastra created four classes whose members had voluntarily accepted to abide by the duties prescribed for the class to which they were eligible.
Such acceptance is covered by the concept, svadharma. This code refused to accept aristocracy (devas) as a separate class and also refused to form a fifth class of outcasts.
All those who were not included in the three higher classes, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas were treated as Shudras. Kautilyan Arthasastra granted equal rights to all the four classes as Aryas.
Prescription, Prohibition, Permission, Preference,
The rights and duties prescribed for the members of a class took into account what the society expected of it and what its members needed and were capable of.
Some duties and corresponding rights were prescribed as applicable only to and to all the members of a given class and some acts were proscribed for them only and for all of them.
But Manava Dharmasastra was not as dogmatic as the earlier code based on Satya was with respect to the prescriptions (niyamas) and prohibitions (yamas). It allowed a wide option from permitted acts and individuals could prefer one from among these.
Similarly laws of emergency, apaddharma, lessened the rigour of the prescribed conduct, niyamas.
Dharmasastra took into account the existence of cadres and individuals, whose conduct and vocation did not fit in any single class (varna) and which had the traits of more than one class.They were described as samkaravarnas, mixed classes, and allowed to pursue their traditional ways. Manava Dharmasastra was a liberal and pragmatic code.
Social Constitution Recommended by Sanatkumara
In Chhandogya Upanishad (7-22 to 26), Sanatkumara tells Narada the features of the social constitution that he had recommended (to Prthu). [The state as described in Manava Dharmasastra was tuned to the provisions of this constitution.] In the opinion of Sanatkumara, when one is active he obtains comfort (sukham). Activity does not mean hard work.
Sanatkumara was exhorting the intellectuals to become activists. It is natural that one is active. But one must wish to know the methods by which he can secure comfort (and thereby overcome his restlessness). Narada (an economist) wanted to know more about these methods that would give one a happy and active life.
Sanatkumara points out that only when one attains (worldly) prosperity (bhuma, landed property and its yields) he will be able to lead an active and comfortable life.
One cannot lead a comfortable life with meagre (alpa) wealth. Only prosperity can be held as promising a comfortable life (of activity).
He was not advocating materialism or hedonism. He was pragmatic and rational. He however did not compromise on matters connected with ethics.
Narada wanted to know what could lead to such prosperity (bhuma). Sanatkumara then explained what he meant by the concept bhuma. The concept, bhumi, or prthvi refers to the agro-pastoral commonalty, manushyas. They were distinguished from the patriciate, devas.
According to Sanatkumara, the concept, bhuma, referred to a prosperous community where every one was seen, heard (reported) and known to lead a comfortable life.
The community where one sees or hears or knows that there were some who were not leading such a life, is said to be a poor (alpa) community.
Sanatkumara was for a classless and prosperous society, which he termed as bhuma. It was established on the basis of personal (sva) wealth but not on the basis of deeming only agricultural lands (mahi) as property.
Sanatkumara wanted every one in that prosperous and classless community to have personal property.
He was for a socio-economic system where every one had personal wealth and there was also collective wealth to which every one had equal rights.
A classless egalitarian society could be prosperous and at the same time permit every one to have personal property distinct from his right in collective property. Narada seems to have wondered where such an eldorado could be found.
Sanatkumara points out that it is possible to have such a prosperous egalitarian society established everywhere.He was proposing this concept, bhuma, for adoption in all areas.
Would not possession of personal property lead to egotism (ahamkara)? Sanatkumara would extend the rights of the individual to have his personal identity (aham) to all strata and to all regions.
Egalitarianism would not annul or stifle individuality.
Then he instructed Narada on the concept, atma, the individual who was functioning as a member of a social body but yet kept his identity intact.
Every one, everywhere, would have this individual identity even if he were functioning as a member of a group.
The concept of svaraj (self-government, as it is imprecisely translated) meant that one should be able to get sensuous delight of his choice (atma-rati), have sport of his own (atma-krida), have a companion of his choice (atma-mithunam) and bliss (atma-ananda) of his own. He would be free to move in all social worlds (lokas).
The social and political barriers among the different economic sectors are no longer recognized.
But those persons who know about (and follow) social systems other than this one are under systems of governance (rajana) other than svaraj (as described above).
They live in decadent (kshaya) social worlds (lokas). They do not have the freedom to move in all social worlds at will, Sanatkumara points out.
Sanatkumara thus explained to Narada the concept of 'svaraj by which every individual (atma) ensures for himself self-governance.
This concept of rights of an individual emerges from the concepts that were developed step by step.
The innate ability to survive and retain ones identity and individuality even while being a member of a social group, was referred to as prana.
This was preceded by the concept of hoping (asa) to be remembered and followed by ones progeny, the concept of remembering (smara) the heritage and following the footsteps of the ancestors and the concept of an open society (akasa).
This open society was preceded by the tapping of the sources of nature (tejas) and establishing an industrial economy that would facilitate providing irrigation facilities (apa) to increase agricultural production and provide food (anna) for all.
These steps were included in the objectives set forth in the socio-political constitution recommended by Sanatkumara.
He had called for a strong (bala) state even while visualizing guidance by an intelligentsia that gained further knowledge (vijnana) through application of what was known already, contemplation (dhyana) on what had been learnt which called for considered thought (chittam).
The last was necessary to carry out the resolves (samkalpa) made after thinking (manas) about the intents of the contents (vak) of what had been said under the different titles (nama) of works on the formulas (mantra) to be followed while performing ones duties (karma).
All these steps have led to the concept of the free, self-governing individual (atma). It was visualized as necessary for all members of the larger society.
Dharma as Judicial System; Protecting the Righteous but Weak
The Atharva school had created a cadre of Kshatras, drawn from aristocracy, which ranked above the legislators or jurists, Brahmans of the Atharvan school, but functioned under the King, Raja, who too belonged to the aristocracy.
The commonalty had no say in this setup.
This judicial system, dharma, defined the scope of the coercive power (Kshatram) that the administrators (Kshatras) could exercise. Hence there is nothing superior to dharma, the socio-political constitution that is intended to guarantee justice.
This constitution guarantees protection for the weaker sections (abali) of the society and helps it to prevail over the powerful sections (bali) by means of (that is, by appealing to) the court of justice constituted under this system of dharma. This is similar to what he gains by appealing to the (ideal) head of the state.
The judiciary (constituted under the system known as dharma) was a separate structure though it was not superior to the king, the head of the state.
It performed a role that was same as what the head of the state was expected to perform, namely, protecting the weak against the mighty.
The poet-sage of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says: That which is Dharma is Satya. Dharma, the principles and methods of guaranteeing protection for the righteous but weak persons against the strong but unrighteous persons through a judiciary that would be on par with if not superior to the head of the state is not different from the principles of conduct and governance based on truth, Satya.
Rta, Satya, Dharma and Judiciary vis--vis Executive
It is unsound to interpret the terms, Rta, Satya and Dharma as denoting the same concept. The laws of nature, Rta, provided the guiding principle for the early Vedic social polity. This led to the subordination of the weak to the mighty and of the prevalence of matsyanyaya, the larger fish swallowing the smaller and growing still larger. Might became Right, as a result.
This was reversed during the middle and late Vedic era when adherence to Truth at all costs was insisted on. Truth or Satya could therefore prevail over might.
By the end of the Vedic era, the concept of Dharma, a just system based on consensus among all was defined and outlined.
The codes based on truth (satya) had advocated that the judiciary should be superior to the executive while the earlier codes based on Rta, natural tendency, subordinated the judiciary to the powerful executive.
The new codes based on Dharma reiterated the supremacy of the executive but treated the judiciary as an independent structure not subordinate to the state.
It hence survived even when the state withered and could protect the weak. It did not merely appeal to the conscience of the mighty. It roused the masses against the autocrats like Bali, Vena, Marutta, Kartavirya and Janamejaya.
It could do so as its provisions were a consensus arrived at after deliberations among different sections of the larger society. Dharma and Satya supplement each other (ubhaya).
The sages assert that proclamation of the new constitution based on Dharma which created a judiciary that was not subordinate to any individual or cadre has not set aside the system of justice that upheld Truth or Satya.
Dharma though based on consensus among all concerned did not dilute the importance of Truth or Satya as the cherished ideal.
When a spokesman of the constitution based on Dharma gives his verdict, he pronounces what is Truth, Satya. Similarly when a judge who follows and stands by Satya pronounces his verdict on any issue, he speaks out the provisions of the constitution based on Dharma, which is stable, as it stands on the stable pedestal of broad consensus among all sections.
It may be remarked here that it is inadvisable and irrational to attempt to assess the merits and demerits of the constitutions of the Vedic times on the basis of the features that are present in the constitutions of the medieval times or of the modern times.
Thibaut's (Max Muller's) Introduction to Vedanta-sutras
Thibaut says on the reasons for selecting this commentary In the first place the Samkara-bhashya represents the so-called orthodox side of Brahmanical theology which strictly upholds the Brahman or the highest self of the Upanishads as something different from and in fact immensely superior to the divine beings such as Vishnu or Siva, which for many centuries have been the chief objects of popular worship in India. The sense in which the term, objects, is used calls for attention. It conceals the tendency to look down on popular worship of idols.
The stereotype, Brahmanical theology, needs to be kept aside while examining the contents of the Vedas, Upanishads and Dharmasastras. and his translation of Samkaras commentary on them demand respect.
Thibaut adds, In the second place, the doctrine advocated by Samkara is, from a purely philosophical point of view and apart from all theological cnsiderations, the most important and interesting one which has arisen on Indian soil. Neither those forms of the Vedanta which diverge from the view represented by Samkara nor any of the non-Vedantic systems can be compared with the so-called orthodox Vedanta in boldness, depth and subtlety of speculation.
The present treatise keeps away from the orthodox as well as non-orthodox systems that have been vying with one another for the last several centuries for acceptance as the true voice of the Upanishads.
Thibaut says, But to the European or, generally, modern translator of the Vedanta-sutras with Samkaras commentary another question will of course suggest itself at once, whether or not Samkaras explanations faithfully render the intended meaning of the author of the Sutras. He adds But on the modern investigator, who neither can consider himself bound by the authority of a name however great, nor is likely to look to any Indian system of thought for the satisfaction of his speculative wants, it is incumbent not to acqueisce from the outset in the interpretations given of the Vedanta-sutras and the Upanishads by Samkara and his school, but to submit them, as far as that can be done, to a critical investigation.
It may be stated here that the fragments that the formulas left behind by Badarayana and his school of thought have been so filled in by the school of Samkara to aid the latter to gain support for its philosophy and theology that rationalism calls for a re-examination of these formulas keeping aside both this philosophy of advaita.
We have made bold to hold thatneither the Upanishads nor the formulas left behind by Badarayana who was engaged in defending many of the scholars who drafted the former were interested in speculation about the omniscient and omnipresent Brahman. (non-dualism) and its rivals.
Rationalism would reject most of the words, phrases and clauses that have been interpolated in these trite formulas to create the impression that Badarayana was interested in outlining a philosophy and theology that were developed later by Samkara as advaita.
It is not interested in examining whether the Vedanta-sutrasupheld Samkaras philosophy or Ramanujas. The immense following and respect these two philosophers-cum-theologians do command should not be allowed to hide the importance that Badarayana had as a socio-political grammarian during the Upanishadic era.
Rationalism while examining the Upanishads and the (bare) formulas of Badarayana who was a socio-political activist and Vedic scholar notices that the latter was putting forward succinctly the principles of the neo-Vedic socio-political constitution that had effected significant amendments to the socio-political constitution as incorporated in the Vedas, especially in Atharvaveda.
It also examines the concept of Purusha as a social leader who could develop his talents to the highest level possible and Brahma as the intellectual who could interpret and enforce that constitution objectively as the head of the judiciary.
Neither concept, Purusha or Brahma, was used in the sense in which theologians of later times used them to indicate God.
Samkara whose commentary on Badarayanas is said to be the earliest available now has been presented by many modern scholars as the founder of a school of theology that defeated the heterodox cults and religions like those of Buddhists, Jainas, Pasupatas, Pancaratra and Charvaka while establishing the merits of his non-deistic, non-dualistic philosophy. But there is no proof that he disputed and defeated them.
Krshna held Samkara to be the best among the advocates of the Rudra school of thought. This school had emphasised the importance of the role played by the benevolent charismatic leader, Isa or Isvara of the social periphery much of whose population was closer to that of the forests than to that of the agro-pastoral plains.
The Purusha school of thought that extolled the dynamic social leaders (purushas) of the plains who had developed their abilities to te maximum extent and risen to the threshold of the ruling cultural aristocracy (devas) of those times and the Brahma school of thought that visualised the emergence of a stoical intellectual aristocracy that was superior to the integrated elite of aristocrats (devas) and plutocrats and technocrats (devatas).
The Isvara school tended to stress the inability of the masses to know or assert their potentials and their dependence on the invisible but benevolent powers who had to be prayed to and placated with sacrifices.
The later Samkara school of thought while advocating monism did not condemn this deism. It stood for the new abstract philosophy of advaita, which was not the concern of Srutis (Vedas) and the Upanishads or of the Dharmasastras. These works were concerned with the affairs of the social polity.