THE MAHADEVA CONSTITUTION AND THE NATION-STATE
The Normative Pattern
Atharvaveda Bk.7-12 presents the normative pattern of the Atharvan State. It is not a hymn for success in the assembly. There have been considerable variations in the text of the first two verses of this hymn leading to its import being missed. All the verses are inter-linked.
The two bodies, Sabha and Samiti are called the two daughters of the Prajapati, the chief of the people. He convened the two bodies.
But there is no indication that he presided over their meetings. This line indicates that the King may address the joint meetings of the two bodies but only with the permission of the elders (pitaras). He seeks the permission of the combined gathering to ensure that the person whom he proposes to select as his ally will respect and support him.
The King is subordinate to the State
The two bodies functioning together as samvidhan are in a position to keep the king under check by withdrawing this guarantee. It may be noted that according to Manusmrti and Arthasastra, the ally (mitra) was considered to be one of the seven constituents or organs (angas) of the state. It is implied in 7-12-1 that the person whom the king selects as his ally or counsellor owes his first loyalty to the State represented by these two bodies.
The King cannot have for his ally one who does not enjoy the confidence of these two constitutional bodies. The King is not the State. He is but a subordinate unit of the State. It can coerce him too, as it can coerce any individual member of these two bodies. The collective will prevails over the will of any individual including that of the King.
Samsad and Samvidhan, Sabha and Samiti
Bk.7-12-2 and 4 taken together indicate that the members of the Sabha may not all be friendly to the king. He may not be able to get the support of all to his proposals. He prays that those who do not agree with him and those who may have other commitments may turn in his favour and keep faith in him.
The allegiance to the State represented by these two bodies, Sabha and Samiti, which an individual, especially an influential person owns, is only partial.
In other words, the individual may refuse to abide by the decision of the majority whether he is a member of one of these two bodies or not. These two bodies are supreme and superior to the king but they are not sovereign.
Verses 12-2 and 3 taken together imply that the proposals, which the king makes, have financial implications. The Sabha (the house of nobles) has to second his proposal unanimously. Then they are placed before the combined gathering, called Samsad, for its sanction, so that he may withdraw funds needed from the national exchequer.
Varchas and Vijnana
This would require his first being admitted to the privileges (varchas) of the Sabha. Not all kings came from the nobility. Not all kings were educated and humble.
The house of nobles (Sabha) and the council of scholars (Samiti) should consent to admit the king who has come to power through his charisma or prowess or lineage to their privileges. This admission bestowed on him the needed rational legitimacy.
The verse 12-3 states that the King accepts the varchas andthe vijnana of the Sabha and the Samiti. He can become a member of these two bodies only if he accepts the condition that he will, like others, contribute to the national exchequer.
[The Vedic State did not impose levy (bali) or tax (kara) and was dependent on voluntary contributions (dana) given mainly by the rich nobles.] Then only he would be able to draw from its funds.
It is a commitment given to the joint sitting to its satisfaction, perhaps to that of the Samiti, which is known for its expertise, vijnanam, in assessing the consequences of such contributions. The two houses should not become tools in the hands of a new rich entrant to the aristocracy. The traditional nobles were wary of the noveaux riche. They were against those who tried to enter aristocracy through might or through wealth.
Indra and the Bodies of Representatives, Samsad
The Samsad is presided over by the official designated as Indra, who is also the head of the Sabha, the house of nobles (Devas). [It may be likened to the modern Parliament with two houses.]
The Sabha is also known as Narishta which we hold implies the will of the people (nara ishta). To be precise, this term would mean the will of the free men, naras, who are not bound by the codes of their clans or communities.
Translating this term as sport and interpreting that the Sabha was a place where people, especially the rich, played dice is diversionary. It does not seem likely that this term meant uninjured or the inviolability of the authority of the nobles, devas (wrongly translated by Indologists as gods).
Contributions to the Exchequer
The commoners (manushyas) were engaged in agriculture, pasture and trade and were organized as clans and communities, kulas and jatis and plied their traditional occupations. The codes of these kulas and jatis could not be interfered with by the state or by any other authority.
The Samsad had no jurisdiction over these organisations. They were not represented either by the Sabha or by the Samiti.
But the free citizens, Naras, who plied the vocations of their choice, had their representatives included in the Sabha.
The Sabha and the Samiti together controlled the national exchequer to which the members made voluntary contributions. They must have had the right to withdraw funds from it in proportion to their contributions.
The chief contributors were known as Mahabhagis. The rich had greater say in the administration. This system should be considered in the background of the feudal (asura) system of levy (bali) and the Vaivasvata system of tax (kara). At the intermediate stage, the members contributed perhaps one-fifth of their wealth to the national exchequer and so too the commoners, manushyas.
Prajapati and the Legislature, Samvidhan
While Indra presided over the Samsad, which discussed financial affairs, the Prajapati presided when the two bodies, Sabha and Samiti, met together as Samvidhan or Legislature, and discussed political issues and law.
In some places the head of the Samiti was designated as Agni and in other areas as Brhaspati. Agni was the head of the civil court and an officer of the judiciary. Brhaspatiwas an officer heading the civil administration. Both had jurisdiction only over the commonalty.
Prajapati was the chief of the council of elders, pitaras, an elite group of elderly and experienced members. These elders were members of the Samiti along with the sages. The Prajapati convened and determined the composition of these two bodies. Treating Prajapati as God Brahma is erroneousl. This hymn does not tell us who controlled the army. It must have been Indra.
This pattern of Sabha and Samiti must have been pre-Manusmrti and belonged to the middle Vedic times when the Varna (class) system had not yet been envisaged. It is to be studied in the context of the dhio-prthvi dichotomy in the core society and the manner in which the Viraj was selected.
The composition of the Sabha and the Samiti varied depending on who presided over the body. If it was meant to discuss matters pertaining to law, a functionary designated as Dharma or Yama might have presided.
We would however underline that the normative pattern of Sabha-Samiti with Indra and Agni or with Indra and Brhaspati as the two heads and with the Prajapati convening the two bodies was in vogue during the Atharva period. It was coeval with the later Rgvedic period and the epoch of the early Manus.
But more interesting and illuminating is the pattern prescribed in Atharvaveda Bk.15. There is no mysticism in it.
Mahadeva and Rudra School of Thought
The first section of AV Bk.15 describes how the unattached wandering mendicant (Vratya) realizes that he has the ability to become a chief of the people, a Prajapati.
He becomes a unique person identified by his mark (lakshana) and noted for his knowledge, meditation (tapas, persistence in endeavour) and adherence to truth (satya). His charisma leads to his being referred to as Mahadeva (held in later days to be the great God himself).
Mahadeva, Siva, Samkara and Visalaksha were prominent socio-political thinkers belonging to the Rudra school of thought. They were deified and even identified later as the same god, Rudra or Siva.
Mahadeva and the Blue-Red Policy of the Brahmavadis
Like the only Vratya (Siva), he took up the bow to conquer. This was Indras bow, with a blue interior and red exterior like the rainbow.
In the Viraj section, AV Bk.8-24, this bow features in the war against the dasyus, the mercenaries employed by the feudal lords, asuras.
Here the Vratya uses it to win over all the brothers who had lost affection for him by its blue interior and by its red exterior pierces the man who hates him. He has no animus against any one.
This two-fold policy suggests that the Vratya Prajapati had earlier more adherents and that some of his brotherhood had parted company with him. He seeks to win them back. He was a highly talented person and his mission was to bring all together. He had to adopt the dual policy of the Brahmavadis, represented by the blue-red bow of Indra.
Intellectuals: Brahmarshis, Brahmavadis and Brahmans
Unlike the Brahmarshis, sages who kept away from economic and political affairs of the society and who were devoted to self-realization through meditation, the Brahmavadis were socio-political activists and ideologues who upheld the socio-political constitution as enshrined in the Atharvaveda (Brahma).
The Brahmarshis were closer to Rshi Narayana while the Brahmavadis were followers of Siva. Both respected the Vedas. Brahmarshis and Brahmavadis have to be distinguished from the Brahmans, teachers of Vedas and priests who officiated at sacrifices. For most Brahmans, priesthood and teaching were only means of livelihood.
Initial Tours of Vratya Prajapati
The Four stages of Social Conquest
The second section of AV Bk.15 presents the picture of an all-conquering Vratya going in a chariot. Of particular significance are the variations in the concepts, things and personages accompanying him as he tours the different directions.
These differences are relevant to his impressions about the social conditions prevalent in the different regions in those days. These tours were undertaken to establish rapport with the peoples of the four regions, east, south, west and north.
In the next section we find that a year after his return from the tour he is anointed. The Vratya is not a persona non grata.
All the devajanas (the followers of the nobles) and visvam-bhutani (all individuals in the larger society) accept his authority. His resolves (samkalpa) are communicated to all the peoples in the different directions. In the fourth and fifth sections, his march in the intermediate directions is described.
In the fifth section we find that he gets the support of the Pasupatas, the chiefs in charge of all living beings whom they had tamed or civilized. These Pasupatas followed Siva and Rudra. They were a terror to the undisciplined sections of the population.
Crystallization of and Support for the Project
The sixth section begins with the Vratya reaching his central headquarters, dhruvam. This is the centre from where he proceeds on his campaign. He wins over the bhumi, Agni, aushadi (herbs), forest, forest derivatives and creepers and they follow him.
Bhumi refers to the commoners engaged in agriculture. Agni spoke for the commoners and for Brahmans, intellectuals. He had already received the support of the nobles and their followers, the devajanas. Now he gets the support of the commoners of the core society and its intellectuals.
Aushadi would indicate the physicians who occupied a strategic position in the society then. They were residents of the forests where they could collect medicinal herbs. The term, creepers, evokes the picture of Sarpas who were associated with poison that could be set at naught by the herbs.
In the central region, the Vratya Prajapati, the leader of the Pasupata movement, gets the support of both the core society and the forest society.
He does not seek the support of the organized classes (varnas) for they had then not yet come into existence. But the three sectors, Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vis, jurists-cum-intelligentsia, warriors-cum-administrators and commonalty were in place.
Vratya Stresses Rta and Satya
Without underestimating the value of the contributions made by the western Indologists to our present knowledge about our past, it has to be said that most of them hung to some postulates that were unsound and have prevented us from arriving at a correct picture of that past.
The verses 4, 5 and 6 of the sixth section show that the Vratya wins the confidence of the intellectuals. He gets the support of Rta, Satya, Surya, Chandra and Nakshatram. They keep their loyalty in him (priya dham).
The mention of Rta and Satya to the exclusion of the term, Dharma, indicates that the Vratya claims affinity with the ideological and socio-philosophical notions of the Vedists and the empiricists. They emphasized Rta, the cosmic law of nature that leads to struggle for survival, survival of the fittest and self-modification to ensure survival. They stood for strict adherence to truth (Satya).
The movement led by the Vratya preceded the proposal to draft the code of social laws, Dharmasastra. The sages who claimed to stand by Dharma did not approve the conduct of the Vratyas.
Sociopolitical Sectors headed by Vivasvan and Soma
But the Vratya movement secured the support of the followers of Vivasvan (Surya) and Soma (Chandra), the two major socio-political sectors that traced their origin to Marici and Atri respectively. These sectors were treated asKshatriyas with distinct orientations. (Vide critique on the Vaivasvata Imagery in my work, Hindu Social Dynamics)
Both Vivasvan and Soma were associated with the sixth Manu, Chakshusha, a controversial personage. The term, nakshatram refers to non-kshatriyas, especially the Vis or Vaisyas of the Vedic times. [I would refrain from treating Surya, Chandra and Nakshatram, Sun, Moon and Stars, as a reference to astrologers.] The Bhrgus looked askance at the Vratya movement though Vasishta who stood by Satya would not have objected to it.
Vratyas were not heretics
The Vratya was not heterodox or heretic. He did not repudiate the Vedas. The Vratya acknowledges that the sages who are masters of the four great Vedas are superior to those who acclaim Surya, Chandra and Nakshatram, that is, the Kshatriyas and the non-Kshatriyas (Vaisyas). He seeks for Atharvaveda a status equal to that of the other three Vedas (Trayi). (6-7 to 9) His outlook is similar to those of the Brahmavadis and the Dandaniti school.
Acculturation of Social Periphery
Then he moves towards the extended areas (brhat), the periphery of the core society. Among the people there (AV Bk.15-6-10 to 12), narratives of contemporary events (itihasas) and chronicles and legends as remembered of the past (puranas) are to be propagated and they are to be absorbed in the general society through a process of acculturation. (Manusmrti permits these for those not trained in the Vedas.)
The movement is now off from the centre (dhruvam). As the Vratya goes to the distant regions, he sanctifies the people and their households with the three fires (13 to 15). In the unidentified directions (16 to 18) it is seasonal economy. Sometimes the people cannot think of the morrow. The Vratya approaches them too to gain support for his resolves. It is at the same time a spreading of his ideology.
Spreading the Ideology
The ideology itself is to be shaped by this mass contact at different levels. He does not break with the past. He accepts the entire heritage. He does not neglect even those at the subsistence and sub-subsistence levels. In 6-19 to 21, he goes to the direction from which there is no return. (This is not to be interpreted as the direction towards which the dead go.) It means the past with which there has been a total break. He selects all groups that have descended from Diti and Aditi, Ida and Indrani.
He approaches both asuras and devas, the two rival sections of the elite of the core society and their followers among the commonalty. Diti and Aditi along with Danuwere visualized as three daughters of Dakshaand as wives of Kashyapa. He approaches also the first groups ofBrahmans and Kshatriyas who claimed descent from Ida and Indrani. They retained their identities and hoary privileges. They had refused to accept the authority of any state. The Vratya Prajapati needed their consent too for his mission. This tour was restricted to the core society and its immediate periphery, which had dissenters amidst them. He carried on an intensive campaign there for support to his mission.
Extensive Support, Consensus: Comprehensive Social Movements
Then the fourth stage of the campaign begins. He again moves into the great directions. Now the Viraj who has jurisdiction over all the regions accompanies the Vratya Prajapati. All the nobles (devas) and the newly recognized chieftains (devatas) of the other society accompany him. It is now a socio-political campaign based on the ideology of Viraj (which stressed union without uniformity).
The Devas, the Devatas and the Viraj accept his charismatic authority willingly.
(AV Bk.15-6-22, 23) The description indicates a whirlwind movement through the four great directions where the approach is politico-cultural. In the intermediate region it is socio-religious.
Social movements, if they are to leave a lasting impression have to be a combination of social, religious, cultural and political movements and cannot be primarily economic in their tone, though they cannot afford to neglect the economic needs.
Each country had at its head a chief of the people, Prajapati. And many countries had at their helm charismatic leaders (Parameshtis). The Prajapati was obeyed while the Parameshti was worshipped.
The Vratya who ranks above them is now recognized as a mahima, a great person. As he goes round contacting the people at all levels, he reaches the end of the land (prthvi) and touches the ocean. Thus he covers the entire sub-continent.
The seventh section shows that the Prajapatis and Parameshtis and elders (pitaras) of all regions turned in his favour. So did the waters (apa), the littoral areas were in his favour. The Vratya movement found that all had faith in it. Sacrifice was performed to indicate this faith.
The social worlds (lokas) were defined and constituted and food (anna) was guaranteed to all. The needs in addition to food (anna and annadhi) were determined and ensured.
The interactions between the Vratya Prajapati andother Prajapatis, Parameshtis and Pitaras (chiefs of the people, highly charismatic leaders and elders) of the countries traversed by him resulted in a manifesto being presented, listing the objectives, a preamble expressing faith in the movement.
The Mahadeva manifesto also defined the procedure of sanctification, the populace of the loka that would be governed by each unit and the needs to be met. The objectives and methods of this unique movement have remained unexplained so far. [Whitney and Lanman assumed that the Vratyas were non-Aryas. This view has blurred the vision of both European and Indian scholars.]
The Vratya was essentially a Saivaite who adopted a new technique for social cohesion and social security. This movement was intimately connected with the Viraj movement for attaining union without uniformity and union for ensuring the autonomy of the units. Both have remained obscure, as the concepts of Viraj and Vratya were unnecessarily shrouded in mysticism.
Settled regional communities, basis of nation-states
The Vratya movement was crystallized through widespread interactions. A consensus was arrived at for the entire nation and a minimum programme was chalked out.
It attempted to win over the people through the policy of universal brotherhood and by keeping out animus.Force has to be used only as a last resort and against only the recalcitrant elements. It envisaged a settled and delimited population, Vis, for every region. The minimum needs are to be met. The Vratya refuses to be sectarian though he is backed by the Pasupatas. He throws open for all, the practice of sanctification of households.
This movement was not based on Varnasrama Dharma. It adopted the social system that prevailed before the times of the Prabhu (the chief of the larger society) who proposed the scheme of four classes and four stages of life.
The Vratya movement called for recognising the authority of the Atharvaveda.
The New State: Selection of the King
AV Bk. 15-8-1 presents an extraordinary statement: sa arajyat tata rajanyat ajayat. Whitney translates it as: He became impassioned; thence was born the noble. This translation gives the wrong impression that the Vratya became a Rajanya.
This line means that the Vratya asked all those who had the quality of rajas, assertiveness, to express themselves on who should be the King or Rajanya. In accordance with their view, the rajan is selected. This line reveals the pattern of selection of the King.
The Vratya did not meet any king during his tour. He met only the Prajapatis, Parameshtis and Pitaras. But the Viraj, a senior ruler, one who was senior among rulers of equal status, accompanied him. (Who was the Viraj at the centre, dhruva? Section 14-9 suggests that he was a protege of Vishnu.)
The Vratya who has been authorized to set up several nation-states on the basis of the principles agreed upon by the Prajapatis, Parameshtis and Pitaras, first proceeds to install the King, the constitutional head of the state. (In AV Bk.3. the ruler was elected from among equals, sajatas.)
Rajas is the quality stressed in the King and in the electors. A college of Rajanyas who excelled in the trait of Rajas, dynamism, elected one of its members as the ruler, Rajan. The process of election often resulted in violent battles among ambitious rivals. The Vratya Prajapati could not avoid it.
The Vratya Prajapati Represents Kshatram and Rashtram State and Nation
When the Vratya visits the residence of the King, the latter should respect him as one more respectable than himself. Otherwise it will be treated as an offence against Kshatram and Rashtram. The Vratya Prajapati represents the will of the order of Kshatriyas and hence the King cannot dictate terms to him. Still more, he is the representative of the nation and presents its will.
He has obtained this authority by virtue of his becoming a Prajapati at the end of the first phase of his tour. On completion of the other stages of his tour and on securing endorsement by all leaders for his resolves he was recognized as Mahima.
He had mobilized the entire nation up to the seas. The state that he constitutes now is but a part of the huge nation, rashtram, whose will he now represents.
First Visualization of the Nation, Rashtram
He represents also its coercive force Kshatram. Hence the Rajan dare not offend him. The King is only the titular head of a small state.
The Vratya Prajapati represents the entire nation, Rashtram, and its coercive power, Kshatram. He is to be distinguished from the Prajapati (chief of the people) of the state. [It is wrong to hold that the King was called Prajapati because he treated his subjects, Prajas, as his children.]
The first visualization of the entire country as a nation, Rashtram, with an ethos of its own is traced to the Vratyan movement, the movement launched by Prajapati Mahadeva.
This ethos is based not on a single state for the entire nation but on an inclusive cultural heritage strengthened by a common economic objective. This movement is essentially plebeian.
The Kautilyan effort was at a political confederation, chakra, based on economic policies. It did not emphasize cultural ethos or heritage.
The Vratya movement led to the formation shortly before the Battle of Kurukshetra, of numerous small states for this nation. These had a common constitution. It is absurd to argue that there was no single nation in this country as it had many states.
The People (Vis) and the Larger Family (Sabandhu)
Whitney translates 15-8-2 as: He rose towards the tribes (Vis) the kinsmen (sabandhu), food (anna) and food eating (annadhyam). The translation is unfortunate and unacceptable.
Vis means the people. The Vratya settles the issue of who all constitute the populace over whom the King, Rajan, will have jurisdiction.
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (1-4-12) explains that the Vis comprised of (the followers) of Vasus, Rudras, Adityas, Visvedevas and Maruts (who were all different groups of nobles, Devas). Here there is no mention of such clans.
The Vratya organization was not restricted to the regions where these clans (often wrongly identified as the five peoples, pancha-jana) lived.
The State presided over by the Rajan ruled over the Vis, the commonalty in its jurisdiction. But its control over Brahmans and Kshatriyas who claimed right to transregional mobility was an issue yet to be settled.
By sabandhu the Vratya means the larger family, the brethren. There were two concepts in vogue, brothers and daya. Here all those who are brothers and are at the same level, that is, of the status of daya are included. All those persons, who are at the same or daya level, have equal rights when the common property is divided. In 8-2, the Vratya undertakes to define not only the Vis but also the larger families covered by it.
At the macro-social level, the Vis or the populace to be governed by the Rajan is delimited by the principle of inclusion and domicile. At the micro-social level, the members of the larger family, sabandhu, are identified.
Normally, the Vis must have meant the Vaisyas of the four classes (Varnas) pattern. During the Vedic times, Vis constituted the social mass from which the Brahmans and the Kshatriya elite families stood apart. But in the Vratya section, it is inclusive. 15-8-2 indicates that the Vratya approaches the Vis and the Sabandhu. Sabandhu is the smallest socio-economic unit of the populace.
Will of the Populace and of the Families, Not of Individuals
8-3 says that the Vratya Prajapati wins over their loyalty. He becomes their priya dham, beloved abode.
The respect that the Vratya Prajapati shows to the people and the families, leads to his winning their faith in him and to their becoming his followers. The consensus arrived at by the Prajapatis and others gave primacy to the will of the people and of the families. Hence the will of the individual (bhuta) does not feature. Earlier he spoke of visvam bhutani, the individuals of the larger society.
The Vratya movement took note of the economic conditions of the different sections of the population and that the consensus included guaranteeing food and food etc.
After determining the composition and size of the populace and the larger family, he proceeds to deal with these issues. The family features when there is property.
At the level of the propertyless nomads, food-gatherers, sabandhu system cannot be introduced. In 6-16 to 18 we noticed that the Vratya had realized the plight of the people at the subsistence level. Their basic requirement is food. Annadhi indicates determination of the requirements of those who are organized as families.
The section 9-1 of AV Bk.15 states that the Vratya Prajapati goes towards (vyachala) the people (Vis), the Sabha, the Samiti, the Sena and the Sura follow him (anuvyachala).
As he declares his allegiance to the people who are sovereign, these four institutions of the state too acknowledge their allegiance to the populace. The Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva, is a charismatic leader. He respects the people and goes towards them and they love him and express their loyalty born out of this love to him. He is their priya dham. But the people are sovereign.
Hence the Vis is not shown as treating these institutions as its priya dham. 9-3 implies that these institutions owed allegiance to the Vis as their sovereign.
What is the relationship between the Kingand the people (Vis)? The answer has to await explanation of verse 15-10-2. The King accepts the Vratya who comes to him as having greater merit (sreya) than the former.
The Vratya comes to him not as an ordinary guest, atithi, but as the embodiment of the will of the nation, to settle the issue of who is to head which institution among these four, Sabha, Samiti, Sena and Sura. This section is of crucial importance for understanding the contribution of the Vratya movement to Hindu Political Sociology.
The Vratya (Mahadeva) goes to the King with the mandate of the entire nation behind him. It is to this mandate that the institutions of every state owe allegiance, which is but next to their allegiance to the Vis, the local populace.
The King, the People, the Institutions and the Prajapati
The Vis is not required to owe allegiance to the King or the King to the Vis. The King is not required to owe allegiance to the four institutions of his state. But he has to treat the Vratya Prajapati who is the embodiment, of the will of the entire nation including that of the Vis of his state as superior to him.
The King however is not a creature of the Vratya or of the Vis. That is, the king is not one nominated by the chief of the people who is a charismatic leader or elected directly by the people.
An Electoral College of Rajanyas, dynamic chieftains, has selected him. To be precise, he has scored over his rivals in bloody feuds or in dice or in personal combat and won their subordination.
The institutions of the state because of their respect for the Vratya and for the huge mandate he carries owe allegiance to the Vis of their state but are not seen to be acknowledging the King to be superior to them. The permanence of the Atharvan Polity was not contingent on who the king was or how he became the king or whether there was a king in position.
Importance of Sovereignty of the Populace, Vis
Kingship is a separate power structure but is subordinate to the will of the nation. Through the institutions of the states this will, may make that structure bow to their decisions, wills and desires. But thee institutions cannot overrule the will of the local populace, Vis. Even the Vratya Prajapati will not offend it. The King, the titular head of the state, cannot but obey the Vis.
Even in the absence of the King the institutions continue to function and the Vis exercise their will. But their smooth functioning is contingent on internal coordination.
For the institutions of the state and for the Vis, the internal rumblings within the power structure, that is, within the Electoral College of Rajanyas, is a matter of indifference. [For an analysis of the ailments of the different organs of the state including that of the King, Rajan, vide Foundations of Hindu Economic State.]
It may be noted here that the Vratya did not during his tours meet the Rajans other than the Viraj. Of course he met the nobles (devas) of the core society and the chieftains (devatas) of the frontier society. Prajapatis, Parameshtis and Pitaras were more important for his purpose.
The Vratya movement tried to insulate the national political structure from the rumblings inside the political structure of Rajans and Rajanyas and struggles amongst them for power.
The Four State Institutions: Sabha, Samiti, Sena, Sura
AV Bk.15-10 presents a disputation between a King and the Vratya Prajapati on the status and roles of the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas in the new setup based on Sabha, Samiti, Sena and Sura.
Whitney translates 10-3 as: Thence verily arose both sanctity and dominion. They said whom shall we enter? The version is: From that (ata) brahmam and kshatram, the two orders of Brahmans and Kshatriyas, rose high (utatistham).
Both these orders, Brahmans and Kshatriyas, are accepted as of high status. It was decided that the issue of who of the two was superior to the other should not be discussed. It was also necessary to acknowledge that both the orders were superior to others. The two orders are however only partially satisfied with this declaration. They raise the issue of their respective jurisdiction and powers of the four institutions.
Objection to the Proposal
The next lines, 15-10-4, 5, declare that Brahmam should enter Brhaspati and Kshatram, Indra. This appeared to be simple with socio-cultural fields being allotted to the post held by Brhaspati and the politico-military matters to that held by Indra, with the order of Brahmans attached to the former and the Kshatriyas to the latter.
[We avoid describing these two as varnas or socio-economic classes. The four-varna system had then not yet come into force.]
But some of those present in the assembly where this disputation took place did not fully agree with this decision. They drew attention to the existing dichotomy between dhio and prthvi, the patriciate-plebeian cleavage, with Indra representing the former and Brhaspati the latter. (15-10-6). Prthvi, commonalty, was not composed of the Brahmans or the dyau, patriciate, of the Kshatriyas.
Till then, it was Agni who represented the Brahmans and Aditya the Kshatram. Does the Vratya imply that these two functionaries would be subordinate to Brhaspati and Indra? Were these traditional spokesmen of Brahmans and Kshatriyas being replaced?
The two orders were unwilling to accept such subordination that would annul their identities. They had not consented to this move to subordinate the Kshatriya army led by Aditya to the patriciate led by Indra and the Brahman intelligentsia represented by Agni to the civil administration of the commonalty headed by Brhaspati.
The Four Functionaries: Indra, Aditya, Agni, Brhaspati
Thereupon the Vratya clarifies that the person to whom Brahmam goes becomes endowed with Brahmavarchas. (10-8) The Vratya does not accept that birth alone determines who is a Brahmana.
The resistance to the mandate carried by the Vratya was mainly from the order of Brahmans. In AV Bk.4, we notice that Agni and Indra represented Prthvi and Divam. Brhaspati was not in the picture.
But in AV Bk.11, we find him playing an important part as a party to the Indra-Samdhi (the agreement between Indra and Brhaspati). The institution of the post of Brhaspati with the authority to represent the Brahmans was too much for the latter to swallow.
The authority of Agni was being supplanted. The Brahmans had already lost the right to represent the commonalty, Prthvi. It had been given to Brhaspati. Even if an incumbent to the post of Brhaspati was a Brahman by birth, his authority to represent the order of Brahmans could not be accepted, they argued.
The Vratya was constrained to concede that the Brahmans would continue to be represented by Agni and that Brhaspati would have jurisdiction only over Prthvi that is, only over those who were engaged in economic activities. (10-9)
Separation of Secular affairs from the Ecclesiastical
This concession however while guaranteeing immunity from state interference in affairs, which were intellectual, cultural, religious and spiritual over which the Brahmans claimed jurisdiction was not absolute.
It severely restricted their interference in other matters, that is, in administration, polity and economy. In these, Brhaspati, an Atharvan, a Brahmavadi would exercise exclusive authority.
A Brahman might study all or any one of the four Vedas and practise them under the supervision of Agni. But his claim for the right to prescribe rules on other matters, civil and political, vyavahara and danda, is not upheld.
Those Brahmans who acknowledge only the three Vedas (Trayi), Rg, Yajur and Sama, are restricted to the fields of culture and religion.
Unless they are experts in Atharvaveda (Brahmam) also, they cannot have a place on the judiciary and in administration. This verdict is of immense import for the development, of Dandaniti, Rajadharma and Arthasastra, all of which deal with polity.
The Fusion and the Four-fold Socio-political Paradigm
The above verdict then leads to a discussion on the jurisdictions of Indra and Aditya. Here, Indra is declared to have the quality needed to be a deva, a noble.
But he is however divested of the authority over the army. It is placed under Aditya, the traditional representative of theKshatriya order. But the latter will not be eligible for the other privileges that Indra enjoys as the head of the divam, the stratum of nobles.
AV Bk.15 thus makes Indra, Aditya, Brhaspati, and Agni representatives of nobles (Divam), warriors (Kshatriyas), commonalty (Prthvi) and intellectuals (Agni). The Dhio-Prthvi dichotomy had its corollary in the Sabha-Samiti system.
Now the four-fold representation paradigm is: (a) nobles, Divam, Indra, Sabha or house of nobles; (b) commonalty, Prthvi, Brhaspati, Sura or treasury including civil administration; (c) warriors, Kshatram, Aditya, Sena or army; (d) intellectuals, Brahmam, Agni, Samiti or council of scholars.
The telescoping has been made vexatious because the meaning of the term, sura, has eluded many scholars. [They have understood by it strong liquor.] Sura is referred to also as rajyalakshmi.
This fourfold paradigm was in operation in many states during the last decades of the Vedic era.
The National Army
With the army under Aditya (designated also as Surya) who is in charge of Kshatram, which is constituted into a separate structure, Indra is no longer sura gana adhyaksha, the head of the organized army. He however could exercise the financial powers vested in him by the Sabha.
The separation of these powers, financial and military, led to the constitution of a national army ending the predominance of the quasi-feudal private armies of the nobles, which Indra used to mobilize. The armies of the feudal lords, asuras, too were private armies. But they were mercenary troops while those of the nobles, devas, were voluntary militias.
Both were to be disbanded and replaced by the state army led by Aditya. He was earlier in charge of training the troops whether they were retinues of the nobles or were raised from the commonalty or were drafted from the forestmen. The constitution of the national army also implies an end to the transregional mercenary troops who claimed to be Kshatriyas.
They had placed themselves at the disposal of whomsoever they approved and prevented thereby the emergence of the state itself. The stability of a state depends on the people resident in its territory, on its domiciles.
Division of Financial Powers
In the pre-Mahadeva constitution, financial powers including revenue were to be divided between Indra and Brhaspati.
If Brhaspati headed the Samiti and Indra, the Sabha, in the traditional bicameral polity equated to Prthvi and Divam, the Vratya scheme has placed the former in charge of the new body, Sura.
It is equivalent to panchadevi, the treasury formed from the five sources of revenue, the capital and the four districts around it. It is also in charge of civil administration. Bhagavatam describes how the Sura, which the autocrat, Bali, had illegally taken over, was restored to Indra after the former was found guilty and exiled by Vamana.
The Vratya preferred to institute the exchequer as a separate constituent under plebeian control rather than place it under the control of the patriciate. The latter had invited the jealousy of the feudal lords, asuras, and led to the struggle between devas and asuras for power and wealth.
The Samiti would be under Agni and continue to be dominated by the intellectuals, Brahmans, especially by the Atharvan ideologues, the Brahmavadis. These Brahmans did not belong to the ecclesiastic order.
The Direction of the Vratya Movement
The Vratya movement led to the establishment of small nation-states all over the country. This should have taken place before the Battle of Kurukshetra. But Bhargava Parasurama who had great regard for the Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva, did not approve the constitution of a Kshatriya army for each state. After Kartavirya had misused political power and military might,
Parasurama was against institutionalizing coercive power and vesting it in the Kshatriyas. He disbanded the armies of several states but Kashyapa who headed the council of seven sages then disapproved this step. Kashyapa restored the Kshatriya armies and exiled Parasurama from Aryavarta. But Parasurama had a valid ground. The King was a Kshatriya.
The alliance between the King and the Kshatriya army would eclipse the other bodies, Sabha, Samiti and Sura and the influence of the aristocracy and the importance of the civil polity and also that of the intelligentsia.
As we proceed from the early patriciate-plebeian, Dhio-Prthvi, dichotomy of the core society to the highly developed theory of the seven organs (angas) of the state of Manusmrti or the seven constituents (prakrtis) of the state in Arthasastra, we traverse the stages of sabha-samiti bicameral constitution, of sabha-samiti-ministry and of the four institutions, sabha, samiti, sena and sura which functioned as checks on one another and kept autocracy at bay.
All these had the King as the titular head of the state. It was not his personal property nor was it the property of one family or one lineage. The King was selected by an Electoral College of Rajanyas. This feature of the Atharvan polity was adhered to. All these patterns continued to honour the nobility, the cultural aristocracy, divam, which ranked superior to the commonalty. The Vratya movement was an extension of the Viraj movement but was basically an effort at fusion and at a stable social order.
Unless we study the role of the essentially plebeian Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva, in the chronological framework of social dynamics, we would be carried away by the deep prejudices that have come later to be built against the Saivaite Vratya as a heterodox and non-conformist wanderer and outcast, obscuring his outstanding organizational talent.