Saturday, February 6, 2016




Rajdharma as a concept constitutes the judicious duties of the King towards his subjects. The basic concern of the rajdharma is welfare of the people. The King and Kingship is associated with the concept and concern of the prajapalanah. In ancient Indian classics the spirit of rajdharma was to ensure peace, justice and prosperity to the people. Rajdharma is described as an essential element of state even in saptanga theory but it was expected from the King to perform his duties in such a righteous manner so that the state should be called as dharmarajya and King as the dharmrajah. Practice of Dharma and maintaining impartiality are the only means through which rajdharma may be practiced and dharmarajya or Ramrajya is achieved. The concept of rajdharma as enunciated in the past still holds value as orderly, peaceful and prosperous life for society and good ethical conduct in polity. Society has changed much even then the tenor or norms of political life require the basic principle of rajdharma for better governance of the society. Unethical, unprincipled politics is reality of the political life to regulate the affairs of the governance and justice. It is essential to observe the rajdharma.

STUDY OF political traditions and civilisational values reveal an unbroken continuity of Indian culture and civilisational practices. C. Rajgopalachari rightly philosophised in very lucid words: “There is no country which can be governed more easily than India. You have only to appeal to traditions. All the great old kings of the past, Janaka and Shri Rama are still alive and governing our hearts. I am not the Governor General, Shri Rama is”.1 Political tradition of India has been referred to as one of the most ancient and most extensive and varied one. The keynote of Indian political culture is its eternal values and Sanatana Dharma.

However, the beginning of India’s civilisation is traced so long back in time that often it appears to be lost in the twilight of history, yet retaining CONCEPT OF RAJDHARMA IN ADI-KAVYA / 133 PRAKASH SINGH much of its basic identity. Dr. Arnold Toynbee, after surveying the history of the entire mankind in his book; A Study of History observed, “it is already becoming clear that a chapter which has a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not the end in the self-destruction of the human race..... At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way, emperor Ashoka’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions. Here we have an attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family and, in the Atomic Age, this is the only alternative, to destroy ourselves.”2 Here Toynbee was actually echoing the idea placed before the mankind by India’s ancient Rishis – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - “The World is one Family3 .” This Indian way has come to us in unbroken continuity through Vedas, Upanishadas, Puranas, Smrities, Dharma-Sutras, Dharma-Sastras, NitiSastras, Epics, Arthasastras, Rishies, Maharishies and Brahmarishies from the ages. Moreover, India’s culture is primarily concerned with spiritual development and is of special significance in our age which is marked by the materialistic civilisation. In the words of Sri Aurobindo: “India of the ages is not dead, nor has she spoken her last creative word, She lives and has still something to do for herself and the human race”.

There are a number of authoritative treatises on ancient Indian culture, civilisation and heritage. The literature is quite voluminous and is extensively used. However, the time has come to outline the foundations of classical Indian philosophical and political essence. The aim of this article is to explore the underlying essence of rajdharma in popular traditional treatise or often referred to as Adi-Kavya: Ramayana and Mahabharata with a view to set an inextricable linkage between the past and present.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two great epics are replete with sound political and economic theories. Today’s most resonating term 'good governance’ and its veracities had sufficient traces in these two texts in varied forms. Both the epics deal with the deeds of kings and heroes, descriptions of wars and practical philosophy. “The epics alone are a good answer to those tall-talkers, pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-secularists who make some sweeping and negational statements that the Indian political theory has not so far been constructed even in rudimentary form”.5 In fact, both the great epics are of perennial interest for understanding, ancient Indian social and political life and thought”.

The Ramayana, which is the earlier of the two epics, contains references to principles of good governance, diplomacy, war and peace. It contains prescriptions regarding the manner in which the king should consult his ministers, learned men, and the chief officer of the army in formulating the policies of the state on various issues and matters.7 The Ramayana of Maharishi Valmiki gives multi-sided picture of a perfect life. Valmiki’s main theme is inner perfection, virtuous actions, overcoming evils and transforming the evildoers. In this epic, stress is laid everywhere on the importance of moral values.

 Notwithstanding the Ramayana, a sacred text teaching righteousness, is also regarded as Dharma-Shastra. Besides, it expounds the principles of eternal law and presents the ideals of good conduct, which is one of the bases of Dharma. The Ramayana of Valmiki is a text of ethics which deals with polity, administration, diplomacy, war and other statecraft related issues, which fall within the domain of politics, justice and governance. The Ramayana has perennial influence on the minds and attitudes of men and women in India down the centuries. Even today the teachings of Ramayana as moral values obedience, simple living, high thinking, sacrifices, devotion, dedication, commitment, charity and humanity, etc. are highly significant in changing modern societies. Being a society having religious bent, these texts bear great importance for its social as well as political life. Ramrajya/ Dharmrajya, contrary to its meaning often misconstrued, is equivalent to present day's well-ordered political society, good governance, su-rajya and swarajya as its driving principles. However, this appears to be still a distinct dream. It is pertinent to argue that Ramrajya is not associated with any kind of worship method, but it advocates ethical governance with principles of morality, justice to all, peace, prosperity and Lok-kalyana (welfare). The benefits of good government and democracy are exemplified in the RamaRajya. According to Mahatma Gandhi, Ram-Rajya means a return of the ultimate Indian values of Dharma, upheld since time immemorial. The pictures drawn in the Ramayana, of happiness, harmony and understanding in domestic and social spheres are ideal. It provides detailed guidelines for rulers, for statesmen, for policy-makers and for the persons belonging to the four stages (Ashramas) of life.

During the Gupta period (320 A.D.—413 A.D.), Rama was considered as a great king of the past also as God. Harivansa, a Sanskrit classic of 2nd and 3rd A.D., held the reign of Rama as the most righteous time on earth. Vayupurana, 5th century A.D., says that there was all-round prosperity, peace and dharma at the time of Rama and Ramayana. In Ramayanamanjari, Kashmiri Poet Kshemendra described that during Rama’s time the whole earth became like heaven and all the people performed well their proper duties, following strictly the path of Dharma. Ramacharitamansa written in 16th Century by Tulsidasa has been extremely popular and it comprises some of the most poetic verses, deeply embedded in the cultural realm of the Indian society.

There is no language in India in which the Ramayana is not translated. Kamban Ramayana in Tamil 9th and 10l Century A.D., Ranganath Ramayana, 12th Century A.D., Telugu, Madhya Kandali’s Ramayana in Assamia 14th Century A.D., Jagmohan Ramayana, Bala Ramadasa Ramayana in Oriya in 15th Century A.D. are the forms of Ramayana in different languages. All these texts have profound impact on the minds of men and women in India. Not only in India, the Ramayana has left undying influence in the countries abroad. In Java the entire story of Ramayana was carved on stone. Such deep influence is also found in Cambodia, South Annam and Malaya. The Rama tradition is very much alive in these countries.

The Ramayana believes in the divine origin of the King, but does not concede that a king can do whatever he likes; he has to follow the dictates of dharma. His powers are limited. He can be deposed, disobeyed or killed if he does not follow the dharma. In Ramayana, “Rajnam manusam prahardevatav samato bhanf 9 ” it is clearly narrated that blemishes kill a king who does not protect his people. In Balkanda of Valmiki Ramayana we learn from the epic that a king who went astray from the path of Dharma could be openly accused, scolded, imprisoned, banished or even killed. In Uttarakanda “Ramasya Dushkartam10” the Brahmana! whose son died young, accused Rama openly of having done some unrighteous deed.

The sages of Dandakarnya spoke to Rama of not being provided protection even after extracting 1/6 part of earning of the subjects in the form of Bali (Tax). In Ayodhyakanda the younger brother of King Rama, Shatrughana proclaimed that a King who took the unrighteous path should be imprisoned after considering his case on merit. The king in the epic has been addressed as Nardeva, Dharmapala, Lokpala.11 The Ramayana allots a very high place to personal righteousness and conduct of the king and his men. The State is regarded in the epic Ramayana as an essentially beneficial institution for the efficient protection of human life and for the better realisation of the higher ideals. The duties of the people described in Ramayana are to obey the king who rightly performs his dharma. According to Ramayana the king first took upon himself the duty to provide complete protection to all the people from all sorts of fear (bhaya) and that the people agreed to pay him one sixth of their earnings and share with him the merit of their good deeds allowing one fourth of it for the King. Though the king was the fountain-head of all the activities of the state, the Ramayana does not conceive of him as an autocrat.

The epic Ramayana tells us very little about the life and personality of Valmiki, but he has been referred in the Dronaparva and in the Shantiparva of Mahabharata. There can be no doubt that the Mahabharata is acquainted with the Valmiki of the Ramayana. The Adi-Kavya Ramayana of Valmiki essentially differs from the Mahabharata of Vyasa in many respects. The 136 / INDIAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION 136 / VOL. LXI, NO. 1, JANUARY-MARCH 2015 Ramayana of Valmiki (24000 slokas) is much shorther than the Mahabharata of one lakh slokas.

 Like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata also has been the source of spiritual strength to the people of India. The authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vedvyasa. According to Vedvyasa (200 B.C. -200 A.D.) the epic is intended to be a treatise on life itself, including Dharma and ethics, polity and government, philosophy and the pursuit of salvations. In the Mahabharata among all the parva, Shantiparva is more relevant to our present study because this parva deals with the duties of the king and the obligations of the subject, which is known as Raj dharma. It provides a theory of state which is remarkable for the age as it deals with such fundamental questions as the importance of the state and science of politics, the origin of state, the functions of the government, welfare state, obligation, etc. This section of the Mahabharata contains the most profound body of political ideas in our ancient literature. For example, we can refer these texts (slokas) from Shantiparva

 Sarve Dharma rajyadharmpradhanah, sarve varnah palyamana bhavanti \ Sarvstayago rajdharmeshu rajasyatyagandharmechaurgr ayapuranam \\

The king is vested with the authority and power of governance, the true sovereignty belongs to dharma, not to King. The Mahabharata states it again and again that in all the acts of the governance, the goal of the king, or the state is the protection of the people. Protection supports the world, protected people prosper, prospering they endow the king in turn.

The text (sloka) says: Dharmo Yat raja rakshati prajah Bhutanam hiyatha dharmo rakshanamparma daya13\\

In other words, protecting of all living beings with kindness towards them is the highest Dharma. In Shantiparva, Bhishma said to Yudhishtira, “He is the best of kings in whose dominations men live fearlessly like sons in the house of their sire”. If the king did not exercise the duty of protection, the strong would forcibly appropriate the possessions of the weak, and if the latter refused to surrender them with ease, their very lives would be taken. Wives, sons, food and other kinds of property would not then exist.

The text (sloka) says: Putra eevpitugrahe vishyeyasya manvah Nirbhaya vicharishyanti sa raja rajasattam14 \\
In Shantiparva like other Indian classics danda is also described as a means rajdharma because the fear of punishment is the basis of governance; and the purpose of governance is to secure the people’s freedom from fear.

The text (sloka) says:  Dandah shasti prajah, sarva danda evami rakshati \ Dandah sapteshu jagarti dandam dharm vidurvdha I5||
Accroding to Yudhisthir, rajadharmas are the refuse of all creatures; and not only the threefold end of life, but salvation itself depends upon them.16 The Mahabharata contrary to the Arthasastra postulations, categorically declares the fulfillment of righteousness to be bounden duty of the king.17 Dharma is the fundamental principle of human conduct. The King upholding dharma is the very epitome of ethical conduct. The creatures are grounded in the King. The King who rightly upholds dharma is indeed a King.

The text (sloka) says: Dharme tishthanti bhutani dharmo raajani tishthanti \ Tarn raja sadhuyah shasti sa raja prithvipatiah18 \\
It is clearly stated in Shantiparva “Dharme vardhanti vardhanti sarvbhutani sarvada”.

 In reference to it we can say that the royal power should obtain power through dharma because it nourishes and enhances. The prosperity that comes through dharma neither decreases nor dies; all living beings have dharma as the foundation of their existence, and dharma exists over and above the King. Only he remains the King, who lives and governs in accordance with dharma. When dharma prospers, all living beings prosper. Scores of references can be cited from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to establish the practices of rajdharma at the time of Rama and Krishna.

Rajdharma as explained above suggests that it contains some universal principles of governance. It means a body of principles such as providing security and safety to the its subjects displacing the law of jungle (matsyanyaya) by equitable law and justice in society. Rajdharma is not limited to the safety and security alone rather it is extended to secure material prosperity and peace to the people as text (sloka) says that praja kite hetang rajyah, praja sukhe sukhah rajyah. In other words, happiness of the king lies in the happiness his people and their welfare lies in his welfare. This reflects the ideals of rajdharma.

Both the texts,the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, provide a theory of the state which is remarkable for this age. It deals with every fundamental question as the importance of dharma, importance of governance and art of politics. Both the texts are focused on welfare of the people and clearly define the obligations of the king towards his subjects. It is important to recognise a new conception of rajdharma which is required for present day politics where moral crisis is writ on every facet of our social and political life. In this context an honest evaluation of Indian classics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata can be more meaningful.

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