‘Pitrushahi’ (Patriarchy) during Ramrajya and modern Democracy

Prof. Bharat Gupt

Prof. Bharat Gupt is a retired Professor in English, who taught at the College of Vocational Studies in the University of Delhi. He is also an Indian classicist, theatre theorist, sitar & surbahar player, musicologist, and newspaper columnist. He was interviewed by Madhu Purnima Kishwar – the Editor of YouTube channel ‘Manushi India’. Here, we have reproduced his views on the analysis of Ramrajya and modern Democracy during the interview.

1.In the times to come, Plato’s quote that Democracy will be in the hands of the rich will come true

The world has numerous shortcomings and a fierce war is going on. Taking these things into consideration, it will really be courageous to predict that Democracy will survive for long. Plato had predicted long ago that in due course, the reins of Democracy will go into the hands of the rich. We are seeing these symptoms now. The owners of Amazon, Google are the present-day kings. Some even have the capacity to decide who should be the President of the USA. The power at present, lies in the hands of such rich people. Plato had said, “Democracy will perish, there will be authoritarianism of the rich and the rule will go into their hands”. We find today that Plato’s words have come true. As spoken by him, we are surely moving towards Dictatorship. If we analyse the present-day Democracy in India, people think that this is the type of Democracy that existed in ancient India. Westerners appreciate the Democracy of ancient Greece. They do not know that Unan (Greece) did not have Democracy like the present-day Democracy. Barely 25% to 30% people in the cities voted. They were mostly from the upper class. Women and servants were not permitted to participate in voting. That Democracy was entirely different and it was the rule of limited people.

2. The reasons why Shriram is considered to be an ideal king in India

The system of classes that existed in ancient India is often criticized; however, when Kshatriyas ruled in those times, they did not formulate laws. Then, Dharmashastra (Theology) and Lokashastra (Social science) were the guiding principles. Social science was formed with the will of the common people in society and some special people. The king honoured the wishes of the people. He was not able to ignore the wishes of the people and rule. As narrated by Sage Valmiki, Deity Shriram would find out the likes and dislikes of His subjects and rule accordingly. In India, the concept of ‘Ideal kingdom’ is explained in Economics by Kautilya; however, when it comes to naming an ideal king, it is always Shriram !

स्मरतां हृदि विन्यस्य विद्धं दण्डककण्टकै: ।
स्वपादपल्लवं राम आत्मज्योतिरगात् तत: ।।
– Shrimadbhagwadpurana, 9.11.19

Meaning : Ram (concluding His earthly stay) placed His lotus feet, which were pierced by the thorns of the Dandakaranya forest (the forest of His exile), in the hearts of those who remembered Him and then entered the (beyond of the) Light of the Soul (of the Atma-jyoti, His heavenly abode Vaikuntha).

This verse literally reveals Shriram’s life. He suffers for the sake of others. He is always worried about the welfare of His subjects; hence, He is considered to be the most superior king.

3. The relationship between the king and his subjects

In India the relationship between a king and his subjects is like a father and his son. Just as a father takes care of his children, so does a king of his subjects. Deity Shriram was ‘Maryada Purushottam’ (‘Purush’ means human, ‘uttam’ means the finest. Hence, the meaning of Purushottam is – the finest amongst humans. He maintained dignity and glory in every field of human life). His Maryada (Limitation) was – He did not want to think of anything else but the welfare of His subjects, which did not merely include human beings. They included animals, birds, insects, worms, trees, land and forests. Taking the responsibility of these subjects, preserving them and looking after them is the duty of a king. While performing this duty, the king does not think of his individual interests. The life of Shriram was not limited to His personal happiness and sorrow.

Saint Tulsidas has written who Shriram is. He says – Shriram is the one who was not overjoyed upon hearing the news of His coronation and neither grieved upon hearing the news of His exile immediately after. Only a king who purely sees what his Dharma is and what he has to do (instead of his personal welfare) can attain such equanimity.

4. The concept of Ramrajya

Deity Shriram took the news of His coronation and exile in His stride, with equanimity. Hence, Sage Valmiki said that Shriram is the symbol of Dharma. God incarnates and abides by Dharma. He incarnates not for His own sake, but for the sake of others. Shriram had this emotion – ‘Though I am the king, I am ruling not for my own sake or for the sake of my family nor for the sake of my lineage, but for the sake of my subjects’. This is the concept of Ramrajya, which is an ideal example. People obtained every type of happiness in Ramrajya.

5. The reason why Ramrajya was superior to Shrikrushna’s Kingdom

If we were to name the most superior king, there would be but one – Shriram. Shrikrushna cannot be considered as an ideal king; because, during His time, the era and circumstances were different. His Leela (Divine play) was as per the need of the times; hence, the use of the term ‘Ramrajya’ and not ‘Krushnarajya’.

Mahabharat took place at the end of Dwaparyug and the beginning of Kaliyug, and hence, the characters of Mahabharat do not have the same level of excellence. There is one major difference between Ramayan and Mahabharat – in Ramayan one brother bears the agony of separation from his elder brother; whereas, in Mahabharat, one brother revolts against another. In Ramayan, Ravan is not considered to be evil. After being killed by Shriram, Ravan is liberated and he too gets the same salvation as others do. Just as any object which comes in contact with fire acquires the form of fire, a suffering individual also attains Salvation when in God’s company.

Ravan performed Virodhibhakti (Repeating the Name of a Deity out of hatred), and hence, attained Moksha (Final Liberation).

6. In Ramrajya, society was not greedy, and hence, there were no conflicts

Though the king was the ruler, he would not interfere in the affairs of his subjects. People led lives as per their will and abided by Dharma. As described by Sage Valmiki, the subjects were involved in performing their karma and abiding by Dharma. Since they obtained Anand (Bliss) through this, they were also content. Though the king had the authority to punish, the subjects themselves behaved in a disciplined manner. This applied to people of all the four Varnas (Classes) – Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. They were not greedy. Nobody snatched anything from another. Sage Valmiki has termed this behaviour as lobhavivarjita (Without greed). If there is no desire to grab others’ property, there will be no conflicts. This was the effect of Ramrajya.

7. During the ancient times, performing Yajna-Yagas was a medium of charity

During Yajna-Yagas, wealth would be donated to everyone – from the poor to the intellectuals. Similar donations would be made at the time of marriage of a prince and a princess. Wealth would be distributed among artists as well as those who sang and danced during the ceremony.

In reality, a Yajna would be a medium to donate. Ashwamedha Yajna was performed not for ruling over others, but for distributing wealth. It was not just the king who donated, but people in society too on special occasions.

Hindu Scriptures say that human beings are fundamentally greedy, and to nullify the consequences of greed, they should always donate. In India’s history, King Shibi, Karna, King Harishchandra and so on have been identified as great donors and considered to be ideal humans. This Dharma of donation is completely contrary to the present-day Democracy.

8. In ancient times, Hindu kings treated the subjects of the conquered kingdoms as per the guidelines mentioned in the Scriptures

Scriptures such as the Manusmruti, Yadnyavalkya, etc. mention how the conduct of a king should be. The kings of entire Bharat abided by these codes of conduct. Accordingly, when a victorious king entered the capital of the kingdom he conquered, first and foremost he assured citizens of their safety. He was not permitted to even touch children, women, artists, workers, rich, businessmen, etc. In the capital he had the right to only take over the treasury. However, he did not have the right to touch the princesses. If he wished to carry the Idol in the main temple in the capital, he had to first build in his own kingdom a temple bigger than the old temple. The king could not force famous artists or scholars in the defeated kingdom to come to his kingdom. He had to invite them, and even then, they would come only if they wished to. For example, in the 7th Century, big artists went from Uttar Pradesh to Kashmir. This process was continuous. The wealth of the defeated king was never called ‘maal-e-ghanimat’ (Plunder, spoil, booty). There are rare exceptions to such behaviour; however, they were considered evil and were destroyed.

– Prof. Bharat Gupt (23.10.2022)

Though the king had the authority to punish, the subjects themselves behaved in a disciplined manner in Ramrajya !

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