Bharata, the Emperor who gave his name to our Country

Bharata (5067 B.C./ 4449 B.C.), the emperor who gave his name to our country was one of the greatest ruler of ancient India and whose achievements are extolled in Vedic literature. Belonging to the Paurava dynasty, he was the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. Even as a child he was able to seize and restrain wild animals and hence was named Sarvadamana by sage Kanva who was the guardian of his mother Shakuntala.

Bharata was a contemporary of Dilipa I, father of Bhagiratha of Ayodhya. As a ruler he was pious, affectionate to his people and hospitable to strangers and guests. He reigned in central Madhyadesha and his territory stretched from the river Saraswathi to the Ganges with Hastinapura as his capital. (One of Bharata’s successor Hastin enlarged the city and gave it his name). Bharata had the titles Chakravarti and Sarvabhauma. After conquering the whole territory of Indian sub continent, Bharata planted a flag atop mount Meru or Sumeru (now known as Kailasa). There he saw numerous such flags of world conquerors before him. This made him feel very insignificant and he took a diksha to attain nirvana.

In Vedic literature, the epics and the puranas, Bharata is represented as a universal ruler and a tireless performer of sacrifices. With sage Kanva’s aid he performed Ashwamedha, Vajapeya, Agnishtoma, Atiratra, Ukta, Ishti and Satra yagas, erected sacrifical pillars and gave rich gifts to priests including Kanva. The Vedic yajnas reached the climax of development under Bharata and a great number of Rishis lived in his times and the bulk of the Vedic mantras were composed.

Bharata had three wives and sons from them, all of whom had predeceased him. At the suggestion of his family priest Dirghatama, Bharata adopted a Brahmin by name Bharadvaja as his son (Dirghatama’s relative). Bharadvaja later consecrated his son by name Vitatha as the successor of Bharata. From this time onwards the Pauravas came to be called as Bharatas and their domain, as Bharata. There is a verse in Vishnu Purana which describes the territory of the Bharatas-

Uttaram yatsamudrasya

Himadreshchaiva dakshinam

Varsham tad Bharatam nama

Bharati yatra santatih

The country that lies north of the ocean and the south of the snowy mountains is called Bharata; for there dwell the descendants of Bharata”

Bharatavarsha the domain of Bharata represented the ideal of great empires wherein prevailed social harmony, truth, knowledge, wealth and prosperity.

Reference

  • M.K.Agarwal- The Vedic core of Human history, iUniverse LLC, Bloomington

  • Akshoy Kumar Mazumdar- Early Hindu India, A Dynastic Study, Vol-I, Cosmo, New Delhi, 1981.

  • F.E.Pargiter- Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, London, 1922

  • V. Rangacharya – History of Pre Musalman India, The Indian Publishing House, 1937

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Yayati- The Empire Builder

Among the ancient rulers of India, the name of Yayati (6587 B.C. /5969 B.C.) * stands conspicuous as an empire builder and progenitor of various dynasties. Yayati the sixth in descendant from Manu was the son of Nahusha belonging to the lunar dynasty.

Soon after ascending the throne Yayati organised a very strong army and launched a campaign against the Asuras, defeated the Yakshas and made the Nagas accept his suzerainty. He conquered all territories west of Ayodhya and Kanyakubja and north-west as far as the River Sarasvathi as well as the countries west, south and south-west of Pratisthana (present Allahabad) which was his capital. He had the titles of Samrat and Sarvabhauma, both meaning Emperor. The Rigveda mentions Yayati as an ancient sacrificer and a seer of some hymns.

Jewel of the Lunar dynasty

Acclaimed as the ‘Jewel of the Lunar dynasty’, Yayati was a very powerful, popular and virtuous ruler and probably ruled for around fifty years. He had two chief queens, Sharmista, daughter of Asura king Vrishaparvan and Devayani, daughter of Sukracharya, the guru of the Asuras. Yayati had five sons, Yadu and Turvasa from Devayani and Druhyu, Anu and Puru from Sarmishta. Except Puru the youngest son, his other children who were impatient to rule revolted against Yayati but their revolt was put down by Yayati and the princesses were pardoned. Later Yayati declared Puru as his heir and he succeeded to his kingdom with capital at Pratisthana. Yadu got the region around south-west, Turvasa, the south-east, Druhyu the west and Anu the north of Puru’s territory. In this way five distinguished dynasties sprang up from the five sons of Yayati, all of whom are honoured in the Rigveda for their valour and munificent donations to the seers.

* See https://ithihas.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/date-of-mahabharatha-war/

Reference

  1. Akshoy Kumar Mazumdar- Early Hindu India, A Dynastic Study, Vol-I, Cosmo, New Delhi

  2. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar- Advance History of India (Hindu Period), Madras, 1942.

  3. J. P .Mittal- History of Ancient India 7300 B.C.- 4250 B.C. (New Version), Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi.

Hanuman- The Hero of Vanaras

Ancient India was inhabited by Devas (Manavas), Daityas, Danavas, Vanaras, Rakshasas, Yakshas, Nagas, Panis (Dasas), etc. All of them were human beings and claim descent from mythical Rishis. The Devas, Daityas, Danavas and Nagas were descendants from Rishi Marichi, while the Vanaras, Rakshasas and Yakshas were descendants from Rishi Pulastya. Hanuman famous for his strength and stamina was born in a Vanara community and was a contemporary of Sri Rama, the ruler of Ayodhya. Hanuman was born at Anjanadri mountain situated near Hampi in Bellary district of Karnataka. His father Kesari was a chieftain and his mother was Anjana. The Puranic literature contains many stories about the birth of Hanuman which are not only fanciful but also disgusting and can be overlooked. 

Hanuman was a Human 

The word Vanar originally meant ‘the dweller of the Vana (forest)’. The Jaina Ramayana calls the Vanaras as Vanaradhwajas or people having a monkey flag as they had monkey as their totem or emblem. Valmiki refers to three type of people during the Ramayana period, namely Manavas, Vanaras and Rakshasas; who were all highly civilised. The political, religious and social organisations of the Vanaras were of the same pattern as those of the Manavas. The Vanaras led a simple life and were strict vegetarians. A purely vegetarian diet is an indication of their spiritual progress and advanced culture. The Vanaras believed in the principle ‘Live and to Let Live’ and did not involve in conquest of territories belonging to other people. They fought only in self-defence. 

Hanuman was a grammarian and knew the art of healing. The Ramayana says that no one equals him in the knowledge of sastras. Ramayana (Sundara Kanda) speaks of two varieties of Sanskrit which were in vogue at that time; one manushi Samskrita, the popular dialect and the Samskrita dvijatiriva, the language spoken by the cultured Brahmins, the shishtas and Hanuman was a cultured linguist and could speak in both varieties. In Ramayana Hanuman is referred as mahakapi, that is ‘great monkey’. Probably this epithet was given by the poet due to the over activeness character of Hanuman. Unfortunately, Hanuman is depicted as a monkey and there is an urgent need to portray and carve Hanuman as a human being, which he was. 

Helped Rama fight against Ravana 

Hanuman was a close associate of Sugriva whose Vanara kingdom is identified with Rshyamuka mountains near Hampi. Hanuman along with Sugriva and other Vanaras helped Sri Rama in his fight against Ravana. Hanuman accompanied Sri Rama on his return journey to Ayodhya and spent rest of his days with him. 

In Madhva tradition Hanuman is highly revered and Madhvacharya, the propounder of Dwaita system of philosophy is believed to be the incarnation of Hanuman. Vyasaraya, the spiritual guru of Sri Krishnadevarya, the famous ruler of Vijayanagara is said to have installed about 700 statues of Hanuman in various parts of the Vijayanagara Empire to inspire people develop manly qualities; who at that time had become desperate due to the repeated aggressive attacks by the Muslim rulers of the Deccan. 

Removal of fear 

Addressed variously as Anjaneya, Maruthi, Pavamana, Vayuputra, Ramabhakt, etc., Hanuman is considered to dispel fear, cure disease and give strength and stamina. To relieve children who easily get alarmed for trivial reasons or suffer from nightmares, yantras (talisman) of Hanuman are tied to their arm or around their neck. Hanuman is a bramachari and famous for maintaining strict continence. In all traditional gymnasiums called Vyayamashala, the portrait of Hanuman is hung and worshipped by all those who come there to exercise. Tulasidas wrote a devotional stotra (hymn) called Hanuman chalisa which is recited by devotees to obtain his (Hanuman’s) grace.  

Once upon a time the worship of Hanuman was limited to south India, but now he is worshipped all over India. In all temples dedicated to him, Hanuman is depicted as praying at the feet of Sri Rama or meditating under his favourite Parijata tree. In paintings he is depicted as flying by carrying a mountain in one hand or carrying Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana on his shoulders. 

Reference: 

  1. Adya Ramachar- Anjaneya Vilasa, Sahitya Sanjeevini (Kannada work), Vardaraja Prakashan, 1997 
  2. F. E. Pargiter, Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Oxford University Press, London, 1922 
  3. Vettam Mani- Puranic Encyclopedia, Motilal Banarsidass, 1975,  
  4. B. V. Kamesvara Aiyar- Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Western Critics, QJMS, Vol XVI, April 1926 
  5. P. C. Dharma- Social Life in the Ramayana, QJMS, Vol XXVIII, July 1937  
  6. John Dowson- A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History and Literature, London, 1879

Republican States in Ancient India 

Republican States in ancient India was called Ganarajya. The word Gana also means numbers and Ganarajya will therefore mean the rule of numbers or the rule of many. Another term to denote a republic was Samgha and republican bodies are called by Kautilya as Samgha. The Dharma Sutras and Dharma Shastras contain frequent references to Gana which seems to denote town or village corporations. That this term also denoted independent political corporations is abundantly testified to by epigraphic and numismatic evidences. Inscriptions refers to Malava and Yaudheya Ganas and in Samudragupta’s Allahabad Pillar Inscription they are clearly distinguished from monarchies. The Bijaygadh Pillar Inscription expressly refer to the fact that the Yaudheya Gana used to elect its chief who also served as general. The concept of republics in ancient India is much older than that of Greece or Rome and flourished mainly in north-western and north-eastern regions of India from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D.

Our chief source of information about the republics of ancient India are the Greek writers for north-western zone and the Buddhist works for the north-eastern zone. This apart the Mahabharata, Arthashastra and works of Panini, Katyayana, Patanjali, etc. also provides us information about these republics. The coins issued by these republican states are another valuable and concrete evidence to prove their existence.

Antiquity of Republics in Ancient India

Zimmer finds clear traces of the oligarchical form of government in verses in Rig Veda and Atharvana Veda. K.P. Jayaswal has furnished evidence for the existence of non-monarchical form of government in the Vedic period by referring a passage in the Aitareya Brahmana (VII, 3,14) which mentions that community was consecrated to rulership and their institutions were called Vairajya or kingless states. In the age of Mahabharata there were Ganas or states having republican form of government. Sometimes many Ganas combined to form a Samgha or confederation. The Mahabharata provides valuable information regarding non-monarchical states. Two chapters in Shantiparva of Mahabharata have been devoted to the nature and problems of republican polity. The Bhishmaparva mention republican states of Kuru, Panchala, Bhoja, etc.; the Sabhaparva refers to republican states of Sibis, Dasarnas, Trigarthas, Ambasthas, Malavas, Abhiras, Andhaka Vrishni, etc. The Andhaka Vrishni were a confederation, the constituent units of which were autonomous parts under their own leaders. Sri Krishna was the chief of this confederation.

Republics during Buddha’s time

The Buddhist texts (Jatakas) also refers to the existence of many autonomous clan with a non-monarchical form of government in sixth century B.C. Notable among them were Shakyas of Kapilavastu, the Mallas of Pava and Kusinara, Lichchhavis of Vaishali, the Videhas of Mithila, the Koliyas of Ramagama, Moriyas of Pipplalvan, etc. Some of the republican states joined together and formed confederations and federations for better prosperity and greater military power. For example, when Buddha was alive Videhas of Mithila and Lichchhavis of Vaisali formed a confederation and the Jnatrikas and Vajjis also joined them.

Panini in his Astadhyayi also mentions both types of states; republics (Samgha or Gana) and monarchies (Janapada). The republican states mentioned by him are Kshudrakas, Mallas, Ambashtas, Hastinayan, Madras, Madhumantas, Apritas, Vasati, Sibis, Bhaggas, etc. Many of these states continued up to 3rd century B.C. and resisted Alexander invasion of India.

There is one vital difference between the republics of the Buddhist age and those of the Mahabharata period. In the Buddhist age, full general assemblies of the republics met frequently in concord and transacted business in democratic spirit. In the Mahabharata period in the republic states, on account of the ignorance and passions of the masses, authority was concentrated in the hands of the community and more specially in those of magistrates. During the Mahabharata period we find a new tendency of the people to place themselves under the protection of individual leaders for better defence against external aggression.

Republics during the Mauryan period

Greek writers refer to Yaudheyas and Kshudrakas as powerful, free and independent republics with well organised army. Kautilya mentions Corporations like Lichchhivikas, Vrijikas, Mallakas, Madrakas, Kukuras who made use of the epithet of king Raja. In the beginning of the Mauryan period the whole of northern India was studded with these democratic states. That they possessed considerable powers is admitted by Kautilya himself when he says that to a king the acquisition of the help of corporations is better than the acquisition of an army, a friend or profit. Republics existed not only in north India but also in south India. Asoka Rock Edicts refers to non-monarchical kingdoms like Satiyaputras and Keralaputras.

Republics during the Guptas period

During the time of Guptas we find republican states of Arjunayanas (Agra-Jaipur area), Yaudheyas (south-eastern Punjab), Malavas (south-eastern Rajasthan), Madras (central Punjab), Audumbaras (eastern part of Kangra, Gurudaspur and Hoshiarpur district of Punjab), Kunindas, etc. Some of these republican states possessed great powers and resources and extended their sway over a vast tract of country.

The Yaudheyas established their reputation as a great political power and ruled over a considerable portion of the Punjab. Their coins bear the significant legend ‘Jaya Yaudheya. The Yaudheyas had an unsurpassed reputation for bravery and no wonder for they were the devotees of Lord Karttikeya, the generalissimo of Gods. It was this reputation of their bravery and the report about the rich resources of their state that made Alexander’s soldiers lose their heart and refuse to advance further. The Yaudheyas flourished down the end of 1st century A.D. whey they were temporarily overpowered by Kanishka I. Soon they rebelled against the Kushana hegemony and dealt a powerful blow to the Kushana empire from which it could not recover.

The Malavas and Kshudrakas were among those republics which offered stoutest resistance to Alexander. The Kshudrakas were their southern neighbour who later seem to have completely merged with the Malavas. The Malavas migrated to Ajmer-Chitor-Tonk area in 100 B.C. and to modern province of Malva about 400 years later. They were for a time subjugated by the Scythians in C 150 A.D. but reasserted their independence in 225 A.D. They claimed descent from the Ikshavaku king Sri Rama and were important enough to have given their name to a vast province. Their coins bear the legend ‘Victory of the Malavas.

Next in importance were the Arjunayanas who flourished from 200 B.C. to 400 A.D. and allied themselves with the Yaudheyas in ousting the Kushanas. Their coins have been found which do not bear the name of any king or general but simply ‘Arjunayanamjayah(victory to the Arjunayanas). They loved independence more than their own life and were even ready to give up their paternal homes and lands to preserve their political self and soul.

Types of Republics

There were several types of republics like Dvairajya, Bhaujya, Rashtrika, Pettanika, Svarajya, Vairajya and Arajaka.

Dvairajya was a state that came into existence when two brothers or cousins being claimants of the same kingdom preferred to rule it jointly instead of dividing it into two parts. The two rulers would hold joint consultations on all important matters. When the two kings rule in harmony the state was called a two-king state, Dvirajaka in Sanskrit. Kautilya characterises Dvairajya as a constitution of rivalry and mutual conflict leading to final destruction. This rule of two was neither a monarchy nor an aristocracy. It is a constitution peculiar to the history of India. Historical instances of this constitution are known to our literature and inscriptions. Avanti in some period of Hindu history was under this constitution for the Mahabharata relates that Avanti was under Vinda and Anuvinda two kings ruling jointly. In sixth and seventh century A.D. Nepal was under such a constitution.

Bhaujya refers to states having non-hereditary leadership. Bhoja or Bhojakas and Rathikas or Rashtrikas as mentioned in Asokan edicts had this type of constitution. The Mahabharata in its lists of different classes of rulers mentions Bhoja as a class. The Aitareya Brahmana calls their constitution as Bhaujya as the sovereignty rested in the Bhoja leaders. Later inscriptions have Bhojas and Mahabhojas which signify ordinary and higher classes of leaders. Owing to their special constitution a people in western India acquired the name Bhojas. This probably is a case where a community is formed on account of its political constitution.

Rashtrika of the western India were a non-monarchical community. Pali texts knows and names the Rashtrika or Ratthika class of rulers. Accordingly, Rashtrika Sapatya or Board of leaders were not hereditary. They were therefore elected. The mention in the Pali authority goes to indicate that the Rashtrika constitution was also very probably known to eastern India. Like Bhaujya this too gave a national name to the Rashtrikas of the west. They were in Gujarat next to Saurashtra. Arthashastra refers to Su-rashtras a republic where no king consul was allowed.

Pettanika– The commentary on the Anguttara Nikaya denotes Pettanika as “hereditary leadership”. Theirs appears to have been really a perverted form of the Bhoja form of government, where rulers or leaders had managed to become hereditary. The Pettanika oligarchy or probably aristocracy was prevalent in western India as evidenced by Ashokan inscriptions. That it also existed in eastern India is evidenced from the Pali canon mentioned above.

Svarajya according to Aitareya Brahmana was a type of constitution which prevailed in western India where the ruler or president was called Svarat. It literally means self-ruler. The Taittiriya Brahmana says that a wise man performs Vajapeya sacrifice and obtains Svarajya; which is explained as ‘becoming the leader of equals’. This information shows that the Svarat ruler was taken from amongst equals and was made president. And that the selection was based upon merit for Indra who is said to have first obtained Svarajya consecration is described as having proved his merit. Evidently this refers to an election or selection to the presidentship amongst the members of a gana or council. It should be noted that the members of the gana according to the Mahabharata were considered to be equals. According to the Aitareya Brahmana this form of government prevailed amongst the Nichyas and the Apachyas of western India near Indus river.

Vairajya according to Jayaswal has termed it as a kingless constitution. According to the Aitareya Brahmana the whole country or nation took the consecration of rulership. There is no doubt that this was a real democratic constitution. The Aitareya Brahmana gives the example of Uttara Madras and Uttara Kurus. Kautilya rejects it as a bad form of government and held democracy in contempt. According to him ‘nobody feels in a Vairajya government the feeling of mine (with regard to the state).

Arajaka or non-ruler state was an idealistic constitution which came to be the object of derision of the political writers of Hindu India. The ideal of this constitution was that law was to be taken as the ruler and there should be no man ruler. The basis of the state was considered to be mutual agreement or social contract between the citizens. This was an extreme democracy. The Mahabharata from which the above description is taken ridicules the constitution and says that the framers of this legal state found out their mistake when the arrangement would work no more with the result that nobody obeyed the law without sanction. When the law would not rule, the citizens of this form of government took to monarchy.

Administration of Republican States

The Buddhist literature throws considerable light on the administration of the Shakya and Lichchhavi republics. Other minor non-monarchical states usually followed the same pattern.

The Executive Assembly

The executive organ consisted of certain members which varied from republic to republic. While in some republics like the Mallas it consisted of four members, in republican states like the Lichchhavis the executive council consisted of nine members. The head of the executive, that is the chief executive officer was designated as Raja or Rajan and was elected for a term of some years. He occupied the presidential chair when the general assembly of the republic was in session.

The Legislative (Central) Assembly

The legislative assembly also known as the general or supreme assembly consisted of a large number of members. Its membership is stated to have been as high as 5000 among the Yaudheyas and 7707 among the Lichchhavis. The Kshudrakas had sent 150 of their leading men to negotiate peace with Alexander; the number of the members of their Central Assembly may have been about five times larger. The Central Assembly was the supreme law-making body. It formulated laws regarding all aspect of republic life. It controlled foreign affairs, entertained ambassadors and foreign princes, considered their proposal and decided the momentous issues of peace and war. Members of the Assembly discussed not only matters of political and military interest but also problems concerning agriculture and commerce.

Assembly Proceedings

The house where the members of the General Assembly met and conducted deliberations and transacted business was known as Santhagara. For deliberating and taking decisions on all official issues a minimum number of members were to be present. An officer called Gana-puraka secured the quorum. Usually a proposal was moved and repeated thrice and if no objection were raised it was considered passed. In case of difference of opinion or objection the matter was decided by the majority of votes. Voting by ballots (called Salakas) was in use. If the subject matter of deliberations was complicated and the house could not reach any conclusion, it was referred to specialised committee of experts called Udvahika.

The state was divided into many small administrative units for efficient administration. The head of each unit in the Buddhist period was probably a member of the Supreme Assembly of the state. Each head of the administrative unit was assisted by Uparaja (deputy chief), Senapati (general) and Bhandagarika (treasurer). Law courts were the main bulwark of justice in a republican state, the guardians of the constitutional rights of the citizens and protectors of law and liberty. The republics had their own army and it safeguarded their territorial integrity.

Decline of Republican States

The attack of foreigners weakened the republican states considerably. For instance, the Malavas and the Kshudrakas had formed a league to raise a powerful army of nearly one lakh soldiers to resist the Greek invasion. The Malavas later fought against the forces of Nahapana and the Yaudheyas against Rudradaman. With the rise of the Guptas under Samudragupta the republican states like the Malavas, the Arjunayanas, the Yaudheyas and the Madras accepted the suzerainty of the Guptas and offered him tributes. The Allahabad Pillar Inscription informs us that the mighty corporations like those of Yaudheyas, the Malavas and the Arjunayanas had to pay taxes and make obeisance to the great emperor Samudragupta. These two factors; invasion of foreigners and rise of Guptas led to the decline and downfall of the republican states in India. From around 3rd century A.D the leadership of the republics passed into the hands of hereditary presidents who were military leaders and claimed royal titles and they could not be distinguished from monarchies. The growing tendency to regard monarch as divine may have induced the republics to accept the leadership of hereditary presidents styled as Maharajas. Probably it was felt that monarchy was a better protection against aggressions than republics. This factor also led to the decline of republics in ancient India and from 5th century onwards they ceased to be important factors in Indian politics. No trace of them is to be found in the Puranas or Dharmashastras to which monarchy seems to be the only conceivable form of government. Even a professionally political writer like the author of Shukraniti had not a word to say about them. Gradually things have come to such a pass that it requires great effort to believe even when sufficient evidence is forth coming that institutions which we are accustomed to look upon as of western growth had also flourished in India long ago.

Impact/Contribution of Republican States

  • The existence of the republican states for more than a thousand years from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. testifies to the inherent strength of democracy and republican traditions in ancient India. Their existence for such a long period shows that ancient India nurtured democratic institutions and practices.

  • The freedom loving patriotic republican states acted as bulwark against foreign invaders like the Greeks, Scythians and Kushans.

  • Trade and industries prospered under their regime and republics in Punjab and Sindh were studded with numerous and prosperous cities.

  • They encouraged freedom of thought which in its turn resulted in philosophical progress. This is particularly noteworthy about the eastern republics whose citizens have made rich contributions to philosophy as developed in the Upanishads, Buddhism and Jainism. In the western region also, there were many philosophers who impressed the Greeks by their theories and views.

  • The Buddhist Sangha, trade and craftsmen’s guilds borrowed many elements and traditions of republican government like voting system, committee system and popular tribunals.

References

  1. A.S. Altekar- State and Government in Ancient India (From earliest times to c 1200 A.D), Motilal Banaridass, Banaras

  1. K.P. Jayaswal- Hindu Polity– A Constitutional History of India in Hindu Times, The Bangalore Printing and Publishing Co Ltd, Bangalore, 1943

  1. B.N. Luniya- Life and Culture in Ancient India, Lakshmi Narain Agarwal, Agra, 1989

  1. R.C. Majumdar- Corporate Life in Ancient India, Calcutta, 1918

  1. H.V. Srinivasa Murthy- History and Culture of India to 1000 A.D., S. Chand & Company, New Delhi, 1980

Honesty, Idealism, Magnanimity and Non-violence – Watch- words of Hindus

Sanatana Dharma encompasses ideals such as justice, honesty, altruism, chivalry and non-violence and since the dawn of civilization Sanatanis (Hindus) living in Bharath, upheld and practiced these ideals in their daily lives. Foreign travellers speak of the high integrity, magnanimity and compassion which the Hindus possessed.

Megesthenes the Greek ambassador lived in the court of Chandragupta Maurya, who ruled the kingdom of Magadha during 322-298 B.C. He observes that the average Hindu was law abiding, frugal in their habits and simple in manners. They never drink wine except at sacrifices. The simplicity of their laws and their contracts is proved by the fact that they seldom go to the court of law. They have no suits about pledges or deposits, nor do they require seals or witnesses but make their deposits and confide in each other. Their houses and property are generally unguarded. They hold truth and virtue in high esteem. Continuing, he says that Hindus neither ravaged an enemy’s land nor cut down its trees. Therefore, the cultivation was never interfered. It is said that famine never visited India nor scarcity for food felt as there was double rainfall each year. The Hindus treated diseases more by diet than by medicine through ointment and plasters were used. People practiced fortitude by undergoing toil and suffering pain.

Fa-Hien the Chinese traveller who visited India during 5th century A.D. says “Throughout the whole country the people do not kill any living creatures nor drink intoxicating drinks; they do eat onions or garlic and do not keep pigs and fowls or sell live cattle in the market”. He mentions houses of charity and dispensaries run by the people belonging to Vaisya caste, where maimed, diseased, crippled, orphans, widowers and childless were fed and treated. Fa-Hien also speaks about the existence of rest houses for travellers and free hospitals. “No passport system existed, those who want to go may go and those who want to stop may stop”, he adds.

Hindus known for their courage, honesty and learning

Another Chinese traveller Huien Tsang who visited India during 630 A.D. says that Hindus were remarkable for their courage, honesty and love for learning. They are not deceitful or treacherous in their conduct. They are faithful in their oaths and promises. He also speaks of their personal hygiene– “floors of the houses were purified with cow dung and strewn with season flowers. They bathed daily, smeared their bodies with sandal and washed hands before meals. I-Tsing who visited India around 671 A.D. also speaks of the high personal hygiene of the Hindus.

Regarding justice and honesty of the Hindus, Al Idrisi in his work, Nazhatu I Mushtak– writes “The Indians are naturally inclined to justice and never depart from it in their action. Their good faith, honesty and fidelity to their engagements are well known and they are so famous for these qualities that people flock to their country from every side; hence the country is flourishing and their condition prosperous. If a man met another to whom he had earlier lend something and if he wished to get it back, he used to draw a circular line upon the ground where his debtor was standing and the latter could not leave this circle without returning back his creditor what he owed or obtain remission from him.

Altruistism of high order

Not only the Hindus were known for their sense of justice but also altruism of high order. For instance, during 12th century there lived in Kalyan (Bidar district in Karnataka) an idealistic Veerashaiva couple, Aaidakki Marayya and his wife Lakkamma. Aaidakki Marayya’s profession was to gather rice grains scattered on the ground. (many rich people used to donate rice to the poor who used to collect it in their torn clothes, as a result there was seepage of rice which used to fall on the ground) Once Aaidakki Marayya engrossed in his thoughts brought more rice than the usual measure. His wife Lakkamma reminded him that greed for grains excess to their needs was against their dharma and insists upon his taking back the excess rice and scattering it where he had picked it from. This shows the high idealism of Lakkamma. Speaking of extravagance Gandhiji said- ‘nature has given enough for all of our wants but not for our greed. If everybody took enough for his wants then there would be no pauperism in this world.’

Display of Magnanimity against arch rivals

In 1519 A.D., Mahmud Khilji, the ruler of Malwa invaded the territory of Medini Rai, an ally of Rana Sangram Singh, the ruler of Mewar. For this audacity on the part of Mahmud, Rana decided to teach him a lesson and in the ensuing battle defeated Mahmud and took him as prisoner. As Mahmud was wounded and bleeding, Rana had him removed with care to his own camp, where his wounds were carefully dressed and properly treated. He was then removed to Chittoor, where he remained a prisoner for three months. The Maharana used to treat Mahmud with great courtesy and friendship, so far at times as to make him sit on a portion of own seat in the Durbar. One day while the Mahmud was so seated, an attendant brought some flowers and the Maharana taking up, a bunch was about to give it to Mahmud, when the latter said “there were two ways of giving a thing, you hold your hand up and bestow it on an inferior or keep your hand low and tender it to a superior”. “The latter course was out of question as I am your prisoner”, said Mahmud and added that he is not ready to extent his palm like a suppliant merely for a bunch of flowers. The Maharana was pleased to hear this from Mahmud and generously said that half the kingdom of Malwa went with the bunch of flowers. Mahmud was filled with joy and gladly extended his palm and took the flowers. The third day the Maharana bade farewell to Mahmud and sent him with an escort to Mandu and seated him on the throne.

Respect for women

Abdur Rahim Khan-i- Khan, the adopted son of Akbar was once sent to fight Rana Pratap, for his refusal to submit before the Mughals. Abdur Rahim with 20,000 soldiers went on a rampage in Mewar and thousands of Rajput men and women died fighting for their honour and liberty. Though Mewar bled it did not surrendered. One evening prince Amar Singh, son of Pratap, in a surprise raid carried away a part of the Khan’s harem. But Pratap reprimanded him and said- “The honour of women is dear to us and to lay hand on women is to denounce god and is against the Rajput code of conduct”. “Never again my son, should you be guilty of such a lapse”, Pratap advised his son. Pratap himself apologised to the ladies for the mistake made by his son. He extended to them honours customary to be shown to honoured guests in Rajput house and sent them back under heavy military escort to the Mughal camp. Abdur Rahim was overwhelmed by the Rana’s gesture.

Keeping one’s word

The Portuguese who came to India for trade were also involved in other criminal activities like taking Indians as captives for ransom or to use them labourers. Once Correa, as a leader of a trading party took among their captives an old Brahmin who did not had any capacity for work. The said old Brahmin offered Correa three pounds for his liberty and asked that as he had no friend he might be allowed to fetch the money himself. As Correa had no use of that old Brahmin he agreed after making the Brahmin swear by his sacred thread that he would not cheat Correa of the money he had promised. A few days later the old Brahmin to the amazement of Correa returned with half the money and eight fowls in lieu of the rest. It is said that Correa overwhelmed by the Brahmin’s honesty refused to take anything from him.

Compassion Unlimited

Non-violence is a character ingrained in Hindus. When the British East India Company was calling the shots, its servants who were ill paid used to shoot doves and pigeons for food. The Hindus would implore them not to do this and would as a last resort offer them money to spare the poor birds. This method of persuasion was so successful that it became a regular practice for insolvent young company servants who were in indebtedness and in order to supplement their meagre salary used to take out a gun near some rich Hindu’s house and talk loudly and ferociously about the number of pigeons they would massacre that afternoon till the Hindu ran out in tears in his eyes and money in his hands.

Probably the very idealism which Hindus possessed became a liability and the country had to face successive invasions, deaths, destruction, loot and rape of its citizen by waves of barbarians, jihadists and colonialists.