HINDU POLITY

The Political Science or Science of administration in ancient India was known by several names like Rajadharma (duties of Kings), Rajyasastra (science of state craft i.e. the method of running the government in a state), Dandanithi, Nitisastra and Arthasastra.

Dandanithi: Danda means rod (rod of punishment), force, etc. Indian writers like Manu held that the ultimate sanction behind the state is force. If it is not used, the alternate is the law of jungle (matsyanyaya). Danda is held to be inalienable for carrying on the administration of the state properly because it is by using force alone that the Kings contained those who worked against the King and the Kingdom. As the King was the welder of the rod of punishment, he was equated with Yama, like Yama he inflicted punishment upon the evil or wrongdoers. It is danda (physical force or physical punishment) which rules over all the subjects and protects them, when all else are sleeping danda keeps awake. Kings have been forewarned that they should use danda with discretion for it used too harshly the subjects will suffer, if too lightly the King will not be held in awe, but if used in a proper manner, the subjects are happy and the Kingdom will progress. Kautilya gives a broader interpretation to the term danda. Danda establishes law and order in a society and thus indirectly brings about a natural tendency in the average individual to obey the law of the land and renders the use of force unnecessary. It ultimately secures proper progress in religion, philosophy and economic well being so necessary for social stability. Danda enables the individual and the state secure new achievements to their credit, protects and increase what has been acquired and distributes the gains properly between the state and the individuals. Therefore the entire social well being depends upon danda. Altekar therefore rightly asserts that danda deals with the totality of the social, political and economic relationship and indicates how they are to be properly organised and integrated with one another. Manu goes to the   extent of declaring that it is danda who is the real king, real leader and the real protector. The rules about the functions and duties of the king and the welfare of the state were therefore naturally called dandanithi. The works on the science of politics written by Usanas and Prajapati were known as dandanithi. Even Kautilya had originally intended to name his book as Dandanithi but later later named it as Arthasastra.

Another name for the science of government is Nitisastra or Rajanitisastra. Panchatantra holds that Arthasastra and Nitisastra are synonym. The term Niti is derived from the root, ni which means to lead. Niti therefore means proper guidance or direction and initially Nitisastra was taken to be the science of ethics. Great conduct, wisdom and watchfulness are to be shown in shaping and guiding the internal and foreign policy of the state and so the term Nitisastra became very popular to designate the science of government from about 5th century onwards. Kamandaka and Sukra prefer to call their words as books on Niti and not on Dandaniti or Arthasastra. The aim of the government is to secure all round progress and prosperity of society and the same was taken to be the scope of Nitisastra.

Material on political science in the Rig Veda is very scanty and is relatively more copious in Atharvanaveda. It however mostly refers to the institution of the Kingship. The earliest works on polity have unfortunately have all been lost and were probably composed in 7th century B.C.  The country was studded with small kingdoms and the adviser of kings who were sages and scholars of mature judgement were naturally expected to discuss problems of administration with them. The Mahabharatha and Arthasastra give an account of the works written and theories propounded by the pioneer writers in the field. According to Mahabharatha a huge work on the science of polity extending over a lakh of verses was originally composed by Brahma the creator. When he put an end to the prevailing anarchy and reestablished the social order. It was abridged by Siva Visalaksha, Indra, Brihaspati and Sukra (Usanas). In ancient India authors often preferred to remain incognito (under false name with identity concealed) and attributed their works to divine or semi divine persons.. All the above works have not survived and while material contained in some was incorporated in the Rajadharma section of Shantiparva of the Mahabharata, while Arthasastra took the place of others.

The Mahabharata is an important source to the student of the science of polity. The Shantiparva has an extensive section devoted to the Rajadharma or the duties of the King and the government. It discusses the importance of the science of politics and advocates its own theories about the origin of the state and kingship. The duties and responsibilities of the king are discussed at length in several chapters as also those of the different ministers. Taxation is discussed in half a dozen chapters but the duties of the different officers are not laid down in detail as in book II of the Arthasastra. Problems connected with the foreign policy and peace and war naturally occupy a good deal of space. Apart from Rajadharma section of the Shantiparva there are some other chapters in the work where problems of government are discussed, viz, Sabhaparva chapter 5- about ideal administration, Adiparva chapter 142- justification of Machiavellianism under certain circumstances, Sabhaparva and Vanaparva has discussions on emergency policy.

Arthasastra– The usual meaning of the term Arthasastra is money or wealth and so the term Arthasastra should mean the science of wealth or economics and not the science of government. While admitting that Arthasastra denotes avocation of men, Kautilya contents that the term can denote the territory where people live together. Arthasastra therefore says Kautilya is the science which deals with the acquisition and protection or governance of territory. Sukranitisara states that the Arthasastra discusses instructions about the government along with the acquisition of wealth. Kautilya originally intended to name his book as Dandanithi but later changed his mind and decided to call it as Arthasastra. It discusses the old topics with a remarkable thoroughness referring to the views of the earlier writers and advancing its own theories. Here the study of the state is the main topic. Book I deals with various problems connected with the Kingship, Book II with exhaustive picture of civil administration, Book III and IV about civil, criminal and personal law, Book V on duties and responsibilities of the courtiers and retainers of the king, Book VI about the nature and function of the seven prakrits of the state and the last nine books to an exhaustive discussion of the problems connected with the foreign policy.

The Arthasastra is a manual for the administration. It is mainly concerned with the practical problems of government and describes its machinery and functions, both in peace and war, with an exhaustiveness not seen in any later works. The teaching and instruction in the Arthasastra cannot be claimed to be as a whole an authentic creation of Kautilya. The text of Arthasastra is composed by bringing together the teachings of all earlier works on polity and administration. Its language is in Sanskrit.

Period: Shamasastri, Ganapatisastri, N.N.Law, Smith, Fleet, Jayaswal say Chanukya, Kautilya or Vishnugupta was its author. But Winternitz, Jolly, Keith, D.R.Bhandarkar say it is a work written in early centuries of the Christian era. It is worth noting that there are several striking points of resemblance between Arthasastra and writing of Megasthenes.

Kamandakiya Nitisara composed in the Gupta age (between 500- 700 A.D is a metrical summary of the work of Kautilya as that which could be memorized by the student. This work however does not at all describe the administration machinery. The king and his courtiers dominate the picture showing the great importance that monarchy had acquired by that time. Kautilya’s chapter on republican states is omitted as they were no longer in existence. Civil, criminal and personal laws were completely left out as Smiriti writers of this period had specialized in this branch. Jayaswal attribute the work to Sikhare Svami, a minister of Chandra Gupta II. While Arthasastra has 180 chapters, Kamandakiya Nitisara has only 36 chapters. The first four chapters of Arthasastra do not find a place in Kamandakiya Nitisara. While Kautilya was a statesman, Kamandakiya’s interest was purely academic.

Sukraniti (900-1200 A.D) – is a very important for the student of ancient Indian polity. It does not confines itself with theoretical discussion of the principles of polity or government but it gives us a more detailed and comprehensive picture of the administration machinery than is given by any other work of the post Kautilya period. Its polity is of course monarchial; republics having disappeared long before the date of the work. Besides discussing the duties of the king and the functions of his ministers and officers, the work describes the problems of foreign policy and methods of warfare. Civil administration is described in very great details. We get a vivid picture of the judicial administration. The four popular courts are referred to viz, Kula, Sreni, Puga and Sabha. The state as envisaged by Sukra was an organization for the welfare of the subjects. It was not only to suppress crime and disorder but to control gambling and drinking, maintain hospital and rest houses and encourage learning and education. It was to increase the resources of the country by encouraging trade, developing mines, forests and industries and executing schemes of irrigation. In several respects the work supplies information not to be found in other works of polity. Interesting and minute details are given about the seating arrangements in the royal court on formal occasions and about different grades of feudatories and their income. The portfolios of different ministers are given in the work for the first time. This enables us to have a clear picture of the day to day working of the ministry with the assistance of the secretaries under the control of the king. Unlike any other work Sukra gives us the percentage of the state income to be spent on different items. The section dealing with the army administration gives us the most comprehensive picture of the army organization- how the soldiers were recruited, trained and paid. How martial types of elephants and horses were to be selected how weapons were to be manufactured or procured, etc. This work is a compilation of the rules of Rajadharma and allied topics.

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