Every creature felt happy. Everybody was intent on [performing] Dharma. Turning their eyes towards Rama alone, creatures did not kill [or inflict violence upon] one another.
While Rama ruled the kingdom, the conversations of the people centered round Rama, Rama and Rama. The whole world became Rama's world.
Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras were performing their respective duties, satisfied with their own work and bereft of any greed.
While Rama was ruling, the people were immersed in Dharma and lived without telling lies. All the people were endowed with excellent character. All were engaged in virtue.
The ideal of Rama Rajya (the Kingdom of Rama) is also a goal in itself and is as dateless as Sanatana Dharma and Bharatavarsha. The extraordinarily vivid, compassionate, gentle, and serene picture that Maharshi Valmiki has painted in the foregoing verses is a perfectly-blended distillation of all the best elements of the Vedic conception of the “Rashtra Yagna” described in chapter 2. This picture also reminds us of a great scholar of art and aesthetics who averred that the purpose of art is to show the possibility that a better world exists. In the parlance of traditional space-time notions of Bharatavarsha, Rama Rajya can be likened to a kingdom or a world order that existed in the Krita (or Satya) Yuga, which Rama brought ushered in in his own time, i.e. in the Treta Yuga. A renowned description of the Krita Yuga is available in the Mahabharata:
In the Krita Yuga, there were no poor and no rich; there was no need to labour, because all that men required was obtained by the power of will; the chief virtue was the abandonment of all worldly desires. The Krita Yuga was without disease; there was no lessening with the years; there was no hatred or vanity, or evil thought; no sorrow, no fear. All mankind could attain to supreme blessedness.
In other words, no external factor was necessary to regulate order in the Satya Yuga while the very maintenance of order became an ongoing task in the successive Yugas. This point becomes significant when we consider the following phrases in the aforementioned verses: (1) rāmamevānupaśyanto nābhyahinsanparasparam -- Turning their eyes towards Rama alone, creatures did not kill [or inflict violence upon] one another; (2) rāmabhūtaṃ jagābhūdrāme rājyaṃ praśāsati -- The whole world became Rama's world. This also has a beautiful parallel in “rāmo vigrahavān dharmaḥ,” that is, Rama is the embodiment of Dharma. To state the obvious, both the meaning and the message in this is that people turned to Rama, the human embodiment of Dharma in order to guide them on the virtuous path and help them abstain from wrongdoing.
Politics and Statecraft in Rama Rajya
The logical question that arises from this discussion is this: how is politics and statecraft conceived in this Rama Rajya? To which D.V. Gundappa answers in his inimitable style that
Rama Rajya is the grandest conception of a Master Poet… where there are no fetters in the relationship between the ruler and the ruled…where Dharma doesn’t depend on others for its functioning and is akin to breathing: effortless.
The subtext here is the fact that the political life of a ruler, the daily application of statecraft, and politics in national life do not exist in independent realms; DVG clearly eschews the popular connotation embedded in the term, “political machinery.” Instead, he (correctly) views these elements as a “jīvaśarīra,” a life-body motivated by a higher and nobler impulse because the worshipped Deity of a state/nation is the life of its people. For DVG, the primacy of the human spirit and its higher impulses in politics was paramount. Unless this spirit was underlaid and motivated by Dharma, any political system was superficial at best and dangerous at worst. In his own words, “politics is also a mere instrument like the numerous paths and approaches to pursue and practice Dharma,” and “the state akin to the family, is a field for the pursuit of Dharma.” And he provides a guidepost of sorts as to what this Dharma is in the practice of statecraft in lines that are matchless for their simple profundity:
The verdict of those Pandits [wise and learned people] who have understood the nuances of tradition and act in a spirit of selfless service directed at the good of the country is Dharma.
In the realm of politics, this translates into the following:
The ruler is subservient to Dharma; Dharma in turn is embodied in society. Therefore, the original home of the state’s power emanates from the Dharmic feeling prevalent in the society. The seat of the ruler is just a mere implement or equipment that maintains and protects this Dharmic feeling.
This is entirely consistent with the Sanatana conception of statecraft which instructs the king to be an upholder, protector and an agent of Dharma in the verse, rājā dhārmiko bhūyāt. The most effective discharge of this duty is also the price that he pays for enjoying his royalty (or its equivalent in today’s democratic terms). Even a cursory perusal of the life and legacy of great monarchs, royal dynasties, and world leaders (in various democracies) clearly shows the verifiable truth that the yardstick of a politician’s merit is the condition of the citizens.
There is however a jarring note of sorts which can be made by way of contrast. The Sanatana conception of statecraft (or Raja Dharma) allowed for a certain class of people who were beyond the king/state’s power. In common parlance, these were the Rishis, Sadhus and so on who contributed at a far profounder level by staying within society and being detached to it simultaneously. Prof M. Hiriyanna offers one of the best characterizations of such people. They were people who deliberately chose Moksha or Jivanmukti “as the ideal to be pursued, and thereafter [made] a persistent and continual advance towards it.” The system of democracy that India adopted after 1947 makes no allowance for such class of people. But the fact that they still exist and are accorded the same level of respect and reverence is not because this system of democracy protects them but despite it, owing to millennia of our civilizational inheritance.
To be continued
- Valmiki: Ramayana: Yuddha Kanda: 131. Verses: 100, 102, 104, 105
- Yuga is an epoch or an era in within a four-age cycle which repeats. These four are: Krita (Satya), Treta, Dwapara and Kali.
- D V Gundappa: Rajyashastra, Rajyanga—DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013) p310. Emphasis added.
- Ibid. p309
- Ibid. p319
- Ibid. p376
- Ibid. p377
- See for example, the discussion on p 309: D V Gundappa: Rajyashastra, Rajyanga—DVG Kruti Shreni: Volume 5 (Govt of Karnataka, 2013)
- M. Hiriyanna: The Indian Conception of Values: The Quest After Perfection (Prekshaa Pratishtana and W.I.S.E. WORDS, Reprint 2018) p50