The Mahabharata was also known as Jaya (victory). By using the word ‘जय,’ Vedavyasa speaks of kshaatra and valor. There, both dharma and adharma are permanent, pre-eminent. When Vyasa calls Duryodhana as “दुर्योधनो मन्युमयो महाद्रुमः” and Yudhishthira as “युधिष्ठिरो धर्ममयो महाद्रुमः” (MB 1.1.65-66), the implied meaning is ‘a kshatriya should be established in dharma and should gently nurture the world like a great tree.’
When describing Rama, Valmiki says, “कुलोचितमिति क्षात्रं धर्मं स्वं बहुमन्यते” in the beginning of the Ayodhya Kanda (1.16). Rama opined that kshaatra was the most appropriate path for his clan and took great pride in his valor. Rama knew elephant-riding, horse-riding, and was well-versed in all martial arts and techniques. If he went for war, he always returned victorious. Valmiki describes this in about 24 verses.
The maxims that can be gleaned from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are predominantly destruction of the wicked and protection of the righteous. Investigating into what is the predominant rasa of the Itihasas, the great aesthetician and scholar Anandavardhana says that the karuna rasa dominates in the Ramayana while the dominant rasa in the Mahabharata is shanta rasa. To this, we may add another rasa, that of ‘dharmavira’ – it would not be incorrect to do so. It is a predominant rasa in our epics.
In both the Vedas and the Puranas we can see a lineage of seers and kings. Again and again we see a reference to the panchajana in the Vedas; it is a reference to the five tribes (or clans) – यदु, द्रुह्यु, तुर्वष, पुरु, and आनु. The group that primarily ruled our country are the Purus. The Yadus and the Turvashas were under them. The Aanus and Druhyus went to various parts and settled there, creating colonies. In summary, we can say that these five tribes/clans grew like five families/dynasties. All these are primarily associated with the चन्द्रवंश – the moon dynasty.
In the dharmashastras, there are sections exclusively dedicated to raja-dharma that are both specific and elaborate. In the smrtis of Manu, Yajnavalkya, Narada and others, as well as the dharma-sutras of Apastamba, Bodhayana, Gautama and others, there are thousands of pages dedicated to raja-dharma. All those deal with how governance should be in a manner that is transparent and is in the best interests of the people, which are aligned to the fundamental principles of sanatana dharma.
In the राजनीति (politics) and युद्धनीति (warfare) sections of the Atharva Veda, there is a prayer –
“O deities! Ensure that we don’t have any enemies at all. Inspire us to greatness in kshaatra and in prosperity.”
From this we understand how courage was regarded and taught in Vedic times. While performing the पट्टाभिषेक for the king, the purohita says,
In the Yajurveda, we see manifestly the greatness accorded to the essence of kshaatra. An important representative of the essence of kshaatra is the ashvamedha yajna. The Taittiriya Samhita says ‘यजुर्वेदं क्षत्रियस्याहुर्योनिम्’ (18.104.22.168) suggesting that the Yajurveda is the origin of the kshatriyas.
The Age of the Vedas: Indra – a great symbol for kshaatra
In the Vedas, Indra has been called Purandara. It means that he is the Indra who destroyed the puras of asuras. The word ‘pura’ can either mean the ‘forts’ of the enemies or their ‘bodies.’ Purandara is used in the sense of one who is capable of destroying the three kinds of shariras – स्थूल, सूक्ष्म, and कारण.
Since how long has the spirit of strength and courage been in the world? Indeed for thousands of years. In the Upanishads – the preeminent portion of the Vedas – we have a famous story of the creation of braahma, kshaatra, vaishya, and shudra along with dharma (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4). All the varnas arose from Prajapati (Brahma).