There was a time in India when the automatic primogeniture choice of the king was not in force. How the new ruler was chosen was very interesting. When the King died, the main temple elephant was given a garland which it carried in its trunk and went around the city. Suddenly it would garland a person…nobody knew why…and that person automatically became King. It was accepted as a Divine choice.
The Mahabharata talks about an ancestor who fell in love with a fisherwoman who was rowing him across the river. She bargained that if she married the lovesick king, her son would be King even though he had sons already from the reigning consort. This was the beginning of a series of events that led to a dirty, 18 days war that annihilated the family factions leaving only one grandchild to rule. The Bhagavad Gita is part of this ancient epic which has sections that lay down the rules and regulations of an ideal king.
The Ramayana also talks about Ram Rajya…the rule of Rama. After the destruction of the Rakshasa clan headed by Ravana, the evil ten headed despot, Rama returns to Ayodhya…that has been in the news so much recently in India…and establishes his reign based on equality, justice and Dharma. The relevance of the important values and concepts of the Ramyana is the guidelines set for the familial, social and political spheres of the modern world
Rama Rajya is an everlasting ideal. It denotes a harmonious pursuit of the four goals – dharma-righteous duty; artha-material prosperity; kama-legitimate pleasures; and moksha-spiritual liberation. Rama Rajya is as appropriate for the different modern times of jet, nuclear and astronaut ages as it was for a world of bows, arrows and horse carriages.
Several thousand years have passed and people still remember the reign of Sri Rama as an ideal one. The expression and idea of Rama Rajya is held sacred in India. Rama Rajya denotes the reign of King Rama and stands for good administration, material prosperity and moral and spiritual well-being of a nation. For the people of Ayodhya Ram Rajya, was like Bhuloka Vaikuntam- heaven on earth, the kingdom of God on earth.
Sage Valmiki, the poet author of both the Ramayana and Mahabarata describes Rama Rajya at the end of the Pattabhishekam sargam, No. 128—the last sarga of the Yuddha Kanda in the Valmiki Ramayanam. The poet says that there was peace and prosperity everywhere. All the citizens were happy and content. There were no untimely death, people lived up to their full life span and free from all diseases and grief. The seasons never failed, the land yielded crops in abundance and the trees blossomed perennially with flowers and fruits. The winds were always pleasant and there were no devastating floods or cyclones. Trade flourished and there was plenty and more importantly, equity. As there was no one in the land who was needy, there was no need to give charity. There were no thefts anywhere and there were no signs of internal or external trouble. In Ram Rajya, Valmiki concludes, the idea of Bhuloka Vaikuntam became a reality.
The Ideal Ruler
The qualities of an ideal ruler that Sri Rama possessed were balam or strength; dhrti or courage; sthairyam or stability and firmness in resolve; viryam or prowess; pratapa for valour; daya as compassion; samatvam in equanimity; and sauryam displayed as heroism. Sri Rama was called the Maryada Purushottama, one who lived his life according to the rules and limits, boundaries, restrictions of Dharma. He inspired all his subjects to be virtuous, noble and truthful.
Sri Rama was well-versed in the lofty principles of Rajya Sastra . He was guided by the wise advice of his Guru,the great sage Vasishta. The sages were learned, spiritual and wise men who advised the kings, but were not personally involved in the administration. They were detached and humane, very objective and mentors who gave sagacious advice and guidance.
Raja Rama dedicated himself to ruling the country. He was a beloved king, a benefactor of his subjects. He was always concerned about the welfare of the citizens and assiduous about protecting them and keeping them happy. He considered it as the worst curse if he were to fail in his paramount duty as a king. It is interesting to note what Veda Vyasa said: ‘ Raja kalasya karanam'(MB 12-69 -79)- ‘the King is responsible for the time’ implying that a ruler is responsible either for the good or for the bad condition of the nation at a particular time or period.
The administration in Rama Rajya
Rama was helped by ministers who were men of integrity and capability, unequalled in bravery. They had sound knowledge of the nation and its people and their needs, were alert and always available to attend to the affairs of the king and kingdom. The success of a king depended on the wise advice of His Council of Ministers.
The treasury was in very trustworthy and capable hands. Income was above expenditure and the system of taxation was not a burden on the people. Law and order was well established as honesty and dharma formed the basis of all action. Justice was equitable. There was no fear of adharma and people lived a peaceful life.
Heritage buildings and places of worship were protected. The environment was given particular attention; water resources were regularly cleaned and maintained and agricultural needs were diligently attended to.
Scholars were respected and rewarded. In a society where there was peace and plenty, art and culture flourished. All the departments of administration and governance were well managed and grievances of the people were promptly addressed with due concern. Every policy of the kingdom was dedicated to public welfare and people’s service.
People in Rama Rajya
In Rama Rajya, there was only one caste—humanity. All sections of people were treated with dignity, irrespective of their profession. Liberty, equality and fraternity were adhered to. Hence, the people of the kingdom were all happy and contented in the pursuit of their own duty/dharmas that was aimed at for their own good and the good of the society as a whole. It was a culture where emphasis was on individual duties rather than individual rights. The beautiful concept of Rama Rajya was that each person carried out his or her individual duties which resulted in the rights of every person in society being guaranteed. As all were in harmony with the natural laws and the forces of nature, Nature showered blessings on the people and nation.
There was a time when the King would dress up as a commoner and go at dusk into the marketplace and listen to the common man’s voices. He could hear their problems and complaints, the issues that his people faced and set about remedying them. This was his connection to the grass roots of his nation.
Ram Rajya got lost in the mists of time. The thirst for power, ownership, subjugation and greed took over the psyche of the ruler. He became isolated in his palace. He surrounded himself with sycophants, debauching influences and habits and gradually, the King became just a figurehead whose Ministers and family members exploited to build up their own selfish interests. Class structures came in and the poor were exploited, denuded and kept in ignorance and darkness.
Democracy was a western concept that India adopted with a dream of establishing a society of equity and equanimity. The Democratic model of the West was stuffed and packed into the framework of the Indian ruling system. There were lofty ideals of the poor and downtrodden being uplifted…but the laws enacted made the class structure more deeply entrenched. The rich became richer…the poor and needy became poorer and needier. Democracy became a chess board for the elite to play their chessmen according to different gambits.
All is not gloom…we can see a great deal of efforts being made to balance inequities. Education has helped people come above and way beyond their abject poverty levels. Yet, the political games that are held for the seizure of power and rule makes you wonder whether this democracy idea is in anyway viable.
Democratic leaders of third world countries need to focus on food, shelter, health, education and sustainability in terms of employment. However, in all the hurrah of power and success, our leaders lose sight of the woods for the trees. Their focus, in many countries, is on their image, their universal standing…something they achieved through the vote of the commoners in their nation. Today, in India Ram Rajya has also become a tool in the hands of manipulators who present the facade of the ideal while losing sight of the actual import of an ideal rule.
Can we relook at the concept of Ram Rajya where there is no need at all? The Ramayana’s glory lies in its power to inspire us to broaden our consciousness from individual needs and demands to the larger benefit of humanity. It transports the mundane mind from a narrow human perspective to the human-divine paradigm. The Ramayana is an exploration of this voyage from the mundane to the spiritual plane of existence.
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Raju Natarajan. I wanted to shine a beacon on an important part of the Indian dream…..the draem of Ram Rajya!
The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Padmini.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they say about Democracy.