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Kingship in The Sukra Niti (An Old and Rare Book)

Kingship in The Sukra Niti (An Old and Rare Book)
Item Code: NAR515
Author: Vandana Nagar
Publisher: Parimal Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1992
Pages: 166
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.34 kg
About the Book

While the greatness of the Arthakistra as a study in state-craft is universally acknowledged surprisingly the Sukra-Nui ascribed to Sukracharya the legendary preceptor of the Asuras and repeatedly mentioned by other ancient law-givers, has not received the attention it deserves.

In the eight chapters of this book the author provides a brilliant exposition of gukra's theories of politics and state-craft. One of the significant propositions of this study is the author's claim that gukra's views, have a touch of modernity when he expounds the caste system in terms of virtue and occupation. In the ideology of gukra, the iron law of Karma acts powerfully and is applicable to the social divisions. As a corollary of the doctrine of Karma, Sukra-Niti has added another dimension relevant to the present tension-ridden society that the strength and happiness stem from the performance of one's Dharrna (Duty). Duty-Consciousness is as much applicable to the king as to the common citizen. Accordingly, to gukra, it is not birth but virtues that make a king. This study of Sukra assumes added significance when the author identifies progressive elements in Sukra which are in tune with the modern democratic theory. gukra's observation that the wise king should abide by the well thought-out decisions of the councillors and never act arbitrarily illustrates this point. Accordingly, the opinion of many is more powerful than of the king.

The author has made the study more interesting by comparing gukra with western thinkers like Plato and Machiavelli, on the one hand, and linking it up with current democratic thought, on the other. Besides, she has also dwelt upon gukra's pragmatism as also his progressive approach towards contemporary social and political problems of mankind.

About the Author

Miss Vandana Nagar is a Lecturer in Political Science at Daulat Ram College for Women, University of Delhi, Delhi.

After taking her B. A. (Hons) and Master's degrees in political science from the University of Delhi, She is now engaged in M. Phil. research in the field of comparative political theory.

Miss Nagar is now planning to publish another title Sukra and Plato: a comparative study.

Kingship in the Sukra-Niti is her first contribution to political studies. Her interest in Indian classics and modern political literature, a rare combination, provides a vantage point from where to venture into an unexplored area of reconstruction of political theory.


Apart from the Works of Benoy Kumar Sarkar and a few scattered articles published in some historical and theoretical journals, no systematic study or analysis of the text of the Sukra-NW as a political treatise has been attempted so far. Scholars have mostly reflected on the genius of Kautilya in his Arthafastra, which by itself, is a highly rewarding exercise as it also sets a pattern for the study of other equally profound thinkers. But a study-in-depth of sukra-Niti awaits its turn.

The literal meaning of the word gukra is radiant and the planet Venus is also referred to as Sukra. However, in the Hindu mythology, Sukra and Brhaspati, are known as the expounders of Hindu polity. Whereas Brhaspati was the preceptor of the gods, gukra was the teacher of demons in the science of polity. There are various anecdotes connected with these two renowned teachers of the Hindu theology.

In the early Vedic literature, `Usanas' and Teivya', frequently occur and these two names are linked with wisdom and politics. Usanas is accorded high respect which is evident from the Bhagvad-gita wherein Ulanas is regarded the greatest of the learned-Kavinam Usana Kavih". In the later literature gukra is a common name and is also known by another name Bhargava because he was the son of Bhrgu. Thus, there are the four synonyms for Sukra-Usanas, Kavya, Sukra and Bhrgu.

We are confronted with the problem whether these four names are of one and the same person or they are for different persons. In the Mahabharata and the Purazias, gukra and Wanas are used inter-changeably and it appears that gukra and Uganas mean one and the same person. There may be conflicting opinions with regard to the problem of the identity of gukra but by the occurrence of the word Illanas in the Vedas, which is yet another name for Sukra, it is evident that there existed a very old tradition of the science of polity, deep-rooted in the Vedas which originated from Wanas or Kavya and in the later period popularly came to be known under the name of Sukra. Thus, the Niti of Sukra has its roots in the Vedas and represents the sublime thoughts of ancient Hindu polity.

A deeper insight into the text of Sukra-Niti reveals Sukra as a dynamic author with a vision reflecting on problems of human character and politics. His sound political philosophy has a radical orientation making it germane to the contemporary political situation. For example, in placing reason over sacred authority, he anticipates the principle embodied in the present Constitution of the Indian Republic.

In the spirit of a social reformer, Sukra introduces a new basis and interpretation to the Varna system which subsequently degenerated into the caste-system by his advocacy of the principle of virtue and performance as the distinctive marks of the different castes. Here, curiously, he takes an unorthodox position and signifies a break from the traditional conservative theory of Varna. In assigning to each individual a station in the social order, with corresponding duties and responsibilities, Sukra resembles Plato, who, also in his picture of the ideal state, provides for three classes of people the statesman, the warrior and the artisan labourer with duties peculiar to their stations. Subsequently, Sukra's king owes power not so much to heredity as to the qualities of head and heart.

Yet another striking feature of the Sukra-Niti is its re-affirmation of the principles of political science, especially, the theory of relationship between ethics and politics. According to Sukra, political life is not independent of moral life because every political problem is basically a moral problem in the maintenance of the social order. The state has the moral purpose to fulfil. It is the primary duty of the Prince in Sukra's system to maintain Dharma not only in the higher conceptions as the disinterested life of active duty, but also in its conventional sense as the duty prescribed to an individual by his station in the social order.

This has great usefulness in the present context when political morality is on the decline. The virtue of self-discipline in rulers, who are supposed to set examples to others in behaviour and con-duct, is sadly lacking today. Sukra's prescription that discipline should percolate downwards from the king to the subjects via administrative officials has an immense political value for today.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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