About the Author
Born in Madras on June 12, 1907, Miss pazhamaneri Chandrasekhar Dharma was educated at Ewart School, Madras, Queen Mary’s College, Madras and Presidency College, Madras. Her father Dr. P.S. Chandrasekhar, M.D., was a renowned physician, Tuberculosis specialist and a noted scholar. And her uncle Dr. Sir P.S. Sivaswamy Aiyer, was a legal luminary, statesman, publicist, savant and an authority on Indian Constitutional problems.
Miss P.C. Dharma was invited by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya to become a Lecturer at Women’s College, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) until 1968.While serving as a Lecturer in History and Economics at the BHU, Miss Dharma worked on a Thesis on The Ramayana Polity as well as a voluminous index (in several volumes) to Valmiki Ramayana, which won for her the D. Litt of Madras University in 1940. Incidentally, she was the first Research Scholar to get a D. Litt of Madras University. She was principal, Woman’s College, Banaras Hindu University, from 1959 to 1968. Dr. Dharma had contributed scholarly articles on the status of women in ancient India to several learned periodicals and articles on cultural subjects and musical themes to English and Hindi newspapers. She was also a member of the Research Programmes Committee of the Planning Commission during the fifties. And she died at Madras on November 13, 1977.
The Vedic Research and Cultural Foundation has been established with the objective of promoting research in our scriptures and for propagating Indian Culture. Among its various activities is a publication programme, and this is the second book in our planned series on various aspects of Vedic philosophy.
In recent times science and technology have made tremendous progress, and have given us fantastic benefits which are unparalleled in human history. And yet that very science and technology have given us the means of destruction, not only of the human race but perhaps of a” life on this planet. There is thus a deep crisis in the divergence between knowledge and wisdom, between “ज्ञान” and “विज्ञान”. If we are to survive as a race, we must bridge the gap between science and philosophy, and with the post-Einstenian Science, with the development of sub-nuclear physics, quantum mechanics and extra-galactic cosmology, the old rigidities of science have collapsed. Various new concepts in physics, mathematics and astronomy have brought about a situation where many of the approaches inherent in the mystical tradition are again becoming relevant.
In my view, India is the only country which can bring about this convergence between science and philosophy, because we alone of all the nations of the world have the philosophical background and also the scientific temper. The time has come when the wisdom contained in the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Epics should be widely disseminated throughout the world. It is with this end in view that the Vedic Research and Cultural Foundation has decided to bring out selected studies in this field.
The present study of the Ramayana Polity by the late Miss P.C. Dharma brings out the system of administration prevalent during the Ramayana period. It will be observed from the survey how advanced and elaborate the whole system of administration was in ancient India. The Hindu political institutions were based on very sound principles which adapted themselves to changing circumstances from time to time while retaining their basic tenets. For example, while the ancient Hindus have tried various political experiments from time to time, including absolute monarchy, constitutional monarchy, republican forms of government and democracy, the basic objective has always been the greatest good of the people and efficiency in administration. The system of administration during the Ramayana period, as analysed in this book, will surprisingly be found to compare favourably even with the most modern concepts of administration.
This study of the Ramayana Polity will prove that our ancient Epics are still relevant as guides to our present-day problems. I am sure this book will be of interest to students and scholars of political and social sciences, as well as the general readers who would like to have a new interpretation of our ancient literature. It is an auspicious coincidence that Ramayana Polity is being brought out on the occasion of the 128th Birth Anniversary of Mahaman Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, which falls on 31st December 1989, to whom the original thesis was dedicated by the late author.
It is with much pleasure that I commend this thesis. It shows great industry in gathering material and sound judgment in interpreting the material. Though it is all taken out of one book, a good deal of general knowledge has been brought to bear on the study. The ordinary reader of the Ramayana feels edified by the subject and is carried away by the entrancing story. He does not pause to note the numerous references scattered on every page to the social and political conditions of the time. These references are mostly hints which require patient co-ordination and reflection for a full understanding. When a conscientious and discriminating researcher puts these hints together and gives a more or less coherent picture of our ancient civilisation, the result is a rich measure of the joy of discovery. Miss Dharma claims that the polity disclosed by Valmiki and the material organisation of his day mark an advanced stage of development, not much inferior to, though widely different from, the institutions of our own epoch. The facts that she has assembled in this essay justify her claim abundantly. Her simple and straightforward style gives the treatment-an air of detachment and adds to its persuasiveness.
In presenting her arguments and conclusions to the present- day scholar, Miss Dharma has necessarily to use the terminology familiar to him. This has a precision and definiteness denied to that of the old time. Danger lurks in all analogy. We may not affix the exact significance of words like ambassador, minister, election; municipality to the Sanskrit names of which they are seeming equivalents. To take an example both easy and interesting. The name king-maker is parallel to the rajakartr of Valmiki. The Sanskrit of formation is striking and may tempt us to far-reaching comparisons. Yet no two conceptions can be wider apart. The king-maker in English history is not known to the law or the constitution. He is a man of uncommon ability who has raised himself by all sorts of means to a position of unquestioned command and is able to make and unmake kings. Our rajakartr is a Brahmana or noble-man of recognized status, belonging to a group called into consultation when the place of Raja is vacant. Could this group choose and determine the successor? Had it any sanction for enforcing its decision? Though the answer cannot be certain, it is probably negative. The members of this dignified body came together when Dasaratha’s death was announced and again when Bharata had concluded his obsequies. Both times the venerable Vasistha took the lead and decided the issue for them. On the first occasion he sent for Bharata, on the second he implored Bharata to take the Crown. The young prince, who had a mind of his own, had made his plans already and without hesitation brushed aside the preceptor’s counsel, though he knew it had the support of the rajakartr group. In circumstances not wholly dissimilar, Sugriva, professing reluctance all the while, allowed himself to be placed on the throne of Kishkindha, The poet, however, uses the word mantrin in this context, not rajakartr. Nor does he use it on that grand occasion when Dasaratha, having formed the project in his mind of making Rama the Yuvaraja, summons an imposing assembly, including the princes in the neighbourhood, in sent. Had the expression rajakartr acquired a definite connotation and denotation in the political parlance of the day? The commentators, though not constrained, by the text, narrow its meaning and apply it only to those who performed certain duties at the coronation.
The caution then has much cogency here as in other inquiries of the kind that identity of names does not imply more than a general correspondence of the conceptions, certainly not a close parity in details or essentials. I am sure I shall have Miss Dharma’s assent to this observation. 50 warned, let the reader place himself with confidence under her guidance. I promise him a golden harvest of wonderment and knowledge.
What historians term the Epic age or Epic period of Indian History really consists of two separate periods - the Ramayana period and the Mahabharata period. Hindu tradition ascribes the two great epics to two different periods, the Treta Yuga and the Dvapara Yuga. The term “Epic period” is the name usually given to that period in Indian History, which followed the Vedic age and lasted right up to the Buddihist period. But, the whole of this long period extending over many centuries was not characterised by the same conditions in life throughout. The conditions described in the Ramayana are different from those of a later date. At different periods’ of the so-called Epic age different kinds of institutions existed. For example, Republics were under trial during the Bharata epoch, and the Buddhist period, but they are not referred to in the Ramayana.
Many scholars have written on Ancient Hindu Polity and Sociology. But their attention has been riveted on a study mainly of the Vedas, the Mahabharata, the Arthasastra of Kautilya and other later works on Indian Polity. They have not fully utilised the information available in the Ramayana. The Ramayana has not been given its due importance. During the preparation of an Index to the Ramayana (which is yet unpublished), I came across a number of references dealing with the political and social conditions of the people. These, interesting details have been collected and worked up into a description of the polity that existed during the period subsequent to the Vedic and preceding the Bharata period.
My object in writing this thesis is to depict the political institutions as described by Valmiki in the Ramayana. Nothing has been stated herein which is not supported by passages in the Ramayana. Various books on the subject have been consulted, and a bibliography is appended.
The significance of the story of the Ramayana has been variously interpreted by scholars. Lassen and following him, Weber considered the Ramayana as an allegorical representation of the first attempt of the Aryans to conquer South India. But Rama is nowhere described as founding an Aryan realm in the Dekkan. As pointed out by Macdonell, Rama’s expedition is nowhere represented as producing any change in the civilization of the south. Jacobi opined that the epic was based on mythology. None of these views seems to be acceptable.
The Epic is a biographical sketch of the life and career of Rama (his youth, his exile, and his fight with Ravana, composed in the form oif a musical composition - the Gita. The main poem consists of Books I to VI though it is II to VI according to some scholars. The poem starts from Book 1-5-1. Evidently the date of composition of this part must have been earlier than that of Book VII which is considered to be spurious by many. It is quite possible that Book VII or a large portion of it might have been later additions. But Hindu tradition has all along accepted this Seventh Book as a part of Valmiki’s work.
In the preparation of this thesis I have to acknowledge gratefully the valuable help and suggestions received from Mr. V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar of the Madras University, and my father Dr. P.S. Chandra Sekhar.
The references given in the body of the thesis are to the pages of Sri mad Valmiki Ramayana edited by T. R. Krishnacharya of Kumbakonam and published by the Hindi Prachar Press, Madras (1929).
System of government
Permanent officials - departmental heads
Administration of law and justice
Local administration - municipal
Military organisation and wars
Rockets are ancient history
List of books consulted
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