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Mainstream, VOL LV No 11 New Delhi March 4, 2017

Recreating the Past, Benefiting the Masters

Sunday 5 March 2017

by O.P. Jaiswal

To understand the present political dimension and development, as well as Narendra Modi’s victory and the BJP’s rise to power driven by the dynamics of an unprecedented development promise, a campaign aided by corporate money power and a strong communal polarisation, these dynamics, clearly manifesting in different forms and as different challenges, cannot be glossed over. One will have to explore the ancient literature of India’s past, as the apex body of the BJP, the RSS, finds its roots in the past, whether it is the state, the kingship or the purohita.

As regards the state and its origin in ancient India, there are divergent views in Brahmanical and Buddhist literature. The santiparvan1 goes on to narrate that society flourished without a king, but later on somehow there was a moral degeneration, there prevailed Matsyanyya, people approached to the God and the God created ‘Virajas’ and appointed him the king. In the Dighanikya2 there is a different view. As the Buddhists did not believe in God, agreeing on lawlessness and chaos in society, there arose on the scene a person named Mahajanasammata, with whom persons made a contract to protect the society and in return the society will pay some amount for his maintenance; thus arose the state.

Apart from these theories, the Rigvedic3 evidence shows that the state originated in its natural way which may be termed as the evolutionary theory of the origin of state. The Aryan society in the early period was divided into families—Janmans, Vias and Janas. Janmans seem to have corresponded to a village consisting of people claiming a common descent, and a number of such villages joined together by a bond of kinship seem to have constituted a ‘Vis’, its chief was known as a Vipati, Vias were closely knit together and several Vias made a Jana or tribe, which had its own Janapati or king.

The available evidence shows that in the early times the state was evolved out of the institution of the joint family in India; thus for a long time the state was tribal. But in the later Vedic period the notion of a rahtra or a territorial state was gradually evolving. The Brhmana literature,4 Taittiriya Samhita, frequently refers to the emperors as the rulers not over all the tribes but over the whole earth bounded by the sea. It is clear that the notion of the territorial state was fully established by C. 1000 BC. Now the king was the fountain-source from which the Ministers and provincial Governors derived power. Among the various theories discussed above regarding the origin of the state, the most important became the Divine theory of the origin of the state in Ancient India.

Let us now examine the various theories regarding the origin of kingship in Ancient India.

The Vedic literature5 speculates about the origin of kingship and believed that the kingship arose out of a military necessity, as in the war between demon and gods, the latter were defeated; as they had no king, so they elected Soma as their king and the gods succeeded in winning victory. Later Indra being senior became the king, but ultimately Varuna managed to become the king.

Elsewhere we find that the society in the Vedic period was patriarchal and several ‘kulas’ made a ‘vis’ a ‘Jana’. Kulapatis, noted for their strength and leadership, became Vis`patis and from among Vispatis Janapati came into existence. The above theories were relegated to the back-ground and divinity of the king was firmly established by different Smritis and Puranas. Manu holds that the king is a great divinity in the human form; his very body is formed by the creator by taking particles from the bodies of the divine guardians of the eight quarters.6 The Vishnupurna7 and the Bhgavata say that a number of divinities reside in the person of the king. Nãrada maintains that the person of even a wicked king was inviolable because of his divinity.

The above examples established the divinity of kingship in Ancient India, which was in favour of the Brhmanas in the post-Vedic period. As regards the early Vedic period, it was in the tribal stage8 and the caste system had not become rigid. Later on when the caste system was fully evolved, the Brhmanas went on a contract with the Kshatriyas to share royal power amongst themselves. In the course of time when the non-Kshatriyas, namely, the Vaisyas, Sudras and non-Aryans as the Scythians, the Parthians and the Hunas established their own dynasties, the term rajan began to be applied even to the non-Kshatriyas who were actually ruling over a kingdom.

In the whole of Ancient India the majority dynasties were from the non-Kshatriyas. So, the Brhmanas developed a unique way to designate them as Kshatriyas through an elaborate ritual of coronation ceremony through which the king elect is pronounced as ‘He’, and only after sprinkling sacred water, he is called ‘king’ and when the ceremony is complete, he becomes invested with the royal office and powers; before that he is an ordinary citizen of non-Kshatriya origin.9 The Brhmana priest first performed this ceremony with the proper Vedic Mantras, which prayed with God Savitri should endow the king with energy and driving power, Indra with ruling capacity, Brihaspati with eloquence, Mitra with truth, Varuna with the capacity to protect the law. The text and context of the oath, however, make it quite clear that it was an Oath by which the king bound himself not to do harm to the priest in view of the sacred powers which he was invoking at the time of the coronation for the prosperity and safety of the king.

The Brãhmanical literatures show that the king or the state was under the leading strings of the Brãhmanas. The royal purohita knew rituals which could either promote or retard the welfare of the king and the state. The aim of the government was to promote dharma, and the laws which it enforced were regarded as divine in origin. Varnramadharma, which the state had to enforce, was largely moulded by the priests, who were the writers of the books on law. They not only claimed to be above the state, but they also put forth the right for exemption from taxation and capital punish-ment. The punishments that could be given to them were to be milder than those to be inflicted upon others. There is no doubt that the influence of the purohita over the king was great during Ancient period of India.

Varnãramadharma created by the Brh-manas for their own benefit was based on iniquitous principles which exhalts the Brh-manas and confers almost divine honour upon them, while it reduces the udras and Chandalas almost to the position of slaves, denying them the most elementary rights of a human being. The udras were prevented from holding property and were subjected to more heavier punishments than those meted out to the Brãhmanas for identical offences. The Chandalas were treated worse than dogs. “When the state became a champion of varnas and asramas, it became a party to all these iniquities. It enforced the iniquitous varnramadharma at the point of the sword to the detriment of the lower classes. It was thus based upon social injustice. It confounded dharma with the existing iniquitous social order only to protect and promote the Brhmanas. It idealised the actual instead of trying to actualise the ideal.”10

The Bunch of Thoughts by M.S. Golwalkar11 is bent upon replicating the old smritis and Purnic traditions. “As in them are embedded the priceless gems of our culture which once made the Hindu life the envy of the whole world. Nor are they to be discarded as having become impractical in these days.” Further adding and praising the other main feature that distinguished our society was the varnavyavastha. “Society was conceived of as the fourfold manifestation of the Almighty to be worshipped by all, each in his own way and according to his capcity. If a Brãhmana became great by imparting knowlege, a Kshatriya was hailed as equally great for destroying the enemy.”12 Highly appreciating the caste system, he opines that the so-called “caste-ridden” Hindu society “has remained undying and unconquerable... on the other hand, the so-called casteless societies crumbled to dust never to rise again.”13

With this ideological background Narendra Modi took advantage of the propaganda machinery as regards the so-called Gujarat development model and communal polarisation at the pan-India level; thus he came to power. But the fact is that his Gujarat model is simply a propaganada which does not exist in reality, resulting in the fact that the dream he has sold is not going to be realised. Modi and his corporate backers put their funds channelled through Modi to drive a wedge between the marginalised and the less marginalised sections so that the merger of corporate and state power is effected with ease (Mussolini saw this as the essence of fascism).14

The essence of Hinduism, historian Suvira Jaiswal has argued, lies in the caste system. Any privileging of ‘Hinduism’ over republican Constitutions, such as what Hindutva seeks to do ncessarily, entails a refurbishing of the caste inequality, caste discrimination and caste oppression. It necessarily entails, therefore, a social counter-revolution, when equality among citizens is a founding principle of the Republican Constitution of India.15

The above accounts explicitly point to who is going to be benefited.


1. Santiparvan, chap. 58.

2. Vol. III, pp. 84-96.

3. Rigvedic 11.23.3.

4. Taittiriya Samhita — 11.3.3-4.

5. A.Br., 1.14.

6. Manu, VII. 5-4.

7. Vishnu Purana I, 13-14.

8. K.P. Jayaswal, Hindu polity, pp. 184.

9. K.P. Jayaswal, Hindu polity, pp. 193.

10. Anjaria, The Nature and Ground of Political Obligation in Hindu State, pp. 175-188.

11. M.S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, pp. 59.

12. M.S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, pp. 107-8.

13. M.S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, pp. 109-10.

14. Prabhat Patnaik, Frontline, June 13, pp. 14.

15. Prabhat Patnaik, Frontline, June 13, pp. 14.

The author, now retired, was a Professor of History, Patna University. He is an ex-member, ICHR, New Delhi.