The Science of Kingship in Ancient India, Part 37


BY: SUN STAFF - 6.9 2018

King Nahusha Falls From Heaven


The religious dictates that influenced kingship in Vedic culture.

CHAPTER XX – Part Three

The viraj- is not only food, it is also sri 714) AVI 12, 3, 11 viraj- is identified with dhruva "the fixed quarter", i.e. the 'point of the heavens' directly under the feet: we are reminded of 14, 2, 15 where the bride when made to stand firm on a stone is addressed as viraj-, whereas SB. 12, 6, I, 40 and elsewhere 715) viraj- is identified with the earth; cf. also AV. 3, 17, 2. Hence also the connection between fixed quarter, viraj- and Visnu alluded to in AM 15, 14, 5, Visnu being concerned with the axis mundi 716). AVI 13, 3, 5 it is spoken of as being set in the sun, together with Paramesthin, Agni and others (see above).

From 8, 9, 10 it appears that she is thought of as ordering or arranging, as striding, as being connected with seasons and dawns; from "that she is supposed to be the same that 'first shone forth' (vi-vas-)"; that she goes among "these other ones (fem.)", having entered (them); that greatness is in her, that she is a bride, a mother, who has conquered. One can become the abode of viraj- and of all the gods and deities by "knowing thus": AV. 15, 6, 8. AV. 9, 2, 5 the term under discussion is associated with vac "speech" and a milk-cow, which is the daughter of Kama, i.e. "Love".

In later texts viraj- is also used in the sense of ksatriya-, a member of the ruling class; e.g. in the Mahabharata 717) where the commentator Nilakantha explains it by virajamanah: the king meant is Pururavas. In illustration of the connotations implied in the term viraj- attention may also be drawn to a stanza in the Atharvaveda 718) where the upper beam of a house which is built is implored to be powerful (ugra-) and viraj-, driving off the enemies. This beam, like another viraj-, for instance a king by extending itself in a high position, protects the inhabitants of the house. That a mighty and protecting power was believed to be inherent in a viraj- may further appear from other passages in the same corpus; a special offering is invoked to bear rule widely in its own field, being free from disease 719).

Among these who are said to bear that rule is Prajapati; the viraj- also became the controlling Indra 720), who elsewhere is such a mighty personality 721). He who vi-rajati frees from distress 722). In the Rgveda the verb is not infrequently used, inter alia in the sense of "having the disposal of, caring for, guarding, ruling, prosecuting a profession, ranking above etc".

Viraj may therefore be regarded as having been, in ancient times, a power of very high rank representing universal expansiveness, which involves being powerful and creative, and producing food and refreshment. In the etymological explication given by Yaska 723) this character is, to a certain extent, reflected: according to him the term viraj- derives from either virdjana-, i.e. "ruling widely, being eminent", or viradhana- "being loose, deviation", or viprapana- "expansion". Of course, only the first combination can stand criticism— vi- expressing the idea of distribution, of "being apart, asunder" or "through"— and the above brief study of the term may therefore shed some light on the ideas associated with the root raj- in general and the substantive rajan- with which it often combines, in particular. The king is indeed characterized by expansiveness, by universality, by creativeness and productiveness; he is the totality of the people and the realm.

As to the connotations expressed by the compound vi-rajati they cannot always be distinguished from the meaning of the simplex. Yet, such passages as RV. 5, 63, 7 visvam bhuvanam virdjasi "rules the whole world" (Mitra and Varuna); 5, 55, 2 "ye rule far and wide" (urviya, Maruts); 1, 3, 12 "thou art mistress over all thoughts" (Sarasvati); 5, 8, 5 "thou bearest sway over many foods" (Agni), and especially Sat. Br. 8, 5, 1, 5 yo vdva sarvasu diksu virajati sa eva virdjati "who bears sway in all regions of the universe, he may be said to bear sway" unequivocally show that this verb often helps to emphasize the idea of "widely, everywhere". Like raj- it can also express the idea of "being illustrious, conspicuous, eminent" in various contexts dealing with good fortune and prosperity 724).

The word svaraj- "self-ruling, independent" also deserves a passing notice. As a compound it belongs to the same group as svapati- (Rgveda) "one's own lord" 725), said of Indra and Agni; svayasas- (Ved.) "glorious, illustrious through one's own" (Indra, Agni, Soma, the waters, etc.); svabhanu- (RV.) "self-luminous" (Usas, the Maruts etc.); svabhu- (later Upan. and sutras) "self-existent" (Brahma, Visnu, Siva); whereas svayu- "ruling of one's own free will or own right" (RV.) is, side by side with svaraj- and svayasastara-, an epithet of Indra 726).

The compound svarajan- "self-ruling, a self-ruler", which inter alia occurs in the Taittiriya-texts, applies to Indra, the brahmans etc. 727). The term svaraj-, which in the Vedic texts is of considerable occurrence, is not infrequently used in a remarkable way 728): in connection with the swift celestial courses of the Asvins; with the immortal Maruts, with a "foremost heaven-winner", with Indra whom people worship respectfully, who in extent surpasses heaven, earth and atmosphere, who is the one who disposes of possessions, who is to wield the power called ojas, who is the first among the highest; with the Adityas and their mother Aditi, "the protectors of the inviolable divine ordinances, who as 'kings' (rajanah, i.e. svaminah "lords" Sayana) are very powerful"; with the rich and wealthy Varuna, who shall surpass all others in greatness.

Autocracy (svarajyam) is in the Atharvaveda characterized as that beyond which there is nothing else existent. It belongs to Indra after having defeated the Vrtra, that is to say, after having expelled him from heaven and earth. But the svarajyam of Mitra and Varuna is also qualified as most expansive (vyacistha-) and "protecting many" (bahupayya).



714) For references Early Visnuism, l.e.

715) Mbh. 12, 262, 41.

716) See Early Visnuism, p. 81 ff.; 173.

717) Mbh. 1, 75, 23.

718) AV. 3, 12, 6.

719) AV. 11, 1, 22.

720) AV. 11, 5, 16.

721) AV. 6, 98, 2.

722) AV. 19, 42, 4.

723) Yaska, Nirukta, 7, 13.

724) See Aspects of early Visnuism, p. 200.

725) That means: "uber den kein anderer gebietet" (H. Grassmanx, Worterbuch sum Rig-veda, 1626).

726) Rgveda 3, 45, 5.

727) For the opposite anyarajan- see Chandogya-upanisad 7, 25, 2.

728) See Rgveda t, 181, 2; 5, 58, I; Atharvaveda 5, 2, 8; Rgveda 1, 61, 9; 8, 81, 4; 61, 2; 45, 5; 49, 2; 8, 69, 17; 7, 66, 6; 2, 28, 1; Atharvaveda 10, 7, 31; Rgveda r, 80; 5, 66, 6.