The Science of Kingship in Ancient India, Part 32


BY: SUN STAFF - 29.8 2018

King Ramacandra and Sita Devi

The religious dictates that influenced kingship in Vedic culture.


We now come to a very important point. From an abundance of data we may conclude that the ancient Indians were deeply impressed firstly by the broadness and extensiveness of heaven and atmosphere, secondly by the fact that the surface of the earth, especially in the plains, is broad"—Sanskrit names for our planet are, inter alia, prthivi and urvi the broad one", mahi "the great one"—and thirdly that the blessings of heaven need room and broadness to reach the earth.

Significantly enough the great opponent of the god Indra, the heroic warrior god, was called vrtra- the "coverer, restrainer, he who obstructs", and the much feared amhas "anxiety, oppression, distress (in German: Bedrangnis)" belongs to a family of words meaning "narrow-(ness)". Only if there is room the blessings of heaven, light and rain, can reach the earth, only then the earth can produce food, only then man has 'Lebensraum'. This earth is wide or capacious (vyacasvati) and broad (prathasvati) the Sama-yeda says 618). In putting a specified brick which is explicitly identified with the breath on the fire altar when being built this formula commentary is used, and the words "broaden thou, thou art the broad (earth, prthivi)" added.

Now, royal power and the potencies connected with and furthered by it need room and are at the same time considered to be able to create room. The king is expected to make conquests, to extend the boundaries of his realm, to give his people 'Lebensraum 619). He should be a vijiglsu-, ambitious and desirous of victory 620). The imperative vijayasva rajan "be victorious, O king" or simply jayatu devah "victory to the king" serves as a counterpart of our "long live, glory or hail to thee" 621).

The verb, which already occurs in a beautiful hymn to Indra 622), "without whom men do not conquer, whom they when fighting call for help" is elsewhere applied to the god himself 623), "when lndra and the snake (Vrtra) fought, the former remained victorious (vi jigye) for the future". Visnu's conquests (vijiti-), referred to in the Satapatha-brahmana 624) are the works of this god who, representing pervasiveness, was mainly concerned with the conveyance of the heavenly blessing to all parts of the universe 625).

How closely the idea of vijaya- "victory" was connected with sri- "welfare, fortune, and majesty" and bhuti- "prosperity" appears also from the famous last stanza of the Bhagavad-gita 626).

The upasads (a ceremony preceding the pressing of the soma) are jitis "victories", "by them the gods gained an unrivalled victory (asapatnam vijitim vyajayanta); he who knows thus gains an unrivalled victory 627). From such texts it again appears that the divinities in heaven were credited with qualities and aspirations which were regarded as belonging to a king.

Apart from other valuable or much desired objects such entities as the earth, heaven, the three worlds 628) are among those striven after by royal persons. "No monarch can acquire the earth, prosperity (bhuti-) and royal well-being (sri-) by being only dharmatma" 629). Like samraj- beside raj- and viraj-, sam-ji- occurs to accompany ji- and vi-ji-; at the end of a long text intended to conquer enemies 630) It reads: "On this side conquer (jaya), on this side conquer in various directions (vi jaya), conquer completely (sam jaya), conquer (jaya)" 631). "Being a tiger, upon the tiger's skin 632) do thou stride out (vi kramasva) unto the great quarters of the sky (i.e. unto all directions)" 633) thus the monarch is addressed when he is consecrated. The tiger is explicitly stated to be the ksatram or "ruling power" of the wild animals 634). Among the objects required in the ceremony is a sheet of gold which is to be put on the head of the prince. Gold is a manifestation of dominion or nobility (ksatra-) 635)

There is another compound with vi- a prefix expressing such ideas as distribution, being or going through or between—which is often connected with kingship, to wit vikrama- 636). Vigil's striding, reference to which has already been made, is generally denoted by this term. It denotes a process of world-wide character. By striding, Visnu was believed to create ample room. The act increases the prosperity and victoriousness of the gods. The ksatriya however also increases in sri- by vikrama- which in connection with heroes and princes is usually translated by "heroism, strength, prowess" 637). In this more general sense it is ascribed to Indra and great kings.



618) Vaj. S. 13, 17; cf. Sat. Br. 7, 4, 2, 6.

619) Hence the statement (see e.g. Parasarasmrti 1, 68) that apart from the man of royal birth two men are fit to ascend the throne: the hero and the general.

620) Cf. Mbh. 1, 62, 20; Manu 7, 99; 9, 251; Ramayana 3, 16, 7; Kalidasa, Raghuvamsa 1, 7, etc. A definition is provided by the Nitivakyamna 114, 15 f.: "a king who is endowed with personality (atman-), luck (destiny, divine anointment: daiva-), and the constituent elements (or necessary attributes), (who is) the basis of traditional power and forceful heroism (kramavikrama-), is a vijigisu-. See also Kulluka on Manu 7, 155. For the digvijaya- in kavya: Upadhyaya, India in Kalidasa, p. 114 ff.

621) Cf. e.g. also Kalidasa, Vikramorvasiya, 5, 20+, where the heir-apparent (whose consecration is described) is hailed: vijayatam yuvarajah.

622) RV. 2, 12, 9.

623) RV. 1, 32, 13.

624) Sat. Br. 3, 7, 1, 17.

625) For the relations between Visnu and kingship see also my Aspects of Early Visnuism, ch. 23.

626) Bhagavad-gita 18, 78 "Where is Krsna and Arjuna, there will surely be fortune (sri-), victory (vijaya-), welfare (bhuti-) and morality (niti-)", that is to say: when the kingly man representing active and aspiring humanity is enlightened by and united with the Divine, fortune etc. are assured. Cf. also Kam. Nit. 1, 1, yasya prabhavad bhuvanam sasvate pathi tisthati devah sa jayati sriman dandadharo viahipatih.

627) Ait. Br. 1, 24, 1.

628) The earth, e.g. Sat. Br. 13, 5, 4, 13 (the whole earth); Mbh. 1, 62, 21; heaven, e g. Mbh. 1, 91, 16; the three worlds, e.g. Manu 2, 232 ("and radiant like a god, he will enjoy bliss in heaven").

629) Mbh. 3, 33, 58.

630) Atharvaveda 8, 8, 24.

631) It is not part of our task to enter into a discussion of the "policy of reality" based on these conceptions: see e.g. J. J. Meyer, Welt-u. S p LXII.

632) When being consecrated the king strides to the various quarters and steps on the skin of a tiger, establishing himself in the power of that animal.

633) Atharvaveda 4, 8, 4; Taittiriya-brahmana 2, 7, 15 3.

634) Ait. Br. 8, 6.

635) Sat. Br. 13, 2, 2, 17.

636) Gonda, Aspects of early Visnuism, p. 61 ff.

637) Cf. e.g. Mbh. 13, 6, 16; Varah. BS. 68, 92; 69, 11.