Saturday, 14 November 2015

Raghuvamsha Sarga 1 | Shloka 5-8

The next 4 verses describe the qualities of the Raghu dynasty. Kalidasa later says that with kings who are so great, he could not resist writing about them! 

After much pondering, I felt that these verses needed to be dealt with much more emphasis as these shlokas are nothing but pure gems. (especially given the contemporary political situation! ) So, I will not be discussing them in the manner we followed before.

Each shloka as you might have noticed by now has 32 syllables and is divided into quarters [पादम्]. The metre employed here by Kalidasa [छन्दः] is known as the anushtup [अनुष्टुप्]  and is one of the most popular metres in sanskrit. In each quarter, Kalidasa describes one quality of the kings of the Raghu dynasty and hence, we will go through the shlokas in 16 points. Kannada and Hindi summaries will follow at the end. The meaning and 'some thoughts' will be merged into one! 

And so it begins...

1. सोऽहमाजन्मशुद्धानाम्

Perhaps a dunce like me [सोऽहं]  is writing about people who are pure right from birth. [आजन्मशुद्धाः].

What does this mean? Children must not be accidents of birth! Instead, the couple must beget children after they are in a position to raise them in all aspects (mentally, physically, emotionally and financially). Such a child will naturally grow up in an environment that is full of positivity and will imbibe values so that it will tread the path of  righteousness (dharma) the rest of its life. This is very important in general, more so for an heir-apparent. 

2. आफलोदयकर्मणाम्

People who have the will to work relentlessly till they reach their objective. 

This should taken mostly in the context of serving their subjects. The grievances of the subjects should be addressed immediately and efforts should be undertaken until the completion of the task. 

3. आसमुद्रक्षितीशानाम्

People who are the rulers of a vast territory that stretches from one ocean to another.

Ruling over vast territories commands the respect of other rulers and deters invasions. For example, Alexander was hesitant to take on the mighty Magadha empire which ruled over most parts of India. Raghu of this dynasty is said to have ruled a territory that stretched from central asia to South India. 

4. आनाकरथवर्त्मनाम्

Those who could drive their chariots till the heavens when necessary.

This refers to the defense capabilities of the rulers. These kings were capable of even challenging Indra if needed. Many of these kings are supposed to have lent their support to Indra in his battles against demons.

A ruler that controls such vast territories must maintain an exceptionally powerful military force. This is more to deter enemies or internal rebellion than to attack other territories. It is strategically sensible to maintain a strong army as deterrence is more likely to achieve stability and peace. A weak military can result in fragmentation of a country and gives scope for immoral forces to seize power which is detrimental to the society. 

This is in clear contrast to the current of view of ahimsa/non-violence i.e. to totally give up war! For example, the Maurya empire that included rapidly declined after Ashoka sd giving up war totally led to a slack in the maintenance of their military force.

5. यथाविधिहुताग्नीनाम् 

Those who perform ritual-fires as ordained by religious duty.

Timely sacrifices [ यागः - sacrifice is a poor translation that English has to offer ]  to gods ensure timely rains, harvest,etc. These are needed for the well-being of the subjects and hence, the duty of a great king. Also, after the succesfull completion of yajnas like ashwamedha, vishwajit, etc the king used to distribute wealth and grain to his subjects. People from all walks of the society were welcome and were awarded appropriately by the king. These events also helped in socialization and building goodwill. 

6. यथाकामार्चितार्थिनाम्

Kings who fulfill the desires of their supplicants without having an air of superiority 

These kings were noble enough to not look down upon their supporters / subjects as weaklings. Anyone who came to the king asking for a favor was given all the support by the king without any condescension. 

7. यथाऽपराधदण्डानाम् 

Those who punish offenders in a manner proportional to the offense. (and without delay)

In the Hindu system of administration, the king is the custodian of justice. The objective of punishment was to 
- incapacitate i.e. a rebellion by a subordinate king was quelled without haste, etc
- deter i.e. the offenders were made an example so a similar offense does not recur.
- rehabilitate - The punishment should help the offender atone for his mistakes and take corrective action. 
The king's duty was to award a punishment that brings back the offenders back into the path of धर्म or righteousness by creating a situation to atone for his misdeeds. प्रायस्चित्त or atonement is a self-imposed punishment taken up by the offender either for personal satisfaction or that of the society (to be accepted again in its folds). 

There is an interesting set of thoughts that I read in Avarana by S L Bhairappa on the nature and degree of atonement. 
1. If the offense was committed unknowingly, the प्रायश्चित्त can be minimal. 
2. If the offense was committed with the full knowledge of the person, the प्रायश्चित्त needs to be severe enough that the person does not commit the mistake again
3. If the offense was committed knowingly and openly ( publicly in a manner provoking others to commit the same offense ), then the प्रायश्चित्त  should not only be severe but also be undertaken in public. 

Even in the kingdom of Mysore (ruled by the wodeyars till 1947), the district commissioners and other high-ranking officers played an important role in administering justice (in the name of the king). It can be observed that the parties accepted this justice and the officers rarely abused this power vested in them. (With great power comes great responsibility was drilled into them). This system was speedy and as the proceedings were carried out in public where people could suggest to the officer, it was also a democratic one. The intention of the judicial system was not only to punish appropriately but also to bring the quarrelling parties together. Given how our judicial system works, this is very important and relevant. 

8. यथाकालप्रबोधिनाम्

Those who understand the changing times and advocate accordingly. 

It is a common tendency to stick to age old practices that are irrelevant and outdated. The king is expected to constantly change his actions both with times and with situations.  

9. त्यागाय संभृतार्थानाम् 

Those who earn fortunes with the sole intention of giving it up for the sake of the needy. 

As a king this is a very important quality. For example, the taxes collected were supposed to be used solely for the purpose of the subjects. Kalidasa has a verse on this later in his description of Raghu. He tells that Raghu collected taxes from his subjects only to give it back similar to the sun which sucks water from the ground only to give it back in the form of rain! 

10. सत्याय मितभाषिणाम् 

Those who speak less (as much as the situation requires) for the sake of truth. 

When a person speaks a lot, it is possible that he exaggerates or lies. (by probability ? ) Hence, the king must speak minimally and only after giving it much thought. 

For the GoT fans out there: Tywin?

11. यशसे विजिगीषूणाम्

Those who are ambitious conquerors for the sake of establishing their supremacy.

The objective of a war was only to establish their preeminence. It was not to seek revenge and impose their beliefs, cultures and traditions. Both mythology and history have innumerable instances where the opposing king was restored to his full glory by the victor after due apology or प्रायश्चित्त. I guess Prithviraj Chauhan followed this but forgot point 8 which was his (and the country's ? ) undoing.

Again for the GoT folk: Aegon the conqueror or even Robert perhaps ? 

12. प्रजायै गृहमेधिनाम्

Those who marry for the sake of begetting a progeny worthy of carrying forward the dynasty. 

The king's duty does not end if he rules the land justly. It is also his responsibility to raise a child capable of continuing the rule in a just manner ensuring that the society does not collapse into chaos. A king must marry with the sole intention of fulfilling this duty towards the society.

If the son is unwilling or unfit to take over the reigns of the kingdom, it is the moral obligation of the king to appoint a worthy successor to the throne. Failing in this duty has been the undoing of many empires in the past. 

The next verse discusses what kings must follow in the four stages (आश्रम ) of life. 

13. शैशवेऽभ्यस्तविद्यानाम् 

Those who learn (and master) studies when they are young. A king is expected to be well-read in the following:

- Veda - the 4 vedas 
- Upaveda
   - Arthashastra - economics, statecraft and strategy
   - Dhanurveda - Archery ( can be modified to weaponry for the present world? )
   - Gandharva veda - Performing arts like music, theatre and dance. 
   - Ayurveda - medicine
- Vedangas
   - Shiksha - phonetics / phonology
   - Kalpa - rituals [ the sulba-sutras which deal about creating altars are a part of this. This mentions pythagoras theorem hundreds of years before him ] 
   - Vyakarana - grammar
   - Nirukta - Etymology
   - Chandas - metre ( for example, the shlokas encountered till now are written in anushtup meter as explained in the beginning)
   - Jyotisha - Science that encompasses both astronomy and astrology. This also includes the measurement of time and space. For example, we see these texts mentioning time scales from 1e-06 to 1e21.

14. यौवने विषयैषिणाम्

Those who pursue material pleasures in their adulthood. 

It is a common misconception that Hinduism promotes the idea of completely giving up worldly pleasures. It advocates that ideally a person must indulge in material pleasures when he must ( i.e. in his youth ) and give it up when he must as evident in the next quarter. 

15. वार्द्धके मुनिवृत्तीनाम् 

Those who retire and lead a life similar to that of sages in their old age

A great king should retire gracefully and pass the baton to the next generation. He should lead a life of simplicity and gradually distance himself from worldly matters. [ vanaprastha ashrama ]. The effects of old age like becoming physically weak and being forgetful prevent a king from functioning efficiently and hence, become a burden on the society. 

Don't you think this is the beauty of our dharma ? A person who is ruling a vast kingdom gracefully gives it up in an instant and retires to the forests. 

16. योगेनान्ते तनुत्यजाम्

Those who give up their bodies through yoga or meditation ( in the end )

These great kings had it in them to decide the time of their death and not vice-versa (like it happens with most of us mortals!). They were mature enough to call it a day! How many of us can do this? 

I think that if the people of our country knew this, we would not have elected the kind of leaders we have now! The standards for being a king are so high and indeed our land is blessed to have produced kings of such great stature. 

The dynasty is referred by Raghu as he is the only one who satisfied all the above criteria. It should be noted that even Rama (of the same dynasty) who is believed to be an incarnation of god himself did not satisfy all of the criteria! 

ಇಂತಹ ( ಮಂದಮತಿಯಾದ ) ನಾನು 
ಹುಟ್ಟಿನಿಂದಲೂ ಶುದ್ಧರಾಗಿರುವ, 
ಫಲಿಸುವವರೆಗೂ ಕಾರ್ಯೋನ್ಮುಖರಾಗುವ , 
ಸಮುದ್ರಗಳ ಅದ್ಯಂತ ವಿಸ್ತಾರವಾಗಿರುವ ಭೂಮಿಯನ್ನಾಳುವಂತಹ, 
ಸ್ವರ್ಗಕ್ಕೇ ತಮ್ಮ ರಥವನ್ನು ನಡೆಸಬಲ್ಲ,
 ಕಾಲಕಾಲಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಮ-ಹವನಗಳನ್ನು ಮಾಡುವ, 
ನಂಬಿ ಬಂದವರ ಕೋರಿಕೆಗಳನ್ನು ಈಡೇರಿಸುವಂತಹ
ಅಪರಾಧಿಗಳಿಗೆ ತಕ್ಕ ದಂಡವನ್ನುವಿಧಿಸುವ
ಕಾಲಕ್ಕೆಅನುಗುಣವಾಗಿ ಬೋಧಿಸುವ,
ತ್ಯಾಗಕ್ಕಾಗಿಯೇ ಹಣ-ಮುಂತಾದವುಗಳನ್ನು ಗಳಿಸುವಂತಹ,
ಸತ್ಯಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಸಂದರ್ಭೋಚಿತವಾಗಿ (ಕಡಿಮೆ) ಮಾತನಾಡುವಂತಹ,
ತಮ್ಮ ಯಶಸ್ಸಿಗಾಗಿ ಮಾತ್ರವೇ ಯುದ್ಧ ಮಾಡುವ,
ಸಂತಾನಪ್ರಾಪ್ತಿಗಾಗಿಯೇ ಮದುವೆಯಾಗುವಂತಹ,
ಬಾಲ್ಯದಲ್ಲೇ ಸಕಲ ವಿದ್ಯೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಪರಿಣತರಾದ,
ನಂತರ ಯೌವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಭೋಗಿಸುವ,
ವಯಸ್ಸಾದ ಅನಂತರ ಋಷಿ-ಮುನಿಗಳಂತೆ ಸರಳ ಜೀವನ ನಡೆಸುವ ಹಾಗೂ
ಕೊನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಯೋಗಸಮಾಧಿಯನ್ನು ಹೊಂದುವಂತಹ
ರಘುಕುಲದ ರಾಜರತ್ನಗಳ ಕುರಿತಾಗಿ ಬರೆಯುಲು ಹೊರಟಿರುವೆನು.

अतः मैं (इस काव्य में) उन लोगों का वर्णन करूंगा जो कि जन्म से ही शुद्धचरित्र वाले रहे हैं; जब तक सफलता न मिला जाय, प्रारम्भ किये गए कर्म का त्याग न करने वाले रहे हैं तथा जिन्होंने अपने बाहुबल से समुद्र से लेकर पृथ्वी तक अपने राज्य का विस्तार किया और जिनके रथ की गति स्वर्ग तक थी।

जो सायंप्रातः गार्हपत्य-आहवनीय-दक्षिणा नाम की अग्नियों में तथा राजसूय, सोम, अश्वमेधादि यागाग्नि में जैसा की श्रुति और कल्पसूत्रादि में वर्णित है- उन नियमों के अनुसार विधिपूर्वक तत्परता से हवन करने वाले रहे हैं, योग्य अर्थियों का जो नित्य सत्कार करने वाले रहे हैं, यथापराध दंडविधान करने वाले न्यायमूर्ति रहे हैं और प्रातःकाल समय से जागने वाले रहे हैं (ऐसे राजाओं का मैं वर्णन करूंगा)
सत्पात्र को दान देने के लिये ही धनसंचय करने वाले, बहुत बोलने पर झूठ भी बोल दिया जाता है, इसलिये सत्य ही बोलें- ऐसा जानकर कम बोलने वाले, पुण्य और यश के लाभ की इच्छा से धर्म-दिग्विजय करने वाले और संतति की प्राप्ति के लिये स्त्रीपरिणय करने वाले (ऐसे रघुकुल के राजाओं का वर्णन करूंगा)
जिन्होंने शैशवकाल में सारी विद्यायें अर्जित कर लीं, यौवन में धर्मानुसार भोग्यसुखों का जिन्होंने सेवन किया, वृद्धावस्था में मन को कामनाओं से दूर करके कठिन मुनिवृत्ति का आचरण किया और अन्त में जो योग द्वारा स्वेच्छा से देहत्याग करने वाले रहे हैं (ऐसे रघुकुल के राजाओं का मैं वर्णन करूंगा)



  1. There's, however, one problem with monarchy. What if the son doesn't *want* to be a good king? He could be trained in all sorts of things, but he should want to use his power for the greater good. Would such a person be able to raise a worthy son himself? And what's the guarantee that the king's son is the best candidate in the whole kingdom? Or worse, what if he doesn't want to be a ruler at all? Would it be fair for a blacksmith to raise his son to be a future blacksmith?

    Of course, democracy, even the participatory kind, has its limitations, one of which rests on the fact that, as Socrates put it, the majority is not always right. But even he conceded that democracy trumps every other form of government.

    But I realize Kalidasa is probably describing the virtues of an already elected/coronated ruler and not commenting on the type of governance as such.

    1. Yes, as you pointed out Kalidasa is describing the qualities that the kings of the dynasty had. In fact, only Raghu had all the 16 of them.

      There are two things when the son does not want to be a king. 1. Clearly, the son violated his dharma of being a kshatriya. 2. It will be the responsibility of the king to realize this and appoint a worthy successor - also, seen in many instances in both history and mythology. I believe that whenever there had been a divine intervention regarding the birth of a king, it is more of an adoption that is sugar-coated.

      Whether democracy is the best form of governance is a different question altogether and I would not like to comment on it (as it is somewhat out of scope). Although I should add that I have had interesting thoughts and discussions after the recent bihar elections on this topic.

    2. I will probably argue that buddha failed to understand the importance of gruhastha dharma when he shied away from his duties as a kshatriya.
      Also, the son need not be the 'best' king but, this system ensure that he is at least capable. See point 13. How does democracy guarantee that we have the best prime minister? We have a great PM only after 60 long years and probably he may not be the 'best' right? In fact democracy does not even guarantee that the person in power is worth it which is clearly evident by observing contemporary politics.

    3. Firstly, when you talk about 'kshatriya dharma', you're supposing a pre-ordained purpose/meaning of life. It isn't a person's duty to live the life of his ancestors merely owing to the accident of birth - irrespective of whether he's a kshatriya or a brahmin. I say the Buddha was born with no binding duties, and deciding the relative importance of gruhstha and sanyasa ashramas in HIS life was his right, and not the Vedic authors'. And it turned out pretty well that he chose what he did.

      Secondly, regarding the form of government, there are no ideal societies. But considering the best and worst cases, it seems democracy holds an edge. In the best case, of course, democracy ensures that the leader is both willing and the worthiest. But even ideal monarchy doesn't guarantee that the son is the worthiest in the kingdom. In the worst case, as in Bihar perhaps, the worst could end up at the top in both forms of government. With democracy, the blame rests on the stupidity of the majority; they get the leaders they deserve. With monarchy, if a despot follows a great king, you have no one to blame but the stars. I guess you could argue that the common sense of the majority in your state depends on the stars too. Well, at least a minority is left blaming the stars rather than the entire population doing so.

    4. I don't think the democracy ensures that the leader is the worthiest. (Manmohan Singh was not the worthiest.. so thats not a good argument). By the way I don't think we know of an ideal set up with regards to governance. Both democracy and Monarchy have their advantages and disadvantages. In modern world we are not used to monarchy and hence we will always think that he might turn out to be a despot and there are several examples. Same holds with democracy too we don't know, it has disadvantages. The idea with Monarchy is that the leader has to possess three qualities.. which are 1)Viveka 2)Nisvaartha and 3)gnyaani. I am sorry I can't and don't want to translate it to english. If a leader possesses those qualities, then we can expect him to be successful. Of course it is very difficult to find such people, let alone expecting your son to be that.

      So the idea with Monarchy is finding the best fit. Sons are not always the kings. As you will see in Raghuvamsha, later as to how selecting a bad king can ruin the kingdom. So the responsibility of selecting the next king is that of the current King/Kingmaker (Ex. Krishna, Chanakya, Vidyaranya). That way before retiring to the woods, they select an appropriate person and go! (If they have those three qualities mentioned above, that would mean chances of them going wrong is low.) This worked for quite a long period of time.

    5. I have something more to add about your comment on what if the king was a despot. Everybody will have to curse their stars. Well this is not necessarily true. There are these yaagas (ashvamedha, soutramaNi, vajapeya, rajasuya). ashvamEdha is for expanding the kingdom and rajasuya is for establishing central monarchy. So when this is done, "aviveki kings" are dethroned and unlike modern day semitic religions, Indian warfare had it its own set of war tenets or yuddhaniti to follow during warfare. I won't claim that civilians were unaffected, but then the warriors were not as ruthless as the mughals for example who had no war ethics! So when a more viiveki king dethrones an aviveki king, the civilians "stars" would change. Also please note that unlike modern day semitic religions, they never impressed their own ideals upon existing kingdoms. An example.. when Jarasandha was killed by Bhima, his son shaved was re-established as the king by Krishna because he was "yogya". he not only supported yuddhistira in the rajasuya, he also bought his army for the battle for kurukshetra to fight with paNDavas. That clearly vindicates Krishna of any alleged "crime" involved in killing of Jarasandha.

  2. Regarding your comment on what if a son doesn't want to be a king.. well there are several such examples, where the Kings have turned out to be master sahitis, kavis etc. I don't have the names on top of my head, but I can find them. Also, the varNAshrama was never a water tight compartment. The "education system" was such that everybody learnt the "compulsory courses" and later they could move into specializations. Its not like a Blacksmith's son remained a Blacksmith. If that was the case we would not have had Valimiki Vyasa and Chandragupta Maurya. By the way Chandragupta Maurya was a Shudra by birth. That did not deter Chanakya from making him the king.