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Rāmāyaṇa where ideology and arts meet narrative and historical context by Prof. Nalini Rao

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Rulership in Hinduism

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Himanshu Bhatt

Traditional Hindu customs[edit]

Duties of the Ruler[edit]

The king should see whether the people are honestly doing their respective duties or not. he must ensure organised and sincere effort.

"Prajaparipalam varnashramanam swe swe dharme vyawasthapanam"[1]

The king is responsible for the 1/6th part of the sins and crimes committed by his people as he takes that much share in their good deeds.[2]

Ethical governance has been a dharm, or more specifically Raj Dharm or Kshatriya Dharm, for the ruler. Because many Hindu kings were virtuous, many of them had become Rajrishis, including persons mentioned in the Vedas, such as Nahusha.


The Mahābhārata calls that king a thief who realizes taxes from the people but does not protect them.[3].[4]

In Kautilya's Arthasashtra, it has been laid down that people agreed to pay taxes and to be ruled by the king in order to be "maintained by that the king brings about the well-being and security of the subjects"[5][6]

Taking care of the weak[edit]

The Arthasashtra states that the King should maintain children, aged persons, and persons in distress when these are helpless, as also the women who has bourne no child and the sons of one who has when these are helpless. [7][8]

In Tamil tradition[edit]

According to the Tamil tradition, there are several characteristics that a good king possesses.[9]

Three attributes of kings:

  1. Toonqamei: decision
  2. Kalvi: Learning
  3. Tunivoo: Prowess

Six endowments of a king:

  1. Mantri: Wise ministers
  2. Nadu: A strong population
  3. Aran: Fortifications
  4. Porul: A good revenue
  5. Paddei: A powerful army
  6. Natpoo: Friends and alliances

Four virtues which add splendor to a king:

  1. Kodei: Liberality
  2. Talsiyali: Benignity
  3. Shenkole: Justice
  4. Kudiyombel: Care of his subjects

Four acts that constitute the power of a king:

  1. Eyattal: The act of making acquisitions
  2. Eettai: The act of collecting his revenues
  3. Kattal: The act of securing them
  4. Vahuttal: The act of distributing them

Rules of war[edit]

For the Rajanya[10] it should be either death or victory in battle. He should not in battle kill one who is stunned, who has surrendered his arms, or is a fugitive, nor those of his enemies whom he has captured nor their wives or children. Whatever is acquired either by victory or treaty should be distributed amongst the soldiers in shares according to merit.[11]


The Buddha offered rulers of India in his time much advice as how to rule society based on ethics that would lead to a happier society. He was a prince from the Śakyan kingdom but gave up the royal life for the benefaction of society by spreading his ideology. Buddhists after the Buddha too had many opinions of how society should be ideally governed. The Milinda Pañha declares, "Like a king who rules justly rules for a long time, the Buddha's religion endures for a long time because of his special qualities of righteousness."[12]

In the Agganna Sutta,[13] the Buddha describes the origins of human society as part of a process of moral decline from relatively ideal conditions at the start of the cycle of world-evolution.[14] In this original state the first kind is said to have been elected by people.

Ten Rules of a Ruler[edit]

It means Dasa Rāja Dharma. The Buddha proposed Dasa Rāja Dharma for a king to follow.[15]

  1. Giving alms
  2. Virtuous life or morality
  3. Liberality or more specifically self-sacrifice
  4. Straightness or honesty
  5. Gentleness
  6. Self-control[16]
  7. Non-anger or pleasant temperament
  8. Nonviolence
  9. Forbearance
  10. Non-opposition

Seven Principles of Government[edit]

It is called as Satta Aparihana Dhamma. The Buddha had formulated seven conditions to the welfare, maintenance and longevity of the kingdom of the Vajjis.[17]

  1. They had frequent public meetings of their tribe which they all attended.
  2. They met together to make their decisions and carried out their undertakings in concord.
  3. They upheld tradition and honored their pledges.
  4. They respected and supported their elders.
  5. No women or girls were allowed to be taken by force or abduction.
  6. They maintained and paid due respect to their places of worship.
  7. So long as the rightful protection, defense and support shall be fully provided for the Arhantas among them.

The Chakravarti[edit]

It means the Ideal Ruler. The term "Chakravarti" is used in Hindu/Buddhist scriptures for a noble ruler, and it means "turner of the wheel of dharma". According to the Chakravartisihanada Sutra, when the Chakravarti retires he should give the rulership of his kingdom to his eldest son and become a Śramana or wandering ascetic.[18]


War is mean to be only the last result after all efforts to avoid war have failed. To repel the enemy is not unethical and Buddha in his life said it is okay to do so.

Related Articles[edit]



  1. Indian Scriptures By Prof.S.K.Prasoon
  2. "Raja cha prajabhyah sukritduskritshashatanshbhak"; Indian Scriptures By Prof.S.K.Prasoon
  3. Mahābhārata 12.137.96
  4. P. 1277 Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, Volume 49 By Nagendra Kr Singh
  5. Arthasashtra 1.13.7
  6. P. 18 India Insurance Report By Dharmendra Kumar, Rahul Singh
  7. Arthasashtra [2.1.26]
  8. P. 18 India Insurance Report By Dharmendra Kumar, Rahul Singh
  9. P. 27 The Castes, Customs, Manners and Literature of the Tamils By Simon Casie Chitty
  10. It means Kśatriya.
  11. The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies By Thomas McEvilley
  12. P. 67 The Debate of King Milinda: An Abridgement of the Milinda Pañha edited by Bhikkhu Pesala
  13. Agganna Sutta D.II.80-98
  14. P. 114 An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values and Issues By Peter Harvey
  15. P. 186-187 Buddhist Answers to Current Issues' By Ananda Guruge
  16. It means lit. asceticism or abstemious lifestyle.
  17. P. 779 Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names: N-H by G. P. Malalasekera
  18. P. 5 Buddhism and Politics in Twentieth Century Asia edited by Ian Harris