NATURE, FUNCTIONS AND AIMS OF THE STATE IN ANCIENT INDIA – PART I

The Ancient Indian Timeline stretches across the years from 14, 00,000 BC (alternatively 5, 00,000 BC) to 2,500 BC. But, for a major chunk of this period, the people were unaware of the method to write script, i.e. represent their spoken communications through visual, written symbols. As for the origin of State, there exist a few theories which speculate as to how it may have evolved, such as the Social Contract theory, the Divine Origin theory, and the Organic theory.

  • The Social Contract theory – mutual contract between the Sovereign and His subjects – to maintain peace and order – early Vedic works refute this theory.
  • The Divine Origin theory – God created the King – to protect his flock of human beings – thus stated in the Manusamhita.
  • The Organic theory – State is a single body – many organs – these organs must perform fully and efficiently – the King is the most indispensible part.

Similarly, for the nature of State, evidences from the Vedic Age (1,500 BC – 600 BC) point towards the fact that the State was tribal. For example, the Yadus, Turvashas, and Bharatas, had no permanent territorial ground. They were nomadic, to put it in another way, and moved around with their own peoples. In the later Vedic period, however, tribes settled down in different parts of the country, and such tribal chiefs became masters of their own people, and the land they occupied. This land, their territory, was called rashtra.

Later on, when the tribal State ceased to exist, and territory became vital for a State’s existence, a monarchical form of government came up, with several parts which constituted its structure, and helped in its proper functioning. This was observed by ancient thinkers such as Manu and Kautilya, and was called by the latter as the Saptanga theory. This was corroborated by writers such as Kamandaka and Shukra.

The constituent elements of this theory are as follows:

  • Swami – King
  • Amatyas – Ministers
  • Rashtra – Territory
  • Durgas – Forts
  • Bala – Army
  • Kosha – Treasury
  • Mitra – Allies

In this sort of setup, the king/emperor and his ministers together exercised great power. Since the king had to oversee a large territory, it was essential that some sort of defence be established, to preserve and protect the sovereign boundaries of his kingdom/empire. In monarchies, a standing army was the standard of defence, which implied that the soldiers of this army were well trained and paid regular salaries for their services. Also, in monarchies, a division in the army, with respect to their strength could be seen, namely:

  • Infantry – foot soldiers,
  • Cavalry – horse-mounted soldiers, armed with swords or bows and arrows,
  • Chariot-commandeering units, and
  • Elephants – for siege and shock and awe tactics.

This kind of diversification in the army was not present in the structure of ancient Indian republics, which existed after the Vedic Age, from the 6th Century BC – 4th Century AD. In such a structure of governance, the army was made up of minutemen, who were not really soldiers, but militia, who assembled in times of battles, fought in them, and then went away. They weren’t even properly trained.

But, coming back to the armies in monarchies, such organizations required quite a lot of financial resources for their maintenance; hence, there was the existence of a kosha (treasury), which sustained their expenses. Also quite necessary for the survival of the State in these times were wise alliances with mitras (allies), i.e. neighbouring States, without which quick annihilation would be the inevitable end for such a State which chose not to create such alliances. A great number of small States existed in ancient India, and since expansion of territories and conquering new lands was the policy of most rulers, making alliances was the only way survival and longevity of such States could be ensured.

[To be continued in Part II.]


Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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