HUMAN RIGHTS IN ANCIENT INDIA – PART 1

It is known that India is an ancient civilization. The notions of right and wrong and principles upholding human dignity have existed in written form since centuries, maybe even a few millennia. The concept of law and order can be found in ancient Indian written codes such as the shrutis and smritis. Old Indian texts such as the vedas and upanishads emphasize the importance of truth and service, compassion and charity.

During the ancient age, India was a largely tolerant society, and embraced peoples from all walks of life, who professed different faiths, cultures and customs. The basis of all this was the realization that there is inherent value in every human being.

The inception of Indian law (Hindu law, more specifically) began during the time when the Dharmashastras were written, and was further elaborated upon in other works. Dharma (reet) is a comprehensive concept which regulated socio-cultural, religious, moral and domestic conduct, and also laid down certain legal rules. These rules were made to ensure that every person could establish control over his/her desires and be content with what he/she had.

In the Rig Veda, one of the 4 vedas of India, it is mentioned:

No one is superior or inferior. All are brothers. All should strive for the interest of all and should progress collectively.

Rig Veda, Mandala 5, Sukta 60, Mantra 5.

This is a fundamental principle of human rights which transcends all boundaries, across nations, continents and territories. Modern day ideas on human rights have many inspirations. This is no exception. It stresses the importance of human dignity and worth, notwithstanding a person’s race, caste, creed, sex, place of birth, religion or colour. In ancient India, human life was defined in terms of human dignity, and the enrichment of one person depended upon the upliftment of humanity as a whole.

The Manusmriti is a collection of rules derived from the vedas, Upanishads, customs and traditions. It is the oldest codex of the rules of Dharma and an exhaustive guide on human conduct in all areas of life. Origins of the concept of people’s basic human rights can be found in the Manusmriti.

Further on in time came Kautilya or Chanakya, a philosopher, jurist and legal advisor to the court of the Mauryan Empire, who wrote a treatise called Arthashastra around the 4th Century BC. It is widely recognized as a pioneering work on law, ethics, religion, society, domestic and public life, war, peace and other things. In it, it’s mentioned that India’s foundation of culture is cemented upon a developed system of law which, in turn, is based on popular sovereignty and assured fundamental rights and freedoms.

Chanakya highlighted in his work the duty of any ruler to provide for his subjects, to ensure their welfare, to care for the needy, sick and poor, and to give respect and protect the dignity of all his people (or subjects).

In the happiness of his subjects lies the happiness of the Ruler, in their welfare his welfare; whatever pleases him the Ruler shall not be considered as good but whatever pleases his subjects, the Ruler shall consider as good.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra.

The importance of the rule of law in ancient India was immense. Dharma was regarded as the king of kings, ruler of rulers. Even a king could not go against Dharma by changing the law on his own whim. The dignity of all people was paramount.


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.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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