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

AIMS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE STATE:

Vedic literature indicates that the king was one who maintained law and order in his kingdom. The State, under him, had three broad aims:

  • To promote religion,
  • To maintain morality, and
  • To encourage education.

Apart from this, material wellbeing of the citizens was also an aim to be achieved. For instance, in the Atharvaveda, the kingdom of king Parikshit was considered as the golden standard for all other kingdoms, and it was said that his kingdom flowed with milk and honey, thus indicating how prosperous and wealthy his State was, as a consequence of which, his subjects were also pleased and content.

There were four things which the State wished to promote, namely:

  • Dharma – morally right behaviour, respect towards Brahmanas and elders,
  • Artha – economic prosperity,
  • Kama – everyday pleasures of the people, and
  • Moksha – spiritual enlightenment/salvation.

Interestingly, the ancient Indian State had elements of secularism as well, as they promoted dharma not by propounding a particular religion or section of people, but just by encouraging religious feeling and devotion to God. The State also wished to foster a sense of upright moral behaviour, hence they extended help to all such religious sects, and built hospitals which provided free care to the elderly and infirm; patronage of the arts and sciences also furthered the noble cause of dharma.

Artha or economy was to be promoted by encouraging trade and improving industry and agriculture.

For the sake of example, the first civilization of India, the Indus Valley Civilization, ensured a constant flow of trade by exchanging materials with foreign lands. This exchange included things such as shell, lapis lazuli (a semi-precious blue-coloured gem), copper, gold, etc.

Coming back to the principle of dharma, itwas often convoluted, and resulted in discrimination amongst people. For example, the Chaturvarnavyavastha (the caste system) was a kind of social stratification on the basis of people’s caste, and this stratification was believed to determine the occupation of the people. The 4 varnas were:

  • Brahmanas – highest in this order – the priestly class – commanded respect – well-versed in religion and principles of dharma,
  • Kshatriyas – the ruling class – second in the hierarchy – controlled their rashtra, and subjects,
  • Vaishyas – merchant class – third in the hierarchy, and lastly
  • Shudras – lowest in the hierarchy – designated to serve the upper three castes – social outcasts – treated badly – not allowed to possess property.

On the functions of the State, it can be said that it had many, but those functions can be classified in two types:

  • Constituent, and
  • Ministrant.

Under the former category, essential functions of the State are listed, such as defence against foreign aggression, protection of the rashtra, the subjects and their properties, the continuance of peace and persistence of law, order and discipline.

Under the Ministrant class fall functions related to the welfare of the people of the State. Everything from education to sanitation was covered, including postal services, trade regulations, roads and communications, care of the poor and helpless etc.

Besides these functions, the State also ensured the availability of relief by building hospitals, charity halls and rest houses, to serve the said purpose during floods, famines, earthquakes etc. Also, it made the overall material, economic and aesthetic growth of the society it controlled its top priority.


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.

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