Q & A : Governance in Ancient India Adi ji describes how the Pandavas’ capital city-state, Indraprastha, was designed and built, the technology used to create it, its protection mechanisms and Yudhishthira’s exceptionally just administration. Similarly, Lord Rama’s reign, the Ramarajya, is held as the perfect reign by Indians. The brilliance of Rama’s rule was such that he had succeeded in establishing measures to harmonize the natural and social forces completely so that the society was free from their destabilizing effects. Such a stable society gave each individual full freedom of expression of their nature, swabhava, and hence the city-state was the centre of intense growth and prosperity in a kingdom. Adi ji also explains how there needs to be a proper system and training of the next-in-line to hand down, from generation to generation, the knowledge and practices of rajya dharma. Otherwise it would be lost with the passage of time.
(In the Mahabharata, after the return of the Pandavas to Hastinapura following their marriage to Draupadi, they are told to set up their capital at Khandavaprastha, a desert, and rule from there, while the Kauravas rule from Hastinapura.)
Yudhishthira goes to Khandavaprastha and with Krishna’s help, they build Indraprastha. Krishna invokes Vishwakarma and in no time the place is turned into Indraprastha, the same as Indraprastha in Delhi today. We crossed that and came here to Rishikesh. Delhi has been a hotbed of political power for a long period of time. Hastinapura is near Delhi, near Meerut. So these are hotbeds of political power – power play – for a long period of time.
Indraprastha’s description is such, it has 32 gates of entry of entry; it is a city-state, huge, with moats all around it, governing it. The whole establishment is properly fortified. It is a huge city-state, and the entry-exit is restricted, you need to prove your capability and skill to contribute to that city-state before you are given entry. Yudhishthira has formed a detailed system of governance and all classes of people are given proper accommodation, proper places of work, and everything is taken care of within the city-state. The whole state is fortified. And it is brilliant. All sorts of precious metals are available, it is luxurious, and it is provided for against natural disasters, against social unrest – all of this is taken care of. And hence it is awesome. See that is why even now people talk of Ramarajya. Why?
Because Rama did away with adi-daivika and adi-bhautika forces. He tranquilized them, or made them harmonious, so that you would not have natural disasters attacking the city-state. For example, the city state of Ayodhya was called Ayodhya – “could not attack”. In the modern times we are still inching there. For example, we have disaster warning systems, but still we are not there, we still have disasters like earthquakes. We are building up structures, trying to research into it and come up with structures that are earthquake resistant. Earthquake tolerant. But still we are not there. But Rama in his time, established such measures that no disaster could strike the city-state, or destabilize it. All the measures were in place. Only now we are instilling fire alarms and lightning arrestors and so on. Even water-sprinklers and so on. We are taking measures but it is not complete. We have some gaps in that implementation. But Rama had it in place, so wonderfully well. I am not saying exactly these means of implementation, but basically adi-daivika forces could not destabilize his state. Similarly adi-bhautika, social unrest, you see Arab spring, all these events, even within India, so many events disturb the equilibrium of society. All those were well-taken care of. Such intelligence operating that the individual was free to engage in their swadharma, without interference or destabilizing aspects of nature and society. That is why Ramarajya is considered so significant, because it gave the individual full freedom of expression. So even now that is an ideal that Indians look up to, though now because of lack of understanding it has been highly negatively publicized, or negatively politicized. But if you understand the reasoning behind it in Ramayana, you will clearly understand what level of brilliance would have lead to that sort of a rule.
So Indraprastha got established. The way it is described is beautiful. And the explanation given for the technology of the devas is also pretty revealing. For example, earlier we used to dig up manually, and it used to take a long time to lay a road. Now we have so many equipments in place, we have done some R&D, you snap your fingers and the job is done. Railway networks, buildings, digging tunnels – using JCB and other machines, you can finish the job in a few months. Similarly is explained the case of building up of Indraprastha by Vishwakarma. With awesome technology, it was done in no time. It had the best people there because Yudhishthira had gained such a reputation in all the lands of being a just king, and a humane king, and that is a very important.
Vishwakarman is the architect of the devas. Civil engineer. So you should aspire to be a Vishwakarma (Laughter) Vishwakarman literally means the “doer of the world” So this reality has been architected? Seems plausible? No? So it has not been architected? Has this building been architected? Yes? Sure, or is it here by fluke? Architected, and all the R&D work has gone in for the structure to now have the stability. Not just direct architecture in terms of using materials like steel and cement or construction, but indirectly so much R&D has gone in to make this structure what it is. How about his body? Architected? Evolved. So architecture which is evolution is a very important question. And we will look at it. It is very very important to look at it, because the insights are very important. The insights, at least to me, they lead me to co-create or co-architect this (body). Co-create, co-engineer, just as we co-engineer these electronic gadgets. In my personal experience, that is definitely possible. We will look at the principles later.
So Indraprastha was created, and the people there, actually all the best people from everywhere came there, even from Hastinapura, because Yudhishthira had such a reputation. Why does that matter? Let us say there is a corrupt government. Even now if you need to attract FDI, Foreign Direct Investment, with such a ranking in the world corruption list, you will see people will be unsure whether to invest in this place or not. There will be huge speculation. Negative speculation. That is how it works even now. Why do many people go to the US? Or now to the Europe? Because the popular image is that “Wow, it is safe, it is prosperous, we will get the freedom and space to do what we want to do and through individual effort, we will actually benefit from our own effort with the state not stealing away our effort through corruption.” This builds a popular image. Even now we take steps based on that. Similarly Yudhishthira was known for being just. And if he is just, naturally everybody in his administration would be honest in their dealings. If you see the root of corruption, it is not the leaves, you go to a peon and ask,”Why are you corrupt?” He will point at his superior, you ask them, they will point at their superiors, you ask them, to the ministers, you ask the minister, up, up, up, the source. When the king is extremely clear-headed and just and also perceived to be just – both are important, not just being just but also rightly perceived to be just – then you will see actually they put in place everything that is necessary for justice to prevail. That is where individual freedom can be guaranteed. Individual liberty can be guaranteed. Otherwise it is an oppressive state. So towards that Yudhishthira was so well-known that all the best people everywhere, with whatever skills and capabilities they had, used to head there. That is how prosperous Indraprastha became, over and above Hastinapura. See now we don’t have too many city-states. For example, you might hear of a city-state, Singapore. India does not have any city-state I believe, no longer. But a city-state is a unique conception, which leads to intense prosperity and intense growth. Outside there would be more spread out growth, in form of gramas, nagaras and so on, but the city-state itself would be like concentrated economics, polity, put together. It is like for example, Delhi is concentrated politics, power. From there it spreads out to all the states and so on. So a city-state was something like that for a kingdom, from where the raja operates. This is just to give you an idea of the dynamic. We will explore later, if you get questions. So, many people quit Hastinapura and came to Indraprastha and it was a roaring success.
Q : How did such an ideal reign get lost down the ages?
Everything requires a system in place to hand down, from generation to generation. It was handed down, that is why you would see that, for example, even the concept of yuddha dharma, you would have heard, in the 18th century the Portugese actually paraded near Travancore, the state of Tiruvanandapuram. The raja at the time, he invited the Portugese, he had rules of war laid down, he said,”We will fight here. We will treat you to medical aid, because you are our guests as well, you are foreigners.” He laid down a whole host of stipulations, and the Portugese were like,”What?! Is this a war or a sport?” They had that feeling, because that was our concept of yuddha dharma. We treat everything appropriately. Because of a certain sensibility, we are sensible in our approach. But with people who don’t understand, who don’t come from such a background, you will also need to provide for a certain protection against them. So that, all these complex variables, it is very difficult to transmit from one generation to another. When it is not properly taken care of, it gets lost down the generations. That is why the whole idea of varnashrama dharma was there. Kshatriyas would play their role. A king, for them to be educated for that office – because it is a very important office – there would be a lifelong dedication. Everything else would be secondary. The king’s primary dharma would be to the praja, his people. But they would be trained so rigorously, if you look at the regular schedule of a king, you would run away from it. Even now with Prime Ministers you would see that. For example, our erstwhile Prime Minister used to complain that he could not get sufficient sleep. Hey! If you complain, you better not be there! Because you are doing a disservice to the entire nation. You cannot complain like that. You have been trained appropriately for that, if people, unskilled and unfit and untrained for that position, if they occupy that position, we see the consequences of what happens to a democracy. So you need to qualify for that and hence it is not very easy. So much would go into the training of that leader. When there is a gap in that training because of various aspects, you would see the next generation suffers, and that is passed down the line. Even now, let’s say you build a business empire for yourself, you will need to invest so much for training the next in line. If you don’t do that, you have lost it. So that is complex social dynamics. So we will analyse this later, but this is just the gist of it.