--> Skip to main content

Adhiraja Meaning In Ancient India

The meaning of Adhiraja in ancient India – a sovereign or supreme ruler, greater thana raja (king). Adhiraja is the Indian concept of suzerain power. Swarajya (state ruled by the people themselves), vairajya (state ruled by renouncing Brahmanas), rajya (kingdom) and adhirajya (a king who lords over a sovereign kingdom), have been mentioned as different types of states in Vedic literature.

Adhirajyatva correspond to the kshetra (domain) of a chakravarti (emperor). Chakravartin proclaimed their supremacy over other rulers by performing ashwamedha or the horse ritual.

In an adhirajya, the suzerain (adhiraja) proclaimed himself as the supreme sovereign of the empire. The subordinate rulers were allowed to rule independently in their political realm, by accepting the lordship of the adhiraja. The suzerain power maintained diplomatic relations with the feudal states through matrimonial alliances; tribue was regularly deposited in kosha (treasury) of the suzerain in the form of gold and by showing allegiance to the suzerain power.

Suzerainty in the Indian political system was of a hereditary type. Though the sovereign enjoyed absolute power, it was checked to an extent by the council of ministers (mantra parishad) and the priest. Adhiraja has been designated as swami or the “Lord” by Kautilya in his Arthashastra.

From inscriptional accounts, Ashoka (ruled 269 – 232 BC) appears to be the first adhiraja of the historic period, because his empire extended from Kashmir to Mysore. However, some political powers in Vidarbha were allowed to maintain their autonomous rule. Samudragupta also overwhelmed the Naga rulers of north India, but the states in the south were granted feudal status. He also maintained friendly relations with Saka and Kushana kshatrapas (local governors) ruling in western India. Prayag Prasasti (Allahabad inscription) of Samudragupta throws light on the status of Adhirajas.

Adhiraja sometimes adopted the high-sounding title of rajadhiraja (king who is the Lord of other kings). Adhirajas of the Vedic and post-Vedic periods wielded the same power and enjoyed equal political status with rajadhiraja.

State and Government In Ancient India (1955) AS Altekar Motilal Barsidass Delhi.
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume I – page 49 - IHRF