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Politics Of Ancient Hindus In Panchatantra

Panchatantra is a treatise of ancient Hindus to educate boys of royal family in politics. According to Panchatantra, not only power, especially animal power, but sattva (good spirit) and such other personal qualifications are the basis of a king’s authority over his subjects (I. 4-5).

In a conflict between the moral ideal and self-protection, Panchatantra takes a pragmatic view; for the sake of the family an individual may be sacrificed, for the sake of a village a family may be sacrificed, but for the sake of one’s self the whole world may be sacrificed (I.116, 117). The king’s interest is superior to friends, father, brother or son (1.172, 173,174). The merciful king heads a list of persons who must be abandoned (1,174, 176).

A kingdom cannot be governed according to ordinary standards of men, for what are vice for ordinary men are virtues in a king. Apparently, Panchatantra develops a remarkable doctrine of the composite and even contradictory tendencies of statecraft, because a king’s policy (niti), like a harlot, takes many guises; it is at once true and false, harsh, and gentle in speech, cruel and compassionate, avaricious and generous, lavish in spending and yet taking  in great amounts of wealth from many sources (1.177). Thus, the interest of the king (or the state) overrides the claims of the offender.

The traditional diplomacy (upaya) has been narrated in stories of Panchatantra (1.128, 130-133, 134). Sama (conciliation) should be tried first by one who knows his business. Danda (force) is the worst kind of policy, and it should be avoided. Dana (donation of material resources) and bheda (creation of dissension in rival groups) may also be followed. Emphasis is laid on the advantages of a policy conciliation.

Panchatantra repeats the ideas embedded in Arthashastra regarding the qualifications of ministers (1.8.23). There are two principles regarding the technique of recruitment and selection of officials by the king:

In the interest of successful administration officials should be graded according to their respective capacities and aptitude, and should have the requisite qualifications.

The test of good official should not be birth, but a combination of qualities of loyalty and efficiency (1-38-40, 45-50). The work elaborates the traditional views relating to the relationship between the king and his ministers, the secrecy of discussions and the handling of enemies.