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Economic Thoughts Of Ancient Hindus

Economic thoughts of ancient Hindus was based on dharma, a broad spectrum concept which stands for the principle of mutual sustenance of the people and also encompasses virtue, merit, justice, righteousness, duty, law, rightfulness, dutiful business, performance of religious rites, abiding by moral values, faith and honesty.

In Hindu cyclical conception of time, each yuga (cyle/eon) has its characteristic dharma, attribute. The first yuga (eon), known as Krita Yuga, is also called Dharma Yuga. It is also recognized as Sat Yuga, i.e, the yuga of truth, the golden age. The king was the caretaker of the subjects and was so meticulous in his economic administration that there were no problems for the subjects. He followed the dharma parayana (rightful duties), observing the dharmasamstha (code of duties) himself. He was the trustee who saw to it that the wheel of dharma remained in motion and he had to execute the commands of dharma. Any deviation from dharma would demoralize the economy.

In ancient times, when Vedic culture prevailed, the cow was the center of economy and thus the number of cows possessed by the people was an index of their prosperity. Milk of cow was an essential item in sacred rites. The dakshina for performing yagna was given to the priests in the form of cows, along with gold. Besides milk, the oxen obtained by cow-rearing were the foundation of agriculture and transport. Among the animals, the horse had the next important place after the cow, and then came the goat, sheep, elephant and so on.

The majority of common people were visah or vaishya for whom cattle rearing, agriculture, and distribution of their product through trade were sacred professions to be observed.

Selfless service, dutifulness, complete surrender to God with devotion, self-dependence, unity-in-diversity and proper distribution of prosperity and pleasure among the population were the guidelines for economic welfare. It was expected to result in social welfare and public good.

Mutual respect among different members of the society, brotherhood, and mixing with people without getting deviated from moral tolerance of different faiths and practices were common in all economic welfare plans. Vedas and Upanishads were practiced to unite the individual soul with the universal soul by practice and perception through the medium of Yoga.

Dharma or the just and dutiful performance of all acts, particularly in service or business, was regarded as essential for earning artha (money or wealth); money earned honestly led to kama (enjoyment) and all the three ends achieved lawfully paved the way for moksha (emancipation). It has been the aspiration and aim not only of the rulers but also of the common people to achieve the four purusharthas – dharma, artha, kama and moksha.

So every Hindu endeavored to achieve the desired goals through these purusharthas. The universal god, considered as Purushottama (the best among Purushas) was invoked to help and guide the individual to attain virtue, wealth, enjoyment and pure bliss.

The entire society was directed towards promoting the realization of these goals. Hindu economy stress earning of money or other wealth by just means, spending it on liabilities, social obligations and pious activities, just administration and maintenance of the household.