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Rajaniti Ratnakara – Book On Ancient Polity

Rajaniti Ratnakara is a smriti digest on polity. It was written by Chandeshwara Thakur of Mithila (1314 – 70 CE).  Grandfather of Chandeshvara, Devaditya, was the sandhivigrahika (minister of war and peace) of the king of Mithila. His son Chandeshvara, too, was a mantrin or mantrindra (minister) of the king. Despite political pre-occupations, Chandeswara wrote nine digests on Smriti, one of which was on polity,  Rajaniti Ratnakara, and a treatise on astrology.

In the medieval period, a new type of literature on polity evolved, which was not based on Arthashastra of Kautilya or dandaniti literature. It also discarded the names of Arthashastra and dandaniti and coined a new name, rajaniti (politics). Rajaniti Ratnakara belongs to this category of works.

It is divided into sixteen chapters – Kingship, Ministers, Minister of religion, Lord Chief Justice, Councilors, Forts, Discussion of policy, Treasury, Army, Leadership, Ambassadors, Administration, Executive authority and punishment, Abdication, Appointment of a new king by the minister of religion and other ministers and Coronation.

The political concepts and conditions of monarchy had changed a lot when Chandesvara wrote Rajaniti Ratnakara. In the presence of Muslim invaders, the theory of divine origin of kingship, as preached in Manusmriti (VII.3.12) could no longer prevail. The traditional council of elders was gradually becoming defunct. At that time, not a single Hindu ruler could claim the status of an emperor.

According to Rajaniti Ratnakara, rulers are of two types, one who is strong enough and therefore pays no taxes, the other who is exempted by the overlord from paying taxes. The former can administer law and justice according to his own liking, whereas the latter does that only when deputed to do so. While discussing a land gift, Candesvara states that only sovereign rulers can make such gifts. Again, he opines that those who enjoy the land, being empowered by the emperor, cannot make such gifts. Thus, one value of the work is that it records the polity of those times.