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Apad Dharma In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Apad Dharma are duties (dharma) of individuals in times of distress (apad) due to natural or unnatural causes. The ancient Sanskrit texts have prescribed duties for all four classes of society. The distinctive duties of a class or a person are comprehensively called svadharma. Similarly, for kings’ certain duties are prescribed in Dharmashastras. The standard mode of livelihood for one class differs from another. For example, beggary is allowed only to a brahmin and is strictly forbidden to persons of other three classes. But in adversity, according to Shastras, one can leave one’s prescribed duties and adopt those of others for preserving one’s life. The apad dharma principle is based on the concept of the individual’s fundamental right of self-preservation and also on the idea of the supreme importance of the State in the interests of the individual and the community.

While Arthashatra (9.7) of Kautiliya deals with the dangers (apadah) associated with advantage, disadvantage and uncertainty and describes the means of overcoming these dangers through different means, the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata explains in details the Apa Dharma in a separate section known as the Apa Dharma Parva (Chapters 129 – 167). As it forms an appendix to the Rajadharma, it is quite natural that the problem of the Kshatriyas and the king should receive priority here. Bhishma, being asked by Yudhishthira, dwells on certain important aspects of apadharma. Yudhishthira points out that the king has to face difficulties when the allied powers refuse help, the enemies are numerous and stronger in equipment, the treasury is exhausted, the army has become weak, the ministers revolt, the secret counsel becomes public, no internal and external help is forthcoming, etc. Bhishma answers that the rules of raja dharma cannot be followed in toto when calamities occur. But the spirit of dharma should not be lost sight of, even if infringement thereof may be unavoidable. For example, the king’s primary duty is to preserve the interests of the subjects. But in times of distress he may have to tax the rich. When the treasury is empty, all difficulties crop up. As such, replenishing the treasury is the first and foremost duty of the king. This should be done tactfully and with caution, so that there is no internal revolt. When the evil days are gone, the king should take such a course that the rules of dharma are preserved and the integrity of the state remains intact.

According to Bhishma, one in distress or in captivity has to come out even through unfair means. The brahmins can officiate as priests of all classes and can take food from them in times of adversity. The case of kshatriyas and other is not much different.