Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
When we trace through history, we often say that initially there was no government, then monarchy, puritanism, communism, socialism and then democracy – roughly. Most countries now a days are democratic republics.
I traced back to The Ramayana and The Mahabharata days when the governance is described as monarchy. But a deeper reading of these epics told me that they actually were running a democracy far, far better than any of the democracies that exist today. There are many instances strewn across both these epics to demonstrate this. I will illustrate only one from each.
King Dasaratha found out that he was growing old and wanted to find a new leader for the land. He had, in his heart of hearts, a desire to see Rama’s coronation as Yuvaraja. However, he did not call a press conference and announce the successor. Dasaratha observes his praja including his own sons and finds Rama to be the best among men. He observes Rama as having virtues hitherto not seen among the best of Kings. He calls his spies and gets to know from them the people’s thoughts. He gets to know that Rama is seen as the one who desires development. Rama was seen by the people as one who possesses all the right and good qualities, knowledge and bravery among other things. Dasaratha calls all the kings and officers of his Kingdom and discusses the matter with them. He then called a meeting of his ministers and the royal court to discuss this.
And he addressed them saying “I want to install Rama as Yuvaraja. But please do not be guided by my desire. It may be biased. Be neutral, think for the country and lease tell me who should be appointed Yuvaraja. I will abide by your decision even if it is not according to my desire.” And all members of the court said they wanted Rama installed. Dasaratha asked them immediately “Why do you desire another King when I am ruling you well?” Without hesitation his courteers tell him “He is better than you and all other kings of the Ikshavaaku clan. Rama is born as your son because of your good fortune. He must be installed King for the benefit of the people.”
After everyone agrees, Dasaratha sends for Rama and upon his arrival informs him that he will be appointed Yuvaraja.
Rama was the one who got to know of his appointment last. The persons of the Royal family had to live and die for their citizens. They weren’t offered a choice. In the interests of the country, they accepted it. The fittest person had to rule because it would benefit the people in the longer run. Lucky people, they had Kings who thought only of their welfare! Now we have kings who think for their own welfare. Is this democracy or is that democracy?
Another instance occurs in The Mahabharata. Raja Bharat – son of Shakuntala and Dhushyanta – the virtuous king of the Kuru race, had nine sons. But he appointed a citizen – Bharadwaj Abhimanyu to become the King of the land. And when questioned in the court and by his family he tells them that the country’s welfare is more important than my children’s ambitions. He proclaims “I have made the fittest person King.”
Yet another instance occurs after the Kaurava and Pandava princes have received education at Drona’s ashrama. They could have happily gone back to their palaces. But a rangbhoomi is organized. This was an exhibition ground with huge galleries. Here, the princes would display their feats, their skill to the people of the country. Based on this and based on the behavior of the princes in court and outside, the people would voice their preference for the appointment of Yuvaraja. Citizens would be allowed into the royal court and could see the proceedings of the administration. It was a very transparent and clear form of governance. When people voiced their opinions about wanting Yudhishtra as Yuvaraja, even Dhritharashtra had to heed. Such is the power of the mass!
In fact, we see in The Mahabharata that when Dhrirashtra gives more importance to his son’s ambitions than the welfare of Hastinapura, the country and its people face only doom and gloom. Not unlike present state of TN! Politicians havent changed much over the years! But surely, there was much more value to democracy than there is now.