Indian Democracy – Coming Dark Times
Historically – that is since the Vedic periods – India had been a very large group of monarchies, ranging in size from very small to very large, such as the size of a present small village of population of 500 to the size of an Empire with a population of 10 million or more … in those days. The ruling kings were benevolent dictators – highly educated in and self-governed by Dharma (Ethics). The rules of succession were laid down so clearly, that there were hardly any conflicts on that account. Competence to deliver good and impartial justice internally and ability to ward off threats externally were considered most important characteristics needed for a monarch – in the process of selection and election.
While the kings enjoyed the privilege and prerogative of nominating their successors while still functioning as kings – it was not automatic for confirmation. The ministers had the right to question the choice and selection of the king – about the track record of the nominee prince or the heir-apparent. Only after due deliberations on the choice of the successor, the new prince was confirmed for the crowning ceremony. The popularity of the king’s nominee with the common people of the kingdom was also a major factor in determining the suitability of the heir-apparent prior to the confirmation as the crown prince. Even a small blemish in following the ethics or morals by the individual will permanently disqualify him for future kinghood. He was to function as de facto king (king in probation) – under the supervision of the actual king – for fairly long time to prove his mettle before getting the final confirmation as the king by the governing council of ministers. The retired king was never powerless; he held the veto power to disqualify the newly crowned king – if he becomes unpopular later by virtue of his conduct and bad governance. There was no incentive to indulge in corruption, while there were all rewards for good governance.
Normally the eldest son of the king became the crown prince – unless his competence was in question, or one of his younger brothers was observed to be much more competent to govern. There have been numerous cases of elder princes voluntarily asking their younger brothers to take the crown – accepting their competence to be superior to their own; and the younger ones, having assumed power, treating the elder with great respect and affection there after. The epic “Ramayana” is the eternal handbook for mankind, for reference on what duties and responsibilities of individuals towards one anther – and how human relations in all testing circumstances are to be handled.
Wars did take place among the kingdoms – both for power projections and economic considerations. Sharing of river water and agriculture used to be the main contentious issues, and occasionally the mineral wealth of one domain used to be the reason for wars among the neighbors. There were plenty of cases where the people of two neighboring kingdoms decided to recommend merger of their kingdoms and convinced their kings to do so for optimizing the benefit to all without any conflict. Such was the wisdom of those generations.
Then India was invaded by Persian Muslims and that destroyed the ancient Vedic ethical culture – followed by Europeans and finally the British. India peacefully fought for their freedom for decades and got it finally to become the largest secular democracy in the world. One third part of then India – however chose a different path to become an Islamic theocratic state of Pakistan.
Democracy by definition is an “informed choice” by people as to how they wish to be governed. In this so called punctured vessel of democracy as it has evolved to become what it is today, the perforated area of multi configured wholes is much more predominant than the vessel’s holding surface area. The choice is not informed – but mostly manipulated by the powerful with their money or coerced with their muscle.
Democracy or autocracy – both have draw backs and are not perfect. No system machinery which has the involvement of humans as its nuts & bolts can ever be perfect, unless Dharma (strict ethics) is the “main frame structure” holding those nuts & bolts as functional nodes.
All said and done, democracy offers despite its inherent limitations, one high quality tool and opportunity, which autocracy often takes away and that is – The freedom of thought, speech and action – the qualities that differentiate and elevate humans from animals. If democracy as the system can be redefined and integrated with Dharma as the all encompassing essential, elemental and fundamental characteristic – as practiced by ancient kings like “Rama” of India, that “Dharmic Democracy” can be the most potential route to the highest levels of life achievable for mankind. This is the need of not only India but the whole world today!
– M.S. Raghavan Ayyangar
Posted on April 20, 2010, in Ethics, Politics and Justice and tagged action, autocracy, Democracy, Dharma, Ethics, India, Islam, Justice, kings, ministers, Ramayana, speech, thought, Veda, Vedic. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.