Bhishma Pitamah & the State

Image Credit: Aniket Mitra

Without dilating upon the historical developments of it, I would take you, like Sanjaya, directly to the very last colloquy of the Pandavas with Bhishma. Consequent to the victory of the Pandavas over the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war, Yudhisthira was enthroned in Hastinapur. Before taking up the duties of the State, however, Yudhishthira, on the advice of Krishna, customarily went to seek the blessings and instructions of Bhishma. And there lied the only unimpeachable warrior of the land on a death bed of arrows shot by, perhaps, his most beloved grandson Partha. Grandsire eagerly awaited his death. The last discourse, thereafter, between Yudhishthira and Bhishma is called the Santiparva of the Mahabharata. The instructions contained therein are of utmost necessity to any king willing to properly and effectively handle his kingdom.

Now it is way beyond my ordinary reach to exhaustively discuss the entire Santiparva for the discourse, which went on for many days, contains myriad instructions, passed by Grandsire ofcourse, on matters of philosophy, history, geography, economics, politics, law, folklores related to suras and asuras etc. Nevertheless the very essence or idea behind the plethora of duties that the State is bound to perform, that is the Rajdharma, can still be funneled out. Before I move on, for the sake of understanding it must be clarified that the terms “the State”, “Government”, “King”, have been used synonymously.

My primal concern is:
“What per grandsire is Rajdharma, that is the ultimate duty of the State?”
And my question is:
“How far have the modern governments– especially the ones that pretend to be walking the Hindu way like Modi government– followed the said duties in yesteryear?”

Would I answer, in the end, the latter question? No. That is for the readers to think and answer for themselves. And believe me I do not need to as most of you, by the end of this piece, would be able to find the answer to it on your own by simply attempting to reconcile the acts of the modern governments with the duties it is to perform as per Grandsire. And you need not be a lawyer or political scientist for the said reconciliation. If you have a general idea as to how the State is functioning in present, it would suffice.

Redirecting you towards the discourse. The philosophical idea behind the myriad duties that the State is bound to perform could be deduced very conveniently from following points:

β€’ ‘The primal focus, oh Yudhishthira,’ grandsire spake, ‘should be on the people instead of the throne for the people beget the throne and not the opposite.’ Per Bhishma, interest of the State lies in the interest of the people. If the State acts in self-interest, then it has done away with Rajdharma. One has to remember that the people pre-date the State, the nation existed prior to the nation-State, and hence the interest of the people cannot be compromised. He cried, ‘Enslaved by my vow, I was blinded enough to neglect the interest of my nation. Oh Yudhishthira, as and when a Bhishma becomes an impediment in the interest of the nation, an Arjuna would inevitably arrive to lay him down on the death bed of arrows.’

β€’ ‘Oh Yudhishthira,’ grandsire spake, ‘such a king can never be propitious that puts the blame on past for all the socio-economic ailments of the nation.’ Per Bhishma, if the past has rendered the king a socially and economically ailing nation, then his duty is to strengthen it. This is what, afterall, people chose him for. If the past were optimum, why would there be any need for change whatsoever? And hence an honorable king is not of such a character.

β€’ Bhishma, finally, equated Rajdharma to Dharma— a code of conduct deviced by king Prithu to prevent the exploitation of mother earth. ‘Dharma,’ grandsire spake, ‘is not subject to laws and formalities. It but strikes a balance between one’s duty and the rights of others. And every king must be imbued with this balance. This is what Rajdharma mandates. It is not that the people are not duty bound, but the king is more duty bound than the people.’

Now, that we know, these are the very essence of Rajdharma, there are certain facts that must definitely be given consideration.
Firstly, consider how the various governments at both centre and states, ever since the Indira regime, have perpetually played the game of low politicking. It might be at its highest point now. When politics recedes to low politicking, the interests of the parties are given precedence over that of the people. The sole objective is to remain in power, that is to occupy the throne. So, the laws are constantly misused and disorders are intentionally created to satisfy the partisan motive of the governments. The governments operate on the french principle: “After me the deluge!” Try to reconcile this fact with the first point and it might generate, in you, some thoughts in regards to the present scenario.
Secondly, consider how Mr. Modi and his party have continuously blamed the preceding governments for present situation of India. They are true in many aspects but then try to reconcile this fact with the second point and it might generate, in you, some thoughts in regards to the present scenario.
Lastly, consider how the dissenting scholars and citizens are being silenced. Well, a NSA charge upon me after writing this piece might be peanuts for the State, but it would definitely turn my life upside down. It has been an established norm since Indira regime. It might be approaching its highest point now. The State certainly feels the people are more duty bound than the State. Try to reconcile this with the third point and it might generate, in you, some thoughts in regards to the present scenario.

With a hope that these reconciliation might have definitely a generated a thought in your being, I leave you to ponder upon them. And believe me, those thoughts are capable enough to answer the question mentioned above per se. Indeed the question is: “Does the State follow Rajdharma at all or are the winged words of Bhishma, in Kaliyuga, caged in the papers merely?” I leave you with a piece of your own thought on this question.

21 thoughts on “Bhishma Pitamah & the State

Add yours

  1. Indian mythology makes everything so much fascinating. I did not completely realise until the end that i was finding the errors in the fundamental ideology of a government a.k.a. the roots of corruption. Which is a question that may puzzle even the most bright minds if asked directly. The 15 mins i spent reading this is going to be there with me forever. All credit to you. πŸ‘

    Liked by 5 people

  2. 9.5/10 – This is brilliant. The contrast made everything so simple to understand. Length as always was very comfortable. Although it isn’t needed at all, but maybe you could’ve left some links in between for the curious non-indians who may want to gain a little insight about the characters mentioned. This is the 2nd best rating i’ve given you, innit?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. All they do is “Divide And Rule” to occupy the throne next time!!Our Country has been taken way back by what these idiotic fellows didπŸ™!There’s not even one sector where their decisions have been useful.For instance they postponed NEET PG for 4months saying that our health is at risk but what they are going to do in these 4months is so reckless.They are just using young medicos who have not been clinically exposed still,to covid services.Aren’t their lives at risk now?More than half of our Doctors have been vaccinated,they could have conducted exam and used us instead of putting young budding medicos at risk.Excuse me for the long comment,just poured my frustration on this Government decisions hereπŸ™.

    Liked by 2 people

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