dharmarajya, rajdharma or also called Rama Rajya is the Ideal State or Nation based on the principles of dhrama — the State constituted according to the principles of Indian polity, where the organic groupings of the people function unhindered, where the order and discipline inherent in these groupings is protected. In such a Rajya the forces of nature also remain in their benign aspect, all is well ordered, everyone is healthy, happy and cared for. It is a non-sectarian State and not a Theocracy.
Mahakavi Valmiki describes the state of affairs under Rama Rajya thus:
- There is happiness and cheer all around. All are contented. All are well-nourished. All follow dharma. All are in good health. All are without disease. And, all are free from fear and hunger.
- No parent witnesses the death of a child. No wife witnesses the death of her husband. And, all women are chastely devoted to their husbands.
- Fire causes no disasters. No living being ever drowns in water. Winds remain benign. Fevers hold no fear. Nobody has to worry about hunger. Nothing is ever stolen.
- The cities and all parts of the country are laden with grain and all kinds of wealth. Everyone is always happy. It is as if Kritayuga has returned.
Dharma sets forth an ideal to strive for, an ideal for all humanity; dharma is a universal ethic, which evolved over time as an eternal satyam (truth) which should govern every human endeavor which should result in the good of all living entities, bhutahitam.
The cornerstone of Hindu Nation is Dhrama
Dharma is the greatest contribution of Hindu Rastra (‘Hindu Nation’) to the world of thought and to civilization. Dharma is the quintessence of the perceptions of rishi (‘seers’) of yore, who laid the early foundations of the Bharatam Janam (Rigveda), the Nation of Bharata. The Nation of Bharata is based on universal life style for humanity and cannot strictly be called a separate religion to be followed by any one particular community or nationals. The word 'Dharma' does not have any equivalent in English language. In Sanskrit language Dharma means duty that is to be observed by one and all, irrespective of caste, creed, nationality etc.
The ideal of the Indian state has been dharmarajya. Tolerance of and respect for all faiths and creeds is an essential feature of the Indian state. Freedom of worship and conscience is guaranteed to all and the state does not discriminate against anyone on grounds of religion, either in the formulation of policy or in its implementation. It is a non-sectarian State and not a Theocracy’.
— Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya at a Bharatiya Jana Sangh meeting held at Vijayawada from January 23 to 25, 1965.
It is the responsibility of every rastra to uphold and protect dharma. The responsibility of the Hindu rastra to uphold and protect dharma is a historic necessity. For several millennia, the Hindu rastra has been the trustee of dharma, this treasure of civilization. To forsake dharma, will be a dereliction of duty, an adharma, a papam, a defiance of the rta, the natural, cosmic order, a repudiation of the rna, the debt owed to the pitr-s, the ancestors of the Hindu. There are many thematic accounts of Dharma and philosophical foundations of the traditions of Bharata, the Hindu Rastra or Hindu Nation.
The Hindu rastra was in an instrumentality for creating and sustaining the state of society under the world-view described here as the Dharma Rajya. The creation of the Vedic Rashtra means neither harm to any community nor appeasement of any group, community, sex or individual. Creation of the Hindu Rastra in Bharata is a matter of historical exigency.
The ideological basis of the existing civilization is essentially sensate (truth subjected to the testimony of sense organs), materialistic (an irrevocable denial of divine purpose and the spiritual meaning of life), nihilistic (reckless denial of everything worthwhile, meaningful, intrinsic, transcendental and purposeful), technocratic (practically making human dignity and freedom subservient to technology: man for machine) and market oriented (man treated at par with goods, commodities, objects: his value determined by the currency). Under the impact of its poisonous thoughtways man is increasingly growing into a beast in terms of his attitudes, feelings, interactions with his fellow-beings, and above all, in his thinking: survival of the fittest.
Stripped of his human attributes, man is reduced to a mere competitor, a money-maker, and worst of all, a robot. We are now witnessing a global insanity; drive for death and an increasing desensitization as regards the human feelings for the human beings. The psychological consequences are de-humanized societies and cultures resulting in conflicts, wars, genocide and mental and psychosomatic disorders.
The philosophy of dharmarajya derived from the Vedas and the Upanishads, counteracts this most destructive character of the existing civilization because it increases the distance between man and the beast, which is surely the goal of human evolution. The philosophy of Rama Rajya is therefore essentially evolutionary, and powerful enough to avert the crisis of our age, created by the anti-evolutionary forces.
The philosophy of dharmarajya can effectively provide an alternative to Dialectical Materialism of Marx. It gives us a wisdom contained in the Isa Upanishad. Hence, ‘the wise man, who realizes all beings as not distinct from his own Self and his own Self as the Self of all beings, does not by virtue of that perception hate anyone’. LOVE, AND NOT HATRED, SHALL BE THE BASIS OF THE VEDIC RASHTRA.1
Precepts of Dharma Rajya
Indians (or Hindus), lived securely within their vast and fertile lands for millennia without fear of external aggression or internal scarcity, developed into a homogeneous civilizational area. This homogeneous civilization of India is anchored in the sanatana dharma (timeless dharma).
Living in their splendid and rich isolation, Indians have been at peace with themselves, with nature, and with the world. The sanatana dharma enshrines, at its heart, a sense of deep respect for all aspects of creation. This respect for all creation and the urge to live in harmony with all is the defining characteristic of sanatana dharma, and therefore, of Indianness.
Dharma Rajya in its pure form is a code of conduct for harmonious development and guidance of entire humanity. It is definitely not confined to one particular race, caste, creed or nationality. Everyone, irrespective of what faith he/she follows in personal life, all shares and practice this code in day-to-day life.
Sarva Dharma Sambhav — equal respect to all
Freedom of different viewpoints, different forms of worship not only outside religion but even within religion. Even certain sects who are hedonistic and consumeristic, and who do not strictly believe in the existence of God, are also taken as part of society.
Accepts that there are many ways of attaining salvation. Other paths, ways, faiths or religions can therefore be taken as alternative ways of attaining one's moksha. Within religion, one should finds acceptance to many other sub-religions or schools, which are in many respects dissimilar to each other but still considered part of broad nationhood.
Entire human race to work for the ennoblement of every human being. To uplift and alleviate every human being to the status of a noble, cultural and civilized being; become a pure human being within and without. Wishes happiness, mercy, welfare and good for everyone.
Unity and Order in All
Every Indian thus is imbued with a sense of responsible kinship with all aspects of creation, with an awareness of divinity in all sentient and insentient beings, that needs to be not only respected and worshiped but also nurtured and cared for according to the exigencies of the times.
The Grihastha forms the Foundation of Society
Indian civilization has not only comprehended the essence of the Universe; it has also evolved a social order appropriate for leading life in conformity with that comprehension. The Indian social organization is thus as peculiarly Indian as the larger Indian view of the Universe.
The primary responsibility of caring for all aspects of creation in the Indian civilisational perspective is placed upon the grihastha, the responsible and capable householder. The Mahabharata says that hundreds and thousands of moving and unmoving creatures in the Universe live off what the grihastha earns through his righteous actions; and the States, ministers, soldiers and scholars all depend upon the grihastha for their sustenance.
The grihastha, the householder along with his family, and not the individual, forms the basic unit of Indian social, economic and moral order.
Community and Grama form the Nucleus of the State
The grihasthas form into myriad groupings around the locality, the profession, the kinship community, or the religious faith. In the Indian perspective, all these spontaneous and organic formations of the society are taken to be inherently legitimate participants in public affairs. All these partake of the attributes of the State. In fact, the activities of these groups—of the community, the grama and the sampradaya—in their respective domains, and their mutual interactions, constitute public polity in the Indian sense.
Much of what a modern State is expected to do in the sphere of public polity is in India accomplished through these social groupings. Even today the maintenance of public order and provision of social security, two of the most elaborate and expensive functions of the modern State, are performed largely by the family, the community, the grama and the sampradaya. The family, community, the grama and the sampradaya also continue to take care of the elderly, the sick and the destitute. These functions in modern States consume almost one-third of the gross national product of nations.
It is true that with the impoverishment of Indian society during the long period of subjugation, the families, the gramas, the communities and the sampradayas are bereft of sufficient resources to carry out these functions with the generosity and care that classical India expects of them. Yet, whatever social security is available to Indian people comes from them. And as we shall see later, these organic groupings of the people have also become the major basis of support for the flowering of Indian enterprise in many spheres.
State at the Apex Upholds Dharma
The Society in India governs itself through the family, the community, the grama, and the sampradaya. The duty of the State who sits at the apex of this selfgenerating and self-governing polity is to guarantee harmonious functioning of these diverse groupings and institutions of the society in their different domains and roles; and to protect the society from external aggression. The State presents the forbidding face of the society to the outsiders. That face assumes an aspect of benign non-intervention when turned inwards.
With respect to the society the State has no legislative or coercive power. His role is to protect the discipline inherent in various organic groups of the society, to protect desadharma, jatidharma and kuladharma of various groups. In fact, along with prajarakshana, protection of the people, the other major attribute of the State in Indian civilisational perspective is lokaranjana, keeping the society in good humour. The Indian term for the State, raja, is derived from this ranjana aspect of Stateship. The early British observers were indeed surprised to notice that the States in India took this function so seriously that they often seemed to be in awe of their people.
In addition to performing his duties of protection against external aggression and upholding the customs and discipline of communities, the State in India is expected to behave like a great grihastha, who carefully looks after and provides for the welfare of all. In the Mahabharata, Bhishma advises Yuddhisthira to become the provider of the unprovided, and to carefully look after those who happen to be under his direct care. Indian States therefore always took care to support institutions of hospitality and sharing throughout their empires. The greatly revered States of Indian history like Harshavardhana emptied their treasuries at regular intervals, giving away all their wealth for the care of the needy.
The Dharma Rajya of Thanjavur
In a letter of 1801, the Raja of Thanjavur offers the following graphic description of the Chatrams, institutions of hospitality and sharing, of his Rajya. The following excerpt explains the nature and extent of the charities dispensed by them [Chatrams] —
In each Chatram a teacher to each of the four vedas is appointed, and a schoolmaster, and doctors skilful in the cure of diseases… All the orphans who come to the Chatram are placed under the care of the schoolmaster. They are fed three times a day. Once in four days they are anointed with oil. They receive medicine when they require it, clothes are given to them and the utmost attention paid to them. They are instructed in the sciences to which they may express a preference; and after having obtained a competent knowledge of them the expenses of their marriage are defrayed.
Travellers who fall sick at the Chatram or before their arrival receive medicines and the diet proper for them, and are attended with respect and kindness until their recovery. …Milk is provided to the infants; pregnant women are entertained with kindness…
The Tanjore country is celebrated over all the world for its charities. It is called Dharma Rajya, and I consider the reputation which reverts upon me through all countries from the appellation, as the most honourable distinction of my rank.
—Sarforjee Maharaja of Thanjavur, 1801
All travellers from the Brahmin to the Pariar inclusive, pilgrims of every description… are fed with boiled rice; those who do not choose to eat the boiled rice receive it unboiled with spices etc. These distributions continue till midnight when a bell is rung and proclamation made requiring all those who have not been fed to appear and take the rice prepared for them.
Dharma, Secularism and Religion
As per Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English the word 'secular' is an adjective and it signifies that the respective art, education, music etc. is not connected with spirituality or religious matters.
The New Collins Dictionary gives the meaning of secular as (i) not concerned with or related to religion, (ii) having no particular religious affinities. Further, for the word secularism Oxford dictionary says that secularism is a belief that religion should not be involved in the organization of society, education etc. In other words, religion should not have its influence on the respective art, education, music etc. The New Collins Dictionary gives the meaning of secularism as the attitude that religion should have no place in civil affairs.
If one goes by above meanings of secularism, a "secular religion" seems to be a contradiction. Whether a religion, before it could be termed secular, need to be completely bereft of any spirituality? Another question is: in our country, do we wish to create a society where religion is not to play any role in civil affairs. Thus it is difficult to agree with this Western meaning of secularism where a rigid line is supposed to be drawn between religion and civil activities.
Religion in Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution does not draw a strict wall between State and religion. Rather it follows the policy of 'Sarva Dharma Sambhav' (equal respect to every religion).
But the question arises — whether the notion of 'equal respect to all religion' can coexist with the freedom of practicing and propagating one's religion. In other words, as per the main tenets of various religions, is there enough scope for harmonious coexistence of Indian citizens, who may practice different religions.
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