Concept of Republic
The post-Vedic period has unique place in the history of ancient India.
This period is characterized by intense social stratification, growth of
large number of urban centres and the emergence of many states.
The use of iron to not only make weapons but also in making agricultural
tools helped in great expansion of agrarian landscape.
The increase in food production could now sustain the increasing
population in the middle Ganga-plains. Substantial increase in population
lead to the emergence of urban centres.
• So, these material transformations led to the rise of large
states with towns as their base of operations, ultimately
strengthening the territorial idea.
• A passage from Panini text shows that people owed allegiance
to the ‘janapada’ or to the territory which they belonged.
• The new material and social situation led to the rapid
development of such state organs as army and taxation
• But it also gave rise to some tribal order forming Republican form of
government. So, at the time of rise of Buddhism, two kinds of state
are included in the list of mahajanapadas: monarchies(rajyas) and
non-monarchical/ republican(ganas or sangha)(oligarchies).
• 16 Mahajanapadas are---1.kasi(Varanasi), 2.kosala(saket and
Ayodhya), 3.Anga(Bhagalpur and Munghyr), 4.Magadha(Patna and
Gaya) , 5.Vajji(Vaishali), 6.Malla(kusinara, Pava), 7.
Chedi(Bundelkhand central India), 8.Vatsa(Kaushambi),
9.Kuru(Indraprastha), 10.Panchal(Rohilkhand, central India),
11.Matsya(Jaipur), 12.Shursena(Mathura), 13.Ashmaka(modern
day Bodhan, Telengana), 14.Avanti(Malwa, central India),
15.Gandhara(modern Peshawar and Rawalpindi and Kashmir
• Vajjis, Mallas, Sakayas of Kapilvastu, Koliyas of Devadaha, Moriyas
of Pipphaliva were important ganasanghas.
• The Ganas/republics had greater elements of tribal organization
than the monarchies.
• In Republic/Ganasangha, the chief’s position was not hereditary
and was known as Ganapati or Ganaraja/mahasammanta(the
great elect). Whereas, in monarchies, all powers were vested with
the king and his family. The divine nature of kingship was well
established, reinforced by rajasuya, ashvamedha, vajapeya yajnas.
• The republics were mostly located in or near the Himalayan
foothills in eastern India. While, majority of monarchies occupied
the fertile plains of the Indo-Gangetic belt.
• Republics were representative forms of government. The
council used to discuss and debate the issues. However, in
monarchies the political power was concentrated in the king
who was assisted by ministers, advisory councils.
• Republics were more tolerant than the monarchies. It is
because of this tolerance– Buddhism and Jainism—were able
to propagate their teachings in a more unrestricted way as
compared to monarchies. Whereas in monarchies, the
Brahmanical political, social and religious theory were more
• So, the independent republican tribes emerging from the
Vedic tribes retained the tribal tradition on a larger scale
than the monarchies where tribal loyalties weakened to give
way to territorial identities.
• The popular Vedic assemblies were retained in the gana-
rajyas whereas they gave way to the rise of bureaucracy as
well as growth in power of the brahmanas.
• In monarchies, the king claimed to be the sole recipient of
revenue from the peasants, but in republics this claim was
advanced by each one of the tribal chiefs/kings who
maintained their individual storehouse.
• A monarchy maintained its regular standing army, but in a tribal
oligarchy each raja had his own little army under his Senapati.
• Brahmans had no place in the early republics nor did they
recognize these states in their law-books.
• The Vedic assemblies continued its functioning in republics to
some extent. But these assemblies ceased to exist in the
• It is, however, important to remember that the republican
tradition became weak from the Mauryan period onwards. Even
in pre-Mauryan period, the monarchic element was far stronger.
RAMAYANA & MAHABHARATA(Epic Literature)
• These two Sanskrit epics fall within the category of ‘smriti’ as
well as ‘itihas’(traditional history), although the Ramayana is
sometimes classified as Kavya(poetry).
• There are similarities in language and style of these two epics
which means they emerged from a common cultural milieu.
These texts contain powerful stories that have captured the
imagination of millions of people over the centuries.
• The Mahabharata refers to Valmiki and the Ramayana, and
outlines the Rama story in a section called the
• The Ramayana also mentions the Kurus, Hastinapur, although
it does not mention the Mahabharata war. So, the two epics
were aware of each other, at least in their later stages of
• The composition of the Mahabharata can be placed between
c.400BCE and c. 400CE, and the Ramayana between the
5th/4th century BCE and 3rd century CE.
• Sometimes the term ‘Epic Age’ has been used to describe the
period in which these epics were composed. But now, the
term ‘epic age’ is no longer used by historians because
composition and development of these epics could have
spanned over many centuries, possibly even a millennium. So,
most historians no longer use the term ‘epic age’.
• With regard to their chronology, traditions point out that Rama
lived in the ‘treta yug(age)’ and Mahabharata war happened in
the ‘Dvapara yuga’. But some historians argue that the events and
characters associated with Mahabharata reflect slightly earlier
period than those of the Ramayana.
• This is because the setting of the Mahabharata is the Indo-
Gangetic plains and upper Ganga valley, whereas in Ramayana,
the centre of political activity shifted to eastwards to the middle
of Ganga valley.
• Another reason given is that the strong women characters of the
Mahabharata suggest an earlier stage of social development,
when women were less subordinated to men compared to later
• The practice of ‘niyoga’(levirate,i.e. when a husband deputes
his conjugal rights over his wife to another man in order to
produce an heir) in the Mahabharata also suggests a social
stage that is prior to that of the Ramayana, which shows
much stricter control over women.
• The Mahabharata consists of 18 Parvas(books). The core story
concerns a conflict between two sets of cousins—Kauravas
and Pandavas– and a great war that was fought between
them at Kurukshetra.
• But the Mahabharata also contains a huge amount of material
that has little or no connection with the main story. In this
respect, it is truly a encyclopaedic work.
• With regard to the composition of Mahabharata, one can say that
its contains over 90,000 stanzas and is probably the longest single
poem in the world’s literature.
• It is composed by sage Vyasa, who is said to have taught it to his
pupil Vaisampayana. According to tradition, Vaisampayana recited
it in public for the first time at a great sacrifice held by the King
Janamejaya, the great grandson of Arjuna, one of the heroes of
• It tells about the great civil war in the kingdom of the Kurus,
Kuruksetra, region around Delhi. According to tradition, it was
composed by Vyasa, but in its present form, it is clearly not the
work of single individual.
• The chief characters of the story are delinated in very simple
outline, but with an individuality which makes them real persons.
• The heroic story forms the core of the Mahabharata, to
which many other stories, sermons and didactic portions
containing teachings were added over centuries.
• One such addition is the sermon on ‘dharma’(Santi parvan-
it is dissertation on statecraft and ethics ) by Bhishma as he
lay dying on a bed of arrows. Another addition is discourse of
Krishna to Arjuna on the eve of war known as Bhagvad Gita.
• It is in Santiparva that a systematic knowledge of
Rajadharma can be seen. According to Mahabharata it
is the duty of the king to seek and promote the welfare
of its subject.
• The king must be compassionate towards the people of all
sections of society and must fully concentrate on the welfare of
the people. The kings should possesses following
characteristics: intellect renunciation, awareness of the
weaknesses of the enemies, good looks, capacity to be fair
and just to all the sub-sections, quickness in decision
making, softness in behaviour, industrious, hardworking,
farsightedness, indifference to self-pride and control over
• The king should assume different roles according to the various
situations and according to the need of the hour, when needed
he should be merciless in destroying the enemies, on the path of
justice inflicting punishments upon the wicked, bestowing
rewards upon the good, fining offenders, etc.
• The first and foremost duty of the king was to protect the life
and property of the people from all kinds of invasions and
violation and creation of an environment where righteousness
prevails in his state.
• A king, who is incapable of protecting the people, is
considered useless. The restraint of Dharma can only facilitate
the conditions for the prevalence of righteousness and the
promotion of the material well-being of the people, which is the
primary duty of the king.
• Yudhishthira himself says that Rajadharma is all
comprehensive. It is inclusive of Dharma, Artha and Kama.
Only Rajadharma is able to control the world and keep the
people under the restraint of maryada.
• The characteristics, roles, duties, functions and qualities
of the king as described and discussed in Shantiparvam
of Mahabharata, one can say that the main duties of the
king were the maintenance of Varnaashram system,
protection of the people, establishment of rules and
general principles of activity in the state, appointment of
royal servants, inspection of the functionaries, and
economic well-being and social welfare of the people of
• This epic deals with the story of Rama, price of Kosala, his
banishment to the forest due to the intrigues of his wicked
stepmother, abduction of his wife Sita by Ravana, the king of
Lanka; Sita’s rescue and Rama’s return to the capital Ayodhya
to become king.
• The epic consists of 7 kandas(books) like Balakanda, Ayodhya
kanda, Aranya kanda, Kishkindhaa kanda, Sundar Kanda,
Yudhha Kanda, and Uttarkanda. The compact vocabulary and
style show that the core of text was work of single individual,
identified as Valmiki.
• The popularity and dynamism of Ramayana is indicated by
fact that apart from the Valmiki Ramayana, there are
numerous other versions of Rama story.
• For example, a Jaina version—the Paumachariu of Vimalasuri
in prakrit, a Buddhist version—the Dasharatha Jataka in pali,
Tamil version by Kamban called Iramavataram and
Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas in 16th c.
• There are also various oral versions of the story. The Rama
legend has enjoyed great popularity in other parts of Asia like
Tibet, Mynamar, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.
• Ramayana as a mirror of the social life of ancient Indian subcontinent:-
it shows us that all good attributes like faithfulness, sincerity,
truthfulness, etc., are spine of a civilized social order prevailing in
• The Saptanga theory of state/ seven limbs of the state–
1.svamin(king) 2. amatya(minister) 3.janapada/rashtra(territory)
4.durga(fort)/pura(fortified capital) 5.kosa(treasury) 6.
danda/bala(army) 7.mitra(allies)– considered complementary to each
other and of great consequence are mentioned in these two epics.
• It is also mentioned in the Arthashatra, Dharamsastra, Nitisastra,
Puranas. It is mentioned in the same manner or with some minor
changes in one or two names.
• The elements of statecraft as revealed in these works reflect that
ancient thinkers and philosophers were equally concerned with
worldly affairs like statecraft apart from their indulgence in study of
• Its also shows that art of statecraft was a comprehensive subject of
study which aimed at the establishment of a welfare state, catering to
both material and moral developments of subjects dwelling in