M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru

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Brihaspati, about whose period it is very difficult to determine correctly in the absence of genuine proofs—historical or others— was the typical Brahmanical exponent of law and procedure. He was not merely concerned with systematizing theories of state ; he made the politics of his time and country an object of his immediate concern and wrote extensively on its various aspects.

The most of his ideas and maxims are compiled in the Barhas-patya-Sutra, which is said to have been addressed by Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, to Indra, king of Heaven. Although it bears the name of the celebrated Arthasastra authority quoted by Manu and by Bhishma in the Mahabharata, the political ideas and notions of its author are sufficiently distinctive to deserve an independent treatment.


Discussing the importance and significance of the science of politics or, to give it its technical title, dandaniti, Brihaspati remarks that dandaniti is the only science (vidya). In the land called Bharata where the fruits of virtue and sin visibly take effect, he observes, dandaniti exists, and it was (or should be) studied by the people of that land, past, present and future as well as the four castes. Refer­ring in a passage to the four time-cycles, Brihaspati says (III, 141-48) that men in the Krita Age are learned and versed in dandaniti, that those in the Treta Age are active and skilled in policy, that those in the Dvapara Age follow the teachers of the trantras and are versed in policy, that those in the Tishya (Kali) Age are strong in knowledge and action by one quarter and are versed in dandaniti, and that there­after the men are of contrary rules of life, colour and dress and are devoid of dandaniti. He who needlessly gives up the science of danda­niti verily enters the flame like moths through folly. By virtue of dandaniti, we read elsewhere (III, 76-78), there exists the holy Sun, the king as well as the Wind-god, and other gods and the creatures. With the above estimate of dandaniti agrees the author's view of the high authority of policy. Declaring that the fruits of policy are the attainment of Virtue (Dharma), Wealth (Artha), and Pleasure (Kama), Brihaspati remarks that even a son who is devoid of policy is an enemy. Even the preceptor who is devoid of policy, we are similarly told, should be disregarded.



In the above as well as in some other extracts Brihaspati, in the first place, repeats a view of the position of Politics in the traditional list of sciences, which agrees curiously enough not with the old Arthasastra school of that name known to Kautilya, but with that of Usanas (Sukra). According to this view, Politics alone has the claim to rank as science. Secondly, Brihaspati emphasizes not only the universal sway of politics in space and time and its supreme force, but also claims for policy the merit of fostering the complete life of individuals as well as of constituting the only title to one's affection and respect.

Authority of Law and Justice

Brihaspati's ideas of the authority of law and of justice are of particular interest as he introduces the popular element in the admi­nistration of justice. He tells us that in the hall of justice in the fort, facing the east, the court should be held all through the morning hours till noon, every day except the holidays. He divides courts into four classes : (1) stationary, (2) those moving about, (3) those presided over by the chief judge, and (4) those directed by the king. As in Manu, the king should be assisted by three assessors. But the popu­lar element enters in the administration of justice in a much more pronounced manner than in Manu. Cultivators, artisans, trade-guilds, artists, money-lenders, dancers, religious mendicants and even robbers are told to administer their disputes according to the rules of their own profession. Families, craft-guilds and local assemblies may be authorized by the king to dispose of law-suits among their members except such as concern violent crimes. Brihaspati also provides for appeal from meetings of kindred to companies, thence to assemblies and finally to the royal judges on the ground that the lower courts have not duly investigated or deliberated on the cause. The law which the royal courts are told to administer takes account of sacred injunctions, custom and equity. Thus, the king in the court is exhorted to listen to the Puranas, codes of law, and rules of polity, to act on the principles of equity, and abide by the opinion of the judges and the doctrine of the sacred law. It was a political necessity to preserve intact the time-honoured institutions of every country, caste and family. "Otherwise the people would rise in rebellion, the subjects would become disaffected towards their rulers: and the army and treasure would be destroyed." Among those who are not to be consulted in adjudication are people ignorant of local customs. A little later, Brihaspati expressly lays down that no sentence should be passed merely according to the letter of the law, but the circumstances of a case must be closely examined. Local custom, however, can be overruled by royal edicts, which thus constitute a distinct source of law. As in Manu, the law on defamation and adultery is vitiated by considerations of caste. Brihaspati counsels itinerant courts. "For persons roaming the forest,



a court should be held in the forest; for warriors, in the camp ; and for merchants, in the caravan." It is needless to follow Brihaspati into rules of procedure etc., for they mostly correspond to those enunciated by Manu. But it may be pointed out that, according to him, law-suits fall into two categories ; those originating from disputes regarding wealth and those relating to injuries. Roughly, the distinction corresponds to modern civil and criminal suits. In the absence of the king, some Brahmana, versed in law, is to act as judge.

Like Manu and Narada, Brihaspati stresses the need of evidence, classifies witnesses and hurls anathemas against perjury, but he thinks, and it is quite psychological also, that various motives, affection, anger or avarice, may render the testimony of witnesses nugatory. When doubts arise with regard to documentary and oral evidence, and when reasoning itself fails, particularly when the offence in question has been committed at night or in solitary places, ordeals should be employed. While Manu had been content with two, Brihaspati enumerated nine of them, to be administered according to the character of the accused and the nature of the charge. An ordeal must always be administered according to the established rule by persons versed in the regulations. "If it is administered against the rule, it is ineffective as a means of proving what ought to be proved." In the system of Brihaspati, which is more radical and based on the sound principle of equity unlike that of Manu, there was a general rule that if a certain amount of money or property in question justified an ordeal for a low-class man, double the amount justified it for a middle-class man and four times as much for a high-class man. In the ordeal by balance a person who, when weighed a second time, retained his original weight, was declared innocent while he who weighed heavier was adjudged guilty. It was held that the weight of sin made the difference. "Should the scale break, or the balance or beam, or iron hooks split, or the strings burst or the transverse beam split, he would have to be declared guilty." In the ordeal by water, an individual was immersed in water and three arrows were discharged. In the ordeal by poison, one had to digest poison "given to him according to rule, without the application of spells or antidotes." One should drink three handfuls of water in which the weapon of one's special deity had been bathed. If in a week or fortnight, no calamity happened to him, to his son, wife, or property, he was declared innocent. Or, after a fast and purification, one should chew grains of rice when the sun is not visible. If what he spits out is pure, he is innocent; if it is mixed with blood, he is guilty. If one can take out a hot piece of gold out of heated oil and butter, without one's fingers trembling or being blistered, one is declared innocent. To prove his innocence, one accused of theft should lick with his tongue without injury an iron ploughshare twelve palas in weight. The lighter ordeals are reserved for Brahmanas



and women. The Hindu law-givers tend to regard the oath as a kind of ordeal on the ground that it invokes supernatural agency. The law procedure in Brihaspati bears a family resemblance to the provisions in the Dharmasthiya book of the Kautilya Arthasastra. Administration of State

Brihaspati thought it necessary to overhaul tne existing system. He emphasized again and again that state was a life on which depen­ded social, individual and spiritual happiness. He reminded the people again and again that the bases of civilization of the Race are rooted in polity, that the sword which protects the people is the womb of civilization. But the sound administration of the state, Brihaspati writes, was possible only when the king took into consi­deration the opinion of the general public. According to him (Brihas­pati), the king should make secret and trusted agents travel through the kingdom for ascertaining whether his conduct of the previous day has or has not met with the approbation of the subjects.

The king's policy and conduct were criticized in the country and the king was anxious to know those citizens. The ideal is force­fully, though crudely, set forth in the national epic, the Ramayana, in the alleged reason as to why Rama parted with his queen, Sita. Though personally convinced of her innocence, he separated himself from her in response to the public will. This ideal is rightly upheld by Brihaspati when he discusses the administration of justice and the authority of the king. He asks the king to give up the smallest under­taking if there is popular clamour against it.1 Even the right thing should not be done if the people raise a voice against it.1

Brihaspati further develops this idea and tells us that the king should not follow even the dharma when it is condemned by the people and in case he does so, it should be after getting it recom­mended by intelligent persons. This principle involves an application of the twofold Smriti principle that law is invalidated by conflict with public opinion, and that its ultimate criterion is the approval of the learned. Brihaspati's further statement (II, 73) enjoining the obser­vance of the command of the preceptor, even if it conflicts with dharma, carries the latter principle to a point unwarranted by Smritis. Council of Ministers

  1. Brihaspati Sutra (Ed. by F.W. Thomas), I, 95 :

  2. Ibid., I, 4 :

On the subject of Council of Ministers, Brihaspati follows, more or less, the tradition of Arthasastra. He feels that extraordinary business is to be decided in a full meeting of the Council. This implies that ordinary business went through only ministerial offices. That would have required written notes. There is evidence that



written notes as a matter of fact were used. Asoka in his inscriptions speaks of his oral orders which imply that the orders were generally written ones. The Arthasastra also says that the ministers who were not in attendance wrote notes for the king. We have not yet discovered any document which passed through the offices of the ministers. There is, however, on the point a very valuable price of detail furnished by the Sukraniti. The detail evidently belongs to the early centuries of the Christian era as is indicated by the official designation Data, which is superseded in later (Gupta) times by Sandhi-vigrahika. It is highly important from the constitutional view­point. It depicts the procedure for passing the orders and resolutions with the help of the Council of Ministers.

Brihaspati goes a step forward and makes the position of the king quite limited by holding that even a document of gift should obtain the endorsement 'Jnatammayd1 or "noted by me" from the office of the Sandhi-vigrahika.3 In fact, Brihaspati's law code was a work of the period and this provision is of great importance. It shows that the charters which bear the name of that minister of his office were really noted by his department. This procedure throws light on the constitutional position of the ministers in that period. Even a humble gift had to be sanctioned by the ministry and it was sanctioned on their behalf by the Sandhi-vigrahika who apparently had to consider whether the gift was right from the point of view of the foreign department. Donees might be outsiders come in the kingdom, they might be enemy spies ; the foreign office, therefore, was the first authority to sanction or to reject the gift which would be passed as a matter of course by the other members of the govern­ment. The charters bear the countersignature of the officer or his assistant who passed it last. He is called Dutaka or 'despatcher'. The copper-plate grant made by king Hastin in the year corres­ponding to 510 B.C. is first sanctioned by Afahasandhi-vigrahika Vidhudatta, and finally passed by the senior minister of the army, Mahabaladhikrit Nagasimha, who signs as the Dutaka. Another grant made by a contemporary of Hastin is signed by a man who has no official title : it is not countersigned by any minister and it is recorded to have been made on the oral order of the ruler. The charter has no Dutaka either. It is evident that the grant did not pass through the Council as there was no written order of the ruler. It might have been made from the private lands of the donor.

3 Quoted by Viramitrodaya, p. 192:

It becomes evident from the above discussion that Brihaspati attaches much importance to the role of ministers which they have to play in the business of the administration, as also in giving finality to the orders and resolutions of the state. All the sixteen ministers, according to Brihaspati, were in charge of different works ; they

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carried out theVorks of their respective departments and advised the king on all important? and non-important matters. And the king was bound by their advice. A king not accepting the good advice of his ministers and others swiftly perishes like king Duryodhana. Thus Brihaspati binds the king by the advice of his ministers and makes his (king's) position constitutionally quite weak.

Duties of the King

On the subject of authority and obligation of the temporal ruler, Brihaspati is almost completely silent. In one place (I, 28) he defines anger as consisting in the thought of injury to kings and others. This suggests the old Smriti doctrine of obedience of the subjects to their temporal ruler. In other passages (I, 14, 55), however, he betrays the old Smriti contempt for the king's office, for he not only condemns royal service but forbids connection for long with kings as with harlots and soothsayers.

We may conveniently approach Brihaspati's view of the theories as well as principles and policies of government by considering his fundamental attitude towards the objectives of human existence. He, in a lengthy extract (II, 4-35) contemplates the pursuit of the three ends of life (namely, Wealth, Desire and Virtue) according to th< standards of the Materialists, the Kapalika sect of Saivas and the Jainas respectively, but he immediately proceeds to condemn all the three sects in strong terms. He states that Desire and Wealth should be tested by Virtue, although somewhat inconsistently he requires these to be tested by their own standards. Later on, he declares Virtue to be the chief end of life and deprecates happiness enjoyed in violation of Virtue. He also enjoins the acquisition of Wealth in the highest terms, declaring that the world is rooted in Wealth, and that the poor man is, as it were, dead and a Chandala. With the above, Brihaspati joins a strong plea for the acquisition of learning rooted in Virtue, declaring learning to be the root of the v orld as well as of everything. Though these ideas of Brihaspati are difficult to reconcile with cne another, it would seem that he stood for fulfil­ment of the complete life of the individual based on the threefold end of existence, with the spiritual element dominating the temporal, and in the alternative, with the two elements operating independently. According to a less complete enumeration, Brihaspati stands for the fulfilment of the material as well as intellectual interests of man, the last one being held to be based upon Virtue. To add to the com­plexity of his ideas, Brihaspati, while declaring three well-known non-Vedic systems to be the standards of the threefold end of man's existence joins them in the same context in a common condemnation.

Principles and Policies of Government

Brihaspati's theories as well as principles and policies of govern­ment, while agreeing somewhat with his general outlook on life, repeats the familiar Arthasastra-Smriti conceptions. Thus, in the first


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place, he requires the king to be equipped with self-mastery and warns him against overindulgence in hunting and in women. Ruler-ship, he says, belongs to one who possesses good qualities comprising those of learning and wealth as well as the advantage of assistants. One whose counsels are well-ordered and who knows his enemy's weak points, but is not virtuous, is incapable of ruling a kingdom : he who is intoxicated with the pride of power and is filled with greed and haughtiness, loses what has been acquired, but he who enjoys material comforts after reflecting upon his measures, achieves the highest success. In short, Brihaspati, repeating a familiar princi­ple, declares the king's qualifications to comprise self-restraint, learning and deliberation.

In the second place, Brihaspati (II, 41-42) defines counsel (mantra) as the act of effecting unity of purpose among the king's assistants,' while he enjoins the ministers to speak of projects without regard foi the master's preference. Elsewhere Brihaspati, after declaring counsel to be the root of victory, arranges the same in three grades ; namely, good, intermediate and bad. The work which is undertaken, it is explained, in the company of friends and kinsmen as well as of learned and steady persons, is the best. He who undertakes a work after consultation with those devoted to the acquisition of wealth is the best, while he who does so after ascertaining the good and the bad results but under the impulse of excessive folly, is the worst. That counsel is the best which is taken unanimously in accordance with the science of polity by steady ministers. The counsel is mid­dling when there are at first differences of opinion but afterwards unanimity. The counsel is the worst when there arise quarrel and reproach (one being for Virtue and another for Wealth), and in the company of women, children and old men (one indulging in tears and another in anger). In yet another passage (IV, 1 -6) Brihaspati, after asking the king to get to know acts suited to time and place as well as lessons of policy and impolicy and to ascertain what is good for himself, deals afresh with the topic of counsel. He should, we are told, carry his policy into effect after consultation with his ministers, and he should ascertain what should and what should not be done, in the company of officials living by their wits. He who can design even an unwelcome measure is fit for consultation. In the above extracts, Brihaspati's ideas are not expressed in a very clear language. It would, however, appear that following the Arthasastra precedent, he not only stresses the supreme importance of counsel as the road to political success, but also lays down its essential requisites. These last comprise, first, the king's selection of qualified ministers with courage enough to disregard his own wishes, and secondly, unanimity of decisions.

Principles of Foreign Policy

In the third place, Brihaspati lays down the lines of internal



and foreign policy after the well-known Arthasastra category of politi­cal expedients. When the enemy is equal in strength and so forth, we see (I, 30-31, 46-48), he should be slain in war: other adversaries should be met by the expedients of conciliation, bribery, creating dissension, producing illusion, (pretended) indifference and so forth, towards dependents, he should apply force and bribery within and without: towards ministers he should apply conciliation, dissension and bribery : to his kinsmen he should make allotment of his in­come for the sake of conciliation, dissension and bribery. At another place (V, 1-8), Brihaspati, after referring to the four primary expedi­ents and the three supplementaries and in addition (strangely enough) the three expedients of creating illusion, (pretended) indifference as well as slaying, advises their application severally as well as collective­ly towards various classes of the king's subjects. Towards the bold he should apply the single expedient of conciliation, towards the timid double expedient of conciliation and dissension, towards the greedy he should direct the triple expedient of conciliation, bribery and dissension, towards the difficult ones he should apply all the six expedients of conciliation, dissension, bribery, creating illusion, pretended indifference and slaying. Conciliation, Brihaspati finally remarks, should be applied in the first instance. In the above extracts, it will be seen that Brihaspati repeats the complete Arthasastra Hst of political expedients with one significant omission, namely, that of magic (indrajala). As regards the application of the expedients, Brihaspati, agreeing with the Arthasastra tradition, recommends con­ciliation in the first instance, but disagreeing with the san „ he advo­cates war with an enemy of equal strength. His plea for the conjoint application of the expedients towards the king's enemies as well as subjects is in general agreement with the above tradition, although its detailed exposition seems to be peculiar to himself.

Coercive Authority of the King

As regards the coercive authority of the king, Brihaspati follows the old Arthasastra principle as well as the views of Manu. Should the king, says Brihaspati, like Narada, not constantly apply danda against all who have fallen from their duties, these people would perish. The Brahmana would slay his fellow Brahmana, and Vaisya would give up his occupation and the Sudra would overpower all: should the king not exist on this earth for wielding danda, the strong would roast the weak like fish on a spit. He further tells (I, 9, 15-16) that no one who has strayed from his proper duties, be this person father, preceptor, friend or mother, wife, son or domestic chaplain, is exempt from the king's punishment. Should the sacrificial priest, the domestic chaplain, the ministers, sons or relatives violate their duties, they should be punished and banished from the town. Thus Brihaspati, like Narada, repeats the old Arthasastra principle that danda is the safeguard of individual security and stability of the social order after the canonical standards. He repeats after Manu the



principle of the king's unlimited application of danda. In fact, the coercive authority of the ruler is a preventive against anarchy as well as the best means of securing respect for authority, without which the polity, the main concern of our author, would go to ruin.

Concluding our discussion of Brihaspati's political ideas, we can unhesitatingly state that although Brihaspati, following the Artha­sastra tradition, held the king as the chief inflicter of danda and spoke for its unlimited application by the former, he did not share at all the conception of an unlimited authority of the king, as held by Austin and other jurists in England. He duly limited the authority of the king by the advice of his Council of Ministers, as also by the popular voice of the people, and, as such, he was against the idea of an irresponsible king. Even when he upheld the conception of an unlimited application of danda, he meant by it the lawful and wise application of the authority. In short, while propounding his theory of government as well as his conception of the coercive authority of the king, Brihaspati did not forget, even for a moment, the main aim of the polity and of the king, that, according to him (Brihaspati), is nothing short of the security and prosperity of the people. And it was due to his concern for the welfare of the people that he intro­duced a democratic element into his theory of government and state law.

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