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Republic – Democracy In Ancient Hindu India – Vairajya

Vairajya means “without kingdom” and derivatively, ‘without
king.’ Aitareya Brahmana gives as examples of Vairajyas the Himalayan states of
Uttara Kuru and Uttara Madra. Possibly elders of the ruling clan or
representative of people administered the states. Other Vedic texts also refer
to this type of rule. Thus we have many references of a republic and democracy
in ancient Hindu India.

Naga Shrine of Kavaledurga Shimoga, Karnataka

Kautilya describes vairajya in his Arthashastra (VII. 2.5-8)
as “snatching what belongs to another or impoverishment, plunder and
abandonment of the country”, presumably by the king. Hence it has been
suggested that vairajya means alien rule though not necessarily not-Indian
rule. Kautilya’s vairajya cannot be construed as headless states, as such
states give rise to anarchy, which does not keep people happy and in peace.

Kautilya and other political thinkers of the time were
votaries of the monarchial form of state and the divine right of the king.
However, vairajyas can be called republics that existed from the Vedic times.

Political thinkers, however, have waxed eloquent on the
beneficial aspects of vairajya, where people’s will prevailed and they were
ruled as they wanted. Such republics provided peace, prosperity, and happiness.
The disadvantage of such republics was that an enemy could easily attack and overrun
the republic.

Vedic period perhaps saw the rise of important monarchical as
well as non-monarchical states, which find mention in Panini and the Jataka
stories. The republic form of government was perhaps limited to the Himalayan region.

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