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The political lessons from the Mahabharata

by Bishaldeep Kakati - 20 June, 2024, 12:00 240 Views 0 Comment

The word ‘politics’ always inflicts a sense of excitement as well as resentment amongst the public at large. Often people irrespective of gender or age are found commenting upon the dynamics of politics and the way it has taken shape over the years. The subject of politics is driven by the way the politicians of each era want it to be. However, in the larger context, politics is often thought to be the administrative spell of magic that can bring about good to the society and the people residing in it. It won’t be wrong even to conclude that it is the system of politics that plays a pivotal role in upholding the basic facets of democracy.

Each land or every country has certain precedents already set that ultimately define the structural discourse of politics in it and in this regard, the nation of India or ‘Bharatbarsha’ is not different either. In fact, from the Vedas, scriptures to the religious books written or composed in India, each and everything has one or the other thing to comment upon politics and its application in order to establish a regime strong enough to withstand all the internal or external hurdles.

In this context, the holy books of the Hindus i.e. the Ramayana and the Mahabharata with their tales and accounts specifically narrate how an administrator should be, how the people should be governed and also highlight the basic fundamentals of establishing a robust state. If we confabulate about the Ramayana, it portrays the character of Rama, who is considered to be one of the best administrators, who played a significant role in establishing the ‘Ram Rajya’, the same Ram Rajya which people expect to witness in the current era as well. But it is from the tales of Mahabharata that relate to the diplomacy of Shree Krishna that one can understand the essence of using the power of mind and brain along with politics to establish and strengthen the pillars of truth and the victory of good over evil. As such the political lessons that the epic Mahabharata provide never become old and these lessons have relevance even in contemporary times.

One of the major lessons that can be learnt from the Mahabharata is that there is no point in holding the moral values if one loses in the process or in short, the evil prevails over the good. If we try to analyze and decode modern Indian politics or thought processes, we can find that there is an obsession with upholding moral values.

Although moral values are important when the talk is about ethics in politics, holding moral values doesn’t justify the cause if the evil becomes victorious over the good. If this happens, then there is every chance that the evil might return to haunt again and cause greater harm. Even if we move back to history, it also provides anecdotes of the same cause and action. In 1191, the Rajput ruler

Prithvi Raj Chauhan succeeded in defeating Mohammad of Ghor and capturing him. But later on, completely on moral grounds, Prithvi Raj Chauhan released Mohammad of Ghor, only to be defeated by him the very next year in the Battle of Tarain of 1192. However, in Mahabharata, Krishna advocated for immoral and deceitful strategies to defeat evil, when major things were at stake even though from the lens of morality, it might be completely wrong. The end result of such acts later on proved to be decisive in establishing the much desired ‘Dharma’.

The other important lesson that can be grasped by understanding the epic Mahabharata is the necessity of war especially when there is the talk of establishing good over evil. Although, with the evolution of time and the coming of International organizations, and efforts have been made to deescalate the concept of war, Krishna in Mahabharata advocated for the war to establish peace, harmony and rightfulness, especially when all the political talks and negations failed. The Mahabharata narrates the story of Krishna requesting King Dhritarastra to provide only 5 villages to the 5 brothers or Pandavas in order to move astray from war, but even when that was rejected, Krishna completely devoted himself in the battle of Mahabharata and also guided the Pandavas to win the battle. In many instances, when Arjuna was highly reluctant to shoot arrows aiming at Pitamah or the Kauravas, it was he who made him realize the importance of using his full power to win the battle for a good cause. However in recent times, India has adopted the principles of non-violence, sometimes war is also justifiable to establish the concept of good over evil rather than walking away from violence.

Another important lesson that the Mahabharata teaches us is that certain rules and regulations need to be interpreted and executed flexibly when the talk is about establishing Dharma. It is believed that rules and regulations often serve a social cause, but if the same rules and regulations fail over time to serve the cause, the same should be either discarded or amended. In Mahabharata, it was seen that Sri Krishna in a very deceitful manner amended certain rules and regulations flexibly in order to achieve the greater cause.

For instance, it was he who planned to weaken the powerful Guru Dronacharya by stating that his son Ashwathama was killed. But when Guru Dronacharya enquired Dharmaraj Yudhisthir about the same, Yudhisthir following Krishna’s advice yelled that Ashwathama was killed, but in a whispering tone also told that the Aswathama who died was the name of an elephant but not his son, which was not heard by Dronacharya. By doing that, Krishna not only ensured that Yudhisthir’s habit of speaking the truth was kept intact but also demoralized Dronarcharya in terms of its valour and courage in the war.

Therefore, if one analyses carefully, the lessons of politics that the epic Mahabharata has important facets related to it and its importance cannot be discarded even in the present era. The accounts and tales of Shree Krishna in Mahabharata have undoubtedly prompted people to call him India’s greatest politician. Moreover if in the near future, India faces a political crisis for whatever reason, be it internal or external, the politicians can always refer back to the lessons in Mahabharata to change its course.

Bishaldeep Kakati
Author is an Advocate at Gauhati High Court
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