Indian Political Thought Dharmashastra Political Science YouTube Lecture Handouts

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Dharmashastra: Duties of King, Religion and Governance, Indian Political Thought| Political Science

Title: Indian Political Thought Dharmashastra


  • Throughout the rich heritage of Indian literature, embodied Sanskrit, Tamil and other languages there are innumerable passage illustrating every known theory of government and temporal powers.
  • But it should not be forgotten that political thought is an integral aspect of Indian philosophy and that in Gandhi՚s words there is no artificial separation into political, social and religious affairs.


Dharmasastra is a collection of Sanskrit theological texts and refers to the treatise of Hinduism on Dharma.

  • Dharmasastra consists of Sutras which are in the form of poetic verses as a part of Smritis (Something which is remembered of) .
  • It is somewhat different in its style of presentation from Shrutis (something which is heard of)
  • Dharmasastra contains information about basic goals of a man which are mentioned in various other ancient Hindu literature: Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha.
  • It is one of the earliest collection of formulae (sutra) in the form of short texts (verses) in poetic style which provide direction/opinion to a man which is helpful in decision making in the event of dilemma.
  • It contains the duties of a king; who is established as a representative of God on earth holding temporal powers and guiding common man into a certain direction and towards basic goal of worship.

Similarities between Ideas with Other Texts

Very interesting Dharmasastra in its definition of King and his responsibilities is quite similar to the texts of other religions and also with that of Indian early texts in which King is said to be the avatar of God on the earth.

Duties of King According to Dharmasastra

It must not be assumed, however, that the ancient state was a theocracy. “The actual ruler was the Raja, whose caste duty was to wield power and administer punishment (Danda) for breaches of the Dharma.” “He relied of course upon the learning of the Brahmin for the knowledge of the Dharma, and he was enjoined by the scriptures to protect the priestly caste at all cost.”

Religion and Governance

  • Hindu theories of the origin of government and the state cast light upon their legal nature and administrative purposes. In the first place, some of the early literatures elaborate a theory man՚s decline reminiscent of Rousseau՚s account of human degeneration following the “state of nature.”
  • Mankind is set to have lived in four great ages, each progressively less virtuous, until now he lives in the evilest kali yuga where the guiding power of Dharma is only one fourth of its original strength.


1. Indian ancient texts provide separation of religious and temporal powers in the duties of a king.

2. Dharmasastra provide a comprehensive account of events a man confronts in disposal of his daily business.

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