The Nature of State and Sovereignty in Ancient India

The Nature of State and Sovereignty in Ancient India

State and Sovereignty in Ancient India : In lineage society during the mid-first millennium BC, the essential unit was family under the control of the senior most male member. the top person exercised his authority over the clans through kinship and rituals. The families were tied together due to the genealogical relationships. The kin connections and wealth led to differentiations between the ruler and therefore the ruled within the society. The state system emerged due to the increase , shift from pastoral to peasant economy, socio-cultural heterogeneity and various other factors.

Romila Thaper in her seminal work on social formation (History and Beyond, collection of essays) says extensive trade, the autumn of political elite and democratic process resulted within the shift towards state system. State and Sovereignty in Ancient India  With the formation of state, the difficulty of governance became a serious concern of the society. In Mahabharata, there's reference to Matsyanyaya, a condition during which small fishes become prey to big fishes.

It happens during a society where there's no authority. To avoid such a crisis, people agreed to possess a group of laws and that they selected an individual to become the ruler or appealed to the God for a king who will maintain law and order within the society. There are thus references to both Divine Origin of Kingship and agreement Theory of Kingship. State and Sovereignty in Ancient India  Various studies however, suggest that the polity emerged as an independent domain. Monarchy was the dominant sort of government within the early Indian polity. As mentioned within the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, there have been seven constituents of the State.


What is State ?

A State is a set of institutions that possess the authority to make the rules that govern the people in one or more societies, having internal and external sovereignty over a definite territory.

• In Max Weber’s influential definition, it is that organization that has a “monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory." The Nature of State and Sovereignty in Ancient India, It thus includes such institutions as the armed forces, civil service or state bureaucracy, courts and police.

• ‘’Geographically delimited segment of human society bound by a common obedience to a single sovereign.’’


Beginning of state formation in India

The Nature of State and Sovereignty in Ancient India, State could come about only through creation and appropriation of surplus

• Therefore state formation is linked with growth and spread of agriculture, consequently trade, industry and urbanisation

• In ancient India this process began with the spread of agriculture along river valleys

• Agricultural surplus generated led to trade, commerce and urbanisation

• The first states (Janapadas) came about in these river valleys

• Pattern replicated in the South and east


For State and Sovereignty in Ancient India , The three theories of origin of state in ancient India are as follows: 1. Social Contract Theory 2. Divine Origin Theory 3. Organic Theory.

The core issues in the study of political science are the state and the government. The institution of state is studied in relation to its origin, nature, aims and functions of the state in ancient India. The dawn of civilization was stated to have marked the beginning of the origin of state.

The state in ancient India was considered necessary, for it ensures peace, order and happiness. It was a social organization with political power. However, ancient scholars were not unanimous in their opinion with regard to the origin of the state. According to some, state was the outcome of a contract mainly political in nature between the rulers and the ruled.

1. Social Contract Theory:

In the State and Sovereignty in Ancient India : The social contract theory, one of the common theories of the origin of state, believes that state is a result of a contract between the king and his subjects or representatives. The king, thus appointed, was expected to save the state and the subjects from external aggression and establish order and security within the state. However, the earliest Vedic works never stated that state was the result of a contract. But, they clarified that king was elected to wage a successful war against the demons.

2. Divine Origin Theory:

This theory of origin of kingship as well as the state was not widely acclaimed in the ancient Indian polity. The king, according to this theory, was a subordinate to law, which was made by the society and not him. The community as a whole was given greater importance than the king. The king was not allowed to act indiscriminately and was expected to act as a father to his subjects, and treat them with affection and kind­ness.

3. Organic Theory:

This theory holds the view that state is like an organism and that each organ has a specific function to perform. The theory believes that the healthy functioning of the whole organism depends upon the healthy conditions of each part of the body or organism and its efficient functioning.

The seven parts of the body, that is, state are the king or the sovereign, the minister, the territory and population, the fortified city or the capital, the treasury, the army, the friends and the allies. State and Sovereignty in Ancient India , Among all the seven elements or parts, it is the king who is most important.

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