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Leadership Principles from Rajatarangini

Rajadharma, the code of conduct for kings, was an important subject for ancient Indian teachers and law-makers. ‘Yatha Raja, thatha praja’ was the adage that epitomised the reciprocal relationship between the ruler and the ruled. Various thinkers like Maharshi Valmiki, Maharshi Veda Vyasa and Acharya Kautilya sought to codify the dharma of Kings and till date Maharishi Valmiki’s descriptions of Rama Rajya is deemed to be the exemplar of a kingdom governed by the highest ideals of leadership and social welfare.

However, there are two ways of expounding on Rajadharma. Almost all the available treatises on Rajadharma may be deemed to be treating the subject on a normative basis, viz., setting the ideal standards of behaviour. There are almost no treatises which deal with Rajadharma on a positive basis viz., examining the actual standards of behaviour.

Kalhana’s Rajatarangini is a unique exception as it chronicles Kashmir’s royal dynasties and is widely regarded as one of the best and authentic histories of its times. Kalhana drew on the writings of previous Kashmiri chroniclers for research for his book. Further, he studied the historical records of Kashmir. To be precise, the method of research employed by the author was critical historical. Therefore, a unique opportunity presents itself to study Rajadharma on a ’as was practiced’ or positive basis.

Proposition of the Paper

Leadership principles extracted from Rajatarangini have continued relevance and applicability in modern times as they are abstracted from real-life situations and historically accurate events.

The broad plan of research for the paper is outlined below:

A. Study of Rajatarangini for extraction of critical information, incidents and personalities wherein or by whom the upholding or dilutions or reversal of Rajadharma is seen. A compendium of ‘positive’ leadership behaviour is thus created.

B. Draw comparisons with relevant normative literature like Chanakya Sutras and Arthasastra, Kacchid Sarga (100th sarga of Ayodhya Kandam) of Maharishi Valmiki’s Ramayana as well as Vidura Niti and Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata of Maharshi VedaVyasa.

The Rajatarangini comprises in 8 cantos of Sanskrit verse the history of the various dynasties which ruled Kashmir from the early period down to the time of Kalhana. Allowing for the legendary character of some of the events in the first three cantos here, Kalhana was actually faithfully passing on the ancient traditions of Kashmir-Kalhana’s work, ever since it came to light in 1835 CE, has stood the test of time as well as that of historical criticism. (Dhar, 2017, p36).

The entire text is arranged in eight cantos. The first three cantos contain 1074 verses. The fourth, fifth and sixth cantos contain 1571 verses. In canto seven and eight there are 5081 verses. From Canto seven the description becomes accurate. For the last two cantos his family and relations were an important and informative source for the chronicle. (Hangloo, 2009).

The eminent historian, Professor R.C. Majumdar (Majumdar, 1952, p.49) gives credit to Kalhana for anticipating the modern critical method of historical research: “This is the only work in ancient Indian literature that may be regarded as an historical text in the true sense of the word. The author has not only taken great pains to collect his material from existing chronicles and other sources, but at the beginning of his work, he has set down a few general principles of writing history which are remarkably far in advance of his age. Indeed, these may be regarded as anticipating, to a large extent, the critical method of historical research which was not fully developed till the 19th century.” An example of Kalhana’s opinion on the impartiality observed by a historian is in the following verse from the first canto:

“That man of merit alone deserves praise whose language, like that of a judge, in recounting events of the past, has discarded bias as well as prejudice.”

(Pandit, 2021,p.7,I-7)

As is true of many authors of his time and earlier days, there are very few biographical facts available about Kalhana. However a few facts can be gleaned from his own narrative by patient research. Kalhana was the son of Canpaka of Parihaspura, a Dvarapati (the Lord of the Gate) during the reign of King Harsha (AD 1089-1101). Canpaka lived long after the death of his patron, Harsha, but ceased to take an active part in politics. Kalhana’s uncle had a close association with Harsha who rewarded his compliance in taking singing lessons from the music-loving king by presenting him with a lakh of gold coins. This placed him in a unique position where he could gain precious insight into the workings of the palace and the many interests that converged there temporarily while being situated at a considerable distance from the same. He completed the Kavya (poem) Rajatarangini in the year CE 1148-1149 (Hangloo, 2009).

The Rajatarangini apart from presenting a historically accurate compendium, also deals with varied disciplines from religion, to politics, history, literature, geography, the economy, society, folk and popular culture, and material culture. However, Kalhana took the art of poetry seriously enough to state right at the beginning of his work:

“Worthy of homage is the indescribable insight of a gifted poet which excels the stream of ambrosia since through it is achieved a permanent embodiment of the poet and others. (Pandit, 2021, p.3,I-3)

A little later in the work, Kalhana reflects as a historian:

“Although owing to the exigency of the length of the narrative a variety of events have not been set down in details, there should be still be in this poem enough material for the delectation of the right minded.”(Pandit, 2021, p.3,I-6)

With this brief introduction, let us make a transition to the subject of this article which is the study of leadership principles in the Rajatarangini (referred as RT henceforth). The question arises: Why study leadership principles in RT? George Santayana had said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Ideas, 1995). Further Thomas Carlyle said, “History is the biography of great men” or as Edward Gibbons stated rather cynically, “History is a little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.” This article is based on the premise articulated well in the observation of the 33rd President of the USA, Harry Truman, “Men make history and not the other way round. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for better.” (Peter, 1980, p.242).

Section A

The first step is to study the presence of good leadership or absence of good leadership by examining prima facie the kings and queens whose reigns were marked by exceptional progress or decay and then doing a deeper dive into descriptions of their leadership.

Canto 1

King Gonanda III (1184 BCE) – ascended the throne after a period of drift and confusion.

“He restored the performance of pilgrimages, sacrifices and other worship of the Nagas, such as was customary in the past (I-185).

From time to time, owing to the past good actions of the subjects, kings appear who organise a kingdom which is sunk deep in disorder (I-187).

Those, who intent on a policy of harassment of their subjects, perish with their families; on the other hand, fortune waits on even the lineal descendents of those who reinstate order where there is chaos. (I-188)”

Having made the above observation, Kalhana concludes with

“He (Gonanda III) having restored order, his virtuous descendents Pravarasena and others who carried out pious works, enjoyed this land for a long time (I-190).”

King Nara I alias Kinnara (994 BCE) – inherited the throne from his powerful father Vibhishana II (1030 BCE). About Nara I, Kalhana observes:

“Although he had borne a good character, this king, through a reversal of fortune of the subjects, became the origin of a series of misfortunes owing to the vice of sensuality (I-198).

The object of his sensuality was Chandralekha, the wife of a certain Brahmin. Chandralekha’s father was a powerful Naga chieftain. Here in Kalhana’s verse we have a description of lust in action:

“Freeing himself from the fetters of decorum, he now began to harass the lovely lady endeavouring to seduce her through emissaries who related his inmost longing (I-254).

When all his methods failed to win her, in his infatuation he begged for her from her husband, the Brahmin. In those who are blind with lust how can there be shame! (I-255).

Then getting repeated rebuffs from him also, the soldiers were ordered to carry her away by force (I-256).

While they were raiding the house in front, the Brahmin escaped by another passage and seeking asylum he, accompanied by his wife, entered the residence of the Naga (I-257).

When the couple approached him and facts were reported to him, the lord of the Nagas, blind with rage, sallied forth from the pool. (I-258).

….he burnt down the king together with the city …( I-259)…Thousands of human being were consumed in a trice (I-261)….Five yojanas of rural land was thus laid waste and known as Ramnyatavi; it is even to this day full of boulders and holes (I- 265).

Kalhana’s sobering conclusion is;

“Passionate lust may be merely a trifling fault in kings in the opinion of persons of narrow vision, nevertheless what befell this one, as a consequence of it has not been the lot of anyone anywhere (I-271).

King Yudhisthira I (217 BCE) – ascended the throne when his father Narendraditya,

“Having been the lord of the land for thirty-six years and hundred days ….attained to the world of the blameless in virtue of his many meritorious deeds (I-349).

The initial policies of King Yudhisthira followed the footsteps of his father and predecessors. However,

“Then, unluckily, after the lapse of some time, being intoxicated with pride of prosperity he fell prey to caprice; he did not favour those who were worthy to be favoured, did not treasure the intelligent, and failed to act kindly towards those who were experienced in serving him. (I-352-3).

As a consequence,

Being treated without any distinction on a level with his ill-educated milieu, the wise, Whose prestige was wounded, deserted the badly brought up man. (I-354).

Kalhana observes that,

Equal treatment of everybody is indeed a virtue of the Yogis, but it is a cause of infamy and a great fault in the case of the lord of the land (I-355).


When ignored by those who had been loyal to him, those who had no self-control, the treacherous ministers, who worked for his destruction, now gained power. (I-360).

Then having formed a league, they surrounded with armed forces the royal palace…..(I-366)……The king having been deposed from the throne…(I-368)…then permitted by them to leave his country (I-367).

Finally one can only reflect on;

“….the sadness of the downfall from the regal state of the king……(I-373).”

Canto 2

The second canto is the shortest one of the eight with only 171 verses. This records the history of 6 kings.

King Tunjina I (105 BCE) – ascended the throne following his father Jalaukas (137 BCE).

“Then together with his crowned queen Vakpusta, of divine lustre, his son Tunjina reigned and gladdened the subjects (II-11).


“As if with the insistent hope of testing the character of these two, on one occasion, there dawned a providential calamity which was difficult for the subjects to bear. (II-17).

Then with swarming hosts of the people emaciated with hunger and with the dead resembling the stronghold of hell, there occurred the dire calamity of famine. (II-20).

Owing to the torment of hunger people selfishly hankering for food, smitten by the glance of destiny, forget modesty, pride and high birth. (II-22).”

The response of King Tunjina was exemplary:

“During the grim and awful terror which was extremely difficult to endure for living beings, that king alone was seen melted in compassion. (II-26).

Having dispensed with the ushers he, by his very sight, which had the charm of jewels and healing herbs cut out the weariness of the despondent caused by destitution. (II-27)”

With his own treasure as well as with the accumulated riches of the ministers, he bought food and accompanied by his wife, day and night, restored human beings to life. (II-28).

In the forest, in the crematorium, on the high roads or in dwelling houses, no famine-stricken person was ignored by that king. (II-29)


“When he had no treasure in reserve and seeing that the food was diminishing in the land, during the night, on one occasion, he spoke thus to the queen in his distress. (II-30).

Fie on me, hapless one, in front of whom the sorrow-stricken people, seeing the earth without a refuge, are perishing who deserve to be helped. ( II-32).

……what is the use of my continuing to live without the ability to protect them in this peril. (II-33)……therefore having exhausted my means, I shall now sacrifice my body in the blazing fire; for I am not able to see such a destruction of the subjects. (II-41).

The response of Queen Vakpusta too was exemplary,

“……what is this perversion of your judgement, that you wantonly intend what befits an irresolute man? (II-45).

If the ability to cut through insurmountable difficulties is absent, O protector of the land! What then in the great is the mark of their greatness? (II-46).

Devotion to the husband is the rule of dutiful conduct of women, loyalty that of ministers, and single minded application in protecting the subjects is the sacred duty of kings.(II-48).

Get up, O foremost among the pious! Has my utterance ever been reversed, O protector of the subjects! Your subjects are indeed in no peril from starvation (II-49).


“…..the king desisted from the attempt at suicide…..( II-51)… due course due to the virtuous conduct of the queen and together with the sorrow of the king the famine came to an end.(II-54).

Canto 3

In this canto there are two notable examples which illustrate leadership principles: the first involving a king and the second the son-in-law of a king. The telling of their history is in Kalhana’s unique style.

King Meghavahana (24 BCE)

“Then Meghavahana whose rising fame had spread wide, was brought in by the subjects, who had gone to the territory of Gandhara led by the ministers. (III-1).

At his very coronation the officials, charged with orders on his behalf, caused to be proclaimed everywhere by the beat of the drum, the regulation regarding non-slaughter. (III-5).

When the slaughter of animals was forbidden in the realm by the blessed king, the butchers and others were helped to gain a livelihood from his own coffers. (III-6).

The king was so keen to spread the message of non-violence to animals, that he undertook a military campaign as described.

“Now in order to compel rulers to desist from violence to living beings he, who was sincere in the observance of the law, set out on a ciquest up to the horizon. (III-27).

His plan of campaign was one which Jina might have envied himself owing to his praiseworthy valour and supervision of the populace against terrorism (III-28) …….Having overpowered the kings by his valour and having initiated them to the principle of non-violence……. (III-29) …he ponders over a plan of invasion of various islands (III-30).


“From that time onwards, the commandment of that paramount sovereign relating to the cessation of slaughter, was not transgressed by anyone. (III-80).

Durlabhavardhana, son-in-law of King Baladitya (559 CE)

King Baladitya got his daughter Princess Anangalekha married to a commoner named Durlabhavardhana so that her progeny could not usurp the throne.

“On account of his wits following his luck Durlabhavardhana, too behaving with prudence, as was meet, became the cynosure of all eyes. (III-493).


“Puffed up with pride through parents’ fond love and the intoxication of youth, the princess royal did not accord him (Durlabhavardhana) due consideration. (III-495)

Anangalekha was by slow degrees involved by the minister Khankha, who possessed her mind through the intimacy of constant sight, in a liaison. (II-497).

In course of time the shrewd Durlabhavardhana detected the ruin of her moral conduct from signs of her lack of affection which had become apparent. (III-500)

Then Durlabhavardhana, whose body from anxious thought had grown thin owing to his wife’s secret corruption of soul, on one occasion entered the Pure Interior during the night.(III-506).

Seeing her in that condition which would have been the cause of wrath even in a stranger and which was in any event unforgivable, he flared up in anger. (III- 509).

Kalhana’s next few verses are a testament to the character of Durlabhavardhana.

“As he was about to strike, he was thwarted by reflection, and he considered he had relieved himself as if by striking and smiting. (III-510)

Thereupon in the surging sea of the paroxysm of his anger, while he was in that state, was perforce reduced to calmness by the beach of deliberation. (III-511).

Kalhana’s concluding remarks are insightful,

“A salute to him – and who else but he can be considered the leader of the self-possessed – by whom are absorbed the severe spasms of jealousy. (III-512).

This jealousy is indeed very difficult to assail. But the man of discernment who has conquered it, in half a moment only, the very name of passionate love is also destroyed. (III-520).

Having thus mused he wrote on the edge of the Khankha’s scarf the following: “Remember you have not been slain though you deserve to be killed.” (III-522).

On King Baladiya’s death, the grateful Khankha, has the son-in-law, Durlabhavardhana crowned as King.

Canto 4

Nearly one third of the 720 verses in this canto are devoted to King Lalitaditya Muktapida. However, we will begin by discussing the character of the elder brother of King Lalitaditya viz.,

King Chandrapida (682 CE) – The character of Chandrapida is described by Kalhana as below:

“Versed in the affairs of state he did not do that which in the result bought repentance; on the other hand, while putting into execution that which deserved praise when he was eulogised, he felt bashful. (IV-50)

By that king, who showed the way of justice, was established legal procedure free from laxity……(IV-53).

An example of his sense of justice and fair play is narrated below:

“When he began construction of the temple of Tribhuvanasvamin, a certain leather worker would not give up his hut which was on the suitable site. (IV-55)”

“Though he had been constantly promised money by the officials in charge of the new construction he, who was in the grip of his native obstinacy, did not brook the laying down of the measuring line (IV-56).”

Thereupon they approached the lord of earth and reported this matter; he, however, held them to be at fault but not the tanner (IV-57).

He exclaimed, “Fie on their lack of foresight that they should, without having first asked him, have entered upon the new construction. (IV-58)”

“Stop the construction or build it somewhere else; by seizing the land of another who would tarnish an act of piety? (IV-59).

“If we ourselves who are judges of what is right and upright, enforce procedure which is unlawful, who should tread the path which is according to law. (IV-60).

How was the matter resolved? The tanner was given an audience by the King where he was asked

“…why art thou a sole hindrance to our work of piety? (IV-63).

The tanner says

“Just as much as this palace, joyous with the gleaming stucco, is to your Majesty the cottage where the window is made of the mouth of an earthen pot is to me. (IV-70).

Since my birth this little cottage has been the witness like a mother, of both happiness and unhappiness; I could not bear to see it today levelled to the ground. (IV-71).

The distress of mankind at the seizure of their dwelling house, either an immortal fallen from the Vimana or a king deposed from sovereignty is capable of describing it (IV-72).

Notwithstanding this, if after coming to my dwelling Your Majesty were to ask for it, yielding to the rule of good manners it would be proper for me to give it. ( IV-72).

When he had given a reply in this way, the king after going to his place purchased the cottage with money; there is no pride for those who are seekers of bliss. (IV-73).

King Lalitaditya Muktapida (695 CE) –Lalitaditya was the younger brother of Chandrapida and was a renowned conqueror whose conquest spanned India, Afghanistan and China in modern day terms. Kalhana describes below some of intricacies of governance as articulated by King Lalitaditya as well as gives an indication of the dynamic leadership demonstrated by him.

“Thereafter a messenger who had been sent by the ministers, who had for a long time been without news, returned from his presence and reported to them as follows. (IV-340)

Thus the Lord instructs you, “What is this delusion on the part of men like you that await my return after I have penetrated into this region? (IV-341).

After giving up the acquisition of ever new triumphs day after day, what work do you see for me in my own realm if I should return? (IV-342)

For rivers which have set out from their own region the ocean is the limit, but nowhere is there a limit for those who are frankly aspiring to be conquerors. (IV-343).

Therefore I shall speak of what is the gist of governance suitable for my country; in pursuance of it you should, without mishap, carry on the government and be blameless. (IV-344).

Those who in this country desire to have mastery must at all times guard against dissentious among themselves; for in their case no peril arises from alien enemies as there is none for the Charvakas from the world beyond. (IV-345).

Even for no offence in this country the dwellers in the depths of the mountains should be fined, for if they should accumulate wealth, they might become impregnable in the shelter of the forts. (IV-346).

Action should be taken repeatedly so that the people in the villages should not possess grain for consumption and bullocks for the area of the fields in excess of annual requirement. (IV-347).

For if they were to have excess wealth, they might become very terrible Damaras (feudal barons) in a single year able to violate the authority of the king. (IV-348).

When once the rural population secures raiment, women, woollen blankets, food, trinkets, horses, dwellings which are worthy of the capital; when fortifications which ought to be cared for are neglected through arrogance by the kings, and when they show lack of appreciation of the character of their officers; when from a single district is exacted the maintenance for the armed forces; when civil servants have formed a league by matrimonial alliances with one another; when kings take the same view as the civil servants in the departments of state, then it may be known without doubt that there has been a reversal of the good luck of subjects. (IV-349-352).

After inferring the secret designs in their hearts by closely following the activities of royal princes, you should bear in mind the distinction to be mentioned by me. (IV-353).

The proximity of the maddened elephant is indicated by the wind through the odour of the rut, the birth of the thunderclap from the water giving cloud by lighting with its brilliant flashes; the mentality of a living being, which is repeated from one birth and is quite changeless, is proclaimed by his actions, the true nature of which is inferred by the skill of men of intellect. (IV-354).

Kuvalyaditya as well as Vajraditya are equally my sons; the intellect of those two brothers who have different mothers is of a different type altogether. (IV-355).

The Abhisheka should be performed on the elder for the throne; but if he should prove powerful you should overstep his authority on principle in that event. (IV-356).

Whether he gives up his life or the government, the king should not be mourned by anyone. Remember these words of mine. (IV-357).

The younger one should not be made king. If this mistake takes place, his authority should not be transgressed and he should be safeguarded even though he may be difficult to understand. (IV-358).

Among my grandsons he who is the youngest, the little lad Jaypida, should be instructed thus ‘may you be like the grandfather’ at all times. (IV-359).

Kalhana concludes with the following;

“Though he remained at a distance, that king, by some extraordinary power of his good luck, had been able to put through with ease even the affairs of the state which were difficult to arrange. (IV-364).

The sun though hidden by a mass of clouds gives refreshment to the lotuses, the cloud although far away give a touch of extreme coolness to the sunshine; there is some extraordinary power in the great though whose might influence , it is amazing , that the remotest tasks are achieved, at their will without, obstruction. (IV-365).

Section B

In this section are compiled carefully selected parallels of the leadership principles enunciated in Section A vis-a-vis each of the kings.

Canto 1

King Gonanda III (1184 BCE) – The Vidura Niti enunciates a principle of governance which is at once universal as well as parallel to the leadership demonstrated by King Gonanda III in contrast to that of his predecessors.

“If a king follows the righteous norms traditionally well established by the wise, his empire prospers, the earth under his control produces more and his wealth multiplies. With this happening his glory and prestige scale new heights. (VN-II-28).

King Nara I alias Kinnara (994 BCE) –This king made the error of coveting the wife of another man. This flaw of character has been decried by many of the Niti texts of the Indian Tradition. Let begin with the Tirukkural which devotes an entire chapter to this defect and it condemns it thoroughly.

“He who prizes virtue and weal won’t foolishly chase another’s wife. (TK-141)

No sinner so foolish as he who lurks at the door of another’s wife. (TK-142).

The Vidura Niti declares that

“However depriving another of his wealth, sleeping with another’s wife and deserting a close friend surely lead to destruction of the guilty. (VN-I-70).

There is, of course, the famous reply that Sita gave while turning down Ravana’s suit in Sundarakanda in Valmiki’s Ramayana where she says

“I, who am the wife of another and observe rules of chastity, ought not to be addressed by you in this way. I cannot be your wife. Observe the rules of right conduct approved by good men. (SK-21-6).

O night ranging Rakshasa! Just as your wives deserve to be protected, so are the wives of others too. In this respect you should do to others what you would like to be done to yourself. So be satisfied with the wives whom you have already got. (SK-21-7).

If one of uncontrolled mind, who is not satisfied with the wives he already has got, goes after the women of others, those women will become the cause of his destruction. (SK-21-8).

King Yudhisthira I (217 BCE) – The Shukra Niti offers an apt comment which supports Kalhana’s observations on King Yudhisthira

“The king who is inimical to the intelligent, who is pleased with cheats, and does not understand his own faults, creates his own destruction. (SKN-I-255-256).

On the capricious behaviour of Yudhisthira I, the Panchatantra offers this long comment

“When a king driven by passions reckons not

What is good and what is proper but charges around

Wherever his fancy leads him, swollen with pride,

He plunges down misery’s dark ravine

Like an excited bull-elephant.

Then heedless of his own disorderliness

He turns on his ministers to cast blame on them. (PT-I-249).

Kautilya in his Arthasastra says;

“A king can reign only with the help of others; one wheel alone does not move (a chariot). Therefore a king should appoint advisors (as councillors and ministers) and listen to their advice. (Rangarajan (1.7.9)

Finally Kautilya has this to say in his Chanakya Raja Niti,

“Gods do protect with a staff as a shepherd does.  They give wisdom to the one whom they want to protect. (CRN-6.37 in Subhashita Samputa, 1998)

Canto 2

King Tunjina I (105 BCE) – The Mahabharata in the Shanti Parva has indicated the attitudes that help one surmount a crisis.

“When a calamity occurs, how will lamentation help you face it? Neither the shedding of tears, nor the drawing on long sighs, nor copious crying-none of these is of any use. You need to give up your faintheartedness, as the first step, that is a must to be strong enough at heart, to meet the challenge. (MB-SP-12.153.34 & 77 in Agarwal, 2010).

“If you lose heart, you succumb to the calamity, even before it strikes you. You might even commit suicide. Therefore do not let will power abandon you – that will keep you alive by giving you hope that if you remain alive, you can do good deeds in the course of time. (MB-SP-12.141.101 in Agarwal, 2010).

“Don’t feel there is no hope for success. At this early stage, you cannot possibly identify the door to safety. But a brave heart will give you hope that a ‘door of no-door’ does exist, although you cannot see it. Your immediate response should be to keep the urge to make effort.” (MB-SP-12.130.22 & 14 &13 in Agarwal, 2010).

Kautilya in the Arthasastra clearly adumbrates the consequences of a famine as

“….while famine afflicts the whole country and leads to absence of livelihood for living beings. (AS-8.4.7 in Kangle-2, 2010).

The Arthashashtra gives a clear direction about tackling a famine in a country.

“The methods of counteracting the effects of famine are;

-distribute to the public, on concessional terms, seeds and food from the royal stores;

-undertake food for work programs such as building forts or irrigation works;

-share out of royal food stock;

-commandeer for public distribution private stocks of food;

-shift the affected population to a different region;

-encourage (temporary) migration to another country;

-move the entire population (with King and Court) to a regions or country with abundant harvest or near the sea, lakes or rivers;

-supplement harvest with additional cultivation of grain, vegetables, roots, and fruits, by fishing and by hunting deer, cattle bird and wild animals. (AS-4.3.17-20 in Rangarajan, 1987)

However, the kind of support and encouragement that King Tunjina got from the Queen Vakpusta is indicated by Chanakya;

“Double is women’s appetite

Their wisdom four times more than men,

Their courage and daring six times more,

And their passion eightfold, it is believed.

(CN-1.17 in Haksar, 2020).

In the famous dialogue between the Yaksha and Yudhistira in the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata, here two excerpts from the dialogue;

“Who is the friend of a householder?

The friend of the householder is the wife.

Who is that friend given by the Gods/destiny to man?

The wife is the friend given by the Gods/destiny to man.

(VP-131. 63-64 & 71-72 in Aiyar, 2012).

Indeed the advice and support that Queen Vakpusta exemplifies to perfection these tenets from the Mahabharata.

Canto 3

King Meghavahana (24 BCE)

The ideal of non-slaughter of animals as a principle of ahimsa and abjuring meat is enshrined in the Thirukkural which devotes an entire chapter to it, a selection from which is below;

“How can he be kindly who fattens himself on other’s fat? (TK-251, in Sundaram, 1987)

“One life unkilled, uneaten, is better than a thousand burnt offerings.( TK-259, in Sundaram, 1987).

“All living things will fold their hands and bow to one who refuses meat.( TK-260 in Sundaram, 1987).

Moreover, the Manu Smriti declares,

“Manu has said that non-violence, truth, non-stealing, purification, and the suppression of the sensory powers is the duty of all four classes, in a nutshell.”

However, it is rare for a king to wage war to spread the message of non-slaughter of animals.

Durlabhavardhana son-in-law of King Baladitya (559 CE)

The Vidura Niti accurately expresses a universal truth which could be applied to Durlabbavardhana;

“In my view, birth in a noble family is no armour for a characterless man. A man though born low is superior if he is of sound moral character. (VN-II-41)

However on the other hand, the arrogant behaviour of Princess Angalekha the following verse from Mricchakatika- the political drama par excellence is very apt

“Is it enough to declare that one is born in a noble family? Don’t briars and thorns flourish in fertile ground ? (Mrichakatika-8.29 in Subhashita Samputa, 1998).

Further, in the Subhashita Ratna Bhandagar (SRB), we have;

“Youth, wealth, position and indiscretion each of these is enough to create havoc. Oh what if they are found together. (SRB.159-262 in Subhasita Samputa 1998).

On the unchaste behaviour of Princess Angalekha, Vidura has this verse which expresses a universal truth,

“As two large fish trapped in a net with tiny holes, working together tear the net apart, lust and anger do way with the sense of discrimination.” (VN-2.66 in Gita Press, 2015).

Canto 4

King Chandrapida (682 CE) – The attitude demonstrated by King Chandrapida was an absolute commitment to justice and rule of law. He seems to have heeded the plea of Maharshi Veda Vyasa to stick to dharma. This appeal is enshrined in the Bharata Savitri verses which are found towards the end of the Mahabharata in the Svargarohana Parvan and are of great verve, beauty and terseness.

“Thousands of fathers and mothers and hundreds of sons and wives were known and gone, are going and will go in the future, in course of the Samsara.”(1)

“Thousands of occasions for joy and hundreds of causes of fear, engross every day the mind of the ignorant but not the man of wisdom.”(2)

“With uplifted arms I shout, but no one hears me: from Dharma result Artha and Kama, why then is Dharma not observed? (3)

“Not out of passion or fear or avarice not even for the sake of life, should one ever abandon Dharma. Dharma is eternal, Happiness and Misery are not eternal. The soul is eternal. That which it embodies is not eternal. (4). (Iyer.1992.p.63).

King Chandrapida is a stellar example of following the dictum of Veda Vyasa.

King Lalitaditya Muktapida (695 CE) – King Lalitaditya dynamic expansion of territory is well captured by a tenet of state policy described in the following sutra from Chanakya Sutras.

“Getting what has not been got, guarding it, developing it and then distributing it-these four constitute state policy. (CS-42 in Subramanian, 1996).

On the unity in the council of ministers, the Valmiki’s observations are;

“The ministers of the exceptionally high-souled King Dasaratha knew how to weigh the pros and cons of a problem, could read the mind of others and were ever devoted to the welfare of their beloved master. (BK-VII-1 in Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, 2008).

On the principle of taxation and revenue collection King Lalitaditya seems to have scrupulously adhered to the dictum in Manu Smriti;

“The king should always establish the taxes in his kingdom after due consideration, in such a way that both the king and the man who does the work are rewarded. (MS-7-128, Doninger, 1991).

On succession planning there is a broad conformity to the sage advice given by Kautikya (Chanakya) in Arthasastra.

“Sons are of three kinds. A wise son is one who understands dharma and artha when taught and also practices these. A lazy son is one who understands what he is taught but does not practice them. A wicked son is he who hates dharma and artha and (therefore) is full of evil. (AS-1.17.44-47 in Rangarajan, 1987)

“Rules for succession: Unless there are dangers to it, succession of the eldest son is praiseworthy.


The Rajataragini provides a fascinating array of historical information and incidents which provide living examples of leadership in action. These leadership principles behind these incidents are the timeless tenets which are found in the classical literature of India. Hence the Rajatarangini can be and should also be used as manual of leadership development apart from being read as a historical treatise with a delectable poetic turn of phrase!!


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