Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"Yudhishthira said: 'Tell me, O grandsire, how should the king should behave if, notwithstanding his great wealth, he desires for more.'

"Bhishma said, 'A king, desirous of earning religious merit, should devote himself to the good of his subjects and protect them according to considerations of place and time and to the best of his intelligence and power. He should, in his dominions, adopt all such measures as would in his estimation secure their good as also his own. A king should milk his kingdom like a bee gathering honey from plants.  He should act like the keeper of a cow who draws milk from her without boring her udders and without starving the calf. The king should (in the matter of taxes) act like the leech drawing blood mildly. He should conduct himself towards his subjects like a tigress in the matter of carrying her cubs, touching them with her teeth but never piercing them therewith. He should behave like a mouse which though possessed of sharp and pointed teeth still cuts the feet of sleeping animals in such a manner that they do not at all become conscious of it. A little by little should be taken from a growing subject and by this means should he be shorn. The demand should then be increased gradually till what is taken assumes a fair proportion. The king should enhance the burthens of his subjects gradually like a person gradually increasing the burthens of a young bullock. Acting with care and mildness, he should at last put the reins on them. If the reins are thus put, they would not become intractable. Indeed, adequate measures should be employed for making them obedient. Mere entreaties to reduce them to subjection would not do. It is impossible to behave equally towards all men. Conciliating those that are foremost, the common people should be reduced to obedience. Producing disunion (through the agency of their leaders) among the common people who are to bear the burthens, the king should himself come forward to conciliate them and then enjoy in happiness what he will succeed in drawing from them. The king should never impose taxes unseasonably and on persons

unable to bear them. He should impose them gradually and with conciliation, in proper season and according to due forms. These contrivances that I declare unto thee are legitimate means of king-craft. They are not reckoned as methods fraught with deceit. One who seeks to govern steeds by improper methods only makes them furious. Drinking-shops, public women, pimps, actors, gamblers and keepers of gaining houses, and other persons of this kind, who are sources of disorder to the state, should all be checked. Residing within the realm, these afflict and injure the better classes of the subjects. Nobody should ask anything of anyone when there is no distress. Manu himself in days of old has laid down this injunction in respect of all men.  If all men were to live by asking or begging and abstain from work, the world would doubtless come to an end. The king alone is competent to restrain and check. That king who does not restrain his subjects (from sin) earns a fourth part of the sins committed by his people (in consequence of the absence of royal protection). This is the declaration of the Srutis. Since the king shares the sins of his subjects like their merits, he should, therefore, O monarch, restrain those subjects of his that are sinful. The king that neglects to restrain them becomes himself sinful. He earns (as already said) a fourth part of their sins as he does a fourth part of their merits. The following faults of which I speak should be checked. They are such as impoverish everyone. What wicked act is there that a person governed by passion would not do? A person governed by passion indulges in stimulants and meat, and appropriates the wives and the wealth of other people, and sets a bad example (for imitation by others). They that do not live upon alms may beg in seasons of distress. The king should, observant of righteousness, make gifts unto them from compassion but not from fear. Let there be no beggars in thy kingdom, nor robbers. It is the robbers (and not virtuous men) that give unto beggars. Such givers are not real benefactors of men. Let such men reside in thy dominions as advance the interests of others and do them good, but not such as exterminate others. Those officers, O king, that take from the subjects more than what is due should be punished. Thou shouldst then appoint others so that these will take only what is due. Agriculture, rearing of cattle, trade and other acts of a similar nature, should be caused to be carried on by many persons on the principle of division of labour.  If a person engaged in agriculture, cattle-rearing, or trade, becomes inspired with a sense of insecurity (in consequence of thieves and tyrannical officers), the king, as a consequence, incurs infamy. The king should always honour those subjects of his that are rich and should say unto them, 'Do ye, with me, advance the interest of the people.' In every kingdom, they that are wealthy constitute an estate in the realm. Without

doubt, a wealthy person is the foremost of men.  He that is wise, or courageous, or wealthy or influential, or righteous, or engaged in penances, or truthful in speech, or gifted with intelligence, assists in protecting (his fellow subjects).

For these reasons, O monarch, do thou love all creatures, and display the qualities of truth, sincerity, absence of wrath, and abstention from injury! Thou shouldst thus wield the rod of chastisement, and enhance thy treasury and support thy friends and consolidate thy kingdom thus, practising the qualities of truthfulness and sincerity and supported by thy friends, treasury and forces!'"