Most of the kings and rulers in Ancient Hinduisms almost always are dynastic. They got the kingdom just because they are born to king.

Ramayana is the classic example: Lord Rama is born as the eldest son of Kaushalya and Dasharatha, ruler of Ayodhya Kingdom. As per the traditions during those times, ultimately son of Dasharatha ruled the Ayodhya Kingdom. Even when Rama was sent for exile, it was Dasharatha's other sons who were ruling the Ayodhya Kingdom.

This is just one example of dynasty based rule and many such examples can be given from Mahabharata and other Hindu scriptures.

The irony is the Country India which is home to Hinduism and has largest population of Hindus is now a largest parliamentary democracy with almost no history(to the best of my knowledge) of being governed by the rules and laws of democracy.

My Question is: Are there any Hindu scriptures which mentions the need or necessity of Political democracy, the governance system for the people, by the people?

  • I am not aware of any religion's scriptures that addresses this topic. Jun 5, 2016 at 5:18
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    I once read an absurd book called The Ramayana Polity by a woman named P.C. Dharma who argues that democracy, constitutional monarchy, republicanism, dictatorship, etc. all existed in various kingdoms in the period of the Ramayana. But it's based on far-fetched interpretation of incredibly flimsy evidence. I think it's unequivocally clear that all Hindu societies back then were traditional Vedic monarchies. Jun 5, 2016 at 5:38
  • By the way, you should remove the blockquote, since you're not quoting anything. Jun 5, 2016 at 5:43
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    @WhisperingMonk The Ramayana illustrates the concept of democracy within monarchy as is evident in the Ayodhya Kanda. I shall try to post a complete answer. Do not close the question.
    – Surya
    Jun 5, 2016 at 6:31
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    Different political systems have suited different peoples in different locations in different times. There are no cultural norms or cultural systems or political systems that are absolute or superior or God ordained. Everything in this world is relative. Nama/Rupa, all is name and form Jun 6, 2016 at 11:28

4 Answers 4


In the Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, the first three chapters are about how Rama was chosen as the successor of Dasharatha to the throne of Ayodhya.

The first chapter of Ayodhya Kanda lists the various virtues of Prince Rama from verses 6 to 44.

Valmiki describes Rama as the repository of all virtues, and compares Kausalya to Mother Aditi (who shines by her son Indra's prowess). Rama is said to be Anupama Soonuh or "An Incomparable Son".

Some of his good qualities are:

  • He was soft spoken
  • He always saw only the good in others
  • He was an excellent warrior
  • He took interest in the welfare of the people
  • He was an excellent orator
  • He was very wise
  • He was loved by the people
  • He never spoke lies
  • He was a good strategist
  • He had a taste for knowledge and fine arts
  • He was devoted to serving the people
  • He was comparable to Brhaspati in wisdom, Yamaraja in justice and Indra in valour

Seeing these qualities of Rama, Dasaratha decided to coronate Rama as his successor. This decision was not influenced by Rama being the eldest son. Furthermore, Rama was supported by both the royal family as well as the common people as a suitable successor.

When Dasaratha decided to coronate Rama, the first thing he does is to call an assembly of people to present his decision.

Nananagaravaastavyan Prithak Jaanapadaan Api|
Samaaniyaaya Medinyaah Pradhaanan Prithiveepateen||
"Dasaratha called for other kings and officers staying in various cities and villages in his kingdom separately." (Ayodhya Kanda 1.45)

Dasaratha, in the assembly, states the reasons for his retirement, and announces his decision to coronate Rama as follows:

So'ham Vishramam Icchaami Putram Krtva Prajaahite|
Sannikrshtaan Imaan Sarvaan Anumaanya Dvijarshabhaan||
"I desire to take rest, entrusting the rule to my son for the benefit of the people, after obtaining consent from all those best Brahmans who are close to me." (Ayodhya Kanda 2.10)

Dasaratha then goes on to list the various virtues of Rama, and then asks the assembly whether his decision is fair:

Yadi Idam Me'nurupaardham Maya Saadhu Sumantritam|
Bhavanto Me'numantyantaam Katham Vaa Karavaanyaham||
"I am telling this after lot of thinking. Give consent to me if you feel this to be good and befitting. How else shall I do it?" (Ayodhya Kanda 2.15)

He further invites the assembly to debate his decision, presenting the pros and cons of Rama's candidature with a neutral viewpoint:

Yadyapi Eshaa Mama Preetih Hitam Anyad Vichintyataam|
Anyaa Madhyasthachintaa Hi Vimardaabhyadhikodaya||
"This is my desire. Yet, let there be thinking on any other beneficial way. Thinking by impartial neutral people will be distinctive and well developed through grinding of opposing views (i.e. Reviewing and rebuttal of negative points)." (Ayodhya Kanda 2.16)

Upon Dasaratha's proclamation, the whole assembly roared their assent, such that "The building appeared trembling by the sweet and reverberating sound made by the gathering of people there with their fond uproar." (Ayodhya Kanda 2.18)

The Brahmanas then discussed the matter and arriving at a consensus, told Dasaratha, "All of us want to see Rama, with long arms, the hero with great might born in the clan of Raghu , his face protected by a white umbrella, moving on a great elephant." (Ayodhya Kanda 2.22)

When Dasaratha receives such a welcome to his decision, he questions the assembly, as to why did they immediately give their consent without much thought, when Dasaratha himself is an able administrator.

The kings then reply, in no less than 29 verses (from verses 26 to 54) as to why Rama should be chosen as king, which shows that it was a people's choice as well as the fact that Rama was Dasaratha's son. That is, Rama being Dasaratha's son is a mere complementary fact to the real reason of him being the choice of the people of Ayodhya.

The third chapter consists of Dasaratha annoucing his decision to Rama (notice how this decision is told to Rama only after the assembly is dismissed) and informs him of his various duties.

Thus we can see that though the rule was that of a Monarchy, and though it was dynastic, it was very much with the consent of the people of the kingdom. Thus, we can find, (within the Ramayana at least) the concept of Democracy within a Monarchy.

EDIT: Also in the final chapter of the Yuddha Kanda Valmiki describes the rule of Rama from verse 95 to the end of the chapter, describing it as an ideal rule.

Furthermore, the decision to abandon Sita in the forest was also a decision taken due to the views of the citizens of Ayodhya, (regardless of our views of Rama) which shows how Rama respected the views of the people. Even when he has to accept Sita once more, he knows that Sita is the foremost woman among all, but he still urges her to demonstrate her chastity to the people so that they can accept her as their queen, which just illustrates that he was bound to the decisions of people, and could not make his own decisions about the kingdom without consulting his subjects. All this re-illustrates this concept of democracy within monarchy.

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    You can also add Ram-Rajya was fully like democratic... Ram abandoned Sita by the sayings of Praja.... it is respecting people's view...
    – Tezz
    Jun 5, 2016 at 7:12
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    I think Dasharatha was just asking his council of ministers for their advice. If they disagreed with his choice of Rama and he thought Rama was the best choice anyway, Rama would still become king. Dasharatha wasn't legally constrained by his ministers in his decision-making. Jun 5, 2016 at 7:15
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    @KeshavSrinivasan Yes, he wasn't legally bounded... but he set up a democratic example...
    – Tezz
    Jun 5, 2016 at 7:18
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    @Surya I think he called his council of ministers because he genuinely wanted advice on whether Rama would be a good choice, or whether there were any reasons not to pick Rama or reasons to pick one of his other sons. That's what a good king does, he gets advice before making decisions so he doesn't do something rash or make a mistake. Jun 5, 2016 at 7:20
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    @Keshav Yes, so technically isn't that what we call a democracy? That is why I say it was not a full democracy - it was a democracy within the framework of monarchy.
    – Surya
    Jun 5, 2016 at 7:22

There is a semblance of democracy originating in the conduct of emperor Bharata (of BharataVarsha a.k.a., India).

He was well known to have sidelined his nine sons from his three wives and proclaiming Bhumanyu (the son of Bharadwaja) as heir apparent because he felt those nine being unfit for the throne.

A reference here and here.

Further in recent times, TN Seshan was known to have introduced electoral reforms upon the instructions and suggestion of the then Kanchi Paramacharya - Sri Chandrashekhara Saraswati. Parmacharya advised him to check the Uthiramerur temple instructions to derive inspiration.

References can be found here and here.

Finally, Kautilya's treatise on Raja Dharma spells out the duties and responsibilities of the King (as a representative of the state) towards his subjects (implies they were not reduced to serfs as in a typical feudal setup).

Reference: here

So IMHO, India wasn't alien to democratic traditions despite the overarching transition of power was dynastic.


shatapATa brAhmaNa talks about election / dethroning of king in context of ashvamedha yajna thus referring to an Elective monarchy :

sa āhāśāpālāḥ ye vā etasyodṛcaṃ gamiṣyanti rāṣṭraṃ te bhaviṣyanti rājāno bhaviṣyantyabhiṣecanīyā atha ya etasyodṛcaṃ na gamiṣyantyarāṣṭraṃ te bhaviṣyantyarājāno bhaviṣyanti rājanyā viśo'nabhiṣecanīyāstasmānmā pramadata snātvāccaivainamudakānnirundhīdhvaṃ vaḍavābhyaśca te yadyadbrāhmaṇajātamupanigaceta tattatpṛceta brāhmaṇāḥ kiyadyūyamaśvamedhasya vittheti te ye na vidyurjinīyāta tāntsarvaṃ vā aśvamedhaḥ sarvasyaiṣa na veda yo brāhmaṇaḥ sannaśvamedhasya na veda so'brāhmaṇo jyeya eva sa pānaṃ karavātha khādaṃ nivapāthātha yatkiṃ ca janapade kṛtānnaṃ sarvaṃ vastatsutaṃ teṣāṃ rathakārakula eva vo vasatistaddhyaśvasyāyatanamiti

17. He says, “Ye guardians of the quarters, those who go on to the end of this (horse-sacrifice) will become (sharers of) the royal power, they will become kings worthy of being consecrated; but those who do not go on to the end of this (sacrifice) will be excluded from royal power, they will not become kings, but nobles and peasants, unworthy of being consecrated: do not ye therefore be heedless, and keep it (the horse) from water suitable for bathing and from mares! And whenever ye meet with any kind of Brahmanas, ask ye them, "O Brahmanas, how much know ye of the Ashvamedha?" and those who know naught thereof ye may despoil; for the Ashvamedha is everything, and he who, whilst being a Brahmana, knows naught of the Ashvamedha, knows naught of anything, he is not a Brahmana, and as such liable to be despoiled. Ye shall give it drink, and throw down fodder for it; and whatever prepared food there is in the country all that shall be prepared for you. Your abode shall be in the house of a carpenter of these (sacrificers), for there is the horse’s resting-place.”

As per manusmriti IX-294, a King, though most important, is not the sole decision maker. Kingdom has seven limbs thus referring to a government which takes the form of Constitutional monarchy :

  1. The king and his minister, his capital, his realm, his treasury, his army, and his ally are the seven constituent parts (of a kingdom); (hence) a kingdom is said to have seven limbs (anga).

yayati's curse to yadu in Adi parva LXXXIV might be an example of Crowned republic amongst yadu kingdoms:

"Yayati replied, 'Thou art sprung from my heart, O son, but thou givest me not thy youth. Therefore, thy children shall never be kings.'


I will suggest to read the following texts & make the decision yourself.

  1. The section named Rājadharma in Volume 3 of History of Dharmaśāstra written by Bharataratna Mahamahopadhyaya Pandurang Vaman Kane.
  2. Some aspects of ancient Hindu polity by Prof. Devadutta Bhandarkar of Calcutta University
  3. Theory of Government in Ancient India by Prof. Beni Prasad of Allahabad University
  4. A History of Hindu political theories by Prof. Upendranath Ghoshal of Presidency College (currently Presidency University)

From these articles, it seems to me that democracy never existed in the Hindu idea of governence, which actually idealised a semi-theocratic constitutional totalitarianism under a 'philosopher-king' guided by qualified brāhmaṇas

Civil debates are welcome.

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