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A Republic is a country where the ruler is democratically elected by the people of the country. Democracy is the opposite of dictatorship or monarchy.

Today's India is such a democratic republic.

But in ancient past Indian kings were not always selected by people. Mostly a king's son will become the king and then his son and so on.

Now this webpage claims the Vedas , the most ancient among Hindu scriptures, support the idea of democracy. It quotes a Rig Veda mantra in support of the claim which is given below. But i fail to understand how the mantra explicitly supports the idea of democracy.

Today India is the largest democratic nation in terms of population. But history and ancient literature suggest that demcoracy and republic ideas were implemented ever since the ‘Age of Vedas‘ and even before. The present westminister style of democracy in India was inherited from the British but the principle of democracy in Vedas existed as a core value in Ancient India.

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Ramayana has the first instance where a king tells his people to disagree with him if needed and was open to suggestions in administration.

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Evidence of a Democratic system of government in India is originally found in Rig Veda, which mentions a thriving republican form of Government in India. These are the slokas from Rig Veda which were to be sung in unison at the beginning of the republican assembly

sáM sam íd yuvase vRSann ágne víshvAny aryá Á
iLás padé sám idhyase sá no vásUny Á bhara ||
sáM gachadhvaM sáM vadadhvaM sáM vo mánAMsi jAnatAm
devÁ bhAgáM yáthA pÚrve saMjAnAnÁ upÁsate ||
samAnó mántraH sámitiH samAnÍ samAnám mánaH sahá cittám eSAm
samAnám mántram abhí mantraye vaH samAnéna vo havíSA juhomi ||
samAnÍ va ÁkUtiH samAnÁ hRdayAni vaH
samAnám astu vo máno yáthA vaH súsahÁsati || [Rig Veda 10.191.1-4]

Translation :THOU, mighty Agni, gatherest up all that is precious for thy friend. Bring us all treasures as thou art enkindled in libation’s place. Assemble, speak together: let your minds be all of one accord, As ancient Gods unanimous sit down to their appointed share. The place is common, common the assembly, common the mind, so be their thought united. A common purpose do I lay before you, and worship with your general oblation. One and the same be your resolve, and be your minds of one accord. United be the thoughts of all that all may happily agree.

Do the Vedas support democracy? If yes, please quote the relevant mantras from the Veda Samhitas.

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  • I think this question is same as Democracy in Hinduism
    – The Destroyer
    Apr 16, 2017 at 8:20
  • @TheDestroyer Yes similar but not exactly the same. I want this question to be answered only from the Vedas. That other question can be answered from any Scriptures.
    – Rickross
    Apr 16, 2017 at 11:16
  • Have an interesting thought from Ramayana to share - When Rama was exiled by Dasharatha, people begged him to come back giving 2 main reasons - he was the rightful heir because he was the king's firstborn son, he was also the choice for king based on people's wishes. Based on both monarchy and democracy, Rama could have been king. But Rama felt that neither should dictate who is king, only Dharma should.
    – mar
    Apr 20, 2017 at 18:35
  • Not democracy but constitutional monarchy, because rAma abandoned sItA due to public perception about her. Adiparva XCIV, bharata (son of dushyanta) went for an adopted son because he was not pleased by his own sons. arthashastra, shukra niti etc. appear to support succession i.e. elective monarchy.
    – Arvind C
    Sep 21, 2022 at 18:16
  • Bharataratna Mahamahopadhyaya Panduranga Vamana Kane described the aspect of rule in one of the volumes of his magnum opus 'History of Dharmasastra'. From the evidence provided in the dharmasastras, Arthasastra & Kamandaka's niti-shastra, he concludes that 1) Kings were considered as the earthly manifestation of the Rigvedic deities. 2) The main duty of the King was to establish the rule of dharma as described in the shastras & interpreted by qualified brahmins. 3) Kings must function in co-operation of his Council of Ministers, who are all Brahmins. Sep 24, 2022 at 10:13

2 Answers 2

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Yes the Veda does support the idea of democracy. It clearly talks of people or their representatives choosing the king.

TwAm Vishor VrinatAm (1)

TvAmimAh Pradishah Pancha Devi (2)

Vashmarn RAshtrashya Kakudi Srayasya (3)

Tator Na Ugro Vi BhajA Vasuthi (4)

Meaning

Let the people choose you for the king (1)

you have the knowledge of the five divine realms (or directions) (2)

Let the royal words flow from the peaks (3)

Firmly share your riches with all (4).

Atharva Veda Samhita 3.4.1.

Here the word "Visha" denotes the people or their representatives.

The Rig Veda 10.124.8 mantra also indicate the visha or people chose the king.

Similarly, Atharva Veda 3.3.6 clearly says:

We have elected you, let your enemies challenge you.

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    you are reading too much into the rig veda. It has nothing to do with democracy. choosing a king is not democracy. people in ancient times did not think the same way as we do today. You are reading an English translation of the most ancient Sanskrit. The English 'elect' in ancient Sanskrit is not the modern connotation that you are giving it. Apr 16, 2017 at 9:50
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    @ChinmaySarupria That is most common misconception that most people have about the Vedas. When someone says Vedas are 3 they simply mention the 3 types of Veda Mantras viz Rik, Yajus and Samans. . The Atharva Veda is mostly comprised of Riks. But this space is too short to prove it to u.
    – Rickross
    Apr 16, 2017 at 11:12
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    For Veda mantras u can check mahbhasya of patanjali on RV 4.58.3 which begins with chatvari shrnga (i.e which has 4 horns and 3 feet). The Mahabharatha and Vishnu Purana both says Vedas are 4. Also check Brihadaranyaka 2.4.10 and Mundaka Upanishads 1.1.5. AV 11.6.14 itself states ricah samani beshaja yajumshi . Here AV identifies itself with bhesaja or healing. AV 15.6.8 quotes the same mantra with only bhesaja replaced with brahma . In other parts of Av same mantra is found with bhesaja replaced with Atharva Angira the seers to whom these mantras are revealed.@ChinmaySarupria
    – Rickross
    Apr 16, 2017 at 14:44
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    Also of the 10 major upanishads 3, namely Mandukya, Mundaka and Prashna are associated with AV. @ChinmaySarupria
    – Rickross
    Apr 16, 2017 at 14:46
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    @Chinmaya Sarupriya Atharvaveda is surely a Veda... actually it is mystic Veda... when compared with letter Om. A denotes Rig Veda, U Yajur, M Sama and silence Atharva.... also Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad mention Atharvaveda many times.... for eg. Here is passage from Chandogya Upanishad: "III-iv-1: And its northern rays are its northern honey cells. The Mantras of the Atharva-Veda are the bees. The Itihasa and the Purana are the flower; and those waters are the nectar." .. and son on many other verses....
    – Tezz
    Apr 16, 2017 at 15:44
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shatapATa brAhmaNa 13.4.2.17 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.'

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    Thanks for your answer.
    – Rickross
    Sep 24, 2022 at 9:42

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