Can a Hindu king or ruler suspend the dharma śāstras and other law books at difficult times e.g., during famine, floods, internal conflicts or when the state is actively engaged in a war?

If yes, can the king also impose a curfew on his citizens and suspend civil liberties?

1 Answer 1


According to Parashara Smriti (PS), during "ApatkAla" or during an emergency, following/maintaining Dharma must take a backseat. Preserving one's life, at that time, is the only priority. And, one should wait for the unrest to be over.

So, this is in other words the same as saying "One can abandon the Dharma ShAstras temporarily till the emergency is over".

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Deshabhange pravAse vA bhyAdhishu vyasaneshvapi |
RanedevasvadehAdi paschAddharmam samAchAret ||

  1. During a civil commotion, or in exile, or when ill, or in misfortune, the first consideration is to preserve one's life ; practice of religion should at the time be postponed.

So, the king can very well use this injunction to issue such an order that abandon following the ShAstras till the unrest is over. But, I do not know of any such explicit verse where a king is specifically instructed to do so.

The above verse is PS 7.35. The next two verses are as follows:

  1. By any kind of conduct, soft or cruel, one should deliver himself from a distressed state ; the practice of religious rites ought to be left for a period when he is equal to the task.

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ApatkAle tu nistirno sauchAchAram tu chintayet |
Suddhim samuddharet pashchAtswastho dharmam samacharet ||

  1. After the misfortune is over, one should think of purification and religious rites. Thereafter purity may be recovered by him. He ought to practice religion when his troubles are past.

Regarding your question about curfew, I have no idea.

  • Does the individual decide its an emergency or is it King ? If individual then doesn't it make it difficult for him to break karmic cycle. If misfortune is because of karma then straying away from dharmic path will result in more bad karma Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 6:40
  • The authority here is the scripture and not the king. In case of misfortune, emergency etc. Dharma can be postponed. @Carmensandiego
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 6:46
  • Also if war breaks out or famine strikes then it is clear to everybody that the situation is not that of normalcy. It does not require the king to declare anything before people stop following Dharma temporarily. @Carmensandiego
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 6:49
  • What about "or in misfortune" from 35. One can be in misfortune without being in exile or country suffering from war, famine etc. Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 6:51
  • In case of misfortune too Dharma can be postponed. For example, when there is absolutely nothing to eat, one can consume even forbidden food to survive. According to ur logic that person encountered the situation of being without anything to eat because of his past (bad) karma so he should not do more bad karma by eating forbidden food but scriptures' opinion is quite the opposite in this regard. So, we have to go with that. @Carmensandiego
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 6:57

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