The Polity of the Philosopher-Bureaucrat: Brahmanical Virtue as a Qualification for Public Office
In: WORLD VIEW AND THEORY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY, edited by Piotr Balcerowicz, 299-325 (Warsaw Indological Studies, 5) (Manohar 2012)
32 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2013
Date Written: 2012
One of the most striking features of Indian social history is the success of the Brahmin castes in promoting the ideal of Brahmins as model candidates for appointment to ministerial or administrative office. The Sanskrit literature on personal virtue and social norms (dharma-śāstra) offers a systematic argument for the notion that Brahmanically defined virtues are inculcated and exhibited through observance of particular ritual norms, and ideally embodied in virtuous Brahmins. Scholastic discussions of political science (artha-śāstra, nīti-śāstra) and kingly virtue (rāja-dharma) further suggest that Brahmins, and by extension other “twice-born” castes, viz. those eligible to observe Brahmanical ritual norms, and shaped by them) are best suited to high office, a policy often reflected in inscriptional records. Beginning from the conceit that the Brahmanical tradition offers an interesting contrast to the Platonic ideal of the “philosopher-king,” this article analyzes a selection of data drawn from Indian inscriptions, read in light of (or against) the scholastic literature, to show the ways in which Brahmanical norms are reflected in actual records of public administration and statecraft in medieval India. It is observed that in inscriptions, Brahmins in public service were not explicitly identified as such, as were Brahmins who were recipients of endowments (where such caste and religious qualifications justified the grant). However there are indications that the virtues and ideals associated with Brahmin settlements, as well as the writing practices inculcated in them, made them a prime field for recruiting officials.
Keywords: Hindu law, Brahmin, Brahmanical, political theory, India, arthashastra, dharma, dharmashastra, statecraft, norms, authority, writing, administration
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation