Explain the basis and features of republics and monarchies.
In the post-Vedic period, the entire northern territory mostly situated north of the Vindhyas and extending from the North-west frontier to Bihar was divided into sixteen states called Mahajanapadas. These Mahajanapadas were either monarchical and republican in character. Whereas the monarchies concentrated in the Gangetic plains, then Republicans existed either in the Indus basin or near the Himalayan foothills in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
BASIS OF REPUBLICS
Indian literature comprising Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain texts mention different types of non-monarchical states called Republic and this account is corroborated by the statements of the Greek historians of the Alexander’s campaign in India.
Further details on ganas are provided by Buddhist and jaina texts than Brahmanical ones. This is because Kingship was central to the Brahmanical social and political ideology and kinglessness was equated with anarchy. Brahmanas and purohits may not have enjoyed the prestige they did in the monarchies. There are hardly any references to purohits or gifts of land to Brahmanas in the ganas.
Arthasastra mentions several corporations such as the Lichchavikas, Vrijjikas, Madras etc. They had an assembly whose members were called Rajas.
Coins also offer information on republics. The term gana on coins of the Yaudheyas and Malavas points to their non-monarchical polity.
The existence of republics is also proved by testimony of Greek writers, Megasthenes says that most of the India cities of his time had a democratic form of government also mentions several tribes who were free and had no kings.
The origin of the republics has been traced to the reaction against the pattern of life that evolved in the later vedic period. The movement against the Vedic life was aimed at the abolition of the growing class and sex distinctions and directed against the acceptance of superstititous religious practices which took a heavy toll of cattle stock.
It was also directed against the hereditary kingship bolstered up by the Brahmanas, who arrogated to themselves all the rights and privileges.
The republics in the Indus basin may have been the remanants of the vedic tribes.
In some cases in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar people were possibly inspired by the old ideals of tribal equality which did not give much prominence to the raja (monarchies)
Due to socio-political conditions of the period in the early period the members of ruling class obtained a portion of the booty of war and tributes collected from the vanquished from non-Aryans.
But in subsequent times, when the victorious tribal chiefs came to occupy prominent and hereditary royal positions in the territorial states, they claimed all revenues for themselves.
The leading members of the tribe resented the situation and demanded the rights to collect taxes from the peasants and the right to bear arms and maintain their own army. The reaction gave birth to a political framework, which was republic.
The ganas had greater vestiges of tribal organisation than the monarchies. Some may have simply been more complex political forms of older tribal formations. Others may have been created through the subversion of monarchical rule.
FEATURES OF REPUBLICS
In a republic the heads of the families belonged to a clan or chiefs if there were more than one clan. There were some assemblies to govern the territories.
The central feature of the republican government was its seemingly corporate character. The representatives of the tribes and the heads of families may have set in the public assembly of the capital. The tribal assembly was presided over by one of the representatives called the raja or senapati.
The office of the chief executive of the tribal state was not hereditary and he was more a chief than a king.
All important issues were placed before the assembly and no decision was taken in the absence of unanimity among members.
The assemblies were dominated by oligarchs. The real power lay in the hands of the tribal oligarchies.
The republican state had a Gana-parishad or an assembly of senior and responsible citizens. This Gana-parishad had the supreme authority in the state. All the administrative decisions were taken by this parishad.
In a gana sangha land was owned by the clan, but the hired labourers and slave worked on it. The kshatriya political elite were probably also the largest landowners in the ganas.
A kingdom or monarchy means a territory ruled by a king or queen. In the 6th century B.C. along with the republics some kingdoms also emerged particularly in the Ganges plains. The land of these kingdoms was more fertile and people settled there at a later period than the republic.
In a kingdom, the king enjoyed the sovereign power. All functions of the government centered round him. The king could compel obedience to laws and use force if necessary. thgere were customary laws of jatis and the region. Obedience to these types of laws continued throughout ages. In a kingdom a family which rules over a long period becomes a dynasty.
A king was assisted by advisory councils such as sabha and parishad. Earlier, people were more loyal to the clans. It weakened in a kingdom. Loyality was shifted to the caste of an individual and to the king. Kindoms were expanded over a large area and it weekend the popular assemblies. Three important kingdoms of this period were Kasi, Kosala and Magadha. They often fought for the control of the Ganges okains for strenghtnening defence and economy.
- Kingship was attributed to the wishes of God.
- Importance of the priests and vedic rituals increased.
- Earlier, there was a rivalry between the Brahamans and Kshatriyas but in a kingdom they supported each other.
- Instead of voluntary tributes of the earlier periods, kings started collecting compulsort taxes or toll duties.
- There was a clear division between the ruler and the ruled, the rich and the poor.
- Some individuals or families possessed more lands than the others.
- The state had all rights over unused lands.
- After clearing wastelands or unused land the king received a tax from the cultivators which was usually one sixth of the produce.
- In a kingdom the state generally controlled the means of production and distribution.