The Ideal, Conception and Practice of Chakravartin Shows the All-Encompassing Unity of Bharatavarsha
Notes On Culture

The Ideal, Conception and Practice of Chakravartin Shows the All-Encompassing Unity of Bharatavarsha

Sandeep Balakrishna

Sandeep Balakrishna

Chakravartin or Samrat: The Paramount Sovereign

This is a very ancient ideal, conception and institution of kingship dating back to the Vedas and had been familiar to Indians hundreds of years before Chandragupta Maurya’s spectacular success in politically unifying India. There is ample evidence to this institution both textual and in actual practice in works such as the Aitareya Brahmana, Shatapata Brahmana, Sukraniti, Shankhayana Sutra, Mahabharata, Arthashastra, and various other Dharmashastra texts and Puranas. Many of these texts provide elaborate details on the process of coronation of a pan-Bharatavarsha Emperor as well as the procedure and significance of Kshatriya Yajnas like the Vajapeya, Ashwamedha and Rajasuya. To quote Prof R.K. Mookerji again, “The ideal of Hindu kingship was nothing short of universal sovereignty, which meant at the least sovereignty of the whole of India “up to the seas”—the consciousness of the territorial synthesis leads to the political synthesis, and is itself strengthened by, the latter.” The note on “up to the seas” is significant for its unbroken continuity—for example, as recent as the last century, the indomitable Veer Savarkar delineates the territory of Bharatavarsha as “the land that is between Sindhu and Sindhu – from the Indus to the sea.”

The Lists of Chakravartins

Needless, this is closely related with the previous point. Some of the aforementioned texts, chiefly the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Arthashastra provide lists of such Chakravartins who had conquered this vast geography of Bharatavarsha and established their paramountcy there. Of particular note is the thrilling account of Yudhishtira’s political unification of Bharatavarsha when he sends his brothers on a campaign of conquest. The sheer breadth and sweep of the names of the regions of Bharatavarsha makes us go mute with admiration. Indeed, almost every inscription, edict, royal orders, etc up to the arrival of the European powers in India praise even a local chieftain, Palegar, etc as “the Lord of the Four Seas and the Earth” indicating the unbroken continuity of this Chakravartin ideal. In this connection, the multifaceted scholar, poet, and Shatavadhani, Dr. Ganesh’s invaluable work, Bharatiya Kshatra Parampare is replete with rich details on this subject.  

Brihad-Bharata or Greater India

This important fact of history is actually a highly conclusive evidence as to the fundamental unity of Bharatavarsha. It is actually the political (to an extent) and more importantly, the cultural and spiritual development and extension of India across the seas. Its remnants are most visible even today in the South East Asian countries of Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, and Indonesia. It is also an equally important fact of history that these regions declined and succumbed to alien invasions, conquest and subjugation in direct proportion to their abandonment of the Kshatra ideals of India and their progressive distancing from Bharatavarsha. It is highly instructive to read R.K. Mookerji’s Greater India, Indian Shipping, and R.C. Majumdar’s Kambuja Desha, Champa, and Suvarnadwipa in this connection.

The Physical Factors of Bharatavarsha

This is another oft-overlooked feature that establishes the fundamental and profound unity of Bharatavarsha. Things like seasons, a comparison of barriers that separate its internal regions from those that separate it from the surrounding external countries, and most importantly, the effects of monsoons in creating uniform physical conditions. These have manifested themselves in the manner in which, for example, our traditions and practices of farming, cattle-rearing, principles of trade and commerce, diet, dress, etc have originated and evolved. The masterly book, Bharatiya Samskruti (Indian Culture) by Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri contains a wealth of material on these and other defining aspects of Bharatavarsha and its culture.


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