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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Maha Bharata - Some Hidden Gems 8. Kanika's Advice

In Book 1 Section 142, Kanika who is referred to in the Mahabharata as “the foremost of ministers” to King Dhritarashtra gives his advice to the King. Dhritarashtra tells Kanika that he is jealous of the Pandavas and asks whether he should go to war with them or not. Here are some excerpts and remarks from Kanika’s answer on a king role in those days.

" Please do not get angry with me for what I am about to say. Kings should ever be ready to increase their prowess. They should watch over the faults of their foes and take advantage of them. If the king is always ready to strike, everybody will be afraid of him. He should conduct himself such that his foe may not detect any weak side in him. But he should study the weakness of his foe and pursue him (to destruction). He should always conceal his plans and his weaknesses from the sight of others like a tortoise concealing its body. When he starts a particular act, he should ever accomplish it thoroughly. A thorn, if not extracted wholly, will produce a festering sore. Therefore, if your enemy is in your hold destroy him without scruples and without mercy. There can be no allies and partisans if the principal is destroyed”.

He then describes the four methods of state craft – appeasement, charity, divide and rule and punishment (sama, dana , bedha and danda) later expanded by Kautilya. He then tells Dhritarashtra the story of a jackal, fully acquainted with the science of politics, dwelling in the forest in the company of four friends, viz., a tiger, a mouse, a wolf, and a mongoose. The jackal cleverly cheated all of them by appealing to pride in the tiger, disgust in the mouse and fear in the wolf. When the mongoose came, the jackal claimed to have killed the other three and frightened him out of the kill. Kanika says that A king should be adept at all these techniques against his enemies. He should carry out his plans ruthlessly with a smile on his face. “Even when he is killing his foe he should say soothing words – that is how hard the king should be!” says Kanika.

            The king should not trust either the faithless or the faithful. He should have spies all over – specifically in 18 places which includes places of amusement, temples and other holy places, drinking halls, streets, and with the chief priest, the heir-presumptive, the commander-in-chief, persons in the inner apartments, the head of the treasury, the chief of the town police, the chief of the frontier guards, and in all places where people congregate.

A prudent king should act in such a way that neither friends nor foes may know his motive before he acts. He should pay attention to details and act calmly according to the time and place.

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