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Nation (राष्ट्रः) During Vedic Period

Map of Bharathavarsha. Source: Internet

Kingdoms have existed even in the prehistoric period. When we refer to Ramayana and Mahabharata, we come across scores of kingdoms in and around the regions of today’s India.

Raghuvamsha, the clan to which lord Rama belonged to, ruled with Ayodhya as capital. His mother Kausalya hailed from a kingdom called Dakshina Koshala in today’s Madhya Pradesh. Sita hailed from the kingdom of Mithila. During Ramayana period, we hear about many more kingdoms like Kishkinda, Vanga, kekeya among others.

During Mahabharatha period, we hear about Panchala, Gandhara, Madra, Anga besides Mathura ruled by yadavas and Hastinapura ruled by the Kurus. The famous kuru king “Dhritarashtra”, has the word “Rashtra” in his name. The word Dhritarashtra itself means holding a nation with stability.

Despite numerous slices in the region, we hear about people travelling and settling in any of the kingdoms at will indicating very little or no border control. Rishis and acharyas like Vishwamitra and Drona travelled across the regions and settling in various places. Also the word “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” which means “Earth itself is a family” carrying the message of unity for ages. It can be interpreted as a sentiment rather than a rule or a statement.

In the historic period we study about Mauryans, Maghada, Pandyas, Cholas among other.

These regions ruled by different kings, had diversified cultures and ways of life depending on geographical and demographic aspects. Yet there were common elements that connected these kingdoms together. These strings of connection culminate to Sanskrit language and Vedic principles. Every kingdom had their own language but Sanskrit was the common language that flourished across the region. Maithili, Brijbhasha, Awadhi are some of these languages that are spoken even today. And the concept of “Rashtra” or nation existed ever since. Vedic rituals often include chanting of hyms in which prayers are offered for stability and wellbeing of the nation, the kingdom and the rulers.

The following hymn from the “Taittireeya Samhita” can be referred to as the ancient Vedic national anthem. It is so universal that, it is applicable to any kingdom or empire on earth.

The hymn translates to, In our nation, may every believer of Brahman, be born with brahma varchas (pre-eminent knowledge).
May the protectors of the nation be born as brave, experts of archery and extraordinary warriors.
May all the cows be fertile and bulls be strong to pull extreme weight.
May the horses be extremely faster and women become the protectors of national pride.
May the youngsters become sophisticated (worthy of congregation) and possess wealth and vehicles.
May the men (people) be believers and have brave children.
May it rain when needed, may the plants and trees bear fruits.
With this, may everyone be part holistic prosperity.

Historically numerous kingdoms prospered under the guidance of acharyas who were brahma varchasvis (ब्रह्मवर्चस्वी) and it can happen in today’s world as well. Today the words Acharya and brahma varchasvi must be read as “Eminent Advisor” and “Once with Brilliance” with no religious affiliation.

Another hymn from Rig Veda is as follows:

This in summary means “May the varuna, brihaspati, indra and agni give stability to the king and may the nation be held in stability”

The very sentence रा॒ष्ट्रं धा॑रयतां ध्रु॒वम् (“may the nation be held in stability’) indicates the sentiments and involvement of the society towards the nation. Return of such a sentiment and involvement from the society is much needed in the present times for every country particularly India. We having this wisdom for ages, should return to that idea with much urgency. Sanskrit and Sanskrit literature in any form must not be attached to a particular religion because it belongs to the region not to any religion.

This article is written with blessings from Sri. K.S.Narayanacharya Swami

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