The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Protection of the subject, O Yudhishthira, is the very cheese of kingly duties. The divine Vrihaspati does not applaud any other duty (so much as this one). The divine Kavi (Usanas) of large eyes and
austere penances, the thousand-eyed Indra, and Manu the son of Prachetas, the divine Bharadwaja, and the saga Gaurasiras, all devoted to Brahma and utterers of Brahma, have composed treatises on the duties of kings. All of them praise the duty of protection, O foremost of virtuous persons, in respect of kings. O thou of eyes like lotus leaves and of the hue of copper, listen to the means by which protection may be secured. Those means consist of the employment of spies and servants, giving them their just dues without haughtiness, the realisation of taxes with considerateness, never taking anything (from the subject) capriciously and without cause, O Yudhishthira, the selection of honest men (for the discharge of administrative functions), heroism, skill, and cleverness (in the transaction of business), truth, seeking the good of the people, producing discord and disunion among the enemy by fair or unfair means, the repair of buildings that are old or on the point of falling away, the infliction of corporal punishments and fines regulated by observance of the occasion, never abandoning the honest, granting employment and protection to persons of respectable birth, the storing of what should be stored, companionship with persons of intelligence, always gratifying the soldiery, supervision over the subjects, steadiness in the transaction of business, filling the treasury, absence of blind confidence on the guards of the city, producing disloyalty among the citizens of a hostile town, carefully looking after the friends and allies living in the midst of the enemy's country, strictly watching the servants and officers of the state, personal observation of the city, distrust of servants, comforting the enemy with assurances, steadily observing the dictates of policy, readiness for action, never disregarding an enemy, and casting off those that are wicked. Readiness for exertion in kings is the root of kingly duties. This has been said by Vrihaspati. Listen to the verses sung by him: 'By exertion the amrita was obtained; by exertion the Asuras were slain, by exertion Indra himself obtained sovereignty in heaven and on earth. The hero of exertion is superior to the heroes of speech. The heroes of speech gratify and worship the heroes of exertion. 1' The king that is destitute of exertion, even if possessed of intelligence, is always overcome by foes like a snake that is bereft of poison. The king, even if possessed of strength, should not disregard a foe, however weak. A spark of fire can produce a conflagration and a particle of poison can kill. With only one kind of force, an enemy from within a fort, can afflict the whole country of even a powerful and prosperous king. The secret speeches of a king, the amassing of troops for obtaining victory, the crooked purposes in his heart, similar intents for accomplishing particular objects, and the wrong acts he does or intends to do, should be concealed by putting on an appearance of candour. He should act righteously for keeping his people under subjection. Persons of crooked minds cannot bear the burden of extensive empire. A king who is mild cannot obtain superior rank, the acquisition of which depends upon labour.
[paragraph continues] A kingdom, coveted by all like meat, can never be protected by candour and simplicity. A king, O Yudhishthira, should, therefore, always conduct himself with both candour and crookedness. If in protecting his subjects a king falls into danger, he earns great merit. Even such should be the conduct of kings. I have now told thee a portion only of the duties of kings. Tell me, O best of the Kurus, what more you wish to know."
Vaisampayana continued, "The illustrious Vyasa and Devasthana and Aswa, and Vasudeva and Kripa and Satyaki and Sanjaya, filled with joy, and with faces resembling full-blown flowers, said, 'Excellent! Excellent!' and hymned the praises of that tiger among men, viz., Bhishma, that foremost of virtuous persons. Then Yudhishthira, that chief of Kuru's race, with a cheerless heart and eyes bathed in tears, gently touched Bhishma's feet and said, 'O grandsire, I shall to-morrow enquire after those points about which I have my doubts, for today, the sun, having sucked the moisture of all terrestrial objects, is about to set.' Then Kesava and Kripa and Yudhishthira and others, saluting the Brahmanas (assembled there) and circumambulating the son of the great river, cheerfully ascended their cars. All of them observant of excellent vows then bathed in the current of the Drishadwati. Having offered oblations of water unto their ancestors and silently recited the sacred mantras and done other auspicious acts, and having performed the evening prayer with due rites, those scorchers of foes entered the city called after the elephant."
120:1 Eloquent Brahmanas learned in the scriptures are heroes of speech, Great Kshatriya kings are heroes of exertion.
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