For whom is the king

Business 14 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, June 29, 2011

Chanakya was once asked, why did he need Chandragupta to defeat Nanda, king of Magadha, and establish the Mauryan Empire. To this he replied, “Because he is king. I am not. I wanted to defeat Nanda to avenge my humiliation. Chandragupta had no such agenda; he had no desire to be king when I chose him. I chose him because people wanted to follow him. They were attracted to him because he genuinely cared for them. He was motivated by the love of his people; I was motivated by my own rage. ”

What differentiates a king from a powerful man is the reference point of the king’s action which is always the people, not himself. That is why in Hindu mythology the only character worshipped as king, seated on a golden throne, with an umbrella on his head, is Ram of the Ramayana. No other. Ram exists for Ayodhya; Ayodhya does not exist for Ram. And so when Ram is asked to choose between Ayodhya and Sita, Ram chooses Ayodhya, not Sita. But it is quite the opposite for Ravan. Lanka exists for him, and he refuses to part with Sita even when Lanka is burnt and its residents killed.

Thus there are kings who exist for the kingdom, and there are kingdoms that exist to prop up a king. According to Hindu mythology, Ram belongs to the former category while Ravan belongs to the latter.

For whom does one wear the crown; that is the question? Of course, when asked every king will say the right thing: I wear it for the people. These are the pretenders, the mimics, who always say the right thing. Mahabharata’s Duryodhan is one such mimic.

Duryodhan claims he wants to be king for the sake of Hastinapur. He does not want his cousins, the Pandavas, the gamblers, to be kings.  The fact is, the real reason he wants to wear the crown is to dominate the powerful Pandavas, and compensate for his own inadequacies. That is why sharing even a needlepoint of land with his cousins for the sake of peace is unacceptable for him. He rejoices in their misery. By contrast, when asked to give up his throne, Ram gives it up to his brother, Bharat, without remorse and regret. Ayodhya has to prosper, whether he is king or not.

It was the fulfillment of a life’s dream when Yashwant came to head the chain of restaurants. He spent hours deliberating whether he should be called CEO or MD or President or Leader or maybe a crazy and fine title like Customer Satisfaction Associate! His mentor then looked at him and said, “Why do you want this title? For your own self aggrandizement, or for the benefit of the business?” And when Yashwant spelt out his business plan to his investment partners, the mentor said, “What is your motivation? Increase in your wealth, the wealth of your shareholders, the wealth of your employees or the satisfaction of your customers?”

Yashwant knew this was a rhetorical question. There was no right answer. The politically correct answer would be, “For everyone.” But his mentor wanted him to reflect. He knew he did everything for his own pleasure. Does not everybody? In fact doing things for others seemed like a burden; it annoyed him. He realized that to be truly king one has to make people powerful, not take power from them. Therein lay his growth.

  • Super article Devdutt!!Love your style of connecting the past & the present situations so effortlessly.

  • aarthi raghavan

    Hi Devduttji,
    I liked it very much. It was like showing democracy in monarchy. Very nice article.

  • rohan

    really good,,,but in todays world if u give power to people, they also shud hav the wisdom to spend it,,,instead they may think them selves bigger than the giver…ther cud be a sudden shift pre power and post power

  • Veer

    Excellent article. The myth (or what I have known) is that when Rama & Sita come back to Ayodya, some of his subjects had dobuts about Sita’s fidility (or being violated by Ravana) during her kidnapped stay in Lanaka. To prove Sita’s pureness to his subjects Rama made Sita to go through a fire test (Agniparikshae). The question I always had is, why did he have to do this ? Why did he not take the pain to explain or do something else to clear the dobut, instead of asking Sita to undergo fire test.

    • vijay

      The people of Ayodhya should have respect and faith in Ram for him to be a king.They have to believe that he upholds dharma.It was the rule of the land which says that the king’s wife must be of an unblemished reputation.So when, there were some questions about her fidelity,it is his duty as a king to prove her fidelity though he very well knows that she is chaste and completely believes in her.

  • Ram

    “..That is why in Hindu mythology the only character worshipped as king, seated on a golden throne..”

    Question : Is it Krishna was not king of Dwharak? not workshipped?

    I read your another article saying..”Ram followed rules & Krishna broken rules – Both to maintain peace/Dharma”

    • Devdutt

      Krishna is not king….

    • Aarthi Raghavan

      Yes, Krishna is not the king. Balram was the king, kind of like a nominal king.


    the present rulers in India are RAVANAS and DURYODHANAS than RAMA.GOD SAVE BHARAT!

  • Tarun

    @ Devdutt: Why did Sri Ram left Sita even when she went through agni pariksha that showed she was Chaste? Do you think King should always take action in favour of (some) people of his kingdom even if they are not right?

    • Devdutt

      you do not have to worship him…..feel free to judge him

  • Rahul Bharati

    Respected Dev Dattaji,
    Could you please share your Study and opinions on Laws of Karma?
    At root level we can relate every story to one’s Karma.

    As someone has already said this, Stories are one of the best ways to tell/teach someone.
    Reading your stories, I just felt that it can also be the part of our Education system.
    We can have ‘Human Behavior’ as a subject along with the other subjects that we study at Schools.
    This could be one of those tine steps we can adopt to have better citizens for tomorrow.

    Many Thanks,
    Rahul Bharati.

    Humain Behaviour should be the subject that we all

  • Dear Pattnaikji,
    I came to know you via Youtube by your very popular show “Shaastrarth” and have become a regular viewer of it. You have very intelligently woven the mythological principles with modern business and have inspired many minds to plan efficiently.

    What I have personally interpreted after listening to you is that the wrong understanding of ancient
    texts and its message among the mob is due to our faulty education system.

    Few months ago I came across an article stating Macaulay’s opinion on India and his strategies to
    change the education system here so that britishers can rule us for long. His plan was to ruin the self
    esteem of Indians and their language and make English language a brand of Literacy and Intelligence and
    also to mar the faith of Indians in their religion. It shocked me a lot.

    My question is how far do you hold Macaulay’s conspiracy responsible for the present intellectual and
    emotional degradation of Indians and to what extent. What would have been the scenario if such event
    had not taken place?

    Awaiting your reply.