Institutionalizing Mahabharata

Myth Theory 18 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Miday, May 15, 2011


In the Ramayana, when Dashrath asks his son, Ram, to go into exile and Ram obeys, one wonders what is Ram’s motivation. Is he obeying his father? Or is he taking an action that ensures that the integrity of the royal family is never questioned? In former, the reference point is the family. In the latter, the reference point is Ayodhya. In the former, it is about being a good son. In the latter, it is about being a good king. They are two different things, a subtle but sharp divide that is often overlooked.

When I look at the young crop of politicians in India, I see good sons but I do not see good kings. Everyone is working for their party. No one is working for India. What matters more than the development of India is the power for the party.

Hear the speeches carefully. Observe them carefully. They will all speak of poverty alleviation and of corruption and of wrongs done to their potential voters. And then they will blame the ruling party, whoever is in power, for all the terrible things that are happening to them. They promise change if voted to power. Change does happen: they come to power, but poverty remains, the corruption remains, and so do all the wrongs.

Then begins the next round of speeches, with young leaders of the opposition doing the very same thing. And those in power, quoting statistics of how they changed things, numbers that are rarely reflected in reality.

The electoral system we have chosen as a country has transformed into non-violent warfare. Every four years, two parties fight. One wins. The loser spends the next four years mocking the rulers and doing everything in its power to block activities of the rulers and to oppose them at every moment. This is done to ensure the rulers lose the next elections.

And the winners spend all the time working towards the next election, hoping to secure the next term. This means, not allowing any developmental activity to take place in constituencies where the voters elected the opposition, and using their power to generate funds, often by nefarious means, to reward party workers and give their party the money-power needed to fund the next elections.

In all this, India really does not matter. What matters is fighting and winning elections. So young politicians give rousing speeches and lead marches with the sole intention of defeating their opponents. Do we hold politicians responsible for this or the design of our electoral system? Inbuilt in our version of democracy is fighting. Fights, even non-violent ones, are never good.

Ultimately, we have to live in the same house, share the resources, even with our worst enemies, because everyone is an Indian. Somewhere along the line, a warped system is emerging thanks to our election system. We have ended up institutionalizing  Mahabharata through our electoral system, with every politician imagining himself or herself as a Pandava and branding his or her opposition as a Kaurava. It is all about kicking brothers out of the house, denying them resources, because they oppose us. All is done in the name of the family. And that is not good for the household that is India.

  • Giriraj Bhatia

    Very Nice article.

    Comparison made is so true.

    Do we need external forces to unite us?

    Earlier when the Kings used to rule and they were chosen through dynasty, the saying was Yatha Raja Tatha Praja (As the King so would be his subjects).

    Now the praja chooses the king so the saying needs to changed to Yatha Praja Tatha Raja. (Whatever the thought pattern of the Subjects, Similar are the governments chosen)

    • Rudresh

      Excellent thought. Well said.

      • rajesh

        I agree with your statement YATHA RAJA TATHA PRAJA. In olden days if king is bad revolution used to take place and the bad king used to replace by good king. The next generation of good king may be bad but the new king at least used to be good .
        But now days we don’t have option, due to stupid election system we need to choose LESS BAD because each and every political party is corrupted and there GOOD present in election system.
        Current PRAJA is forced to get corrupted as we don’t have any option than choosing LESS BAD. When we will get option to choose GOOD or not to choose any BAD then there may be hope to bring good people to rule us.

  • Giriraj Bhatia

    One more thought.

    The Government needs to be like a parent and the people should be like children.

    As the children grow older, the behaviour of the parents change from caring and spoon feeding to helping them acquire skills and finally when the child grows older allowing him to face the society on its own.

    However, In our case the Governments ensure that the child does not grow and learn how to live on its own. They want to spoon feed the large no. of electorate so that they keep on loving the parent who feeds them by way of votes.

  • Sumedha

    Divisions are a projection of ‘our mind space’…. And in these divisions we lose sight of the WHOLE…. Making these projections our reality!

    Time to take on individual responsibilities towards the whole.

    I always enjoy reading your stuff Devdutt!

  • Ravi


    A minor correction. Indian Parliamentary period is 5 years and not 4, USofA follows 4 years. Though this does not affect the underlying thought “whosoever is not with me is villain”, “only I am the best”, etc.

    Whatever is happening today still supports the old time saying ” Jiski Lathi, uski Bhains (Buffalo – meaning “an asset”, “a resource”

  • The election process is part of the sysytem of democracy we have blindly ADOPTED(instead of ADAPTING)-ill suited to BHAARAT -a collection of crazily diverse neigbouring kingdoms- that is sought to be looked upon as INDIA. Your description inspires me to modify Abraham Lincoln’s definition thus


    OFF the people
    BUY ,, ,,
    FAR from the people

    Again,it is the poor in the villages and the city slums who vote en-masse -towards the end of the day after they have ‘assessed’ the candidates -depending on who gave how much. The urban, educated INDIANS avail of an extended holiday and then indulge in heated arguments over coffee, beer etc in the evening – as the
    – psephoogists analyse exit polls
    -results startpouring in
    Three Cheers for DEMO-CRAZY ! !

  • optyagi

    andha bante rewadi apno apno ko de. the selfishness has gone to such an extent,nobody thinks of is a matter of discussion what made Ram to go exile and what made Bharat to rule Ayodhaya in the name of Ram.

  • ashim

    A very appropriate article in today’s major confrontation of fighting corruption, unfortunately by even more corrupt means, where a small team of people are demanding ABSOLUTE POWER to rule the country by force…power that also includes lauding over the judiciary !!!

  • This article should be translated to all the Indian langauges and to be published in the local hobli/taluk level news papers/ media. It is essential to send a copy to all so called political leaders and their kin & kits.Of course it is not expected to have some miracle, but, sure, it allows, atleast to think for a while. I feel even ele media should adopt some sort of sensible responsibility to show this type of articles even if they loose some money t the time of advertisements.

    • Devdutt

      Someday someone will do it. :-)

  • Prachi

    Very nice Article!! and at a grt time!!

  • Balsu

    Dear Dutt Sahab.

    The learning for me from this article is “Fights, even non-violent ones, are never good”.

    Great article

  • Raj

    We do have a feudal mind-set into thinking that the elected representatives are our RULERS. They should never be put on that pedestal. Since decision making and debate cannot be done by the whole population, we elect representatives who we believe should work FOR us. Instead, we end up prostrating before these people and create monsters.

  • Man Bee

    Dear Devdutt

    I am really a great fan of you, and your approaches of human awareness with respect to the culture we are are related to, and show that the lessons are available with in our culture to cultivate our livelihood, as well as in return to make our nation as a model. I saw you first on the TED talk and amazed to see how the professional integration can be done with the belief. I read your above article and found some astonishing facts which are really in action since long time in Indian Political system. I agree that we now need a very strong political legislation reform together with Electoral reforms. I also believe that there must be serious review of the system, which should work other-way around as ‘for the people’ and not ‘from the people’. The system design should be reformed, we are agro-based nation it seems that time is near when even we will need to import wheat, sugar, pulses from foreign nations. I also believe we should build a India Model rather than copying a Western Model. This may seem as very idealistic approach but ‘can we do it?’ is the question, and I believe we can do it.

  • rajbirningania

    It is irony that India despite being bestowed with so much natural resources and hard working people, is still a poor country( In true sense, a rich country with largely poor people). Swami Vivekanand in one of his interaction with his disciple told that the greatest strength of India is its philosophy to life and this is the only strength which India can pass on to the whole world. During the passage of time, we have lost that strength .To me it appear that degeneration started during Mugal and British rule and in Indpendent India, Indian particularly the literate ( not educated) exploited differential reward system to the hilt, generated by Britisher. Unless and untill the work reward system is not corrected, all growth will be a a lie. The persons like Baba Ramdev and you have dared to challenge the norms set by big corporate houses and so called fourth pillar of democracy, I hope that sense will prevail upon Indian in the coming times

  • P.R.Kaushik

    Very true Sir.!! we are still waiting for the Golden Age in Kali Yuga…

  • Keyur Anandjiwala

    I think the current situation is because what they believe their Karma is “To win the Election” instead of accepting the karma of “Serving People of India”.