zigya tab

Compare and contrast the dharma or norms mentioned in the stories of Drona, Hidimba and Matanga.

Let us compare the story first and see what similarities are there in the three stories.

1. We find that all the three stories present an existence of norms or dharma. A social do's and don'ts that define their way of life. For example, in the story of Drona we find that his life moves strictly along the lines of his Dharma or norms. Hence when Eklavya, from hunting community shows up to be his student, he declines because of his birth, as he was not a Kshatriya born. And in case of Hidimba, she says that she has forsaken her kins, friends and Dharma for Bhima. And in case of Matanga, we find that both his wife to be and later his son ill treats him because of his caste.

2. However we also find that those norms or Dharma are also broken or challenged in various ways. For example Drona though refused to take Eklavya under his wing as a student, is shrewed enough to ask for his Guru Dakshina or fees form Eklavya even though he was not his student nor a kshatriya. Secondly in the story of Hidimba we find a marriage between Kshatriya and non Kshatriya, which is forbidden in the Brahmanical context. And lastly, we see in the story of Matanga a chandala Boddhisatta making his leftover to be eaten by the Brahmanas. It is believed that even a glance of untouchable would make someone of high birth dirty.

Thus, in these stories we find that life of the people are prescribed and moved along the line of norms or their dharma but it was also shaped by the circumstances.

Explain why patriliny may have been particularly important among elite families.

Patriliny means tracing descent from father to son, grandson and so on. Here the male sex becomes very important. And tracing such descendancy may have been particularly important among elite families because:

1. Under this rule son could claim the inheritance of father. And if there were many then the eldest son would, thus it eliminates other contending factors.

2. Secondly, daughter is looked as something to be given. After marriage she becomes property of her husband and whatever she has becomes property of her husband. Hence patriliny consist of an idea of keeping the wealth of the house within that house.

Thus by above reasons we can see why it would be important among the elite families, because they are the one with higher social as well as economic status. 


Discuss whether kings in early states were invariably Kshatriyas.

According to the Dharmasutras and dharmashastras occupation of an individual is divided according to his caste. Caste refers to a set of hierarchically ordered social categories defined by the Brahmanas.
And in this text Ksatriyas or the warrior caste only can be the kings.
However we find that it was not so, it was anyone who could muster support and resources, and rarely depended on birth as a Kshatriya. For example Mauryas, there ancestry are hotly debated. Buddhist text suggests that they were Kshatriyas whereas Brahmanical text desceibes them as of Low Origin. The Shungas and Kanvas, the immediate successors of the Mauryas, were Brahmanas. Other rulers, such as the Shakas who came from Central Asia, were regarded as mlechchhas, barbarians or outsiders by the Brahmanas. And the Satavahanas claimed themselves to be Brahmanas.

Thus we can clearly see that it was not necessary for a king to be Kshatriyas, it was fairly opened to anyone who could muster support and resources.

In what ways was the Buddhist theory of a social contract different from the Brahmanical view of society derived from the Purusha Sukta?

According to the Purusha Sukta of the Rigveda, the four Varnas emerged because of the sacrifice of Purusha, the primeval man. These Varnas were—Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. These Varnas had different jobs. The Brahmanas enjoyed the supreme position in the society. They used to study Dharmashastras. They also taught others. The Kshatriyas were brave warriors. They ran the administration. The Vaishyas were engaged in trade. The Shudras were destined to serve the above three Varnas. So, there was inequality in the society. In this system, only the birth was the basis of status and prestige in society.

The Buddhist concept was contrary to this Brahmanical notion. They accepted that there was an inequality in the society. But according to them, this inequality was neither natural nor permanent. They also rejected birth as the base of social prestige. They recognized the human agency in creating and institutionalising economic and social relations. And there was other implication that if human beings were responsible for the creation of the system, they could also change it in future


The following is an excerpt from the Mahabharata in which Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, speaks to Sanjaya, a messenger:

Sanjaya, convey my respectful greetings to all the Brahmanas and the chief priest of the house of Dhritarashtra. I bow respectfully to teacher Drona .... I hold the feet of our preceptor Kripa .... (and) the chief of the Kurus, the great Bhishma. I bow respectfully to the old king (Dhritarashtra). I greet and ask after the health of his son Dpryodhana and his younger brother ......Also greet all the young Kuru warriors who are our brothers, sons and grandsons......Greet above all him, who is to us like father and mother, the wise Vidura (born of a slave woman)......I bow to the elderly ladies who are known as our mothers. To those who are our wives you say this, 'I hope they are well-protected'....... Our daughters-in-law born of good families and mothers of children greet on my behalf. Embrace for me those who are our daughters..... The beautiful, fragrant, well-dressed courtesans of ours, you should also greet. Greet the slave women and their children, greet the aged, the maimed (and) the helpless.

Try and identify the criteria use to make this list in terms of age, gender, kinship ties. Are there any other criteria? For each category, explain why they are placed in a particular position in the list.

Besides age, gender and kinship ties, there are many other bases to make this list. For example, the respect for teachers, brave warriors, slaves and their sons. All these have been given a due place in the list keeping in mind their social status:

(i) First of all, the highest honours have been bestowed on the Brahmanas, the Purohits and the Gurus who were all widely respected.

(ii) Secondly, respect has been shown to fraternal kins who are also like parents.

(iii) Thereafter have been placed those who are younger or equal in age.

(iv) In this order, the young Kuru warriors have been respected.

(v) After this, the women have been given the due place. In this order come the mothers, wives, daughters-in-law and daughters. They also include beautiful dasis and their sons.

(vi) the orphans and handicapped have also not been ignored. Yudhisthira also salutes or greets them.