Agni Purana Part 8
Rama had once taught Lakshmana about the duties of a king. The Agni Purana now relates these precepts of Rama’s.
The duties of king are fourfold. Firstly, he has to earn wealth. Secondly, he has to increase it. Thirdly, he has to protect it. And fourthly and finally, he has to donate it. The king must also be polite and politeness comes through the conquering of the senses. The king must be humble. The senses are like mad elephants. If the senses are pampered, like mad elephants, they trample politeness and humility underfoot.
The king must also be non-violent, truthful, clean and forgiving. He should take care to observe all the rituals. He should give food to those who are poor. He should protect those who seek
royal protection. He should always use words that are pleasant to hear. The body is here today and gone tomorrow. Stupid is the king who deviates form the path of righteousness to give pleasure to a body that is transient. The curses of unhappy people are enough to bring down a king.
There is only one difference between gods and animals. Gods use pleasant word, while animals use rough words. The king must use pleasant words like a god. And he must use pleasant words not only for those who are his friends or are good, but also for those who are his enemies or are evil. With obeisance the king pleases his guru, with good behaviour the righteous, with duties the gods, with live the servants and with alms those who are inferior.
The kingdom has seven components. These are the king, the ministers, the friends, the treasury, the army, the forts and the state itself. Of these, the most important is the state and it has to be preserved at all costs. The king must be extremely careful in the choice of the ministers and the royal priest. The king must not choose or consult ministers who are stupid.
The king’s signs are his golden rod or sceptre and an umbrella that is held over his head. The umbrella should be made of the feathers of swans, peacocks or cranes, but the feathers of different types of birds should not be mixed in the same umbrella. The throne should be made of wood and should be embellished with gold. A bow can be made of iron, horn or wood. The best bow is one that extends over four armlengths. The king can spend upto one year’s tax revenue on armaments and flags.
The section on Dhanurveda is on arms and weapons.
There are five types of weapons that are used in war. The first category is that of yantramukta weapons, released from a machine (yantra). This machine may be a launcher or even a bow. The second category is that of panimukta weapons, weapons that are flung by the hand (pani). Examples are spears and stones. The third category is known as muktasandharita. These are weapons that can be flung and also withdrawn. The fourth category consists of weapons like swords that are never released from the hand during battle.
These are known as amukta weapons. And the last category of weapons consists of brute force and strength. This is of use in bouts of wrestling.
The best form of fighting is that with bows and arrows. Next comes fighting with spears, followed by fighting with swords. Wrestling is the worst form of fighting.
Before aiming, the bow (dhanusha) should be held with the arch pointing down towards the earth. The arrow (vana) should be placed against the bow with the head pointing down. The bow should now be raised and the lower end of the bow should be in line with the archer’s navel. The quiver should be at the back. Before releasing the arrow, the bow should be held firm with the left hand and the arrow with the fingers of the right hand. The string of the bow should be pulled back such that the tassel of the arrow is between the archer’s ear and right eye. The body should
not be bent when one is releasing an arrow. Nor should on get excited. The archer has to be still as a pillar. The target has to be in line with the left fist and the archer’s posture has to be like that of a triangle. It is best to pull back the string of the bow upto the right ear.
A noose (pasha) is ten arms in length, with both ends of the weapon being circular. The main body of the weapon is made of rope. There are eleven different ways in which a noose may be held. A noose must always be flung with the right hand.
A sword (asi) must hang to the left of the waist. When a sword is to be taken out, the scabbard should be grasped in the left hand and the sword should be taken out with the right hand. There are thirty-two different way in which a sword and a shield may be held.
What happens to a person’s debts when he dies? If he does not have any sons, the person who inherits the property also inherits the debts and had to pay them off. If there is a son, the son pays the debts off. But a woman is not to be held responsible for debts contracted by her husband or her son. Nor is a man responsible for debts contracted by his wife or son. Exceptions are instances where a husband and a wife contract a debt jointly.
If there are no witnesses to a contracted debt but the king feels that the debt was indeed contracted, the king must arrange for the debt to be repaid within a period of sixty-four days. In cases of a dispute, the person who b rings a false suit will be punished by the king. And a false witness will be given twice the punishment that is meted out to the one who brings a false suit. A brahmana who bears false witness will be banished from the kingdom. A person who agrees to be a witness, but later withdraws, will be punished eight times as much as the bringer of the false suit. A brahmana who does this will be banished from the kingdom.
It is better that the details of a debt contracted be written down, with the names of the two parties and the witnesses clearly indicated. If the debtor pays in instalments, the details of all such payments must be recorded on the written document. Debts made in the presence of witnesses should also be repaid in the presence of witnesses. If a witness has to take an oath, the oath should be administered after cotton, fire, water or poison has been placed on the head of the witness.
Fire or water can be used to find out if a person is lying or not. If fire is used, seven banyan leaves are placed on the accused’s hand. A red hop lump of iron is then placed on the hand and the accused had to go around a fire seven times. If it is found that the hand has not been burnt, the person has been telling the truth. And if the hand has been burnt, he had been lying. Similarly, an accused person can be immersed in the water and if he does not drown, he has been telling the truth. Alternatively, the accused can be made to drink poison. If the poison does him no harm, he is truthful.
If the father makes a will, the property will be divided amongst the sons in accordance with the provisions of the will. But if all the sons get an equal share of the property, the wife should also be given an equal share, otherwise, the father can leave all his property to the eldest son. The
sons and the father obtain equal shares to any property or debt that has been left by the grandfather. But the sons are not necessarily entitled to any property that has not been left by the grandfather, but been earned by father. If a son is born after the property has been divided, he too will be entitled to an equal share of any property left by the grandfather. Daughters are not entitled to property. But sons who have go married will use one-fourth of their inherited property to get their sisters married.