Shri Bibek Debroy - The Notion of Governance in the Mahābhārata
Updated: Jan 23
Shri Bibek Debroy began by explaining the significance of the Mahābhārata Lecture Series by showcasing the multidimensional and multi-disciplinary potentiality of the series. He then began by explaining the term governance and said that governance covers a very wide area of things but in his talk, he is going to use the term in a very specific manner. He said that a way more richer and wider discourse is the discourse of Dharma. Dharma as a term he said has a very intrinsic meaning which can never be translated successfully in English as the meaning varies according to the context. He further explained what he mean and understand by the term Mahābhārata, by saying that he explained that since there are number of translations of Mahābhārata present, he, in all his work and the current lecture specifically refers only the critical edition of Mahābhārata produced by The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.
After explaining the significance of the Critical edition of Mahābhārata, Shri Bibek Debroy began to explain the term governance as mentioned in the Mahābhārata. He first explained the difference between governance and government and said that the essential difference is that governance is the broader notion, and it involves not just the government but also the relationship between the citizens and the government, it involves the role of the citizen in ensuring governance. Deducing from such an interpretation, he said, Governance is nothing but Raj Dharma. Then in order to explain the concept of corruption, Shri Bibek Debroy, explained a story from Valmiki Rāmāyaṇa. The reason of talking and taking references from Valmiki Rāmāyaṇa is because he believes that we should consider all the Itihāsa, purāṇās, as a collective corpus although they cover different parts and are composed at different times. Saying so he briefly explained the story of the Brahmana and a dog, from the Utara Kand from the Valmiki Rāmāyaṇa, where Rama has returned to Ayodhya and he is governing the place where everything is good and in order.
Shri Bibek Debroy, then explained the term government and explained that Itihāsa understood the King as the government. It is in this reference he explained to the audience about the term King and its significance when translated. He also explained its interpolations and also the various meanings attached with the term. Explaining further on the government and governance, Shri Bibek Debroy, also briefly explained the duties, roles, and actions of not only the King but also the citizen, the individual and the whole community.
Towards the end of the lecture, Shri Bibek Debroy said that the constitution talks about citizens, rights and responsibilities, the same conceptions are enshrined in our ancient texts much before. He then explained the similarities that lie in the governance and thus explained how even today the notion of governance in the Mahābhārata is still relevant and significant today.
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