Minor Research Project sanctioned to Dr, Shankar Bhat Project Name: Human Rights in Ancient India Research Finding.
Minor Research Project sanctioned to Dr, Shankar Bhat
Project Name: Human Rights in Ancient India
is necessary to delve in to the fundamentals of Hinduism in order to
its position on human dignity human rights etc. The
of Hinduism are in those great dialogues that took place in the
some 4-5 millennia back very much like the Socratic dialogues. They
not commandments but informed suggestions.
India does not recognize human beings as mere material
Its understanding of human identify is more ethical-spiritual than
That is why a sense of immortality and divinity is attributed to all
beings in ancient Indian classical thought.
with the depth of Indian metaphysics, the human
was also given a metaphysical interpretation. This is not
to the modern occidental philosophy. The concept of human
in Kant’s philosophy of law is metaphysical entity but Kant was
able to reach the subtler unobserved element of personality. Which was
basic theme of the concept of personality in Indian legal philosophy
Prof. S.D.Sharma (Sharma S. D Administration of justice in Ancient
invisible Atman the sout-dwelling in each body as the quintessential
of all creatures forms the basis for all discussion on the status of
beings in Indian classical thought starting from the times of the
in disputably the ancient most literature of the world.
is worthwhile to mention here that it was much later and very
that the world had come up with the ideals of French revolution or
the first article of universal declaration of Human rights that says-
27. “All human
beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in
spirit of brotherhood”. These ideas have found place in almost all
constitutions of the world.
dignity cannot be ensured merely through constitutional
It has to be embedded in the basic value system of the society. The
sages of India have thus visualized the grand idea of the oneness of
and Paramatman and universal oneness of human beings based on
collective consciousness. Vedic and Upanisadic literature abounds in
that proclaim universal oneness and universal wellbeing. Hinduism is
essence of all that wisdom handed down to generations after
These ideas have shaped and guided the Hindu socio-religious
ideal of the world as one family is unique in this age of
in the sense that while the ancient sages of India have
that the whole humanity is like a big extended family, the
westernized thinkers want us to believe that the whole world is in
a huge market.
Indian thinkers no where denied diversity. This diversity is not
by our sages as misnomer. Diversity in form and unity in spirit is what
India stands for. The secular ideas of Europe are nascent in front of
ideas of equal respect for all religions. Whereas secular ideology stops
calling for ‘tolerance’ to the diversity. India goes much further, it does not
tolerate, it accepts every religion. Indian ideal of respect for and
of the diversity in the creation stems from its core belief that
we see in the universe is nothing but manifestation of the supreme
fact the Narada Smriti, one of the many constitutions Indians have had
the course of their long history enjoins upon the king to protect non
too. It says, ‘The king should accord protection to compacts of
of believers of Vedas as also the non believers and others
Smiriti Dharma Kusha )
is the religion of bliss. It considers the right of happiness to
the highest fundamental right of all humans.
The ultimate goal for
is material and spiritual well being of the mankind. It is pertinent
mention here that this all important rights to Happiness does not find a
in the acclaimed universal character of human rights.
significant aspect of the Hindu view on human right is its
on duties. In fact Hindusim does not support the ideas of
of rights and duties. Thus in Hindu discourse no right is absolute.
the rights bestowed upon a section enjoin upon another section
duties too. And for a Hindu the highest obligation is Karmaperformance
an essential prerequisite for the right to happiness, the Rig-Veda
declares that all human beings are equal. The Atharava Veda
further and talks about various rights and obligations or duties.
Herbert Spencer, the great advocator of individual freedom. Says
the position of women supplied a good test of the civilization of the
In India, women have always occupied a position of very high
Women enjoyed not only equal opportunities and privileges with
in the classical Hindu literature; they even enjoyed rights that were not
for their counterparts.
discussion on human dignity and rights with respect to Hinduism
be complete without taking up the question of the caste system and the
arrangement there in.
Indians perfected social organization. The Indian Varnasrama
the most scientific principle of social organization. The Varnasrama was
the same as the present day caste system. The society was organized in
four Varna’s. However, unlike the caste system of the present day the
were not hereditary. Untouchability and caste based discrimination
unknown during ancient days. No one was high and on one was low. A
in the Vanaparva of the Mahabharata says, “He in whom the
of truth, Munificence, forgiveness, gentleness, abstinence from
deeds, contemplation, and benevolence are observed is called a
in smriti. A man is not a sudra by being a sudra nor a Brahmin by
a Brahmin. Caste hierarchy and privileges based on caste had no
in Hinduism, They are the result of the distortions crept in to the
body politic during the medieval period.
the duty first value system is an important positive aspect of
culture which needs to be highlighted. This implies that in this
age of representative government and rule of law, the government
its agencies should perform their duties well and faithfully, so that the
can enjoy their rights. The example of the duties of the king in the
period should be cited to highlight the responsibilities of the
and individuals, which have been entrusted with the task of
Another aspect of the earlier monarchical phase the caste system
that the nonperformance of dharma was accompanied by danda
In today’s context it is the courts which act as watch dog and
the other agencies, the executive and the legislature to do their
heterodox tradition which challenged the Hindu vision of social
has always highlighted the equality of human beings and other values
as compassion, non-violence, tolerance, human dignity etc. The young
must be reminded over and over again about the human values. The
emphasis of all religions is on the broader and brighter sides of human
like tolerance, co-existence, brotherhood and fellow feeling etc. These
need to be collectively highlighted and inculcated. A culture of human
cannot flourish in an unilateral way. One cannot have just rights
without performing duties and
responsibilities towards society.
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