Indigenous Social Democratic Institutions of the Vedic Tradition

Introduction :

Predicated as it is upon liberal principles of freedom, independence, and individual happiness, democracy has emerged as the definitive political ideology of the modern era. It has superseded systems such as dictatorship, communism, theocracy, and monarchy in most of the world today, and for this reason its inception has become one of the definitive signs of a modern nation. Yet the post-Cold War-era view of democracy as a monolithic, prescriptive panacea for the troubles of developing nations is widely considered to be an unrealistically idealistic one, with even its most ardent supporters admitting that democracy prevails only in a vacuum of credible alternatives.
Today, the foremost challenge for political scientists and grassroots activists alike is adapting the Western construct of democracy to the particular cultural ethos of changing countries. In addition to this feat, the notion of the democratic tradition itself is undergoing tremendous renovation, as cultural analogues to the traditionally understood Western, liberal model are coming to light, posing innovative solutions to classical problems within these traditional democratic models. Mahatma Gandhi's village centered democratic system serves as an example of such innovative approach.

This project aims to extrapolate the tenets, practice, functioning, and philosophical foundations of the Vedic prajasystem of social democracy, described predominantly in the epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and peripherally in historical sources of the period. Concepts which feature prominently in this Vedic construction of social democracy include swadharma, the self-regulation of the individual, swatantantra, the self-governance of the individual, and prayaschit, a self-regulating system of punishment. In addition to analysis of the prajasystem (comparable to analagous exegetical analysis of concepts such as the Greek nation-state and the Islamic shuratradition, both of which have become important to international relations), this project will also explore the relationship of the prajasystem to the traditional Western democratic model, and pose solutions rooted in the prajasystem to classical problems in the discourse on democracy. It will also posit implications for international development more generally based on the prajamodel and its philosophical foundations. Bal Ram Singh, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences. Shivi Chandra, MA, Harvard University. Aparna Dhir, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences.

  1. Bal Ram Singh, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences.
  2. Shivi Chandra, MA, Harvard University.
  3. Aparna Dhir, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences.

Under this project, So far

  • Article by Singh, Bal Ram and Dhir, Aparna on " 'Praj?' in the Light of Vedic View", on Vedic WAVES Blog, December, 2016.

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    • Poster by Dhir, Aparna on " Metaphysical Nature of 'Praj?pati' as Depicted in The ?atapatha Br?hmana", in 12th International Conference of WAVES, December, 2016.

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      • Article by Singh, Bal Ram and Dhir, Aparna on "Adhunika Samajika Evam Rajnitika Vyavastha Ka Vedantic Samadhan", in Akshar Warta (ISSN 2349 - 7521), May 2016.

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        • Presentation by Singh, Bal Ram on "Socio-Political Concepts from Vedanta – Fresh Observations from India" at Institute of Advanced Sciences, April 2, 2016.

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          • Dhir, Aparna has conducted ten live audio recordings of people from different occupations such as priest, washer-man, gardener, housewife, etc in India with an aim to know their mindset regarding 'Praj?'. Later a summary was prepared, August 2015.

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            • Poster by Dhir, Aparna and Singh, Bal Ram on "Adhunika Rajnitika Vyavastha Ka Vedantic Prajatantriye Samadhan", in 22nd International Congress of Vedanta, December 2015. 

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              • Questionnaire is being developed by Singh, Bal Ram and Dhir, Aparna to investigate current mindset of people known as 'Praj?'.

                • Research Paper by Singh, Bal Ram and Chandra, Shivi on "Power to the Praja : The Interplay of Ancient and Modern Democratic Traditions in India's Civil Landscape" in Indian Journal of Political Science (ISSN No. 0019 5510), July-September 2014. 

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