Ram Chosen King by People, Shivaji Had Legacy of Loktantra, Akbar an Understanding Monarch: G20 Booklet – News18

Did you know that democratic ethos existed in ‘Bharat’ over thousands of years since 6000 BCE? That Akbar was “the understanding monarch”; Chhatrapati Shivaji left a “legacy of loktantra”; and Emperor Ashoka had elections of ministers every five years? Or how a free India prides itself on peaceful transition of power through 17 national elections and over 400 state elections? Even Ramayana and Mahabharata have elements of democracy as Lord Ram was chosen as king by his father after approval of a council of ministers and consultations.

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Foreign delegates arriving in India for meetings under the G20 presidency may be told about it through two booklets — ‘Bharat, The Mother of Democracy’ and ‘Elections in India – A comparative View of 1951-52 and 2019 elections’ — which have been reviewed by News18.

“Elections happened, and keep happening like clockwork…the democratic ethos has been a part of the people for millennia,” the booklets uploaded on the G20 official website recently say.


The booklet cites how Chhatrapati Shivaji was a proponent of governance where representatives were aware of their duties and people enjoyed equal rights and how Shivaji’s “legacy of loktantra” by people was taken forward by his successors. The booklet describes how Shivaji appointed eight ministers, who represented his governance through decentralisation, and states that even the king could not overrule their counsel.

It also describes Akbar as “the understanding monarch”, whose “democratic thinking was unusual and way ahead of his time”, as he believed good administration should embrace everyone’s welfare, and that was the kind of democracy he practised.

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“Akbar introduced the doctrine of ‘Sulh-i-Kul’ i.e. universal peace, as a tool against religious discrimination. He abolished jizyah, a tax levied on non-Muslims. To create a harmonious society, he propounded a new syncretic religion known as ‘Din-i-ilahi’ or divine faith…a group of nine wise people, known as navratna, served as his counsellors, while implementing his pro-people schemes,” the booklet says.

The booklet also cites how people’s welfare was the “front and the centre” of Emperor Ashoka’s policies in 265-238 BCE and he, in fact, began systematic election of ministers every five years. “Ashoka’s ideologies of peace, welfare and universal brotherhood are preserved in the form of his edicts across the Indian subcontinent even today and the national emblem of India is from Ashoka’s capital, serving as a constant reminder of democracy in India,” the booklet says.


The booklet cites democratic elements, even in the times of Ramayana and Mahabharata, saying governance for the welfare of people was the central feature of all thought in India since time immemorial. “Nothing epitomises this better than the Ramayana…when the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya needed a new king, the old King Dashratha sought the approval of his council of ministers and people’s representatives. They unanimously confirmed Rama as the people’s choice after detailed consultations with all sections of society,” says the booklet, adding the king was chosen by his people.

It also mentions that in Mahabharata, the dying patriarch, Bhishma, told his grand-nephew, Yudhishthira, the canons of good governance. “The essence of a king’s dharma is to secure his subjects’ prosperity and happiness,” the booklet says.


It also cites how Krishnadeva Raya ruled Vijayanagar in south India in 14-16th CE on the principle of participative governance, while ancient Indian scriptures like the Rigveda spoke of equality, which is the soul of democracy. The booklet also cites inscriptions on the walls of a temple in Uthiramerur in south India made by ruler Parantaka Chola 1 thousands of years ago as testimony to the practice of democratic elections and local self-governance in 919 CE.

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The document also cites how in the ninth century, King Gopala was elected by the people to replace an unfit ruler and this is recorded in the Khalimpur copperplate inscriptions. “There are numerous historical references of people choosing their Kings. Rudradaman 1, King Kharevala and even the pillar of Samudragupta of India’s golden Gupta-era at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh mention similar principles,” the booklet says, emphasising the “power to choose and change” that Indians enjoyed in history.

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