Social Justice in the Ancient World

By K. D. Irani; Morris Silver | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Social Justice in Ancient India: in Arthaśāstra



The discussion of dharma, the basic theme of the Vedas, has influenced the life, literature, and culture of India. In particular, the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata written in the Sanskrit language, essentially express the theme of dharma through the personalities of Rama and Krishna, respectively. Although it is very difficult to define exactly the term dharma, it comprises laws of life, nature, and cosmos. In individual and social life, dharma is the system of rules for deciding between right and wrong. These rules touch on all aspects of decision making, including ideas, intentions, thoughts, speech, action, reaction, situation, effects and much more. In its fundamental nature, dharma is referred to as "sanatana dharma." This means that the dharma, or frame of reference, for values and laws has to be eternal (sanatana in Sanskrit) in its essence and universality. Based on (sanatana) dharma, at different times many codes of laws were formulated by philosophical authors, such as Narada, Yagnavalkya, and Manu ( Rapson 1955, 1: 247-63).

The concept of social justice is very much part of sanatana dharma, because in ancient India the mode of government was monarchic, so that the dharma for the king included social justice as a major duty. It is in this monarchic context that social justice is addressed in many literary and philosophical works of ancient India on sanatana dharma. In this chapter, social justice in ancient India is discussed with particular reference to Arthaśāstra written by Kautilya, also known as Chanakya or Visnugupta. This has been a pivotal work in understanding ancient India's systems of administration, law, and justice against the back


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Social Justice in the Ancient World
Table of contents


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 224

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?