A tale depicting a facet of the caste system in India
The ancient kingdom of Avanti (modern day Madhya Pradesh) was ruled by a cruel and an unjust king name Ugraveer. He had twin sons – Rudra & Vajradhar, who had just returned from the Gurukul (equivalent for a university in ancient India), after completing their education. Prince Rudra was calm and composed by nature but Prince Vajradhar was like his father; foolish and brutal.
King Ugraveer was very eager to test the knowledge of the young princes as he wanted to declare one of them as the Yuvraj (the crowned prince) of Avanti. Accordingly, he consulted his Prime Minister named Dvaj, who was in his 60s. Dvaj was a very cunning chap, whose astuteness had made him the king’s most trusted counsel. The Prime Minister then requested the two princes to be present in the courtroom next day. He had decided to seek their judgements on a robbery case, pending before the royal court.
The foxy old man, however had already made his choice of the next king and so, just before the court started the next day, Dvaj met Prince Vajradhar in his palace. Dvaj told Vajradhar that he can be the next king of Avanti but only if the prince decides to execute the best laid plan of his.The brutal prince was more than happy on hearing Dvaj. He was further jubilant when he understood that the plan didn’t require much efforts. He just had to toe the lines of the Prime Minister in the court, without raising an objection.
The scene in the court was set. Thousands of men and women of the kingdom had come to witness the event. Suddenly, four men in chains were produced before King Ugraveer. Together they had robbed few wealthy merchants in the kingdom and the men were now awaiting the king’s justice. King Ugraveer declared in the court that the fate of accused lot was going to be sealed by one of his sons, who will be then declared as the crowned prince of Avanti. After the announcement, Dvaj handed over separate scroll sheets to both the princes and told them to write their judgement on their respective scrolls.
When the princes had finished, Prime Minister Dvaj requested the king, if he can read out the two judgements in public on behalf of the two princes. Ugraveer nodded in assertion.
Prince Rudra’s judgement
Considering the available evidence before me, I declare that all four men are equally guilty and I hereby pronounce a sentence of three months of rigorous imprisonment for each of them.
The short judgement of Prince Rudra could not gather any appreciation from the crowd. However, Prince Rudra looked completely bewildered and before he could raise an objection in the court, the old fox started reading the judgement of Prince Vajradhar in a loud voice.
Prince Vajradhar’s judgement
Considering the available evidence before the court, It would be only fair to pronounce all five accused as guilty of robbing the subjects of the kingdom of Avanti. However, it would be grossly unfair to handover the same quantum of punishment to all the five.
All five men belong to different socio-political backgrounds and hence it would be only fair to handover different punishments to all five.
Accused #1: is a Brahmin and by that virtue is the carrier of knowledge. Hence his responsibility toward the society is the greatest and so he should suffer the punishment of three months of rigorous imprisonment.
Accused #2: is a Kshatriya and by that virtue is the protector of knowledge but not the carrier of knowledge. Hence, he should suffer a slightly lesser punishment of 2 months of rigorous imprisonment.
Accused #3: is a Vaishya and by that virtue, is neither the protector nor the carrier of knowledge. However, since he is the financier of knowledge, he should suffer the punishment of 1 month of rigorous imprisonment.
Accused #4: is a Shudra and by that virtue he is none of the above.. Hence he should suffer the punishment of not more than 1 day of rigorous imprisonment.
Accused #5: is a King and by that virtue he should be punished the most. The creation of the caste system in our society, patronised by King Ugraveer has forced me to handover punishments of varied quantums for a single crime. It’s a deep rooted inequality that has also resulted into the concentration of the knowledge in the hands of the few people. Hence, King Ugraveer should suffer the punishment of 3 years of rigorous imprisonment. The court also orders the immediate dismantling of the caste system in our kingdom.
Let everyone get equal opportunity to obtain knowledge.
Even before the king could uphold or dismiss the judgement, the gathered crowd erupted in joy. The mere thought of the access to the books of knowledge had lightened a new spirit within the assemblage.
In the midst of the noise, King Ugraveer kept staring at Prince Vajradhar, who was visibly elated by the crowd’s response, almost forgetting that he was still a prince. The king was furious over the judgement that ordered his arrest. He, instead ordered his soldiers to throw Vajradhar into the dungeons. The firm grips of soldiers and the crafty smile of Prime Minister Dvaj made the prince realised that he was outsmarted by the old man. King Ugraveer then declared Prince Rudra as the Yuvraj (the crowned prince).
The witty Dvaj knew the capabilities of both the princes and so he desired that the much deserving Prince Rudra succeed King Ugraveer. However, he knew Ugraveer better than anyone else and so devised a master plan of exchanging the judgements of the two princes. By doing so, he not only protected Prince Rudra from the ire of King Ugraveer but also ensured that his motherland get a justful king like Rudra.