A very different conception of ‘Ram Rajya’

Context: Shashi Tharoor (Member of Parliament), have talked in his books, ‘Why I Am a Hindu’ and ‘The Battle of Belonging’, the principles of Gandhiji and his ideas about ‘Ram Rajya’.

About the concept of ‘Ram Rajya’

Ram Rajya is a term that was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi. It’s an ideal society that he envisioned, based on the rule of Lord Rama. The concept of Ram Rajya reflects the idea of an ideal society where everyone is equal, and justice prevails. 

The term represents the ideal king who ruled with wisdom, compassion, and justice. His rule was characterized by the following principles:

  • Equality: Gandhi emphasized the importance of equality in his concept of Ram Rajya. He believed that all individuals, regardless of their caste, creed, or gender, should have equal opportunities and rights.
  • Justice: Ram Rajya was a society where justice was served, and no one was above the law. Gandhi emphasized the importance of self-discipline and self-sufficiency in achieving justice. He believed that individuals should work to become self-sufficient, both economically and spiritually, in order to be better equipped to address injustices in society.
  • Non-Violence: Ram Rajya was a society where violence was shunned, and conflicts were resolved through peaceful means. Non-violence is the cornerstone of Gandhi’s concept of Ram Rajya. He believed that violence only begets violence and that the use of force can never bring about lasting peace. Instead, he advocated the use of non-violent means such as satyagraha (civil disobedience), ahimsa (non-violence), and self-control to achieve one’s goals.
  • Self-Rule: Ram Rajya was a society where people should be self-governing and should have the power to make decisions that affect their lives.
  • Prosperity: Ram Rajya was a society where everyone had access to the basic necessities of life and had the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
  • Moral and Spiritual Values: Gandhi’s vision of Ram Rajya was not merely a political system but rather a society based on moral and spiritual values. He believed that society should be grounded in truth, love, compassion, and forgiveness. Individuals follow conscience to serve others, not self-interest.
  • Decentralization of Power: Gandhi believed that power should be decentralized and that decision-making should be made at the local level. He advocated for the establishment of Gram Sabhas, or village assemblies, where the people could come together to make decisions that affect their community.
  • Trusteeship: Gandhi believed that Trusteeship was essential for creating an equitable and just society. He argued that wealth was not an end in itself, but a means to serve the common good. In Ram Rajya, the wealthy and powerful would act as trustees, using their resources for the betterment of the poor and the needy.
    • Gandhi’s idea of Trusteeship was based on the principle of non-violence and voluntary cooperation. He believed that the wealthy and powerful should voluntarily surrender their wealth for the betterment of society, rather than through force or coercion.
  • Economic Equality: Gandhi believed that economic inequality was one of the root causes of social unrest. He advocated for the abolition of the caste system and the establishment of a society based on economic equality.
  • Self-Sufficiency: Gandhi believed that self-sufficiency was crucial for the development of society. He advocated for the establishment of small-scale industries and the use of local resources to promote self-sufficiency.
  • Education: Gandhi believed that education was essential for the development of individuals and society. He emphasized the importance of holistic education, which includes both intellectual and moral development.

Other Theories Of Ideal Society

Several other philosophers and thinkers have envisioned ideal states and governance systems similar to Gandhiji’s Ram Rajya:

  • Plato proposed an ideal just society in his book ‘The Republic’ where kings are philosophers and philosophers are kings. He envisioned a state built on reason, justice, courage and temperance. The rulers and guardians govern to maximize the welfare of citizens.
  • John Stuart Mill advocated a liberal form of governance in his work ‘On Liberty’ where individual liberty is balanced with social good. He proposed democratic self-government with representation of all citizens, free speech and protection of minorities. The state protects people’s basic liberties and welfare.
  • Henry David Thoreau put forth the idea of a minimalist governance in his essay ‘Civil Disobedience’. He believed that government is best which governs the least. Individual conscience is the moral guide. People govern themselves with self-restraint and don’t need an overbearing state apparatus. Simple living and high thinking are valued.
  • Leo Tolstoy’s vision of an ideal society in ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You’ renounced violence and preached universal love, truth, morality and service to others. He believed individuals can transform society through enlightenment and moral development, not political means. Ethical and spiritual uprising, not material progress, leads to human well-being. 
  • Aurobindo Ghose theorized the ‘Rule of the Spirit’ in his work where the inner moral and spiritual elements govern society, not outer political machinery. Truth, unity, harmony and a higher consciousness emerge from within individuals. There is a collective moral aspiration to realize the divine in each human being. 
  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan believed in the ‘Rule of Spiritual Truth’ where reason, morality and justice prevail; and education develops integral personalities. He envisioned a world federation of free individuals in free societies guided by the spiritual truth of oneness of humanity.
  • Dalai Lama advocates a ‘spiritual democracy’ where compassion, ethics and conscience shape society. There is no tyranny of the majority. Well-being of all humans including future generations is core. Outer liberal values emerge from inner morality and wisdom in each person.

Comparison Between Gandhian “Ram Rajya” And Plato’s Just Society

ParametersGandhian “Ram Rajya”Plato’s Just Society
JusticeSatya and dharma are the guiding principles. Means and ends should be moral.Knowledge of the Good guides rulers. Justice is harmony between reason, spirit and appetites.
Justice within the individualsGandhiji focused on spiritual self-sufficiency in order to be better equipped to address injustices in society.
Philosopher-KingsGandhian concept does not emphasize the role of rulers or philosopher-kings in governance.Plato’s Just Society places great emphasis on the role of philosopher-kings, who possess wisdom and virtue, in governing society.
TrusteeshipLeaders act as trustees of citizens. Power is not concentrated but decentralized.Philosopher-kings rule for the benefit of all. No private advantage or privilege.
Non-violenceGandhian concept places great emphasis on non-violence, or ahimsa, as a means of achieving social change and justice. Conflicts are resolved through mutual understandingAuxiliaries enforce orders and defend the state
Simplicity in governanceGandhian concept emphasizes simplicity in governance, with a focus on decentralization and community participation in decision-making. Administration focuses on meeting. basic needs of allStrict control over luxuries and private property. Necessities provided by the state.
Representation in governanceAll sections participate in governance.Society divided into rational rulers, spirited auxiliaries and appetitive producers but share a sense of community.
Common good educationResources and facilities distributed equitably so none remain in wretched conditions.Though classes have different natures, they share a common interest in justice and welfare of the whole.
Social ClassesThe concept of social class was not relevant as he believed in equality and universal brotherhood.Rational rulers, spirited auxiliaries and appetitive producers
Women’s equalityGandhian concept emphasizes women’s equality and empowerment. He said, “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior.”Plato’s Just Society does not necessarily prioritize women’s equality. He however said that women could also become philosopher-kings if they had the necessary qualities and virtues.
Communal livingGandhian concept emphasizes communal living and the need for voluntary renunciation of personal property and wealth.Plato’s Just Society does not emphasize communal living as a key concept.

Practice Question for Mains

Q. What are the fundamental tenets of Gandhian ethics, and how can they be used in contemporary society to address the problems of social justice, governance, and development?

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