The notion of state rested in kingdoms and according to the norms of Tamilakam, these had seven constituents:

  1. Land

Suitable for human habitation; fertile soil; and abundant water resources. The land should provide an inexhaustible supply of food, water and mineral resources.

  1. Fortifications

Besides natural defences, a nation must build fortresses and defensive works to provide safety for its people—starting with the king’s safety. He lived in a fortified dwelling called a “koyil”. That is interesting as in later years, right up to the present day, koyil means temple.

  1. Treasury

To build fortresses, a king needed money, in all its forms. The kings also spent vast sums of money on irrigation—agriculture was the mainstay of the economy—built roads, temples and amenities for common use.

Agriculture was the primary produce and source of revenue. The established tax rate: one-sixth of the harvest. Money also came from levies on commerce and war booty.

The king and his ministers ensured that tax assessment was fair and not cause hardship to the people. The wealthy paid taxes; the poor paid nothing.

  1. Council

As the complexities of governing the clans grew, so did the demands on the Council members who advised the king and minded the daily affairs of the country.

Ministers, though drawn from the ruling elite, had to meet stringent selection criteria regarding their ethics, morals, knowledge, and practical experience. Where the elite did not produce candidates of calibre, capable men and women outside the established circles found a place in the Council.

The council members had to adhere to several guiding principles. One telling example of a common principle: never succumb to expedience at the expense of equity.

(This is interesting as our modern justice system, in countries such as Singapore, hinges on expedience over equity–and all in the name of efficiency.)

  1. King

The king was the living symbol of the state and standard-bearer in war. He oversaw the Council and was accessible to his people. He was the final arbiter. When he held court, people, regardless of their social status, brought their problems to him.

On auspicious days the king gave alms to the poor.

As the people enjoyed direct access to the king, local officials and tax collectors became answerable for their errors and omissions.

Nowhere is the ordinary person’s right of access to the king illustrated better than in the classic Silappathikaram, where Kannagi confronts the king no less and accuses him of a guilty judgement.

  1. Allies

It was incumbent on the king to forge friendships to secure peace. He must not only exhaust all diplomatic means to secure the peace but seen to have done his utmost.

  1. Army

During normal times, the auxiliary wing of the military engaged in police duties. In times of war, the army was the sharp end of the last resort. The king had a personal stake in securing the peace as—this is important—he must lead in the field, from the front.

(One can imagine our current clowns in government peeing in their pants if called upon to enter the field. See also my post > Liars and Cowards.)

Next week: Demands on the King

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019

13 comments

  1. Insightful last line 🙂 We have recent experience of our political leaders roaring bravely by sending other people’s children to die in skirmishes along the border with our antagonistic Western neighbour.

    1. Well, Ankur,

      You have real threats and real conflicts.

      Our clowns win ribbons and medals after winning computer simulated battles. Then, they get appointed to cabinet and major government bodies and continue to game and experiment with our lives. At least your politicians are street wise and shrewd. Our clowns are plain idiots.

      All good wishes,
      Eric

  2. Dear Eric,

    I cannot fathom, in the least, our residing clown-in-chief standing in the forefront to repel any “invading” force, be they immigrants or innocent citizens from Mexico (you know, the rapists, murderers, and drug dealers…according to the Orange Imbecile in the “WHITE House “). Nay, far from it, for he and his blindingly pale billionaires will be holed up in assorted fortified bunkers, scattered across the globe whilst imbibing in choice libations as the world and its citizens burn to cinders.

    No, the world, especially here in the great and Divided States, awaits the flailing moronic thoughts from the ass-in-chief, wondering if he will indeed decide, on a whim, to press the red button and annihilate the world.

    Of course, luckily, there are certain folk who—one would hope— restrain this orange child from his impulses. This reigning Idiot is far removed from what you have written. Good for the common man? Ruling in accordance with the belief that dispensing with goodness and kindness will help propel the kingdom into perpetuity?

    No, alas, no. Our current miscreant, I suppose much like your own in Singapore, needs to be taken out of his sandbox. Beneath the pile of sand lies thermo-nuclear warheads; one shouldn’t play with such ‘untidy’ things.

    Good post, Eric, and as usual it has managed to hit a red nerve.

    Yours truly,
    Paul

    1. Hello dear friend, Paul,

      The party continues unabated and when the music stops someone – probably our children and grandchildren – will have pick up the tab. Perhaps it might earlier and see us picking up the pieces during our lifetime.

      Thank you for your visit and comment. I quite agree with all that you say.

      Peace,
      Eric

  3. Two things I like to make a comparison, besides those you have rightly pointed out.
    (i ) The king gave alms to the poor. We get bones dished out close to election time.
    (ii) People have right of access to the king. Our rulers have bodyguards to prevent access.
    Sigh, how things have changed.

    1. Hello Ian,

      Yes, they were, weren’t they. I confess my research surprised me. But our history books are superficial and much of the “history” we derive from media (news, movies etc) have hidden agendas and mostly one-dimensional and stereotypical, I reckon.

      Cheers!
      Eric

    1. Thank you, Jane

      Yes, the feudal system started off with the best of intentions.

      Regarding the simple format, as a published author you know the challenge. Pitch it too high and some will roll their eyes. Pitch it too low and many fall asleep. LOL.

      Have a great weekend ahead,
      Eric

  4. (One can imagine our current clowns in government peeing in their pants if called upon to enter the field. See also my post > Liars and Cowards.)

    Oh yes. Oh yes.

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