Shanti Parva 4 - Bheeshma Niti
Bheeshma then advised Yudhishthira about the conduct of a king. He told him that a king should have eight advisors who should include four Brahmanas learned in the Vedas, three Shudras pure in their work, and an aged and learned Suta. The king should take decisions after consulting these eight advisors.
When disputes need to be decided, then the strength of witnesses should be used to arrive at a judgment. Punishment should be given commensurate to the crime committed. The wealthy should be imposed heavy fines while others should be imprisoned or sentenced to death. Anyone attempting to kill the king should be executed.
The king should not impose punishment based on hearsay. The king should never order the killing of a messenger. The king should appoint a commander who is wise, capable, valorous, and knowledgeable about battle formations. The king should trust no one, and this was the supreme secret.
The city the king should live should have forts and a well-stocked granary, as well as an armoury with all weapons. There must be rules of conduct followed. The houses must be spacious. Chants of brahmanas must resound through the city. There must be skilled artisans. The king should ensure water sources for people.
The king must take care of those who need protection, like widows and the aged. The king must respect ascetics, honour them, and listen to their advice. The king must appoint headmen for every village and supervisors for ten, hundred, and thousand villages. The supervisors must be well-versed with dharma.
Taxes should be imposed based on the results of the work done. The king must be benevolent and should inform people about taxes in advance. When the kingdom prospers, taxes must be reduced.
He must instill fear in citizens when required. During disasters, he must take over the wealth of people and use them for the collective good. He must restrict drinking houses, brothels, and gambling dens. He should not allow begging. The king gets one fourth of the dharma of the citizens and also one fourth of their sins. The king should also destroy bandits.
Trees with fruits should never be cut down. Similarly, a learned Brahmana must be taken care of and not allowed to leave the kingdom or be harassed. The king must use spies to find out if his policies are liked by the people, and if they are happy.
When the king practices dharma and protects everyone, there is good rain in the kingdom. The king should punish the wicked. A good king is one who does not pardon his own son when he errs. The king who wipes the tears of the distressed and gives charity is a true follower of Dharma.
A king needs to have a firm base with wise advisors, prosperity in the kingdom, and subjects who love him. A compassionate king who controls his anger will conquer the world.
In battle with another Kshatriya, one must not fight with an opponent without armour or weapons. If the opponent uses adharma, one can use the same tactic. The opponent must be of the same caliber, and one must not kill an unarmed opponent. Victory must be always earned through dharma.
Any victory earned through adharma is futile. Any riches or a maiden earned through war must not be touched for a year. A king who kills in war is purified by performing sacrifices and through charitable acts.
…. to be continued