The history of mankind is replete with such mixed instances, impressions and incidents where Kings have been projected with different assessments and approaches. Some Kings and Rulers stand out for their commendable integrity and benevolence while as some are still remembered for their tyrannical rule and despotism.
In ancient times promise to rule with justice and mercy was linked to the duty of an ideal King. In other words, it meant that the King was expected to obey his own laws and be neither arbitrary nor cruel. Some people argue as to why the Kings used to lead impressive and elegant life when their own subjects lead comparatively an underprivileged life. Fact of the matter is that why Kings were so particular to lead their life with majesty was intended to inspire a sense of pride in their people besides creating an understanding of fear and inferiority in their adversaries.
As already mentioned, a king or a ruler was supposed to do complete justice to his people since justice was the key to social accomplishments. To maintain equality between different people and classes was yet another quality of an ideal King. All poor or needy should be free to do work of their choice. It was the duty of the King or Ruler to maintain perfect law and order in the country. It was obligatory on the part of the King not to punish the innocent while being cautious to see that those who must be punished do not go unpunished. Such just Kings are remembered in the annals of history for years to come. Here is an example of such an impartial and just King from Kashmir whose impartiality and appropriate justice done to a low-caste cobbler is abundantly admired by the followers of peace, harmony and empathy in Kashmir until now.
The ' Rajtarangini ' (Rivulet/Chronicle of Kings of Kashmir), a Sanskrit epic by celebrated Kashmiri poet Kalhana (12th Century) mentions how Chandrapida (711-719 AD), a King of Kashmir, upheld the Rule of Law, and protected a ‘Charmakar’ (Cobbler/Tanner) against the hostility of his own officials.
The King's officials had planned to build a temple of some deity on a piece of land where a cobbler's hut was situated. The cobbler refused to remove his hut despite the orders of the officials. When the officials complained of the cobbler's stubbornness to the King, instead of ordering demolition of the hut, the King scolded the officials for trying to encroach on the cobbler's land.
The King told them: "Stop the construction or build the temple elsewhere. If we, who are the judges of what is right and what is wrong, act unlawfully, who would then abide by the law?"
Later, overwhelmed by the sense of justice of the King, the cobbler/tanner sought an audience with the King. When brought before the King cobbler said: "Just as the palace is dear to Your Majesty, so is the hut to me. I could not bear its demolition. However, if Your Majesty asks for it, I shall give it up for you, seeing your just and benevolent behaviour." Subsequently, the King purchased the hut after paying a satisfactory price to the cobbler.
The cobbler then told the King with folded hands: "Yielding, kneeling and listening to another, however, low-caste he might be and adhering to the principles of Rajdharma (King’s Duty) is the appropriate responsibilities of a King. I wish you well. May you live long! you have, indeed, upheld the supremacy of the law."
Thus, under a just and unbiased King, the supremacy of the law was upheld, and the safety and honour of the weak (the cobbler) were protected.
Dr. Shiben Krishen Raina
Currently in Ajman (UAE)
Member, Hindi Salahkar Samiti,
Ministry of Law & Justice (Govt. of India)
Senior Fellow, Ministry of Culture (Govt. of India)
Dr. Raina's mini bio can be read here: