Friday, July 31, 2009

The Addiction of Power and Treachery...

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This chain of thoughts started while participating in an online discussion on Indian history on topic pertaining to Prithviraja Chauhan and Jayachandra of Kannauj. I am presenting the gist of that chain here..

The Story of Prithviraj and Jaychandra

The invasion of Muhammad Ghuri on India in 1192 AD and defeat of Prithviraja Chauhan in second battle of Tarain resulted in fall of Delhi and Islamic occupation of Delhi and North India for next 5 centuries. This particular incidence has become a legend in Indian folklore and given the propensity of Hindus of remembering their defeats more vividly than their victories, the melodrama of this incidence has increased million-fold.

Prithviraja Chauhan was a Rajput ruler of Delhi and Jayachandra was ruler of Kannauj. Jayachandra was ally of Prithviraja's kingdom since the days of his father. Jayachandra had a beautiful daughter called "Sanyukta". Beautiful woman with rather beautiful name... Sanyukta means a lady with all the desirable characteristics (Physical, mental and spiritual). Anyways, Sanyukta (in some places, she is referred to as Sanyogita) was beautiful lady and loved Prithviraja. The king too was young and unmarried and loved the princess. Her father, Jayachandra, intended to marry his daughter to some other kings of India. However, Sanyukta eloped with Prithviraja and married him. Jayachandra felt insulted by this dishonour and swore revenge against Prithviraja. He invited Muslim king of Ghurid empire in northern Afghanistan to invade Delhi. Prithviraja defeated Ghori in first battle of Tarain and pardoned him. Ghori defeated Prithviraja in second battle of Tarain and beheaded him and established the first Islamic dynasty in India. Since this incidence the name of Jayachandra is eternally associated with treason.

Whether or not this story about Jayachandra inviting Ghori is true is debatable. This version is narrated in a ballad known as "Prithviraj Raso" composed by a bard called Chand Bardai. Although debated by historians for its accuracy, this version of the story is very popular amongst common men since its composition. Other historical evidences suggest to disprove this version of the story. The value of this narrative and its tremendous impact on social life of Indians, however makes it difficult to ignore. In spite of opposing historical evidences, Jayachandra continues to be invoked by layman upon any instance of treason, be it personal or national.

Categorisation of political treason

When speaking in historical context, treachery/betrayal/treason amounts to political backstabbing. Now, in his space and time, Jaichandra was simply following Chanakya's principle that enemy's enemy is one's friend. For some reason, however trivial it may be, after his daughter eloped with Prithviraja, Jayachandra was practically an enemy of Prithviraja.

Transcending the barriers of space-time, it is seen that this act of Jaichandra proved to be disastrous for entire Indic civilization. Jayachandra failed to understand Islam and the costs associated with inviting a dangerous foreign entity to settle trivial internal disputes.

However, in Jayachandra's defence, one can say that the concept of religion was alien to Bhaarat then. Jayachandra could have assumed that all this will remain strictly business and nothing personal and religious. However, it can be argued that, Mehmood of Gazni had invaded Bhaarat 180 years ago. Jayachandra should have remembered what Mahmood did with Somnath. And he should have remembered how his ancestors forged an alliance of 17 Rajput kings and massacred Masood Gazni and his army of 150,000 men in 1033 at Battle of Bahraich. As a king he should have remembered the history of his own kin.

This led to categorizing the interactions of small kings with respect to central dominant power of the region.

1. if small king asks for help of some dominant power to defeat another small king, it can't be called as treachery of King A towards King B. If the big power happens to be indigenous and/or considers itself as indigenous, then it is not at all a treachery. In fact, political unification helps the stabilization of civilization if the central power is just and considers itself indigenous.

2. Inviting a dominant foreign power to defeat another small king is treachery of King A towards entire nation/civilization.

3. Inviting a dominant foreign power to defeat indigenous dominant central power is a treachery towards central power and nation/civilization as well.

Jaichandra's behaviour falls in category 2. This is because, history is not just facts. The way ordinary people choose to remember their own past is also very important facet of history, which marxist historians choose to ignore.

In his space-time, Jayachandra was, according to him and circumstancial evidence, in category 1 and not a traitor. However, looking beyond space-time barrier, it seems that Jayachandra was myopic, foolish, and unintentionally treacherous towards Bhaarat and not towards Prithviraja.

The Power-Treason relation

Treachery in itself is not good or bad.. Good and bad are the consequences of the deed. Treachery by Pushyamitra Sunga against Brihadratha Maurya saved India from Menander. Treachery of Mir Jafar against Siraj ruined India. Furthermore, the words like treachery are extremely relative. One man's traitor is another man's freedom fighter. So it becomes extremely dicey to be judgmental while viewing a larger picture of events without being hindered by space and time constraints.

In this process of free-thought, just remembered one quote from Movie - The Matrix reloaded.. The character of Oracle states,
" What do all men-of-power want? more power.... "
There is nothing wrong in wanting more power and those who have desire and strength and luck, they claim the power. Another thing about power is that, it has to be acquired and earned. The power cannot be bequeathed or inherited. Men-of-power understand this intricate relationship and are prepared to make sacrifices, to different degrees, while in the process of earning power. And the process of acquiring power invariably comprises of overthrowing the incumbent power by all possible means. Some times, this amounts to treachery if the supplanting king does not show the acumen of understanding the complex equilibrium of vested interests between polity and common people.

Afterall, if traitor is successful, he writes the history according to his world-view in which he was the liberator and his former master was oppressor or worthless. This same rule applies to individual politics in any corporate establishment and also to nations and nation-blocks competing with each other and withing themselves for more power.

Nothing is more addictive than power, not even drugs. Because a drug addict is viled by society and this public denigration pursuades him about his fallacy. A successful power-addict is widely praised by the society and actively encouraged to seek and desire more power. He does not have to justify his actions and deeds performed while acquiring the power; the society does it for him most of the times. Memetically, power-addiction is one of the successful traits scene in almost all higher animals and most prominently in humans. The survivability of this trait is exceptionally high, thus making it virtually impossible to be eradicated from human psyche.

The definition of power differs a lot from person to person and time. For some, control is power, for few others liberation is power. For some, fame, money is power. Whether or not he choice of power-usurption is branded as treachery or hailed as liberation by people depends immensely on timing of the execution and impact it has on environment. Without the support of rest of people (related or unrelated), the usurption of power cannot be legitimized and risks of being branded as treachery. Overall, it seems to be a complex equilibrium of vested interests. If somehow the equilibrium and subtleness of vested interests is understood, it can sometimes be shifted such that at least the immideiate surrounding recognizes the person as liberator and not as a traitor.

Long ago, I wrote an article on power and bliss. It began with two famous sayings which are widely quoted independently. I always quote them together...

"Ignorance is Bliss and Knowledge is Power"
And then comes the famous quotation from the movie The Matrix -
"The problem is Choice !!!"


Kalidas said...

I had similar thoughts on the topic of Jaychand and Ghori. Had Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti's work in Ajmer started by then? If it had, threat of Islam should have been well known.

Keep up the good work.. with every post, you seem to keep improving..

kaushal said...

I cannt agree more on ur last part of the blog where u say about the eddiction of power. Its evident since mahabharat (if we consider it ever existed) when power exercises witnessed back stabbing amongst kauravas n pandavas. Also shakuni made sure that her sister's so called insult wud be brought to justice. A person of his stature also failed to understand that his intentions might result in a disastrous situation where very existance wud be a questionable. Even more intersting wud be study in the world history if the pattern of betrayal is as frequent and of equal magnitude or not..or its just experienced repeatedly in our sub-continent?

Chiron said...

Thanks you, Kalidas, Kartik and Kaushal.

I have modified the post in order to accommodate the truth pointed out by Kartik in his comment. Yes, this version is not universally accepted. Ghuri would have invaded any ways when time, according to him, was perfect for his conquest. truth many times is stranger than fiction also dramatic in very subtle manner.

The perception of public is also important, which I relied upon while writing this article. Prithviraj Raso's impact is difficult to unwash. It was the time, when Hindus (Non-Abrahmics religions of Indian origin) needed to rally together. They required a hero-figure. Prithviraj Raso sufficed that enormous need. The fear of being equated with Jayachandra has dissuaded many would-be traitors from committing any serious act of treason.

As Krishna says in Bhagvat-Geeta in chapter 3, verse 25 - 3:25 O Arjuna, just as the ignorant act attached to activities, even so the wise being unattached should act desiring the welfare of the world.

The hero Prithviraj was need of time. Today, although the need is no longer dire, its impact still remains. This impact got me thinking about the nature of very act of treason and shell out my two cents on the subject.


Yes, Moinuddin Chisti was in India around that time. He arrived in Ajmer in 1170 and had considerable impact on king and commons (at least this is what the legends associated with Chisti say).

Sufism and its abstract preachings however could not make common men understand the political nature of Islamic expansion and power-structure. With stabilization of Islamic rule, Sufism was made illegal and sufis were enlisted along with other Kaafirs (infidels) in India.