Kshatriya Dharma (क्षत्रियधर्मः)
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The main job of a kshatriya is fighting to protect the प्रजा || prajas (creatures of his land) and defend his क्षेत्र || kshetra (land), because that is his natural inclination and the best use of his qualities, as Krishna has stated specifically :
"स्व धर्मम् अपि चवेक्स्य न विकम्पितुम् अर्हसि |"
"धर्म्यद् हि युद्धच् छ्रेयो ‘न्यत् क्सत्रियस्य न विद्यते || (Bhagvadgita 2.31)"
"यद्रिच्छय चोपपन्नम् स्वर्ग द्वरम् अपव्रितम् |"
"सुखिनह् क्सत्रियह् पर्थ लभन्ते युद्धम् इद्रिसम् || (Bhagvadgita 2.32)"
"sva dharmam api caveksya na vikampitum arhasi |"
"dharmyad hi yuddhac chreyo ‘nyat ksatriyasya na vidyate || (Bhagvadgita 2.31) "
"yadricchaya copapannam svarga dvaram apavritam |"
"sukhinah ksatriyah partha labhante yuddham idrisam || (Bhagvadgita 2.32)"
Meaning : Considering your own dharmic duty you should not hesitate, because for a kshatriya there is nothing better than fighting a dharmic battle. O Arjuna, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such opportunity comes unsought. For a warrior, engaging in such a battle is like having the doors of heaven open in front of him.
However, the warrior spirit of a kshatriya is not the war mongering, blood lust, and cruelty of the asuras; he is not a brawling bully and he avoids confrontation and conflict if there is any other option still possible, as the Pandavas demonstrated in practice in their dealings with the aggressive Duryodhana and his brothers.
A person who has a kshatriya nature is influenced by सत्त्व गुण || sattva guna with a latent tendency to रजस् गुण || rajas guna, and therefore he needs to be trained more strictly to a harder discipline. His natural qualities of heroism, leadership, resourcefulness and generosity are sattvik, but if rajas is not controlled, they can turn into arrogance and thirst for power over people and wealth, deceitfulness, and manipulation of others through corruption and dirty politics. Therefore the Guru trains the kshatriya students in overcoming selfishness and egotism, through the study of the transcendental science as well as in sacrificing one’s life in defense of the prajas. The activities or duties of the kshatriya, determined by his particular nature, are heroism, charisma, determination, resourcefulness, steadiness in battle, charity, sense of leadership.
Kshatriyas are educated and trained in strategy and diplomacy in dealing with the enemy – the first attempt is sama, treating the opponent like a friend and allowing sufficient space for his livelihood and prosperity, the second is dana, trying to win them with peace offerings and gifts, the third attempt is bheda, trying to break up hostile alliances and facing one enemy at the time, and only as a last resort one should resort to danda, punishment as in taking physical action against the offender.
A true Kshatriya is always on the front line, before anybody else, in the thick of the battle, and is the best example to follow. He works harder and longer hours than anyone else, and is ever ready (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) to sacrifice his own sense gratification, comforts, possessions, position and personal life (by living and by dying) for the sake of the kingdom and the prajas – whether the kingdom is a large country or a village, a neighborhood or any group of people who look up to him for guidance. A true Kshatriya takes responsibility not only for his own failures but also for collective defeats, inspires and encourages others and helps them to rise and progress to become qualified leaders in turn. He demonstrates concern, care and affection for the prajas just like a good father behaves with his children, engages them happily and appropriately, and always watches over their well-being, over and above his own immediate family and relatives.
There is a specific code of conduct for kshatriyas; non-combatants should never be attacked or harmed, and property that is not directly connected to the fighting should not be destroyed; for example, the encampments where the warriors retire for the night are not to be touched. Even on the battlefield a warring enemy should not be attacked if he is unprepared, unarmed, distracted, distraught, or if he admits defeat.
क्षत्रियः ॥ Kshatriya
प्रजानां रक्षणं दानं इज्याध्ययनं एव च । विषयेष्वप्रसक्तिश्च क्षत्रियस्य समासतः । । १.८९ । ।
prajānāṁ rakṣaṇaṁ dānaṁ ijyādhyayanaṁ eva ca ।viṣayeṣvaprasaktiśca kṣatriyasya samāsataḥ । । 1.89 । ।
Meaning: For the Kshatriya he ordained protecting of the people, giving of gifts, sacrificing and studying, as also abstaining prom being addicted to the objects of sense (1.89). According to the Bhagavata Purana, the means of livelihood of a raja who protects his subjects is derived from taxes levied on subjects with the exception of Brahmanas (who were exempted from taxation).
राज्ञो वृत्तिः प्रजागोप्तुरविप्राद्वा करादिभिः ॥ १४॥ rājño vr̥ttiḥ prajāgopturaviprādvā karādibhiḥ ॥ 14॥
The Bhagavata Purana enlists valour, prowess, fortitude, adventurous spirit, liberality, self-control, forgiveness, devotion to brahmanas, majestic graciousness and defence of the weak as constituting the characteristics of a kshatriya.
शौर्यं वीर्यं धृतिस्तेजस्त्याग आत्मजयः क्षमा । ब्रह्मण्यता प्रसादश्च रक्षा च क्षत्रलक्षणम् ॥ २२॥
śauryaṁ vīryaṁ dhr̥tistejastyāga ātmajayaḥ kṣamā । brahmaṇyatā prasādaśca rakṣā ca kṣatralakṣaṇam ॥ 22॥
- (2015). Shrimad Bhagvadgita, Chapter 18. Gorakhpur:Gita Press.
- Manusmrti, Adhyaya 1
- Ganganath Jha (1920-39), Manusmrti (Vol.3), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.
- Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare, The Bhagavata Purana (Part III), Ancient Indian Tradition & Mythology (Volume 9), Edited by J.L.Shastri, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, P.no.964-965.
- Bhagavata Purana, Skandha 7, Adhyaya 11.