Getting the Union Cabinet Right

“The important thing for Government is not to do things which individuals are doing already and to do them a little better or little worse; but to do those things which at present are not done at all”.

– John Maynard Keynes, 1926”

In 2014, just before the Lok Sabha Elections, there was expectation that the new Government will usher in radical change in the way Governance is done. The slogan “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance” during the campaign of PM Modi also seemed timely. There were discussions on TV channels as to the appropriate structure of Union Cabinet.  Some of the discussions are captured in In general the thrust of recommendations was to abolish wasteful  ministries and make structure of remaining ministries lean and efficient. Some specific recommendations included having a unified energy ministry, transportation ministry and agriculture ministry,

The first union cabinet that was sworn in 2014 May was compact almost half the size of earlier cabinets. However, this did not last long, as the cabinet after few reshuffles grew to around 60 or so, with 25 Cabinet Ministers. On top of that there were questions why certain seemingly unrelated Ministries were held by the same Minister and so on. Over the last 3 years, while the contribution of the PM has been striking and some union Ministers have shone in limelight, there is still a feeling that more can be done considering the challenges the country faces.

While Government has articulated many important missions – Clean India, Startup India, make in India and Digital India, the governance and execution structure of these missions needs more work. Certain regions continue to fall behind on even some basics. Certain sectors such as education and health still need lot of work. Certain reforms related to police and ensuring safety of men, women and children remains an unfulfilled agenda. On top of that we have pressure groups on some pretext or other indulge in violence and destruction of public property.

In addition, there seems to be good enough talent pool within the country. Even within the cabinet and party, it appears the existing talent is not utilized fully.

There are certain templates which countries like USA have followed. The US President has only 15 Secretaries and is able to run a huge country. While the USA is more federal and more developed with better systems than India, there is still merit in having a focused structure with clear-cut purpose. John Maynard Keynes emphasized the Government needs to focus on what Government alone can do. Things like law and order, security, infrastructure can be deal-breakers if not taken care of.  Y V Reddy in an interview spoke about tyranny of 10% – 90% of the time we talk about FDI, Organized Sector, Corporates, though they constitute only 10% of the economy.

In summary, we need a framework to design a “good” union cabinet. We propose 5-C framework consisting of Context, Construct, Culture, Competencies and Counters.


In my earlier article published in February 2016,. I had characterized the strategic position taken by the Government as a variety based position that meets common needs of all people, in contrast with narrower positions addressing narrower groups of people and regions. This correlated well with the theme of Governance of PM Modi where he saw Development as a Mass movement. In addition, I had proposed that the Government should reinforce its strategy using needs based position in the form of a value proposition triad – consisting of “Achche Din”(Development), “Sachche Din”(Countering Corruption) and “Surakshit Din”(Countering threats), where the three dimensions of triad operate in tandem.  Further I had proposed that Government should evaluate an access based position where benefits/services are provided or concerns addressed as per individual needs instead of making decisions at community level, where undeserving may get benefits.  Even looking at sub-groups within a community can be considered as a special case of this approach.  The overall approach can be considered as targeting personal sector. Focus on personal dimension means underplaying pressure groups and vote banks. Overall a philosophy of participative Governance was proposed where individual is at the center of discourse.

Under the theme of Sachche Din, the Government has made important strides in tackling corruption and compliance issues with demonetization, tackling shell companies and benami properties as well as black money kept abroad. The Government also initiated steps to tackle NPAs and made it harder for people to game the system. Under “Surakshit Din” theme, the Government has a more robust foreign policy and has not hesitated to conduct surgical strikes as well as respond to external terror and internal terror. Under Achche Din, host of measures have been taken including deploying GST. All these are work in progress.

In addition, the Government has addressed the concerns of sub-groups (Muslim women, sub-groups of OBCs, pensioners) as well as taken special steps to connect with people over the heads of intermediaries. The dialogue is two-way. The people can report their concerns through tweets to grievance portals to mobile apps to myGov portal.

However certain issues continue to dominate head-lines – distress in agriculture, destruction of property and loss of lives due to protests, deficiencies in education, health-care, law and order and civic governance, just to name a few. More importantly when it comes to security, foreign policy and tackling corruption, Government seems to have taken a fresh approach, it has done to lesser degree in economic matters as well as in tackling long standing deficiencies. While the Government has excelled in tactics, and deserves credit for large number of improvements that touch common man, it appears that the Government is yet to take a transformational approach.

There is also a misconception that just because large number of activities are done in private sector, there is lesser need for planning. In fact, a need for a sophisticated strategic plan that operates at eco-system level is more important today than any time earlier. Just focusing on policies will not do.


Here we look at the construct of individual Ministry. We suggest that we should look at each sector/Ministry from the perspective of Conformance, Performance, Reform and Transformation.

  • Conformance is about continuity with integrity to ensure that laws of the land are respected and due diligence is done. Here the focus is on process adherence and people orientation. For example, Law Ministry has got to be high on conformance.  The conformance is as much about being responsive to people, provide them timely service and respond to calls of distress with a robust process.
  • Performance is about focus on outcomes and culture of execution and making changes in processes, people, culture and metrics to ensure that things get done on the ground in time. For example, Rail Safety has exposed certain execution issues on ground, even with progress otherwise. Health-care, education and poverty alleviation need strong boost to performance.
  • Reform is about change management, where we think we know what should change, but it needs dialogue and negotiation with stakeholders. GST is a classic case of reform which took rather too long and has still some distance to go. Police reforms is another area where there is some degree of clarity yet things have not taken off due to lack of political will and enormous co-ordination required with the State Governments.
  • Transformation is about new ways of thinking/doing not only at Government level but also at societal/eco-system level. At times, the philosophical underpinnings of Governance are dictated by our mind-set, which comes in the way of transformation. We can safely say that Agriculture is one sector crying out for transformation. The Government is heavily invested in agriculture, yet issues remain. The civic Governance is yet another area. Basically, here the way we have been doing things such as reliance on contractors and civic bodies just does not seem to work. In both these cases we really need to think through using an innovative approach. There may be more sectors such as Defense Manufacturing where country has failed say compared to our space program. The way court cases get delayed is another area where routine reforms will not do.

Same Ministry may have multiple agendas vying for attention. Railways needs to be both Performance driven as well as transformation driven (business model). Even I&B Ministry can play a transformational role by encouraging participative Governance by providing connect between people and their representatives/officials as well as extensive field-work.

For every Ministry, we should draw up a transformation, reform, performance and conformance agenda. We should characterize each Ministry as to where the highest focus should be among these four and relative order in line with the Governance agenda at a given point in time.  Each Ministry should be equipped with the right personnel and resources to drive these agendas.


Peter Drucker once said: “Culture eats strategy for lunch”.  Under culture we address how the Ministries should collaborate. At times for the sake of cohesive Cabinet, some competent people get left out. Ideally cohesion and talent mix should be managed without sacrificing ether.

Each Ministry should handle as cohesive functionality as possible without excessive coupling with other ministries. Arun Shourie in his book on Governance has deplored the number of inter-ministerial interactions required to make even routine changes. Some of these things may no longer happen under a strong PM.  Yet, it is better to have a structure which can stand the test of time.

Wherever synergies exist, the Ministries should be combined to fewer Ministries. Where the work-load is very high we can have Ministerial Clusters which co-ordinate with each other, with one of the Ministers playing cluster-coordination role. We can have Energy Cluster, Transpiration Cluster, Development Cluster, Security Cluster and so on. These cater to sustained communication and co-ordination as well as joint planning. The bodies such as CCEA become decision making bodies to which these clusters present their integrated plans.

Certain Ministers either as the only role or as additional role should be identified as mission owners. The mission owners should champion missions such as Clean India, Make in India, Digital India, Startup India, Women’s safety, River rejuvenation etc. Generally, any mission covers multiple ministries.

Certain Ministers should be accountable for regional development to different regions. So, we should have a Minister focused on North, West, South, East, North-East, etc. They can also play a role to facilitate dialogue among state Governments in the region.

Once we arrive at a structure, we need to assess how it stands up to challenges facing the nation. For example, USA formed Homeland Security Ministry which combined variety of security agencies under one umbrella. Chidambaram had proposed a separate internal security Ministry. These suggestions need to be evaluated. At the same time, having separate skills Ministry, Women and Child Welfare Ministry have only had limited impact. It is also worth looking at transferring all centrally funded institutions such as IITs, IIMs and NITs to Science, Technology and Knowledge Ministry with a charter on innovation. MHRD can be a nodal Ministry with focus on employment and mass education.


It is important that every Ministry, mission, region and national objective be served by right set of people with the right mind-set and right competencies. Certain Ministries need specialist handling, such as Finance, while certain others can do well with conventional wisdom. Again, these assumptions can be turned on their head by high achievers who succeed in their own way. Generally, a Cabinet Minister should be prudent, courageous and conscientious where he/she can guide the entire cabinet in matters of national importance. Being silent when one should speak is the biggest crime here. Certain Ministries have seen wonders where Ministers have been detail oriented such as Power and Defense. In addition, the Ministers should have integrity, passion, pragmatism, political skills and ability to be forceful to different degrees based on the situation.

In general, transformational skills need the ability to appreciate/evolve new paradigms. So, a Minister who is a thinker/thought leader and preferably a passionate communicator will fit the bill here.  A transformational leader will also think of new strategies say to win in global trade.

For reforms, we need a great communicator who has good relationships with stakeholders who is pragmatic and willing to negotiate the rules of engagement.

For Performance agenda, we need leaders who are focused on execution, with “can do, will do” approach. Managing large organizations, variety of people, circumstances, crises and willingness to work from the trenches is important here.

For Conformance agenda, we need leaders who are strong on processes, policies, laws as well people-orientation. These people who can navigate complexity in meticulous manner every day so that wheels of Governance keep running smoothly. They should evolve processes to communicate with citizens and stakeholders in an ongoing basis. They need to be caring and sensitive to concerns of people. Sharing plans and reporting progress, responding to emergent situations and distress are very vital here. Conformance by no means is simple or routine. There are always situations that need to be addressed before they become crises.

Each Ministry should have appropriate talent mix among Ministers and assisting/advising bureaucracy/experts.  The Ministry should be supported by legislators and political parties. The Ministries should actively engage with them.

It is desirable that the Ministers individually and collectively are driven by sense of purpose than merely by sense of prestige, power or pelf.

There should be a culture of participative governance where all Ministers connect with people directly through variety of interfaces: Social Media to Grievance portal should assure people that somebody is out there to listen to them.  The Government should be always conscious about what is important to common people. The people expect Government to be responsive and provide timely service/information. Railway Minister has set a good example of sharing annual progress report.


Any Ministry can become engine of growth. Culture and Tourism Ministry can pay special attention to places of cultural importance and make sure that the amenities are best in class all over India. Every Ministry should have economic and social indicators that it can report/track to justify its existence and communicate its performance. The employment generated, contribution to GDP, contribution to FDI, contribution to exports, promotion of new India as brand could be themes around which metrics can be designed. The measurement framework should be evolved to compare relative performance of Ministries as well performance relative to national agenda.At national level, we need to have vision, mission, objectives and strategies well defined. In line with that metrics need to be defined and those metrics should percolate to every ministry.

Note: Revised Article is available at










Strategic Plan for India

Here we propose 3 objectives India should focus on to achieve all round prosperity, say in a time-frame of 7 years.

India should aim for 3-fold increase the value of Indian currency over 7 years.

The value of currency and its purchasing power are extremely important to not only position a country in the global trade but also in determining the prosperity of its citizens. The lower value promotes exports but at the same time it limits the choice of goods that citizens can buy. There needs to be a balance here. If the currency is not pegged at the right level it is bound to lead to inequalities between those whose skills and products are tradable and those who are not.

The prosperity through global trade percolates and makes other sectors also prosperous, but that is only up-to a point. Lot of people in India choose to work abroad for the simple reason that they can earn in stronger currency. At the same time if per-capita income of India currently at USD 1500 can rise up to USD 4500, their affordability of goods can increase.  If the currency is not pegged at the right level it can lead to greater inequalities. If the currency is pegged on the lower side, most companies would look at India at most as capacity to serve global markets. This can make India overly dependent on rest of the world.

Here are the eight factors that determine the value of a currency: Rate of inflation, Interest rates, Balance of Payment situation, Government Debt, Terms of Trade, Political Stability and Performance, Recession and Speculation.  India has 6 out 8 of these under control. India should focus on reducing Government debt and radically improving the terms of trade. In some cases we import raw material and add value and in other cases we export raw materials.  We should be able to strengthen leverage over pricing in both these cases. That means the kind of products we make extract much higher price and we are able to buy what we are buying in a much more competitive manner. To reduce Government debt, the Government has to reduce its profligacy by targeting its expenditure and act as a change agent and catalyst.  The Government also has to address NPA problem of banks by re-designing the financial eco-system. The involvement of Government in all sectors including agriculture needs to be rationalized using transformative approach.   Giving ownership of public sector back to public and involving communities in areas like education and health are important.  Empowering farmers to pool funds so that sector is self-sustaining through farmers’ banks and approaching the sectors Government is heavily invested strategically is very important.

India should aim for 3-fold increase in the National Competitiveness over 7 years

Currency and competitiveness should go hand in hand. Here we can put productivity, quality and innovation as contributors to competitiveness that can make use of natural and human resources at disposal. India needs to focus on particular sectors in a strategic manner with themes that can differentiate India and make India less dependent on other countries. Some of the sectors that India can attempt to lead in are: Energy (Nuclear, Solar, Fuel Cells, Bio-mass), Environment Friendly products and solutions (Organic farming), Custom/Hand-made products and solutions (Art, craft to 3D-Printing), High Tech (all kinds of infrastructure including ports) and Defence. In other sectors India should strive for parity. In services India should further enhance its leadership by focusing on areas such as financial technology and governance.

Increase in productivity means assessing unemployment, underemployment, capability, capacity and opportunities so that we get greater returns on both human and other resources. To drive innovation and in general increase capability of people the entire education sector may need to be transformed.   This will also include deepening and broadening capability in Arts, Sciences, Engineering, Technology, Business and all kinds of services. Newer business models as well as scaling up use of managed services model are important.   Pushing for process improvement and higher quality in all walks of life needs to be pursued with vigour. The productivity operates systemically as well – how long it takes and how much it costs to transport goods from one corner of the country to the other has an impact on our competitiveness. It is also important to follow a pragmatic taxation philosophy.

India should aim for 3-fold expansion of its markets over 7 years

India is at a cusp of digital revolution. If we imaginatively use Social and Mobile technologies, we can increase ability for buyers and sellers to connect in myriad manners.  We can use technologies to boost trust and aim for India to be digitally most networked country. The access to credit can also increase if we make use of peer to peer lending. Selective use of virtual currencies and distributed ledgers can remove distortions in markets and inequalities. In many cases the Government investment does not generate proportionate activity due to leaks. All this can be changed by greater adoption of technology for transparency. Expansion of market is the right strategy for India being a large country. The diversity of innovative products and services available should be overwhelming. As the market expands India will be able to export more as well as attract more businesses and tourists. Removing hard and soft infrastructure deficit and coming up with more and more innovative India-specific products and services is important. Managing markets is very important in sectors like agriculture where farmers complain during surplus production as well deficit production. What to grow, where, when and how are to be decided in a co-ordinated manner across different regions.

The above 3 objectives dovetail with each other, higher purchasing power can boost markets.  Stronger currency and increase competitiveness is what makes a country developed country. Only with higher competitiveness one case expand markets.

Should India become a Dharmic Republic?

India has got stuck in a stalemate. Our pursuit of development goals has at best been half-hearted. Mindless populism, crony capitalism, misplaced emphasis on socialism as well as pursuit of growth at any cost has hurt India.  India is unable to come out of entrenched culture of contract-kickbacks and undocumented economy. When it comes to protecting its people, religions, customs, traditions and rule of law from internal and external enemies, India has repeatedly proved to be a soft state.  The situation is so acute that even being nuclear state India gets attacked by internal and external enemies without any respite. Our judicial system is gamed by all and sundry. We have disturbing tendencies among students, academia and media to celebrate attacks on national interest in the pursuit of their own ideas and ideals. In that sense, anchoring India using Dharma will annihilate all the confusion in everybody’s minds. In place of dilemmas we will have a clear sense of purpose.  If intellectuals and political leaders celebrate stoning of soldiers during operations against terrorists, in the name of soft touch, nothing can be greater abandonment of Dharma.

India has been acting as a seventy year old off-spring of colonial rule.  India has forgotten that it is a 6000 year old civilization that has contributed immensely to rest of the world.  Some of the most sophisticated religious, spiritual, philosophical, scientific thinking in the form of Vedas, Upanishads and Sutras owe their existence to India.  India is a mother civilization to countries all the way to Iran and sister civilization to European civilizations.  India from Harappan times and even earlier had cultural and commercial exchanges from Mesopotamian and Sumerian civilizations.  India’s cultural influence in countries in South-East Asia, Tibet, China and Japan are visible even today. India should draw upon its ancient civilization to lead the world. Just few decades back India and China was on par on many indicators.  Even geographically China is much smaller if you exclude regions like Tibet that became part of China.

Al this means there needs to be a “reset” for India which wipes the slate clean so that we rewrite our destiny afresh as per our own values and ethos that we have dearly held.  It should not be just about economic growth. India does better when it comes to family values. To have a framework that guides our actions, we need “Dharma” to oversee all our thoughts, words and actions. Unless people change, nation cannot change. When the state becomes righteous, it leads to people also becoming righteous and vice-versa.

India should become a Dharmic Republic. India should neither be ‘left’ nor ‘right’, but righteous. India should be economically, legally, culturally and morally righteous. We should derive the philosophical underpinnings for our policies, laws and actions from this righteous stance. Our strategic orientation should be aligned with Dharma only then it will be in harmony with our society.

Dharma, according to Van Buitenen, a respected Indologist, is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is neither the act nor the result, but the natural laws that guide the act and create the result to prevent chaos in the world. It is innate characteristic that makes the being what it is. It is, claims Van Buitenen, the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert. In Hinduism, it is the dharma of the bee to make honey, of cow to give milk, of sun to radiate sunshine, of river to flow.  In terms of humanity, dharma is the need for, the effect of and essence of service and interconnectedness of all life.

In a Dharmic Republic everybody judges himself/herself whether they do their own Dharma.  Businessmen are respected when they pursue profit and growth, soldiers when they pursue valour and each person as per the yard-stick of Dharma. Neither NGO have higher moral ground or media or activists. Rather nobody has higher moral ground, when each pursues his/her Dharma. What matters is how well they do their own dharma. Ironically this is in line with Adam Smith’s philosophy where when each person pursues his self-interest, a hidden hand promotes collective good. In our context each person/entity pursues his/her Dharma in all conviction.  Dharma can be pursued in one’s own way. The Gita is a gold standard that guides human action. The Gita lays down several paths based on knowledge, devotion and action. A nation can prosper only when its nationals pursue their aspirations and ambition in their chosen realm, may it be intellectual, creative, construction, political, economic, adventurous or service.

Dharma applies to even nations. If all nations pursue their legitimate self-interest it can only lead to collective good and it will not be at odds with globalization. The problem so far has been lack of enlightened approach and it may continue to be so.

A dharmic republic has no use for tags like Socialism and Secularism. Democracy becomes just a way of choosing rulers. The rulers get judged as to how they fulfil their dharma irrespective of how they were chosen. The democracy does not become alibi not to uphold righteousness nor does it become a dogma, Rather it becomes a set of moral compacts between elected and people and elected and the nation.

When India becomes Dharmic Republic everything will be under the oversight of Dharma. The state will not surrender its core responsibilities of protecting people, their culture and traditions. India as a Dharmic Republic will lead in raising its voice to protect Dharmic religions and its adherents all over the world as well as native cultures, religions and traditions. In addition, it will raise its voice for those who see their identity subsumed and attacked such as Baluchistan and Tibet.

India as a Dharmic Republic will be a credible and authentic nation which has no difficulty to face up to reality and has no hesitation to state what is in its interest and pursue it vigorously. India will not be on defensive on anything. India will no longer be a pacifist state which is a prisoner of positions and boundaries it has drawn and limited itself. India will no longer be the good boy who gets bullied by internal and external enemies. India as a Dharmic Republic will stand up for what is righteous. India as a Dharmic Republic will pursue its legitimate interests with passion and intensity.

India as a Dharmic republic will set its own standards. It will not hold back just because UK failed doing something and will not rush to do something because USA did it nor will allow India to be a playground for activists to experiment their ideas and ideals that are not rooted in our society.

India as a Dharmic Republic will draw upon our intellectual heritage built over thousands of years. It will have no hesitation to teach the scriptures, epics, scientific discoveries, mathematical advances attributed to India in our schools.  There will be no attempt to draw false parallels with other religions. India will promote Gita as gold standard to guide behaviour of human beings, businesses, institutions and nations in their own way.

India as a Dharmic Republic will not prevaricate.

India as a Dharmic Republic will be progressive and continue to evolve. It will contextualize all the learning of the past to the present. India will question all the practices with an open mind. India will be liberal in its values as we connect with the highest set of values connected with core tenets rather than cultural practices which have no contemporary relevance today.

India as a Dharmic Republic will have no hesitation to acknowledge any identity including caste. People should be free to celebrate whatever identities they can identify with including caste. The core principle of Dharmic Republic is that every profession or group of people have pride of place in their society. The economic, political and social mobility of all professions and classes of people naturally becomes the goal of Dharmic Republic.

The caste which may stand for a specific profession or group of professions or communities belonging to a geography gets confused with Varna  which finds mention in Hindu scriptures. Varna is about certain qualities and high level classification of society as priestly class, warriors, traders, producing or serving class. Similar stratification is common even with other Indo-European civilization where some hav three classes – priests, warriors and producing classes.  Certain grouping based on profession  is also widely prevalent across all religions and geographies. Again tribal identities are common across the world.

The caste should be acknowledged not only in Hindus but also in those converted to track relative prosperity and economic mobility. Broadly we should move away from caste being a construct of governance, instead come up with mobility criteria such as giving preference in college education to the first generation getting educated, the same way first generation getting a Government job and so on. Then we should work towards improving the economic and social mobility of all professions by increasing their median incomes through opportunities for greater value addition and market access.

As Dharmic republic, India will protect Dharmic religions from conversions and vigorously promote adoption of Dharmic religions all over the world. In addition it will protect native culture, beliefs and traditions across all cultures, regions and religions.

In Dharmic Republic our judicial system gets reinterpreted as per our traditions. India survived for thousands of years by defining a core set of beliefs and by giving complete flexibility to local communities to practice their own customs and traditions. We need to do it again where we define those core areas where state will intervene. The core set of beliefs should be based on humanitarian considerations, societal welfare and national interest. In all other areas individuals and communities are free to live their lives as per their own choice.  It will be Dharma of judiciary in conjunction with state to give justice. Everything else becomes secondary.

Dharma should also help us guide our thinking when it comes to addressing challenges that face us.  Should we just do away with inequality by oppressive taxation? Should we just distribute money to people when they don’t ‘earn’ it? What should be our priorities as a nation, Government and people? Why the same sections are getting richer, same roads get repaired and why do all parties gravitate to one promising vote bank or other leaving common people high and dry? Should our growth or welfare goals ride on loans that are not to be returned?  Should we not address all human aspirations from self-esteem to security? Should we not have all people live a life of dignity as individuals? Should we not establish rule of law with a balance of compassion and conviction?

As we draw upon our own innate wisdom, we will start looking for new models and paradigms to solve our problems. Both growth-oriented Capitalism and distribution oriented socialism have failed in India. We should see how economy be optimally redirected so that incentives are aligned in a righteous manner. Even with current size of economy through structural changes and right philosophy towards development, we can  have the best possible economic, social, political and strategic indicators. John Nash in one of his articles deplored how Governments let their currencies depreciate year after year to bail-out loans and spend more, indirectly making people poorer. Just by eliminating waste, doing away exemptions, eliminating subsidies and providing social benefits in a more imaginative manner, managing investments better and diverting resources to where there is greater return, focusing on strategic sectors,, exploiting India’s strengths in digital and social technologies and by sheer transformation of Governance by making it lean and less prone to corruption, we may get even up-to 30% improvements in indicators. Sectors prone to undocumented transactions should be reformed and even individuals should be allowed to amortize costs of transactions like businesses and everybody should be asked to state income band they belong to even when they claim they don’t have taxable income.

India should be renamed Dharmic Republic of Hindustan, acknowledging primacy to Hindus which is their right. Hinduism is very important to define India; we are united by the fact that we have shared Hindu present or Hindu past. It is only right that Hindus/Hinduism and  all Dharmic religions or broader Hinduism(including Jain, Buddhists, Sikh and Parsis) as well as native customs /cultures/traditions are protected and promoted in India.  Hinduism has synthesized practices and customs from among all tribes as well as sects and assimilated them in the larger body of collective belief. Even religion practiced by Parsis is very close to Vedic religion. Calling out India as Hindustan may be uncomfortable to some of us, but in reality all nations are either de facto or de jure give primacy to one religion or other. Even Communists promoted atheism.

India also has an opportunity to lead an organization of dharmic countries by roping in nations that are outside OIC and Christian block and may be any country that respects ancient traditions, religions and culture.


Sakhā and Sakhī

One of the works in Sanskrit for “friend” is सखा (masculine).  The root word is actually सखि the literal meaning of which is “one who is viewed equally by others” and is derived as shown here.

In the masculine, it is declined as सखा, सखायौ, सखायः , and the vocative singular form is (हे) सखे ।  In fact the grammatical declensions of this word are so different from those of other masculine words ending in इ (such as अग्नि or हरि) that Pāṇini had to create several rules just for this word.  The word itself is very ancient and in use even today.  The Ṛgveda contains at least a couple of hundred occurrences of various forms of this word, such as:

विष्णॊः॒ कर्मा॑णि पश्यत॒ यतो॑ व्र॒तानि॑ पस्प॒शे । इन्द्र॑स्य॒ युज्यः॒ सखा॑ ॥ (ऋ० १.२२.१९)

Behold (पश्यत) the deeds (कर्माणि) of Viṣṇu (विष्णोः), the friend (सखा) and companion (युज्यः) of Indra (इन्द्रस्य) – the deeds by which (यतः) he touches (पस्पशे) all undertakings (व्रतानि)!

तं त्वा॑ व॒यं वि॑श्ववा॒रा शा॑स्महे पुरुहूत । सखे॑ वसो जरि॒तृभ्यः॑ ॥ (ऋ० १.३०.१०)

(To Indra) O friend (सखे), beloved of all (विश्ववार), invoked by many (पुरुहूत) the treasure (वसो), we (वयं)  pray (आ शास्महे) to you (तं त्वा) for (being graceful towards) the singers (जरितृभ्यः).

In the feminine, however, this word becomes सखी and Pāṇini gives it without derivation by the rule सख्यशिश्वीति भाषायाम् (४।१।६२) – the words सखी (female companion) and अशिश्वी (a woman without offspring) are given without derivation as used in common parlance (भाषायाम्).

Pāṇini uses the term भाषा to refer to the language that was spoken at his time, as opposed to the language of the Veda, which he generally indicates by the term छन्दस् ।  In this particular case, the word for female companion that was in use was सखी whereas in the Veda it was सखा ।  This is evidenced by the following statement from the  Āśvalāyana Gṛhya Sūtra 1.7.19 (part of the description of the Vedic wedding ritual) – सखा सप्तपदी भव – “be my companion at the seventh step”, where the groom address the bride as सखा ।

The vocative for the word सखी (feminine) is सखि ।  Here is an example from the Gītagovinda of Jayadeva:

नृत्यति युवतिजनेन समं सखि विरहिजनस्य दुरन्ते – (Rādhā says) O friend (सखि), he (Hari) dances (नृत्यति) with the damsels (युवतिजनेन समं), to the distress of those separated from their lovers (विरहिजनस्य दुरन्ते)!


The need to preserve Vedic texts gave rise to various devices that were used for that purpose (in addition to memorization of the text, of course).  Among them are Anukramaṇīs which are ordered lists of descriptions of the contents of texts. The Sarvānukramaṇī of the Ṛgveda is an important text in this connection.  For an overview and partial translation of this text, see here.

The Sarvānukramaṇī uses many interesting data compression techniques described in the section on rules.  Default values are based on the occurrence with the highest frequency – for example, Indra is the devatā to whom the largest number of hymns are addressed; therefore if the devatā is not mentioned, it should be assumed to be Indra. Similarly, the default meter is Triṣṭup.

To illustrate the application of these rules, let us consider the entry for a recently published hymn to Sarasvati.

The entry No. 61 for this hymn in the Sarvānukramaṇī is: इयं षळूना सारस्वतं त्रिजगत्यादि जगतीत्रिष्टुबन्तं ।

To interpret this entry we use the following rules:

इयं – this is the सूक्तप्रतीकं which means “the that begins with इयम्”

षळूना – means that the number of verses is six less than 20, i.e. 14 (by Rule 4)

सारस्वतं – means that this is a hymn for which the devatā is सरस्वती

त्रिजगत्यादि जगतीत्रिष्टुबन्तं – means that the first three verses are in Jagatī and the last two are in Jagatī and Triṣṭup respectively. What about the remaining?  For that we observe that the previous entry is: ६० श्नथत्पञ्चोना गायत्रं तु त्रित्रिष्टुबादि त्रिष्टुब्बृहत्यनुष्टुबन्तं । In this entry the term तु indicates that गायत्री applies to this as well as the next hymn (by Rule 3). Therefore the remaining verses are in गायत्री ।  In summary, the meters are: जगती (१-३,१३), गायत्री (४-१२), त्रिष्टुप् (१४).

Balancing the Jammu and Kashmir narrative

Whenever Government of India has to take an official stand on Jammu and Kashmir, it simply stops at saying “Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India”.  If pushed, they will say only thing pending is for Pakistan to return occupied areas.  This is despite India having a strong case on Jammu and Kashmir. Because India does not vigorously defend itself, a distorted narrative about Jammu and Kashmir keeps getting circulated. While western analysts broadly support India for its patience and maturity, they allude to Kashmir as an issue. In many cases, scholars like Christine Fair and journalists like Maroof Raza have put up a better defence of Indian position than Government of India itself. The Government of India has also been diffident about talking about ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits.  Many cases the Government is not pitted against outside voices but also voices within Jammu and Kashmir as well as sympathizers from sections of civil society. Here is an attempt to counter certain public positions as well as implicit beliefs. We also need to judge what is right using principles of symmetry and reciprocity.

  1. Jammu and Kashmir did not accede in the same manner as other kingdoms

This statement is done by even political leaders in J&K. In reality all accession agreements had the same wordings, where to start-with defence, law and order and communication (basically 3 important items) were part of the scope. This in other cases was followed by a merger agreement. In case of Jammu and Kashmir, it was not. However the merger agreements were more relevant in case of small kingdoms which got subsumed in bigger provinces. In all cases over the years the Kings and Princes as well as Kingdoms steadily ceded authority to Government of India. All this was done to grant fundamental rights to people that accrued from a liberal democratic constitution of India. So it indeed was in public interest. The Government of India stopped annuities paid to all Princes in 1975. The situation in J&K in no way is unique compared to other Kingdoms.  All Kingdoms followed a logical path to come under oversight of Indian constitution in a steady manner.

On the contrary, it is Pakistan which has illegally taken over parts of Jammu and Kashmir. There is no accession treaty, but only a forcible take over. India has a right to take it back as the whole state was acceded to Jammu and Kashmir.  Rather Pakistan Government has divided the territories into 3, PoK, Northern Areas (Gilgit –Baltistan) and portion of Northern areas it has ceded to China, while it legally belonged to India.

  1. Without Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir’s linkage to India will be lost

Jammu and Kashmir became part of India on 26th October 1947 when the King signed the accession treaty.  It is the accession treaty that made Jammu and Kashmir part of India. The article 370 is part of Indian constitution, an internal, interim arrangement, which was specifically agreed to as a transitory arrangement.  The article 370 was passed in 26 January 1950 and further modied in 1954. Irrespective of whether article 370 exists or not, Jammu and Kashmir will continue to be part of India.

  1. Ordinary Indians should not object to article 370

Article 370 denies supremacy of Indian Parliament over Jammu and Kashmir.  It is very important that such supremacy should be restored.

  1. The special status for Jammu and Kashmir was the just step by Government of India.

Another aspect of special status is that it denies rights to Indians outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy property and settle there. This is done using residency laws (article 35A). All of India should belong to all Indians. Any exceptions should be such as to protect environment and tribal culture. In this case this has only helped to perpetuate Muslim majority, as well as nurse a sense of alienation, which is hardly in the interest of anybody. Also this fails the reciprocity test as residents of Jammu and Kashmir have no such restrictions in rest of India. Several border areas which were disputed have become quiet with passage of time whereas here time is frozen for decades.

  1. It is the right of Jammu and Kashmir people to have a plebiscite as rest of the people of undivided India

In reality referendum was taken only for citizens directly ruled by British. For princely states it was up-to the King to accede to India, Pakistan or stay independent. The people had no say as in any monarchy. This was true with all 565 kingdoms.   Again choice of accession was restricted based on contiguity.  Even though Hyderabad was forcibly taken over by India, it was contiguous only with India. So if you go by partition act and precedents the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir had no right to plebiscite as other 565 princely states.

  1. Kashmris get Azadi if plebiscite is held

The terms of plebiscite give only two choices – to join India or Pakistan and there is no provision for Azadi.

  1. The decision by UNSC to have plebiscite was the right decision

The plebiscite was actually proposed by Jawahar Lal Nehru and accepted by UNSC. This was not the right decision as the original prayer of India was to ask Pakistan to vacate the territory that was forcibly taken by them, territory that had legally acceded to India. In fact UNSC did a over-reach if you consider that other 565 princely states did not have a plebiscite.

  1. The plebiscite is blocked by India

As clearly stated in UNSC resolution, the first action was for Pakistan to vacate PoK and hand it over to India.  Only consequent to that India was to conduct a fair plebiscite with minimal forces to ensure law and order. It was Pakistan that never followed up on its obligation for decades. Yet it is Pakistan continues to cry hoarse in UNGA meetings year after year about plebiscite. On top of that Pakistan has  over the years moved outside populace. They have also separated Northen areas as well as ceded parts of areas to China from the original occupied areas. In reality it is only the Pakistan Occupied Area  is illegally occupied and what is with India is legally acceded. Any offer of plebiscite was done by India on its own and can no longer be done due to passage of events and later bilateral agreements such as Simla Accord.

  1. Jammu and Kashmir is basically Kashmir

In reality, Kashmir valley is just one of the areas but they being most vocal and most violent crowd out others. Jammu has nearly 45% of population in areas that are currently part of India. The people of Jammu are  not Kashmiris, they speak a language called Dogri,  Other major area is Ladakh, here people are Buddhist and they are not Kashmiris.  Among areas occupied Pakistan, Gilgit and Baltistan have their own language and culture, which has nothing to do with Kashmir. On top of that even in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the Kashmiri language shares space with other languages such as Pasto and Punjabi from the beginning. Even after all this hue and cry,  the Jammu and Kashmir has not even promoted Kashmiri as a language, they have adopted Urdu as the official language.

  1. Kashmir issue is yet another Muslim problem a case of Muslim suffering

Kashmir was a Hindu Kingdom till 1339 when it was taken over by a Muslim Prince (Shah Mir) from Swat Valley who in fact was given shelter by the Hindu King of Kashmir. Waves of invasion and forced conversions followed making a highly cultured and spiritual center of Hindus an Islamic region.  Many Hindus over the years were forced to leave Kashmir. The Sikh Guru Tej Bahadur gave up his life to stop conversion of Kashmiri Pandits by Mughals. He challenged the Mughal King to convert him first. The Hindus have continued to suffer even after independence of India  with ethnic cleansing of Pandits which reduced their population to miniscule numbers in  Kashmir valley.  While some Kashmiris have projected their identity as regional, they have failed to protect their own brothers, rather have actively participated in their killing. At the same time Kashmir cannot be a Muslim issue as India has accommodated more Muslims than whole of Pakistan with respect and honour. The suffering of Kashmiri Muslims is primarily due to taking up violence to force the secession, supporting terrorists and progressively taking up radical Islam as against relatively softer Kashmiri ethos  If Kashmiri Muslims accept India as their country like all other Muslims in India, none of the issues will remain.

  1. In fact Kashmiris are from Central Asia.

This has absolutely no basis. Kashmir as a region is part of India for 5,000 years. It is referred to in Indian epics as well. In historical period, Kashmir has been ruled by a succession of Hindu kings. Kashmir has been core to Indian identity from Vedic period.  Any recorded intrusions have happened only after 13th century that too in small numbers. Kashmiri Pandits are a sub-group of Sarasvat Brahmins spread all the way to Goa and Kerala. Other Kashmiris belong to other caste groups with commonality across India. There is absolutely no evidence to show that Kashmiris in particular have external origins. Rather India to Iran share common civilization with close links with other European civilizations before advent of Christianty. But by the time of historical period beginning with Ashoka, all these linkages belonged to the past.

  1. Kashmiri Muslims are not like Muslims from Jammu and Punjab

A degree of diversity exists in all regions of India. In fact Muslims from every state or sub-region differ from other regions in terms of culture and tradition.

  1. Jammu and Kashmir was never part of British India

While Jammu and Kashmir was not directly ruled by India so were so many other princely states all over the India. There is nothing unique about this. It is Balochistan which was never part of British India in the sense that Baloch prince was not part of the group of princes which accepted British over-lordship. Even though kings were autonomous they were pretty much under the thumb of British rule.

  1. India was never one country till British united it

Even as early as Mauryan rule, Indian Kings had larger area than the British Empire. As far as our tradition goes the region below Himalayas and surrounded by three seas is one country from scriptural times. The number of kingdoms did not come in the way of single unified civilization nor unity of nation. Whether it is Arabs, Greeks, Iranians or Europeans, all looked at India as one country for ages.  The regional identity took shape much later as people moved from place to place. No part of India is such that they don’t have people who have migrated from other regions of the country. The logic of leftists supporting breaking up of India into many pieces simply does not make sense. Even when India had many kingdoms they were all under the influence of Dharmic traditions which respected plurality and protected those who sought asylum. The people could move from place to place as if the whole country was seamless.

  1. Unfinished agenda of partition needs to be finished

More people died during partition than 182 years of British rule. The partition agenda should not have started at all.  Even after partition there are more Muslims in India than in Bangladesh or Pakistan. The scars of partition have left such impression that it was with great effort harmony is achieved in India. In Pakistan 24% Hindu population was reduced to 2%. Unfortunately even in Kashmir valley most brutal ethnic cleansing of Hindus took place. We have ended up in an asymmetric situation where India has pursued secularism which accommodates minorities lot more, Pakistan and Bangladesh have chosen to be Islamic by putting life and liberty of Hindus and Sikhs in danger. Even though India also had issues, broadly legal system has been more responsive and forced accountability.  By pursuing such a bloody agenda we will hardly do humanity any favour. Pakistan did not feel one nation as other ethnic groups felt dominated by Punjabi elite. International community under no circumstances should buy into this.

  1. All people should have right to self-determination

The self-determination as a concept came into being in the back-drop of colonial rule. In case of Kashmir as well as Pakistan or Bangladesh they were very much part of Hindu India. What has happened is there has been Islamic occupation and forcible partition of the country. Britsh Government colluded to create Pakistan by choosing to do referendum with granularity of provinces instead of taking vote for the whole nation. Much before that they had separate electorate based on religion. All this was part of divide and conquer strategy. The motivation of British to facilitate Pakistan was to have a Military outpost in the region to counter USSR. They knew Pakistan under Jinna would do it and not India under Nehru. Coming to the present Self-determination has moral legitimacy only if it is not held on religious lines. On top of it if self-determination like partition results in ethnic cleansing and forced migration of one community how can any human rights organization support that? Such an organization should be ashamed of itself. in case of Kashmiri separatists they have front-loaded ethnic cleansing.  Should such an act be rewarded?  If Kashmir cannot stay secular and give rights to Hindus, why should India at large stay secular? If OIC countries support Kashmir issue then let them be ready to take over the whole of Muslim populace.

  1. Kashmir is under “Occupation”

This is a strange claim. Kashmir has been part of India for 5,000 years. Even the name is attributed to Vedic Rishi called Kashyap.  Kashmir is core of Indian Civilization. All along all regions of India were considered parts of India and closely interacted all the way to Southern parts of india.  How can India occupy any part of its own country?  We are not British or Portuguese; rather we are native to whole of India including Pakistan and Bangladesh. The occupation that has happened is Islamic occupation of Kashmir starting with 13th Century where people were converted by royal diktat, force or other means. Even though conversions continued to maintain a mix of population with bonds, increasing Islamization has meant brothers killing brothers over religion. Sadly Palastine is used as a model, which again tries to question Jewish claim over their land that long preceded advent of Islam. This has resulted in nothing but blood-shed.

  1. Kashmiris are innocent victims

In reality the people there have made a choice to pursue violence and play victimhood at the same time. They rose up using the pretext of death of terrorist and sustained an orchestrated protest for months.  They put up innocent children by indoctrinating them over Azadi as of the Government under a Kashmiri CM who oversees even Jammu and Ladakh is not theirs. Rather people of Jammu and Ladakh should be asking the question, why the Government is not theirs. There is a vicious cycle. Because they provide local support to terrorists from across the border greater number of soldiers are needed at border and then as and when things get more violent soldiers are once again needed. If Kashmiris stop supporting violence most of the issues will go away.

  1. Separatists should be recognized as stakeholders

As long as Kashmiri politicians are beholden to separatists they lose their right to represent the people.  They are in the same situation as civilian government of Pakistan which plays second –fiddle to Army. Any situation where there is dual control, nothing useful will come out of it. The politicians of Jammu and Kashmir should have the conviction that Jammu and Kashmir is better together as part of India.  If they do not have such conviction and continue to harbour dreams of independent Kashmir, they should quit politics. Alternatively separatists if they indeed believe people are with them they should demonstrate their legitimacy by fighting elections. Net-net we need one set of people who represent people. Only then anybody will seriously talk to them.

  1. Kashmiri Fighters are not terrorists

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is no longer accepted.  People who start by killing “other people”, in no time start killing one’s own people. This has happened with LTTE, Palastinian organizations and Kashmiri terrorists are no different. In fact  so many separatists who support terrorists themselves have lost their fathers.  How can anybody call these people nothing but terrorists?

  1. Separation from India will be good for Kashmir

First of all when Pakistan talks about Azadi, they expect integration with Pakistan. What they call Azad Kashmir they rule it with lesser rights then a half-state in India. So Azadi taken with help of Pakistan will mean domination by Punjabi  elite, which Sheikh Abdulla did not want to start with. Things have only got worse. Even in the event that there is an independent rump of  Kashmir, it will  be land-locked and beholden to one of its neighbours. Unlike Balochistan, Kashmir is not even resource rich. It is very, very unlikely that Jammu and Kashmir as single entity will be one unit, as other regions will resent Kashmiri dominance. The employment avenues in India will be closed to Kashmiris. With backlash against Islamic states, it will be harder to pursue opportunities in the west without an Indian passport. Only difference is that we will have a PM of a small region instead of a CM of a large state.  If Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan they will join people who are already unhappy being part of Pakistan. In India at least no region dominates the country. Even though PoK is called Azad Kashmir they hardly have any powers not even as half-state of India.

  1. Pursuing Kashmir is in the interest of Pakistan

Pakistan already has restive provinces and adding one more hardly helps. Instead if Pakistan gives up this dream and works for regional harmony its people will benefit lot more. As of now only thing that awaits Pakistan is title of terrorist state.

  1. Solution to Kashmir issue is autonomy and self-rule

PoK Is more peaceful even when they hardly have any powers. The special status has not solved any issue. It has remained half-baked solution. Rather, Jammu and Kashmir should be treated as yet another state. Unprincipled compromise has only complicated the matters.

  1. India should de-Militarize Jammu and Kashmir

No Military would like to get involved in civilian matters except as a last resort. The Jammu and Kashmir has three unique situations compared to other states that need Army’s presence. Being a border state it needs to have Army in the state. The line of control which is more of a cease-fire line has been repeatedly violated by Pakistan, so greater presence of security forces is necessary. On top of this terrorists who cross over find local support in  Muslim majority areas in Kashmir and blend into the population. There have been repeated attempts to hand–over law and order completely to the police, but that has not succeeded. This is due to presence of separatists who keep the pot boiling by orchestrating violence. The politicians play second fiddle to separatists and further complicate matters.  A section of people have supported terror repeatedly whether it is Afzal Guru or Burhan Wani. Unless,  Jammu and Kashmir gets leaders like  Beant Singh and KPS Gill, situation will remain bad. At the end of the day people themselves are responsible for their fate through their action and inaction.

  1. AFSPA should be removed

Kashmiri separatists have managed to ethnically cleanse valley and have imposed Sharia already. As some Kashmiri author wrote, Kashmir is independent for some time now (through such killings). They have made sure that violent dominates the silent who want to be part of India and go on with life. In such a scenario, Army is the last line of defence. It is for the politicians to have a committed  leadership that will strengthen the police. To have genuine peace all those leaders, organizations, people and families who support terror may have to be exiled. The residential laws should be modified to keep out terror supporters and sympathizers. Finally it is upto the society at large, as long as they endorse violence situation will not improve. Large sections of society and people are with India, but such voices are suppressed. We just need to count so many Kashmiri Muslim leaders who get routinely killed by separatists.

  1. India should just give up Kashmir

The partition itself was wrong. India does not need yet another partition nor world yet another Islamic state.  This is not just about people or territory but about an idea of pluralism that has defined India. The Jammu and Kashmir being as diverse fits much better in India than in Pakistan. Strategically India has lost direct border with Afghanistan which would have been  the case through Gilgit-Baltistan. India should take back all of territories lost to Pakistan and China.   Rather India should firmly state its position that it needs to get back lost territories.  India should rather support freedom for Baluchistan, Tibet and provinces within Pakistan which are being dominated by Punjabi elite.  Common Hindus ask why India should be secular if Kashmir has to be Islamic.  Why should Hindus accept asymmetry and lack of reciprocity?

  1. Elections in Jammu and Kashmir are only for Bijali-Sadak-Pani

If that were the case why not have Municipalities or manage through Union territories. In Kashmir democracy has been counter-productive, as politicians have ceded space to separatists. They themselves have remained ambivalent. If Kashmir valley is divided into two Union Territories Indian Government can provide seamless administration.  Why are young children throwing stones at their own Government? Indian Government gets arm-twisted through co-ordinated action by Pakistani establishment and polity in Kashmir who play good-cop, bad-cop alternatively.

  1. The protests in Kashmir valley are spontaneous and innocent are killed

The protests are anything but spontaneous. Burhan Wani was yet another terrorist who got killed. It is the separatists and their supporters who were waiting for an opportunity to put the region on boil. They purposely make use of young children the way LTTE and Palastinians did to gain coverage. These children and women are used as shield by terrorists.  The children from poor families are paid and/or indoctrinated to come on the streets.  The children have no idea what Azadi means. Only thing they relate to is the presence of security forces as they grow up. Why are security forces on streets only in Kashmir valley? It is because the separatists have supported violence and society at large endorsed it even when their own near and dear got killed by terrorists themselves. Any society can play victims, but at the end of the day one is responsible for one’s own destiny through action and inaction. The Kashmiri Muslims are anything but innocent. They ethnically cleansed Pandits in the most brutal manner. They have denied rights to Hindu refugees, against the broader Indian tradition. They attack in hundreds security forces and then claim innocence.

  1. All that they want is Azadi

People are not clear what does Azadi mean. Is it setting up an Islamic state? More democracy? Union with Pakistan? Will Pakistan also give up Kashmir? What about Azadi for smaller provinces? How many pieces? What about land-locked? What do people gain which they can’t otherwise? What do they lose?

Kashmir valley  is not an economically viable state. Other than tourism, there is no other industry. Being part of India, it has the best chance for prosperity.

  1. Pakistan’s involvement has helped Kashmiris in PoK

PoK called Azad Kashmir by Pakistan is neither Azad nor Kashmir.

Sahil Mushtaq in his article  concludes as follows..

Theoretically, Azad Jammu & Kashmir is a self governing state under Pakistan’s control however according to the general public opinion and sentiment in POK reflects that “although ‘azad’ means ‘free’, the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but free.  The Pakistan authorities govern Azad Kashmir with strict control on basic freedom and liberties”. It has been acknowledged by the global community as well Supreme Court of Pakistan has admonished Islamabad’s oppressive, undemocratic and colonial subjugation.  To cut the long story short, “Azad Kashmir” is neither peopled by Kashmiris nor is it Azad.  Anjum Nisar Mir, the leader of Awami National Party recently stated in a public rally that “people in Azad Kashmir are not free but slaves who live in appalling conditions in refugee camps without any constitutional or even fundamental human rights”.

  1. What is it really about?

At times Kashmiris say they did not like Dogra rule, at other times they say it is about their unique identity and not religion. On the ground however Mosques are used as vehicles of terror.

Bhakta, Bhakti, and Vibhakti

These words are well known; however it is interesting to look into their origins and usages.

The root from which these words are derived is भज सेवायाम् (भ्वादिः, उभय०).  Although the nominal meaning of this root is “to serve”, this root can have several other meanings such as “to divide”, “to accept”, “to take refuge in”, “to experience”, “to worship”, and so on.

The word bhakta is derived as भज् + क्त (त) = भक्त which can be used as an adjective or as a common noun, generally in the masculine and neuter genders (as भक्तः and भक्तम् respectively).

भक्तः (masculine) – means “devotee”, “worshipper”, or “faithful servant”.  Example:

न मे भक्तः प्रणश्यति (गीता ७.३१) – My devotee is never destroyed (i.e. never falls into evil ways).

भक्तम् (neuter) – means “part, division”, “food” or “cooked rice”. The reason it also means “cooked rice” is that it is divided among or served to several people. Example:

गन्धेन स्फुरता मनागनुसृतो भक्तस्य सर्पिष्मतः कर्कन्धूफलमिश्रशाकपचनामोदः परिस्तीर्यते ॥ उत्तररामचरितम् ४.१ ॥

The fragrance caused by the emerging (स्फुरता ) and slowly diffusing (मनाक् अनुसृतः) aroma (गन्धेन) of the rice cooked with ghee (सर्पिष्मतः भक्तस्य), mixed with the scents of various fruits and greens (कर्कन्धूफलमिश्रशाकपचनामोदः ) spreads all around (परिस्तीर्यते).

This word भक्त becomes भत्त in Prākṛt (several examples can be found in the Buddhist Tipiṭaka) and finally भात in Hindi.

भक्तिः is well known and generally used in the sense of “devotion” or “service” but can also mean “division”, “decoration” or “arrangement”, as in आबद्धमुक्ताफलभक्तिचित्रे (कुमारसम्भवं ७.१०) – “variegated by being inlaid with ornamental rows of pearls”

विभक्तिः – means “divided specially, or according to some order” – the prefix वि gives the sense that the division is not arbitrary but according to some rules.  In Sanskrit grammar this has a special meaning as follows:

In Pāṇini’s grammar, all words are formed by attaching prefixes and/or suffixes to bases.  Two broad classes of words are:

  • Substantives (nouns, pronouns, and adjectives) – these are formed by attaching a suffix from a  group of 21 suffixes (called सुप्) to a substantive base, called प्रातिपदिकम् ।  This results in declensions
  • Verbs – formed by attaching a suffix from a group of 18 suffixes (called तिङ्) to a verbal root, called धातु । This results in conjugations

Both the सुप् and the तिङ् suffixes (प्रत्ययाः) are divided into groups of three, representing the singular, dual, and plural. That is why they are also called विभक्तिः ।   In the case of सुप् there are seven groups containing three suffixes each, and therefore there are named प्रथमा, द्वितीया, … , सप्तमी । Pāṇini does not explicitly name them because these names are well-known ordinal numbers meaning “first”, “second”, … “seventh”.  Note that they are all feminine ordinals because they qualify विभक्ति which is a feminine noun.  In the case of तिङ् special grammatical terms are used, which is why they are explicitly named as प्रथमः, मध्यमः, and उत्तमः, all qualifying पुरुषः (person).  The English equivalents of these are “third person”, “second person”, and “first person”.  The तिङ् suffixes are divided into two sets of nine (representing परस्मैपदम् and आत्मनेपदम्) and each set is further divided into three groups of three – that should be enough grammar for now…



The concept of puruṣārtha provides a useful framework on how to view life.  The word itself is derived as पुरुषस्य अर्थः – objective of human life.  The word अर्थः has several meanings including “meaning”, “objective”, and “wealth”.  These objectives can be classified under four categories – धर्मः , अर्थः, कामः, मोक्षः ।

There is plenty of literature available on puruṣārthas – my objective here is to explain how these words are derived and what traditional texts are available to explore these.  Let’s begin with what they mean:

  • धर्मः – धरति विश्वम् इति – that which sustains the world, derived as धृञ् धारणे + मन् [ by (उ. १३९)].  This represents fundamental human values which every human being possesses (whether or not they can articulate them) and which are reflected in their behavior.  Some are universal (applicable to all human beings at all places and at all times), whereas others are context dependent
  • अर्थः – derived from the root ऋ meaning “to move”, as ऋ + थन् [by (उ. १६२)].  The root meaning implies moving towards something, hence “an objective”.  As a puruṣārtha it means “wealth” or “material being”, necessary for every human being to survive.  How much artha is required is of course a different matter
  • कामः – derived using कामु कान्तौ + घञ् , meaning “desire”.  All humans have desires and it is a reasonable objective of human life to satisfy at least some of them.  The nature and arising of desire is a complex issue and will not be discussed here
  • मोक्षः – derived as मुच्लृ मोक्षणे + सन् + घञ् [by अत्र लोपोऽभ्यासस्य (पा. ७।४।५८) and other rules].  This represents “liberation” and is considered to be the supreme, hence the most important objective of life

In actual practice, अर्थः and कामः are the predominant objectives for most human beings; many ponder about धर्मः and very few about मोक्षः ।

The ancient ṛṣis of India decided to compose several works (śāstras) to help people understand and attain these objectives. The word शास्त्रम् (शिष्यतेऽनेनेति) is derived as शासु अनुशिष्टौ + ष्ट्रन् and means “that by which one is disciplined”.  Interestingly, there is only one well known śāstra pertaining to artha (अर्थशास्त्रम्) and one pertaining to kāma (कामसूत्रम्), several pertaining to dharma (धर्मशास्त्राणि)  and a very large number pertaining to mokṣa (मोक्षशास्त्राणि). Thus the number of śāstras pertaining to a particular puruṣārtha  is inversely proportional to the general interest in that puruṣārtha!  The reasons for this, in my opinion, is that artha and kāma  are very natural desires – people will figure these out and don’t need much instruction. Moreover ways of acquiring wealth, forms of wealth, and ways of satisfying desires changes with the times.  However what is important is that artha and kāma must be satisfied within the framework of dharma.  Therefore dharmaśāstras are necessary, particularly with respect to matters pertaining to individual and social conduct.

A good introduction to the dharmaśāstras  is available here.  Dharma is also discussed in the Rāmāyanā but much more extensively in the Mahābharāta.  In fact, the Mahābharāta discusses all the four puruṣārthas and contains the following verse:

धर्मे चार्थे च कामे च मोक्षे च भरतर्षभ । यदिहास्ति तदन्यत्र यन्नेहास्ति न तत् क्वचित् ॥ आदिपर्व ६२.५३ ॥

O best among the Bharatas!  In matters pertaining to dharma, artha, kāma, and mokṣa, what has been said here can be found elsewhere, but what has not been said here cannot be found anywhere else. (Said by Vaiśampāyana to Janamejaya at the beginning of his narrative).

Mokṣaśāstras, which are of our main interest here, can be classified under three categories, called प्रस्थानत्रयी – the group of three that prepare one for a spiritual journey (प्रस्थानम्).  They are:

  • The Upaniṣads (उपनिषदाः) –  the ईशावास्योपनिषद् is already included in this site; and others will be included later
  • The Brahmasūtras (ब्रह्मसूत्राणि) – difficult to understand without an extensive commentary
  • The Bhagavadgīta (भगवद्गीता) – may be included eventually in this site

Other than these there are several other Mokṣaśāstras which continue to be composed even to this day.  Some of the well known ones in Sanskrit include the योगवासिष्ठः and the श्रीमद्भागवतम् ।