Chakravarti: The ideal ruler concept in India
The Chakravartin concept is an ancient Indian political idea that originated from the desire to politically unite the Indian sub-continent. The ideal Chakravartin was supposed to be a universal conqueror and achieve universal dominance. However, no pan-India state was ever established, and the concept remained a vital force in ancient Indian political ideas. The Chakravartin concept was based on the idea of a realm of the emperor or his universe, which was equated with the region between the Himalayas and the sea in Kautilya’s Arthasastra. Interestingly, this area is coterminous with the Indian sub-continent. The Asvamedha sacrifice was performed by a ruler who claimed the status of a universal monarch, and even petty rulers performed this sacrifice to demonstrate their might and make tall claims about the extent of their sovereignty and kingdom.
Despite the limitations of the ideal, the desire to politically unite the sub-continent continued to linger on, and this aspiration was reflected in the inscriptions of the early historic period. However, the strong personality of the natural regions and the strength of regionalism prevented the realization of the ideal. It does not mean that the subjugated territories always became a part of a uniform administrative system or that strict control was exercised over them.
The patterns of historical development in India suggest the existence of a hierarchy of regions. Major structure-lines of Indian historical geography or important geographical fault lines of Indian history, such as the Narmada-Chhota Nagpur line or the line running from the Gulf of Cambay to Mathura, have considerably influenced the pattern of cultural diffusion in the sub-continent.
The four great divisions of India include the Indus plains, which are prone to influences from Central and West Asia, the Gangetic plains, which have absorbed all kinds of political and cultural influences coming through the northwestern frontier, the Central Indian intermediate zone, with Gujarat and Orissa as the two extreme points, and the Peninsular India, south of the Narmada. The overall cultural landscape appears to be different north and west of the Aravali line, and only some areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat responded to the mainstream of cultural development of the Gangetic valley in the early historical period.
The absence of land grant inscriptions, a feature common in Gupta and post-Gupta times in the rest of the country, from the Punjab plains strengthens the assumption that Brahmanism never had deep roots in the Punjab plains, nor did the Varna structure become wholly acceptable. The Narmada-Chhota Nagpur line is a major divide, and barring Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Orissa, the rest of the cultural regions to the south of this line have a somewhat different individuality being largely influenced by the Tamil plains in the formative period.
There were other less favored regions too, and geographers and historians speak in terms of perennial nuclear regions, areas of relative isolation, and areas of isolation. The perennial nuclear regions correspond to the major river valleys, such as the Ganga, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri, and they have been areas of attraction for human settlements. Areas of relative isolation in Central India such as the country of the Bhils, Bastar, and the Rajmahal hills differed from the nuclear regions in terms of the structure of settlements, agrarian history, social organization, and state systems.
However, because regions developed historically, the distinction between the three regions was not fixed unalterably once and for all. In conclusion, the Chakravartin concept was an ancient Indian political idea that originated from the desire to politically unite the Indian sub-continent. The concept remained a vital force in ancient Indian political ideas, and the patterns of historical development.