Raja Rishi (Sage King)


Kautilya has clearly specified the rules for an Ideal King.

Such ideal kings were called Raja Rishis (Sage King).

Extract below from The Arthashastra translated by LN Rangarajan.

A Raja Rishi is one who:

  • Has self-control having conquered the the six enemies:
    • Kama(Lust), Krodha(Anger), Lobha(Greed), Mana(Pride), Mada(Arrogance or Conceit) and Amarsha (Fool hardiness).
  • Cultivates intellect by association with wise men and elders
  • Keeps his eyes open through spies
  • Is ever active in promoting the security and welfare of the people
  • Ensures the observance of Dharma by the people, by setting a personal example and authority.
  • Improves his own discipline by continuing his learning in all branches of knowledge
  • Endears himself to his people by enriching them and doing good to them.

Such a Raja Rishi should:

  • Keep away from another’s wife
  • Not covet another’s property
  • Practice Ahimsa(non-violence) towards all living beings
  • Avoid daydreaming, capriciousness, falsehood and extravagance
  • Avoid association with harmful persons indulging in harmful activities

There is no need for such a king to lead a life of total austerity and deprive himself of all sensual pleasures, so long as he does not infringe his Dharma or harms his own material well-being.

Some teachers say that the three objectives of human endeavour [Dharma, Kama(Desire) and Artha(Wealth)] are interdependent and must be pursued equally.  Excessive importance to any one brings harm not only to that objective but to others as well.

Kautilya, however, says: Artha (Wealth or Sound economics) is the most important; for, Dharma and Kama are both dependent on it.

A Raja Rishi shall always respect those councillors and purohitas(wise scholars) who warn him of the dangers of transgressing the limits of good conduct, reminding him sharply (as with a goad) of the times prescribed for various duties and caution him even when he errs in private.

Only a just king commands the loyalty of people.

The subjects of a just king attacked by another will follow him until death, even if he is weak.

On the other hand, when a strong but unjust king is attacked, his people will either topple him or go over to the enemy.