The scores are in, the box office has reported, and the people have spoken: Baahubali-The Beginning is a box office behemoth. S.S. Rajamouli’s smash hit is truly a magnum opus that has swept all of India, South and North of the Vindhya. Indeed, much ink has already marked the proverbial paper, and a number of columns, cookie cutter top tens, and well-penned essays have made their mark. What’s more, long derided regional Telugu cinema is no longer seen as merely a source for remakes, but as even foreigners note, is a source of jealousy for Bollywood insiders. As Krishnarjun gaaru has written, the industry itself has the potential to go back to its golden age 3-5 decades ago, with classics such as Maya Bazaar and Missamma.
Nevertheless, while ACP typically analyzes movies long after the glitz and glamour of a premiere has passed, there is something special about this film that has come to underscore the present zeitgeist.As such, this post is not our standard cinematic analysis, or a fine study of symbology, or even a well-crafted commentary on the industry’s future. Rather it is about understanding the cultural resonance of Baahubali and why it’s relevant and indeed a revelation at this place and at this time. We have sought to do this with ** No Spoilers** for those of you who have yet to see it.
First, a Rejoinder
Despite all the acclaim— not only in the Telugu rashtras or even just Bharata desa, but also globally—sour grapes from the standard set has been increasing from dribble to a deluge. The bitter wine they swill is in the hopes of poisoning the popular opinion. As such, a rejoinder is in order.
Almost two weeks in, the knives are now out courtesy the usual suspects: “Idea of India” indoctrinues (copyright pending for portmanteau), Dubai-gang ghulams of bollywood, and assorted sordid-sickulars of all sorts are now slashing at this movie, after a proverbial puissant punch to the solar plexus. Gasping for breath, these pill-popping, phillim-hopping philistines have the gall to tear down this movie by hook or by crook. The “un-original” charges (Tarzan this, Lord of the Rings that) are particularly asinine, especially coming from bollywood. After all, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay drew from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, which drew from John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, which ultimately drew from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. It’s invariable that inspiration here and there may come from different sources–the question is breathing new life, new vision, and new context into them, and weaving them into a unique piece. Baahubali has accomplished this to the shame of Bollywood.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Setting aside their ignorance about the Kalakeyas in the Mahabharata (yet another example of what happens when you don’t know your own epics), the question isn’t whether Bharatvarsha, the land of Rama’s friend Guha, Pratap’s friends among the Bhils, or Rani Durgavati’s own in-laws, treated its tribals well, but what happened to the tribes of Europe? Bharat respected the tribal way of life, and even saw its merits by encouraging vana prastha (forest life) for retired kings and other elites.
In any event, the body blow from Baahubali had left them in a week-long stupor that they are only now gurgling back from. Left with little other than Bajrangi Bhaijan to salve their wounds, they have united around this flick touting everything from “sentiment & emotion!” to “profitability” (a.k.a. the Sonam Kapoor defence)—poor dears. And yet, why this movie and why such mendacity? After all, Magadheera showed a native Bharatiya kingdom in a complimentary fashion. It too balanced CGI and Story with dramatic action and theatric performances. Those who point to a display of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) in positive light, forget the Kala Bhairava Statue that served as the sentinel of cinematic climax. No, the reason why Bahubaali-The Beginning, this movie, at this time, has stirred up a hornet’s nest of hate, is because it is true cinematic splendour celebrating Dharma.
Despite the laughable claims about Bajrangi Bhaijan touting an emotive ideal, while Baahubali did not, it’s quite clear that this movie was refulgent with an ideal. Dharma, in all its myriad forms, in all its numerous nuances, is immanent throughout this Sistine chapel in celluloid. And unlike that metaphor, the fact that Rajamouli’s Masterpiece drew on native Indic forms (architecture harkens to Angkor, Amaravati, and Avanti) , native Indic fashion (Tamannah’s transformative couture is more the ancient standard), Indic names (Avantika, Baahubali), Indic Sacred History (Rishabhadeva’s sons are an overarching influence), and Indic Geography (Mahismati was the capital of Kartaveerya Arjuna), only roiled our stealth regressive royyalu (that’s Telugu for “shrimp”, btw) further. That it was able to do this by bringing Bharatiyas of all panths (religions) in to enjoy the ride and make them feel a part of the experience, was the last straw.
In a way, it’s almost poetic that a movie so redolent in Dharma Culture was distributed and promoted by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions. Though obviously written, produced, directed, and lead acted by Telugus, this multi-starrer provided a tale and experience to which all Bharatiyas could relate.
We saw a dharmic society in action. From artistry and architecture to the traditional sastras and functioning of statecraft, it was an image of an India that once was. True, it was balanced by elements of fantasy and drew directly from the Puranas, via the Kalakeyas. But we also a saw a version of how our ancestors lived and the principles that drove them: patriotism, loyalty, self-sacrifice, motherhood, love, and above all Dharma.
What’s more, it was an image of not just how the elites might have lived, but the commoners as well. We see how villagers and elites coexisted honorably. Albeit underneath a fantastic and fantastical waterfall, it was a portrait nonetheless of the idylls of rural and even forest life. It too was replete with Dharma–not the philosophical or intellectual dharma,but the everyday dharma, the common dharma. Society may have different classes, but if the elites behave properly and with humility and a sense of social duty, then society is at harmony. The Brahmanas we see on film present a living memory of such great yet humble men.
In a snub to faux animal welfare activists (who think eating fish is inhumane, but are miraculously pro-beef), a version of Jallikattu is presented as a martial pass time. What’s more we even see an internal rebuttal regarding animal sacrifice. A Right hand Tantra riposte of the Left hand is given, demonstrating that Dharma offers alternatives internally to such practices in the name of Kulacara.
We see shakti in action, with numerous strong roles played by numerous women. Rather than mere chattel, our women, our queens , commanded respect, and Shakti balanced her counterpart. We see glimpses of love and even a version of Gandharva Vivaha, where lovers came together through choice. Rather than merely loving and leaving, it was union of souls. That it was indeed marriage was emblematic when the obligation of the girl also become the obligation of the boy. As such, more than anything else, it was duty, and in particular, Kshatriya duty, that truly made its mark on screen.
The Kshatriya Ideal
Magadheera was certainly a cinematic benchmark, but Baahubali is a cultural phenomenon. The title role is not a common soldier, but a Kshatriya incarnate. As ‘The One with Strong Arms‘ he fights not only with his weapons and fists, but also with his wits. Indeed, we see that the true Kshatriya, the true King, is the one who protects his people and has their interests at heart. What’s more, this embodiment of Kshatriyata was not merely limited to men. We see a true Kshatrani in action, in conjunction with many strong and even warrior women. Ramya Krishnan alone deserves applause for her compelling and moving performance. In many ways it is she who presents the fulcrum of the film. Not only checking ambition within herself and her own family, she asserts that the true Kshatriya is not a usurper, but executes his duty to the ruling house loyally. Indeed, she provides a firm feminine rebuke to pig-headed male ambition.
The great Kshatriya vamsas of old not only had great power but expectations of great responsibility. The Kshatriya ideal of balancing education, training, statecraft, wealth, and power is the need of the hour. Rote-memorization and blind application of and training in the sastras will not win the Kurukshetra. It is for this reason that adhyatmic and laukik knowledge were separated. Adhyatmic vidya is verily the soul of our tradition. But due to the high minded principles it inspires, it requires protection from evil via laukika vidya.
Therefore, Kshatriyas were the natural leaders of society. They had an understanding of and respect for the adhyatmic principles, but the pragmatism to recognize the era of falsehoold that we live in, and the improvisation it requires. Hence, the true Kshatriya is not a hot-blooded, hot-head who loses his temper in blind anger, but is a strong willed defender of truth, by whatever means necessary. Varnashrama dharma certainly has degenerated in the past millennium into arrogant and brainless casteism from all ranks, and surely has its issues, but when properly conceived, it is one of balance. A society with an over-sized head, cannot be supported by the rest of its body. The true brahmanas of yore understood that as the teachers and philosophers of society, material living was not for them, and neither sought power nor wealth nor demanded sycophancy or undue influence. The true brahmana after all, is without ego. They also understood the limits of the brahmana varna, and as Parashurama corrected the imbalance of Kshatriyas crossing their limits, so too did Bhagavan Rama correct it with Ravana, and ironically, Parashurama himself.
The traditional partnership of Kshatriyas and Brahmanas is today mired in predation or pretentiousness. Those who aspire to those ideals must remember that Maharishi Veda Vyasa’s own son, the brahmana Suka deva, completed his education under the Rajarishi Janaka. Thus, while Kshatriyas were the natural political leaders and brahmanas the natural spiritual leaders, both required elements of the other to properly conduct their duties.
Competence is not mere aptitude or ability. After all, potential energy exists even in still water. Competence is being good at what you do. Ability too has varying degrees, but competence means you have sufficient ability for the job—not merely on the basis of natural talent, or studies, or even training, but due to habit of improvisation and adaptation confirmed through practical experience.
The sastras afford us with guidance, but it is the job of the general, the job of the Raja to not only learn and understand knowledge, but apply and improvise it. This is not done in the gurukul or ashram, but on the battle map or field of battle. After all, the tactics used by Chhatrapati Shivaji were evolved by Maharana Pratap—who had no Samarth Ramdas.
Therefore, leadership in society requires balance. Of the spiritual with the practical, of the traditional with the necessary, of the brahmana with the kshatriya. That this movie was able to present the kshatriya spirit, the aristocratic ethos, without ridiculing Adarsh liberal’s favourite punching bag–Brahmins–is only fuel for the fire of indigestion they’ve been suffering since July 10th. That is what Baahubali presented–and oh so very artistically at that.
From its waterfalls to its mountains to its maps, this film is pure artistic splendour. The cinematography is truly outstanding and world-beating, and all elements of cinema, from the visual and auditory to the dramatic and literary are in sound balance. A complete movie, it serves as a grand canvas for not only fantasy, but indeed, on-screen poetry.
One of the more interesting aspects wasn’t the research into our Puranas or even the dress and architecture of the ancients, but the subtle inclusion of our classical literature’s approach to drama. Though perhaps not noticeable to our non-Andhra friends, the dialogue features different forms of Telugu, based on orders of society–a practice commonly used by the ancients. Thus, we see literary forms of the language ( granthikam ), along with dialectal ( mandalikam ) and colloquial ( janapadam ).
We are also given a vision of fashion and femininity that is nevertheless strong and full of Shakti. Traditional designs are forms are presented in a manner that is sensuous but not titillating.
Even rati bhava is treated with delicacy in a restrained manner. The artificial is blended with the natural, rather than challenging it. It is not the conquest of nature by man, but the harmony of man and woman with nature.
In short, this movie is a marriage of tradition and tastefulness, form and function, masculine and feminine, elite and common, ancient and modern, art and technology.
Inflection point for the Industry?
Long time readers may recall our early pieces on the Telugu film industry (tollywood no longer) bemoaning the state of the sector. Ironically, one of them actually touched on film and kshatriyata. Rather than being merely seen as an object for derision, it has an opportunity again to rise to its early heights in the 50s and 60s.From kitsch, are we truly seeing a return to art? One hopes that the smashing success of the film will ensure at least a few movies that at least aspire to such a level, even if they do not scale such Himalayan heights. The upcoming release of Rudhramadevi affords an opportunity. Indeed, Baahubali served as an exquisite launch vehicle for Anushka Shetty to a national audience. Whether Gunasekhar is ultimately able to balance CGI with cinematic depth and action with taste, remains to be seen. We remain hopeful.
A Riposte to the “Idea of India” & The Breakthrough of Bharat
This movie was nothing short of a riposte to the ineluctable “Idea of India”–hence its resonance with all classes. This colossus of a success has shown that cheap laughs, titillation and tawdriness, and the apotheosis ofall things non-native, no longer need be the way to box office success, or more importantly, cinema and culture.
Above all, was the sense of belonging to a common society that truly resonated. This wasn’t just a Telugu movie about Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, but an Indian movie about India. The India that once was. What’s more, rather than attempting to pass for Persians or Syrians, the lead actor looked like he might actually be one of them–Indians. Full credit to Prabhas for the physique he developed to give a vision of a royal hero that actually looked like the people. A reality underscored by his own real life pedigree. Rana brought the glamour, but the heart and soul of kingship was played by the first lead.
Indeed, our brothers and sisters in the North have long been deprived of cultural expression of native high culture courtesy Bollywood. They have been taught and even expected to see themselves as part of that spectrum rather than the subcontinent’s as a whole. This movie changed all that. Perhaps nothing emphasized that more when Katappa’s native Indic khadga smashed the prized Persian sword. This scene was fitting not only in an artistic rejoinder to the Idea of India brigade, but in an historical and technological one as well. The famed wootz steel (ukku) ingots of India were what made the finest blades of the era. Indeed, the historical Andhra desa was distinguished for its khandas, and made the Kakatiya kingdom all the more splendrous.
Make no mistake, this was an original movie. Ostensibly, the fairy tale jibes will lead to the obvious Lord of the Rings, Tolkien comparisons. After all, suited simulacra can never see anything beyond the western. But what these indoctrinated ingénues forget was that Tolkien himself drew on Norse and biblical mythology to create one for the English. S.S. Rajamouli had no such need. He was able to draw on the incredible fountain of Classical Indic Literature, with all its epics, sophistication, beauty, and nava rasas, and use his talent, vision, and entrepreneurial courage, to bring them to life and make them relevant to the times. So let the pop-psychologists, Freudian hacks, Lutyens insiders, foreign sympathisers, and serial slanderers run their ignorant mouths…We, the native public, the real public, know the real reason behind The Cultural Resonance of Baahubali.
Predictably ignorant of the native Literary canon, serial rudaali, PK pablum peddler, and apochryphal activist Aamir Khan is said to have remarked after watching Inception “we [Bollywood] can’t even think at that level [Hollywood]”. Perhaps Bollywood can’t think at that level, PK, but Bahubaali has shown that Bharatiyas– real Bharatiyas–certainly can.
In the wake of the current and expanding global financial crisis(we mean 2015, not 2008–so hard to keep track these days…), an opportunity to revisit our Series on Dharma & Economics : Dharmic Development, has presented itself. And so today we continue with the second part of this set of articles: Dharmic Development II.
Long time readers may recall the quote from Maharishi Veda Vyasa we mentioned. When we last explored this topic we touched on how the composer of the Mahabharata, and indeed, the mighty compiler of the Vedas themselves, in uncharacteristic frustration, said the following:
Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrnothi me
Dharmaath artthasha kaamascha kim na sevyati?
I raise my hands up and say “The way to wealth and love is through Dharma—why doesn’t anybody listen?!”
But in our age of utility maximization, financial engineering, polyamory, and “gender as a social construct“, is this really still the case? Doesn’t science and technology, with all its robot girlfriends, myriad “pleasure” toys, and endlessly genetic engineered foods hold the key to transforming our society and meeting every single, possible craving?
Part II in our series on Dharmic Development evaluates how Modernity & Technology cannot be expected to be the magic wand to fulfill all our desires. Rather, we must evaluate whether our desires and needs are fit to have in a civilised society based on the common good. That is the path to sustainable wealth and sincere love.
How is Dharma the way to Wealth & Love?
Our previous piece may have left the contrarian in many of you wondering “How do wealth and love come from Dharma”? Since we live in an era where “There are no permanent friends. No permanent enemies. Only permanent interests“, let us turn then to the sage who verily wrote the book on Hita (“interests’) Acarya Narayana, and his Hitopadesa (Lecture on Interests/Book of Prudent Counsel).
Dharmena heenaha pashubhih saamannaha
One without Dharma is like a beast. 
What is the meaning of this maxim? Simply put, it means one without Dharma (i.e. righteous ethics) is a slave to his impulses and conceits, and thus, behaves like an animal. This is a particularly illuminating line in our “wondrous” age of moral relativism. After all, the favorite words of our liberal progressives are “natural!”, “liberty!”, “liberation!”. However, what they conveniently ignore is that the natural world is replete with animal behaviours—such as eating one’s own young or mate (as spiders do)—that humans would find, and please pardon the pun, distasteful. In fact, this modern leftist utopia is doing precisely that, if not literally then figuratively. Through laws such as498-A in India and “no fault divorce” in other countries, the modern spouse is being stripped clean, and devoured like an animal.
This applies to men as it does women, as males are increasingly finding no shame in fathering countless children without commitment, and frequently abandoning them or declaring bankruptcy. While it is true that powerful men in many societies famously father “bastards”, there was certainly stigma for a man of means not providing for them, and also for unceasing debauchery.
Sanatana dharma has always specified the importance of the Purusharthas, the four aims of human life. These are Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha (Righteousness, Wealth, Love/Pleasure, and Spiritual Liberation). It recognizes that civilized life and its pleasures of wealth and love are only possible with responsible citizens guided by righteousness. This is because a society of greed, a society of selfishness, will always play a zero-sum game of winner take all.
Greed doesn’t work. How could it ever possibly do so. This is greed:
From the School of Greed back to the Gurukul
Dharmena heenaha pashubhih saamannaha
One without Dharma is like a beast. 
The reality, as taught by Dharma, is that Man and Woman must behave better than beasts.
Pigs are not always overweight. Certainly hippos and elephant—even tigers outweigh them—but it is the ravenous and selfish greed of a pig that truly makes that English idiom true. The clip is too gory to show here, but anyone who has seen the movie Hannibal recalls the scene of pigs eating. Those of you with intestinal fortitude can look up the clip on youtube yourselves, to see what I mean.
In fact, that is the entire rationale behind reincarnation: Those who behave like beasts whence in human birth, are reborn as the animals they behaved like. When, according to our Dharmic Scriptures, it takes many lifetimes to return to human birth—should it not be used wisely, rather than reverting to the behaviour of beasts?
The point is not that anyone who has ever caved in to their desires, or even momentarily fallen to their passions, must be stigmatized for life. Rather, it means only that individuals should hold themselves to standards higher than they hold for society…or animals. While the baseline of behaviour is set by law—which determines what is criminal and not—individuals must ultimately aspire to higher standards of behaviour rather than racing to the bottom of degeneracy.
We are all flawed humans, and all of us have our weaknesses. However, weaknesses should not be the norm, but the exception. The individual slips and falls, but he or she is expected to get up, correct the behavior, and set himself/herself on the right path once more. Challenges in life may cause relapses, but it is the will and commitment to improve that ultimately defines who we are.
The Wolf of [Dalal] Street (pun intended)
The average B.Com or MBA graduate may look at Wall Street (and its Indian Imitation, appropriately named “Dalal”) as the embodiment of prosperity and happiness. To them, cities are the source of real wealth, “because…more?“. But is that the definition of wealth? The wolf or pig always wants more. Are these animals wealthy or merely hungry?
There is a wolf in every man, the question is whether he decides not to kill the wolf, but rather, tames it, so it becomes an Alsatian or another such domesticated breed.
It is this wolfishness in modern man that causes him to see women as objects. Many naïve young women think laws—even unfair laws—will protect them from such men. But wise women—and there are many such online to the good fortune of our society—know that the best means to ensure safety, dignity, and well-being for women is to raise men who value dharma. Bhagvan Ram was called Maryada Purushottam precisely because he respected women. He refused to disrespect Sita by taking a second wife. He refused to cave in to the advances of Surpanakha because he valued love above lust. And he only had Lakshmana punish Surpanakha when she threatened to kill and eat Sita (we should not be surprised if Surpanakha’s modern daughters would call this “patriarchal interference in a liberated woman’s right to cannibalism” aka “my choice: my pleasure may be your pain”…but that is another matter…).
Many men today are rightly distraught at unfair marriage laws. It is for this reason that strong women, dharmic women, become all the more important—not paleo-puritan, bachelor men. The wing of women is needed to balance the bird of society, not only to voice their support, but to also raise a generation of men who know that being strong and manly and being respectful of women are not mutual exclusive. A gentleman treats a woman well not based on what it says about her character, but what it says about his. True, he may not marry a call girl (or her socially acceptable college equivalent), but unlike the wolves of wall street, he also won’t view her as “easy meat” either. While baseline laws must exist to have a safe society for women…and men, law enforcement/good police training, but above all, dharmic education will be foundational to taming the wolves in all of us. It forces us to think of the consequences of our own actions and desires. After all, rather than supply creating its own demand, it is demand that creates supply.
Many of you may now be wondering “wait, I thought we were discussing economists“. Well, the previous passage is relevant because of what one of the world’s most celebrated comparative economists had to say:
In the command of those appetites of the body consists that virtue which is properly called temperance. To restrain them within those bounds, which regard to health and fortune prescribes, is the part of prudence. But to confine them within those limits, which grace, which propriety, which delicacy, and modesty, require, is the office of temperance. [2, 28]
Rather than money being the root of all happiness, even the poster boy of capitalism–Adam Smith–recognized that virtue and temperance were the basis for a flourishing society. In his Wealth of Nations, Smith excoriated the British East India Company for its animal greed and ravenous oppression of once prosperous Bengal.
Why is this relevant? Because even the foremost capitalist of history recognized that one should not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
Goose that Laid the Golden Egg
Our wiki-pontificating, HBO-watching younger generation may consider themselves too fashionable and “educated” to bother with the wisdom of childhood parables, but even the most over-credentialed rube at least remembers the story of the goose that laid the golden egg. The Panchatantra and Hitopadesa may be fictional tales, but as the title of the latter indicates, they are meant to educate people (especially princes of that era–and this one) on niti. The genius of these works was not in using cuddly animals to explain timeless wisdom, but to go so far as to provide deep insight into the tools and nature of statecraft itself. Adarsh Liberals may be easily put off by the Sanskrit language of the originals and the pre-Medieval origin of them, but they would do well to remember that their beloved Persians and Arabs also translated and appreciated these stories for their wisdom.
Wealth is good. But responsible use of it is better. The Bengal that laid the golden egg was reduced to a wasteland, with a capital city that became synonymous with human suffering. 
Our Kudlow and Cramer cultists may demur, dismissively braying “Vell, that was colonialism and monopoly, not real capitalism!!!”. After each crash and each financial crisis, recession or depression (1929, 1933, 1973, 1980, 1987, 1997 (East Asia), 2000, 2008, and now 2015?) like an indoctrinated fundamentalist “Vell, that was not real capitalism. Vee’ll get it right next time”. Interestingly enough, this is the refrain of the very socialists and communists they hate.
Our Kudlow and Cramer Cultists may squawk “DHIS ISS SOSHALISM!” in response to Dharma, but look what the poster boy of capitalism himself wrote:
“Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship, and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy” Adam Smith TMS. [2,85]
Reciprocal duties are the essence of virtue, the essence of Dharma. Indeed, that is the key difference between Dharma and Socialism. Dharma emphasizes duties of and to families and communities, while socialism emphasizes rights of the atomized and isolated individual. Dharma exhorts the individual to do his or her duty as well as the government to do its duty. Under socialism, only the government has a duty to preserve the rights of the individual to the welfare state, to atomized citizens, to centralized bureaucracy. While dharma emphasizes a federal or even confederational approach to government and society, socialism (and its ultimate goal of communism) seek to onerously concentrate power at the national level. The final goal, in fact, is to even destroy national borders for a world wide proletariat governed by an unaccountable bureau. So no, dear recalcitrant moron, Dharmic Development is not “Dharmic Socialism”, it is Dharmanomics–its own standalone concept that seeks to be neither socialism nor capitalism, and critiques both.
Here are some of the differences:
Marginal Productivity of Teamwork
Capitalism lionizes competition. Socialism implies communization. Dharma, emphasizes teamwork. It asserts that we are not merely our own ego, nor are we personality-less, socialist drones. We are all fellow-travelers on the journey of life, and recognize that by working for family, community, state, and national interest,we work for our own interest.By improving ourselves morally, by giving to charity generously, and by sacrificing for the civilizational cause selflessly, we become better as a people and as a society.
Sva-Artha & Desh Hita rather than Nihith Svaartha & Desh Sarvanasha
Both capitalism and socialism emphasize selfishness, in their own unique ways. Capitalism accomplishes this with its winner-take-all, buccaneer corporate raider approach to selective “growth”. Everything, even knowledge is commoditised. Teachers teach to their salary rather than teaching to the truth. Socialism achieves this by creating in each individual an expectation for cradle-to-grave care/entitlements beyond all economic capacity and public welfare. The early retired old live off the over-worked, under-paid, and unrelated young. Creativity and local government are stifled.
In contrast, Dharmic Development draws upon dharma to train teaches who don’t alter their instruction for money, and value learning for its own sake, rather than for riches (compare our ancient Gurukuls and Universities to modern For-Profit Colleges that leave massive student loan burdens). True, individuals, workers, merchants, kings, and teachers naturally have sva artha (self-interest in mind), but one who practices dharma pursues self-interest in balance with family, community, and national interest.
Taking the unjustly gained throne of Ayodhya would have been in Bharata’s interest, but he knew it wasn’t in family, community, and national interest, and returned it to its rightful heir, Bhagvan Ram. That is what Dharma, Dharmanomics, and Dharmic Development represent: rejection of nihith svaartha ( unrestrained selfishness) for Sva-Artha (individual interest) and pursuit of the Purusharthas in balance with community and national interest. It means not buying theproducts of national competitors, because their slave-labour makes it a few rupees cheaper.
Above all, Dharmic Development rejects plunder. Plunder of natural resources, plunder of human life and dignity, and plunder of our heritage.
Ironically enough, the reader might be flummoxed to realize that Bastiat’s critique above was actually centered on socialists, but he too acknowledged the rich man’s plunder . As one can see today, capitalists and socialists are two sides of the same coin, only a different “moral” code: one for the bureaucrat and the other for the banker.
Whether it was the British East India Company or Bain Capital (or Bureaucrats de EU) plunder by men in suits is still plunder. They take the treasuries of prosperous lands or companies, pay themselves massive/unjustifiable dividends, engage in actions emphasizing short-term gains (opium crops/outsourcing to China) rather than long term national interest, and leave citizens and employees out to hang. In the end, shareholder benefit is worshiped–but who is the shareholder?
The operative point is that the same myopic perspective of individual corporate interest, without respecting community or national interest, results not only in the destruction of once healthy companies, or prosperous middle classes, but even entire nations.
Greece is exhibit A here. The bailout money that the dishonest continue to point to as emblematic of Greece’s “dissipation” mainly goes toward paying off Greece’s international loans, rather than making its way into the economy. The ancient European country may indeed have an underfunded welfare state, but if the so-called free-market capitalists don’t take steps to promote manufacturing and agriculture growth, how can this small nation be expected to grow itself out of debt?This point is all the more valid in the wake of economic crises in comparatively more responsible Spain and more dynamic Ireland. It is easy to repeat media talking points like a parrot when the game is rigged in favour of the “German Export Machine”.
1 minute analysers may tout more FDI favourable “rahforms!” in all the vague, misunderstood myopia they represent. But is FDI the solution–let alone the only solution– for everything? If foreign investors merely want to turn Greece into a tourist trap where everything–even national territory like the famous Greek Isles—are for sale, is this in the national interest of that country? What about manufacturing? What about agriculture? What about local entrepreneurship?
Another critical area in which Dharmic Development differs from Capitalism and Socialism is in the approach to agriculture.
Food economy is the building block of not only wealth but civilization itself. But as we’ve touched on previously, export-oriented economies such as South Korea, are now purchasing agricultural land in poor, malnourished African countries. The same capitalists who spoke on how Africa is “under-polluted” naturally support this under there free-market fundamentalism.
Our hyper-modernists also tout the stock market as the solution for upliftment of impoverished farmers, with reduced options due to these financial “rahforms!”. But look at what is transpiring before our eyes in China:
At a different broker’s office in Beijing, Liang Shuang said he had invested $100,000 into the market and lost at least third of his investment. He said: “The stock market is like a casino. But in a real casino you know the rules of the game.”
In the rural village of Nanliu two hours drive outside of Xian, villagers huddled around a mini stock exchange center watching their portfolios shrink with much dismay.
Farmer Liu Jianguo said, “I have lost confidence in the market. I’m waiting desperately to see if my stocks will return to the level where I bought them. It looks as though the government has done quite a lot but the impact is limited.”
These trends are now expanding to the rest of Asia, all this in the midst of the European Crisis involving Greece. Is this the model of food insecurity and economic instability people in India want for themselves?
Failed models are being imported in alternating fashion. First socialism and now capitalism. Our salvation, however, lies not with the fashionable or failed, but in taking inspiration from the traditional to adapt it to present conditions.
“Surprisingly, the marginal and small farmers are no less efficient than large farms, but more productive. They cultivate 46 per cent of the farm land in the country but produce 52 percent of grains, 70 per cent of vegetables, 55 per cent of fruits and 69 per cent of milk.” 
Rather than cash crops, single crops, or prestige crops, it is traditional crops that are proving more sustainable and more healthy for ourselves and for society.
Some of you may be wondering “arey, vee are advanced. Vee have the capitalism and the soshalism and the english, vy do vee need the rural and the farming?!! Be progressive!! Be productive!!“ But read what an actual, rooted scholar (versus foreign credentialed, foreign parrot) has to say:
“The world realised late, very late, that economics of scale does not apply to agriculture. In the 1920s, Russian economist Alexander Chayanov was the first to find that small and family farming was more economic than large ones. For telling this truth and insisting that family farms were neither socialist nor capitalist, he was first tortured by Lenin and later killed by Stalin.” 
When farming and rural life are made difficult first by socialism and finished by capitalism, how can farmers prosper? A society operates on many levels, not just one. Neither complete urbanization nor complete rural life are advisable. What’s more, science-tards have been shopping around their green revolutions heavily premised on chemical fertilisers and pesticides. While it is true that temporary productivity gains may be seen in the short term, the long term result is soil degradation and dustbowl. Incidentally, the Oklahoma dustbowl was one of the contributors to the Great Depression.
But hey, what can we “caste, curry, cows” types know right? Ok, here’s what Adam Smith wrote about agriculture.
“According to the natural course of things, therefore, the greater part of the capital of every growing society, is, first directed to agriculture, afterwards to manufactures, and last of all to foreign commerce. This order of things is so very natural, that in every society that had any territory, it has always, I believe, been in some degree observed. [3, 55]
In fact, here’s how America originally became wealthy, per the Wealth of Nations:
It has been the principal cause of the rapid progress of our American colonies towards wealth and greatness, that almost their whole capitals have hitherto been employed in agriculture. [3, 366]
And rather than over-emphasizing foreign trade (which he supports), he emphasizes the opposite:
The great commerce of every civilized society is that carried on between the inhabitants of the town and those of the country. [3,376]
As such, it is obvious that neither complete urbanisation of Indian society nor communisation of farming (a la Stalin and Mao) are desirable. The traditional structures of family, village, state, and nation all have their place, just as Smith saw the relationship between the countryside, town, and city. Rather than a second “Green Revolution”, India needs a traditional agricultural revival.
If agriculture is the backbone of the economy, entrepreneurship is its blood.
Dr. Kanagasabapathi is a professor of finance (and former Director of the Tamil Nadu Institute of Urban Studies, Coimbatore). He did his thesis on the stock market. His expertise is in in financial capitalism. However, he notes it’s seen as too risky in India. 1.2% invested in stock markets only.42:00. “[T]hey consider the security of the family, the welfare of the children, being more important than higher return”. “There is a failure in the educated circles that there is not investment taking place”—“This is absolutely not correct”.
India has 85 million entrepreneurs, which is the highest among major countries at 17.9% of population. It is 12.3% in the US, and 10.5% in the UK. He asks, “how do the successful Nadars of Tamil nadu finance? They were not mbas or professors. They evolved mahamai system to generate funds. This system helped them to grow economically. Today they are one of the powerful community in India “. Here are the stats for their Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank: Capital 28 lakh capital, 1200 crore reserves. 185 crore profit. 48:00
We do not need experts from outside to tell us how to generate funds
Cost of capital is less, making cost of production less, making sales price less. Capital is borrowed below market rates from family and friends (some times zero interest) making selling price less. As a result, society drives business not government (as in socialism) or corporate fat cats (capitalism). This is because individual, family and community savings, rather than taxes (socialism) or debt/strange equity (capitalism) becomes the source of investment.
53 percent of Indians are self-employed; America, 7%. 52:00. Social capital, therefore, is the actual reason for business success in India. It is the ability to move and work with others.”Faith, goodwill, values, norms, etc.” 1:08
The culture of this country, the foundations of this country…all play a huge role in deciding the economic functioning (as stated in the above video) . But the breakdown of the familyis not something that concerns our free market, techno-utopians.
Unlike socialists and communists, however, Dharmanomics and Dharmic Development celebrate the role of entrepreneurs. But unlike capitalists, they recognize that entrepreneurs too have a responsibility, entrepreneurs too, have a dharma.
Dharma of Entrepreneurs
Many of our bipolar types assume because I have been so critical of free market fundamentalism, that I am anti-wealth. Nothing can be further from the truth.
But as I’ve written before, there is adifference between being pro-market and pro-wealth creation . There is a difference between big business and small and medium sized enterprises. There is a difference between a corporate fat cat and the up-from-the-boot straps entrepreneur.
I have a world of respect for people who start their own businesses. In fact, the vast majority of job creation is driven by SME’s (70% of jobs in India come from SMEs [Kanagasabapathi], and 50-70% in the US, with 65% of new jobs created [ 10]). But why do wall street walruses (and their never-will-be wannabes) get the credit as “the job creators”, when it rightly belongs to the mom and pop store or the local garage or the brand new computer manufacturer. What’s more, small, home based business alone need not be the only Dharmic form of entrepreneurial organization. Ancient and Medieval India famously had various guilds in place of modern corporations. These were known as sreni .
There is a difference between hard assets and monopoly money. That is the reason why we have stressed community (and even family) finance over venture capital. One of the great examples of the disaster of the corporatisation of investment was the tragic case of SKS Microfinance. Ostensibly it began as a well-meaning venture to help impoverished families. Trouble began when foreign institutional finance barged in and began demanding impossibly high returns from the founding managers. Even the Nobel Prize-Winning head of Grameen Bank, which was a microfinance pioneer, said that local community finance must be the driver. SKS became a cautionary tale in the issues associated with FDI.
Some may argue that all big business started out as small business. True, but the moment they go public, the moment they lose their community roots, the moment they stop caring what happens to their countries, that is the moment the character of their venture changes. That is why neither socialism (which stifles entrepreneurship) nor capitalism (which perverts entrepreneurship into monopoly) fit the bill.
Entrepreneurs too have a Dharma. Without it, industry and commerce takes place without thought to the consequences and a sense of responsibility to the commons, to public/shared goods.
And there in lies the ponzi scheme of the socialist vs capitalist binary. We see how “family has been nationalised and government has been privatised” [S.Gurumurthy]. In having two diametrical opposed camps fight each other, we see the worst of both worlds.
“In 1965, the divorce rate in America was very small. Today, 55 per cent of the first marriages end up in divorce there. As much [as] 67 per cent of the second marriages end up in divorce. If someone marries for a third time, 73 per cent of such cases end up in divorce. Nearly 51 per cent of the families are led by single parents. That is the result of the hyper-individualism practiced over the father, mother, family, neighbourhood and society. You produce a shameless society” 
Our neo-colonized, neo-liberals may not see it, but the West has already recognized the intellectual cul-de-sacs that both capitalism and socialism represent. The West is already seeing the need for a third way, and is beginning to trial balloon the label “holism”. A genuine alternative, however, is required–not a mere mix of capitalism and socialism (any serious student of economic history knows there was never a pure laissez faire economy (Victorian Britain with its child labour is considered the closest)). Rather than always playing catch up, isn’t it time to lead? Rather than merely following their way, is it not time to show the way?
Newly-minted Neo-liberal nitwits act as though history and classical Indic economics has nothing to teach us. But why do Westerners still study their classics (whether Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, or Livy), albeit, at declining rates? It is because there is such a thing as time-tested wisdom. Rather than having lemmings leap after the next “NEW ECONOMY” every 10-15 years, only to have a bubble and crash, it is far better to have people soberly understand economics and the root of wealth itself.
Dharmic Development is driven by culture. Not a culture of handouts (like socialism) and not a culture of cutthroat monopolists (like capitalism), but a culture of responsibility, a culture of duty. What do our beloved libertarians have to say about this? Let the market take care of itself? Is this the path to real wealth?
The Origin of Wealth
A question that has plagued many a society, and in our era of certified debt obligations and dubiously-tranched derivatives, it has become increasingly difficult to define. Is wealth a digitized number on an LCD screen, a piece of fibrous inked paper with a fiat symbol and number, or a certificate from a mercantile exchange? Is the root of wealth found in the arbitrage of currency traders or the casino gambling volatility of day traders? Or is it merely pieces of rare metal? Since according to Adarsh Liberals (and their Rajaji Reciprocals), wisdom can only come from the West, here is what one famous Westerner had to say:
Labour, therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities…The real price of everything, what every thing really costs to the man who want to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. [3, 47]
So who wrote this, any guesses? Karl Marx? Friedrich Engels? Perhaps Nobel Prize Winning “quasi-socialist” Paul Krugman? Nope. You would be wrong all three times. This is a verbatim citation, again, of none other than Mr. Adam Smith, and that too, not even from his Theory of Moral Sentiments but from his celebrated An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
His views on agriculture:
Food not only constitutes the principal part of the riches of the world, but it is the abundance of food which gives the principal part of their value to many other sorts of riches. [3, 192]
Time and again, our Ayn Rand and Kudlow and Cramer cultists presume that only they have read economics texts and understand economics. What is quite apparent, is that they don’t even have a basic comprehension of it. The word capitalism never appears in the Wealth of Nations. While Smith was indeed a proponent of the Free market, he also notes its limits, mentions market failures, and speaks out against the joint-stock exchange firm–would these Friedmanites do the same? Moreover, the word capitalism itself only privileges one factor of production: Capital. There are in fact four factors of production: Land, Labour, Capital, and Entrepreneurship. A complete economic philosophy stresses the importance of all of them, rather than merely privileging one. But our Kudlow Kool-Aid drinkers continue stupidly and self-assuredly tout capitalism as the cure for all evils and the heart of progress.
What is “progress”? Even a path off a cliff is also progress…followed by steep fall. Objectives must first be spelled out for progress to follow. What is the society we are working towards? Vague words like “equality. reform. libertarian. gender-neutral” are bandied about like visiting NIRs and newly acquired sports team affiliations. But what do these mean and what society are we working towards? This must be spelled out clearly rather than having the West work towards something ambiguous (whether economically, politically, or sexually) and have NIRs and Adarsh Liberals (and their “Right Wing” Rajaji reciprocals) ape them like suited simulacra.
Not everything new is good. Sometimes, the old way is the correct way. And Greed is not good. Greed for more and more of what is resource-intensive strains scarce resources. In fact, therein lies the irony of New Economy/Brave New World/Free Market Technologists: Economics is the social science of understanding how to allocate scarce resources. The Fundamental laws do not change, so where’s your Web 2.0 & 3.0, now? What of the new, new economy?
The commonly held belief is that with hard work and a good education, a young person in America can get a good job. But despite falling unemployment, college grads age 22 to 27 are stuck in low-paying jobs that don’t even require a college degree. 
“In 2008, a shock of high magnitude came, from which the West has not recovered yet, but Asia survived. That is because Asia follows market economy, but has not transformed society into a market.” [7 ]
Readers may have read the quote from America’s Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, and think that slavery is a thing of the past in the West. What historical illiterates forget is that the British ended slavery of Africans in the Global West only to capitalize on the indentured labour of Indians in the Global South. It is why today, Indians can be found in Guyana, South Africa, Mauritius, and Fiji. And now, rather than debt taking Indians elsewhere, it is coming to India.
External debt increased from $290 billion to $427 billion in just three years between 2010-2013 http://t.co/HFRlm8lmA9
What’s more, slavery in the West, of the West has also metastasized into new forms: the New Jim Crow, crushing student loan and mortgage debt, and credit card debt have blurred the lines between free man andindentured wage slave. As mentioned above, even prisons have become privately run. Our Rajaji reciprocals may soon even exhort the merits of private armies all in the name of “rahforms!”, “efficiency!”, “cost-benefit!”. But this is what happens when you rote-memorize economic ideology without properly studying political history, political economy, and moral philosophy. The Roman Republic too also evolved (devolved?) from citizen-soldiers to private armies, with the net result being Julius Caesar. Perhaps our ironically named Indian publications may soon tout the efficiency of a dictator in perpetuum.
Naysayers may posit that this is what the “educated” “elite” in our society believe to be in our interests, ergo it must ipso facto be intelligent and well-intentioned. But can a so-called elite that prides itself in educating its best and brightest in “phoreign” be really rooted in the national interest? Can a so-called elite that laughs at scientifically verified and historically confirmed Indic accomplishments, truly be Indic? By propping up dying colonial-financed foreign institutions in return for plum jobs in MNCs, are they really incentivized to pursue national interest?
Perhaps all of this simply underscores how the time has come for a new elite. A rooted elite. A Dharmic elite.
A New Elite
Ram Raj was not built in a day. Nevertheless, it remains a perennial and even millennial aspiration throughout India. But such a selfless elite, such duty-bound/self-sacrificing leaders who verily gave us the definition of Tyagi, require more than 1 giant personality. Whether Maharaja or Mukhya Mantri, such a leader requires secondary leadership to back him up (as Bharata did for Rama) and loyal lieutenants who rejected ambition for service to the leader (like Lakshmana), and more importantly, his cause (Dharma). But where are such lieutenants today? Every nitwit with some basis for ahankar (birth, gotra, education, money) sees himself as the saviour and will tear down any putative rival with a viciousness he doesn’t even show to national enemies. That is why Dharma is needed, as it rejects ambition in favor of duty and aspiration. Duty must come before self-interest–then and then only is the national/civilizational cause served. Ask yourself “is there someone better qualified?”–if so, politely step aside, and if you have it in you, help (that is, after all, what a true leader would do).
Our modernism zombies may laugh instinctively that any elite in any time could be politically (let alone morally) superior to their own. But in an era when selfishness and greed itself have become virtues, perhaps the time has indeed come to review aspects of Aristocracy that indeed made them aristos (or the best) as opposed to the current crop of kakistos. Perhaps there is indeed a way to imbibe the self-sacrificing and rootedness of the old elite in our democratic framework without restoring monarchy’s dictatorial worst. To do that, we must first understand what the purpose of an elite really is.
Real men don’t follow poodles, they follow patriots
And therein lies the problem. When an elite looks upon its own people, its own flesh and blood, the sons of the soil, in disdain and contempt, how can they possibly represent common interests? If you pride yourself in doing poodle tricks, if you fight for scraps from the tables of foreigners, if you mimic their ways instead of reviving (and improving) your own, are you fit to lead?
Whether such an elite, that feels more in common with its own sons of the soil, will ultimately be drawn from them, is an open question. However remarkable the accomplishment, a single “chaiwallah” cannot change a degenerate delhi durbar or lutyens ordo . It is the system itself that must either revive or be replaced. If farming and labour, the very sources of societal wealth, are not treated with respect, then perhaps it is indeed time for a new elite.
Ancient elites, whatever their faults, were close to the land.Great Kings and Emperors– our real Kings and Emperors–would hold sabhas in the countryside periodically, and would even symbolically plough the land. Unlike the current crop of kakistocrats, for them it was not a mere publicity stunt, but as aristocrats, their duty, their Rajdharma.
Irrespective of whether there is a new elite on the horizon, we must begin to not merely learn and adapt ganimi kava where appropriate, but take inspiration from within as well–like another great son of Bharat once did. Rather than birth, family connection, school, and IQ, it is Guna, Competence, Character, and Courage that must define our leadership. The great kshatriyas and true brahmanas of yore may have left behind far too few competent heirs (though some are still around), but their gunas and ideals live on to inspire the nara and naari of this era… of whatever Bharatiya background…
Over the course of this essay, we have described the differences among Dharmic Development, Socialism and Capitalism. Socialism is having your cake & eating it too. Capitalism is having your cake & eating someone else’s.
Naysayers may counter that capitalists are merely having and eating their own cake. If so, please explain all the 0 capital gains tax advocates, all the flat tax fanatics, and all the starve-the-government radicals. They benefit from necessary public spending (defense, infrastructure), but do everything to avoid paying proportionally (if at all) into it. What they are really asking for is not to eat their own cake, but for Big Fish to Eat Little Fish (matsya nyaya). For those mental slaves of libertarianism, please remember the national highway system in the US was a public project—not a private one…and so was the internet. Those who hate government, cannot possibly advise it, let alone lead it or comprehend the nature of its duties to citizenry: raksha, palana, yogakshema.
Mental slaves steeped in binary thinking may counter, “vell, you are a socialist!”. But we have spoken out against socialism repeatedly as well. Encouraging generation upon generation to live on the public dole not only destroys productivity and work ethic, but also destroys citizenship. Government dependence, excessive centralization, statism,over-emphasis of urbanization, all sound good on paper, but are exceedingly corrosive to individual responsibility and liberty. This isn’t to deny the importance of economies of scale and urban technology clusters as needed for defence and health, but it doesn’t mean 100 smart cities either.
All elements have their position in any polity, not just the individual and government. The intermediate levels of family, community, and state/province all provide additional layers of cohesiveness to society, so that if one level becomes weak, the other can act as a buffer and take the weight. If government goes bankrupt, how will the individual survive? Family, community, and state all have their respective roles.
Capitalism accomplishes the same not by encouraging over-dependence on government, but by encouraging over-consumption by the individual. This leads to social atomization from the other end. Greed and selfishness become virtues, and everything, even human life and dignity, is put on sale. Instead of crushing people under the unsustainable weight of bloated government, society is encouraged to eat itself out by making temperance unfashionable.
But facts don’t matter for binary-bitten ideologues. If we don’t represent socialism, they don’t have any talking points and insist we don’t know economics and they do…just cause!. Rather than behaving like poseurs casting aspersions on the intellectual capacity of others, they should evolve and mature from the mental state of the juveniles they mimic.
Take a deep breath. Recognize that you’re not the only one who studies economics. And use logic to understand and critique others—rather than exploding in a petard of boorish and bombastic buffoonery. Have the humility to listen and learn.
To bring things full circle: Greece did spend beyond its means—true—but who enabled it? Germany’s overcapacity had to be absorbed (one of the dangers of supply-side economics “i.e. supply creates its own demand”), and so Greece was given overgenerous financing and encouraged to consume beyond its means. In the process, Germany benefited through increased exports and market share abroad and increased employment and prosperity at home. Had individual Greeks been encouraged to locally manufacture—rather than depend merely on tourism like so many brothel madams—they could have consumed locally manufactured goods. True, not everything can be manufactured locally (especially if you are a small country)—but essential items and products should be provided for at home. Of course, there is nothing more essential than agriculture. That is why in the West, food miles have become a trend, but India is going in the opposite direction. Locally grown produce not only reduces transportation costs, but encourages healthier food that is less dependent on chemical preservatives to maintain and prevent natural rot. The absence of this can be seen in the health crisis in the United States—which is now increasingly plaguing India. Obesity, diabetes, early baldness, hormonal imbalance—all are symptoms of artificial food that is being tampered with and over-medication which has been tinkered with.
The over-confident, but under-read may proclaim that even Gregor Mendel engaged in genetic engineering—but this is moronic. There is a world of difference between cross breeding via a natural process and interfering in the process itself at the genetic level.By respecting nature, we protect ourselves from unintended consequences. After all, there is a world of difference between putting a horse and donkey in the same room and encouraging them to breed, and creating from genetic scratch, a whole new animal. Science-tards should also be mindful that the net result of a horse and donkey is a mule—incidentally, a sterile animal, aka genetic dead end.
So before getting caught up in the faddish “rationalism” of the brave new world of “surrendering to science and technology!”—actually be rational and use your brain to think about the consequences. Science is not the solution to everything—how could it be? Science gave us the internet, but also gave us Hiroshima. Science surely has its place—to help us understand the material world so that we can better our material living. But what does it have to do with spiritual living and harmony? Science axiomatically cannot provide us with a way of life or a moral code by which to live. That is the place of philosophy: be it secular humanism or Dharma. Rather than prematurely signing up for a Star Trek future, they should try to preserve their It’s a Wonderful Life present—assuming they even can.
Ultimately, all this is emblematic of Western man and increasingly Global man (davos man?) and his juvenile need to dominate his fellow man and conquer nature. But nature is no more meant to be conquered than women are meant to subjugated. After all, can nature not hit back and wipe out civilization itself, like Draupadi annihilated the Kauravas through Bhima? When her wrath is upon you, to whom then will you turn for succour citing the Dharma and decency you previously ignored?—The God in “scientific” atheism you previously rejected?