Decoding the Elements of Human Rights from the Verses of Ancient Vedic Literature and Dharmaśāstras: An Exegetical Study

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Shailendra Kumar, Sanghamitra Choudhury

Subject: Arts & Humanities, Anthropology & Ethnography Keywords: Dharma; Duties; Hinduism; Human Rights; India; Dharmaśāstras; Vedic literature

This manuscript aims to provide a nuanced study of the idea of rights and duties prevalent in ancient Vedic society through Vedic literature and Dharmaśāstras . This manuscript delves into the exegesis of the Védas and Dharmaśāstras to accomplish this. The archaic Vedic literature and Dharmaśāstra texts are the origin and backbone of Sanskrit literature. They have a plethora of ideas that, if accepted, could be quite useful for the protection of any person's human rights. In Védas and Dharmaśāstras, rights and duties complement each other, and rights are integrated by duties. According to these texts, rights and duties are correlated and the relationship between rights and duties leads to the core concept of dharma (constitutional laws). Dharma is a systematic Sanskrit concept that includes traditions, obligation, morals, laws, order, and justice. It was a unique concept of dharma that kept checks and balances on sovereign officials and prevented them from becoming autocratic and anarchist. It also provided the common man with a protective shield against the dictatorship of sovereign officials. Ordinary citizens had more privileges and fewer responsibilities relative to the state's highest officials. The greater the authority, the less his privileges were, and the more extensive his responsibilities became. This research is an exegetical analysis of ancient Indian Vedic and later Vedic literature and is primarily aimed at deciphering some of the essential ideas of the rights found in these texts, which are akin to contemporary human rights. It endeavours to discern and explain the tenets of human rights obnubilated in the pristine mantras of Antediluvian Vedic and Smṛti texts of India. The essay further attempts to add a much needed non-western perspective to the historiography of human rights.

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