Friday, December 14, 2012

Corruption in Ancient India

The recent anti-corruption agitation in India has brought the issue of corruption to the forefront of conscious attention. People may be ruing that today’s India has become a hotbed of corruption.

However, it is not that India in ancient times was free from the influence of the hydra-headed evil of corruption. What distinguishes today’s India from ancient one, when it comes to corruption, is that while ancient people were able to keep corruption at bay, modern India is finding helpless in rooting out corruption from public life.

Corruption thrives on human weakness. It is as old as the human race and has as many facets as human nature itself.

There are references to the judicial corruption in ancient India. To check this, high standards for judges were set. A judge has to be gentle, learned, religious and impartial. He should not show any sign of anger.

It was suggested that till the settlement of the cases, no private meetings between the judges and litigants should be allowed.

The Arthashastra by Kautilya suggests that agents provocateurs should be employed to test the honesty of the judges at periodic intervals. According to Vishnu Smriti, a judge found guilty of corruption should be banished and forfeit all his property.

In the 5th century AD, the Gupta rulers employed a sort of vigilance network to bring corrupt official to book.

Writing in the 3rd century BC, Megasthene remarked that litigation was not a regular part of people’s life in India. However, this cannot be said of modern times. This can be gauged from the sheer number of court cases and the resultant delay in the administration of justice in India. So, it is only to be hoped that taking leaf from the ancient India, those, at the helm of affairs in modern India, will do something to root out this evil.


  1. This circle is the largest anti-corruption community of India and brings together everyone who wants to get work done in India without paying bribes and the ethical way. You can join to Fight Corruption, Bribe and Corruption in India

  2. You write: "There are references to the judicial corruption in ancient India. To check this, high standards for judges were set."

    I would like to have some references to corruption in ancient India or in the Vedas. I came across the following write up on the internet:

    (1) Corruption in Vedas is Hydra headed with nine Heads. It enters human body through ninety nine sources. (Later it was depicted in 9 corrupt heads of Ravana and 99 corrupt sons of blind Kaurva king Dhritrashtra. Ramayna and Mahabharta are Vedas re-told as Epics.) Hydra headed vices include bribery, sloth, doubt, attachment, gambling, deception, food adulteration, miss-appropriation of public funds etc (Sam Veda 179 and 913). (2) Rulers should not allow corrupt people to mix with others to avoid spread of evil in society. Such corrupt people face gloom through their children (Rig Veda 2-2-12)

    Unfortunately, upon checking these references from the Rigveda and the Samveda, I did not see any connection or allusion to corruption. Further research showed that the same references are cited verbatim in many more writings. Please let me know if you have any other, reliable references to corruption in the Hindu texts. Thanks.



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