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Politics without Fear: King Janaka and Sovereignty in the Mahābhārata

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Article number898
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>25/09/2022
Issue number10
Number of pages16
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper will analyse a series of dialogues that features kings named Janaka, which appear in the Śānti Parvan of the Mahābhārata. Although there is some variation among these episodes, kings named Janaka tend to be characterised as exemplary rulers who engage in dialogue with learned philosophers and who are strongly associated with the ideals of self-cultivation, renunciation, and liberation. I will argue that the name Janaka functions as a conceptual repertoire for ideas and practices associated with a particular understanding of royal authority. As I will show, the dialogues featuring kings named Janaka characterise sovereignty as both dynamic and fragile because the king is always in the process of displaying his knowledge and self-control. In this way, the different dialogical episodes featuring different Janakas conceptualise political authority differently, thus contributing to an ongoing, inter-textual and inter-religious discussion about sovereignty in ancient India. © 2022 by the author.

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Export Date: 2 November 2022