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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Vāmadevagītā literally means ‘Gītā taught by the sage Vāmadeva’.

Origin of Vāmadevagītā[edit]

This is one of the sixteen minor gītās found in the Mahābhārata. It occurs in the Śāntiparva[1] and has 71 verses. It is in the form of a dialogue between the sage Vāmadeva and the king Vasumanas. This has been recounted by Bhīṣma to Yudhiṣṭhira. Rājadharma[2] is the chief topic covered here.

Content of Vāmadevagītā[edit]

  • By describing the qualities of a good king and the characteristics of an evil one, the work places before us the picture of an ideal kingdom.
  • An ideal king always follows the path of dharma.[3] In this he has to be guided by a competent guru or spiritual preceptor.
  • He has to assiduously cultivate great virtues such as self-control, soft but truthful speech, respect for the virtuous people, consideration for others and devotion to spiritual life.
  • By relentless efforts and diligence he should acquire competence in as many fields of administration as possible.
  • He should appoint the right man for the right place, take good care of trusted assistants and employees, and organize an efficient espionage system.
  • He should keep the following as top-secrets:
  1. Strengthening defenses like the forts
  2. Plans of wars
  3. Consultations with trusted ministers regarding the affairs of the State
  4. Proper plans for giving comforts and conveniences to the people at the right time
  • In wars he should fight like a hero and treat the prisoners, especially the captured rulers, with kindness and sympathy.
  • As regards internal administration, he has to pay attention to the following factors:
  1. Protect himself from internal enemies
  2. Take the help of reliable people who have proved their loyalty and efficiency
  3. Keep the taxes to the minimum level
  4. Be just and impartial towards the subjects
  5. Avoid haste in implementing the decisions and policies arrived at

Qualities of a Bad Ruler[edit]

Vāmadeva also cautions Vasumanasa as to what a king ought not do by describing the follies of a bad king.

  • A bad king not only abandons dharma but also willfully follows adharma.[4]
  • He rules by force, oppresses the weak and gives a free hand to the wicked.
  • Leading an immoral life himself, he encourages it in others.
  • He ignores the guru and the good ministers, employs evil persons and knaves to assist him and harasses his subjects.
  • Neglecting the time-tested traditions, being indifferent towards well-wishers and the welfare of the State he ultimately ruins himself and the kingdom.


  1. Śāntiparva Chapters 92 to 94
  2. Rājadharma means the duties of a king.
  3. It means righteousness.
  4. Adharma means evil ways.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore