the ruler. Thirdly, being under an obligation to
hereditary leaders of feudal communities and hence could not be autocratic
despots even if they wanted to be.
Theory of Kingship The basis of sovereignty during this period was a
mixture of the Divine Right Theory and the Contract Theory. On the one
hand the masses as well as the authors of treatises on polity regarded the ruler
as a partial incarnation of Vishnu. On the other hand, they also held that it
was the representatives of the people who conferred sovereignty on him. So,
the natural duty of a ruler was to rule in the interests of the people, while the
duty of the people was to be loyal and faithful to him. Thus the basis of
sovereignty was a sort of contract between the king and the people.
Law of Succession A king was usually succeeded by his eldest Son, for
they followed the principle of primogeniture. If a king died without an heir,
the kingdom passed, according to family tradition, to the head of the baronial
house, next in kin to the ruling dynasty. Consequently, there was little scope
for disputed succession in the polity of this period.
Relationship between the King and the Feudal Lords The powers of the
king, though comprehensive in theory, were highly limited in practice due to
the privileges and prerogatives of the feudal lords. Since he had the
theoretical ownership of all the land, the fiefs of the feudal lords needed his
recognition, but this prerogative of the king was limited by the customs
which recognised the hereditary rights of the feudal lords. Also, though he
had the responsibility of maintaining law and order throughout the state, in
practice, however, a free hand was given to the lords in their fiefs.
Council of Ministers The king was helped in the administration of his
kingdom by a council of ministers, besides the crown prince (yuvaraja) and
the queen-consort (patta mahishi). Among them, the chief priest and the court
astronomer were generally recruited from among the Brahmins, while the rest
of the posts were monopolised by the feudal lords, usually belonging to the
same caste (Kshatriya) and even the same family sometimes. Vaishyas and
Sudras generally had no place in the council of ministers.
For administrative purposes, the kingdom was divided into a central region,