What does Mahabharata Verse Sitharaman mentioned in the budget speech mean?


Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, during her budget speech to Parliament on taxation, made reference to the Mahabharata, reciting a shloka or a verse from the Shanti Parva, translated into English.

“I brought a small verse from Mahabharata, I will not recite the whole verse as I would like to focus on my speech,” FM said.

“The king must arrange for yogak kshema, that is, the welfare of the people, by abandoning all laxity and governing the state in accordance with this mark, as well as correcting taxes, which are in accordance with the Dharma,” said Sitharaman. The finance minister said the verse is from the Mahabharata Shanti Parva, shloka 11:72.

With this, the FM proposed more direct tax reforms.

The Shanti Parva, or “Book of Peace”, is the twelfth of the eighteen books of the Indian epic Mahabharata. It usually has three sub-books and 365 chapters. The critical edition consists of three sub-books and 353 chapters. longest book, at eighteen pounds long.

The story begins after the war ends, when both sides have agreed to peace and Yudhishthira takes control of the Pandava kingdom. The Shanti parva recites the ruler’s duties, dharma and good governance, as advised by the dying Bhishma and other Rishis. The parva contains many symbolic stories, such as “Hungry and vegetarian Vishvamitra stealing meat during a famine”, as well as fables like “the bird catcher and the pigeons”.

This is not the first time that the Minister of Finance has recited couplets during her budget speech. In her last budget speech, she again invoked legendary poets by including their verses. Sitharaman had read a verse by Rabindranath Tagore: “Faith is the bird that feels the light/And sings when the dawn is still dark.”

The verses were taken from Tagore’s poem entitled Fireflies, translated from the bilingual Lekhan (1926). “My fantasies are fireflies,-/Grapes of living light/Flicker in the dark,” reads the first verse, according to reports. The poet wrote it during his stay in Balatonfüred, Hungary, as he mentions in the introduction to the poem, while undergoing treatment for heart disease.

Sitharaman had also recited a couplet from Thirukkural: “A king/ruler is one who creates and acquires wealth,/protects it and distributes it for the common good.”

Thiruvalluvar wrote this from the classical Tamil text, which consists of 1,330 short couplets of seven words each, divided into 133 chapters. The text is divided into three books, each containing teachings on virtue, wealth and love.

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