Demonstrating Power Through Sama, Dana, Bheda, Danda

Sameeha Vardhan
Jun 06, 2019   •  965 views

Power can be defined as the ability to direct the decisions and performance of others. There are various methods of exercising power. Diplomacy is the art of manifesting power through persuasion rather than coercion or force as a means of obtaining certain (political) ends. Hence, diplomacy is aimed at preventing the application of force. It is so because the ultimate purpose of diplomacy (if taken in a political context) is to avoid war (force). It is only when diplomatic measures fail that one has to resort to force and countries to war.

In the context of India, diplomacy is said to be rooted in history and epics. The most ancient methods of diplomacy can be traced back to Chanakya and his nitis. According to the great scholar in order to manage a well-knit administration and safeguard the state, it is essential for a king to be an expert in diplomacy. Diplomacy (कूटनीति) was considered to be a crucial aspect of statecraft. In order to practice diplomacy, he prescribed four methods or Upayas(solutions)[1]- Sama, Dana, Bheda and Danda. The significance of these techniques lies in the fact that their employment is not restricted only to politics, but they can be used in the day to day life of ordinary people for achieving certain goals. This article is divided into two parts and would focus on interpreting the concept of these upayas, and how they have stood the test of time in being an effective measure of exercising power in the form of diplomacy.

·The first method is SAMA- the policy of Conciliation:

It means to explain, request or advice in order to resort the issue. This is the basic remedy in case of any conflict- to solve it through peaceful dialogue and negotiations. The aim is to maintain or restore a harmonious environment through explanation and pacification. It is believed that it is in the best interests of the parties involved to resolve the conflict at the first stage itself since as the stage advances the methods become shrewder and unpleasant

Example- Mr.X who works for ABC firm is not performing the assigned tasks. To get the work done, his superior/boss would explain and advice him that it is important to do his job properly for his own good as well as for the efficient running of the company. Thus the Superior is using the technique of Sama.

·The second technique is DANA-the policy of giving gifts.

If the desired outcome is not received through mere dialogue, it is then suggested to appease the other person/ party by giving rewards or monetary compensation, granting favours etc. It signifies that if words cannot win over a person then money will.

Instances of using Dana can be observed in everyday lives of people- Politicians distributing free items amongst the public to influence vote-banks, parents might tempt their children with toys or sweetmeats in order to get him/her to do something or a top-ranking official may bribe other officials to obtain a lucrative benefit.

Example- Mr X did not pay any heed to his superior’s advice and still has a lethargic attitude towards work. Since advising and explaining did not work, the superior tries to allure Mr X by granting him certain favours. The superior hopes that the granting of favours would work as a catalyst in prompting Mr X to do the assigned tasks. Thus, the superior has employed the method of Dana.

Sources :

(1)The Four Upayas of Hindu Diplomacy” in The Indian Year Book of International Affair(1954). Bhaskaran,R.

[2] “ The Arthashastra” by Chanakya. Ref.{2.10.56}