vasudhaiva ku.tumbakam revisited

Jan E.M. Houben jhouben at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Wed Aug 2 17:07:11 UTC 2000

Vasudhaiva ku.tumbakam (much quoted and employed in modern publications e.g.
of the VHP):
does it or does it not occur in any other ancient/classical Sanskrit (not to
speak of Vedic) text except the Hitopadesa 1.3 -- where this phrase is used
in a mean and deceitful way?
Is anyone aware of its occurrence in Manusmrti or elsewhere? Any concrete
references (or references to an electronic Manusmrti if it exists) will be

Before asking this I checked the Indology Archive, as is sometimes useful to
do. I found that references for Vasudhaiva ku.tumbakam were asked at 3 April
this year (by Koenraad Elst), and someone answered (also 3 April 2000) that
it occurred in Introduction to Sanskrit by Tom Egenes as a quotation from
Manu Smrti 11.12.22. In J.L. Shastri's edition (Manusmrti with comm. of
Kulluukala Bhatta) I did not find anything at 11.12, 11.22 or 12.22
(three-fold numeral reference 11.12.22 is not usual with regard to Manu).
(Manu 11.12 contains the word ku.tumbaka, but the sloka is in defense of a
sacrificer who takes forcibly what he needs for a sacrifice from the
house -- ku.tumba -- of a Vaishya.) I searched in sloka-indices in editions
of Manu but could not find anything similar to Vasudhaiva ... .

Diving deeper in the Archive: there is a message (11 Nov. 1994) of B.A.
Hatcher in which he announces the publication of his article on "The cosmos
is one family (vasudhaiva ku.tumbakam): Problematic mantra of Hindu
humanism" in Contributions to Indian Sociology 28/1 (1994):149-162. In this
article the author asks whether the negative Hitopadesa context of its
occurrence lingers on "like a tell-tale fragrance (vaasanaa)" (the implicit
answer as I understand it: yes it does), and argues "that for the VHP this
mantra expresses its own vision of manava dharma."
"The VHP claims -- but does not demonstrate -- that this manava dharma is
rooted in the cosmology of the sacred vedas. [Elsewhere in the article, p.
151 note 4, the author quotes K. Singh 1990, according to whom Vasudhaiva
ku.tumbakam occurs in the Rgveda. It has also been quoted as "a Sanskrit
saying of Upanishadas", this list, 18 Sept 1998.] Further specifics of the
vedic worldview are not required."
"If your strategy is a globalising one that seeks to identify your
political/economic interests with those of Siks, Jains, and Buddhists --
whom the VHP would like to claim as fellow Hindus -- it is best to avoid the
issue of concrete religious norms."

Hatcher's article draws attention to regional differences to understand
"ku.tumba", and further contains interesting references to a speech
delivered by Sylvain Levi in Dacca, 1922, in which Levi takes Vasudhaiva
kutumbakam as a testcase to examine, what he called, "Eastern Humanism", and
which reveals already some of the problems in applying Vasudhaiva
ku.tumbakam in a modern context (it also reveals, according to Hatcher,
Levi's "benevolent paternalism-cum cultural arrogance").

Best wishes, Jan Houben

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