Tracing the Socio-economic Roots of the Buddhist Concept of Universal Monarch (Cakkavatti-rāja)

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Kazal Barua Ph.D. Candidate, International Buddhist College, Thailand. E-mail:


Universal monarch (Cakkavatti-rāja) who is also called virtuous king (dhammiko dhammarāja) is a well-known concept in Buddhism. In Cakkavatti-sīhanadasutta of Dīgha Nikya, Buddha discusses about the Universal Monarch and his role to the society. This idea focuses on the early Buddhist perspective of kingship and governance and the relationship between the king and his subjects. Mythical king Dalhanemi has been idealized in the sutta as the dhamma king who rules his kingdom in accordance with the Buddhist law. The question here is how this concept emerged and why it was incorporated into Buddhist scriptures. One possible answer behind the rise of this concept could be the development and changes in the socio-economic and political arena of that particular period contemporaneous to the Buddha.
Examining the socio-economic, political and historical background during the time of the Buddha, this paper attempts to understand causes behind the origin of the concept of universal Monarch in Buddhism.

Keywords: Universal monarch, socio-economic and political development, Buddhist view on kingship and governance.