Why Raj-dharma is supreme? How King’s personal goals aligns with goals that are set for him by his position? Answers to these questions are critical. Mahabharata traces the origin of Royalty to King Pruthu (an avatar of Sri Vishnu) who laid down an elaborate system for state. His state comprised of all limbs of a state like forts, cities, vastu, army, ministry, treasury and danda-neeti, etc. It asserts that Danda (or punitive power) resides in the King and he regulates the Varnashrama dharma with it.
Mahabharata states that Raj-dhrama includes all other dharma, the way footsteps of all animals settles in the footmark of an elephant. King should never renounce his regal responsibilities; because fractured Raj-dharma harms Brahmana. Violated Brahmana-dharma damages dharma of all four Varna and the social order collapses. Anecdote of ancient Suryavanshi king Mandhata it recalled here as precedent. Desiring Moksha, he became negligent of his Raj-dharma.
God Vishnu the preserver appearance before him in form of Indra and dissuaded him from undertaking Moksha-dharma. God exhorted him to follow his Raj-dharma and perform duties towards subject. That Mandhata by performing big Yajnas and offering their fruits to God would evade Karma bandhana (bondage) and attained Mokhsa. Here we see that Moksha, the highest Purushartha (goal) of human-birth is shown as a subsidiary to Raj Dharma. Dharma of all Varnas and Ashramas depends upon Raj dharma.
Thus Prajah also earns demerits if it thinks ill of king and so does the king who collects taxes but fail to protect Prajah. King is the first and foremost body of Prajah and Prajah too is a unique body of Raja. A king cannot survive without state and subject and vice versa. From ancient times King enjoyed divine status especially among the Indo-European societies; killing of a royal other than in war was a taboo, it was so because being sustainer of divinely ordained order he too was seen as one possessed those qualities.
In Dharmic tradition Sadachara (appropriate personal conduct) that follows right path of ancestors in accordance to the Varnashrama responsibilities) are paramount. Varnashrama is not a social order in classical sense. It is a moral-ethical value order. In classical social order an individual’s action in a group or class is based on racial, clannish and religious considerations. In Varnashrama order the moral and ethical responsibilities enunciated in Dharma (for ones Varna and Ashrama) becomes moral compass for individual action.
The general rules of Dharma for all Varna and Ashrama are universal and Manu Smriti compiles it in ten Dharma namely- Dhriti (Patience), Kshama (forgiveness), Dama (piety or self control), Asteya (honesty), Shaucha (sanctity), Indriya-Nigrah (control of senses), Dhi (reason), Vidya (knowledge or learning), Satya (truthfulness) and absence of Akrodha (absence of anger) are also basis for persons administrating justice. But how important is Dharma for a King’s Swadharma? Mahabharata status of though Brahmana, Guru, and father are inviolable but if they side adharma and come for a battle, a king should fight them for sake of Dharma. In such case the King won’t incur sin arising out of Brahma-hatya, Guru-ghata or Pitr-ghata.
Since Dharma is a living concept, an individual derives authority to administer justice from his compliance to Vedic Sadacharana (righteous conduct) and Varnashrama (comprising of four Varnas, Ashramas and Purusharthas) order which align him with values of ancestors and the cosmic order Ritam. These values are not narrow and can rightfully be termed as true universals. The capability and right to be a just arbitrator lies in his conduct as a sustainer of Varnashrama order. Brute force of state and even knowledge of Dharma-shastra becomes secondary.