The historical ideal of toll-free travel

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TFC writes in about the RamkhamhaengRamkhamhaeng Inscription:


In the time of King Ram Khamhang this land of Sukhothai is thriving. There is fish in the water and rice in the fields. The lord of the realm does not levy toll on his subjects for traveling the roads; they lead their cattle to trade or ride their horses to sell; whoever wants to trade in elephants, does so; whoever wants to trade in horses, does so; whoever wants to trade in silver or gold, does so. When any commoner or man of rank dies, his estate–his elephants, wives, children, granaries, rice, retainers, and groves of areca and betel–is left in its entirety to his children. When commoners or men of rank differ and disagree, [the King] examines the case to get at the truth and then settles it justly for them. He does not connive with thieves or favor concealers [of stolen goods]. When he sees someone’s rice he does not covet it; when he sees someone’s wealth he does not get angry. If anyone riding an elephant comes to see him to put his own country under his protection, he helps him, treats him generously, and takes care of him; if [someone comes to him] with no elephants, no horses, no young men or women of rank, no silver or gold, he gives him some, and helps him until he can establish a state [of his own]. When he captures enemy warriors, he does not kill them or beat them. He has hung a bell in the opening of the gate over there: if any commoner in the land has a grievance which sickens his belly and gripes his heart, and which he wants to make known to his ruler and lord, it is easy: he goes and strikes the bell which the King has hung there; King Ram Khamhang, the ruler of the kingdom, hears the call; he goes and questions the man, examines the case, and decides it justly for him. So the people of … Sukhothai praise him…



Early 13th century obelisk inscription. The implication of this structure of righteous rule is that toll roads were the standard and toll free was idealistic.

Now, I could have sworn one of the earlier Gupta period inscriptions in India bore something similar but my Sanskrit is non-existent.

There is controversy about this, and some writers insist, controversially, that is fake. (Sydney Morning Herald, Longform.org) Nevertheless, some things are interesting fakes. And the idea that a 19th century monarch "discovers" that the ideal of a 13th century monarch was toll free roads is suggestive of how people feel things *should* be.

David Levinson

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on August 8, 2011 4:16 PM.

Origins and Destiny was the previous entry in this blog.

Sungandavirtton: The Abolisher of Tolls is the next entry in this blog.

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