Translating Hindi words into western ideas is not always obvious. “Raja” translates simply as king. One automatically assumes that the metaphor implies everything we know of kingship in countries that operating as democracies, with definitional words that include total adoration, respect, ownership of vast lands, and in years past ultimate power. We easily assume that our images of the kings of years past continues on through today; absolute rulers who were benevolent or despots depending on the measure of their character.
As I spend time in India I can see that for many there is much more to the definition. Raja is rarely used alone. Frequently the word is used in combination with Maharaja. The combination takes the simple king into a different realm; a really big king. The best analogy of how the word is used is the relationship with Hindu gods. There are minor gods and major deities. Top of the heap include the incarnations of Shiva and Vishnu. Lesser gods number in the thousands, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Maharajas are by definition gods of everything within their domain. They own the land. They possess (in every sense of the word) the people who live within their lands. Nothing occurs without their knowledge, control, and ultimately consent. They are, at least in the short term, accountable to no person.
In this context certain people stand out. The special ones were not known for their ruthlessness, though Tippu and others were renowned for their brutality. There are exceptional examples that stand out for how they related to those around them. If seems that if one really wants to experience true kingship that you will “take good counsel and accept correction – that’s the way to live wisely and well.” (Proverbs 19.21)
Each of us has the freedom and power to make us kings and queens of our domains. We control our ultimate destinies as well as our response to the present. The question that remains is how we want to live; exploiters taking life off the backs of others versus wisely and well.