Both Kautilya the preceptor and his masterwork the Arthashastra are much misunderstood. Popularly known as chanakya, he is maligned and often ridiculed as a teacher of unethical, not to say immoral, practices and as an advocate of the theory that ‘the ends justify the means.’ ‘Chanakyan’ has entered Indian vocabulary as the equivalent of ‘Machiavellian’. Most people know little of what Kautilya actually said in the Arthashastra. The only thing they can recall is the ‘mandala’ theory, based on the principles: ‘Every neighbouring state is an enemy and the enemy’s enemy is a friend.’
This popular view is not only simplistic but untrue. Only scholars of ancient history are aware of the range and depth of the Arthashastra. It is a pioneering work on statecraft in all its aspects, Arthashastra. It is a pioneering work on statecraft in all its aspects, written at least one thousand five hundred years ago. Unfortunately, the greatness of Kautilya remains unappreciated for want of a modern translation. The main objective of this translation is to make it as simple and modern as possible, avoiding intricate constructions and archaisms, thereby making it easily understood by the educated lay reader, for reasons explained in greater detail in the Introduction, the order of verses in the original text is not strictly followed in this translation; some rearrangement and regrouping by topic has been made. A lengthy Introduction and description of the Kautilyan state and society have become necessary in order to satisfy scholars and provide the necessary background for others.
This translation is made by a political economist in the belief that the precepts of Kautilya on the social, political and economic structure of the ideal state are relevant even today. It is not for me to say whether I have succeeded. I shall be grateful for all corrections, comments and suggestions for improvement, from scholars and laymen alike.
Dharma Kumar has been a source of constant encouragement to me in this book, as she has been with all my other books. I am grateful to my wife, Joyce and my son Gautam for carefully reading through the manuscript, correcting infelicities of language, eliminating confusion in translation and, on the whole, making it more comprehensible. They also proof-read the typeset manuscript. I am also grateful to Gautam and my elder son, Vijay, for help in word processing, typesetting and drawing the diagrams.
Thanks are also due to the Government of India for permitting me to use the Embassy computers for word processing.
I am grateful to Olav F. Knudsen, the Director of the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute, (NUPI), and his colleagues Jorgen Lochen and Dahl-Gulliksen, for their assistance in printing out the typeset manuscript.
I also thank David Davidar and his colleagues for their cooperation. Above all, I am beholden to the pioneers, Dr. Kangle and Dr. Shamasastry, to whom this new translation is, in all humility, dedicated. I need not add that I alone bear the responsibility for any short comings.
Back of the Book
Kautilya, also known as Chanakya and Vishnugupta, wrote the Arthashastra not later than 150 AD though the date has not been conclusively established. Legend has it that he was either a Brahmin from Kerala or from north India; however, it is certain that Kautilya.
Was the man who destroyed the Nanda dynasty and installed Chandragupta Maurya as the King of Magadha. A master strategist who was well-versed in the Vedas and adept at creating intrigues and devising political stratagems, Kautilya’s genius is reflected in his Arthashastra which is the most comprehensive treatise of statecraft of classical times.
The text contains fifteen books which cover numerous topics viz., the King; a complete code of law; foreign policy; secret and occult practices and so on. The Arthashastra is written mainly in prose but also incorporates 380 shlokas.
Artha, literally wealth, is one of four supreme aims prescribed by Hindu tradition. However, it has a much wider significance and the material well-being of individuals is just a part of it. In accordance with this, Kautilya’s Arthashastra maintains that the sate or government of a country has a vital role to play in maintaining the material status of both the nation and its people. Therefore, a significant part of the Arthashastra has to do with the science of economics. When it deals with the science of politics, the Arthashastra descries in detail the art of government in its widest sense-the maintenance of law and order as also of an efficient administrative machinery.
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