Kautiliya Arthasastra

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Foreword   The Kautilya-Arthasastra, of which Mr. Shamasastry gives us here his translation, is a work of exceptional interest and value. In the first place, it ascribes itself in unmistakable terms to the famous Brahman Kautilya, also named Visnugupta and known from other sources by the patronymic Canakya who tradition tells us, overthrew the last king of the Nanda dynasty, and placed the great Maurya Candragupta on the throne: thus, the two ve...



The Kautilya-Arthasastra, of which Mr. Shamasastry gives us here his translation, is a work of exceptional interest and value. In the first place, it ascribes itself in unmistakable terms to the famous Brahman Kautilya, also named Visnugupta and known from other sources by the patronymic Canakya who tradition tells us, overthrew the last king of the Nanda dynasty, and placed the great Maurya Candragupta on the throne: thus, the two verses with which the work ends recite that it was written by Visnugupta, who from intolerance of misrule rescued the scriptures, the science of weapons, and the earth which had passed to Nanda king and that he wrote it because he had seen many discrepancies on the part of previous commentators; and, in conformity with a common practice of Indian writers the name Kautilya figures constantly through the book, especially in places where the author lays down his own views as differing from others which he cites. The work accordingly claims to date from the period 321-296 B.C.: and its archaic style if well in agreement with the claim. Secondly, as regard it nature and value, Kautilya is renowned, not only as a kingmaker, but also for being the greatest Indian exponent of the art of government, the duties of kings, ministers, and officials, and the methods of diplomacy. That a work dealing with such matters was written by him is testified to by various more or less early Indian writers, who have given quotations from it. But the work itself remained hidden from modern eyes until it was found in the text of which this is the translation. The topic of this text is precisely that which has been indicated above, in all its branches, internal and foreign, civil, military, commercial, fiscal, judicial and so on including even tables of weights, measures of length and divisions of time. And it seems to be agreed to by competent judges that, though the existing text is, perhaps, not absolutely word for word that which was written by Kautilya, still we have essentially a work that he did compose in the period stated above. The value of it is unmistakable: it not only endorses and extends much of what we learn in some of its lines from the Greek writer Megasthenes, who, as is well known, spent a long time in India as the representative of the Syrian king, Seleucus I, at the Court of Candragupta, but also fills out what we gather from the epics, from other early writings, and from the inscriptions, and explains statements and allusions in those last-mentioned sources of information which are otherwise obscure: in short, it throws quite a flood of light on many problems in the branch of Indian studies to which it belongs.

For our introduction to this work we are greatly indebted to Mr. Shamasastry. A manuscript of the text, and with it one of commentary on a small part of it by a writer named Bhattasvamin, was handed over by a Pandit of the Tanjore District to the Mysore Government Oriental Library. From these materials Mr. Shamasastry, who was then the Librarian of that Library, gave a tentative translation in the pages of the Indian Antiquary and elsewhere, in 1905 and following years. By the enlightened encouragement of the Mysore Durbar he was enabled to publish the text itself in 1909, as Vol. 37 of the Biblothecea Sanskrit of Mysore. And under the same appreciative patronage he now lays before us a translation which has been improved in various details, in addition to being brought together in a connected and convenient from. His task has been no easy one. For the formation of his text, as for this translation of it, he has had only the one manuscript and the partial commentary which have been mentioned above: and the text is by no means a simple one; it is laconic and difficult to a degree. In these circumstances, it could hardly be the case that anyone should be able to give us a final treatment of the work straightaway. It seems that, as a result of the attention which Mr. Shamasastry’s labours attracted at once, two or three other manuscripts of the work have now been traced. So it may be hoped that eventually another step may be made, by giving us a revised text, based on a collation of materials, which will remove certain obscurities that still exist. Meanwhile, it is impossible to speak in too high terms of the service rendered by Mr. Shamasastry, in the first place by practically discovering the work, and then by laying the contents of it before us so satisfactorily, in spite of the difficulties confronting him, which can only be appreciated by anyone who tries to understand the text without the help of his translation. We are, and shall always remain, under a great obligation to him for a most important addition to our means of studying the general history of ancient India.



Kautiliyasastra or Canakyaniti is analoguous or parri-passu to Mechaevellian1 treatise on political theology by which he had laid-down the firm foundation of a 'ruler's philosophy,' still in vogue in India of modern times.

The ruler dominant theology was established and propagated in India by a rebel Brahmin Visnugupta who had uprooted the mighty Nanda dynasty in erstwhile Magadha country (modern Bihar state) in 372 B.C. to establish the Maurya dynasty. The so appointed Emperor Candragupta Maurya, ruled with an iron hand for a full 24 year tenure is still remembered as an outstanding figure in Indian history.

Manipulative Politics: Both the names Kautilya and Canakya are euphemisms that stand for 'manipulative politics' today. Kautilya was a highly learned Brahmin and an Acarya, one of the highest in the echelons of Vedic scholars. It is evident that Kautilya was a pastmaster in 'reflective politics', an expert interpreter of ancient scriptures and a technocrat to warfare theology. His establishing of the Maurya empire is also a high point in the development of male-dominated human history in India.

Needless to emphasise here that the treatise Arthasastra traces the saga of politics to the very beginning of human civilisation and equally the development of human habitation system - the mobility from stone age to barbaric days and from iron age to habitation organisations. The iron age led to age of implements and thereafter entered an era of social institutions-the Hindu Krtayuga, the Tretayuga and the Dvaparayuga.

Canakya in composing his Sastram was not unaware of the developments in Indian social systems-the caste divides, the travails of the depressed classes and the cruel and senseless but necessary domination of the deprived classes by the rather vulnerable upper classes. Perhaps Canakya had sensed in depth, the decline of civilised society in India in the person of sword-wielding Nanda, son of powerful emperor Mahananda through a Sudra woman (of lowest caste), and acted smartly to uproot the powerful dynasty and re-establish the influence of upper castes through a proxy but powerful and intellectual emperor Candragupta Maurya. The implications are hidden in the folds of antiquities of castes.

The Kautiliya Arthasastra unfolds in detail, the status of kings, the responsibility of attendants, the significance of spies, the matters of yoga, administration, justice, alms giving and political behavior with friends and enemies, the appointment of learned pundits and the control of state's economy, defence and increase of borders.

Although the Kings' role in Kautilya's Arthasastra stresses on centrally strong empire-based theology, on the face of it; it is limited to king's authority on 'state criminals.' For the rest, the king is dependant on popular will and bound to fashion his rule accordingly!

There is a fundamental discrepancy in Arthasastra - the foundation of an empire for the good of the populace.

Kautilya manoeuvred the overthrow of Nanda dynasty to begin the Mauryan empire on a philosophy cum an anathema. In fact, the king theoretically ruled with iron hand to brook no rival king, but the bottom line of the philosophy was all set for the well-being of the common man. Philosophy of that excel type, gave us a king in the iron grip of the populace's overriding passions. The impact of this ruling philosophy is clearly visible in modern India with a mass base of poor but docile population in submission to a handful of ruling families.

Kautilya diktat is unmistakable - the king's first duty is towards the subject. In this, his kingship vanishes! The subject is all. The king is reduced to-the role of 'manager' who arranges for the comfort of the population and take care of the means and men who would so assist him (Arthasastra p. 62-63). The excellent qualities vested with a king are rare to find in a single person. These have been described as - noble birth, high intelligence, prowess, divinity, truthfulness, scholarship, gratefulness, idealism, enthusiasm, officiousness, prudence, polity, prosperity, resolution and inquisitiveness. (Arthasastra p. 18). Besides, he must have a passion to hear discussions on Sastras, capacity to absorb their essence, able to put them into practice and apt to dive and grip the quint-essence in rational manner.

Simultaneous to his enthusiam a fine blend of gallantry, acumen, intransigence, and expertise, should rest in him in order to understand high ideals of the populace and set in them this own sublimity in application and attitude. This is the working capital of a king's conduct.


  Foreword v
  Preface ix
  Introduction xxxv
Book I : Concerning Discipline
1 The Life of a King 3
2 Determination of the Place of Anviksaki 11
3 Determination of the Place of Triple Vedas 13
4 Varta and Dandaniti 16
5 Association with the Aged 18
6 The Sharing off of the Aggregate of the Six Enemies 21
7 The Life of a Saintly King 23
8 Creation of Ministers 25
9 The Creation of Councilors and Priests 28
10 Ascertaining by Temptations, Purity or Impurity in the Characters of Ministers 31
11 The Institution of Spies 35
12 Creation of Wandering Spies 39
13 Protection of Parties for or against One’s Won Cause in One’s Own State 44
14 Winning over-Factions for or against an Enemy Cause in an Enemy’s State 47
15 The Business of Council Meeting 51
16 The Mission of Envoys 57
17 Protection of Princes 62
18 The Conduct of a Prince Kept Under Restraint and the Treatment of a Restrained Prince 67
19 The Duties of A King 70
20 Duty Towards the Harem 75
21 Personal Safety 79
Book II : The Duties of Government Superintendents
1 Formation of Villages 87
2 Division of Land 93
3 Construction of Forts 96
4 Building Within the Fort 101
5 The Duties of the Chamberlain 105
6 The Business of Collection of Revenue by the Collector-General 109
7 The Business of Keeping up Accounts in the Office of Accountants 115
8 Detection of What is Embezzled by Government Servants out of State Revenue 121
9 Examination of the Conduct of Government Servant 127
10 The Procedure of Forming Royal Writs 132
11 Examination of Gems that are to be Entered into Treasury 140
12 Conducting Mining Operations and Manufacture 153
13 The Superintendent of Gold in the Goldsmiths’ Office 162
14 The Duties of the State Goldsmith in the High Road 171
15 The Superintendent of Store-House 179
16 The Superintendent of Commerce 188
17 The Superintendent of Forest Produce 192
18 The Superintendent of the Armoury 196
19 The Superintendent of Weights and Measures 202
20 Measurement of Space and Time 209
21 The Superintendent of Tolls 216
22 Regulation of Toll-Dues 221
23 The Superintendent of Weaving 224
24 The Superintendent of Agriculture 227
25 The Superintendent of Liquor 234
26 The Superintendent of Slaughter-House 241
27 The Superintendent of Prostitutes 244
28 The Superintendent of Ships 249
29 The Superintendent of Cows 254
30 The Superintendent of Horses 261
31 The Superintendent of Elephants 269
32 The Training of Elephants 273
33 The Superintendent of Chariots; the Superintendent of Infantary and the Duties of the Commander-in-Chief 277
34 The Superintendent of Passports and the Superintendent of Pasture Lands 280
35 The Duty of Revenue-Collectors; Spies Under the Guise of Householders, Merchants and Ascetics 282
36 The Duty of a City Superintendent 286
Book III: Concerning Law
1 Determination of Forms of Agreement; Determination of Legal Disputes 297
2 The Duty of Marriage, The Property of a Woman and Compensations for Re-marriage 305
3 The Duty of a Wife, Maintenance of a Woman, Cruelty to Women, Enmity between Husband and Wife; A Wife’s Transgression; Her Kindness to Another, and Forbidden Transactions 311
4 Vagrancy, Elopement and Short and Long Sojournments 316
5 Procedure of Portioning Inheritance 322
6 Special Shares in Inheritance 327
7 Distinction between Sons 331
8 House-Building 335
9 Sale of Buildings, Boundary Disputes, Determination of Boundaries, and Miscellaneous Hinderances 336
10 Destruction of Pasture Lands, Fields, and Roads, and non-performance of Agreements 345
11 Recovery of Debts 351
12 Concerning Deposits 358
13 Rules regarding Slaves and Labourers 365
14 Rules regarding Labourers and Cooperative Undertaking 371
15 Rescission of Purchase and Sale 376
16 Resumption of Gifts, Sale without Ownership, and Ownership 379
17 Robbery 385
18 Defamation 388
19 Assault 391
20 Gambling and Betting and Miscellaneous offences 396
Book IV: The Removal of Thorns
1 Protection against Artisans 403
2 Protection against Merchants 411
3 Remedies against National Calamities 416
5 Detection of Youths of Criminal Tendency by Ascetic Spies 425
6 Seizure of Criminals on Suspicion or in the Very Act 428
7 Examination of Sudden Death 434
8 Trial and Torture of Elicit Confession 439
9 Protection of All Kinds of government Departments 444
10 Fines in Lieu of Mutilation of Limbs 451
11 Death with or Without Torture 455
12 Sexual Intercourse with Immature Girls 459
13 Punishment for violating Justice 465
Book V: The Conduct of Courtiers
1 Concerning the Awards of Punishment 475
2 Replenishment of the Treasury 482
3 Concerning Subsistence to Government Servants 490
4 The Conduct of a Courtier 495
5 Time-serving 499
6 Consolidation of the Kingdom and Absolute Sovereignty 503
Book VI : The Source of Sovereign States
1 The Elements of Sovereignty 511
2 Concerning Peace and Exertion 515
Book VII: The End of the Six-Fold Policy
1 The Six-fold Policy, and Determination of Deterioration, Stagnation and Progress 523
2 The Nature of Alliance 529
3 The Character of Equal, Inferior, and Superior Kings; and Forms of Agreement made by an Inferior King 532
4 Neutrality after Proclaiming War or after Concluding a Treaty of Peace; Marching after Proclaiming War or after Making Peace; and the March of Combined Powers 538
5 Consideration about Marching; against an Assailable Enemy and a Strong Enemy; Causes Leading to the Dwindling, Greed, and Disloyalty of the Army; and Considerations about the Combination of Powers 543
6 The March of Combined Powers; Agreement of Peace with or without Definite Terms; and Peace with Renegades 550
7 Peace and War by Adopting the Double Policy 557
8 The Attitude of an Assailable Enemy and Friends that Deserve Help 563
9 Agreement for the Acquisition of a Friend or Gold 568
10 Agreement of Peace for the Acquisition of Land 574
11 Interminable Agreement 579
12 Agreement for Undertaking a Work 584
13 Considerations about an Enemy in the Rear 589
14 Recruitment of Lost Power 596
15 Measures Conducive to Peace with a Strong and Provoked Enemy; and the Attitude of a Conquered Enemy 601
16 The Attitude of a Conquered King 606
17 Making Peace and Breaking It 611
18 The Conduct of a Madhyama King, a Neutral King, and of a Circle of States 618
Book VIII : Concerning Vices and Calamities
1 The Aggregate of the Calamities of the Elements of Sovereignty 627
2 Considerations about the Troubles of the King and of His Kingdom 633
3 The Aggregate of the Troubles of Men 637
4 The Group of Molestations, the Group of Obstructions, and the Group of Financial Troubles 643
5 The Group of Trouble of the Army, and the Group of Troubles of a Friend 650
Book IX: The Work of an Invader
1 The Knowledge of Power, Place, Time, Strength, and Weakness; the Time of Invasion 659
2 The Time of Recruiting the Army; the Form of Equipment; and the Work of Arraying a Rival Force 665
3 Considerations of Annoyance in the Rear; and Remedies against Internal and External Troubles 671
4 Consideration about Loss of Men, Wealth and Profit 677
5 External and Internal Dangers 681
6 Persons Associated with Traitors and Enemies 685
7 Doubts about Wealth and Harm; and Success to be Obtained by the Employment of Alternative Strategic Means 692
Book X: Relating to War
1 Encampment 703
2 March of the Camp and Protection of the Army in Times of Distress and Attack 706
3 Forms of Treacherous Fights, Encouragement to One’s Own Army and Fight between One’s Own and Enemy’s Armies 710
4 Battlefields; The Work of Infantry, Cavalry, Chariots and Elephants 717
5 The Distinctive Array of Troops in Respect of Wings, Flanks, and Front; Distinction between Strong and Weak Troops, and Battle with Infantary, Cavalry, Chariots and Elephants 721
6 The Array of the Army Like a Staff, a Snake, a Circle, or in Detached Order; the Array of the Army against that of an Enemy 727
Book XI: The Conduct of Corporation
1 Causes of Dissension; and Secret Punishment 735
Book XII: Concerning a Powerful Enemy
1 The Duties of a Messenger 745
2 Battle of Intrigue 749
3 Slaying the Commander-in-Chief and Inciting a Circle of States 754
4 Spies with Weapons, Fire and Poison; and Destruction of Supply, Stores and Granaries 758
5 Capture of the Enemy by Means of Secret Contrivances or by Means of the Army; and Complete Victory 762
Book XIII : Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress
1 Sowing the Seeds of Dissension 771
2 Enticement of Kings by Secret Contrivances 775
3 The Work of Spies in a Siege 782
4 The Operation of a Siege and Storming a Fort 788
5 Restoration of Peace in a Conquered Country 796
Book XIV : Secret Means
1 Means to Injure an Enemy 803
2 Wonderful and Delusive Contrivances 811
3 The Application of Medicines and Mantras 830
4 Remedies against the Injuries of One’s Own Army 830
Book XV : The Plan of a Treatise
1 Paragraphical Divisions of the Treatise 835
2 Index 845
Sample Pages

Item Code: IHG054 Author: R. Shamasastry, Edited by V. Narain Cover: Paperback Edition: 2005 Publisher: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan ISBN: 8170842918 Language: (Sanskrit Text with English Translation and an Exhaustive Introduction) Size: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch Pages: 949 Other Details: weight of the book is 1.kg
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