The Arthashastra (IAST: Arthaśāstra) is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. Likely to be the work of several authors over centuries, Kautilya, also identified as Vishnugupta and Chanakya, is traditionally credited as the author of the text. The latter was a scholar at Takshashila, the teacher and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. However, scholars have questioned this identification. Composed, expanded and redacted between the 2nd century BCE and 3rd century CE, the Arthashastra was influential until the 12th century, when it disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1905 by R. Shamasastry, who published it in 1909. The first English translation was published in 1915.
The title "Arthashastra" is often translated to "the science of politics", but the book Arthashastra has a broader scope. It includes books on the nature of government, law, civil and criminal court systems, ethics, economics, markets and trade, the methods for screening ministers, diplomacy, theories on war, nature of peace, and the duties and obligations of a king. The text incorporates Hindu philosophy, includes ancient economic and cultural details on agriculture, mineralogy, mining and metals, animal husbandry, medicine, forests and wildlife.
The Arthashastra explores issues of social welfare, the collective ethics that hold a society together, advising the king that in times and in areas devastated by famine, epidemic and such acts of nature, or by war, he should initiate public projects such as creating irrigation waterways and building forts around major strategic holdings and towns and exempt taxes on those affected. The text was influential on other Hindu texts that followed, such as the sections on king, governance and legal procedures included in Manusmriti.
The text was considered lost by colonial era scholars, until a manuscript was discovered in 1905. A copy of the Arthashastra in Sanskrit, written on palm leaves, was presented by a Tamil Brahmin from Tanjore to the newly opened Mysore Oriental Library headed by Benjamin Lewis Rice. The text was identified by the librarian Rudrapatnam Shamasastry as the Arthashastra. During 1905-1909, Shamasastry published English translations of the text in installments, in journals Indian Antiquary and Mysore Review.
During 1923-1924, Julius Jolly and Richard Schmidt published a new edition of the text, which was based on a Malayalam script manuscript in the Bavarian State Library. In the 1950s, fragmented sections of a north Indian version of Arthashastra were discovered in form of a Devanagari manuscript in a Jain library in Patan, Gujarat. A new edition based on this manuscript was published by Muni Jina Vijay in 1959. In 1960, R. P. Kangle published a critical edition of the text, based on all the available manuscripts. Numerous translations and interpretations of the text have been published since then.
The text is an ancient treatise written in 1st millennium BCE Sanskrit, coded, dense and can be interpreted in many ways, with English and Sanskrit being grammatically and syntactically different languages. It has been called, by Patrick Olivelle—whose translation was published in 2013 by Oxford University Press—as the "most difficult translation project I have ever undertaken", parts of the text are still opaque after a century of modern scholarship, and the translation of Kautilya's masterpiece intrigue and political text remains unsatisfactory.
The authorship and date of writing are unknown, and there is evidence that the surviving manuscripts are not original and have been modified in their history but were most likely completed in the available form between 2nd-century BCE to 3rd-century CE. Olivelle states that the surviving manuscripts of the Arthashastra are the product of a transmission that has involved at least three major overlapping divisions or layers, which together consist of 15 books, 150 chapters and 180 topics. The first chapter of the first book is an ancient table of contents, while the last chapter of the last book is a short 73 verse epilogue asserting that all thirty two Yukti – elements of correct reasoning methods – were deployed to create the text.
A notable structure of the treatise is that while all chapters are primarily prose, each transitions into a poetic verse towards its end, as a marker, a style that is found in many ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts where the changing poetic meter or style of writing is used as a syntax code to silently signal that the chapter or section is ending. All 150 chapters of the text also end with a colophon stating the title of the book it belongs in, the topics contained in that book (like an index), the total number of titles in the book and the books in the text. Finally, the Arthashastra text numbers it 180 topics consecutively, and does not restart from one when a new chapter or a new book starts.
The division into 15, 150 and 180 of books, chapters and topics respectively was probably not accidental, states Olivelle, because ancient authors of major Hindu texts favor certain numbers, such as 18 Parvas in the epic Mahabharata. The largest book is the second, with 1,285 sentences, while the smallest is eleventh, with 56 sentences. The entire book has about 5,300 sentences on politics, governance, welfare, economics, protecting key officials and king, gathering intelligence about hostile states, forming strategic alliances, and conduct of war, exclusive of its table of contents and the last epilogue-style book.
Stylistic differences within some sections of the surviving manuscripts suggest that it likely includes the work of several authors over the centuries. There is no doubt, states Olivelle, that "revisions, errors, additions and perhaps even subtractions have occurred" in Arthashastra since its final redaction in 300 CE or earlier.
Three names for the text's author are used in various historical sources:
Olivelle states that the oldest layer of text, the "sources of the Kauṭilya", dates from the period 150 BCE – 50 CE. The next phase of the work's evolution, the "Kauṭilya Recension", can be dated to the period 50–125 CE. Finally, the "Śāstric Redaction" (i.e., the text as we have it today) is dated period 175–300 CE.
The author of Arthashastra uses the term gramakuta to describe a village official or chief, which, according to Thomas Burrow, suggests that he was a native of the region that encompasses present-day Gujarat and northern Maharashtra. Other evidences also support this theory: the text mentions that the shadow of a sundial disappears at noon during the month of Ashadha (June-July), and that the day and night are equal during the months of Chaitra (March-April) and Ashvayuja (September-October). This is possible only in the areas lying along the Tropic of Cancer, which passes through central India, from Gujarat in the west to Bengal in the east.
The author of the text appears to be most familiar with the historical regions of Avanti and Ashmaka, which included parts of present-day Gujarat and Maharashtra. He provides precise annual rainfall figures for these historical regions in the text. Plus, he shows familiarity with sea-trade, which can be explained by the existence of ancient sea ports such as Sopara in the Gujarat-Maharashtra region. Lastly, the gotra name Kauṭilya is still found in Maharashtra.
Different scholars have translated the word "arthashastra" in different ways.
Artha (prosperity, wealth, purpose, meaning, economic security) is one of the four aims of human life in Hinduism (Puruṣārtha), the others being dharma (laws, duties, rights, virtues, right way of living), kama (pleasure, emotions, sex) and moksha (spiritual liberation). Śāstra is the Sanskrit word for "rules" or "science".
Arthashastra is divided into 15 book titles, 150 chapters and 180 topics, as follows:
|Senapati||Chief, armed forces||Parishad||Council|
|Nagarika||Town manager||Pauravya vaharika||City overseer|
|Antapala||Frontier commander||Antar vimsaka||Head, guards|
|Dauvarika||Chief guard||Gopa||Revenue officer|
The ancient Sanskrit text opens, in chapter 2 of Book 1 (the first chapter is table of contents), by acknowledging that there are a number of extant schools with different theories on proper and necessary number of fields of knowledge, and asserts they all agree that the science of government is one of those fields. It lists the school of Brihaspati, the school of Usanas, the school of Manu and itself as the school of Kautilya as examples.
The school of Usanas asserts, states the text, that there is only one necessary knowledge, the science of government because no other science can start or survive without it. The school of Brihaspati asserts, according to Arthashastra, that there are only two fields of knowledge, the science of government and the science of economics (Varta[note 1] of agriculture, cattle and trade) because all other sciences are intellectual and mere flowering of the temporal life of man. The school of Manu asserts, states Arthashastra, that there are three fields of knowledge, the Vedas, the science of government and the science of economics (Varta of agriculture, cattle and trade) because these three support each other, and all other sciences are special branch of the Vedas.
The Arthashastra then posits its own theory that there are four necessary fields of knowledge, the Vedas, the Anvikshaki (philosophy of Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata),[note 2] the science of government and the science of economics (Varta of agriculture, cattle and trade). It is from these four that all other knowledge, wealth and human prosperity is derived. The Kautilya text thereafter asserts that it is the Vedas that discuss what is Dharma (right, moral, ethical) and what is Adharma (wrong, immoral, unethical), it is the Varta that explain what creates wealth and what destroys wealth, it is the science of government that illuminates what is Nyaya (justice, expedient, proper) and Anyaya (unjust, inexpedient, improper), and that it is Anvishaki (philosophy) that is the light of these sciences, as well as the source of all knowledge, the guide to virtues, and the means to all kinds of acts. He says of government in general:
Without government, rises disorder as in the Matsya nyayamud bhavayati (proverb on law of fishes). In the absence of governance, the strong will swallow the weak. In the presence of governance, the weak resists the strong.
The Raja-rishi has self-control and does not fall for the temptations of the senses, he learns continuously and cultivates his thoughts, he avoids false and flattering advisors and instead associates with the true and accomplished elders, he is genuinely promoting the security and welfare of his people, he enriches and empowers his people, he practices ahimsa (non-violence against all living beings), he lives a simple life and avoids harmful people or activities, he keeps away from another's wife nor craves for other people's property. The greatest enemies of a king are not others, but are these six: lust, anger, greed, conceit, arrogance and foolhardiness. A just king gains the loyalty of his people not because he is king, but because he is just.
Book 1 and Book 2 of the text discusses how the crown prince should be trained and how the king himself should continue learning, selecting his key Mantri (ministers), officials, administration, staffing of the court personnel, magistrates and judges.
Topic 2 of the Arthashastra, or chapter 5 of Book 1, is dedicated to the continuous training and development of the king, where the text advises that he maintain a counsel of elders, from each field of various sciences, whose accomplishments he knows and respects. Topic 4 of the text describes the process of selecting the ministers and key officials, which it states must be based on king's personal knowledge of their honesty and capacity. Kautilya first lists various alternate different opinions among extant scholars on how key government officials should be selected, with Bharadvaja suggesting honesty and knowledge be the screen for selection, Kaunapadanta suggesting that heredity be favored, Visalaksha suggesting that king should hire those whose weaknesses he can exploit, Parasara cautioning against hiring vulnerable people because they will try to find king's vulnerability to exploit him instead, and yet another who insists that experience and not theoretical qualification be primary selection criterion.
Kautilya, after describing the conflicting views on how to select officials, asserts that a king should select his Amatyah (ministers and high officials) based on the capacity to perform that they have shown in their past work, the character and their values that is accordance with the role. The Amatyah, states Arthashastra, must be those with following Amatya-sampat: well trained, with foresight, with strong memory, bold, well spoken, enthusiastic, excellence in their field of expertise, learned in theoretical and practical knowledge, pure of character, of good health, kind and philanthropic, free from procrastination, free from ficklemindedness, free from hate, free from enmity, free from anger, and dedicated to dharma. Those who lack one or a few of these characteristics must be considered for middle or lower positions in the administration, working under the supervision of more senior officials. The text describes tests to screen for the various Amatya-sampat.
The Arthashastra, in Topic 6, describes checks and continuous measurement, in secret, of the integrity and lack of integrity of all ministers and high officials in the kingdom. Those officials who lack integrity must be arrested. Those who are unrighteous, should not work in civil and criminal courts. Those who lack integrity in financial matters or fall for the lure of money must not be in revenue collection or treasury, states the text, and those who lack integrity in sexual relationships must not be appointed to Vihara services (pleasure grounds). The highest level ministers must have been tested and have successfully demonstrated integrity in all situations and all types of allurements.
Chapter 9 of Book 1 suggests the king to maintain a council and a Purohit (chaplain, spiritual guide) for his personal counsel. The Purohit, claims the text, must be one who is well educated in the Vedas and its six Angas.
The Arthashastra, in Topic 109, Book 7 lists the causes of disaffection, lack of motivation and increase in economic distress among people. It opens by stating that wherever "good people are snubbed, and evil people are embraced" distress increases. Wherever officials or people initiate unprecedented violence in acts or words, wherever there is unrighteous acts of violence, disaffection grows. When the king rejects the Dharma, that is "does what ought not to be done, does not do what ought to be done, does not give what ought to be given, and gives what ought not to be given", the king causes people to worry and dislike him.
Anywhere, states Arthashastra in verse 7.5.22, where people are fined or punished or harassed when they ought not to be harassed, where those that should be punished are not punished, where those people are apprehended when they ought not be, where those who are not apprehended when they ought to, the king and his officials cause distress and disaffection. When officials engage in thievery, instead of providing protection against robbers, the people are impoverished, they lose respect and become disaffected.
A state, asserts Arthashastra text in verses 7.5.24 - 7.5.25, where courageous activity is denigrated, quality of accomplishments are disparaged, pioneers are harmed, honorable men are dishonored, where deserving people are not rewarded but instead favoritism and falsehood is, that is where people lack motivation, are distressed, become upset and disloyal.
In verse 7.5.33, the ancient text remarks that general impoverishment relating to food and survival money destroys everything, while other types of impoverishment can be addressed with grants of grain and money.
Book 3 of the Arthashastra, states Trautmann, is dedicated to civil law, including sections relating to economic relations of employer and employee, partnerships, sellers and buyers. Book 4 is a treatise on criminal law, where the king or officials acting on his behalf, take the initiative and start the judicial process against acts of crime, because the crime is felt to be a wrong against the people of the state. This system, states Trautman is similar to European system of criminal law, rather than other historic legal system, because in the European (and Arthashastra) system it is the state that initiates judicial process in cases that fall under criminal statutes, while in the latter systems the aggrieved party initiates a claim in the case of murder, rape, bodily injury among others.
The ancient text stipulates that the courts have a panel of three pradeshtri (magistrates) for handling criminal cases, and this panel is different, separate and independent of the panel of judges of civil court system it specifies for a Hindu kingdom. The text lays out that just punishment is one that is in proportion to the crime in many sections starting with chapter 4 of Book 1, and repeatedly uses this principle in specifying punishments, for example in Topic 79, that is chapter 2 of Book 4. Economic crimes such as conspiracy by a group of traders or artisans is to be, states the Arthashastra, punished with much larger and punitive collective fine than those individually, as conspiracy causes systematic damage to the well being of the people.
The text discusses marriage and consent laws in Books 3 and 4. It asserts, in chapter 4.2, that a girl may marry any man she wishes,[note 3][note 4] three years after her first menstruation, provided that she does not take her parent's property or ornaments received by her before the marriage. However, if she marries a man her father arranges or approves of, she has the right to take the ornaments with her.
In chapter 3.4, the text gives the right to a woman that she may remarry anyone if she wants to, if she has been abandoned by the man she was betrothed to, if she does not hear back from him for three menstrual periods, or if she does hear back and has waited for seven menses.
The chapter 2 of Book 3 of Arthashastra legally recognizes eight types of marriage. The bride is given the maximum property inheritance rights when the parents select the groom and the girl consents to the selection (Brahma marriage), and minimal if bride and groom marry secretly as lovers (Gandharva marriage) without the approval of her father and her mother. However, in cases of Gandharva marriage (love), she is given more rights than she has in Brahma marriage (arranged), if the husband uses the property she owns or has created, with husband required to repay her with interest when she demands.
Arthashastra states that forests be protected and recommends that the state treasury be used to feed animals such as horses and elephants that are too old for work, sick or injured. However, Kautilya also recommends that wildlife that is damaging crops should be restrained with state resources. In Topic 19, chapter 2, the text suggests:
The king should grant exemption [from taxes]
to a region devastated by an enemy king or tribe,
to a region beleaguered by sickness or famine.
He should safeguard agriculture
when it is stressed by the hardships of fines, forced labor, taxes, and animal herds
when they are harassed by thieves, vicious animals, poison, crocodiles or sickness
He should keep trade routes [roads] clear
when they are oppressed by anyone, including his officers, robbers or frontier commanders
when they are worn out by farm animals
The king should protect produce, forests, elephants forests, reservoirs and mines
established in the past and also set up new ones.
In topic 35, the text recommends that the "Superintendent of Forest Produce" appointed by the state for each forest zone be responsible for maintaining the health of the forest, protecting forests to assist wildlife such as elephants (hastivana), but also producing forest products to satisfy economic needs, products such as Teak, Palmyra, Mimosa, Sissu, Kauki, Sirisha, Catechu, Latifolia, Arjuna, Tilaka, Tinisa, Sal, Robesta, Pinus, Somavalka, Dhava, Birch, bamboo, hemp, Balbaja (used for ropes), Munja, fodder, firewood, bulbous roots and fruits for medicine, flowers. The Arthashastra also reveals that the Mauryas designated specific forests to protect supplies of timber, as well as lions and tigers, for skins.
The Arthashastra dedicates Topics 30 through 47 discussing the role of government in setting up mines and factories, gold and precious stone workshops, commodities, forest produce, armory, standards for balances and weight measures, standards for length and time measures, customs, agriculture, liquor, abattoirs and courtesans, shipping, domesticated animals such as cattle, horses and elephants along with animal welfare when they are injured or too old, pasture land, military preparedness and intelligence gathering operations of the state.
The Arthashastra dedicates many chapters on the need, methods and goals of secret service, and how to build then use a network of spies that work for the state. The spies should be trained to adopt roles and guises, to use coded language to transmit information, and be rewarded by their performance and the results they achieve, states the text.[note 5]
The roles and guises recommended for Vyanjana (appearance) agents by the Arthashastra include ascetics, forest hermits, mendicants, cooks, merchants, doctors, astrologers, consumer householders, entertainers, dancers, female agents and others. It suggests that members from these professions should be sought to serve for the secret service. A prudent state, states the text, must expect that its enemies seek information and are spying inside its territory and spreading propaganda, and therefore it must train and reward double agents to gain identity about such hostile intelligence operations.
The goals of the secret service, in Arthashastra, was to test the integrity of government officials, spy on cartels and population for conspiracy, to monitor hostile kingdoms suspected of preparing for war or in war against the state, to check spying and propaganda wars by hostile states, to destabilize enemy states, to get rid of troublesome powerful people who could not be challenged openly. The spy operations and its targets, states verse 5.2.69 of Arthashastra, should be pursued "with respect to traitors and unrighteous people, not with respect to others".
The Arthashastra dedicates Book 7 and 10 to war, and considers numerous scenarios and reasons for war. It classifies war into three broad types – open war, covert war and silent war. It then dedicates chapters to defining each type of war, how to engage in these wars and how to detect that one is a target of covert or silent types of war. The text cautions that the king should know the progress he expects to make, when considering the choice between waging war and pursuing peace. The text asserts:
When the degree of progress is the same in pursuing peace and waging war, peace is to be preferred. For, in war, there are disadvantages such as losses, expenses and absence from home.
Kautilya, in the Arthashastra, suggests that the state must always be adequately fortified, its armed forces prepared and resourced to defend itself against acts of war. Kautilya favors peace over war, because he asserts that in most situations, peace is more conducive to creation of wealth, prosperity and security of the people. Arthashastra defines the value of peace and the term peace, states Brekke, as "effort to achieve the results of work undertaken is industry, and absence of disturbance to the enjoyment of the results achieved from work is peace".
All means to win a war are appropriate in the Arthashastra, including assassination of enemy leaders, sowing discord in its leadership, engagement of covert men and women in the pursuit of military objectives and as weapons of war, deployment of accepted superstitions and propaganda to bolster one's own troops or to demoralize enemy soldiers, as well as open hostilities by deploying kingdom's armed forces. After success in a war by the victorious just and noble state, the text argues for humane treatment of conquered soldiers and subjects.
The Arthashastra theories are similar with some and in contrast to other alternate theories on war and peace in the ancient Indian tradition. For example, states Brekke, the legends in Hindu epics preach heroism qua heroism which is in contrast to Kautilya suggestion of prudence and never forgetting the four Hindu goals of human life, while Kamandaki's Nitisara, which is similar to Kautilya's Arthashastra, is among other Hindu classics on statecraft and foreign policy that suggest prudence, engagement and diplomacy, peace is preferable and must be sought, and yet prepared to excel and win war if one is forced to.
The Arthashastra discusses a mixed economy, where private enterprise and state enterprise frequently competed side by side, in agriculture, animal husbandry, forest produce, mining, manufacturing and trade. However, royal statutes and officials regulated private economic activities, some economic activity was the monopoly of the state, and a superintendent oversaw that both private and state owned enterprises followed the same regulations. The private enterprises were taxed. Mines were state owned, but leased to private parties for operations, according to chapter 2.12 of the text. The Arthashastra states that protecting the consumer must be an important priority for the officials of the kingdom.
Arthashastra stipulates restraint on taxes imposed, fairness, the amounts and how tax increases should is implemented. Further, state Waldauer et al., the text suggests that the tax should be "convenient to pay, easy to calculate, inexpensive to administer, equitable and non-distortive, and not inhibit growth. Fair taxes build popular support for the king, states the text, and some manufacturers and artisans, such as those of textiles, were subject to a flat tax. The Arthashastra states that taxes should only be collected from ripened economic activity, and should not be collected from early, unripe stages of economic activity. Historian of economic thought Joseph Spengler notes:
Kautilya's discussion of taxation and expenditure gave expression to three Indian principles: taxing power [of state] is limited; taxation should not be felt to be heavy or exclusive [discriminatory]; tax increases should be graduated.
Agriculture on privately owned land was taxed at the rate of 16.67%, but the tax was exempted in cases of famine, epidemic, and settlement into new pastures previously uncultivated and if damaged during a war. New public projects such as irrigation and water works were exempt from taxes for five years, and major renovations to ruined or abandoned water works were granted tax exemption for four years. Temple and gurukul lands were exempt from taxes, fines or penalties. Trade into and outside the kingdom's borders was subject to toll fees or duties. Taxes varied between 10% to 25% on industrialists and businessmen, and it could be paid in kind (produce), through labor, or in cash.
The text has been translated and interpreted by Shamashastry, Kangle, Trautmann and many others. Recent translations or interpretations include those of Patrick Olivelle and McClish.
Scholars state that the Arthashastra was influential in Asian history. Its ideas helped create one of the largest empires in South Asia, stretching from the borders of Persia to Bengal on the other side of the Indian subcontinent, with its capital Pataliputra twice as large as Rome under Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Kautilya's patron Chandragupta Maurya consolidated an empire which was inherited by his son Bindusara and then his grandson Ashoka. With the progressive secularization of society, and with the governance-related innovations contemplated by the Arthashastra, India was "prepared for the reception of the great moral transformation ushered in by Ashoka", and the spread of Buddhist, Hindu and other ideas across South Asia, East Asia and southeast Asia.
In 1919, a few years after the newly discovered Arthashastra manuscript's translation was first published, Max Weber stated:
Truly radical "Machiavellianism", in the popular sense of that word, is classically expressed in Indian literature in the Arthashastra of Kautilya (written long before the birth of Christ, ostensibly in the time of Chandragupta): compared to it, Machiavelli's The Prince is harmless.
More recent scholarship has disagreed with the characterization of Arthashastra as "Machiavellianism". In Machiavelli's The Prince, the king and his coterie are single-mindedly aimed at preserving the monarch's power for its own sake, states Paul Brians for example, but in the Arthashastra, the king is required "to benefit and protect his citizens, including the peasants". Kautilya asserts in Arthashastra that, "the ultimate source of the prosperity of the kingdom is its security and prosperity of its people", a view never mentioned in Machiavelli's text. The text advocates "land reform", states Brians, where land is taken from landowners and farmers who own land but do not grow anything for a long time, and given to poorer farmers who want to grow crops but do not own any land.
Arthashastra declares, in numerous occasions, the need for empowering the weak and poor in one's kingdom, a sentiment that is not found in Machiavelli; Arthashastra, states Brians, advises "the king shall provide the orphans, the aged, the infirm, the afflicted, and the helpless with maintenance [welfare support]. He shall also provide subsistence to helpless women when they are carrying and also to the children they give birth to". Elsewhere, the text values not just powerless human life, but even animal life and suggests in Book 2 that horses and elephants be given food, when they become incapacitated from old age, disease or after war.
Roger Boesche, who relied entirely on the 1969 translation by Kangle for his analysis of Arthashastra,[note 6] and who criticized an alternate 1992 translation by Rangarajan, has called the Arthashastra as "a great political book of the ancient world". He interprets that the 1st millennium BCE text is grounded more like the Soviet Union and China where the state envisions itself as driven by the welfare of the common good, but operates an extensive spy state and system of surveillance. This view has been challenged by Thomas Trautmann, who asserts that a free market and individual rights, albeit a regulated system, are proposed by Arthashastra. Boesche is not summarily critical and adds:
Kautilya's Arthashastra depicts a bureaucratic welfare state, in fact some kind of socialized monarchy, in which the central government administers the details of the economy for the common good...In addition, Kautilya offers a work of genius in matters of foreign policy and welfare, including key principles of international relations from a realist perspective and a discussion of when an army must use cruel violence and when it is more advantageous to be humane.
Scholars disagree on how to interpret the document. Kumud Mookerji states that the text may be a picture of actual conditions in Kautilya's times. In contrast, Sastri, as well as Romila Thapar, quotes Brians, caution that the text, regardless of which translation is considered, must be seen as a normative document of strategy and general administration under various circumstances, but not as description of existing conditions. Other scholars such as Burton Stein concur with Thapar and Sastri, however, Bhargava states that given Kautilya was the prime minister, one must expect that he implemented the ideas in the book.
Thomas Trautmann states that the Arthashastra in chapter 3.9 does recognize the concept of land ownership rights and other private property, and requires king to protect that right from seizure or abuse. This makes it unlike Soviet Union and China model of citizen's private property rights. There is no question, states Trautmann, that people had a power to buy and sell land. However, adds Trautmann, this does not mean that Kautilya was advocating a capitalistic free market economy. Kautilya requires that the land sale be staggered and grants certain buyers automatic "call rights", which is not free market. The Arthashastra states that if someone wants to sell land, the owner's kins, neighbors and creditors have first right of purchase in that order, and only if they do not wish to buy the land for a fair competitive price, others and strangers can bid to buy. Further, the price must be announced in front of witnesses, recorded and taxes paid, for the buy-sale arrangement to deemed recognized by the state. The "call rights" and staggered bid buying is not truly a free market, states Trautmann.
The text dedicates Book 3 and 4 to economic laws, and a court system to oversee and resolve economic, contracts and market-related disputes. The text also provides a system of appeal where three dharmastha (judges) consider contractual disputes between two parties, and considers profiteering and false claims to dupe customers a crime. The text, states Trautmann, thus anticipates market exchange and provides a framework for its functioning.
More recent scholarship presents a more nuanced reception for the text. Paul Brians states that the scope of the work is far broader than earlier much publicized perceptions indicate, and in the treatise can also be found compassion for the poor, for servants and slaves, and for women.
The text, states Sihag, is a treatise on how a state should pursue economic development and it emphasized "proper measurement of economic performance", and "the role of ethics, considering ethical values as the glue which binds society and promotes economic development". Kautilya in Arthashastra, writes Brians, "mixes the harsh pragmatism for which he is famed with compassion for the poor, for slaves, and for women. He reveals the imagination of a romancer in imagining all manner of scenarios which can hardly have been commonplace in real life".
India's former National Security Adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon, states: "Arthashastra is a serious manual on statecraft, on how to run a state, informed by a higher purpose, clear and precise in its prescriptions, the result of practical experience of running a state. It is not just a normative text but a realist description of the art of running a state". The text is useful, according to Menon, because in many ways "the world we face today is similar to the world that Kautilya operated in". He recommended reading of the book for broadening the vision on strategic issues.
Artha (; Sanskrit: अर्थ) is one of the four aims of human life in Indian philosophy. The word artha literally translates as "meaning, sense, goal, purpose or essence" depending on the context. Artha is also a broader concept in the scriptures of Hinduism. As a concept, it has multiple meanings, all of which imply "means of life", activities and resources that enable one to be in a state one wants to be in.Artha applies to both an individual and a government. In an individual's context, artha includes wealth, career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity. The proper pursuit of artha is considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism. At government level, artha includes social, legal, economic and worldly affairs. Proper Arthashastra is considered an important and necessary objective of government.In Hindu traditions, Artha is connected to the three other aspects and goals of human life: Dharma (virtuous, proper, moral life), Kama (pleasure, sensuality, emotional fulfillment) and Moksha (liberation, release, self-actualization). Together, these mutually non-exclusive four aims of life are called Puruṣārtha.Bhavabhuti
Bhavabhuti was an 8th-century scholar of India noted for his plays and poetry, written in Sanskrit. His plays are considered equivalent to the works of Kalidasa. Bhavbhuti was born in Padmapura, Vidarbha, in Gondia district, on Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh border.
His real name was Srikantha Nilakantha, and he was the son of Nilakantha and Jatukarni. He received his education at 'Padmapawaya', a place some 42 km South-West of Gwalior.
Paramhans Dnyananidhi is known to be his guru. He composed his historical plays at 'Kalpi', a place on banks of river Yamuna.
He is believed to have been the court poet of king Yashovarman of Kannauj. Kalhana, the 12th-century historian, places him in the entourage of the king, who was defeated by Lalitaditya Muktapida, king of Kashmir, in 736 AD.Chanakya
Chanakya (IAST: Cāṇakya, pronunciation ) was an ancient Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor. He is traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthashastra,
a text dated to roughly between the 2nd century BCE and the 3rd century CE.
As such, he is considered the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta Empire and not rediscovered until the early twentieth century.Chanakya assisted the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in his rise to power. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both emperors Chandragupta and his son Bindusara.Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta Maurya (reign: c. 321 – c. 297 BCE) was the founder of the Maurya Empire in ancient India.He was picked up, taught, and counselled by Chanakya, who is identified as the author of the Arthashastra. Chandragupta built one of the largest empires ever on the Indian subcontinent. According to Jain sources, he then renounced it all, and became a monk in the Jain tradition.Chandragupta is claimed, by the historic Jain texts, to have followed Jainism in his life, by first renouncing all his wealth and power, going away with Jaina monks into the Deccan region (now Karnataka), and ultimately performing Sallekhana – the Jain religious ritual of peacefully welcoming death by fasting.His grandson was emperor Ashoka, famous for his historic pillars and for his role in helping spread Buddhism outside of ancient India. Chandragupta's life and accomplishments are described in ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Greek texts, but they vary significantly in details from the Jaina accounts. Megasthenes served as a Greek ambassador in his court for four years.In Greek and Latin accounts, Chandragupta is known as Sandrokottos (Greek: Σανδροκόττος), Sandrakottos (Greek: Σανδράκοττος) and Androcottus (Greek: Ανδροκόττος).Chandragupta Maurya was a pivotal figure in the history of India. Prior to his consolidation of power, Alexander the Great had invaded the northwest Indian subcontinent, then abandoned further campaigning in 324 BCE, leaving a legacy of Indian subcontinental regions ruled by Indo-Greek and local rulers. The region was divided into Mahajanapadas, while the Nanda Empire dominated the Indo-Gangetic Plain.Chandragupta, with the counsel of his Chief Minister Chanakya (the Brahmin also known as Kautilya), created a new empire, applied the principles of statecraft, built a large army and continued expanding the boundaries of his empire. Greek rulers such as Seleucus I Nicator avoided war with him, entered into a marriage alliance instead, and retreated into Persia.Chandragupta's empire extended from Bengal to most of the Indian subcontinent, except the southernmost regions (now Tamil Nadu, Kerala and nearby) and Kalinga (now Odisha region).After unifying much of India, Chandragupta and Chanakya passed a series of major economic and political reforms. He established a strong central administration from Pataliputra (now Patna), patterned after Chanakya's text on governance and politics, the Arthashastra. Chandragupta's India was characterised by an efficient and highly organised structure. The empire built infrastructure such as irrigation, temples, mines and roads, leading to a strong economy. With internal and external trade thriving and agriculture flourishing, the empire built a large and trained permanent army to help expand and protect its boundaries. Chandragupta's reign, as well the dynasty that followed him, was an era when many religions thrived in India, with Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivika gaining prominence along with the Brahmanism traditions. A memorial to Chandragupta Maurya exists on the Chandragiri hill, along with a 7th-century hagiographic inscription, on one of the two hills in Shravanabelagola, Karnakata.Dasa
Dasa is a Sanskrit language term found in ancient Hindu texts, such as the Rigveda and Arthashastra. It usually means either "enemy" or "servant".A third usage, related to the second, is "servant of God", "devotee," "votary" or "one who has surrendered to God"; dasa may be a suffix of a given name to indicate a "servant" of a revered person or deity.In some contexts, dasa is interchangeable with the Sanskrit words dasyu and asura. Both of these terms have been translated into other languages as words equivalent to "demon", "harmful supernatural force", "slave", "servant" or "barbarian", depending on the context in which the word is used.Kamashastra
In Indian literature, Kāmashastra refers to the tradition of works on Kāma: Desire (love, erotic, sensual and sexual desire in this case). It therefore has a practical orientation, similar to that of Arthashastra, the tradition of texts on politics and government. Just as the latter instructs kings and ministers about government, Kāmashastra aims to instruct the townsman (nāgarika) in the way to attain enjoyment and fulfillment.
During the 8th century BC, Shvetaketu, son of Uddalaka, produced a work too vast to be accessible. A scholar called Babhravya, together with his group of disciples, produced a summary of Shvetaketu's summary, which nonetheless remained a huge and encyclopaedic tome. Between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC, several authors reproduced different parts of the Babhravya group's work in various specialist treatises. Among the authors, those whose names are known are Charayana, Ghotakamukha, Gonardiya, Gonikaputra, Suvarnanabha, and Dattaka.
However, the oldest available text on this subject is the Kama Sutra ascribed to Vātsyāyana who is often erroneously called "Mallanaga Vātsyāyana". Yashodhara, in his commentary on the Kama Sutra, attributes the origin of erotic science to Mallanaga, the "prophet of the Asuras", implying that the Kama Sutra originated in prehistoric times. The attribution of the name "Mallanaga" to Vātsyāyana is due to the confusion of his role as editor of the Kama Sutra with the role of the mythical creator of erotic science. Vātsyāyana's birth date is not accurately known, but he must have lived earlier than the 7th century since he is referred to by Subandhu in his poem Vāsavadattā. On the other hand, Vātsyāyana must have been familiar with the Arthashastra of Kautilya. Vātsyāyana refers to and quotes a number of texts on this subject, which unfortunately have been lost.
Following Vātsyāyana, a number of authors wrote on Kāmashastra, some writing independent manuals of erotics, while others commented on Vātsyāyana. Later well-known works include Kokkaka's Ratirahasya (13th century) and Anangaranga of Kalyanamalla (16th century). The most well-known commentator on Vātsyāyana is Jayamangala (13th century).Kambojas
The Kambojas were a tribe of Iron Age India, frequently mentioned in Sanskrit and Pali literature. The tribe coalesced to become one of the solasa (sixteen) Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) of ancient India mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya.Kos (unit)
The kos (Sanskrit: कोस), also spelled Kosh, Krosh, krosha and Koss, is an ancient Indian subcontinental Arthashastra standard unit of distance, since at least 4 BCE. A kos is about 3.00 km or 1.91 miles.Maurya Empire
The Maurya Empire was a geographically-extensive Iron Age historical power based in Magadha and founded by Chandragupta Maurya which dominated the Indian subcontinent between 322 and 187 BCE. Comprising the majority of South Asia, the Maurya Empire was centralized by the conquest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, and its capital city was located at Pataliputra (modern Patna). The empire was the largest political entity to have existed in the Indian subcontinent, spanning over 5 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles) at its zenith under Ashoka.
Chandragupta Maurya raised an army, with the assistance of Chanakya (also known as Kauṭilya), and overthrew the Nanda Empire in c. 322 BCE. Chandragupta rapidly expanded his power westwards across central and western India by conquering the satraps left by Alexander the Great, and by 317 BCE the empire had fully occupied northwestern India. The Mauryan Empire then defeated Seleucus I, a diadochus and founder of the Seleucid Empire during the Seleucid–Mauryan war, thus acquiring territory west of the Indus River.At its greatest extent, the empire stretched along the natural boundary of the Himalayas, to the east into Assam, to the west into Balochistan (southwest Pakistan and southeast Iran) and the Hindu Kush mountains of what is now eastern Afghanistan. The dynasty expanded into India's southern regions by the reign of the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded Kalinga (modern Odisha), until it was conquered by Ashoka. It declined for about 50 years after Ashoka's rule, and dissolved in 185 BCE with the foundation of the Shunga dynasty in Magadha.
Under Chandragupta Maurya and his successors, internal and external trade, agriculture, and economic activities all thrived and expanded across South Asia due to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration, and security. The Maurya dynasty built the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia's oldest and longest trade networks, connecting the Indian subcontinent with Central Asia. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of centralized rule under Ashoka. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased socio-religious reform across South Asia, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism and sponsorship of Buddhist missionaries allowed for the expansion of that faith into Sri Lanka, northwest India, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Egypt, and Hellenistic Europe.The population of the empire has been estimated to be about 50–60 million, making the Mauryan Empire one of the most populous empires of antiquity. Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW). The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath is the national emblem of the modern Republic of India.Oriental Research Institute Mysore
Formerly known as the Oriental Library, the Oriental Research Institute (ORI) at Mysore, India, is a research institute which collects, exhibits, edits, and publishes rare manuscripts written in various scripts like Devanagari (Sanskrit), Brahmic (Kannada), Nandinagari (Sanskrit), Grantha, Malayalam, Tigalari, etc.
The Oriental Library was started in 1891 under the patronage of Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar X. It is located at the northern end of Krishnaraja Boulevard (adjacently opposite to Mysore University's Crawford Hall), in the architecturally attractive Jubilee Hall built in 1887 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria's accession to the British throne. It was a part of the Department of Education until 1916, in which year it became part of the newly established University of Mysore. The Oriental Library was renamed as the Oriental Research Institute in 1943.Porul (Kural book)
The Book of Poruḷ, in full Poruṭpāl (Tamil: பொருட்பால், literally, “division of wealth or polity”), also known as the Book of Wealth, Book of Polity, the Second Book or Book Two in translated versions, is the second of the three books or parts of the Kural literature, authored by the ancient Indian philosopher Valluvar. Written in High Tamil distich form, it has 70 chapters each containing 10 kurals or couplets, making a total of 700 couplets all dealing with statecraft. Poruḷ, which means both 'wealth' and 'meaning', correlates with the second of the four ancient Indian values of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. The Book of Poruḷ deals with polity, or virtues of an individual with respect to the surroundings, including the stately qualities of administration, wisdom, prudence, nobility, diplomacy, citizenship, geniality, industry, chastity, sobriety and teetotalism, that is expected of every individual, keeping aṟam or dharma as the base.R. Shamasastry
Rudrapatna Shamasastry FRAS (1868–1944) was a Sanskrit scholar and librarian at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore. He re-discovered and published the Arthashastra, an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy, and military strategy.Rajamandala
The Rajamandala (or Raja-mandala meaning "circle of kings"; मण्डल, mandala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle") was formulated by the Indian author Kautilya in his work on politics, the Arthashastra (written between 4th century BC and 2nd century AD). It describes circles of friendly and enemy states surrounding the king's (raja) state.Second Sangam
The Second Sangam period or Middle Sangam Period (iṭaicaṅkam), or the Second Academy, was a legendary period in the history of Ancient Tamil land said to be the foremost of Tamil Sangams, known in the Tamil language as கூடல் (kooṭal) or 'gathering' as Sangam is derived from Sanskrit. It was the second of the three Tamil Sangams of Classical Tamil literature.Shastra
Shastra (शास्त्र, IAST: Śāstra, IPA: [ʃaːst̪rə]) is a Sanskrit word that means "precept, rules, manual, compendium, book or treatise" in a general sense. The word is generally used as a suffix in the Indian literature context, for technical or specialized knowledge in a defined area of practice.Shastra has a similar meaning to English -logy, e.g. ecology, psychology, meaning scientific and basic knowledge on particular subject. Examples in terms of modern neologisms include bhautikashastra "physics", rasayanashastra "chemistry", jīvashāstra "biology", vastushastra "architectural science", shilpashastra "science of mechanical arts and sculpture", arthashastra "science of politics, economics" and nitishastra "compendium of ethics or right policy".
In Western literature, Shastra is sometimes spelled as Sastra, reflecting a misunderstanding of the IPA symbol ‘ś’, which corresponds to the English ‘sh’.Shudra
Shudra or Shoodra is the fourth varna, or one of the four social categories found in the texts of Hinduism. Various sources translate it into English as a caste, or alternatively as a social class. It is the lowest rank of the four varnas.The word Shudra appears only once in the Rig veda but is found in other Hindu texts such as the Manusmriti, Arthashastra and Dharmashastras. Theoretically, Shudras have constituted the hereditary labouring class serving others. In some cases, they participated in the coronation of kings, or were ministers and kings according to early Indian texts.The enemy of my enemy is my friend
The enemy of my enemy is my friend is an ancient proverb which suggests that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy. The earliest known expression of this concept is found in a Sanskrit treatise on statecraft, the Arthashastra, which dates to around the 4th century BC, while the first recorded use of the current English version came in 1884.Thomas Trautmann
Thomas R. Trautmann is an American historian and Professor Emeritus of History and Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He is considered one of the world's leading experts on the Arthashastra, the ancient Hindu text on kinship. Trautmann has mentored many students during his professorship at the University of Michigan. He is widely considered to be one of the most well-cited historians of our time. He has written an accessible introduction to the Arthashastra, which was a part of The Story of Indian Business Series by best-selling author, Gurcharan Das. Trautmann's work has been credited with illuminating the underlying economic philosophy that governed ancient Indian kinship. Das has pointed to the invaluable lessons this work provides for the modern age.
Trautmann has served as director of the University of Michigan History Department, as well as head of the Center for South Asian Studies. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of London. His studies focus on Ancient India and other subjects.Timeline of Hindu texts
Hindu scriptures are classified into two parts: shruti or śruti, meaning what has been heard and smriti, or smṛti, meaning what has been retained or remembered. The Vedas are classified under śruti.
The following list provides a somewhat common set of reconstructed dates for the terminus ante quem of Hindu texts, by title or genre. All dates here given ought to be regarded as roughly approximate, subject to further revision, and generally as relying for their validity on highly inferential methods and standards of evidence.
Samhita, Brahmana layers of the VedasRigveda, 1800 – 1100 BC
Samaveda, 1200 - 800 BCE
Yajurveda, 1100 - 800 BCE
Atharvaveda, 1000 - 800 BCEThe early Upanishads were composed over 900 - 300 BC.
OthersMahabharata, 400 BC
Bhagavad Gita, 400 BC
Ramayana, 400 BC
Mimamsa Sutra, 300-200 BC
Arthashastra, 400 BC -
Nyaya Sutra, 2nd century BCE
Vaiseshika Sutra, 2nd century BCE
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 100 BCE - 500 CE
Brahma Sutra, 500 BC
Puranas, 100 BC
Shiva Sutras, 120 BC
Abhinavabharati, 950 - 1020 CE
Yoga Vasistha, 750 CE