The Arthashastra (IAST: Arthaśāstra) is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the names 'Kauṭilya' and 'Vishnugupta' (Viṣṇugupta), both names that are traditionally identified with Chanakya (Cāṇakya) (c. 350–283 BCE), who was a scholar at Takshashila and the teacher and guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire. The text was influential until the 12th century, when it disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1904 by R. Shamasastry, who published it in 1909. The first English translation was published in 1915.
Roger Boesche describes the Arthaśāstra as "a book of political realism, a book analysing how the political world does work and not very often stating how it ought to work, a book that frequently discloses to a king what calculating and sometimes brutal measures he must carry out to preserve the state and the common good."
Centrally, Arthaśāstra argues how in an autocracy an efficient and solid economy can be managed. It discusses the ethics of economics and the duties and obligations of a king. The scope of Arthaśāstra is, however, far wider than statecraft, and it offers an outline of the entire legal and bureaucratic framework for administering a kingdom, with a wealth of descriptive cultural detail on topics such as mineralogy, mining and metals, agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine and the use of wildlife. The Arthaśāstra also focuses on issues of welfare (for instance, redistribution of wealth during a famine) and the collective ethics that hold a society together.
- 1 Date and authorship
- 2 Translation of the title
- 3 Comparison to Machiavelli
- 4 Books of Arthashastra
- 5 The Rajarshi
- 6 Maintenance of law and order
- 7 Wildlife and forests
- 8 Economic ideas
- 9 Recognition
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Recent scholarship by Olivelle summarizes a century of debate on these complex topics, and brings important new evidence on several critical points to the discussion. In summary, Olivelle argues that the Arthaśāstra as we have it in the surviving manuscripts today is the product of a complex transmission that has involved at least three major phases. Olivelle gives evidence for believing that the oldest layer of material, 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 datable to the period 175--300 CE.
Similarly, many authors have contributed to the Arthaśāstra over the centuries. The identification of Kauṭilya with the Mauryan minister Cāṇakya did not become common until texts dating to after the Gupta period, and only after the production of the Śāstric Redaction.
Detailed examination of astronomical data and place-names suggests that the work was composed in present-day Gujarat and northern Maharashtra.
Translation of the title
Different scholars have translated the word "arthaśāstra" in different ways.
- R.P. Kangle – "science of politics," a treatise to help a king in "the acquisition and protection of the earth."
- A.L. Basham – a "treatise on polity"
- D.D. Kosambi – "science of material gain"
- G.P. Singh – "science of polity"
- Roger Boesche – "science of political economy"
Artha (prosperity) is one of the four aims of human life in Hinduism, the others being dharma (law, religious duty), kama (pleasure) and moksha (spiritual liberation). Śāstra is the Sanskrit word for "rules" or "science".
Comparison to Machiavelli
Is there any other book that talks so openly about when using violence is justified? When assassinating an enemy is useful? When killing domestic opponents is wise? How one uses secret agents? When one needs to sacrifice one's own secret agent? How the king can use women and children as spies and even assassins? When a nation should violate a treaty and invade its neighbor? Kautilya — and to my knowledge only Kautilya — addresses all those questions. In what cases must a king spy on his own people? How should a king test his ministers, even his own family members, to see if they are worthy of trust? When must a king kill a prince, his own son, who is heir to the throne? How does one protect a king from poison? What precautions must a king take against assassination by one's own wife? When is it appropriate to arrest a troublemaker on suspicion alone? When is torture justified? At some point, every reader wonders: Is there not one question that Kautilya found immoral, too terrible to ask in a book? No, not one. And this is what brings a frightful chill. But this is also why Kautilya was the first great, unrelenting political realist.—Boesche (2002, p. 1)
Max Weber observed
Truly radical 'Machiavellianism', in the popular sense of that word, is classically expressed in Indian literature in the Arthasastra of Kautilya (written long before the birth of Christ, ostensibly in the time of Chandragupta): compared to it, Machiavelli’s The Prince is harmless.
However, these aspects form just one of the 15 books that comprise the 'Arthaśāstra'. The scope of the work is far broader than popular perceptions indicate, and in the treatise can also be found compassion for the poor, for servants and slaves, and for women. For instance, Kautilya advocates what is now known as land reform, and elsewhere ensures the protection of the chastity of female servants or prisoners. Significant portions of the book also cover the role of dharma, welfare of a kingdom's subjects and alleviating hardship in times of disaster, such as famine.
Books of Arthashastra
Arthashastra is divided into 15 books:
- Concerning Discipline; Regarding Discipline about the Economic Feedback.
- The Duties of Government Superintendents
- Concerning Law
- The Removal of Thorns
- The Conduct of Courtiers
- The Source of Sovereign States
- The End of the Six-Fold Policy
- Concerning Vices and Calamities
- The Work of an Invader
- Relating to War
- The Conduct of Corporations
- Concerning a Powerful Enemy
- Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress
- Secret Means
- The Plan of a Treatise
Arthashastra deals in detail with the qualities and disciplines required for a Rajarshi – a wise and virtuous king.
- "In the happiness of his subjects lies the king's happiness, in their welfare his welfare. He shall not consider as good only that which pleases him but treat as beneficial to him whatever pleases his subjects" – Kautilya.
According to Kautilya, a Rajarshi is one who:
- Has self-control, having conquered the inimical temptations of the senses;
- Cultivates the intellect by association with elders;
- Keeps his eyes open through spies;
- Is ever active in promoting the security and welfare of the people;
- Ensures the observance (by the people) of their dharma by authority and example;
- Improves his own discipline by (continuing his) learning in all branches of knowledge; and
- Endears himself to his people by enriching them and doing good to them.
Such a disciplined king should: –
- Keep away from another's wife;
- Not covet another's property;
- Practice ahimsa (non-violence towards all living things);
- Avoid day dreaming, capriciousness, falsehood and extravagance; and
- Avoid association with harmful persons and indulging in (harmful) activities.
Kautilya says that artha (Sound Economies) is the most important; dharma and karma are both dependent on it. A Rajarshi shall always respect those councillors and purohitas who warn him of the dangers of transgressing the limits of good conduct, reminding him sharply (as with a goad) of the times prescribed for various duties and caution him even when he errs in private.
Duties of the king
If the king is energetic, his subjects will be equally energetic. If he is lax (and lazy in performing his duties), the subjects will also be lax and thereby eat into his wealth. Besides, a lazy king will easily fall into the hands of enemies. Hence the Rajarshi should himself always be energetic. He shall divide the day and the night, each into eight periods of one and half hours, and perform his duties as follows:
|First 1½ hrs. after sunrise||Receive reports on defence, revenue, expenditure|
|Second 1½ hrs. after sunrise||Public audiences, to hear petitions of city and country people|
|Third 1½ hrs. after sunrise and last 1½ hrs. before noon||Receive revenues and tributes; appoint ministers and other high officials and allot tasks to them|
|First 1½ hrs. after noon||Write letters and dispatches, confer with councillors, receive secret information from spies|
|Second 1½ hrs. after noon||Personal: recreation, time for contemplation|
|Third 1½ hrs. after noon and Last 1½ hrs. before sunset||Inspect and review forces; Consult with Chief of Defence|
The day shall end with evening prayers.
|First 1½ hrs. after sunset||Interview with secret agents|
|Second 1½ hrs. after sunset||Personal: bath, meals, study|
|Third and fourth 1½ hrs. after sunset and First 1½ hrs. after midnight||Retire to the bed chamber to the sound of music, sleep|
|Second 1½ hrs. after midnight||After waking to the sound of music, meditate on political matters and on work to be done|
|Third 1½ hrs. after midnight||Consult with councilors, send out spies|
|Last 1½ hrs. before sunrise||Religious, household and personal duties, meetings with his teacher, adviser on rituals, purohitas, personal physician, chief cooks and astrologer|
Or some other time table which suits the king.
Hence the king shall be ever active in the management of the economy. The root of wealth is (economic) activity and lack of it (brings) material distress. In the absence of (fruitful economic) activity, both current prosperity and future growth will be destroyed. A king can achieve the desired objectives and abundance of riches by undertaking (productive) economic activity.
An ideal king is one who has the highest qualities of leadership, intellect, energy and personal attributes.
The qualities of leadership (which attracts followers) are: birth in a noble family, good fortune, intellect and prowess, association with elders, being righteous, truthful, resolute, enthusiastic and disciplined, not breaking his promises, showing gratitude (to those who help him), having lofty aims, not being dilatory, being stronger than neighbouring kings and having ministers of high quality.
The qualities of intellect are: desire to learn, listening (to others), grasping, retaining, understanding thoroughly and reflecting on knowledge, rejecting false views and adhering to the true ones. An energetic king is one who is valorous, determined, quick, and dexterous. As regards personal attributes, an ideal king should be eloquent, bold and endowed with sharp intellect, a strong memory and a keen mind. He should be amenable to guidance. He should be well trained in all the arts and be able to lead the army. He should be just in rewarding and punishing. He should have the foresight to avail himself of the opportunities (by choosing) the right time, place and type of action. He should know how to govern in normal times and in times of crisis. He should know when to fight and when to make peace, when to lie in wait, when to observe treaties and when to strike at an enemy's weakness. He should preserve his dignity at all times and not laugh in an undignified manner. He should be sweet in speech, look straight at people and avoid frowning. He should eschew passion, anger, greed, obstinacy, fickleness and backbiting. He should conduct himself in accordance with advice of elders.
Kautilya says – Quarrels among people can be resolved by winning over the leaders or by removing the cause of the quarrel – people fighting among themselves help the king by their mutual rivalry. Conflicts (for power) within the royal family, on the other hand, bring about harassment and destruction to the people and double the exertion that is required to end such conflicts. Hence internal strife in the royal family for power is more damaging than quarrels among their subjects. The king must be well versed in discretion and shrewd in judgement.
Comments on vices
Vices are corruptions due to ignorance and indiscipline; an unlearned man does not perceive the injurious consequences of his vices. He summarizes: subject to the qualification that gambling is most dangerous in cases where power is shared, the vice with the most serious consequence is addiction to drink, followed by, lusting after women, gambling, and lastly hunting.
Training of a future king
Importance of self-discipline Discipline is of two kinds – inborn and acquired. (There must be an innate capacity for self-discipline for the reasons given below). Instruction and training can promote discipline only in a person capable of benefiting from them, people incapable of (natural) self-discipline do not benefit. Learning imparts discipline only to those who have the following mental facilities – obedience to a teacher, desire and ability to learn, capacity to retain what is learnt, understanding what is learnt, reflecting on it and (finally) ability to make inferences by deliberating on the knowledge acquired. Those who are devoid of such mental faculties are not benefited (by any amount of training) One who will be a king should acquire discipline and follow it strictly in life by learning the sciences from authoritative teachers.
The training of a prince With improving his self-discipline, he should always associate with learned elders, for in them alone has discipline its firm roots. For a trained intellect ensues yoga (successful application), from yoga comes self-possession. This is what is meant by efficiency in acquiring knowledge. Only a king, who is wise, disciplined, devoted to a just governing of the subjects and conscious of the welfare of all beings, will enjoy the earth unopposed.
Seven ways to deal with neighboring countries
The strategies are:
- Sāman – Appeasement, non-aggression pact
- Dāna – Gift, bribery
- Bheda – Divide, split, separating opposition
- Daṇḍa – Strength, punishment
- Māyā – Illusion, deceit
- Upekṣā – Ignoring the enemy
- Indrajāla – Faking military strength
Maintenance of law and order
A conducive atmosphere is necessary for the state's economy to thrive. This requires that a state's law and order be maintained. Arthashastra specifies fines and punishments to support strict enforcement of laws. The science of law enforcement is also called Dandaniti.
Wildlife and forests
The Mauryas firstly looked at forests as a resource. For them, the most important forest product was the elephant. Military might in those times depended not only upon horses and men but also battle-elephants; these played a role in the defeat of Seleucus Nicator, Alexander's governor of the Punjab. The Mauryas sought to preserve supplies of elephants since it was more cost and time-effective to catch, tame and train wild elephants than raise them. Kautilya's Arthashastra unambiguously specifies the responsibilities of officials such as the Protector of the Elephant Forests:
On the border of the forest, he should establish a forest for elephants guarded by foresters. The Superintendent should with the help of guards...protect the elephants whether along on the mountain, along a river, along lakes or in marshy tracts...They should kill anyone slaying an elephant.—Arthashastra
The Kauthilayas Arthashastra also reveals that the Mauryas designated specific forests to protect supplies of timber, as well as lions and tigers, for skins. Elsewhere the Protector of Animals also worked to eliminate thieves, tigers and other predators to render the woods safe for grazing cattle.
An exhaustive account of the economic ideas embedded in the Arthashastra has been given by Ratan Lal Basu and by many renowned Arthasastra-experts in an Edited Volume by Sen and Basu This book contains papers presented by authors from all over the world for the International Conference held in 2009 at the Oriental Research Institute, Mysore, India to celebrate the centenary of the publication of the manuscript of the Arthashastra by R. Shamasastry.
In October 2012, about two thousand years after its composition, India's National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon praised Arthashastra for its clear and precise rules which apply even today. Furthermore, he recommended reading of the book for broadening the vision on strategic issues.
- Mabbett, I. W. (April 1964). "The Date of the Arthaśāstra". Journal of the American Oriental Society (Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 84, No. 2) 84 (2): 162–169. doi:10.2307/597102. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 597102.
Trautmann, Thomas R. (1971). Kauṭilya and the Arthaśāstra: A Statistical Investigation of the Authorship and Evolution of the Text. Leiden: E.J. Brill. p. 10. "while in his character as author of an arthaśāstra he is generally referred to by his gotra name, Kauṭilya."
- Mabbett 1964
Trautmann 1971:5 "the very last verse of the work...is the unique instance of the personal name Viṣṇugupta rather than the gotra name Kauṭilya in the Arthaśāstra.
- Mabbett 1964 "References to the work in other Sanskrit literature attribute it variously to Viṣṇugupta, Cāṇakya and Kauṭilya. The same individual is meant in each case. The Pańcatantra explicitly identifies Chanakya with Viṣṇugupta."
- Boesche 2002, p. 8
- Boesche 2002, p. 17
- Sen, R.K. and Basu, R.L. 2006. Economics in Arthasastra. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.
- Tisdell, C. 2005. Elephants and polity in ancient India as exemplified by Kautilya's Arthasastra (Science of Polity). Working papers in Economics, Ecology and the Environment, No. 120. School of Economics, University of Queensland: Brisbane, Queensland.
- Olivelle, Patrick (2013). King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kautilya's Arthasastra. Oxford University Press. pp. Introduction. ISBN 9780199891825.
- Boesche, Roger (January 2003). "Kautilya's Arthaśāstra on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India". The Journal of Military History 67 (1): 9–37. doi:10.1353/jmh.2003.0006. ISSN 0899-3718.
- Boesche 2003
- This translation is from Weber: Selections in Translation, ed. W. G. Runciman, trans. Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), pp. 212–25 (p. 220); see also this translation
- Paul Brians et al (ed.). Reading About the World vol. 1. Washington State University. ISBN 0-15-567425-0.
- "Seven Ways to Greet a Neighbor". AskAsia. 2009. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
- Rangarajan, M. (2001) India's Wildlife History, pp 7.
- Ratan Lal Basu and Raj Kumar Sen, Ancient Indian Economic Thought, Relevance for Today, ISBN 81-316-0125-0, Rawat Publications, New Delhi, 2008
- Raj Kumar Sen and Ratan Lal Basu (eds): Economics in Arthasastra, ISBN 81-7629-819-0, Deep& Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2006.
- Srinivasaraju, Sugata (27 July 2009). "Year of the Guru". Outlook India. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "India needs to develop its own doctrine for strategic autonomy: NSA". Economic Times (NEW DELHI). PTI. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kautilya's Arthasastra translated by Patrick Olivelle. Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0199891825.
- Kautilya Arthashastra, R. P. Kangle, tr. 3 vols. Laurier Books, Motilal, New Delhi (1997) ISBN 81-208-0042-7
- Kautilya: The Arthashastra. L.N. Rangarajan (Ed., Rearranger and Translator), 1992, Penguin Classics, India. ISBN 0-14-044603-6.
- 'Ajnapatra' by Ramchandra Pant Amatya
- Boesche, Roger (2002). The First Great Political Realist: Kautilya and His Arthashastra. Lanham: Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-0401-2.
- Arthashastra-Studien, Dieter Schlingloff, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Süd- und Ostasiens, vol. 11, 1967, 44-80 + Abb. 1a-30, ISSN 0084-0084.
- The full text of Arthashastra at Wikisource (English translation)
- Arthashastra (English) at archive.org