World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000613818
Reproduction Date:

Title: Arthashastra  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Maurya Empire, Chanakya, Mahajanapada, Arjunayanas, Saśigupta
Collection: Ancient Indian Literature, Maurya Empire, Military Strategy Books, Political Books, Sanskrit Texts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Arthashastra (Sanskrit: अर्थशास्त्र; 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"[1] and "Vishnugupta" (Viṣṇugupta),[2] both names that are traditionally identified with Chanakya (Cāṇakya) (c. 350–283 BCE),[3] 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.[4] A copy of the Arthashastra in Sanskrit, written on palm leaves, was presented by a brahmin from Tanjore to Benjamin Lewis Rice director of the newly inaugurated Mysore Oriental Library. The work was correctly identified as the Arthashastra by R. Shamasastry[5]

"Arthashastra" is translated to "the science of wealth," but the book Arthashastra has a broader scope.[6] Part of the book explains how to manage the economy in the Maurya Empire. These sections include the ethics of economics and the duties and obligations of a king.[7] Beyond these sections on statecraft, the book outlines an entire legal and bureaucratic administration of a kingdom. These sections include descriptive cultural details on topics such as mineralogy, mining and metals, agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine and the use of wildlife.[8] The Arthashastra also explores issues of welfare (for instance, redistribution of wealth during a famine) and the collective ethics that hold a society together.


  • Date and authorship 1
  • Translation of the title 2
  • Comparison to Machiavelli 3
  • Books of Arthashastra 4
  • The Rajarshi 5
    • Duties of the king 5.1
    • Internal strife 5.2
    • Comments on vices 5.3
    • Training of a future king 5.4
    • Seven ways to deal with neighboring countries 5.5
  • Maintenance of law and order 6
  • Wildlife and forests 7
  • Economic ideas 8
  • Recognition 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
    • Notes 11.1
    • Bibliography 11.2
  • External links 12

Date and authorship

Authorship and date of writing are unknown, but there are theories. Recent scholarship by Olivelle argues that the surviving manuscripts of the Arthashastra are the product of a 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 dated period 175–300 CE.[9]

Many authors have contributed to the Arthashastra 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.[9]

Detailed examination of astronomical data and place-names suggests that the work was composed in present-day Gujarat and northern Maharashtra.[9]

Translation of the title

Different scholars have translated the word "arthashastra" in different ways.

  • R.P. Kangle: "science of politics", a treatise to help a king in "the acquisition and protection of the earth".[10]
  • A.L. Basham: a "treatise on polity"[11]
  • D.D. Kosambi: "science of material gain"[11]
  • G.P. Singh: "science of polity"[11]
  • Roger Boesche: "science of political economy"[11]

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

Because of its harsh political pragmatism, the Arthashastra has often been compared to Machiavelli's The Prince.

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 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.
— Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation (1919)[12]

However, these aspects form just one of the 15 books that comprise the Arthashastra. 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.[13] 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:

  1. Concerning Discipline; Regarding Discipline about the Economic Feedback, contains 21 chapters
  2. The Duties of Government Superintendents, contains 36 chapters
  3. Concerning Law, contains 20 chapters
  4. The Removal of Thorns, contains 13 chapters
  5. The Conduct of Courtiers, contains 6 chapters
  6. The Source of Sovereign States, contains 2 chapters
  7. The End of the Six-Fold Policy, contains 18 chapters
  8. Concerning Vices and Calamities, contains 5 chapters
  9. The Work of an Invader, contains 7 chapters
  10. Relating to War, contains 6 chapters
  11. The Conduct of Corporations, contains 1 chapter
  12. Concerning a Powerful Enemy, contains 5 chapters
  13. Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress, contains 5 chapters
  14. Secret Means, contains 4 chapters
  15. The Plan of a Treatise, contains 1 chapter

The Rajarshi

Arthashastra details 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 human endeavor; 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 defense, 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.

Hours of a King described in Sanskrit political science classic - Arthashastra by Kautilya.

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.

Internal strife

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

Kautilya recommended seven strategies in dealing with neighboring powers to Chandragupta Maurya.[14]

The strategies are:

  1. Sāman – Appeasement, non-aggression pact
  2. Dāna – Gift, bribery
  3. Bheda – Divide, split, separating opposition
  4. Daṇḍa – Strength, punishment
  5. Māyā – Illusion, deceit
  6. Upekṣā – Ignoring the enemy
  7. Indrajāla – Faking military strength[14]

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:[15]

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 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.

Economic ideas

An exhaustive account of the economic ideas embedded in the Arthashastra has been given by Ratan Lal Basu[16] and by many renowned Arthashastra-experts in an Edited Volume by Sen and Basu[17] 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.[18]


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.

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.[19]

See also



  1. ^ 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.  
  2. ^ Mabbett 1964
    Trautmann 1971:5 "the very last verse of the the unique instance of the personal name Viṣṇugupta rather than the gotra name Kauṭilya in the Arthaśāstra.
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ Boesche 2002, p. 8
  5. ^ Allen, Charles (21 February 2012). Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor. London: Hachette UK. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Rangarajan, L.N. (1987). The Arthashastra (Introduction). New Delhi: Penguin Books. pp. 1–2. 
  7. ^ Sen, R.K. and Basu, R.L. 2006. Economics in Arthashastra. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.
  8. ^ Tisdell, C. 2005. Elephants and polity in ancient India as exemplified by Kautilya's Arthashastra (Science of Polity). Working papers in Economics, Ecology and the Environment, No. 120. School of Economics, University of Queensland: Brisbane, Queensland.
  9. ^ a b c Olivelle, Patrick (2013). "Introduction". King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kautilya's Arthashastra. Oxford University Press.  
  10. ^ Boesche, Roger (January 2003). "Kautilya's Arthaśāstra on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India". The Journal of Military History 67 (1): 9–37.  
  11. ^ a b c d Boesche 2003
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ Paul Brians et al (eds.). Reading About the World vol. 1.  
  14. ^ a b "Seven Ways to Greet a Neighbor". AskAsia. 2009. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2009. 
  15. ^ Rangarajan, M. (2001) India's Wildlife History, pp 7.
  16. ^ Ratan Lal Basu and Raj Kumar Sen, Ancient Indian Economic Thought, Relevance for Today, ISBN 81-316-0125-0, Rawat Publications, New Delhi, 2008
  17. ^ Raj Kumar Sen and Ratan Lal Basu (eds): Economics in Arthashastra, ISBN 81-7629-819-0, Deep& Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2006.
  18. ^ Srinivasaraju, Sugata (27 July 2009). "Year of the Guru". Outlook India. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  19. ^ a b "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 Arthashastra 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.  
  • Arthashastra-Studien, Dieter Schlingloff, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Süd- und Ostasiens, vol. 11, 1967, 44-80 + Abb. 1a-30, ISSN 0084-0084.

External links

  • The full text of Arthashastra at Wikisource (English translation)
  • (English)Arthashastra at
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.