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The Arthashastra (IAST: Arthaśāstra) is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy which identifies its author by the names Kautilya
and ,Mabbett 1964
Trautmann 1971:5 "the very last verse of the the unique instance of the personal name rather than the gotra name in the Arthaśāstra. who are traditionally identified with (c. 350–-283 BC), who was a professor at Taxila Universitymarker and later the prime minister of the Maurya Empire.

Date and authorship

The original identification of and Vishnugupta with the Mauryan minister Nickasaur would date the Arthaśāstra to the 4th century BC. However, certain affinities with smrtis and references that would be anachronistic for the 4th century BC suggest assigning the Arthaśāstra to the 2nd through 4th centuries CE.Trautmann 1971:"The Ages of the Arthaśāstra", 167–187.
Mabbett 1964 Thomas R. Trautmann and I.W. Mabbett concur that the Arthaśāstra is a composition from no earlier than the 2nd century AD, but based on earlier material.Trautmann 1971:185 "If the in its present form is not so old as it pretends, the śāstra itself is certainly old, predating the ."
Mabbett 1964 "The content of the text is consistent with authorship in about the third century, A.D., and raises some questions which must be answered if it is to be assigned to the fourth B.C. Against this must be set the verses naming and characterising , and the references in later literature. What emerges is that there is no necessary incompatibility between the essential claims that was responsible for the doctrines of the Arthaśāstra, and that the text we know is a product of the later time. These do not conflict. The work could have been written late on the basis of earlier teachings and writings. Sanskrit literature being so full of derivative, traditional and stratified material, this possibility is a priori strong. Those who favour the early date usually admit the probability of interpolations....Those who favour a later date usually admit the probability that the work draws on traditional material. The controversy is therefore spurious. It is entirely possible that the wrote an arthaśāstra and that a later editor rewrote his work, or compressed it, or compiled a text from the teachings of his school." K.C. Ojha puts forward the view that the traditional identification of with was caused by a confusion of editor and originator and suggests that is in fact a redactor of the original work of . Thomas Burrow goes even further and says that are actually two different people. The end of this treatise Arthaśāstra, however, says : "This Sástra has been made by him who from intolerance (of misrule) quickly rescued the scriptures and the science of weapons and the earth which had passed to the Nanda king."

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"

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 for an autocracy managing an efficient and solid economy. 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.

Books of Arthashastra

Arthashastra is divided into 15 books:

  • I Concerning Discipline
  • II The Duties of Government Superintendents
  • III Concerning Law
  • IV The Removal of Thorns
  • V The Conduct of Courtiers
  • VI The Source of Sovereign States
  • VII The End of the Six-Fold Policy
  • VIII Concerning Vices and Calamities
  • IX The Work of an Invader
  • X Relating to War
  • XI The Conduct of Corporations
  • XII Concerning a Powerful Enemy
  • XIII Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress
  • XIV Secret Means
  • XV The Plan of a Treatise

The Rajarshi

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 & welfare of the people;
  • Ensures the observance (by the people) of their dharma by authority & example;
  • Improves his own discipline by (continuing his) learning in all branches of knowledge; and
  • Endears himself to his people by enriching them & doing good to them.

Such a disciplined king should: -
  • Keep away from another's wife;
  • Not covet another's property;
  • Practice ahinsa (non-violence towards all living things);
  • Avoid day dreaming, capriciousness, falsehood & extravagance; and
  • Avoid association with harmful persons and indulging in (harmful) activities.

Kautilya says that artha (Sound Economies) is the most important; dharma & kama are both dependent on it. A Rajarishi 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 slack (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 maharaj 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 1 1/2 hrs. after sunrise Receive reports on defence, revenue, expenditure
Second 1 1/2 hrs. after sunrise Public audiences, to hear petitions of city & country people
Third 1 1/2 hrs. after sunrise & Last 1 1/2 hrs. before noon Receive revenues & tributes; appoint ministers and other high officials & allot tasks to them
First 1 1/2 hrs. after noon Write letters & dispatches, confer with councillors, receive secret information from spies
Second 1 1/2 hrs. after noon Personal: recreation, time for contemplation
Third 1 1/2 hrs. after noon & Last 1 1/2 hrs. before sunset Inspect & review forces; Consult with Chief of Defence
The day shall end with evening prayers.
First 1 1/2 hrs. after sunset Interview with secret agents
Second 1 1/2 hrs. after sunset Personal: bath, meals, study
Third & Fourth 1 1/2 hrs. after sunset & First 1 1/2 hrs. after midnight Retire to the bed chamber to the sound of music, sleep
Second 1 1/2 hrs. after midnight After waking to the sound of music, meditate on political matters & on work to be done
Third 1 1/2 hrs. after midnight Consult with councilors, send out spies
Last 1 1/2 hrs. before sunrise Religious, household & personal duties, meetings with his teacher, adviser on rituals, purohitas, personal physician, chief cooks & 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 & abundance of riches by undertaking (productive) economic activity.

An ideal king is one who has the highest qualities of leadership, intellect, energy & personal attributes.

The qualities of leadership (which attracts followers) are: birth in a noble family, good fortune, intellect & prowess, association with elders, being righteous, truthful, resolute, enthusiastic & disciplined, not breaking his promises, showing gratitude (to those who help him), having lofty aims, not being dilatory, being stronger than neighbouring kings & 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-disciplineDiscipline is of two kinds - inborn and acquired. (There must be an innate capacity for self discipline for the reasons given below). Instruction & 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 & conscious of the welfare of all beings, will enjoy the earth unopposed.

Seven ways to greet a neighbor

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

The strategies are:
  1. Sanman - Appeasement, non-aggression pact
  2. Danda - Strength, punishment
  3. Dana - Gift, bribery
  4. Bheda - Divide, split, separating opposition
  5. Maya - Illusion, deceit
  6. Upeksha - Ignoring the enemy
  7. Indrajala - 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, 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:

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

The exhaustive account of the economic ideas embedded in the Arthasastra has been given by Ratan Lal Basu and by many renowned Arthasastra-experts in an Edited Volume by Sen & Basu This book contains papers presented by authors from all over the world in the International Conference held in 1902 at the Oriental Research Institute, Mysore, Indiamarker to celebrate the Centenary of discovery of the manuscript of the Arthasastra by Shamsastry.



  1. Mabbett 1964 "References to the work in other Sanskrit literature attribute it variously to , and . The same individual is meant in each case. The Pańcatantra explicitly identifies Chanakya with ."
  2. Mabbett 1964
  3. Trautmann 1971:67 'T. Burrow (" ", Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 48–49 1968, p. 17 ff.) has now shown that is also a gotra name, which in conjunction with other evidence makes it clear that we are dealing with two distinct persons, the minister of legend and the compiler of the Arthaśāstra. Furthermore, this throws the balance of evidence in favor of the view that the second name was originally spelt and that after the compiler of the Arth. came to be identified with the Mauryan minister it was altered to (as it appears in Āryaśūra, Viśākhadatta and Bāna) for the sake of the pun. We may then assume that the later spelling subsequently replaced the earlier in the gotra lists and elsewhere.'
  4. Boesche 2003
  5. Sen, R.K. and Basu, R.L. 2006. Economics in Arthasastra. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.
  6. 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.
  7. Rangarajan, M. (2001) India's Wildlife History, pp 7.
  8. Ratan Lal Basu & Raj Kumar Sen, Ancient Indian Economic Thought, Relevance for Today, ISBN 81-316-0125-0, Rawat Publications, New Delhi, 2008
  9. Raj Kumar Sen & Ratan Lal Basu (eds): Economics in Arthasastra, ISBN 81-7629-819-0, Deep& Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2006.


  • Kautilya Arthashastra, R. P. Kangle, tr. 3 vols. Laurier Books, Motilal, New Delhi (1997) ISBN 8120800427
  • Kautilya: The Arthashastra. L.N. Rangarajan (Ed., Rearranger & Translator), 1992, Penguin Classics, India. ISBN 0-14-044603-6.
  • 'Ajnapatra' by Ramchandra Pant Amatya

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