Translated by R. Shamasastry – 1915
Arthashastra by Kautilya, also known as Chanakya and Vishnusharma, is an excellent treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy. it is said to have been written by Kautilya, also known by the name Chanakya or Vishnugupta, the prime minister of India’s first great emperor, Chandragupta Maurya.
In Arthashastra, Kautilya 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.
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 and medicine. 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.
Chanakya is also known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta (350-283 BC). He was the the mentor and prime minister of the great Indian emperor, Chandragupta Maurya 340-293 BCE.
His other two famous books are Artha Sastra and Chanakya Sutras.
About 2300 years ago the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great invaded the Indian sub-continent. His offensive upon the land’s patchwork of small Hindu empires proved to be highly successful due to the disunity of the petty rulers. It was Chanakya Pandit who, feeling deeply distressed at heart, searched for and discovered a qualified leader in the person of Chandragupta Maurya. Although a mere dasi-putra, that is, a son of a maidservant by the Magadha King Nanda, Chandragupta was highly intelligent, courageous and physically powerful. Chanakya cared little that by birth he should not have dared to approach the throne. A man of acute discretion, Chanakya desired only that a ruler of extraordinary capabilities be raised to the exalted post of King of Magadha so that the offensive launched by the Yavanas (Greeks) could be repressed.
It is said that Chanakya had been personally offended by King Nanda and that this powerful brahmana (Brahmin) had vowed to keep his long sikha (hair) unknotted until he saw to the demise of the contemptuous ruler and his drunken princes. True to his oath, it was only after Chanakya Pandit engineered a swift death for the degraded and worthless rulers of the Nanda dynasty that this great Brahmin was able to again tie up his tuft of hair. There are several versions relating the exact way that Chanakya had set about eliminating the Nandas, and it appears historians have found it difficult to separate fact from folk legend as regards to certain specific details.
After the Nanda downfall, it became easy for Chandragupta to win the support of the Magadha citizens, who responded warmly to their new heroic and handsome young ruler. Kings of neighbouring states rallied under Chandragupta’s suzerainty and the last of the Greeks headed by Alexander’s general Seleucus were defeated.
Although many great savants of the science of niti such as Brihaspati, Shukracharya, Bhartrihari and Vishnusharma have echoed many of these instructions in their own celebrated works*, it is perhaps the way that Chanakya applied his teachings of niti-sastra (political science) that has made him stand out as a significant historical figure. The great Pandit teaches us that lofty ideals can become a certain reality if we intelligently work towards achieving our goal in a determined, progressive and practical manner.
CHAPTER I & II. THE LIFE OF A KING & THE END OF SCIENCES..
ANVIKSHAKI, the triple Védas (Trayi), Várta (agriculture, cattle-breeding and trade), and Danda-Niti (science of government) are what are called the four sciences.
The school of Manu (Manava) hold that there are only three sciences: the triple Vedas, Varta and the science of government, inasmuch as the science of Anvikshaki is nothing but a special branch of the Vedas.
The school of Brihaspati say that there are only two sciences: Varta and the science of government, inasmuch as the Triple Vedas are merely an abridgment (Samvarana, pretext?) for a man experienced in affairs temporal (Lokayatravidah).
The school of Usanas declare that there is only one science, and that the science of government; for, they say, it is in that science that all other sciences have their origin and end.
But Kautilya holds that four and only four are the sciences; wherefore it is from these sciences that all that concerns righteousness and wealth is learnt, therefore they are so called.
Anvikshaki comprises the Philosophy of Sankhya, Yoga, and Lokayata.
Righteous and unrighteous acts (Dharmadharmau) are learnt from the triple Vedas; wealth and non-wealth from Varta; the expedient and the inexpedient (Nayanayau), as well as potency and impotency (Balabale) from the science of government.
When seen in the light of these sciences, the science of Anvikshaki is most beneficial to the world, keeps the mind steady and firm in weal and woe alike, and bestows excellence of foresight, speech and action.
Light to all kinds of knowledge, easy means to accomplish all kinds of acts and receptacle of all kinds of virtues, is the Science of Anvikshaki ever held to be.
[Thus ends Chapter II, “Determination of the place of Anvikshaki” among Sciences in Book I, “Concerning Discipline” of the Arthasástra of Kautilya.]
CHAPTER III. THE END OF SCIENCES.
Determination of the place of the Triple Vedas.
THE three Vedas, Sama, Rik and Yajus, constitute the triple Vedas. These together with Atharvaveda and the Itihasaveda are (known as) the Vedas.
Siksha (Phonetics), Kalpa (ceremonial injunctions), Vyakarana (grammar), Nirukta (glossarial explanation of obscure Vedic terms), Chandas (Prosody), and Astronomy form the Angas.
As the triple Vedas definitely determine the respective duties of the four castes and of the four orders of religious life, they are the most useful.
The duty of the Brahman is study, teaching, performance of sacrifice, officiating in others’ sacrificial performance and the giving and receiving of gifts.
That of a Kshatriya is study, performance of sacrifice, giving gifts, military occupation, and protection of life.
That of a Vaisya is study, performance of sacrifice, giving gifts, agriculture, cattle breeding, and trade.
That of a Sudra is the serving of twice-born (dvijati), agriculture, cattle-breeding, and trade (varta), the profession of artizans and court-bards (karukusilavakarma).
The duty of a householder is earning livelihood by his own profession, marriage among his equals of different ancestral Rishis, intercourse with his wedded wife after her monthly ablution, gifts to gods, ancestors, guests, and servants, and the eating of the remainder.
That of a student (Brahmacharin) is learning the Vedas, fire-worship, ablution, living by begging, and devotion to his teacher even at the cost of his own life, or in the absence of his teacher, to the teacher’s son, or to an elder classmate.
That of a Vanaprastha (forest-recluse) is observance of chastity, sleeping on the bare ground, keeping twisted locks, wearing deer-skin, fire-worship, ablution, worship of gods, ancestors, and guests, and living upon food stuffs procurable in forests.
That of an ascetic retired from the world (Parivrajaka) is complete control of the organs of sense, abstaining from all kinds of work, disowning money, keeping from society, begging in many places, dwelling in forests, and purity both internal and external.
Harmlessness, truthfulness, purity, freedom from spite, abstinence from cruelty, and forgiveness are duties common to all.
The observance of one’s own duty leads one to Svarga and infinite bliss (Anantya). When it is violated, the world will come to an end owing to confusion of castes and duties.
Hence the king shall never allow people to swerve from their duties; for whoever upholds his own duty, ever adhering to the customs of the Aryas, and following the rules of caste and divisions of religious life, will surely. be happy both here and hereafter. For the world, when maintained in accordance with injunctions of the triple Vedas, will surely progress, but never perish.
[Thus ends Chapter III, “Determination of the place of the Triple Vedas” among Sciences in Book I, “Concerning Discipline” of the Arthasástra of Kautilya.]
CHAPTER IV. THE END OF SCIENCES.
Varta and Dandaniti.
AGRICULTURE, cattle-breeding and trade constitute Varta. It is most useful in that it brings in grains, cattle, gold, forest produce (kupya), and free labour (vishti). It is by means of the treasury and the army obtained solely through Varta that the king can hold under his control both his and his enemy’s party.
That sceptre on which the well-being and progress of the sciences of Anvikshaki, the triple Vedas, and Varta depend is known as Danda (punishment). That which treats of Danda is the law of punishment or science of government (dandaniti).
It is a means to make acquisitions, to keep them secure, to improve them, and to distribute among the deserved the profits of. improvement. It is on this science of government that the course of the progress of the world depends.
“Hence,” says my teacher, “whoever is desirous of the progress of the world shall ever hold the sceptre raised (udyatadanda). Never can there be a better instrument than the sceptre to bring people under control.”
“No,” says Kautilya; for whoever imposes severe punishment becomes repulsive to the people; while he who awards mild punishment becomes contemptible. But whoever imposes punishment as deserved becomes respectable. For punishment (danda) when awarded with due consideration, makes the people devoted to righteousness and to works productive of wealth and enjoyment; while punishment, when ill-awarded under the influence of greed and anger or owing to ignorance, excites fury even among hermits and ascetics dwelling in forests, not to speak of householders.
But when the law of punishment is kept in abeyance, it gives rise to such disorder as is implied in the proverb of fishes (matsyanyayamudbhavayati); for in the absence of a magistrate (dandadharabhave), the strong will swallow the weak; but under his protection, the weak resist the strong.
This people (loka) consisting of four castes and four orders of religious life, when governed by the king with his sceptre, will keep to their respective paths, ever devotedly adhering to their respective duties and occupations.
[Thus ends Chapter IV, “Determination of the Place of Varta and of Dandaniti” among Sciences in Book I, “Concerning Discipline” of the Arthasástra of Kautilya. “The End of Sciences” is completed.]
CHAPTER V. ASSOCIATION WITH THE AGED.
HENCE the (first) three sciences (out of the four) are dependent for their well-being on the science of government. Danda, punishment, which alone can procure safety and security of life is, in its turn, dependent on discipline (vinaya).
Discipline is of two kinds: artificial and natural; for instruction (kriya) can render only a docile being conformable to the rules of discipline, and not an undocile being (adravyam). The study of sciences can tame only those who are possessed of such mental faculties as obedience, hearing, grasping, retentive memory, discrimination, inference, and deliberation, but not others devoid of such faculties.
Sciences shall be studied and their precepts strictly observed under the authority of specialist teachers.
Having undergone the ceremony of tonsure, the student shall learn the alphabet (lipi) and arithmetic. After investiture with sacred thread, he shall study the triple Vedas, the science of Anvikshaki under teachers of acknowledged authority (sishta), the science of Vatra under government superintendents, and the science of Dandaniti under theoretical and practical politicians (vaktriprayoktribhyah).
He (the prince) shall observe celibacy till he becomes sixteen years old. Then he shall observe the ceremony of tonsure (godana) and marry.
In view of maintaining efficient discipline, he shall ever and invariably keep company with aged professors of sciences in whom alone discipline has its firm root.
He shall spend the forenoon in receiving lessons in military arts concerning elephants, horses, chariots, and weapons, and the afternoon in hearing the Itihasa.
Purana, Itivritta (history), Akhyayika (tales), Udaharana (illustrative stories), Dharmasastra, and Arthasastra are (known by the name) Itihasa.
During the rest of the day and night, he shall not only receive new lessons and revise old lessons, but also hear over and again what has not been clearly understood.
For from hearing (sutra) ensues knowledge; from knowledge steady application (yoga) is possible; and from application self-possession (atmavatta) is possible. This is what is meant by efficiency of learning (vidhyasamarthyam).
The king who is well educated and disciplined in sciences, devoted to good Government of his subjects, and bent on doing good to all people will enjoy the earth unopposed.
[Thus ends Chapter V, “Association with the Aged” in Book I, “Concerning Discipline” of the Arthasástra of Kautilya.]
CHAPTER VI. RESTRAINT OF THE ORGANS OF SENSE.
The Shaking off of the Aggregate of the Six Enemies.
RESTRAINT of the organs of sense, on which success in study and discipline depends can be enforced by abandoning lust, anger, greed, vanity (mána), haughtiness (mada), and overjoy (harsha).
Absence of discrepancy (avipratipatti) in the perception of sound, touch, colour, flavour, and scent by means of the ear, the skin, the eyes, the tongue, and the nose, is what is meant by the restraint of the organs of sense. Strict observance of the precepts of sciences also means the same; for the sole aim of all the sciences is nothing but restraint of the organs of sense.
Whosoever is of reverse character, whoever has not his organs of sense under his control, will soon perish, though possessed of the whole earth bounded by the four quarters.
For example: Bhoja, known also by the name, Dándakya, making a lascivious attempt on a Bráhman maiden, perished along with his kingdom and relations;
So also Karála, the Vaideha. Likewise Janamejaya under the influence of anger against Bráhmans, as well as Tálajangha against the family of Bhrigus.
Aila in his attempt under the influence of greed to make exactions from Bráhmans, as well as Ajabindu, the Sauvíra (in a similar attempt);
Rávana unwilling under the influence of vanity to restore a stranger’s wife, as well as Duryodhana to part with a portion of his kingdom; Dambhodbhava as well as Arjuna of Haihaya dynasty being so haughty as to despise all people;
Vátápi in his attempt under the influence of overjoy to attack Agastya, as well as the corporation of the Vrishnis in their attempt against Dvaipáyana.
Thus these and other several kings, falling a prey to the aggregate of the six enemies and having failed to restrain their organs of sense, perished together with their kingdom and relations. Having driven out the aggregate of the six enemies, as well as Ambarísha of Jámadagnya famous for his restraint of the organs of sense Nábhága long enjoyed the earth
[Thus ends Chapter VI, “The Shaking off of the Aggregate of the Six Enemies” in the section of the “Restraint Of the Organs of Sense” in Book I, “Concerning Discipline” of the Arthasástra of Kautilya.]