Kautilya Arthashastra- English translation by R. Shamasastry(1956) 

कौटिल्य-अर्थशास्त्र [321-296 BCE]

Introductory Note

The Kauṭilya-Arthaśāstra, of which Mr. Shamasastry gives us here his translation, is a work of very exceptional interest and value. In the first place, it ascribes itself in unmistakable terms to the famous Brāhman Kauṭilya, also named Viṣṇugupta, and known from other sources by the patronymic Cāṇakya, who, tradition tells us, overthrew the last king of the Nanda dynasty, and placed the great Maurya Candragupta on the throne: thus, the two verses with which the work ends recite that it was written by Viṣṇugupta, who from intolerance of misrule rescued the scriptures, the science of weapons, and the earth which had passed to the Nanda king, and that he wrote it because he had seen many discrepancies on the part of previous commentators; and, in conformity with a common practice of Indian writers, the name Kauṭilya figures constantly through the book, especially in places where the author lays down his own views as differing from others which he cites.

The work accordingly claims to date from the period 321-296 BCE and its archaic style is well in agreement with the claim. Secondly, as regards its nature and value. Kauṭilya is renowned, not only as a king-maker, but also for being the greatest Indian exponent of the art of government, the duties of kings, ministers, and officials, and the methods of diplomacy. That a work dealing with such matters was written by him is testified to by various more or less early Indian writers, who have given quotations from it. But the work itself remained hidden from modern eyes until it was found in the text of which the translation is laid before us here. The topic of this text is precisely that which has been indicated above, in all its branches, internal and foreign, civil, military, commercial, fiscal, judicial, and so on, including even tables of weights, measures of length and divisions of time. And it seems to be agreed by competent judges that, though the existing text is, perhaps, not absolutely word for word that which was written by Kauṭilya, still we have essentially a work that he did compose in the period stated above. Its value of it is unmistakable: it not only endorses and extends much of what we learn in some of its lines from the Greek writer, Megasthenes, who, as is well known, spent a long time in India as the representative of the Syrian king, Seleucus I, at the Court of Chandragupta, but also fills out what we gather from the epics, from other early writings, and from the inscriptions, and explains statements and allusions in these last-mentioned sources of information which are otherwise obscure: in short, it throws quite a flood of light on many problems in the branch of Indian studies to which it belongs.

For our introduction to this work we are greatly indebted to Mr. Shamasastry. A manuscript of the text, and with it one of a commentary on a small part of it by a writer named Bhaṭṭasvāmin, was handed over by a Pandit of the Tanjore District to the Mysore Government Oriental Library. From these materials Mr. Shamasastry, who was then the Librarian of that Library, gave a tentative translation in the pages of the Indian Antiquary and elsewhere, in 1905 and following years. By the enlightened encouragement of the Mysore Durbar he was enabled to publish the text itself in 1909, as Vol. 37 of the Bibliotheca Sanskrita of Mysore. And under the same appreciative patronage he now lays before us a translation which has been improved in various details, in addition to being brought together in a connected and convenient form. His task has been no easy one. For the formation of his text, as for his translation of it, he has had only the one manuscript and the partial commentary which have been mentioned above: and the text is by no means a simple one; it is laconic and difficult to a degree. In these circumstances, it could hardly be the case that anyone should be able to give us a final treatment of the work straight away. It seems that, as a result of the attention which Mr. Shamasastry’s labours attracted at once, two or three other manuscripts of the work have now been traced. So it may be hoped that eventually another step may be made, by giving us a revised text, based on a collation of materials, which will remove certain obscurities that still exist. Meanwhile, it is impossible to speak in too high terms of the service rendered by Mr. Shamasastry, in the first place by practically discovering the work, and then by laying the contents of it before us so satisfactorily, in spite of the difficulties confronting him, which can only be appreciated by anyone who tries to understand the text without the help of his translation. We are, and shall always remain, under a great obligation to him for a most important addition to our means of studying the general history of ancient India.

20th November 1914.

J. F. Fleet.


Relying on the traditional account given in the Purāṇas that Kauṭilya destroyed the Nandas and installed Candragupta Maurya on their throne, and accepting the statement made at the colophon of the Arthaśāstra by its author, that “This Sastra 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,” the work has been assigned by some scholars to the fourth century b.c., and regarded as a genuine work of Kauṭilya himself.

Book 1 – Concerning Discipline

 Chapter 1 – The Life of a King

 Chapter 2 – Determination of the Place of Ānvīkṣakī

 Chapter 3 – Determination of the Place of the Triple Vedas

 Chapter 4 – Vārtā and Daṇḍanīti

 Chapter 5 – Association with the Aged

 Chapter 6 – The Shaking Off of the Aggregate of the Six Enemies

 Chapter 7 – The Life of a Saintly King

 Chapter 8 – Creation of Ministers

 Chapter 9 – The Creation of Councillors and Priests

 Chapter 10 – The Character of Ministers

 Chapter 11 – The Institution of Spies

 Chapter 12 – Creation of Wandering Spies

 Chapter 13 – Protection of Parties

 Chapter 14 – Winning over Factions

 Chapter 15 – The Business of Council Meeting

 Chapter 16 – The Mission of Envoys

 Chapter 17 – Protection of Princes

 Chapter 18 – A Prince kept under Restraint

 Chapter 19 – The Duties of a King

 Chapter 20 – Duty towards the Harem

 Chapter 21 – Personal Safety

 Book 2 – The duties of Government Superintendents

 Chapter 1 – Formation of Villages

 Chapter 2 – Division of Land

 Chapter 3 – Construction of Forts

 Chapter 4 – Buildings within the Fort

 Chapter 5 – The Duties of the Chamberlain (sannidhātā)

 Chapter 6 – The Business of Collection of Revenue by the Collector-General

 Chapter 7 – The Business of Keeping up Accounts in the Office of Accountants

 Chapter 8 – Detection of Embezzlement

 Chapter 9 – Examination of the Conduct of Government Servants

 Chapter 10 – The Procedure, of Forming Royal Writs

 Chapter 11 – Examination of Gems that are to be entered into the Treasury

 Chapter 12 – Conducting Mining Operations and Manufacture

 Chapter 13 – Superintendent of Gold in the Goldsmiths’ Office

 Chapter 14 – The Duties of the State Goldsmith in the High Road

 Chapter 15 – The Superintendent of Store-house

 Chapter 16 – The Superintendent of Commerce

 Chapter 17 – The Superintendent of Forest Produce

 Chapter 18 – The Superintendent of the Armoury

 Chapter 19 – The Superintendent of Weights and Measures

 Chapter 20 – Measurement of Space and Time

 Chapter 21 – The Superintendent of Tolls

 Chapter 22 – Regulation of Toll-Dues

 Chapter 23 – The Superintendent of Weaving

 Chapter 24 – The Superintendent of Agriculture

 Chapter 25 – The Superintendent of Liquor

 Chapter 26 – The Superintendent of Slaughter-house

 Chapter 27 – The Superintendent of Prostitutes

 Chapter 28 – The Superintendent of Ships

 Chapter 29 – The Superintendent of Cows

 Chapter 30 – The Superintendent of Horses

 Chapter 31 – The Superintendent of Elephants

 Chapter 32 – The Training of Elephants

 Chapter 33 – Chariots, Infantry and the Duties of the Commander-in-Chief

 Chapter 34 – The Superintendent of Passports and Pasture Lands

 Chapter 35 – Revenue-Collectors and Spies

 Chapter 36 – The Duty of a City Superintendent

 Book 3 – Concerning Law

 Chapter 1 – Determination of Forms of Agreement and Legal Disputes

 Chapter 2 – Concerning Marriage

 Chapter 3 – The Duty of a Wife

 Chapter 4 – Vagrancy, Elopement and Short and Long Sojournments

 Chapter 5 – Division of Inheritance

 Chapter 6 – Special Shares in Inheritance

 Chapter 7 – Distinction Between Sons

 Chapter 8 – Buildings

 Chapter 9 – Sale of Buildings and Boundary Disputes

 Chapter 10 – Destruction of Pasture Lands

 Chapter 11 – Recovery of Debts

 Chapter 12 – Concerning Deposits

 Chapter 13 – Rules regarding Slaves and Labourers

 Chapter 14 – Rules regarding Labourers; and Co-operative Undertaking

 Chapter 15 – Rescission of Purchase and Sale

 Chapter 16 – Resumption of Gifts, Sale without Ownership, and Ownership

 Chapter 17 – Robbery

 Chapter 18 – Defamation

 Chapter 19 – Assault

 Chapter 20 – Gambling and Betting and Miscellaneous Offences

 Book 4 – Removal of Thorns

 Chapter 1 – Protection against Artisans

 Chapter 2 – Protection against Merchants

 Chapter 3 – Remedies against National Calamities

 Chapter 4 – Suppression of the Wicked Living by Foul Means

 Chapter 5 – Detection of Youths of Criminal Tendency by Ascetic Spies

 Chapter 6 – Seizure of Criminals on Suspicion or in the Very Act

 Chapter 7 – Examination of Sudden Death

 Chapter 8 – Trial and Torture to Elicit Confession

 Chapter 9 – Protection of All Kinds of Government Departments

 Chapter 10 – Fines in Lieu of Mutilation of Limbs

 Chapter 11 – Death with or without Torture

 Chapter 12 – Sexual Intercourse with Immature Girls

 Chapter 13 – Punishment for Violating Justice

 Book 5 – The Conduct of Courtiers

 Chapter 1 – Concerning the Awards of Punishments

 Chapter 2 – Replenishment of the Treasury

 Chapter 3 – Concerning Subsistence to Government Servants

 Chapter 4 – The Conduct of a Courtier

 Chapter 5 – Time-Serving

 Chapter 6 – Consolidation of the Kingdom and Absolute Sovereignty

 Book 6 – The Source of Sovereign States

 Chapter 1 – The Elements of Sovereignty

 Chapter 2 – Concerning Peace and Exertion

 Book 7 – The End of the Six-fold Policy

 Chapter 1 – The Six-fold Policy

 Chapter 2 – The Nature of Alliance

 Chapter 3 – The Character of Equal, Inferior and Superior Kings

 Chapter 4 – Neutrality after Proclaiming War or after Concluding a Treaty of Peace

 Chapter 5 – Consideration about Marching

 Chapter 6 – The March of Combined Powers

 Chapter 7 – Peace and War by Adopting the Double Policy

 Chapter 8 – The Attitude of an Assailable Enemy

 Chapter 9 – Agreement for the Acquisition of a Friend or Gold

 Chapter 10 – Agreement of Peace for the Acquisition of Land

 Chapter 11 – Interminable Agreement

 Chapter 12 – Agreement for Undertaking a Work

 Chapter 13 – Considerations about an Enemy in the Rear

 Chapter 14 – Recruitment of Lost Power

 Chapter 15 – Measures Conducive to Peace

 Chapter 16 – The Attitude of a Conquered King

 Chapter 17 – Making Peace and Breaking It

 Chapter 18 – The Conduct of a Madhyama King, a Neutral King, and of a Circle of States

 Book 8 – Concerning Vices and Calamities

 Chapter 1 – The Aggregate of the Calamities of the Elements of Sovereignty

 Chapter 2 – Considerations about the Troubles of the King and of His Kingdom

 Chapter 3 – The Aggregate of the Troubles of Men

 Chapter 4 – Molestations, Obstructions and Financial Troubles

 Chapter 5 – Troubles of the Army and Troubles of a Friend

 Book 9 – The Work of an Invader

 Chapter 1 – The Knowledge and the Time of Invasion

 Chapter 2 – The Time of Recruiting the Army

 Chapter 3 – Consideration of Annoyance in the Rear

 Chapter 4 – Consideration about Loss of Men, Wealth, and Profit

 Chapter 5 – External and Internal Dangers

 Chapter 6 – Persons Associated with Traitors and Enemies

 Chapter 7 – Doubts about Wealth and Harm

 Book 10 – Relating to War

 Chapter 1 – Encampment

 Chapter 2 – March of the Camp

 Chapter 3 – Forms of Treacherous Fights

 Chapter 4 – Battlefields and the Work of Infantry, Cavalry, Chariots and Elephants

 Chapter 5 – The Distinctive Array of Troops

 Chapter 6 – The Array of the Army

 Book 11 – The Conduct of Corporations

 Chapter 1 – Causes of Dissension; and Secret Punishment

 Book 12 – Concerning a Powerful Enemy

 Chapter 1 – The Duties of a Messenger

 Chapter 2 – Battle of Intrigue

 Chapter 3 – Slaying the Commander-in-Chief and Inciting a Circle of States

 Chapter 4 – Spies with Weapons, Fire and Poison

 Chapter 5 – Capture of the Enemy

 Book 13 – Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress

 Chapter 1 – Sowing the Seeds of Dissension

 Chapter 2 – Enticement of Kings by Secret Contrivances

 Chapter 3 – The Work of Spies in a Siege

 Chapter 4 – The Operation of a Siege

 Chapter 5 – Restoration of Peace in a Conquered Country

 Book 14 – Secret Means

 Chapter 1 – Means to Injure an Enemy

 Chapter 2 – Wonderful and Delusive Contrivances

 Chapter 3 – The Application of Medicines and Mantras

 Chapter 4 – Remedies Against the Injuries of One’s Own Army

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