28 Facts About Arthashastra


Arthashastra is an Ancient Indian Sanskrit treatise on statecraft, political science, economic policy and military strategy.

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Composed, expanded and redacted between the 2nd century BCE and 3rd century CE, the Arthashastra was influential until the 12th century, when it disappeared.

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Arthashastra explores issues of social welfare, the collective ethics that hold a society together, advising the king that in times and in areas devastated by famine, epidemic and such acts of nature, or by war, he should initiate public projects such as creating irrigation waterways and building forts around major strategic holdings and towns and exempt taxes on those affected.

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Olivelle states that the surviving manuscripts of the Arthashastra are the product of a transmission that has involved at least three major overlapping divisions or layers, which together consist of 15 books, 150 chapters and 180 topics.

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Author of Arthashastra uses the term gramakuta to describe a village official or chief, which, according to Thomas Burrow, suggests that he was a native of the region that encompasses present-day Gujarat and northern Maharashtra.

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Arthashastra provides precise annual rainfall figures for these historical regions in the text.

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Arthashastra is divided into 15 book titles, 150 chapters and 180 topics, as follows:.

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Arthashastra then posits its own theory that there are four necessary fields of knowledge, the Vedas, the Anvikshaki, the science of government and the science of economics.

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The Amatyah, states Arthashastra, must be those with following Amatya-sampat: well trained, with foresight, with strong memory, bold, well spoken, enthusiastic, excellence in their field of expertise, learned in theoretical and practical knowledge, pure of character, of good health, kind and philanthropic, free from procrastination, free from ficklemindedness, free from hate, free from enmity, free from anger, and dedicated to dharma.

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Book 3 of the Arthashastra, according to Trautmann, is dedicated to civil law, including sections relating to economic relations of employer and employee, partnerships, sellers and buyers.

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Economic crimes such as conspiracy by a group of traders or artisans is to be, states the Arthashastra, punished with much larger and punitive collective fine than those individually, as conspiracy causes systematic damage to the well-being of the people.

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The Arthashastra reveals that the Mauryas designated specific forests to protect supplies of timber, as well as lions and tigers, for skins.

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Arthashastra dedicates many chapters on the need, methods and goals of secret service, and how to build then use a network of spies that work for the state.

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Roles and guises recommended for Vyanjana agents by the Arthashastra include ascetics, forest hermits, mendicants, cooks, merchants, doctors, astrologers, householders, entertainers, dancers, female agents and others.

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Goals of the secret service, in Arthashastra, was to test the integrity of government officials, spy on cartels and population for conspiracy, to monitor hostile kingdoms suspected of preparing for war or in war against the state, to check spying and propaganda wars by hostile states, to destabilize enemy states, to get rid of troublesome powerful people who could not be challenged openly.

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Arthashastra dedicates Book 7 and 10 to war, and considers numerous scenarios and reasons for war.

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Kautilya, in the Arthashastra, suggests that the state must always be adequately fortified, its armed forces prepared and resourced to defend itself against acts of war.

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Arthashastra defines the value of peace and the term peace, states Brekke, as "effort to achieve the results of work undertaken is industry, and absence of disturbance to the enjoyment of the results achieved from work is peace".

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All means to win a war are appropriate in the Arthashastra, including assassination of enemy leaders, sowing discord in its leadership, engagement of covert men and women in the pursuit of military objectives and as weapons of war, deployment of accepted superstitions and propaganda to bolster one's own troops or to demoralize enemy soldiers, as well as open hostilities by deploying kingdom's armed forces.

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Arthashastra theories are similar with some and in contrast to other alternative theories on war and peace in the ancient Indian tradition.

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For example, states Brekke, the legends in Hindu epics preach heroism qua heroism which is in contrast to Kautilya suggestion of prudence and never forgetting the four Hindu goals of human life, while Kamandaki's Nitisara, which is similar to Kautilya's Arthashastra, is among other Hindu classics on statecraft and foreign policy that suggest prudence, engagement and diplomacy, peace is preferable and must be sought, and yet prepared to excel and win war if one is forced to.

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Arthashastra discusses a mixed economy, where private enterprise and state enterprise frequently competed side by side, in agriculture, animal husbandry, forest produce, mining, manufacturing and trade.

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Arthashastra stipulates restraint on taxes imposed, fairness, the amounts and how tax increases should be implemented.

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Arthashastra declares, in numerous occasions, the need for empowering the weak and poor in one's kingdom, a sentiment that is not found in Machiavelli.

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Arthashastra interprets that the 1st millennium BCE text is grounded more like the Soviet Union and China where the state envisions itself as driven by the welfare of the common good, but operates an extensive spy state and system of surveillance.

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Kautilya's Arthashastra depicts a bureaucratic welfare state, in fact some kind of socialized monarchy, in which the central government administers the details of the economy for the common good.

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We should never forget that the Arthashastra means by the "state" an order of society which is not created by the king or the people, but which they exist to secure.

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Arthashastra recommended reading of the book for broadening the vision on strategic issues.

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