Chanakya’s Arthashastra

Republican form of governments were well estabilished in ancient India. At the time of the invasion of Alexander of Macedonia ( 4th century B.C.) there existed a large number of independent Ganas ( Republics ) like Agrasenies in the Indus Valley , Kambhoj in the West, Panchals in the North etc.( Sen 1920: Ch3 , Ghoshal , 1923:2), Kautilya , the Author of Arthashastra , was a product of this era. He played a main role in defeating defeating the forces of Alexander. Kautilya believed that the Aleaxander’s successful conquest of ( a part of ) India was due to the absence of of a strong centralized Indian Empire. He was determined not to let history repeat itself . Hence the Mauryan Empire, which he was instrumental in founding , was ( relatively) centralized and very different from the then prevailing republican systems. His treatise – Arthashastra , therefore deals only with the governance in a monarchial state.

Many Occidental scholars have argued that the Hindu Philosophy is anti – thetical to the concept of a state. Max Mueller ( 1859:31) has observed that

” The Hindus were a nation of philosophers. Their struggles were the struggles of thought, their past , the problem of creation , their future , the problem of existence …. It might therefore be justly said that India has no place in the political history of the world.”

The Rationality Ethic is the basis of many ancient Dharmic Texts. Treatise like the Arthashastra advocate the application of reason to statecraft to such an extent that many Occidental Scholars have called Kautilya as the ” Machiavelli Of India.”

Rao (1958:15-18) has argued that Kautilya’s contribution is similar to that of Aristotle’s than of Machiavelli’s. Both Aristole (in Politics) and Kautilya (in Arthashastra) have outlined their their respective conceptions of a ‘state’. Interestingly , both the masters belong to the same era and both were teachers of the two clashing titans – Ariistotle of Alexander and Kautilya of Chandragupta.


Kautilya was from ”kutil gotra” , hence the name Kautilya . Since he was born at Chanaka and his father’s name was also Chanaka , he came to be known as Chanakya(Rao 1958:3) . Kautilya’s Arthashastra is a compendium of and commentary on the then existing texts on polity and statecraft.’ Kautilya presented them in a coherent and and systematic manner and referred them on the basis of his enornomous experience as the chief minister in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.

There is a controversy regarding the authorship of Arthashastra. Many Occidental scholars have argued that Kautilya is merely a pseudo name for a later author(s) who belonged to the school of thought associated with Kautilya. These contentions are disputed by Indian Scholars who point out that many of the concepts used by Kautilya are infact associated with only the fourth century B.C. (Shamasastry, [1915]

Chandragupta Maurya founded the Mauryan Empire in 321 BC. He had defeated the two greatest powers of the era-Alexander of Macedonia and King Nanda of Magadh – the largest Indian Empire. Chandragupta’s son , Bindusara and grandson Ashoka are well known for their huge and benign empires. Ashoka’s empire was probably the truest manisfestation of Kautilya’s conception of an ideal empire.

Traumann (1971) has used mathematical programming to study the authorship of Arthashastra . His proposition ( validated by previous research ) is that the basic style ( eg  the average length of the sentence , the frequency of occurence of compound words, the frequency of use of simple participles etc) of an author remains constant throughout the text even if the author has spent years to write the text. On the basis of inticrate mathematical analysis, Trauman has concluded that Arthashastra has been authored by atleast three persons.


. Anarchy of Matyasyayana (1.4 17-18)

. To get rid of this Hobbesian kind of a situation , people selected Manu,the Vaivasvata as their first king

. The King was expected not only to ensure their “safety and security” and “punish” people with anarchic tendencies, but also to ”maintain individual and social order.”

. Royal dues equivalent to “one-sixth of the grain grown and one-tenth of merchandise.”

. The King was expected to ensure the Yogakshema of the subjects and was also authorized to act at once, as Indra and Yama acted, while dispensing rewards and punishment.



1. The Swami, the sovereign King

2. The Mantrin , The ministers

3. The Janapada , the people and the territory

4. The Durga, the fortification

5. The Kosha, the treasury

6. The Sena or the Danda, the army

7. The Mitra, friends


. Mention of Dvairajya (rule of two) , Vairajya (rule by foreign ruler) , Sanghavritta (council of rulers),

. V.R. Mehta suggests not to categorize government either an absolute monarchy or oriental despotism or constitutional monarchy.

. Monarchy is assumed to be the normal form of Government (R.P. Kangle)


. Training in Dandaniti (R.P.Kangle) to use his power with judiciousness

. Purohita to remind him his duties

. Moral Pressure : fear of losing throne

. Popular uprising against Oppressive Rule (eg : Last rulers of the Maurya and Shunga Dynasties and Govinda 4 of Rashtrakutas)

. Threat to migrate to better governed state (AS Altekar)


. Continuity of rule in same dynasty – if Prince is properly trained.

. If lone Prince is not Properly Trained, Daughter’s son may be appointed

. In the absence of such Prince , Princes or Widow of the late Ruler to be vested with powers

. The widow to wield authority till a son is born to her (by Niyoga) and duly crowned


. Qualities of an inviting nature (Abhigamika Guna)

. Qualities of intellect and institution (Prajyna Guna)

. Qualities of enthusiasm (Uthasa Guna)

. Qualities of self restraint and spirit (Atma Sampad)

To control Shatru-Shadvarga the six enemies of sex, anger, greed, vanity, haughtiness, and over joy (V.P Verma)

As Dandhara

 . Ability to conserve and promote Trayee , ,Anvikshiki and Vaarta (RP Kangle)

As Trustee Of Kingship

. To regard his own happiness as that of his subjects (AS Altekar)

Advocacy for a Strong Centralized Monarchial Bureaucratic All India State

. J.C. Heesterman rejected the nature of Kautilyan state as being centralized;

. RS Sharma has projected Kautilyan State as centralized bureaucratic state and

. Romila Thapar has asserted that circumstantial evidence reflects some scope for federal relations among the peripheral areas of Mauryan State while the core or centre along with metropolitan areas around Pataliputra depict centralized elements of the State.

Arthashastra as Science Of Political-Economy

. The substance of mankind is termed Artha (wealth) , the earth that contains and is termed Artha (wealth); the science , which deals the means of acuiring and maintaining the Earth.

. Politics (Dandaniti) deals with (1.4.6)

. the acquisition of what has not been gained (Alabdha Laabhaartha)

. The preservation of what has been acquired (Labdha Parirakshani)

. The accentuation of increase of what has been preserved (Rakshit Vivardhani)

. Due – apportionment or the bestowal of the surplus upon the deservers (Vriddhasya Tirthesu Pratipaadini)

Image Source: The Quint

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