Saptanga Theory of Arthashastra

Kautilya was the confidant of Chandragupta Maurya who was the 1st King of the Maurya Empire. Kautilya has other names of Vishnu Gupta and Chanakya. Kautilya has authored Arthashastra which is a treatise in the Sanskrit language where etymologically it means Science of Polity (Artha-Material Life + Shastra-Science). Saptanga Theory was laid out by Kautilya in Arthashastra which according to him is required to be implemented in each and every state to call it as a “State”. In other words, it lays down the ideal forms of governance, administration, defence mechanisms and judiciary, which are required in an ideal state. “Sapta” means ‘seven’ and “Anga” means ‘Limbs’, so Saptanga theory gives out the seven limbs necessary for a state.

(1) The first one is the King. (This limb briefs about the required necessities, qualities, skills, education, and responsibilities for an ideal king) It describes that a King should be from the Uchchkula which means from a well-to-do family and should have the capability of controlling various officials. He should be the upholder of dharma and should be learnt in Samakhya (Mathematics), Lipi (Literature), Vedas, Philosophy, Economics and Political Science to run the kingdom. He is required to have Susrusha (Desire to learn), Sravanam (Cultivation of truth), and the skills of Grahanam (grasping power), Dharnam (Retaining the knowledge), Vijnanam (achieving truth), Uha (logical thinking) and Deliberation. And many rules have been laid out for the King, which are to avoid interviews with unknown people as they might be spies of other states. There should be protective measures such as to govern the Kitchen premises and tasting of food before the king dines, to detect any poison, construction of secured forts with architectural skills, etc. But the responsibilities of the king are to appoint the Council of Ministers, carry punishments and eliminate the evils from the kingdom, inculcate morals and values inside people, and most importantly, a King has to treat his subjects as his children. King has the ultimate power of the civil, administerial and judicial purview of the kingdom.

(2) The second limb is Council of Ministers who were called Amatyas. (This limb briefs about the required qualities, skills and education for the appointment of the ideal Amatyas, their delegated duties, the structure of Ministers and their power to vote) They are appointed by the king on the basis of their knowledge (Pratipattiman), seniority (Pragalbha), and nativity to the Kingdom, and eloquent skills (Vajni). Kautilya says that it is beneficial to have Amatyas upto 55 or more in the Kingdom. The King has to consult the Amatyas while making any decisions related to the state’s affairs which might be treaties, wars, budget planning, expansion, and during unprecedented circumstances, etc. A king can make decisions on the Amatyas’ advises where the majority of them supporting the same ideal is called Bhuvyist, but also has the power to enforce his ideals over the Amatyas’ ideals. There should also be an inner Council comprising of King, Prime Ministers, and Higher Priests, who had to look over to the highest administration posts. And each and every Council of Ministers would be under the purview to the Kingdom’s Spy System to keep the Amatyas in check.

(3) The third limb is City Administration where it should comprise of six bodies: Industrial Art, Entertainment of Foreigners, Birth and Death records, Superintendent to Trade and Commerce, Supervised manufactured Articles, Taxation (This is essential according to Kautilya so as to administer the functionings of the city constructively and officers are appointed in the respective fields to look after the administration and handle the problems of the citizens). Registrar of Birth and Death records is called Gopa and Minister of Trade and Commerce is called Panyadhyaksha. There are various other officers for taxation, urban administration, like Sulkadyaksha, Nagarika, etc. to run the city’s governance. The administration also had to take care about like sanitation, adulteration, management of Inns, Fire Department, etc.

(4) Fourth limb is Defense (This limb details about the necessity and the ideal types of structures of fortifying the kingdom and most importantly the ideal structure, departments and the heads of the Army) where Kautilya stressed upon the necessity for Fortification of the palace and kingdom. It is required to have any of the four important boundaries of the palace for the protection: Audaka Durg which should be a fort surrounded by four sides of water, Parvat Durg which should be a fort either on a mountain made of out mountain rocks, Dhanvana Durg which is a fort constructed in deserts and Vana Durg which is a fort in the middle of forests. An ideal Army is required to have six departments- Infantry, Cavalry, Elephants, Chariots, Transport and Admiral of Fleets to ensure the overall military protection of a kingdom. But the main four components of army were Infantry, Cavalry, Elephants, Chariots, where the head of the Department of Armaments or Ayuddh was referred to as Ayuddhagaradhyaksha, the head of the chariots as called Rathadhyaksha, and the head of the elephants as Hastyadhyaksha.

(5) Fifth limb is called the Treasury which was called kosha in Arthashastra. (This limb states the sources of income the kingdom can get in the name of different types of taxes and briefs about how such income could be used in the name of the king) During the Chandragupta Maurya period, sources of income of treasury was from collection of taxes from road and traffic tolls (Vanik Patha), pastoral lands (Vraja), Plantations (Setu), Forest tax (Vana), Mines (khana), import and export taxes, from rural areas, etc. And the treasury was used for king’s expenses, for payment of officials of the king, for gifts in the name of king, for public works, religious donations, etc.

(6) Sixth limb is the Danda system which provides the ideal list of punishments for various offences. During the Chandragupta Maurya period, Courts called Dharmasthiya decided upon the personal disputes and Kantakasodhana decided upon the matters related to the state and individual. Punishments were fines, mutilations, banishment, imprisonment, death penalty.

(7) Seventh limb of the state is the Espionage or spy system, where it is necessary for it to be a well-knit one. Every citizen of the kingdom should be bought under the purview of the Spy system. The duties of the spies is to collect the confidential information in the interest of the Kingdom. Spies might disguise themselves as commoners to go unidentified.

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