Kautilya and the Arthashastra

The science and architecture of ancient India has contributed a lot and has become a foundational structure to Science, Technology, Innovation (STI) and architecture to enduring human existence. One such manuscript is Arthashastra compiled by the Kautilya, the prime minister to Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya. Scripted in Sanskrit. Kautilya is often known as Indian MachiavelliNiccolò Machiavelli (16th CE) the author of The Prince, as an instruction guide for new princes and royals.

Arthashastra, a set of 15 adhikaranas (books). It gives an elaborate insight into public administration, organisation, economics, military. It enumerates that the king as supreme which implies a monarchic system of ruling and more convincingly, the arthashastra does not give any insights of elections to elect/appoint higher-ranking authorities. It further, says that no means are beyond the scope of the ruler to expand the territory, wealth and power. The king is often referred to as Manu, the sun of vivasvat i.e the sun. The king was supposed to receive some share of whatever produced in the territory as a grant to maintain the personnel and other functions.

The Arthashastra doesn’t state anything about the nature of the social contract which means people live together in society following an agreement that establishes moral and political rules of behaviour. However, people in the state agreed to pay taxes and ruled by one person. It mentions fey types of rules as well. Dvairajya, a joint rule by more than one person. Vairarajya, the conqueror (foreigner) who conquers the kingdom and seizes. Kautilya disapproves later, becz the conqueror who invaded the kingdom by force will have no interest in the welfare of the state. He only meant to explore all the possible resources and get away with it.

Of the 15 adhikaranas, the public administration explicit in 1,2,5,7 texts. like in the Machiavelli‘s the prince, the Kautilya too mentions some requirements for the king, ministers, superintendents etc. For instance, a minister should have a sound knowledge of science and governmental functions. The king should have far more abilities than others. Also, there are some recruit personnel like intelligence, competitiveness, dexterity, eloquence, firmness etc. But no post recruitment training was prescribed in arthashastra except in case or army to train them for wars or any invasions.

Saptanga theory

It says, one wheel alone can’t turn and keep the cart in motion. So there needs some other elements as well for a good state. And the arthashastra mention Saptanga theory or seven Prakriti( sapta means seven).

The Swamin or Ruler:  The ruler, the king has been given more explicit powers. He protects (rakshana) from all internal and external forces, calamities and rules his people(palana). He oversees the welfare of people (yogakshema). It says” in the happiness of his subjects lie the happiness of the king”.

The Amatya: The swamin is assisted by a few ministers or priests forming an (Inner)cabinet. The king consults the council of ministers and the cabinet to make important decisions in any unforeseen circumstances. The chief priest should be well versed in all Vedas and the six Angas. And some other ministries are headed by the commander, treasurer-general, collector general etc.

The Janapada: Janapada means the land where the Jana set its foot and settled down. The arthashastra referred only janapada but not the citizens or people. They constitute and form a state, janapada.

The Durga : It means fort. A fortified capital according to Kautilya should facilitate the army and its operations. It mentions 4 types of durgas. Audik(surrounded by water), parvat(hills), Dhanvan(sand/desert), Van(forest).

The kosha: The treasury is the reservoir of all the revenue in the form of grants, taxes, gifts etc. Interestingly, every gift presented to the king is recorded manually. Also, neither treasury nor gifts, grants, taxes are owed by the king personally.

The Danda: The king commands his army. All the personnel recruited are given enough training in the army such as military arts, loyalty, patriotism etc. Kshatriyas are most considered for such activities. But in case of an emergency, everyone welcomed. Senapati heads the defence department. Also, there were other heads like a strategist.

 The Mitra: An ally, or friend with other states. The alliance is for advancing the war and peace policy. However, the foreign allies are restricted to entertain in the internal organisation of another state.

Public administration

The principles of public administration embody the principle of authority, discipline, duty, responsibility etc. The system of hierarchy, division of labour, specialization was followed. Despite, the elaborated principles, the arthashastra the efficacy of remains ambiguous. It rewards punishments(danda) to make people devoted to righteousness and work productively. According to it ” whoever punishes as deserved becomes respectable”. The method of the hierarchy is also followed for the executions of orders. It divides heads, ministers into 18 tirthas. Also, the arthashastra emphasis on granting pensions, promotions in salary and other financial aid. The people respectably obeyed and accepted the orders.

As said earlier, machinery do consists of collector general and Treasure general, both having authority over the superintendents of accounts. But no special emphasis on auditing was laid, although Kautilya insisted. It was ambiguous the exact functions of collector general and treasurer general. Maintains of accounts were explicitly stated in arthashastra. All accounts were supposed to bring in sealed covers by district/provincial administration. The superintendent of passes was also mentioned in the arthashastra. He gives the passes whoever comes in and leaves the country. In such a way, most departments were under the control of the minister except the department of justice. It is not sure if justice dept. is headed by a minister or not since no info was made clear in arthashastra. Also, it was implicit if the king himself acted as chief judge. However, the govt. servants are exempted from the courts of law if they violate rules in administration but can be trialled in breach of law in their private conduct by courts.

The kautilya’s arthashastra was an exemplary manuscript. It is still thought at various institutional levels to students. Many organisations including military have adopted the strategies from arthashastra. Arthashastra is a heritage to India’s glorifying civilization way back from 4th century B.C.

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