The Arthasastra by Chanakya is a 2500-year-old masterpiece on governance, economics and politics. Here are the pdfs of the book in English, Hindi and Sanskrit.
Arthashastra PDF Downloads – Hindi, English, Sanskrit
The Chanakya Niti, another book by Chanakya is available here.
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Authenticity of Arthashastra
It has been remarked by some Western scholars that Chanakya is a fabrication and that no such scholar actually existed. However, it is clear that Chanakya actually existed. his true name was Vishnugupta. His tribe or family name was Kutala, and he belonged to the clan of the famous Kutala rishi. Thus, he wa also called Kautilya. As for the name Chanakya, It is the peculiar custom in India even in modern days to venerate the father and the teacher to the end of their lives. One mode of veneration is not to utter the name of either the father or even the teacher. It may amount to an insult if not to an offence. Kautilya was Chanakya because he was the son of his father Chanaka. He probably studied and taught in the Takshashila university, which was a prominent university at the time.A man like Kautilya who had profound respect for orthodox tradition could not go against it. In the light of the above observation we are led to think that scholars will do justice to a name and a personality, the type of which is indeed rare in the history at least of the ancient world.
Mentions of the Arthashastra in Other Literature
Another reason put forth that Chanakya never existed is that the Puranas or other literature never mention a single word about his authorship or writings. This is not entirely true. References to his authorship are so many that by themselves it will make a thesis. We shall therefore rest content with merely mentioning the names of the literary works where unmistakable references are made to our celebrated writer on Polity.
(1) That Kamandaki attaches a high value to his work on rajaniti identifying him at the same time with the minister of Chandragupta.
(2) The Upadhyayanitasutika designates the Arthashastra as Kautilya-bhasya; and what is more remarkable, it calls the author of the Kamasutra, asmadguru, identifying thus Vatsyayana with Kautilya.
(4) The Panchatantra, whose date is still a bone of contention, has significant references in more than one place to the work and the policy of Kautilya. The author shows how he follows the principles of diplomacy enunciated by the master-politician. This verse is again instructive in the sense that it refers to Rakshasa, a prominent character of the Mudraraksasa. Professor Tawney’s view that the Mudraraksasa is anterior to the Panchatantra seems to be the correct hypothesis. In the last book again the author of the Panchatantra refers with approval to the unimpeachable policy of Chanakya. A repeated mention of the acceptance of the Kautilyan policy is seen from the statement.
(6) The Jatakamala of Aryasura, probably 4th century A.D. (for the work was translated into Chinese in A.D. 434) definitely refers to the Arthashastra.
(7) The Lankavatarasutra probably 4th century A.D. of Aryasura (this work was first translated into Chinese in A.D. 443, and again in A.D. 513, now with an appendix of 884 slokas) mentions Kautilya as a rishi. On this, Johnston, according to whom the lower limit of the Arthashastra is not later than A.D. 250, is obliged to make the following observation: “Evidently therefore at the end of the fifth century A.D. Kautilya was placed on a level with the ancient rishis in point of age and the work which earned him this position must be at least several centuries earlier than that date. Certainly the period from the third to the fifth century cannot be counted as several centuries earlier.
(9) Bana, the reputed author of the Harshacharita and of the more celebrated romance Kadambari, refers to Kautilya’s work though he adversely criticises it. But what is to our point here is an authentic reference to his writings.
(10) Somadevasuri in his Nitivakyamrta quotes often the very words of Kautilya and makes an explicit reference to the incidents connected with the Chanakya story. He notes especially Kautilya’s unquestioned help to Chandragupta, in establishing and governing the Mauryan kingdom, as well as the fall of the Nanda empire.
(11) There is again a reference to his work in the Jain Nandi Sutra, though the Jain canonical writer treats his work as one among the false sciences.
(12) Mallinatha (14th century) in his commentary on the Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa quotes the Kautallya
(13) Narayana Pandita refers to it in his commentary on Arunachala’s gloss on the Kumarasambhava of Kalidasa.
(14) Medhatithi (8th century A.D.) an earlier commentator on Manavadharmasastra makes a reference in his gloss on VII, 43, to Kautilya as the desirable type of teachers.
(15) Ksirasvamin, an old commentator on Amara Kosa (about 11th century) in commenting on V, 21 (Canto 11) speaks of Chanakya.
(16) In his commentary on the sixty-four katas of Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra, Yasodhara attributes the device of one variety to Kautilya.
(17) Dinakara Misra (1385 A.D.) a commentator on Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa quotes the Kautilya in commenting on the verse 12 of Canto III.
(18) Charitravardhana, another commentator older than Dinakara and quoted by the latter, refers to Kautilya in his gloss on the Raghuvamsa
(19) Jimutavahana’s Vyavahara-mayuka (fourteenth century A.D.) has a quotation from the Kautilya besides passages identical in substance.
(20) The Sivatatvaciratnakara (17th century A.D.) refers to Brihaspati, Sukra, and Chanakya, as authorities on Political Science.
The Writer of Arthashastra Was A True PolymathYet another argument is that the contents of the work itself deal with not only politics but a great many subjects under administration which require a knowledge of the specialists in architecture, in agriculture, in mining, in military organisation, etc. It is impossible that one man should have been a specialist in all the branches of knowledge. Against this it may be remarked at the outset that this is not impossible in India and especially in Ancient India where we know of the versatile knowledge possessed by many a Pandit in those days.
They became sages and seers because of their knowledge in all branches of arts and sciences. The specialisation of education is a modern cry and the evils of such specialisation are patent enough. It makes the specialist devote all his time in his own subject oftentimes to the utter neglect of the other subjects. Specialisation may make one learned but not cultured. Ancient Indians took legitimate pride in their culture, nurtured it with great care and attention, and promoted its growth themselves being the custodians of that world-wide culture.
For instance, Bhisma can speak with authority on any question submitted to him, whatever branch of science it might refer to Vasistha the Purohita could assert with first-hand knowledge his opinion on any subject. Indeed the Purohita was Purohita because he was thoroughly versed in all branches of knowledge. For the conduct of sacrifices and rituals which belonged to his department he ought to have mastered the Samhitas; for propitiating rites and ceremonies he must have learnt the Atharva Veda; for fixing auspicious times, he had a full knowledge of the sciences of astronomy and astrology; for encouraging soldiers fighting in the field of battle, he taught himself the Dhanur Veda; to sit in judgement over the king’s discussions and lead him in the right path, he was a veritable master of the Dharmasastras and the Arthasastras.
Thus it was common in ancient India that he was deemed a sista or a cultured person who had at his finger’s end knowledge of all branches. There is nothing wonderful about this fact. Again the authors of law-books, epics and the Puranas must have been specialists in all branches of knowledge, for, they had to handle directly or indirectly all different arts and sciences. As for Kautilya there is a tradition that he must have been the author of a Dharmasastra, an Arthasastra, a Kamasastra and a Moksasastra. If Vatsyayana is a synonym for Kautilya, and if Chanakya be established an authority in astrology according to Brihat-Samhita, and again if the commentator of the Nyayasutra be the same as the author of the Kamasutra, is it not incorrect to say that one cannot have a specialised knowledge in everything? Parasara is quoted as an authority on the Arthasastra by Kautilya and on the Kamasastra by Vatsyayana; while the extant works by Parasara are a Dhannasastra and another on astrology. These, then, would tend to show “that the schools of the age did not confine themselves to certain subjects only to the exclusion of others but attempted to deal comprehensively with all or most of the sciences or subjects of interest in the period.”
The Scope of Arthashastra & Its Purpose
The other argument is that Chandragupta possessed a great empire and that what the Arthasastra postulates is only a small state of medium size. This simply means that the political horizon of the Kautailyan world was narrow and limited to a state of medium size, and that Kautilya had no imperial outlook. This is again far from the truth. The description of the mandala or Circle of States and the policy of the states towards one another have been to a large extent responsible for this theory. Jayaswal conclusively shows the hollowness of this theory. He writes: “The supposition is contradicted by fact. Kautilya says that the Imperial tract (Chakravarti-ksetra) lies between the Himalayas and the Ocean, ninety-two thousand yojanas in the straight line (as the crow flies). It is hardly possible to imagine a state without neighbours. A policy towards neighbours will have to be postulated by any statesman however large his empire may be. Then we know that there were a number of neighbours in the south who were reduced in the next reign, i.e., Bindusara. When Chandragupta took the territories now called the N. W. Provinces from the Greeks it does not follow that he took the land without its rulers, republics generally, who were existing under the system of Alexander.
The Sanghavritta lays down a policy towards the republics which it assumes to be under the king’s sphere of influence, be they in (1) the Punjab, (2) Afghanistan (Kamboja), (3) Western India, or (4) North Bihar. There were therein parties in favour of the suzerain and parties against him. He was to sow the seed of dissension, patronise some, install or depose one of the leaders. Now we know that in no other than the early Maurya time, Afghanistan, the Punjab, Western India, and North Bihar were at one and the same time under the sphere of one Indian king. The fact that Kautilya hardly tolerates sub-kings is one which is only compatible with the Mauryan times. In addition to this it may be noted that in the fifteenth and the sixteenth chapters of the seventh adhikarana, Kautilya lays down interstate, if not, international, relations which ought to exist between an emperor and his subjects or allied kings. A reading of these two chapters bears testimony to the prevailing imperial ideas which swayed the master-mind of Kautilya. He certainly enunciated an imperial policy as is seen from the laws prescribed on the treatment to be accorded to the conquered king – by the conqueror.