Arthashastra is a book discussing the theories and principles involved in ruling a state. This book was written at the end of the 4th century BC by Kautilya (popularly known as Chanakya), the minister of Chandragupta Maurya (founder of Mauryan dynasty). Scholars belonging to ancient kingdoms studied it to gain an insight into the various methods of governance.

Arthashastra, which literally means science of material gain or polity, explains the steps that a king should take to guard his own interest and that of the state and its citizens. Stress is given on the protection of the rights of peasants, the source of prosperity of a kingdom according to Kautilya.

This book justifies the use of espionage. According to the author, a spy can use any means that serves the purpose, without giving any thoughts to its moral or ethnic background. The methods that a king should follow to check the untimely ambitions of the princes is thoroughly explained. Contrariwise, the book also tells the manner in which the princes can tackle the king’s autocratic authority over them.

Kautilaya’s concern for the wellbeing of the slaves finds a mention in Arthashastra. The rules and regulations specified for them are believed to be among the most liberal in history.

Updated on 7th June, 2005


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