Pandit Chanakya or Kautilya is better known as the founding father of totalitarianism. He is famous for his works Arthashastra and Nitishastra. Even today, the scholars of the world acknowledge Chanakya’s acumen. Chanakya’s Arthashastra depicts in many ways the India of his dreams. His Arthashastra depicts the way of life men should adopt in a society that would ultimately not just lead to their own development, but would also benefit the nation as a whole. His views are more worldly, feasible rather than controversial. His ideologies on administration, politics and economy are found to be relevant even today.
Chanakya was born around third century B.C. He was the son of an ancient teacher, Rishi Canak. Since Chanakya’s father was a teacher, he began teaching his son Vedas while he was still a child. Chanakya began showing signs of wisdom and intelligence from a very tender age. Receiving the knowledge of Vedas from his father molded him into the character that went on to change the destiny of his nation. At a very young age, Chanakya memorized the Vedas which were considered to be one of the most difficult scriptures in those times. He showed interest in studies related to politics. He liked it more than any other topics taught in those days. When Chanakya grew a little older, he was sent to a famous school in a city called Taxila for his further education.
Chanakya authored the great book Arthashastra. He wrote it with the sole purpose of ensuring the happiness of the people of the kingdom. Even European politicians, sociologists and economists study this book with a lot of interest. Needless to say, the book is written in Sanskrit. It thoroughly discusses the theories and principles of governing a state. The title, Arthashastra signifies, ‘the Science of Material Gain’ or ‘Science of Polity’. It is evident from the title what the book is about.
Chanakya wrote Arthashastra in 15 parts. There are 150 sections. Further, this comprehensive book encompasses 180 chapters. In the first five parts, Chanakya describes about international administration. In the next parts, he speaks on eight foreign relations. In the fourteenth and fifteenth books, he describes secret practices and the plan of work. The book begins with a narration of how to bring up royal prices and how their education should be. It goes on to tell how to choose ambassadors and how to use spies. Going further, the book explains how to protect a king against dangers and risks. Law and order, the duties of the police, how to control the wealthy citizens and motivate them to make gifts for charitable purposes, methods of preventing wars, duties of an astrologer, priest and others, tricks to be employed to defeat enemy kings, ways of inducing sleep in human beings and animals- these numerous other subjects were discussed in detail by Chanakya in the treatise.
Chanakya’s Arthashastra records Indians’ skill and knowledge of processing gem minerals, metallic ores, metals, alloys and the end products, as well as an aptitude for scientific methodology, and the development of an elaborate terminology, during the sub-continent’s early historical period. In fact, Arthashastra is considered to be the first book which incited nationalism into the Indians, and united them for the first time in the Mauryan dynasty. Arthashastra is a brilliant work, as pertinent today as it was in 312-296B.C., during which time it was inscribed. Here are 3 comprehensive sections that need your attention:
- Arthashastra on kings:
Arthashastra is considered a treatise on the policy of a successful kingdom. The book describes how the king himself should live his life, how he should choose his aides, and how he should manage the finances of the empire. In the book, Chanakya describes that a king should divide his day and night into eight parts each, for the purpose of administration of his empire, and leaving only two parts of the night for sleeping. He asserts that it is in the king’s best interest to employ agents to spy the government agents of the empire, and the citizens of both his and the surrounding empires. In addition, Chanakya described in detail how the king’s capital and fortress should be structured. Chankya considers protection of Dharma or righteousness in society as the primary duty of a king. That king who upholds righteousness and virtue, according to Chanakya, would have happiness in this world and also in the next. He also asserts that a king who uses his power improperly and unjustly deserves to be punished.
In Arthashastra, Chanakya mentioned that the sacred task of a king is to strive for the welfare of his people incessantly. A king should never think of his personal interest or welfare, but should try to find joy in the joy of his subjects.
- Arthashastra on Finances:
According to Chanakya’s Arthashastra, “All undertakings depend on finance. Hence, foremost attention shall be paid to treasury.” In his book, apart from describing the duties and conduct of a king, Chanakya also describes the duties of a Chamberlain or treasurer, the superintendent of the mint, and the superintendent of the gold. He describes penalties to be doled out to offenders to the government treasury, in the form of monetary fines. Kautilya also describes the values of grains and other commodities. He leaves no form of income unexplored. In addition, he also diligently listed the qualities of silver, gold, diamonds, and other gems and insisted that their quality, purity and the authenticity should always be assured. This treatise gives insights on geology, agriculture, animal husbandry and metrology. According to Chanakya and as per his best work, most of the business including mining should be carried out by the state. The existence of the book indicates that all these sciences were quite developed and systematized in India 2500 years ago.
- Arthashastra on Mines:
Arthashastra gives detailed information on mines, minerals and metals. The way Chanakya describes each and every facet of mines, minerals and metals, proves that the Indians were concerned in this regard even in that age. In the treatise, Chanakya asserts that “Mines are the very source from which springs all temporal power for the strength of government and the earth, whose ornament is the treasury, which is acquired by means of treasury”.
Chanakya’s Arthashastra is a promising guide to change each and every passing moment of life.