Kautilya Arthashastra

by R. Shamasastry | 1956 | 174,809 words | ISBN-13: 9788171106417

The English translation of Arthashastra, which ascribes itself to the famous Brahman Kautilya (also named Vishnugupta and Chanakya) and dates from the period 321-296 B.C. The topics of the text include internal and foreign affairs, civil, military, commercial, fiscal, judicial, tables of weights, measures of length and divisions of time. Original ...

Chapter 1 - Formation of Villages

Either by inducing foreigners to immigrate (paradeśāpavāhanena) or by causing the thickly-populated centres of his own kingdom to send forth the excessive population (svadeśābhiṣyandavamanena vā), the king may construct villages either on new sites or on old ruins (bhūtapūrvamabhūtapūrvam vā[1]).

Villages consisting each of not less than a hundred families and of not more than five hundred families of agricultural people of śūdra caste,[2] with boundaries extending as far as a krośa (2,250 yds.) or two, and capable of protecting each other, shall be formed. Boundaries shall be denoted by a river, a mountain, forests, bulbous plants (gṛṣti), caves, artificial buildings (setubandha), or by trees such as śālmali (silk cotton tree), śamī (Acacia Suma), and kṣiravṛkṣa (milky trees).

There shall be set up a sthānīya (a fortress of that name) in the centre of eight hundred villages, a droṇamukha in the centre of four hundred villages, khārvātika in the centre of two hundred villages and a saṅgrahaṇa in the midst of a collection of ten villages.

There shall be constructed in the extremities of the kingdom forts manned by boundary-guards (antapāla), whose duty shall be to guard the entrance into the kingdom. The interior of the kingdom shall be watched by trap-keepers (vāgurika), archers (śābara), hunters (pulinda), cāṇḍālas, and wild tribes (araṇyacara).

Those who perform sacrifices (ṛtvik), spiritual guides, priests, and those learned in the Vedas shall be granted Brahmadeya lands yielding sufficient produce and exempted from taxes and fines adaṇḍakarāṇi[?]).

Superintendents, accountants, gopas,[3] sthānikas, veterinary surgeons (anīkastha), physicians, horse-trainers, and messengers shall also be endowed with lands, which they shall have no right to alienate by sale or mortgage.

Lands prepared for cultivation shall be given to [47] taxpayers (karada) only for life (ekapuruṣikāṇi). Unprepared lands shall not be taken away from those who are preparing them for cultivation.

Lands may be confiscated from those who do not cultivate them and given to others; or they may be cultivated by village labourers (grāmabhṛtaka) and traders (vaidehaka), lest those owners who do not properly cultivate them might pay less[4] (to the government), If cultivators pay their taxes easily, they may be favourably supplied with grains, cattle, and money.[5]

The king shall bestow on cultivators only such favour and remission (anugrahaparihārau) as will tend to swell the treasury, and shall avoid such as deplete it.

A king with depleted treasury will eat into the very vitality of both citizens and country people. Either on the occasion of opening new settlements or on any other emergent occasions, remission of taxes shall be made.

He shall regard with fatherly kindness those who have passed the period of remission of taxes.

He shall carry on mining operations and manufacturers exploit timber and elephant forests, offer facilities for cattle-breeding and commerce, construct roads for traffic both by land and water, and set up market towns (paṇyapattana).

He shall also construct reservoirs (setu), filled with water either perennial or drawn from some other source. Or he may provide with sites, roads, timber, and other necessary things those who construct reservoirs of their own accord. Likewise in the construction of places of pilgrimage (puṇyasthāna) and of groves.

Whoever stays away from any kind of co-operative construction (sambhūya setubandhāt) shall send his servants and bullocks to carry on his work, shall have a share in the expenditure, but shall have no claim to the profit.

The king shall exercise his right of ownership (svāṃya) with regard to fishing, ferrying and trading in vegetables (haritapaṇya), in reservoirs or lakes (setuṣu).

Those who do not heed the claims of their slaves (dāsa), hirelings (āhitaka), and relatives shall be taught their duty.

The king shall provide the orphans[6] (bāla), the aged, the infirm, the afflicted, and the helpless with maintenance. He shall also provide subsistence to helpless women when they are carrying and also to the children they give birth to.

Elders among the villagers shall improve the property of bereaved minors till the latter attain their age; so also the property of gods.

When a capable person other than an apostate (patita) or mother neglects to maintain his or her child, wife, mother, father, minor brothers, sisters, or widowed girls (kanyā vidhavāśca), he or she shall be punished with a fine of twelve paṇas.

When, without making provision for the maintenance of his wife and sons, any person embraces asceticism, he shall be punished with the first amercement; likewise any person who converts a woman to asceticism (pravrājayata).

Whoever has passed the age of copulation may become an ascetic after distributing the properties of his own acquisition (among his sons),[7] otherwise he will be punished.

No ascetic other than a vānaprastha (forest-hermit), no company other than the one of local birth (sajātādanyassaṅgha), and no guilds of any kind other than local co-operative guilds (sāmutthāyikādanyassamayānubandha) shall find entrance into the villages of the kingdom. Nor shall there be in villages buildings (śālā) intended for sports and plays. Nor, in view of procuring money, free labour, commodities, grains, and liquids in plenty, shall actors, dancers, singers, drummers, buffoons (vāgjīvana), and bards (kuśilava) make any disturbance to the work of the villagers; for helpless villagers are always dependent and bent upon their fields.

The king shall avoid taking possession of any country which is liable to the inroads of enemies and wild tribes, and which is harassed by frequent visitations of famine and pestilence. He shall also keep away from expensive sports.[8]

He shall protect agriculture from the molestation of oppressive fines, free labour, and taxes (daṇḍaviṣṭikarābādhai); herds of cattle from thieves, tigers, poisonous creatures and cattle disease.

He shall not only clear roads of traffic from the molestations of [49] courtiers (vallabha), of workmen (kārmika), of robbers, and of boundary-guards, but also keep them from being destroyed by herds of cattle.

Thus the king shall not only keep in good repair timber and elephant forests, buildings, and mines created in the past, but also set up new ones.

[Thus ends Chapter I, “Formation of Villages,” in Book II, “The Duties of Government Superintendents” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of twenty-second chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


While commenting on similar phrases used by Kalidāsa in stanza 29 Canto XV of his Raghuvaṃśa, this whole passage is quoted by Mallinātha.


Śūdras and agricultural people.—Meyer.


See Chap. XXXV, Book II.


Those who do not cultivate well shall pay the loss.


The passage may mean: “Cultivators may be supplied with cattle, etc., and these they may return at their convenience.”


It is from among these destitute persons that spies were recruited. See Chap. XII, Book I.


After consulting the judges (dharmasthas).


In śloka-metre.

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