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 12 - Conducting Mining Operations and Manufacture

Possessed of the knowledge of the science dealing with copper and other minerals (Śulbadhātuśāstra),[1] experienced in the art of distillation and condensation of mercury (rasapāka) and of testing gems, aided by experts in mineralogy and equipped with mining labourers and necessary instruments, the superintendent of mines shall examine mines which, on account of their containing mineral excrement (kiṭṭa), crucibles, charcoal, and ashes, may appear to have been once exploited or which may be newly discovered on plains or mountain slopes possessing mineral ores, the richness of which can be ascertained by weight, depth of colour, piercing smell, and taste.

Liquids which ooze out from pits, caves, slopes, or deep excavations of well-known mountains; which have the colour of the fruit of rose-apple (jambu), of mango, and of fan palm; which are as yellow as ripe turmeric, sulphurate of arsenic (haritāla), honeycomb, and vermilion; which are as resplendent as the petals of a lotus, or the feathers of a parrot or a peacock; which are adjacent to (any mass of) water or shrubs of similar colour; and which are greasy (chikkaṇa), transparent (viśada), and very heavy are ores of gold (kāñcanika). Likewise liquids which, when dropped on water, spread like oil to which dirt and filth adhere, and which amalgamate themselves more than cent per cent (śatādupari veddhārā) with copper or silver.

Of similar appearance as the above (tatpratirūpaka), but of piercing smell and taste, is bitumen.

Those ores which are obtained from plains or slopes of mountains; which are either yellow or as red as copper or reddish yellow; which are disjoined and marked with blue lines; which have the colour of black beans (māṣa, Phraseolus radiatus), green beans (mudga, Phraseolus mungo), and sesamum; which are marked with spots like a drop of curd and resplendent as turmeric, yellow myrobalan, petals of a lotus, aquatic plant, the liver or the spleen; which possess a sandy layer within them and are marked with figures of a circle or a svastika; which contain globular masses (sagulikā); and which, when roasted do not split, but emit much foam and smoke are the ores of gold (suvarṇadhātava), and are used to form amalgams with copper or silver (pratīvāpārthāstāmrarūpyavedhanā).[2]

Those ores which have the colour of a conch shell, camphor, alum, butter, a pigeon, turtle dove, Vimalaka (a kind of precious stone), or the neck of a peacock; which are as resplendent as opal (sasyaka), agate (gomedaka), cane-sugar (guḍa), and granulated sugar (matsyaṇḍika); which has the colour of the flower of kovidāra (Bauhnia variegata), of lotus, of pātalī (Bignonia suaveolens), of kalāya (a kind of Phraseolus), of kṣauma (flax), and of atasī (Dinum usitatissimum); which may be in combination with lead or iron (añjana); which smell like raw meat, are disjoined grey or blackish white, and are marked with lines or spots; and which, when roasted, do not split, but emit much foam and smoke are silver ores.

The heavier the ores, the greater will be the quantity of metal in them (satvaṛddhi).

The impurities of ores, whether superficial or inseparably combined with them, can be got rid of and the metal melted when the ores are (chemically) treated with Ṭīkṣṇa,[3] urine (mūtra), and alkalis (kṣāra), and are mixed or smeared over with the mixture of (the powder of) Rājavṛkṣa (Clitoria ternatea), Vaṭa (Ficus Indica), and Pīlu (Carnea arborea), together with cow’s bile and the urine and dung of a buffalo, an ass and an elephant.

(Metals) are rendered soft when they are treated with (the powder of) kandalī (mushroom), and vajrakanda[4] (Antiquorum) together with the ashes of barley, black beans, palāśā (Butea frondosa), and pīlu (Carnea arborea), or with the milk of both the cow and the sheep. Whatever metal is split into a hundred thousand parts is rendered soft when it is thrice soaked in the mixture made up of honey (madhu), madhuka (Bassia latifolia), sheep’s milk, sesamum oil, clarified butter, jaggery, kiṇva[5] (ferment) and mushroom.

Permanent softness (mṛdustambhana) is also attained when the metal is treated with the powder of cow’s teeth and horn.

Those ores which are obtained from plains or slopes of mountains; and which are heavy, greasy, soft, tawny, green, dark bluish-yellow (harita), pale red, or red are ores of copper.

Those ores which have the colour of kākamecaka (Solanum Indica), pigeon, or cow’s bile, and which are marked with white lines and smell like raw meat are the ores of lead.

Those ores which are as variegated in colour as saline soil or which have the colour of a burnt lump of earth are the ores of tin.

Those ores which are of orange colour (kurumba),[6] or pale red (pāṇḍurohita), or of the colour of the flower of sinduvāra (Vitex trifolia) are the ores of tīkṣṇa.[7]

Those ores which are of the colour of the leaf of kāṇḍa (Artemisia Indica) or of the leaf of birch are the ores of vaikṛntaka.

Pure, smooth, effulgent, sounding (when struck), very hard (śītatīvra),[8] and of little colour (tanurāga) are precious stones.

The yield of mines may be put to such uses as are in vogue.

Commerce in commodities manufactured from mineral products shall be centralized, and punishment for manufacturers, sellers, and purchasers of such commodities outside the prescribed locality shall also be laid down.

A mine labourer who steals mineral products except precious[9] stones shall be punished with a fine of eight times their value.

Any person who steals mineral products or carries on. mining operations without licence shall be bound (with chains) and caused to work (as a prisoner).

Mines which yield such minerals as are made use of in preparing vessels (bhāṇḍa) as well as those mines which require large outlay to work out may be leased out for a fixed number of the shares of the output or for a fixed rent (bhāgena prakrayeṇa vā). Such mines as can be worked out without much outlay shall be directly exploited (by government agency).

The superintendent of metals (lohādhyakṣa)[10] shall carry on the manufacture of copper, lead, tin, vaikṛntaka (mercury [?]), ārakūṭa (brass), vṛttā (?); kaṃsa (bronze or bell-metal), tāla (sulphurate of arsenic), and lodhra (?), and also of commodities (bhāṇḍa) from them.

The superintendent of mint (lakṣaṇādhyakṣa)[11] shall carry on the manufacture of silver coins (rūpyarūpa)[12] made up of four parts of copper and one-sixteenth part (māṣa) of any one of the metals, tīkṣṇa, trapu, sīsa, and añjana. These shall be a paṇa, half a paṇa, a quarter and one-eighth.

Copper[13] coins (tāmrarūpa) made up of four parts of an alloy (pādajīva)[14] shall be a māṣaka, half a māṣaka, kākaṇī,[15] and half a kākaṇī.

The examiner of coins (rūpadarśaka) shall regulate currency both as a medium of exchange (vyāvahārikī) and as legal tender admissible into the treasury (kośapraveśyā). The premia[16] levied on coins paid (into the treasury shall be) eight per cent known as rūpika, five per cent known as vyājī, one-eighth paṇa per cent as parīkṣika (testing charge), besides (ca[17]) a fine of 25 paṇas to be imposed on offenders other than the manufacturer, the seller, the purchaser and the examiner.[18]

The superintendent of ocean mines (khanyadhyakṣa) shall attend to the collection of conch shells, diamonds, precious stones, pearls, corals, and salt (kṣāra) and also regulate the commerce in the above commodities.

Soon after crystallization of salt is over, the superintendent of salt shall in time collect both the money rent (prakraya)[19] and the quantity of the shares of salt due to the government; and by the sale of salt (thus collected as shares) he shall realise not only its value (mūlya), but also the premium of five per cent (vyājī),[20] both in cash (rūpa).[21]

Imported salt (āgantulavaṇa) shall pay one-sixth portion (ṣaḍbhāga)[22] to the kings. The sale of this portion (bhāgavibhāga) shall fetch the premia of five per cent (vyājī), of eight per cent (rūpika[23]) in cash (rūpa). The purchasers shall pay not only the toll (śulka), but also the compensation (vaidharaṇa)[24] equivalent to the loss entailed on the king’s commerce. In default of the above payment, he[25] shall be compelled to pay a fine of 600 paṇas.

Adulteration of salt shall be punished with the highest amercement; likewise persons other than hermits (vānaprastha) manufacturing salt without licence.

Men learned in the Vedas, persons engaged in penance, as well as labourers may take with them salt for food; salt and alkalis for purposes other than this shall be subject to the payment of toll.

Thus[26] besides collecting from mines the ten kinds of revenue, such as

  1. value of the output (mūlya),
  2. the share of the output (vibhāga),
  3. the premium of five per cent (vyājī),[27]
  4. the testing charge of coins (parigha),[28]
  5. fine previously announced (atyaya),
  6. toll (śulka),
  7. compensation for loss entailed on the king’s commerce (vaidharaṇa),
  8. fines to be determined in proportion to the gravity of crimes (daṇḍa),[29]
  9. coinage (rūpa),[30]
  10. and the premium of eight per cent (rūpika), the government shall keep as a state monopoly both mining and commerce (in minerals).

Thus taxes (mukhasaṅgraha) on all commodities intended for sale shall be prescribed once for all.

Mines are the source of treasury; from treasury comes the power of government; and the earth whose ornament is treasury is acquired by means of treasury and army.

[Thus ends Chapter XII, “Conducting Mining Operations and Manufacture,” in Book II, “The Duties of Government Superintendents” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of thirty-third chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


Such as Sākala and other scientific works.—Com.


“tāmrasya rūpyasya vā hematvāpā-danāḥ”, those which are made use of in converting copper or silver into gold.


Ṭīkṣṇa is human urine; Mūtra is the urine of elephant, horse, cow and goat; but others hold that Ṭīkṣṇa-kṣāra is the ash of plantain tree, Apāmārga (Achyranthes aspera), barley and sesamum, etc.—Com.


Some take Vajrakanda to mean Viṣṇukanda; some, Surabhi; and some, Vanasūraṇa.—Com.


See Chap. XXV, Book II.


karumbaḥ slakṣṇapāṣānaprāyaḥ;
sinduvārapuṣpavarṇaḥ nirgundikusumavarṇaḥ
—“like smooth pebbles and having the colour of the flower of Vitex trifolia”.—Com.


Tīkṣṇadhātu is iron (ayodhātu). See also Chap. XVIII, Book II.—Com.


Becoming very hot in the vicinity of fire; but others take it to mean “very cold”.


Death sentence is laid down for the theft of precious stones.


Loha is a general name of metals except gold and silver.—Com.


Ṭaṅkāśiālādhikari, the officer in charge of the mint.—Com.


The same as Kārṣāpaṇa.—Com.


Having described coins that deserve to be received into the treasury (Kośapraveśya), the author goes on to describe token coins (vyāvaharika).—Com.


Made up of four parts of silver, eleven parts of copper, and one part of ṭīkṣṇa or any other metal.—Com.


Kākaṇī is one-fourth māṣaka.


Whenever money was paid to the government, either for commodities purchased or as fines, these premia appear to have been collected; see below,—Trans.


The word “ca” implies increase or decrease of fines on the scale of a fine of twenty-five paṇas for the loss in weight of one-eighth paṇa in a paṇa coin.—Com.


A heavier fine of 1,000 paṇas is imposed on the manufacturer, etc., for similar offence.—Com.


Either the money rent ora fixed number of shares, as agreed upon.—Com.


This is obtained as a matter of course, since the royal measure is greater by five per cent than the public measure. No sale is valid unless a vyāji is paid to the government.


The word “rūpa” is ambiguous; whether it means parīkṣika, testing charge, as the commentator takes it, or the premia of eight per cent (rupikā), or whether it means cash, is not possible to determine. It has, however, been taken here in its ordinary sense, “cash.”—Trans.


The one-sixth portion in royal measure measures five per cent more when measured by cubical measure current in the public. Hence the use of the word “Bhāgavibhāga” where bhāga is one-sixth portion as measured by public standard and vibhāga is the difference between the royal measure and the public measure.—Com.


Why the premium of eight per cent (rūpika) is not demanded in the sale of local salt, is hard to guess; perhaps the word “rūpika” might have been omitted in the previous paragraph.—Trans.


The commentator takes the word “Vaidharaṇa” to mean “making good the loss” incurred by traders selling the king’s merchandise.


He who sells imported salt when there is local salt.—Com.


In śloka-metre.


Vyāji is of two kinds: that in kind or cash, due to the difference between royal and market weights and measures, amounting to five per cent.—Trans.


Others take it to mean the profit realised by the manufacturing of commodities from minerals.—Com.


Fines previously pronounced are called Atyaya, while fines determined then and there are termed Daṇḍa.—Com.


Silver and copper coins.—Com.

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