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 16 - The Superintendent of Commerce

The superintendent of commerce shall ascertain demand or absence of demand for, and rise or fall in the price of various kinds of merchandise which may be the products either of land or of water, and which may have been brought in either by land or by water path. He shall also ascertain the time suitable for their distribution, centralisation, purchase, and sale.

That merchandise which is widely distributed shall be centralised and its price enhanced. When the enhanced rate becomes popular, another rate shall be declared.

That merchandise of the king which is of local manufacture shall be centralised; imported merchandise shall be distributed in several markets for sale. Both kinds of merchandise shall be favourably sold to the people.

He shall avoid such large profits as will harm the people.

There shall be no restriction to the time of sale of those commodities for which there is frequent demand; nor shall they be subject to the evils of centralisation (saṅkuladoṣa).

Or pedlars may sell the merchandise of the king at a fixed price in many markets and pay necessary compensation (vaidharaṇa) proportional to the loss entailed upon it (chedānurūpa).

The amount of vyājī[1] due on commodities sold by cubical measure is one-sixteenth of the quantity (ṣoḍaśabhāgo mānavyājī); that on commodities sold by weighing balance is one-twentieth of the quantity; and that on commodities sold in numbers is one-eleventh of the whole.

The superintendent shall show favour to those who import foreign merchandise: mariners (nāvika) and merchants who import foreign merchandise shall be favoured with remission of the trade-taxes, so that they may derive some profit (āyatikṣamam parihāram dayāt).[2]

Foreigners importing merchandise shall be exempted from being sued for debts unless they are (local) associations and partners (anabhiyogascārthe[ś?]vāgantūnāmanyatassabhyopakāribhyaḥ).

Those who sell the merchandise of the king shall invariably put their sale proceeds in a wooden box kept in a fixed place and provided with a single aperture on the top.

During the eighth part of the day, they shall submit to the superintendent the sale report, saying, “This much has been sold and this much remains”; they shall also hand over the weights and measures. Such are the rules applicable to local traffic.

As regards the sale of the king’s merchandise in foreign countries:

Having ascertained the value of local produce as compared with that of foreign produce that can be obtained in barter, the superintendent will find out (by calculation) whether there is any margin left for profit after meeting the payments (to the foreign king), such as the toll (śulka), road-cess (vartani), conveyance-cess (ātivāhika), tax payable at military stations (gulmadeya), ferry charges (taradeya), subsistence to the merchant and his followers (bhakta), and the portion of merchandise payable to the foreign king (bhāga).

If no profit can be realised by selling the local produce in foreign countries, he has to consider whether any local produce can be profitably bartered for any foreign produce. Then[3] he may send one-quarter of his valuable merchandise through safe roads to different markets on land.[4] In view of large profits, he (the deputed merchant) may make friendship with the forest-guards, boundary-guards, and officers in charge of cities and of country-parts (of the foreign king). He shall take care to secure his treasure (sāra)[5] and life from danger. If he cannot reach the intended market, he may sell the merchandise[6] (at any market) free from all dues[7] (sarvadeyaviśuddha).

Or he may take his merchandise to other countries through rivers (nadīpatha).

He shall also gather information as to conveyance charges (yānabhāgaka), subsistence on the way (pathyadana), value of foreign merchandise that can be obtained in barter for local merchandise, occasions of pilgrimages (yātrākāla), means that can be employed to ward off dangers (of the journey), and the history of commercial towns (paṇyapattanacāritra).

Having gathered information as to the transactions in commercial towns along the banks of rivers, he shall transport his merchandise to profitable markets and avoid unprofitable ones.[8]

[Thus ends Chapter XVI, “The Superintendent of Commerce,” in Book II, “The Duties of Government Superintendents” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya, End of thirty-seventh chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


Some say that this amount of vyāji is to be taken by the purchaser.—Com.


By removing the difficulties such as are caused by forest-guards, countries etc., and by foregoing the exaction of vyājī.—Com.


After such consideration.—Com.


As ocean traffic is dangerous.—Com.


Gold in hand; if both cannot be saved, he may part with his wealth and save his life, on which rests the acquisition of wealth.—Com.


Even at small profit, lest the whole may be lost.—Com.


Telling that it is the merchandise of the king of the country whither he has come.—Com.


In śloka-metre.

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