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 27 - The Superintendent of Prostitutes

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The superintendent of prostitutes shall employ (at the king’s court) on a salary of 1,000 paṇas (per annum) a prostitute (gaṇikā), whether born or not born of a prostitute’s family, and noted for her beauty, youth, and accomplishments.[1]

A rival prostitute (pratigaṇikā) on half the above salary (kuṭumbārdhena) shall also be appointed.

Whenever such a prostitute goes abroad or dies, her daughter or sister shall act for her and receive her property and salary. Or her mother may substitute another prostitute. In the absence of any of these, the king himself shall take the property.[2]

With a view to add to the splendour of prostitutes holding the royal umbrella, golden pitcher, and fan, and attending upon the king seated on his royal litter, throne, or chariot, prostitutes shall be classified as of first, middle and highest rank, according to their beauty and splendid jewellery; likewise their salary shall be fixed by thousands.

She who has lost her beauty shall be appointed as a nurse (mātṛkā).

A prostitute shall pay 24,000 paṇas as ransom to regain her liberty; and a prostitute’s son 12,000 paṇas.

From the age of eight years, a prostitute shall hold musical performance before the king.

Those prostitutes, female slaves, and old women who are incapable of rendering any service in the form of enjoyment (bhagnabhogā) shall work in the storehouse or kitchen of the king.

A prostitute who, putting herself under the protection of a private person, ceases to attend the king’s court, shall pay a paṇa-and-a-quarter per mensem (to the government).[3]

The superintendent shall determine the earnings, inheritance, income (āya), expenditure, and future earnings (āyati) of every prostitute.

He shall also check their extravagant expenditure.

When a prostitute puts her jewellery in the hands of any person but her mother, she shall be fined 4¼ paṇas.

If she sells or mortgages her property (svāpateya),[4] she shall be fined 50¼ paṇas.

A prostitute shall be fined 24 paṇas for defamation; twice as much for causing hurt; and 50¼ paṇas as well as 1½ paṇas for cutting off the ear (of any person).[5]

When a man has connection with a prostitute against her will or with a prostitute girl (kumārī), he shall be punished with the highest amercement. But when he has connection with a willing prostitute (under age), he shall be punished with the first amercement,

When a man keeps under confinement, or abducts, a prostitute against her will, or disfigures her by causing hurt, he shall be fined 1,000 paṇas or more, rising up to twice the amount of her ransom (niṣkraya)[6] according to the circumstances of the crime and the position and the status of the prostitute (sthānaviśeṣeṇa).

When a man causes hurt to a prostitute appointed at the court (prāptādhikārā),[7] he shall he fined thrice the amount of her ransom.[8]

When a man causes hurt to a prostitute’s mother, to her young daughter, or to a rupadāsī,[9] he shall be punished with the highest amercement.

In all cases of offences, punishment for offences committed for the first time shall be the first amercement; twice as much for offences committed for a second time; thrice as much for the third time; and for offences committed for the fourth time, the king may impose any punishment he likes.

When a prostitute does not yield her person to any one under the orders of the king, she shall receive 1,000 lashes with a whip or pay a fine of 5,000 paṇas.

When, having received the requisite amount of fees, a prostitute dislikes to yield her person, she shall be fined twice the amount of the fees.

When, in her own house, a prostitute deprives her paramour of his enjoyment, she shall be fined eight times the amount of the fees, unless the paramour happens to be unassociable on account of disease and personal defects.

When a prostitute murders her paramour, she shall be burnt alive or thrown into water.

When a paramour steals the jewellery or money of, or fails to pay the fees due to a prostitute, he shall be fined eight times that amount.

Every prostitute shall supply information to the superintendent as to the amount of her daily fees (bhoga), her future income (āyati),[10] and the paramour (under her influence).

The same rules shall apply to an actor, dancer, singer, player on musical instruments, a buffoon (vāgjīvana), a mimic player (kuśīlava), rope dancer (plavaka), a juggler (saubhika), a wandering bard or herald (chāraṇa), pimps, and unchaste women.

When persons of the above description come from foreign countries to hold their performances, they shall pay five paṇas as licence fee (prekṣāvetana).

Every prostitute (rūpājīvā) shall pay every month twice the amount of a day’s earning (bhogadviguṇa) to the government.

Those who teach prostitutes, female slaves, and actresses, arts such as singing, playing on musical instruments, reading, dancing, acting, writing, painting, playing on the instruments like viṇā, pipe, and drum, reading the thoughts of others, manufacture of scents and garlands, shampooing, and the art of attracting and captivating the mind of others shall be endowed with maintenance from the state.

They (the teachers) shall train the sons of prostitutes to be chief actors (raṅgopajīvi) on the stage.

The wives of actors and others of similar profession who have been taught various languages and the use of signals (saṃjña) shall, along with their relatives, be made use of in detecting the wicked and murdering or deluding foreign spies.[11]

[Thus ends Chapter XXVII, “The Superintendent of Prostitutes,” in Book II, “The Duties of Government Superintendents” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the forty-eighth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


Beauty and accomplishments must be the sole consideration in the selection of a prostitute.—Com.


Sons are no heirs to the property of prostitutes.


Others say that a private person, keeping a courtesan, shall pay one-and-a-half paṇas per mensem to the government.—Com.


Other than jewellery.—Com.


Fifty-and-a-quarter paṇas to the king; one-and-a-half panas to the superintendent.—Com.


24,000 paṇas is the unit of ransom,—Com.


This may mean “who has attained majority.”


72,000 paṇas.—Com.


One who is employed in making garlands, scents and the like.—Com.


Fees that are to be earned but not received.—Com.


In śloka-metre.

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