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 28 - The Superintendent of Ships

The superintendent of ships shall examine the accounts relating to navigation, not only on oceans[1] and mouths of rivers, but also on lakes, natural or artificial, and rivers in the vicinity of sthāniya and other fortified cities.

Villages on seashores or on the banks of rivers and lakes shall pay a fixed amount of tax (klṛpta).

Fishermen shall give one-sixth of their haul as fees for fishing license (naukāhāṭaka).

Merchants shall pay the customary toll levied in port towns.

Passengers arriving on board the king’s ship shall pay the requisite amount of sailing fees (yātrāvetana).

Those (who make use of the king’s boats in) fishing out conch shells and pearls shall pay the requisite amount of hire (naukāhātaka) or they may make use of their own boats.

The duties of the superintendent of mines will explain those of the superintendent of conch shells and pearls.[2]

The superintendent of ships shall strictly observe the customs prevalent in commercial towns as well as the orders of the superintendent of towns (pattana, port town).

Whenever a weather-beaten ship arrives at a port town, he shall show fatherly kindness to it.

Vessels carrying on merchandise spoiled by water may either be exempted from toll or may have their toll reduced to half and let to sail when the time for setting sail approaches.

Ships that touch at harbours on their way may be requested the payment of toll.

Pirate ships (hiṃsrīkā), vessels which are bound for the country of an enemy, as well as those which have violated the customs and rules in force in port towns shall be destroyed.

In those large rivers which cannot be forded even during the winter and summer seasons, there shall be launched large boats (mahānāva) provided with a captain (śāsaka), a steersman (niyāmaka), and servants to hold the sickle and the ropes and to pour out water.

Small boats shall be launched in those small rivers which overflow during the rainy season.

Fording or crossing the river (without permission) shall be prohibited, lest traitors may cross them (and escape).

When a person fords or crosses a river outside the proper place and in unusual times, he shall be punished with the first amercement.

When a man fords or crosses a river at the usual place and time without permission, he shall be fined 26¾ paṇas.

Fishermen, carriers of firewood, grass, flowers, and fruits, gardeners, vegetable dealers, and herdsmen, persons pursuing suspected criminals, messengers following other messengers going in advance, servants engaged to carry things, provisions, and orders to the army, those who use their own ferries, as well as those who supply villages of marshy districts with seeds, necessaries of life, commodities and other accessory things shall be exempted (to cross rivers at any time and place).

Brāhmans, ascetics (pravrajita), children, the aged, the afflicted, royal messengers, and pregnant women shall be provided by the superintendent with free passes to cross rivers.

Foreign merchants who have often been visiting the country as well as those who are well-known to local merchants shall be allowed to land in port towns.

Any person who is abducting the wife or daughter of another, one who is carrying off the wealth of another, a suspected person, one who seems to be of perturbed appearance, one who has no baggage, one who attempts to conceal or evade the congnisance of the valuable load in one’s hand, one who has just put on a different garb, one who has removed or renounced one’s usual garb, one who has just turned out an ascetic, one who pretends to be suffering from disease, one who seems to be alarmed, one who is stealthily carrying valuable things, or going on a secret mission, or carrying weapons or explosives (agniyoga[3]), one who holds poison in one’s hand, and one who has come from a long distance without a pass shall all be arrested.

A minor quadruped as well as a man carrying some load shall pay one māṣa.[4]

A head-load, a load carried on shoulders (kāyabhāra), a cow and a horse shall each pay two māṣas.

A camel and a buffalo shall each pay four māṣas.

A small cart (laghuyāna[5]), 5 māṣas; and a cart (of medium size) drawn by bulls (goliṅga) shall pay 6 māṣas; and a big cart (śakaṭa[6]), 7 māṣas.

A head-load of merchandise, māṣa; this explains other kinds of loads. In big rivers, ferry fees are double the above. Villages near marshy places shall give (to the ferrymen) the prescribed amount of foodstuff and wages.

In boundaries, ferrymen shall receive the toll, carriage cess, and road cess. They shall also confiscate the property of the person travelling without a pass. The superintendent of boats shall make good the loss caused by the loss of the boat due to the heavy load, sailing in improper time or place, want of ferrymen, or lack of repair. Boats should be launched between the months of Āṣāḍha, the first seven days being omitted, and Kārthika; the evidence of a ferryman should be given and the daily income should be remitted.[7]

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

Footnotes and references:


Samudrasaṃyāna, sailing or boating dose to the shore.—Com.


See Chap. XII, Book II.


A terrific combustible prepared from the powder or oil (cūrṇa) of various kinds of snakes, lizards (kṛkalāsa), and worms. See Chap. I, Book XIV.

The fabulous Skolex from which, according to the followers of Alexander the Great, an explosive oil was prepared and used in war, causing terrible havoc among the enemy, seems to be kṛkalāsa, a lizard, or a chameleon.—Trans.


A minor quadruped as well as a man with some load shall pay one māṣa.—Com.


A cart of small speed.—Com.


A cart of very great speed.—Com.


In śloka-metre.



Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: