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 35 - Revenue-Collectors and Spies

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Summary: The Duty of Revenue-Collectors; Spies under the Guise of Householders, Merchants and Ascetics.

Having divided the kingdom (janapada) into four districts, and having also sub-divided the villages (grāma) as of first, middle, and lowest rank, he shall bring them under one or another of the following heads: villages that are exempted from taxation (parihāraka); those that supply soldiers (āyudhīya); those that pay their taxes in the form of grains, cattle, gold (hiraṇya), or raw material (kupya); and those that supply free labour (viṣṭi),[1] and dairy produce in lieu of taxes (karapratikara).

It is the duty of Gopa, village accountant, to attend to the accounts of five or ten villages, as ordered by the Collector-General.

By setting up boundaries to villages, by numbering plots of grounds as cultivated, uncultivated, plains, wet lands, gardens, vegetable gardens, fences (vāṭa), forests, altars, temples of gods, irrigation works, cremation grounds, feeding houses (sattra), places where water is freely supplied to travellers (prapā), places of. pilgrimage, pasture grounds and roads, and thereby fixing the boundaries of various villages, of fields, of forests, and of roads, he shall register gifts, sales, charities, and remission of taxes regarding fields.

Also having numbered the houses as tax-paying, or non-tax-paying, he shall not only register the total number of the inhabitants of all the four castes in each village, but also keep an account of the exact number of cultivators, cowherds, merchants, artizans, labourers, slaves, and biped and quadruped animals, fixing at the same time the amount of gold, free labour, toll, and fines that can be collected from it (each house).

He shall also keep an account of the number of young and old men that reside in each house, their history (caritra), occupation (ājīva), income (āya), and expenditure (vyaya).

Likewise Sthānika, district officer, shall attend to the accounts of one-quarter of the kingdom.

In those places which are under the jurisdiction of gopa and sthānika, commissioners (pradeṣṭāraḥ [pradeṣṭṛ]) specially deputed by the collector-general shall not only inspect the work done and means employed by the village and district officers, but also collect the special religious tax known as bali (balipragrahaṃ kuryuḥ).[2]

Spies, under the disguise of householders (gṛhapatika, cultivators), who shall be deputed by the collector-general for espionage, shall ascertain the validity of the accounts (of the village and district officers) regarding the fields, houses and families of each village—the area and output of produce regarding fields, right of ownership and remission of taxes with regard to houses, and the caste and profession regarding families.

They shall also ascertain the total number of men and beasts (jaṅghāgra) as well as the amount of income and expenditure of each family.

They shall also find out the causes of emigration and immigration of persons of migratory habit, the arrival and departure of men and women of condemnable (anarthya) character,[3] as well as the movements of (foreign) spies.

Likewise spies under the guise of merchants shall ascertain the quantity and price of the royal merchandise, such as minerals, or products of gardens, forests, and fields, or manufactured articles.

As regards foreign merchandise of superior or inferior quality arriving thither by land or water, they shall ascertain the amount of toll, road cess, conveyance cess, military cess, ferry fare, and one-sixth portion (paid or payable by the merchants), the charges incurred by them for their own subsistence, and for the accommodation of their merchandise in warehouse (paṇyāgāra).

Similarly spies under the guise of ascetics shall, as ordered by the collector-general, gather information as to the proceedings, honest or dishonest, of cultivators, cowherds, merchants, and heads of government departments.

In places where altars are situated or where four roads meet, in ancient ruins, in the vicinity of tanks, rivers, bathing places, in places of pilgrimage and hermitage, and in desert tracts, mountains, and thick grown forests, spies under the guise of old and notorious thieves with their student bands shall ascertain the causes of arrival and departure, and halt of thieves, enemies, and persons of undue bravery.

The collector-general shall thus energetically attend to the affairs of the kingdom. Also his subordinates, constituting his various establishment of espionage, shall, along with their colleagues and followers, attend to their duties likewise.[4]

[Thus ends Chapter XXXV, “The Duty of Revenue Collectors; Spies under the Guise of Householders, Merchants, and Ascetics,” in Book II, “The Duties of Government Superintendents” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the fifty-sixth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


Those who are to work in building forts and other government buildings towards the payment of taxes due from them.—Com.


They shall forcibly collect the taxes that are left in arrears; or they may punish influential, but wicked officers.—Com.


Such as dancers, actors and the like.—Com.


In śloka-metre.

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