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 8 - Buildings

Disputes concerning Vāstu are dependent for settlement on the evidences to be furnished by people living in the neighbourhood.

Houses, fields, gardens, buildings of any kind (setubandha), lakes and tanks are each called Vāstu.

The fastening of the roof of a house to the transverse beam by means of iron bolts is called setu (karṇa-kilāyasasambandho’ nugṛham setuḥ). In conformity to the stability of the setu, houses shall be constructed. Not encroaching upon what belongs to others, foundation (pade bandhaḥ) shall be laid at a distance of 2 aratnis or 3 padas from the wall of the neighbouring house. Except in the case of temporary structures for the confinement of women for ten days, all permanent houses shall be provided with a dung-hill (avaskara), water course (bhrama), and a well (udapāna).[1] Violation of this rule shall be punished with the first amercement.

The same rule shall hold good regarding the necessity of constructing closets, pits and water courses on festive occasions.

From each house a water course of sufficient slope at a distance of 3 padas or 1½ aratnis from the neighbouring site shall be so constructed that water shall either flow from it in a continuous line or fall from it (into the drain).

Violation of this rule shall be punished with a flue of 54 paṇas.

At a distance of a pada or an aratni from the wall of the neighbouring house, an apartment for bipeds and quadrupeds, fireplace (agniṣṭha), water-butt (udañjara[2]), a corn mill (rocani) and a mortar (kuṭṭinī) shall be made. Violation of this rule shall be punished with a fine of 24 paṇas.[3]

Between any two houses or between the extended portions of any two houses, the intervening space shall be 4 padas, or 3 padas.[4] The roofs of adjoining houses may either be 4 aṅgulas apart, or one of them may cover the other. The front door (āṇidvāra) shall measure a kiṣku; there shall be no impediment inside the house for opening one or the other of the folds of the door (?). The upper storey shall be provided with a small but high window. [If a (neighbouring) house is obstructed by it, the window should be closed.][5] The owners of houses may construct their houses in any other way they collectively like, but they shall avoid whatever is injurious. With a view to ward off the evil consequences of rain, the top of the roof (vānalaṭyāścordhva) shall be covered over with a broad mat, not blowable by the wind. Neither shall the roof be such as will easily bend or break. Violation of this rule shall be punished with the first amercement. The same punishment shall be meted out for causing annoyance by constructing doors or windows facing those of others’ houses, except when these houses are separated by the king’s road or the highroad.

If a pit, steps, water-course, ladder, dung-hill, or any other parts of a house offer or cause annoyance to outsiders, or in any way obstruct the enjoyment of others (bhoganigrahe ca), or cause water to collect and thereby injure the wall of a neighbouring house, the owner shall be punished with a fine of 12 paṇas. If the annoyance is due to faeces and urine, the fine shall be double the above.[6] The water-course or gutter shall offer free passage for water; otherwise the fine shall be 12 paṇas.

The same fine (12 paṇas) shall be meted out not only to a tenant who, though asked to evacuate, resides in the house, but also to the owner who forces out a renter who has paid his rent (from his house), unless the renter is involved in such acts as defamation, theft, robbery, abduction, or enjoyment with a false title. He who voluntarily evacuates a house shall pay the balance of the annual rent.

If any one of a party does not take part in the construction of a building which is intended for the common use of all the members of that party, or if any one obstructs another member of a party in making use of any part of such a building, he shall be fined 12 paṇas. Similarly if any one mars another’s enjoyment of such a building, he shall be fined double the above.

* With the exception of private rooms and parlour (aṅgaṇa) all other open parts of houses as well as apartments where fire is ever kindled for worship or a mortar is situated, shall be thrown open for common use.[7]

[Thus ends Chapter VIII, “House-building,” in the section of “Buildings,” in Book III, “Concerning Law” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the sixty-fifth chapter from the beginning.)

Footnotes and references:


N. 11, 15.


The word “Udañjara” seems to be synonymous with “aliñjara,” used in the sense of “a big water-butt,” in page 167, Upāsakadaśasūtra, Calcutta Edition.


The original text here seems to contain a few clerical blunders.




Additional reading found in the Munich Manuscript.




The whole Chapter is full of obscure technical words. My translation is only tentative. The T. M. Com. is not clear.

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