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 9 - Sale of Buildings and Boundary Disputes

Summary: Sale of Buildings, Boundary Disputes, Determination of Boundaries, and Miscellaneous Hindrances.

Kinsmen, neighbours, rich persons, shall in succession go for the purchase of land and other holdings. Neighbours of good family, forty in number and different from the purchasers above mentioned, shall congregate in front of the building for sale and announce it as such. Accurate description of the exact boundaries of fields, gardens, buildings of any kind, lakes or tanks shall be declared before the elders of the village or of the neighbourhood. If, on crying aloud thrice, “Who will purchase this at such and such a price?” no opposition is offered, the purchaser may proceed to purchase the holding in question. If at this time the value of the property is increased by bidding, even among persons of the same community, the increased amount together with the toll on the value shall be handed over into the king’s treasury. The bidder (vikrayapratikroṣṭā) shall pay the toll. Bidding for a property in the absence of its owner shall be punished with a fine of 24 paṇas. If no real owner comes forward even on the expiration of seven nights, the bidder may take possession of the property. Sale of building, etc. (vāstu), to other than the bidder shall be punished with a fine of 200 paṇas; if the property is other than buildings, etc. (vāstu), the fine for the above offence shall be 24 paṇas. Tims the sale of buildings is dealt with.

(Boundary Disputes)

In all disputes regarding the boundary between any two villages, neighbours or elders of five or ten villages (pañcagrāmī daśagrāmī vā) shall investigate the case on the evidence to be furnished from natural or artificial boundary marks.[1]

Elders among cultivators and herdsmen, or outsiders who have had the experience of former possession in the place, or one or many persons (not) personally acquainted with the boundary marks under dispute shall first describe the boundary marks, and then, wearing unusual dress (viparītaveṣa), shall lead the people (to the place).[2] If the boundary marks just described are not found, a fine of 1,000 paṇas shall be imposed (on the misleading or guilty person). If, however, they arrive at the exact spot, the party who have either encroached upon the boundary or have destroyed the boundary marks shall be similarly punished.[3]

The king shall beneficially distribute among others those holdings which have no boundary marks or which have ceased to be enjoyed by any person.[4]

(Disputes about Fields)

Disputes concerning fields shall be decided by the elders of the neighbourhood or of the village.[5] If they are divided-in their opinions, decision shall be sought for from a number of pure and respectable people, or, the disputants may equally divide the disputed holding among themselves. If both of these methods fail, the holding (vāstu) under dispute shall be taken possession of by the king. The same rule shall hold good in the case of a holding for which no claimant is forthcoming; or it may beneficially be distributed among the people. Occupation of a holding (vāstu) by force shall be punished as theft.

If a holding is taken possession of by another on some reasonable grounds, he shall be made to pay to the owner some rent, the amount of which is to be fixed after mature considerations of what is necessary for the subsistence of the cultivator of the holding by him.

Encroachment upon boundaries shall be punished with the first amercement. Destruction of boundaries shall be punished with a fine of 24 paṇas.[6] The same rules shall hold good in disputes concerning hermitage in forests, pasture lands, high roads, cremation-grounds, temples, sacrificial places, and places of pilgrimage.[7] Thus the determination of boundaries is dealt with.

(Miscellaneous Hindrances)

All kinds of disputes shall depend for their settlement on the evidence to be furnished by neighbours.[8] Of pasture lands, plains, fields (kedāra), flower gardens, a threshing-floor (khala), houses, and stables of horses (vāhanakoṣṭha), hindrance to any one coming late in order shall be removed in preference to the one or more coming later in the series. With the exception of forests of Brāhmans and of Soma plants, temples, and places of gods, and sacrifice and pilgrimage, all other places are plains. Any person causing, while making use of tanks, rivers, or fields, damage to the seeds sown in the fields of others, shall pay as much compensation to the sufferers as is equivalent to the damage.

If the owner of any one of the following, viz. wet fields, gardens, or any kind of buildings, causes damage to those owned by others, the fine shall be double the value of the damage.

The water of a lower tank shall not submerge the field irrigated by a higher tank.

The natural overflow of water from a higher to a lower tank shall not be stopped unless the lower tank has ceased to be useful for three consecutive years. Violation of this rule shall be punished with the first amercement. The same punishment shall be meted out for emptying a tank of its water (taṭākavāmanam ca). Buildings of any kind (setubandha), neglected for five consecutive years, shall be forfeited, except in calamities.[9]

(Remission of Taxes)

In the case of construction of new works, such as tanks, lakes, etc., taxes (on the lands below such tanks) shall be remitted for five years (pāñcavarṣika parihāra). For repairing neglected or ruined works of similar nature, taxes shall be remitted for four years. For improving or extending or restoring water-works over-grown with weeds, taxes shall be remitted for three years. In the case of acquiring such newly started works by mortgage or purchase, taxes on the lands below such works shall be remitted for two years. If uncultivated tracts are acquired (for cultivation) by mortgage, purchase or in any other way, remission of taxes shall be for two years. Out of crops grown by irrigation by means of wind power or bullocks (vātapravartimanandinibandhāyatana)[10] or below tanks, in fields, parks, flower gardens, or in any other way, so much of the produce as would not entail hardship on the cultivators may be given to the government. Persons who cultivate the lands below tanks, etc., of others at a stipulated price (prakraya), or for annual rent (avakraya), or for certain number of shares of the crops grown (bhāga), or persons who are permitted to enjoy such lands free of rent of any kind, shall keep the tanks, etc., in good repair; otherwise they shall be punished with a fine of double the loss.

* Persons, letting out the water of tanks, etc., at any other place than their sluice gate (apāre), shall pay a fine of 6 paṇas; and persons who recklessly obstruct the flow of water from the sluice gate of tanks shall also pay the same fine.[11]

[Thus ends Chapter IX, “Sale of Buildings, Boundary Disputes, Determination of Boundaries, and Miscellaneous Hindrances,” in the section of “Buildings,” in Book III, “Concerning Law” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the sixty-sixth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


M. 8, 245.


Y. 2, 150, 151; N. 11, 10.


Y. 2, 153, 155.


M. 8, 265.


M. 8, 258.


Y. 2, 155.


N. 11, 12.


N. 11, 2.


N. II, 26.


The Munich Manuscript reads, “Nadīnibandhāyatana,” damming a river.


The T. M. Com. takes para to mean “turn.” Accordingly the meaning of the verse will be:—“Persons letting out water when it is not their turn, or stopping water from the fields of others in their turn, shall pay 6 paṇas.”

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