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 2 - Protection against Merchants

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The superintendent of commerce shall allow the sale or mortgage of any old commodities (purāṇa bhāṇḍānām [bhāṇḍa]) only when the seller or mortgager of such articles proves his ownership of the same. With a view to prevent deception, he shall also supervise weights and measures.[1]

Difference of half a pala in such measures as are called parimāṇī and droṇa is no offence. But difference of a pala in them shall be punished with a fine of 12 paṇas.[2]

Fines for greater differences shall be proportionally increased.

Difference of a karṣa in the balance called tulā is no offence. Difference of two karṣas shall be punished with a fine of 6 paṇas. Fines for greater differences shall be proportionally increased.

Difference of half a karṣa in the measure called āḍhaka is no offence; but difference of a karṣa shall be punished with a fine of 3 paṇas.

For greater differences, fines shall be proportionally increased.

Fines for differences in weight in other kinds of balances shall be inferred on the basis of the above rule.

When a merchant purchases by a false balance a greater quantity of a commodity and sells under the same nominal weight a less quantity by the same or another false balance, he shall be punished with double the above fines.[3]

Deception on the part of seller to the extent of ⅛th part of the articles valued at a paṇa and sold by number shall be punished with a fine of 96 paṇas.

The sale or mortgage of articles, such as timber, iron, brilliant stones, ropes, skins, earthenware, threads, fibrous garments, and woollen clothes as superior though they are really inferior, shall be punished with a fine of 8 times the value of the articles thus sold.[4]

When a trader sells or mortgages inferior as superior commodities, articles of some other locality, as the produce of a particular locality, adulterated things, or deceitful mixtures, or when dexterously substitutes other articles for those just sold (samutparivartima),[5] he shall not only be punished with a fine of 54 paṇas, but also be compelled to make good the loss.

By making the fine two paṇas for the loss of the value of a paṇa and 200 paṇas for that of 100, fines can be determined for any of such false sales.[6]

Those who conspire to lower the quality of the works of artisans, to hinder or raise their income, or to obstruct their sale or purchase shall be fined 1,000 paṇas.

Merchants who conspire either to prevent the sale of merchandise or to sell or purchase commodities at higher prices shall be fined 1,000 paṇas.[7]

Middlemen who cause to a merchant or a purchaser the loss of ⅛th of a paṇa by substituting with tricks of hand false

weights or measures or other kinds of inferior articles shall be punished with a fine of 200 paṇas.

Fines for greater losses shall be proportionally increased, commencing from 200 paṇas.

Adulteration of grains, oils, alkalis, salts, scents, and medicinal articles with similar articles of no quality shall be punished with a fine of 12 paṇas.[8]

It is the duty of the trader to calculate the daily earnings of middlemen and to fix that amount on which they are authorised to live; for whatever income falls between sellers and purchasers (i.e. brokerage) is different from profit.

Hence authorised persons alone shall collect grains and other merchandise. Collection of such things without permission shall be confiscated by the superintendent of commerce.

Hence shall merchants be favourably disposed towards the people in selling grains and other commodities.[9]

The superintendent of commerce shall fix a profit of five per cent over and above the fixed price of local commodities, and ten per cent on foreign produce. Merchants who enhance the price or realise profit even to the extent of half a paṇa more than the above In the sale or purchase of commodities shall be punished with a fine of from five paṇas in case of realising 100 paṇas up to 200 paṇas.

Fines for greater enhancement shall be proportionally increased.

In case of failure to sell collected merchandise wholesale at a fixed rate, the rate shall be altered.

In case of obstruction to traffic, the superintendent shall show necessary concessions.

Whenever there is an excessive supply of merchandise, the superintendent shall centralise its sale and prohibit the sale of similar merchandise elsewhere before the centralised supply is disposed of.

Favourably disposed towards the people, shall merchants sell this centralised supply for daily wages.

* The superintendent shall, on consideration of the outlay, the quantity manufactured, the amount of toll, the interest on outlay, hire, and other kinds of accessory expenses, fix the price of such merchandise with due regard to its having been manufactured long ago or imported from a distant country (deśakālāntaritānām paṇyānā).[10]

[Thus ends Chapter II, “Protection against Merchants,” in Book IV, “The Removal of Thorns” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the seventy-ninth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


M. 8, 403.


For the meaning of these weights and measures, see Chapter XIX, Book II.


Y. 2, 244.


Y. 2, 245-46.


The Munich Manuscript reads, “Samudgaparivartima”(?).


Y. 2, 247-48.


Y. 2, 249-50.


Y. 2, 244-45.


Y. 2, 253.


Y. 2, 251.53; M. 8, 401-402.

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