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 11 - Death with or without Torture

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

When a man murders another in a quarrel, he shall be tortured to death. When a person wounded in a fight dies within seven nights, he who caused the wound shall be put to instantaneous death (śuddhavadha). If the wounded man dies within a fortnight, the offender shall be punished with the highest amercement. If the wounded man dies within a month, the offender shall be compelled to pay not only a fine of 500 paṇas, but also an adequate compensation (to the bereaved).

When a man hurts another with a weapon, he shall pay the highest amercement; when he does so under intoxication, his hand shall be cut off;[1] and when he causes instantaneous death, he shall be put to death.

When a person causes abortion in pregnancy by striking, or medicine, or by annoyance, the highest, middlemost, and first amercements shall be imposed respectively.[2]

Those who cause violent death either to men or women, or those who are in the habit of often going to meet prostitutes (abhisārikā), those who inflict unjust punishment upon others, those who spread false or contemptuous rumours, who assault or obstruct travellers on their way, who commit house-breaking, or who steal or cause hurt to royal elephants, horses, or carnages, shall be hanged.

Whoever burns or carries away the corpses of the above offenders shall meet with similar punishment or pay the highest amercement.

When a person supplies murderers or theives with food, dress, any requisites, fire, information, any plan, or assistance in any way, he shall be punished with the highest amercement. When he does so under ignorance, he shall be censured.[3]

Sons or wives of murderers or of thieves shall, if they are found not in concert, be acquitted; but they shall be seized if found to have been in concert.

Any person who aims at the kingdom, who forces entrance into the king’s harem, who instigates wild tribes or enemies (against the king), or who creates disaffection in forts, country parts, or in the army, shall be burnt alive from head to foot.

If a Brāhman does similar acts, he shall be drowned.

Any person who murders his father, mother, son, brother, teacher, or an ascetic, shall be put to death by burning both his head and skin; if he insults any of the above persons, his tongue shall be cut off; if he bites any limb of these persons, he shall be deprived of the corresponding limb.

When a man wantonly murders another, or steals a herd of cattle, he shall be beheaded.

A heard of cattle shall be considered to consist of not more than ten heads.

When a person breaks the dam of a tank full of water, he shall be drowned in the very tank;[4] of a tank without water, he shall be punished with the highest amercement; and of a tank which is in ruins owing to neglect, he shall be punished with the middlemost amercement.

Any man who poisons another and any woman who murders a man shall be drowned.[5]

Any woman who murders her husband, preceptor, or offspring, sets fire to another’s property, poisons a man, or cuts off any of the bodily joints of another shall be torn off by bulls, no matter whether or not she is big with a child, or has not passed a month after giving birth to a child.[6]

Any person who sets fire to pasture lands, fields, yards prepared for threshing out grains, houses, forests of timber, or of elephants shall be thrown into fire.[7]

Any person who insults the king, betrays the king’s council, makes evil attempts (against the king), or disregards the sanctity of the kitchens of Brāhmans shall have his tongue cut off.[8]

When a man other than a soldier steals weapons or armour, he shall be shot down by arrows; if he is a soldier, he shall pay the highest amercement.

He who castrates a man shall have his generative organ cut off.

He who hurts the tongue or nose of another shall have his fingers cut off.

* Such painful punishments (kleśadaṇḍa) as the above have been laid down in the Śāstras of great sages; but it has been declared as just to put to simple death those offenders who have not been cruel.

[Thus ends Chapter XI, “Death with or without Torture,” in Book IV, “The Removal of Thorns” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the eighty-eighth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


When he does it in ignorance, he shall be fined 200 paṇas.—Munich Manuscript.


Y. 2, 277.


Y. 2, 276.


Y. 2, 278.


Y. 2, 278-79.


Y. 2. 278-79.


Y. 2, 282.


Y. 2, 302.

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