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 1 - The Duties of a Messenger

When a king of poor resources is attacked by a powerful enemy, he should surrender himself together with his sons to the enemy and live like a reed (in the midst of a current of water).

Bhāradvāja says that he who surrenders himself to the strong, bows down before Indra (the god of rain).

But Viśālākṣa says that a weak king should rather fight with all his resources, for bravery destroys all troubles; this (fighting) is the natural duty of a Kṣatriya, no matter whether he achieves victory or sustains defeat in battle.

No, says Kauṭilya, he who bows down to all like a crab on the banks (of a river) lives in despair; whoever goes with his small army to fight perishes like a man attempting to cross the sea without a boat. Hence, a weak king should either seek the protection of a powerful king or maintain himself in an impregnable fort.

Invaders are of three kinds: a just conqueror, a demon-like conqueror, and a greedy conqueror.

Of these, the just conqueror is satisfied with mere obeisance. Hence, a weak king should seek his protection.

Fearing his own enemies, the greedy conqueror is satisfied with what he can safely gain in land or money. Hence, a weak king should satisfy such a conqueror with wealth.

The demon-like conqueror satisfies himself not merely by seizing the land, treasure, sons and wives of the conquered, but by taking the life of the latter. Hence, a weak king should keep such a conqueror at a distance by offering him land and wealth.

When any one of these is on the point of rising against a weak king, the latter should avert the invasion by making a treaty of peace, or by taking recourse to the battle of intrigue (mantrayuddha), or by a treacherous fight in the battlefield. He may seduce the enemy’s men either by conciliation or by giving gifts, and should prevent the treacherous proceedings of his own men either by sowing the seeds of dissension among them or by punishing them. Spies, under concealment, may capture the enemy’s fort, country, or camp with the aid of weapons, poison, or fire. He may harass the enemy’s rear on all sides; and he may devastate the enemy’s country through the help of wild tribes. Or he may set up a scion of the enemy’s family or an imprisoned prince to seize the enemy’s territory. When all his mischief has been perpetrated, a messenger may be sent to the enemy (to sue for peace); or he may make peace with the enemy without offending the latter. If the enemy still continues the march, the weak king-may sue for peace by offering more than one-fourth of his wealth and army, the payment being made after the lapse of a day and night.

If the enemy desires to make peace on condition of the weak king surrendering a portion of his army, he may give the enemy such of his elephants and cavalry as are uncontrollable or as are provided with poison; if the enemy desires to make peace on condition of his surrendering his chief men, he may send over to the enemy such portion of his army as is full of traitors, enemies and wild tribes under the command of a trusted officer, so that both his enemy and his own undesirable army may perish; or he may provide the enemy with an army composed of fiery spies, taking care to satisfy his own disappointed men (before sending them over to the enemy); or he may transfer to the enemy his own faithful and hereditary army that is capable to hurt the enemy on occasions of trouble; if the enemy desires to make peace on condition of his paying a certain amount of wealth, he may give the enemy such precious articles as do not find a purchaser or such raw products as are of no use in war; if the enemy desires to make peace on condition of his ceding a part of his land, he should provide the enemy with that kind of land which he can recover, which is always at the mercy of another enemy, which possesses no protective defences, or which can be colonised at considerable cost of men and money; or he may mane peace, surrendering his whole state except his capital.

* He should so contrive as to make the enemy accept that which another enemy is likely to carry off by force; and he should take care more of his person than of his wealth, for of what interest is perishing wealth?

[Thus ends Chapter I, “The Duties of a Messenger, and Request for Peace,” in Book XII, “Concerning a Powerful Enemy” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the hundred and thirty-sixth chapter from the beginning.]

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