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 4 - Spies with Weapons, Fire and Poison

Summary: Spies with Weapons, Fire and Poison; and Destruction of Supply, Stores and Granaries.

The conqueror’s spies who are residing as traders in the enemy’s forts, and those who are living as cultivators in the enemy’s villages, as well as those who are living as cowherds or ascetics in the district borders of the enemy’s country, may send through merchants information to another neighbouring enemy, or a wild chief, or a scion of the enemy’s family, or an imprisoned prince, that the enemy’s country is to be captured. When their secret emissaries come as invited, they are to be pleased with rewards of wealth and honour and shown the enemy’s weak points; and with the help of the emissaries, the spies should strike the enemy at his weak points.

Or having put a banished prince in the enemy’s camp, a spy, disguised as a vintner, in the service of the enemy, may distribute as a toast hundreds of vessels of liquor mixed with the juice of the madana plant; or, for the first day, he may distribute a mild or intoxicating variety of liquor, and on the following days such liquor as is mixed with poison; or having given pure liquor to the officers of the enemy’s army, he may give them poisoned liquor when they are in intoxication.

A spy, employed as a chief officer of the enemy’s army, may adopt the same measures as those employed by the vintner.

Spies, disguised as experts in trading in cooked flesh, cooked rice, liquor, and cakes, may vie with each other in proclaiming in public the sale of a fresh supply of their special articles at cheap price, and may sell the articles mixed with poison to the attracted customers of the enemy.

Women and children may receive, in their poisoned vessels, liquor, milk, curd, ghee, or oil from traders in those articles, and pour those fluids back into the vessels of the traders, saying that at a specified rate the whole may be sold to them. Spies, disguised as merchants, may purchase the above articles, and may so contrive that servants, attending upon the elephants and horses of the enemy, may make use of the same articles in giving rations and grass to those animals. Spies, under the garb of servants, may sell poisoned grass and water. Spies, let off as traders in cattle for a long time, may leave herds of cattle, sheep, or goats in tempting places, so as to divert the attention of the enemy from the attack which they (the enemy) intend to make; spies, as cowherds, may let off such animals as are ferocious among horses, mules, camels, buffaloes and other beasts, having smeared the eyes of those animals with the blood of a musk-rat (cucundarī); spies, as hunters, may let off cruel beasts from traps; spies, as snake charmers, may let off highly poisonous snakes; those who keep elephants may let off elephants (near the enemy’s camp); those who live by making use of fire may set fire (to the camp, etc.). Secret spies may slay from behind the chiefs of infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants, or they may set fire to the chief residences of the enemy. Traitors, enemies and wild tribes, employed for the purpose, may destroy the enemy’s rear or obstruct his reinforcement; or spies, concealed in forests, may enter into the border of the enemy’s country, and devastate it; or they may destroy the enemy’s supply, stores, and other things, when those things are being conveyed on a narrow path passable by a single man.

Or in accordance with a pre-concerted plan, they may, on the occasion of a night-battle, go to the enemy’s capital, and blowing a large number of trumpets, cry aloud: “We have entered into the capital, and the country has been conquered.” After entering into the king’s (the enemy’s) palace, they may kill the king in the tumult; when the king begins to run from one direction to another, Mlecchas, wild tribes, or chiefs of the army, lying in ambush (sattra), or concealed near a pillar or a fence, may slay him; or spies, under the guise of hunters, may slay the king when he is directing his attack, or in the tumult of attack following the plan of treacherous fights. Or, occupying an advantageous position, they may slay the enemy when he is marching in a narrow path passable by a single man, or on a mountain, or near the trunk of a tree, or under the branches of a banyan tree, or in water; or they may cause him to be carried off by the force of a current of water let off by the destruction of a dam across a river, or of a lake or pond; or they may destroy him by means of an explosive fire or poisonous snake when he has entrenched himself in a fort, in a desert, in a forest, or in a valley. He should be destroyed with fire when he is under a thicket; with smoke when he is in a desert; with poison when he is in a comfortable place; with crocodile and other cruel beasts when he is in water; or they may slay him when he is going out of his burning house.

* By means of such measures as are narrated in the chapter, “Enticement of the Enemy by Secret Means,”[1] or by any other measures, the enemy should be caught hold of in places to which he is confined or from which he is attempting to escape.

[Thus ends Chapter IV, “Spies with Weapons, Fire and Poison; and Destruction of Supply, Stores and Granaries,” in Book XII, “Concerning a Powerful Enemy” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the hundred and thirty-ninth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


Chapter I, Book XIII.

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