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 - Sowing the Seeds of Dissension

When the conqueror is desirous of seizing an enemy’s village, he should infuse enthusiastic spirit among his own men and frighten his enemy’s people by giving publicity to his power of omniscience and close association with gods.

Proclamation of his omniscience is as follows: rejection of his chief officers when their secret domestic and other private affairs are known; revealing the names of traitors after receiving information from spies specially employed to find out such men; pointing out the impolitic aspect of any course of action suggested to him; and pretensions to the knowledge of foreign affairs by means of his power to read omens and signs invisible to others when information about foreign affairs is just received through a domestic pigeon which has brought a sealed letter.

Proclamation of his association with gods is as follows: holding conversation with, and worshipping, the spies who pretend to be the gods of fire or altar when through a tunnel they come to stand in the midst of fire, altar, or in the interior of a hollow image; holding conversation with, and worshipping, the spies who rise up from water and pretend to be the gods and goddesses of Nāgas (snakes); placing under water at night a mass of sea-foam mixed with burning oil, and exhibiting it as the spontaneous outbreak of fire, when it is burning in a line; sitting on a raft in water, which is secretly fastened by a rope to a rock; such magical performance in water as is usually done at night by bands of magicians, using the sack of abdomen or womb of water animals to hide the head and the nose, and applying to the nose the oil, prepared from the entrails of red spotted deer and the serum of the flesh of the crab, crocodile, purpoise and otter; holding conversation, as though with women of Varuṇa (the god of water), or of Nāga (the snake-god), when they are performing magical tricks in water; and sending out volumes of smoke from the mouth on occasions of anger.[1]

Astrologers, soothsayers, horologists, story-tellers (Paurāṇika), as well as those who read the forebodings of every moment, together with spies and their disciples, inclusive of those who have witnessed the wonderful performance of the conqueror, should give wide publicity to the power of the king to associate with gods throughout his territory. Likewise in foreign countries, they should spread the news of gods appearing before the conqueror and of his having received from heaven weapons and treasure. Those who are well versed in horary and astrology and the science of omens should proclaim abroad that the conqueror is a successful expert in explaining the indications of dreams and in understanding the language of beasts and birds. They should not only attribute the contrary to his enemy, but also show to the enemy’s people, the shower of firebrand (ulkā) with the noise of drums (from the sky) on the day of the birth-star of the enemy.

The conqueror’s chief messengers, pretending to be friendly towards the enemy, should highly speak of the conqueror’s respectful treatment of visitors, of the strength of his army, and of the likelihood of impending destruction of his enemy’s men. They should also make it known to the enemy that, under their master, both ministers and soldiers are equally safe and happy, and that their master treats his servants with parental care in their weal or woe. By these and other means they should win over the enemy’s men as pointed out above, and as we are going to treat of them again at length:

They should characterise the enemy as an ordinary donkey towards skilful persons; as the branch of lakuca (Artocarpus lacucha) broken to the officers of his army; as a goat on the shore to anxious persons; as a downpour of lightnings to those who are treated with contempt; as a reed, a barren tree, or an iron ball, or as false clouds to those who are disappointed; as the ornaments of an ugly woman to those who are disappointed in spite of their worshipful service; as a tiger’s skin, or as a trap of death to his favourite’s; and as eating a piece of the wood of pīlu (Careya-arborea), or as churning the milk of a she-camel or a she-donkey (for butter) to those who are rendering to him valuable help.

When the people of the enemy are convinced of this, they may be sent to the conqueror to receive wealth and honour. Those of the enemy who are in need of money and food should be supplied with an abundance of those things. Those who do not tike to receive such things may be presented with ornaments for their wives and children.

When the people of the enemy are suffering from famine and the oppression of thieves and wild tribes, the conqueror’s spies should sow the seeds of dissension among them, saying: “Let us request die king for favour, and go elsewhere if not favoured.”

* When they agree to such proposals, they should be supplied with money, grains, and other necessary help: thus, much can be done by sowing the seeds of dissension.

[Thus ends Chapter I, “Sowing the Seeds of Dissension,” in Book XIII, “Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the hundred and forty-first chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


These and other magical tricks, employed by ancient kings for political purposes, satisfactorily explain the origin and growth of Purāṇic Mythology. No one can believe them as real miracles in the face of Cāṇakya’s plain statement of the tricks.

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