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 3 - The Work of Spies in a Siege

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The conqueror may dismiss a confidential chief of a corporation. The chief may go over to the enemy as a friend and offer to supply him with recruits and other help collected from the conqueror’s territory; or, followed by a bond of spies, the chief may please the enemy by destroying a disloyal village or a regiment or an ally of the conqueror, and by sending as a present the elephants, horses, and disaffected persons of the conqueror’s army or of the latter’s ally; or a confidential chief officer of the conqueror may solicit help from a portion of the territory (of the enemy), or from a corporation of people (śreṇi) or from wild tribes; and when he has gained their confidence, he may send them down to the conqueror to be routed down on the occasion of a farcical attempt to capture elephants or wild tribes.

This explains the work of ministers and wild chiefs under the mission of the conqueror.

After making peace with the enemy, the conqueror may dismiss his own confidential ministers. They may request the enemy to reconcile them to their master. When the enemy sends a messenger for this purpose, the conqueror may rebuke him and say: “Thy master attempts to sow the seeds of dissension between myself and my ministers; so thou should not come here again.” Then one of the dismissed ministers may go over to the enemy, taking with him a band of spies, disaffected people, traitors, brave thieves, and wild tribes who make no distinction between a friend and a foe. Having secured the good graces of the enemy, the minister may propose to him the destruction of his officers, such as the boundary-guard, wild chief, and commander of his army, telling him: “These and other persons are in concert with your enemy.” Then these persons may be put to death under the unequivocal orders of the enemy.

The conqueror may tell his enemy: “A chief with a powerful army means to offend us, so let us combine and put him down; you may take possession of his treasury or territory.” When the enemy agrees to the proposal and comes out honoured by the conqueror, he may be slain in a tumult or in an open battle with the chief (in concert with the conqueror). Or having invited the enemy to be present as a thick friend on the occasion of a pretended gift of territory, or the installation of the heir-apparent, or the performance of some expiatory rites, the conqueror may capture the enemy. Whoever withstands such inducement may be slain by secret means. If the enemy refuses to meet any man in person, then also attempts may be made to kill him by employing his enemy. If the enemy likes to march alone with his army, but not in company with the conqueror, then he may be hemmed in between two forces and destroyed. If, trusting to none, he wants to march alone in order to capture a portion of the territory of an assailable enemy, then he may be slain by employing one of his enemies or any other person provided with all necessary help. When he goes to his subdued enemy for the purpose of collecting an army, his capital may be captured. Or he may be asked to take possession of the territory of another enemy or a friend of the conqueror; and when he goes to seize the territory, the conqueror may ask his (the conqueror’s) friend to offend him (the conqueror), and then enable the friend to catch hold of the enemy. These and other contrivances lead to the same end.

When the enemy is desirous of taking possession of the territory of the conqueror’s friend, then the conqueror may, under the pretence of compliance, supply the enemy with army. Then, having entered into a secret concert with the friend, the conqueror may pretend to be under troubles and allow himself to be attacked by the enemy combined with the neglected friend. Then, hemmed from two sides, the enemy may be killed or captured alive to distribute his territory among the conqueror and his friend.

If the enemy, helped by his friend, shuts himself in an impregnable fort, then his neighbouring enemies may be employed to lay waste his territory. If he attempts to defend his territory by his army, that army may be annihilated. If the enemy and his ally cannot be separated, then each of these may be openly asked to come to an agreement with the conqueror to seize the territory of the other. Then they will, of course, send such of their messengers as are termed friends and recipients of salaries from two states to each other with information: “This king (the conqueror), allied with my army, desires to seize thy territory.” Then one of them may, with enragement and suspicion, act as before (i.e. fall upon the conqueror or the friend).

The conqueror may dismiss his chief officers in charge of his forests, country parts, and army, under the pretence of their intrigue with the enemy. Then going over to the enemy, they may catch hold of him on occasions of war, siege, or any other troubles; or they may sow the seeds of dissension between the enemy and his party, corroborating the causes of dissension by producing witnesses specially tutored.

Spies, disguised as hunters, may take a stand near the gate of the enemy’s fort to sell flesh, and make friendship with the sentinels at the gate. Having informed the enemy of the arrival of thieves on two or three occasions, they may prove themselves to be of reliable character and cause him to split his army into two divisions and to station them in two different parts of his territory. When his villages are being plundered or besieged, they may tell him that thieves are come very near, that the tumult is very great, and that a large army is required. They may take the army supplied, and surrendering it to the commander laying waste the villages, return at night with a part of the commander’s army, and cry aloud at the gate of the fort that the thieves are slain, that the army has returned victorious, and that the gate may be opened. When the gate is opened by the watchmen under the enemy’s order or by others in confidence, they may strike the enemy with the help of the army.

Painters, carpenters, heretics, actors, merchants, and other disguised spies belonging to the conqueror’s army may also reside inside the fort of the enemy. Spies, disguised as agriculturists, may supply them with weapons taken in carts loaded with firewood, grass, grains, and other commodities of commerce, or disguised as images and flags of gods. Then spies, disguised as priests, may announce to the enemy, blowing their conch-shells and beating their drums, that a besieging army, eager to destroy all, and armed with weapons, is coming closely behind them. Then in the ensuing tumult, they may surrender the fort gate and the towers of the fort to the army of the conqueror or disperse the enemy’s army and bring about his fall.

Or taking advantage of peace and friendship with the enemy, army and weapons may be collected inside the enemy’s fort by spies disguised as merchants, caravans, processions leading a bride, merchants selling horses, pedlars trading in miscellaneous articles, purchasers or sellers of grains, and as ascetics. These and others are the spies aiming at the life of a king.

The same spies, together with those described in “Removal of Thorns,”[1] may, by employing thieves, destroy the flock of the enemy’s cattle or merchandise in the vicinity of wild tracts. They may poison, with the juice of the madana plant, the foodstuffs and beverage kept, as previously arranged, in a definite place for the enemy’s cowherds, and go out unknown. When the cowherds show signs of intoxication in consequence of their eating the above foodstuffs, spies, disguised as cowherds, merchants and thieves, may fail upon the enemy’s cowherds, and carry off the cattle.

Spies, disguised as ascetics with shaved head or braided hair, and pretending to be the worshippers of god Saṅkarṣaṇa, may mix their sacrificial beverage with the juice of the madana plant (and give it to the cowherds), and carry off the cattle.

A spy, under the guise of a vintner, may, on the occasion of procession of gods, funeral rites, festivals, and other congregations of people, go to sell liquor and present the cowherds with some liquor mixed with the juice of the madana plant. Then others may fall upon the intoxicated cowherds (and carry off the cattle).

* Those spies, who enter into the wild tracts of the enemy with the intention of plundering his villages, and who, leaving that work, set themselves to destroy the enemy, are termed spies under the garb of thieves.

[Thus ends Chapter III, “The Work of Spies in a Siege,” in Book XIII, “Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the hundred and forty-third chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


See Book IV.

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