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 - The Operation of a Siege

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Reduction (of the enemy) must precede a siege. The territory that has been conquered should be kept so peacefully that it might sleep without any fear. When it is in rebellion, it is to be pacified by bestowing rewards and remitting taxes, unless the conqueror means to quit it. Or he may select his battlefields in a remote part of the enemy’s territory, far from the populous centres; for, in the opinion of Kauṭilya, no territory deserves the name of a kingdom or country unless it is full of people. When a people resist the attempt of the conqueror, then he may destroy their stores, crops, and granaries, and trade.

* By the destruction of trade, agricultural produce, and standing crops, by causing the people to run away, and by slaying their leaders in secret, the country will be denuded of its people.

When the conqueror thinks: “My army is provided with abundance of staple corn, raw materials, machines, weapons, dress, labourers, ropes and the like, and has a favourable season to act, whereas my enemy has an unfavourable season and is suffering from disease, famine and loss of stores and defensive force, while his hired troops as well as the army of his friend are in a miserable condition”—then he may begin the siege.

Having well guarded his camp, transports, supplies and also the roads of communication, and having dug up a ditch and raised a rampart round his camp, he may vitiate the water in the ditches round the enemy’s fort, or empty the ditches of their water, or fill them with water if empty, and then he may assail the rampart and the parapets by making use of underground tunnels and iron rods. If the ditch is very deep, he may fill it up with soil. If it is defended by a number of men, he may destroy it by means of machines. Horse soldiers may force their passage through the gate into the fort and smite the enemy. Now and then, in the midst of tumult, he may offer terms to the enemy by taking recourse to one, two, three, or all of the strategic means.

Having captured the birds, such as the vulture, crow, naptṛ, bhāsa, parrot, māina [maina?], and pigeon, which have their nests in the fort walls, and having tied to their tails inflammable powder (agniyoga), he may let them fly to the forts. If the camp is situated at a distance from the fort and is provided with an elevated post for archers and their flags, then the enemy’s fort may be set on Are. Spies, living as watchmen of the fort, may tie inflammable powder to the tails of mungooses, monkeys, cats and dogs, and let them go over the thatched roofs of the houses. A splinter of fire kept in the body of a dried fish may be caused to be carried off by a monkey, or a crow, or any other bird (to the thatched roofs of the houses).

Small balls prepared from the mixture of sarala (Pinus longifolia), devadāru (deodar), pūtitṛṇa (stinking grass), guggulu (Bdellium), śrīveṣṭaka (turpentine), the juice of sajja (Vatica robusta), and lākṣa (lac) combined with dungs of an ass, camel, sheep, and goat are inflammable (agnidhārana, i.e. such as keep fire).

The mixture of the powder of priyāla (Ghiroñjia sapida), the charcoal of avalguja (oanyza, serratula, anthelmintica), madhūcchiṣṭa (wax), and the dung of a horse, ass, camel, and cow is an inflammable powder to be hurled against the enemy.

The powder of all the metals (sarvaloha) as red as fire, or the mixture of the powder of kumbhī (gmelia arberea), sīsa (lead) trapu (zinc), mixed with the charcoal powder of the flowers of pāribhadraka (deodar), palāśa (butea frondosa), and hair, and with oil wax, and turpentine, is also an inflammable powder.

A stick of viśvāsaghāti painted with the above mixture and wound round with a bark made of hemp, zinc, and lead, is a fire-arrow (to be hurled against the enemy).

When a fort can be captured by other means, no attempt should be made to set fire to it; for fire cannot be trusted; it not only offends gods, but also destroys the people, grains, cattle, gold, raw materials and the like. Also the acquisition of a fort with its property all destroyed is a source of further loss. Such is the aspect of a siege.

When the conqueror thinks: “I am well provided with ail necessary means and with workmen, whereas my enemy is diseased, with officers proved to be impure under temptations, with unfinished forts and deficient stores, allied with no friends, or with friends inimical at heart,” then he should consider it as an opportune moment to take up arms and storm the fort.

When fire, accidental or intentionally kindled, breaks out; when the enemy’s people are engaged in a sacrificial performance, or in witnessing spectacles or the troops, or in quarrel due to the drinking of liquor; or when the enemy’s army is too much tired by daily engagements in battles and is reduced in strength in consequence of the slaughter of a number of its men in a number of battles; when the enemy’s people wearied from sleeplessness have fallen asleep; or on the occasion of a cloudy day of floods, or of a thick fog or snow, general assault should be made.

Or having concealed himself in a forest after abandoning the camp, the conqueror may strike the enemy when the latter comes out.

A king, pretending to be the enemy’s chief friend or ally, may make the friendship closer with the besieged, and send a messenger to say: “This is thy weak point; these are thy internal enemies; that is the weak point of the besieger; and this person (who, deserting the conqueror, is now coming to thee) is thy partisan.” When this partisan is returning with another messenger from the enemy, the conqueror should catch hold of him, and having published the partisan’s guilt, should banish him, and retire from the siege operations. Then the pretending friend may tell the besieged: “Gome out to help me, or let us combine and strike the besieger.” Accordingly, when the enemy comes out, he may be hemmed between the two forces (the conqueror’s force and the pretending friend’s force) and killed or captured alive to distribute his territory (between the conqueror and the friend). His capital city may be razed to the ground; and the flower of his army be made to come out and be destroyed.

This explains the treatment of a conquered enemy or wild chief.

Either a conquered enemy or the chief of a wild tribe (in conspiracy with the conqueror) may inform the besieged: “With the intention of escaping from a disease, or from the attack in his weak point by his enemy in the rear, or from a rebellion in his army, the conqueror seems to be thinking of going elsewhere, abandoning the siege.” When the enemy is made to believe this, the conqueror may set fire to his camp and retire. Then the enemy coming out may be hemmed... as before.

Or having collected merchandise mixed with poison, the conqueror may deceive the enemy by sending that merchandise to the latter.

Or a pretending ally of the enemy may send a messenger to the enemy, asking him: “Gome out to smite the conqueror already struck by me.” When he does so, he may be hemmed... as before.

Spies, disguised as friends or relatives and with passports and orders in their hands, may enter the enemy’s fort and help to its capture.

Or a pretending ally of the enemy may send information to the besieged: “I am going to strike the besieging camp at such a time and place; then you should also fight along with me.” When the enemy does so, or when he comes out of his fort after witnessing the tumult and uproar of the besieging army in danger, he may be slain as before.

Or a friend or a wild chief in friendship with the enemy may be induced and encouraged to seize the land of the enemy when the latter is besieged by the conqueror. When accordingly any one of them attempts to seize the enemy’s territory, the enemy’s people or the leaders of the enemy’s traitors may be employed to murder him (the friend or the wild chief); or the conqueror himself may administer poison to him. Then another pretending friend may inform the enemy that the murdered person was a fratricide (as he attempted to seize the territory of his friend in troubles). After strengthening his intimacy with the enemy, the pretending friend may sow the seeds of dissension between the enemy and his officers and have the latter hanged. Causing the peaceful people of the enemy to rebel, he may put them down, unknown to the enemy. Then having taken with him a portion of his army composed of furious wild tribes, he may enter the enemy’s fort and allow it to be captured by the conqueror. Or traitors, enemies, wild tribes and other persons who have deserted the enemy, may, under the plea of having been reconciled, honoured and rewarded, go back to the enemy and allow the fort to be captured by the conqueror.

Having captured the fort or having returned to the camp after its capture, he should give quarter to those of the enemy’s army who, whether as lying prostrate in the field, or as standing with their back turned to the conqueror, or with their hair dishevelled, with their weapons thrown down or with their body disfigured and shivering under fear, surrender themselves. After the captured fort is cleared of the enemy’s partisans and is well guarded by the conqueror’s men, both within and without, he should make his victorious entry into it.

Having thus seized the territory of the enemy close to his country, the conqueror should direct his attention to that of the Madhyama king; this being taken, he should catch hold of that of the neutral king. This is the first way to conquer the world. In the absence of the Madhyama and neutral kings, he should, in virtue of his own excellent qualities, win the hearts of his enemy’s subjects, and then direct his attention to other remote enemies. This is the second way. In the absence of a Circle of States (to be conquered), he should conquer his friend or his enemy by hemming each between his own force and that of his enemy or that of his friend respectively. This is the third way.

Or he may first put down an almost invincible immediate enemy. Having doubled his power by this victory, he may go against a second enemy: having trebled his power by this victory, he may attack a third. This is the fourth way to conquer the world.

Having conquered the earth with its people of distinct castes and divisions of religious life, he should enjoy it by governing it in accordance with the duties prescribed to kings.

* Intrigue, spies, winning over the enemy’s people, siege, and assault are the five means to capture a fort.

[Thus ends Chapter IV, “The Operation of a Siege and Storming a Fort,” in Book XIII, “Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the hundred and forty-fourth chapter from the beginning.]

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