Shukra Niti by Shukracharya

by Benoy Kumar Sarkar | 1914 | 106,458 words

The English Translation of the Shukra Niti by Shukracharya: An ancient Sanskrit text possibly dating to the 4th-century BC. The text contains maxims that deal with politics, statecraft, economis and ethics and shed light on the social life, monarchy and government of ancient India as well their knowledge of early political science....

Chapter 4.2 - Treasure and Wealth

1-2. Now in this miscellaneous chapter I shall speak of the second section, that on Treasure. A Collection of wealth by one person in called treasure.

3-4. The king should collect funds by hook or by crook and maintain thereby the common wealth, the army as well as sacrifices.

5-6. The collection of treasure is for the maintenance of the army and the subjects and for the performance of sacrifices. This leads to king’s happiness in this life and hereafter, otherwise to misery.

7-8. The collection that is made for wife and children as well as for selfenjoyments leads to hell and does not give happiness hereafter.

9. That which is earned wrongfully is the cause of sin.

10. That wealth increases which is taken from, or given to, good persons.

11. The good or deserving person is he who earns well and spends well. And the undeserving person is he who is the opposite.

12. The king who takes away all the wealth of the undeserving is not a sinner.

13-14. One should take away by craft or force or by robbery, wealth of the king who is addicted to immoral ways of life—and also from other kingdoms.

15-16. His kingdom is destroyed by enemies who has amassed wealth by forsaking morality and by oppressing his own people.

17-18. In normal times the king should not increase his treasure by augmenting the punishments, land revenues and duties, and by taking dues from holy places and properties consecrated to divine purposes.

19-20.[1] When the king is preparing to maintain an army to destroy the enemy, he should receive from the people special grants of fines, duties, &c.

21-22.[2] The king should receive the wealth of the rich men in times of danger by supplying them wherewith to live. But when he is free from danger he should return the amount to them together with interest.

23. Otherwise the subjects, state, treasure and the king—all are ruined.

24. Kings like Suratha were reduced through severity of punishments inflicted by them.

25-27.[3] The treasure should be so governed that it may maintain the subjects, and that the army may be maintained for twenty years without fines, land revenues and duties.

28-29. The treasure is the root of the army, and the army is the root of the treasure. It is by maintaining the army that the treasure and the kingdom prosper and the enemy is destroyed.

30. And by protecting the subjects, all these three results accrue as well as the acquisitions of heaven.

31-32. Goods are produced for sacrifice, sacrifices lead to happiness, heaven and long life. Absence of enemies, army and treasure—these three lead to prosperity of state.

33-34. The state also prospers through the mercifulness of the king and his virtue and intelligence. So one should strive.

35-38. The best king is he who, by following the practice of the weaver of garlands, protects his subjects, makes the enemies tributaries and increases the treasure by their wealth. The middling king is he who does this by following the practice of the Vaiśya. And the worst by service and receipts from fines, holy places and lands consecrated to gods.

39-40. Subjects whose wealth is little should be maintained, and officers whose wealth is moderate. Also officers whose wealth is considerable.

41. But the rich men whose wealth is excessive, and those who are richer than the king but of low character are not to be maintained.

42-44. That wealth is said to be low which is sufficient for twelve years. That is said to be madhyama or middling which is enough for sixteen years. And good wealth is that which is sufficient for thirty years.

45. The king should deposit this wealth with the rich persons in order in times of danger.

46-48. Marchants trade with their capital, not with interest. They sell when prices are high and store by when prices are low.

49. Otherwise the discontent of his own subjects destroys the king with his whole family.

50-52. Grains should be collected sufficient to meet the wants of three years in proper seasons by the king for his own good as well as for that of the commonwealth. Or for more than three years in case of well-established families provided the grains be long lasting.

53-55. The king should store up those grains that are well developed, bright, best of the species, dry, new, or have good colour, smell and taste, the famous ones, durable and the dear ones—not others.

56-57. He should not preserve those that have been attacked by poisons, fire or snow or eaten by worms and insects, or those that have been hollowed out, but should use them for immediate consumption.

58-59. And the king should carefully replace every year by new instalments the exact amounts of those consumed.

60-63. The accumulation of all these things that are useful and instrumental for the purposes of man, e.g., medicinal plants, grasses, minerals, woods, implements, arms, weapons, gunpowder, vessels and clothes, ete., should also be made. This is likely to be efficacious.

64-65, The king should also carefully preserve the wealth that has been collected. There is great trouble in the earning, four-fold difficulty in the maintenance (of wealth).

66. That which is disregarded for a moment is soon destroyed.

67-68. It is the earner who gets pain when the accumulated wealth is destroyed. Even wife and children do not feel that, how could others?

69-70. If one is negligent in his own duties, will not others be so? But if one is mindful of his own business others become his assistants as well as equals.

71-72. There is no greater fool than the man who knows how to earn but not to maintain what has been earned. Vain is his exertion in earning.

73-76. The following men are also fools

The man who has two living wives, who trusts people overmuch, who hopes for great wealth, the idler, the man overpowered by women, and one who calls upon thieves, paramours and enemies as witnesses.

77-78. One should keep his wealth like a miser and give away at times, as it were unconcerned; otherwise he displays his foolishness even in the matter of spending his own wealth.

79-80. One should always try to understand the real nature of goods. And the king should keep the jewels after having them tested by experts as well as by himself.

81-83. The nine mahāratnas or great jewels enumerated by the wise are vajra (diamond), muktā (pearl), pravāla (coral), gomeda (agate) indranīla (sapphire), vaiduryya [vaiḍūrya] (Lapis lazuli), puṣyarāga (topaz), pāci (emerald), mānikya (ruby).

84. Māṇikya is the Sun’s favourite, of red colour and has the bright lustre of indragopa insect.

85. Muktā is the Moon’s favourite, of red, yellow, white and syama (greenish blue) colour.

86. Vidruma (pravāla, coral) is the Mars’ favourite and has a yellowish red colour.

87. Pāci is the Mercury’s favourite, and has the luster of the feathers of the peacock or the cāṣa bird.

88. Puṣyarāga is the Jupiter’s favourite, is yellow and has the luster of gold.

89. Vajra is the poet’s (Śukra or Venus) favourite, very transparent and has the luster of the Star.

90. Indranīla is the Saturn’s favourite, not white, and has the colour of black clouds.

91. Gomeda is the Rāhu’s favourite and has yellowish red colour.

92. Vaiḍūrya is the Ketu’s favourite, has the luster of cat’s eyes and has its particles moving.

93- 95. Vajra is the best gem, lower are the gomeda and vidruma. Gārutmata (Marakata or pāci), māṇikya. and muktā good. Indranīla, puṣyarāga, and vaiḍūrya are middling.

96. The gem on the head of the snake is the best of all, of great splendour but very rare.

97- 98. These who are experts in the study of gems describe that gem as the best which has no pores, has good colour, is without scratches and spots, has good angles and bright luster.

99. Gems may have the colour of śarkarā (powdered bricks) or the leaves of trees, and may be flat or round in shape.

100. The colour and luster of gems may be white, red, yellow and black.

101-103. The gem that has its appropriate colour and luster and is devoid of any defects is beneficial to beauty, growth, fame, valour, and life. Others are known to be injurious. The luster reveals the colour, while the shade depends on colour.

104. Padmarāga is a species of māṇikya and has the lustre of red lotus.

105. The woman who wants a son should never wear a diamond.

106. The pearl and the coral fade through use in time.

107-108. The gem that is devoid of any defect has its value increased according to its weight, lustre, colour, extent, receptacle, and shape.

109-110. The gems cannot be cut by iron except by pearls and corals and stones (diamonds). This is said by those who are experts in gems.

111-112. The gem that is light in weight but large in size has great value. But that though having good qualities which is heavy in weight but small in size has small value.

113-114. That which has the lustre of śarkarā (red powder of bricks) has the smallest value, that which is flat has middling value, that having the lustre of leaves has the greatest value. The round ones are valued according to demand.

115-116. The gems cannot deteriorate except pearls and corals. But their prices can rise or fall through the wickedness of kings.

117-118. Pearls grow in fishes, snakes, conches, hogs, bamboos, clouds and shells; of these the greatest amount is said to come from shells.

119-120. The following is the ascending order of excellence of pearls; those with black colour, white colour, yellow and red colour, those having two, four or seven coverings and those with three, five and seven coverings.

121. The pearls that are black, white, red and yellow are known to be old in succession.

122. The pearls derived from shells are known to be young, middling and excellent.

123. These alone can be pierced, not others.

124.[4] The people of the island of Ceylon can make artificial pearls like these.

125. To remove that doubt one should carefully examine the pearls.

126-128. That certainly is not artificial which does not lose colour by being rubbed with bṛhi [vṛhi] paddy after having been soaked in hot saline water during the night. If it remains very bright it is really derived from shells. If it has middling lustre it is otherwise.

129. The gems have their value measured by weight excepting the gomeda a gem brought from the Himalaya and Indus, described as of four different colours:—white, pale-yellow, red and dark blue.

130-132. Excepting pearls the rati of all gems is made by twenty Kṣumās. Three ratis of pearls, however, are made by four kṛṣṇalas. Twenty-four ratis make one ratnatanka.

133.[5] Four tankas make one tola in the case of gold and corals.

134-135. The price of one whole vajra (diamond) weighing one rati but wide in extent is five suvarṇas or gold coins.

136. The price is five times (i.e., twenty-five) gold coins if it be heavier than one rati and superior in extent.

137. The price is to be less and less according as the quality falls off.

138. Eight ratis make one māṣā, ten māṣās make one suvarṇa.

139.[6] Five times that suvarṇa make eight silver Karṣakas.

140-142. The value of diamond is according to its weight in terms of rati. The value of the flat diamond is one-third less, and of that having the colour of red powder of bricks is one-half.

143-144. Two diamonds weighing (together) one rati are valued at half the (original) price. Those that are middling are inferior deserve half this price (i.e., one fourth of the original price.)

145-148. According to the inferiority of quality, the value of a diamond may be half or a quarter of a first class one. Multiplying the weight in ratis by nine-sixteenths, would be the value of an inferior one. Similarly, five-sixteenths plus one-thirteenth would be the value of smaller diamonds.

149-155. Pearls.—The value of pearls is to be estimated according as it is of the first, middling or inferior quality. If the pearl is of more than a thousand ratis in weight, then for every hundred ratis, the value would be the same as of a diamond, less three hundred divided by sixteen. From the weight of pearls above 100 ratis, deduct 20 ratis for every 100 ratis, after such deduction, the value of each rati will be that of the first class diamond. For the flattened pearl, the value will be that of a flattened diamond, after similar deduction.

156. One should never wear gems that have black or red spots.

157. The gārutmata or emerald, if it is good, deserves the price of māṇikya or ruby.

158.[7] Gold when compared with rati, has to be measured in terms of its weight.

159. The puṣyarāga weighting one rati deserves half the price of Inranīla or gold (of the same weight).

160. The vaiḍūrya whose three rays are coming out deserves high price.

161. Corals weighing one tolā deserve half the price of the gold (of the same weight).

162. Gomeda does not deserve weighing, as is very low priced.

163.[8] Excepting diamonds the value of small gems has to be determined by number (not weight).

164.[9] But that of very fine and rare ones is to be determined by fancy (demand).

165.[10] So also the price of very fine things has not to be determined by weight.

166-167. Multiply the weight of the pearl in ratis by 14¼ and divide the product by 24, the quotient will be the value of the pearl in so many ratis of gold.

168-170. The best pearls are valued at half the price of gold, and the inferior ones in proportion to their quality. The pearls are the red, yellow, round and white. The worst are the flat and those having the colour of powdered bricks. The rest are middling.

171-172. There are natural defects in gems, but metals have artificial defects. So the wise man should determine their value by carefully examining them.

173-175. Gold, Silver, Copper, Zinc, Lead, Tin, and Iron—these are the seven metals. Others are mixtures (alloys). They are superior according to their place in the above enumeration, gold being the best.

176. Bronze is the alloy of Zinc and Coper, pitala (Brass) of Copper and Tin.

177.[11] Gold of the same weight (as other metals) is small in volume. Others are bulky.

178-179. If two pieces of a metal—one a pure and another suspected of alloy—be successively passed through the same hole, and threads

180. Iron in the form of tool, implements and weapons is very valuable.

181. The value of Gold is sixteen times that of Silver.

182. The value of Silver is almost eighty times that of Copper.

183-184. The value of Copper is one and a half time that of Zinc. The value of Zinc is twice that of Tin, and thrice that of Lead. The value of Copper is six times that of Iron.

185.[12] These are the special remarks on value. General remarks have been already made.

186-187. The cow with good horns and fine colour, which gives plenty of sweet milk, and has good calves has very high value whether young, small or big.

188.[13] The price of a cow which has calves and which gives one prastha of milk is one silver pala.

189. The value of a she-goat is half that of the cow, that of the female sheep half that of the she-goat.

190. The price of a strong and fighting sheep is a silver pala (eight rupees.)

191. The high price for cows is eight or ten silver palas (i.e., sixty-four or eighty rupees.)

192. The high price of the she-goat and the female sheep is one silver pala (i.e., eight rupees.)

193. The high price of the buffalo is the same as that of the cow or one and a half time that.

194-195.[14] The price of the bull with good horns, fail colour, and sufficient strength, which can carry burdens and can walk fast, and which has the height of eight tālas is sixty palas (or four-hundred and eighty rupees.)

196. The high price for she-buffaloes is seven or eight palas (fifty-six or sixty-four rupees.)

197. The high price for horses and elephants is two, three or four thousand (palas).

198. The high price of camels is known to be that of the buffalo.

199-200.[15] The good horse is that which can go one hundred Yojanas in one day. Its price is five hundred gold (eight thousand silver rupees).

201-202. The good camel is that which can go thirty Yojanas in one day. Its price is one hundred silver palas (eight hundred rupees).

203-204. The elephant that is unrivalled in strength, height, fight and mada (rut) is priced at two thousand Niṣkas.

205. Niṣka is the value of gold weighing four māṣās.

206.[16] And in estimating the value of elephant five ratis make one māṣā.

207. Those which are rare in this world are priced as gems.

208.[17] One should fix the price according to Time and Space.

209. There is no price for worthless things that cannot be used for any purposes.

210-211. And there are a high price, low price and middling price in the valuation of all things. This is to be always considered by wise people.

212. Śulka or Duty is the king’s share received from the buyer and the seller.

213. The regions of Śulka or Duty are the market places, streets and mines.

214. Duties are to be levied on goods only once.

215. The duty should not be realised more than once by the king through craft.

216. The king should receive the thirty second portion from the seller or buyer.

217.[18] The twentieth or sixteenth part, as the duty, is not a drawback upon the price.

218. The king should not realise duty from the seller when he receives what is less than are just equal to the cost.

219.[19] He should receive it from the buyer after seeing that he is a gainer.

220-221. Having ascertained the amount of produce from the measured plots of land, whether great middling or small, the king should desire revenue and then apportion it among them.

222-223.[20] The king should receive rent from the peasant in such a way that he be not destroyed. It is to be realised in the fashion of the weaver of the garland not of the coal merchant.

224-226. That agriculture is successful which yields a profit twice the expenditure (including Government demand) after duly considering the variations in actual produce, e.g., great, middling or small. Any thing less than that is unsatisfactory.

227-229.[21] The king should realise one-third, one-forth, or one half from places which are irrigated by tanks, canals and wells, by rains and by rivers, respectively.

230. He should have one-sixth from barren and rocky soils.

231-232. If the king gets one hundred silver karṣas from the cultivator he should give back to him twenty karṣas.

233-235.[22] The king should realise from minerals at the following rates: half of gold,-one third of silver, one-fourth of copper, one-sixth of zinc and iron, half of gems, half of glass and lead; after the expenses have been met.

236. The king should realise from peasants, &c., after noticing the amount of profits.

237-238. He should realise one-third, one-fifth, one-seventh, one-tenth, or one-twentieth from the collectors of grasses and woods, &c.

239-240.[23] He should have one-eighth of the increase of goats, sheep, cows, buffaloes, and horses, and one sixteenth of the milk of she buffaloes, she goats and female sheep.

241. The king should make the artists and artisans work one day in the fortnight.

242-244.[24] If people undertake new industries or cultivate new lands and dig tanks, canals, wells, &c., for their good, the king should not demand any thing of them until they realise profit twice the expenditure.

245-246. The king should promptly realise the land revenues, wages, duties, interests, bribes, and rents without any delay.

247. The king should give to each cultivator the deed of rent having his own mark (seal).

24 8-250.[25] Having determined the land revenue of the village, the king should receive it from one rich man in advance, or guarantee [for the payment] of that either by monthly or periodical instalments.

251-252. Or the king should appoint officers called grāmapas by paying one-sixteenth, one-twelfth, one-eight, or one-sixth of his own receipts.

253-254. The king should receive milk of cows, &c., rice, for the kith and kin but should not receive paddy and cloths from buyers for his own enjoyment.

255.[26] He should realise one thirty-second portion of the increase or interest of the usurer.

256. He should receive rents from houses and abodes as from cultivated lands.

257.[27] He should also have land tax from shopkeepers.

258. For the preservation and repair of the streets, he should, have dues from those who use the streets.

259. The king should thus enjoy fruits everywhere but should protect all like a servant.

260. Thus has been described in brief the section on treasure.

Footnotes and references:


Enhanced collections are allowable only under exceptional circumstances.


suvṛddhikaṃ [suvṛddhika]—Loans are prescribed from rich persons in difficult times. These, however, should be repaid as soon as the danger is over together with interest.


Sinews of war for twenty years should be reserved. Deposits for military expenditure are state necessities.


An economic fact of historic importance. The Ceylonese used to commit fraud in pearl industry.


The standard of measurement of gems:—
20 kṣamā = 1 ravi (excepting pearls),
4 kṛṣṇala = 3 ravi (pearls).
24 ravi = 1 ṭaṅka,
4 ṭaṅka = 1 tolā (of gold and corals).


8 rati = 1 māṣa.
10 māṣa = 1 suvarṇa.
5 suvarṇa = 80 karṣaka.


It is not the size but the weight of the rati that is to be compared with gold and used in its measurement.


Even the smallest particles of hīraka or diamond have to be valued by weight, But others are valued by counting, if of very small size.


kāma—Desire, fancy, demand has been regarded as the determinant of value in the case of all rare and fanciful things.


There is a ‘Fancy price’ for all these things as would be said by moderners.


Ratio of gold to other metals; The density of gold is high, hence great of equal lengths be drawn out of them, and weighed, and if the weights of each are equal, then the metal is unalloyed, otherwise not.


The relation between the metals in value
Gold = 16 Silver.
Silver = 80 Copper.
Copper = 1½ Zinc.
Zinc = 2 Tin.
Zinc = 3 Lead.
Conner = 6 Iron.


prastha—a measure already described as liquid standard about four seers.

pala—8 tola, So the price would be 8 silver rupees.


tola—already described.


miles according to Śukra, 8 miles generally.


The price of the best elephant is therefore 8,000 māṣās of gold or 40,000 ratis of gold or 640,000 ratis of silver or 610,000/96 tolas or silver (40,000/6 = 6,666 rupees) = Rs. 6,666 approximately.


The mention of prices and ratios in the above lines gives a good statistics which might be used as the basis for: the formal ion of an Index Number.

Ordinary prices:—

Cow 1 pala silver = 8 tolas or rupees.
She-goat = ½ cow = 4 tolas or rupees.
She-sheep = ½ goat = 2 tolas or rupees.
Sheep = 1 pala silver = 8 tolas or rupees.
Elephant or horse = = 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 rupees.
Camel = Buffalo = 56 or 64 rupees.

High prices for best things:—

Cow = 8 or 10 palas silver = 64 or 80 rupees.
She-goat = 1 pala silver = 8 rupees.
She-sheep = 1 pala silver = 8 rupees.
She-buffalo = Cow or 1½ cow = 64 or 80, or 96 or 120 rupees.
Bull = 60 palas silver = 480 rupees.
Buffalo = 7 or 8 palas = 56 or 64 rupees.
Best horse = 500 gold = 8,000 rupees.
Best camel = 100 silver palas = 800 rupees.
Elephant = 2,000 gold Niṣkas = 6,666 rupees.


Even a twentieth or sixteenth part of the price of a commodity is a fair and legitimate duty.


If the seller has to give the commodity at a loss no duty is to be realised from him but it is to be realised from the buyer.

A good maxim of public finance. But how is that to be done? So also it is very difficult to carry out in practice the rule that duty should be realised only once on every commodity. For it may be bought and sold many times.


The coal merchant sets fire to the woods to make charcoal and thus destroys the whole property. But the weaver of garlands plucks from the trees only those flowers which are full blown and preserves the rest as well as the trees for future use.


mātṛkāt—These things are the mother of the lands.

deva—The gods or natural agencies are the mothers of certain regions—by supplying rain.

nadī—Rivers are also irrigators. Lands and countries are called the daughters or gifts of rivers.

Where rivers are mothers or irrigators, the cultivation is certain—and hence may be taken as Government revenue. Where rain is the source of moisture, agriculture is precarious and uncertain. Hence the demand of the Government is to be very small. But where the tanks and artificial water supplies are the irrigators, cultivation is very difficult and expensive though certain. Hence the Government demand should be midway between the other two cases.


vyayaśeṣa, &c.—The proportion mentioned above to be received from the remainder after paying the cost of extraction and production.


These are levies in kind.


That is, they should have remissions and suspensions of revenue for periods. This is how waste lands are to be improved and new enterprises encouraged. Here is an application of the principle of Partial Protection. Śukrācārya is thus definitely an advocate of the “Young Industryargument.


Having divided the whole land into several proprietorships, the king should collect the revenue from and through one man who is to be responsible for the total dues of the village.


vārdhuṣika—One who lives upon increase,


Land for houses and buildings is to be taxed at the same rate as that for cultivation. Land for stalls also should be taxed. The sellers have to pay duties not only for the commodities sold but also for the use of the land.

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