The Matsya Purana (critical study)

by Kushal Kalita | 2018 | 74,766 words | ISBN-13: 9788171103058

This page relates ‘Qualifications of Ministers (amatya)’ of the English study on the Matsya-purana: a Sanskrit text preserving ancient Indian traditions and legends written in over 14,000 metrical verses. In this study, the background and content of the Matsyapurana is outlined against the cultural history of ancient India in terms of religion, politics, geography and architectural aspects. It shows how the encyclopedic character causes the text to deal with almost all the aspects of human civilization.

Part 6 - Qualifications of Ministers (amātya)

The Matsyapurāṇa has advocated that after duly examined, people should be employed in respective offices in accordance with their merits and if one is found lacking in some qualities then he should be transferred to other departments where he can make himself useful.[1] The persons of the highest, mediocre and inferior efficiency should be appointed on highest, mediocre and inferior posts respectively. Any reversal to this in case of appointment will be dangerous.[2] Salaries should be fixed on the basis of the candidate’s need, manliness, devotion, erudition, valour, family and conduct.[3]

The Matsyapurāṇa has emphasised that the candidates should be appointed in the posts in which they are best suited. For example the pious or virtuous persons should be appointed in the activities related to righteousness; the brave, in warfare; the skilful, in financial matters; the honest, in any post; eunuchs, in the ladies apartment of a harem and the stern persons should be employed in cruel task.[4] It has already been mentioned that the high officials related to the mainstream of the state administration as well as the persons employed in the various departments of the state are termed as sahāya in the Matsyapurāṇa, the help of which is of high importance. These persons contribute to the advancement of the state. That may be the reason why the Matsyapurāṇa has included all the workers whether of high or low order under the term sahāya and not as amātya, saciva or anything else. However, an interesting point to be marked here is that the Matsyapurāṇa has clearly mentioned about the saptāṅga of a state where amātya is ranked second.

In the following lines the qualifications of the helpers otherwise known as ministers [i.e., amātya, mantrī or saciva] as laid down by the Matsyapurāṇa will be discussed.

a) Senāpati (Commander-in-chief):

A king should appoint a brāhmaṇa or a kṣatriya as his commander-in-chief. He should be born of a good family. He should possess good character or manner and should be skilled in the science of archery. He should be expert in examining and managing elephants and horses. Other qualifications of the senāpati are: he should be soft spoken and also should be able to understand the science of omens and medicine. He should be grateful, able to appreciate the skills of the brave, used to bear hardships, honest and having a knowledge of military affairs and he should also know what is essential or what is unessential.[5]

b) Sandhivigrahaka (Minister for war and peace):

This person should be expert in the six-fold expedients (sāḍguṇyavidhi) of the king.[6] These six expedients are sandhi (peace), vigraha (war), yāna (morals), āsana (halt), dvaidhibhāva (duplicacy) and āśraya (seeking shelter).[7] He should also be an expert in the planning of state policy and be acquainted with the languages of the country.

c) Dhanādhyakṣa (Treasurer):

King’s treasurer should have knowledge of iron, cloth, deer-skin and jewels and also be able to distinguish between the real and the fake and ascertain their values too. He should be honest, clear in mind, vigilant and free from avarice. The Matsyapurāṇa enjoins that on such posts related to financial and connected transactions, candidates having above qualities should only be selected for the appointments. The officials from the department of disbursement should also have the same qualifications. [8]

d) Dharmādhikārin (Judge):

The Judge should maintain equality towards friends and foe when justice to be imparted. It means he should not support favoritism. Moreover, he should be well versed in dharmaśāstra. He should be from noble family as well as best of the brāhmaṇas. This kind of person should be in the Council of the king.[9]

e) Gajādhyakṣa (Superintendent of royal elephants):

The foremost qualification for this position is to know the art of training elephants. He should be aware of the races of wild beasts and should be capable of bearing hardships.[10]

f) Aśvādhyakṣa (Superintendent of royal horses):

That person should be the Aśvādhyakṣa who knows the science of horses and knows how to train the horses. The person should also be expert in the treatment of horses.[11]

g) Durgādhyakṣa (Commander of royal fort):

The commander of royal fort should be a man who cannot be easily corrupted by any intrigue. He should also be courageous, learned, of noble family and persevering. He should be ready for and energetic in all actions.[12]

h) Antaḥpurādhyakṣa (Superintendent of harem):

The superintendent of harem should be a man of advance age, of noble family, well spoken, devoted to his ancestors, meek and modest.[13]

i) Astrācārya (Superintendent of weapons):

The superintendent of weapons should be expert in the use of different kinds of weapons. He must possess an unperturbed mind and should be skillful.[14]

Besides these officials there are personal attendants of the king [like the following whose qualifications are also mentioned in the Matsyapurāṇa]:

  1. chamberlain (pratīhāra),
  2. guards (rakṣin),
  3. betel bearer (tāmbuladhāri),
  4. charioteer (sārathi),
  5. cook (sūdādhyakṣa),
  6. physician (vaidya),

[The following are other employees of the king mentioned in the same text]:

  1. engineer (sthapati).
  2. messenger (dūta),
  3. sword bearer (khaḍgadhāri),
  4. archer (dhanurdhāri),
  5. scribe (lekhaka),
  6. door keeper (dauvārika),
  7. elephant driver (gajārohi).[15]

In no way these employees or personal attendants of the king can be ranked as minister [i.e., amātya, mantrī or saciva] though their help is of high importance.

Footnotes and references:


guṇahīnā api tathā vijñāya nṛpatiḥ svayam/ karmasveva niyuñjīta yathāyogyeṣu bhāgaśaḥ// Matsyapurāṇa , 215.7


uttamādhamamadhyāni buddhvā karmāṇi pārthivaḥ/ uttamādhamamadhyeṣu puruṣeṣu niyojayet// narakarmaviparyāsādrājā nāśamavāpnuyāt/ Ibid., 215.44-45


niyogaṃ pauruṣaṃ bhaktiṃ śrutaṃ śauryaṃ kulaṃ nayam// jñātvā vṛttirvidhātavyā puruṣāṇāṃ mahīkṣitā/ Ibid., 215.45-46


Ibid., 215.77-78


kulīnaḥ śīlasampanno dhanurvedaviśāradaḥ/ hastiśikṣāśvaśikṣāsu kuśalaḥ ślakṣṇabhāṣitaḥ// nimitte śakune jñātā vettā caiva cikitsite/ kṛtajñaḥ karmaṇāṃ śūrastathā kleśasaho ṛjuḥ// vyūhatattvavidhānajñaḥ phalgusāraviśeṣavit/ rājñā senāpatiḥ kāryo brāhmaṇaḥkṣatriyo’thavā// Ibid., 215.8-10


ṣāḍguṇyavidhitattvajño deśabhāṣāviśāradaḥ/ sandhivigrahakaḥ kāryo rājñā nayaviśāradaḥ// Ibid., 215.16


Manusmṛti, VII.160


lauhavastrājinādīnāṃ ratnānāñca vidhānavit/ vijñātāphalgusārāṇāmanāhāryaḥśuciḥsadā// nipuṇaścāpramattaśca dhanādhyakṣaḥ prakīrtitaḥ/ āyadvāreṣu sarveṣu dhanādhyakṣasamāḥ narāḥ// Matsyapurāṇa , 215.30-31


samaḥ śatrau ca mitreva dharmaśāstraviśāradaḥ/ vipramukhyaḥ kulīnaśca dharmādhikaraṇī bhavet// Ibid., 215.24-25


hastiśikṣāvidhānajño vanajātivi śāradaḥ// kleśakṣamastathārājño gajādhyakṣaḥ praśasyate/ Ibid., 115.34-35


hayaśikṣāvidhānajñaścikitsitaviśāradaḥ// aśvādhyakṣo mahībharttuḥ svāsanaśca praśasyate/ Ibid., 115.36-37


anāhāryaśca śūraśca tathā prājñaḥ kulodgataḥ// durgādhyakṣaḥ smṛto rājnña udyuktaḥ sarvakarmasu/ Ibid., 215.37-38


vṛddhaḥ kulodgataḥ sūktaḥ pitṛpaitāmahaḥ śuciḥ// rājñāmantaḥpurādhyakṣo vinītaśca tatheṣyate/ Ibid., 215.40-41


yantramukte pāṇimukte vimukte muktadhārite// astrācāryo nirudvegaḥ kuśalaśca viśiṣyate/ Ibid., 215.39-40


Cf., Ibid., 215.11-15, 18-30

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