Shishupala-vadha (Study)

by Shila Chakraborty | 2018 | 112,267 words

This page relates ‘Duta according to the Arthashatra’ of the study on the Shishupala-vadha (in English) in the light of Manusamhita (law and religious duties) and Arthashastra (science of politics and warfare). The Shishupalavadha is an epic poem (Mahakavya) written by Magha in the 7th century AD. It consists of 1800 Sanskrit verses spread over twenty chapters and narrates the details of the king of the Chedis.

Dūta according to the Arthaśātra

Kauṭilya gives his opinion about ambassador basing the conception of Manu and the commentators like Kullūkabhaṭṭa and Medhātithi etc. and he classified them basing there qualities which were discussed by Manu.

“There is a reference to the appointment of a dūta or an envoy, when a policy decision has been taken after consultation with ministers (1.16.1).

The dūta is not to be thought of as a permananent ambassador stationed at the court of a foreign prince, but as an envoy sent for placing the case of his state before the foreign prince with respect to some specific matter. According to the nature of his mission, the dūta may be nisṛṣṭārtha, envoy plenipotentiary, with full powers to negotiate with the foreign ruler, or parimitārtha, envoy with a limited mission with powers to negotiate only up to a certain limit, or śāsanahara, the mere bearer of a message from his state (1.16.2-4).

It may be assumed that for the three types of mission, officers of different status would be selected. One may expect a nisṛṣṭārtha dūta to be either a mantrin or the senāpati or the yuvarāja, while an officer of lower status may be expected to be appointed as a parimitārtha dūta; a śāsanahara can be an officer of a still lower status. It would thus seem that the office of the dūta is not an independent office; it is a special duty entrusted to some one who is already occupying some other office, the assignment of this duty being temporary. This seems supported by the fact that there is no salary prescribed for the dūta; there is only what may be called a travelling allowance according to mileage laid down for the dūta. For, it is said that a madhyama dūta by which we have apparently to understand the parimitārtha dūta should be paid at the rate of ten paṇas per yojana up to a distance of ten yojanas and at twenty paṇas per yojana for a distance beyond ten and up to one hundred yojanas (5.3.19)

It is obvius that an uttama dūta, that is, the nisṛṣṭārtha, would be entitled to a higher rate, while the avara, that is, the śāsanahara, would receive the allowance at a lower rate. These, therefore, appear as allowances, over and above the regular salaries of the officers concerned, which they are entitled to in order to meet the expenses of the journey which they are expected to undertake with a suitable entourage (1.16.5).”[1]

Kauṭilya said about the employment of a messenger.

According to him—

[dūtapreṣaṇasya mantraniścayānantara kartavyatvam, dūtabhedāśca; prasthitasya ca dutasya mārge cintanakramaḥ] udvṛtamantro dūtapraṇidhiḥ | amātyasampadopeto nisṛṣṭārthaḥ | pādaguṇahīnaḥ parimitārthaḥ | ardhaguṇahīnaḥ śāsanaharaḥ || suprativihita—yāna—bāhana—puruṣaparivāpaḥ pratiṣṭheta | “śāsanamevaṃ vācyaḥ paraḥ, sa vakṣatyevam, tasyedaṃ prativākayamevapratisandhātavyam”, ityadhīyāno gacchet | aṭavyantaḥ pāla—purarāṣṭramukhayaiśca pratisaṃsargaṃ gacchet | anīkasthanayuddha pratigrahāpasārabhūmīrātmanaḥ parasya cāvekṣeta | durgarāṣṭrapramāṇaṃ sāravṛttigupticchidrāṇi copalabheta | (prāptaparadeśasya ca tasya taistaiḥ cihnaiḥ śatruprasādādi parijñānam, śatroḥ aprasannatājñāne tasmin nivedanīyāḥ viṣayāḥ) parādhiṣṭhānamanujñātaḥ praviśet | śāsanaṃ ca yathokraṃ vrūyāt, prāṇabādhe'pi dṛṣṭe | parasya vāci vakredṛṣṭyāṃ ca prasādaṃ vāk yapūjanamiṣṭaparipraśnaṃ guṇakathā— saṅgamāsannamāsanaṃ satkāramiṣṭeṣu smaraṇaṃ viśvāsagamanaṃ ca lakṣayettuṣṭasya, viparītamatuṣṭasya | taṃ prūyāt— “dutamukhā vai rājānaḥ, tvaṃ cānye ca | tasmādudyateṣvapi śastreṣu yathokraṃvakrāro dūtāḥ | teṣāmantāvasāyino'pyavadhyāḥ, kimaṅgapurnavrāhmaṇāḥ | parasyaitadvākyam, eṣa dūtadharmaḥ” iti |” (1.16.1-17)[2]

“When consultation has led to a choice of decision, the employment of the envoy (should follow). One endowed with the excellence of a minister is the plenipotentiary. One lacking in a quarter of the qualities is (the envoy) with a limited mission. One lacking in half the qualities is the bearer of a message. He should start after making proper arrangements for vehicles, draught animals and retinue of servants. ‘The message is thus to be delivered to the enemy; he will (probably) say this (in reply), for that this will be the suitable reply; thus is (the enemy) to be outwitted-’, reflecting in this manner, he should proceed. And he should establish contacts with forest chieftains, frontier-chiefs and chief officials in the cities and the countryside (on the way). He should observe terrains suitable for the stationing of an army, for fighting, for reserves and for retreat, for his own (state) and for the enemy. And he should find out the size of the forts and the country as well as the strong points, sources of livelihood, defences and weak points (in the enemy’s territory). He should enter the enemy’s residence with permission. And he should deliver the message as given to him even when danger to his life is seen (in so doing). He should notice graciousness in speech, expression and eyes of the enemy, esteem of the (envoy’s) words, inquiries about (his) wishes, keen interest in talk about the qualities (of the envoy’s master), offer of a seat close by, respectful welcome, remembering (the envoy) on pleasant occasions, and putting trust in him, as the signs of one pleased; the opposite of these as the signs of one displeased. To such a one he should say, “Kings indeed have envoys as their mouthpieces, you no less than others. Therefore, envoys speak out as they are told even when weapons are raised (against them). Of them even the lowest born are immune from killing; what to speak then of Brahmins? These are the words of another. This is the duty of an anvoy.”[3]

Means, the Vijigīṣu king will think about sending of the ambassador after the ascertained subject which is finalised by the consultation. According to Kauṭilya there are three kinds of dūta viz.

  1. Nisṛṣtārtha dūta
  2. Parimitārtha dūta
  3. Śāsanahara dūta

1. Nisṛṣtārtha dūta:

According to Kauṭilya Nisṛṣtārtha dūta is one who has full discretion as to the message he has been entrusted with. He should posses the qualification required by a minister —

Kauṭilya says amātya

‘sampadopeto nisṛṣṭārtha:’ (1.16.2)’

That means “a plenipotentiary”.

2. Parimitārtha dūta:

Parimitārtha dūta is one who is interested with a definite mission and has little power of discretion.

According to Kauṭilya—

“pādaguṇahīnaḥ parimitārthaḥ” (1.16.3):

That means, “ambassador with a limited mission”.

3. Śāsanahara dūta:

Śāsanahara dūta is one who is a mere carrier of royal messages.

Kauṭilya says about Śāsanahara dūta

“ardhaguhīnaḥ śāsanahara:” (1.16.4)

That means, “a bearer of a message”.

If the arrangement of palanquin etc. vehicle, horse etc. riding animal, male nurse etc. persons, bed and bedcovers etc. essential matters of the vijigīṣu king are ready then the ambassador will go to the enemy king’s kingdom. The news of the governing system of his own master will be informed in this way. The enemy king will say about that in this way. Then the ambassador will answer in this way. The enemy king would be brought under control in this way by the ambassador. When these matters are well known then the ambassador will go to the kingdom of the enemy king.

There he (ambassador / dūta) will make friendship with the aṭavīpāla, antapāla, puramukhaya and rāṣṭramukhya. (antapāla, puramukhya, and rāṣṭramukhya).

Arriving to the kingdom of the enemy king the ambassador will observe the suitable place of mobilize armed force and the suitable place of taking away to a different place from the battle field for his own master and for the enemy king also. dūta or the ambassador will be informed about the limit of the fort and the state.

The way of occupation, the saving arrangement of the state and the weak point of the state of the enemy king should be known by the ambassador.

With the permission of the king the ambassador will enter into the kingdom of the enemy king. If there is life risk yet he (dūta) will inform the message of his king to the enemy king.

Dūta or ambassador will say the dissatisfied king—Dūta’s are forepart of a king like you and all of other kings.

It means, kings will say their own opinion with the face of their own ambassador. For this in fear of the life he must represent his master’s message boldly.

A Brahmin ambassador even an low cast ambassador should not be killed. So, ambassador of any state should not be killed. Actually an ambassador’s speech is not his own. He represents message of other people.

This is ambassador’s duty.

[kāraṇaviśeṣeṇa rājñā dūtasyāvisarjane tatrāvasthitikramaḥ, pariśīlanīyaḥ viṣayāśca | ] “vasedavisṛṣṭaḥ, pujayā notsikraḥ pareṣu valitvaṃ na manyeta , vākayamaniṣṭaṃ saheta, striyaḥ pānaṃ ca varjayeta, ekaḥ śayīta, supta—mattayorhi bhāvajñānaṃ dṛṣṭama | kṛtyapakṣopajāpamakṛtyapakṣe gūḍhapraṇidhānaṃ, rāgāparāgau bhartari, randhraṃ ca prakṛtīnāṃ tāpasavaidehakavyāñjanābhyāmupalabheta | tayorantevāsibhiścikitsaka—pāṣaṇḍa— vyāñjanobhayavetanairvā | teṣāmasambhāṣāyāṃ yācakamattonmatta—suptapralāpaiḥ puṇyasthanadevagṛhacitralekhyasaṃjñābhirvā cāramupalabheta | upalavdhasyopajāpamupeyāt | pareṇa cottaṃ svāsāṃ prakṛtīnāṃ pramāṇaṃ nācakṣīta | “sarvaṃ veda bhavān” iti vrūyāt | kāryasiddhikaraṃ vā |” (1.16.18-28) 24

“If not permitted to depart, he should stay on, not feeling elated by honour (shown). Among the enemies he should not think of (himself) being possessed of strength. He should put up with disagreeable words. He should avoid women and drink. He should sleep alone. For, it is (often) seen that the intentions of a person are revealed in sleep or intoxication. He should find out (about) the instigation of seducible parties, the employment of secret agents against non seducible parties, the loyalty or disaffection (of the enemy’s subjects) towards their master and the weak points in the constituent elements (of the enemy’s realm), through spies appearing as ascetics or traders or through their disciples or assistants or through agents in the pay of both appearing as physicians or heretics. In case conversation with them is not possible, he should find out secret information from the utterances of beggars, drunken persons, insane persons or persons in sleep, or, from pictures, writings or signs in holy places or temples of gods. When (such information is) found out, he should make use of instigation. And when asked by the enemy, he should not declare the size(and strength) of his own constituents. He should say, ‘your Majesty knows every thing’, or (should say) what is conducive to the success of his mission.”[4]

Means, the ambassador will stay in the kingdom of enemy king until the enemy king permits to go. He will not be proud with the enemy-kings honour, He will not think himself strong among the enemies. He will tolerate even the undesirable opinion of the enemy king. He will keep away himself from female and wine. He will sleep alone because the sleeping and intoxicated persons sometimes express their purposes.

The ambassador will divide the subjects who are divided party and he will informed about the kingdom of the enemy king appointing the spy like tāpasavyañcana (sage like persons) vaidehikavyañjana (marchant like persons) upon the undivided party, ministers etc. He will know the loopholes of the enemy king and be sure how much the subjects are attached or dissatisfied to their master.

Ambassador will be informed all news with the help of the pupils of the spies like tāpasavyañjana (sage like persons) and vaidehikavyañjana, (merchant like persons) hypocrite doctors or atheist (the people who belong to the various community of obverse religion) and ambisalarids.

If there is no scope of these spies to speak with others then they will know all the news from the incoherent speech of beggars, intoxicated persons, lunatics, and the sleeping persons. At the place of pilgrimage, holy place and temples the spies will collect informations from the hints of particular pictures which are painted on the pillars of the temples and walls of the houses and from the hints of the particular letter. Basing on the collected news of the enemy he will take the policy of divide and rule among the subjects of the enemy. Being asked by the enemy king the ambassador should not express anything about the measurement, extent and quality of the state and regiment of the same. He should say—“you know all”. Nothing is unknown to you with the help of your eyes like spies” If the enemy king is not pleased by the compliments and flattery of the ambassador then he will say to that extent by which the duties of a messenger will be successful.

It means, he will not discuss the message about his master to the enemy king broadly.

[ śatrurājena dūtasya cirakālauparodhe tatkāraṇaparicintanakramyaḥ ] “kāryasyāsiddhau uparudhyamānastarkayet—“kiṃ bharturme vyasanamāsannaṃ paśyan, svaṃ vā vyasanaṃ pratikartukāmaḥ, pārṣṇigrāhamāsāramantaḥ kopamāṭavikaṃ vā samutthāpayitukāmaḥ, mitramākrandaṃ vā vyāpādayitukāmaḥ, svaṃ vā parato vigrahamantaḥkopamāṭavikaṃ vā pratikartukāmaḥ, saṃsiddhaṃ me bharturyātrākālamabhihantukāmaḥ, śasyakupyapaṇyasaṃgrahaṃ durgakarma balasamutthānaṃ vā kartukāmaḥ, svasainyānāṃ vyāyāmasya deśakālāvākāṅkṣamāṇaḥ, paribhava—pramādābhyāṃ vā, saṃsargānubandhārthī vā, māmuparuṇaddhi” iti |” [anantaraṃ ca ānukūlye jñāte vāsaḥ, prātikūlye svayamāWvāpasaraṇaṃ ca | ] “jñātvā vasedapasaredvā | prayojanamiṣṭamavekṣeta vā | śāsanam aniṣṭamuktvā vandhavadhabhayādavisṛṣṭo'pyapagacchet , anyathā niyamyeta | ”(1.16-29-32)[5]

“When he is being detained although his mission has not succeeded, he should thus reflect—‘Is he detaining me because he sees an imminent calamity befalling my master, or because he wants to take remedial steps against his own calamity, or because he wants to rouse (against my master) the enemy in the rear or his ally or (to stir up) an internal revolt-or a forest chieftain, or because he wishes to obstruct my master’s ally in front or ally in the rear, or because he wants to take remedial steps in a war of his own with another enemy or against an internal revolt or a forest chieftain (of his own), or because he wants to spoil the seasion for expedition for which my master has thoroughly prepared, or because he wants to collect stores of grains, commodities and forest produce or carry out fortifications or raise troops, or because he is awaiting time and place suitable for the operations of his own forces, or because of (a feeling of) contempt or through negligence, or because he seeks a continuation of (close) association (with my mastir)? Having found out (the enemy’s motive), he should stay on or escape. Or he should take into consideration some purpose (regarded as) desirable. After delivering an unpleasant message, he should, for fear of imprisonment or death, go away even when not permitted; else he might be put under restraint.”[6]

It means, if the spy is solicited by the enemy king even after the fulfilment of the purpose or the spy is confined by the enemy king getting no permission to return to his master’s kingdom then the ambassador will realise the cause of his confinement in this way: It may be that “the enemy king does solicite me realising the imminent danger of my master, or he willing to remedy of calamity or he is willing to harry Pārṣṇigrāha (pārṣṇigrāha,) who is ally king of enemy king and āsāra (āsāra,) ally king of Pārṣ ṇ igrāha (pāṣṇigrāha) against my lard or willing to occur internal rebellion among tenants or try to harry āṭ abika (āṭavika) kings. He may be willing to kill all king or ākranda (ākranda), friend of my lord King. He may do remedy against the war made by his enemies or internal displeasure in the kingdom or āṭ abika (āṭavika) king inside the territory.

He may be wishing to spoil the time of joyful journey of my master or wishing to collect the grain, base metal (hard wood, bamboo, creepers, medicinal plants) and the goods for sale for the activies of reformation of fort etc. or to increase the power of his force or willing to assemble the scattered soldiers or to occupy the territories which are worth of physical exercise to declare war against my lord. To drive away defeat or disregard which is fallen on himself. He may make cohabitation with my master. Or matrimonial alliance with my master. The enemy king may confine me. Being aware of all these the messenger should live there or go away.

He should be alert to fulfil the intention of his master. That means when he will stay at the enemy king’s kingdom then he should be alert about the time of sending message of the secret motive of the enemy king.

He (dūta) will come back to his master’s kingdom informing the undesired news of his own master to the enemy king with the fear of imprisonment and murder.

Other wise his movement will be controlled by the enemy-king.

preṣaṇaṃ sandhipālatvaṃ pratāpo mitrasaṃgrahaḥ |
upajāpaḥ suhṛd bhedo gūḍhadaṇḍātisāraṇam ||
vandhuratnāpaharaṇaṃ cārajñānaṃ parākramaḥ |
samādhimokṣo dūtasya karma yogasya cāśrayaḥ ||
svadūtaiḥ kārayedetat paradūtāṃśca rakṣayet |
pratidūtāpasarpābhyāṃ dṛśyādṛśyaiśca rakṣibhiḥ || (1.16.33-35)[7]

“Sending communication, guarding the terms of a treaty, (upholding his king’s) majesty, acquisitions of allies, instigation, dividing (the enemy’s) friends, conveying secret agents and troops (in to the enemy’s territory), kidnapping (the enemy’s) Kinsmen and treasures, ascertainment of secret information, showing velour, (helping in) the escape of hostages, and resort to secret practices,—these are the functions of an envoy. He should cause all this to be carried out by his envoys, and should cause a watch to be kept over the envoys of the enemy by means of counter-envoys and spies as well as through open and secret guards.”[8]

It means, to convey the order of the master king to the enemy king and to convey the enemy king’s matter to master is the duty of the messenger. He should send massage from the enemy king and maintain the previously made alliance. He should show the strength of the master as far as practicable. He should collect friends and continue the policy of divid and rule. He should make division among the friends of the foe. He should deviate the army leaders and top secret of facials from their master. He should steal friends and gems of the enemy king. He should have knowledge about the top secret officials. He should show strength in the enemy kingdom occassionally. At the time of alliance he should make arrangement to set free the enemy’s persons and take shelter secretly.

The king will perform all the aforesaid activities by his ambassadors. Appointing the Pratidūta (pratidūta) and spy named apasarpa (apasarpa) and will arrange the security system with the help of defenders who are seen in his own country and invisible in other state. It means the vijigīṣu King will observe that may not arrange any friends.

Kauṭilya said that a messenger should have the qualities of amātya. There is no great difference between these two in describing the merits of a messenger.

In this connection the great qualities of messenger may be discussed pointly.

1) A messenger should be experienced and hand some looking. Whether the enemy king was pleased or dissatisfied should be determined through his gestures and behaviors. If the enemy king expresses his pleasure and satisfaction though his words and face hearing the words of the messenger, if he hears the speech of the messenger attentively, if he asks about the health of his master and shows interest to hear the merits of his master, makes sit for the messenger beside him, show him honour, remembers him at the time festival and believes his embassy then it may be said that he, (the enemy king) is pleased with his king. If the reveres occurs he (messenger) will consider the enemy king as dissatisfied.

2) A messenger must be dauntless. Kauṭilya said that if there was the possibility of his murder a messenger must present the message to his master fearlessly. In fear of life he should never distort the message of his master or pleased the enemy king with this. He must represent the message boldly.

3) A messenger should possesses a good memory. If he wants to represent the message to his master without any distortion, he must possess this because there was every possiability of danger if any part of the message remainded untold or distorted due to forgetfulness.

4) A messenger must be a eloquent and a man with greater personality. He should have the capacity to speak. He must present the message of his master in such a way that the enemy king would regard it to be acceptable. If he could not cast a spell over the other by his personality and eloquence then he would not be a successful one.

5) A messenger must tested character. He should not be lured by any faultsity. He should have such a rigidity in his character that he could easily ignore any temptation. Kauṭilya wanted a messenger saying that he must not be addicted to women and win in the enemy kingdom, because it is found that in a dorment or drunker state a man generally expresses his own views.

According to Kauṭilya there are three kinds of ambassador (dūta) 1) nisṛṣṭārthaḥ 2) parimitatārtha and śāsanahara which are already discussed vastly before.

Kāmandaka said about the classification of ambassador in “Nītisāra”—

nisṛṣṭārthomitārthaśca tathā śāsanavāhakaḥ |
sāmarthāt padato hīno dūtastu trividhaḥ smṛtaḥ ||

Manu mentions the qualitie of a good ambassador. But he has not mentioned any classification of ambassadors which we find in Kauṭilya’s Arthaśāstra.

Kauṭilya ays that ambassador is of three kinds—

(i) nisṛ ṣṭ ārtha—One who has full discretion as to the message he has been entrusted with. He is possessed of the qualifications required in a minister (amātya).

(ii) Parimitārtha—one who is entrusted with a definit mission and has little power of discretion,

(iii) śāsana hara—one who is a mere carrier of royal message.

The Udyogaparvan and the Śāntiparvan mention seven or eight qualities of a messenger which are not identical with those mentioned here,”[9]

Though Manu and Kauṭilya mentioned the number of ministers, yet they remained silent about the numbers of ambassadors. It can be assumed that as the number of ambassadors were not fixed, so it could be increased or decreased according to deed.

Footnotes and references:


R.P. Kangle: The kauṭilīya Arthaśāstra, part–III, pp. 202-203.


R. P. Kangle: Op. cit., part-I, pp. 21-22.


ibid., part–II, pp. 36-37.


ibid., part–II, pp. 37-38.


ibid., part–I, p. 22.


ibid., part–II, pp. 38-39.


ibid., part-I, pp. 22-23.


ibid., part-II, p. 39.


Ashokanath Shastri: Op.cit., p. 80.

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