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Durable Link to this BlogMonday, May 24, 2004

Kautilya's Arthashastra Part II

Continuing my commentary on Chanankya's Arthashastra.

Kautilya's Arthashastra Part II

Monarchy was order of the day (apprx 300 B.C). There were small republics in Kautilya's time. The representatives who ruled, were elected but were known as Rajas. As a monarchist, Kautilya never favoured these republics known as ganas (ganarajya was a republic). At the same time Kautilya did not uphold the "Divine right of Kings" of medieval times. Kingship was a trust. There were subtle checks and balances to control a ruler's arbitrary powers. A king-to-be, had to undergo rigorous, spiritual, physical and intelligence (mental) training from a very young age. He was to be self-controlled and pious. He had to be sensitive to public opinion. He had to be proficient in public administration and master of military sciences.

The king misappropriating public funds was guilty of derelection of duty. It is stated in Arthashastra that a king who leived unjust fines, was to offer thirty times that amount to God Varuna (Chastiser of Kings), to avoid divine punishment. Such threats as also the threat of hell were great deterrants. Past examples of subjects leaving enmasse, the kingdom of tyrants kept a Diruler wary.

Kautilya held welfare of the state above all things. His famous and oft-quoted dictum is, as follows:-

Prajasukhe sukham rajnah
Prajanam cha hite hitam
Natmapriyam hitam rajnah
Prajanam tu priyam hitam

Which means the king must regard his own happiness as one with that of his subjects. Whatever is beneficial to subjects is good for the king as well (and not his personal likings).

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Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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