The Arthashastra (Sanskrit: अर्थशास्त्र ) is an ancient Indian Sanskrit treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy. Kautilya, who is also known as Vishnugupta and Chanakya, is traditionally credited as the author of the text.
Historians feel that the text is likely to be the work of several authors over centuries.. Composed, expanded and redacted between the 2nd century BCE and 3rd century CE, the Arthashastra was influential in India until the 12th century AD, and after that it disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1905 by R. Shamasastry, who published it in 1909. The first English translation was published in 1915.
The title Arthashastra is often translated as ‘The Science of Wealth’ (अर्थ is Wealth in Sanskrit Language). But the book has a broader scope. It includes books on the nature of government, law, civil and criminal court systems, ethics, economics, markets and trade, the methods for screening ministers, diplomacy, theories on war, nature of peace, and the duties and obligations of a king.
The text incorporates Hindu philosophy, includes ancient economic and cultural details on agriculture, mineralogy, mining and metals, animal husbandry, medicine, forests and wildlife.
The Arthashastra explores issues of social welfare, the collective ethics that hold a society together, advising the king that in times and in areas devastated by famine, epidemic and such acts of nature, or by war, he should initiate public projects such as creating irrigation waterways and building forts around major strategic holdings and towns and exempt taxes on those affected.
The text was influential on other Hindu texts that followed, such as the sections on kings, governance and legal procedures included in Manusmriti.
Contents of Chanakya’s Arthashastra :
- Book I, “Concerning Discipline”
- Book II,”The Duties of Government Superintendents”
- Book III, “Concerning Law”
- Book IV, “The Removal of Thorns”
- Book V, “The Conduct of Courtiers”
- Book VI, “The Source of Sovereign States”
- Book VII, “The End of the Six-Fold Policy”
- Book VIII, “Concerning Vices and Calamities”
- Book IX, “The Work of an Invader”
- Book X, “Relating to War”
- Book XI, “The Conduct of Corporations”
- Book XII, “Concerning a Powerful Enemy”
- Book XIII, “Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress”
- Book XIV, “Secret Means”
- Book XV, “The Plan of a Treatise”