Riku Sayuj's Reviews > The Arthashastra

The Arthashastra by Kautilya
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THE SCIENCE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE

The Arthashastra is the most comprehensive treatise on statecraft of classical times, and perhaps of all time.

The Arthashastra is written mainly in prose but also incorporates 380 shlokas, which adds a vital poetic flourish to this otherwise down-to-earth classic. The text of this extraordinarily detailed manual contains fifteen books which cover numerous topics viz., the King; a complete code of law; foreign policy; secret services; civic responsibilities, and so on.

In trying to understand Kautilya's analysis, we have to keep in mind the fact that in the Kautilyan view, the king encapsulates all the constituents of a state, he has expounded the theory in terms of the king - any king. In other words, what Kautilya calls the 'interest of the king' would nowadays be termed 'National Interest'.

A Note About The Translation

This translation by Rangarajan is a good reference book if you are coming back to Arthashastra for reference, but not particularly good for a first reading. It is too well catalogued and too practical for that. The verses should be read in the order Kautilya arrayed than in this re-arranged fashion that helps to make much better sense of ti, but somehow takes away the spirit.

The translation also contains a useful Index of Verses (By Textual Order) — it is meant to assist in finding out in which Part and Section a particular verse of the text has been included.

The Branches Of Knowledge

Traditionally, in classical Indian texts, the four branches of knowledge are considered to be:

1) Philosophy,
2) The Three Vedas,
3) Economics, and
4) The Science of Government

Kautilya tells us that these are, indeed, the four fundamental branches of knowledge because one can know from these four branches of study all that is to be learnt about Dharma [spiritual welfare] and Artha [material well-being]. {1.2.8-9}

Artha, literally wealth, is thus one of four supreme aims prescribed by Classical Indian tradition. However, it has a much wider significance and the material well-being of individuals is just a part of it. The ‘Artha’ of Arthashastra is an all-embracing word with a variety of meanings.  In accordance with this, Kautilya's Arthashastra maintains that the state or government of a country has a vital role to play in maintaining the material status of both the nation and its people.

The Arthashastra is thus 'the science of politics' with a significant part dedicated to the science of economics. It is the art of government in its widest sense — the maintenance of law and order as also of an efficient administrative machinery The subjects covered include: administration; law order and justice; taxation, revenue and expenditure; foreign policy; defense and war. Its three objectives follow one from the other: promotion of the welfare of the subjects leads to acquisition of wealth which, in turn, makes it possible to enlarge the territory by conquest.

The Instruction Manual

The Arthashastra is essentially a treatise on the art of government and is, by nature, instructional. It seeks to instruct all kings and is meant to be useful at all times wherever dharma is held to be pre­eminent. And because it is instructional, it is basis is the practice of government. The majority of the treatise is a Manual of Instruction for kings and officers of the state.

There are three distinct parts in this manual:

1. The Manual of Admi­nistration describes the organization of the apparatus of the state and prescribes the duties and responsibilities of every key official, either for maintaining order or for collecting revenue. There are, naturally, parts devoted to budgetary control, enforcement of civil service dis­cipline and the public's civic responsibility.

2. The Code of Law and Justice covers both civil and criminal law and is, basically, a Penal Code; the extensive and graded penalties and fines prescribed in it have the twin aims of deterring transgressions and collecting revenue for the state.

3. The third part is a Manual of Foreign Policy , the pri­mary aim of which is acquisition of territory by conquest.

These three manuals correspond to the three objectives of the state - wealth, jus­tice and expansion — A stable and prosperous state, which only a just administration can secure, is a prerequisite for accumulation of wealth which is then used to augment the territory.

Justice —> Wealth —> Expansion —> More Wealth, and so on...

... as long as Justice is not compromised. Which is why the prime focus of The Arthashastra is good administration that ensures the perpetuation of justice and prosperity in the kingdom.

Against Reductionist Arguments

Before we move on, we should face the unfortunate fact that both Kautilya the author and his masterwork the Arthashastra are much misunderstood. Popularly known as Chanakya, he is maligned and often ridiculed as a teacher of unethical, not to say immoral, practices and as an advocate of the theory that 'the ends justify the means.' 'Chanakyan' has entered Indian vocabulary as the equivalent of 'Machiavellian'.

Most people know little of what Kautilya actually said in the Arthashastra. The only thing they can recall is the superficial aspects of the ‘mandala’ theory, based on the principles: 'Every neighboring state is an enemy and the enemy's enemy is a friend.' This is, no doubt, almost always valid. Nevertheless, to reduce Kautilya's theory on foreign policy to just these two observations is to do him a grave injus­tice. Indeed, the theory deals with not just three states, but with a twelve. Here is a sample of how much more nuanced that simple understanding could be, with a little effort:



This popular view is not only simplistic but untrue. A through reading of the treatise is required to appreciate the range and depth of the Arthashastra. It is a pioneering work on statecraft in all its aspects, written at least one thousand five hundred years ago.

Even the condemnation of Kautilya as an unethi­cal teacher and the equivalence established with Machiavelli (itself based on gravely erroneous conception of that great master!) is based on ignorance of his work.

Kautilya’s is always a sane, moderate and balanced view. He placed great emphasis on the welfare of the people. His practical advice is rooted in dharma. But, as a teacher of practical statecraft, he advocated unethical methods in the furtherance of national interest, but always with very strict qualification. But these are often ignored or just plain unknown to the majority.

Just as Kautilya's important qualifications to his advocacy of unethical methods is often ignored, so is the voluminous evidence in the Arthashastra of his emphasis on welfare, not only of human beings but also of animals. Welfare in the Arthashastra is not just an abstract concept. It covers maintenance of social order, increasing economic activity, protection of livelihood, protection of the weaker sections of the population, prevention of harassment of the subjects, consumer protection and even welfare of slaves and prisoners.

In short, the Arthashastra is a mixture of both what we applaud today and what we consider to be reprehensible. Kautilya has a great deal to say about civic responsibility; the obligation of every householder to take precautions against fire is mentioned; so is a prohibition on cutting trees in public parks. Consumer protection and vigilance against ex­ploitation of the people by government servants are aspects which we consider good. Equally, some of Kautilya's suggestions will be seen by us as unethical. What is essential is that we understand both aspects and use them to learn history as well as to apply to the modern situations.

The Kautilyan Conception of The State

Dr. Kangle, in his magisterial work on Kautilya, notes that 'the kind of state control over the economy Arthashastra presupposes is not possible without an efficient administra­tion. We, therefore, find in it a description of an elaborate administra­tive machinery.'

A ruler's duties in the internal administration of the country are three-fold: raksha or protection of the state from external aggression, palana or maintenance of law and order within the state, and yoga­kshema or safeguarding the welfare of the people. These duties also meant that the King needed an elaborate support system.

The highly centralized Kautilyan state was to be regulated by an elaborate and intricate system as laid out by Kautilya. While at first glance we might think that this high centralization is repulsive, we should also appreciate the difficulties of the time. Most of the empires of the world relied on tight centralization to ensure some degree of success. Also, in Kautilya’s eyes, everything was in the service of one goal: Justice.

The extensive responsibilities of the state for promoting economic wellbeing and preserving law and order demand an equally extensive administrative machinery.  Any text on Arthashastra thus has to contain details of the organization of the civil service as well as the duties and responsibilities of individual officials.

Thus we can see how The Arthashastra was bound to be an elaborate manual that dealt with every minute aspect of administration and daily life.

The Arthashastra is a through discussion on the science of living, along with being a valuable historical document on the conduct of administration. It is thus supremely valuable for the historian but also for a modern political scientist or sociologist or economist or administrator.

A Modern Kautilya

All this shows us how close to modern life and administration the Kautilyan ideas come. Reading ancient books is the best way to rid ourselves of modernist fantasies — except for communication and transport, in the basic institutions, we are still where we were. and it is these two things (advance in communication & transport) that has made our institutions slightly more efficient, but also a lot more complex and thus just as bad at dealing with real things, while giving the illusion of a lot of activity.

The same thing can be said of the role of technology in daily life as well. We can get more things done because we can, but precisely because we can, there are always more things to do.

The Red Queen’s laugh reverberates through our modern lives and modern states.

Reality And The Ideal

The picture of the ideal Kautilyan state that emerges from our discussion above is one of a well-run state, prosperous and bustling with activity. But if we are to comprehend clearly Kautilya's teachings and apply them judiciously to the modern world, we also have to be aware of the essential characteristics of the work. The treatise is about an ideal state - not that such a state actually ever existed or is even likely to exist now or in the future. To the extent any of the six constituent elements of a state - the ruler, the ministers, the urban and the rural population, the economic power and the military might - differ from the ideals Kautilya has set out, to that extent the advice given by him has to be modified.

I cannot imagine that much would change if a modern Kautilya were to write an Arthashastra today, except that he would have a broader, faster reach, and a better chance of enforcing things. But the basics of what he wants to do would not change much, nor would the how, only the means/instruments of effecting them would be easier., But unless those means are not available to the people, their range also increases, and hence real control would remain as difficult today as it was then.

The Illusion of Governance?

This realization should lead us to wonder why Kautilya attempted such an elaborately and minutely planned state architecture — we should consider the possibility that perhaps this level of intrusion into daily life was required, at least at the planning level, precisely because real control was so impossibly difficult? Maybe the Plan was needed for any semblance of governance? This reminds me strongly of Kafka’s Castle administration and their reliance on the awe of the villagers. Maybe the illusion of minute micro-managed and all-pervasive governance can cover up for the inability to really govern?

Isn’t it the same today?

The Best in the Market

We have seen that the Arthashastra is an exhaustive and detailed inventory of everything a state should do and everything every minor official should do. A more detailed secular constitution of governance and daily life cannot be imagined. With this legacy, it is no wonder that the much less ambitious Indian Constitution is still the longest in the world, the most detailed and most concerned with trying to micro manage the nuts and bolts of administration.

We have also seen how the problems that Kautilya tried to tackle are more or less the same as what modern states fail spectacularly at, even when aided by more gee-whiz technology. And this immutability of problems and of solutions is precisely why the level of detail that Kautilya goes into is still valuable for government officials, administrators and citizens.

A better guidebook has not hit the market yet.
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Reading Progress

January 7, 2014 – Started Reading
January 7, 2014 – Shelved
February 20, 2014 –
page 95
10.82% "It is interesting to note that the state was held responsible for any failure to protect the public. If a thief was not apprehended and the stolen property not recovered, the victim was reimbursed from the king's own resources. Judges could modify the rate of interest, if the king was responsible for increasing the risk of loss by not providing adequate protection. {3. 11.3}."
February 21, 2014 –
page 115
13.1% "METHODS OF DEALING WITH CONFLICTS: A well known concept in Indian tradition is the set of Four Methods used in dealing with situations of potential or actual conflict : Sama, Dana, Bheda and Danda (i.e., adopting a conciliatory attitude, placating with rewards and gifts, sowing dissension among enemies and, finally, using force). \n \n Kautilya calculates in {9.7.77-78} that there are fifteen possible ways of choosing."
March 11, 2014 –
page 185
21.07% "Near the frontier or in any other suitable area, he shall set up an animal sanctuary where all animals are [welcomed as] guests. \n {2.2.3-6}"
May 11, 2014 –
page 254
28.93% "Capitalism in Verse!\n \n "Just as elephants are needed to catch elephants, \n so does one need wealth to capture more wealth."\n \n {9.4.27}"
May 13, 2014 –
page 500
56.95%
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: classics
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: great-books-quest
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: india
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: history-civilizations
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: history
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: direct-phil
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: epic-stuff
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: economics
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: philosophy
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: reference
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: r-r-rs
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: textbooks
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: sociology-institutions
May 15, 2014 – Finished Reading
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: india-history

Comments Showing 1-43 of 43 (43 new)

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Sowmya's book world interesting !!! It has a detailed explaination of all the shloka's in it???


Riku Sayuj Sowmya's book world wrote: "interesting !!! It has a detailed explaination of all the shloka's in it???"

not yet past the (long!) introduction, but will keep you posted.


message 3: by sologdin (new)

sologdin cool. the introduction to my vatsyayana makes multiples references to arthashastra as an indispensable companion text.

the bit you've highlighted regarding public insurance has analogues to Mesopotamian law, incidentally, as demonstrated in Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor.


message 4: by Riku (last edited May 14, 2014 12:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj sologdin wrote: "cool. the introduction to my vatsyayana makes multiples references to arthashastra as an indispensable companion text.

the bit you've highlighted regarding public insurance has analogues to Mesop..."


Yeah, I need to read Hammurabi soon. Have you sampled any translations?

You are right, The Kamasutra and The Arthashastra are valuable additions to each other, along with the Dharmashastras -- completing between them the essential sciences of human concerns.


message 5: by Praj (last edited May 14, 2014 01:11PM) (new)

Praj EXCELLENT!!!! This book was asking for your review and I'm glad you wrote one and that too a marvelous one.


message 6: by Riku (last edited May 14, 2014 01:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Praj wrote: "EXCELLENT!!!! This book was asking for your review and I'm glad you wrote one and that too a marvelous one."

Thank you so much, Praj! Unfortunately, I know that my painstaking and boring review is not going to convince very many to consider the book... but at least now there is a review available for the occasional curious goodreader. I am happy with that.


message 7: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope This is fascinating, Riku. Is this treatise studied much in modern India?

You are the perfect reader for this kind of book.


message 8: by Riku (last edited May 14, 2014 02:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Kalliope wrote: "This is fascinating, Riku. Is this treatise studied much in modern India?

You are the perfect reader for this kind of book."


Thanks, Kal. It is one of those books that everyone has heard about and loves to talk about, but hardly bothers to read. It is a book that we are rightfully very proud of, but devote little study to. I have been bluffing about it for years before deciding that it deserves to be studied.

It is much quoted, and hardly a month goes by without someone sharing a quote on facebook. Of course, Kautilya was not looking for pithy aphorisms in this work and wouldn't be very impressed with the state of affairs.


Riku Sayuj pls excuse any typos, i will fix them tomorrow.


message 10: by Kalliope (new)

Kalliope Riku wrote: "

You are the perfect reader for this kind of book."

Thanks, Kal. It is one of those books that everyone ..."


Thank you... I can imagine the position it has... the same as with so many others (I am guilty of ignoring so many works truly classical..)


message 11: by Yann (last edited May 14, 2014 02:58PM) (new) - added it

Yann Riku, you hooked me! Many thanks for bringing this review in front of my eyes, and this book in my sight.


message 12: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice How appropriate that something on Machiavelli is up soon! ...At least there's no wishy-washiness on what constitutes foreign policy.


message 13: by Riku (last edited May 14, 2014 11:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Elham wrote: "I read only 1/3 of this review and will read the rest tomorrow,I am intrigued by the subject(I read always your reviews in more that one sitting!)."

Thanks, Elham! I hope it proves to be worth your time! Anybody who is interested in the nitty-gritty of history will find a lot of meat to chew on in this book.


message 14: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Yann wrote: "Riku, you hooked me! Many thanks for bringing this review in front of my eyes, and this book in my sight."

Good to know Yann! And I know that you are reader who never shies from this sort of a challenge! :)


message 15: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Jan wrote: "How appropriate that something on Machiavelli is up soon! ...At least there's no wishy-washiness on what constitutes foreign policy."

We have to understand that until the age of free fuel and resultant food industry, the only way for an empire to maintain itself was by territorial expansion. If nothing else, to feed a rapidly urbanizing and expanding population, the country side had to be conquered. In a dense country like India, any countryside you try to conquer was bound to fall in neighboring territory.

The other option was to raze forests for converting to agricultural land, but as Kautilya makes clear, this is not a good choice -- forests are an important component of the state for two reasons:

1. They provide a territorial boundary + protection
2. More importantly, they are the only supply of the most important battle equipment -- Elephants (+timber, of course.)

Thus maintaining thriving forests was essential to a strong kingdom.

These two considerations together would mean that unless yours is an isolated mountain kingdom with a stagnant population, you had no choice but to keep trying to expand.


message 16: by Garima (new)

Garima Given the prolific reader you are, I think it was only a matter of time that you read this book/guide. Magnificent review as always, Riku. I was not sure if I'd ever choose to read it but now I'm definitely reconsidering my decision. Also, I must know about Kautilya outside the realms of TV. But yes, I did read Chanakya Neeti which unfortunately became the first and only book I hurled at the wall because of disparaging remarks it contained about women.


message 17: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Riku wrote: "Jan wrote: "How appropriate that something on Machiavelli is up soon! ...At least there's no wishy-washiness on what constitutes foreign policy."

We have to understand that until the age of free ..."


Geopolitics and political science. Fascinating. It would be interesting to have a course on the two subjects with readings from around the world.


message 18: by Riku (last edited May 15, 2014 01:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Garima wrote: "Given the prolific reader you are, I think it was only a matter of time that you read this book/guide. Magnificent review as always, Riku. I was not sure if I'd ever choose to read it but now I'm d..."

Thanks, Garima. The TV show was a much distorted historiography in any case.

About Neetishastra, while it is our right to find its comments offensive, we should also understand that Kautilya was primarily a historian and commentator. Neetishastra is a historical document that tells the way of life back then. Combine historical reality with Kautilya's pragmatism and we get a few provocative statements. But outside of Kamasutra, Kautilya still had the most progressive attitudes to women -- marriage laws, property laws, education etc.

We should think of him as a vital step towards modernity. Pragmatic thought eventually leads to equal rights for women -- mainly because the inequality always depends on irrationality and superstition.

btw, which trans. of Neetishastra did you try? Modern books, esp management centric ones that were avbl in my library, typically focus only on the raja-neeti aspect of it. Also, it is not really established that Kautilya was the author, which is why I don't refer to it as "Chanakya Neeti".


message 19: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Another way to misinform oneself about Kautilya: The atrocious Chanakya's Chant.


message 20: by Garima (new)

Garima Riku wrote: "Garima wrote: "Given the prolific reader you are, I think it was only a matter of time that you read this book/guide. Magnificent review as always, Riku. I was not sure if I'd ever choose to read i..."

Yes, yes. I considered all those points but my younger self was not very keen about the practical aspect of all the views presented in that book. That's why I said that I should read more about Kautilya. I'm not entirely sure but perhaps it was Ashwini Parashar's translation I read.


message 21: by Samadrita (new) - added it

Samadrita Riku wrote: "Another way to misinform oneself about Kautilya: The atrocious Chanakya's Chant."

Excellent. I read it as an ARC (a couple of years ago when my reading choices were still a little all over the place) and gave it 3 stars at the time. Now I wonder if the rating will come down to 1 once I acquaint myself with hard core historical facts about Kautilya.


message 22: by Gregsamsa (new)

Gregsamsa In the feed the book-cover's thumbnail looked like croutons floating in space but this of course is irrelevant. First of all, thank you for another instructive review on something I bet a lot of us knew nothing about but maybe I should just speak for myself.

Why is it that sometimes one comes across "the three Vedas" and other times it's "the four Vedas"? And sometimes there are five, with two Yajurvedas. Googling from here nets so much Western New Age garbage and spiritual tourism brochures that it's hard to tell what is authoritative (I've had a ridiculous time with this drek learning about Sufism).

About this: "'Every neighboring state is an enemy and the enemy's enemy is a friend.' This is, no doubt, almost always valid."

Did you mean this referring to back then, or now? Because nowadays I can see having this attitude if you're next door to Pakistan but I don't think it applies to North or South America or Europe. At least right now.

And I'm unclear about his idea that conquest is necessary for self-maintenance (although it sounds like rationalizations we hear from multi-national corporations); if you take over more territory, aren't you taking on responsibility for the conquered citizens, added to the investment in soldiers and treasure to do that in the first place and straining food stocks with further stretching supply chains, and then you have the increased territory to defend and all its attendant costs, so it seems like in the long run it would be a wash or a net loss.


message 23: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Gregsamsa wrote: "In the feed the book-cover's thumbnail looked like croutons floating in space but this of course is irrelevant. First of all, thank you for another instructive review on something I bet a lot of u..."

Thanks, Gregsamsa. Glad that you found it useful.

1) The cover shows panas, the official currency of the Mauryan Empire (321-185 B C ) -- quite aptly I must say.

2) Atharva Veda was not included into the vedic canon until much after the time Arthshastra was written. Later it was given the same status and from then on you will hear of the Four Vedas, instead of Three.

3) About the Mandala Maxim, I am talking of a pre-modern world, yes. Though the maxim really rests on another assumption: That every neighboring state is a direct competitor and hence should be considered an enemy, in the zero-sum game that empire-building was back then. Based on that base assumption, we might find some relevance to the maxim even today... Of course, Kautilya was not talking of trade, while today when we talk of foreign relations, trade takes the front seat.

4) About conquest being necessary, I had written a bit about it in: message #16.

But your point about increased responsibility and stretching supply trains are valid. However, the conquests had to be made because once the population expands, your own territory could not feed them. So it was a dilemma, if you administer well and your kingdom prospers, you are basically taking your kingdom towards war.

Ancient Indian Kings used many techniques to get over this fundamental problem. Concepts such as Maharaja by which tributes are given by conquered kings or by kings that accept your suzerainty was an obvious mechanism -- it allowed you to keep replenishing your treasury and warehouses, in return for both parties avoiding war. This was also a short term measure since at some point someone would challenge you.

So while conquest was a good (and only) strategy short of deliberate stagnation, it was bound to be unsustainable in the long run. We had to reach an equilibrium in which trade had to take over as the prime basis of conversation. But for that certain other conditions of external subsidy had to be available... too long to go into here.


message 24: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Whitaker wrote: "Riku wrote: "Jan wrote: "How appropriate that something on Machiavelli is up soon! ...At least there's no wishy-washiness on what constitutes foreign policy."

We have to understand that until the..."


Oh yes. It would be a wonderful course to design.


message 25: by Gregsamsa (new)

Gregsamsa THANK YOU RIKU that was very helpful. I appreciate your taking the time to clear that up.


message 26: by Vijai (new)

Vijai Its been almost a decade since I read Arthashastra but one aspect of it that had left me thinking was the utilitarian way the subject of prostitution was dealt with. For me personally, just out of college at that time, reading through all that was shocking. The duplicity of the contrasting atrocious societal narrative and the deliberative theme with foreign policy was too heavy to bear. Just saying that, Arthashastra may not be the all-awesome-desi-machiavellian book that it is made out to be and this coming from a self-professed nationalist should mean something. Or. Maybe my objectivity fails me.

Brilliant review as always man.


message 27: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Gregsamsa wrote: "THANK YOU RIKU that was very helpful. I appreciate your taking the time to clear that up."

Always a pleasure!


message 28: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Vijai wrote: "Its been almost a decade since I read Arthashastra but one aspect of it that had left me thinking was the utilitarian way the subject of prostitution was dealt with. For me personally, just out of ..."

What is needed is a more historical objectivity when we study these ancient texts. I would refer you to message #19 above. I know you raise important questions and I will try to type out another answer tomorrow morning. I have been fighting Morpheus for too long.


message 29: by Riku (last edited May 15, 2014 03:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Vijai wrote: "Its been almost a decade since I read Arthashastra but one aspect of it that had left me thinking was the utilitarian way the subject of prostitution was dealt with. For me personally, just out of ..."

Many things such as 'secret service', prostitution, women's rights are given a space that is outside the discourse of normal governance. But just because things are not written down doesn't mean things are not condoned in even more egregious fashion by modern governments. The writing down could be valuable too all by itself towards controlling excesses.

The other side of that argument is that this process then legitimizes the bad practices. But the question to be asked is -- which is better, 1) letting them live shadow lives within the system or 2) accept them, use them and maybe even make progress towards reform, purely because they form a part of the discourse on reforms now! (which is impossible as long as they are shadows)


message 30: by Maitrey (new)

Maitrey Thanks for the review Riku. (I'd noticed the three Vedas too, glad to see you cleared that up. Though I'm still sceptical, I think the Atharva Veda is still older than the Arthashastra, although both have been compiled over centuries).

Overall, I'd been planning to read the Arthashastra for a while, but was daunted by the sheer size. I'm glad to see you think most of it is still very relevant. I'll be picking this up very soon!


message 31: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Maitrey wrote: "Though I'm still sceptical, I think the Atharva Veda is still older than the Arthashastra, although both have been compiled over centuries)."

Yes it is, much older. But it was accepted into the vedic divine canon only later... until then it was almost a parallel tradition.

Glad that you will be picking it up!


message 32: by Himanshu (new) - added it

Himanshu Shattering a lot of misconceptions here with your review/comments, Riku. An excellent guide towards one of the most important historical artifacts.

"Another way to misinform oneself about Kautilya: The atrocious Chanakya's Chant."

I've heard the same but unfortunately it's the only popular book on Cahankyaniti around. Thus, had no interest in it. Will try and pick The Arthashastra soon. Thanks!


message 33: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Himanshu wrote: "Shattering a lot of misconceptions here with your review/comments, Riku. An excellent guide towards one of the most important historical artifacts.

"Another way to misinform oneself about Kautily..."


Thanks, Himanshu! Glad that it was useful, and to know that you avoided the Chant. :)


message 34: by Fionnuala (last edited Jan 03, 2015 10:09AM) (new)

Fionnuala This makes great reading, Riku.
A couple of things struck me in the review and the comments. Your point that in spite of the enormous changes in technology and communication, the fundamental problems of humanity remain the same is sobering.
I also wondered as I went through your review how much Kautilya is read today and I saw your reply to Kalliope in the comments. Thanks for that.
And this response you made to Garima is interesting:
Pragmatic thought eventually leads to equal rights for women -- mainly because the inequality always depends on irrationality and superstition.
I'd like to think that pragmatism solves problems but I'm not sure...


message 35: by P (last edited Jan 05, 2015 02:00AM) (new) - added it

P Hi Riku, Enjoyed your review. I have just read "The Prince" and would be reading the "Arthashastra" as well shortly. Machiavelli writes about political power and its analysis, consolidation, in a very short format, almost like a detailed manifesto. Arthashastra is considerably longer, and presumably more detailed. Since you have read both of them, were you able to compare the two men, Kautilya is known as India's Machiavelli(anachronistically), and I would be very interested to compare their thinking(progressive and political) w.r.t to the times they lived in.

PS: Chanakya's Chant, though historically inaccurate was a wonderful one time read


message 36: by Ted (new)

Ted Very interesting review, Riku. Contrary to my usual habit with long reviews, I read every word! It's organized into topics very nicely, I thought.


message 37: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Thanks, Riku. Really extensive review.


message 38: by Ted (new)

Ted Bookmarked _here_ and _here_ (section J) . Lag of six months pretty good, compared to the norm for me.


message 39: by Manish (new) - added it

Manish Soni excellent review


message 40: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Manish wrote: "excellent review"

Ted wrote: "Bookmarked _here_ and _here_ (section J) . Lag of six months pretty good, compared to the norm for me."

Thanks :)


message 41: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Fionnuala wrote: "This makes great reading, Riku.
A couple of things struck me in the review and the comments. Your point that in spite of the enormous changes in technology and communication, the fundamental probl..."


Fi, I missed your comment somehow. Thanks for the thoughts... I share your skepticism of pragmatism, but self-interest + pragmatism colored by it is the driver of most things now I guess


message 42: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Paritosh wrote: "Hi Riku, Enjoyed your review. I have just read "The Prince" and would be reading the "Arthashastra" as well shortly. Machiavelli writes about political power and its analysis, consolidation, in a v..."

Paritosh, I would love to do it as well, but I dont think I am equipped to, without further study... But calling Mack Europe's Kautilya would be more accurate...


message 43: by Samra (new)

Samra Yusuf A very refined and detailed account on the subject I am least been inclined,enjoyed reading your erudite approach all the same!


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