The Arthashastra on the other hand, claims to have been authored by a single person named Kautilya, who is traditionally identified with Chanakya – the Brahmin minister who, according to legend, engineered Chandragupta’s rise to power and the unprecedented success of the Mauryan empire (321-185 BC). Whether such individuals and stories are actually real is difficult to say, but what is significant is that they illustrate the role that secular Brahmin ministers played in immensely shaping the state and economy.

Nevertheless, Trautmann’s analysis indicates that the text is the compiled result of several different authors throughout history. 1 paper will focus on the following three themes in the text: (1) the utilitarian function of the state, (2) the intellectual and strategic leadership of Brahmin high government officials, and (3) the preservation of the status quo and political legitimacy; all of which will reveal that the Arthashastra was the eventual product of the large-scale centralization and tremendous growth experienced by Indian polities during the pre-Gupta period.

Artha has always been regarded as one of the four purusharthas,5 yet its teachings have been relegated to animal fables and folklore. No such shastras seem to have been compiled for public knowledge, as was the case of the Dharmashastras and Kamashastras. In stark contrast to the latter, the manuscript discovered in 1902 by Shamasastry was compiled as a guidebook for kings and high-level officials, rather than the average individual.

The result is a perspective advocating a top-down style of governance with little or no representation held by the general populace, and the continual maintenance of such a state with energetic leadership and extensive secret service. 6 Though the king and upper echelons of society involuntarily accepted such authority because of religious ideals just as much as the general populace did, the Arthashastra suggests the existence of a small elite with a secular and realist outlook that actively worked to uphold this power scheme and determine the overall course of the kingdom. 5 In Hinduism, the purusharthas are the four great aims of human life, in order of decreasing importance: moksha (eternal salvation), dharma (religion/morality), artha (wealth), and kama (love/sex/aesthetics). Proper adherence to the latter three in life is supposed to help one in ultimately attaining moksha. However, as will be discussed very shortly, the Arthashastra redefines the priorities of the latter three pursuits. – Rangarajan, Kautilya: The Arthashastra, 13. 6 Romila Thapar, Early India: From the Origins to A. D. 300 (University of California Press, 2002), 206. 7 This power scheme is the caste system, as structured by the four varnas: Brahman (priest), Kshatriya (warrior aristocrat), Vaishya (cultivator and trader), and Shudra (those who labor for others). An additional fifth group is the untouchable, who is outside of the varna system and therefore constitutes the lowest rung of society. 2 It is for this reason that the Arthashastra advocates reordering the priorities of the purusharthas, by valuing materialism over religion and morality. 8 Similarly, R. P.

Kangle notes that “these ideals are meant for individuals” and that the conduct of public life was not to be guided by these rules for individual morality. 9 Management of the state necessitated realism, not idealism. It required the prudence and precise calculation of measures undertaken alongside their short and long-term consequences, which formulated the theoretical beginnings of economics: “Wealth will slip away from that childish man who constantly consults the stars: the only [guiding] star of wealth is itself; what can the stars of the sky do?

Man, without wealth, does not get it even after a hundred attempts. Just as elephants are needed to catch elephants, so does wealth capture more wealth. ”10 Public welfare was contingent upon the strength of the state. The latter was achieved by internal development or territorial expansion, both of which were realized through power. 11 The Arthashastra regards both economics and foreign policy as zero-sum games: the state would need to prosper economically lest it be overtaken by wealthier imperialist neighbors or suffer from internal rebellion by discontented government officials and military leaders.

Furthermore, internal development would naturally lead to population growth and would eventually necessitate expansion, which is why L. N. Rangarajan notes that “the aim of creating a well-run state is to provide the base for expansion. Continuing with this logic, Kautilya deals in Book 7 with all the theoretical possibilities of 8 “Kautilya, however, says: artha (sound economics) is the most important; for dharma and kama are both dependant on it. ” – Rangarajan, Kautilya: The Arthashastra, 145; (1. 7. 6-7). Kangle, The Kautiliya Arthasastra, Part III: A Study, 281. 10 Rangarajan, Kautilya: The Arthashastra, 637; (9. 4. 26-27). 11 “Strength is power; happiness is the objective [of using power]. [Power and success are interrelated. ] Power is of three kinds; so is the success resulting from its use… a prosperous treasury and a strong army provide physical power…” – Ibid. , 559; (6. 2. 30-34). 3 conducting an expansionist foreign policy. ”12 Hence, the prime motive of the state was the never-ending pursuit of artha.

It is only after dedicating its energies to this end can the state or king13 then move on to fulfilling dharma and kama. As such, the Arthashastra provides extensive coverage on the overall economy, which includes: infrastructure (roadwork, irrigation, forestry, and fortification), weights and measurements, labor and employment, commerce and trade, commodities and agriculture, land use and property laws, money and coinage, interest rates and loan markets, tariffs and taxes, and government expenditures and the treasury.

The high level of detail dedicated to these areas demonstrates the remarkable organization and centralization of the state idealized in the Arthashastra, and it also supports the view that the information contained in the text is a compilation of works that have endured over long periods of trial and error. The Arthashastra is surprisingly calculated on every minute detail and economic function – the exact number of panas14 is provided for every salaried position, legal ramification, commodity, and livestock.

Economics was regulated through such central planning and the highly detailed attempts at identifying the optimal amount for every economic function stresses this constant strive towards efficiently improving the overall utility and welfare of society. Along with prudence and careful calculation, the state is advised to be extremely active or energetic in managing the economy, as the Arthashastra states that, 12 13 Rangarajan, Kautilya: The Arthashastra, 117. Rangarajan mentions that “in the Arthashastra, “King” is often used to signify the state, since he embodies all the constituents.

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