CHANAKYA - Kautilya

When ever I have spoken to friends about Kautilya (K) or his master piece Arthashastra (A), they looked at me sheepishly, as if saying, why I wanted to talk about that smarty, teacher of unethical practices and advocate of the theory that the end justifies the means. Both K (known as Chanakya(C)) and his masterpiece are misunderstood. He is compared to Machiavellain. He laid great emphasis in the welfare of the people. As a teacher of practical statecraft, he advocated unethical methods to pursue national interests. It was the victory of Dharama over Adharama. Is that not what the Mahabharat is all about ? Do not read his thoughts with a India centric perspective. The teachings of the great preceptor of statecraft have global applications.

Nearly hundred years ago, Swami Vivekananda said, what India brings to the world is intellectual capital and spirituality. While the world has accepted India as a fountainhead of spirituality, it has taken the success of the Indians American community for the world to sit up and take notice. The community has used its intellect to make correct decisions, taken risks, worked hard. Fortunately, they continue to retain and espouse Indian values. Humility is what one associates with them. Making Profit, earning money was considered healthy in ancient Bharat provided it was distributed for the benefit of others. Some of them have donated big monies to the I.I.T’s. This essay is dedicated to the Indian American community. They have used their clout to change the way the American Government views India. Coming after Pokran II and the sanctions that followed it was no mean task. I would urge all Indians to shed their inhibitions of the Nehru/Indira era & move out of country to share their intellectual power with the world.

This essay is based on inputs from Kautilya, the Arthashashtra by Shri L N Rangarajan and The History & Culture of Indian People by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan..

Artha - From ancient times, the aim of all human endeavor was dharma, artha, kama and moksha meaning moral behavior, wealth, worldly pleasures and salvation. Of these dharma is the most important. It signifies the concept of righteousness and ones duty to family, society and universal order. Artha follows dharma but it has a much wider significance than merely “ wealth”.

The material well being of human beings is closely linked to it. The government plays an important role in helping its inhabitants to generate wealth. The aim of pursuing successful economic policies is to increase the revenues of the state and its people. A depleted treasury cannot serve its citizens but if a full treasury is achieved by high taxes it does not serve any purpose either. This assumes two things – maintenance of law & order and administrative machinery. Thus A, attaches importance to economics, dandaniti (use of a rod to maintain law & order) and the welfare of people (success of administrative system).

A is thus, the art of governance in its widest sense. The subjects covered include administration, law & order, taxation, revenue, foreign policy, defence, war. K was not the originator of the science. He acknowledges that it is based on similar treatise of the past. There are believed to be thirteen individual teachers of A before K.

Who was Kautilya ? His name was Vishnugupta. He is believed to be from Kerala or a North Indian who was born & educated in the university town of Taxila. A knowledgeable person he landed up in the court of the Magadha (in Bihar) king Dhana-Nanda to display his knowledge. Humiliated by the King, he vowed not to tie his forelock knot again until he had destroyed the Nanda dynasty. While searching for a person who would help him achieve his objective, he came upon Chandragupta, took to him to Takshila and gave him education fit for a future king. Whether K existed in 320 bc or 150 ad in no way undermines the greatness of his thoughts and writings.

Strategy - They started attacking the Nanda empire but failed. Legend has it that they understood the reasons for their failure when they heard a women scold her child “ You are just like Chandragupta (CG)! Because her son had got his fingers burnt by starting to eat from the center of a hot dish.” They changed their tactics and began to attack from the frontiers. What CG was doing earlier was to try and capture the interior areas. After capturing one area he would go for another but would face in a revolt in the area previously captured. So when you have to capture, go step by step, take the outer areas first, establish physical control, that way your opponents have to keep on moving inland, keep up the pressure and they have to succumb.

You cannot stand in the center and win a war. Remember the fate of Abhimanyu, he entered the Chakravuyaha, got right in the centre, could not withstand the attack from all sides. Lets look at the fate of the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir. It is perceived that they do not attack but always respond. They have not cordoned off areas pushing their opponents into a corner and then go for the kill. What I would do is to clean up each district in Jammu first, establish complete control, cover my back side, force the terrorists into the Valley, block their exit into Kargil by manning Zojila Pass and then go for the kill in Kashmir Valley. But as a nation we have rarely been proactive, let the person attack and then defend is our motto.

K and CGupta changed their strategy and began attacking from the frontiers till they converged on Pataliputra, defeated the Nanda king and installed CG as king.

History - Alexander invaded India in 326 bc. The nature and effect of his raid on India are highly overstated. He never crossed the Beas and thus never fought any of the brave kings of Bharat. His conquest of Punjab had no permanent impact, politically, administratively or in a cultural sense. But his invasion affected Indian politics to the extent that it promoted the political unification of India. Smaller states merged into big ones, paving the way for the growth of the Indian empire founded by Chandragupta, guided by Kautilya. It however, opened up communication between India and Greece at a great cost though. His visit inflicted untold sufferings upon India, rape, massacre, plunder on a scale that was unknown to us Indians. He prepared us by similar actions by the Muslim invaders. CG began the war of liberation around 321 bc and became king about 324 bc. In 305 bc, he defeated the Greek king, Seleucus, who had succeeded Alexander in the eastern part of the empire. His empire extended up to Mysore in the South, Persia in the North-West, Gujarat in the West and probably Bengal in the East.

Arthashastra broadly covers fourteen areas. One deals with the King – his training, appts of minister etc. Two describes the duties of various officers of the state and gives a complete picture of the states activities. Three is concerned with law and administration of justice. Four is on suppression of crimes. Five is a sundry collection of topics including salaries of officials. Six is on foreign policy and constituent elements of state. Seven is an exhaustive discussion on the way in which each of the six methods of foreign policy may be used in various situations. Eight relates to calamities. Nine is on preparations of war. Ten is concerned with fighting and types of battle arrays. Eleven is on how must a conqueror deal with a number of chiefs rather than one king. Twelve shows how a weak king when threatened by a stronger one must overpower him. Thirteen is concerned with the conquest of the enemy’s fort by fighting. Fourteen deals with occult practices.

It is not possible to cover the entire treatise in one short, so will take individual topics.