ARTHASHASTRA 100 YEARS – 1909 – 2009 – KAUTILYA, ADVISER TO INDIAN KING CHANDRAGUPTA

It was in 1909 that Dr. R. Shamashastri published a manuscript from fourth and third century BC India. He had discovered in 1904. It was a book about statecraft, power and governance by Kautilya, an adviser to the Indian king Chandragupta.

The Indian researcher worked in the city of Mysore at the Oriental Research Institute (ORI). It was founded in 1891 by the then Maharaja of Mysore State. Its aim was to collect, edit and publish rare manuscripts in Sanskrit and other ancient languages. The most famous publication was that of Kautilya.

The manuscript was written on palm leaves. Brittle palm leaves were cut to a standard size of 15 centimeter by 3,5 centimeter. Sometimes they were scrubbed with a paste made of ragi and then used for writing. It was similar to the use of papyrus in ancient Egypt. The ORI uses lemon grass oil to preserve the old manuscripts.

What is so special about Arthashastra. Its author has been compared to Machiavelli of renaissance Italy and Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist that has been compared to Karl von Clausewitz, the dominating strategist of the West.

Kautiliya was the main adviser to Chandragupta Maurya (around 317 – 293 BC), the king who firs united India into an empire. Kautilya wrote about willingness to make treaties he knew he would brake. Also he approved of secret agents who sowed discord among the enemies. Further he recommended the use of women as weapons of war. Spreading disinformation was another method that could be applied in both statecraft and warfare.

Arthashastra can be translated as “science of politics”. Kautilya believed, like Thomas Hobbes that the goal of science was power. In the world of geopolitics and international relations it was only “natural” that nations used dissension and force. A political realist then and now believed and believes that there will always be conflict in world politics. Kautilya wrote around 100 years after ancient Greek historian worked on his History of the Peloponnesian War.

A leading Western commentator on Kautiliya is Professor Roger Boesche of California (The First Political Realist: Kautiliya and His Arthashastra, Landham. Md: Lexington Division of Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

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