Competitive Exams: Kautilya's Arthashastra

Kautilya's Arthashastra is the most important work on Public Administration in Ancient India. According to Pandit Nehru? Chankya's Arthashastra deals with a vast variety of subjects and covers almost every aspect of theory and practice of government. R C Majumdar considers the Arthashastra as the classical work on the study of political science and administration and as the high watermark of Indian Political thought.

Arthashastra's philosophy has considerable relevance in the contemporary world, despite the advances in the field of science and technology, as the basic nature of human beings has not changed. Human beings continue to be afflicted by frailities such as lust of power, selfishness, greed and indifference to suffering of their fellow beings, as a result the State is unable to protect the interest of its citizens, fails to provide an environment where people can make a dignified living and the rich and powerful intimidate and harass the poor and the weak. Arthashastra is not a theoretical treatise on political science and basically deals with matters of practical administration.

It assumes monarchy as the normal form of government. However, there was a fundamental difference in the concept of monarchy as propounded in Indian thought, as compared to its practice in western countries. Western countries believed in the divine right of the king, with the king enjoying absolute and unfettered powers. In the Indian thought a king had to act within the bounds of dharma and an elaborate list of duties and responsibilities of the king towards his subjects has been prescribed.

Emphasizing the importance of people for whom the state exists, Kautilya says, there cannot be a country without people and there is no kingdom without a country? He further states that it is the people who constitute a kingdom; like a barren cow, a kingdom without people yields nothing.

Arthashastra recognizes that the welfare and protection of the people is the main function of the State/King. In the happiness of his subjects lies the king's happiness; in their welfare his welfare. He shall not consider as good only that which pleases him but treat as beneficial to him whatever pleases his subjects. The maintenance of law and order by the use of punishment is the science of government.

With the help of ‘Danda’ (Stick), the ruler is to prevent, might from proving right and to enable the weak to hold their own against the strong. However the use of Danda requires great care. Only a just use of Danda secures the protection of the people, while at the same time it secures the protection of the people, while at the same time it secures happiness fro the Ruler in the next world. An unjust or improper use of force by the Ruler might lead to serious consequences, the most serious being the revolt of the subjects against the ruler.