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The Arthaśāstra

Selections from the Classic Indian Work on Statecraft

Edited and Translated, with an Introduction, by Patrick Olivelle and Mark McClish

September 2012 - 256 pp.

Format ISBN Price Qty
Cloth 978-1-60384-849-7
Paper 978-1-60384-848-0
Examination 978-1-60384-848-0


eBook available for $14.95. Click HERE for more information. 

The only extant treatise on statecraft from classical India, the Arthaśāstra is an invaluable resource for understanding ancient South Asian political thought; it also provides a comprehensive and unparalleled panoramic view of Indian society during the period between the Maurya (320–185 BCE) and Gupta (320–497 CE) empires.


This volume offers modern English translations of key selections, organized thematically, from the Arthaśāstra. A general Introduction briefly traces the arc of ancient South Asian history, explains the classical Indian tradition of statecraft, and discusses the origins and importance of the Arthaśāstra. Thorough explanatory essays and notes set each excerpt in its intellectual, political, and cultural contexts.



"The translations are the collaborative product of the two leading authorities today on the Arthaśāstra. . . . Their work is consistently, meticulously accurate throughout, yet written in the most straightforward and direct manner imaginable. The material prefatory to each translated section is, again, clear and accessible. . . . Complex matters are effectively distilled in plain language, and the key issues brought out.
    "Superb on all counts. I have been awaiting such a volume for a long time."
     —Timothy Lubin, Washington and Lee University



"McClish and Olivelle's general Introduction to the Arthaśāstra is destined to become a classic in the field of South Asian studies; they have translated the text itself in an accessible style that students and general readers alike will comprehend and enjoy.”
     —James Frey, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh



"It's of great value to nonspecialists to have this classic work of political theory and political prudence available. This carefully edited and lucidly commented volume will be useful for both research and for courses on the comparative history of politics and civilizations."
     —Randolph C. Head, University of California, Riverside



"A wonderful contribution that will do a tremendous service in making this area of Indian cultural history available to students in an inexpensive and judiciously-edited selection."
     —Christian Wedemeyer, University of Chicago


Mark McClish is Assistant Professor of Religion at Birmingham-Southern College.

Patrick Olivelle is Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.







Authorship and Date: The Cāṇakya Legend, The Composer of the Arthaśāstra: the Historical Kauṭilya, Date and Location of the Arthaśāstra

Historical Context: The Indus Valley Period, The Vedic Period, The Classical Period

Arthaśāstra: Text and Tradition: The Concept of "artha," The Genre of Śāstra, The Tradition of Statecraft, Structure and Style of the Text

The World of the Arthaśāstra: Kingship and Royal Authority, Ruling a Kingdom, The King's Administration, The Layout of the Kingdom, Society, Religion and Ethics, Conquest and Success



Chapter One: How to be Good King
1.1 Training of a King
      Training of Character
1.2 Taking Counsel
1.3 Daily Routine
1.4 Personal Security

Chapter Two: The Kingdom
2.1 Constituents of a Kingdom
2.2 Construction of Fortified Cities
      Construction of Forts
      Lay-Out of the Fort
2.3 Security of the Royal Residence
2.4 Rules for the City
2.5 Rules for Constructing Neighborhoods
2.6 Settling the Countryside
2.7 Protecting Against Calamities

Chapter Three: Central Administration
3.1 Appointments to the Central Administration
      General Qualifications
      Counselor-Chaplain (Mantripurohita)
      Treasurer (Samnidhātṛ)
      Collector (Samāhartṛ)
3.2 Superintendents of Departments
      Appointment and Conduct of Superintendents
      Superintendent of Customs
      Superintendent of Yarn
      Superintendent of Agriculture
      Superintendent of Liquor
      Superintendent of Shipping
      Superintendent of Horses
      Superintendent of Elephants
3.3 Revenue streams
      Fees, customs, and levies
3.4 Treasury

Chapter Four: The Judiciary
4.1 Organization of Courts
4.2 Valid Transactions and Transactors
4.3 Judicial Procedure
      Filing of Lawsuits
      Evidence: Witnesses
4.4 Titles of Law
      Family Law
      Interest Rates
      Sale without Ownership
      Verbal Assault
      Physical Assault
      Gambling and Betting

Chapter Five: Internal Security and Suppression of Criminal Activities
5.1 Internal Secret Service
      Clandestine Operatives: Informants
      Clandestine Operatives: Mobile Agents
      Testing the Loyalty and Honesty of State Employees
      Secret Punishments
      Punishment of State Officials
5.2 Magistrates and Police
      Investigations of Crimes and Murder
      Suppression of Crimes
5.3 Prisons and Jails

Chapter Six: Foreign Affairs
6.1 Circle Doctrine of States: Allies and Enemies
6.2 Six Measures of Foreign Policy
6.3 Envoys
6.4 Foreign Secret Service

Chapter Seven: War
7.1 The Structure of the Army
7.2 Military Expedition
      Military Camp
7.3 Battle Tactics
      Accounting for Terrain
      Encouraging the Troops
      Battle Arrays & Combat
7.4 Taking a Fort
7.5 Conduct in Victory
7.6 Conquering the Earth


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