Monday, July 22, 2024

Arthashastra for a Modern Bharat

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Arthashastra for modern Bharat is absolutely essential, it is the very heart and soul of our country and is highly relevant

Arthashastra’ or science of material wellbeing was a legendary treatise written around 320-300 BC by Kautilya.

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Kautilya also known as Chanakya was a master strategist and is best known for being the Prime Minister of the Mauryan empire.

He was the sensei to Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the mighty Mauryan Empire, the first pan-subcontinental empire in Bharatiya history.

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This text was lost for over two thousand years and was rediscovered in Mysore (present day Karnataka).

It was discovered by the historian R. Shyamashastry.

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The most interesting thing is that it was written on palm leaves.

Arthashastra anticipated by the well known and globally famous treatise on statecraft ‘Prince’ written by Niccolo Machiavelli by a millennia.

Substance of the Text

There is little doubt that Arthashastra was a literary masterpiece by Kautilya.

But the million rupee question arises-why?

There is, in Hindu philsophy four purusharthas-Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha.

In ancient Bharat, Dharma was considered to be the sine qua non for any individual, that especially applied to the monarch.

Dharma here doesn’t mean religion or faith, it denotes the completion of one’s duties that one’s station has vested upon oneself.

This has scriptural sanction in the form of the Bhagvad Gita.

Coming back to the point, Dharma was the linchpin of one’s life.

But Kautilya turned the very concept on its head and prioritized Artha.

Artha means material wellbeing and its active pursuit.

Kautilya actively believed that pursuance of Artha must be the primary aim of an individual’s life and all other purusharthas will be achieved automatically.

The Arthashastra contains elaborate prescriptions on the issue of how good governance can be carried out by the king.

It delves into the subjects of economics, statecraft, defence, culture, tradition etc, all with the aim of bolstering the effectiveness of governance.

What makes it ‘Hatke’?

This text is controversial because of its completely provocative and unapologetic tone. Arthashastra is for a modern Bharat.

The book prescribes punishments for crimes such as amputation, dragging by horses etc.

Further, it contains elaborate mechanisms by which the king can protect himself. It prescribes keeping an elaborate spy network.

It exhorts the king to not trust anybody blindly, Arthashastra prescribes different form of tests for ministers or other high officials.

This was done to determine their capability of holding the high office.

It also contains policy prescription on how to detect deception and deal with scheming relatives or close associates who are betraying the king’s trust.

Arthashastra also articulates the need for the monarch to use various policies for maintaining law and order in the state.

These are-

Sama- It means counselling. The best way to resolve any issue whether in personal or state relations is to seek counsel of the trustworthy individuals of the king.

Dana- offering concessions or gifts. This policy is to be applied by the king in the form of precious gifts or offering daughters’ hand in marriage to rival kings to neutralize any threat.

Danda- if the rival kingdom is weak. Danda or conquest is the best option after elaborate planning. In case of internal affairs, the state’s coercive power must be used.

Bheda-sowing the seeds of dissensions among rival kingdoms by making use of perfidy and deception.

Relevance for India

Arthashastra’s relevance lies in offering practical solutions to India’s foreign policy.

It clearly asserts that idealism is for the faint hearted. Realism is what matters. National interest matters.

India, is doing exactly that, with S Jaishankar developing the trajectory of Bharat’s foreign policy.

In the arena of internal affairs, it contains elaborate provisions on how to deal sternly with enemies of the state.

On a personal level, it offers prescriptions for individuals to live a good life devoid of any sentiment.

That is why it cotinues to remain relevant even after two thousand years. Therefore, the message is-Arthashastra for a modern Bharat.


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