Kautilya’s Arthasastra: Military Aspects
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Published: Mon, 26 Feb 2018
1. Army has been regarded from time immemorial as one of the essential instruments for the maintenance of a state. Kings, not only in India but throughout the ancient world, maintained well organised and well equipped armies both for the defence and expansion of their kingdoms. History is abounds in instances that whenever any ruler or state neglected the proper maintenance of their armies, unpleasant results in the form of loss of sovereignty or territory have occurred. The study of the organisation and administration of the army of a particular country in a particular period shall always give clues of its basic fabric. The topic under study deals with the role of Kautilya’s Arthasastra in organising and administrating large armies and its relevance in today’s world armies.
2. Kautilya’s Arthasastra had never been forgotten in India and is often mentioned in later literature, sometimes eulogistically and sometimes derisively. But the text itself was not available in modern times until, dramatically, a full text on palm leaf in the grantha script , along with a fragment of an old commentary by Bhattasvamin, came into the hands of Dr R Shamasastry of Mysore in 1904 who was then the Librarian of the Mysore Government Oriental Library. He published not only the text (1909) and an English translation (1915) but also an index Verborum in three volumes listing every word in the text. Subsequently another original manuscript and some fragments, in a variety of scripts, were discovered as well as old commentaries of the text. An another author Dr RP Kangle of the University of Bombay devoted many years of painstaking edition and comparing the various texts and translations. His monumental three volume edition of the Arthashastra was first published between 1960 and 1965 with detailed note.
3. Kautilya’s Arthasastra is a treatise on artha and sastra. . Artha is an all- embracing word with a variety of meanings in 1.7.6-7 , it is used in the sense of material well being; in 15.1.1 livelihood; in 1.4.3, economically productive activity, particularly in agriculture, cattle rearing and trade ; and, in general, wealth as in the ‘wealth of nations.’ Arthashastra is thus ‘the science of politics as it is used in 1.1.1 or 1.4.3 .It is the art of governance in its widest sense. The subjects covered include administration; law, order and justice; taxation, revenue and expenditure; foreign policy; defence and war.
4. Kautilya’s Arthasastra contains fifteen adhikaranas or books. Of these the first five deal with ‘tantra’ or the internal administration of the state. The next eight deals with ‘avapa’ or its relation with the neighbouring states and the last two are miscellaneous in character. The eighth adhikarna or book is concerned with vyasanas, that is, the calamities ,shortcomings or weakness affecting the various prakritis. It is necessary to overcome the shortcomings before any aggressive activity can be undertaken. The ninth adhikarna deals with preparation for war and describe the kinds of troops that should be mobilised for an expedition, the proper seasons for starting an expedition, the precautions to be taken and the dangers to be guarded against before starting and so on . The tenth book deals with fighting, and describes the camping of the army, its march, various modes of fighting, types of battle arrays and other topics.Thus this study shall primarily concentrate on book eight, nine and ten in particular and other books in general.
5. The Legend ‘K autilya ‘
: This mastermind, who could write a definitive treatise on economics and government at a time when large parts of the world was steeped in intellectual darkness? All sources of Indian tradition – Brahmanical , Buddist and jain-agree that Kautilya (also refer to as Vishnugupta in a stanza included at the end of the work) destroyed the Nanda dynasty and installed Chandra Gupta Maurya in the throne of Magadha. The name ‘Kautilya’ denotes that he is of the Kutila gotra ; ‘Chanakya’ shows him to be the son of Chanaka and ‘Vishnugupta was his personal name Kautilya then retired from active life and reflected on all that he had learnt during the process of overthrowing Dhana-Nanda. Since he found the earlier works on statecraft unsatisfactory in many respects, he composed his own definitive work presenting his ideas concerning the ways in which a ruler should gain power and maintain his authority. He was way ahead of his times in his thinking and covered every conceivable aspect on the art of politics and warfare, which could be imagined at the time he lived. For Kautilya, military strategy was an integral part of the science of polity and he made no distinction between military techniques and statecraft. Kautilya’s Arthashastra is a practical work which could have been written only by one who had implemented the tactics which he preached. How to form alliances, how to organise and administer them, how to attack a powerful king, how to deal with revolts in rear, what tricks to play on gullible people- there is plenty of evidence in the text to indicate that the author was giving real life answers to every conceivable hypothetical situation.
6. Statecraft and battle craft have changed over the centuries due to the fast changing technology and increasing requirements of human beings. Kautilya a mastermind contributed immensely to the development of the same, his extraordinary arrangement of battle groups in war and administering them during peace keeping all extraneous factors in mind still remains a masterpiece for century armies.
CHAPTER II: METHODOLOGY
Statement of Problem
7. To study the military aspects as enunciated by Kautilya in Arthashastra with a specific reference to organisation and administration and analyse its relevance for today’s armies.
Justification of the Study
8. The Legend Kautilya in his renowned work ‘ARTHASHASTRA’ has dealt with various contemporary subjects which formed the basis of Chandragupta Maurya’s rule and victories, in fact there is a general view that Kautilya’s Arthashastra deals only with matters of foreign policy and economy. It is seldom realised that a great portion of this book does in fact, deal extensively with matters of military, he indeed consolidated all the prevailing grand strategy and tactics of those times and gave his expert opinion on the subjects, which ultimately led to victories of Chandragupta Maurya , who never lost a single campaign. It thus emerges that the brilliance of Kautilya was not only in diplomacy but also in warfare, but the fact that strikes out is that he was able to lay down methods to organise and manage the armed forces in a vast empire. The concepts of military administration and organisation in war and peace were inadvertently covered and spread out in all the adhikaranas, thus leading for topic of research for bringing forth, integrating and analysing those sublime aspects of organisation and administration which formed the bed rock of administering and organising large armies as of Mauryan empire, and at the same time analyse its relevance for 20th century armies.
9. This study concentrates on the relevance of Kautilya’s teachings with regard to military aspects in general and organisational and administrational aspects in detail including the aspects of tactics, strategy. The study aims to focus on aspects, which are still relevant for the better management of a large army like ours.
10. Methods of Data Collection.
The information has been gathered from books, journals and the internet. The bibliography of sources is appended at the end of the text.
11. The subject under study shall be covered under following chapters: –
Organisation of Army
Organisation of Land Forces in Operations
Administration including Man Management and Welfare Aspects
CHAPTER III : ORGANISATION OF ARMY
12. Chandragupta maintained a large standing army , though he acquired a big army from his Nanda predecessors, he made impressive accretions to its strength, so that it stood at six lakh infantry,30000 horses,9000 elephants and 8000 chariots . An efficient war office supervised this powerful army. Its thirty members were divided into five member boards . The six boards were :
(c) Commissariat and Army Service Infantry.
13. Kautilya had divided the army into four arms i.e Patti or Padati(Infantry), Asva(Cavalry), Ratha(Chariots) and Hast (Elephants) and hence it was named as Chaturangabala or the four limbed army headed by their respective Adyakshas or Superintendents. They had Following roles to play:
(a) War Elephants. The king relied mainly on elephants for achieving victory in battles. They were the premium arm of the army and relied on their strength and shock effect to route the enemy from the battle field. They were required to destroy all arms of the service of the enemy and to break his battle formations. Kautilya has laid much emphasis on the use of elephants as a battle winning factor with following functions:
(i) Marching in front, making new roads.
(ii) Protecting the flanks.
(iii) Helping to cross water and climb and descend from mountains.
(iv) Breaking up enemy’s unbroken ranks, trampling enemy’s army.
(v) Causing terror, capturing battle positions.
(vi) Destroying ramparts, gates, and towers.
(b) The Cavalry. The cavalry being the most mobile arm in the army was used to influence the battle. It was tasked for the following.
(i) Reconnoitring battle grounds, camping sites, forests.
(ii) Securing level grounds, water supply sources.
(iii) Destroying enemies and protecting own supplies and reinforcements.
(iv) Extending the range of raids.
(v) Assault the enemy’s battle formation.
(vi) Attack the enemy from the rear.
(vii) Cut off the enemy’s line of supply.
(viii) Isolate the enemy’s strong point.
(ix) Feign retreat so as to persuade the en to pursue, once the enemy lost its cohesion the cavalry was supposed to turn around and rout him.
(x) Restoration of sit by plugging gaps in own def made by enemy’s assault.
(xi) Making the initial attack, penetrating or breaking through
(xii) Pursue the defeated en.
(xiii) Rallying the troops.
(c) Chariots. The war chariots had lost their effectiveness particularly against well trained cavalry, Maurian army retained war chariots as an independent arm, and they were restricted to a single offensive role of launching a charge against infantry and a near static defensive role. The arm lacked versatility and was too sensitive to terrain; it could produce result only under ideal conditions. According to Kautilya the chariots were to act as the mainstay of the formation in offensive and defensive roles. Their main function was to break up the opponent’s battle formation during offensive operations and repulse the enemy assault own formation and recapture lost ground by counter attack.
(d) Infantry. There were primarily two types of infantry in Mauryan times, archers and spearmen and both were employed together. Archers performed the role of close support weapons as well as artillery and spearman carried out close combat. The spearman carried a large shield for protection. Chandragupta Maurya had turned the infantry into large standing force like the other three arms in the service. Infantry was the main fighting arm as it had the ability to fight over all types of terrain during all seasons and both by day and night. They were also used to protect captured grounds. Apart from the tasks mentioned above, the infantry was also supposed to give close support to the other arms ie the Elephants and the Chariots.
14. Kautilya had emphasised on hierarchal system for administration of army. The structure of the defence forces at the highest levels was as shown below:
Commander -in- Chief
Senapati(Chief of Defence)
Chief Commanders of Chariot Corps Elephant Corps Cavalry Infantry
28. The chief of the four wings were subordinates to the chief of defense. Under the Chief Commanders, there were Divisional commanders. There were other officers such as Camp Superintendents who were given specific functions during the march to battle. The structure below the level of Divisional Commanders is specific to battles.
29. Every division of the formation had its own distinguishing trumpet sound, flags and banners, these were be used to signal the commands to the division-dividing themselves in to sections, joining together ,halting, advancing, turning and attacking. Battalion commanders and Divisional Commanders were responsible for moblisation and demoblisation. Secret agents, prostitutes, artists and artisans and retired military officers were kept to watch over the loyalty or otherwise of soldiers.
Duties of Defence Officials
30. The Chief of Defence.
(a) Qualifications. The chief of defence was suppose to be an expert in the use of all kinds of weapons used in warfare, riding elephants, horses and chariots and he was conversant with the relative strength of the four wings of the army and how to deploy them in battle.
(i) Discipline in armed forces.
(iii) Strategy and Tactics.
(aa) Choose the best time to start an expedition.
(ab) Choose the best terrain and the best season for fighting.
(ac) Arrange the disposition of own forces (in the light of the enemies array).
(ad) Plan the breakup of the enemies rank.
(ae) Destroy enemies scattered troops.
(af) Besiege and destroy enemy forts.
31. The Chief Commander Of Elephant Corps. Responsibilities were:-
(a) Protection of elephants.
(b) Construction and Maintenance of stables, stalls.
(c) Training of elephants.
(d) Assigning tasks to them.
(e) Equipping them for war
32. The Chief Commanders Of Other Corps. Responsibilities Common to all were:
(a) Knowledge of different type of equipment needed for his wing and use of such equipment in war.
(b) Giving appropriate training.
(c) Keeping account of equipment and animals under his charge.
(d) Maintaining their equipment in good condition and repairing them when necessary.
(e) Supervising the work of all employed by him.
(f) Maintaining Discipline.
(g) Reporting to the king the state of readiness of his troops.
33. Other Commanders:-
(a) Commander of the King’s Guard (Antarvamsika). This very high official, who ranked just below the seven highest paid officials including the senapati, must have been an army general, promoted after having held the appointment of director-general of his own arm. He was directly in line for promotion to senapati. He was in the pay scale of 24,000 pannas, in the same scale as the king’s chamberlain and the chancellor. His importance was due to his responsibility for the security of the king and other members of the royal family in the palace. There must have been two other officers directly under his command who assisted him in ensuring the safety and security of the king and the royal family. One was the commander of the male guards who guarded the palace and the commander of the female archers who were detailed as immediate guards for the king’s person and his personal quarters.
(b) Commander of the Marches (Antapala) The antapala was responsible for guarding the borders of the State. For this purpose border posts were established; their primary purpose was a check on entry of enemy agents, undesirable elements, collection of customs duties and control over the entry of foreigners. Kautilya advocates the establishment of only four border posts, one in each direction of the compass. The siting of border posts on naturally defensible terrain is advocated so these must have served a defensive purpose as well. The antapala must have been a military officer, possibly with detachments from the army for the protection of his posts.
(c) Durgapala. Durgapala (fort commanders) must have been army officers who also commanded detachments of regular troops which acted as garrisons, Kautilya mentions’ at least one fortified city or capital of the State which needed a durgapala. In the text, he refers to other forts. sited to take advantage of naturally defensible terrain. Larger States obviously had more than one fort which acted as bases for military operations and offered refuge in case of need.
Types of Troops
33. Kautilya lists six types of troops which may become available to a king and examines the relative merits. The troops are maula (standing army), bhrta (local volunteers auxiliaries), serni (organized mercenaries), mitra ( trops of an ally), amrta ( enemy deserters) and atavi ( tribal levies). 
(a) Maula Troops.
These are the standing army of a state composed of soldiers who may have served the kings family for several generations. They are residents of the state and their interest coincides with those of the king. Their loyalty is assured, their weapons, equipments and the animals are the best the state can provide and their motivation and state of training is high. It is however only prudent that a proportion of this force be left behind for the security of the state. Kautilya recommends that around one- fourth of the maula troops be left in the capital. The maula troops should form a large part of an expeditionary force if :
(i) The enemy’s troops are well trained.
(ii) The campaign is expected to be difficult and hard.
(iii) Other available troops are unreliable.
(iv) Surplus maula troops are available after fully meeting the requirements of the capital and the rest of the state.
(b) Bhrta troops.
These are locally raised volunteers engaged for the duration of the campaign. They are either veterans or first time volunteers, usually trained in the handling of personals weapons. By profession they were either farmers or small traders who decided to take part in a campaign. As natives they have a stake in the security and welfare of the state. Such troops are reverted back to their professions after the end of the campaign. Their employment is recommended if:-
(i) The enemy is weak and a large number of volunteers are available.
(ii) The campaign is expected to be easy with little actual fighting.
(iii) Success is more or less assured by the use of other means like covert operations or diplomatic efforts.
(c) Sreni troops.
These were trained, equipped and organised bodies of mercenaries under their own leaders who were available for hire to fight for a specified period of time. Their employment is recommended when:-
(i) The opposing forces consist of primarily mercenaries.
(ii) Much hard fighting is not anticipated.
(iii) Sreni troops are available in adequate numbers for the campaign as well as for the defence of the capital.
(d) Mitra troops.
These are troops loaned for a campaign by an ally. Their utilisation is advocated if :-
(i) Such troops are available in large numbers.
(ii) A short campaign is anticipated because of good chances of early success of diplomatic moves underway.
(iii) To oblige an ally.
(iv) It is proposed to deal at first with the irregular part of enemy’s army, with his allies and his population centres, prior to attacking his main forces.
(e) Amrita troops.
These comprise enemy deserters and prisoners of war. They are not to be trusted but their employment is recommended if the eventual outcome of battle is of little consequence.
(f) Atavi Levies. These were bands of tribesmen from the jungle who join the king under the command of their own chiefs with the primary purpose of collecting loot. These bands and amitra troops are unreliable and Kautilya considers both categories as dangerous as a snake. The above two categories of troops may be employed if:-
(i) If they are available in large numbers to attack the enemy’s cities and irregular troops.
(ii) It is proposed to delay the employment of the main force.
(iii) It is Politic to get rid of them because their loyalty is suspect. Atavi troops may be employed as guides or to counter the use of similar to levies by the enemy both category’s of troops.
34. An army composed of units recruited from diverse sources and ready to fight for plunder may be an energetic army. On the other hand, an army whose soldiers belong to the same region, caste or profession is a mighty army; it will continue to fight even if its pay is in arrears and there is shortage of food. It shows bravery even in adverse conditions and its loyalty cannot be subverted.
35. A king should make efforts to obstruct the mobilisation of his opponent. His potential recruits should be intercepted and if necessary recruited into own army. Such personnel should however be discharged at the right time but well before the commencement of actual operations.
36. A close analysis of Organisational structure propounded by Kautilya in his Arthashastra is a sterling resemblance of what is followed in Indian Army with slight modifications. And it is clearly evident that the basic finer intricacies of the organisation remained the same though the gross structure underwent a change keeping latest technological development in mind.
37. Kautilya was way ahead in his times with clear vision and military thinking thus created an organisational structure catering for civil supremacy and ensured effective coordination between various components of the army which is still relevant at large. Chandra Gupta Maurya had a large standing army to manage similar to that of Indian Army and without a sound organisational structure it would have been virtually impossible to achieve victories which he had set for himself.
38. Kautilya had clearly categorised his army into various corps i.e Cavalry, Elephants, Infantry, Chariots etc with a clear division of roles in war, which is very much akin to our present system of various line directorates in our armies.
He had also formed clear command and control structure with minimum scope for ambiguity. He had emphasised on Hierarchical system Command and control in armed forces some 2300 years ago which is still relevant in today’s times.
39. The organisation of the Maruan army was little different than the one followed in our army today. Though a striking similarity is the presence of the adyakshas that can be related to our line directorate which are too led by a Lieutenant General. The rank structure is not restricted to any arm but common throughout the army. To elaborate, the pattika was a rank not belonging to a particular arm but he commanded elements of all the arms. This helped in better command and control. This also ensured of a clear demarcation of command structure which was irrespective of the arm, this practice is still followed.
40. When coming to appointment of heads of departments, Kautilya had ensured that they had requisite degree of qualifications for tenanting that kind of appointment and had a clear defined standards and roles for all of them, which is still largely relevant in our armies where selection processes ensure that the said officer had undergone necessary courses and has a requisite skills suitable for tenanting that kind of appointment.
41. Kautilya had imposed various degrees of confidence in terms of loyalty and integrity depending upon the community of troops, probably a relevant thing in those times, but in present times it is debatable whether it is relevant or not as for some community specific armies it may hold good but in Indian context, though the Indian army still have pure regiments based on caste system but the pedestal of loyalty and integrity attributed to each community is the same thus this particular thing is not relevant to Indian Army of present times.
42. Kautilya proposed to have a standing core army consisting of officials down to the Pattika and the regular soldiers to be recruited for the period of war. Specialists like elephant riders archers etc were also recommended to be retained as permanent soldiers. Though India has a large standing army which is used both for protection of its borders and for launching offensive. There is no differentiation in the kind of troops used for both the tasks as envisaged by Kautilya. Probably We can have smaller standing army which can be well trained and equipped with the best of the equipment. On the other hand we can have a larger component of Territorial Army that can be mobilised before an operation. The defensive formation can have Territorial Army and some of the regular troops where as the strike formations can be composed of regular troops. This will help in reducing the defence expenditure and the money saved could be better used for equipping and training of the regular troops.
CHAPTER IV: ORGANISATI ON OF LAND FORCES IN OPERATIONS
“Brave men, giving up their lives in good battles, reach in one moment even beyond those (worlds), which Brahmins, desirous of heaven, reach by a large number of sacrifices, by penance and by many gifts to worthy persons”- Kautilya
43. Kauilya gives an exhaustive description of how to arrange the land forces for a set piece of battle, starting with positioning various kinds of forces at various echelons of battle field after giving due considerations to planning parameters. War fighting as propounded by Kautilya has an uncanny resemblance to the methodology in practice today. He was a believer of a strong central force along with two wings which can manoeuvre and the importance of reserves. He is perhaps one of the first thinkers to suggest a tactical grouping of forces with a clear cut commander. This helped in easier organisation of the forces as well as downsizing the army when not in need.
44. Grouping of arms for battle at the lowest level has been practised in ancient India since epic times. Kautilya suggested a standard form of grouping of all arms, for the first time ever. The suggested groups corresponds to a remarkable degree with the current practice in modern armies adopted well after WW II . The lowest grouping was at platoon level, a group now referred to as combat team. Because of this remarkable similarity, the modern designations of combat team, combat group and combat command. Each horse was supported by six foot soldiers three of which were archers (Pratiyodhas) and the remaining three were armed with a sword, spear and a shield (Pratigopas) Initially the archers were placed in front so that they could exploit the range of their weapons and as the battle came to close contact, they would recede and the pratigopas would come in front.
45. Patti. Each elephant or a chariot enjoyed the support of five horse groups. This entire group including an elephant / chariot, five horses, 15 Pratiyodhas and 15 Pratigopas formed the lowest tactically grouped sub unit called the Patti. The patti was commanded by a Pattika.
46. Sena. Consisted of ten patties and was commanded by a Senapati or a battle group under a battalion/regimental commander and ten or less senas formed a brigade commanded by a Nayaka.
47. Intervals .There are two sets of intervals or gaps between the files and ranks laid down by Kautilya, one is a narrow gap with the proviso to increase it by double or three times and the other is a larger gap between archers which extends to other arms. It is possible that smaller gaps are for forming up on ceremonial and drill purposes (close order) were archers do not need extended space and larger intervals (open order) for battle information. In a battle formation adopted in an open order the minimum gap between two files of archers was one dhanu(bow) of five hastas(forearm) or 2.5 mtrs, between horses it was three dhanu(7.5 mtrs) and between elephants or Chariots it was five dhanus(12.5 mtrs). The interval between the centre and a wing as well as a wing and its flank was also 12.5 mtr. Kautilya does not indicate the gap to be maintained between ranks but it may safely be assumed that the interval between sub ranks,ie. Within a rank of elephant or chariots, i.e between a sub rank of patiyodhas and a horse would be three dhanus and between ranks, i.e the rare sub rank or padagopas of the front rank and the front sub rank of patiyodhas of the second or centre rank would be five dhanus(12.5 mtrs). These intervals could be increased in accordance with the ground available for battle and the size of the force to be deployed.
48. Reserves. Reserves held an important place in the battle formations as per Kautilya, reserves were directly involved in shaping of the battle field and were placed directly under the control of the king. A firm base was to be established on a suitable terrain approximately 600 -700 m behind the army and it was here that the reserves were placed. The reserve consisted of about one third of the best available troops. The king was advised to be stationed at this firm base after the actual fighting commenced and be in a position to influence the battle by sending reinforcement when and where needed and to make the firm base as a rallying point in case of a reverse.
49. Standard battle formation (vyuha). A standard brigade group was formed for battle is referred to as a standard battle formation or array. Additions and alterations were made to it, according to a formula, in order to accommodate additional troops available for deployment. The standard brigade group deployed five senas each which contained nine to ten pattis; total troops deployed were:
(a) Elephants or Chariots : 45
(b) Horses : 225
(c) Patiyodhas(archers) : 675
(d) Padagopas(foot soldiers) : 675
This force of five senas formed up in five groups i.e centre (urasysa) in middle, the right wing (kaksa) and the left wing (kaksa) after an interval of 12.5 mtrs on both sides and after another similar interval the right flank and the left flank (paksa). Each of these groups or senas formed up for battle in three ranks of three elephants each (three patti). Each elephant had three horse groups in front and two behind it with standard deployment as illustrated earlier. Thus making a total of 27 archers a head of each sena. The archers could effectively utilise their long range capability before close contact was made with the enemy and the change over placed them with the spearmen behind the horses, just prior to the two sides engaged in close combat. However in such a deployment the interval between elephants was at around nine dhanus or 22 mtrs which is tactically unsound and out of supporting range of neighbouring elephants , in any case Kautilya places the suitable gap between elephants at 12.5 mtrs. The only solution seems to be to for
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