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Kautilya Also Known As Chanakya

Info: 1835 words (7 pages) Essay
Published: 11th May 2017 in History

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1. Kautilya, also known as Chanakya or Vishnugupta was the key advisor to and the genius behind the strategy undertaken by the king Chandra Gupta Maurya (317-293 B.C.) who stopped the advance of Alexander the Great’s successors and introduced the Golden Age of India. [2] The Mauryan kingdom united and amalgamated the Indian sub-continent into a single entity for the first time, thus creating Indian nationhood. The Mauryan Empire extended from the Persian border in the West to Burma in the East covered most of peninsular India. The empire lasted 150 years until about 180 BC, after which the empire dissociated into several fragments. Kautilya was the chancellor to Chandra Gupta Maurya and he composed the Arthashastra to counsel a ruler on how to defeat one’s enemies and rule for the general good. The Arthashastra was very influential in ancient India up to the 12th century AD, when it faded from the public eye. The text, however, reappeared in 1904 and was published in English in 1915. [3] 

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2. He was a great thinker 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.While it is known that Kautilaya destroyed the Nanda dynasty and installed Chandragupta Maurya on the throne of Magadh. Not much is known about his early life except that he had a score to settle with the Nanda king and he had vowed to destroy the Nanda dynasty. He found Chandragupta and took him to Taxila and gave him an education fit for a future king. Together, Kautilya and Chandragupta set about attacking the Nanda kingdom. The revolt misfired and Chandragupta and Kautilya fled the scene to save themselves and during this escapade Chandragupta and Kautilya was hiding himself in an old woman’s dwelling. He overheard her rebuking her child saying “you are just like Chandragupta! Because he had got his fingers burnt by starting to eat from centre of hot dish”. The Duo learnt their lessons and changed their tactics and began conquest from frontiers and finally Chandragupta was installed as the King of Magadh [4] . 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. 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.

3. Army has been regarded from the beginning as one of the necessary instruments for the maintenance of a state. Kings, not only in India but throughout the ancient world, maintained well organised and well prepared armies both for the defence and expansion of their kingdoms. History is full of instances that whenever any ruler or state neglected the maintenance of their armies, failures in the form of loss of sovereignty or territory have occurred. Arthashastra is the science, which is the means of the acquisition and protection of Earth. Arthashastra could be regarded as the study of the general well being on earth. And since the state can make this well being possible, the protection of Earth and its acquisition which are an essential part of state activity are declared to be province of this shastra. Kautilya’s Arthashastra does not take any religious aspect into account. It deals with the various subjects directly and with accuracy. The Arthashastra contains 5363 Sutras, 15 books, 150 chapters, and 180 Sections. The 15 Books contained in the Arthashastra can be classified in the following manner:

(a) Book 1 deals with Fundamentals of Management.

(b) Book 2 deals with Economics.

(c) Books 3, 4 and 5 describe Law.

(d) Books 6, 7, 8 talks about Foreign Policies.

(e) Books 9 to 14 look into the subject of War.

(f) The 15th book describe the methodology used in writing the Arthashastra.

4. The topic of war is the last subject in the Arthashastra since War is always the last option. However if a war is unavoidable, preparation and maintenance of the army and the correct warfare strategies are essential in the defence of a country. Warfighting has changed over the centuries due to the impact of changing technology and other factors. Kautilya contributed immensely to the development of the same, his ways of arranging battle groups in war and their administration during peace keeping all relevant factors in consideration still merits study by the modern armies. Kautilya in his Arthashastra states that war is a method to achieve wealth and stability. He emphasised the need to understand all the constraints which emerge in warfighting. Kautilya has argued that the main constraint that a state faces is the economic constraint and many a wars have been lost for want of resources. The Arthashastra has advised the king to eliminate the constraints, mainly the economic constraints in the furtherance of sate’s interests. The use of economic strength as a means of state’s power has also been stated by Kautilya.


5. Kautilya in ‘ARTHASHASTRA’ has dealt with various existing subjects which formed the basis of Chandragupta Maurya’s rule and victories. In fact there is a view that Kautilya’s Arthashastra deals only with matters of foreign policy and economy. A great portion of this book does in fact, deals at length with military matters. He consolidated the existing strategies and tactics of those times and gave his opinion on the subjects, which led to victories of Chandragupta Maurya , who never lost a campaign. It thus emerges that the excellence of Kautilya was not only in diplomacy but also in warfare, but the important fact is that he was able to illustrate methods to organise and manage the armed forces in a large empire. The concepts of military administration and organisation in war and peace were examined and spread out in all the adhikaranas, thus leading for topic of research for integrating and analysing those important aspects of organisation and administration which formed the basis of administering and organising large armies as of Mauryan empire, and at the same time analyse its relevance for modern armies.

6. Armed conflict has many aspects attached to it and it is not only attack and capture .The constraints are what the commander in the battlefield has to deal and find the solution of each of the constraints. The constraints are tangible constraints and also intangible constraints which have to be solved to progress the war and finally achieve victory. The tangible constraints can be the economic requirements for war effort and the logistics support required for the armed forces and the intangibles are morale, leadership and the training of the troops. The intangible constraints vary from motivation, trg and cohesiveness which are a result of the org and administration of the army.

7. Kautilya deals with the complexity of the modern warfare with the constraints faced during war being similar to older times. The problems that existed then, persist in a more widespread and magnified manner in the present day warfare. The principles of Constraint resolution spoken by Kautilya are also relevant in the contemporary world. Study of Kautilya’s war strategy will provide knowledge of warfare in ancient India and would also explain the important aspects of the constraints to warfare in the modern world.


Statement of Problem

8. The concepts of military administration and organisation in war and peace were covered and spread out in all the adhikaranas of Arthashastra. Analysis of these aspects of organisation and administration which formed the basis of administering and organising large armies as of Mauryan empire is obviously important. However applicability of these concepts needs to be studied and analysed due to the changed spectrum of modern day warfare and its relevance for 21st century armies.

9. Hence there is a need to study the warfare aspects propogated by Kautilya with reference to Management of warfare and analyse its relevance for modern armies.


10. Warfare Management aspects propogated by Kautilya with specific reference to organization, administration and economics of warfare are relevant for modern armies.


11. This study concentrates on the relevance of Kautilya’s teachings with regard to military aspects in general and organizational, administrational and economic aspects in detail including the aspects of tactics, strategy. The paper will attempt to assess the link between economic power of the state and the military power and how one is derived from the other. The methods of resolution of the economic constraints during Kautilya’s time and the modern times will also be discussed. The study aims to focus on aspects, which are still relevant for the better management of modern armies.

Organization of the Dissertation

12. Chapterisation

Chapter No

Chapter Heading


Introduction & Methodology.


Organisation of Army and Constraints in warfare -Drawing parallels with Arthashastra.


Administration including Man Management and Welfare Aspects.


Arthashastra approach to economics of war and derivation of Military power from economic power.


Relevance to modern armies




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