An extraordinary detailed manual on statecraft and the science of living by one of classical India’s greatest minds; Kautilya; also known as Chanakya and Vishnugupta; wrote the Arthashastra not later than 150 AD though the date has not been conclusively established. Legend has it that he was either a Brahmin from Kerala or from north India; however; it is certain that Kautilya was the man who destroyed the Nanda dynasty and installed Chandragupta Maurya as the King of Magadha. A master strategist who was well-versed in the Vedas and adept at creating intrigues and devising political stratagems; Kautilya’s genius is reflected in his Arthashastra which is the most comprehensive treatise of statecraft of classical times.
The text contains fifteen books which cover numerous topics viz.; the King; a complete code of law; foreign policy; secret and occult practices and so on. The Arthashastra is written mainly in prose but also incorporates 380 shlokas.
Artha; literally wealth; is one of four supreme aims prescribed by Hindu tradition. However; it has a much wider significance and the material well-being of individuals is just a part of it. In accordance with this; Kautilya’s Arthashastra maintains that the state or government of a country has a vital role to play in maintaining the material status of both the nation and its people. Therefore; a significant part of the Arthashastra has to do with the science of economics. When it deals with the science of politics; the Arthashastra describes in detail the art of government in its widest sense—the maintenance of law and order as also of an efficient administrative machinery.