Arthasastra, the famous treatise on Indian administration was written by Chanakya who is also known as Kautilya, 2000 years ago. Chanakya was the minister of King Chandragupta Maurya.
The text Arthasastra is often referred to as an Indian management text. But in reality, it is more an administration text on how to administer the land. A modern management student would see that the term management per se is slightly different from administration and economics.
Subjects of Arthasastra
Arthasastra consists of 15 chapters. The chapters are,
2. The Duties of Government Superintendents
4. The Removal of Thorns
5. The Conduct of Courtiers
6. The Source of Sovereign States
7. The End of the Six-Fold Policy. The policies are,
8. Vices and Calamities
9. The Work of an Invader
Agreement with pledges is Peace
Offensive operations is War
Indifference is Neutrality
Making preparations is Marching
Seeking the protection of another is alliance
Making peace with one and waging war with another, a double policy
11. The Conduct of Business
12. Handling Powerful Enemy
13. Strategies to Capture a Fort
15.The Plan of a Treatise
Timeless adaptability of Arthasastra
While all this has been seen in the administrative detailing for the kingdoms of the past, what is interesting to note is that with minor adaptations in today’s scenario, it also holds good for multinational corporations, smaller organizations, both government, voluntary, or even family run institutions. This adaptability gives Arthasastra a timeless relevance.
Megasthenes on Arthasastra
Arthasastra text was thought to have been lost in the medieval times. Because of its wide use and relevance through the ages, it has been referred to be an administrative manual through the ages. Megasthenes, a Greek ambassador to India after Alexander’s visit, travelled over much of India and observed the administrative principles of the land.
He was amazed by the quality of administration across kingdoms. This prompted him to read the Arthasastra text.
It is through this work of Megasthenes, Indika that this administrative treatise, Arthasastra was exposed to the European scholars who were stunned at the depth of administrative detailing, the range of subjects dealt governance.
Arthasastra in Panchatantra
Among the other Indian scholars who referred to this work extensively is the author of the other famous text – Panchatantra, Vishnu Sharma, to teach the principles of administration to two intelligent but mischievous princes. Vishnu Sharma has used a lot of these principles of Arthasastra in his parables to these princes.
Vishnu Sharma teaching the principles of Administration to the princes
Like this, the principles of Arthasastra have been referred to by many other authors in their works. When the colonial historians started writing the history of India in the European languages, they found repeated references to Arthasastra. But they could not lay their hands to the text of Arthasastra. Hence it was dubbed as a lost text.
Arthasastra manuscript rediscovered
In 1911, the curator of the Oriental Research Institute, Mysore, Sri Rudrapatna Shamashastry while going through the bundles of palm leaf manuscripts, stumbled upon the full palm leaf manuscripts of Arthasastra.
Since then, the interest in Arthasastra has grown manifold in it being published in English and other European languages apart from the Indian vernacular languages.
Arthasastra in modern Management
With the coming of modern principles of management, there has been a new found interest especially in India of what is contained in Arthasastra and how to apply its principles. Each author sees in Arthasastra their perspective and have brought forth many a meaning to the administrative principles.
Timeless relevance of Arthasastra
That this text Arthasastra finds relevance after over 2000 years of its writing shows the timelessness of the principles of administration. It also shows how this land has been administered prosperously both for small and big kingdoms. The science of economics is an important facet of life and its activities. Business, commerce, finance, economic stability are all an integral part of it.
Chanakya, Father of Administration
Today, we call Adam Smith as the father of economics. His book, ‘The Wealth of Nations’ is recognized as the first treatise on economics.
In the same way, we need to recognize Chanakya, Kautilya and look up to him as the father of good administration.