Artha and Arthaśāstra

Timothy Lubin

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:
Artha and Arthaśāstra

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The term artha has a wide range of meanings in Sanskrit—aim, purpose, motive; object; goods, wealth; intent, meaning—but in speaking of the goals of human endeavor, it denotes material gain as opposed to moral or sacred duty (dharma) and sensual pleasure (kāma). Further, artha is made the basis of a science (śāstra) of statecraft, Arthaśāstra, parallel to the fields of Dharmaśāstra and Kāmaśāstra. The oldest and almost only treatise in this field is the Kauṭilīya Arthaśāstra (KA), ascribed to one Kauṭilya (or Kauṭalya) whom medieval tradition identifies with the legendary Cāṇakya, the wily brahmin minister whose political and military strategies are said to have helped Candragupta to found the Maurya Empire c. 321 bce. The first discovery of a manuscript of this work in 1904 by R. Shama Shastry, then director of the Oriental Research Institute in Mysore, and its subsequent publication generated tremendous excitement among both scholars and Indian nationalists, who were pleased to find an ancient work demonstrating that ancient India was not exclusively preoccupied with otherworldly or spiritual concerns and had produced a Machiavelli of its own—the architect, no less, of the earliest single state to embrace most of the Indian subcontinent.

Article.  5585 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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