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Arthaśāstra


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A Sanskrit text of 5 000 sūtras, attributed to Kauṭilya, a minister of Candragupta Maurya. The extant version, discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, is probably a compilation dating from the 2nd century ce, but it remains the earliest surviving text of its kind, and clearly refers to still earlier sources. Its chief concern, and what constitutes artha in this context, is with polity and statecraft. Under that umbrella, it treats widely and exhaustively of all matters to do with government, including the role of the king, warfare, espionage, taxation, criminal law, and the civil service. The aim is to create and preserve a stable and ordered society, which is pictured as requiring persistent state intervention, and an elaborate bureaucracy. (It is worth noting, however, that the Arthaśāstra implies that political and religious authority operate in separate spheres.) As a unique source of information about all aspects of Indian life and society, including agriculture, medicine, and technology, it has proved invaluable to historians of the period, even if the precise extent of that period, and the question of whether the polity it evokes was actual, or merely ideal, remain matters of debate.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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