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Book Details

Shyama Shastry
Published in 1926
324 pages

Udaiveer Shastri
Published in 1925
976 pages

Gangaprasad Shastri
Published in 1940
714 pages

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About Chanakya Arthashastra and the Authenticity of Chanakya

ChanakyaIn ancient India (321-296 B.C.) a unique economic policy and law were set forth by Chanakya (Vishnu gupta), who was a great statesman, economist, philosopher and law-giver.

It is argued that the discussions in the Arthashastra generally end by stating the author's opinion with the words: "Iti Kautilya . . . " We generally find this mention of the name of the teacher in texts emanating from schools, e.g., Jaimini in the Purvamimimsa Sutra, Badarayana in the Vedanta Sutra, Baudhayana in the Baudhayana-Dharmasastra. But Pataii.jali does not state his opinion by saying "Iti Patanjali." Much is made of the expressions "Iti Kautilya" and "neti Kautilya" which occur as many as 72 times in the work. To an ordinary Sanskrit Pandit in India the phrase connotes no special significance. It is always taken for granted that such works, where expressions like "Iti Kautalyal;," "Iti Baudhayana;" etc. occur, are the works ascribed to these authors. The attribution to schools will not find favour with an orthodox Pandit. One could not divine reasons for supposing that Jaimini Sutra, Badarayana's Vedanta Sutra or Baudhayana's Dharmasutra belong to schools and not to individual authors. Not that we do not accept any school as such. But it is more reasonable to assume that originally a certain Jaimini or Badarayana flourished and propounded certain doctrines which were accepted and followed by their devoted disciples. To-day while one Hindu follows Apastamba his neighbor follows Baudhayana. This means that the former belongs to the Apastamba school while the latter is of the Baudhayana school.

What is the underlying idea? Originally when Apastamba propounded his theory it appealed to certain members of the community. They followed them and then their descendants. Thus the school automatically came into being. But it may be asked, how could we explain the peculiar use of "Iti Kautilya," "Iti Baudhayana." in certain works, and its absence in other books like Patanjali's Mahabhasya? The answer is simple. In India literature is broadly classified into two heads, the sutra and the beeja. The sutra is an original work composed by master minds on a certain subject or subjects. It may be philosophy, theology. or any secular science. The sutras in themselves are a strenuous reading and especially so, when they deal with abstruse and technical sciences. It was not possible for all persons to grasp them. Hence interpreters came into being. Their works were bhashyas or interpretations of the sutras in popular style. The sutrakaras generally-there are also exceptions,used the phrase "Iti Baudhayana.", etc., meaning thereby that that was their final conclusion. On the other hand a bhashyakara could not speak with such definiteness. For, oftentimes, more than one interpretation may be placed upon a certain phrase or passage. It depends to a large extent on the ingenuity of the writer. Some interpretations might be ingenious but could not win general approval. Therefore, the bhaskaras are justified in omitting their names.

In the light of this can we still maintain that Iti Kautilya is a serious argument against the authenticity of the work? We cannot follow Prof. Keith when he advances the argument that under the explanation of the term in the last book of the Arthasastra is cited one of Kautilya's sentences from which the prima facie conclusion is that Kautilya is cited as an authority and not as the author. This science has been composed by Kautalya, easily understandable, correct in the exposition of truth and in the use of words, and all free from errors. J. J. Meyer in his translation of the Arthashastra furnishes a convincing reply.2 Based as it is on old works 'every sutra having original opinion of the author necessarily became apadda. It is a commonplace practice in India to give the author's name in his world. Jacobi's observations are to the point: "The agreement obtaining between the words of Kautalya and the character of his work, and the personality that characterises them would be difficult to understand, if those were not the very words of the author. A later writer who wanted to palm off his own lubrication of that of his school on the name of the famous statesman, would surely have faltered somewhere. From this view-point the higher criticism must acknowledge the authenticity of the Kautaliya."

(5)The very name Kautilya never called Chanakya and only once Vishngupta raises great doubts.' For, Kautilya means 'crookedness', 'falsehood', etc. lt is unlikely that a minister should style himself 'Mr. Crooked' or 'Crookedness personified'.

There has been a war of words about the name Kautalya. Some manuscripts contain the word Kautilya while others Kautalya. Shyama Shastri and Jolly used Kautilya, while the editor of the Trivandrum edition, Ganapati Sastri used Kautalya. It is asked whether a minister would style himself Kautilya meaning "Mr. Crooked" or "Crookedness personified". Granting that it is Kautilya, such nicknames are not uncommon in ancient India. Mention may be made of a few; Vatavyadhi (the wind-diseased) is no other than Uddhava, a relative of Krishna according to the Puranas. Pisuna (tale-bearer) is another name for the sage Narada; this is also the name of the Brahman minister of king Dushyanta according to Kalidasa's Shakuntala. Kaunapadanta (the teeth of the Rakshasas) is identified with Indra, the God of Heaven. When· one minister can style himself as Pisuna, why not another as Kautilya What we wish to point out for the sake of argument is that after all there is nothing in the name. To advance such feeble arguments with regard to the name of the author, demonstrates their weakness in all nakedness.

There is, however, another reading Kautalya which may be adopted with advantage and which may silence all controversy so far as this particular topic goes. Not only is there the authority of the manuscripts for this but also there is inscriptional evidence besides lexicographical. Ganapati Sastri says that the term Kautilya is certainly a misnomer. For, neither the term Kautilya nor its root Kutila as explained in the Nighantas Gotra and crooked. On the other hand the word Kutala is mentioned by Kesavasvamin in his NiHarthar savasamkepa as meaning both Gotra and an ornament.

It is then obvious that the name is derived from the root Kutala. If it is granted that the patronymic is Kutala then we cannot grammatically derive Kautilya but only Kautalya. Secondly, there is the testimony which bears to the fact that all the manuscripts of the text and the commentaries relating to the same invariably contain the expression Kautalya and not Kautilya. It is difficult to understand how Indian and European scholars have failed to notice this in handling the manuscripts when editing and publishing them. Apparently some have noted it but have not utilised it, for example in Jolly's edition. Evidently Jolly discarded the correct reading Kautalya. It may he that in his opinion it was a wrong reading. That Kautalya is the correct reading is attested to by another literary evidence.

It appears that Kautalya is the family name of Vishnugupta, the family name being derived from the patron saint or Kutala by the addition of derivative suffix 'ya'. Last but not the least is the invaluable inscriptional evidence supplied to us by D. B. Diskalkar. He writes: "I have found an inscription from the village near Dholka in Gujarat which in clearly reads Kautalya. It records that Vastupala the famous Jain minister of the Vaghela king who built a temple of Gajesvara in 1291 as equated to Kautalya in statesmanship. This inscription is valuable to us in more than one respect. Not only does it show that the name Kautilya is the misspelling of the name Kautalya but also it bears witness to the fact that Kautalya is acknowledged to be a statesman and not at as Gotra and crooked. On the other hand the word Kutala is mentioned by Kesavasvamin. It is then obvious that the name is derived from the root Kutala. If it is granted that the patronymic is Kutala then we cannot grammatically derive Kautilya but only Kautalya.

It silences two important arguments in regard to the name of the author and the authenticity of the work. But it may be asked why the name Kautilya also sticks on in some Indian literature. Only one explanation can be offered and that is due to the ingenuity with which Visakhadatta invested his character Kautilya in his famous play Judrartikmsa. For the purpose of his play he perhaps drew from his imagination a name which being a twisting of the original name answered his purpose well. Dramatic literature says being a popular branch of literature the wrong name might haye caught the fancy of the masses and might have eventuaily become a by-word for 'crookedness' or 'crooked policy'.

Kautalya is known not by one or two names, but by a number of names. These are Vatsyayana, Kautalya. Chanakya. Dramila, Yami, Vishnugupta, Angula. The Vaijayantl of Yadavaprakasa( cir 1100 A.D.), a contemporary of Hemacandra. omits Chanakya." The name Chanakya is unmistakably a patronymic for Hemacandra distinctly says. This falsifies the story contained in Visakhadatta's play namely, that the Nanda king imprisoned Kautalya who consequently had to take gram for his food, and hence the name Chanakya. This story is nothing but a product of the dramatist's imagination and is valuable so far as it shows the author's ingenuity. The same value should be attached to the other interpretation of Visakhadatta in regard to the name Kautilya:

Because he had peverted and crooked views, people called him Kautilya though his name was really Kautalya. Even a Pandit of a lower order could not style himself 'Mr. Crooked,' speaking of himself as many as 12 times in the text. To add to this is the fact that Kamandaka speaks of him in a term of great respect generally used when speaking of sages. Kamandaka adds that he belonged to an eminent family and was a past master of all the four Vedas, who, by force of intelligence and skill. deposed the powerful Nanda king and crowned Chandragupta, the moon among the people, king. Kamandaka does not stop there but concludes that section by saying that it was the same politician who was the author of the well-known Arthashastra, the very cream of political science. It is significant to note that Kautalya's another name is Vatsyayana. Vatsyayana is the author of the extant Kamasutra. There is another Vatsyayana the commentator of the Natayashastra of Gautama. Both the Vatsyayanas may be the same as Prof. Rangaswami Aiyangar seems to think. But the really interesting feature is the identification of Kautalya with Vatsyayana. Kautalya's reputation for versatile genius and all-round knowledge should be acknowledged on all hands. His aim, even according to the Arthashastra. was not mere policing of the state which would amount to the safeguarding of the security of life and property. It extended beyond and looked to the common good and welfare of the citizens at large. These are indeed the primary functions even of the modern state in spite of all our vaunted constitutional progress. This narrow outlook on politics did not appeal to a versatile man like that of Kautalya. He wanted the state to rest on an economic foundation. In other words he was devoted more to analysing a man's aims in life and endeavouring how best to promote individual interests with those of the social group as a whole. His aim was the ultimate realisation by the people of the state of the four objects of human existence.

If this were his policy, it may not be far wrong to state that he could have been the author of a Dharmashastra, Arthashastra, Kamashastra. and Mokshashastra as well. There is therefore some justification for the assumption that Kautalya was no other than Vatsyayana. the author of the Kamasutra. The following coincidences endorse the statement:-

(1) The style followed and the method adopted in the Kamasutraare exactly the same as are met with in the extant Arthashastra.

(2) The style is didactic, midway between that of the sutra

(3) The sections end invariably with verses in the manner of the Arthashastra. Vatsyayana like Kautalya seems to have composed aphorisms and comments.

(4) Both authors claim to base their teachings on experience or usage.

(5) Of the previous writers quoted by Kautalya, Gotamukha and Chanakya find mention in the Kamasutra.

(6) Both refer to Vaishika. apparently the work of Dattaka of Pataliputra, written according to Jacobi, at the earliest in the second half of the 5th century B.C.

(7) The aim of both seems to be the realisation of the three objects of human pursuit. dharma, artha and kama.

(8) The Kamasntra ends with a secret chapter as in the Arthashastra.

(9) The morality of the Kamasutra is that of the Arthashastra "all is fair in love and war."

(10) As Kautalya often refers to an acharya so also Vatsyayana refers to an acharya.

(11) Both refer to a work of Parasara as an authority.

As against these remarkable coincidences, the differences are only few and far between. One mentioned by Jacobi is Vatsyayana's prescription of abstention from meat, and Kautalya's rules regulating the sale of meat. Even here the Arthasastra is a practical manual of administration and hence must formulate regulations of a comprehensive character. It does not mean a recommendation or acceptance of the principle. The Kamasutra discusses the question from an entirely different aspect.

It is indeed difficult to explain why Kautalya has been known by so many names. One explanation is that due to his popularity as well as his rare skill and policy, different people endowed him with different ,titles. Mallanaga is another name. It means Jndra's Elephant and this implies that he possessed the great energy and progress of the Iravata, the state elephant of the Lord of Heaven. This seems to fit in especially in view of the fact that Sakara, in the first Act of J1rcchakatika. who thinks too much of his valour, takes pride in comparing himself to Chanakya. It may be again that Nanda is the name of a country and perhaps Kautalya is a native of that Nanda country. He was styled an elephant among the Nandas who were the people of the Nanda country. If this interpretation be established Dramila may not mean a native of Dramila or Tamil country as is rendered by the V acaspatsa of Taranatha. The view that Kautalva must have heen a native of South India is gainmg currency among the scholars.

J. J. Meyer, the latest writer on the subject, seems to favour this view from the fact that Kautalya's plaza was of silver and was equal to 16 as against 20 in the Smrtis. But R. L. Mitra speaks of a poet known as Dramila. He also explains the term Pakilasvami thus: "As a student of Nyaya his memory was strong that he could remember for a fortnight (paka) a thesis once cold him and hence the name." That this interpretation is not impossible is seen from the fact that it is said of a much later writer by name Pakadhara Misra. His other name \vas Angula as is seen from the Samkepa! Pakilasvami is a well-known name for the celebrated Vatsyayana. R. L. Mitra suggests that the epithet shows that Kautalya became an ascetic-preceptor in the evening of his life. Or as the teacher of teachers he could have been regarded master by his successors who were authors of smriti texts. For example, Kamandaka calls him as his acharya. Dandi calls him as Acarya Vishnugupta. To repeat the remark of Dr. Winternitz again "the very name Kautilya never called Chanakya and only once Vishnugupta raises great doubts. There seems to be no necessity for a doubt for obvious reasons. It has been already shown that Kautilya with vowel 'i' in the middle is a misspelling and Kautalya with vowel 'a' is the right spelling. Vishnugupta is his own name perhaps giwn by his parents. And the name. according to Mitra, "is a fair index to the religion which his father professed." As a true Hindu he took a legitimate pride in his ancestry and styled himself after his far-famed ancestor Kutala. He could not be using different names of his in one and the same work. If it had been done it would give rise to grave doubts that different hand had been at the work. Probably to avoid such a mistake, towards the end of the book he made it clear that Kautalya of the extant book is the Vishnugupta of the family of Kutala. Excepting the name Vishnugupta.

other names are the titles earned by him from the public and not taken by himself. It may, however, be asked that Chanakya is not a title and still he has not used it. It is the peculiar custom in India even in modern days to venerate the father and the teacher to the of their lives. One mode of veneration is not to utter the name of either the father or even the teacher. It may amount to an insult if not to an offence. Kautalya was Chanakya because he was the son of his father Chanakya. A man like Kautalya who had profound respect for orthodox tradition could not go against it. In ·the light of the above observation we are led to think that scholars will do justice to a name and a personality. the type of which is indeed rare in the history at least of the ancient world.

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