KAUTILYA AND ECONOMIC REFORMS
Bureaucracy and the Twin Ministers: A Recapitulation
Kautilya’s objective was to bring the entire Indian sub-continent under a single confederation of states. He was aware that it was not easy and that it would require a final showdown between two equally powerful confederations, chakras. It might even be necessary to allow them to coexist and co-operate to ensure social progress, as the formation of a single confederation might lead to complacency and stagnation. ‘Eka chakram na vartate’ (a single wheel does not roll on) was a profound observation.
It is not sound to proceed to examine the work, Arthasastra, under the assumption that Kautilya, its original author, was a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya, Alexander of Macedonia and Seleucas Niketar. Kautilya preceded them by more than two millennia. He was a contemporary of Bhishma and Krpa and Krshna Dvaipayana. He aimed at bringing all the inhabited lands in the sub-continent under the rule of one suzerain. Earlier, Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva, had made extensive and intensive tours throughout the sub-continent in an endeavour to arrive at a consensus on meeting the economic and other needs of the people and to bring into existence small nation-states, which would fulfil them. Kautilya made the next major effort that needed a consensus for the formation of a confederation of such autonomous states.
Kautilya’s move was inspired by the Kashyapan concept of union without uniformity. Meanwhile the structure of the society was undergoing a radical change. The pura-rashtra (fortified city with an agro-pastoral rural hinterland) pattern with a king at the top and paura and janapada assemblies and a cabinet of eight ministers became the new model with minor variations. Efforts were made to prevent the ruler from becoming an autocrat. Interregnums had to be avoided.
While there could be small, stable, agro-pastoral social welfare states under even hereditary monarchies, social progress required the amalgamation of the technologically more advanced frontier society of the forests and mountains in the neighbouring agro-pastoral janapadas. This integration was not easy. Social integration and social progress without violating the autonomy of the units have been issues facing the Indian thinkers from the earliest times. Social change and social stability were both needed. In this context the bureaucracy had a major role to play. It was conservative by temperament and resisted change. Kautilya tried to convert it into an instrument for social progress. [Much has been written on Kautilyan bureaucracy. I do not try to examine here how far the Mauryas followed it. I would only caution that the assumption that Vishnugupta, the counsellor of Chandragupta Maurya, was Kautilya is unwarranted. The Asokan edicts would prove a more useful base for a study of Mauryan bureaucracy.]
Kautilya was not serving an autocracy. His political move was to bring into existence an empire. But he was not advocating an immoral and despotic regime. The eighteen bureaus (tirthas) each with its own operational procedure and head were part of a bureaucratic system that continued for many centuries, indifferent to changes in political authority and dynasties and even during interregnums. It was introduced by the Atharvan socio-political activists known as Brahmavadis, who developed the sciences of economy (varta) and polity (dandaniti).
The famous Indra-Brhaspati agreement laid the base for the development of a civil polity as distinct from the dichotomous social polity of the early Vedic periods. Indra and Brhaspati represented the interests of the two strata, nobles and commoners of the agro-pastoral core society of the Vedic times. I have pointed out how the new Vratyan nation-state insulated the social and economic structures from the power struggles within the ruling Rajanya structure, which was an oligarchy indifferent to the needs and wills of the masses.
Bureaucracy in Rama-Rajya
We may notice the contrast between the Kautilyan bureaucracy and the bureaucracy in Rama-Rajya. Not all pre-Kautilyan states had a rational administration, not even Rama-Rajya (which is claimed to have been an ideal social welfare state). Many paid little attention to social welfare and social progress. They confined their activities to collecting taxes and tributes. They enriched their treasury through coercive means. Rama-Rajya did not do so. The social polity known as Rama-Rajya and which Rama of Kosala had inherited had an assembly of nobles and scholars, sabha, a cabinet of eight members and a council of sages who were invited by the king to advise him on important issues. It had eighteen bureaus.
Kosala was a paura-janapada and Ayodhya was a fortified city located on a riverbank. This small state followed the administrative structure recommended by Pracetas Manu, author of an Arthasastra text. Its society was guided by the socio-political code approved by the fourth Manu, Tamasa. Valmiki, the author of the chronicle now known as Ramayana, held the post of Pracetas, an officer stationed outside the capital as an, observant, caretaker and guardian during the interregnum after the sad demise of Dasaratha and during the tenure of Rama as Maryada-Purusha, a charismatic ruler with limited and well-defined powers.
The eighteen bureaus of Rama-Rajya may be divided into two groups, central and non-central. The former were directly under the king and the latter under the ministers.
The central bureaus were: (1) ministry (2) rajapurohita (3) crown prince (4) commander, senapati (5) palace guard (6) administrator of the inner palace of the queens. The non-central bureaus were: (7) jail (8) revenue (9) edicts (10) judiciary (11) army pay office (12) civil pay office (13) fort patrol (14) city patrol (15) marshal of the sabha (16) executive magistrates (17) central protection force (18) governor of the frontier.
The central bureaus had to frequently interact with the head of the state (svami). It was not a state based on hereditary monarchy. Nor did it come under the law of primogeniture. Its head, svami, had to be a charismatic chieftain duly recognised by the house of nobles (sabha) and the council of scholars and representatives of the people (samiti). The departments of Intelligence, Vigilance and Foreign Affairs were directly under the ministers and were not part of the bureaucracy. The Kosalan head of the state did not have the title, Raja or Rajarshi or Isvara. He was a svami (later understood as god who is to be worshipped). The non-central bureaus were connected with internal security, revenue, law and order and judiciary. Rama-Rajya was a political structure protecting the taxpayers, a contractual state as envisaged by Manu Vaivasvata. Rama-Rajya was proto-Manusmrti while the Kautilyan state was post-Manusmrti.
The assumption that Manusmrti was drafted during the reign of the Sungas who were successors to the Mauryas and that Kautilyan Arthasastra was drafted during the tenure of Chandragupta Maurya is not warranted. Kautilyan bureaucracy has to be studied in the context of the stages of evolution of Indian polity and not merely as a structure comparable to medieval European polity or classical polity of Greece. The description of Kautilyan polity as one coeval with those recommended by Aristotle and Plato is not to be adhered to if we are to arrive at rational conclusions about its features.
Kosala was not an economic state though it was not averse to giving importance to wealth. Economy was totally in private hands. The government did not interfere in it and almost neglected it except during times of distress. The bureaus had to implement the decisions taken by the king in consultation with his ministers. Of interest are the designations of the eight ministers. Jayanta and Vijaya were traditionally in charge of defence and conquest respectively. Drshti was in charge of the institution of spies (chakshus). [It would appear that this ministry had no incumbent during the reign of Rama and that he looked after it personally.] Asoka was in charge of social welfare and removal of grief. Arthasadaka was in charge of economic resources and Siddhartha was in charge of completion of economic and other projects. Mantrapala was expected to keep secret and execute the decisions taken by the cabinet while, Sumantara as the chief minister presided over the cabinet meetings.
It appears that during the tenure of Dasaratha the incumbents in many of these posts of ministers were hand-picked by his wife and Bharata’s mother, Kaikeyi. Only Siddhartha appears to have been a confidante of Vasishta who held the post of Brhaspati and hence was in charge of civil polity including economy (varta) and civil judiciary. Kosala rulers were aware of the importance of treasury and economy. But the administrative machinery was not so organised as to facilitate planning for economic progress. It was a stagnant though stable social welfare state, despite the cabinet being tuned to projects for progress. It was just and solicitous of the welfare of the people but was not dynamic. It is unfortunate that no serious attempt has been made to probe into the strength and weaknesses of this ministry and bureaucracy that Dasaratha had left behind for Rama. The administration was exhorted by Gautama to be guided by the judiciary which would straighten the crooked rod of power (vamani) and lead the people to shining progress (bhamani).
Kautilyan bureaus provided for a three-tier administration of the mega-state: (a) cabinet ministers, mantris, (b) secretaries of state, amatyas, and (c) heads of bureaus, adhyakshas. None of the eighteen bureaus was under the direct supervision of the king. The change from the Kosala pattern to the Kautilyan pattern had taken place within a few decades. [Vasishta, Vamadeva, Siddhartha and Katyayana who guided Dasaratha were lagging behind the sweeping changes that were taking place under the influence of Kashyapa.] In the Kautilyan scheme, the eighteen bureaus were under chairmen (adhyakshas) who had the rank of secretaries of the state (amatyas). Some were under the ministers (mantris or under senior amatyas). It may be noted here that some of the senior amatyas were promoted as cabinet ministers.
The central bureaus of the mega-state were (1) mint and gold (2) warehouse (3) retail trade and commerce (4) forest produce and (5) armoury. The regional bureaus were (6) tolls (7) textiles (8) agriculture (9) navigation (10) cattle and (11) pastoral lands. The intricate bureaus were those, which dealt with (12) liquor (13) meat and (14) brothels. The defence bureaus were (15) cavalry and chariots (16) elephants (17) infantry and (18) passports.
Apart from these eighteen bureaus of the federal state, there were certain departments, which were directly under the senior ministers. These were (1) settlement in the janapada (2) distribution of lands (3) fortification (4) urban administration (5) secretariat of the sannidhata (6) secretariat of the samaharta (7) accounts and audit (8) recoveries of goods (9) inspection of officials (10) edicts (11) treasury (12) factories (13) weights and measures (14) survey and meteorology and (15) General, Senapati.
Samaharta and the Administration of the Janapada
The Janapada was divided into four districts, sthaniyas. The Samaharta had to maintain a record of the number of villages in each district, classifying them as economically sound or average or poor. He had to note which villages were to be exempt from taxes and which were not and which had to contribute soldiers in lieu of taxes and which were totally exempt. He had to record the contributions received from the village in kind (grains, forest-produce etc.) and in cash when that village was exempt from one sixth of the produce as tax.
Administration was moving from a feudal set-up to a rational one but had not yet become fully rational and impersonal. The samaharta was at the apex of the rural administration while the village revenue officers, gopas, were at its base. He controlled the gopas and the district collectors, sthaniyas. There were no elected village panchayats and district boards.
Each gopa controlled five to ten villages. He maintained a register of the number of villages under him showing the boundaries of each village, the area of ploughed lands and that of unploughed lands, of dry lands and wet fields, of parks, gardens, trees, enclosures, structures, sanctuaries, houses of nobles, dams, rest-houses, water-places, holy spots, crematoria, pastoral lands attached to that village, roads etc. He kept permanent survey records. There is no literary evidence of there having been such records earlier. This does not mean that these features were all absent till Kautilya’s times.
Each district was under a sthanika who maintained a consolidated copy of the census-cum-revenue record of all the villages in his district. It gave an incisive picture of its demography from the point of view of the economy of that district. Where the Janapada was referred to as Desa, the district, Sthaniya, was referred to as Pradesa. Every janapada was visualised as having four districts (north, east, south and west) with the capital (pura) at the centre. (Arthasastra Bk.2-Ch.35)
Gopas and Sthanikas were civil administrators who assessed the incomes of the families and collected taxes due to the state. Most families complied with their orders. These officers were appointed by the Samaharta from the civil service list and were answerable to him. Each district, pradesa, had another officer, Pradeshtr, who was a magistrate. He had powers to recover by force the taxes not remitted and was in charge of law and order. He was directly under the Sannidhata but was not superior to the Sthanika and did not control the Gopas who were revenue officers. Samaharta though powerful was not the master of all that he surveyed and was hence aggrieved.
Samaharta and the Department of Spies
Samaharta often clashed with the Sannidhata. Samaharta utilised the services of the Grhapatikas to verify the reports given by the Gopas and Sthanikas about the fields, houses and families in their respective villages with respect to size and produce of the field, taxes due from and exemptions enjoyed by households and the classes, varnas, and occupations of the families. They kept track of the members of every family, its income and expenses and their guests. They kept watch on economically harmful men and women and foreign spies. The Grhapatikas who were from weak agricultural families helped the state in return for aid received. They ranked lower to the heads of households.
The Samaharta used the services of the Vaidehakas (retailers who were not members of any commercial body) to find out the quantity and value of the king’s (state) trade commodities (rajapanya). The Vaidehakas kept track of the goods sent from the king’s personal lands (svabhumi) and also from the mines, dam sites, forests and factories to the market centres. The state machinery was also in charge of the trade in his personal goods. The king did not own all lands.
The agents had to note the duties paid on them, road cess, escort charges, fees paid at police posts, ferry charges, expenses on wages, food etc. incurred by the traders and transports. The object was to ensure that there was no evasion of taxes and duties payable to the janapada, which controlled the trade routes but not the market-centres. These duties were not levied on the king’s (state) goods, Rajapanya, but were payable by all private traders and transports. Evasion of duties by the latter would affect the revenue of the Janapada adversely. The Vaidehakas were used to protect both these. They were small traders. They ranked lower to the heads of commercial organizations.
Agents in the guise of tapasvis who were in fact researchers should ascertain the integrity of the agriculturists, cow-protectors and traders (the three major sectors of the rural economy) and of the heads of departments. They had to report to the Samaharta, the minister in charge of internal revenue. Ex-convicts were used to watch the suspicious movements of thieves and bravadoes of other countries working in the Janapada.
These secret agents and their subordinates were asked to be diligent in the discharge of their duties. The three institutions, Grhapatikas (who were weak agriculturists), Vaidehakas (weak traders) and Tapasvis (independent observers and researchers stationed outside towns and villages) were used by the Samaharta to collect economic data. But he could not use the services of the other two institutions (samsthas) of observers (chakshus), the retired senior citizens who were indifferent to economic needs and activities (udastithas) and the experts who could discover deceit (kapatikas). These two groups were directly under the king. [There is no reason to believe that this system imprecisely described as institution of spies (condemned by modern champions of individual liberty) was first introduced by the Mauryas or later. The British government retained it.]
The Traditional Jurisdiction of the Samaharta (Bk.2 Ch.6)
The Samaharta was traditionally in charge of the fort, the rural hinterland, mines, water-works, forests, cattle herds and trade routes, which were the main sources of revenue. The capital was not under his control. It enjoyed special rights and privileges since middle Vedic times.. Kautilya redistributed the population within the janapada and abolished the autonomous paura (urban) assemblies. The Sannidhata was freed from the responsibility of urban administration. This aspect of administration of the Kautilyan State has eluded the grasp of the 20th century Indologists.
Kautilya discouraged concentration of population in towns and removed all production units and markets from the urban areas. The forts became defence-cum-administrative centres and were placed under the Samaharta. He supervised the entire agro-pastoral economy and also the forest economy. Trade proper was looked after by both ministers, Samaharta and Sannidhata. Kautilya noticed that the scholars of his times followed the paura-janapada dichotomy that was in vogue since the Atharvan period or the durga-rashtra dichotomy that was put forth during the early Manava epoch. Kautilya advanced the concept of durga-janapada dichotomy and merged the urban areas in the civil entity, janapada. The fortified capital (durga) became the administrative centre.
The offices of the following eighteen departments were located inside the fort: (1) Tolls and fines (2) Weights and measures (3) Mint (4) Passports (5) City administrator, Nagarika (6) Public Buildings (7) Casinos (8) Liquor (9) Abattoirs (10) Brothels (11) Textiles (12) Oil and ghee (13) Elixir, kshara (14) Goldsmiths (15) Trade-centres (16) Architects and masons (17) Temples (18) Ports of entry. These were bureaus under the feudal set-up. Kautilya modified these and introduced a rational bureaucracy. Their officers had to report to the Samaharta.
Internal Administration of the enlarged Janapada
The following heads of revenue were looked after by the administrators in charge of the rural hinterland, rashtra: (1) Share in agricultural produce, due to the king from the lessees of his lands (2) Tributes, bali, forced extortion (3) Prescribed taxes (kara) (4) Profit in trade, vanika (5) River protection charges (6) Ferry charges (7) Port-duties (8) Pastoral lands (9) Road-cess (10) Revenue from survey (11) Fines on tax evasion (These pertained to port-towns).
Gold, silver, diamond, pearl, coral, conch, shells, salt and ores were included under ‘mines’. All irrigated lands including gardens and orchards and terrain yielding edible roots, which benefited from water-works, were covered by ‘setu’ (bridge). All animal parks, forest-wealth in the form of timber, herbs and elephants were covered by ‘vana’. Cows and buffaloes, goats and sheep, donkeys and camels, horses and mules were covered under ‘vraja’ (herd). All the trade routes (both water and land) were under the charge of the Samaharta.
How the officer should maintain the statement of accounts is described in this section. He has to arrive at the balance of income over expenditure. He is expected to increase the income due to the state and reduce the expenditure on collection of revenue. The Samaharta was essentially a Minister for Internal Revenue. His duties were connected with maintenance of equity that was needed to develop the economy of the integrated janapada that was protected by the King stationed in the fortified administrative capital. He was not in charge of any social welfare measure. His failure to observe the rules brought him in conflict with the Sannidhata. Kautilya justified the steps taken by the Sannidhata to streamline rural administration and curb corruption and irresponsible conduct of the heads of the autonomous units.
Duties of the Sannidhata (Bk.2 Ch.5)
The Sannidhata controlled the secretariats of the treasury, markets, warehouse, forest-produce, armoury and jails. The Pradeshtrs who controlled the district jails were under him. He was required to ensure that the buildings were adequate and safe. He had magisterial powers over the operations in these departments whose heads must have been senior Amatyas. A fort for the central treasury was built on the border of the Janapada with the capital. For, the centrally located capital was more insecure. (There could be palace revolts.)
The Sannidhata was the chairman of the board of experts who examined and received gems and precious metals into the treasury. He was the Chancellor of the Exchequer but could not act independently. He was to be assisted by reliable officers. He could impose even death penalty on those who robbed the treasury. The Sannidhata could not disburse grants nor levy taxes. But he controlled banking and marketing.
He was expected to maintain permanent records (for more than a hundred years) of receipts from the rural hinterland (bahyam) and the industrial centres (abhyantaram) so that whenever asked he would not falter in respect of receipts, expenses and balance. He had no control over the third source of revenue (atithyam). These were tributes received by the king from the vassals and gifts from other kings. They were handled by the king personally. The Sannidhata operated from the fortified capital, pura or nagara, and not from the fort, durga.
Bureaucracy, it may be noted, survived the rise and fall of dynasties. The economic state was a permanent entity while the political state was ephemeral. The Sannidhata did not have direct access to the Interior, the rural hinterland, rashtra, which was administered by the Samaharta. The Samaharta was in charge of the trade in the king's’ goods and the village co-operatives. These two officers were successors to the two Vedic officials, Indra and Brhaspati who represenred the aristocracy and the commonalty and directed the treasury as Chanccellor of the Exchequer and the Civil Administration respectively. Sannidhata, Chancellor of the Exchequer, could not easily browbeat the rural administrator. Rural economy has always resisted domination by the urban economy.
The new Janapada and Rural Economy
It was an age of expansion and planned reconstruction. Kautilya introduced the scheme of administratively and economically viable janapadas. Earlier, the Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva, had encouraged the formation of small stable nation-states. The Manava Dharmasastra had accepted the principle of such states being governed by Kshatriya rulers with the assistance of eight ministers for every state, rajyam.
Both schemes permitted ventures of conquests by kings but they did not envisage annexation of the countries of the vanquished by the conqueror. Kautilya permitted annexation of those countries but subject to certain conditions. These lands could not be exploited to the disadvantage of the native population. Their social customs had to be protected. Political imperialism should not lead to colonial exploitation and cultural imperialism. Kautilya’s mega-state honoured this principle while allowing autonomy to the several janapadas under its suzerainty. This positive approach of Kautilya has been deliberately kept out by the western Indologists who have presented him as crooked, cruel and unethical.
Janapada as viable economic entity
Every janapada had a bureaucracy and a judiciary drawn from its own population. It had its own local currency and was controlled by the Samaharta, the Minister for Internal Revenue, who adhered to the principle of equity while keeping it integrated. All the Samahartas, Ministers for Internal Revenue, were taken on the central council of ministers of the mega-state, chakra, a confederation of twenty-five states but there was only one Sannidhata, Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Desas were cultural entities differing from one another in their customs. Janapadas were viable economic entities. Kautilya encouraged the concept of Janapada in place of Desa and Rashtra. Rashtras were essentially autonomous rural regions governed by the armed elite stationed in fortified towns. Vratya Prajapati, Mahadeva, made the rashtra a sovereign nation with the nobility, the commonalty, the intelligentsia and the army owing loyalty to it and honouring him as its chief of the people. But his rashtra, which was a politico-economic conglomeration covering the entire sub-continent had numerous organized autonomous states under its parasol.
The two Confederations, Chakras
Kautilya preferred to refer to the entire country not as rashtra but as Desa or Prthvi. It extended from the Himalayas in the north to the seas in the south. It was to be brought under one confederation of states, chakra. The mega-state was a step towards it. During the times of Kautilya only the central region, Madhyadesa, lying between, Sindhu and Yamuna and between Sutlej and Narmada was known as Prthvi, the land under the jurisdiction of the commoner-king, Prthu.
As Kautilya outlined his policy for a new janapada and planned reconstruction for the entire sub-continent, the latter had already reached the stage of two confederations facing each other for a final showdown. The chakra initiated by him had opted for this policy. (This stage was reached more than two millennia before Vishnugupta retrieved Kautilya’s work and placed it at the disposal of Chandragupta Maurya). Bharata led one of these confederations, chakras, and Prthu the other. Kautilya might have aided the latter. This recognition is necessary for a proper appraisal of Kautilyan Arthasastra.
Circle (Mandala) of five Janapadas and the Conqueror
A janapada had four districts (sthaniya) with the capital, pura, at the centre. Earlier each district had one or more kings and they elected their own chieftain who ruled the janapada as Viraj. He had to take the help of these feudal chiefs (Rajans or Isvaras) and the paura and janapada assemblies. We may visualise a conglomeration of five such janapadas with their suzerains competing with one another for control over the mandala, a circle of five states. Each suzerain had to score over the other four, ally, non-ally, neutral or intermediate ruler and indifferent ruler. The successful sovereign is visualised as the vijigishu, conqueror. He did not necessarily annex the territories of the defeated rulers.
Five Circles (Mandalas) and the Confederation (Chakra)
There were five circles with each led by a highly influential and powerful ruler at its helm. All these five powerful rulers present the picture of five circles, with each of them trying to overcome the other four, mitra, amitra, madhyama and udasina. The successful among them became the chakravarti, head of the confederation of states, controlling twenty-five janapadas including his janapada.
Kautilya envisaged formation of two such confederations of states before they met for a final showdown or consented to coexist. Kautilya was on the scene when Mamdhata, Kartavirya, Bhagiratha, Marutta and Bharata were during the last decades of the long Vedic era, the five emperors (samrats) who headed the five circles and Bharata had emerged as the head of this chakra of five circles as Chakravarti. Bharata seems to have succeeded Marutta as the head of thie confederation. Kautilyan economic reorganisation was aimed at making all these numerous janapadas including those that were under the suzerainty of Prthu, economically viable entities. Each janapada had to meet the needs of about three to six millions of population.
Demographic Reorganisation (Bk.2 Ch. 1)
Kautilya reorganised the then existing janapadas and also formed new ones. People were moved out of thickly populated areas within a state to sparsely populated areas. There were also inter-state migrations of peoples. Kautilya’s aim was to discourage gravitation towards urban centres, which were then mostly on riverbanks and towards naturally productive areas. Most commentators have failed to note the implications of this demographic reorganisation, which led to the formation of new integrated and economically viable janapadas. Kautilya planned for even-distribution of the native population. New settlements came into existence. Abandoned ones were revived. The earlier migrations were towards river basins. This had to be reversed as rivers changed courses and as floods could not be stopped.
Disaster Control and
Network of new villages in the hinterland
Fire, disease and floods were considered to be calamities caused by invisible forces. Man had in those days no control over them. Kautilya taught his deuteragonist, the unidentified preceptor (Acharya) the principles of Disaster Control which the latter as a Rajapurohita was expected to know. The Acharya opposed Kautilya’s move to get the villages on the riverbanks (which were threatened by floods) vacated and to settle their residents in new villages in the interior close to the forests (which were pushed back). The Acharya (Teacher) feared that the new villages were prone to catch fire. He had no remedy against bush-fires. Property would be lost forever, he complained.
Kautilya argued that while fire destroyed only one village, floods swept away hundreds of villages. The earlier policy of settlements along the riverbanks was altered. People were moved from the towns and settled in the hinterland. A network of new villages, small in size, separated from but yet not far from one another was established.
More areas brought under cultivation
Production-centres were distinct from market-centres and were spread out. The capital was only an administrative centre. The new demographic distribution left only a few villages on the lands likely to be frequently inundated. Of course, the farmers would not have appreciated this forced resettlement. The Acharya voiced their grievances. However Kautilya knew that it was not easy to tame the rivers and that in the new areas, cultivation called for construction of water-works. He encouraged the villagers to co-operate in this endeavour and provided funds from the state. This resulted in less income for the peasants, as they had to pay for these projects. But more areas were brought under cultivation.
The disputation has to be studied in the light of the new agrarian policy to increase the output by increase in the area of lands under irrigation. [It may be noted here that Kautilya did not get support from the aristocracy in this endeavour.] Economic considerations alone and not factors like common custom, dialect and loyalty to the soil determined the pattern of the new janapadas. This process had begun earlier but Kautilya gave the necessary direction. Every janapada was so designed as to have wet and plain lands, moors and forests, hilly tracts and even arid areas within it. It was a predominantly but not totally agrarian janapada. This helped to diversify economic activities.
The Composition of the Village Population
Reorganisation required determining the features of the village, the basic economic unit. Every village would have about 100 to 500 Shudra agriculturist families. It is necessary to get rid of the stereotypes (that we have been unwittingly swallowing) about the social and economic structures of the ancient Indian villages. A village must have had a Brahman teacher-cum-priest, a few Kshatriya policemen and officials, two or three Vaisya shopkeepers. More than ninety percent of the villagers were illiterate Shudra agriculturists. Theoretically, the cultivators, cattle-breeders and traders were designated as Vaisyas. But very few Vaisyas lived in the villages or personally tilled the lands. Shudra families managed most of agricultural operations.
Most of the families belonging to the higher classes had migrated to urban areas even before the times of Kautilya. Most Vaisyas were absentee landlords. This was dysfunctional to rural economy. Small independent peasants known Kshudrakas and employee-tillers, Shudras, looked after agricultural operations. The rich among the Kshudrakas later claimed that they were Kshatriyas rather than Vaisyas and proved a terror to all in the rural sector. The Kshudrakas ranked between Vaisyas and Shudras, employers and employees. Kautilya made the Shudra workers, lessees of lands and treated them as Aryas, free citizens, a status enjoyed by Vaisyas till then. [Marxist writers have missed this point.]
Shudras (workers) as lessees of lands
Every family had its house in the midst of its agricultural land with its boundaries measuring one to two ‘krosas’ on each side. Kautilya seems to suggest that the largest holding should not be more than four times the smallest. The family could not have employed many labourers to till its field. It was basically a self-employed peasant family. It had to work to earn its livelihood. The lands, which the lessee tilled, had been assigned to him by the state for his lifetime, ekapurushikam. These assignees could not sell or mortgage these lands nor could they will them to their heirs. Ownership reverted to the state on the death of the lessee. These lands had been taken away from their original landlords, as they had not been cultivating them personally. Of course small landlords would have stayed back in the village and supervised the cultivation of their lands.
When the lessee died, his son had to seek reassignment of land and renewal of contract. In a Shudra family, the son did not inherit his father’s property as the latter was not the owner of that property and was only a lessee. Nor did he own the house that stood on that land. He had the right to live in that house, cultivate the land and collect the grains only as long as the contract period was not over. The Kshudraka was a landowner-cum-tiller. The Vaisya was a landowner but not a tiller. The Shudra was a lessee and tiller. Earlier he was an insecure contract labourer (vishti) working on the lands of the Vis (Vaisyas). [One could be a servant, Dasa, under any one of the above, Vaisya, Kshudraka and Shudra.]
Kautilyan rural pattern did not accord with the Zamindari model. It was closer to the ryotwari pattern of the southern peninsula. Earlier the lands of the peninsula were open to all and they were referred to as universes, jagats. The entrepreneurs took whatever lands they could cultivate personally and were classified as kshudrakas. The local population lived in stone-houses or in caves or in the open and on meat and fish or on fruits and roots rather than on agriculture. Most land was hard and rocky or thickly forested. Even the king was not the owner of the lands. Lands belonged to the entire society and the cultivators could hold them for their life time or as long as they cultivated them. There could be no hereditary ownership of lands. The king was expected to encourage the cultivation of lands. Sesha Dharma (the policy outlined by Manu Svayambhuva, Samkarshana and Sesha) permitted the right of ownership of uncultivated lands to those who newly cultivated them. An appreciation of this background is needed for a correct appraisal of Kautilyan policy and the genesis of the rights of ownership.
The new village
Agriculturist families were allotted lands adjacent to one another to facilitate mutual protection. The Gopa had to mark the boundaries of the family fields and of the village correctly. Kautilya advanced the principle of optimum-sized villages as the basis for rural reconstruction. New villages had to be formed and deserted villages repopulated. Non-agriculturist families were moved out of the agrarian villages. The postulate that the village had members of all the four varnas and several vocations and that it was a self-sufficient cosmopolitan unit is not tenable. The village had to trade off its surplus grains to meet its other requirements.
The village had about 100 to 500 agriculturist families, mostly Shudras. The higher classes and non-agriculturist families stayed outside the boundaries of the agriculturist village. Physical distance led to social distance. There were no separate residential areas within the village proper for any group. (Segregation of communities was an urban phenomenon and not a rural one.) Such areas were required to be allotted only in the protected administrative capital, pura.
Samgrahana: Union of Residential Settlements vs. Karvatika
Ten such clusters of neighbouring villages formed a Samgrahana, union of residential centres. It had an administrative officer, three or four Gopas, and a Dharmastha who was an officer of the judiciary and trustee of public property. It had also a market-centre with a stable for horses. It covered a population of about ten thousand and was served by an administrative centre, a court, a market and a police-cum-mail station. Twenty such unions had a block office, Karvatika and also an industrial production-centre for manufacture of consumer goods, which were marketed to the rural population through the Samgrahana outlets.
Drona (County) and Sthaniya (District)
Two Karvatikas formed a Drona, cup. The administrative centre of the Drona was located between the two Karvatikas. It controlled about 400 villages. Both production-centres and market-centres were away from the administrative centre, Dronamukha, which had a court also. In between two Dronas was situated the headquarters of the district, Sthaniya. It had a large revenue office to which all the Gopas reported. The Sthanika had the rank of a middle-level Amatya and had to report to the Samaharta. The Sthanika controlled about 800 villages with a population of about four to eight hundred thousand. He supervised two Drona offices, four industrial centres and eight market outlets at Samgrahanas.
Each Sthaniya or Pradesa had a magistrate, Pradeshtr, who controlled the jail also. (He was however under the Sannidhata). It also had a court with three Dharmasthas and three Amatyas (middle level). We have to discard the stereotype of autonomous villages run by panchayats. The rural bureaucracy and judiciary were built up in a rational manner.
The Demography of the Janapada
A janapada covered four Sthanas or districts with the capital at the centre. It would have had about 3200 villages with a population of about three million engaged in agriculture and about three hundred thousand in industry, trade, education, pasture, administration etc. The non-agriculturist families resided in the Samgrahanas. Karvatika centres were for small industries, Dronamukhas were administrative centres and the capital was referred to as Pura. Kautilya discouraged gravitation towards urban areas. Thinkers like Kautilya did not accept urbanisation as sign of civilisation. It was a mark of cultural decay and licentiousness and economic exploitation of the masses. Most of the agriculturists were Kshudrakas or Shudras. They also provided troops for the state. The janapada was a political entity. Its officials, Amatyas and Dharmasthas, and its troops were its natives. Its highest revenue officer, Samaharta, too was its native. But it was not a totally autonomous unit of the circle of states (mandala) or of the confederation of states (chakra).
Janapada borders and junction of janapadas
Between adjoining janapadas (under the same ruler), at the entrance to the janapada, the officer in charge of the border areas (antapala) had his fort. He was in charge of the forests, which formed a natural barrier between agro-pastoral lands. He had a contingent comprising mainly trappers and forest-dwellers to guard this zone. They were 'antavasayis', residents of outlying areas, a neutral term. Inter-janapada courts must have met at janapada junctions located on the border. It may be visualised that the model Janapada described above had a similar Janapada in each of the four directions. The Antapala was directly under the king and not under the Samaharta.
Rural Administration: Brahmadeya Lands and Franchise
Lands given to Rtvigs, Acharyas and Purohitas who were constitutional (Brahman) officials and to Srotriyas, who were Vedic scholars and teachers, were known as Brahmadeya lands. These Brahmans (intellectuals who did not belong to any ecclesiastical order) were exempt from dandakara, tax payable to the society for protection of life and property. As only those who paid taxes were eligible to exercise political franchise, these Brahman beneficiaries had no franchise but were eligible for protection whoever the ruler was. They claimed that they were not subjects of the ruler and had the right to move to any state, stay anywhere and yet had to be protected by its ruler. Political loyalty could not be demanded from the Brahman intelligentsia. They were not part of the production economy.
They could exercise franchise only if they agreed to pay taxes. (Not all Brahmans were eligible to receive Brahmadeya lands). Their sons and kinsmen, dayadas, could not inherit these lands. These lands could be leased out or sold or mortgaged only to those Brahmans who were similarly exempt from dandakara, protection tax. A gift once made could not be rescinded. Hence the king could not become the owner of Brahmadeya lands even if the recipient died intestate or was divested of the lands for violation of social or economic codes or for sedition. The land gifted to a Brahman would on his death pass on to the chief of the people, the Prajapati or to the trustee of public property, the Dharmastha.
These lands had been assigned to eligible Brahman scholars to enable them to earn their livelihood and pursue their studies and render free social service as teachers and priests. They were freed from the ignominy of being required to beg from others for their livelihood. While students and monks could ask for and accept alms, householders and retired senior citizens could not. The Brahmans who went through all the four stages of life formed only a very small section of the population. Most of the population had to work throughout life to earn their livelihood. Unlike the Brahmans, they were in the schools only for a few years.
Lands as Perks and Taxes on other lands
Heads of departments, accountants and other officers of the Janapada like Sthanikas and Gopas and public servants like physicians, horse-trainers and couriers were assigned lands as perks. These could not be sold or mortgaged. They could hold these lands even after retirement but their offspring could not inherit them. They were state property and were liable to be retrieved. They were exempt from taxes, as the assignees were government servants. Other lands could be assigned only to tax payers.
Arable lands were to be assigned only for lifetime. Those who were cultivating the lands were not to be disturbed. But those persons who did not cultivate the lands lost ownership rights. These might be assigned to village servants (grama-bhrtas) or to the Vaidehakas, the weaker section among the Vaisyas. Not all the Vaidehakas were traders (vanijyas). The Vaidehakas were tenants. They became owners if their Vaisya landlords did not pay attention to the arable lands. The Shudras were lessee-tillers and the Kshudrakas were independent small peasants who personally tilled their lands. Kautilya made payment of estimated tax compulsory without allowing it to be contingent on actual produce. This was needed to ensure cultivation of all arable lands and to eschew indifference and complacency. He encouraged entrepreneurs.
Incentives for cultivation: anugraha and parihara
It needs to be remarked here that there are two streams in the extant text of Arthasastra. One of them, the earlier one may be traced to the views of and steps taken by Kautilya and the later one to the amendments made by Vishnugupta to aid the Mauryan administration (3rd century BC). Bk.2 of the Arthasastra belongs to the earlier stage when Kautilya and Krpacharya were reorganizing the social polity including its economy soon after the famous battle of Kurukshetra, which is traced to 3100 BC by Hindu tradition and to 1400 BC by modern scholars who toe the lines of the Western Indologists.
Grants, cattle and gold coins were offered as loan to the new cultivators. These were repayable at their convenience. This facility was open also to those farmers who were constrained to neglect agriculture, as they had no money to invest in it. All grants and compensations were so programmed that they benefited the treasury and caused no loss to it. Only increase in produce could lead to increase in state revenue. Loans had to be recovered. The people are cautioned that a king whose treasury is poor is bound to harass the paura-janapada. Hence they should increase the production, pay the taxes and repay the loans. [The issues seem to be modern but they have been part of agrarian economy since the earliest times when the cadres of landlords came into existence.]
Kautilya agrees that at the time of the first settlement in a particular place and when families are required to shift from one place to another they have to be recompensed for expenses incurred and losses sustained. [Kautilya does not concede the claim that one is permanently attached to a particular piece of land even though he is a son of the soil and that he can not be deprived of it or moved from it.] He agrees with respect to compensation for retirement from occupation that the king should give his blessings even as a father aids his son in distress. The principle of paternalism involved in anugraha implies that the father aids the son in need and the son would pay his debts as soon as he stands on his own legs. It is not outright gift.
Kautilya arrives at a balance between the needs of the individual and those of the state. Resettlement should not be painful. Resettlement of the agrarian population was part of a major reorganisation of the rural economy. It integrated the agricultural economy with the pastoral economy and also with the industrial economy. The third depended on the first two and also on the natural resources of the forests and mountains. Factories based on mines were set up and so too industries based on timber. Water routes and land routes to the new market centres were charted. Kautilya was on the scene when economic interdependence had become inevitable and integrated janapadas were becoming the order of the day. Let us read the chronicles keeping in mind these factors of economic organization and re-organisation.
The state and the new rural economy
The new state was more than a predominantly agrarian janapada. State-aided village co-operatives were in charge of the steps to be taken for developing rural economy. Irrigation works were built using natural resources of water available locally or by bringing water from other places, that is, by constructing dams, canals and reservoirs. The state might bear the entire expenses or it might provide facilities like land, roads, trees and implements to those persons who had undertaken this task. It might also provide them with holy spots and parks. Religious orders might have come forward to provide financial assistance for irrigation works. The state gave materials and ancillary facilities and also got the holy spots set up. The secular objective of the state and of the people was aided by the rich religious orders in return for material help given for establishing their holy places, temples with gardens and tanks. (This practice has been in vogue for millennia.) This mutual co-operation helped the growth of agriculture, the backbone of Indian economy. [To conceive of a secular state indifferent to or antagonistic to such co-operation is unwise.]
All the families of the village participated in the co-operstive endeavour in the works initiated by the state or by these religious orders by contributing manpower to complete them. If one could not contribute physical labour he was expected to send his labourers and bullocks. Many landlords required their personal servants and tenants to participate in this communal work as labourers. The king (raja) was expected to share the expenses on the irrigation project but could not claim any benefit for himself from it. His personal lands would not benefit. When the villagers contributed physical labour for it, the state could not levy water-charges or increase taxes. The one-sixth rate was applicable not only to the lands already irrigated or receiving plenty of rain but also to the newly irrigated lands. Only totally non-arable lands were exempted from tax. While the state invested money, the villagers matched it with physical labour.
But it was agreed that the state would continue to enjoy the traditional riparian rights by which the king was owner of the fish, the ducks and the vegetables in the dam area and on the river and canal beds. Individuals and families might own land (bhumi) but the water sources belonged to the state as representative of the larger society. Similarly, air and forests belonged to all. The mines, the subterranean resources were claimed by the state on behalf of the entire society. There could be no private ownership of forests, mines, rivers and even wells. This principle was in operation since the later Vedic era when the commoners came to possess private lands. During the middle Vedic era only the aristocrats had lands.
Liberation of Dasas, Bonded Labourers
The king’s role in village administration was limited. He was expected to ensure that the dasas who were kept as pledges by their kinsmen obeyed their masters. The state would punish the disorderly among these dasas. The local body was not empowered to take action against them. The dasas were awaiting final liberation from debt bondage and restoration to their original families as free citizens, as Aryas. This liberation had to be orderly.
The Kautilyan state was not a handmaid of the rich. The masters demanded that the advances paid by them to the debtor families who had kept some of their members as usufructory pledges should be first returned before they were freed from the contract to serve the former. This demand was not totally unreasonable. But liberation from debt bondage was painfully slow and the labourers were restless leading to angry retaliation by the masters. Kautilya allows the king to handle the situation. The kinsmen had to be coerced or assisted to pay off the debts and get the dasas discharged from bondage. (Social activists to note)
Bonded Labourers (Dasas) and Village Co-operatives
Most (but not all) bonded labourers belonged to the Shudra class. In fact, ninety percent of the population belonged to this class of workers. Later many of them ascended the social ladder and became Vaisyas, landlords. Some of the Shudras became warriors, Kshatriyas. Very few could get education and become part of the intelligentsia, Brahmans. Some of the free Shudra workers might have been made dasas by members of their own families (e.g. an younger brother becoming a dasa under the elder).
Often their services were pledged to the landlords. These dasas were asked to humbly obey the directives of their masters and help the village projects though they were justly annoyed that they were not as free as their Shudra brethren were. The directives were for a limited purpose. The dasas could not be punished for refusing to oblige their masters who had to offer physical labour in lieu of monetary and material contributions for that public cause. These co-operatives were to be free from master-servant relationship.These organisations offered choice in the mode of contribution. Every family had to co-operate on equal footing by contributing physical labour if it was not rich enough to contribute goods to the communal endeavour.
The King and Social Welfare
The king looked after the welfare of the children, the aged and the orphans who were in distress. He was expected to protect the sonless wife (stri) and her daughters. (The son looked after his mother and his sisters in his father’s absence.) He was personally responsible for the maintenance of the helpless women. The elders of the village were responsible for the protection and development of the property of the minors till they came of age. They were also trustees of the property bestowed by the nobles (devadravyam, later called temple property). The state could not annex these for non-payment of tax or for non-cooperation in the communal work.
The Family Court and the Head of the Family
But Kautilya does not absolve the king of the responsibility for the welfare of the weaker sections of the community. Of course, the head of the family had to maintain his wife, his aged parents, younger brothers (who were yet minors), unmarried sisters, widowed sisters and his own children. He had to earn for about eight persons. (The nuclear family consisted of husband and wife, their minor sons and unmarried daughters.) If he had the means and yet failed to protect them, he was fined (twelve panas) by the family court, which the Dharmastha presided over. Only when they had been declared as fallen (patita) and outcast by the community (for a social or sex offence) he was not required to protect them. Even then he had to protect his mother. Neither the village community nor the state could free him of these responsibilities.
The State and Duties of the Individual
The family was the basic socio-economic unit and it could not be allowed to disintegrate. In the absence of the earning member, the king had to protect his dependants. Hence it was particular that he discharged his duties properly and did not run away (as a monk). If he abandoned his wife and children without providing for their upkeep and became a monk, he was fined (minimum 48 panas). So too, inducing a woman to become a nun was punished. If he pleaded inability to work, he had to get the permission of the Dharmastha to become a monk.
The state had the right and duty to regulate the observance of and adherence to Dharma by every individual. Though all Aryas (free citizens) had the right to Sanyasa (the fourth stage of renunciation), it was circumscribed by the duties of the individual to his family and to the state. One who became a monk without the permission of the Dharmastha was put behind bars. Many monks were defaulters in their economic obligations. The ecclesiastic orders, which encouraged men in their prime to become monks, were bound to come in conflict with the economic state. [It is unsound to presume that such orders came into being only after the times of Gautama the Buddha.]
The village as an economic community
Kautilya was dealing with the village community in the pre-Prthu society and state. The scheme of four stages of life had already come into force. The senior citizens, who had moved to their forest abodes as vanaprasthas, could enter the villages to call on their sons and daughters and kinsmen. The monks, parivrajas, could pass through a village but not stay there. They had to camp outside the village. There were some economic guilds, whose members did not belong to the same community as the one to which the villagers belonged. They too had to stay outside the predominantly agrarian village. [Most villages had families belonging mostly to one native community, jati.]
Primary settlement rights and secondary domicile rights
Such guilds were not allowed to stay in the village, which guarded its jati identity. The village took the assistance of some workers co-operatives for specific time-bound ventures. They were given secondary domicile rights (upanivesa) for that duration. They were not eligible to participate in the socio-cultural activities of the local economic community, which had primary settlement rights (nivesa) or to exercise franchise on par with it. (Even technologically advanced communities were thus required to be nomadic. They were not tribes hesitant to mix with other social groups nor were they socially backward.) It was wise to recognise and abide by this practice and principle of village autonomy.
The village was a settled, agrarian, economic community, mostly of Shudras and Kshudrakas, tillers and peasants. The Brahmans and Vaisyas had no voice in its affairs. Many of the Kshudrakas claimed that they were Kshatriyas. Kautilya did not want it to be thrown out of gear by the entry of ascetics and other guilds of workers. He was pragmatic.
Janapada is a concept that accepts the principle of the sons of the soil being the first claimants to its resources and facilities. Rashtra which comprised four adjoining janapadas today has an emotional tinge based on common will and common interests. It subordinates the state to the people, especially to the commonalty. Desa has a territorial as well as a cultural tinge based on tradition. The village was centre for agricultural production. Construction of parks and halls and centres of recreation in the village was banned.
Rural prosperity through hard work and Vihars
Kautilya did not want the villagers to fritter away their time and meagre income in the pursuit of pleasure and neglect their families. He warns that singers and dancers, musicians and storytellers should not be permitted to obstruct the work of the villagers. (This restriction was applicable to industrial centres also.) When the villagers do not provide a base for these persons and are engaged in their fields, there will be increase in treasury, labour force, wealth, grains and food-drinks. His motto was prosperity through hard work. Parasites were kept out.
Was he a tough taskmaster? He closed down the vihars in villages and industrial centres. These vihars had nothing to do with religion. They were not places of worship. They were casinos. But vihars, entertainment halls, were symbols of cultural renascence as well as of decadence. He was against the urban culture of the parasitic patriciate percolating to rural and industrial areas. He approved the measures taken in the desas, cultural regions, against vihars, as they destroyed the fruits of work (AS 8-4-21). The wealth earned and saved was being wasted in the vihars.
But as the Acharya had to admit, the Kautilyan policy of permitting the king (and the nobles) to take interest in arts and sports was beneficial as it provided employment and income to artisans, sculptors, dancers, singers etc. It is not the pleasure given but the employment generated that has to count. Kautilya distinguished between the people’s cultural centre (desavihar) and the king’s entertainment centre (rajavihar).
The expenses incurred by the workers on entertainment must be very little, Kautilya insists. After refreshing themselves, they must once again attend to their work. Recreation must not prove a distraction. He was against addiction but allowed moderate indulgence in pleasure. He regulated the entry of the dancing troupes into villages. But he did not approve the king frittering away his time and wealth in casinos. For, decadent kings and their courtiers resorted to extortion of wealth from the people to meet their lust. Kautilya did not approve opening casinos to entice the people. He did not advocate that the state should run bars, casinos and brothels. He did not want the people to be cheated of their hard-earned wealth. He appeared to be puritanical. [Some western scholars of the early 20th century and their Indian followers have deliberately given the wrong impression that Kautilya was immoral in his policy and methods and that he permitted the king to gain wealth by enticing the people to casinos and brothels.]
Confederation (Chakra) and the afflicted Region
The king should recompense the region affected by disease and famine, which followed attacks by another confederation of states or by forest-men. He is advised to ban wasteful sports. The king’s confederation should not leave the afflicted region to fend for itself, when the two chakras confront each other. The centre should come to the rescue of the region, which had been an independent state earlier. For, the other regions may not be willing to share in the recompensing of the afflicted area, desa.
Chakra was a political confederation. It did not lead to emotional integration among the peoples of different regions, desas. It did not lead to the concept of one nation. Every area was particular that its own needs were first met and no loss caused to it by the inability of the chakravarti to keep at bay his rival. The king should protect agriculture against excesses by policemen and his hired labourers, wild animals, crocodiles and diseases (pests).
Kautilya warns him against imposing taxes (kara) that would affect agriculture adversely. He had to protect trade routes against musclemen, workers on highways, thieves and frontier chiefs (antapalas). They often stole cattle. In the integrated janapada, the king is called upon to protect forest wealth and irrigation works and mines, which are already operational and build new ones.
Bureau of Agriculture (Sita) (Bk.2 Ch. 24)
Agriculture, animal husbandry and trade have been the three sectors of the economy of the core society since the early Vedic times. Kautilya tried to form new Janapadas, integrating the two economies, the agro-pastoral of the core society and the industrial of the frontier society. The reorganisation was not uniform. In several areas, the earlier practices continued and the integration was still rudimentary. Kautilya was a contemporary of Bhishma and Krpa and had a definite say in the organisation of this integrated janapada during the tenure of Parikshit who took over the reins soon after the Battle of Kurukshetra. Agriculture continued to be the basic economic sector. (It is so even now).
The head of this bureau was expected to be an expert in agricultural practices, water divining and the sciences of plant life. If he was not an expert, he had to be assisted by experts in these. Kautilya preferred specialists with managerial skill for the posts of heads of departments, adhyakshas. The adhyaksha had to procure the seeds in the proper seasons. The bureau maintained seed farms. The state was responsible for the supply of seeds to independent farms and also to the king’s personal lands, svabhumi. Seed farms were a facility provided by the king to all farmers. (But these were not a state monopoly.)
This officer was in charge of sowing and ploughing operations on the king’s lands. He could for this purpose employ servants (dasas), artisans (karmakaras) and those who were to render service in lieu of fines (danda). He had to ensure that there was no delay in agricultural operations on account of lack of implements or non-availability of smiths, carpenters, basket makers etc. He was liable to pay a fine equal to the loss caused by his negligence. Kautilya and his team were acquainted with the quanta of rainfall and seasons of rain in different parts of the subcontinent. The king’s personal lands (svabhumi) were spread over different regions of his empire.
[It is not correct to presume that all lands belonged to the king and that he thrived on slave labour. During the early decades of the 20th century there was deliberate misinterpretation about Kautilyan policies. The British scholars presented him as a champion of economic and political imperialism and many Indian scholars followed them. During the latter decades of that century Marxists who claimed to be avant garde presented him as having advocated state exploitation of the masses.]
Cost of Production
The director had to keep in mind the seasons for the different crops. Agriculture was planned and regulated though it had to depend on rains in several areas. The Bureau ensured that the dasas employed got living wages. They received twenty to twenty five percent of the grains produced by them. Labour cost less than one fourth of the market value of the agricultural produce. It did not include cost of administration and other inputs like expenses on procurement of seeds and water. Seeds, implements and bullocks were supplied by the government. The cost of procurement of these was evaluated at an amount equal to wages. Thus the total cost of production was not more than forty percent of the market value of the grains. It was neither high nor low. The state had to protect both the producer and the consumer from the trader.
Sharecroppers vis-a-vis bonded labourers as tillers
The director might engage sharecroppers, ardha-sitikas instead of bonded labourers, dasas. These were tillers who shared the produce equally with the landowners. Most Vaisya landlords must have engaged Shudra tillers on this basis. These tillers had to meet all expenses on cultivation and maintain their families within that half share. These tillers must have been only marginally better off than the labourers, dasas, employed by the department when it opted to cultivate the king’s lands under its own supervision. The half share included cost of labour computed at one-fifth of the value of the produce, cost of seeds, manure etc, hire charges on bulls and implements, token rent payable to the king as renter and surplus of the half share above these heads of expenditure. In times of distress, the king might waive the cost of seeds payable to the bureau and the hire charges. But the rent was not waived. It was intended to establish the king’s right of ownership of the lands concerned. He did not insist on his half share when the crops failed. For then the sharecroppers too suffered.
It is not sound to interpret that the king owned all the lands or that he employed slaves to cultivate the lands. The economic state is not inhuman. The sharecropper, ardha-sitika could sell his surplus in the market and buy his other requirements. The dasas could not get these needs met unless they cut down on their food. The sharecropper too could have employed dasas to assist him. The ardha-sitika model has persisted for several centuries and has not been harsh to the tillers.
The cost of administration must have been high in this highly bureaucratised state. The ruler had to meet it from his half share. The landlord would not have been burdened with such high cost of supervision and would have been able to make substantial gain even after paying one sixth of the produce as tax. [Many modern scholars have criticised Kautilyan Arthasastra as having adopted methods and steps that were exploitative of workers and peasants. Their remarks need to be discarded as propelled by ideological affiliations rather than by objectivity.]
Landlords vis-a-vis Kshudrakas
Many of the landlords belonged to the patriciate or were on its threshold. A landlord would have after meeting his sharecroppers’ claims and paying the tax got nearly one third of the produce as his share. This was in addition to the rent paid to him by the sharecropper. The Kshudraka who personally cultivated his small piece of land had to pay one sixth of the produce as tax and bear the expenses on hire and inputs. He could collect nearly seventy percent of the produce (though comparatively less) as his share. But the landlord who had larger holdings could earn more though it was only one third of the total produce. The king let out his lands to sharecroppers but did not gain as much as the landlords did. Why then did the state maintain this costly department of agriculture? [State monopoly was not attempted as it was not economically advantageous or administratively feasible.]
State intervention to stabilise the market
The produce on the king’s lands had to be sold at a price that would stabilise the market and prevent profiteering by private traders and ensure increasing returns to the producer. This was the raison d’tre for state intervention in economy. Kautilya demanded that all goods should be brought to the market-centres for sale by auction. Sale at production-centres, of even the king’s goods, was banned. The Kautilyan state through its public distribution system protected the interests of the weak. The weaker sections among the producers and consumers had to be protected against traders most of whom were profiteers (and not investors or entrepreneurs).
The market price of the grains could not have been far more than what the private producers, the farmers, demanded. The producer who invested his capital on his own land demanded a price four to five times the cost of labour when he paid wages in cash instead of in kind. [We would draw attention of the economists to this aspect. The Indian agricultural system had not undergone much change for several centuries since the Vedic times. Some modern scholars have failed to present a credible outline of this system as they have been carried away by the Marxist and British colonial interpretations that it was a feudal system that thrived on rapacity rather than on sanity.]
Protection of the interests of the Agricultural Producers
All other components of the cost of protection were unreal. Land, bullocks, implements, seeds, manure, well etc. that were used were the assets of the farmer. Though he claimed that he was getting only one third of his produce as his gain after paying the taxes and wages, the farmer was in fact getting more than one half of the produce. His servants were getting only one fifth of the produce as wages.
The state was aware of this and demanded that the price that it fixed should be the norm to be followed by the traders. The latter bought the grains at this price whether from the landlords or from the farmers or from the tenants or from the sharecroppers and sold them to the non-agriculturist consumers. If the bureau kept high its price for the royal (state) goods brought from the personal lands of the ruler (rajan or svami) to the market, both the labourers (dasas) and the sharecroppers (ardha-sitikas) employed by it would also benefit as their wages and value of share increased proportionately while the bureau did not sustain loss. They were the partners of the state in production. At the same time, all the producers including the agricultural labourers stood to gain. This approach treated the agricultural workers as part of the producer syntax.
The wages (which were paid in kind) kept the workers at a level above bare subsistence but lower than wasteful consumption. It was a need-based economy. It had to be planned and regulated and not allowed to be at the mercy of the traders (now euphemistically called market forces). Consumerism is desire-based economy and is against Hindu ethos, which calls for overcoming desires and for fulfilling the needs of all. Needs are limited while desires have no limits. Cost of agricultural production was about forty percent of the market value of the produce. Social progress required that wages should increase in proportion to the market value of the produce.
If the wages increased while the prices plummeted, it would be dysfunctional to the economy leading to wasteful consumption. Agricultural wages have to be kept free of consumer price indices, which guide wages of other workers. Sharecroppers and agricultural workers are paid in kind as grains while other workers are paid in cash. Nearly sixty percent of the gross agricultural produce would have reached the market.
In other words, the agrarian sector had about forty percent of the population as workers, tillers, tenants, sharecroppers, peasants and landlords and their dependants. They consumed forty percent of the gains produced. This proportion has remained almost unaltered for several centuries. (Not all who reside in rural areas are to be included in this agrarian population.) It meant that nearly sixty percent of the population of the integrated janapada stayed outside the villages and bought their grains at the market centres.
Why strict control over the market
This realisation governed Kautilyan policy and led to the tightening of the control of the state over the market. Free market means withdrawal of state protection to the weak and the destruction of the state by nullifying the raison dtre for its existence. The Kautilyan janapada was aimed at a population of about three million villagers being called upon to meet their own food requirements and those of about three hundred thousand townspeople and of about three million engaged in the organised as well as unorganised industrial and service sectors in the pastoral, forest, mountain and riverine tracts. It was ideal demography.
The state had to tackle the food needs of this frontier economy and also of the pastoral people and the urban population of the core society. Agricultural production had to be increased to meet the requirements of the entire integrated janapada. This called for more attention to irrigation. [It is regretted that the Indian scholars of the 20th century have overlooked this factor that gave direction to Kautilyan reforms.]
Irrigation and the Integrated Janapada
The landlords and the sharecroppers had to pay for the water supplied from the state-controlled water resources. As the quantum of the produce increased with more lands brought under cultivation, twenty to twenty-five percent of the value of the produce was assessed as water charges due to the state. [This is not to be viewed as anti-agriculturist. Only the beneficiaries among the producers were required to bear the cost of irrigation and they did pass on the burden to the consumers while selling the grains in the market showing this amount as part of cost production. The state was not to be punished nor the non-consumers.]
Of course, for lands dependent on only rains, there would be no water charges. Peasants and share-croppers, whose lands received good rains, would have been better off than those in the dry areas. Kautilya had shifted most of the villagers from the riverbanks to the interior. The state took over their lands on the riverbanks and released them for horticulture and fish breeding. Most peasants had to depend on canals, tanks and wells and they had to pay high water charges. They could not use the waters of the streams and rivers and they protested but it was in vain.
The Bureau of Agriculture was in charge of construction of dams, reservoirs, canals, and tanks and transport of water to the fields. It had to recover its investment in irrigation and also meet the cost of maintenance of the irrigation network. It had to pay royalty to the residents of the forests and mountains through whose terrain the rivers flowed. Their concurrence had to be taken for the construction of dams and canals. The prescribed water charges covered this royalty also. [Many modern critics of Kautilya have overlooked this aspect.]
For some lands, the water charges were minimal. The agriculturist families who were shifted to newly irrigated lands had to not only pay water charges but also undergo the pangs of resettlement. [Land reforms are not new.] Land reforms led to rationalisation of the size of holdings. This must have led to near-uniform earnings for the workers, sharecroppers and small peasant and a ban on absentee landlords.
The Bureau of Agriculture discouraged cultivation of sugarcane, and encouraged cultivation of cotton and jute besides grains and pulses. Wetlands were not to be diverted from grains. There was a definite push to the interior and there was an attempt to bring more lands under cotton cultivation. (Economists to note) [It is unsound and diversionary to interpret this push as an attempt by Aryans to deprive the natives of their soil.]
The Arthasastra cites a couplet, which describes how to deal with the Sarpas who posed a threat to the cultivators. They are to be smoked out by burning cottonseeds, it says. The Nagas and Sarpas were not serpents; nor were they illiterate or uncivilised tribes. They constituted the proletariat of the non-agrarian industrial economy of the forests, mountains, mines and rivers. It is not advisable to treat them as ethnically or linguistically different from the Aryas and as victims of Aryan conquest. The Sarpas (the lower ranks of this proletariat) who moved from one place to another in search of jobs blocked the felling of trees by rural entrepreneurs. The latter wanted to bring new areas under cultivation, especially for cotton. The term, sarpagraha, implies controller of sarpas, mobile forest workers and not snake-charmers. (The version sarpagraha is preferred to samahara which brings the duties of the samaharta into picture.)
The chequered move to integrate the two societies
Attempts were being made to integrate the Nagas (who were architects controlling the quarries and elephant-infested teak forests and diamond mines) and the Sarpas (who controlled the deep mines and the bamboo forests) with the core society that was engaged in agriculture, pasture and trade. The bamboo-forests were being pulled down to get houses built for the villagers and to make way for cultivation of cotton. This led to conflicts between the commoners and the forest workers. These groups were to be integrated in the new economy of the reconstructed janapada on mutually acceptable terms.
The dynamics of this movement have to be appreciated in the historical context of the times of Parikshit and Janamejaya. We have to keep aside prejudices and commitments to ideologies which many recent writings on Arthasastra exhibit and discontinue adherence to invalid irrational postulates advanced by the western Indologists. Parikshit who took over power soon after the Battle of Kurukshetra violated the terms of the agreement by which the workers of the forests and mines consented to be subjects of the integrated janapada. This led to his being poisoned to death. Kashyapa’s disciples ended the foolish campaign of Janamejaya to exterminate the incensed Sarpas.
Both Kashyapa and Janamejaya were deemed to have been connected with the famous political and educational centre, Takshasila whose architect Takshaka (a carpenter) had killed Parikshit. Dhrtarashtra who was the overlord stationed at Hastinapura till Parikshit took over was an architect, Naga. (Takshasila structures were wooden while those of Hastinapura were of stone.) He enjoyed the support of Kashyapa, the author of this couplet. Dhrtarashtra and Takshaka were chieftains belonging to the Naga and Sarpa industrial sector of the later Vedic society and were not serpents. Kashyapa appreciated both these chieftains.
Cultivation of cotton and denuding of forests
The Arthasastra mentions a chant that was to be recited while sowing seeds. The farmers saluted Prajapati Kashyapa and the Deva (noble) to whom they belonged and prayed to Devi Sita for the success of the sowing operations and for prosperity. Kashyapa was associated with Manu Vaivasvata as the head of his council of seven sages. He appreciated the performance of Prthu, the agriculturist king. The above salutation must have become a practice in Rama’s territories as in Videha to which Sita belonged.
Sita meant the furrow made by the plough. It referred to agriculture in general. Were the forests of the peninsula felled down and brought under cotton cultivation? Nala-Damayanti episode of this period involved burning of forests and resistance by the enraged sarpas. The two had to flee almost naked, and charred. Damayanti was a princess of Vidarbha while Nala was a former serf of the prince of Sindhudvipa. Development, extension and diversification of agriculture led to denuding of forests, affecting their dwellers and the miners adversely. There would have been a setback to mining but housing and textiles benefited.
Wages in cash and kind
The Bureau of Agriculture regulated the wages of the workers (dasas and karmakaras, servants and artisans) employed in the king’s lands and of the gardeners and cowherds who looked after the cows under his protection. The food requirements of their families were met in kind. In addition, every employee was paid the minimum wage of a pana and a quarter per month. (The wage has remained at this level for several centuries.) This met some of their other needs. The artisans employed for specific work were paid wages in cash in conformity with their work. The state ensured more than subsistence wages for all the agriculturist families and those who rendered tertiary services, as far as the state sector was concerned. Kautilya wanted a strong state and an honest bureaucracy. There was exploitation of the workers when the state was weak and the bureaucracy was corrupt.
The other duties of the chief of the Bureau of Agriculture
The Vedic scholars, and the tapasvis, the scholars who were engaged in strenuous endeavour to create or discover new things and ideas stayed outside the agricultural village. They were free to gather flowers and fruits that had fallen from the trees, if they were engaged in projects sanctioned by the house of nobles. [These have later come to be interpreted as worship of god.]
The grains left behind on the ground after gleaning could be taken by the priests engaged for the first services to be performed after harvest. The harvested grains were to be brought to the threshing floor at the proper time. Nothing was to be left behind on the fields. The granaries had to be tall and airy. The grains were to be protected against depredation and deterioration and against accidental fire. This bureau looked after agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and orchards. But it was not connected with the marketing of the produce. It controlled agriculture in general and the king’s personal lands in particular. It is wrong to presume that the king owned all the lands in his kingdom.
Bureau of Yarns (Sutra) (Bk.2.Ch.23): Women as Spinners
This bureau was in charge of transactions in yarn. Cotton was being cultivated mainly in the private sector. The bureau employed experts in yarn, protective cover, clothes and rope. The department of agriculture controlled cultivation of cotton.
The bureau of yarns controlled spinning and weaving. Spinning industry employed women, mainly widows, spinsters, nuns and crippled women and those who had to render service in lieu of fine. It also provided rehabilitation to the mothers of courtesans, the elderly women servants of the king and the freed women employees of the nobles. [Kautilya undertook the major step of liberation of dasas and dasis.] This bureau was in charge of a major social welfare programme. It bought and marketed the yarn and clothes produced by these women. Spinning was left to the cottage industry, particularly to needy women. Married women who were in charge of their households were not drafted. It was not treated as an additional source of income for the family. The husbands earned for themselves, their wives and children and for their aged parents. But their earnings were not adequate to protect their dependants like their widowed sisters and daughters and unmarried sisters.
Spinning came to the aid of such dependants. [Spinning was not a vocation confined to a particular community.] The wages of the spinners were based on the quantity and quality of the yarn spun by them. For work done on festive days they were paid gifts and honoraria in addition to wages. The rule was “Pay according to work, and no work, no pay”. Spinning was a social welfare and cottage industry. There had to be no exploitation of the helplessness of the needy women. It did not admit men. Spinning and weaving needed the soft touch of the fingers of women.
Weavers as artisans
Weavers were however treated on par with artisans and independent workers. They were to be paid on the basis of output and time consumed. The head of the bureau kept close contact with them. But he was not expected to supervise their work. Artisans were to be recruited for spinning and weaving in the new factories. [This and several other statements in the Arthasastra are bound to throw up the doubt that as in the case of Manusmrti, Kautilyan Arthasastra too was doctored by the British colonial rulers of India. They tried to justify the measures taken by them as being in tune with the economic policy adopted by the ancient politico-economic thinkers like Kautilya.] The village homes were not to become textile production centres. Looms were not to be put up at the residences of the farmers who constituted almost the entire population of the village. Weavers hence had to keep away from villages and later drifted away from the culture of the farmers. But spinners were part of the village.
Physical Distance and Social Distance
The concept of self-sufficient villages with diverse occupations was not found to be a feasible proposition or to be advantageous. The industrial sector proper (whether heavy or light or soft) was removed from the villages. The different sectors of the economy had to stay apart from one another though they were inter-dependent. This physical distance led to formation of exclusive communities (jatis) and to enhanced social distance among them. [This distance was further increased with the industrial policy adopted by the British and other western imperialists in their colonies. It was a negation of the call for social integration effected by Krshna, Kashyapa, Kautilya and other thinkers.]
The communities developed their distinct practices, acharas, in due course of time. There were factories using deerskin and wool. The workers joining them were welcomed with honour due to guests. This bureau was in charge of manufacture of different types of cloth, carpets and covers. The wages of these new workers must have been attractive. They catered to the needs of the elite.
Protection for women workers
Kautilya felt it necessary to meet the need for jobs of those women, who could not move out of their houses (e.g. widows, spinsters, divorcees and the crippled). They needed protection against molestation and exploitation. They were not to be enrolled in the new factories, which had both spindles and looms. Kautilya asks the chief of the bureau to send his own women servants to the houses of these women employees to assist them in preparing the desired type of cloth and for handing over to them cotton and yarn.
Kautilya shifted the textile industry from the towns and villages to the newly set up industrial complexes at Karvatika centres. But the domestic handloom industry was not totally dismantled. It was reserved for women who were socially or physically handicapped. The men weavers and spinners were required to enrol themselves in the new factories. Women too could be employed there but were to be given special protection.
They were allowed to work at home after receiving the raw materials (cotton or yarn) from the officials of the factory and return the finished product.These transactions took place in the morning, after sunrise.The head of the bureau was asked to ensure that his officials did not tease or molest or harass or entice these women. The guilty was liable to be fined (minimum eight panas). For delay in payment of wages and for payment made for work not done, the penalty was high. These textile factories were under state control. Only the domestic spindles and looms were under private ownership.
Textiles as a social welfare industry
It was a social welfare industry and not dole. Nor was it exploitation of needy women. It was an industry set up to assist them to earn their livelihood honourably. It gave refuge to many freed prostitutes and bonded women workers. The woman spinner who received advance wages but failed to hand over the yarn spun was liable to lose her finger-spindle (given free by the department). The spindles would be withdrawn from those guilty of misappropriation or theft and those guilty of absconding from duty.
Rehabilitation of women who had taken to theft or prostitution or vagrancy required strict vigilance to avoid relapse into vices and crime. Control over cottage workers was weak. However factories were under strict supervision. Rope making was supervised directly by the chief of the bureau. He employed tougher men. During the Vedic times they were known as Nagas and they controlled jute, flax and coir industries while those who controlled cotton and wool, spinning and weaving were referred to as sarpas. The Nagas belonged to the frontier economy and were connected with navigation and transport also. This bureau was in charge also of manufacture of bands and straps needed by the troops and by the cart-drivers. It supervised manufacture of protective leather covers. These workers had no place in the agrarian village.
Bureau of Animal Husbandry and Cow-protection (Bk.2-Ch.29)
This bureau was required to follow the rules prescribed with respect to payment to the cowherd in return for maintenance of the king’s cattle, tax on milk produced by private cattle-owners, and share due to the citizens who kept their cattle under state protection and allowed the king to enjoy usufructory benefits. The bureau had to maintain records pertaining to the number and types of animals admitted to the state cattle pens, the number lost and the number perished with reasons thereof, disposal of useless cattle and production of milk and ghee.
The state played a significant and pragmatic role in protection of cattle. It was not guided by sentiments. The cowherd, the milker, the churner and also the gatherer of stray cattle who were employed by the bureau were paid wages in (gold) coins. They enjoyed more respect than the ordinary tillers and peasants. Each cowherd was in charge of a hundred cows and buffaloes. But the cowherds were not allowed any share in the milk lest greed should make them neglect the calves. The sharecropper policy adopted in agriculture helped to increase production of grains but it was dysfunctional in animal husbandry.
Each herd of hundred cows included equally aged cows and milch-cows with calves and also cows weaning calves. Cow-protection included prevention of cow-slaughter. Cow-slaughter, incitement to it, stealing cows and instigation to steal cows invited death penalty. The cattle-owner had to pay eight varakas of ghee and one pana per cow per year as tax. He had to pay ghee worth eight gold coins and one hundred silver panas. The gross income on a herd was assessed at ten times the tax levied.
The owner would have been selling milk and ghee to purchase grains etc for his family. He was free to sell the hide of the deceased cattle.The state took precaution against both wanton and surreptitious cow-slaughter. Yet this permission might have been misused. The cowherd could cast off the diseased and crippled cows and also those cows, which harmed their calves. Perhaps they were siphoned off to the abattoirs to meet the tax for a herd of one hundred cows of which less than half yielded milk.
Many owners sought refuge for their cattle in state pens during invasion by enemies, or by forest tribes. They had to pay one tenth of the milk as charges under the code of protection. It was in addition to the above tax. The bureau kept a register of such cattle under its protection. It was intended to prevent surreptitious sale of cows by corrupt officials. The official had to make good the loss caused by his negligence. (The state had to pay compensation to the citizen who had trusted it with the cattle.) Any employee who tried to replace the king’s cattle (which had special markings and which would have been of high breed) with other cattle was punished (minimum eight panas). The cattle (belonging to the country) recovered from thieves were returned to the owners.
One who recovered the cattle of another country would get half of them, as his share. He should hand over the rest to the state. A cowherd employed by the state had to pay the cost of the animal lost if he failed to report the loss. The cowherds and those in charge of domestic animals (goats, sheep, horses, donkeys and camels) could sell the flesh of the dead animals but should hand over the hides and the bones to the bureau. Cow-slaughter was banned. Eating beef was a different issue! (This concession must have been a later interpolation.)
Bureau of Pasture Lands and Open Lands (Bk.2 Ch.34)
The village and its agricultural lands were open only to those peasants who were assigned to them. The population of the village unlike that of the city was not cosmopolitan. It was insulated against social and cultural influences that other vocational communities and groups could have exercised if free social mobility had become a necessity and been hence resorted to. Interactions between different economic groups took place only at the market centres and they were not too friendly. The agrarian community became increasingly isolated from non-agrarian communities even as it was protected against the machinations of traders.
Endogamy led to strengthening community ties created by common economic occupations, and interests. Every group of ten to twenty villages (samgrahana) had a particular dominant Shudra community, born there. The few Brahman priests, Vaisya traders and Kshatriya officials had to seek marital alliances with their clansmen spread over the district and even beyond it, rather than stay confined to the cluster of villages and its neighbourhood. For, their numbers in the cluster were not adequate to prevent too close an endogamy that would lead to unhealthy inbreeding.
The village was surrounded by a small stretch of pastoral land, which was assigned to specific cattle owners or cowherds, appointed by the state (janapada). Others needed passports to enter it. Trespassers were fined. Aliens were punished more severely. Only authorised persons from even the neighbouring villages could enter the earmarked tract.
The cattle owners enjoyed territorial and social autonomy and they guarded their rights jealously. Some of these lands were full of shrubs and wild trees and some were low-lying marshy areas.They were hideouts for robbers and were infested by wild animals. The bureau was required to cut down the shrubs and level the lands. Of course, these lands could not be converted into agricultural lands.They belonged to the state and not to the cattle owners or to the cowherds. The bureau provided them with wells and springs and brought them under fruit and flower cultivation. Ascetics set up their abodes in these retrieved lands.
Despite this deforestation of the periphery to facilitate pasture the lands were kept green. Ecological equations were not disturbed. The bureau was also in charge of trapping animals and catching birds. The trappers and hunters would have had their residences near the retrieved lands (and not in the agricultural villages) or inside the nearby forests. This physical distance would have led to social distance between the vegetarian villagers and these trappers and hunters who catered to meat-eaters. Incidentally, the permission given for hunting wild animals helped to protect cows and men. These trappers were recognised as citizens (subjects) of the janapada and were required to alert the king (raja) through the officer in charge of this bureau about the movements of the forest-men and unfriendly persons.
The bureau ensured that the workers who were dependent on forest-produce and working inside the forest got whatever they needed for their livelihood. It looked after tanners and guardians of elephants. Forests were pushed back and safe zones were created between the former and the agrarian villages. The residents of the forests did not need to go to the villages and they were not welcome there. This bureau was also in charge of the state highways and it ensured the safety of the cattle, the caravans and the traders using them. It also prevented transport of illicit goods.
Kautilyan Reforms: Industries and Commerce
Forest Resources: Kupya (Bk. 2 Ch. 17)
Forest wealth is not to be exploited indiscriminately. Its main enemies were not agriculturists or cattle grazers but the forest dwellers themselves. The chief of this bureau directed the forest guards to ensure that the produce was brought to the forest store. The forest wealth was not to be consumed by the dwellers or by the workers or sold to traders directly. The state controlled the trade in forest produce even as grains could not be bought directly by the traders from the villagers and were brought to the central warehouse from where it was released for sale at the appropriate time through auction at the market place.The officer in charge of the forest store was also required to erect workshops, which utilised the forest resources (dravya-vana karmanta). He fixed the amounts due from the woodcutters and also prescribed the penalty for violation of the rules. This penalty could be waived in times of distress. There was no resort to slave labour or exploitation of forest workers. [Some Marxist scholars have been unduly eager to establish that Kautilyan state and economy thrived on bonded labour and slavery.]
Duties of the forest officer: flora and fauna
The trees belonged to the forest dwellers and the state purchased the timber it needed from them. There was state monopoly in purchase of forest wealth They could not sell timber or other forest produce secretly to others or refuse to sell them to the state. The Arthasastra lists the different species of reeds, creepers, fibre-plants, plants useful for making ropes, trees, leaves, flowers, herbs, poisons and serpents, insects and animals whose skin and other parts were treated as forest wealth for this purpose. Several industries used these as their raw materials. These had to be brought to the forest store as requisitioned by the officer. [It is not to be concluded that he was engaged in ‘looting’ the forest wealth on behalf of the state.] He was expected to prevent misuse and misappropriation and greedy exploitation of the forest resources.
The forest officer was in charge of storing the metal articles that were manufactured by the forest dwellers and others in the forest factories. [Kautilya did not favour locating industrial units in the midst of the agro-pastoral hinterland. Only the new textile centres which depended on cotton grown on the deforested lands and units producing vegetable oil were situated in these tracts.] The metal goods were made of copper, steel, bronze, iron, tin and vaikrntaka (mica or zinc?). [Kautilyan Arthasastra belonged to a period coeval with the early Savarni Manus when India had already mastered the technology behind manufacture of metals and alloys]
The officer was expected to erect the workshops, ensure their safety and provide the infrastructure and store the raw materials and the finished products. He was however not in charge of manufacture of metal goods. Manufacture was left to private entrepreneurs who invested the capital and had the needed expertise (which knowledge they kept as their professional secret).These manufacturers could not market their products directly. They had to deposit them in the forest store.The state determined when they were to be released for sale.The state was not the producer nor was it consumer of these products. It did not trade in these goods.The producer too was not a trader.
Workshops moved to forests
Charcoal, husk and ashes were not to be left behind in the mines or in the workshops. They had to be deposited in the forest store. They too were useful. Besides, accidental fire had to be prevented and controlled. Most units were moved from place to place, as they were dependent on timber for fuel. The bureau provided storage facilities for vessels made of split bamboo and also of clay and for grass and fuel. The workshops might be located deep inside the forest or just on the outskirts of towns. The bureau was also in charge of parks and sanctuaries meant for deer, cattle, birds, and wild animals. This must have checked poaching.
The forest products were meant mainly for the rich urban consumers. The villagers cultivated their lands, used clay vessels and lived in mud houses and produced the cloth needed. They could buy their other requirements by selling off their surplus grains at the market centres. They would have only marginally depended on wood (for fuel). But the citizens, paura, used carts and chariots and lived in houses, which had stone and brick foundation and wooden superstructure.
Vehicles could be made (by rathakaras) only in the workshops located near or inside the forest. There could be no timber depots or workshops inside the towns. All metal goods had to be imported from the workshops situated inside the forests, which enveloped the mines and ores. Kautilya had shifted all workshops and markets from the towns and kept them as administrative centres. This was a major reform, which most of the modern scholars have failed to note. Archaeologists may take note of this aspect.
Bureau of Ores, Mineral Sources (Akara) (Bk2. Ch.12)
New and old mines
The chief of this bureau was expected to be an expert in geology and metallurgy. He had to know the arts of smelting and of purifying gems (maniraga). If he was but a bureaucrat and not an expert, he was to be assisted by a team of experts in these fields. As in agriculture, in industries too, administration was to be controlled by experts in te field and not by bureaucrats of the general category. Mining was not new. The officer was asked to survey the old mines and locate new ones with the help of workmen who had proper equipment. The marks of dross, crucibles and ash left behind by earlier miners (who operated mainly open pits) would help them to locate the old mines, abandoned without full exploration and exploitation.
The pioneers and entrepreneurs (whether in agriculture or in mining) shifted the places of their operation too rapidly, They were adventurous by temperament, and nomads by nature and also by necessity. New expertise and new implements helped to reopen the old mines. Deep mining had become feasible. Meantime, there could be a temporary setback to mining and industry in general for want of capital, expertise and implements.
The state policy advocated by Usanas had banned private enterprise in mining. The state claimed monopoly over all mines and over all subterranean resources including water. Kautilya amended this policy. The reader should not assume that the agrarian settlements came into existence at a very late stage and that the earliest peoples were nomads and hunters. Such simplistic versions of epochs are misleading. Social and economic progress has been marked by the practice of two steps forward and one step backward. Conquest of nature was not easy.
New mines were opened for tapping resources at all levels, surface, rocks and streams underneath. The potential of these mines had to be assessed through their marked colours, their prestige, stench and flow. It was still an age of empiricism. The age of experimental science had not yet set in. Kautilya prepared the ground for it but it had to await more findings and facilities. [Kautilya’s times were coeval with the events that led to the Battle of Kurukshetra and not as late as 300 BC.] Of importance is the new push towards technologically important ores and mining. Of course, the earlier practice of surface level exploration for costly gems and diamonds continued. The Arthasastra describes how to locate gold, silver, copper and bitumen with reference to subterranean metallic streams and how to operate the quarries and surface level mines for gold, copper and silver.The metal content is much in the heavy ores, the expert is briefed. He is told how to soften them and extract these metals. He is also told how to locate lead, tin, iron and vaikrntaka (mica or zinc?) and identify gem ores.
Mining and Trade in Ores and Minerals
The purified ores had to be deposited in the forest store from where they were issued to the manufacturers of metal-ware. There could be no sale of ores at the mines and there could be no factories near them. Trade in ores was centralised and so too trade in industrial products. Manufacture, sale and purchase outside the prescribed areas were banned. Mines belonged to the state but mining operations were in the private sector. The licensee had to invest capital and employ the necessary skilled and unskilled labour. But he had to hand over all the purified ore to the bureau. A miner who deceived it was fined eight times the value of the stolen ore. It was to be entrepreneurship and not fortune-hunting. Death penalty was imposed for theft of costly gems. The thief and the unlicensed miner were forced to work without wages, if they were unable to pay the heavy fine. Mining was a major source of income to the state. The bureau itself operated the easier mines. But the difficult and more expensive ones were leased out to private entrepreneurs or were operated jointly. The Kautilyan state was pragmatic. In theory, the state owned all mines. No individual or company could be owner of mines. Mining was mixed economy controlled by the state.
Bureau of Metals (Loha) (Bk.2 Ch.12)
Manufacture of metal articles was in the private sector. But the workshops and the infrastructure were provided by the state. The chief of the bureau of metals oversaw the operations of these factories. The operator of the workshop had to hand over all the metal articles produced by it to the chief of this bureau. He received the raw materials required by him from the officer in charge of the forest store. He could not buy them in the open market or directly from the miners. He could not sell the metal goods directly to the consumer. He was a producer and not a trader.The state intervened at every stage to regulate the economy and to prevent profiteering by the producer at the expense of the consumer and the state.
The Economic State and Manufacture of Industrial Goods
It was an economic state responsive to the expectations of the people and responsible for their welfare. [It was not at the mercy of what today is called market economy a euphemism for speculative economy, which thrives on the illusion of enlightened consumer choice. This in fact is deception of the naive consumer.] The state owned the mines and the workshops though they were leased out to the operators. It controlled the sale and purchase of the raw materials and also of the finished goods. The operators could produce only what the state indented. It provided the infrastructure and even the expertise, if possible. It planned what had to be produced and allowed the operators to execute the plan. It intervened when necessary to protect the interests of the producers and the consumers. It was not at the mercy of the investor or the worker or the trader. This policy lped the state to uphold its sovereignty (svamitva) and to perform its role as a social welfare state working for all-round development and progress. Kautilya was pragmatic. Economic state facilitated the success of the social welfare state.
Master of the Mint (Lakshana Adhyaksha) (Bk.2 Ch.12)
Silver coins valued at one pana, half a pana, a quarter pana and one-eighth pana were in circulation. [This tradition must have been older than what scholars in numismatics acknowledge. It has persisted despite alien rule for nearly a millennium. The silver pana with the state emblem and perhaps the profile of the ruler or a deity later came to be called a rupika or rupee.] One-sixteenth of a pana was called a mashaka. It was made of copper. Coins of still lower value were called kakani. They were made of black lead. Minting of state currency was centralised and was under this officer. Gold coins (varaka or suvarna) were minted but were not in circulation. They were kept in the treasury for interstate purposes. [Was this practice in vogue long before the times of Vishnugupta and Chandragupta Maurya, in the times of Kautilya and Parikshit?]
Currency (Panayatra) (Bk.2 Ch.12)
The examiner of coins was in charge of regulating the circulation of coins for trade purposes and for receiving them in the treasury. Economic disputes that were justiciable in a court of law were known as vyavahara. The economic or monetary transactions that were not entertained by the court were known as panya.
There was a standard currency known as karshapana. The traders might have brought in foreign coins or coins issued by autonomous trade organisations like the srenis or by regional (pradesa) administrations. Their values had to be ascertained in terms of the central currency. While exchanging them for central currency or depositing them in the treasury, a conversion charge of eight percent was levied to meet the expenses of the mint. Most of these autonomous bodies minted coins of nearly the same value as the central currency and only the emblems needed alteration.
Currency and the federal structure
108 local panas were equal to 100 central panas. This exchange rate has become part of the Indian trade practice. An additional surcharge of five percent was levied to make up the possible difference (in proportion of silver and copper). The department of trade (panya) appropriated this surcharge to meet its expenses. Karshapana was valued at a pana and a quarter. This would have benefited the treasury by about twelve percent.
Kautilyan Arthasastra gave the central government the authority to mint its coins, to examine, and accept foreign and local currencies. The regions were not debarred from minting their own coins. The introduction of a central currency did not erode their autonomy. The centre and the regions both had their own currencies. This system became permanent and led to the resilience of the Indian currency and Indian economy despite the frequent withering of the central authority. Traders were liable to be fined twenty-five panas (per hundred) for violation of currency rules.
Where coins were paid in local currencies without going through the procedure, a pana and a quarter of the local currency would be equal to one pana as approved by the central government. (Only weight was taken into account.) Private traders had to get their foreign or regional currency exchanged at the state counters as they entered the market-zones where only the state currency was the legal one. The market was not allowed to determine the value of the currency. This check was necessary to prevent circulation of bad coins. The stage of barter trade had been tided over long before the Vedic era to which times Kautilya belonged. It was possible to introduce the central currency system and to succeed in regulating the economy because the state controlled all mines.
The department of ores (kani) was a subsidiary of the department of mines. It handled costly ores, which did not involve deep mining. Conch-shells, pearls, corals, diamonds, gems and natural articles which lost kshara their material and soon steadily were processed at the workshops set up by it. Its chief was empowered to regulate the sale and purchase of the processed ores. These were not industrial ores. The consumers were from the upper classes. The jewellers (other than goldsmiths) must have got their raw materials through this department. The state bureaucracy tried to ensure that the producer-trader nexus did not harm the interests of the state and the consumers. The state had to control access to natural resources.
Department of Salt (Lavana) (Bk. 2 Ch.12)
The central government regulated the activities in salt mines, in salt lakes and in the salty sea. Purifying and crystallizing salt at the proper time was regulated by the state. It intervened in the manufacture and sale of salt, an essential item. The state owned all the salt mines. The salt commissioner fixed the lease amounts, rent, price of salt, inspection charges and surcharge. The lessee had to give to the state the prescribed share.
Most of the janapadas were in the interior and had to import salt from the coastal districts. Very few were dependent on salt lakes and wells. Imported salt was taxed at one-sixth of the cost of production. A five percent surcharge and eight percent mint charges for exchange of currency were payable to the state when the tax was paid in another currency. Tolls were levied on imported salt. [Salt was not free from tax. Was this an interpolation effected during the British rule in an effort to assure Indians that their traditional practices were continued?]
The importer had to bear the loss caused to the state commodities of trade (rajapanya). Disputes on these could not be taken to the court for justice. Imports were made costly. Local produce was kept cheaper and given protection, especially in essential items like salt. Foreign goods cost thirty percent more than local goods. Protectionism is natural and is needed in the interests of the consumers, that is, of the masses. Salt too was covered by this principle. Adulteration of salt invited severe punishment. Only vanaprasthas (elders who had retired to the forests) were allowed to dry up brine and prepare their own salt. They were neither buyers nor sellers of salt. Vedic scholars and hermits were free to take salt from the state go-downs. All other buyers of salt had to pay tolls.
State and Mines
The Bureau of Mines determined the cost of production and the share due to the state. The state claimed one-tenth of the produce where it had not invested capital and up to half the produce where it invested capital and provided the necessary infrastructure also (as in the ardha-sitika pattern in agriculture). Srenis (corporations) and private entrepreneurs invested their own capital and engaged their own labourers. Samghas (workers’ guilds) were like ardha-sitikas. They lacked capital but had the necessary expertise. The bureau fixed surcharge, monopoly tax, penalty, tolls, compensation, coin charge and mint charge. The officials of the bureau had to submit accounts under these different heads while handing over the products to the concerned authorities.
Twelve varieties, six of ore (kani) and six of metals (dhatu) were brought under state monopoly. [The operators were however private investors.] Conch, diamonds, gems, pearls, coral and kshara (?) were the six ores (likely to lose their weight and prestige in due course) and gold, silver, copper, tin, bitumen and vaikrntaka (?) were the six metals. [Steel, brass and bronze were not under state monopoly, it may be inferred. It is likely that when Kautilyan Arthasastra was first drafted these were not in vogue.] The rules governing trade in these twelve items came within the framework of panya (and not of vyavahara) and disputes on these were not justiciable in court. These rules were intended to protect these ores and costly metals from the vagaries of the market.
Importance of Mines for Political Power
Mines enriched the treasury. They were the main sources of central revenue, not the taxes, which were meant to meet the expenditure on protection of property and life and on administration. Political power (danda) emanates (prajaya) from the treasury (kosa), Kautilya points out. Political and military power depends on the economic power of the state. A weak economy will lead to a weak army and poor administration. Gaining of economic and political power is possible only with control over mines, the basis of industrial economy. The state has to own the mines, not only of costly ores and metals, but also of iron, lead etc. and regulate and control their operations. Prthvi, the social world of agro-pastoral commonalty engaged in economic activities, is acquired through economic power and military power. No government can afford to overlook this dictum. [It is not sound to interpret that prthvi means the entire world.] The army alone is not adequate to gain control over the entire inhabited country (prthvi). The prestige of a country and its ruler depended on its treasury. Hence the state monopolised the mines, the most important of the non-renewable natural resources.
Warehouse (Koshtagraha) (Bk.2 Ch.15)
The central warehouse was intended to stabilise the market in addition to meeting the needs of the officials and the army. This bureau had to maintain records of grains etc. under different heads. What was produced on the king’s lands (svabhumi) and sent to the warehouse by the bureau of agriculture constituted a major portion of its receipt. An equally important source was the rural hinterland, rashtra. Its independent peasants contributed grains under various heads. [This analysis pertains to the times when the rural areas were referred to as rashtra and the concept, janapada, had not replaced it.]
Tax in kind
Collections from the rural hinteland, rashtra, were classified in four categories, pindakara, shadbhaga, senabhaktam and bali. Since very early times the people paid a tax in the form of voluntary sacrifice, to indicate their indebtedness to the ruling elite and their ancestors. It was known as pindakara. A fistful of rice was given away every day. It was collected and sent to the warehouse.
One-sixth of the grains produced by the peasants belonged to the state as its share. It was called shadbhaga. The local officials collected this share (later called, kara), soon after the harvest and sent it to the warehouse. Agriculturists and others who used the services of the troops to protect their property were required to make contributions in return. This was known as wages for troops, senabhaktam. [The Vaivasvata state withdrew this tax; shadbhaga covered protection money.]
In some areas the practice of paying tribute, bali, persisted. It was banned after Vamana exiled the feudal overlord, Bali, and replaced bali by kara. (Incidentally after Bali vacated Janasthana it was occupied by Kara, Ravana’s general.) It is not to be presumed that every peasant had to pay all these types of agricultural taxes. The four types were in vogue separately in different parts of the mega-state. Kautilya, following the provisions of the Vaivasvata constitution made shadbhaga the common pattern of tax to be paid by all who sought state protection for their lives, property and economic activities. Only those persons who paid taxes were given political franchise.
Kara, tax, was a token amount collected from all landlords and even sharecroppers working on the king’s lands. It could not be waived even in times of distress. It was intended to assert the king’s sovereignty over the land. The minor heads were known as utsanga (a lap, a little more than the amount due that the taxpayer was induced to part with) and parsva (the first handful). Some amount was collected for loss in transport etc. The officers had to account for these. Agriculturists who wanted space to store their grains in the warehouse had to pay storage charge.
Duties of the Chief of the Warehouse
The chief of this bureau fixed the purchase price of the grains. He looked after the disposal of the stocks, recovered the loans given, maintained records of stocks borrowed from others and stocks returned. He was in charge of barter trade in grains. He fixed the wages of the workers employed to pound grains, to split pulses, to fry, to ferment, to grind, to press for oil and to extract kshara. Some farmers might have provided the services of their own employees in lieu of taxes. He had to keep records of their services and also of compensation collected for loss in the above operations. There were losses during distribution of goods and also on account of diseases to the grains after they had reached the warehouse. He had to note these as written off and show the balance on hand. Differences on account of weights and measures, hand filling, husk left behind, surcharge for services rendered etc. had to be recorded. The recoveries made were to be kept on record. The different types of grains, pulses etc. kept in the warehouse and the proportions are specified in the records.
The requirements of the animals maintained by the state are then listed. Charcoal and husk were to be sent to the smithies to be used for plastering walls. Broken grains were given to servants (dasas) as wages and to broth-makers. Other items should be sold to the hotels. The bureau maintained records of different types of tools needed and categories of employees using them. How to store the goods is described in. Bureaucracy could not bypass the rules and regulations prescribed.
Directorate of Trade (Panya) (Bk.2 Ch.16)
Traditional science of occupations (varta) (outlined by Brhaspati) dealt with agriculture, animal husbandry and trade (vanijya). Industrial economy was being looked after by the frontier society of the forests and mountains. Kautilya brought it under the jurisdiction of the enlarged janapada. The mines occupied a crucial place in the integrated economy.
Arthasastra divides trade (vanijya) into two sections, panya and vyavahara. All property deals are governed by civil law (vyavahara) and are justiciable in a court of law. All cash transactions are governed by money (panya) and are based on bargain and on demand and supply. They are not justiciable in court. Vyavahara covers rights of ownership and succession, deposits and pledges. Trade proper, Panya, was under a separate bureau.
Vikshepa and Samkshepa; Distribution and Stocking
The director of this bureau (of panya) was expected to be conversant with the prices of different commodities and of different qualities and the demand or absence of it for these and whether they arrived at the market by water route or by land route. He determined the proper time for distribution of a commodity and that for withdrawing it from the market and stocking it. He had to be fully conversant with the demand and supply mechanism. He was in charge of control over purchase and sale of all consumer goods.
He controlled the marketing of grains, pulses, oils etc. stocked in the warehouse and of the goods in the forest go-down. Any given commodity is available in abundance and hence cheap only at a particular time of the year.The state intervened to purchase it then and store it and raise its price. It was not an attempt by the state to deceive the producer or the consumer. It was intended to prevent distress sale by the producers, especially of perishable goods.True, the state stood to gain.
But its object was to halt the bearish trend, which harmed the producers and benefited only the private stockists. The state prevented the unscrupulous wholesalers from making profit at the cost of the producers and the consumers, as well. It controlled the economy and did not allow the big merchants to overwhelm it. As the market stabilised at the price offered by the state to the producers and the wholesalers agreed to pay the same price and there was no danger of the traders colluding to the disadvantage of the state and the producers, the directorate offered a higher price for the commodity. The state protected the producers and the consumers against manoeuvres by traders. The cost of the goods is directly connected with the purchasing power of the consumers.
State Trade (Rajapanya) (Bk.2 Ch.16)
Trade in state goods (rajapanya), which were produced on the ruler’s personal lands was centralised (ekamukham) by civil law (vyavahara) while trade in goods produced on the lands of others was decentralised (anekamukham). Law prohibited the traders from competing with the state (king) as far as the state goods were concerned. (Economists may note.) It also called for competition among traders with respect to other goods. 'Parabhumi' included the lands of the private citizens within the country and also the lands in the countries of other rulers whether they were sovereign rulers or were his vassals. A correct appreciation of this policy is called for.
While keeping down the consumer prices, it protected the interests of the state. It prevented formation of cartels and monopoly tactics by traders. The intention was to benefit the consumers. The state did not monopolise trade in consumer goods and neither did it withdraw from the market. The state produce, the share of the state in private produce and the produce purchased by the state were intended to keep the consumer price in check, but without loss to the state. The state permitted private trade but not monopoly in trade. It was not a helpless bystander or a tool in the hands of the traders. Economic policy is linked to human nature which is the same everywhere and during all times. It outwits stereotypes like outmoded and modern, conservative and radical. [It is not proper to conclude that as this economic policy was put in the mouth of Kautilya to defend the policies adopted by the British Government on the basis of the 19th century British economists.]
State not a profiteer
The traders had to keep the prices down. They were prevented from creating scarcity even as they were prevented from forcing the producers to resort to distress sale. The state sold its goods at concessional rates despite the huge expenditure incurred by its bureaucratic machinery. It was not a profiteer. This policy was intended to benefit the subjects by selling the state goods at concessional rates and by promoting competition among traders. [This has been the traditional policy of social welfare states.]
The denial to the state of the right to extend support to the producers and concessions to the consumers and its yielding to the assertion by the traders of their right to determine market trends without state intervention would have been a challenge to the sovereignty of the state and been against the principles and science of political economy, Arthasastra. It is equal to asking the state to commit harakiri. The Kautilyan economic state did not yield to the machinations of the mercantile class. It stood by the producers and the consumers. It bore the expenditure on bureaucracy and did not pass it on to the consumer.
State as regulator of consumer prices
The price offered to the producer was stated to be the consumer price as far as the state produce was concerned. The sharecropper was a co-producer. There was a similar practice in industries too. The state, as a trader, followed the ‘no profit, no loss’ policy. Of course, the private traders must have resented it. The Kautilyan economic state was a social welfare state and not a capitalist state which is an exploitative state. It had to protect the small fish from the big sharks. Even where the state could make profit by keeping out competition from traders, it was called upon to refrain from making profit.
The state had to purchase the products in such a way that it benefited the producers by giving them steadily increasing returns and by protecting them against distress sale. Commodities in constant demand should be always available. The blemishes of the policy of stocking (which was intended to benefit the producers) should not be allowed to harm the consumers.
The king's goods were sold through small traders at different places. It was not necessary that they should be sold at state-run shops directly to the consumers. These traders might sell these royal goods at fixed prices for a small commission. The consumer price would have been only marginally higher than the cost of production incurred by the state. These retailers, vaidehakas were not organised chambers of commerce or wholesalers who had the facility to stock goods and who were the main challengers to the state. Kautilya encouraged the lower ranks of the trading class who were not members of organised groups. The surcharge collected from them was one-eleventh of the cost of production. This vyaji was the profit allowed to the state as the producer. If a trader got an equal amount for his services, it may be presumed that the consumer price would have been more than the cost of production by twenty percent.
In this process, the wholesaler is kept out. It may be noted that a private trader selling goods produced by entrepreneurs was required to hand over one-tenth of his merchandise to the state as tax. He could not have made a profit of more than ten percent on consumer goods after tax. He had to compete with the vaidehakas who enjoyed state patronage. The retailer was not out of business. Kautilyan state promoted the interests of the smaller producers and smaller traders who did not belong to organised bodies.
Components of Consumer Price
If a margin of five percent is allowed to cover the trader’s expenses, the consumer would have paid 125 panas on a state commodity (rajapanya), which included 25 panas as wages of workers, 30 panas as return on investment, 25 panas as cost of inputs, 10 panas as rent, 10 panas hire charge for tools, 10 panas as profit in lieu of tax, 10 panas as trader’s commission and 5 panas as his expenses. Many critics of Arthasastra have failed to bring out this picture of the components of the consumer price. The retailers were not required to go through the grill of auction that characterised market operations.
State trade did not displace private trade but held the latter under reins. Goods produced on private lands were not discriminated against. [It is wrong to translate the term, parabhumi as foreign land.] These producers too were given concessions. Concessions were given to those producers who brought goods from afar (but not from abroad) by boats or by caravans.
Foreign Traders vs Local Traders
No sale was permitted outside the market centre. Some traders were foreigners. No lawsuit, which had political implications, could be entertained against foreign traders. But this charter of exemption from vyavahara rules and regulations was not extended to foreign traders who were members or associates of a local trade body. Only a genuine foreign trader who brought in the goods included in the list of permitted imports was given immunity and not foreign collaborators of local importers. Imports were not totally banned even as exports were not. The Kautilyan state did not protect traders. [Some Marxists are seen to have suppressed this aspect of Kautilyan political economy.]
Protection was needed for the producer and the consumer against the trader, whether local or foreign. Local traders were asked to face competition from the foreign traders. Imports were allowed not for meeting local needs but for maintaining good relations with other states. Imports meet the fancies of the elite and not the basic needs of the masses. The Kautilyan state was on guard against seduction of its people by other rulers. Import policy had to take into account this factor.
The Bureau and Trade in State Goods
Employees in charge of trade in state goods had to deposit the entire sale proceeds for the day with a statement of accounts. They were not entitled to any commission. They had to sell at the prescribed rates (which included their wages). But in trade with non-consumers, the chief of the bureau was free to determine the price and value of the goods bartered. He took into account the cost of tools, road cess, escort charges, ferry charges, transport expenses etc. and the share in profit due to the seller and the buyer. This was with reference to the agent engaged by the chief to sell the goods. Should such transactions prove unprofitable to the state, he should take into account the final advantage in entering the transaction (that is, the non-monetary considerations of the polity).
Some times the shorter water route might be rejected as being unsafe and the longer land route preferred for transporting goods. [Many rivers had no bridges.] The director could use his discretion while establishing transaction with trading concerns. The state was not totally debarred from becoming a party to a trade dispute that was justiciable in a court of law though its domineering position in the economy was being compromised by the surrender of its right to be the sole arbiter in disputes. The economic state cannot be as sovereign as an autocratic political state can be.
Not more than one-fourth of the state goods (what had been taken into the central warehouse, whether produced on the king’s lands or on those of others) could be traded off for considerations other than economic benefits. The entire economy of the state could not be placed at the mercy of the third parties, whether internal or external. The state had to get the favour of the powerful chiefs of the border areas and also of forest areas and even of the administrators and representative bodies of the city and the rural areas. This was necessary to ensure safe passage for its costly goods sold to outsiders in exchange for other goods of high value. Such transactions were risky. After these goods were taken to their destination, the officer in charge of foreign trade should enter into transactions in the presence of these chiefs who would safeguard the interests of the state.
Bureaucracy was not skilled in inter-state barter trade of a delicate nature. Before entering into such transactions, the officer had to pay all the taxes due to the concerned autonomous local port authority or foreign country lest the latter impounded the goods for violation of its rules. The state could forgo the taxes due to it but could not get its own imports and exports exempted from local taxes. The port rules had to be honoured. In riverine merchandise, the officer might trade only if it was profitable and not risky.
Bureau of Tolls (Sulka) and Market (Bk.2 Ch.21)
Each cluster of ten villages (samgrahana) had a market centre. Toll-gates were set up at the main entrances to the market. The eastern and northern gates were meant for entry and the western and southern for exit. All details about the traders entering the market and the goods brought by them were to be recorded at the entrance gates and duly stamped entrance passes issued. Goods brought in without a pass or with forged or mutilated stamps were fined heavily. Both the quantity and the price of the goods brought in had to be declared at the entrance. It was presumed to be the minimum price at which the producer-trader was prepared to part with them. Under invoicing was punishable.
The goods had to be sold by auction. The highest bidder had to buy them. The difference between the minimum price quoted by the seller (producer) and the higher price offered by the buyer (consumer) went to the state. There were no brokers. It was hence not in the interest of the producer to understate the quantity or overstate the quality of his goods. The toll amount collected by the state was used to maintain the market centre.
It was not necessary for one to sell at a loss. Any such sale became suspect. Auction prevented profiteering by the producer-seller. Any attempt to cheat the officers on tolls, prices or quantities invited heavy fines. If a bidder deliberately raised the price to deter his rivals, the amount by which the price was increased went to the state. Besides, the duty on the increased amount was doubled. The bidders were deterred so that the genuine producers and consumers were protected.
Competitive economy called for supervision by the state to contain exploitation by traders. The guilty officer had to pay eight times the value of the gain lost by the state. Smuggling goods past the toll-gate without paying the prescribed tolls was severely punished. The producer-seller had to include the toll payable in the minimum price quoted by him. It was refunded if he could not sell his goods. Concessions and exemptions in tolls were allowed on goods brought in for marriage, bridal and other gifts and religious rituals. But for false declaration, penalty equal to one for theft was levied. The goods were confiscated and an equal amount (of toll) was levied as fine. So too tampering with passes was penalised severely.
Border-posts: Imports and Exports
There were tollgates at the borders of the janapada. Near them, there were special market centres for inter-state and inter-janapada trade. (The mega-state had five janapadas under its control.) Weapons, armours, coats of mail, jewels, metals, chariots, grains and cattle were not to be exported. Any attempt to smuggle them out led to their confiscation and heavy fine. If a trader brought in any of these items from outside the state, it had to be sold outside the market centre at the border. It was exempt from tolls. It was a silent approval given to clandestine import of valuable goods. The state was, officially, not a party to this illicit trade. But every state has abetted such trade.
The officer in charge of the frontier region had the power to charge road cess of a pana and a quarter per cartload of goods and one sixteenth of a pana per shoulder-load. He had to ensure the safety of the traders and their goods and cattle passing through his area. He had to compensate the goods lost or stolen en route.
He had to examine the caravans arriving from other countries and send them to the nearby market centre with an identity pass. Secret agents (especially of the cadre of vaidehakas) communicated to the king (raja) directly about the arrival of these caravans. The king informed the officer in charge of the market (who was not subordinate to the officer in charge of the frontier) whether the entry of the caravans was permitted or not. (This prevented collusion between the antapala, governor of the border area and the chiefs of the caravans.) Only after the receipt of the king’s permission, he could allow them to unload their goods for sale. The traders from abroad were told that the duties levied were as per state rules and that the king's decision was final. The officer had no power to exempt or reduce or enhance the duties. No transactions with foreign traders could be made without the knowledge and specific permission of the head of the state.
There could be no arbitrator for assessing the value of or determining the admissibility of the foreign goods brought in for sale. There were no inter-state conventions or covenants with respect to consumer goods. They were being sold by private traders of one country to those of another and were hence liable to be taxed heavily. Every one of the fifty states of the sub-continent was expected to follow this policy. [Such trade was not inter-state or international trade of the modern times.Economists to note] If a trader concealed goods of low value, the penalty was eight times the already high import duty. The costlier goods were confiscated if they were not declared correctly. Imports were costly and evasion of custom duty was risky. The state discouraged import of useless goods and goods harmful to the country. Goods, which were highly beneficial to the country like rare seeds were allowed duty-free.
Tariff-Sulka Vyavahara (Bk.2Ch.22)
The goods arriving at the market centre were classified as coming from the rural hinterland, or from the industrial centres or from the autonomous regions under the king’s suzerainty. The officer had to similarly note their destination too. The taxes varied according to where the goods came from and which area they were being taken to. Commodities were taxed not while under production or while leaving the production centre (farm or forest or factory) but while entering the market centre. [There was no excise duty.] The entry tax was maximum one-fifth of the value of the goods declared by the producer-seller. It was based on the cost of production (which included wages, cost of inputs, hire charges, rent, interest on investment, profit expected and tax payable on profit). In the final analysis the entry tax was transferred to the consumer-buyer. Entry tax included ten percent of the cost of the produce as income tax, which all traders had to pay on their merchandise. One-fifth of the value of the goods as such tax was too heavy for the consumers.
They were given concessions on several items. (a) On perishable goods (e.g. fish, meat, vegetables, roots and flowers) which did not involve high labour cost, the entry tax was one-sixth of the price declared. (b) On luxury items (e.g. conch, gems, diamonds, necklaces of corals and pearls), neutral experts were called in to assess the value before levying the duty. The cost of raw materials was known to the state as it controlled all mines. The experts had to determine the cost of expertise and time consumed. (c) On quazi-luxury items (e.g. silk yarn and silk cloth, armours, vermilion, sandalwood and spices) where there was no steady demand, the duty was one-tenth of the value declared or only one-fifteenth. (d) Metal goods and ores were taxed less and so too, wool and leather. Thus the main industrial sector of consumer goods got substantial concessions. (e) On essential items like grains, salt, sugar, oil, cooked food, honey, medicines, cotton yarn and cloth, animals and birds, wood and bamboo, barks, earthenware etc. the duty was only four to five percent. Only those who indulged in conspicuous consumption were taxed heavily. Meat eating and fish eating were made costly for the urban consumers. The villagers were ordinarily vegetarians. The industrial workers had to buy their (cheap) grains at the market. The entry-tax was not more than one-fifth of the cost declared.
But the state gave concessions on the basis of the benefit which the country or region (desa) derived from the import of particular goods. Dvaradeyam (entry tax) was applicable to traders arriving at the market centres on the border of the janapada or desa. Income to the exchequer was not the sole or even the main criterion that determined tariffs and import policy. Sale of goods at the places of their origin or production was banned. For taking away metals from mines, the penalty was six times the cost. On flowers and fruits, it was 54 percent and on vegetables and roots it was less. So too on grains taken away from the fields the penalty was fairly high. While levying duties, the practices of the communities and regions were respected.
Economic Laws : Vyavahara: Interest (Bk.3 Ch. 11)
Banking of modern types was not present during Kautilyan times. But lending money was common and there were individuals who accepted deposits and pledges and lent money to the needy. Lending money did suffer social opprobrium and it invited regulation by the state. Kautilya prescribed a pana and a quarter per month per hundred as the rate of interest for non-commercial purposes. This rate was considered to be just and lawful, dharmya. No court entertained any application against this reasonable rate. (Most of the deals were entered into orally and written records were not kept.) The creditor was free to accept less but it was assumed that he had accepted interest at this rate (that is, 15 percent per annum) when he was taxed (10 percent on his income).
When a trade transaction was involved, that is, where the loan was used for purchase of commodities, animals, etc. the commercial rate of interest (vyavaharikam) was substantially higher. It was fixed at 5 percent per month for trade by land routes, 10 percent by forest routes and 20 percent by sea routes. The risk factor was taken into account. Charging interest above these prescribed limits was punished. The state stood guarantee for the recovery of the loan and accorded protection to the traders and their commodities. The expenses incurred by the state guard accompanying the caravans were collected from both the traders and their creditors.
When the king did not guarantee the security of the loans and the trade commodities, the rates of interest as commonly followed (charitra) by creditors and debtors (dhanika and dharanika) would be valid. (Dharma, vyavahara, charitra and rajasasana were treated as the four bases of civil law.) The judges had to take into account the three situations, non-commercial borrowals, state-protected trade and trade not protected by the state, dharmya, vyavahara and charitra. The state is seen to have reduced the risk factor and controlled the rate of interest. The better the security guaranteed by the state to trade, the less the rate of interest would be. Kautilyan state was able to provide this.
There has been considerable confusion in interpreting the statement 3-11-4. Agricultural credit was an important issue. Cultivators borrowed grains for sowing and undertook to return them after harvest. The yield was normally ten times what was sown. The state had ruled that the lender could not ask for more than 50% of what he had lent, as interest. [It is not sound to interpret that the lender of the seeds could collect half of the harvest as his share. Such interpretation led to fleecing the cultivators during the British rule over India. The 19th and early 20th century editors of the Dharmasastras and Arthasastras were required to incorporate in them clauses that were in tune with the laws that the colonial rulers approved so that the latter might claim that they had not violated the assurance given that the peoples of India would be governed in accordance with their own codes.]
The lender got about 10% per month as interest and it was almost double the rate prescribed for trade along safe land routes. The cultivator would lose all when there was drought or flood. Hence the creditor expected his risk to be covered by this unduly high rate of interest. He demanded that the loan should not be written off and the interest should not be waived. The interest was added to the principal and interest at the same rate on the enhanced principal was collected after the harvest. The peasant was bled but not by the state.
Trader vis-a-vis moneylender
The trader in grains who borrowed money to purchase his stocks from the cultivator had to pay half of his profit at the end of the year as interest to the lender. The trader would get a profit of more than 60% (and after tax not more than 50%). The moneylender would thus have claimed an interest of about 25% as investor in this trade. This was deemed justified and as not casting too tough a burden on the consumer. Of course trade in imported goods brought the trader double the amount as profit. Imported goods were costlier than local goods.
In a single transaction, the trader got a profit of 5% on local goods, and up to 10% on imported goods. Annually there would have been ten to twelve turnovers utilizing the principal that was borrowed from the moneylender (called financier nowadays). Profit and interest are two sides of the same coin. Both the trader and his creditor had to grapple with risk and seek state protection. The Kautilyan economic state gave them protection but imposed severe conditions. Eonomic laws as followed by the extant Arthasastra were in tune with many of the rules prescribed by the British government since the latter 19th century and both differed from the ones followed between 1100 AD and 1780 AD. They were not feudalistic in note.
State Policy and Usury
Kautilya holds both the creditor and the debtor responsible for the evil of usury. While he ensures that the heirs of the deceased debtor repay the loans, he protects the debtor against harassment by the usurers. He protects the cultivators and the government servants against being caught hold of by the creditors during the agricultural operations or while on duty. The debtor had to be given a fair chance to survive and repay the debt incurred by him through folly or out of necessity. This policy is seen in the rules governing debts and also those governing pledges.
Not only instruments of production but even houses and lands were being pledged. Kautilya was anxious to protect the holders of agricultural lands and prevent the moneylenders from becoming virtual owners of the estate through shrewd lending to credulous owners. But he recognized the beneficial role of moneylenders in providing the capital needed for trade and for production. The state stepped in to check the ravages of usury.
Vyavahara, economic dispute, had its origin in debt, according to Manusmrti. A debt situation means unequal relations between the two individuals, creditor and debtor. When the debtor is engaged in a prolonged sacrifice (which required parting with what one had earned to the needy) and is hence not engaged in any remunerative work, interest cannot accrue for that period. Similarly, when he is detained for study and service in his teacher’s house, he is exempt from interest. In other words, loans intended to meet the expenses on a religious sacrifice or on education were to be given free of interest. [It is not to be interpreted that the Brahman scholars introduced these clauses to protect their class, which was required to be engaged in studies and performance of sacrifices.] The diseased, the too poor and the minors shall not be called upon to pay interest. Interest accrues only when the credit is used for gaining wealth. [Modern jurists have overlooked these social aspects while dealing with interest on credit.] After specifying the just rates of interest and regulating the modes of debt collection, Kautilya deals with their social implications.
Creditor vs. Debtor
If the creditor wantonly neglects collection of the debt for ten years, he is not eligible to get it back. But if he had overlooked to help the minor or the old or the sick debtor, his claim would stay. So too, when he had helped the debtor to tide over the strains during a period of distress or if the debtor had gone on a journey, the creditors claim did not fail. If the creditor had not been able to recover the amount lent because the debtor had left the country or because of disorder in the kingdom, his claim continued to be valid. But the total interest wherever due could not exceed the principal.
Sons of a deceased debtor had to repay the principal with interest as they inherited not only their father’s assets but also his liabilities. If kinsmen (dayadas) claim his property, in the absence of sons, they are treated as co-parceners in his financial undertakings and become responsible for the repayment of the loans to his creditor. And his co-debtors and sureties too are liable to repay the loan with interest. Of course minors could not be cited as sureties. A debtor cannot be sued for more than one debt at a time. If the debtor intends to leave the region, being overwhelmed by loss of social status, he has to pay the debts either in the order in which he has incurred them or first pay his debts to the state (king, raja) and then to the Vedic scholars (srotriyas) before repaying the loan taken from the professional moneylenders. [When was this clause introduced?]
If the creditor enters into a bond with an individual who is not free to operate independent of his joint-family, he does so at his own risk. Such a debt cannot be recovered from the other members of the family. Normally, a wife is not responsible for the debts incurred by her husband while a husband is responsible for the debts incurred by the wife. If a husband flees abandoning his wife to the mercy of his creditors, he is liable to be punished.
Among herdsmen and sharecroppers, the husband and wife owned the property jointly. Hence if the husband contracted a debt, it could be recovered from the wife. The loan had been used for a joint venture in these cases. Many modern scholars are seen to have overlooked this aspect of the role and rights of the wives in the agro-pastoral sectors and applied to all the classes the same rules as applicable to the ruling class of Kshatriyas and the educated class of Brahmans. [The procedure for examining witnesses and determining their competence is then described.]
Deposits (Bk 3 Ch.12)
The rules governing debts are applicable to deposits also. The depositor is akin to a creditor and the depository to a debtor. As we pass from debts to deposits, we enter the realm of commerce proper. Banking required an atmosphere of peace, security and confidence. An individual may agree to protect the articles deposited with him. But if invasion of the primary state (durga-rashtra) by an external chakra, confederation of states, leads to its being looted or if forest men raid it or if a village or a caravan or a herd is plundered by brigands or if the protective union, the confederation of which it is a member, collapses, or if the boat had been sunk or plundered by pirates, the depository is not liable to return the deposit.
In the case of durga-rashtra pattern, the king was stationed in the fort and protected the people around it. This pattern preceded the durga-janapada system introduced by Kautilya. In the latter the janapada was autonomous and depended on the central state army only for limited purposes. There was no insurance against loss of property on account of war, robbery, piracy, fire and floods. The state stood guarantee only for goods by specified land or forest or water routes. It did not stand guarantee for goods deposited with private bankers. The chakra alliance itself was weak and not all units in the union (yuktam) were willing to ensure the traders even the normal protection. [Most commentators have failed to notice this shortcoming of the confederation and also of the existence of rival confederations.] The king could ensure protection only within his primary state (durga-rashtra) and not beyond its borders even if he was a member of a chakra, confederation.
The property deposited with an authorized individual (banker) is not to be treated as property loaned. The depository is not eligible to use it for his own purpose during the period it is in his custody. He is responsible for its safe return to the depositor. Deposit indicates trust in the depository. If he belies that trust by mortgaging or selling or losing it, he is punished severely. He has to pay four times its value to the depositor and five times its value to the state as fine (danda). But it is not property borrowed by him. Hence his heirs cannot be required to pay the value of that deposit.
The relationship between the depositor and the approved depository is not merely contractual as one between a creditor and a debtor. It is one of trust guaranteed by the state. While the debt situation involves two families at the most, the deposit situation involves two individuals and the state. Since faith in the judgment of the latter in recognizing the credentials of the banker is shattered when he fails to return the deposit, the punishment is severe. It is a deterrent against fraud and negligence by the depositories. Banking can flourish only as trust and confidence develop. In the absence of a strong government and rule of law, internal banking cannot succeed. Kautilya envisaged inter-state banking within the confederation (chakra) through mutual agreements among its members.
Pledges (Bk.3 Ch.12)
When articles are pledged to the moneylender, it has got the traits of a debt situation in addition to trust or lack of it. Here all the regulations required for deposits feature and some more. A usufructory pledge shall never be lost to the debtor. As G.N. Jha points out Narada Smrti too found it necessary to enumerate which pledges could not be lost. According to Kautilya, an unproductive pledge can be lost for it gives an unfair advantage to the debtor.
Interest cannot be charged if the creditor uses the pledge and can be charged if he does not use it or if he cannot use it. Kautilya deals with the situation where the value of the pledge deteriorates to the disadvantage of the pledgee. He provides for a public reassessment of its value. The banker can do so only when the Dharmastha, the civil judge permits. Kautilyan provisions are more thorough than those noticed in the Smrtis. Such reassessment had to be made under the supervision of the controller of deposits and by experts. The controller could even sell the pledge by auction and in the presence of the pledger if the latter failed to redeem it.
The banker was required to ensure that the value of the pledge did not deteriorate.The pledgee had to get tilled the land pledged to him even if the pledger did not provide labour, cattle and tools. The state tried to protect the quality of the land. The pledgee is warned against indifference to the usufruct and also against rash exploitation of the land and cattle pledged. In the case of non-usufructory pledge, exploitation in violation of the contract will lead to the forfeiture of the loan advanced and of the profits extracted by the pledgee. Kautilya’s directive reversed the Brhaspati tradition (science of economic occupations, varta) which favoured the banker.
Banking and Agency System
Adesa is payment through orders. The banker accepts the deposit at one town and orders his agent at another to make the payment. The depository is held to be personally responsible for the fulfillment of the conditions of the transaction. If his courier does not reach his destination or is robbed by highwaymen, he cannot be proceeded against nor his agent at the destination. The depositor may proceed against the depository in the civil court. The banking system was not more advanced than what this picture presents.
Kautilya was anxious that the bankers should not use the agency to defraud the depositors.They were not under a central bank functioning as a clearing-house. By Kautilya’s times, that is, by the Mahabharata times, banking had grown beyond infancy but had not yet attained adulthood. Bankers of different towns functioned as agents of one another while the travelling merchants functioned as couriers of valuable goods and pay orders.
Depositor and Depository (Bk.3 Ch.12)
Kautilya protects the interests of both the parties. He distinguishes between an open deposit and a sealed deposit whose contents and value are not known to the depository. The former could be handed over to the depository through an agent. The latter had no witnesses to the contents. What would be the position if the depository denied having received the contents? Since the depositories ordinarily belonged to influential families, only the character and social status of the depositor could weigh as evidences in the court against the depository. If the former happened to be an artisan, ordinarily the verdict went against him as artisans were considered to be of impure character (descent). But Kautilya would not accept that the depository was necessarily honest and that the artisan-depositor was dishonest.
The social laws (dharma) pertaining to sealed deposits had not provided for prior assessment of the contents of the deposit. There was provision only for open delivery at request. Kautilya was not in favour of the emphasis placed by the bankers on secrecy in transactions for it worked against the depositors. The latter should guard their interests through witnesses and by secret marks. These witnesses could not attest any deed but could depose and be examined when produced in court. Kautilya introduced a major shift in judicial proceedings.
Till Kautilya's times the practice worked in favour of the depository, with the onus of proof cast on the depositor. Kautilya argues that the depositor may be even an ascetic or a pious person and that the depository need not be always believed. It was of first importance to inquire and ascertain how the property in dispute came under one’s possession. The judges had to examine all the circumstances connected with the transaction. Emphasis was not on the relative social statuses of the plaintiff and the respondent but on the economic capabilities (arthasamarthyam) of the plaintiff. He had to establish that he was a respectable citizen and had rightfully earned the property claimed by him as having been deposited with the banker.
Kautilya ended trial by ordeal and prevented malpractice, which the rich bankers resorted to. All transactions had to be in the open and in the presence of witnesses and all deeds should specify place, time, quantity and quality of the goods deposited or pledged. All transactions were based on the principle of equality of status (between the two parties) in the eyes of law (mithasamavaya).
The Judiciary-- Status
In the Kautilyan scheme, the judiciary was independent of the executive. We pointed out how four administrative services were created on the basis of the findings in the four tests, dharma, artha, kama and bhaya. The pious and incorruptible among the candidates who passed the dharma test were taken into the judiciary as dharmasthas. Those persons who passed the artha test of reducing expenses and increasing gains were appointed as amatyas. Those persons who passed the kama test and were free from temptations of pleasure were appointed to fields pertaining to arts and entertainment, in vihars. Those persons who proved to be fearless were appointed in the embassies and in security services.
The amatyas manned the treasury and the bureaucracy. The third cadre who passed the test of kama was associated with the paura-janapada and the fourth who were unafraid, with the king and the army and also the mitra, friendly states. Only those few who had passed all the four tests and were experienced in all the four services could be appointed as ministers, mantris. [Most of the commentators have failed to grasp this aspect that distinguished between the two cadres, mantris and amatyas.]
These ministers had more power than these four services did. The cabinet of ministers was superior to the judiciary. But it ranked lower than the triumvirate, the King, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister. This triumvirate was not part of the executive. It laid down the policy of the state. But none of the three, the cabinet, the executive and the judiciary had the power to legislate.
Only the sabha, the house of nobles and the samiti, the council of scholars and senior citizens could legislate. Even the king (rajan) could not legislate though he was the head of the state and was duly elected by the college of Rajanyas to that post and had secured the approval of the sabha and the samiti. He was its chief executive but he was not a judge. [A ruler who was the head of the state and also the head of the judiciary was addressed as Maharaja.] Though the Kautilyan king and his cabinet of ministers were superior to the judiciary they could not dictate terms to it. This position had emerged soon after the Prthu constitution (as incorporated in the Manusmrti) came into force. It followed the recommendations of Manu Vaivasvata and Kashyapa. This constitution made emergence of autocracy impossible. [Kautilya did not follow all the provisions of the Prthu constitution. He differed from Manusmrti too.]
Courts: Location (Bk.3. Ch.1)
Administration of justice required coordination between the two services, the judiciary and the executive. Later codes asserted the superiority of dharma over artha, of the judiciary that defined and defended ethics over the executive that dealt with pursuit of material interests. Kautilya held artha to be more important than the other social values, as fulfilment of the pursuit of the objectives of dharma and kama depended on it for financial resources. Yet he consented to place the judiciary on par with the executive. The bench had three dharmasthas (members of the judiciary) and three amatyas (senior members of the executive) on it. Some may hesitate to grant it the status of an independent judiciary. But even in modern democracies, the head of the government decides who are to be selected as judges. (An independent judiciary is an ideal but not a reality.)
There were three levels of courts, the lowest located at the rural centres, the middle at the county level and the higher at the district headquarters. They were manned by (dharmasthas of the three ranks, lower, middle and higher. [There were no panchayats, five member juries. These came into existence far later, after middle 19th century AD.] The Kautilyan mega-state had many autonomous provinces, with each province divided into four districts. Inter-janapada disputes were settled by special courts located on the junctions between janapadas, at janapada-samdhis. The senior among the judges must have sat on these benches. They were required to arbitrate where customs and practices among desas, regions, differed.
It does not seem that one could appeal to the court at the centre against the verdict given by the rural court or to the district court against the lower courts on routine litigation. We should not consider this absence of the right to appeal as a blemish. Every bench functioned within its recognized jurisdiction. [Manusmrti seems to have treated the king as the appellate authority.] There were no advocates. Plaintiffs and respondents put forth their cases by themselves. There was a bench but no bar. (Is a bar necessary?) These civil courts did not deal with crimes though they were empowered to penalize those found guilty in economic transactions. Only disputes of an economic nature came up before them. They had a vast jurisdiction though they did not try cases on heresy and murder, treason and revolt.
The Kautilyan king did not have original or even appellate powers, though he was an upholder of dharma, dharmapravartaka. [It is misleading to translate dharma as justice.] The king was not a judge though he might announce the verdicts as given by the court and though he might preside over its proceedings.
Panya and Vyavahara
It is necessary to distinguish between panya and vyavahara, cash purchase and sale, and legal transactions. The former was regulated by trade rules prescribed by the bureaus and was not justiciable. The latter were governed by the provisions of civil law. Wages and prices depended on the ability to bargain. Demand and supply theorems determined these. The state intervened to protect both the producer and the consumer in vyavahara. The court handled all disputes about property. In cash transactions, no third party was involved. In the disputes in such transactions, the state was not an arbitrator though it regulated the economy. It only outlined the economic policy. The actions of the officials could not be challenged in a court of law. But all other matters pertaining to assets and liabilities, families and communities, were governed by civil law.
Transactions Valid vs Invalid
All transactions concluded in the absence of one of the parties concerned, or inside a house or at night or in the forest or by fraud or in secret were invalid. A person participating in an invalid transaction or instigating it was liable to be punished. The minimum penalty was 48 to 96 panas (as prescribed for robbery, sahasa). Every witness to an invalid transaction was fined half that amount. But there could be alleviating circumstances.
The court had to be reasonable and not too rigid. Its discretionary powers were limited. It had to first ascertain the validity of the transaction. One must be a free citizen and not dependent on others if he has to enter into a transaction. One dependent on his father or on his sons or on his elder brother is not competent to enter a transaction. Similarly a woman who is dependent on her husband or her son is incompetent to do so. [It may be inferred that sonless widows, spinsters and divorcees were not debarred from entering into economic transactions. Not all adults among men were held to be competent. A proper appreciation of women’s rights is called for. Baseless adulation and unwarranted and biased vilification of the ancient Indian codes are unwise.] A dasa, a servant who was not a free citizen (Arya) and who could not disobey his master was not competent to enter into a deal. In other words, he cannot be given the power of attorney.
This was also intended to prevent coercion and exploitation of the helpless servant by his master. Sometimes a family pledged one of its members to the moneylender. Such a pledged member was in the status of a dasa. He was not competent to enter into legal transactions. Similarly minors and the very old, monks and convicts, the crippled and beggars were all debarred from being parties to economic transactions. Law protected the weak against exploitation. It is perverse to argue that it was invariably partial to the rich or to the higher classes or to men. Manusmrti too needs to be appraised correctly and not adulated blindly or vilified on the basis of preconceived notions.
The court had to ascertain, whether every party to the deal was competent to enter into it. It should however be not too rigid. Though technically incompetent, one might have been authorized by his family to transact business on his own or on behalf of others. This authorization (for instance of a wife by her husband) had to be honoured. Precaution was taken to ensure that deeds entered into in fits of rage or in sheer despair or by the insane or under intoxication were not validated. Deeds had to be entered into only by the competent and freely, consciously and wisely. Patently foolish and dishonest transactions were struck down. The documents had to fulfill all the formalities prescribed.
The latest will or deed shall be held to be authoritative and as superseding the earlier ones. While the last will is valid, the wishes of a dying person need not be honoured. If he pledged or sold any property at that stage it would not be a valid transaction. The pledger must be in a position to redeem the pledge. This proviso prevented the success of the unscrupulous elements. The deeds were valid only if all the parties involved belonged to the same category or class (varga). Every class had its own set of rules pertaining to vocation, marriage, succession etc. Any transaction involving members of different communities and classes was likely to generate friction in due course, requiring elaborate discussions and acceptable verdicts. Narada and other later Smrtis, dharmasastras were not agreed on how to avoid these frictions.
The Court Procedure (3-1-34 to 37)
Modern Indian jurists have written a lot on the rules mentioned in AS 3-1-17 to 33. It is not necessary to dwell on them again here. It is necessary to reconsider 34 and 35. Shama Sastri interprets these rules as: If the plaintiff fails to substantiate his case against a diseased defendant, he shall pay a fine and perform work (like a slave) under the orders of the defendant, as determined by witnesses. If he proves his case, he may be permitted to take possession of the property hypothecated to him. Kangle translates differently: The statement of a witness who dies or suffers from misfortune is without value. The successful (plaintiff) may, after paying the fine, make (a poor defendant) work for him or the defendant may keep a pledge, if he so desires.
The divergence between the two interpretations has to be reconciled. Both the editors have gone off the track and favoured the rich moneylenders. The intent was to reject the case, which cited a dead or an incompetent person as a witness. The witness must be alive and available and be able to stand the strain of examination (which often involved tough ordeals) by a court. If the case is tried without taking into account the stand of the absent (whether dead or alive) or the incompetent witness, whoever of the two, plaintiff and defendant, fails will be punished. He will be awarded simple imprisonment with labour as punishment. The successful party will take the property in dispute. There is no intent to make one party work under the other. Kautilyan judicial practices were not as elaborate as the later Smrtis were. But they were not primitive or crude or arbitrary. They were rational. The guilty may be discharged on bail given by a pious person. Kautilya did not favour imprisonment for it was not economically beneficial.
Dharmarajya vis–a vis Artharajya
Social Welfare State and Economic State
The king, rajan, was not the owner of all the lands of the country that he ruled. A head of the state who flaunted the designation, svami, was deemed to be the owner of all the lands. Those who lived in and worked on the lands were doing so only under his pleasure and leave and none could challenge his rights whether he was a resident or not. The Svami claimed sovereign rights but a Rajan or a Prajapati could not. Of course many sovereigns had to compromise with the claim that every son of the soil was a sovereign of the piece of land where he lived and which he exploited for his livelihood. These claimants were called bhusvamis. Bhrgu’s Manusmrti and Kautilyan Arthasastra did not accept this claim. But they accepted that charismatic heads of states could have sovereign rights in interstate polity.
Bhishma’s counsel on Rajadharma was meant to make Yudhishtira pragmatic, rather than idealistic in his policies in the administration of the state. Bhishma held Pracetas Manu, author of an Arthasastra text in esteem. Manavas who were followers of Pracetas Manu as well as Manu Svayambhuva claimed that they had opted to follow varnasrama dharma which called for enrolling oneself in one of the four classes which gave him a definitive position in the social order and the right to reside in any territory whose ruler did not curb his right to practise his vocation in accordance with high social, political, economic and cultural values and in tune with his innate trait and aptitude.
This called for liberal states that did not close their doors to the citizens of the world (manavas) who would in return assure the ruler that they would do nothing that would harm his interests. The king was not a sovereign. He was a protector and governor of those who paid the tax at the prescribed rate.
Yudhishtira was against taxation as it was a form of coercion and was for the state extending protection to the life and property of every individual whether he was a member of a native settled community or not and was a tax-payer or contributed or not. He could not accept Bhishma’s political theorems which called for a strong state.
Yudhishtira wanted the ruler to depend on voluntary donations and be a donor of all the donations received. This was the characteristic of the ideal ritual of sacrifice offered to the governing elite who returned to their benefactors whatever they had been given. This modification in the unwritten contract between the nobles and the commoners was suggested by Krshna while extending the provisions of the varnasrama scheme originally meant for the commoners to the nobles, the middle class of free men and those in the social periphery. Krshna too like Yudhishtira did not envisage a tax regime. But he did not advocate a soft state. Neither Manusmrti nor Arthasastra accepted the concept of a tax-free regime.
The elite leisure class was withering and its duties were being taken over by the sagacious king, Rajarshi and his political guide and alter ego, Rajapurohita. The classes of Brahmans (scholars and jurists) and Kshatriyas (warriors and administrators) were formed from the pious cadres of the free middle class of gandharvas and the commonalty, manushyas, were constituted into two classes of Vaisyas (owners of property) and Shudras (workers who had no property). The duties these classes were expected to perform were defined by Bhishma and Krshna and were adopted by both Manava Dharmasastra and Kautilyan Arthasastra.
All the four socio-political thinkers, Krshna, Bhishma, Bhrgu and Kautilya were aware that the liberal cultural aristocracy was withering despite efforts to replenish it by granting the upper stratum of the bourgeoisie especially the landlords and the intelligentsia the status of nobles. Krshna deplored that the distinction between the liberal aristocrats and the covetous plutocrats was vanishing and so too the one between these two and the feudal lords who were parading themselves as ruling elite, rajanyas, superior to kshatriyas. Krshna had intended to nominate Arjuna as his next in command leading a group of social missionaries but Arjuna did not come to his expectations.
Bhishma guided Yudhishtira to become an effective Dharmaraja but the latter had to retire as victory in battle was not adequate to make one eligible to become the ruler of a country. All the four thinkers, Bhishma, Krshna, Bhrgu and Kautilya dealt with the theme of Dharmavijayi, one who became a victor by adopting purely righteous methods. Only Arthasastra dealt with use of economic power in gaining political power. Kautilya redefined the concept of might, bala. He recommended the concept of three powers, sakti. Unlike Usanas (Sukra) he did not accept the claim that the mighty had the right to rule and that the weak should obey them in their own interest. The conqueror should retreat after ensuring that the conquered territory was able to function effectively as an independent state. It could not be a colony or protectorate for long. The constitution did not permit ceding or annexing any territory. The political demography had to remain unchanged. However no territory was an ethnic unit.
Kautilya distinguished among the three powers, saktis, which were aids in gaining political power. Prabhusakti meant strength gained from extending one’s political jurisdiction to areas beyond the boundaries of his land and being recognized as ‘prabhu’. A bhupati administered the demarcated land, ‘bhu’. A ‘vibhu’ made periodical incursions into neighbouring areas without bringing them under his control. Inherent strength of the army and economy is needed by a ruler to gain the status of a ‘prabhu’. Mantrasakti emanated from the high caliber of the ministers and the value of the counsel given by them. The enthusiasm shown by the people of his country and his ability to inspire them is called utsahasakti.
Kautilya did not advocate imperialism and colonialism. However he described more effectively than the other thinkers how to build an empire using all the three types of power. One who went on conquest to appropriate the lands and wealth of his opponents was known as lobhavijayi (greedy conqueror) or arthavijayi (a conqueror who aimed at economic benefits). It was colonialism and economic imperialism. One who destroyed the lands and property of his victims and let loose terror was called an asuravijayi.
Bhishma and Kautilya and other socio-political thinkers had no objection to conquest per se as long as it was within the framework of justice. The cause must be a just one and the success of the conqueror should help the people of the conquered country have a better ruler from among its ruling elite and not one imposed on them against their wishes. Conquest resulted in increase in the influence of the conqueror in the comity of states while it had to ensure for the people of the defeated ruler a better government. After installing a leader to the liking of the people as the new head of the state the conqueror should withdraw.
The conquered territory was not to be converted into a colony. Every territory should be enabled to have a state constitution of its choice. Kautilya added that the conquered people would continue to have the same laws and value systems as they had earlier. Conquest for proselytizing the defeated people was never envisaged. Dharmavijaya was not victory of one religion over another or one religious community over another. Wars meant to impose one’s religion on another are not called dharmavijaya. Only a victory in war following the rules of war-games meant to liberate a people from despotism is entitled to be called dharmavijaya.
All these socio=political thinkers recognized that wars would take place as every ruler was eager to defend his land, wealth, property and prestige. They wanted to ensure that loss of life was kept to the minimum. Wars were between kings and not between peoples. The standing army and even the militia were meant only for defence. For conquests the king should raise his own troops and pay them from his personal wealth as Prthu was told. It was not a state conquering another state but the head of a state settling scores with the head of another state or establishing his superiority over the other. The territorial jurisdiction of a state remained unchanged whether it continued to be independent or not. Even barren and uninhabited lands could not be attached by the victor.
Mahadeva constitution and Manusmrti provided for small trained troops from communities accustomed to taking part in battles. The Atharvan practice of drafting new troops from the commonalty and involving the residents of the forests and mountains accustomed to facing danger was given up. The elite were not entitled to have personal troops. Only the troops from the forests and mountains were allowed to retain their weapons. Others had to surrender them to the civilian authority so that none could use them to browbeat or frighten the commoners and the civil society. Parasurama disbanded the troops of several countries and asked the feuding chieftains to settle their disputes through personal duels or through dice. This however left the states weak and in effect led to the people becoming stateless society, anarchist. Since anarchism led to anarchy his move was objected to and he was exiled.
No socio-political thinker whether he gave primacy to social laws or to economic laws, to dharma or to artha recommended a state without an army. Bhishma however following Indra, the author of Bahudantakam distinguished between Kshatradharma and Kshatradharma, troops meant for externalizing the innate trait and urge to be aggressive and warriors who felt it their duty to sacrifice their lives in defence of others. In principle only those who had inherited the urge to exhibit their superior physical strength were recognized as Kshatriyas and given the respect and privileges they were accustomed to enjoy. Else they might turn into lawless brigands. However most of the society remained unarmed and motivated to show the spirit of non-violence. Hindu state has been non-aggressive and Hindu society non-violent.
Generals like Sakra Indra whose protégé the highly esteemed emperor, Mamdhata was and Bhishma, the Kuru statesman-general and socio-political thinker endorsed this arrangement though they demanded that economic power and political power emanating from a rich treasury and a strong army respectively should be given equal importance while forming a ministry and running the administration. Kautilya endorsed this stand but Bhrgu’s Manava Dharmasastra did not.
Bhishma provided in the eight-member central cabinet three members dealing with political affairs, including defence and external relations and five with economic affairs. Bhishma was for a stable state rather than for an empire. But Kautilya envisaged a dual-confederation of fifty small states. Svetasvatara Upanishad called it Brahmachakra. Though aware of the possibility of such a large confederation emerging Bhishma and Bhrgu did not dwell much on this scheme. Krshna was for a small stable social welfare state rather than for large empires established through conquest which he held was indicative of greed and arrogance. Kautilya too was for small viable and integrated autonomous states which emphasized both social welfare measures and economic progress.
Bhrgu’s Manava Dharmasastra following the Vaivasvata-Prthu constitutions recommended creation of small, self-reliant social welfare states and almost ruled out the need for establishing a federation or confederation of such states. This direction has characterized Hindu states down the ages. They were basically agro-pastoral states whose rulers were satisfied with them functioning as peaceful economically viable states attending to the welfare of their native populations and with permanent laws and institutions of justice. Prthu constitution recommended the formation of agro-pastoral states. But Prthu’s counsellor, Sanatkumara, wanted them not to neglect industries.
Maintenance of internal law and order and protection from brigands were the prime concern of these decentralized states and their troops functioned as police and frontier guards rather than as troops trained for large-scale wars and big battles. Needless to say that this political orientation made these states unable to defend themselves against powerful conquerors and internal revolts caused by inadequacies in regulating the economic system. These states and their rulers were always on the edge. Bhrgu and even Bhishma did not envisage major social, economic and administrative reforms. Bhrgu’s outline of Rajadharma in Manava Dharmasastra provided for flexibility, but not Bhishma’s Rajadharma as expounded to Yudhishtira.
To recapitulate, Vedic Polity provided for two houses of legislature and a cabinet of eight officials who looked after administration, law and order, defence and economy. It was essentially an agro-pastoral economy and the working class had to surrender half of the produce to the leisure class of ruling elite and share much of the remaining produce with other socio-economic sectors. The king who was elected by his peers as the head of the state had no control over either of the two socio-economic sectors, agro-pastoral and industrial.
The Vedic era also witnessed emergence of the federal state with the capital directly under the Viraj and the surrounding four districts under powerful chieftains, rajans. The Viraj was elected by a large college comprising all the heads of the families, both husbands and wives. He was assisted by the chief of the people, Prajapati who was the eldest among the elders and convened the two houses, sabha and samiti, house of nobles and house of elders and intellectuals and looked after legislative measures. Prajapati was assisted by Aditi, an elderly pious lady who supervised the work of the eight members of the executive and social issues and personal culture pertaining to ethics. By the end of the Vedic era, the posts-of Viraj and Aditi were discounted and the Prajapati who was elected by and who had the confidence of the people especially of the retired heads of the families became the head of the small predominantly rural agro-pastoral nation-state.
During the neo-Vedic era, the house of nobles was democratized and became a replica of the bourgeoisie, the upper stratum of the largely agro-pastoral commonalty. The Prajapati headed the nation-state, the legislatures, the executive and the judiciary. He had great authority and influence but was not authoritarian. The influence of the nobles, the sages and the elders in administration of the small, viable state began to increase.
During the early post-Vedic period the post of the Prajapati too lost its relevance. The Rajarshi, a sagacious and assertive and trained ruler became the head of the state and its executive. He was nominated by a committee of three persons, the outgoing Rajarshi, the Rajapurohita and the Prime Minister from among the candidates recommended by the head of the state academy.
During the Upanishad period these academies trained their students for both the executive and the judiciary. The trainee could opt for either on the basis of his aptitude and self-assessment. The retiring king, Rajarshi could become the Rajapurohita, political guide, if the new incumbent agreed. It was meritocracy.
The Rajarshi was head of the executive and the Rajapurohita was his political guide. The thirty-three member democratized house of nobles was in position and had a big voice in determining the policy of the state. Of course, the other house of intelligentsia and elders who represented the commonalty had an equal voice in policy-making. The policy so determined had to be implemented by the executive. With administration decentralized the eight-member executive looked after only the affairs of the commonalty leaving the elite to continue its way of life without being interfered with by any official. The house of nobles became the court of appeal while maintenance of law and order and the civil judiciary were looked after by the rural bureaucracy.
Even a sagacious Rajarshi had to abide by the counsel given by his council of ministers. This council had members not all of whom thought alike. They belonged to different schools of thought. If all or most of them refused to accept his views and ways of functioning and if he did not fall in line he could be interdicted and he had to step down though his suggestions were more sagacious than those of his larger council of ministers, secretaries of state and chairmen of bureaus.
The Rajarshi had the right and duty to select his ministers from among the senior bureaucrats. He had to consult his political guide and the Prime Minister while doing so. He could not appoint anyone from outside the trained bureaucracy. Since these bureaucrats knew intimately the needs, views and aspirations of the people of their state and were not outsiders he should honour their counsel. Though a wise head of the state he could not but act on their advice. Of course he had to quit if all the members of the larger council found him functioning in an arbitrary manner.
If he was flexible and honoured their views though he did not agree with those of the majority of the members of the larger council of cabinet ministers, secretaries of state and heads of the autonomous departments but did not overrule them he could continue to be accepted as the head of the state.
Some of the departments were directly under the Rajarshi and some were under amatyas attached to these departments. The Rajarshi had to trust them but should supervise their work. It was a mega-state and it was not possible to personally control all the departments. At the same time these amatyas were not as free as the members of the cabinet were to take decisions. The Rajarshi was not an ornamental head of the state. He was not an autocrat and was not a feudal lord. He evoked respect but not fear or awe. But this respect was not merely response to charisma.
Since the members of the cabinet had earlier functioned as bureaucrats, they could be expected to function efficiently and go by the rules book. But it was not government by bureaucracy with the Rajarshi functioning as an ornamental head of the state without any executive duties. He was not merely a social counsellor. He was participative head of the larger executive of which he too headed some departments. The Rajarshi was more than a friend, philosopher and guide.
The Rajarshi was not the head of the legislature. If the state did not have the two houses of legislature, one representing the cultural elite and the other the commonalty, no fresh legislation was possible. As he was not the head of the judiciary and as he was not the court of appeal with the advantage of a written constitution or laws framed under it and as there was no central judiciary the clans and communities and economic organizations had to depend on earlier precedents and the views of the elders who headed them. He was however respected for his scholarship, valuable counsel and impartiality. He was far different from the aggressive uncivilized and uncultured chieftains, rajans who were but feudal lords.
Prthu reintroduced the Rajarshi constitution. It validated all the existing social, economic and political legislations existing then in the states under his aegis. While protecting them he had to ensure that they were linked. This was positive secularism where no particular dharma, social value was imposed on others. There was socio-cultural integration as well as unity despite diversity. In the absence of an unalterable socio-political constitution, Brahma, these legislations, Dharmas, had been envisaged, by rulers and sages to meet the particular requirements of their times and regions. They were not inflexible and there were vast differences in their purposes. It was given to the Rajarshi under the Prthu constitution to function as a link between the different dharmas, without arriving at personal judgments about their values, principles and efficacy. The Rajarshi functioning under the guidance of the scholar, Pracetas had a significant role to play in meting out justice to the satisfaction of the contending parties and the elders on the basis of precedents.
Dharmarajya accepted that all the existing practices were valid and even if some of them were unreasonable no practice or value system should be declared as invalid. All the existing laws, dharmas, were equally valid and all of them should be protected. In the Prthu constitution, Pracetas was subordinate to the king and looked after home affairs. In the Kautilyan constitution, the Rajapurohita ranked higher than the Rajarshi. In the Dharmaraja constitution advocated by Narada and followed by Yudhishtira, the head of the state, Dharmaraja had to follow the advice given by the Purohita.
This approach recommended by Samkara, a socio-political thinker of the Rudra school of thought during the neo-Vedic era and his admirer, Krshna during the later Vedic period was followed by Pracetas, author of an Arthasastra text and contributor to Bhrgu’s version of Manava Dharmasastra. Krshna who had taken over the administration of a state which was earlier under a feudal warlord, Bali, guaranteed that all the existing practices would be respected and protected. These practices had been outlined by Usanas in his work, Dandaniti but its author did not hesitate to distort them to please his political masters.
Manava Dharmasastra edited by Bhrgu however envisaged four social options which superseded the inflexible Vedic system of prescriptions and proscriptions. It provided prescription of certain value systems, permission to follow some others closer to these, preference for one or some amongst those prescribed or permitted and proscription of some as antisocial. It would not however be as liberal as Krshna’s who refused to sit on judgment on what among the extant dharmas was to be followed. Krshna permitted all value systems, dharmas but after choosing one of them one should not give it up and choose another. Following such chosen values and line of duty, Svadharma was made imperative and opting for that of others, Paradharma was perilous, he warned. Others are free to choose the ones they prefer. But neither they nor the former has the right to condemn the other systems and values as undesirable Bhrgu’s Manava Dharmasastra and Pracetas’s Arthasastra were not so outspoken but did not reject Krshna’s liberalism.
Freedom of thought and freedom of expression, as honoured by modern constitutions and judiciaries are concepts undermining extant social systems and values. Evangelism and proselytizing are not to be given freedom to flourish under the guise of freedom of expression and freedom of thought. They impose paradharma and undermine svadharma. They have already exterminated several cultures and civilizations that had been flourishing in their respective areas. The followers of these cultures have been denied the right to follow their value systems by the very people who clamour for the uninhibited right and unlimited scope to preach their values and impose them on others. Evangelists are not to be entitled to the right to question other religions and their practices and impose their religions and value systems openly or indirectly or subtly or under subterfuge on others. To be fair the systems that have been suppressed need to be revived and made available under the scheme of four-fold options. This is neither conversion nor reconversion.
Dharmarajya is not a theocratic state, nor does it give prominence to any particular religion. It holds that any society as any state should give importance to moral values which no social or religious group does or can afford to deride. Of course there are individuals who are detractors and deny ethics and morality any importance in holding the society together and keeping the state away from paths that lead ultimately to self-destruction. Most states have fallen and most dynasties have ceased to survive because they neglected these values. Civilizations too have failed for this reason.
Dharma calls for adherence to truth and non-violence, compassion for and liberal aid to the poor, self-denial instead of self-aggrandizement, self-control and humility. It calls upon the Rajarshi to appreciate these aspects and honour and develop the spirit of sacrifice. He must not be acquisitive or seek to be an emperor proud of power and pelf. It is through silent persuasion rather than use of wealth that he should win over others. He should not resort to causing rift among others to score over the divided opponents or to embark on war and adopt coercive methods. Dharmavijaya calls for winning over the love and respect of all including the opponents. It is not crusade or jehad.
The Rajarshi is not unaware of the different means a ruler may resort to, for gaining the obedience of others but he deliberately opts to ensure that both the ends and means to attain them should be ethical. Kautilya does not overlook this aspect while outlining the Rajarshi constitution. But he emphasizes that the Rajarshi like any other wise ruler has to work within the framework of a rational and liberal constitution. He cannot afford to be weak.
This calls for giving importance to economic power as a means to ensure the society, stability, security and progress. Political power flows from the barrels of economic power. Krshna condemns lust for power, whether political or economic. Kautilya is pragmatic and is not unethical though he warns every ruler to remember that even if he is intensely ethical in selecting and using the means to secure economic power and through it political power his rivals and opponents might not do so.
He enumerates the undesirable means not because he was unethical and advocated them and permitted them but because these might be used by immoral rivals and foes and the ruler would be only harming himself if he was ignorant of their wicked potentials. Thorns are used to remove thorns but are to be used only for that purpose.
Every state has to be willy-nilly an economic state, Artharajya. It cannot become a social welfare state if it neglects economy. Kautilya was a social reformer who built his concept of empire on the edifice of Dharmarajya built by Bhrgu and Krshna. Krshna was opposed to the concept of a ruler who was not gentle and who was greedy and wanted to bring more and more lands under his control. He was against feudalism and hedonism. Krshna wanted the executives and administrators to be imbued with gentleness. As a social reformer he wanted the members of the organized and settled clans and communities to be trained in their duties and not to give up their traditional vocations. Their rights should not be allowed to be encroached on by those not belonging to those social groups. He wanted that the rights that they enjoyed should be extended to all the free men who did not belong to such clans and communities and who manned the bureaucracy and the defence forces.
The individuals in the social periphery too should be extended those rights and so too all the members of the free middle class not engaged in productive economy. Krshna taught the aspirants to higher positions in the social polity and administration of the state the principles of exercise of their talents in the best way so that there might be least aggrandizement. Krshna polished the concepts of personal talent and charisma that would lead to subtle and definite influence on the moral calibre of the society. He did not approve monasteries which trained their residents to grow in a social vacuum. It was in the context of the needs of the society that the trainees in his academy should develop their talents. Krshna was pained that leadership had fallen into the hands of a decadent aristocracy which was becoming hedonistic like the plutocrats and cruel like the feudal lords.
This leads us to the issue of desirable leadership. Social progress needs trained social leaders whose influence spreads over a wider area than the native core society. Krshna’s academy had undertaken this task. Economic progress needs entrepreneurs and not speculators. Krshna dilating on the three innate traits, sattva, rajas and tamas which are present in every man but not to the same degree, marking the individuality of everyone proceeded to counsel his trainees (like Arjuna) who were also his missionaries to be pragmatic and wise in their objective of social reorganization..
A society or social cadre which is marked by gentleness (sattva) and piety does not need replacement of its ruling cadre by one that too is marked by these tendencies. If it is replaced the new leadership too should be characterized by this quality. A society if so moulded would not yield to the machinations of feudal elements and plutocrats. A cultural aristocracy and an intellectual aristocracy should be the alternatives available as ruling elite, to the cultured, gentle and civilized society.
Of course this spirit behind establishment of dharmarajya will succeed in providing social stability and social justice. But it may not succeed in providing a social leadership capable of ensuring security of the state and economic progress. This needs a leadership characterized by holistic charisma and cautious but bold entrepreneurship. This leadership and a similarly trained alternative leadership which would take over are provided by the economic state, artharajya, governance by trained economists. This leadership too is not immoral. A society marked by anomie, insensitiveness and fond dreams if its leadership is overthrown would get a leadership and governance by speculators rather than gentle counsellors or dynamic personages. Hence a state should be in the hands of either a gentle and sagacious leadership (as offered by dharmarajya) or a dynamic one (as offered by artharajya).
Krshna did not offer the moon. What he abhorred was leadership that had failed to inspire the people and one that left them dreaming and engaged in speculation without training in dharma and righteous polity and in hard and systematic productive work and bold entrepreneurship. Neither Bhishma nor Bhrgu dealt adequately with these alternatives.
Kautilya’s Rajarshi constitution, more than Bhishma’s Rajadharma and that of Bhrgu and Pracetas Manu, met this need. Krshna dilated on the relationship between the ruler and his political guide and alter ego, Rajarshi and Rajapurohita. The ruler was being trained in regulating the work of the commoners, engaged in traditional occupations, the free men in the bureaucracy and the army, the free individuals of the periphery pursuing the occupations available to them. He was being trained in the duties expected to be performed by the intellectuals and jurists and by the king and his intimate counselors.
While Bhishma dilated on how a ruler belonging to the class of warriors had to choose between exploits that would make him famous and the role of defenders of the people and the state, Krshna dealt with what the warrior should do to play an effective part in the struggle between dharma (righteousness) and adharma (unrighteousness). Neither of them dealt with the role of the king vis-à-vis the institution of justice. Manava Dharmasastra gave equal attention to aspects of good administration and to meting out justice and punishing the guilty. It did not deal with spiritualism or relations between man and god or with the issue of salvation.
Dharma as social laws allowed greater voice to the heads of families and clans in punishing the deviants than Rajadharma as state laws regulating economic relations applied mainly by the decentralized rural bureaucracy did. There was no conflict between the temporal order and the so-called ecclesiastical. Attention was paid to repentance and penance as an alternative to punitive measures and left to the jurisdiction of the society while deterrence was attended to by the trained judiciary and the state. Bhishma cited the views of eminent socio-political thinkers like Bahudantiputra (an Indra), Brhaspati and Vamadeva of the Vedic era to drive home, his counsel. Manusmrti did not do so though it followed some of his recommendations on polity and that of Prthu constitution. Neither Bhrgu who was the chief editor of Manusmrti nor Bhishma nor Krshna was merely idealistic or neglected the realities. None of the three condoned unethical conduct.
Kautilya was the only thinker, who boldly advocated economic determinism and pragmatism. This is not to be interpreted as rejection of ethics. It may be noticed that neither Bhrgu nor Bhishma discussed the issue of how the ruler could be compelled by the cabinet of ministers to function in accordance with the mandate given to him. Only Kautilya dilated on this as every act political or social was subject to economic determinism. He could not however discard the recommendations made by a large assembly of intellectuals, bureaucrats and jurists.
It was only the decisions taken by the large council of ministers and the small committees of cabinet ministers had mandatory powers. However popular and talented the ruler might be he could not act arbitrarily. The political guide, Rajapurohita was not a mere counselor. He was the king’s superior and obeyed. Bhishma too drew attention to the importance of the posts like political guide and regulator of administration.
Kautilya presented his recommendations after taking into consideration, those of his senior contemporaries like Pracetas Manu, Brhaspati, Bahudantiputra (an Indra), Usanas, Bharadvaja, Visalaksha, Pisuna, Badarayana, Bhishma, Uddhava and Krpa. They belonged to diverse schools which had roots in the experiences they had during the Vedic and neo-Vedic eras. Neither Bhishma nor Krshna nor Bhrgu seem to have engaged in such serious political debates though they had their detractors.
These debates were of great significance for the reforms that Kautilya introduced. These reforms were comprehensive and path-breaking. They have influenced the political economy of India for several centuries even as Manu Vaivasvata’s has done. Krshna’s counsel lost its way later in religion and Bhishma’s in reverential idealism. Both concepts, Dharmarajya and Artharajya were products of intense debates whether silent or loud on how to provide a permanent political, administrative and economic structure for the then existing states. These debates were on all issues, social, economic and political.
Bhrgu’s Dharmarajya modeled on Prthu constitution and on Bhishma’s state based on Rajadharma depended on voluntary donations. Krshna too called for sincere sacrifice by all. But Kautilya preferred to follow the Vaivasvata model, the system of moderate tax as a proportion of one’s earnings. It ended uncertainty in governance. The system advocated during the earlier Vedic system called for surrender by the working class to the ruling elite who owned all lands and means of cultivation, half the agricultural produce. This was followed by a non-coercive liberal system which called for sacrifice by rich landlords of one-fourth of their income.
The system introduced by Usanas and adopted by the feudal lords did not support the system of voluntary sacrifice and permitted forcible extortion of whatever amount the feudal lord could lay hands on. But when the feudal lords urged by Usanas abandoned this unlimited extortion they ostensibly were liberal but appropriated three–fifths of the income allowing the commoner the rest two-fifths to meet their economic needs (artha) and pleasurable pursuits (kama). The feudal lord appropriated the funds meant for meeting social and cultural obligations (dharma), welfare of the offspring (svajana) and success in new ventures (yasa).
The states following the Prthiu system modeled on the Vaivasvata system appropriated as tax only one-sixth of income. Vaivasvata stipulated that no separate tax should be collected in the name of protection of life and property. Kautilya adopted this system. But he specified that the agriculturist should pay in addition expenses incurred by the state for providing irrigation facilities and manure. However he modulated the taxes and asked the traders to surrender one-tenth of their produce to the state. It is noticed that Kautilyan system was lenient to the poor and asked the rich landlords and traders to compensate the loss to the exchequer. Bhishma, Krshna and Bhrgu did not dwell on this aspect.
Artharajya was rational and gentle but increased the responsibility of the king and the ruling class. It also placed restrictions on interest collected by the usurers and appropriation of profit by the traders. It took pains to ensure that the agriculturists and artisans were not exploited by the profiteers. Manusmrti and Bhishma were not unaware of this new system but did not give it prominence as their states had permitted the local authorities to collect whatever income they needed. Since the rural areas were not burdened with the task of ensuring the security of the state and protecting the people they escaped being taxed heavily.
The states envisaged by Bhishma, Krshna and Bhrgu continued to depend on the generosity of the ruling class. But the class of nobility as a political force with power to control the exchequer and the army and to legislate had thinned when the Mahadeva constitution was enforced in the fifty small viable states spread over the sub-continent. These states had the king, rajan, elected by his peers who were aggressive chieftains as the head of the state but subordinate to the charismatic chief of the people, prajapati, elected by a vast body of heads of families. The waning of the nobility was accompanied by the rise of the bourgeoisie.
The neo-Vedic era which followed this development of the last stages of the Vedic era witnessed the dilemmas of these new states. With the post of chief of the people, Prajapati, entitled to admit as prajas new members from the areas beyond the janapada, land of the natives (jana) to revitalize the society and to declare what constituted personal property granted immunity against its attachment by the state and thereby allowed the owners of such property the status of privileged citizens, paura. These redefined states were constituted into paura-janapadas.
The privileged citizens and rich landlords were treated as marginally lower than the born aristocrats and the new aristocracy was elected from amongst them. Yajnavalkya constitution democratized the house of thirty-three nobles while Vaivasvata constitution which envisaged autonomous paura and janapada assemblies had given admission to that house to a limited number of representatives of this bourgeoisie and of the proletariat. Vaivasvata did not dilate on who could become the head of the state and what powers he should have.
The head of the state was required to take into account the views of his supporters and of their opponents. He insisted on governance by consensus even as during the early Vedic era the assembly and the council had to arrive at unanimous decisions after deliberation on all issues. He brought all the three strata, aristocracy, independent middle class and the commonalty (devas, gandharvas and manushyas) under a common legal system of privileges and duties. Egalitarianism characterized this move.
The neo-Vedic state was not a small one headed by an aggressive chieftain designated as rajan and elected by his peers who too like him were aggressive. It also departed from the system of a federation of five states, the capital and four janapadas around it headed by a Viraj. This head of the federal state was expected to penetrate into areas (not to conquer and annex them or colonize them but to externalize the innate urge of aggressiveness) beyond this federation allowing the city and the four janapadas to govern themselves through the paura-janapada system. He was assisted by the chief of the people, Prajapati who admitted new members to the privileges of free citizens, equal in status to the natives.
Yajnavalkya bypassed this system and called for an end to the practice of incursions and made the Prajapati who was elected by a council of elders the head of the steadily expanding but stable nation-state. Prajapati was assisted by Mahendra who headed the committee of five Indras, officers of the exchequer of the five constituents of the state. Prajapati headed the state and the army that was meant only for defence of the federation. He also headed the constitution bench and the judiciary which ensured that every citizen would get protection for his life and property. Later the Prajapati was subordinated to Brahma, an independent officer heading a four-member bench though he as head of the nation-state had selected that jurist, Brahma, from the senior members of the college of jurists. This experiment was short-lived.
The house of liberal cultural aristocracy lost all powers, administrative and judicial. It survived by agreeing to induct new members for short durations as intellectual aristocrats. The concept of small independent and viable states without concentration of power in any single authority as envisaged by Mahadeva was adopted again. The ruler could not use the state funds or the state army to bolster his image as a conqueror. The janapada could be enlarged and constituted into a nation (rashtra) comprising four janapadas controlled from the capital city by a charismatic leader. If that leader was but a native of that federation and preferably an agriculturist like Prthu he was given the designation, Janaka.
During the early post-Vedic decades, with the neo-Vedic emphasis on a new social order, society was found wanting in resilience. It would however undo the sharp cleavage and wide gap between the small rich leisure class of nobility who owned all the lands and the vast poor and property-less uneducated working class. It was being bridged by the emergence of a stratum of intelligentsia and a bourgeoisie of mainly landlords.
Democratization of the aristocracy and the empowerment of everyone to own personal property, it was expected would facilitate this change. Everyone would be self-reliant and none would be serving others. The class of common workers, manual work-force, even as the leisure class of cultural aristocrats, feudal lords and plutocrats noted for conspicuous consumption, would cease to be there, it was expected. But the framers of the constitution hesitated to aim at the creation of a classless society.
The constitution could by supporting the two strata of the middle class (intellectual aristocracy and free individuals) ultimately witness the withering of the two classes, the small aristocracy and the large working class and the society becoming a single large self-reliant educated class. It would be democratized and govern itself free from a proud, ambitious and covetous ruling class, it was expected. It was also expected to provide protection for life and property by training a new judicial order and elevating it to the highest position. Social equity required that social distance was negated.
This step made the head of the constitution bench, Brahma and the largely unwritten constitution rank superior to the head of the state and his executive whether this head was a rajan or viraj or prajapati or janaka or a svami or isvara. A dynamic charismatic talented and trained social leader, purusha, could rise from the free commonalty to occupy one of these positions as head of the state. But the head of the judiciary had to be one who had experienced (not merely observed from a distance) life at different levels of the society, from the poorest to the richest but not belonging to any of them and thereby had been equipped to become a free man representing the wills and desires of all, a vaisvanara.
Vaisvanara was a stoical, sympathetic, experienced, impartial social leader who wanted the society and the state to meet the genuine needs of every individual at whatever economic level he might be. Ultimately he could become an impartial, selfless chief justice, Brahma, the highest position in social polity. Even Manu could not ignore what Naciketas the vaisvanara (who had not yet occupied the seat of Brahma) recommended, as the ideal classless social structure.
Such a chief justice who could correctly represent the cause of the entire society could however not succeed in getting his just verdict executed, as he was not a powerful head of the state and as he lacked dynamism. He was gentle, knowledgeable and simple but not awesome which the head of the state was expected and required to be. This dilemma led to the re-emergence of the feudal order with the new kings being despots brushing aside all counsel and feuding amongst themselves.
In this process social welfare activities were neglected. ‘Might is right’ became the motto of these rulers whether in intra-state affairs or in inter-state relations. Both had to be regulated, the reformist socio-political thinkers realized. Within the state, the king who was mightier than other chieftains and officials and social leaders held the plutocrats and technocrats to ransom, for they had to answer to the people for their excesses and deceits and not he. Like the cultural and intellectual aristocrats, the rich plutocrats and the technocrats surrendered meekly to the new despots.
As we continue outlining the features of the Hindu State that emerged before it slowly declined, it would be advantageous and even imperative to free ourselves from certain stereotypes that we have absorbed uncritically during the last three centuries. Let us not equate it with the princely states headed by non-Muslim rulers. Most of these non-Muslim princely states adopted the political structure that the stronger Muslim states had and later the one recommended by the British regents attached to their courts. We have to deem the pre-1000AD states as Hindu states which had however floundered while continuing the models that were available at the end of the Battle of Kurukshetra (c3100 BC according to Hindu tradition and c1440BC according to western Indologists and their docile and imbecile Indian adherents).
Some would justifiably ask whether it is possible and necessary to adopt any of the above patterns, giving up the present socio-political structures and practices. They may be told that this question deserves a considered reply provided it is not linked to blind disapproval of ancient Indian social polity as reactionary and not in tune with modern world culture. The issue of doubts on the practicability of replicating the past states needs to be dealt with in an objective manner.
It would be in the fitness of things to reestablish fifty small economically viable integrated states all over the subcontinent from Gandhara to Kambhoja and from Uttarakuru to Srilanka. These states would be instituted into a dual-confederation, Brahmachakra with the two competing confederations having similar objectives and functioning in collaboration and not coming into conflict with each other. Neither of the constitutions of the two confederations will be deemed to be better than the other. The twenty-five states in each confederation (chakra) need not be contiguous but should be able to aid one another in economy.
Brahmachakra, the dual confederation would have a common constitution for all the ten federations (of five states each) under it. But it would not be another Rshabha constitution which facilitated the state to become a leviathan and totalitarian with the sole head of the state controlling all the lands and all the productive economic activities (which Bharata confederation was suspected to be turning into). Every state would have a diarchy at the helm of its affairs. Both monarchy and oligarchy would be kept away from. No state would be an ethnic one based on language or religion or racial descent or even cultural heritage. Neither of the two confederations would have an army.
The main objective of the constitution of the dual-confederation (brahmachakra) comprising fifty autonomous small economically viable states would be to provide food and other basic needs for all so that none is poor. There has to be disarmament of all sections of the population so that no state is required to have armed troops to police its territory or guard it as there would be no aggressor population or state. The state should have no coercive power. This is an imperative if democracy has to flourish. The state has to step in only where the society finds it difficult to keep everyone of its members feel secure. State is meant for administration and its executive has to be fair to all and absolutely honest and follow the laws based on equity and equality.
Every state will have two houses of legislature, the central urban council, paura, of thirty-three members elected by the three sections of the population, agro-pastoral commonalty, industrial frontier society and the independent middle class cadres and individuals. The other house will look after the interests of the natives of the non-urban areas, janapada. Paura-janapada, pura-rashtra patterns succeeded sabha-samiti pattern of governance. Every state (rajyam) would have a federal set-up, a capital city at the centre surrounded by non-urban areas composed of four janapadas. These four areas outside the capital would together be referred to as rashtra (loosely translated as ‘nation’). The janapada, a province would have four districts and each district two counties, one agro-pastoral plains and the other industrial, located in moors, forests and mountains around the plains.
The head of the state, Viraj has to be elected by the head of the city council and by the four heads of the janapadas (designated as Janakas). The head of a district would be designated as janadhipa. The Janaka would nominate the Janadhipas (sthanikas). The Janadhipa would be an executive of high caliber trained in the state academy. Every county (drona) would be headed by an educationist imparting training in customary practices. He is not an executive but would be trained in all aspects of local administration.
The head of the agro-pastoral county adjoining the central county would be its civil judge (designated as Agni) and that of the industrial county would be the head (designated as Soma) of the multi-faculty academy located there. Viraj, the head of the federal state would be required to have been endorsed by all the chiefs of the eight counties, four agro-pastoral, and four industrial and also by the head of the urban council.
The latter would be designated as Indra and would be the head of the central eight-member council. The officials designated as Agni, Indra, Soma etc would have been trained in the state academy. The belts between the four agrarian counties and the four industrial counties and between the capital and non-urban areas would have chiefs designated as Isvaras. They were benevolent charismatic chieftains and were not appointed by any political authority. Reviving the Vedic posts and designations is not to be ashamed of.
In the revived and remodeled Vedic polity, the head of the rashtra would be elected by the heads of the eight counties, four rural and four industrial, and designated as Prajapati. He would be senior to Indra but subordinate to the Viraj. Indra would have no control over exchequer or the army. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, sannidhata would be a trained executive appointed by the Viraj and answerable to the latter. The rest of the central administration of non-industrial areas including the army would be headed by an official designated as Aditya and it would be answerable to the Prajapati. The Viraj would appoint a revenue minister, samaharta, for each of the four janapadas. They would be answerable to the sannidhata.
The industrial areas whose social economy is dominated by plutocrats, technocrats and proletariat would be under the jurisdiction of Soma a sober educationist, administrator and judicial authority. He would be empowered to overrule even the head of the justice and his cabinet and all members of the judiciary if their decisions are violative of the economic freedom these areas need, to ensure socio-economic progress and social security, the main objectives of Artharajya and Dharmarajya.
To the extent the concept of a polity that accepts both these objectives and the recommendation that the state should be non-coercive every state would be able to remain constantly striving for ensuring social security and economic progress. The objective must be to ensure that none is poor and that everyone will have his personal property, be free to pursue his own chosen vocation, his chosen way of orderly and restrained social life and entertain his chosen cultural values in tune with his natural traits. This is not idealism. It is a practical necessity.
Authoritarian states cannot ensure this nor diffused anarchist societies. During the two thousand centuries after the Battle of Kurukshetra and the demise of Parikshit and overthrow of Janamejaya, states all over the subcontinent remained unarmed administrative structures without coercive power, depending on voluntary donations by the rich as well as the poor. These donations were routed through shrines and organizations set up by different religious sects and their patron saints. They were also service organizations (and not ecclesiastical orders) attending to the essential needs of the people like food, health and education.
The simplicity and honesty and commitment to truth and non-violence urged by them kept crimes to the minimum and aspirations limited and envy of the neighbor absent. Artharajya as well as Dharmarajya recognized these aspects. Of course every state was free to have its own constitution, rules regarding rewards and punishments. Every one of these states was required to choose a form of diarchy that was most advantageous for its polity. It was the cultural development of its vast autonomous rural population and civilizational possibilities explored by its intelligentsia which the free middle class cadres that enabled the states down the centuries to survive without major upheavals.
Every individual was enabled to recognize and develop his innate talents. The social leaders who had the caliber to rise to higher levels were not discouraged from doing so, whether they were connected with the executive and administration or the judiciary and field of education. Prthu constitution as adopted by Manusmrti and Kautilya’s constitution that called for leadership that would constantly strive for economic progress guided the states for two thousand years. What they built was a satisfied society that constantly kept out anomie (mrtyu-samsara). Hindu society and states were awake and alert and secure. There was minimum government but constant development in all fields of higher knowledge including jurisprudence (brahmavidya) recognition and development of one’s personal talents (atmavidya).
To reiterate, the Hindu State that existed before the arrival of the Greeks and the rulers from Persis was more a Dharmarajya than an Artharajya. Whether there was a head of the dual confederation (brahmachakra) was in position or not, most of the fifty states had a predominantly agro-pastoral economy with mainly a rural population governed by a parthiva who claimed to be functioning on behalf of the chakravarti who was referred to as prthvipati. This confederation and the dual-confederation headed by prthvipati who followed Prthu constitution was mainly agropastoral and the rural areas were referred to as rashtra. Mahadeva constitution of the Atharvan period which established fifty nation-states referred only to the rural areas as rashtra. ‘Rashtra’ referred to the native population, jana. It was an economic unit with eight socio-economic sectors. Its representative designated as Prajapati was entitled to admit new domiciles to the privileges which the natives had as their birth-right. He was also entitled to admit those who had withdrawn to the social periphery for diverse reasons.
The term, ‘rashtrapati’ was not in vogue. Prajapati was the head of the nation-state. He had become so because of his great charisma which was the product of his winning over the support and respect of all the people including the scholars, elders and administrators and the sincere promise to ensure for everyone food and other requirements. While the executive and the army were responsible to him, he was in due course made answerable to the Chief justice (designated as Brahma) who was the guardian of the socio-political constitution, Brahma.
The economic structure dominated by the commonalty of working classes and bourgeoisie and its chief, Brhaspati, an Atharvan ideologue enjoyed more respect and more authority than Indra, chief of the leisure class of sober cultural aristocracy which had become democratized. Naciketas explored the possibility of withering away of both the exclusive leisure class and the vast working class leaving everyone a member of the educated self-reliant peaceful unarmed middle class, an objective recommended by Sanatkumara. Most of the population of the fifty small states belonged to this middle class. While personal talent was to be honoured the basic income of the ‘rich’ peasant was not to be more than six times that of the ‘poor’. This was closer to egalitarianism.
None would be a servant of another person. Industrial economy was operated by entrepreneurs under the strict supervision of the state. Speculative economy was taboo. Faith in God is not to deteriorate into faith in luck. Commercial economy had a free say only in exports and imports and not in agriculture or industry. This direction was given by Kautilyan Arthasastra.
Rural bureaucracy and rural judiciary supervised by the Parthiva on behalf of the head of the central confederation were autonomous. These, far from facilitating feudalism helped social democracy to flourish. Regulated meritocracy rather than populist democracy or charismatic leadership was advocated and succeeded in remaining in force.
Concepts of individual will, common will, individualism and responsible and responsive leadership have to be re-examined in the light of the new findings. Let us not deceive the people with or be deceived by the interpretation that universal adult franchise is the hall-mark of democracy.
State has to be for the good of all the people whoever is at its helm. Social polity and economy were stable and slowly developing after industry that for a brief period had taken hold of urban civilization had withdrawn from both urban and rural areas and yet was willing to come to their rescue as it did during the Vedic period. Industry attached to greed for wealth and power and devoid of respect for human values was not allowed to wipe out the joy of life found by the people and the sages in simplicity and honesty. The new empires that were attached to industrial progress since 800BC rose and fell because they were not able to win the confidence of the commonalty. They evoked only awe and envy and did not reassure the commoner that his life and property and the values he cherished would not be in peril.
As Krshna pointed out in the Bhagavad-Gita, an exercise in Rajavidya and Rajayoga only another gentle (sattva) government (including judiciary) can be an alternative to one that has failed to meet the needs of the people and only another dynamic (rajasi) group of administrators and entrepreneurs should replace one which has proved itself incapable of protecting the lives and property of the people. Speculators and dreamers are as harmful as the indolent (tamasi) at the head of the state or any of its units. Hindu State appreciated this theorem and survived with honour for more than two thousand years since the Battle of Kurukshetra until its commitment to protect the lives and property of the people was lost sight of, making it easy for the Muslim armies to run over the country with little resistance.
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