Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Chanakya Niti

P. K. Gautam was a Consultant at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • January-March 2023

    Traditionally, Kautilya or Vishnugupta, is considered the author of Arthashastra. He is also known as Chanakya, the scholar and chief minister who ‘destroyed the power of the Nandas and placed Chandragupta Maurya on the throne of Magadha’ in the 4th century bc. By the name of Chanakya, he had also authored a text known as Chanakya Niti. However, there is no proper understanding in the general public about the seminal work authored by Kautilya such as the Arthashastra and Chanakya Niti. Unfortunately, the term ‘Chanakya’ is used as an adjective very loosely in media or public discourse with negative Machiavellian connotations, mainly because of lack of knowledge. Kautilya’s Arthashastra is a very different and comprehensive manual and is not the same as Chanakya Niti, as is wrongly understood by many. Considering the need to set right a common misunderstanding or confusion about these texts, this commentary aims to throw light on this literature. It first introduces in brief Kautilya’s Arthashastra followed by an introduction to Chanakya Niti and the rigorous contemporary scholarship associated with it. It also features some selected verses from Chanakya Niti.

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