The Arthashastra

3 Mar, 2022 320 Political science

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ancient Sanskrit text the Arthashastra, regarded as one of the major works of Indian literature. Written in the style of a scientific treatise, it provides rulers with a guide on how to govern their territory and sets out what the structure, economic policy and foreign affairs of the ideal state should be. According to legend, it was written by Chanakya, a political advisor to the ruler Chandragupta Maurya (reigned 321 - 297 BC) who founded the Mauryan Empire, the first great Empire in the Indian subcontinent. As the Arthashastra asserts that a ruler should pursue his goals ruthlessly by whatever means is required, it has been compared with the 16th-century work The Prince by Machiavelli. Today, it is widely viewed as presenting a sophisticated and refined analysis of the nature, dynamics and challenges of rulership, and scholars value it partly because it undermines colonial stereotypes of what early South Asian society was like.

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  • Jessica Frazier 8 episodes
    Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies
  • James Hegarty No other episodes
    Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at Cardiff University
  • Deven Patel No other episodes
    Associate Professor of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

Reading list

  • The First Great Political Realist: Kautilya and His Arthashastra
    Roger Boesche (Lexington Books, 2002) Google Books →
  • Against Dharma: Dissent in the Ancient Indian Sciences of Sex and Politics
    Wendy Doniger (Yale University Press, 2018) Google Books →
  • The Arthashastra
    Kautalya (trans. L. N. Rangarajan) (Penguin, 1992)
  • A History of India
    Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (Routledge, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Arthasastra: Selections from the Classic Indian Work on Statecraft
    Mark McClish and Patrick Olivelle (Hackett, 2012)
  • The History of the Arthasastra: Sovereignty and Sacred Law in Ancient India
    Mark McClish (Cambridge University Press, 2019) Google Books →
  • King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kautilya's Arthasastra
    Patrick Olivelle (Oxford University Press, 2013)

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The ancient Indian Sanskrit text, the Uttashastra, has been compared with the work of Machiavelli.