Essay On Kautilyan State System

The Mauryan era of ancient India gave the world a significant treatise, the Arthashastra of Kautilya.It offers deep insights into political statecraft. Kautilya is known as the Indian Machiavelli because of his ruthless and shrewd tactics and policies reflecting an approach to statecraft including warfare.

Nature of State

Kautilya Saptang Theory of Sate

The state of ‘nature’ is imagined to be one of total anarchy, in which ‘might was right’.When people were oppressed by Matyanyaya, the law of the fish, according to which the bigger fish swallows the smaller ones they selected Manu– son of Vivasvat the king.

It was settled that the king should receive one-sixth of the grain and one-tenth of merchandise and gold, as his due. It was the revenue which made it possible for the king to ensure the security and prosperity of his subjects. People agreed to pay taxes and he ruled by one person in order that they might be able to enjoy well-being and security. In Kautilya’s Arthashastra, there is no explicit theory of social contract as laid down by
the contractualist. Neither does Kautilya use the contract to make the king all powerful.

Elements of State

Kautilya enumerated seven prakritis or essential organs of the state. They are as follow
(i) Swami (The Ruler)
(ii) Amatya (The Minister)
(iii) Janapada (The Population)
(iv) Durga (The Fortified Capital)
(v) Kosha (The Treasury)
(vi) Danda (The Army)
(vii) Mitra (Ally and Friend)

Swami(The Ruler)

It is the first and the most important element. Swami means the monarch. He should be a native of the soil and born in a noble family. He should be brave and well learned. He makes all the important appointments and supervises the government. He has to be virtuous and should treat his subjects like his own children. Kautilya has given extensive powers to the monarch but those powers are meant for the welfare of them subjects. In the welfare and happiness of his subjects, lies his own happiness.

Amatya (The Minister)

It refers to the council of ministers as well as the supporting officials and subordinate staffs. They are meant for assisting the monarch in day to day affairs of the state. Amatya gives suggestions to king, collects taxes, develops new villages and cities, ensures defense of the state and all other tasks as assigned by the king.

Janpada (The Population)

It refers to territory and people of the state. The territory of the state should be fertile and should have abundance of forest, rivers, mountains, minerals, wild life etc. It should have have good climate. People should be loyal to their king, hard working, disciplined, religious, ready to fight for their motherland, should pay taxes regularly and happily.

Durga (The Fortified Capital)

It refers to forts. The state should have sufficient number of forts across its territory at strategic locations for ensuring defense against foreign invasions. Forts should be built near hills/mountains, deserts, dense forests and big water bodies. They garrison soldiers, store food grains for emergency and also serve as a hideout for the king when his life in danger.

Kosha(The Treasury)

Thismeans treasury of the state. Finance is life blood of any state without which it is almost impossible to run it. Money is needed for paying salaries, building new infrastructure, etc. The treasury should be full of money and valuable metals and gems. It can be increased through taxation and plundering enemy states in war.

Danda(The Army)

Itrefers to military. The  state should have a regular, large, disciplined and well trained military. It is crucial for the security of the state. The soldiers should be recruited from those families which are traditionally associated with military. The soldiers should paid well and their families should be taken care of in most suitable way. Proper training and equipment should be made available. Well fed and well trained soldiers can win any battle. The king should take care of the soldiers and the soldiers will be ready to sacrifice even their life for him.

Mitra (Ally and Friend)

It refers to friends of the king. The monarch should maintain friendly relationship with traditional friends of his forefathers. He should also make new friendships. He should send gifts and other pleasantries for his friends. They should be helped in times of emergency. They should be loyal. Friends add to the power of the state. They are also important from foreign trade view point.

 Role of king

Kautilya gives extensive powers to the kings and attaches an element of divinity. His foremost duty is protection of the subjects and their property. King’s sources of power revolving around three sources– Prabhu Shakti (the power of the army and the treasury),Manta Shakti (advice of wise men, specially the council of ministers) and Utsah Shakti (charisma). Duties of Kings Kautilya’s Arthashastra does not believe in the ‘Theory of Divine’ origin of the Monarch. According to him, state is a human institution and it should be manned by a human being. So, the king should be the protector of the dharma of whole society.  Arthashastra pointed out duties of kings are :

  • Should follow his rajya dharma.

  • Should exhibit attributes, i.e. Atma Vrata (self-control) l Should ease the six enemies— Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Lobh (greed), Mana (vanity), Mada
    (haughtiness), and Harsh (overjoy).

System of Law

Although, Kautilya’s state theory states the monarchical democracy, but the sole authority vested under the king to make law and that it derived from four sources Dharma (sacred law), Vyavhara (evidence), Charita (history and custom) and Rajasasana (edicts of the king).
Arthashastra represents a system of civil, criminal and mercantile law. For instance, the following were codified a procedure for interrogation, torture, trial, the rights of the accused, Constitution of permissible evidence, a procedure for autopsy in case of death in suspicious circumstances, Constitution of (deformation) and procedure for claiming damages, invalid and invalid contract.

 Machinery of Government

The Arthashastra catalogues a phalanx of officers called superintendents, lower in importance than the ministerial officers and much below them, belonging to the sixth order, according to remuneration. They are not heads of departments. The superintendents might be as chiefs of sections dealing with various economic and other activities of the government. Most of these sections are the modern business departments. A dual control is exercised over the superintendents. As far as control of the services of the personal and collection of revenue are concerned, they are under the Collector-General.


The Arthashastra is a textbook of practical politics and statecraft. One of the outstanding
contributions of Kautilya’s Arthashastra to statecraft and governance in a monarchical state. Hence, Kautilya’s theory of state envisages a rational approach to governance and state craft which conceptualizes the state and the office of the kingship to be human artifacts.

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1.2 The Organic State:The Saptanga Theory

Kautilya builds up his theory of the State as an organic entity on the basis of seven elements, which he describes in his Arthashastra as Saptanga. The seven elements, despite being enumerated separately, stand in the closest possible relation to one another and are in themselves “mutually serviceable”. Together, they constitute the State as an organism, “like a chariot composed of seven parts fitted and subservient to one another”. Though Kautilya likens the State to a Chariot, he conceives it essentially as a living, not a dead, organism in which the Swami (the king) is the spirit that regulates and guides the remaining constituents of the body-politic. This harmony is essential not only to their own existence, but also to that of the whole which they constitute together. Further, according to Kautilya, of these seven elements, each subsequent element is inferior to the preceding ones. Thus, the Swami or the King (first prakriti or element) becomes superior to the remaining six elements. His righteousness and other qualities would result in the righteousness and prosperity of other elements, whereas his vices would multiply the troubles and calamities of the other elements. In this connection, it is to be noted that while Manu argues that various elements could gain importance on different occasions, the Mahabharta considers all the elements as supplementary to one another.

To an extent; the organic theory of State finds elaboration in the Ancient Greek Political Philosophy. For instance: while comparing the State with the human body, Plato had argued that just as a cut in the finger causes pain in the body, similarly injury of one organ creates problems for the other organs of the body-politic. Aristotle was of the view that no organ and no individual have any value, if not considered in totality.

For instance, an arm is meaningless without the body. The Greek philosophers wanted to avert the causes which endangered the unity and solidarity of the city-states, whereas Kautilya aimed at comprehensiveness of Anvikshaki, Trayi, Vaarta and Dandaniti.

Seven Angas, Prakritis, or elements were enumerated and elucidated by Kautilya for describing “the nature of the State” in its totality. As laid down in the first chapter of Arthashastra’s Sixth Book, entitled Mandala Yonih, theseare:

Figure : Hierarchy to denote Swami   (King to Mitra allies)

1.   The Swami, the sovereign King;
2.   The Mantrin, the ministers;
3.   The Janapada, the people and the territory;
4.   The Durga, the fortification;
5.   The Kosha, the treasury;
6.   The Sena or the Danda, the army; and
7.   The Mitra, the allies.

All these elements establish the nature of State. The Seven characteristics that emerge from these seven elements are:
1.   Unity, uniformity and solidarity of the state;
2.   Stable and systematic administration;
3.   Definite territory, able to protect and support both the king and the subjects;
4.   Planned system of security and defence;
5.   System of just and proportionate taxation;
6.   Strong and powerful state; and
7.   Freedom from alien rule.

Through these elements, Kautilya is able to depict the various facets of the state of his conception. Inclusion of Mitra (ally), Kosha (treasury), and Sena (army) as separate elements in the formation of State may not be acceptable today, but it had a marked relevance in an age when the theory of Separation of Powers was not predominant and when the State meant nothing but the sole embodiment of the highest executive authority, subject only to the supremacy of laws. As a matter of fact, while incorporating all these elements as constituents of his body-politic, Kautilya is only according recognition to all the agencies which contribute to the “moral and political existence of a community”. Moreover, by including Mitra (ally) as a constituent element of the State, Kautilya has succeeded in presenting the State “not as a thing in itself, but as one entity among and in relation to many” in the international sphere, He recognizes not only its sovereign character but also its interdependence. His polity has, therefore, been rightly described by M. V. Krishna Rao as “pluralistically dominated monism”. Kautilya, thus, furnishes us with full and complete definition of the State.

The modern constituents of the State, such as sovereignty, government, territory and population are covered respectively by the elements of Swami, Amatya and Janapada in the Saptang theory of the State. In modern times, unless a State receives recognition of other States, its de jure status is not established. This element in the modern States may be compared to mitra (ally). Though in the modern definition of the State, there is no place for army and taxation, these are covered by the concept of sovereign power, which exercises the function of coercion and tax-collection.
A remarkable similarity between the Kautilyan and the Marxist conceptions of the State has also been traced with reference to their view of the class-character and the need of Danda and Kosha. R. S. Sharma concludes his analysis with his observation that “Kautilya’s Saptang theory not only bears resemblance to the modern definition of the State, but contains certain elements typical of the State expounded by Angels.”

Kautilya’s concept of ‘State’ is, however, vividly reflected in his description of angas or elements of the Stale. He did not specifically define the term ‘State’ as he was essentially a man of action (a councillor), and not a theorist. His concern for and emphasis on the internal and external security of State was to save humanity from a sort of Hobbesian state of nature, a state of war, marked by Matsyanyaya (the strong, like the big fish, tyrannizing and devouring the weaker and smaller ones). Furthermore, it has to be pointed out that, on the one hand, Kautilya constructs the categories which make the ideal, in each of the seven constituents; on the other hand, the eighth book of Arthashastra examines the vices and calamities of each of the sevenfold factors.

It analysis the troubles of the king and his kingdom (like gambling, drunkenness, greed, anger etc.), the aggregate of the troubles of men (being untrained, greedy, over-ambitious), the groups of molestators (if most inhabitants indulge in armed conflicts), the group of obstructionists (the majority of inhabitants being agricultural labourers), the group of the troubles of the treasury (arising out of man-made and natural calamities), the group of troubles of the army (because of loyal soldiers’ resentment on account of non-payment of salaries and wives’ influence on solders) and, lastly, the group of troubles of a friend (who could be influenced or bribed and could turn neutral at times of crisis). Kautilya was of the view that if a fault in one element affects other elements, then it should be considered disastrous and has to be rectified.
Here, it is important to note that Kautilya provided for a mechanism to prevent the king from becoming self-centered and autocratic dictator, by keeping him under the control of sacred and social traditions, ethical norms aimed at peace and prosperity of his people. The sovereign of Kautilya is bound by the ethical norms of Anvikshaki, Trayi, Vaarta and Dandaniti, which he can not change or alter arbitrarily. The happiness and prosperity of the king consists in the happiness and prosperity of his subjects. By accepting Praja Dharma as Raaja Dharma, the King of Kautilya is accepted and adored as parens patriar.

1.2.0 The Organic State : The Saptanga Theory

“Saptanga theory is relevant in today’s time “.

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The Saptanga Theory: 1.2.0

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