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Kautilya's Arthashastra
Book XI: The Conduct of Corporations
Translated by R. Shamasastry

Causes of dissension; secret punishment.


  • THE acquisition of the help of corporations is better than the acquisition of an army, a friend, or profits. By means of conciliation and gifts, the conqueror should secure and enjoy the services of such corporations as are invincible to the enemy and are favourably disposed towards himself. But those who are opposed to him, he should put down by sowing the seeds of dissension among them and by secretly punishing them.

  • The corporations of warriors (kshattriyasrení) of Kámbhoja, and Suráshtra, and other countries live by agriculture, trade and wielding weapons.

  • The corporations of Lichchhivika,Vrijika, Mallaka, Mudraka, Kukura, Kuru, Pánchála and others live by the title of a Rája.

  • Spies, gaining access to all these corporations and finding out jealousy, hatred and other causes of quarrel among them, should sow the seeds of a well-planned dissension among them, and tell one of them: "This man decries you." Spies, under the guise of teachers (áchárya) should cause childish embroils among those of mutual enmity on occasions of disputations about certain points of science, arts, gambling or sports. Fiery spies may occasion quarrel among the leaders of corporations by praising inferior leaders in taverns and theatres; or pretending to be friends, they may excite ambition in the minds of princes by praising their high birth, though they (the princes) are low-born; they may prevent the superiors from interdining and intermarriage with others; they may persuade the superiors to interdine or to intermarry with inferiors; or they may give publicity to the consideration of priority shown to inferior persons in social intercourse in the face of the established custom of recognising the status of other persons by birth, bravery and social position; or fiery spies may bring about quarrel among them at night by destroying the things, beasts, or persons concerned in some legal disputes. In all these disputes, the conqueror should help the inferior party with men and money and set them against the superior party. When they are divided, he should remove them (from their country); or he may gather them together and cause them to settle in a cultivable part of their own country, under the designation of "five households" and "ten households"; for when living together, they can be trained in the art of wielding weapons. Specified fines should also be prescribed against any treacherous combinations among them. He may install as the heir-apparent a prince born of a high family, but dethroned or imprisoned. Spies, under the guise of astrologers and others, should bring to the notice of the corporations the royal characteristics of the prince, and should induce the virtuous leaders of the corporations to acknowledge their duty to the prince who is the son of such and such a king, and who is the hearer of their complaints. To those who are thus prevailed upon, the conqueror should send men and money for the purpose of winning over other partisans. On occasions of any affray spies under the guise of vintners, should, under the plea of the birth of a son, of marriage or of the death of a man, distribute as toast (naishechanika) hundreds of vessels of liquor adulterated with the juice of madana plant. Near the gates of altars (chaitya), temples, and other places under the watch of sentinels, spies should pretend to declare their agreement (with the enemy of the corporations), their mission, their rewards, and bags of money with the golden seals of the enemy; when the corporations appear before the spies, they may tell the corporations that they (the spies) have sold themselves to the enemy, and challenge the corporations for war. Or having seized the draught animals and golden articles belonging to the corporations, they may give the most important of those animals and articles to the chief of the corporations, and tell the corporations, when asked for, that it was given to the chief (for the purpose of causing quarrel among them).

  • This explains the method of sowing the seeds of dissension in camps and among wild tribes.

  • Or a spy may tell a self-confident son of the chief of corporations: "You are the son of such and such a king and are kept here under the apprehension of danger from enemies." When he is deluded with this belief, the conqueror may help him with men and money and set him against the corporations. When the object in view is realised, the conqueror may also banish him.

  • Keepers of harlots or dancers, players, and actors may, after gaining access, excite love in the minds of the chiefs of corporations by exhibiting women endowed with bewitching youth and beauty. By causing the woman to go to another person or by pretending that another person has violently carried her off, they may bring about quarrel among those who love that woman; in the ensuing affray, fiery spies may do their work and declare: "Thus has he been killed in consequence of his love."

  • A woman who has disappointed her lover and has been forgiven, may approach a chief and say: "This chief is troubling me when my mind is set upon you; when he is alive, I cannot stay here," and thus induce the former to slay the latter.

  • A woman who has been violently carried off at night may cause the death of her violator in the vicinity of a park or in a pleasure house, by means of fiery spies or with poison administered by herself. Then she may declare: "This beloved person of mine has been killed by such and such a person."

  • A spy, under the garb of an ascetic, may apply to a lover such medical ointments as are declared to be capable of captivating the beloved woman and as are adulterated with poison; and then he may disappear. Other spies may ascribe the incident to an enemy's action.

  • Widows or women, employed as spies with secret instructions, may dispute among themselves about the claim for a deposit kept with the king, and attract the chiefs of the corporations (by their beauty when they present themselves before the king).

  • Harlots, or a dancing woman, or a songstress may make an appointment to meet a lover in some secret house; and when the lover comes to the house with the desire of meeting her there, fiery spies may kill him or carry him off bound (in chains).

  • A spy may tell the chief of a corporation who is fond of women: "In this village, the family of a poor man is bereaved (of the householder); his wife deserves to be the wife of a king; seize her." Half a month after she has been seized, an ascetic spy may accuse the chief in the midst of the corporation by saying: "This man has illegally kept my chief wife, or sister-in-law, or sister, or daughter." If the corporation punishes the chief, the conqueror may take the side of the corporation and set it against wicked persons. Fiery spies should always cause an ascetic spy to go abroad at night. Spies, selected suitably, should accuse (the chiefs) by saying: "This man is the slayer of a Bráhman and also the adulterer of a Bráhman woman."

  • A spy, under the guise of an astrologer, may describe to a chief the destiny of a maiden who is at the point of being married to another, and say: "This man's daughter deserves to be the wife of a king and will bring forth a son, destined to be a king; purchase her with all your wealth, or seize her by force." When it is not possible to secure her, spies should enrage the parties; but when she is secured, quarrel will necessarily ensue.

  • A mendicant woman may tell a chief who is fond of his wife: "This (another) chief, proud of his youth, has sent me to entice your wife; being afraid of him, I have taken with me his letter and jewellery (for your wife); your wife: is free from sin; secret steps should be taken against him; and I am very anxious (about your success)."

  • Thus in these and other kinds of brawls which have originated of themselves or which have been brought about by spies, the conqueror should help the inferior party with men and money and set them against the wicked or cause them to migrate (to other parts of the country).

  • Thus he should live as the only monarch of all the corporations; the corporations also, under the protection of such a single monarch, should guard themselves against all kinds of treachery.

  • The chief of corporations should endear himself to all the people by leading a virtuous life, by controlling his passions, and by pursuing that course of action which is liked by all those who are his followers.

[Thus ends Chapter I, "Causes of Dissension, and Secret Punishment," in Book XI, "The Conduct of Corporations," of the Arthasástra of Kautilya. End of the hundred and thirty-fifth chapter from the beginning. With this ends the eleventh Book, "The Conduct of Corporations," of the Arthasástra of Kautilya.]



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