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The Nitisara or the Elements of Polity by Kamandaka: Continuity and Change from Kautilya’s Arthashastra

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  • January 19, 2018
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chairperson: Amb A. N. D. Haksar (Retd)
    External Discussants: Prof. Jayati Srivastava, Dr. Medha Bisht, Dr. Saurabh Mishra
    Internal Discussants: Gp. Capt. K. K. Khera, Col. Vikrant Deshpande

    Major Arguments of the Paper

    Since India is one of the longest surviving civilisations, there is likelihood that principles of statecraft are continuing through ages. This paper probes this possibility and argues that many concepts and principles of statecraft in India have not changed and that continuity is embedded in the vocabulary and concepts in the Indian tradition. They have survived due to their own enduring logic. This paper compares Arthasastra and Nitisara and analyses the enduring continuities in statecraft, diplomacy and aspects of warfare. It seeks answers to the following questions: (a) What are the continuities and changes in the vocabulary and concepts from Kautilya’s Arthasastra to Nitisara?; (b) What is the vocabulary of Kamandaka in a stand-alone mode?; and, (c) What is the contemporary relevance of the answers to these findings?

    The author found both texts are ahistorical, dealing with the acquisition of wealth and its distribution and emphasising on war as the last resort. Some common aspects adhered to in both the texts are: mastering of control over the senses including non-violence; the need to ensure that the state of matsyanyaya does not prevail; anvikshiki; maintaining balance among dharma, artha and kama; importance of intelligence; the seven prakrits and twelve vijigisus in a circle of kings or mandala theory; six measures of foreign policy; the upayas in which there is no war mongering and use of force is the last resort; issues of disasters (vysanas) that may afflict the constituent elements (prakrits) and how to overcome them prior to the execution of a policy; duties of diplomats and intelligence gathering; and, aspects of war and use of power by sticking to the priorities of mantra-shakti (counsel or diplomacy), prabhav-shakti (economic and military power), and utsah-shakti (leadership).

    The paper also points out the dissimilarities in concepts employed by the two texts. To begin with, while Kautilya’s work is inspired by statesmanship and is of a complex nature often questioning earlier scholars, Kamandaka’s is a lucid and academic work and an abridged version of the Arthasastra. In terms of uniqueness, Kamandaka stands out for deliberating at length not only on the four upayas (as mentioned in the Arthasastra) of sama , dana, bheda and danda but also the powerful concept of Upeksha (a combination of neglect or diplomatic indifference and the supreme virtue of patience) which was the strategy adopted by the Indian freedom movement. The impact of Kamandaka can be further seen on the Hitopadesa by Narayana, which has 90 verses of Kamandaka including sixteen types of alliances.

    In the end, the paper argues that India’s geo-cultural space extends beyond the Himalayas up to Central Asia. This has also been highlighted by the History Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in the second White Paper published in 1959 “Historical Background of the Himalayan Frontier of India,” in which the Raghuvamsha of Kalidas is mentioned. In both this White Paper and in the text of Kamandaka, there is mention of the Kushan empire and Kanishka.

    Major points of discussion and suggestions to the author

    • The time frame of both the Arthasastra and Nitisara as well as the context in which they were written forms a significant background for the comparison process. Further, the Buddhist influence on Kamandaka and Kautilya can enrich the paper by providing another dimension.
    • Thematic structuring of the paper can be done on the basis of Kamandaka’s notions on war, tactics, ethics, dharma, etc., and an overall idea can be given about what is distinctive about Indian texts as compared to western texts.
    • When one approaches a non-western text, the method adopted should be devoid of an interpretative orientation and frames of comparison. Further, the techniques of communication should be picked carefully focusing on the inclusive macro tradition over multiple micro traditions.
    • Methodology adopted by these texts can be discussed in the paper along with historical similarities and dissimilarities as well as political situation of that time while explaining the central themes of both, mentioning their categorization along with the reason for dissimilarities and commonalities.
    • The difference between Nitisara and Arthasastra lies in the idea of legitimacy which changed over time. While Arthasastra was dependent on deliverance of kingly duties, Nitisara focuses on valour and the military qualities of the ruler.
    • Author’s personal opinion should come out more strongly amongst the commendable literature survey and referencing. And, to extend its reach to the masses, the paper can be made more lucid.

    Report prepared by Ms. Lakshmi Priya, Research Assistant, IDSA.