• Introduction
  • Maxims from Chanakyasutras
  • Ethical Roots
  • Economic Prosperity
  • Need for Right Ruler
  • Advisors, Aides, Counsellors, Ministers
  • Allies, Friends
  • Evils of Laziness
  • State Policy
  • Foreign policy
  • Duties of Citizens
  • Evil of Vices
  • Advice for Rulers
  • Advice for Citizens
  • Rulers ad People
  • Maxims from Chanakya Rajniti Shastra
  • Duties and Qualities of the Ruler
  • Financial Policy
  • Need for Learning and knowledge
  • Modus operandi of Governance
  • Friends and Enemies
  • Strategy towards Enemies and Friends
  • Service with Rulers: Duties and Qualities of state officials
  • Maxims from Arthshastra
  • Financial Policy
  • Corruption
  • Guarding of Secrets
  • Causes of people’s discontent
  • Philosophy
  • Miscellaneous Dicta
  • References


Kautilya, Chanakya and Vishngupta are the three names of the same person. Chanakya’s works were produced during the period 321 BC to 290 BC. Chanakya was the chief minister of Chandra Gupta Maurya. He was a sage statesman who helped establish first Indian empire and was ruthless in dealing with enemies, was himself an austere bachelor, and retired to a life of seclusion and contemplation, as soon his political objectives were achieved. The Maxims of Chanakya are translated from three works- ‘Chanakyasutras’, ‘Chanakyanitidarpan’ and ‘Arthshastra’.



  1. Maxims from Chanakyasutras
  1. Ethical Roots
  • Righteousness (dharma) is the root of happiness. Wealth is the root of righteousness.
  • The state (Rajyam) is the root of wealth. Victory over senses is the root of the state.
  • Humility is the root of sense control. Worship of elders is root of humility.
  • Wisdom results from the worship of elders. With wisdom one can prosper. The prosperous one becomes the victorious one. The victorious one attains all the riches.
  1. Economic Prosperity
  • Economic prosperity creates prosperity for the people. If the people are prosperous, even a leaderless state can be governed. People’s fury is greatest of all furies.
  1. Need for Right Ruler
  • To be without a master is better than having an arrogant master.
  1. Advisors, Aides, Counsellors, Ministers
  • After equipping oneself fully, one should seek an ally (aide).
  • One without advisor has no certainty of counsel.
  • The true aide serves alike in prosperity and adversity.
  • A self-respecting ruler should appoint as counsellor, one who is inferior to him and respect him.
  • He should not take into counsel out of love, one who is impertinent (irrelevant).
  • One who is learned and free from fraud should be made minister.
  • All things begin with counsel.
  • Accomplishment of the task depends on guarding the secret of the counsel.
  • One who leaks out counsel destroys the task. Defection to the enemy takes due to negligence. Ministerial advice should be kept secret from all quarters.
  • Counsel is a beacon (signal station) to the one blind of action.
  • Through ministerial eyes others weaknesses are seen
  • At the time of taking ministerial advice there should not be any quarrel.
  • A decision should be taken on the unanimous opinion of three.
  • Counsellors (Ministers) are those who see the true implications what ought to be done and what ought not to done.
  1. Allies, Friends
  • One who is affectionate in difficulties is the friend.
  • In the acquisition of allies, one develops strength.
  • The stronger one tries to get what has not been obtained.
  1. Evils of Laziness
  • The lazy one does not get what has not been obtained.
  • The lazy one cannot guard even what has been begotten.
  • The lazy one cannot even command servants.
  1. State Policy
  • Getting what has not been got, guarding it, developing it and then distributing it – these four constitute state policy.
  • Politics is the tool of state policy. Internal administration and foreign relations are dependent on state policy.
  • Deployment of the four fold policy (conciliation, donation, division, and punishment) in one’s own country is internal administration.
  1. Foreign policy
  • Foreign policy is deployment of the same (four fold means) towards neighbouring states. Neighbouring states are the source of treaties and hostilities.
  • A ruler with a contiguous (sharing a border) territory is a rival. Power is the cause of an alliance.
  • One should fight with a superior or equal. If there are many enemies, treaty should be entered into with one.
  1. Duties of Citizens
  • A ruler should be approached like fire.
  • One should not wear provocative clothes.
  1. Evil of Vices
  • One addicted to vices does not accomplish tasks.
  • One addicted to gambling does not accomplish anything.
  1. Advice for Rulers
  • An enemy should be won over by the use of political science. The scepter links one to riches. In the absence of scepter (the imperial authority symbolized by a scepter), there are no ministers. All activity is understood in wielding (of authority) the scepter.
  • Acquisition of wealth has its root in activity. Righteousness (morality) and pleasures have their root in wealth. Work is the root of wealth. A little effort accomplishes the task. A task in which an expedient (appropriate to a purpose; practical) is used is not difficult to achieve. If no expedient is used, a task, even if attempted, fails. Expedient is the aid to those who seek success in undertakings. A task attains its objectives through human effort. Fortune follows human effort. Without God’s grace, even excessive effort proves fruitless. One who is not calm and collected (in full control of your faculties) cannot accomplish tasks. One should decide first and then commence the task. There should not be any delay in undertaking of a new task after completing one. The fickle – minded one does not accomplish tasks. If what is obtained is despised (look down, lack of respect), things go awry (not functioning properly). A work which is obstacle ridden should not be started. One who knows (opportune) time accomplishes the task. One should commence a work after understanding the country and the consequences. Prosperity lasts long for one who acts after proper consideration. All types of riches should be amassed by all means. Prosperity forsakes even a lucky one, if he acts without foresight. The one who knows the means makes the impossible possible. Only accomplished deeds should be publicized.
  • Everyone should be yoked to task for which he is befitted.
  • Destiny has to be counteracted through propitiatory (intended to reconcile) deeds.
  • Man made obstacles should be overcome through one’s skills. Those who seek to achieve things should show no mercy.
  • The milk seeking calf strikes at the mother’s udders. Due to lack of efforts task fails.
  • Those who blindly believe in destiny do not achieve anything.
  • Things should be examined with reference to facts patent and latent, and inferences.
  • Prosperity forsakes one who does things without proper examination.
  • Danger should be overcome after proper analysis.
  • One should begin a venture after assessing one’s strength.
  • The favour seeker accomplishes his end after knowing the nature of his master.
  • The one who knows cow’s nature gets the milk.
  • A good one should not reveal his secret to a mean one.
  • The soft natured one is disregarded even by those dependent on him.
  • One who cannot control himself is destroyed by his anger.
  • Rashness does not accomplish tasks.
  • When opportunities are lost, obstacles definitely arise.
  • Custody of others riches is undertaken by purely out of selfishness.
  • Honest and upright people are rare.
  • A single defect overshadows many qualities.
  • A slanderous (tending to discredit or malign) listener is forsaken (desert) even by his

wife and children.

  • Excessive courtesy should never be trusted.
  • Through association of good even one without virtue becomes virtuous.
  • A lazy one cannot attain happiness in this world or the other.
  • Till the enemy’s weakness is known, he should be kept on friendly terms.
  • An enemy should be struck at his weak point.
  • One’s weakness should not be revealed, enemies strike at weak spots.
  • Good behaviour wins even an enemy.
  • The foolish speaks out what was spoken, in secret, by the master.
  • Even after attaining great prosperity, the one without fortitude (courage and strength when facing trouble) perishes.
  • The one without fortitude (courage and strength when facing trouble) does not enjoy anything either materially or spiritually.
  • Intellect is that which can deceit on action in difficulties.
  • Moderate eating is healthy. In indigestion, no food (wholesome or otherwise) should be taken. Diseases do not touch one who digests his food. In an old body, a growing disease should not be neglected. Eating is painful in indigestion.
  • Disease excels an enemy.
  • When the tasks are great, abundant rewards should be made the incentive.
  • Donation is righteousness. One can conquer the world with righteousness.
  • The world is borne by righteousness. Vice and virtue pursue even the departed spirit.
  • Kindness is mother of righteousness. Truth and charity are the roots of righteousness.
  • Even death protects the righteous. Righteousness is the ornament of all.
  • One should earn wealth as if one is immortal.
  • The wealthy are respected by all.
  • There is enemy equal to hunger. Poverty is death while living. There is nothing uneatable for a hungry one. The poor one is despised (hated) by his wife.
  • Learning is wealth for the poor
  • One should serve a learned master.
  • Excess sex ages man. Lack of sex ages women.
  • There can be no marriage between the high and low.
  • Association with low (characterless) women reduces life span, reputation and virtue.
  • One should not envy other’s good quality.
  • A good quality should be learnt even from an enemy.
  • A person is honoured according to his status. Men are respected only in their positions.
  • There is no jewel equal to a good woman.
  • Dress should befit age.
  • A mother is the greatest teacher. In all circumstances, the mother should be looked after. Modesty (lajja) is the ornament of women.
  • Knowledge is the ornament of the learned.
  • Learning is wealth to poor. Fame is glorified by learning. Fame is immortal.
  • A wife is a non metallic shackle.
  1. Advice for Citizens
  • One should have friendly connection with the ruling elite.
  • When children are good, homes are heaven.
  • Children should be made to reach the shores of knowledge (that is given maximum education).
  • The greatest gain is gain of a son.
  • He who protects parents from difficulties is the son.
  • The good son spreads the family’s fame.
  • Possession of maid servant enslaves one.
  • Evil one should not be helped.
  • A sound intellect is a sound body.
  • Prosperity depends on the intellect.
  • Righteousness should be practiced always.
  • Saints should be worshipped.
  • Truth is the means to heaven
  • Evil speech, though unintended, remains long in memory.
  • A man who does his duty is a good and righteous man.
  • Like the seed, the fruit.
  • Intellect depends on education.
  • Conduct depends on family.
  • A comfort which has been obtained should not be given up.
  • One’s action is cause of one’s sorrow.
  • In the absence of knowledge of the scriptures, the conduct of good people should be followed. People are tradition bound. One should not speak ill of the person who is responsible for one’s livelihood.
  • The essence of penance (tap) is control of senses.
  • Stay in heaven is not permanent; it lasts only till the reserves of accumulated virtue remain.
  • To fall from heaven is greatest sorrow.
  • Liberation is the remedy for all sorrows.
  • No pleasure is greater than touch of one’s children.
  • Every morning, the day’s task should be planned.

There is no attraction equal to a gift

  • All worldly beings are bound by desire.
  • Those who have excess desire have no firmness.
  • The one blinded by prosperity does not see the imminent nor listens to sane advice.
  • Company of the good is like residence in heaven.
  • One should not question God’s will.
  • One’s son should not be praised.
  • The master should be praised by subordinates.
  • Even in the performance of allotted duties, the master should be praised.
  • The intelligent one does not have enemies.
  • One’s weakness should not be divulged.

Money should be saved for difficult days

  • The daring ones love their duty.
  • Tomorrow’s deed, do it today. Whatever is to be done in afternoon should be done in the forenoon.
  • What is right depends on the nature of the case.

Experience of the world is all knowledge

  • Proper behaviour is more important than being virtuous.
  • The soul is witness of a transaction.
  • The spirit (soul) is the witness of everything.
  • In behaviour, the outer form indicates the inner core.
  • Wealth should be protected from robbers and ruling officials.
  1. Rulers and People
  • Inaccessible rulers destroy the people. Easily accessible rulers please the people. The people deem a just ruler a mother. Such a ruler attains material happiness and later heaven.
  • There is only sorrow in birth and death.
  • No one should try to escape the cycle of births and deaths.
  1. Maxims from Chanakya Rajniti Shastra
  1. Duties and Qualities of the Ruler
  • The rulers duties are stated to be five: punishment of the wicked (dusht), rewarding the righteous, development of state revenues by just means, impartiality in granting favours and protection of the state.
  • The characteristics of a ruler are five: he gives up wealth in favour of the needy, loves virtues, enjoys pleasure in company of friends and relatives, is anxious to learn the sciences and is fighter in war.
  • The ruler should learn one quality each from the lion and the crane, four from the cock (murga), five from crow, six from the dog.
  • One should learn from lion to undertake a task well-prepared, whether it is a big one or small. Like a crane, the learned one should control his senses and knowing the aptness of time and place, accomplish all tasks.
  • From a cock one should learn four things: getting up in time, fighting, division of responsibility among allies and enjoyment after attacking oneself.
  • From the crow one should learn five things: sex in secrecy, secret action, and catch in time, unruffled behaviour and distrust of every one.
  • These are six qualities of the dog: desire for much, satisfaction with little, deep slumber (A natural and periodic state of rest during which consciousness of the world is suspended), quick awakening, devotion to master and bravery.
  • From the donkey three things should be learnt: to carry the burden even though tired, not to mind heat or cold and to trudge (walk heavily and firmly) ever satisfied.
  • The discerning one who practices these twenty virtues mentioned conquers all enemies and he himself remains unconquerable.
  1. Financial Policy
  • He who has wealth has friends, relatives; he counts in the world as a person and is deemed as a scholar.
  • He who has wealth is deemed noble, scholar, proficient in scripture, discerner of qualities, eloquent speaker, and attractive to look at. All qualities are dependent on wealth.
  • Wealth is caste, wealth is beauty, wealth is learning, wealth is fame, what can those deprived of wealth (and hence of life and qualities) aspire for?
  • The wealthy one buys beauty with enticement (temptation), strength through servants, noble respect through guests, and lineage through marriages with big families.
  • All virtues are dependent on wealth, wealth captures pleasures, and everything is dependent on wealth. Wealth enriches and enhances life.
  • Wealth is un-bewildered (un-perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements) beauty, wealth is auspicious family, wealth is un-faded youth, wealth is lasting life.
  • Qualities are attained by wealth, not wealth by qualities; the wealthy one is served by one with good qualities, not vice versa.
  • From where does it come? Where does it go? It is impossible to know the path of wealth – As the bee collects honey gradually from the flowers, so should the ruler fill the treasury, collecting revenue gradually.
  1. Need for Learning and knowledge
  • Read, son, read. Why be lazy? The illiterate is burden carrier. The scholar is venerated (respected) by the ruler. Read son every day.
  • Read, son, always. Memorise what you learn. The ruler is worshipped in his country. Learning is worshipped everywhere.
  1. Modus operandi of Governance
  • People are controlled by punishment, the intrinsically pure man are rare. Out of fear of punishment the world enjoys blessings.
  • One can regain wife, wealth, friend, children, importance, but not a body.
  1. Friends and Enemies
  • He is the friend who stands by in illness, adversity, famine, attack by enemy, at rulers door and the cremation ground.
  • One should not be too straight forward. Go and see the forest. The straight trees are cut down, the crooked one are left standing.
  1. Strategy towards Enemies and Friends
  • All beings are pleased by sweet words. Hence only sweet words should be spoken. Where is poverty in words?
  • The union of even small people can become irresistible. The elephant is tied by the rope, made of grass.
  • The enemy should not know one’s own weakness, but one should know enemy’s weakness. One should hide one’s intention, as tortoise withdraws its limbs, and watch enemy’s posture.
  • The miser should be won over by means of wealth, the proud man by offering respect, the fool by flattery, and the learned by truth fullness.
  • The superior one should be dealt with by submission, the valiant by division, the low one by gifts and equal by prowess (superior skill to be learned by study, practice and observation).
  1. Service with Rulers: Duties and Qualities of state officials

Five things burn the body without fire: serving a bad ruler, uncleared debt, disgrace of one’s people, separation from beloved, a friend who turns his face away because one is poor.

Six things burn the body without the aid of fire: living in a bad village, serving a bad ruling family, bad food, short tempered wife, idiotic son, widowed daughter.

  • A man is tested in four ways: with reference to his family, conduct, quality and action, just as gold is tested in four ways: by scratching, breaking, heating and beating.
  • Servants can be known when sent on errands (a short trip that is taken for performance of a necessary task), relatives when difficulties arise, a friend in times of distress, and the wife when prosperity declines.
  • A fool should be avoided, he is two footed animal. He hurts with sharp words like an unseen thorn.
  • The ruler’s scribe (Secretary) should understand what is spoken forthwith, write fast, have a good hand writing, well versed in all arts and sciences and be distinguished
  • He is the scribe, who is able, eloquent, wise, honest, who has controlled his senses, who has learnt all arts and sciences, and who is good.
  • If the ruler is righteous, people are righteous, if he is a sinner, the people are also sinners, if he is equal in vice and virtue, and so are people. People follow the ruler. Like ruler like people.

Seven sleeping ones should not be woken up: the ruler, the lion, the snake, the hog (greedy), the infant, another’s dog, and an idiot.

Seven sleeping ones should be woken up: the treasurer, door keeper, the student, the traveller, the hungry one and the one who is afraid

Deity, teacher, wife, doctor, astrologer, if visited empty handed do not bestow desired objects.

  1. Maxims from Arthshastra
  • Difficulties stabilise friendship.
  • Rendering help is the sign of a friend.
  • Those with established relationship do not desert, even if offended.
  1. Financial Policy
  • The treasury has its source in mines.
  • From the strength of the treasury the Army is born.
  • Through the treasury and the army, the earth, whose adornment is treasury, is obtained.
  • Material wealth alone is important, says Kautilya, for both righteousness and pleasure are based on material wealth.
  • Riches, righteousness and physical pleasures – these are three kinds of wealth. These are preferable to attain than the latter ones.
  1. Corruption
  • Just as it is difficult not to taste honey or poison placed on tongue, similarly, it is difficult for one handling the ruler’s money to refrain from tasting it in at least small quantities.
  • Just as it is not possible to know when the fish moving in water drink water, similarly, it is difficult to find out when officers employed in execution of works misappropriate money.
  • He who is responsible for loss of revenue shall be deemed to have eaten the ruler’s property.
  • He who doubles the revenue eats up people’s property.
  • The intellect of the brave, trained to be steadfast, once corrupted may not return without reaching the end (the summit of corruption).
  1. Guarding of Secrets
  • A person under the influence of carelessness, intoxication, or prattling (talking foolishly) while asleep or enjoying carnal (sensual) pleasures, or one hidden or dishonoured discloses secret counsel.

Wise men exhibit in their gestures and expressions the opposite of their feeling in the pairs: love and hatred, pleasure and sorrow, determination and fear, etc. in order to hide their secrets.

Law, Justice Punishment

  • In all cases an offence concerning women or relatives, professional rivalry, hatred of opposition, market association, or trade guilds, any of the legal disputes, the origin is anger. Anger results in murder.
  • A case in dispute is four legged. It depends on:1) what is right according to ethical principles, 2) evidence, 3) custom, and 4) the ruler’s order. The last one overrules all the earlier ones.
  • What is right is based on truth, evidence on witness, custom on available tradition of the people and the law is ruler’s command.
  • Punishment meted out after due consideration keeps the people attached to righteousness and tasks conducive to material wealth and enjoyment.
  • If no punishment is given the law of fishes (strong swallowing the weak) is created punishment, the root of discipline, is the source of prosperity for the people.
  • New men deeming the dispenser of punishment as Yama incarnate do not commit crimes.

It is to meet unforeseen difficulties that a woman is given property (dowry, at the time of marriage).

  1. Causes of people’s discontent

By undertaking schemes which result in loss and stopping those which will result in gain by not protecting people from thieves and robbers and enriching himself at their cost. Discontented people go over to the enemy or destroy the ruler themselves.

Ruling family, Ruling Class

  • The power of ruling class, augmented by the learned preceptor (Guru), buttressed (make stronger) by the counsel of good ministers, armed with the compliance of scriptures and sciences triumphs and ever remains unvanquished.
  • Corporations (or groups of exclusive ruling class) being close-knit are not easily assailable (undefendable) by enemies.
  • A ruling family composed of undisciplined and dissolute (unrestrained by convention or morality) members break like moth-eaten wood.

Duties of officials

  • One may seek to serve a ruler devoid of wealth or loyal subjects for a characterless ruler disregards the tenets of political science, associates himself with evil company and comes to ruin even after inheriting a large and prosperous kingdom.
  • Undesirable persons become favourites by acting according to the reading of the ruler’s mind.
  • The wise ones should first look to their own self protection. Those who serve rulers are said to function in fire.

The occasions when one should leave one’s post are –

  • When one’s work gets destroyed without frustration.
  • One’s power gets reduced when one’s learning is treated like a tradable commodity.
  • One’s hopes are frustrated.
  • One is eager to be in new countries.
  • When one looses the confidence of the master?
  • When one comes in conflict with powerful people.
  1. Philosophy

The three Vedas deals with righteousness and unrighteousness, economics deals with wealth and poverty, politics deals with good and bad state policies. Philosophy, which sifts (distinguish and separate out) with reason the relative importance of these sciences, benefits the world, keeps the intellect steady in adversity and prosperity and creates excellence in thought, word and deed.

Philosophy is considered the light of learning, the means for the accomplishment of all tasks, and the refuge of all righteous beliefs (of all religions).

Miscellaneous Dicta

  • Time (opportunity) approaches a man desirous of it only once. And will not come a second time when he wants to do his work.
  • Success and failure are common on all paths. Power alters the mind.
  • Sons kept engaged in pleasures do not rise against the father.
  • Only the display of valour (heroism) can tackle trouble.
  • Among thousands there is hardly one or not even one (fit to be a) leader.
  • Peace is one which allows the enjoyment of results without disturbance.
  • Artisans are generally dishonest.
  • Peace and activity (industry) are the source of security and welfare.
  • Power, place and time (opportunity) mutually help.
  • One’s body should be protected, not wealth. Why feel for transient riches?
  • A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first.
  • Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous.
  • The biggest guru-mantra is: Never share your secrets with anybody. It will destroy you.
  • There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth.
  • Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions. Why am I doing it, what the results might be and will I be successful. Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead.
  • As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it.
  • The world’s biggest power is the youth and beauty of a woman.
  • Once you start working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest.
  • The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all direction.
  • Whores don’t live in company of poor men, citizens never support a weak company and birds don’t build nests on a tree that doesn’t bear fruits.
  • God is not present in idols. Your feelings are your god. The soul is your temple.
  • Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth.
  • A man is great by deeds, not by birth.
  • Never make friends with people who are above or below you in status. Such friendships will never give you any happiness.
  • Treat your kids like a darling for the first five years. For the next five years, scold them. By the time they turn sixteen, treat them like a friend. Your grown up children are your best friends.
  • Books are as useful to a stupid person as a mirror is useful to

a blind person.