IAS Target

Chanakya or Vishnugupta


Chanakya (BC 371- BC 283) was an ancient Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor. He is traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthashastra, a text dated to roughly between the 2nd century BCE and the 3rd century CE. As such, he is considered the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta Empire and not rediscovered until the early twentieth century. Chanakya assisted the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in his rise to power. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both emperors Chandragupta and his son Bindusara. Chanakya was a shrewd administrator and a master statesman. His theories on good governance are very important for doing away with corruption in the society. He was not only a political scientist, but also an economist, a diplomat and a successful war strategist.

Philosophy of Chanakya

Chanakya advised people against material aspects of life and equally emphasized on spirituality.
  • Against inequal society and inequal distribution of wealth
  • Security of state to protect people
  • He supported agriculture development and sought state attention
  • He believed in the protection of women, women rights and against exploitation of women.
  • He laid utmost important to land as a resource and hence proposed for its maximum utilization.
  • In order to harness the maximum optimization of the resources of the annexed kingdoms and empires, he looked after them very well.
  • He was a strategist and flared a balance between both the states and the citizens. He wanted the trade to flourish and hence bare minimum taxes were levied which benefitted the case of both the states and the citizens.
  • He wanted to build cities for trade and focus for the promotion of trade with neighbouring states
  • He stresses on the protection of border and also encouraged building forts to counter against external aggression.

Ethical qualities and leadership

  • King should have all information what happening in his empire.
  • Leader should take steps for the well being of its citizens.
  • If leader not kind toward its citizen then he will lose the support of public.
  • A leader should propagate dharma, he should strieve for fair justice where guilt not spare and innocent not suffer due to punishment.
  • There should be focus on economy and steps to reduce wasteful expenditure.
  • An ethical leader should not antagonize the wise and the elders.
  • He should hear all the urgent matters of his subjects and should not postpone them as justice delayed is justice denied.

Chanakya Niti

  • It is the idea where one is bounded by the information one has and sticks to it by limiting oneself. One should explore, cognitive minds should be stretched and one should find answers in the unlimited time to come to decision.
  • Chanakya realized the importance of good bureaucracy.
  • A king can walk only with the help of his subjects as one wheel cannot move a chariot.
  • The responsibilities of the ministers are to be stated by the king.
  • A king should supervise and monitor all works of all its subsidiaries.
  • A king should appoint counsellors and advisers and pay heed to them.

Chanakya’s view on Corruption

  • Just as it is not possible not to taste honey or poison placed on the surface of the tongue, even so, it is not possible for one dealing with the money of the king not to taste the money in however small a quantity
  • Just as fish moving inside water cannot be known when drinking water, even so, officers appointed for carrying out works cannot be known when appropriating Money
  • It is possible to know even the path of birds flying in the sky, but not the ways of officers moving with their intentions concealed.
  • And he should make those who have amassed (money wrongfully) yield it up and should change them in (their) works so that they do not consume (the King’s) property or disgorge what is consumed
  • But those who do not consume (the king’s) goods and increase them in just ways should be made permanent in their offices, being devoted to what is agreeable and permanent to the king.
  • Chanakya believed there should not be too much of personal interaction in professional life else it leads to corruption and hierarchy.
  • A man by nature is selfish and brutal. A man is like a horse that roams about when left free and hence fickle mind. One cannot be honest lifelong.
  • Team work is very important.
  • There should not be a waste of labour.
  • Nepotism and favouritism were also mentioned by Chanakya by government officials to favour their family members, friends etc.
  • He also mentioned about the corruption in the judiciary and mentioned about strict punishment if innocents are penalized, else there is pendency of cases.
  • Taxes should be collected by being sweet and manipulative with sugar coated words which serve the purpose of both the state and the citizens.
  • A strict vigilance and monitoring on all the officials were the call of Chanakya.

Chanakya’s Solution to handle corruption

  • Chanakya believed in keeping spies to look after if the officials carried forward their work properly.
  • He also mentioned about the whistleblowers. They were given awards and incentives to blow off the corruption.
  • Public honour boosts their confidence and gives them a sense of pride of being more honest in future.
  • However, if wrong information is passed off, they were punished too. The death penalty was given for them.
  • Chanakya believed that government servants should be frequently transferred from one place to other so that corruption cannot start at a place.
  • Certain posts should be made temporary because permanency makes government servants haughty and they can take leverage.
  • Superintendents cannot take new mechanism without informing the king. Hence the concept of accountability was proposed by Chanakya.
  • Chanakya wrote that dispensing with the service of too many government servants is conducive to financial prosperity. This would help in faster and effective decision making. This reduces the scope of bribery and corruption in general.