Arthasastra is a very comprehensive treatise on the governance in a monarchical Vedic state. Kautilya had a rational approach to governance and statecraft. He conceptualized the state and the office of the kingship to be human artifacts. Also his model of the human being was very realistic. However he expected super human qualities from a ‘human’ King. Chandragupta, Bindusar and Ashoka matched this ideal but their successors could not. Clearly the system of checks and balances amongst the king, the associations and the citizens worked well as long as the King wanted it to work. The ideal society of the Arthasastra did last for a couple of centuries. However the successful Muslims invasion in the 8th century indicated a serious (military) deficiency in the ‘Hindu’ society. The vision of Kautilya was a creation of a strong and prosperous Vedic order so the foreigner invasions (like that of Alexander) could be repulsed. The success of the Muslim invasion suggested that either the governance by the ‘Hindu’ Kings was not according to the tenets of the Arthasastra or the Arthasastra philosophy itself had become antiquated. Probably both were true. Kings had certainly deviated from the Vedic ideal of a ‘dharmic king’ – the ‘servant’ of the people and the protector of the dharmic order. Varna system had degenerated into a caste system. The rational and dharmic order of the Arthasastra had been reduced to only a shadow of its past glory. Muslim invasion probably found an easy target in a moribund order.
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