Elements of the State and the Role of the King


Arthasastra conceptualizes the state to have seven elements (saptanga,)

  1. Swami (Monarch)
  2. Amatya (Officials)
  3. Janapada (Population and Territory)
  4. Durga (Fort)
  5. Kosa (Treasury)
  6. Bala (Military)26
  7. Surhit (Ally)

King derived his power from three sources – Prabhushakti (the power of the army and the treasury), Mantashakti (advice of wise men, specifically the Council of Ministers) and Utsahshakti (charisma). Mantashakti was rated as the most potent source followed by the prabhushakti and utsahshakti. Clearly Kautilya believed in the importance of institutions (Council of Ministers) and not of an individual (King) in influencing the destiny of the state. 27 Next to the King came the Mantri Parishad (Council of Minister). King was enjoined to discuss each and every matter with the Parishad as it represented the distilled wisdom of the society. Parishad had two levels – the Inner cabinet and the Outer cabinet. The Inner cabinet had four members – The Chief Minister, The Chief Priest, the Military Commander and the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince was included to ensure smooth succession and to maintain continuity in case of emergencies. The membership of the Outer cabinet was not fixed in number. Invariably the heads of the prominent guilds were co-opted in this body. This gave a representative character of the Parishad. Kautilya glorified the State and viewed the office Kingship to be the embodiment of all legal and moral authority associated with the institution of the state . The King was an intrinsic part of the social order and by the nature of his office, a defender of that order. However King was to regard himself as an agent of the people and had to abide by his dharma as laid out in the Sastras. The institution of the Kingship was sacred but not the person who happens to hold it .

Duties of the Kings

Kautilya did not subscribe to the theory of ‘Divine Origin of the Monarch’. King was not the vicar of the god.2 9 Monarchy, in his view, was a human institution and therefore manned by a human being. However the king was expected to be more than a mere human being since he was the protector of the dharma of the whole society. He had to observe an exemplary conduct himself.  He had no private life and all his actions were subject to public scrutiny. The King had to follow a his rayja dharma. This included a thorough knowledge of the four branches of knowledge . The King was expected to display Atma vrata (self-control) and for this he had to abandon the ‘six enemies – kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), mana. (vanity), mada (haughtiness), and harsha (overjoy) . Clearly Kautilya expected very high standards from the rulers. This is in contrast to the realistic model of the citizen on which he based so many of his laws. The King had a fairly regimented daily routine. His day and night was divided into eight nalikas (one and half hours) each. The King was assigned specific tasks for the specific nalika.