Kautilya's Arthashastra is an excellent treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy. it is written by Kautilya, also known by the name Chanakya or Vishnugupta, the prime minister of India's great emperor, Chandragupta Maurya. The Arthashastra gave in-depth examinations on matters such as history, economics, politics, management, among many other subjects.
In Arthashastra, Kautilya mixes the harsh pragmatism for which he is famed with compassion for the poor, for slaves, and for women. He reveals the imagination of a romancer in imagining all manner of scenarios which can hardly have been commonplace in real life.
Kautilya is, above all, a practitioner of realpolitik and power. He is a close observer of the minutiae of society, polity and economy and its enumerator to an exhaustive degree. Few aspects of life have escaped his eagle eye. Everything is classified, listed and detailed in what are extremely tedious chapters part of the Indian obsession with classification seen in many archaic and medieval works.
Centrally, Arthashastra argues for an autocracy managing an efficient and solid economy. It discusses the ethics of economics and the duties and obligations of a king. The scope of Arthashastra is, however, far wider than statecraft, and it offers an outline of the entire legal and bureaucratic framework for administering a kingdom, with a wealth of descriptive cultural detail on topics such as mineralogy, mining and metals, agriculture, animal husbandry and medicine. The Arthashastra also focuses on issues of welfare (for instance, redistribution of wealth during a famine) and the collective ethics that hold a society together.[ref]
Arthashastra consists of 15 adhikaranas or books, the first five deal with tantra or the internal administration of the state, the next eight deal with avapa or its relations with neighbouring states and the last two are miscellaneous in character.
The treatise is based on practical knowledge of Arya Chanakya, who played major role in creating Maurya Empire, one of the largest in the world. The borders of empire were stretching from Persia to Bengal with it's capital, Patliputra at least twice as big as Rome.[ref]
Attempts to supress
There have been numerous attempts by western "scholars" to supress the importance of the book.
Thomas Trautmann in 1971 tried to prove that different people had composed the different parts of the Arthashastra by counting the number of times or and and were used in the different books, on the basis that different writers would throw up different numbers of these frequently occurring words. Trautmann himself admitted that this could be tested but not proved.[ref]
There have been attempts by Mark McClish to place the book during the Saka Kushan period and understand the Indian tradition as a branding exercise by the Guptas who wished to project themselves in the mould of the Mauryas.[ref]