Arthashastra an ancient Indian treatise known for its contents on politics and state craft, administration, financial system, and many other aspects of social and religious life. Subjects like man's relationship with animals and plants, minerals and metals, geology, agriculture and animal husbandry have also been dealt with in it. One cannot but feel amazed at the breadth of the knowledge of the author. The Arthasastra was a storehouse of information on a multitude of subjects and it clearly reflects the intellectual and scientific development achieved by the ancient Indians.
The author of the Sanskrit work of c.3rd century BC was Kautilya, the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya, also known as extremely clever Chanakya or Visnugupta, who was a teacher of the king. The book was somehow lost, and a copy of it was discovered by Pandit R. Shamasastri in a remote corner of South India in the beginning of the 20th century. He published an edited version of the text with an English translation in 1915. However, it should be mentioned that a critical examination of the contents of the work has convinced some scholars that the text was not the work of a single individual and that it could not have been composed in the 3rd century B C, but probably it received its present form three or four centuries later. Whatever view we might take, it would be fair to designate it as Kautilya's Arthashastra.
Bengal found very scant mention in this work in only two aspects: its fine cotton fabric enjoyed a great demand all over India; and the women of Bengal were given a high place among the womenfolk of India in terms of their good look and countenance.
The Arthaxastra is considered a valuable source for ancient Indian history since it is solely concerned with all worldly affairs rather than the out-worldly affairs with which the vast majority of the ancient Indian literature are busy with. However, it should be borne in mind that the Arthasastra is solely concerned with theories rather than the actual practice of the time. But the theories must have been founded on the experience of the time. [AM Chowdhury]