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These questions become particularly pertinent as we seek to understand classical South Asian society through the lens of the Arthaśāstra. We begin, therefore, by exploring the world of the Arthaśāstra. This is, most fundamentally, an imagined world centered on the idealized representation of a generic kingdom—the “idealtypical kingdom,” in other words. The norms of statecraft exist for the Arthaśāstra independent of any given material context. Particular details about classical South Asia monarchies— precisely the kind of information we might like to have—are, for Kauṭilya, trivial permutations of the ideal-typical kingdom.

The other [secret agent] should rebut him, as also the people there who would applaud it: “Oppressed by the law of the fish, people made Manu, the son of Vivasvat, king. They allocated to him as his share one-sixth of the grain and one-tenth of the merchandise, as also money. Subsisting on that, kings provide security to the subjects. Those who do not pay fines and taxes take on the sins of kings, while kings who do not provide security take on the sins of their subjects. . The position of Indra and Yama—it is this that is occupied by kings, but with their wrath and grace visibly manifest.

Nevertheless, in classical South Asian society, it was the king who was the paragon of worldly success, for he possessed wealth and power unrivaled in his domain. Equating the discourse on statecraft with the general life goal of artha enhanced the prestige of the text, as it linked the priorities of governance with such fundamental human concerns as piety, pleasure, and personal salvation: This treatise brings into being and protects Law (dharma), Success (artha), and Pleasure (kāma), and suppresses those who are unrighteous (adharmān) and those who hate Success (artha).

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