The Nitisara by Kamandaki

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Item Code: NAB825
Author: Kamandaki
Publisher: The Asiatic Society
Language: Sanskrit Text with English Translation
Edition: 2023
Pages: 472
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5inch X 6.2 inch
Weight 790 gm
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Book Description
About the Author

Edited by: Raja Rajendra Lala Mitra

English Translated by: Dr. Sisir Kumar Mitra

The Nitisara of Kamandaki a post Maurya treatise narrating the elements of polity divided in twenty sargas and thirty six prakarans is dependent on the Arthasastra of Kautilya dealing inter alia with theories of social order authority and obligation of the temporal ruler theories of states structure and organs of government principles and policies of government inter state relations functions of envoys ambassadors and spies application of different political expedients varieties of battle arrays attitude towards morality etc.

Raja Rajendra Lala Mitra was the first to edit the text published by the Asiatic society spread over in 5 fascicles between 1849 and 1884. The Raja also undertook the English translation of the text but unfortunately white ants devoured the manuscript.

This revised edition contains an analytical assessment of the treatise and in addition the first ever complete English translation of the text and is expected to be of immense value to the scholars of ancient Indian polity.


From the Jacket

Sisir Kumar Mitra (b. 1919) educated at Calcutta an ardent student of ancient Indian History and culture qualified for higher research work and teaching the subject having secured a first class M.A. Degree in 1941. He joined the state education service and for over two decades taught the same subject in the honors course at the government Sanskrit College, Calcutta, Besides being a part time lecturer of the University of Calcutta. Eventually Sisir Kumar was appointed a Reader Department of Ancient Indian History and culture in 1970.

A serious student a successful teacher Sisir Kumar Contributed papers in the field of political and social history of Ancient India and 1958 published his research desideratum. The early rulers of Khajuraho a product of intensive study on the early history of Bundelkhand. In recognition of his devotion to research work. The Asiatic Society elected him a fellow (1968).


Preface to the First Edition

This, the first edition of Kamanadaki’s "Elements of polity", has been printed from a modern but very correct manuscript obtained at Benares by the late enthusiastic antiquarian Major Markham Kittoe. The work is very scarce in Calcutta, and the only copy we could obtain for collation is contained in the Library of the Asiatic Society, No. 168 of the Sanskrit a Catalogue. It has been copied for the Library of the late College of Fort William, and, like most` works of that collection, abounds in errors and lacunae which render it utterly unreliable as an authority. It has, however, one redeeming merit, a Sanskrit a commentary, not to be met with in the Benares MS., which has been of great use in settling the reading and meaning of a great number of technical terms. In this respect the Panchatantra and the Hitopadesa of Vishnusarma have also been of service.

Of the author of the work very little seems to be known. The commentary above cited, states that he was a disciple of the celebrated politician Chanakya, the Machiavel of India, who raised the first Mauriya king Chandragupta on the throne of Pataliputra (BC. 319); and this statement is fully corroborated by tradition. From a report submitted by Dr. Frederich to the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences on the Sanskrit a literature of Bali, it appears that the most popular work in that Island on Polity is entitled Kamandakiya Nitisara, and all. The Sanskrit a books there extant are acknowledged to be the counterparts of purely Indian originals. The researches of Sir Stamford Raffles and Craw furd shew that the predominance of Buddhism in the island of java obliged the Hindu inhabitants of that place to retire, in the fourth century of the Christian era, with their household gods and their sacred scriptures to the island of Bali, where they and their descendants have, ever since, most carefully preserved the authenticity of their literature and their religion. It has also been shown by the same authorities that since the period of their exile, they have not had any religious intercourse with India; it would therefore follow that the Sanskrit a works now available in Bali, including the Kamandakiya Niti, are of a date- anterior to the 4th century. The contents, however, of the Balenese code of morals are unknown, and it would be premature from the similarity of names, to infer its identity with the work now presented to the public yet the fact that the people of Bali, themselves acknowledge all their Sanskrit a literature to have been obtained from India would argue the existence of at least a Kamandakiya Nitisara at the time when that literature was imported from the shores of Bharatavarsha.

An internal evidence of some moment is in favor of the antiquity which tradition Chas ascribed to this work. It is dedicated to Chandragupta, and the author, a Buddhist, apparently with a view not to offend the feelings of his Hindu patron with the name of a Buddhist deity, has thought fit to forego the usual invocation at the commencement of _his work——a circumstance which has been made the theme of much erudite disquisition by the author of the Siddhanta Muktavali.

Although written in verse its style is peculiarly unpoetical, and in its rude simplicity approaches the older Smritis. The work has not, however, any of the antiquated grammatical forms and obsolete expressions which are so freely met with in Manu and occasionally in the other Smritis, and its versification is unexceptionable. Indeed, had it to be judged by its meters alone they would have justified the inference that its origin is due to a much later age than that of Kalidasa.

It has been observed by some that the use of the word hora in this work is fatal to its claim to antiquity, that word having been shown, in a paper published in the journal of the Asiatic Society (Vol. p) to be of Arabic origin, and to have been borrowed by the Brahmans in the,10th century. Mr., Ravenshaw’s speculations, however, have not yet obtained that confirmation which would justify our rejecting the testimony of the dedication and infer the date of the work from the use of a single word which may after all be the result of an interpolation or a mislection.

One of the most striking points in the general tone of the work is its gravity and sententiousness. Confucius, in his proverbs, scarely attempts anything more pithy; and yet in the anxiety of the author to lay down rules for even the most insignificant movements of kings, there is a dryness of detail which deprives it entirely of the charm of terseness. Its gravity is essentially Oriental, while the morality of its state policy is more worthy of the notorious historiographer of Florence than of the successors of Bhrigu and other great sages of ancient India. Its corner stone is cunning and artilice, intended-to favor arbitrary power, and its main object is to overcome party opposition. Considering that the political life of Chanakya was devoted to one eternal round of stratagems and artifices for the overthrow of his powerful rival, Rakshasa, of which forgery, perjury and even poisoning formed the most salient points, it is not to be wondered at that his principles, even when systematized by his pupil, should retain some indications of their tortuosity. This defect, however, is confined entirely to the sections on diplomacy, and does not at all affect his rules regarding the general conduct of princes and their officers, which, in their earnest advocacy of truth, justice and honesty, would stand a very favorable comparison with works of much higher pretensions, Those rules are the originals whence the ethics of the Hitopadesa have been deduced, and the Hitopadesa is a work that has withstood the ordeal of criticism for near fifteen hundred years, and has not been found wanting. As a book on morality it is better known and "has been translated more frequently and into a greater variety of languages than any other composition not sacred".

It might be argued that in the infancy of race, as in the childhood of man, the apologue or fable is the only form in which moral counsel is successfully imparted, and hence it would be much more reasonable to suppose the Hitopadesa to be the archetype of the Kamandakiya Niti, than the latter to be that of the former. But it is no less true that in the early state of society, concise rules and flashing proverbs, "the condensed conclusions of experience" form better guides of life, and are therefore, more generally esteemed, than protracted ratio—citations in search of general principles, and hence it is that all our wise men of antiquity from Solomon downwards, are more noted for their proverbs than lengthy processes of inference. Probably apologues followed proverbs, and essays succeeded them next. The argument however, in either way, is not applicable with reference to the origin of either the Kamandakiya Niti or the Hitopadesa. The Mahabharata must be acknowledged to be anterior to both, and in the Rajadharma section of that epic, maxims are produced in almost the very words in which we see them in the later works hence the idea is suggested that those and similar maxims were among the Hindus, as they are among other nations, the heirlooms of remote antiquity which have been from time to time collected arranged amplified, and illustrated according to varying predilections of authors. The maxims of Kamandaki are arranged under nineteen different heads, and embrace almost all the subjects that may be fairly included under the term polity, besides some which have only the voucher of Hindu writers to appear in this work. The first chapter is devoted to the inculcation, in princes, of the necessity of study and of controlling their passions. The second has for its subjects the division of learning, the duties of the different castes and the importance of criminal jurisprudence. In the third occurs an exposition of the duty of princes to their subjects, of the necessity of impartial justice, and the impropriety of tyrannizing over their people. The fourth affords a description of the essential constituents of a good government. It says "King, minister, kingdom, castle, treasury, army, and allies are known to form the seven constituents of a Government". They contribute to each other’s weal, and the loss of even a single one of them renders the whole imperfect:—he who wishes to keep a government perfect should study well their natures.

"The first desideratum for a king is to attain royal qualities and having attained them he should look for them in others. A flourishing sovereignty cannot well be obtained by the worthless; he (only) who has qualified himself is fit to be a king.

"Royal prosperity, so difficult to be obtained and more to retain, and which depends on the goodwill of multitudes, rests steadily only on moral purity, as water in a (fixed) vessel."

The duties of masters and servants engross the whole of the fifth chapter, and the mode of removing difficulties or rather of punishing the wicked, forms the subject of the sixth. The seventh is devoted to the duty of guarding the persons of kings and crown princes, and includes a variety of expedients against surprises, poisoning, the infidelity of servants, wives and relatives and the dishonesty of medical attendants. The mode of consolidating a kingdom by providing it with the necessary officers of state, and including within it a number of dependencies and subordinate chiefs, forms the subject of the next chapter, Then follow a series of rules regarding negotiations and disputes with foreign powers, conferences, embassies and spies, which take up the whole of the 9th, 10th, 11th and the 12th chapters. The 13th opens with an exhortation in favour of constant activity and attention to business, and the evils which attend idleness and vicious propensities. The latter are indicated by the term vyasama, and include a number of vices and frailties—such as over fondness for hunting and gambling, sleeping in the day, calummy, concupiscence, dancing, singing, playing, idleness, drinking, general depravity, violence, injury, envy, malice, pride and tyranny. The term is very comprehensive and when applied to other than men is made to imply "defects" generally, and the subsequent chapter particularizes the various defects to which the seven members of government are frequently liable. It is followed by a dissertation on military expeditions. The 16th chapter has fortification, intrenchment and encamping of armies for its subjects and though short, is highly interesting, for the rules it contains on matters in which the modern Hindus are so entirely ignorant. The different expedients for overcoming enemies such as reconciliation, wealth, shew of military power, domestic discord; diplomacy, feigning, and stratagem mare detailed in the following chapter and those failing a king is recommended to enter into actual warfare, and on the mode of carrying it on including surprises, guerilla fights, pitched battles and military strategies, the uses of the different members of an army such as the infantry cavalry and elephant; the arrays of soldiers into columns lines, squares etc., the duties of commanders, and the principle of selecting one’s ground the two subsequent chapters contain the most curious details. With a view to affording an insight into these to those who do not read Sanskrit, it was once our anxious wish to annex to this edition a translation of the entire work, and we had rendered nearly three—fourths of it into English, but press of official duties having caused a long interruption, and an accident—the ravages of white ants—having deprived us of our MS., we feel compelled to abandon our design for the present.

In carrying the work through the press, we have derived much assistance from Pandita Visvanatha Sastri to whom we take this opportunity, publicly, to offer our grateful acknowledgments.



The Nittisara by Kainandaki edited by R. L. Mitra in the Bibliotheca Indica Series of the Asiatic Society was published in parts in different years from 1849 to 1884. Since then a few new editions and translations of the text have come to light. For example, we can refer to (i) the edition published in the Trivandrum Sanskrit Series (no. 12, 1912),(ii) the text printed by the Anandasrama Sanskrit Series, Poone (1952),(iii) the translation in English made by M. N. Dutt (Calcutta, 1896) and(iv) the Nitisara di Kdrnanda-kiya by C. Formichi (Giornale della Societa Asiatica Italiana). These publications and certain writings on the Kdinandakiya, now a recognized Indian text on the science of polity, have made a new revised edition of R. L. Mitra’s work a desideratum. An attempt has been made here to fulfill this need.

In accomplishing the task we have taken help of the available manuscripts of the text and a commentary on it in the library of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta (nos. G. 890, G. 912, G. 4742 and IIA. 25) and also another manuscript. Variations in reading have been duly noted. Anew English translation of the text has been furnished.

The Kamandakiya Nitissra is surely a post-Maurya treatise or at least not a pre—Maurya text, as it refers to the Maurya king Chandra-gupta Maurya (late 4th century BC.) and is dependent on the Arthasastra (of Kautilya), which cannot be placed before the Maurya age. On the other hand, the reference in the Mahabharata to Kamanda (=Kamandaka)(Santiparvan, 123, 11) should place the text before completion of the growth of the Great Epic. The Mahabharata is generally considered to "have received its present form" not "earlier than the 4th century B.C. and not later than the 4th century A.D." (W. Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, vol. I, p. 465). K. P. Jayaswal attributed the Nitisarato the Gupta age (Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, vol. XVIII, 1932, p. 37). Some scholars, however, have assigned it to a later period, even to c, A.D. 700 (R. N. Saletore, Ancient Indian Political Thought and Institutions, p. 9).

The Kamandakiya Nitisdra in its twenty sargas and thirty—six prakaranas discusses various aspects of the science of polity. It deals inter a lia with theories of social order, authority and obligation of the temporal ruler, theories of state structure and organs of government, principles and policies of government, inter-state relations, functions of envoys, ambassadors and spies, application of different political expedients (upayas), varieties of battle arrays (vyahas), attitude towards morality, etc. (See also U. AN. Ghoshal, A History of Indian Political Ideas, pp. 570f) In course of preparing the present edition of the Nitisara valuable assistance and advice have been received from a number of my friends and erstwhile colleagues and I am deeply beholden to them all

In this connection it is my solemn duty to offer tribute to the memory of my esteemed friend and classmate late Bijoy Ranjan Basu, M.A. (Double), who evinced keen interest in this translation project and I owe much to his assistance in bringing out the book in its present form. It is regretted that he passed away suddenly in December last (1981) before the book was printed off.

I take this opportunity of offering my respects to Acharya Gaurinath Shastri, Vice-Chancellor, Sampurnan and Sanskrta Visvavidyalaya, Varanasi, for his inspiring guidance in all my academic pursuits. Pandit Satyendra Chandra Bhattacharya, Smrititirtha, MM. Haraprasad Shastri Research Fellow of the Asiatic Society, gave me his learned assistance in preparing the press copy, and I am sincerely obliged to him.

My most hearty thanks are due to my former pupils for their un-grudging help and cooperation in the projected work. Still I have to mention the names of Dr. B. N. Mukherji, Carmichael Professor, Dr. Amitabha Bhattacharyya, and Dr. Asok K. Bhattacharyya, all my colleagues in the, A.I.H.C. Department for their important suggestions incorporated in one or other portion of the book. I am particularly grateful to Sri Dilip Kumar Nag, M.A., Senior Research Fellow, Centre of Advanced Study, A.I.H.C., Calcutta University, for cheerfully taking upon himself the task of compiling the Glossary of Technical Terms as also the Word Index, to Sri Dipak Sen, M.A., LL.B., Publication Supervisor, Asiatic Society, for carefully seeing the book through the press, to Sri S. Chaudhuri, Librarian and Sri R. P. Banerji, Curator of the Society, for pro-viding me library facilities. I have also to thank my young friends and pupils for rendering me active assistance in the Project. They are, Sri Prasad das Bhattacharyya, M.A., Sri Ranabir Chakravarti, M.A., Lecturer, Visva Bharati, Sm. Seema Chakravarti, M.A., Miss Anu Malik, M.A. and Miss Jhara Ghoshal, M.A. Sriman Sankar Chaudhuri and Sriman Tilaksankar Mitra of the Students’ Service Centre, deserve my thanks for preparing sketches and diagrams for vyrl has used in the book.

I would fail in my duty if I do not recall that it was my esteemed friend Sri Dilip K. Mitra, a reputed Solicitor of the Calcutta High Court and a former General Secretary of the Society, who encouraged me to take up the work, originally edited by his illustrious great: grand-father, Raja Rajendra lala. I have to express my gratefulness to the Council of the Society for bestowing on me the task of preparing a revised edition with English translation of the Nitisara. I am fully conscious of my own limitations, but I have sincerely endeavored to give my best for whatever it is worth. An errata has been provided which may not be adequate. For further lapses and lacunae the editor craves the indulgence of his readers. The authorities and staff of messrs K.P. Basu Printing works deserve praise for the neat production of the book.

Lastly I have to admit that for the successful execution of the work I owe much to my daughter Mithu (Miss Yashodhara Mitra B.A.) who helped me in all possible ways.




  Preface to the first edition  
  Preface to the Revised Edition  
  Sarga I 1-34
1 Control of the sense organs (pp.1-29)  
2 Association with the learned (pp.29-34)  
  Sarga II 35-42
3 Branches of Learning (pp.35-42)  
4 The Social order of varnas and asramas (pp.42-48)  
5 The Merits of Danda  
  Sarga III 53-66
6 Rules or code of conduct (pp 53-66)  
  Sarga IV 67-95
7 The Importance of state elements (pp. 67-95)  
  Sarga V 96-126
8 Relation between the lord and his dependents (pp. 96-126)  
  Sarga VI 127-131
9 Removal of thorns (pp. 127-131)  
  Sarga VII 132-150
10 Protection of princes (pp. 132-134)  
11 Self protection (pp. 134-150)  
  Sarga VIII 151-181
12 The Nave of the inter statal circle (pp. 151-164)  
13 Purification of the Mandala by necessary expedients (pp. 165-181)  
  Sarga IX 182-205
14 Types of Sandhi or alliances (pp. 182-205)  
  Sarga X 206-220
15 Varieties of war (pp. 206-220)  
  Sarga XI 221-235
16 Varieties of Marching encamping dual movement and political alliance or seeking protection of the stronger power (pp. 221-235)  
  Sarga XII 236-257
17 Varieties of policy decisions (pp. 236-257)  
  Sarga XIII 258-275
18 Ambassadors and envoys (pp. 258-266)  
19 Varieties of spies (pp. 266-275)  
  Sarga XIV 276-305
20 Om Praise of energy and initiative (pp. 276-281)  
21 Functions of the constituent elements of the state (pp. 281-294)  
22 Vices or corruption of statal elements (pp. 294-305)  
  Sarga XV 306-323
23 Lapses of state seven varieties (pp. 306-323)  
  Sarga XVI 324-351
24 Circumstances suitable for expeditions (pp. 324-351)  
  Sarga XVII 352-364
25 Establishment of encampments (pp. 352-358)  
26 Nimitgyanprakarnam (pp. 358-364)  
  Sarga XVIII 365-387
27 Verities of expedients (pp. 365-387)  
  Sarga XIX 388-412
28 Points of strength and weakness of the army (pp. 388-397)  
29 The qualifications of the commander in chief (pp. 397-402)  
30 Remedies of lapses in marches (pp. 402-405)  
31 Deceitful tactics in warfare (pp. 405-412)  
  Sarga XX 413-443
32 Position and functions of the elephant force cavalry, charioteers and infantry during the march (pp. 413-416)  
33 Tracks convenient for movement of infantry cavalry contingents of chariots and elephants (pp. 416-419)  
34 Scales of rewards for the fighting forces (pp. 419-422)  
35 Varieties of array of the army (pp. 422-434)  
36 Deceitful tactics in warfare (pp. 441-443)  
  Glossary, Index, Errata 445-468


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