We, as Indians are not unaware of the kind of hype the western world has created to guard and glorify their History. They go on to say that Kautilya is the “Machiavelli of India” or Kalidas is the “Shakespeare of India”. Western tourists often refer to Kashmir as the “Switzerland of India” and Kerela as the "Venice of the east"
But people who have really read both the “Arthashastra” and “The prince” have good reasons to believe that comparing Machiavelli with Kautilya is as vague as comparing the king elephant of the medieval period with the mighty dinosaur of the past (the order being maintained). Machiavelli is great, no doubt, and “The prince” is one of the greatest treatises on politics and diplomacy, yet it can never be compared to the depth and vastness of Arthashastra. The depth of the topics that Kautilya has covered in Arthashastra ranges from economics to biological warfare with an immaculate mix of psychology and ruthlessness. Such is the practicality of Arthashastra that great Indian dynasties of all eras have always referred Arthashastra as a guiding light not only to politics and economics, but also to warfare and judiciary.
Some instances of biological warfare described in Arthashastra are as follows
- A powder made from fireflies and the eyes of wild boar can endow soldiers with night vision.
- Shoes made of camel skin smeared with a serum made from the flesh of owls and vultures can help soldiers walk hundreds of miles during a war without feeling tired.
- Complete formula for gonorrhea producing smoke and four different recipes for leprosy spreading.
- The powder of several herbs, mixed with clarified butter is a recipe against hunger….effective for a month.
- Methods to develop night vision for soldiers.
Infact DRDO is studying these things in detail to employ the theories of Arthashastra into modern day warfare
History is written by winners and maintained by hype. Indian people in general and historians in particular terribly lack in their skills to diplomatic hype. And this has resulted in our acceptance of the inferiority of the Indian greats. So next time when you hear statements like “Kautilya is the Machiavelli of India” make sure you correct the speaker. I don’t urge anyone to refer to Machiavelli as the “Kautilya of Europe”. Just that each of the names should have their own distinct respect and identity.