(Last Updated on : 20/09/2014)
In order to protect their territory and for the purpose of expanding their dominions, the kings of ancient and medieval India, were continually engaged in wars. At the same time the kings were also trained to be excellent administrators. To this end, they appointed many officials at all levels that were loyal and efficient. Important among these were the spies who contributed to the safety and security of the kingdom.
The chief responsibility of these spies was to travel to neighbouring kingdoms to ascertain the strength of their army if war was imminent, so that they could inform their rulers to be prepared for such an event. They also informed their masters about the activities of the numerous officials of the realm, and even about the relatives of the king and in general about the condition existing in their own empires. The system of espionage was regarded as extremely important in the Tamil country
The literary works written in different ages in different parts of South India also confirm that the rulers relied on the system of espionage to a great extent. The Amukthamalyada, a classic in Telugu authored by Emperor Krishnadeva Raya of the Vijayanagara dynasty in the 16th century A.D. mentions the work of the spies. It states that spies were appointed to check the work of other spies and that if the report of a spy was incorrect, then he was to be dismissed, but not punished. This book also states that since the work of a spy was very difficult and one of great responsibility, people who were incapable of shouldering this onerous responsibility was not to enter this profession.
Some of the inscriptions of the kings of South India also mention the spies in connection with the administration of the kingdoms and thus confirm that an elaborate system of espionage was in place. The spy was to be well versed in many languages so that he could glean important information from various sources. The tasks given to the spies were difficult and precarious and as a result the rulers paid them very well.