(Last Updated on : 03/12/2010)
Duties of the superintendents as described by Kautilya
in Arthashastra has been an extensive description of every office bearers who are expected to work accordingly where this book functions like a rule book. It is probably the largest and most extensive write up which has given direction to the basics of Indian Administration .The role of the superintendents in their own way describes the possessions of the king in the Magadh Empire. As in those days cows and horses used to be of great importance, the book of Arthashastra describes the role of superintendents in charge of these departments.
Duties of the superintendents, the collector general, state goldsmith, the chamberlain and the state priests are included in the book II of Arthashastra. While the Superintendents are responsible for the creation of new villages for the expansion of the boundaries of the existing state, construction of forts and buildings within the boundaries of the fortress; the collector general has the duty to collect the state revenue from the sources mentioned in the Book II of Arthashastra. The next part of the book describes the role of the State Goldsmith who employed the manufacturers of gold and silver coins. It also includes the role of the superintendents of storehouse, commerce, forest produce, armoury and weights and measures. It further gives a brief description of calculating the time and space. Besides superintendents of toll, regulation of toll duties, weavers, superintendent of agriculture, liquor, slaughter houses, prostitutes, ships, cows, horses, elephants, trainer of the elephants, superintendents of chariots, infantry and the duties of the commander in chief are included in this book. It further talks of the duties of the revenue collector, spies in guise of the householders, merchants and the ascetics who exist in the state of the ruler. This book finally discusses separately the duties of the city superintendents and government superintendents along with separate role of each office holders.
Specifically the king by inducing the foreigners to migrate or by causing a thickly populated centre of his own kingdom to send its population and scatter the periphery is free to develop new villages which will distribute the population all over his area. This expands his responsibility in providing them security as well as means of livelihood. Arthashastra briefly describes the role of the superintendents in discharging their responsibility towards the state and its people. A detailed procedure for division of land according to the gotras is mentioned in the book. This at the same time describes the influence of existing caste system on the livelihood of such big empires who considered the level of purity can be assessed only with help of caste system.
A major role is executed by the collectors of revenue who were supposed to collect the revenue from all the sources mentioned in the book.
The book also describes the role of the servicemen like the goldsmiths, the manufacturers of gold and silver coins also known as rupyasuvarna who are directly involve in regulating the commerce of the state.
The Magadha Empire is well known for its luxury and wealth. It was the golden era of ancient Indian history which gets some expression with the role of various departments mentioned in Book II. Kautilya
not only believed in building a strong empire but also a healthy and wealthy empire with ethical ruler and ethical subjects. For this purpose he intensely describes the functions of priests and rituals performed by them. Overall he intends to generate and transfer as much sense of responsibility to all for all which will unite them to run a successful, strong administration.
Thus, the relevance of Book II of Arthashastra had remained perpetual in coming generations as well as this the only rule book which makes a list of all the relevant items included in the functionary of a state. Even in modern times the enlisted subjects have continued to remain the same with only marginal alterations.