The Book: The present monograph throws much new light on the problems connected with the study of the Arthasastra and the Indica. Its author Professor S. R. Goyal believes that Vishnugupta Kautilya who wrote the Arthasastra was different from Chanakya, the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya and that Kautilya flourished more than five centuries later than Chanakya. In the light of these suggestions the author has studied afresh several aspects of the Arthasastric material, specially those connected with the religious condition, numismatic data, state capitalism, law of succession, provision for emergency taxes, administrative terms, etc.
In his critical study of the Indica also Professor Goyal has thrown several new suggestions. He has shown that the Indian Heracles of Megasthenes as described in relation to Mathura should mainly be identified not with Vasudeva-Krshna but with Manu-Vaivasvata, that the Indian Dionysus of Megasthenes is a composite god, that the Pauranika genealogies as known today existed more or less in the same form in the early Maurya age and that the testimony of Megasthenes regarding the absence of the art of writing in India when he visited the country is correct. He has also analysed afresh the reference made to the seven 'castes' and also to the Brahmana and Sramana ascetics by Megasthenes.
Thus the present work throws numerous new and challenging ideas for the consideration of Indologists, specially those who are interested in finding out what was the cultural condition of India when Megasthenes visited this country and Kautilya wrote his Arthasastra.
The Author: Professor S. R. Goyal is the retired Professor and Head, Department of History, JNV University, Jodhpur. Described as 'one of the five best recent historians of ancient India' by Professor David N. Lorenzen, the great Mexican Orientalist, Professor Goyal combines all the qualities associated with scientific scholarship. He has authored more than thirty voluminous works and over 150 research papers which cover so diverse fields as political history, religious history, literature, biographies, numismatics and epigraphy. He was honoured with the General Presidentship of the Silver Jubilee Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India held at Udupi in April, 1999 and was elected the Honorary Fellow of the Society. Professor Goyal has been deeply involved with the study of Maurya period since last three decades. He not only wrote a monograph dealing with the pre-Gupta epigraphs, specially Maurya epigraphs (Jaipur, 1982), but also Indigenous Coins of Early India (Jodhpur, 1994) which deals with the coins of this period exhaustively. He has also written several voluminous Hindi works on the history of the Nanda-Maurya period, including Nanda-Maurya Samrajya ka Itihasa (Meerut, 1988) Chandragupta Maurya (Meerut, 1987) and Priyadarsi Asoka (Meerut, 1988) and many specialised monographs in English on the problems of Maurya history including Brahmi Script : An Invention of the Early Maurya Period, The Kautiliya Arthasastra : Its Date, Author and Relevance for the Maurya Period and The Indica of Megasthenes: Its Contents and Reliability.
Professor Goyal has so far been honoured with four festschrifts, including Reappraising Gupta History for S. R. Goyal (ed. by Professor B.Ch. Chhabra et al) and S. R. Goyal : His Multidimensional Historiography (ed. by Professor Jagannath Agrawal and Dr. Shankar Goyal).
Of the three major sources for the reconstruction of the history and culture of the Maurya period, two - the Indica of Megasthenes and the edicts of Asoka - indubitably belong to that age, whatever their own shortcomings and limitations, while the ascription of the Arthasastra of Kautilya to the Maurya period is a hotly debated question. In the present monograph, divided in two parts - one on Kautilya and the other on Megasthenes - I have tried to attack this problem by examining the picture of Indian society as revealed from the Arthasastra and by trying to find out how far the picture delineated in Kautilya's work is consonant with the condition of the Maurya age as known from the other sources. This approach is basically different from the approach of those who first ascribe this text to a particular period and then reconstruct the picture of society and polity of that period with the help of the data known from this work. And my analysis has convinced me that this work was not composed in the reign of Chandragupta Maurya and that its greater part was written in the third century A.D. though some of its chapters, specially those on the coins (Book II), seem to be based on some now unknown work composed some time in the last two centuries before the beginning of the Christian era, but definitely after the Maurya period.
As regards the Indica of Megasthenes, some of its contents are indeed seemingly intriguing. But their intriguing nature has been the result partly of the fact tht Megasthenes, being a foreigner, could not understand the social conditions of India as seen by him, partly of the fact that he viewed Indian society in the context of the intellectual background in which he was brought up and partly of the fact that modern researchers approach him with their own preconceived notions about Mauryan India. Otherwise an indepth comparison of his Indica with the Asokan edicts, another source belonging to the same general period, show a remarkable similarity between the two in most essential features of the Maurya society and administration. The juxtaposition of the Brahmanas and Sramanas in Megasthenes, his description of the Councillors and Assessors (who correspond to the mahamatras of the pre-Asokan and Asokan periods) and his allusion to the parisa of the Maurya age - all remarkably agree with the data of the edicts of Asoka. Megasthenes even shows familiarity with many features of the caste system of the Maurya age (such as endogamous marriages and hereditary character of occupations) even if he did not understand them fully, and testifies to the absence of the art of writing in the age of Chandragupta Maurya which is also strongly indicated by the non-availability of the inscriptions belonging to the post-Indus and pre-Asokan period as well as by the nature of the Asokan Brahmi which has all the earmarks of being invented in the early decades of the third century B.C.
As Megasthenes came to India at the fag-end of the Upanishadic age, he shows familiarity with Upanishadic ideas as well such as 'death is birth into true life', 'there is a fifth element of which heaven and heavenly bodies are composed', 'soul is immortal' and that 'god who made the universe pervades the whole of it' (pantheism). He also alludes to the pre-natal and educational samskaras and the Indian asrama system as was prevalent in his day.
Thus, our analysis of the Indian society as portrayed in the Indica on the one hand and the Arthasastra on the other shows that while Megasthenes was describing the actual condition of India of c. 300 B.C., Kautilya did not portray actual conditions of any particular age; he wrote a normative work on polity sometime in the third century A.D. incorporating in it the material of some earlier texts. Our conclusions, we believe, will be found worthy of serious consideration even if many of them go against generally accepted beliefs.
In the preparation of this work I have been greatly helped by my son Dr. Shankar Goyal, Assistant Professor, Department of History, JNV University, Jodhpur. He has also written a couple of chapters both on Kautilya and Megasthenes acknowledged at proper places. I am indeed indebted and thankful to him for his co-operation.
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