“A single wheel does not move the Barrow”. Keeping this statement by Kautilya in mind - Sleepy Classes IAS Skip to main content

“A single wheel does not move the Barrow”. Keeping this statement by Kautilya in mind

By June 24, 2022May 22nd, 2023Mains Answer Writing, PSIR OPTIONAL

Ques. “A single wheel does not move the Barrow”. Keeping this statement by Kautilya in mind, discuss the nature of State and sovereign envisaged by him in his thought.


  • Kautilya has famously been regarded as the ‘Indian Machiavelli’ by Nehruin his ‘Discovery of India’ was his realism and shrewdness of policy. According to Bidyut Chakrabarty, in the ancient Indian political thought, the contribution of Kautilya appears significant for at least two reasons:
    • First, the comprehensiveness and analytical precision of his ideas on the subjects as diverse as origin of state, the nature of state, the concepts of dharma and danda, foreign policy etc.
    • Secondly, Kautilya and his work are reckoned as the representative thinker and the text, respectively, to delineate the broad contours of political and administrative systemprevailing in the ancient times.
  • Much like Machiavelli in Europe, Kautilya’s work focussed on the practical, describing in direct terms how power could be gained and maintained, and for the first time in India, it explicitly described a civil structure in which ministers and advisors played a key rolein aiding a capable Ruler in smooth running of the state.
  • Through this statement a number of key insights can be drawn into Kautilyan thought on State and sovereignty:
  • The most important aspect of the Kautilyan theory of state is considered to be the saptang (seven organs/ angas) theory. These included:
    • the swami (the ruler)
    • the amatya (high level ministers- atleast 3 and brahmanas)
    • the janapada (the territory with people settled on it)
    • the durga (the fortified capital and forts of strategic significance)
    • the kosha (the treasury collected from taxes, enough to face calamities)
    • the danda (the army) and
    • the mitra (the ally or friend for projection of power)
  • Kautilya emphasized on the need of a strong monarch (swami) with certain innate qualities-including his training in philosophy, economic sciences and dandaniti or political science.
  • The ruler while being strong wasn’t an absolutist- his power limited and guided by the idea of Rajdharma, chief of which was ensuring welfare and security of his subjects (yogakshema) and obeying customary and sacred lawand protection of his subjects’ life and property.
  • In Chanakya’s analogy, the state is like a chariot with the sovereign (swami) forming one wheel and his ministers (amatyas) making up the other; in order to move and be steered in the right direction, the chariot needs both wheels.
  • S. Sharma has projected Kautilyan state as centralized bureaucratic state. The amatyas with the necessary qualifications were just as important as the people’s choice of leader. The ministers can provide a range of knowledge and skills.
  • They must be utterly trustworthy, not only so that the sovereign can rely on their advice, but also to ensure that decisions are made in the interests of the state and its people—if necessary, preventing a corrupt ruler from acting in his own interests.
  • Shamashatrywrites how Kautilya prescribed reliance on an elaborate espionage networkfor detecting financial misappropriation and judicial impropriety to enable well-functioning State.
  • Importantly, rather than an Austinian sense of Monist sovereignty, the pluralist version was more applicable to the working of Statein Kautilyan theory. The sovereign was limited by the concept of dharma, the advise of the ministers as well as federal relations among the peripheral areas of Mauryan state (Thapar).
  • Kautilya’s pragmatism is thus, reflected in ensuring limited power even under the rule of a King. The contemporary Indian polity realised the importance of a limited government, ensuring the same through the Indian Constitution.