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Chanakya (wikipedia.org)
118 points by humility on Sept 5, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 64 comments

Many thousands of undiscovered manuscripts, invaluable to India's literary legacy, are rotting away as we speak. There is very little financial support for archeology or manuscriptology in India. So much has been lost already. And, of the estimated known 40 million manuscripts, no one is being trained to read and translate them! Opportunity for philanthropy?




In recent decades, Hindutva forces have gained more and more political influence in India, and their rhetoric continually emphasizes that India is home to ancient Vedic wisdom unparalled in the world, and that Sanskrit is some kind of super-language handed down by the gods millions of years ago (instead of a codified form for sacramental use of an ordinary language spoken just a few thousand years ago). And yet, while many Indians are swelling with patriotic pride at their country’s inheritance, actual classical philology is dying and largely done by interested foreigners. Not only are the manuscripts not being adequately studied within India, but deep practical knowledge of Sanskrit is dying out, too. Yes, of course you’ll hear urban myths about whole villages speaking Sanskrit or whatever, but this is always huge exaggeration that gets perpetuated for decades.

> actual classical philology is dying. Not only are the manuscripts not being adequately studied, but deep practical knowledge of Sanskrit is dying out, too.

I've also heard that there is anger when non-Indian scholars study Sanskrit. Cambridge shut down their Sanskrit program, after 150 years. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/04/12/scholars-who-...

The reason for this anger is the fear of losing control of the narrative. By keeping the Sanskrit scriptures arcane, they can build their own narratives around it. But when scholars start studying those text, the cat will be out of the bag.

They may feel that it is harmful to the Hindutva interests when scholars write about the procedure for cow sacrifice mentioned in Yajur Veda or the racism and misogyny perpetuated by Manu Smriti or the Soma drinking revelry in Rigveda.

These efforts to stop others knowing these scriptures are happening since pre-historic times and even codified in Hindu Law.

Dharmasutra says "If he (Sudra) listens in on a vedic recitation, his ears shall be filled with molten tin or lac; if he repeats it, his tongue should be cut off; if he commits it to memory, his body should be split."[1]

Dharmasutra, written circa 600 BCE, is a book on Hindu Law and Sudra is the lowest class in the Varna system.

The ban on Wendy Doniger's book in India is a case in point.


[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=gnVxqvPg9a0C&q=lead#v=snip...

[2] https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/manu/manu05.htm

[3] https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/archive/features/a-few-rea...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Doniger

Scholars studying Hindu texts is not offensive to Hindus. What is though, is the racist perversion that some of them like Doniger make.

Doniger's book is not "banned". It was withdrawn by the publisher - because it was offensive. Details in same wiki link.

Another such "scholar" wrote extremely offensive passage on Lord Ganesha and got away with it.[1] Hindus have tolerated abuse for so long and they continue to do so. Try letting cats out of the bag on Abrahmic religions.

[1] https://hwpi.harvard.edu/pluralismarchive/news/hindu-student...


Doniger and the publisher were taken to court like any civil society would. Publisher chose to drop the book instead of facing legal consequences.

By the way, another publisher did publish the same book in India. Any neutral sources for the so called "violent threats"?

One of her book titles literally is "Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva" [1] And yet, there were no riots or burning down the publisher or the cancel culture that Hindu-phobes routinely engage in.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Doniger


> you have gone with "sound bites" highlighting the negatives without any context thus distorting the whole discourse.

Please provide some context around the following texts from Dharmasutra.

1) Criminal and Civil Law: "If he (Sudra) has sex with an Arya woman, his penis should be cut off and all his property should be confiscated." (Verse 12.1)

2) Contact with Impure Persons: "When a man touches an outcaste, a Candala, a woman who has just given birth or is menstruating, a corpse, or someone who has touched any of these, he becomes purified by bathing with his clothes on." (Verse 15.5)

Note: Candala is a low caste Hindu.

3) Pollution and Remedies: "An ancestral offering is ruined if it is seen by a dog, a Candala, or an outcaste." (Verse 15.24)

4) Unfit Food: "The following are unfit to be eaten: food into which hair or an insect has fallen; what has been touched by a menstruating woman, ..." (Verse 17.9)

Source: The Dharmasutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India, Oxford University Press, 1999


Selective reading of texts that are thousands of years old - to bash modern Hindus that do not believe in any of these.

Jai hind ji! May I get a handout from the IT cell?

Right, resort to personal attacks when you have nothing left to argue.

Nope, just when I have no desire to engage with someone who believes there's a conspiracy to defame and destroy Hinduism. In my experience 'Hindu pride' is like 'white pride' in that there are little to no instances where it is not directly linked to supremacism.

The above exact post was written by user "deepglacier" and then deleted. Account for user "bluetreeroot" was created 5 hours ago and posts the same.

What sort of a pathetic simpleton are you?

Clearly you are ignorant of the subject matter and are merely trying to get a rise out of people by selectively quoting from selected texts. Have you even understood what i posted? Stop this nonsense and go study some books on the subject matter starting with the same book that you quote from which incidentally is a translation by the same Prof. Patrick Olivelle that i mention above.

We've banned this account for repeatedly breaking the site guidelines. Personal attacks and nationalistic flamewar are not welcome here.

Doing this will eventually get your main account banned as well, so please don't.


While there seem to be ancient unis with rich literature[1], my understanding was most of the manuscripts were destroyed by invading forces, does the 40 million figure count those as well?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_higher-learning_instit...

> It's a great opportunity for philanthropy

With 189 million people undernourished or starving in India, why not donate to help with that first?


Because we should do both. If we only wait to preserve culture until all people are fed, then we will have lost those manuscripts forever.

Which is the priority?

> we will have lost those manuscripts forever.

You do realize that starvation results in millions of lives lost forever. That’s why I donate to food & local water/well charities Today. Manuscripts can be photographed and transcribed later.

Other than his works, he was the prime minister in Maurya empire, credited with its rise. Maurya empire is considered to be one of the greatest Indian empires along with Guptas(known for progress in science, medicine) and Cholas(mercantile empire crossing oceans). It spread west upto present day Afghanistan at its peak. Maurya king Ashoka is quite famous because of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashoka#Kalinga_war_and_convers...

Interestingly enough he became politically active after India's defeat at the hands of Alexander the Great, and aided in creating an empire that unified the whole of India, which was unprecedented until then.

Porus was a minor ruler in North Western India. Alexander never made it to the territory of the Nanda empire that held sway over larger India. Just to put it into perspective Porus was not significant enough to be remembered in Indian historical accounts. Alexander's exploit also find no contemporary mention in Indian sources. What I am getting at is that what Alexander achieved could in no way be described as "India's defeat".

The parent comment actually encompasses this - there was no 'unified' India before Alexander visited, but there was the semblance of one once he left since Chanakya 'envisioned' a common thread running across the region and made arrangements to unite it under a single flag.

I don't know why everyone always says someone or the other united all of India - they always ignore Kerala and Tamil Nadu (and often parts of Andhra Pradesh) which were neither a part of the Maurya empire - nor a part of the Mughal empire.

The native empire you mentioned, Maurya Empire abandoned the conquest through war because of the whole Kalinga episode. Ashoka was far more interested in spreading the morals around after that, so much that his son became one of the messengers.

Though because of this, Cholas rose into one of the most fascinating empires with cultural influence over all of SE Asia. Even to date, the Thai king coronation ceremony is in Sanskrit, a language foreign to the land.

> aided in creating an empire that unified the whole of India.

The geographical area under present day India was never under a single kingdom/government/flag until 1950s. During the Maurya Empire, the present day Kerala, Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were not a part of the empire.

Even when major parts of India was a British colony, some territories were controlled by the French (Pondichery), Portuguese (Goa) and the Nizams.


Is there any recommended reading you have on this? In general, all the foreign conquests that succeeded in India even later were when it was fragmented into smaller kingdoms.

Probably doesn't exist, since "India's defeat at the hands of Alexander" never happened.

He barely made it to the border of the largest empire in contemporary India, by geography. Even the parts of current Pakistan he conquered were nowhere near major powers in the subcontinent.

That was as far as he got before his army rebelled and forced him to abandon further conquest.

This is broadly true, though he did have an impressive victory at the Hydaspes and establish a series of vassal states in the Indian northwest (modern Pakistan). The historical consensus is that it's unlikely he would have succeeded in a Persian-esque conquest of the subcontinent.

Yeah it's a gross simplification. At that time India was fragmented into small kingdoms, and Alexander just defeated a western kingdom before marching around.

I'll highly recommend "Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor". https://www.amazon.com/Ashoka-Search-Indias-Lost-Emperor/dp/...

Not so much about Chanakya, but about that period in India, and describes in depth how the history was pieced together.

India was not defeated by Alexander, only some border states. He never really entered today's India.

Nandas would have obliterated Alexander had he dared to face them.

Speculations (about and outcome of a war between Nanadas and Alexander) are best done with some statistics on their respective military prowess, rather than vapid saber rattling.

per Wikipedia[0] According to the Greek sources, the Nanda army was supposedly five times larger than the Macedonian army.

Nandas were obviously familiar with their own terrain, while Macedonians were not.

The battle with Porus, who was ruling a tiny border state had an army at least in the same order of magnitude as Alexander, who was aided by some of the other local rulers.

If Alexander had a hard time wining against Porus, we can simply make some logical assumptions about how he would have fared against a much much superior force, no vapid sable rattling is required.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_campaign_of_Alexander_t...

This so much a better comment.

It's nice to see some Asian history for a change. In the west, it seems as we only have an interest in the historical narratives of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Europe. Dense civilizations existed in South and East Asian stretching back thousands of years and our history classes and popular culture barely touch on them.

I'd love to see more pop culture(games, movies, etc) explore the history of what is now India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc.

I am assuming for games at least, the market in say India is not big enough that it can cover the cost of making something high budget. Once the market becomes bigger in terms of ability to spend, there might be more content. For example Japan, China have big enough markets and both have dedicated games in Total War series on parts of their history.

The Total War series originally started with Japan and later went onto Western wars despite being made by British developers, this comment seems to suggest it's the reverse.


I would say things are starting to look good even for India. Check out Raji the game ,which imo is high quality and looks interesting. The gaming movement in India got a big boost after PUBG, COD, etc. but ofcourse it’s still in a very nascent stage.

The gameplay demo video looks very cool!


I think we'll have to do this on our own and not rely on Hollywood or studios from the west. Bahubali was probably a good start. But more needs to be done. I'm starting to wonder whether it's a question of talent or question of capital. I seriously hope it's the latter.

Propensity to spend on games possibly as well

I'm always amazed whenever I mention the Indus Valley Civilization and most people have never even heard of it - they think "ancient civilization" means the Egyptians and Mesopotamians!

Here's a nice recent article with maps showing the cities of the Indus Valley Civilization.


I'll note that someone who has interest in Latin and Ancient Greek normally develops an interest in Sanskrit and India as well, since these three are the ancient Indo-European languages with highly developed literatures.

Socrates reportedly met an Indian philosopher in Athens, according to Aristoxenus, student of Aristotle [1].

Some of Ashoka's pillars had Greek inscriptions [2]

Greece and India used to share borders. A Greek king became Buddhist. [2]

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249942188_Some_Rema...

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism

There were lots of Greek speakers in India at the time. There was an Indo-Bactrian Greek kingdom in modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan long after the Greeks were conquered by the Romans (around 300 CE). A lot of early Buddhists were Greek. Lots of Indian statues have Greek style columns. I'm still mind blown by how connected the ancient world was.

For people interested in actually studying Chanakya's writings (their sweep is magisterial), the following are recommended;

* The First Great Political Realist: Kautilya and His Arthashastra by Roger Boesche - A very good (and short) overview of the Arthashastra.

* King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kautilya's Arthashastra translated by Patrick Olivelle - A good modern translation of the complete Arthashastra.

* Kautilya's Arthashastra: An Intellectual Portrait: The Classical Roots of Modern Politics in India by Subrata K. Mitra and Michael Liebic - A scholarly and challenging work on the relevance and applications of the Arthashastra.

Interesting to see sock puppets already in use.

The arthashastra is brilliant. Much older and far more Machiavellian than Machiavelli.

Highly recommended if you are interested in ancient thought

Is the english translation good enough or reading it in Sanskrit is recommended? If yes, any translation that you recommend?

You might find my comment in this thread listing some book recommendations, useful.

Thanks for the recommendation. I was looking for something like this to add in my personal library.

You might find my comment in this thread listing some book recommendations, useful.


If we judge any ancient work by our current morals, we would most likely be left wanting. This book was written almost 2500 years back.

I half agree with this. IMO we should absolutely throw out content that doesn’t fit within modern morals, given our modern morals are objectively more correct and humanist than anything prior (if that is not the case we should challenge our morals not the prior text). However we can still learn from and stand to lose a great deal by destroying content with morally questionable angles.

So what we really want is an interpretation / disclaimer in front of this work that makes it clear how we should interpret it through a framework that applies today without bringing off-topic morality questions into play.

Yeah, I agree with this. The comment which I replied to which has been flagged now stated something like, "this is so misogynistic". Hence, my comment that prevailing morals were largely different then. One can choose to leave the misogynistic things yet still appreciate his work on politics and economics.

I believe in seperating people from their brilliant works. Appreciating their work/thoughts does not necessarily mean condoning their behavior. One should never accept or propagate inappropriate social cues. However, that does not mean one should lose an opportunity to be wiser by reading and assimilating thier wisdom.

As such nobody is perfect and who ever it may be, let us pick the positive qualities from them, on our way towards becoming a nicer person.

I couldn't believe it when I read it.

And they say the society in Manusmriti is much more misogynistic than this book! And this book is bad. Really bad.

TIL: That Chanakya's work was lost to history and was rediscovered in 1909. And the manuscripts that contained the treatise was donated to the scholars by a pandit from my home town (Tanjore or the modern Thanjavur). That drastically alters my sense of my own history. We knew of the big temple[1] circa 1000AD and all the scholarly thinking that went on around that time and the town has several UNESCO World Heritage sites from that period. But to house a script from circa 200 BCE, that is new to me.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brihadisvara_Temple,_Thanjavur

That's amazing. Just imagine what other manuscripts might be found in temples around India...

Neat, thanks for sharing. I'm currently in Chanakyapuri near Chandragupta Marg. I now understand the significance of those names a bit more.

Yes, we named the diplomatic enclave after Chanakya, following his advice of giving foreign missions palatial estates in exchange for tiny apartments.

Casteism is an Organized mafia operating in South Asia since 700 BC https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigveda which is evident from the fact that 50% Ministers in Modi Cabinet are Brahmin while they are just 3% in India;


This is complete bullshit.

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