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GS Paper IV Probity in Governance

Arthashastra-History of the manuscript

The text was considered lost by colonial-era scholars until a manuscript was discovered in 1905. A copy of the Arthashastra in Sanskrit, written on palm leaves, was presented by a Tamil Brahmin from Tanjore to the newly opened Mysore Oriental Library headed by Benjamin Lewis Rice. The text was identified by the librarian Rudrapatna Shamasastry as the Arthashastra. During 1905–1909, Shamasastry published English translations of the text in instalments, in journals Indian Antiquary and Mysore Review. During 1923–1924, Julius Jolly and Richard Schmidt published a new edition of the text, which was based on a Malayalam script manuscript in the Bavarian State Library. In the 1950s, fragmented sections of a north Indian version of Arthashastra were discovered in form of a Devanagari manuscript in a Jain library in Patan, Gujarat. A new edition based on this manuscript was published by Muni Jina Vijay in 1959. In 1960, R. P. Kangle published a critical edition of the text, based on all the available manuscripts. Numerous translations and interpretations of the text have been published since then. The text is an ancient treatise written in 1st millennium BCE Sanskrit, coded, dense and can be interpreted in many ways, with English and Sanskrit being grammatically and syntactically different languages. It has been called, by Patrick Olivelle—whose translation was published in 2013 by Oxford University Press—as the “most difficult translation project I have ever undertaken”, parts of the text are still opaque after a century of modern scholarship, and the translation of Kautilya’s masterpiece intrigue and political text remains unsatisfactory.

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