Friday, November 11, 2022

The Rediscovery of the Arthashastra

Shiva as Nataraja

Dancing in the posture of Om

It is surprising that most Indians don’t know that the Arthashastra, which was very influential till the 12th century, was lost in the later Middle Ages. Its text was discovered in 1905 by a scholar called Pandit Rudrapatna Shamasastry. According to an estimate by the Government of India, the country possesses five to six million manuscripts, probably the world’s largest collection. The work of identifying and cataloguing these manuscripts has been going on for more than a century but most manuscripts are not yet published. 

Because of his mastery of Vedas, Vedanga, classical Sanskrit, and Prakrit, Shamasastry was appointed as the librarian of the Oriental Research Institute in 1899. The library at the Oriental Research Institute housed thousands of Sanskrit palm-leaf manuscripts. Shamasastry took the responsibility of examining the manuscripts and cataloguing them. In 1905, he discovered a copy of the Arthashastra in a heap of manuscripts. In 1909, he published the Sanskrit edition of the Arthashastra. He also became engaged in translating the manuscript in English. Between 1905 and 1909, his English translation was published in installments, in the journals Indian Antiquary and Mysore Review

In the 1950s, another version of the Arthashastra was discovered in the form of a Devanagari manuscript in a Jain library in Patan, Gujarat. Based on this manuscript, Muni Jina Vijay published a new edition in 1959. In 1960, a critical edition of the Arthashastra, based on a number of ancient manuscripts, was published by R. P. Kangle.

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