The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'How, O king, may a kingdom be consolidated, and how should it be protected? I desire to know this. Tell me all this, O bull of Bharata's race!'
"Bhishma said, 'Listen to me with concentrated attention. I shall tell thee how a kingdom may be consolidated, and how also it may be protected. A headman should be selected for each village. Over ten villages (or ten headmen) there should be cone superintendent. Over two such superintendents there should be one officer (having the control, therefore, of twenty villages). Above the latter should be appointed persons under each of whom should be a century of villages; and above the last kind of officers, should be appointed men each of whom should have a thousand villages under his control. The headman should ascertain the characteristics of every person in the village and all the faults also that need correction. He should report everything to the officer (who is above him and is) in charge of ten villages. The latter, again, should report the same to the officer (who is above him and is) in charge of twenty villages. The latter, in his turn, should report the conduct of all the
persons within his dominion to the officer (who is above him and is) in charge of a hundred villages. The village headman should have control over all the produce and the possessions of the village. Every headman should contribute his share for maintaining the lord of ten villages, and the latter should do the same for supporting the lord of twenty villages. The lord of a hundred villages should receive every honour from the king and should have for his support a large village, O chief of the Bharatas, populous and teeming with wealth. Such a village, so assigned to a lord of hundred villages, should be, however, within the control of the lord of a thousand villages. That high officer, again, viz., the lord of a thousand villages, should have a minor town for his support. He should enjoy the grain and gold and other possessions derivable from it. He should perform all the duties of its wars and other internal affairs pertaining to it. Some virtuous minister, with wrathfulness should exercise supervision over the administration affairs and mutual relations of those officers. In every town, again, there should be an officer for attending to every matter relating to his jurisdiction. Like some planet of dreadful form moving above all the asterisms below, the officer (with plenary powers) mentioned last should move and act above all the officers subordinate to him. Such an officer should ascertain the conduct of those under him through his spies. Such high officers should protect the people from all persons of murderous disposition, all men of wicked deeds, all who rob other people of their wealth, and all who are full of deceit, and all of whom are regarded to be possessed by the devil. Taking note of the sales and the purchases, the state of the roads, the food and dress, and the stocks and profits of those that are engaged in trade, the king should levy taxes on them. Ascertaining on all occasions the extent of the manufactures, the receipts and expenses of those that are engaged in them, and the state of the arts, the king should levy taxes upon the artisans in respect of the arts they follow. The king, O Yudhishthira, may take high taxes, but he should never levy such taxes as would emasculate his people. No tax should be levied without ascertaining the outturn and the amount of labour that has been necessary to produce it. Nobody would work or seek for outturns without sufficient cause. 1 The king should, after reflection, levy taxes in such a way that he and the person who labours to produce the article taxed may both share the value. The king should not, by his thirst, destroy his own foundations as also those of others. He should always avoid those acts in consequence of which he may become an object of hatred to his people. Indeed, by acting in this way he may succeed in winning popularity. The subjects hate that king who earns a notoriety for voraciousness of appetite (in the matter of taxes and imposts). Whence can a king who becomes an object of hatred have prosperity? Such a king can never acquire what is for his good. A king who is possessed of sound intelligence should milk his kingdom after the analogy of (men acting in the matter of) calves. If the calf be permitted to suck, it grows
strong, O Bharata, and bears heavy burthens. If, on the other hand, O Yudhishthira, the cow be milked too much, the calf becomes lean and fails to do much service to the owner. Similarly, if the kingdom be drained much, the subjects fail to achieve any act that is great. That king who protects his kingdom himself and shows favour to his subjects (in the matter of taxes and imposts) and supports himself upon what is easily obtained, succeeds in earning many grand results. Does not the king then obtain wealth sufficient for enabling him to cope with his wants? 1 The entire kingdom, in that case, becomes to him his treasury, while that which is his treasury becomes his bed chamber. If the inhabitants of the cities and the provinces be poor, the king should, whether they depend upon him immediately or mediately, show them compassion to the best of his power. Chastising all robbers that infest the outskirts, the king should protect the people of his villages and make them happy. The subjects, in the case, becoming sharers of the king's weal and woe, feel exceedingly gratified with him. Thinking, in the first instance, of collecting wealth, the king should repair to the chief centres of his kingdom one after another and endeavour to inspire his people with fright. He should say unto them, 'Here, calamity threatens us. A great danger has arisen in consequence of the acts of the foe. There is every reason, however, to hope that the danger will pass away, for the enemy, like a bamboo that has flowered, will very soon meet with destruction. Many foes of mine, having risen up and combined with a large number of robbers, desire to put our kingdom into difficulties, for meeting with destruction themselves. In view of this great calamity fraught with dreadful danger, I solicit your wealth for devising the means of your protection. When the danger passes away, I will give you what I now take. Our foes, however, will not give back what they (if unopposed) will take from you by force. On the other hand (if unopposed), they will even slay all your relatives beginning with your very spouses. You certainly desire wealth for the sake of your children and wives. I am glad at your prosperity, and I beseech you as I would my own children. I shall take from you what it may be within your power to give me. I do not wish to give pain to any one. In seasons of calamity, you should, like strong bulls, bear such burthens. In seasons of distress, wealth should not be so dear to you. A king conversant with the considerations relating to Time should, with such agreeable, sweet, and complimentary words, send his agents and collect imposts from his people. Pointing out to them the necessity of repairing his fortifications and of defraying the expenses of his establishment and other heads, inspiring them with the fear of foreign invasion, and impressing them with the necessity that exists for protecting them and enabling them to ensure the means of living in peace, the king should levy imposts upon the Vaisyas of his realm. If the king disregards the Vaisyas, they become lost to him, and abandoning his dominions remove themselves to the woods. The king should, therefore, behave with leniency towards them. The king, O son of Pritha, should always conciliate
and protect the Vaisyas, adopt measures for inspiring them with a sense of security and for ensuring them in the enjoyment of what they possess, and always do what is agreeable to them. The king, O Bharata, should always act in such a way towards the Vaisyas that their productive powers may be enhanced. The Vaisyas increase the strength of a kingdom, improve its agriculture, and develop its trade. A wise king, therefore, should always gratify them. Acting with heedfulness and leniency, he should levy mild imposts upon them. It is always easy to behave with goodness towards the Vaisyas. There is nothing productive of greater good to a kingdom, O Yudhishthira, then the adoption of such behaviour towards the Vaisyas of the realm.'"
190:1 The sense seems to be that if a sufficient margin of profit, capable of maintaining one at ease, be not left, one would refrain absolutely from work. The king, therefore, in taxing the outturns of work, should leave such a margin of profit to the producers.
191:1 The sense is that the subjects then, on occasions of their sovereign's want, hasten to place their resources at his disposal.
Next: Section LXXXVIII