Husbandry and Cattle Management in Arthasastra
By Lalit Tiwari
Lok Vigyan Kendra
Almora 263601 India
Humans had to interact closely with nature for their basic
needs since prehistoric times; their daily life was totally dependent on plants
and animals. Thus the relationship between humans and animal is very ancient. Atharvaveda
has several references to dairy farming, cattle health care etc. Asoka, the
Buddhist emperor (300BC), established a network of veterinary hospitals
throughout India. Kautilya’s Arthasastra
(321-296 BC) describes a well-managed animal husbandry and cattle management
system. In this article I have dealt with ancient animal husbandry from the Arthasastra’s
point of view.
We are amazed at the detailed and scientific regulations
for seemingly such a minor activity 2300 years back. It also shows the concern
of the state not only to exploit the animals but also to live with them
symbiotically. Large cattle-sheds were well regulated, andso were the wild game sanctuaries where animals were safe from poaching.
Even for animals, a medical ethics was enforced by Arthasastra.
Let us first introduce Kautilya andhis Arthasastra. All sources of Indian traditions -Brahmanical,
Buddhist and Jain - agree that Kautilya destroyed the Nanda dynasty and
installed Chandragupta Maurya on the throne of Magadha. The name Kautilya
denotes that he was of the Kutila gotra. The name ‘Chanakya’ means that he
was the son of Chanaka, though ‘Vishnugupta’ was his personal name. Arthasastra
was composed by Kautilya in
probably between 321-296 BC, though there are doubts about the date of the
composition of Arthasastra. A workshop held by the Indian Council for
Historical Research, Delhi,concluded
that the Arthasastra in its present form was a compilation made by a
scholar, Kautilya, in 150 AD. But there is no doubt that Chandragupta Maurya
ascended the throne around 321 BC. Arthasastra
had never been forgotten in India, but the text itself was not available
until, dramatically, a full text on palm leaf in the grantha script,
along with a fragment of an old commentary by Bhattasvamin, came into the hands
of Dr. R. Shamasastry of Mysore in 1904. And finally he published the text not
only in Hindi but also in English in 1909. Arthasastra
is a valuable document, which throws light on the state and society of India
at c. 300 BC. Here we can say that Kautilya’s Arthasastra
is totally an administrative text of ancient India, especially of the
Mauryan times. Animal husbandry or cattle management was one of the main
administrative jobs of the state. Kautilya’s Arthasastra
also throws light on ancient cattle management practices of the country.
contains an elaborate analysis regarding various
aspects of livestock with prescriptions for their better management. Kautilya
was also highly conscious about the benefits man gets from different species of
animals. Both domestic and wild animals were well protected by all means in
Kautilya’s time. Kautilya mentioned a variety
ofanimals such as deer, bison, birds, fish, cattle, elephants, horses,
asses, pigs, camels, sheep, goat, etc. According to Arthasastra, cattle rearing was the second most important economic
activity. Cow and she-buffaloes were reared for milk and the bulls and
he-buffaloes were used as drought animals. Ghee, which had the advantage of
being easily stored and transported, was the main end product. Cheese was
supplied to the army, buttermilk was fed to dogs and pigs and whey mixed with
oilcake was used as animal feed. Wool was obtained from sheep and goats.
Cattle Superintendent and Cowherds
Crown herds were the responsibility of
the chief superintendent who either employed cowherds, milkers, etc. on wages or
gave some herds to a contractor. Chief superintendent was responsible for cattle
(cows, bulls and buffaloes), goats, sheep, horses, donkeys, camels and pigs. He
had to keep a record of every animal in the different types of herds, ofthe total of all such animals, of the number that die or are lost, the
total collection of milk and ghee and other products. Private herds could also
be entrusted to the state for protection on payment. Private owners of animals
paid a sales tax of a quarter pana for every animal sold. The
superintendent of cows had to supervise the maintenance of cows as well as bull,
oxen, buffaloes, and their young calves.
duties of a superintendent were: supervise herds and obtain exact
information about abandoned and useless herds; maintain class of herds by
registering each animal’s natural and branded marks, colour, and distance
from one horn to another; update the number of stray cattle and register
total number of cattle lost permanently; collection of information about
total production of milk and ghee or clarified butter, etc.
duties of cowherds were: graze their herds in forest grounds under suitable
guards and in groups of ten according to their types; treat the animals
during the period of their illness; take care of animals when animals went
to river or lakes to drink water; to ensure that the watering place is safe
and free of crocodiles and not muddy; to milk timely; inform the owners
about the loss of cattle and cause of loss; to hangbells around the necks of timid animals in order to frighten snakes
and to locate them easily when grazing; in rainy season, autumn and early
winter, cows and she-buffaloes were to be milked twice a day and in late
winter, spring and summer only once a day.
Generally four types of herd were
recognized in the Arthasastra. Those:
after by attendants: - the chief
superintendent employed, for each herd of 100 animals, one cowherd or
buffalo herdsman, a milker, a churner and a hunter guard who would protect
the herds from wild animals.
after under contract: - a balanced herd of 100
animals could be given to some one on contract.
animals: - a balanced herd of 100 animals may
be given to someone for an annual payment, related to what the herd can
cattle looked after for a share: - private
cattle owners could place their animals under the protection of the King on
payment of a protection share.
The Superintendent realised thefollowing revenues from cattle herds:
ØCattle looked after for wages: -ghee according to the norms laid down. All animal by-products.
ØCattle looked after by contractor: -1 pana per animal per annum and 8 varakas of ghee per 100 animals. Skins of dead animals.
ØNon-productive animals: -According to capacity of herd.
ØPrivate animals: -1/10 of production.
Basically cowherds played an important
role in the maintenance of livestock. On the other hand, the herdsmen had to pay
one-tenth of dairy produce to the superintendent of cows. Therefore, such
supervision was a source of royal income.
Animal breeding was given special
attention in Kautilya’s Arthasastra. The King appointed an official
breeder for improving the breed of animals. According to Arthasastra, for
breeding purpose, the following proportion of male animals should be kept for
every herd of 100 animals:
ØDonkeys and horses:5 stallions
ØGoats and sheep:10 rams
ØCows, buffaloes and camels:4 bulls.
Accounting of Animals
According to Kautilya, the Chief
Superintendent should keep an account of the animals as follows:
calves should be identified (by branding or by nicking the ear) within a
month or two of birth; all stray cattle be marked if they remain unclaimed
for more than two mounts.
animal should be identified in the records with the details of the branding
mark, any natural identification marks, the colour, and peculiarity of
account should be maintained of cattle lost.
There is extensive evidence in the Arthasastra
about Kautilya’s concern for the welfare of animals. Regulations for the
protection of wild life, a long list of punishment for cruelty to animals,
rations for animals, rules for grazing and the responsibility of veterinary
doctors are some of the major topics.
sanctuary was the remarkable feature of Arthasastra. As part of
creation of the infrastructure of a settled and prosperous kingdom, an
animal sanctuary, where all animals were welcomed as guests was established.
or injuring protected species and animals in reserved parks and sanctuaries
was prohibited. Even animals, which had turned dangerous, were not to be
killed within the sanctuary but had to be caught, taken outside and then
fish which had strange or unusual characteristics, fresh water fish from
lakes, rivers, tanks or canals; game birds or birds for pleasure such as
curlew, osprey, swan, pheasant, partridge,parrot and mynah; and all auspicious birds and animals were declared
as protected species.
chief protector did not allow the catching of fish, or the trapping, hurting
or killing of animals whose slaughter was not customary.
birds and deer received as tax were let loose in the sanctuaries.
protected animals or those from reserved forests strayed and were found
grazing where they should not, they were to be driven away without hurting
them. Stray cattle were to be driven off with rope or a whip without harming
paid tax for sold meat at the rates given below:
ØAnimal, not in sanctuaries, whose
is permitted : -1/6th
ØFish and birds: -11/60th
ØDeer and cattle: -1/6th + sulka (fee) of 4 % or 5 %
Kautilya ordains that Butchers should
follow some rules and regulations, like: should sell only freshly killed
animals. The sale of swollen meat, rotten meat and meat from naturally dead
animals was prohibited. Fish without head or bones should not be sold. Meat may
be sold with or without bones. If sold with bones, equivalent compensation (for
the weight of the bone) was to be given.
Grazing Places or Pastures
Pastures were basically required for grazing domestic
cattle during ancient India when stall-feeding was rarely adopted. Pastures
located in the forest were relieved from danger of tigers, beasts, and thieves.
A separate clause was prescribed by Kautilya to protect livestock in pastures
and defined the penalties for promoting imprudent grazing of pastures. Pasture
lands within the village boundary were the responsibility of the village
headman. He collected the charge for grazing on common land and ensured that
cattle do not graze or stray into cultivated private fields or gardens or eat
the grains in stored sheds. Headman had the responsibility for collecting the
revenue for the village from the charges levied on grazing in common land, from
the prescribed fines and the fines levied by the state.
According to Arthasastra, bulls belonging to
village temples, stud bulls and cows up to ten days after calving were exempt
from payments from the following grazing charges:
Grazing onlyGrazing andGrazing and
ØSmall animals1/16 pana1/8 pana¼ pana
ØCattle, horses, 1/8 pana¼ pana½
Camels¼ pana½ pana1
Healthcare of Animals
Kautilya set forth guidelines for providing medicine to
livestock. Various mixtures were prescribed to cure different diseases. He
maintained that cowherds shall apply remedies to calves or aged cows or cows
suffering from diseases. Regarding the dosage he mentioned that proportion of a
dose is as much as an aksha (quantity) to men; twice as much to cows and
horses and four times as much to elephants and camels.
Kautilya had provided the facility of veterinary doctors,
who were to cure the ill animals. But Kautilya fined the veterinary doctors when
the condition of sick animals became worse. If the animal died they had to repay
the cost of animal. We thus see that the medical ethics was already enforced by
the state in ancient India.
Nutrition Management of Cattle
Kautilya had analyzed many cattle problems and set the
Drought oxen would be provided with subsistence in
proportion to the duration of service rendered.
cows would be provided with subsistence in proportion to the milk obtained
All cattle would be provided fodder and water
Kautilya even standardised the purity of
the animal products:
of ghee from 1 drona of milk:
Cows milk1 prastha
Buffaloes milk1 1/5 prastha
Goat and sheep’s milk1 ½ prastha
Cheese (to be supplied to the army)
(mixed with oil cake, used as animal feed)
buttermilk- Not for human consumption, to be fed to dogs and pigs.
Of sheep and
·By products: -
Such as hair, skins, bladder, bile, tendons, teeth,
hooves and horns were useful products of wild animals form the forest.
Elephants and Horses
elephants and horses played a major role in defence practices. According to Arthasastra,
the best army had best horses and elephants, of good pedigree,
strength, youthfulness, vitality, loftiness, speed, mettle, good training,
stamina, a lofty mien, obedience, auspicious marks, and good conduct. Kautilya
categorized several kinds of elephants and their physical characteristics: war
elephants, riding elephants, and untrainable elephants. The state took into
account the physical characteristics of elephants with red patches, evenly
fleshed, of even sides and rounded girth, with a curved backbone and well
endowed with flesh. The following structure of army shows the importance of
elephants and horses:
Animals as the Source of State Income
Kautilya mentioned that livestock were
also one of the main sources of income of the government. The following sources
·Income was obtained from the sale of animals.
·The owners of cattle onaccount of royal protection paid one-tenth share in the produce of dairy
to the king.
·Ferry fees were charged when livestock crossed a river.
·Toll was realized from the sale proceeds of the
produce of sheep and goats.
·There was a toll levied on the slaughterhouse.
of emergency king prescribed some special tax, like 50% of skins and ivory
collected to replenish the treasury.
A variety of punishments were prescribed
by the administration, like grazing penalties, punishments for veterinary
doctors, for killing or trapping animals, or fishes in protected areas, etc. The
following penalties were imposed in animal husbandry and cattle management by
for animal husbandry: -
not milking cows in time
of milk lost
negligence intraining bulls
of work lost due to delay
at the right
equal to loss
reporting loss of cattle by natural causes, theft, wild animals,
snakes or crocodiles lost
ofthe value ofthe animal
an animal in the state herd
by a private one
Standard penalties (SP)
letting two bulls fight
letting a bull die in a fight with
milking cows twice in seasons
(spring, summer, late winter) when
they should be
milked only once a
off ofthe thumb
inciting to kill, stealing or
inciting to steal an animal
for veterinary doctors
sick animal’s condition becomes worse due to wrong treatment or carelessness
the animal is not cured
the cost of treatment
the animal dies
value of the animal
for killing the protected species in protected area
trapping, injuring or killing of: -
Animals in sanctuaries
the above offences: -
Committed by householders (for
their personal use)
Gamekeepers and sanctuary guards
who let the above happen
trapping, injuring or killing: -
Fish and birds whose slaughter is
26 3/4 panas
Deer and animals whose slaughter
is not customary
53 1/2 panas
Giving short weight
Eight times the shortage
Selling bad meat
Killing or torturing to death a
calf, bull or milch cow
Castrating the male of a small
animal used for breeding
for injuring animals with a stick etc
For small animals
1 to 2 panas
For big animals
2 to 4 pana + cost of treatment
for causing bleeding wounds to animals
2 to 4 panas
4 to 8 panas + cost of treatment
Letting horned or tusked animals
fight and kill one another
Compensation to owner and equal
amount as fine
temple animal, a stud bull or a cow not yet calved
for theft of animals
Theft or killing of small animals
(e.g., cocks, cats, dogs, pigs etc.) of value less than 25 panas
Cutting off the tip of the nose or
54 panas(fine for CandaLas and forest dwellers - 27 panas)
Theft or killing of a small animal
useful for its milk or hair, for riding or for stud
Compensation to owner + equal
amount as fine (killing for ritual purposes permitted)
of deer, cattle, birds, fish, wild animals caught in some body else's trap
Value of animal + equal amount as
of deer from protected forests or objects from productive forests
Theft of deer or birds held in
captivity for pleasure
Theft of adult cattle
Cutting off both feet or a fine of
of a temple animal
penalties or death (depending on the gravity of
of a herd (more than ten heads) of cattle
Death without torture
for grazing in protected area
Animals eating crops: Owner of
offending animal to pay the specified amount to one who has suffered
Double the damage calculated
according to (expected) harvest
Fines payable to State:
Domesticated and protected
Owner of cattle
Animals grazing on village
pastures without prior permission [from the headman]
Due to owner's negligence
Animals straying: - Into gardens
And breaking down fences
Eating grain in stores and
Causing injury to animals and, in
particular to protected species in reserved forests
Same fines as for causing physical
injury to people
There is no doubt that Kautilya’s Arthasastra
is a legendary text in the context of history of sciences and administrative
knowledge ofancient India. In the
above, we briefly surveyed the cattle management and animal husbandry of
Kautilya’s Arthasastra. It clearly shows that Kautilya could setremarkably scientific guidelines for maintenance of animals. Livestock
seem to have been well protected in his times. Pain and death to animals were
considered as a serious offence and people involved in such unkind acts were
punished with fine, even death. Grazing tax and punishmentclearly shows that precautionary measures had been prescribed in the Artahsastra
in order to stop reckless grazing in pastures, which were basically required for
the maintenance of livestock. The credit for well developed management practices
in animal husbandry goes to the prescribed punishments.
Article based on:
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on Indian Culture, Science and Literature (Gangadharan, N., Sarma, S.A.S.,
and Sarma, S.S.R., eds.). Shree Sarada Education Society Research Centre,
Chennai, India. Pp. 431-437.
V. 1962. The superintendent of cows. In. Kautilya ka Arthasastra. (In
Hindi.) Book II, Chapter XXIX. Chowkhambha Vidya Bhawan, Varanasi, India. Pp.
Jha, K.N. and L.K.
Jha. 1997. Chanakya. A.P.H. Publishing Corporation, New Delhi, India. Pp.
Pratip. 2000. Chanakya and corporated governance. The Economic Times, 4
L. N. 1992. Kautilya: the Arthashastra. New Delhi: Penguin Books.
S.K. 1998. Nutrient Requirements of Livestock and Poultry. New Delhi:Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, India.
R. 1929. Kautilya's Arthasastra. Weslayan Mission Press, Mysore, India.
R. 1999. Kautilya's Arthasastra: the superintendent of cows. Asian Agri-History
Tiwari, M. K. and V. K. Dubey. 2002.
Cattle management in Kautilya’s Arthasastra. Asian