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Author: Jatin Patil, B.A.,LL.B from School of Law, NMIMS, Hyderabad.


Without an understanding of Kautilya's Arthashastra, the study of ancient Indian political theory is deemed inadequate. In Indian Vedic civilisation, Arthashastra is one of the most compelling and complete treatises in political science. In ancient India, Kautilya turned politics into a scientific discipline and tried to evaluate political theories using scientific principles and actual evidence. Many consider Kautilya to be the world's first political realist.

From 317 until 293 BC, Kautilya served as the minister of Chandragupta Maurya's kingdom. He was regarded as one of the most intelligent ministers of his days, and in his work Arthashastra, he thoroughly expressed his ideas on the state, war, social structures, diplomacy, ethics, politics, and statecraft. The Mauryan Empire was greater than British India, which stretched from the Indian Ocean to the Himalayas and west to Iran. Magadha was India's most powerful kingdom after Alexander's departure, and Kautilya was a minister who counselled the monarch. Chanakya (C.350- C.275BC) also known as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta.

The theory of the mandala is one of the most amazing ideas in ancient Indian statecraft. This is an inter-state relations theory that states that a kingdom is an ally or an adversary depending on its geographical position in regard to the conqueror. There is no reliable evidence on where this hypothesis originated. It is not addressed in Vedic or Brahmin literature, but it is extensively discussed in Manusmriti and Mahabharata. Kautilya gave a far more thorough depiction of the Mandala idea and its relative relevance for the state's security and existence in the Arthashastra. Kautilya's idea of inter-state connection was refined to such a degree that it may be used in all ages, candidly and realistically presented according to the requirements of his day.

Kautilya’s Mandala Theory: The Analysis

"Your neighbour is your natural enemy and the neighbour’s neighbour is your friend.”

Kautilya's Mandala Theory was based on this principle. And that is the very first thing that comes to mind when reading Kautilya's works. Mandala is a Sanskrit term that literally translates to "circles." Kautilya created the mandala system as a theoretical state-building in his Arthashastra. Kautilya proposes the Mandala theory while explaining and analysing state foreign relations. He believes that if a king wants to extend his state by fighting and conquering other states, he should increase the number of his friends in proportion to the number of his enemy-states in order to keep them inside his effective sphere of influence. The weaker states, on the other hand, should be wary of their powerful neighbours. They should establish friendly connections with equal-status nations and build a Mandal or circle of such states to protect themselves against superpowers pursuing expansionist policies.

Kautilya is most famous for outlining the Mandala theory or the circle of the states which consists of 12 kingdoms as –

  1. Vijigishu: The central ruler or the prospective conqueror. It is essential to note that although the central king is referred to as the Vijigishu, he is not the only Vijigishu; any other king in the mandalas with comparable goals and potential strength can also be referred to as a Vijigishu.

  2. Ari: The immediate neighbour of the country is the Ari or the Enemy. As mentioned above, every neighbouring state is enemy, so the Ari is a natural enemy. In front of the Vijigishu, the adjoining state is his enemy, so he says Ari. Kautilya has given three types of it: to which he addresses the names of natural enemy (prakritik Ari) , spontaneous enemy (Sahaj ari) and artificial enemy (kritrim ari). The state, which is bordered by state boundaries, is the natural ari. The king has a spontaneous ari originating in his own lineage. The king who becomes an enemy on opposing or opposing himself is called artificial ari. Kautilya was of the opinion that for expansion of his kingdom every king wishes to keep the territory of the neighbouring kingdom under his control, so the neighbouring states are normally the Ari or enemy states.

  1. Mitra: The Ari's next neighbour, or the enemy of the enemy. The foreign policy of Kautilya is founded on the idea that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." In Sanskrit, Mitra means "friend" or "ally." Vijigishu's natural ally is Mitra. Because Vijigishu and Ari have a close connection, the kingdom in front of Ari is named Mitra, or friend. Friendly states, according to Kautilya, are classified into three categories: (1) Prakritik Mitra or Natural Friend State (2) Sahaja Mitra State (3) Kritrim Mitra or Artificial Friend State. Natural friend states are states that border their state's border; mother or father's relative's states are natural friends states; and when one king seeks the protection of another king for money or life, such states are referred to as artificial friend states.

  1. Ari Mitra: Kautilya from the Ari Mitra State refers to a state that is a friend of Ari. The next state adjacent to Mitra’s front border; or Mitra's natural enemy is the Ari Mitra. Naturally, the Ari Mitra is the friend of the Ari (enemy) and so the enemy of the Vijigishu.

  1. Mitra Mitra: The state located in front of the ari mitra state is called mitra mitra state because it is a friend of mitra state. Thus, his friendship also stays with Vijigishu. He is naturally Mitra’s friend and so, Vijigishu friend as well.

  1. Ari Mitra-Mitra: It is friend of the enemy’s friend situated immediately beyond Mitra –Mitra. Ari Mitra state located in front of Mitra Mitra State is called Ari Mitra because he is a friend of Ari state, so his relationship with Ari State is also friendly. As a result, it is the same as ari for Vijigishu.

  1. ParshnigrahaThe state that lies behind Vijigishu is called Parshnigraha. Because he is like an enemy state with Vijigishu like Ari state.

  1. Akranda: The state which is situated behind Parshnigraha is called Akrand. He is a friend of Vijigishu

  1. Parshnigrahasara: According to Kautilya, Parshnigrahasara is the state which is the friend of the enemy state (Parshnigraha) located behind Vijigishu.

  1. Akrandsara: The kingdom behind Parshnigraha is called Akrandsara and is a friend of Akrand. So, the friend of Vijigishu. 

  1. Madhyama: The concept of middle state as propounded by Kautilya is in some way the concept of special state. This conquest is situated in the middle of the aspiring Ari states. It belongs to both the states. According to Kautilya, this medium state should be more powerful. Even the combined power of the two states should be more powerful. It should be so powerful that it can succeed in proving grace and favour on both these states when needed.

  1. Udasina: A state located somewhere between Vijigishu, and his friend state is called a neutral state. He remains completely neutral or Udasina during wartime. He must remain more powerful than the Vijigishu, Ari and Madhyama trio.

The earliest model of an international political structure was the mandala theory. Despite the fact that it was written almost 2000 years ago, it has a high level of complexity. The universal set of Kautilya's international system, as well as the bounds of the four mandalas (circles of states), structural components, and subsets, have all been explicitly specified. Kautilya proposed a six-fold policy for interacting with neighbours in a mandala system, which comprised coexistence, neutrality, alliance, double policy, march, and war. He urged the monarch to use one of five strategies to accomplish this: conciliation, gift and bribery, dissention, deception and pretence, outright attack, or war. As a result, when it comes to treaties and alliances, he advises, “A King should not hesitate to break any friendships or affiliations that are subsequently shown to be disadvantageous.” Because Kautilya believes in strength and power, Mandala theory is the plan, the design of the expedition with the goal of global conquest. “Power is the possession of strength,” he says.

Contemporary relevance to India

Although Kautilya's Mandala theory of foreign policy and interstate relations cannot be claimed to be fully applicable in the current environment, its importance cannot be underestimated. His concept, both at the regional and global levels, acts as a roadblock to integration. Unfortunately, Kautilya today dominates regional and international interactions, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Even now, his military strategy is quite beneficial. He has truly expressed his theories pretty precisely.

We all know that in today's world, the advancement of technology and defensive mechanisms, as well as the development of transportation systems, has led many of us to feel that Mandala theory is no longer applicable in terms of its Fears and Features. Every political theory does not have a universal application for all ages; thus, we must look ahead to the aspects we may examine from the mandala theory for Indian foreign relations. It is an unavoidable reality that, even in the modern world, India's biggest challenges are caused by its neighbours, such as Pakistan, China, and Bangladesh, over a variety of concerns. On the primary interpretation, this suggests the significance of Mandala theory. Kautilya's theories are not founded on emotional considerations, but rather on reasoning in assessing all conceivable threats to a country's security. “A King who knows the actual implications of diplomacy conquers the entire world,” he remarked. Natural adversaries do not imply that we are in a constant state of war with them, but an international relations operation on alert mode is a cause for concern.


Kautilya is the prototypical proponent of political realism, foreign policy, and the art of gaining and maintaining power without moralistic illusions. His arguments on national power and national interest are both intellectual and practical. Through Mandala theory, he established the goal of world conquest and the methods that must be utilised by a wealthy kingdom, as well as discussing the brutal reality of international politics. He outlined methodical methods for gaining power and domination, and international politics, he claims, is the unlawful fight of powerful and weak governments for this objective.

Kautilya was uninterested with glory or reputation; he just believed in the idea of ‘the end justifies the means.' His geostrategic insight is incredibly sophisticated in nature, and it's still applicable today. Because the essential elements of Kautilya's foreign policy, such as the fight for power, national interests, alliances, enmity, and diplomacy, remain unaltered till the end of time, Kautilya's foreign policy is still applicable in the realm of international politics. As a result, he is still relevant in the period of the "trans-modern global civilization." Furthermore, understanding ancient Indian political philosophy necessitates a thorough understanding of inter-state interactions, which is where Kautilya's contribution comes in.


  1. Modelski, George, Kautilya: Foreign Policy and International System in the Ancient Hindu World, 58, no. 3, The American Political Science Review, 549–560 (1964).

  2. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia, Chanakya, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 28 Mar. 2019,

  3. Dr. Manashi Sarma and Arpita Das, Indian Political Thought, Sem. 1, Block 1 Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University, 19-31 (2018)


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