Chanakya divides his Arthashastra into 15 chapters and 160 sections. Their division and placement within the text suggests a didactic function.
He begins with a chapter on A King's Responsiblitities that contains sections on a king's education, briefly covers the motivations of enemies and appropriate modes of conducts, moves on to the appointment of various kinds of officials, and then to a ruler's behaviour. While I will deal with all the 20 sections in this first chapter separately because each section throws up fascinating insights into the society of the time and on views of politics, some immediately eyecatching insights (just based on the contents list):
1. The chapter considers not only a king's behaviour as a ruler but also advises on how a ruler may protect against other members of the royal family who may be conspiring for power;
2. Outlines appropriate behaviour for a prince who has been taken prisoner;
3. Provides detailed guidelines on the various levels of a king's security detail, including his personal bodyguards. Curiously echoing the Russian anti-terrorism maxim of "kill the women first," Chanakya believes that women should form the inner circles of bodyguard for a king because of their greater dedication and loyalty.
For this section, I was most intrigued by the opening verse for this book. As with all classical Indian literature, theatre, performance, Chanakya begins with saluting his gurus, and invoking their blessing. However, unlike most other scholars, Chanakya invokes and salutes, "Daityaguru" (guru of the demons) Shukracharya as well as "Devguru" (guru of the gods) Brihaspati. Indeed, Shukracharya takes precedence over Brihaspati in Chankya's invocation, as more important of the two.
In some commentaries, scholars suggest that Shukracharya was a more successful advisor/political ideologue as his advice of cunning conduct in politics and war allowed the cosmically weaker and thus disadvantaged Daityas to constantly upset the Devas. In comparison, the Devas had to plead the great Trinity of Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma for help everytime they were beset by the Daityas (curious echo of the modern political idea of intervention by a regional or global power in the struggles for supremacy of smaller states here!). Chanakya implicitly suggests that for all his wisdom and goodness, Brihaspati's political advice was less than effective.
By privileging Shukracharya's advice as the model for politics, Chanakya signals right at the outset that his treatise will make no allowances for ethics, morality or religious norms. Instead, it has a sole imperative: power, its acquisition, expansion, and retention, all of which requires the ruler to develop and practise the cunning within. And boy does he set out to create a manifesto for this aim with relish.
While considering this initial invocation, I was reminded of Keat's opinion that despite all professions to the contrary, Milton was of the "devil's party" as Paradise Lost is a far greater work of literature than Paradise Regained. Chanakya too may be considered very much of the Daitya's party as he finds very little of interest in the conduct of the "gods" and the virtuous.