The Origin of Akṣayanīvī and the Historical Context of the Arthaśāstra

Convergences of Early Indian Epigraphic and Literary Data

In: Indo-Iranian Journal
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  • 1 Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenInstitut für Indologie und Tibetologie, Germany, Munich
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This paper has two purposes. The first is to provide an accurate definition and history of the origin of the Sanskrit term akṣayanīvī. The standard scholarly translation of this term, which is encountered almost exclusively in inscriptions, is “permanent endowment” and has been established since the mid-19th century. It will be shown that the usual translations of both members of the compound—akṣaya as “permanent” and nīvī as “endowment”—are at the least misleading. This will be accomplished through a discussion of the occurrences of the terms in the Adhyakṣapracāra “Activities of Superintendents” (Book II of the Kauṭilya Arthaśāstra), with a particular focus on KA 2.6.27 which contains an explicit definition of nīvī. The second purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that the Adhyakṣapracāra, the largest and most perplexing chapter of the KA, utilizes a technical vocabulary which points to a specific context of production. This will be done through an examination of a series of fiscal and administrative technical terms which occur in the Adhyakṣapracāra and which emerge in the Indian epigraphic record at around the time period and geographic region commonly given for the composition of the text (ca. 1st c. BCE—1st c. CE Western Maharashtra/Southern Gujarat).

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