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ROMILA THAPAR, Aloka andthe Declineof the Mauryas,Oxford University Press


Dr. Romila Thapar'smonographrepresentsa very realisticapproachto the political

and social structure of the MauryanAge which had its culmination in AMoka,the
monarch and monk, the "Kaiserund Missionar",the Indian Constantine-as modern
scholars have called him. Dr. Thapar interprets him as man and monarch in the
first place, and not as monk and missionary, and she regards the historical efficiency
of his conversion to Buddhism as more relevant than the degree of his religious
conviction. She cannot but say that A4oka was an ambitious ruler who had found
in Buddhism a "socio-intellectualmovement" which practicallysuited his imperial
aims as a "cementing factor". Dhamma ought to be interpretedas an ethical concept
and not as a religious idea. It is refreshing to see that Dr. Thaparis obviously unimpressed by the glorified image which later legend and recent researchhas formed
of this Buddhist emperor. She will certainly meet criticism when she discovers
indications of increasing megalomania in his inscriptions, but not in this review.
Dr. Thapar rightly stresses the importance of the Kalinga conquest, for it proves
that Agoka embarked on the same centralizedpolicy which is characteristicfor his
predecessors. It is a fine psychological observation when she points out that his
compunction after the Kalinigacampaign was not strong enough to reestablishthe
old political conditions in Kalinga. The analysis of the Mauryan economy and
sociology has been mainlybased on Megasthenesand Kautalya,as it is usual. In some
cases the statementsof Megasthenesappeartoo idealized to be true (e.g. The Indians
neither put out money at usury, nor know how to borrow). Perhapshe wanted to
criticize in this way conditions in his home-country, as probably did Nikitin, the
Russian traveller of the I 5th century, when he remarks: "The Indians eat no meat
at all;...they drink neither wine nor mead".
Dr. Thaparis right to warn us against the uncriticalutilization of all the evidence
on Adoka. Indeed his inscriptions (though they represent cruces of philology) are
the only reliable source. All evidence based on literary sources is open to doubt,
which is not surprisingto Indologists. It is a matter of common sense and critical
comparison to distinguish fiction from truth, and this is done very carefully by
Dr. Thapar.It is still a desideratumof Tibetology to make accessibleall the Tibetan
evidence on Indian history, for Tirandthais taken as the main source merely for the
reason that his work has been translated.
Among some misprints to be emendated in a second edition I mention: p. 73:
read: karmakaras;p. i21: read: ethnos; p. 97: read: mantriparisad;p. 98: read:
mantrino mantriparisadam ca; p. 185, 191: read: Pusyamitra.

Appendix I examinesthe "Date of the Arthafistra". Dr. Thaparsticks to the view

that only the kernel of this treatiseis Mauryan.The difficulty,however, is to distinguish the old kernel from the later additions. Even the new critical edition of R. P.
Kangle, Bombay 196o, gives hardlyany hint in this direction. She states that "in the
latter part of the book thereis an increasingtendency to suggest magicaland mystical
means of achieving one's end". This disagrees with the realistic conceptions of the
other passages. In IV, 3 practicalsuggestions are followed by magical ones several



times: "We prefer to believe....that the latter suggestions incroporating magical

means were put forward by later editors, when such practiceswere on the increase".
(p. 22z). However, such practices were certainlypre-Mauryanand Kautalyahimself
advises the king to charge "atharvavedavidah"with this task (IV, 3, 40). Moreover,
a realistic Macchiavellianattitude was not seldom connected with magic and superstition. Considering the importance of the Kautaliya Arthasistra for the social and
political institutions of ancient India one should give favourable considerationto
the proposal of the Polish Indologist E. Sluszkiewicz, who has suggested that this
text should be tested by a computer (Review of Kosambi, An Introduction to the
Study of Indian History, Rocznik Orientalisticzny

1960, p. 140, n. 8). Though

there are strong argumentsagainst the results of stylistic tests by a computerit would
be fascinating to learn to what extent electronics might be of use in the field of
Oriental studies. Finally, I would take the liberty to draw the attention to some
German studies not mentioned by the author, most of which have appeared in
recent years and were presumablynot availableto Dr Thaparat the time of writing.
Philological criticism offersK. L. Janert'sStudienZudenAhoka-Inscbriften,
(I/II 1959 and III 196 I)-Part II contains a new attempt of translating"Barabir 3"
(cfr. p. 26o of Dr. Thapar'sbook). The Kandahir Inscription is still open to controversy (cfr. for instance F. Altheim-R. Stiehl, "The Greek-AramaicBilingual Inscription of Kandahir and its Philological Importance", in: East and West,Rome,
Dec. I959). H. Liiders'studies on the Adoka inscriptions are easily accessible in
PhilologicaIndica, Gbttingen 1940. Asoka's socalled "Schism-Edict" bears a very
appropriatename, in view of the scientific dispute about it. L. Alsdorf (in: IndoIranianJournal,Vol. III 3, Leiden 1959) interpretsit as a purge of the whole samgha
in the sense of the Theravadins whereas H. Bechert (in: WienerZeitschriftfur die
KundeSfid- und Ostasiens,Vol. V, 1961) analyses sarmghabhedaas a technical term
into two factions by quarrel about
meaning "the splitting of a particular
the rules of Vinaya and their application".
On this interpretationAdoka intended
In the MainzAcademyL. Alsdorf
to remove such afflictions of respective
has published monographs on Indian vegetarianism
(1961) which has its special
significance in the MauryanAge (and which is dealt with by Dr. Thapar p. 69 ff.)
and on the SeparateEdicts of Dhauli and Jaugada (1962).

THE KAMA SUTRA OF VATSYAYANA, translatedby Sir Richard F. Burton.

New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1962. (Introduction by John W. Spellman).
(252 pages).
In his Kdmasitra,Vitsyiyana has left a mine of informationon the social conditions
of ancient India. Its great value stems not only from the relative paucity of contemporary data but also from the work's clear-sightedsecularrealism.Vitsyiyana claims
that his work is essentially a condensation of works by ealier writers on kamaldstra,
but although most of these precursors appear to have been historical figures, little
or nothing has survived of their writings except what Vitsyiyana himself has seen
fit to preserve.
The exact date of composition of the Kdmasitra has yet to be determined, and
the estimates range from the first to the fourth century A.D. In his introduction
Dr. Spellman gives the upper limit of the composition as the third century B.C.,