WRITTEN by London Swaminathan 


Date: 19 April 2018


Time uploaded in London –  16.42 (British Summer Time)


Post No. 4930


Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks. Pictures may be subject to copyright laws.







Chanakya gives very interesting details of the lady Macbeths of ancient India. after the Non Kshatriya rule in Magada empire, the morality had gone down very much. Kalidasa in the first chapter of his Raguvamsam describes the excellent qualities of the kings of the Solar Dynasty. But after the invasion of Persians and Greeks, the situation had changed.


Kautilya alias Chanakya in his monumental work Artha sastra warns against the conspiracies in the harem of the kings. Here are some interesting tit bits:-


P C Chunder in his book Kautilya on Love and Morals says,

“The royal harem stinks with an air of suspicion and concealed dangers. The Artha sastra mentions detailed precautions against palace intrigues. Provided with many compartments, enclosed by parapet and ditch, furnished with delusive chamber, underground rooms, secret doors, passages and hollow pillars, the harem is sought to be made proof against snake, fire and poison (Artha sastra 1-20)

women’s compartments are provided with medicines and herbs useful in midwifery and diseases. Guards under the command of Antarvamsika (harem chief) stand on watch between two compartments. Asoka mentions a minister if charge of affairs of women-folk. The officer is called Stri-Adyaksha- Mahaamaatra.


According to Kautilya, a minster who has passed the ‘Love Test’ may find employment in the royal harem. It is interesting to note that Antarvamsika is a highly paid officer. According to Kautilya he draws 24,000 Panas, second in rank in the matter of pay to the Prime Minster, Chief Priest, Commander-in-chief, the Crown Prince, the Queen and the Queen Mother who receive 48,000 Panas each(AS 5-3).

Pana= ancient coinage in gold or silver

With spies in various garbs, ole men and eunuchs watching the inmates including the palace guards, the harem is sealed off from inside. Ascetics, buffoons and public prostitutes are not allowed to go in. Even queen’s relatives are not allowed in unless someone falls sick.


Vatasyayan too observes in Kamasutra: No woman of place should be allowed to go out of the palace nor any outside to enter except who are known to be of good character. (KS 4-2-83)

According to Kautilya, before meeting the king even the queen has to submit to body searches by old maid servants. The proof of personal purity must be established before the king could touch any woman.


Kautilya cites number of instances in which the king was surprised by assassins in the harem, “for hidden in queen’s chamber, his own brother slew king Bhadrasena; hiding himself under the bed of his mother the son killed king Kaaruusa; mixing fried rice with poison, as though honey, his own queen poisoned Kaaasiraaja . Similarly, many other queens slew their husbands with poison painted an ankletor coated on a gem or her zone, or a looking glass or with a weapon hidden under her tuft of hair (AS 1-20; also Kamandaka 7-51-54.

Kautilya’s apprehension for the personal safety of the king is justified by other sources.

Both Roman historian Curtius Rufus (first century CE) and Greek author Diodoros Siculus (fierst century BCE) refer to the episode of an eastern queen who fell in love with  a low born person, a handsome barber, advanced him in the court circle, murdered or caused to be murdered her first husband, the reigning and king and finally, set up the paramour on the throne. She was the mother of Agrammes, ruler of Prasii and Gangaridae.


The Jain traditions also record a similar story. They describe Nanda as the son f a barber by a courtesan (Parisistaparvan 6-232)


The Divyaavadaana reports that Asoka kept a close watch on his harem. once a royal lady gossiped with a prince. Both were beaten to death at the king’s order (Divya.377)


The Mudraaraaksasa also confirms the tradition of intrigues and palace revolutions. According to Manu, only women devoted to him and well examined and found  safe as regards their dress and ornaments should be allowed to touch him when fanning or bathing him or applying perfumes to his body (Manu 7-219) Even the Mahabharata states that the king should trust nobody, not even his sons (Santi parva 85-33

-to be continued………………….




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