In one of his speech, Pandit VijayShankar Mehta says:

Ramayana teaches us जीने की कला (art of living)

Bhagavad Gita teaches us कर्म करने की कला (art of doing)

Bhagavatam teaches us मरने की कला (art of dying)

Mahabharata teaches us रहने की कला (art of existence/survival)

Similarly, we have several scriptures for Dharama such as Dharma-sutras and Dharma-sastras. Even most of the scriptures talk about Dharma.

Similarly we have scriptures for Moksha such as Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Many other scriptures also talk about Moksha.

But do we have scriptures which talk about Artha and Kama?

Well, so first name will come out as Kamasutra of Vātsyāyana for Kama but it is not considered as scripture in many posts of this forum such as in q1, q2, q3 and even in many more such questions. But there must be some scripture on Kama too as it is also one of the four Purusarthas ('object of human pursuit' or 'purpose of human being'). Even in a religious debate between Adi Shankaracharya and Bharati (wife of scholar Madana Mishra), the questions on Kama were asked as described here.

And for Artha, the name Arthashastra of Kauṭilya might come in mind. But it's new literature, don't we have any ancinet text on Artha?

In Mahabharata it is written that it focuses on Artha and Kama:

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It contains much useful instruction on Artha and Kama (profit and pleasure). This sacred history maketh the heart desire for salvation. Learned persons by reciting this Veda of Krishna-Dwaipayana to those that are liberal, truthful and believing, earn much wealth. -chapter 62 of Adi Parva: Adivansavatarana Parva of Mahabharata

So what are the main shlokas in Mahabharata which focuses on Artha and Kama?

  • 1
    kAm & artha is natural inclination of any being so no need to teach. Jan 13, 2018 at 13:42
  • Dharma Shastras, Itihasa, Puranas etc. are there to show us what we don't know. They are not there to tell us to eat or bathe. Because we don't HAVE to eat or bathe. If you feel hungry you will eat, if you feel dirty you will bathe. There is no punishment for not eating, and there is no punishment for not bathing. But there is punishment for eating before bathing. ('snathva bhunjeetha'). So that those who WANT to eat will do so under rules and regulations of dharma. If you decide you're never going to eat again, then you are also free to never take bath again.
    – ram
    Jan 13, 2018 at 18:20
  • Thiruvalluvar's Thirukkural has entire chapters devoted to the 3 - dharma, artha, kama. The belief is that if you follow these 3 according to rules, the 4th (moksha) will follow on its own.
    – ram
    Jan 13, 2018 at 23:55
  • 1
    List of some useful verses from scriptures on Artha
    – Pandya
    Sep 30, 2018 at 12:50

1 Answer 1


OM Homage to Śukra and Bṛhaspati! This singular Treatise on Success (Artha) has been composed for the most part by drawing together the Treatises on Success (Artha) composed by former teachers for gaining and administering the earth. - Arthaśāstra of Kautilya 1.1.1-2

As you see that the most ancient treatises on Artha are the Bṛhaspatinīti and Śukranīti.

Now, let's come to Kāma. The ancient treatises on Kāma were mentioned by Vātsyāyana himself in his Kāmasūtra. Vātsyāyana's Kāmasūtra is just an abridged version of those ancient works. The most ancient treatise on Kāma was Kāmasūtra written by Nandi, the chief attendant of Lord Śiva.

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When Prajapati, the Creator, made his creatures, he first proclaimed in one hundred thousand chapters how these three aims of life function as the cause of their existence. Manu, son of the Self-born One, extracted the part dealing with religion (Dharma) as a separate work. Brihaspati did the same with regard to prosperity (Artha), and the great god Shiva’s follower, Nandin, made a separate presentation of the guide to sensual pleasure (Kāma) in one thousand chapters. Shvetaketu, the son of Uddalaka, then abridged this to five hundred chapters. And furthermore, Babhravya from Panchala abridged this to one hundred fifty chapters in seven parts: General Matters, Sexual Intercourse, Sex with a Young Woman, the Role of the Wife, Other Men’s Wives, Prostitution, and Advanced Methods. From this Dattaka, commissioned by the courtesans of Pataliputra, extracted the sixth part on prostitution as a separate work. Responding to this, Charayana adapted the part on general matters, Suvarnanabha the part on sexual intercourse, Ghotakamukha the part on sex with a young woman, Gonardiya the part on the role of the wife, Gonikaputra the part on other men’s wives, and Kuchumara the part on advanced methods, all as separate works. In this manner, the guide was divided into pieces by many teachers and its precepts nearly vanished. Because the parts of the work made by Dattaka and the others were one-sided, and because Babhravya’s work was too big to be memorized, Vatsyayana abridged the whole subject into a small book and presents it as this guide to sensual pleasure. Kāmasūtra of Vātsyāyana 1.1.5-14

Sources -

  • King, Governance and Law in Ancient India Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra - a new annotated translation by Patrick Olivelle
  • The Kamasutra: an English translation by Lars Martin Fosse

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