Apastamba Dharmasutra states - "If a person who has taken (a lease of) land (for cultivation) does not exert himself, and hence (the land) bears no crop, he shall, if he is rich, be made to pay (to the owner of the land the value of the crop) that ought to have grown."

Are there other examples such as from the Arthashastra and other important texts?

1 Answer 1


Not sure about any other texts, but the Arthashastra has many passages which may be what you are looking for. You can see the PDF version here, much of the relevant information is in Part IV of the translation version. I'm not sure whether I fully understand your question, but I think that this may answer it. Let me know if this isn't what you had in mind.

Selected snippets from Arthashastra translation linked above:

The king shall populate the countryside by creating [new] villages on virgin land or by reviving abandoned village sites. Settlement can be effected either by shifting some of the population of his own country or by immigration of foreigners [by inducement or force]. The settlers in the villages shall mainly be Sudra agriculturists, with a minimum of one hundred families and a maximum of five hundred. The villages shall be sited so as to provide mutual protection. Each boundary of a village shall be one or two krosas1 and be [clearly identifiable using] a river, a mountain, a forest, a dry riverbed, a cave, an embankment, or trees like the silk cotton, acacia, and milktree. (2.1.1-3)

The king shall avoid [settling] any part of the country which is liable to attack by enemies or jungle tribes and which is likely to be afflicted by disease and famine. He shall avoid excessive expenditure. (2.1.36)

He shall establish a sangrahana (the headquarters of a sub-district) for each group of ten villages, a karvatika (a district headquarters) in the middle of two hundred villages, a dronamukha (a divisional headquarters) in the middle of four hundred and a sthaniya (provincial headquarters) for every eight hundred.

On the frontiers, he shall construct fortresses under the command of frontier chiefs to guard the entrances to the kingdom. The area between the frontier forts and the settled villages shall be guarded by trappers, archers, hunters, Candalas and forest tribes. (2.1.4-6)

He shall grant land to Brahmins [of different categories]: - teachers, purohitas, experts in the Vedas and those who officiate at ritual sacrifices. Such land shall be exempt from fines and taxes and be transferable to heirs.

He shall [also] grant land [after the village is fully established to heads of departments, accountants, record keepers (gopas), divisional officers (sthanikas), doctors, courtiers and horse trainers. Such land shall not be sold or mortgaged by the possessor [being a prerequisite as associated with the job].

Arable land shall be allotted to tax-payers for their lifetime [only]. Unarable land, prepared for cultivation by any one [by their own ef- forts] shall not be taken away from them. Land allotted to those who do not cultivate it shall be confiscated and given to others. Alterna- tively, employees of the village, whether salaried or not, or [village] merchants may cultivate them. The loss suffered by the state due to non-cultivation shall be made good by the offending holder.

[On new settlements] the cultivators shall be granted grains, cattle and money which they can repay at their convenience. Favours and exemptions shall be granted either at the time a settlement is organised or as and when people move in. Grants can also be made later [to people in existing settlements] provided that such grants result in increased revenue and/or avoid losses to the Treasury; for, a King with a depleted Treasury eats into the very vitality of the country. He shall, however, treat leniently, like a father [would treat his son], those whose exemptions have ceased to be effective. (2.1.7-18)

There shall be no grounds or buildings intended for recreation [in the new settlements]. Actors, dancers, singers, musicians, professional story-tellers, and minstrels shall not obstruct the work [of the people], because in villages that provide no shelter [to outsiders], the people will be [fully] involved in the work of the fields. [Consequently] there will be an increase in the supply of labour, money, commodities, grains, and liquid products. (2.1.33-35)

Also see (7.11.3-25) in X.v. in which Kautilya advises that, when making a settlement, land with the following qualities should be preferred - with water, capable of sowing two crops, especially grains, with elephant forests and trade routes on land. If a tract is difficult to settle because of heavy expenditure or losses, the king is advised, in (7.11.26- 40), to sell it first to someone who is likely to fail in the attempt to settle it and then reacquire it.

Not only shall the King keep in good repair productive forests, elephant forests, reservoirs and mines created in the past, but also set up new mines, factories, forests [for timber and other forest produce], elephant forests and cattle herds and [shall promote trade and commerce by setting up] market towns, ports and trade routes, both by land and by water. (2:1.19,39) He shall build storage reservoirs, [filling them] either from natural springs or with water brought from elsewhere; or, he may provide help to those who build reservoirs by giving them land, building roads and channels, or giving grants of timber and implements. Similar help shall be given to those who build shrines and sanctuaries.

If anyone refuses to participate in a cooperative effort [of all the people in a settlement] to build a reservoir, his labourers and bullocks shall [be made to] do [his share of] the work. He shall pay his share of the cost but shall not receive any share of the benefits.

The ownership of the fish, ducks, and green vegetables obtained from the reservoirs shall rest with the King. (2.1.20-24) He shall allot land for cattle pastures on uncultivable land and shall protect the herds from harassment by thieves, wild animals, poisonous creatures, and cattle disease. (2.2.1, 2.1.37)

He shall also allot land in forests to ascetics for soma plantations and for Vedic learning. These shall be at least one goruta in extent and the safety of all movable and immovable things therein shall be assured. (2.2.2)

He shall set up a forest area of similar size as a recreational forest for the King.

Near the frontier or in any other suitable area, he shall set up an animal sanctuary where all animals are [welcomed as] guests.

He shall further demarcate forest areas, one for each kind of forest produce and set up factories for goods made from such products and create settlements of foresters near these productive forests.

On the border of the kingdom he shall establish a forest for elephants, protected by other forests and under the supervision of the Chief Elephant Forester. (2.2.3-6)

He shall protect trade routes from harassment by courtiers, state officials, thieves and frontier guards and from being damaged by herds of cattle. (2.1.38)

He shall show special favours to those in the countryside who do things which benefit the people, such as building embankments or road bridges, beautifying villages, or helping to protect them. (3.10.46)

Sorry for this very long answer, hope it helps!

  • 2
    Thank you! That helps a lot. There does seems to be widely understood land use policy now that we look at different sources. Unproductive land is to be given out to people to turn it into productive land. Productive land is to be rented out by the state such as arable land and land with resources [mines, timber, etc]. Sounds like economist Henry George's idea. Do you know any sources which detail urban land use policy? Like city planning? I know that Ramayana describes Ayodhya as having grid layout. Mar 19, 2023 at 4:29
  • 1
    @JupiterJones - I'm glad that this could help! I'll keep looking to see if I can find anything else.
    – CDR
    Mar 19, 2023 at 13:29
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    @JupiterJones - Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any references to Ayodhya's grid layout so far. However, you may find this to be an interesting read, although it's more of a really old academic book than a genuine Hindu text.
    – CDR
    Mar 20, 2023 at 19:57
  • Thank you! I kept reading beautiful description of Indian cities in travelogues of ancient/medieval foreign travelers, perhaps ancient urban planning ideas are still relevant and might prove useful in convincing our bureaucrats towards a better land use policy. This will be handy in a land use project I am working on right now. Mar 22, 2023 at 6:09

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