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Kanika’s Koota Niti

In the Mahab­hara­ta Dritha­rash­tra receives advice from Kani­ka, the crafty advi­sor which even­tu­al­ly pro­voked Dritha­rash­tra to plan the killing of Kun­ti and the Pan­davas in the lac house. Kanika’s advice comes under “koo­ta niti” a niti which is employed to destroy the ene­mies. The actions of the kings depend­ed on the advice they were receiv­ing and Kanika’s crooked think­ing had a dis­as­trous con­se­quence for both the Pan­davas and Kau­ravas. Let us take a look at his ter­ri­ble advices.

This hap­pens in the Samb­ha­va par­va of the Mahab­hara­ta. When the Pan­davas agree to join Drona in defeat­ing Dru­pa­da, Dritha­rash­tra sud­den­ly feels inse­cure look­ing at the pow­er of the Pan­davas. His mind is com­plete­ly dis­turbed and the future of his sons looks dark. He sum­mons Kani­ka and Kani­ka nar­rates the sto­ry of an intel­li­gent (cun­ning) fox.

In a for­est there lived a world,tiger, mouse, mon­goose and fox. Once a deer which was con­stant­ly escap­ing the tiger, some­how was killed with the help of the mouse. The deer now was lying dead on the ground. The fox instruct­ed the oth­er ani­mals to go do their ablu­tions while he watched over the deer. The tiger returned first and observed the fox med­i­tat­ing. When asked the rea­son, the fox said that the mouse had claimed the deer because he was the one who helped kill the deer. Hear­ing this, the angry tiger went away in search of the mouse to kill it. The mouse now came to the spot and the fox told that the mon­goose had declared the deer to be poi­soned. Scared of the poi­son, the mouse ran away. The wolf then came to eat. The fox said that the angry tiger would come there any moment with his wife, so he bet­ter run away. The wolf van­ished from the spot. The mon­goose then came. The fox calm­ly told the mon­goose that he had defeat­ed all oth­ers and the mon­goose can take the food after defeat­ing him. Scared of what he said, the mon­goose just ran away. The fox had a sump­tu­ous meal. Kani­ka said :

  1. The timid should be defeat­ed by excit­ing their fears, the coura­geous by con­cil­i­a­tion, the cov­etous by gift and the infe­ri­ors by demon­stra­tion of pow­er

  2. Care­ful­ly man­ag­ing their own faults, the king should keep watch­ing for the faults of their foes and take advan­tage. His own weak­ness should be con­cealed like the shell of the tor­toise

  3. By curs­es and incan­ta­tions, by gift of wealth, by poi­son, or by decep­tion, the foe should be slain. He should nev­er be neglect­ed from dis­dain.

  4. The king should nev­er scorn his ene­mies. He should pre­tend blind­ness or deaf­ness as if not being both­ered about the ene­mies actions but strike when the time is ripe. The King should nev­er reprove any one with indi­ca­tions of anger (in speech). He should speak soft words even while he is smit­ing! After the smit­ing is over, pity the vic­tim, and grieve for him, and even shed tears but burn the house of the one who the king wish­es to kill

  5. spies should be placed in gar­dens, places of amuse­ment, tem­ples and oth­er holy places, drink­ing halls, streets, and with the (eigh­teen) tirthas (viz., the min­is­ter, the chief priest, the heir-pre­sump­tive, the com­man­der-in-chief, the gate-keeper…when the King is doing even a very cru­el and ter­ri­ble act, he should talk with smiles on the lips.

  6. By main­tain­ing per­pet­u­al fires by sac­ri­fices, by mat­ted locks and by a sim­ple liv­ing the king should gain the con­fi­dence of the foes. Then he should spring upon them like a wolf. Acqui­si­tion of wealth even the garb of holi­ness might be employed as a hooked staff to bend down a branch in order to pluck the fruits that are ripe.

  7. Like a fish­er­man who becometh pros­per­ous by catch­ing and killing fish, a king can nev­er grow pros­per­ous with­out tear­ing the vitals of his ene­my and with­out doing some vio­lent deeds.

  8. Apply Dana : giv­ing gifts, beda: cre­at­ing divide and dan­da: by pun­ish­ing, defeat the ene­mies

  9. a per­son con­ver­sant with the rules of pol­i­cy is like a tree decked with flow­ers but bear­ing no fruit; or, if bear­ing fruit, these must be at a great height not eas­i­ly attain­able from the ground; and if any of these fruits seem to be ripe care must be tak­en to make it appear raw. Con­duct­ing him­self in such a way, he shall nev­er fade.

  10. Kings should, in the mat­ter of destroy­ing their foes, ever resem­ble razors in every par­tic­u­lar; unpity­ing as these are sharp, hid­ing their intents as these are con­cealed in their leath­ern cas­es, strik­ing when the oppor­tu­ni­ty cometh as these are used on prop­er occa­sions, sweep­ing off their foes with all their allies and depen­dants as these shave the head or the chin with­out leav­ing a sin­gle hair.

  11. Their inten­tions should be com­plete­ly hid­den and should strike mer­ci­less­ly when the time is ripe

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