AnvIkshikI (आन्वीक्षिकी) in Chanakya’s Arthashastra

The very first chapter of Arthashatra is named विनयाधिकारिक (VinayAdhikArik) – “Concerning Education”. Right in the beginning, Chanakya states that the objective of this compendium called Arthashastra is to groom the Prince to righteously rule and protect his kingdom. He then talks about the 4 types of knowledge (vidyas) that should comprise a Prince’s education. These are आन्वीक्षिकी (AnvIkshikI) loosely translated as Practical Philosophy, वेदत्रयी (vedatrayI) -> the understanding of vedas to understand Dharma, वार्ता (vArtA) -> knowledge of trade and economics and दंडनीति -> political science and law.

Of the four, he places significant emphasis on Anvikshiki. Chanakya says AnvIkshikI is the lamp illuminating all knowledge and the means of all actions. It is the foundation of all dharmas.
प्रदीपः सर्वविद्यानाम् उपायः सर्वकर्मणाम् ।
आश्रयः सर्वधर्माणां शश्वद् आन्वीक्ष्हिकी मता ||

Anvikshiki, he explains has three aspects –  SAnkhya (सांख्य), Yog (योग)  and LokAyat (लोकायत) or Charvak  (चार्वाक). Sankhya, Yog and LokAyat (Charvak) belong to  different schools of philosophy in Indian knowledge systems.  It took me some time to absorb this – why should philosophy be so important a branch of knowledge for a king to know, and why Charvak, which unlike the other two, is a school of thought that promotes skepticism and materialism?

Chanakya’s stress on philosophy starts making sense when we refer to the Sanskrit term for Philosophy -> “Darshan” (दर्श् – to see) which literally translates as “seeing” or even better” perceiving”. Right perception and understanding of the situation is key to decision making. A clouded perception can only hinder decision making. Thus Chanakya says that learning the art of perception/thinking is one of the most important aspects of education. Now lets understand why he proposes the 3 Darshanas stated above.

1. SAnkhya is about root cause analysis of physical and mental aspects of life and the ecosystem (Purush, Prakruti, panch mahabhut, tri-gunAs etc.). Helps develop analytical thinking.

2. Yoga is about reflection, concentration and developing a clear perception by learning to take a detached view of things. Helps bring objectivity in thought.

2. LokAyat or Charvak about  pratyaksh pramAN, only that which can be proved in any tangible way can be true, or to explain in today’s terminology, LokAyat darshan needs Data to accept a concept as valid.  Encourages doubt and fosters critical reasoning.

In essence, these three together are essential to honing decision making skills, developing discretion and wisdom (विवेक बुद्धि). Only through wisdom, can one distinguish dharma from adharma,  determine acceptable and unacceptable means for wealth creation (trade and economics) and make nuanced judgements and impart appropriate justice (one of the key expectations from a king). It is therefore of immense importance that a king learns “how to think and make decisions”. Hence, AnvIkshikI!


Let me explain with an example: Say 2 people read GItA. One will understand it as Krishna teaching Arjun his swadharma and do what must be done for the greater good, for justice, even if it means having to fight with kins. Preserving Dharma is of paramount importance. The same story may be very well interpreted by the other reader as Krishna provoking Arjun to fight with his cousins and elders all for the sake of a petty kingdom, do whatever to gain material wealth. How the 2 readers assimilate knowledge and learn depends on how their mental faculties perceive the context and analyse the situation. This process of thinking, of assimilation and understanding is AnvIshikI.  Now you see why it matters?

Our rishis were indeed men of very few words, but such is their depth that even a lifetime is not enough to figure them out. One whole day to grasp ONE page of ArthaShastra! (Or may be its just me, clear lack of AnvIkshikI :/)

 ॐ शान्ति |


  1. I’m intruiged.. How can chArvaka explain the two motives of Krishna in Mahabharata and resolve between the mundane and spiritual. AFAIK, there isn’t anything apart from shraddhA which can resolve it.
    BTW, this is exactly what chArvaka 2.0 (the Pollocks, Donigers, Truschkes) of this world are doing with Hindu scriptures.


    • I think you are looking at “Charvak” in isolation. Why miss out Sankhya and Yog? Anvikshiki, as a whole, is the approach to develop thinking process . Even Lokayat is not only about “rinam krutva, gritam pibet”, it is a philosophical approch which relies on pratyaksha praman which is also critical to understand for developing analytical thinking. Shraddha is an aspect for sure, necessary but not sufficient to understand the broader view and teachings on Gita. It is one thing to say I will follow what Gita says because I have shraddha in Krishna. But saying I will follow Gita because I understand what Krishna was trying to teach Arjun is equally valid and may be even desirable. Btw, the second chapter of Gita is called Sankhya Yog for a reason.Krishna was trying to appeal to Arjun’s analytical thinking first, before telling him about Bhakti Yoga.
      Moreover, Charvak philosophy is included in anvikshiki by Chanakya, does that make him Pollock kinds? I am also a RM follower and know where you are coming from. Here the point is broader.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Explaining the Gita example further – even if one doesn’t necessarily believe in divinity of “Krishna” the way vaishnavas do, it is still possible to understand the larger context of Mahabharat and the war. If the Charvak looks at all available data and mulls over it, s/he can clearly understand that Kauravas have been unfair to Pandavas and Pandavas took to war as the last resort because thats what Duryodhan wanted and running away would only make the unjust more powerful.
        Only that person who is not using his mental faculties or has faulty reasoning , or malicious intent (Doniger, Zakir Naik) will arrive at the conclusion that Krishna teaches go fight with your cousins
        Para 1: Presence of Anvikshiki, Para 2 : Lack of it.
        Hope I am able to clarify the doubt

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes.. I can see that. Intent of the study is important.
    Well, the problem with evidence based approach is that it’s quite easy to hide and cherrypick facts. It’s considered a logical fallacy, and can go unnoticed for long.

    Also, I wasn’t blaming Chanakya for considering ChArvakas and/or lokayuta in anvIkshikI. I was just wondering how logic alone can give the necessary tools for character building.


    • You are right, it can’t. That is why Chanakya talks abput 4 types of knowledge that should comprise a Prince’s education. These are आन्वीक्षिकी (AnvIkshikI) loosely translated as Practical Philosophy, वेदत्रयी (vedatrayI) -> the understanding of vedas, वार्ता (vArtA) or the knowledge of trade and economics and दंडनीति which is political science and law.
      All he is saying is, even to grasp vedas and understand dharma vs. adharma, right vs. wrong means to wealth creation and justice vs. injustice, having right appraoch to thinking is important.
      A PURE charvak would not consider Vedas at all.

      Liked by 1 person

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