Spy system played a pivotal role in the Mauryan Empire. Semi-administration in the form of Secret agent services formed the backbone of the administration. No wonder, the appointment of these secret agents was as important as any other minister. Perhaps, that is why we see these secret agents almost all the time in Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat serial
Chanakya, the mastermind of this system believed that a Mauryan Samrat must maintain a group of spies. No wonder, these spies were the eyes and ears of the king – They kept the King ‘informed’ of everything, even the minute details of the kingdom.
Here are the 5 Types of Spies that were appointed in the Mauryan Empire as drafted by Chanakya in his Arthashastra:
Spy Type 1 – Fraudulent Disciple –Students (kápatikachhátra)
According to Chanakya, the chief of intelligence services would appoint students (especially those involved in intellectual activity, teaching or in research activity) from a university. These intellectual students were argumentative, brash and skilled enough to provoke others. This way, a student studying in the university not only learned his course, but also benefited their kingdom with intelligence service. The student spies also reported discontent growing in the minds of the youth.
Spy Type 2 – Ascetics – Recluse (Udásthita)
Ascetics who were known for their knowledge and intelligence were favored for the intelligence activity. Once they were chosen, they would then form a network of spies. The chief of this unit was given ample land and resources from the state so that he could carry out their activity without any issues.
Spy Type 3 – Impoverished Farmers – A Householder (Grihapaitika)
The third type of spies was the poor farmers of the kingdom. These spies formed their own network of informers who could give them information from time to time. These informants were not only farmers, but also the land laborers and the landowners.
Spy Type 4 – Unsuccessful Trader/Businessman – A merchant (Vaidehaka)
Chanakya’s spies in the 4th category involved not so successful merchants and traders – These spies not only utilized their business travel to collect information about various things (including the discontent of the businessmen in their territory and outside), but also made a network of informers who could give them the required information.
Spy Type 5 – Religious Leaders
The 5th type were basically religious monks made by the state.Their first job was to build an ashram outside the major urban areas. As mentioned, the objective of these ashrams was not spirituality but political reasons. These ashrams were built only to attract the local populace, so that they could influence them and even try to diminish the respect of any local religious leaders they had.
The working of these spies were very dangerous but in the interest of the state. They had a network of informers who would tell them, both the strength and weakness of citizens. These secrets was then used for fortune-telling via palmistry. The religious leader would then predict calamity, accidents, mysterious deaths (obviously assassinations planned by the state themselves). He would even predict government awards and honors to specific person, which obviously were discussed between him, King and the ministers beforehand.
All these five types of spies were paid for their work in cash and comforts. However, the appointment was done mainly on the basis of their pure character and foresightedness.