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Short description: Political term formulated by Indian author Chanakya

The Rajamandala (or Rāja-maṇḍala meaning "circle of kings";[1] मण्डल, maṇḍala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle") was formulated by the India n author Chanakya (Kautilya) in his work on politics, the Arthashastra (written between 4th century BCE and 2nd century CE). It describes circles of friendly and enemy states surrounding the king's (raja) state.[2][3] Also known as Mandala theory of foreign policy or Mandala theory, the theory has been called as one of Kautilya's most important postulations regarding foreign policy.[4][5][6]


The term draws a comparison with the mandala of the Hindu and Buddhist worldview; the comparison emphasises the radiation of power from each power center, as well as the non-physical basis of the system. In particular, it postulates that a neighboring state or neighbor of a natural friend is a natural enemy and that a neighbor of a natural enemy is a natural friend, such that one can visualize a set of concentric circles emanating from any given state, with alternating circles including enemies and allies of that state respectively.[5]

The terminology was revived two millenniums later as a result of twentieth-century efforts to comprehend patterns of diffuse but coherent political power. Metaphors such as social anthropologist Tambiah's idea of a "galactic polity",[7] describe such political patterns as the mandala. Historian Victor Lieberman preferred the metaphor of a "solar polity,"[8] as in the solar system, where there is one central body, the sun, and the components or planets of the solar system.[9] The "Rajamandala" concept of ancient India was the prototype for the Mandala model of South East Asian political systems in later centuries, established by British historian O. W. Wolters.[10][11]

See also


  1. Torkel Brekke (2006), "Between Prudence and Heroism: Ethics of war in the Hindu tradition", The Ethics of War in Ancient Asia (Routledge): p. 124 
    Kulke; Rothermund (2004), A History of India, p. 350 
    Upinder Singh (2008), A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson Longman, p. 349 
  2. Avari, Burjor (2007). India, the Ancient Past: A History of the Indian Sub-continent from C. 7000 BC to AD 1200 Taylor & Francis. ISBN:0415356156. pp. 188-189.
  3. Singh (2011), Kautilya: Theory of State, pp. 11–13, ISBN 9788131758519, .
  4. Chakravarty, Amb (Retd) Pinak Ranjan (19 February 2016). "Distinguished Lectures Details: Foreign Policy Challenges for National Development". 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Boesche, Roger (2003). "Kautilya's Arthasastra on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India" (in en). The Journal of Military History 67 (1): 9–37. doi:10.1353/jmh.2003.0006. ISSN 1543-7795. "Kautilya is most famous for outlining the so-called Mandala theory of foreign policy, in which immediate neighbors are considered as enemies, but any state on the other side of a neighboring state is regarded as an ally [...]". 
  6. Hali, Sultan M (22 August 2019). "Chanakya's Mandala theory and Indian foreign policy". 
  7. Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. World Conqueror and World Renouncer : A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976. ISBN:0-521-29290-5. Chapter 7, cited in Lieberman, Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context c. 800-1830. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003-2009 ISBN:978-0521804967. P. 33
  8. "Victor B. Lieberman" (Biography). Professor of History, Department of History, appointed 1984. University of Michigan. February 4, 2005. "Center for Southeast Asian Studies" 
  9. Lieberman, 2003, p. 33
  10. Craig J. Reynolds (2006), Seditious Histories: Contesting Thai and Southeast Asian Pasts, University of Washington Press, p. 40 
  11. Dougald JW O'Reilly (2007), Early Civilizations of Southeast Asia, AltaMira Press, p. 194 


  • King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra, translated and annotated by Patrick Olivelle, Oxford University Press, 2013
  • M. B. Chande (2004), Kautilyan Arthasastra, Atlantic, ISBN 81-7156-733-9 , especially Book Six: Circle of Kings as the Basis, pp. 305–312
  • John Keay (2000), India: A History, HarperCollins, pp. 170–172 
  • Hermann Kulke; Dietmar Rothermund (2004), A History of India (fourth ed.), Routledge 
  • Vikas Kumar (2010), "Strategy in the Kautilya Arthasastra", Homo Oeconomicus 27 (2): 289–320 
  • Mahendra Prasad Singh (2011), "Kautilya: Theory of State", Indian Political Thought: Themes and Thinkers (Pearson): pp. 1–17, ISBN 978-81-317-5851-9