Ancient India produced two treatises on wealth creation, management and investment almost contemporaneously in Tamil and Sanskrit, from the South and North respectively.
The Tamil treatise is embedded in the Kural under the heading “Porul” meaning wealth. The Kural has three sections, Aram (Righteousness), Porul and Inpam (Familial bliss). Of the 1330 couplets Porul is the biggest with 700 couplets. The Kural says that you can perform charitable deeds only if you have the wherewithal to do so. Life cannot be conducted with a prayer or mere austerities, it should be backed up with solid financial means.
Therefore the Kural in a peremptory tone orders the householder as well as those who are ready to settle in life to make money, which is an essential prerequisite. Methods of saving, investment and wealth creation methods are dealt with in the Porul section.
The Arthashastra also emphasizes similar principles dealt with above. But one should note that there is a radical difference between the two treatises. The Kural reiterates that wealth should be made in a righteous manner avoiding underhand methods and fraudulent means.
On the contrary, the Arthashastra says emphatically that what matters is the end result, the means employed does not matter. The Arthashastra is machiavellian in nature. The Kural prohibits drinking, gambling, prostitution and killing of both humans and animals. The Arthashastra permits these prohibitions for the sake of filling the state coffers as well as a matter of national policy.
The Kural tersely says that what degrades a person is a lack of wealth. Poverty is intolerable, money should be made to alleviate the distress. Money gives you protection from your enemy.
The central idea of the Porul section is in Kural 759 which says “Make Wealth. There is no sword sharper than it to cut down the arrogance of the enemy.”
Further in Kural 247 it is said that this earth does not belong to those who have no financial security. Speaking about the bounteous land the Kural enumerates five aspects – physical and mental health of its citizens, wealth, self-sufficiency in food, well earned pleasure and national might.
National might is actually military strength, which only wealth can give. The Chinese proverb “a well-filled money purse is the prelude to a strong standing army” is a case in point. The Kural says that a poverty – stricken state awaits the danger of being trampled by the enemies who are on the lookout for an easy conquest.
So what is wealth? Adam Smith says “it is the annual produce of the land and the labour of the society” – Ref.. The Wealth of Nations. The Kural written much earlier than the ground breaking work of Adam Smith has the same expansive definition in choice Tamil couplets.