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Did you know about the art and science of stealing.

Your parents must have often warned you against stealing your friend's objects. Your mother must have even spanked you for bringing your classmate's pencil home on the sly. Here we tell you something interesting about an imaginary manual for thieves. However, the manual is to be taken in the right spirit. The lesson it holds is: Beware of the thieves around you. Do not let them exploit your weaknesses.

Thefts are a common social evil. The menace was prevalent in ancient India too. No wonder, thieves figure very prominently in ancient Indian folklore. The traditional storytellers used the characters of thieves to add humor to their human-interest stories. Ironically, they raised the status of thieving to a profession with a separate science of its own. They also made it into an art which called for adequate education and training.  For instance, Somdeva's 11th century AD collection of Katha Sarit Sagar speaks of one Muladeva (also called Ganikaputra or Karanisuta) who is the arch thief and the supreme guru of all thieves in Bharatvarsha. It is fantasised that this Muladeva wrote a famous treatise called Stheyashastra dealing with the science of stealing. Any young man who aspired for a career in this profession, had to study this manual under the guidance of some qualified teacher. And after a good study of the manual, he or she could start the practice.

The thief's manual was imagined on the lines of  Arya Chanakya's  Arthashastra (money matters),  Bharat Muni's Natyashastra  (theatre and allied arts), Vatsyayana's Kamasutra  (sex) and of course Panini's Astadhyayi (grammar and linguistics).
 The historical fantasy of a thief's manual is a reflection of our society. The fantasies woven around thieves' characters, speak of human nature. They teach us to control our weaknesses like greed, anger and jealousy.

Here is a sample story:

There were two thugs, Shiva and Madhava, who wanted to have a final adventure before retiring. They decided to do the con job in the prosperous town of Ujjayini. As per their theft plan, Shiva became an ascetic on the banks of river Kshipra. And Madhava entered the town posing as a rich prince staying away from relatives. Both the cheats kept in touch with each other. They came to know of a greedy, corrupt and rich priest who had amassed lot of wealth. They decided to target him. Madhava sent costly gifts to the priest and successfully brought him under his influence. He also started staying in the priest's house. Madhava also transferred all his wealth to the priest's house. The priest was more than happy to get the booty.

Then one day Madhava fell ill. He told the priest that the illness could be cured only if he gifted all his wealth to a deserving ascetic. The priest started searching for a candidate and thanks to the machinations of the thugs, he zeroed in on none else but Shiva. Not knowing the consequences, the priest advised Shiva to get married to his daughter and inherit Madhava's wealth. Shiva agreed, but asked the priest to look after his belongings. He claimed that he had no interest in material gains. The priest was only too happy to get what he wanted. In this fashion, both Shiva and Madhava started staying in the priest's house. 

But one day, the priest realized that he had spent too much on the two men. Therefore, he decided to sell some ornaments given by Madhava. And then came the discovery. The entire booty was fake. The priest took the two cheats to the court. But the king could not punish them. Madhava claimed that since he inherited the treasure from his father, he did not know if it was fake or true. Shiva said his ascetic mind was anyway never interested in the wealth. The king had to let them go. The priest, however, learnt a lesson for lifetime. Moral: Control your greed. 

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