From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Artha literally means ‘that which is desired’.

The ṛṣis (sages of yore) had recognized the innate human desire for enjoying the pleasures of life and had provided for it in the scheme of ‘puruṣārthas’ prescribed for human beings. The four ‘puruṣārthas’ for them are mentioned below :

These are the ends to be striven for in human life. People have given ‘artha,’ - acquisition of wealth and other objects of enjoyment, a very important place. However, this ‘artha’ should be within the perimeters permitted by ‘dharma’ or righteousness as defined by the holy scriptures and practiced by sages.

The word ‘artha’ is commonly interpreted as ‘meaning,’ meaning of words, phrases and sentences. According to the rhetoric works, the ‘artha’ of a word can be of three types :

  • Vācyārtha - Direct meaning. It can be illustrated by the sentence ‘gām ānaya,’ - ‘Bring the cow’.
  • Lakṣyārtha - Implied meaning. It can be illustrated by ‘kaliṅgah sāhasikah,’ - ‘the Kaliṅga is adventurous’ where, though the word ‘Kaliṅga’ literally stands for the country, is interpreted by implication, to mean citizens of that country.
  • Vyaṅgyārtha - Alluded meaning. It can be illustrated by the sentence ‘saśaṅkha-cakro harih,’ - ‘Hari is with śaṅkha and cakra’ though the word harih has several meanings like Viṣṇu, Yama, Vāyu, lion and monkey, it is confined to Viṣṇu only, due to the allusion to śañkha (conch) and cakra (discus), which he alone holds.

In epistemology, ‘artha’ stands for the objects apprehended by the sense-organs.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore