Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches
350 BC - 275 BC = 75 yrs
Read also about Chaanakya at Chandragupt, Chaanakya in Shishu Sansaar; Some Incidents of Chaanakya's Life
See a video too at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4joynLxhFbI&feature=youtube - Dr Subramaniam's speech on Chaanakya (1.40 hrs)
Chaanakya is the most accepted brand name of the wisdom of ancient India. He was a man of many talents and moods. Chaanakya was born in an era of chaos, arrogance and tyranny. The land was divided in countless quarreling kingdoms. The politics was absurd, the society was directionless and public were helpless victims. Nothing made any sense until his arrival. With his creative genius he gave meaning to politics by drafting a constitution. He showed direction to the society with blueprints of economic and social systems. For the benefit of the common man Chaanakya presented a simple 'DOs and DON'Ts guide book in the form of Chaanakya Neeti. To teach the children values and wisdom he created "Panchatantra". His talent was unlimited. To deal with invasion by alien force he unified the quarrelling kings of the land. In this part of the world he was the one who introduced the politics of coalitions, manipulation and different strategies to achieve desired goals. All the above was the outcome of his vow taken at a tender age and he did not tie his tuft till his vow was fulfilled.
Chaanakya was born in a very poor family of Paataliputra, Magadh (modern Bihaar). His father, Chanak or Chanee, was a wise and learned teacher although he had no wealth. It is said that baby Chaanakya had pearly white teeth. Astrologers told Chanee that the boy was fated to be a king. The astrologer expected Chanee to be delighted to hear this, but Chanee was disturbed by the prediction and remarked that the life of a king was by no means a happy one. Most kings crave for more money and more power, and this inevitably led them to fight and often do things that are neither fair nor moral. Chanee did not wish such a life for his son, so he broke the teeth of his infant son. But the astrologers merely laughed and said his action was not likely to change his son's destiny, but it would thwart it to some extent. He might not be a king himself but would certainly be a ruler's right hand man and virtually rule the kingdom.
His name Chaanakya is derived from his father's name "Chanak", but in the reference of his "Arth Shaastra" he is known as Kautilya - derived from his Gotra's name (family name) Shakaldweepee. He is also known as Anshul or Anshu. His Arth Shaastra book identifies its author by the name Kautilya, except for one verse which refers to him by the name Vishnugupt. One of the earliest Sanskrit literatures to explicitly identify Chaanakya with Vishnugupt was Vishnu Sharmaa's Panchatantra in the 3rd century BC.
This seems illogical. Did he really go to Paataliputra from Tamil Naadu? And was he really South Indian Braahman?
He was a master of the shrewd act of diplomacy. He believed in four ways - Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed (treating with Equality, Enticement, Punishment or War and Sowing Dissension.) to deal with people. Although his these policies were for kings but fortunately they can be implemented in everyday life too. An example of his shrewdness can be known by this incident - according to a Kashmeeree version of this legend, once a thorn had pricked his foot. After that instead of uprooting the tree, he poured buttermilk on the tree so that the ants will gather around the tree and finish the tree to its last pieces.
He had the best education of his times - in Takshshilaa University. Although he learnt Ved in his early life and memorized them but he was good at other subjects too. He taught mathematics, religion, science and geography. Then he moved to Takshshilaa and taught politics there.
In the Western world, he has been referred to as the Indian Machiavelli, although Chaanakya's works predate Machiavelli's by about 1,800 years. Chaanakya was a teacher in Takshshilaa, an ancient centre of learning, and was responsible for the creation of Mauryan empire, the first of its kind on the Indian subcontinent. His works were lost near the end of the Gupt dynasty and not rediscovered until 1915.
Chaanakya Meets Nand
King Puru is
known as Poras, or Parvateshwar and was the king of Kaikaya Desh.
Chaanakya then went to Magadh, further East, to seek the help of Dhanaanand, who ruled a vast Nand Empire which extended from Bihaar and Bangaal in the East to Eastern Punjab in the West, but he denied any such help. After this incident, Chaanakya began looking for a person who could protect Indian territories from foreign invasion by building his own empire.
At the same time he heard that King Dhanaanand (of Nand Vansh), the ruler of Paataliputra, honored wise men and often gave them a place in his kingdom, so Chaanakya decided to land up there. On reaching the palace, Chaanakya asked the guard if he could meet the King. He was shown in and asked to sit and wait for the King. Chaanakya saw that the empty throne was the best seat in the court. (read here another story about Chaanakya) He was very proud of his birth and wisdom, so he went and sat in the King's seat! When Nand arrived in the court, he got very angry to find a man in tattered clothes sitting on his throne. He asked one of his attendants to find another seat for Chaanakya. The attendant went to Chaanakya and spoke politely to him at first but when he realized that the strange man had no intention of getting up, he simply pushed Chaanakya out of the seat! Chaankya was very angry at this insult and swore that he would oust Nand from his kingdom some day.
Chaanakya Meets Chandragupt
"But they don't belong
to you and so they are not yours to be made a gift of," said Chaanakya smiling,
Chaanakya was so impressed
by Chandragupt's words that he asked him, "Do you really want to become a king?"
Chaanakya Knows His Mistake
curious, Chaanakya barged into the room.
Chandragupt and Chaanakya reorganized their army and set about conquering the smaller kingdoms first and getting them under them. Eventually, they succeeded in ousting Nand from Paataliputra, but Nand’s daughter and young Chandragupt fell in love and she stayed back as the queen in her father’s kingdom.
Was this Subandhu the same person who wrote Vaasavdattaa?
In the meantime Bindusaar heard the full story of his mother through nurses and rushed to ask forgiveness from Chaanakya but Chaanakya did not change his decision. Bindusaar had to return home and in frustration he killed Subandhu. After a while Chaanakya also died. Bindusaar felt a great blow of losing his advisor.
A play written by Vishaaksdatt,
"Mudraa Raakshas" is a great source of knowing Chaanakya's life. Kautilya's role
in the formation of the Mauryan Empire is the essence of a historical/spiritual novel -
"The Courtesan and the Sadhu" by Dr Mysore N Prakash.
Kautilya was living c 370-290 BC. His family name was Vishnugupt Chaanakya. He is famous as the Prime Minister of Chandragupt Maurya. He is more famous as the author of "Arthshaastra" - a treatise on statecraft, and not economics as its name suggests. This work is in Sanskrit language. Unfortunately, as with almost every other work in India, interpolations were made in this work also. This work reflects the greatness of Kautilya. He recommended to the King that the Government officially raise the status of the Shoodra community to equality with others. His use of the word Aarya included the Shoodra also. With the help of Kautilya, Chandragupt Maurya created a vast empire which covered almost the whole of what later became India, Paakistaan and Afgaanistaan.
A Greek ambassador Megasthnese came to India during Chandragupt's reign and wrote that people of India were taller than the world average. People knew gold, silver, copper, lead, iron, bronze, brass. There was lots of gold in India at that time.
Kautilya and Chandragupt are
criticized for installing a cruel secret service as is evident from Kautilya's book. Yet
even in the 20th century the secret service of some of the most civilized countries was
not less cruel. Kautilya's Arth Shaastra recommended sowing dissension in the enemy camp
in times of war - that is exactly what is being done in the 20th century by the most
developed nations. This policy was more forgivable for Kautilya, because at that time
India was the target for constant invasions and it was necessary to protect it.
Chaanakya was no philosopher. He was a realist. In fact this master of real politics alone could establish the first stable kingdom in India. Exalted self interest is the watchword in administration. He says, one must even tolerate carrying a known enemy on his own shoulders so long as the time is not favorable and one is not strong enough to be on the attack. But this is only a temporary phase in our activities. One should not hesitate to annihilate the enemy and blow him into pieces like an earthen port smashed on a rock at the earliest occasion provided by time and opportunity.
In the local lore of Chaanakya, it is said that he was a ferocious but indigent student. Once when he was crossing a road, a bunch of wild grass obstructed his feet and he stumbled. His immediate reaction was to uproot the growth in its entirety. He did not stop with it. He burnt it with fire, mixed the whole ashes with water and drank the mixture to the last drop. Then only he rested. Maurya the Chandragupt was watching this action of an initiate Braahman and decided then and there to make the latter as his Guru. The rest is history.
Magnanimity is the privilege of people who are affluent and are comfortably placed, but in the real struggle for life, we get insufferable slighting and insults from many quarters - from bosses, from colleagues, subordinates, from family members and the list can be quit long. To just survive and retain sanity, we must tolerate many idiots. But if we make it just a habit and distribute the human kindness everywhere, chances are that one may succeed, if one is a Buddha or a Mahaatmaa. But the ordinary human beings that we are and considering also the persons with whom we deal with, attack to the finish is the best policy.
Chaanakya Neeti (Some Sootra)
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 05/29/13