Chanakya: Life, Revenge, Books & More

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Chanakya or Kautilya

Chanakya also known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta was an ancient Indian philosopher, teacher, economist and political strategist. He was an important figure in the establishment of the Mauryan Dynasty with Chandragupta Maurya as the ruler. The tale of his revenge against the Nanda dynasty is a classic example of strategic planning, determination, and unwavering focus on achieving a goal. Kautilya’s teachings and principles continue to inspire many even today. Let’s delve deeper into the life and contributions of this legendary figure. 

Overview of Chanakya’s Life
Also Known as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta
Date of Birth375 BCE
Place of BirthTakshashila; present-day Pakistan
Death283 BCE
CareerChief Advisor to Chandragupta Maurya
BooksArthashastra, Chanakya Niti, etc

Who was Chanakya?

Chanakya was known for his intelligence and sharp wit from a young age, which earned him the nickname “Kautilya,” meaning “crooked” in Sanskrit. Here is how his early life was –

  • Chanakya was born in 375 BC in the town of Taxila, which is now located in Pakistan.
  • His father’s name was Chanak and his mother’s name was Chaneshvari.
  • He was a well-educated scholar who studied war strategies, economics, politics, astronomy, medicine and diplomacy.
  • Chanakya was a master strategist and had a keen understanding of human nature.
  • His career started as a teacher and later he became a close and trusted ally of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • He married a girl from his Brahmin clan named Yashodhara.

Rise of Chanakya

Chanakya was a learned scholar and master strategist who recognized the corrupt and tyrannical rule of the Nanda dynasty in ancient India. Determined to overthrow the Nanda dynasty and restore peace and justice to the land, Chanakya embarked on a mission to seek out a worthy successor to the throne.

The Humiliation and Vow of Revenge:

  • Chanakya was insulted by the Nanda king, Dhana Nanda, who derisively referred to him as a “shudra” due to his humble origins. He even further insulted him as an ugly man seeking alms.
  • Enraged by this insult, Chanakya vowed to destroy the Nanda dynasty.
  • Thus, he left in the hunt for an appropriate leader. In his search, he came across a boy named Chandragupta Maurya playing on the streets.
  • He chose this young boy as the ruler to fulfil his mission of revenge.

Also Read – Kanishka: Ruler of the Kushan Dynasty

The Training and Education of Chandragupta Maurya

  • Chanakya took Chandragupta under his wing and began training him in the art of warfare, diplomacy and statecraft.
  • Together, Chanakya and Chandragupta plotted and strategised, biding their time and patiently waiting for the right moment to strike against the Nanda dynasty.

The Downfall of the Nanda Dynasty:

  • Through a series of clever manoeuvres, alliances and military campaigns, Chanakya and Chandragupta successfully overthrew the Nanda dynasty and established the mighty Maurya Empire.
  • The revenge that Chanakya sought against the Nanda dynasty was finally achieved and his legacy as a master strategist and advisor was cemented in history.

Also Read – How Did Chandragupta Maurya Die?

Contribution to the Mauryan Empire

Chanakya’s diplomatic skills and strategic thinking helped unify the Indian subcontinent under one ruler.

  • He is credited with founding the Maurya Empire and serving as the chief advisor to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Chanakya’s economic policies focused on promoting trade and commerce, encouraging agricultural growth, and ensuring the welfare of the people.
  • He believed in the concept of “Sama,” which means equitable distribution of wealth, and stressed the importance of building a strong economy for the prosperity of the nation.
  • He formulated the principles of “danda neeti” or the philosophy of punishment to maintain law and order in society.
  • He was also the Prime Minister during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya’s Son Bindusara.

Books by Chanakya

Apart from the “Arthashastra,” Chanakya is also credited with several other important works, including:

  • Arthashastra: A book on the principles of ruling a kingdom and its administrative functioning and more.
  • Chanakya Neeti: A collection of aphorisms and teachings on ethics, morality, and practical wisdom.
  • Chanakya Sutras: A compilation of Chanakya’s philosophical principles and guidelines for effective leadership.
  • Chanakya Niti Shastra: A comprehensive treatise on statecraft, diplomacy, and governance.

Teachings and Philosophies of Chanakya

  • Chanakya is best known for his treatise, the Arthashastra, which is a comprehensive guide on economics, politics, and military strategy.
  • He believed in the principles of “Dharma” (righteousness) and “Artha” (wealth) and emphasized the importance of good governance and ethics in leadership.
  • His famous quotes such as “A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first,” reflects his pragmatic approach to life and politics.
  • He also believed in the concept of “Sam, Daam, Dand, Bhed” but only usage when it was used for a proper purpose.

Also Read – Ashoka: The Great Ruler of the Mauryan Empire

How did Chanakya Die?

The death of Chanakya is shrouded in mystery. Several legends add to the mystery. One of them is he was assassinated by one of the court ministers of Bindusara to take the position of Prime Minister.

Another tale that surrounds his demise is he died of illness and loneliness in the last days of his life. He was bereft of his position by Bindusara and he went into the forest until he died.

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That’s all about Chanakya or Kautilya! If you want to know more about topics like this, then visit our general knowledge page! Alternatively, you can also read our blog on general knowledge for competitive exams!

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