An artist's impression of Chanakya
|Other names||Kauṭilya, Vishnugupta|
|Occupation||Professor; advisor of Chandragupta Maurya|
|Known for||Foundation of the Maurya Empire|
|Notable work||Arthashastra, Chanakya Niti|
Chanakya (IAST: Cāṇakya; pronunciation (help·info); 350–275 BCE) was an Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor. He is traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnu Gupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthashastra. As such, he is considered the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta Empire and not rediscovered until 1915.
Originally a teacher at the ancient university of Takshashila, Chanakya assisted the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in his rise to power. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both emperors Chandragupta and his son Bindusara.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Early life
- 3 Role in the fall of the Nanda empire
- 4 After the establishment of the Maurya Empire
- 5 Death
- 6 Literary works
- 7 Legacy
- 8 References
- 9 Sources
- 10 External links
Chanakya was born in a Brahmin family.[unreliable source?] Chanakya's birthplace is a matter of controversy, and there are multiple theories about his origin.[unreliable source?] According to the Buddhist text Mahavamsa Tika, his birthplace was Takshashila.[unreliable source?] The Jain scriptures, such as Adbidhana Chintamani, mention him as a Dramila, implying that he was a native of South India. According to the Jain writer Hemachandra's Parishishtaparvan, Chanakya was born in the Chanaka village of the Golla region, to a Brahmin named Chanin and his wife Chaneshvari. Other sources mention his father's name as Chanak and state that Chanakya's name derives from his father's name. According to some sources, Chanakya was a Brahmin from North India, scholar in Vedas,[unreliable source?][not in citation given] and a devotee of Vishnu.[unreliable source?] According to Jain accounts he became a Jain in his old age like Chandragupta Maurya.
Sources of information
There is little purely historical information about Chanakya: most of it comes from semi-legendary accounts. Thomas Trautmann identifies four distinct accounts of the ancient Chanakya-Chandragupta katha (legend):
|Version of the legend||Example texts|
|Buddhist version||Mahavamsa and its commentary Vamsatthappakasini (Pali language)|
|Jain version||Parishishtaparvan by Hemachandra|
|Kashmiri version||Kathasaritsagara by Somadeva, Brihat-Katha-Manjari by Ksemendra|
|Vishakhadatta's version||Mudrarakshasa, a Sanskrit play by Vishakhadatta|
The following elements are common to these legends:
- The King Dhana Nanda insults Chanakya, prompting Chanakya to swear revenge and destroy the Nanda Empire
- Chanakya searches for one worthy successor to the Nanda and finds the young Chandragupta Maurya
- With the help of some allies, Chanakya and Chandragupta bring down the Nanda empire, often using manipulative and secretive means
Identification with Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta
The ancient Arthashastra has been traditionally attributed to Chanakya by a number of scholars. The Arthashastra identifies its author by the name Kauṭilya, except for one verse that refers to him by the name Vishnugupta. Kauṭilya is presumably the name of the author's gotra (clan).
K. C. Ojha puts forward the view that the traditional identification of Vishnugupta with Kauṭilya was caused by a confusion of the text's editor and its originator. He suggests that Vishnugupta was a redactor of the original work of Kauṭilya. Thomas Burrow goes even further and suggests that Chanakya and Kauṭilya may have been two different people.
Chanakya was educated at Takshashila, an ancient centre of learning located in north-western ancient India (present-day Pakistan).[unreliable source?] He later became a teacher (acharya) at the same place. Chanakya's life was connected to two cities: Takshashila and Pataliputra (present-day Patna in Bihar, India). Pataliputra was the capital of the Magadha kingdom, which was connected to Takshashila by Uttarapatha, the northern high road of commerce.
Role in the fall of the Nanda empire
Chanakya and Chandragupta have been credited[according to whom?] with defeating the powerful Nanda Empire and establishing the new Maurya Empire.
Mudrarakshasa ("The Signet of the Minister"), a play dated variously from the late 4th century to the early 8th century, narrates the ascent of Chandragupta Maurya to power: Sakatala, an unhappy royal minister, introduced Chanakya to the Nanda king, knowing that Chanakya would not be treated well in the court. Insulted at the court, Chanakya untied the sikha (lock of hair) and swore that he would not tie it back till he destroyed the Nanda kingdom. According to Mudrarakshasa, Chandragupta was the son of a royal concubine named Mura and spent his childhood in the Nanda palace. Chanakya and Chandragupta signed a pact with Parvataka (identified with King Porus by some scholars) of north-west India that ensured his victory over the Nanda empire. Their combined army had Shaka, Yavana (Greek), Kirata, Kamboja and Vahlik soldiers. Following their victory, the territories of the Nanda empire were divided between Parvataka and Chanakya's associate Chandragupta. However, after Parvataka's death, his son Malayaketu sought control of all the former Nanda territories. He was supported by Rakshasaa, the former Nanda minister, several of whose attempts to kill Chandragupta were foiled by Chanakya. As part of their game plan, Chanakya and Chandragupta faked a rift between themselves. As a sham, Chandragupta removed Chanakya from his ministerial post, while declaring that Rakshasa is better than him. Chanakya's agents in Malayaketu's court then turned the king against Rakshasa by suggesting that Rakshasa was poised to replace Chanakya in Chandragupta's court. The activities by Chanakya's spies further widened the rift between Malayaketu and Rakshasa. His agents also fooled Malayaketu into believing that five of his allies were planning to join Chandragupta, prompting Malayaketu to order their killings. In the end, Rakshasa ends up joining Chandragupta's side, and Malayaketu's coalition is completely undone by Chanakya's strategy.
According to the Buddhist texts, Chandragupta was the son of the chief of the Moriya clan of Pipphalivana. Chanakya once saw him leading a band of local youth and was highly impressed. He picked Chandragupta as the leader of the anti-Nanda revolt.[better source needed]
After the establishment of the Maurya Empire
Chanakya continued to serve as an advisor to Chandragupta after the establishment of the Maurya Empire. According to a popular legend mentioned in Jain texts, Chanakya used to add small doses of poison to the food eaten by Chandragupta Maurya (mithridatism) in order to make him immune to the poisoning attempts by the enemies.[better source needed] Unaware, Chandragupta once fed some of his food to his queen, Durdhara, who was seven days away from delivery. The queen, not immune to the poison, collapsed and died within a few minutes. In order to save the heir to the throne, Chanakya cut the queen's belly open and extracted the foetus just as she died. The baby was named Bindusara, because he was touched by a drop (bindu) of poisoned blood. Chanakya served as an advisor to Bindusara for some years.
According to one legend, Chanakya retired to the jungle and starved himself to death. According to another legend mentioned by the Jain writer Hemachandra, Chanakya died as a result of a conspiracy by Subandhu, one of Bindusara's ministers. Subandhu, who did not like Chanakya, told Bindusara that Chanakya was responsible for the murder of his mother. Bindusara asked the nurses, who confirmed the story of his birth. Bindusara was horrified and enraged. When Chanakya, who was an old man by this time, learned that the King was angry with him, he decided to end his life. In accordance with the Jain tradition, he decided to starve himself to death. By this time, the king had found out the full story which was that Chanakya was not responsible for his mother's death, which was an accident. He asked Subandhu to convince Chanakya to give up his plan to kill himself. However, Subandhu instead conducted a ceremony for Chanakya only to burn him alive.[unreliable source?]
The Arthashastra discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in detail. The text also outlines the duties of a ruler.[unreliable source?] Some scholars believe that Arthashastra is actually a compilation of a number of earlier texts written by various authors, and Chanakya might have been one of these authors (see above).
Chanakya is regarded as a great thinker and diplomat in India. Many Indian nationalists regard him as one of the earliest people who envisaged the united India spanning the entire subcontinent. India's former National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon praised Chanakya's Arthashastra for its clear and precise rules which apply even today. Furthermore, he recommended reading of the book for broadening the vision on strategic issues.
The diplomatic enclave in New Delhi is named Chanakyapuri in honour of Chanakya. Institutes named after him include Training Ship Chanakya, Chanakya National Law University and Chanakya Institute of Public Leadership. Chanakya circle in Mysore has been named after him.
Several modern adaptations of the legend of Chanakya narrate his story in a semi-fictional form, extending these legends. In Chandragupta (1911), a play by Dwijendralal Ray, the Nanda king exiles his half-brother Chandragupta, who joins the army of Alexander the Great. Later, with help from Chanakya and Katyayan (the former Prime Minister of Magadha), Chandragupta defeats Nanda, who is put to death by Chanakya.
Film and television
- The story of Chanakya and Chandragupta was portrayed in the 1977 Telugu film entitled Chanakya Chandragupta. Akkineni Nageswara Rao played the role of Chanakya, while N. T. Rama Rao portrayed as Chandragupta.
- The 1991 TV series Chanakya is an archetypal account of the life and times of Chanakya, based on the Mudrarakshasa.
- Chandragupta Maurya, a 2011 TV series on NDTV Imagine is a biographical series on the life of Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya, and is produced by Sagar Arts.
- The 2015 Colors TV drama, Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat, features Chanakya during the reign of Chandragupta's son, Bindusara.
Books and academia
- An English-language book titled Chanakya on Management contains 216 sutras on raja-neeti, each of which has been translated and commented upon.
- A book written by Ratan Lal Basu and Rajkumar Sen deals with the economic concepts mentioned in Arthashastra and their relevance for the modern world.
- Chanakya (2001) by B. K. Chaturvedi
- In 2009, many eminent experts discussed the various aspects of Kauṭilya's thought in an International Conference held at the Oriental Research Institute in Mysore (India) to celebrate the centenary of discovery of the manuscript of the Arthashastra by R. Shamasastry. Most of the papers presented in the Conference have been compiled in an edited volume by Raj Kumar Sen and Ratan Lal Basu.
- Chanakya's Chant by Ashwin Sanghi is a fictional account of Chanakya's life as a political strategist in ancient India. The novel relates two parallel stories, the first of Chanakya and his machinations to bring Chandragupta Maurya to the throne of Magadha; the second, that of a modern-day character called Gangasagar Mishra who makes it his ambition to position a slum child as Prime Minister of India.
- The Emperor's Riddles by Satyarth Nayak features popular episodes from Chanakya's life.
- Kauṭilya's role in the formation of the Maurya Empire is the essence of a historical/spiritual novel Courtesan and the Sadhu by Mysore N. Prakash.
- Chanakya's contribution to the cultural heritage of Bharat (in Kannada) by Shatavadhani Ganesh with the title Bharatada Samskrutige Chanakyana Kodugegalu.
- Pavan Choudary. Chanakya's Political Wisdom. Wisdom Village Publications Division. ISBN 978-81-906555-0-7., a political commentary on Chanakya
- Sihag, Balbir Singh (2014), Kautilya: The True Founder of Economics, Vitasta Publishing Pvt.Ltd, ISBN 8-1925-3549-5
- V. K. Subramanian (1980). Maxims of Chanakya: Kautilya. Abhinav Publications. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-8364-0616-0. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
- Jain 2008, p. 9.
- Mabbett, I. W. (1964). "The Date of the Arthaśāstra". Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 84 (2): 162–169. doi:10.2307/597102. JSTOR 597102. ISSN 0003-0279.
- L. K. Jha, K. N. Jha (1998). "Chanakya: the pioneer economist of the world", International Journal of Social Economics 25 (2–4), p. 267–282.
- Waldauer, C., Zahka, W.J. and Pal, S. 1996. Kauṭilya's Arthashastra: A neglected precursor to classical economics. Indian Economic Review, Vol. XXXI, No. 1, pp. 101–108.
- Tisdell, C. 2003. A Western perspective of Kauṭilya's Arthashastra: does it provide a basis for economic science? Economic Theory, Applications and Issues Working Paper No. 18. Brisbane: School of Economics, The University of Queensland.
- Sihag, B.S. 2007. Kauṭilya on institutions, governance, knowledge, ethics and prosperity. Humanomics 23 (1): 5–28.
- Renu Saran (13 February 2014). Chanakya. Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-93-5083-482-4.
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- Trautmann, Thomas R. (1971). Kautilya and the Arthaśāstra: A Statistical Investigation of the Authorship and Evolution of the Text. Leiden: E.J. Brill. p. 10.
- "Chanakya, The Legend". Chanakya National Law University. 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
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- Trautmann 1971:5 "the very last verse of the work...is the unique instance of the personal name Vishnugupta rather than the gotra name Kautilya in the Arthashastra.
- Trautmann 1971:10 "while in his character as author of an Arthashastra he is generally referred to by his gotra name, Kautilya."
- Mabbett 1964: "References to the work in other Sanskrit literature attribute it variously to Vishnugupta, Chanakya and Kautilya. The same individual is meant in each case. The Panchatantra explicitly identifies Chanakya with Vishnugupta."
- Trautmann 1971:67 'T. Burrow ("Cāṇakya and Kauṭalya", Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 48–49 1968, p. 17 ff.) has now shown that Cāṇakya is also a gotra name, which in conjunction with other evidence makes it clear that we are dealing with two distinct persons, the minister Cāṇakya of legend and Kauṭilya the compiler of the Arthashastra. Furthermore, this throws the balance of evidence in favor of the view that the second name was originally spelt Kauṭalya, and that after the compiler of the Arth came to be identified with the Mauryan minister, it was altered to Kauṭilya (as it appears in Āryaśūra, Viśākhadatta and Bāna) for the sake of the pun. We must then assume that the later spelling subsequently replaced the earlier in the gotra lists and elsewhere.'
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- Ratan Lal Basu & Rajkumar Sen: Ancient Indian Economic Thought, Relevance for Today, ISBN 81-316-0125-0, Rawat Publications, New Delhi, 2008
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