Acharya Chanakya is an ancient Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, lawyer, and royal advisor. He is traditionally identified as Kautilya or Vishnugupt, the author of an ancient Indian political treatise, Arthashastra.
He is considered a pioneer in political science and economics in India, and his work is regarded as an important predecessor of modern-day economics. His works were lost towards the end of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century A.D. His works were discovered in the early 20th century.
Chanakya assisted the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in his rise to power. He is credited for the establishment of the Mauryan Empire. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both emperors Chandragupta and his son Bindusara.
Birth and Childhood
Little is known with certainty about Channakya because few historical documents of his life exist. However, it is believed that Chanakya was born in 370 B.C. in Pataliputra, Takshashila of South India. His father’s name was Chanana, and his mother’s name was Chaneshwari. Because of his fierce and secretive nature, he was called Kautilya.
According to the Buddhist account, Chanakya was born with a full set of teeth, a sign that he would become the supreme ruler, but this was not appropriate for a Brahmin-born. Therefore, his teeth were pulled out, after which it was announced that Channakya would reign through another.
He left his parent’s home at an early age and gained knowledge and education under the guidance of Acharya Pundarikash in Takshashila. After 14 years of gaining education, at the age of 26, he completed his education in sociology, politics, and economics and started teaching in Nalanda.
Beginning of his Quest and introduction with Chandragupta
The Greek emperor Alexander the Great invaded Indian soil more than 2,300 years ago. His raid was successful due to the disunity of local rulers. Chanakya sought the assistance of King Dhana Nanda but was insulted instead.
Chanakya feeling deeply disappointed in his heart, cursed the King. The King demanded his arrest, but Chanakya escaped with the help of Prince Pabbatha, the son of King Dhana Nanda. He escaped and started living in the Vindhya forest, where he began turning one gold coin into more with the help of his deep economic knowledge. He used this knowledge until he had 800,000,000 gold coins.
Chanakya hid all his money and set out to find a person worthy of ruling the earth. During his search, he came across a group of children playing a game of King and robbers. One of these children, Chandragupta, pretended to be a king and cut off the arms and legs of the robbers. Chanakya watched as he re-joined the limbs. Witnessing this, Chanakya wanted to know more about the child. Chandragupta was born into a royal family; his father was assassinated, and his mother was forced to flee. A foster father raised the boy. Chanakya paid the foster father 1,000 gold coins and took Chandragupta away.
When Chandragupta grew up, Chanakya dug up his treasure of gold coins and hired an army. The army was unsuccessful in overthrowing King Dhana Nanda. By chance, the two were walking when they heard a mother scolding her son for pulling the edges of a piece of cake.
She criticized him and said that he was like Chandragupta, who had tried to overthrow the kingdom from the center instead of attacking the outskirts first. Armed with a new plan, Chandragupta and Chanakya once again gathered an army and began attacking the outer parts of the city, making their way to the center. They assassinated the King, took his treasure, and Chandragupta assumed the throne.
Stopped Alexander the Great
After the overthrow of Nanda, people felt sympathy for the new King, the handsome young hero Chandragupta, and he quickly gained popularity among the people. The neighboring kings also recognized him, and with new forces, they managed to cope with the remnants of the Greeks, led by General Celsius. The success was due to Chanakya, under whom King Chandragupta ruled for 24 years.
King Chandragupta conquered all lands from Iran in the northwest to the state’s border in the south. Thanks to this thin and sickly brahmana, the great empire of India regained its independence, becoming more powerful than ever.
So, the original Vedic culture of the sacred land of Bharata was protected and flourished unhindered for another 120 years under the rule of Bindusara, the son of Chandragupta, after which his grandson, Emperor Ashoka, came to power, with whose support Buddhism spread widely throughout the country.
When Chandra Gupta was on the throne, Chanakya added poison to his food day after day to make him strong and immune to even the worst poison so that enemies or conspirators would not poison him. Unknowingly, the queen ate the food intended for Chandra Gupta when she was pregnant.
Upon learning this, Chanakya wanted to save the heir to the throne and therefore cut open the mother’s womb to save the child, saved from poison and named Bindusara. In the process, the queen died. Ultimately, Chanakya’s act followed his duty to the empire and as a measure to save Bindusara, who was to become King of the empire. Chanakya continued to be Bindusara’s chief adviser.
Death of Chanakya
The death of Chanakya is overshadowed by mystery and has not yet been precisely revealed, despite some efforts of researchers and historians. However, there are two points of view on this: one states that he starved himself to death, and the other states that he was killed through a cunning conspiracy woven around him. However, both of these positions are based on a story associated with his unfortunate fate.
The first Version of his death
Unable to tolerate the understanding between Chanakya and Bindusara, a terrible conspiracy was built to create enmity between him and the ruler. The main reason for this conspiracy was Subandhu, one of the ministers of Bindusara. Subandhu made Bindusara believe the story that it was Chanakya who had treacherously killed his mother.
Chanakya could not put up with the behavior of Bindusara, whom he loved most. Therefore, he left the palace and sat hungry until his death. Later, a nurse who was with Bindusara’s mother revealed the secret of the queen’s death, freeing Channakya from guilt.
As soon as Bindusara learned this story from the nurse, he realized the grave mistake he had made by misunderstanding Chanakya. However, despite his attempts to pacify him and bring him back to court, Chanakya refused to do so and continued to starve until his death.
Second Version of his death
Another version of this story says that Subandhu later skilfully burned him alive. Bindusara killed Subandha in complete disgust due to his evil plan. However, Chanakya’s mysterious death has not yet been fully resolved.
Aphorisms of Chanakya
Here are some of the aphorisms of Acharya Chanakya’s Niti-sastra:
- An intelligent individual does not reveal his business’s key secrets and techniques to anyone. If you report the loss or acquisition in your business to others, assistance cannot be provided when you want it. Therefore, you must keep it a secret whether or not you have income or losses in the business.
- Avoid enemies who flatter in the eyes but are ready to attack from behind, for they are like a jug of poison poured over with milk.
- Passion is the most terrible disease, recklessness is the most terrible enemy, anger is the most incinerating fire, and spiritual knowledge is the greatest happiness.
- Pamper your son until he is five years old, take him in an iron grip from 5 to 15, and when he turns 16 – be friends.
- Wise parents bring up morality in their children because those who have knowledge of etiquette bring glory to the whole family.
- A grumpy wife, a selfish friend, an impudent servant, and living in a house with a snake is nothing more than death.
- Take care of your money for a rainy day, do not think that the rich man is not in danger of poverty. Even enormous wealth can melt away in no time.
- Leave the country where you are not respected, where it is impossible to earn a living, where there are no friends, or where you cannot get an education.
- Check the servant in the performance of duty, the relative in the hardships, the friend in the misfortune, and the wife in the grief.
- The goddess of fortune Lakshmi, of her own free will, visits places where scientists are revered, where grain harvests are preserved without loss, and where husband and wife do not quarrel.