“As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it.”
Chanakya (c. 370–283 BCE) was an Indian teacher, philosopher and royal advisor.He is also known as vishnuguptan or Kautilya .Chanakya managed the first Maurya emperor Chandragupta’s rise to power at a young age. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire, which was the first empire in the archaeologically recorded history to rule most of the Indian subcontinent. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both Chandragupta and his son Bindusara.Arthashastra is his famous book based on the statecraft, economic policy and military strategy.
Chanakya was educated at Takshashila, an ancient center of learning located in north-western ancient India . He later became a teacher (acharya) at the same place.Chanakya’s life was connected to two cities: Takshashila and Pataliputra ( Patna in Bihar, India).
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 Mudrarakshasaa, 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 the 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 coaliation is completely undone by Chanakya’s strategy.According to the Buddhist texts, Chandragupta was the son of the chief of the Moriya clan of Pippalivana. 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.Several modern adaptions of the legend narrate the story of Chanakya 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.
Chanakya’s father Chanak was a friend of Shaktar, the Prime Minister of the Magadha kingdom, and Chanakya loved Shaktar’s daughter Suvashini. Shaktar had lost much of his political clout to another courtier called Rakshasa, and one night, Shaktar was imprisoned by the King Dhana Nanda. The rivalry of the Chanakya’s family with the King Dhana Nanda started when Chanak openly criticized the misrule of the king. After the execution of Chanak by the King, the former Magadha minister Katyayan sent Chanakya to Acharya Pundarikaksha of Takshashila. Chanakya completed his education at Takshashila, and became a teacher there. After some years, he returned to Pataliputra to meet his mother, only to learn that she was dead. He also learnt that the Nanda administration had further deteriorated under the growing influence of Rakshasa, who had made Suvashini his mistress. When Chanakya visited the royal court to advise him, he was insulted and imprisoned by the King. Chanakya was rescued by the men of General Maurya, another person who despised with the King’s rule. Chanakya took Chandragupta Maurya to Takshashila, where he trained the young man.King Ambhi, the ruler of Takshashila, had allied with the invader Alexander the Great to defeat Parvataka. Chanakya and Chandragupta gathered a band of people discontented with Ambhi’s rule and formed an alliance with Parvataka to defeat the Nanda king. Their initial attempts at conquering Magadha were unsuccessful. Once, Chanakya came across a mother scolding her child for burning himself by eating from the middle of a bowl of porridge rather than the cooler edge. Chanakya realized his initial strategic error: he was attacking Magadha, the center of the Nanda territory. He then changed his strategy and focused on capturing the areas located at the peripharies of the Nanda empire. With help of Suvashini, he drove a wedge between the King and Rakshasa. Finally, he defeated the last Nanda king and established a new empire with Chandragupta Maurya as the emperor.
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 the Jain texts, Chanakya used to add small doses of poison to the food eaten by Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, in order to make him immune to the poisoning attempts by the enemies.Unaware, Chandragupta once fed some of his food to his queen Durdhara who was 7 days away from delivery. The queen, not immune to the poison, collapsed and died within 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 blood having poison.
The real cause of Chanakya’s death is unknown and disputed. According to a legend, Subandhu, one of Bindusara’s ministers, did not like Chanakya. One day he 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. Chanakya, who was an old man by this time, learnt 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 learnt the full story: Chanakya was not directly 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, pretending to conduct a ceremony for Chanakya, burnt Chanakya alive.