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Chaanakya (Kautilya)
350 BC - 275 BC = 75 yrs
There are three people who are said to be the kingmakers - Samarth Raamdaas, Vidyaaranya and Kautilya or Chaanakya. Together they form the Tri-Moorti who built Hindu kingdoms and saved the Sanaatan Dharm during their times.
Read also about Chaanakya at   Chandragupt,    Chaanakya in Shishu Sansaar;     Some Incidents of Chaanakya's Life
See a video too at - 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.

Chaakalya in Telugu Literature
According to Chaanaky's book "Arth Shaastra" in Malayalam by Ullur S Parameswara Iyer, his given name was Vishnugupt.
Chaanakya was a Chozhia Braahman.  He belonged to Kutal Gotra and that is why he is also called Kautilya. He was born in Chanak Desh, that is why he is also called Chaanakya. He is also called Dramil. This name must have been given because he belonged to Dramil (Tamil) country. He was born and brought up in Kaacheepuram. He was a Poorv Shikhaa Braahman. He went to Paataliputra to make a living. Poorv Shikhaa Braahman means that he was a Chozhiyan Braahman. There are three types of Braahman in South India . One is Poorv Shikhaa (Chozhiya Braahman), another is Paarshwa Shikhaa (Namboothiree Braahman), and the third is Prishth Shikhaa (Iyer, Iyengar, etc Braahman). The Choziya Braahman are very cunning and revengeful. There is a saying about them – "Chozhiyan kutumi chummaa aataathu." - the Chozhiya's tuft will not shake for nothing.

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.

Chaanakya's Education
Chaanakya imbibed all the scholarship of his father. He had a razor sharp intellect and a fantastic memory. But despite all his wisdom, Chaanakya remained as poor as his father and had a tough time trying to make both ends meet. This story tells about the level of his poverty. Once, when his wife went to her father's home to attend a family wedding, her sisters made fun of her because she was wearing a dress made of a coarse cloth and no jewelry at all. They teased her about her rough, work-worn hands and the absence of oil in her hair. In fact, they treated her like a maid and refused to sit near her. Chaanakya's wife returned home crying. Though she did not complain or criticize her own people, but Chaanakya found out what had gone wrong and decided to do something about it.

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
When Chaanakya was teaching at Takshshilaa University, Alexander invaded India. The king of Takshshilaa and Gaandhaar, King Aambhee, made a treaty with Alexander and did not fight against him. Chaanakya saw the foreign invasion against the Indian culture and sought help from other kings to unite and fight Alexander. Puru (Poras), the King of Panjaab, was the only local king who was able to challenge Alexander at the Battle of the Jhelam (Hydaspes) River, but was defeated.

King Puru is known as Poras, or Parvateshwar and was the king of Kaikaya Desh.
Aambhi was the King of Gaandhaar, and Aambheek was his son who was killed by Chandragupt Maurya.

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
Chaanakya remembered what the astrologer had predicted for him and decided to find the right man who would be a king and yet be guided by him in all matters. He wandered all over the kingdom and finally reached a place in the foothills of the Himaalaya where a tribe called 'Maurya' lived. As Chaanakya rested under a tree, he saw a group of young boys playing around. One of them pretended to be a king while the rest played at being the king’s soldiers. The boy who was posing as king looked very sharp and intelligent. Chaanakya went up to him and said to him, "I'm a poor Braahman, Your Majesty. Please let me have a gift." The young boy, whose name was Chandragupt, looked at him and said, "I give you all these cows that are grazing in this field."

"But they don't belong to you and so they are not yours to be made a gift of," said Chaanakya smiling,
“What shall I do if the actual owners come and bash me up?"
"You can't own things if you are afraid of protecting them," said young Chandragupt at once, "one has to fight for one's rights in this world."

Chaanakya was so impressed by Chandragupt's words that he asked him, "Do you really want to become a king?"
"Of course, I do".
"Then come with me," Chaanakya said, "You will become one to accompany Chaanakya."
He used his brain to collect enough money to raise an army for Chandragupt. He taught them all that he knew about fighting battles and Chandragupt about the rights and duties of a king. Chaanakya, who remembered how he had been insulted by the King Nand, decided to attack him first, but Chandragupt's army was small and inexperienced, compared to Nand's and could not stand up to them. Badly defeated, Chandragupt had to flee along with Chaanakya.

Chaanakya Knows His Mistake
One day as Chaanakya entered a little village in the quest of food, he passed by a poor man's hut. He heard the excited voice of children in the hut. Their mother was serving them hot rice porridge. Suddenly a young boy started crying that his fingers had been burnt. "Well, what do you expect, if you touch the piping hot porridge?" he heard the woman say, "Naturally they will get burnt if you are as foolish as Chaanakya."

Intrigued and curious, Chaanakya barged into the room.
Seeing a strange man in her house the mother of the children asked him -"Who are you and what do you want?"
"I just came in to find out the meaning of your words," said Chaanakya.
The woman was surprised. "I was merely telling the children to eat properly," She said, "I had served them hot rice porridge. They should have realized that it was hottest at the centre and so they should have started eating from the outer fringe which cools first."
"Yes, but what has Chaanakya’s foolishness got to do with it?" asked Chaanakya.
"Everything," said the woman smiling, "Chaanakya is so foolish, he went and attacked Nand's kingdom at the outset instead of conquering the small kingdoms all around before going to the centre. Just like this foolish child trying to eat the hot porridge from the middle! That's why Chaanakya lost and had to flee."
"Thank you so much, mother," said Chaanakya to the woman "You've taught me a wonderful lesson in war strategy. I shall not make the same mistake a second time."

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.

Chaanakya's Death
He lived for 75 years. When Chandragupt's son Bindusaar (read "Chaanakya Poisons Chandragupt" to know why Chandragupt's son's name was Bindusaar) became a youth, Chandragupt gave up the throne and followed the Jain saint Bhadrabaahu to present day Karnaatak and settled in a place known as Shravan Belagola. [It is believed that Chaanakya inspired him to do so according to Hindu traditions.] He lived as an ascetic for some years and died of voluntary starvation according to Jain tradition. Chaanakya still stayed with Bindusaar. Bindusaar had a Minister named Subandhu who did not like Chaanakya at all, so he told Bindusaar that Chaanakya had killed his mother. Bindusaar confirmed the story and got very angry with Chaanakya. Knowing this Chaanakya knew that his end was near, he donated all his wealth to poor, widows and orphans and sat on a dung heap leaving food and drink to die.

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.

Chaanakya's Works
Three works are attributed to Chaanakya - (1) Arth Shaastra, (2) Neeti Shastra, and (3) Chaanakya Neeti. Arth Shaastra (literally 'the Science of Material Gain') is arguably the first systematic book on economics. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in details. Many of his Neeti or policies have been compiled under the book title Chaanakya Neeti.
Neeti Shaastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chaanakya's in depth study of the Indian way of life.

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.
[Aangiras, p 114]

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)
The learned people should always keep in mind that the King or the administration which is strong and decisive, should by all means shun advise and counsel from four types of people
1. those with limited knowledge but who think that they are great scholars.
2. those who have made procrastination and inventing excuses as their lifestyle.
3. those who are impulsive and never think of consequences of their words
4. those who are deceitful, and hand out advice which would be sweet and agreeable to the senses for the present but would cause irreparable damage in the long run.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 05/29/13