Full name Vishnugupta
Born 370 BC
Died 283 BC (aged 87)

Chānakya (Sanskrit: चाणक्य Cāṇakya) (c. 370–283 BCE) was a teacher to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta (c. 340–293 BCE), and the first Indian emperor generally considered to be the architect of his rise to power. Traditionally, Chanakya is also identified by the names Kautilya and Vishnugupta Mishra, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise called Arthaśāstra.[1] Chanakya has been considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science.[2][3][4][5] In the Western world, he has been referred to as The Indian Machiavelli, although Chanakya's works predate Machiavelli's by about 1,800 years. Chanakya was a teacher in Takṣaśila, 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 Gupta dynasty and not rediscovered until 1915.[3]



His 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.[6]

Two books are attributed to Chanakya: Arthashastra and Neetishastra which is also known as Chanakya Niti. The Arthashastra discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in detail. Neetishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chanakya's deep study of the Indian way of life. Chanakya also developed Neeti-Sutras (aphorisms - pithy sentences) that tell people how they should behave. Of these well-known 455 sutras, about 216 refer to raaja-neeti (the do's and don'ts of running a kingdom). Apparently, Chanakya used these sutras to groom Chandragupta and other selected disciples in the art of ruling a kingdom.


Silver punch mark coin of the Mauryan empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd century BCE.

Thomas R. Trautmann lists the following elements as common to different forms of the Chanakya legend[7]:

  • Chanakya was born with a complete set of teeth, a sign that he would become king, which is inappropriate for a Brahmin like Chanakya. Chāṇakya's teeth were therefore broken and it was prophesied that he will rule through another.
  • The Nanda King throws Chānakya out of his court, prompting Chānakya to swear revenge.
  • Chānakya searches for one worthy for him to rule through. Chānakya encounters a young Chandragupta Maurya who is a born leader even as a child. Chanakya established monarchial system in ancient historical times in India. He may be main architect to groom a child, but his means to reach power were manipulative and secretive.
  • Chānakya's initial attempt to overthrow Nanda fails, whereupon he comes across a mother scolding her child for burning himself by eating from the middle of a bun or bowl of porridge rather than the cooler edge. Chāṇakya realizes his initial strategic error and, instead of attacking the heart of Nanda territory, slowly chips away at its edges.
  • Chānakya changed his alliance with the mountain king Parvata due to his obstinacy and non-adherence to the principles of the treaty as agreed.
  • Chānakya enlists the services of a fanatical weaver to rid the kingdom of rebels.
  • Chānakya adds poison to the food eaten by Chandragupta Maurya, now king, in order to make him immune.[8][citation needed] Unaware, Chandragupta feeds some of his food to his queen, who is in her ninth month of pregnancy. In order to save the heir to the throne, Chānakya cuts the queen open and extracts the foetus, who is named Bindusara because he was touched by a drop (bindu) of blood having poison.[citation needed] [9]
  • Chānakya's political rivalry with Subandhu leads to his death.

Chanakya was a shrewd observer of nature. Once, it is said that Mauryan forces had to hide in a cave. There was no food, and the soldiers were starving.They could not come out of the cave either, as there was a threat to their lives. Chanakya saw an ant taking a grain of rice, whereas, there was no sign of food or grain anywhere. Moreover, the rice grain was cooked. He ordered the soldiers to search and they found that their enemies had been dining under the cave. Indeed, they were eating at the ground floor. As soon as they saw this, they escaped and were thus saved.

Birth and Origin: Chanakya (c.350 - c.275 BC), also known as Anshul or Anshu or Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta was born in a family of Brahmin as the son of Acharya Chanak in Pataliputra, Magadh (Modern day Patna, Bihar, India. In the modern day it has been found that social, political and professional life of Brahmins reflects Chanakya Neeti. A South Indian group of Brahmins, Chozhiyas, claim that Chanakya was one of them. Though this may sound very improbable considering the vast distance between present day Tamil Nadu in the south and Magadha in Bihar, it finds curious echos in Parishista-parvan, where Hemachandra claims that Chankya was a Dramila (Dramila, being a very common variant of Dravida). Chanakya enjoyed the best education of the time, in 'Takshashila' (also known in its corrupted form as Taxila).Takshasilâ had established itself as a place of learning. The school had by that time existed for at least five centuries and attracted students from all over the ancient world of Southeast Asia. The Kingdom of Magadha maintained contact with Takshasilâ. Chanakya's life was connected to these two cities, Pataliputra and Takshasilâ. According to Jaina accounts[1] Chānakya was born in the village of Caṇaka in the Golla district to Caṇin and Caṇeśvarī, a Maga Brahmin couple[2].


According to a Jaina tradition, while Chanakya served as the chief administrator of Chandragupta Maurya, he started adding small amounts of poison in Chandragupta's food so that he would get used to it.[8][citation needed] The aim of this was to prevent the Emperor from being poisoned by enemies. One day the queen, Durdhara, shared the food with the Emperor while she was pregnant. Since she was not used to eating poisoned food, she died. Chanakya decided that the baby should not die; hence he cut open the belly of the queen and took out the baby.[9][citation needed] A drop (bindu in Sanskrit) of poison had passed to the baby's head, and hence Chanakya named him Bindusara. Bindusara would become a king and father of Asoka.

When Bindusara was in his youth, Chandragupta gave up the throne and followed the Jain saint Bhadrabahu to present day Karnataka and settled in the place of Shravana Belagola. He lived as an ascetic for some years and died of voluntary starvation according to Jain tradition.

Chanakya meanwhile stayed as the administrator of Bindusara. Bindusara also had a minister named Subandhu who 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 this story and he became very angry with Chanakya. But, he then came to know why the great soul did so.

Other versions

The classical Sanskrit play by Vishakhadatta, Mudrarakshasa, is one popular source of Chanakya lore. (The play has been dated between 4th and 9th century CE).

According one tradition, Chanakya was a native of Dravida.[10] One of Chanakya's various names was Dramila, the Sanskrit form of "Tamilian".[11][12]("Dramila" is believed to be the root of the word "Dravida" by some scholars). Chozhiars, a sub-sect of Iyers, hold that Chanakya was one of them.[13]

There is also a claim that Chanakya belonged to the Brahmin group from the present day Kerala and believed to be resident of present day Ernakulam. In true Hindu tradition he is said to have persuaded King Chandragupta Maurya to forsake his throne and to join him in moving to the last phase of one's life viz. Vanaprastha. Accordingly, he took the King along with him to South India where both of them carried prolonged meditation and finally achieved Moksha.

Kauṭilya was educated at Taxila or Takshashila,[14] then present in north-western India and now in present day Pakistan. The new states (in present-day Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) by the northern high road of commerce along the base of the Himalayas maintained contact with Takshasilâ and at the eastern end of the northern high road (uttarapatha) was the kingdom of Magadha with its capital city, Pataliputra, now known as Patna. Chanakya's life was connected to these two cities, Pataliputra and Taxila.

In his early years he was tutored extensively in the Vedas - Chanakya memorized them completely at a very early age.[verification needed] He also taught mathematics, geography and science along with dharmic education.[verification needed] Later he travelled to Takshashila, where he became a teacher of politics.[verification needed] Chanakya taught subjects using the best of practical knowledge acquired by the teachers. The age of entering the University was sixteen. The branches of study most sought after around India at that time ranged from law, medicine, warfare and other disciplines. Two of his more famous students were Bhadrabhatta and Purushdutta.[verification needed]

Political turmoil in Western India at that time caused by Greek invasion forced Chanakya to leave the University environment for the city of Pataliputra (presently known as Patna, in the state of Bihar, India), which was ruled by the Nanda king Dhanananda. Although Chanakya initially prospered in his relations with the ruler, being a blunt person he was soon disliked by Dhanananda. This ended with Chanakya being removed from an official position he enjoyed.

According to the Kashmiri version of his legend, Chāṇakya, there is an anecdote which says a thorn had pricked his foot once. After that instead of uprooting the tree, he poured buttermilk on the tree so that the ants will gather around tree and finish the tree to its last pieces.


  • The story of Chanakya and Chandragupta was taken as film in Telugu language in 1977 entitled Chanakya Chandragupta. Akkineni Nageswara Rao played the role of Chanakya, while N. T. Rama Rao portrayed as Chandragupta.[15]
  • Television series Chanakya is archetypal account of the life and times of Chanakya, based on the play "Mudra Rakshasa" (The Signet Ring of "Rakshasa")
  • A Television series on Imagine TV available as "Chandragupta Maurya" (The serial is based on the life of Indian ruler "Chandragupta Maurya" and "Chanakya")[16]
  • A book has been published in English titled 'Chanakya on Management"{18} in which each of the 216 sutras on raja-neeti has been translated and commented upon. Clearly, the entire system of thought propounded by Chanakya is based on following good ethical principles.
  • In his Arthasastra, Chanakya has discussed widely various economic issues. A book written by Ratan Lal Basu & Rajkumar Sen has dealt exhaustively with these economic concepts of Chanakya and their relevance for the modern world.[17]
  • Many eminent Kauṭilya experts from all over the world had discussed various aspects of Kauṭilya's thought in an International Conference held in 1902 at Oriental Research Institute, 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.[18]
  • Chanakya's Chant by Ashwin Sanghi is a fictional retelling of the life of Chanakya a political strategist of ancient India. The novel relates two stories in parallel, 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 the Prime Minister of India.
  • Recently,a popular hindi channel started a Biographical mega series on the life of Chandragupta Maurya and his teacher,Chanakya.The series is named "CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA".


The diplomatic enclave in New Delhi is named Chanakyapuri in honour of Chanakya.


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ Tisdell, C. 2003. A Western perspective of Kauṭilya's Arthasastra: 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.
  5. ^ Sihag, B.S. 2007. Kauṭilya on institutions, governance, knowledge, ethics and prosperity. Humanomics 23 (1): 5-28.
  6. ^ The Courtesan and the Sadhu, A Novel about Maya, Dharma, and God, October 2008, Dharma Vision LLC.,ISBN 978-0-9818237-0-6, Library of Congress Control Number: 2008934274
  7. ^ Trautmann 1971:"The Chāṇakya-Chandragupt-Kathā"
  8. ^ a b Bibliotheca Indica, Volume 96, Issue 5. Asiatic Society (Calcutta, India). Baptist Mission Press, 1891.
  9. ^ a b Jainism in South India by P. M. Joseph. International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 1997. ISBN 9788185692234.
  10. ^ P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar, Pg 325
  11. ^ P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar, Pg 326
  12. ^ R.C. Majumdar, A. D. Pusalker, A. K. Majumdar et al., The History and Culture of the Indian People - The age of imperial unity, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 1962
  13. ^ Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Pg 342
  14. ^ Chanakya-Niti
  15. ^ Chanakya Chandragupta, 1977 Telugu film at IMDb.
  16. ^ TV, Imagine. "Channel". TV Channel. 
  17. ^ Ratan Lal Basu & Rajkumar Sen: Ancient Indian Economic Thought, Relevance for Today, ISBN 81-316-0125-0, Rawat Publications, New Delhi, 2008
  18. ^ Raj Kumar Sen & Ratan Lal Basu (eds): Economics in Arthasastra, ISBN 81-7629-819-0, Deep& Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2006

See also


  • Iyengar, P. T. Srinivasa (1929). History of the Tamils from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. 
  • Thurston, Edgar; K. Rangachari (1909). Castes and Tribes of Southern India Volume I - A and B. Madras: Government Press. 

External links

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