The Mauryas


The story of Chandragupta would be incomplete if we do not mention about Chanakya, who as per legends acted as his teacher, counselor & minister. As with any other ancient historical personality of India, the early history of Chanakya is also shrouded in dark. We again need to look into legends to find out about his early life, exploits and career.


Commemorative Coin on Chanakya

Chanakya remains unknown to the Greek accounts however he was an integral part of all Indian and Sri Lankan legends, whether Buddhist or Jaina. Mahavamsa-tika mentions that Chanakya studies in Taxila and came to Magadha from there. Hemachandra in his Abhidhanachintamani mentions that he was the son of Chanaka, who was a Dramila. Parishishtparvan mentions that Chanakya was from Golla-vishya, which is not yet identified.

K A N Sastri mentions that all these legends are in some way influenced by Chanakya-Chandragupta-Katha, which would have taken the concrete shape by the start of the Christian era. All later Indian and Sri Lankan legends could not have escaped from being influenced by this folklore that all of them include some version of it within themselves.

Native – There have been various opinion on the original land of Chanakya.

  • Taxila
    • Mahavamsa-tika
  • Chanaka village, Golla region
    • Prishishtaparva
  • South India
    • Hemachandra’s Abhidhanachintamani

Name – Chanakya is also known as Vishnugupta or Kautilya. In his Arthashashtra, in the last verse he mentions his name as Vishnugupta but he referred the work as of Kautilya. Some scholars take that Vishnugupt was his personal name while Kautilya was his gotra or appellation. Apart from these two names, few other names are also found in legends.

  • Vatsayan, Mallanga, Kautalya, Paksila, Svami – G Bhagat
  • Angula – G Bhagat, A S Panchpakesha Ayyar
  • Dramila – G Bhagat, A S Panchpakesha Ayyar
  • Kautilya = Chanakya = Vishnugupta – Krishna Reddy
  • Kautilya <> Vishnugupta – K C Ojha
  • Chanakya <> Kautilya – Thomas Burrow

Chanakya born with full set of teeth – As per legends, Chanakya was born with full set of teeth. Based on this attribute, the astrologers told that one day he would become a king. There are different stories in legends on how his teeth were broken off, in one legend he himself did knowing that it was the reason of the sorrow of his mother, and in another his father did as he did not want him to become a king as bring a king he will get into killing. The following legends mention this story.

  • Mahavamsa-tika
  • Parishishtaparva

Chanakya’s vow to demolish the Nandas – The legends specify that the last Nanda king insulted Chanakya and the latter took the vow to exterminate the Nanda dynasty. This story is found in the following legends:

  • Mahavamsa-tika
  • Mudrarakshasha – phrase ‘muktam-shikham’ is used to denote this
  • Parishishtaparva

Chanakya’s meeting with Chandragupta – The legends specify that Chanakya spotted Chandragupta in some village where the latter was playing the game of royalty. This is mentioned in the following legends:

  • Mahavamsa-tika
  • Parishishtaparva

Chanakya served Bindusara – Ashokavadana mentions that Chanakya was serving Bindusara and was envied by another minister. That another minister made Bindusara against Chanakya and the latter left the kingdom and set upon a hill to leave his body without taking any food. This act of Chanakya points to sallekhana, a Jain practice.

  • Yes – Anu Kumar

Arthashashtra: A Mauryan Work – Arthashashtra is a well known economic treatise which was discovered in 1905 CE by R Shamasastri and he published it in Indian Antiquary in 1909. It is composed by Kautilya, who is also known as Chanakya or Vishnugupta. Its time period has been a subject of contention since long. Though majority of scholars assign its time contemporary of the Mauryan period, however there are quite few who think otherwise.

  • Opinion of Scholars
    • Pre-Mauryan/Mauryan – R Shamasastri, Ganapati Sastri, N N Law, John Faithful Fleet, F W Thomas, Vincent A Smith, K P Jayaswal, Hermann Jacobi, Romila Thapar, D D Koshambi, R S Sharma, D N Jha, P L Bhargava, Benoy Kumar Sarkar, F J Monahan, K V Rangaswami Aiyangar, Subramanya Aiyar, U N Ghosal, D R Bhandarkar, John Meyer, N C Bandopadhyaya, S K Aiyangar, V R Ramachandra Dikshitar, P V Kane, Breloer, Sten Konow, G Bhagat, J Campbell, Anu Kumar, R P Kangle
    • Post Mauryan – A Hillebrandt, M Winternitz, Julius Jolly, A B Keith, R G Bhandarkar, Otto Stein, Kalidas Nag, E H Johnson, Pran Nath, Atindra Nath Bose, Irfan Habib, Faiz Habib, S R Goyal, Thomas R Trautmann, I W Mabbett, J M Macphail



  1. Bhagat, G (1990). Kautilya Revisited and Re-visioned, published in The Indian Journal of Political Science Vol. 51, No. 2. Indian Political Science Association
  2. Kumar, Anu (2013). Chanakya: The Kingmaker and the Philosopher. Hachette India. Gurgaon. ISBN 9789350096925.
  3. Mishra, Suresh Chandra (1989). A Historiographical Critique of the Arthsastra of Kautilya, published in The Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute Vol 70, No 1/4. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Pune


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  • Krishnan

    I read some time back that the historians have goofed up. It says that the Maurya and Nanda dyasties are much older going probably to1000 BCE or so. It say that the main confusion is due to Megasthenes who confused between Charaguptha of Maurya dynasty with Chandraguptha of Guptha dynasty. This confusion is still persisting. Alexander the Great invaded during the Guptha period in reality. This point is worth researching about.

    • http://mobilisinmobili.net Shashwath

      This one keeps going around. But it has very little backing it.

      The problem for this theory is that Ashoka, the first king we can pin down with inscriptions, is definitely the contemporary of the Indo-Greeks who came after Alexander. That is, Chandragupta Maurya’s grandson is contemporary with Alexander’s successors.

      Also, Mahavamsa (which is the chronicle of the kings of Sri Lanka) talks about the date on which Ashoka’s son and daughter, Mahinda and Sangamitra, came down to establish Buddhism there. That tallies with about 300 BCE.

      There are a lot of points for a 400-300 BCE date, and very few against – mostly those are suspicious linguistic questions.

      Besides, read Saurabh’s posts on the Guptas; we have even better dates for them, and it’s not 400 BCE.

      • http://msg4saurabh.blogspot.com Saurabh

        I wanted to reply early, but I thought to wait till I write about Ashoka. The issue is, as Shashwath, mentioned that Ashoka talks about his contemporary rulers. The scholars who have suggested an early date for Ashoka have failed to explained any identification of these contemporary rulers but they easily refuted the identification suggested by other scholars. This is absurd, refuting an identification on baseless grounds and not suggesting an alternative identification is not a proper study in my opinion. If you believe that Ashoka was of an earlier date, and it was Chandragupta II who fought with Alexander then please prove this based upon facts but not on baseless assumption and an improper nationalist thought to put back the history of this nation to centuries back just to support that we are the ancient ones in this world.