The Mauryas – Chanakya

Chanakya

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.

Chanakya
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

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References:

  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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