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Biography of Chanakya (Kautilya)

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Published: Mon, 16 Apr 2018

INTRODUCTION

The extraordinary thoroughness of Kautilyas’s work, its eminent inductiveness and practical character, its unflinching logic, heedlessness of adventitious moral or religious standard and its wide range of subjects and interests gave it a unique combination of features..”[1]

-D.R.Bhandarkar

In Indian history, the centuries to come and that passed by, are recorded many great persons and legendary characters who shaped time through their extraordinary deeds and their excellence in every skill. But among of them, Kautilya may be the only one personality who has been respected and accepted as a brilliant person not only by Indian scholars but also western Scholars too. Kautilya was great political philosopher and thinker. We have been described as a great teacher, shrewd statesman, devoted patriot, deep thinker, ruthless administrator, master strategist, selfless ascetic, ideal philosopher and true saint.[2] He is called all-rounder because he got mastery in all the branches of knowledge. He was well versed in commerce, warfare, Politics, Economics and Vedas. He lived around the third century B.C. but even today his ideas and principles show relevancy and applicability in the present day society. He is a historical milestone in the making of India. Kautilya is the greatest person with wisdom and knowledge. He is regarded pioneer in the field of Economics. The credit of establishment of Mauryan Empire goes to the foresight and knowledge of Kautilya. He was a key advisor and councilor of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of Mauryan Empire. “This empire was not merely composed of a number of unrelated districts brought together under single sceptra; it was a real unit based on common government which everywhere not only established the king’s authority but the public good.[3] Kautilya was chief architect of his rise to power so he is called kingmaker too. A man full of vision; he was always prepared for the worst. He had the guts to speak his heart out even in front of the rulers. He himself lived such a life, refusing all adornments, compassion towards the poor and evil to deceit when needed which shows some of his good characteristics of nature. Kautilya was a professor at the University of Takshashila which is located near Peshawar in Pakistan. He was the first man to envision the first Indian Empire by unification of the various small kingdoms in the Indian subcontinent.

His prominent works are Nitishastra, Chanakya Niti and Arthashastra. Among these, Arthshastra was most important. He considered economic activity as driving force behind the functioning of any political action. Kautilya was a true thinker who bridged the gap between knowledge and vision. For Kautilya, good governance was supreme.

LIFE SKETCH OF KAUTILYA –

Unfortunately There is not certainity about the time period of the Kautilya So, details of his birth and life are not dependable and we have to rely on tradition. The expected period of the Kautilya is from 350-283 B.C.E. There are very few real historical facts about his birth and death except that he helped Chandragupta to mount the throne, to strengthen his empire and to unite the

Indian states for fighting against Alexander of Macedonia around 327 B.C.E. Chandragupta Maurya established the Mauryan Empire in the year 321 B.C.E. Kautilya was probably born around 350 B.C.E. This shows that Kautilya was junior contemporary of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.). There is no proof that Kautilya was affected by Aristotle‟s idea. Some historians have “questioning about Kautilya‟s existence”. His place of birth is not assured. Some say that he got the name Chanakya because he was born in China. The Buddhist mentions his birthplace as Takshashila while Jaina scripture mention his birthplace as Chanak in Gola district of South India. According to one version, birthplace of Chanakya was Dravida so one of the Chanakya‟s various names was Dramila. Some believes his birthplace was Patliputra. However, Kautilya‟s birthplace will continue to remain a disputation. Kautilya had two other two names – Chanaka and vishnugupta. As he was born in the village of chanaka, he was called chanakya , Dr. Ganapati Shastri is of the opinion that he was born in the ‘ kutala’ gotra. Hence he was named as Kautilya. His parents gave him the name of Vishnugupta at ‘namkaran’ ceremony.[4]

When Kautilya was born, he had blessed with the full set of teeth, which showed that child will become king or emperor.

Rishi Chanak was a Kautilya’s father who was learned Brahmin. He was a teacher teacher so he knew the importance of education. He started teaching his son Kautilya in his early age.

In his early age, Kautilya was well versed in Vedas; though he memorized them completely at early age, At that ancient time, the Vedas were considered as the toughest scripture to study. He was also taught mathematics, geography and science along with religion. Right from his childhood, Kautilya‟s wisdom and shrewdness was visible and effective. His favorite subject was Politics. Kautilya had seen very difficult circumstances from his childhood. His father,Chanak was erudite, decent and self respected Brahmin. He opposed injustice or immortal deeds. The fraudulent and arrogant king Dhannanda did not like him naturally. The king disparated the rightness of Chanak so he harassed Chanak‟s family for fake reasons. Chanak was put in prison by the king. He died in prison. No one raised a voice against the injustice with Chanak. Kautilya was a very little boy that time. He was extremely sad because of his father‟s death and injustice happened with his family. After his father‟s death, his life was also in danger. So he left Patliputra by taking an oath that he would return and fight against injustice and take revenge against Dhannanda. Kautilya had his education at a famous university of Takshashila which was very reputed one at that time.

Being a Brahmin of strong determination anf strong will, he thought to take revenge from Nanda – King of Patliputra. He left the capital humiliated and he went to search for a warrior. On his way, he came across the young Chandragupta. He found in the latter a promising young man and started the campaign for his installation on the throne of Magadha. Their First attempt Proved to be a failure. However eventually, Chandragupta regrouped his forces, overwhelmed the borderstates and launched onslaught on the capital. The wicked king- Dhannanda best of Nanda dynasty wa skilled in 322BC. Thus a new dynasty-Maurya was established with Chandragupta Maurya enthroned as the king of Magadha in 321 BC and reigned upto 298 BC.

The credit for this victory goes to kautilya widely accepted name whose diplomatic skill and encyclopaedic knowledge of administration enabled Chandragupta, his pupil not only to triumph against the Nandas but also consolidate his empire.[5]


[1] Vishnoo Bhagwan, Indian Political Thinkers,Atma Ram & Sons publications,p.30

[2] Retrieved from http://www.chanakya.com/chanakya.htm on 20 Mar.2014.11.28PM

[3] Paul Masson-Oursel et al: Ancient India and Indian Civilization,p.37

[4] Sankaracharya : Commentary on Kamandaka

[5] Vishnoo Bhagwan, Indian Political Thinkers,Atma Ram & Sons publications,p.31


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