Chanakya: Indian Machiavelli
Chanakya (c. 370–283 BCE) was an Indian teacher, philosopher and royal advisor.
Originally a professor of economics and political science at the ancient Takshashila University, Chanakya managed the first Maurya emperor Chandragupta's rise to power at a young age. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire, which was the first empire in archaeologically recorded history to rule most of the Indian subcontinent. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both Chandragupta and his son Bindusara.
Chanakya is traditionally identified as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise called Arthaśāstra. As such, he is considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to Classical Economics. Chanakya is often called the "Indian Machiavelli", although his works predate Machiavelli's by about 1,800 years. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta dynasty and not rediscovered until 1915.
Kautilya also known as Chankya was believed to be the chief minister in the court of Chandragupta Maurya, a contemporary of Alexander and the first great emperor of India who ruled the subcontinent in the 4th Century BC. The book was discovered by Shamasastri in 1909 who also translated and introduced it to the public. The book containing about 6000 hymns is a comprehensive manual on how a state ought to be ruled and administrated by a king and his administration. It is very detailed and systematic in prescribing solutions to the various problems associated with monarchial form of governance. Several of the administrative suggestions prescribed by the author are still relevant and practicable in the modern administrative world. There has been a great deal of controversy as to the original author of this work, as some believe it to be the work of one individual by the name Chanakya or Kautilya or some one with the name, while some believe it be the work of several generations of writers belonging to a particular school of political thought. It is also not certain whether Chankya was truly a minister in the court of Chandragupta Maurya, though legend attributes the success of Chandragupta in ascending the throne to the acumen and clever planning of Chanakya. Interestingly the Arthashastra makes no mention of either Chandragupta Maurya, or his empire or capital, thus lending credence to the theory that its author was different.
15 Great Thoughts of Chanakya
1. "Learn from the mistakes of others… you can't live long enough to make them all yourselves!!"
2. "A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and Honest people are screwed first."
3. "Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous."
4. "There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth."
5. " Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions – Why am I doing it, What the results might be and Will I be successful. Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead."
6. "As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it."
7. "The world's biggest power is the youth and beauty of a woman."
8. "Once you start a working on something, don't be afraid of failure and don't abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest."
9. "The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all direction."
10. "God is not present in idols. Your feelings are your god. The soul is your temple."
11. "A man is great by deeds, not by birth."
12. "Never make friends with people who are above or below you in status. Such friendships will never give you any happiness."
13. "Treat your kid like a darling for the first five years. For the next five years, scold them. By the time they turn sixteen, treat them like a friend. Your grown up children are your best friends."
14. "Books are as useful to a stupid person as a mirror is useful to a blind person."
15. "Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth."
Legends of Chankya
One of the greatest figures of wisdom and knowledge in the Indian history is Chanakya. He is estimated to have lived from 350 – 283 B.C. Chanakya is touted as the "Pioneer Economist of India". Chanakya was the adviser and Prime Minister of Emperor Chandragupta. Chanakya was a professor at the University of Takshila (located in present day Pakistan) and was an expert in commerce, warfare, economics, etc. His famous works include Chanakya Neeti, Arthashastra and Neetishastra. Read this biography of Kautilya that covers his interesting life history.
Chanakya is also known by the name of Kautilya and Vishnugupta as is mentioned in his text. His famous work called Arthashastra is a classic example of statecraft and politics and is read in Europe even today. It basically consists of the principles of politics and how the state works. An able ruler has to be a ruthless leader to make sure that the state works smoothly and efficiently. The legends associated with Chanakya are very interesting and provide a testimony of his greatness.
– When Chanakya was born he had a full set of teeth, which is a sign that he would become a king or an emperor. But since he was born in a Brahmin family, it was considered inappropriate. Thus, his teeth were broken and it was predicted that he would make another person a king and rule through him.
– Even as a child, Chanakya had the qualities of a born leader. His level of knowledge was beyond children of his age.
– Chanakya was thrown out of the court of King Nanda as he was a blunt man and spoke his mind clearly. Chanakya swore he would take revenge.
– Chanakya comes across Chandragupta as a young child. Even at that age, he was a born leader and showed the qualities of an able Emperor. He was the guiding force behind Chandragupta and the vital person who made him an able Emperor.
– Chanakya adds poison in little amounts daily in Chandragupta's food in order to make him immune to poison, lest some enemy tries to poison him.
– However Chandragupta was unaware about this and once gave a little food to his wife who was in the ninth month of pregnancy. She didn't survive but Chanakya cut open her belly and took out the baby.
– This baby grew up to become an able emperor named Bindusara. He had a minister named Subandhu who did not like Chanakya. He told Bindusara that Chanakya had killed his mother.
– Without assessing facts, Bindusara confronted Chanakya. On knowing the whole story, he felt ashamed at his hasty actions and begged for forgiveness. He asked Subandhu to go and apologize and make Chanakya come back.
– Subandhu was very cunning and on the pretext of going to apologize to Chanakya, he killed him. Thus, ended the life of a great person like Chanakya just because of political rivalry.