Chanakya :The Indian Machiavelli

India is in a similar situation which Chanakya encountered. The country had been ravaged by Alexander and there were numerous petty kings looking after their own interests. The nationalistic pride had disappeared, and people were not proud or even aware of their ancestry. Chanakya appeared on the scene and united Bharat under the rule of Chandragupta Maurya. He was fearless, not afraid of death, disgrace or defeat. He was compassionate to the poor and kind, evil to deceit. His writings which clearly show his fearlessness in the pursuit of Truth has been echoed over 2000 years later when Swami Vivekananda cried out, 'Arise, Awake, sleep not till the goal is reached.'

The country had hardly recovered from the shock of Alexanders victorious march through it - march which had dislocated its indigenous political organisation....The atmosphere was full of frustration and depression. The battle of India's independence against these heavy odds called for a leader of exceptional ability and vision who would infuse new life and enthusiasm into the drooping spirits of a defeated people, and organise a fresh national resistance against alien domination.

Fortunately the country produced such a leader in young Chandragupta who had already been prepared for the great mission in life by the Brahmin Chanakya, better known as Kautilya (his given name was Vishnugupta). Chanakya's superior vision and insight led him to discover in this youth the disciple who would be able, under his direction, to free the motherland of foreign rule.'

Probably the most accurate description of Chanakya can be found in Nehru's words in the Discovery of India, 'Chanakya has been called the Indian Machiavelli and to some extent the comparision is justified. But he was a much bigger person in every way, greater in intellect and reason. He was no mere follower of a King, a humble adviser of an all powerful emperor. A picture of him emerges from an old Indian [sanskrit] play 'mudra rakshasa' [rakshasa's ring] which deals with this period. Bold and scheming, proud and revengeful, never forgetting a slight, never forgetting his purpose, availing himself of every device to delude and defeat the enemy, he sat with the reins of empire in his hands and looked upon the emperor more as a loved pupil than as master. Simple and austere in life, uninterested in pomp and pageantry of high position, when he had redeemed his pledge and accomplished his purpose, he wanted to retire, brahminlike, to a life of contemplation.
There was hardly anything Chanakya would have refrained from doing to achieve his purpose.He was unscrupulous enough, yet he was aslo wise enough to know that this very purpose might be defeated by means unsuited to the end. Long before Clausewitz, he is reported to have said that war is only a continuance of state policy by other means. But he adds, war must always serve the larger ends of policy and not become an end in itself. The statesman's objective must always be the betterment of the State as a result of war and not the mere defeat and destruction of the enemy.'

There is an ethical undertone in his thought and teaching. In the Arthasastra he says that the crux of this political science is control over senses.' If one looks closely into his teaching, it is seen that Chankaya advocated moderation in material pleasures and adherence to the path of righteousness. He himself lived such a life, refusing all adornments or riches even after establishing the first Indian empire. His constant exhortation to give up sensory pleasures, and cultivate qualities like kindness, patience etc may sound hypocritical coming from a man who overthrew governments. But it is not !! In talking about the four stages of life (commonly followed in Hinduism), he feels a mixing of spiritual and sensual aspects are essential with the former slowly displacing the latter in stages.

A few hundred years before Chanakya, Confucius said that the three marks of a superior man are being virtuous, and thus free from anxiety, being wise, and thus free from perplexity, being brave, and thus free from fear. Chanakya may not have known about Confucius or his sayings, but he lived that life !
Chanakya lived during the period 350-275 BC. Details of his birth and life are hazy, and we have to rely on tradition. His works have been faithfully preserved through word of mouth for well over two thousand years. His place of birth has to be ascertained from other sources, namely the Buddhist and Jain scriptures. The mahavamsa tika (buddhist) mentions his birth place as taxila, while jain scriptures like adbidhana chintamani mention his birth place as South India, around present day kerala. Probably the latter is appropriate when we consider the frequent mention of the tuft of hair, which is a mark of present day nambudhiri. However, Chanakya's birth place will continue to remain a controversy.

The major puranas, including the bhagavata purana, vayu, matsya, brahmanda and bhavishya purana all mention chanakya along with chandragupta maurya. Probably the short and wonderful play mudra rakshasha written by visakhadatta is the most famous on chanakya, though this covers only the portion of his life after the downfall of nandas and the establishment of Chandragupta. Naturally, the life of these two people (Chanakya and Chandragupta) has been closely intervined. Chandragupta's fame and intelligence was in major portion due to Chanakya .

The commonly told tale is that after Chanakya was humilated by the Nandas, and chandragupta being thrown out of the nanda army, chanakya was walking in a forest when the kusa grass hurt him by tripping him over. Since the grass is extremely difficult to uproot, people let it grow without destroying it but chanakya poured sugar syrup on the grass. When Chandragupta asked him why, Chanakya replied that he was making the root of the grass sweet which will attract ants and the ants will destroy the grass. And that did happen. When asked why a simple grass was being destroyed for vegenance, Chanakya replied that everyone owes a duty to the society by removing noxious things, and he would remove even a king if the king adopted adharma. Seeing Chanakya's intelligence and foresight, Chandragupta asked to be accepted as a disciple.

The meeting is mentioned in the mahavamsa as follows : Chanakya found chandragupta playing the rajakila, was impressed with the bravery of the lad and bought the boy's freedom (chandragupta was an adopted son of a cowherd who used him for menial labor). He put him in school in Taxila for 6-7 years, and made him highly learned and accomplished.
Let us open the biography when Chanakya was 30 years old or so. By this time, he was already well established in Kashi and Taxila as a learned vedic scholar. His given name was Vishnugupta, though people called him Kautilya, based on his gotra. Some people called him Chanakya because his father's name was Chanak. At this time, he had accepted Chandragupta as his disciple, though he confessed to Chandragupta that his intention was to re-establish Dharma, unite India into a single empire and establish him as the king.
Chanakya is humiliated
Chanakya entered the palace of the Nandas. He saw ten gold plates and thrones. He was told that nine were for the eight Nanda princes (who were brothers) and their father Sarvarthasiddhi. The tenth was for the most learned person in Vedas. It was occupied by Subandhu, whose incompetence was widely known. Chanakya sat down in the tenth throne. The nine princes and Subandhu entered the place and noticed Chanakya sitting on the throne. The youngest two brothers, Sukalpa and Dhanananda, asked him to get up and leave. Chanakya replies, 'I am the most qualified for the tenth throne. It is my right to sit on it. If subandhu defeats me in a literary debate, I will readily step down.'

The princes become angry but Chanakya remains calm and continues his request for a debate. Sukalpa insults him by calling him a monkey but Chanakya continues to be calm and says that the duty of the king is obey the dharma. Since the tenth throne is to be given to the most learned man, it is dharmic that a contest be held. Further, Chanakya notes that he may be black like a monkey but scholars are noted for what is in them.
The princes get angry and ask the guards to throw him out by pulling him by the tuft of the hair. At this instance, Chanakya takes the famous oath, 'I will not tie my tuft of hair until I uproot the whole Nanda dynasty and establish dharma in magadha. Rulers like you have spoiled Bharat. The tuft of hair which you arrogantly pull now will be like a serpent which comes back to bite you.'

Hearing this, sukalpa orders him to be put to death. However, the minister subuddisarman intervenes and requests the king to forgive chanakya. Chanakya goes away and meet a worried chandragupta.
Chandragupta : Thank God that you were not put to death by the evil princes.
Chanakya : I knew that they would not dare to such a thing in public. My act and oath will incite the community here against Nandas. I will uproot the adharmic Nandas when the time is ripe.
Chandragupta : Do you think that dharma will win even in the Kali yuga ?
Chanakya : No doubt about it. Truth and Dharma will always triumph.
Chandragupta : I am quite worried about your welfare. These princes may secretly try to kill you if you stay in Magadha.
Chanakya agrees that his life is in danger, and sets out in the direction of vardhamanapura. We should note here that Chanakya is not afraid to die but instead he wants to uproot the adharmic nanda rulers but does not have the monetary or military capacity now. Further, he is not interested in sitting in thrones etc as would be evident later.
Enter Jeevasiddhi
Possibly, the most important character, next to Chandragupta, in uprooting the Nandas was the spy, Jeevasiddhi employed by Chanakya. Chanakya on reaching vardhamanapura visits his disciple, Indusarman, a reputed scholar in the field of medicine, astrology and psychology. Chanakya relates to him the incident at Maghada and the humilation of him at the hands of the adharmic nanda kings. He requests Indusarman to serve as a spy by posing as a Jain (or Buddhist) monk and getting the confidence of the Nanda king.
Indusarman : I will readily accept any role you give me. Would you kindly give me your blessings too ?
Chanakya : What is the need for my blessings when you fight for the establishment of Dharma in Bharat ? Bharat Mata Herself will provide all the required strength to you.
Indusarman bows in respect and leaves for Magadha. He secretly meets Chandragupta and ascertains the life history of a few noted people, including their weakness, strengths and dalliances. He also obtains a well guarded secret that a brahmin was killed in the premises of the seventh room in the palace. This fact was known only to Chandragupta's father, Maurya and the present king's father, Sarvarthasiddhi (there are various other names for him including Sukalpa). Maurya tells this to Chandragupta on his death bed.
Within a couple of weeks, the whole town of Magadha is agog with the rumor that a Jain monk named Jeevasiddhi has taken upon himself to destroy Chanakya and his buddies. The princes, especially Dhanananda (the future king), and the minister, Rakshas (one of the most important characters who is the minister to the king. His given name is Kathyayana, but people called him Rakshas (demon) because he obeys the king only and commits cruelty against the subjects) are very worried of Chanakya since Chanakya is reputed to have evil powers (this is just a rumor circulated by chanakya himself). Therefore, they arrange a meeting with Jeevasiddhi.
Dhanananda : We hear that you have a lot of magical powers and a good knowledge of astrology.
Jeevasiddhi : That's correct. I am the best though the evil Chanakya has challenged me. It is my ambition to defeat him. Why don't you test my knowledge in astrology by giving me a few people's date of birth, and I will give you their life's details.
Dhanananda and Rakshas give a few person's names and their date of birth etc. Jeevasiddhi (using the knowledge obtained by Chandragupta) accurately predicts all the life-history. Dhanananda is very impressed and rewards him with 1000 gold coins. Jeevasiddhi rejects it saying that his only aim is to defeat Chanakya and he is not concerned about money or fame. Dhanananda, a miser, is immensely pleased.
After a couple of weeks, Dhanananda and his brothers along with Jeevasiddhi walk along the palace. When they cross the seventh room,
Jeevasiddhi : Ah, evil powers are here. There is surely a dead brahmin here helping a alive brahmin, Chanakya.
Dhanananda : Are you crazy ? There is no brahmin or bodies of brahmin here.
Jeevasiddhi : Oh, you doubt my powers ? I stake my reputation on it.
Soon the place is dug up, and the bones of the dead brahmin is found. The princes and the ministers are astounded at the powers of Jeevasiddhi and promise to consult him in all future plans.

Jeevasiddhi is also reputed to have caused minor fevers in the princes by feeding them contaminated milk etc and curing them using drugs all the while claiming that Chanakya is using his evil powers but the demons of Chanakya can not fight him.

Jeevasiddhi continues his antics. He sees the Nandas feeding the Brahmins and sanyasis and protests saying that these people should not be fed for free. Dhanananda, who is a miser as previously mentioned, gladly accepts this but the other princes protest. Jeevasiddhi asks, 'Why do you feed persons who will support Chanakya in a war?' Reluctantly, the princes concede and stop feeding the sanyasis.

This naturally causes an uproar in the city since a long tradition has been violated. The Brahmins are naturally very displeased and become involved in plans to uproot the Nandas. Jeevasiddhi, of course, is very pleased and writes to Chankaya, 'I have started the fire. I will let it destroy the whole Nanda empire with your help.' Within a month, Jeevasiddhi establishes himself as the confidant of all ministers loyal to the king, and the princes. He transmits this good news to Chanakya.
Chandragupta is sentenced to death
Chandragupta who was the supervisor of the feeding is no longer required. His fame among the brahmins, and his courage had already attracted a few people in the army. He was highly popular among the town folk.

Realizing the turmoil Chandragupta can cause, Rakshas devises a plan to arrest Chandragupta and put him to death. In a midnight meeting with the Nandas and Jeevasiddhi, Rakshas reveals this plan. Jeevasiddhi protests saying that killing him could cause a rebellion, and that he be exiled. But Rakshas differs from him and says that the killing can done in secrecy, and his exiling would only prolong the problem since Chandragupta will form a team with Chanakya. Jeevasiddhi, realizing that Rakshas is a powerful person and a confidant of the king, readily agrees with Rakshas. Rakshas is highly pleased.
Chandragupta escapes
Jeevasiddhi promptly informs of the decision to Chandragupta. Siddharthaka, Chankaya's spy, also becomes aware of this decision and meets with Chandragupta and explains the situation to him. Both of them disguise themselves and proceed in a cart towards Vardhamanapura. During the trip, Siddharthaka evades the spies and other soldiers who are on the lookout for Chandragupta. They finally reach Vardhamanapura and meet Chanakya, who is pleased to receive them.
Chandragupta's history

Chandragupta's grandfather, was the son of Mahanandin and Mura. But Mahanandin had two other sons through his other wife, Sunanda. Meanwhile, there lived a poor royal barber named Mahapadma. But he was very brave and strong. One day he watched some robbers steal from a rich man's house and run away with valuables. But the citizens and the royal soldiers were afraid of the robbers and did not pursue them. But Mahapadma pursued them and recovered all the valuables. He ingrained himself as a brave soldier, and rose in the ranks of the army to become the commander-in-chief. Sunanda, taken by the handsome features of Mahapadma, conspires to kill her husband. Mahapadma, after killing the king, marries Sunanda and has eight sons, including the present King Sukalpa and his seven brothers. Though the overthrow of the king does not cause any protests in the kingdom (since people knew that Mahanandin was incompetent), a brahmin protests against the injustice to the king. He is killed within the palace (whose bones are later found by jeevasiddhi, as mentioned above).

Mahapadma is a strong ruler and puts down all rebellions, and controls the kingdom with an iron hand. He also conquers the nearby kingdoms and establishes himself to be a ruler of several states. He befriends, Maurya, who is made the commander of the vast army. However, when he became old, Mahapadma takes the life of a hermit and is known as Sarvarthasiddhi.

After Sukalpa is crowned the king, and his seven brothers rule the various provinces, the kingdom suffers terribly from the lack of military and administrative ability. The commander of the army, Bhaddasala (or Bhadrasala) is highly inefficent and also corrupt. Only the prime minister, Varruchi has any morals.

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