When we utter the name of Chanakya, the first things that comes to our mind is that of a serious brahmin who gave us expert and clever tactics to be successful in this modern world.
But really, Chanakya was not just a talented minister, he was a patriot in the truest of sense. He saw the threat of foreign invaders way before anyone did anything about it.
And he was a brahmin – a brahmin who in reality holds no influence. Chanakya worked hard to raise Chandragupta Maurya so that India would remain united and under an able ruler.
Here is his story.
1. He openly challenged a corrupt king, standing in his court in front of everyone
After Chanakya freshly finished his education, he wanted to advise the King in charities. At the time, the King was Dhanananda, who was as corrupt as kings get. He had amassed a lot of fortune by corrupt practices, which Chanakya did not like at all. He always believed in all kingdom getting prosperity.
The King summoned Chanakya to his court and found him ugly and did not listen to any of his advice. This was because his court advisors were insecure about the power of Chanakya. They advised the King against talking to Chanakya.
The king ended up insulting Chanakya and Chanakya raged.
Chanakya lost his cool and straight away proclaimed –
“I WILL DETHRONE YOU!”
and went on to untie his Shikha – the brahmin’s hair that is always tied. Then he proclaimed that he will destroy Nanda and anyone who will come in the path of his vision of a united India.
2. He cleverly escaped the cruel king’s clutches with a clever tactic
You cannot really talk to a king like that, that too a corrupt and cruel one like Dhanananda. After he said this and left the court in fury, the king ordered his capture.
Chanakya disguised himself as a woman and escaped the city and the clutches of the evil king.
3. He took a small boy named Chandragupta under his wing and trained him
Chanakya plotted to overthrow Dhananada and the whole Nanda empire, not because of revenge, but because he wanted a united and prosperous India.
After he left Pataliputra, he found an apt candidate in a boy named Chandragupta. He saw potential in him, and hence taught his everything he knew about politics, economics and warfare.
Chanakya groomed Chandragupta to be a good leader, instilling qualities of humility and good governance. Under him, Chandragupta turned out to be an able military commander and the great leader he turned out to be.
4. Dhanananda humiliated Chanakya again
At the time, Alexander’s army was at India’s doorstep to the northwest. Chanakya saw this as a grave threat to the sovereignty of India as a whole.
He Persuaded King Porus – the king of Pauravas (who ruled a territory which is the present day Punjab) to fight the Greek army. Porus was defeated. His last attempt – and a desperate one was to go and persuade Dhananada to defend India.
5. Chanakya saw Chandragupta as the last hope to protect India.
And he trained him and they together raised an army to challenge the might of Dhananada.
To put things into perspective Dhananda’s army amounted to – 200,000 infantry, 80,000cavalry, 8,000 chariots, and 6,000 war elephants.
This was the main reason the Greeks couldn’t invade the whole of India.
6. Chanakya defeated Dhananada, achieving a feat even Alexander the Great couldn’t achieve.
Chanakya, with his clever military tactics, one by one, took away all of Dhanananda’s empire, finally laying siege on Pataliputra. He was thwarted may times but still Chandragupta won Pataliputra from Dhananada.
Chandragupta was just 20 years old when he became king.
7. Chandragupta had a massive army and Chanakya directed him to reconquer the rest of India from the Greeks
Chandragupta had a massive army. Greek philosophers, who recorded history pegged the number to 600,000 – far more than Dhanananda’s, when he was the king.
Seleucus, who was Alexander’s successor ceded a lot of territory in the Northwest.
Chanakya and Chandragupta recaptured the territory that belonged to India.
8. Chanakya knew his limits though and devised a clever tactic to keep the Greeks out
Chanakya desired a unified India, and not a large India. He knew that even though Chandragupta conquered a lot of Indian territory back, he didn’t want Chandragupta to become a conqueror.
So he devised a plan where he arranged Chandragupta’s marriage to Seleucus’s daughter.
Thus, finally, Seleucus wouldn’t attack and was effectively neutralized.
9. His vision of a unified India did come true and he took steps to ensure that it stayed this way.
He helped Chandragupta rule fairly and successfully.
Chanakya also had foresight. He knew that one day Chandragupta would cease to rule and someone less able will sit on the throne. He decided to write a treatise on able leadership that we know today as – Arthashastra.
He did this so that future kings might read and learn and keep his vision of a unified India alive long after even he is gone.
10. He was incorruptible to a fault
While most of the people know Chanakya to be a shrewd strategist, he was also a very moral man.
Here is an interesting story about him –
A foreign visitor to the Chandragupta empire visited Chanakya’s house in the evening. Chanakya was writing
on his desk under the light of an oil lamp. He welcomed the visitor in and told him to wait until he finished his work.
The visitor waited patiently until Chanakya finished writing.
After Chanakya finished, he extinguished the oil lamp, leaving the room in total darkness, and the visitor in fear.
But after some time, the visitor was relieved to see another oil lamp lit, a different one, and being curious about this strange ritual, asked Chanakya.
Chanakya replied that the first oil lamp contained the oil given to him by the kingdom, and is only used for official purposes. As soon as he was done with official work, he switched to his personal oil lamp – thereby saving oil that belonged to the kingdom.
We may argue that the quantity of that oil is not significant, but it’s not about the oil, but the value of incorruptibility.
Can a minister who is like Chanakya ever steal from the treasury?
11. Chanakya used to add little amount of poison in his food daily so that his body becomes tolerant to it.
As Chanakya was loyal to the king and the kingdom, he sometimes over-extended this commitment. Chanakya would add very small doses of poison to Chandragupta Maurya’s meal every day. Chandragupta Maurya died of natural causes and since poisoning was so ridiculously common in those days, it is right to say that Chanakya’s tactic worked successfully.
The technique is called Mithridatism, and many zookeepers in Australia still successfully use this technique.
12. Chanakya also possibly devised the assassins called Vishkanyas (vish – poison; kanya – girl)
(Disclaimer – Image is for representational purposes only)
During Chandragupta’s time, a new and innovative way to kill people was found. A group of the most attractive women would be given the same treatment Chanakya gave Chandragupta. These women would be fed poison in non-lethal doses, until they themselves would become poison.
Having sex with these women would result in instant death.
The practice of raising a band of assassins like the Vishkanyas started during Chandragupta’s rule.
Although, no direct evidence links it to Chanakya, it is very possible that it was he who devised this wicked assassination technique.
Chanakya didn’t write Arthashastra because he was an awesome statesman and was very clever and loved to write. He wrote it so that India would remain united under future kings.
In that way, Chanakya was a true patriot who secured our sovereignty when no one else wanted to.