Chanakya – History, Biography

Chanakya was the best political brain India ever had. He is also known as Kauṭilya and Vishnugupta. Chanakya had tremendous skills in philosophy, economics, political science and law. Chanakya was a great teacher and prime minister of emperor Chandragupta Maurya. Kautilya was a kingmaker who helped Chandragupta to establish the great Maurya Empire. Chanakya was also the prime minister in the court of Chandragupta’s son Bindusara.

He has written “Arthashastra” which states how the government should rule. He also wrote “Chanakya Nitti” which gives a solution of how to handle difficulties and how to handle life. Even today Chanakya’s books are well appraised not only in India but also internationally. 

Let the difficulty be of any kind, Chanakya was always having a solution to it. He was a great prime minister Maurya empire ever had. He developed a centralized system of administration. The kingdom was divided into provinces and each province was having a representative of the king that looked the functions of the respective territories assigned to them.

During that time, even internationally, especially in Greece, he was a famous personality for his cleverness, statecraft and resourcefulness. 

Early Life 

Chanakya was born in 350 BC. Exactly where he was born is not known. According to Jain texts he was born in Chanaka village in Golla region but according to Buddhist legend he was born in Takshashila. 


He was educated in one of the best institutions of those time. He was educated at Takshahsila University. It was a global university which means International students also came here to study. Here he studied Vedas, economics, political science, law, philosophy, astrology, warfare, and medicines.

He was also well versed in Greek and the Persian language. Hence he was also a master of International languages.

After completing his education he became a professor of political science and economics in the same university. 

Historical Significance

There are four versions that describe the life of Chanakya. The four versions are the Buddhist version, Jain version, Kashmiri version, and Mudrarakshasa version. All the versions tell different tales of Chanakya. However, all of them point to one fact that Chanakya was insulted in the court of  Nanda Emperor. And there he vowed that he will not tie his hair unless he destroys the Nanda Dynasty. 

Chanakya was good in placing the right person on the right job. He chose an ordinary young boy named Chandragupta Maurya and taught him everything about warfare and administration. 

Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya made a strategy and formed an alliance with king Parvataka of Himavatkuta kingdom and started conquering the bordering territories of the Nanda empire. At the same time, he cleverly started a civil war in the kingdom through his spies. In the end, they finally succeeded in overthrowing the Nanda Empire and establishing the great Maurya Empire.

Chanakya with his clever mind and Chandragupta with his power was able to form a very huge empire. They even defeated the generals of Alexender and annexed Gandhara ( Now known as Afghanistan). The empire extended from the Indus river in the west and Bay of Bengal in the east.

It is said that Chanakya used to mix a small amount of poison in the food of Chandragupta to make him immune from poison. According to some legends, Chanakya also maintained an army of Women called ‘Vishakanyas’ whose lips consisted of poison and even a slight touch of their lips would make one die.

Chanakya’s Books

Chanakya wrote Arthashastra which was like a guiding book on topics like economics, welfare, warfare, statecraft international relationships, law, ethics, trade, and duties of the kings. Even today Chanakya’s Arthashastra proves good guidance for running a state.

Chanakya wrote Chanakya Niti which is a really great work done that shows ways to deal with day to day’s life difficulties. This book is a collection of various Aphorisms.

Family Background

It is not known properly what was the name of his father. However, according to the Jain texts, his father’s name was Chanin but according to other texts, his name was Chanak. Furthermore, Rishi Chanak was a teacher. 

Chanakya’s mother’s name was Chaneshvari. There are no proper records found that tell whether he was married or not. But according to the Jain version, he had a wife. However, the other version tells that he was a Brahmachari.

Mysteries Behind Chanakya’s Death

Most of the legendary people died mysteriously. Even there are various theories regarding the death of Chanakya. However, we have filtered the three most related theories regarding his death. But which one is real is still a mystery to solve.

Theory 1

According to the Jain legend, during the reign of Bindusara, Chanakya was still the prime minister of the great Mauryan empire. And this made many advisers of the new king jealous. But there was one adviser who plotted the death of Chanakya. His name was Subandhu. He told King Bindusara that his mother died due to the poison mixed by Chanakya in her food.

Without even verifying the statement Bindusara removed Chanakya from the prime minister’s post and also revoked all the titles given to him. This made Chanakya angry and he donated all his wealth to poor, orphans and widows. furthermore, he went into the jungles to starve himself to death.

However, as it is said that truth always triumphs, Bindusara came to know the real reason for his mother’s death. Durdhara died because of the food she ate that was actually made for her husband Emperor Chandragupta. As we already know, that the food did consist of the small dosages of the poison which was given to Chandragupta on a daily basis just to make him immune. This was not known to Bindusara’s mother.

Bindusara also came to know that Chanakya saved his life. Because when she ate the food she was pregnant. So to save child Bindusara, Chanakya cut open her stomach and removed Bindusara before the poison kills him too.

After finding out that Chanakya was not involved in his mother’s death, Emperor Bindusara immediately sent his new prime minister Subandhu to ask Chanakya for forgiveness and to request him to come back to the castle. So the jealous Subandhu did go to Chanakaya but to set fire on the place where he was meditating. And this led to the death of a great legend India ever had.

However, after knowing this, Emperor Bindusara executed Subandhu for his treacherous act.

Theory 2

There is also a twist to this story, it is said that Bindusara himself went to Chanakya to ask for forgiveness and requested him to take his position back as the prime minister of the Maurya empire. Chanakya did forgive Bindusara but he decided to remain Sannyasi and starve himself to death.

Theory 3

According to another legend, it is said that Chanakya took Sannyasa after coronating Bindusara the new king of the Maurya empire after Emperor Chandragupta’s retirement as a Jain monk.

It is said that the great Chanakya died in 283 BC.