who was Chanakya

Who was Chanakya

There is only one person who established Chandragupta Maurya from an ordinary child as the Chakravarti emperor of India, whom we know by many names in history–Chanakya, Kautilya, or Vishnu Gupta. Although in the absence of concrete historical information about Chanakya. Based on the information available about him in Brahmanical and Buddhist texts, it has been said about his life that he was born in a Brahmin family of Taxila.

 who was Chanakya

       Chanakya was the knower of Vedas and scriptures and the chief teacher of Taxila. He was known for his conservative and angry nature. In the Puranas, he is called “Dwijarshabha” (the superior Brahmin). It is said that once Emperor Dhananand of Magadha adopted him in his Yagyashala due to which in anger he took a vow to destroy the Nanda dynasty completely and fulfilled his promise by making Chandragupta Maurya his weapon.

Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya

    Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya together conquered Magadha by defeating the Nanda king. Chandragupta Maurya became the only emperor of India and Chanakya / Kautilya rose to the post of the chief priest and prime minister. It is proved from the information received from Jain texts that Kautilya remained the Prime Minister for some time even during the time of Bindusara after the death of Chandragupta.

Kautilya’s ascetic life

    During the reign of Bindusara, Kautilya retired from the post of Prime Minister and politics. After that, he went to do penance in the forests, where he spent the last days of his life. He was a great scholar of political science and composed the famous book ‘Arthashastra’ related to politics. This is the oldest available work related to Hindu rule.

 Is Arthashastra a creation of Kautilya?

       Historically there is a lack of information about economics and its creator. Scholars are not unanimous in this subject that Arthashastra is the creation of Kautilya. Some scholars like Jali, Keith, Winternitz do not consider it to be the creation of Kautilya. At the same time, there is a class that considers Arthashastra as the creation of Kautilya, mainly Sham Shastri, Jacobi, Smith, Kashi Prasad Jaiswal, etc.
    The scholars who do not consider the Arthashastra as the creation of Kautilya, present the following arguments in support of this being —–
      1- Any mention of the Mauryan Empire and monarchy in Arthashastra, whereas Greek evidence throws light about it in detail.
       2- It finds no mention of councils of city administration and military administration. Due to this, any rules have been laid down for the conduct and care of foreign nationals.
       3- In this book, Kautilya’s thoughts have been expressed in another Purush – ‘Iti Kautilya’. If Kautilya himself had been the author of this book, there would have been no need to write like this.
       4- Megasthenes does not mention the name of Kautilya, who lived in the court of Chandragupta Maurya. Thus its historicity itself is questionable. Patanjali too, who was familiar with the Maurya rule, has not mentioned it.

       After studying the above arguments, some scholars present their arguments in opposition to them and present some arguments, whose details are as follows—–
       1- Arthashastra is a secular work whose main subject is to present the details of the general state and its governance. In this, the jurisdiction of the Chakravarti emperor has been told from the Himalayas to the sea coast, which is an indication that Kautilya was familiar with the vast empire.
       2- Economics mainly describes the departmental heads. The city and military councils are not mentioned in this because they are non-government.
       3- It has been a practice among Indian writers to mention their names to other men. Therefore, if Kautilya has mentioned himself in other men in the Arthashastra, it does not mean that he himself was not the author of this book.
      4- Full details of Megasthenes are not available to us. It is possible that Kautilya is not mentioned in the fragments which are available. Patanjali does not even mention Ashoka and Bindusara. So can both of these be considered as unhistorical? His purpose was to explain the sutras of Panini and Kalyan, not to write history.
       5- In the society depicted by Kautilya, the practice of the Niyoga system, widow marriage, etc. was prevalent. This practice was prevalent in Mauryan society. He has used the word ‘yukt’ as an officer. The same word has also appeared in the writings of Ashoka. The republics of Madra, Kamboja, Lichchavi, Mall, etc. have also been mentioned in it, which indicates that this book was written at the beginning of the Maurya era. Similarly, in the Arthashastra, a lot of respect has been shown to the Buddhists and people have been prevented from taking sannyas without making arrangements for their families. This suggests that this book was written before Buddhism became popular.

6- It is worth mentioning here that there are many similarities in the descriptions of Kautilya and Megasthenes. Like Megasthenes, Kautilya also writes that when Chandragupta went out for hunting, he was accompanied by a royal procession and the roads were tightly guarded. Both tell us that the emperor’s bodyguards were women and that he used to get his body massaged. Megasthenes’ overseers are the secretaries of economics. Similarly some of the officials mentioned by Megasthenes resemble the heads of economics. In general we can say that the nature of administrative and social system presented by both is similar in most parts. 

       It is clear from this description that the Arthashastra is a creation of the Maurya period and in this the thoughts of Chandragupta Maurya’s Prime Minister Kautilya have been presented by him himself. Later, some projections were added to this book by other authors, which changed the nature of the original text. Therefore, we can place the original text in the 4th century BC.

       An important point of this book is that it is said at the end of the book that it was composed by a person who got angry and quickly saved the weapons, scriptures and the earth that had been in the hands of Nandraj.
            “Yen shastra cha shastra cha nandrajagata cha bhu:.
             Amrshenoddhatanyashu ten Shastramid artificial..

The destruction of the Nandas by Kautilya is such a historical tradition that we cannot ignore. Therefore, there is no scope for any doubt in considering economics as its creation.

topics covered in economics

  • There are 15 tribunals and 180 cases in Arthashastra.
  • The number of its verses in this book has been given as 4000.
  • The first tribunal deals with various matters relating to revenue.
  • Civil administration has been discussed in detail in the second tribunal.
  • Civil, criminal and personal laws are mentioned in the Third and Fourth Tribunals.
  • In the Fifth Tribunal, the duties and responsibilities of the members and attendants of the emperor are mentioned.
  • In the Sixth Tribunal, the nature and functions of the Saptangs of the state – Swami, Amatya, Rashtra, Durg, Bal, Kosha and Mitra have been described.
  • The last nine tribunals present a detailed description of various subjects such as the foreign policy of the king, military campaigns, methods of victory in war, measures to gain popularity in the enemy, opportunities for war and treaty etc. Thus, economics is mainly concerned with the practical problems of governance.

       The ideal of Kautilya’s rule was very sublime. The interest of the subjects is the ultimate goal of the king in the elaborate administrative system he has presented in his book. In fact, this book is a storehouse of valuable materials for the knowledge of the administration of Chandragupta Maurya.
      Kautilya was not only a political scholar but he was also the exponent of a new theory in the field of political science. Later writers refer to his name with utmost respect. The same place of economics in the field of political science as that of Panini’s Ashtadhyay in the field of grammar

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