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“A man is born alone and dies alone; and he experiences the good and bad consequences ofhis karma alone; and he goes alone to hell or the Supreme abode“ChanakyaIntroductionIn today’s world mired with confused political relationships and deteriorating financialhealth, we are always on the lookout for a person who can guide us in these difficult times,a leader who can rise above the occasion and show us the way, a guru who is not only adeptin political and worldly matters but also whose knowledge and wisdom is undisputed. Butwe often forget that Indian history has already been blessed with many such personalitiesand the one amongst them who stands the tallest is Chanakya.Chanakya is also identified by the names “Kautilya” and “Vishnugupta”. He was a professor(acharya) of political science at the Takshashila University and later the Prime Minister ofthe Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. He is regarded as one of the earliest known politicalthinkers, economists and king-makers. He was the man to envision the first Indian empire byunification of the then numerous kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent and provide theimpetus for fights against the Greek conqueror Alexander. Chanakya is perhaps less wellknown outside India compared to other social and political philosophers of the world likeConfucius and Machiavelli. His foresight and wide knowledge coupled with politics ofexpediency helped found the mighty Mauryan Empire in India. He compiled his politicalideas into the Arthashastra, one of the worlds earliest treatises on political thought andsocial order. His ideas remain popular to this day in India. In Jawaharlal Nehrus Discovery ofIndia, Chanakya has been called the Indian Machiavelli.Two books are attributed to Chanakya: “Arthashastra” and “Neetishastra” which is alsoknown as “Chanakya-Niti”.The Arthashastra (literally the Science of Material Gain in Sanskrit) is arguably the firstsystematic book on economics. Itdiscusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies indetail.Neetishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chanakyas in-depth study ofthe Indian way of life. Chanakya also developed “Neeti-Sutras” (aphorisms - pithy sentences)that tell people how they should behave. Of these well-known 455 sutras, about 216 referto raaja-neeti (the dos and donts of running a kingdom). Apparently, Chanakya used thesesutras to groom Chandragupta and other selected disciples in the art of ruling a kingdom.Chanakya was a teacher in Takshashila, an ancient centre of learning, and was responsiblefor the creation ofMauryan Empire, the first of its kind on the Indian subcontinent. Chanakya has been considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and politicalscience. In the Western world, he has been referred to as The Indian Machiavelli, althoughChanakyas works predate Machiavellis by about 1,800 years.
After going through the various available accounts, one can say without an iota of doubtthat Chanakya was a very brilliant person. He was full of determination in achieving anyobjective. He was well versed in all Shastras or branches of knowledge, an experteconomist; a statesman par excellence. He was a master in the four methods - ofpersuasion, enticement, sowing dissension, and punishment or war. He was mature in thestrategy of war, and very calculative in his approach. None could makeup what was going onhis mind. So secretive was he in his method, and far-sighted. In any endeavor, hiscalculations never went wrong and he never missed his aim. He was at the same time veryreligious and given to strict renunciation. Apparently of a harsh nature, he could employvarious methods carefully at the right time to destroy enemies. There was no branch ofknowledge, which he had not mastered. He was widely experienced in the world. Thereseemed to be nothing, which he did not know. He was, in other words, a conglomeration ofall things that make a genius. Considered in any way, persons equal to Chanakya are veryrare in the world. An expression "like the strategy of Chanakya" has become proverbial. Hewas the man who destroyed the despotic Nanda kings, put Chandragupta on the throne andbrought into being the great Maurya dynasty of rules.
Historical BackgroundChanakya (c.350 - c.275 BC), was born in a family of Brahmin as the son of AcharyaChanak inPatliputra, Magadh (Modern day Patna, Bihar).AcharyaChanak named his son as "Chanakya". Being a teacher himself, he knew theimportance of education. Taxila was one of the world centers for education. At a very earlyage little Chanakya started studying Vedas. The Vedas; considered to be the toughestscriptures to study were completely studied and memorized by Chanakya in his infancy. Hewas attracted to studies in politics. In politics Chanakya’s acumen and shrewdness wasvisible right from childhood. He was a student of politics right from childhood. Known as amasterful political strategist, He knew how to put his own people in the opposite camp andspy the enemy without his knowledge before destroying him forever. Chanakya was an acein turning tables in his favor irrespective of the circumstances. He never budged to pressuretactics by the ruthless politicians. In this way after studying religion and politics, he turnedhis attention to economics, which remained his lifelong friend.Takshashila, (later corrupted as Taxila), one of the topmost centers of education at that timein India became Chanakya’s breeding ground of acquiring knowledge in the practical andtheoretical aspect. The four Vedas, archery, hunting, elephant-lore and 18 arts were taughtat the University of Taxila. So prominent was the place where Chanakya received hiseducation that it goes to show the making of the genius. The very requirements ofadmission filtered out the outlawed and people with lesser credentials. After acquiring vastknowledge in various branches of study he wanted everybody to get benefited. He believedin the broadcasting of knowledge and not in the storage of it.Though Chanakya was just a professor in the Taxila University which seemed to be far awayfrom the happenings in the country, he actually was able to influence the governments in abig way. His students looked at him as an ideal teacher who inspired and exemplified greatknowledge. His students respected him and were ready to fight at any moment at hisorders. Two of his students who have been mentioned at various instances areBhadrabhattand Purushdutt. In the events that unfolded in the life of Chanakya, these two played apivotal role in the achievement of his goals. It is rumored that they acted as spies forChanakya, collecting information about his enemies. Somehow, Chanakya came to knowthat there was a chance of foreign invasion. Europe’s great warrior Salukes was readying hisarmies to attack the weakened republics of India. There were grave designs threatening theunity and integrity of the nation. In such a scenario the ruler of Patliputra, Mahanand wassqueezing the common man of his wealth with an object of enriching his own exchequer.Chanakya was aware of the internal and external threats of the country. On the one hand,the rulers of the neighboring countries were looking for the slightest of chance to annex theprosperous regions of the country and on the other hand, foreign invaders started movingtowards the country with an expectation of easily smothering the country.These thoughts
gave Chanakya sleepless nights. He envisioned his country clutched in the chains of slaveryand defeated because of internal squabbles and differences. So he decided on the historicalday, thus saying,“Now the time has come to leave the university. The scrupulous rulers of the country must beuprooted and there is a need to strengthen the country politically and economically. My firstand foremost duty is to save the country of the foreign invaders and salvage this dangerousproposition”With these thoughts in mind, he left Taxila University for Patliputra which paved the way forwatershed changes in the politics of India and Patliputra.Dhanananda, the ruler of Patliputra was unscrupulous and cruel by nature. He was alwaysbusy gathering money without thinking about consequences.When Chanakya arrived atPatliputra, there was a change in the way he ran his kingdom. He gave gifts to the poor andwas on the way of becoming lenient in administration. Since Chanakya was a great scholarfrom Taxila, he was included in the committee for charity. Chanakya later on became thepresident of the ‘Sungha’ (Trust). The Sungha used to help the king in the distribution of themoney allotted for charity to the different sections of the society.When Chanakya met theking for the first time, he was disgusted at the ugly appearance of Chanakya. As time passed,he developed contempt for Chanakya. There was no refinement in words and conduct. Toincrease the fire between Dhanananda and Chanakya, the courtiers dissuaded the king fromhaving a cordial relationship with Chanakya. Chanakya acted like a thorough professionaland avoided praising the king. He always spoke bluntly and tersely. The king did not like theway Chanakya behaved with him. The king removed Chanakya from the post of presidentwithout any reasons. Chanakya was enraged at the proposition of being exploited by theless knowledgeable king. So, he erupted like a volcano on the king, and said,“Arrogance in you has eroded the respect which I had for you. You have removed me fromthe presidentship for no fault of mine. You can’t act in a way detrimental to the demeanorof a king. You think there is none to question you? You have removed me from my rightfulplace and I will dethrone you!”While scampering through the streets of Patliputra in rage and anger, Chanakya metChandragupta who got impressed and attracted by the intelligence of Chanakya.Chandragupta told Chanakya about the wrongdoings of Nandas over his family which greatlymoved Chanakya. Chanakya who was freshly wounded by the Nandas found a companion todestroy the distraught king. Chanakya was greatly moved by the tale of woe. Also he sawthe leadership potential in Chandragupta and was impressed by the sound intellectualcapability of the young boy. He was emotionally charged listening to the story ofChandragupta and vowed to destroy the Nandas and get Chandragupta his rightful place asa king of Patliputra. So, he took Chandragupta for a formal training at Takshashila andensured that he received a proper well rounded training and education.
By the time Chandraguptas education was over, significant events in the history of Bharatwere taking place under the very eyes of Chanakya and Chandragupta. The Greek conquerorAlexander the Great invaded the Indian sub-continent. His offensive upon the landspatchwork of small Hindu empires proved to be highly successful due to the disunity of thepetty rulers.Chanakya thought that their first task should, be to drive out the Greeks.Details are notavailable as to how exactly Chanakya and Chandragupta fought against the Greeks.Chandragupta was not a king, nor had he any position. It would by no means be easy taskfor one to gather a big army. But even this seemingly impossible work was made possiblebecause of Chanakyas expertise. They toured across India and gathered soldiers not only bybefriending various kings but also seeking help from the mercenary communities.The source of strength for Chandragupta and his army was the power of mind and thetowering personality of Chanakya. In that war of independence for Northern India,Chandragupta was the physical instrument, while its thinking brain was Chanakya.The next task before Chanakya and Chandragupta was to dethrone the Nanda Ring. TheNanda kings were ruling cruelly and imposing taxes as they liked on the subjects, and hadearned the hatred of the people. People were praying for liberation from their oppression.Chanakyas fight against the king was not merely because of personal insult, which had beenmeted out to him, but also with a desire to free the people from unbridled taxation and theoppression. But dethroning the Nanda king was not an easy task. In the early stages theyhad to suffer defeat. Chandragupta began his fight in the middle of the kingdom. He wasdefeated. Chandragupta and Chanakya learnt lessons from these mistakes. Then he changedhis strategy and attacked from the borders of the kingdom.They now stationed troops in theconquered regions. So those enemies would not raise and cause any trouble.With the dual obstacles of the Nandas and Alexanders troops out of the way, Chanakyaused every political device and intrigue to unite the greater portion of the Indian sub-continent. Under the stewardship of Chanakya, King Chandragupta Maurya conquered allthe lands up to Iran in the North West and down to the extremities of Karnataka or Mysorestate in the South. It was by his wits alone that this skinny and ill-clad brahmanadirected theformation of the greatest Indian empire ever before seen in history. Thus the indigenousVedic culture of the sacred land of Bharata was protected and the spiritual practices of theHindus could go on unhampered.Understanding the true aspect of CHANAKYA’s lifeThough the momentous life of Chanakya reminds us of a revengeful saga, where theindividual is obsessed by the idea of taking revenge, but personal revenge was not the realaim of Chanakya. What he wanted was a truly united and smooth running kingdom thatshould spread happiness among the people.
Some of the learning’s that could be derived from his journey of life can be summed upunder the following pointsEnvisioning a dream and fighting for itChanakya envisioned India as a nation which would place itself as the forerunner –politically, economically and socially. And in order to achieve the same, he made sure thatthe borders of the country are safe from foreign invasions and then strived for the facilitiesthat would be help the kingdom thrive. For this, he not only risked everything but alsostrived for the welfare of the society incessantly.“The one excellent thing that can be learned from a lion is that whatever a man intendsdoing should be done by him with a whole-hearted and strenuous effort”“Once you start a working on something, dont be afraid of failure and dont abandon it.People who work sincerely are the happiest”Bolstering the present as well as planning for the futureIn order to make sure that the rulers of the kingdom don’t go astray because of the power intheir hands and are always guided by true wisdom, Chanakya wrote books, laying down howa king should conduct himself, how he should protect himself and the kingdom from theenemies, how to ensure law and order, and so on.“The secret task of a king is to strive for the welfare of his people incessantly.Theadministration of the kingdom is his religious duty. His greatest gift wouldbe to treat all asequals.”“The happiness of the commoners is the happiness of the king. Theirwelfare is his welfare. A king should never think of his personal interestor welfare, but should try to find his joy in the joy of his subjects”Courage and perseveranceThe entire life of Chanakya is a true testimony of the portrayal of the above mentionedvirtues. He saw the existing problem with the divided territories of the country in fightingwith the foreign invaders and single-handedly tried resolving it. He faced criticism andregular defeats but with his never-say-die attitude, he always came up with a different plan,a different strategy to overcome the predicament and strived for success. Not only that, healso had the guts to speak his heart out even in front of the rulers, which shows his stronginclination to democratic values and the audacity to put his views through.“As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it”“It is better to die than to preserve this life by incurring disgrace. The loss of life causes but amoments grief, but disgrace brings grief every day of ones life”Importance of knowledge and wisdom
The life of Chanakya exemplifies the importance that he laid upon a person’s thirst forknowledge and the development of wisdom through it. Even after he recognized theleadership potential in Chandragupta Maurya, he took him to Takshashila to impart him thenecessary education. He made sure that Chandragupta is exposed to various teachings:strategy, philosophy, art, war skills, etc. His foresight and wide knowledge coupled withpolitics of expediency founded the mighty Mauryan Empire in India. He was a great laureateof economics with a glittering intellect to perceive the intricate dynamics of the variouseconomic activities and principles. It was his immense knowledge bank that helped him towrite books: Arthashastra, and Neetishastra, which are applicable and practical even today,about 2400 years after they were written.“Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beatsthe beauty and the youth”“The life of an uneducated man is as useless as the tail of a dog which neither covers its rearend, nor protects it from the bites of insects”Resolving the problem and not its symptomsChanakya, apart from being a man of wisdom and unfailing strategies, propoundedNeetishastra, the ideal way of living for every individual of the society. He looked at thecountry like a person surrounded by problems. He worked at the total annihilation ofproblems by the roots. The re-appearance of troubles only shows its growth.“Just after getting humiliated from the king, Chanakya scampered through the streets ofPatliputra. In a hurried walk, he stumbled upon a stump of grass and was about to fall.Chanakya the great scholar had his own style of handling things. He looked at the roots ofthe grass and quickly got into action. Though he was angry, he never let his anger to get outof control. He directed the anger in the right direction. Calmly, he sat down in the burningsun, removed that grass from the roots from the earth. After making sure that not even asingle strand of grass is left, he resumed his journey”
Practicality of the solutions: Creative solution to achieve the desired resultsAs a person, Chanakya has been described variously, as a saint, as a ‘ruthless administrator’,as the ‘king maker’, a devoted nationalist, a selfless ascetic and a person devoid of allmorals. He created controversy by saying ‘The ends justify the means’ and the ruler shoulduse any means to attain his goals and his actions required no moral sanctions. All his writtenworks namely, “Arthashastra”, “Neetishastra” and “Chanakya-neeti” were unique becauseof their rational approach and an unabashed advocacy of real politic. His views weredimensionally novel. He recommended even espionage and the liberal use of provocativeagents as machineries of the state. In politics, he even attested the use of false accusationsand killings by a king’s secret agent without any ambiguities. The observance of morals andethics was secondary to the interests of the ruler. Some of his stark views made him into anambivalent personality for the world.“Do not be very upright in your dealings for you would see by going to the forest thatstraight trees are cut down while crooked ones are left standing”“Do not reveal what you have thought upon doing, but by wise council keep it secret beingdetermined to carry it into execution”“Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous”