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10 unknown facts about Chanakya

Chanakya is hailed in Indian history as the pioneer of the field of political science and economics. His works are still relevant in terms of economy and management. Let's recount 10 unknown facts about Chanakya, whose book Arthashastra is still being referred and followed in many Indian institutes.

September 19, 2021: Did you know Chanakya, who the pioneer of political science and economics in India was responsible for creating the first biggest and greatest Indian empire with the help of Chandragupta Maurya? Chandragupta Maurya became the emperor when he was just 19. In this article we will get to know several unknown facts about Chanakya, whose book Arthashastra is still being referred and followed in many Indian institutes. 

Who was Chanakya?

Chanakya, traditionally renowned as Kautilya or Vishnugupta, was an ancient Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor.

 A key Influential figure in the Mauryan dynasty, Chanakya authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthashastra, a text dated to roughly between the 4th century BCE and the 3rd century CE.

Chanakya is hailed in Indian history as the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics.

His works are still relevant in terms of economy and management.

However, in the recent years there was a claim that Chanakya was a myth and no true personality with such skills existed. They sighted that there is no mention of Chanakya in contemporary Greek works. Megasthenes who stayed in Chandragupta Maurya’s court for a decade and wrote Indika never mentioned Chanakya anywhere. On the contrary, there still exists other Indian source that claim he is a true figure and was the godfather of Emperor Chandragupta.

Unknown facts about Chanakya

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Let’s recount 10 of the lesser known facts about the wisest and noblest Chanakya, who had great command on the fields of economics, ethics, philosophy and politics. 

Born to a Brahmin family

Chanakya, arguably one of the greatest administrators in India, was born in a Brahmin family. His father, Acharya Chanak, was a teacher. He got the name ‘Chanakya’ from his father’s name. The ‘Kautilya’ name was derived from his clan ‘Kotil’.

Unknown facts about Chanakya: Jain connection

It is recorded in several Jain texts, that Chanakya was born to two Jain followers Chaneshvari and Chanin. The Chanaka village was his birthplace. While the place of his birth is highly debated, 12th century writer Hemachandra claims that Chanakya was a Dramila i.e. speaker of the Dravidian languages. According to him, Chanakya was a native of South India.

Extremely learned

The tales of Chanakya’s knowledge are not unknown to adults nor kids. The Chanakya biography reveals that he attended Takshasila University, a major seat of learning in South Asia at that time. He took a keen interest in political science and economics, perhaps an indicator of what he was to become. Chanakya was blessed with tremendous intelligence and was even eager to acquire knowledge of astronomy and medicine.

Added poison to Chandragupta’s food

According to a Jain legend, Chanakya added small doses of poison to Chandragupta’s food to make him immune from death by poisoning. The king, unbeknownst of the fact, once fed the same food to his wife who was about a week away from delivery. The queen died within seconds, and Chanakya slit her abdomen and took out the stillborn foetus from the womb. He named the baby boy Bindusara, “Bindu” meaning the drop of blood which was infected with the poison.

Purification of women

Held by a popular legend, it is believed that Chanakya even drafted a cleansing ritual for women. A woman didn’t become holy enough by fasting regularly, sipping sacred water, or offering charity. Her path to righteousness was by drinking the water used to wash her husband’s feet.

Advocated gender inequality

He was probably among the first proponents of gender inequality in India, strains that are felt even today. Facts about Chanakya reveal that according to him, the perfect wife was a woman who served her husband as a mother in the morning, loved like a sister during the day, and served as a prostitute at night. Backward and snobbish as it may seem, it’s counted as one if the loopholes in his extensive insight and knowledge.

Built an army of ‘poisonous’ women.

Chanakya battles were in as well as out of the war field. He devised ways to defeat the enemy, other than engaging them in a battle. Like Chandragupta, he gave small doses of poison to young girls and also taught them the art of seduction. He knew men’s weakness for women. When Alexander the Great invaded India he sent his troop of Vishkanyas to the enemy camp. The soldiers who entered into a physical relationship with these girls died from the poison. The strategy is said to have worked. However, there’s no historical evidence of such poisonous women, and stories in this regard seem to be aimed at proving Chanakya’s acumen as a master strategist.

Unknown facts about Chanakya: Never tied his hair

Headstrong and driven. Chanakya, insulted by the Nanda king in his court, vowed never to tie his hair until he had overthrown the Nanda Empire. He took a 19-year old Chandragupta under his fold, trained him, and saw him to power that marked the beginning of Mauryan Empire.

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Image: Roaring Creations

Lesson in austerity

Facts about Chanakya, due to lack of written records, are rare. Legend has it that Greek explorer Megasthenes, who was then visiting Chandragupta’s court, became close friends with Chanakya. One evening, he went to visit the statesman, who was then studying some official documents. He asked Megasthenes to wait a while. When Chanakya finished his work, he turned off the lamp and lit another one. A surprised Megasthenes asked, why did he do that? Chanakya replied, he was doing official work and thus used the oil provided by the state to burn the lamp. But spending time with his friend was a personal matter and he can’t use public money for that.

Also read: 20 random thoughts that clog our mind when boredom strikes

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Image: pinterest

May have died of starving

A Jain legend says that Subandhu, a rival of Chanakya, told Bindusara the cause of his mother’s death. Bindusara, who was then the Mauryan Emperor, was enraged to hear that. He set out to kill Chanakya who was already very old at that time. Hearing that Bindusara was coming to kill him, Chanakya donated all his wealth to the poor and orphans and decided to end his life starving. Bindusara later learnt that his mother’s death was an accident. But he failed to coax Chanakya to break his fast.

By Arpita Patro


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