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(Here are some excerpts from a blog by Mr N Harihara Subramaniyan. The full version can be found at his own blog site: http://www.visionhari.com/chanakya.php.

Permission to reproduce it here is gratefully acknowledged.)

 

Chanakya was an Indian teacher, philosopher, and royal advisor. Originally a professor of economics and political science at the ancient Takshashila University, Chanakya managed the first Maurya emperor Chandragupta’s rise to power at a young age. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire, which was the first empire in archaeologically recorded history to rule most of the Indian subcontinent. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both Chandragupta and his son Bindusara. Chanakya is traditionally identified as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise called Arthasastra (Economics). As such, he is considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta dynasty and not rediscovered until 1915.

Brief About Chanakya

Son of Rishi Chanak, Chanakya, also known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta, was born in Pataliputra, Magadh (modern Bihar), and later moved to Taxila, in Gandhar province (now in Pakistan). At a very early age little Chanakya started studying Vedas. The Vedas considered being the toughest scriptures to study were completely studied and memorized by Chanakya in his infancy. He was attracted to studies in politics. In politics Chanakya’s acumen and shrewdness was visible right from childhood. He was a student of politics right from child hood. Known as a masterful political strategist, He knew how to put his own people in the opposite camp and spy the enemy without his knowledge before destroying him forever. Chanakya was an ace in turning tables in his favor irrespective of the circumstances. He never budged to pressure tactics by the ruthless politicians. In this way after studying religion and politics, he turned his attention to economics, which remained his lifelong friend. “Nitishastra”, a treatise on the ideal way of life shows his in depth study of the Indian way of life. He was a professor (acharya) of political science at the Takshashila University and later the Prime Minister of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. He is regarded as one of the earliest known political thinkers, economists and king-makers. He was the man to envision the first Indian empire by unification of the then numerous kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent and provide the impetus for fights against the Greek conqueror Alexander.

Leadership Qualities

  • He was brave enough to speak from his heart to any ruler at any situation.
  • His strategic movement based on information from enemy side using his spies
  • He administered well on various faculties like law & order, taxation, revenue, foreign policy, defence, war, strategy formation and foreign relations etc.
  • He worked at the total annihilation of problems by the roots.
  • As a person, Chanakya had 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 all morals.
  • Some of his stark views made him into an ambivalent personality for the world like the observance of morals and ethics was secondary to the interests of the ruler.

Principles & Practices

Chanakya advocated the following for the welfare of country

  • Self-sufficient economy not dependent on foreign trade.
  • An egalitarian society where there are equal opportunities for all.
  • The efficient management of land is essential for the development of resources.
  • The state should take care of agriculture at all times.
  • Government machinery should be directed towards the implementation of projects aimed at supporting and nurturing the various processes; beginning from sowing of seeds to harvest.
  • The nation should envisage constructing forts and cities.
  • Internal trade was more important to Chanakya than external trade.
  • The state should collect taxes at a bare minimum level, so that there is no chance of tax evasion.
  • Laws of the state should be the same for all, irrespective of the person who is involved in the case.
  • Destitute women should be protected by the society because they are the result of social exploitation and the uncouth behavior of men.
  • Antisocial elements should be kept under check along with the spies who may enter the country at anytime.

Chanakya envisioned a society where the people are not running behind material pleasures. Control over the sense organs is essential for success in any endeavor. Spiritual development is essential for the internal strength and character of the individual. Material pleasures and achievements are always secondary to the spiritual development of the society and country at large.

Achievements

His work on Arthashastra transcends the time broadly covers fourteen areas

  • Deals with the King – his training, appointment of minister etc.
  • Describes the duties of various officers of the state and gives a complete picture of the state activities.
  • Concerned with law and administration of justice.
  • On suppression of crimes.
  • A sundry collection of topics including salaries of officials.
  • On foreign policy and constituent elements of state.
  • The way in which each of the six methods of foreign policy may be used in various situations
  • Relates to calamities.
  • On preparations of war.
  • Concerned with fighting and types of battle arrays.
  • How a conqueror deal with a number of chiefs rather than one king.
  • Shows how a weak king when threatened by a stronger one must overpower him.
  • Concerned with the conquest of the enemy’s fort by fighting.
  • Deals with occult practices.

Literary Works

Chanakya is perhaps less well known outside India compared to other social and political philosophers of the world like Confucius and Machiavelli. His foresight and wide knowledge coupled with politics of expediency helped found the mighty Mauryan Empire in India. He compiled his political ideas into the ‘Arthashastra’, one of the world’s earliest treatises on political thought and social order. His ideas remain popular to this day in India. In Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India, Chanakya has been called the Indian Machiavelli. Three books are attributed to Chanakya: Arthashastra, Nitishastra and Chanakya Niti. Arthashastra (literally ‘the Science of Material Gain’ in Sanskrit) is arguably the first systematic book on economics. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in details. Many of his nitis or policies have been compiled under the book title Chanakya Niti. Nitishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chanakya’s in depth study of the Indian way of life.

 

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