The Philosopher Who Founded an Empire
Chanakya (flourished fourt century BC) was an Indian philosopher, teacher, and royal advisor. A political science pioneer, he penned the Arthashastra, history’s first political treatise on statecraft, economic policy, and military strategy. He was also a kingmaker who guided the rise of Chandrugupta and the establishment of his Mauryan Empire. Chanakya was a Brahmin priest, who, unfortunately, was ugly as sin. One day, a king named Dhana Nanda, disgusted by Chanakya’s appearance, ordered him thrown out of a ceremony. Understandably upset, Chanakya vowed revenge, and set out to find a substitute monarch. He recruited the king’s own son, Pabbata, and also came across a likely youth, Chandragupta. With Chandragupta and Pabbata, Chanakya had two potential contenders, so to choose between them, he devised a test. He gave each an amulet, dangling from a thread to be worn around the neck.
One day, as Chandragupta slept, Chanakya asked Pabbata to remove the amulet from his neck without waking him. Pabbata tried, but failed when Chandragupta woke up. A few days later, while Pabbata was asleep, Chanakya asked Chandragupta if he could remove the amulet without waking him up. Chandragupta did so with a simple solution: he chopped off Pabbata’s head. Chanakya had his man. He instructed Chandragupta for years on royal duties until he reached adulthood. Chanakya then raised an army and marched against King Dhana Nanda. After an initial setback, kingmaker and would-be king defeated and killed Dhana Nanda. Chanakya then anointed Chandragupta the new king, and remained by his side as chief advisor, while Chandragupta expanded his realm to create the Mauryan Empire. After Chandragupta’s death, Chanakya continued in his role as chief adviser to his son and successor, Bindusara.