The Indian Philosopher Who Became a Power Behind the Throne
Kautilya, also known as Chanakya or Vishnugupta (flourished in the fourth century BC), was an Indian philosopher, teacher, and royal advisor. He pioneered the field of political science when he penned the Arthashastra (“The Science of Material Gain”), history’s first political treatise on statecraft, economic policy, and military strategy. It was a compilation of all that had been written up to his time about artha (economics, property, or material success). Kautila was also a kingmaker who played an instrumental role in the rise of Chandrugupta and the establishment of his Mauryan Empire.
Kautilya was a Brahmin priest, who had the misfortune of being ugly as sin. One day, a king named Dhana Nanda, disgusted by Kautilya’s appearance, ordered him thrown out of a ceremony. Understandably upset, Kautilya vowed revenge, and set out to find a substitute monarch. He managed to recruit the king’s own son, Pabbata, and also came across a promising youth, Chandragupta. With Chandragupta and Pabbata, Kautilya had two potential contenders. So to choose between them, he devised a test.