These People Were The Real Power Behind The Throne
These People Were The Real Power Behind The Throne

These People Were The Real Power Behind The Throne

Khalid Elhassan - July 13, 2023

These People Were The Real Power Behind The Throne

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.

These People Were The Real Power Behind The Throne
Kautilya and Chandragupta, as depicted in modern media. Pinterest

The Power Behind the Mauryan Empire

Kautilya gave each of Pabbata and Chandragupta an amulet, dangling from a thread to be worn around the neck. One day, while Chandragupta slept, Kautilya 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 slept, Kautilya asked Chandragupta if he could remove the amulet without waking him. Chandragupta came up with a simple but ruthless solution: he chopped off Pabbata’s head. Kautilya had his man. For the next few years, until Chandragupta reached adulthood, Kautilya instructed him in royal duties and the art of governance.

When his charge came of age, Kautilya raised an army and marched against Dhana Nanda. After an initial setback, kingmaker and would-be king emerged victorious, and killed Dhana Nanda. Kautilya then anointed Chandragupta the new king. He remained by the new monarch’s side as chief advisor, while Chandragupta expanded his realm to create the Mauryan Empire. After Chandragupta’s death, Kautilya continued in his role as chief adviser to his son and successor, Bindusara. Thanks to Kautilya, the Mauryan Empire under Chandragupta, and later Asoka (reigned circa 268 – 232 BC) became a model of good administration and efficient government.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

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