Chandragupta Maurya (c. 297 BCE), known as Sandrakottos (or Sandrokottos) to the Greeks, was the founder of the Maurya Dynasty (4th-2nd century BCE) and is credited with the setting up of the first (nearly) pan-Indian empire. Aided by his mentor and later minister Chanakya or Kautilya (c. 4th century BCE), he set up a vast centralized empire, details of whose functioning, society, military, and economy are well preserved in Kautilya's Arthashastra.
Chandragupta's Period: Political Setting
India around the 4th century BCE was divided into numerous kingdoms and republics. The foremost among them was the Magadha Kingdom in eastern India, whose rulers beginning with King Bimbisara (543-492 BCE) had embarked on a quest for empire-building. Magadha's boundaries had thus been much extended over time and contained a good part of central, eastern, and north-eastern India. Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) invaded India in 326 BCE, and in consequence, much of north-western India was thrown into turmoil and political chaos.
The Magadha ruler during these times was Dhanananda (329-322/321 BCE) of the Nanda Dynasty. He possessed a vast treasure and an army numbering 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots, and 3,000 elephants, according to the Roman historian Curtius (c. 1st century CE). Known to the Greeks as Xandrames or Agrammes, the knowledge of his Magadhan might had also added to the despair of the already war-weary Macedonian troops on India's north-west, forcing them, among other reasons, not to press further into India.
Debate on Origins
Much of Chandragupta's life and origins are still shrouded in mystery. Most of what is known about him comes more from legends and folklore rather than actual historical sources; “The only definite inscriptional reference to Chandragupta is in the 2nd century CE Junagarh inscription…” (Singh, 330.) Historian KAN Sastri observes:
For details of the momentous events that led to the supersession of the Nandas by the Mauryas we must turn to Indian chroniclers and story-tellers. No contemporary account has survived. The traditional story is told differently by different writers. (Sastri, 145).
Chandragupta's social origins, particularly his caste, are still debated. Buddhist, Jain, and ancient literary works all give different versions. He is mentioned variously as belonging to the Kshatriya Moriya clan ruling Pippalivahana on the present-day Indo-Nepal border, as being from a tribe of peacock-tamers, a son of a woman named Mura (hence the title, Maurya) and even closely or distantly related to the Nandas, but scorned and driven away as Dhanananda was jealous of his far-superior talents.
Historians are thus divided as to his social origins. Some claim that “he seems to have belonged to some ordinary family” (Sharma, 99) and that “he was not a prince but a mere commoner without any direct title to the crown of Magadha” (Tripathi, 146). Some other historians state that he indeed belonged to the Moriya or Maurya clan, which by the 4th century BCE had fallen into hard times, and thus Chandragupta “grew up among peacock-tamers, herdsmen, and hunters” (Majumdar, Raychaudhuri and Datta, 92). The Roman historian Justin (c. 2nd century CE) alludes to his humble origins. Buddhist texts and medieval inscriptions mention him as a Kshatriya. Thus, it can be conjectured that he would have belonged to a Kshatriya (ruler/warrior caste) or a related caste, as the Brahmin Kautilya, in keeping with the caste rules, would not have favoured him otherwise for rulership.
Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!
Legends say that Chandragupta met Alexander the Great & perhaps obtained his permission to serve in his army so as to learn the Macedonian way of warfare.
Chandragupta was ambitious and sought ways and means of attaining a position of authority or even a crown. This desire could have easily been born because of his circumstances. He wanted to restore his clan's fallen fortunes and establish himself in his rightful position as a Kshatriya ruler. Even if the version about him being related to Dhanananda is accepted instead, then such an intention would have surely taken root in Chandragupta's mind and he would have wanted his fair share of being a prince. Even if from a completely ordinary family, Chandragupta did not feel his origins had anything to do with his political ambitions. Either way, historically, it is thus very probable that Chandragupta as a young man had definitely involved himself in the endeavour of fulfilling his ambitions.
Chandragupta knew that to successfully accomplish his journey to power, war with the established kingdoms would be unavoidable. He thus focused on obtaining military training and experience. Legends say that he met Alexander and perhaps obtained his permission to serve in his army so as to learn the Macedonian way of warfare and how it could be used against the tactics of ancient Indian warfare, besides his own military training. Justin and the Graeco-Roman historian Plutarch (c. 46-120 CE) mention the meeting with Alexander. However, this meeting was a disaster, and Chandragupta was forced to flee for his life.
Some historians are of the view that for Chandragupta, who lived in the Magadhan kingdom, it was not possible to go all the way to the north-west to meet Alexander, even if the idea occurred at all to him in the first place. Instead, he met Dhanananda and sought service in his army. They believe that Justin mistakenly mentioned Alexander instead of Dhanananda. Such a view is however not accepted by all historians.
Irrespective of what Chandragupta's early moves in his career were, what can be stated with certainty is his relationship with the statesman-philosopher Kautilya. He was his best ally, mentor, and guide, and the one who shaped not only his career but the course of the Mauryan empire under Chandragupta. Vishnugupta Chanakya or Kautilya, on his part, had decided to take the leading role in rebuilding and reshaping the Indian polity. Though initially from Magadha, being a student and later a teacher at Takshashila (now Taxila in present-day Pakistan), Kautilya thus became witness to the political turmoil created in north-western India because of the Macedonian invasion. This caused him to think in terms of establishing a centralized pan-Indian empire that could keep invaders at bay and restore order. The existence of numerous republics and kingdoms, disunited and perennially at war with each other, for obvious reasons, could not do so.
He considered Magadha apt to be the empire in question - his proposal for the same was met by scorn and insults from Dhanananda, which was followed by Kautilya's determination to remove the incumbent king. Magadha was the only territorial entity that could provide order among the chaos. It had a virtually unrivalled military standing, crucial for the existence of the kind of empire that Kautilya wanted. Protected by its vast military, it enjoyed a stability that other kingdoms could not. Kautilya was thus determined to have Magadha as the centrepiece of his scheme of things - whether under the Nandas or someone else, it did not matter.
Mentoring Chandragupta for the role, Kautilya prepared for a takeover of Magadha & all that went with it.
He thus decided to replace Dhanananda with a better and more capable candidate. The man chosen was Chandragupta Maurya. Mentoring him for the role, Kautilya prepared for a takeover of Magadha and all that went with it. Chandragupta's own calibre was thus honed in terms of war, diplomacy, and covert operations.
How and when his first meeting with Chandragupta took place are facts not clearly known. Folklore has it that after returning from Dhanananda's court, the humiliated Kautilya while plotting his revenge came across a boy in a village who even in a game was displaying qualities of being a great king. Quick to realise his potential, Kautilya decided to take him on as his protégé and sought the tribal or village chief's and the boy's mother Mura's permission to take him along and train him for his future role. He then brought the boy Chandragupta along with him to north-west India, from where, the stories say, Chandragupta grew up under training from Kautilya and was thus prepared for his role as the future emperor.
In all likelihood, these stories cannot be accepted as fact as this would imply that by the time Chandragupta came to the throne of Magadha, both Kautilya and Dhanananda were decrepit old men! Historically this was not true, so as the historians maintain, the young man Chandragupta who was already seeking to make his fortune met and allied with Kautilya, whom he had realised as an invaluable ally. The importance of the stories, however, lies in the fact that they point towards Chandragupta's humble origins, his circumstances, and how they were not suitable for his growth, and thus he had to move out in order to attain his objectives.
His meeting with Kautilya would have thus taken place after the humiliated scholar was returning from Pataliputra and Chandragupta's own initial endeavours to win power had been unsuccessful. Having realized that they had much in common, the two set out to achieve their common goals. The discovery of an underground treasure led them to recruit a mercenary army.
The War for Power
Using the post-Macedonian invasion area of north-west India as an ideal base because of its chaotic conditions and lack of political and military opposition, Chandragupta deployed his men, challenged the waning Greco-Macedonian authority and scored victories over the local kingdoms or whatever was left of them. He then gained control over central India and finally advanced towards the Magadha heartland.
Realizing that a conflict with Magadha would necessarily entail much more than a mighty army, Kautilya went for the war-by-other-means strategy. There were lots of intrigues, counter-intrigues, plotting and counter-plotting which he resorted to in order to break the strength of Dhanananda by weaning away his key allies, loyalists and supporters, most notably his chief minister Rakshasa. The Sanskrit drama Mudrarakshasa (“The Ring of Rakshasa”) written by Vishakhadatta somewhere between the 4th to 8th centuries CE (presumably 5th century CE) gives vivid details of the same. Ultimately, by employing both military and non-military means, Chandragupta managed to secure the throne at Pataliputra. Dhanananda probably escaped or was killed.
Secure in the imperial seat, Chandragupta directed his attention towards expanding his dominions. The Mauryan armies reached as far as the western coast of India and southern India, particularly the present-day state of Karnataka. Plutarch states that he overran the entire country with an army of 600,000. The Mauryan empire at this time included the present-day states of “Bihar and good portions of Orissa and Bengal but also western and north-western India, and the Deccan…in the north-west they held sway over certain areas which were not included even in the British empire” (Sharma, p. 99). The extreme south and north-east India were not part of the empire.
War with the Greeks
Chandragupta came into conflict with Seleucus I Nicator, Alexander's heir in the east, the idea being the reduction of the Greek power and gaining in own territory and strength. The war ended in 301 BCE by the signing of a treaty. Chandragupta obtained the areas of Arachosia (Kandahar area in present-day Afghanistan), Gedrosia (southern Baluchistan in present-day Pakistan) and Paropamisadai (the area between Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent). 500 elephants were given to the Greeks. Legend maintains that Seleucus handed over his daughter Helena in marriage to Chandragupta but historical evidence does not support it. It was also decided to appoint a Greek ambassador and as a result, Megasthenes came to the Maurya court at Pataliputra. He wrote about the Mauryan administration and though his work Indica is now lost, quotations of it survive in the works of several subsequent Greek writers.
Jainism & Death
The Mudrarakshasa uses the Sanskrit term vrishala, employed for Kshatriyas and others who deviate from the Brahminical rules, to denote Chandragupta; “That Chandragupta did deviate from Brahminical orthodoxy is proved by his predilection shown for Jainism in his later years” (Majumdar, Raychaudhuri and Datta, p. 92). Both historical evidence and popular belief state that Chandragupta in his later years accepted Jainism. Inscriptions in Karnataka dating between 5th to 15th centuries CE mention a certain Chandragupta in connection with the Jaina saint Bhadrabahu. Chandragupta probably abdicated, became an ascetic, accompanied Bhadrabahu to Karnataka and later died by following the ritual of sallekhana, i.e., fasting till death. Chandragupta thus ruled for 24 years and was succeeded by his son Bindusara (297- c. 273 BCE), father of Ashoka the Great (268-232 BCE).
The Mauryan Empire under Chandragupta
Chandragupta developed an elaborate system of imperial administration. Most of the power was concentrated in his hands, and he was assisted in his duties by a council of ministers. The empire was divided into provinces and had princes as viceroys. This provided the royals with the requisite administrative experience, especially the one who went on to become emperor. The provinces were divided into smaller units and arrangements were put in place for both urban and rural administration. Archaeological evidence of the existence of a number of towns and cities has been found. Of these, the most prominent was the capital city of Pataliputra. Its administration was carried out by six committees with five members apiece. Some of the tasks entrusted to them included the maintenance of sanitation facilities, care of foreigners, birth and death registration, regulation of weights and measures, etc. Various types of weights used in this period have been discovered in several places. The central government also maintained about two dozen departments looking after various social and economic activities.
The state possessed a huge army. Troops (maula) were recruited, trained, and equipped by the state. There were many communities and forest tribes (atavika) that were known for their military skills and prized as such. Mercenaries (bhrita) also existed in large numbers as did corporate guilds of soldiers (shreni) and they were recruited whenever required. The army was composed of four arms (chaturanga) - infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants. There was a 30-member war office made up of six boards that looked after these various arms and also the navy and transport. According to the Roman writer Pliny (23 – 79 CE), Chandragupta possessed 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants. The chariots were estimated at 8,000. They were all deployed in the field of battle in formation (vyuha), as decided by the commanders, based on factors such as the nature of the terrain and the composition of one's and one's enemy's forces. Great concern was shown to the training of men and animals. The king and princes were well-trained in the arts of war and leadership. They were expected to display courage and they often personally led their armies and participated in the defence of forts. The navy created by Chandragupta mostly performed coast guard functions and guarded the empire's vast trade being carried on the waterways.
Arms included bows and arrows, swords, double-handed broadswords, oval, rectangular or bell-shaped shields (often of hides), javelins, lances, axes, pikes, clubs and maces. Soldiers were either generally bare to the waist or wore quilted cotton jackets. They also wore thickly coiled turbans, often secured with scarfs tied below the chin, and bands of cloth tied across their waists and chests as protective armour. Tunics were worn during winters. The lower garment was a loose cloth worn as a kilt or in the drawer style (one end of the garment drawn between the legs and tucked in the waist at the back).
The Mauryans' vast military was supported by the vast size of the empire and the resources that thus came under its control. The state virtually controlled all economic activities and hence was able to command a large revenue and an abundance of financial resources.
Chandragupta thus left behind a legacy that has survived in the pages of the Arthashastra. Not only did he build up an empire by his own efforts, overcoming all obstacles, but he also set up sound principles for its governance and himself worked tirelessly for its growth. It was these achievements that make him one of ancient India's foremost rulers and the near-mythical figure of folklore.
Nand daughter – Chandragupta Maurya’s wife
Dhananand was the emperor of Magadh empire and the most powerful king in Indian sub continent at that time. His kingdom was richest among all Indian subcontinent kingdoms and his army was strongest among other Indian kingdoms. But Dhananad was a cruel and egoistic emperor. In those times Alexander the great was attacking Asian kingdoms and defeating them one by one. The most powerful Persian empire too was attacked by Alexander. Chankya was a teacher in takshashila who was worried about advancing Alexander forces. He decided to ask help of emperor Dhahanand to stop the advancing forces from conquering Indian subcontinent. He went to court of Dhananand and requested him to unite in fight to defeat Alexander. But Dhananand got offended that a Barhmin teacher was advicing him and insulted and kicked him out of the court. Chankya vowed to take revenge. Chankya saw a young kid Chandragupta and decided to make him emperor and taught him in takshashila and made him a great warrior. Chandragupta defeated Dhananand in second war and ascended throne of Magadh in 312 B.C.
Chankya married Chandragupta to Dhananad’s youngest daughter. This was a political marriage to ensure Dhananad’s supporters do not raise revolt. Dhananand only took his wives and left to forest after the war. No other male member of Dhananand was alive to take care of his family. His 9 sons and 7 brothers were killed by Chandragupta in the war. Many female relatives of Dhananad that included Dhananand’s daughter, some wives and cocubbines and brothers wife and children were left behind in magadh fort. Chandragupta Maurya after marriage to Dhananad daughter (legend name her Nandini but her real name is not recorded anywhere) gave shelter to Dhananad’s relatives.
Many of the daughters left behind by Nand were trained as Vishkanyas by their father Dhananand. Although Chandragupta had many children from his many wives the prominent being Dhurudhara from whom he has Keshnag and Bindusara and a son named Justin by Helena the Greek Princess, there is no mention of any children from Nand daughter in any contemporary work.
Some books even suggest that Nand’s daughter tried killing Chandragupta’s wife Dhurudhara by poisoning her because of which she was imprisoned for many years by Chandragupta Maurya. But this version may not be true because Chankya used to put cobra poison in Chandragupta’s food from childhood that made him resistant to poisonous venoms in world. Dhurudhara ate from his plate and died. This story of Dhurudharas death is accepted by many historians. So Nands daughter may not have killed Dhurudhara. But whether she was went to prison because she was an enemies daughter cannot be confirmed acurratly. Anyways the chance that Dhananand’s daughter attempts to kill Chandragupta or his wives is mostly impossible because many of her female relatives were sheltered by Chandragupta.
Nands daughter is totally missing be it in books by Chankya or travellers of that time. Neither is Nanads daughter mentioned in any pillars and places where Magadh emperors wrote about their families etc. Hence we can assume that she was not that important, neither Chandragupta loved or cared for her much like he did Helena and Dhurudhara.
Chandragupta abdicated throne of Magadh in 289 B.C. and became jain monk and went to Shravanabelegola and died there after 2 years by fasting unto death. Chandragupta wives Helena and others lived with Bindusara in Magadh fort. Nands daughter may also have continued living with Bindusara. Its said she also accepted jain religion along with Chandragupta. But no document of that time confirms this fact.
Did Nands daughter have a child from Chandragupta Maurya? If Dhananands daughter and his nemisis Chandragupta had a love child would that fact not be mentioned in any books of that time? Ideally it would be. But given Chankyas hatred for Dhananand and Chandragupta having killed her entire family, its highly probable that they did not have children together. The fact that Dhananads daughter being Chandraguptas wife but hardly mentioned in any book or travellers of that time or by Chankya shows that the marriage was insignificant and only political in nature. And the fact that Dhananands many daughters were vishkanyas and one of them killed Parvatak also means that Chankya would have ensured Chandragupta stays away from Dhananands daughter for his own protection.
Chandragupta was 32 years when he married Dhananads daughter and she must have been in her pre teens 7-12 years old. In those times girls married at average age 7 years in India, maximum 10-12 years. Going by this historical information Dhananands daughter must be in her pre teens when she married Chandragupta who was in his 30s. Chandragupta was busy consolidation empire till 40-42 years to have any time for love. He was going on wars continuously in those times because he captured till Mysore in South and Afghanistan in North. So he must have been busy setting up the empire for next 10-15 years time rather than romancing Dhananands daughter or any other wife.
Chandragupta Maurya Is Believed To Be a Kshatriya
According to the Mahavamsa, the Buddhist text, Chandragupt belonged to the sect Moriya – a division of the Kshatriya clan. Further, the Mahaparinibbana Sutta elaborates that the Moriyas were from the Kshatriya community of a place called Pippalivan. Over the years, there have been several plays that tell a different tale about his lineage but traditions and Buddhist texts confirms that Chandragupta belonged to the Kshatriya lineage.
Kautilya: Teacher, Strategist, Chandragupta Maura’s Advisor
At the time of Alexander’s invasion of India (327 – 325 BC), Kautilya was a teacher in Taxila, a great center of learning, as well as the capital of Gandhara. Ambhi (known to the Greeks as Taxiles), the king of Gandhara, concluded a treaty with Alexander, and therefore avoided fighting him. Kautilya is said to have perceived the Macedonian invasion as a threat to Indian culture, and therefore sought other Indian rulers in the region to unite in a war against Alexander. It seems that only Parvatka (sometimes identified as Porus in Greek sources), a Himalayan king, heeded Kautilya’s call, and fought unsuccessfully against Alexander at the Battle of the Hydaspes River.
In spite of his failure to rally the Indian rulers against the Macedonians, Kautilya did not give up, but travelled further east, to Pataliputra, in Bihar. This was the capital of the Nanda Empire, which stretched from Bihar and Bengal in the east all the way to eastern Punjab in the west. Kautilya was hoping that Dhana Nanda, the ruler of this vast empire, would be able to defeat Alexander, and repel the Macedonian invaders.
Initially, relations between the king and Kautilya were cordial. Kautilya’s habit of speaking bluntly, however, did not sit too well with the king. Consequently, Dhana Nanda removed Kautilya from his official position, and the brahmin was thrown out of the Nanda court. Kautilya swore that he would have his revenge for the Insult he received at the hands of Dhana Nanda. According to another version of the story, Dhana Nanda had insulted Kautilya publicly, and removed him from his court, as a result of an insignificant dispute, thereby incurring the brahmin’s wrath.
As a boy, Chandragupta Maurya was taken by Kautilya to Taxila and educated in military tactics and the aesthetic arts. Subsequently, Chandragupta raised a mercenary army, formed an alliance with a Himalayan king (perhaps Parvatka), and attacked the Nanda Empire. Chandragupta’s initial attacks, however, were repelled, as the Nanda Empire, after all, possessed a formidable army.
Nevertheless, Chandragupta continued his war, and after many battles, his army finally arrived before the gates of Pataliputra. Chandragupta laid siege to the Nanda capital, and succeeded in capturing the city in 321 BC. According to one version of the story, Dhana Nanda abdicated, handed over power to Chandragupta, and went into exile, thus disappearing from the pages of history. The capture of Pataliputra in 321 BC by Chandragupta marks the beginning of the Mauryan Empire.
The Mauryan Empire at its highpoint covered nearly all of the Indian subcontinent. (Avantiputra7 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
About Chandragupta Maurya
According to Justin, Chandragupta was a bandit and after successful small and big attacks, he decided to build an empire. It has been said in the Arthashastra that recruitment of soldiers should be done from the categories of thieves, mlecchas, Atal Vikas and weapons. It is known from Mudrarakshas that Chandragupta made a treaty with King Parvatak of the Himalayan region. Chandragupta's army must have been Shaka, Yavan, Kirat, Kamboj, Parsik, and Vahlik. According to Plutarch, Sandrocottus conquered the whole of India by a huge corps of 6,00,000 soldiers. India was under the authority of Chandragupta by Justin's opinion.
Chandragupta first established his position in Punjab. His freedom war against the wilderness probably started shortly after Alexander's death. According to Justin, after Alexander's death, India broke the bondage of slavery under the leadership of Sandrocottus and killed the Yavan governors. Chandragupta campaigned against the Yavanas around 323 BC. They would have started in the beginning, but they had complete success in this campaign in 317 BC. Or it would have been found thereafter, because in the same year the ruler of West Punjab, Kshatrap Eudemus, left India with his armies. Nothing can be said in detail about Chandragupta's Yavanayudha. With this success, he got the provinces of Punjab and Sindh.
Chandragupta Maurya probably had an important war with Dhanananda. It is clear in the circles of Justin and Plutarch that at the time of Alexander's India campaign Chandragupta provoked him to wage war against the Nandas, but the behavior of Kishore Chandragupta enraged Yavanvijeta. Indian literary traditions suggest that Nandaraja was extremely intolerant towards Chandragupta and Chanakya. A mention of the Mahavansh Tika suggests that Chandragupta initially invaded the central part of the Nandasamrajya, but he soon realized his error and new invasions began from the frontier regions. He eventually surrounded Pataliputra and killed Dhanananda.
Subsequently, it appears that Chandragupta expanded his empire to the south as well. The ancient Tamil writer named Mamulanar has referred to the Mauryan invasions up to the Podiyil hills of the Tinneveli district. This is confirmed by other ancient Tamil writers and texts. The aggressive army consisted of warrior Koshar people. The aggressors came from Konkan via the Ellilamalai hills to Kongu (Coimbatore) district and from here to the Podiyil hills. Unfortunately in the above mentions, the name of the hero of this Mauryavahini is not obtained. However, the prediction of the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta from 'Vumba Moriyar' seems more consistent.
The last battle of Chadrangupta was with Alexander's ex-commander and his contemporary Syrian Greek Emperor Seleucus. The mention of the Greek historian Justin proves that after Alexander's death, Seleucus inherited the eastern part of his master's vast empire. Seleucus proceeded to complete Alexander's Indian conquest, but India's political situation had changed by now. Almost the entire region was led by a powerful ruler. Seleucus 305 BC Appeared almost along the banks of the Indus. Greek authors do not describe this war in detail.
But it seems that Seleucus, the face of Chandragupta's power, had to bow down. As a result, Seleucus made a treaty by giving Chandragupta a Yavanakumari in marriage and the provinces of Aria (Herat), Arachosia (Kandahar), Paropanisadai (Kabul) and Gedrosiyya (Balochistan). In return, Chandragupta presented 500 elephants to Seleucus. The above-mentioned provinces under the rule of Chandragupta Maurya and his successors have been proved by Ashoka's bilingual article from Kandahar. In order to provide stability to the friendship relationship thus established, Seleucus sent an envoy named Megasthenes to the court of Chandragupta. This account is proof that Chandragupta would have been able to expand the empire through almost complete royalty wars.
Inscription (Shravanabelagola) depicting the arrival of the last Shrutakevali Bhadrabahu Swami and Emperor Chandragupta.
According to inscriptions found from Shravanabelagola, Chandragupta became a Jain-saint in his last days. Chandra-Gupta became the last crown-holder, followed by no other crown-ruler (ruler), Digambar-muni. Therefore, Chandra-Gupta has an important place in Jainism. Swami went to Shravanabelagol with Bhadrabahu. While there, he sacrificed his body by fasting. The hill on which they lived in Shravanabelagol is named Chandragiri and there is also a temple named 'Chandraguptabasti' built there.
Chandragupta Maurya - History
Chandragupta was the founder of the Maurya dynasty, which ruled ancient India for about 140 years. His troops conquered one northern Indian kingdom after another and claimed lands that stretched as far as west as Afghanistan. In this way, Chandragupta united northern India under one ruler for the first time in history. He established the first territorial empire in ancient India, covering most of the Indian sub-continent. He was assisted by his political adviser, KAUTALYA, who also set out the rules for the administration of the country. This broad framework of the administrative organization was adopted by many succeeding dynasties. Chandragupta Maurya’s origins were shrouded in mystery. Having been brought up by peacock tamers, he could be of low caste birth. According to other sources, Chandragupta Maurya was the son of a Nanda prince and a dasi called Mura. It is also possible that Chandragupta was of the Maurya tribe of Kshatriyas. Much of what is known about his youth is gathered from later classical Sanskrit literature, as well as classical Greek and Latin sources which refer to Chandragupta by the names ‘Sandracottos’ or ‘Andracottus’.
Chandragupta Maurya was born into this changing ancient land, near Pataliputra, where, in the sixth century BCE, Magadha rulers had raised armies to conquer widely and create the first large state in the region. From the obscure Moriya clan, Chandragupta may have owned some land around Magadha before he led Magadha armies to conquer janapadas as far west as Punjab and Sind. In doing so, he had crossed a cultural divide. Agro-pastoral warrior lineages controlling various janapadas had diverse cultural identities, but later Vedic sources indicate that some had embraced Aryan culture as far east as Prayaga (Allahabad). Magadha lay further east on the outer fringe of Aryan culture, and it was here in the east that Buddha Gautama had composed a spiritual and ethical path that diverged from Aryan Brahmanism. Having conquered local competitors, the armies of Magadha expanded west. Victorious commanders subordinated janapadas under an imperial authority whose main work was to maintain its military strength. This rudimentary imperial scaffolding provided a framework for Chandragupta’s ambition.
In the far west, Magadha troops faced Achaemenid Greek armies marching across Persia. As Greek soldiers marched east and Magadha troops marched west, they both knew they were following old routes of long-distance travel, but they did not know that they were creating a new world of politics that would stretch from Greece to Assam. Routes from Europe to the Orient and from Magadha to Persia met in Punjab thus the Indus became the symbolic western border of a region that Greeks called ‘India’.
The original division of Asia and Europe, East and West, Orient and Occident derived from military competition over routes and resources flowing across ancient Eurasia. Ancient empires thus invented cultural boundaries that we still live with today how these territorial identities came down to the present is a long story that we will follow in the coming chapters. Chandragupta won wars for Magadha in Sind and may have fought Alexander the Great in Punjab before Alexander’s army mutinied to force a Greek retreat down the Indus in 327 BCE.
Alexander then sailed to Mesopotamia and died in Babylon at age thirty-four. After Alexander died in 323 BCE, Chandragupta, turned his attention to Northwestern India (modern Pakistan), where he defeated the satrapies (described as “prefects” in classical Western sources) left in place by Alexander. Chandragupta marched east, conquered his overlords, and became South Asia’s first emperor. He launched his Maurya imperial dynasty by building on Magadha victories to incorporate janapadas in a structure of military command that eventually deployed nine thousand elephants, thirty thousand cavalry, eight thousand chariots, and several hundred thousand soldiers on its many battlefields. Supporting its war machine with taxes, troops, provisions, commanders, and victories preoccupied the Maurya state, which sustained an official elite that was the first of its kind. Elite intellectuals became the brains of the empire. One legendary figure was Kautilya, known as the author of the Arthasastra, a manual of statecraft and administration. This text was not completed until the Gupta age, six hundred years later, and thus it constitutes one of many links between the two classical empires of the Ganga basin.
The Mauryan Empire, which Chandragupta founded, owes its name to the house of the Mauryas, under whose rule the Indian subcontinent saw, for the first time in history, a considerable degree of political unity. The empire lasted until 187 BC.
The Mauryan Empire was very strong and independent because it had some kind of political unity. Everything starts at the Mauryan capital. The Mauryan capital was at Pataliputra (present-day Patna), the chief city of the old kingdom of Magadha.
The economy, in all its important aspects, was controlled by the state, and mines, forests, large farms, munitions, and spinning industries were state-owned and managed. The people were divided into seven endogamous groups– philosophers, peasants, herdsmen, traders, soldiers, government officials, and councilors. The army was composed of the four traditional Indian divisions: forces mounted on elephants, on chariots, cavalry, and infantry, and tended to be large (Chandragupta’s forces reputedly numbered 600,000 men).
The religious life of the empire may perhaps best be characterized as pluralistic. The general religious policy of the Mauryas was to encourage tolerance. In modern times the Maurya Empire is remembered as one of the golden ages of Indian history, a time when the country was united and independent.
Chandragupta Maurya renounced his throne to his son, Bindusara, who became the new Mauryan Emperor. Chandragupta then became an ascetic under the Jain saint Bhadrabahu Swami, migrating south with him and ending his days in self-starvation at Shravanabelagola, in present-day Karnataka.
Chandragupta Maurya was born in 340 BC at Pataliputra in modern Bihar. His background, however, is uncertain. His father’s name was Sarvarthasiddhi Maurya and his mother’s name was Mura Maurya.
Some claim that he was born from a Nanda prince and his maid, Mura, the Shudra caste, others state that he belonged to a tribe from the Moriya of peacock-tamers.
Being a brave and determined leader since childhood. He was very well managed by Chanakya, a great Brahmin scholar of economics and the Department of Political Science at Takshashila University. Who later became his mentor.
Chandragupta Maurya’s wife Durdhara and children
The only person in Chandragupta’s queen or concerts for whom we have a name is the mother of his first son Binodar, Dujanedura. However, it was probably more concerts by Chandragupta.
According to legend, Chandragupta was worried that Chandragupta might be poisoned by enemies and began to have a toxic appetite for the emperor’s food in order to create a tolerance.
Chandragupta was unaware of the plan and share some of his food with his wife Durbar while she was pregnant with her first son. Durdhara died, but reached Chanka and underwent an emergency operation to remove the full-time baby. Baby Bindusara survived, but some of her mother’s venomous blood touched her forehead. leaving a blue dot – which inspired her name.
Very little is known about Chandragupta’s other wives and children and his son Bindusara. perhaps more memorable than his own kingdom than his son. He was the father of one of the greatest empires of India: Ashoka the Great.
Founder of the Mauryan Empire in 320 BC
Chandragupta Maurya was an Indian emperor in 320 BC who was the founder of the Maurya Empire. In an attempt to restore the Indian Empire after Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 326 BC. The empire quickly expanded into Pakistan in most of India’s modern era.
Fortunately, attacked by the high Hindu-Kush Mountains. Alexander’s army lost its will to conquer India at the Battle of Jhelum or on the River Hydapes.
Although the Macedonians made it through the Khyber Pass and defeated the modern-day Vera. The nearby King Purur (King Poros). the battle was almost impossible for Alexander’s troops.
When the victorious Macedonians heard that their next goal – the Nanda Empire – could conquer 6,000 battlefields, the soldiers revolted. Alexander the Great will not conquer the other side of the Ganges.
Although five years after Alexander’s retreat, the world’s greatest theorist refused to take his troops to the Nanda Empire. 20-year-old Chandragupta Maurya will achieve this wealth and India wants to combine almost everything right now. The young Indian Emperor Alexander’s successors will also come and conquer.
Overthrow of Nanda and establishment of Maurya Empire
Chandragupta was brave and stingy – a born leader. The young man came to the notice of a famous Brahmin scholar, Chanakya, who had expressed his anger against Nanda. Chandragupta prepared Chandragupta to conquer and rule in the place of the Nanda emperor by teaching him techniques through various Hindu sources and helping him to build an army.
Chandragupta buried himself in favour of a mountain kingdom – probably the same Paru who was defeated but deprived by Alexander – and came out to conquer Nanda. Initially, the warmer forces were revolt, but in a long series of battles, Chandragupta’s forces besieged the Nanda dynasty of Paltaliputra. In 321 AD, the capital declined, and 20-year-old Chandragupta Maurya started his own dynasty – the Maurya Empire.
Chandragupta’s new empire is located in Afghanistan on the west. Myanmar (Burma) on the east, and Deccan Plateau on the south from north Jammu and Kashmir. Chanakya served the government in parallel as a “prime minister”.
When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his generals divided his empire into enemies so that each of them had a territory to rule, but around 316 AD Chandragupta Maurya was defeated and was able to defeat all the hill kings. Central Asia now extends its empire to the borders of Iran, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
According to some sources. Chandragupta Maurya may have been instrumental in the assassination of two Macronian kings: Philip, son of Makhtas, and Niniikor of Parthian. If so, it was also a very growing law for Chandragupta. Philip was assassinated in 326 AD when the future ruler of the Mauryan Empire was still an anonymous teenager.
Disputes with South India and Persia
In 305 AD, Chandragupta decided to expand his empire to the Eastern Empire. At that time, Persia was the founder of the Seleucid Empire, Seleucus E. Nictor, and a former general secretary under Alexander. Chandragupta seized a large area of eastern Persia and ended the war in a peace treaty. In return, Seleucus received 500 battlefields, which he made good use of in the battle of Ephesus in 301 AD.
As much as he could comfortably rule the area north and west, Chandragupta concentrated on the south after Maurya. With an army of 400,000 (according to Strabo) or 600,000 (according to Pliny the Elder). Chandragupta conquered all parts of the Indian subcontinent except Kalinga (now Orissa) on the east coast and the Tamil Empire south of the mainland.
Towards the end of his reign, Chandragupta Maurya united almost all the Indian subcontinents under his rule. His grandsons, Ashoka, went to add part of the Kalinga and Tamil empire.
Achievements of Chandragupta Maurya
He won most of the regions of the Indian subcontinent from Central Asia to the west, south-east, south of Burma, and the Himalayas in the Indian Deccan plateau extends to the history of the largest established the largest empire.
Chandragupta Maurya Death and inheritance
When he was in his fifties, Chandragupta became fascinated with Jainism, a highly monistic belief system. His guru was Zainulv Bhadrarahu. In 298 BC, the emperor abdicated, handing over power to his son Bindusara. He then travelled south from Karnataka with a caveat Shabnablogole. There, Chandragupta meditated without eating or drinking for five weeks, until he died of starvation in a habit called sallekhana or evening.
The kingdom founded by Chandragupta will rule India and South Asia until 185 AD and will follow in the footsteps of his grandson Ashoka Chandragupta in many ways a region conquered as a young man but became religious in his old age. In fact, in the history of Ashoka’s rule in India, Buddhism can be a pure manifestation of any government.
I hope you have learned some wonderful information by reading “Chandragupta Maurya” Biography If you like this post. please comment below and let me know what you think Your valuable comments help me immensely to add extra inspiration.
According to the Puranic tradition, Chandragupta, also known as Sandracottus, was the illegitimate son of the last Nanda king of Magadha by the maid servant Mura, hence the name Maurya. Jain and Buddhist sources declare him to be a scion of the Moriya clan of Pippalivana.
In his youth Chandragupta came under the influence of Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, a Taxilian Brahmin and the reputed author of Arthasastra, the celebrated work on Indian polity. Aided by Chanakya, Chandragupta conspired to usurp the Magadhan rule but failed in his first attempt. Exiled, he met Alexander in 326/325 B.C., studied the significance and success of the Greek invasion, and bided his time.
After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., Chandragupta put an end to the Greek rule in northwest India, returned to Magadha, killed the Nanda king, and proclaimed the Maurya dynasty in 322. The attempt of Seleucus Nicator, a Greek satrap, to recapture Punjab in 304 was foiled, and Chandragupta obtained present-day Afghanistan as part of the peace treaty. Seleucus also gave his daughter in marriage to Chandragupta and appointed Megasthenes as ambassador to the Maurya court. Scholars owe much information about Mauryan India to a detailed account written by Megasthenes.
The Magadhan state under Chandragupta was both opulent and totalitarian. The capital, Pataliputra, was a magnificent city, and the royal palace was, according to Megasthenes, filled with "wonders which neither Memnonian Susa in all its glory nor the magnificence of Ekbatana can hope to vie indeed, only the well-known vanity of the Persians could imagine such a comparison." Having come to power through intrigue, the Emperor feared plots. He employed an army of secret agents, and no method was considered unscrupulous to destroy his enemies.
The people enjoyed a reputation for honesty lying and stealing were generally unknown, and the Greek ambassador notes that litigation was seldom resorted to. Much of this was no doubt due to the harsh penal system. The death penalty was imposed for evasion of taxes, and maiming was inflicted for perjury.
The empire was divided into three provinces, each under a viceroy, usually a member of the royal family. Chandragupta had an army of 600,000, but it is likely the number also included camp followers. A palace guard of foreign Amazons kept watch over the Emperor, and Chandragupta seldom appeared in public.
Chandragupta's rule lasted 24 years. According to Jain tradition, in 298 he abdicated his throne, retired to the Jain retreat at Sravana Belgola in Mysore, and eventually fasted to death.
Question. 1. Describe the Mauryan Administration on the basis of Kautilya’s Arthashastra and the accounts of Megasthenes.
Answer. Magasthanese was the first Greek historian who stayed at the court of Chandra Gupta for five years (302 B.C. – 298 B.C.) as an envoy of Sleucus. He wrote about India in detail in his book Indica. Unfortunately the books is not available now. Other Greek authors have generously quoted from Indica. Magasthanese devolt on almost all aspects of Indian society the chief being : Indian society, the monarch, the royal palace, the court, the royal recreations, the capital Patliputra, and the army. We have borrowed the account and describe it in brief in the following lines –
(1) The Indian Society – Magasthanese has mentioned seven castes in the Indian society of the period. Probably he divides the society into seven divisions and calls them castes. He says that inter-caste marriage was taboo. The divisions were –
(a) Brahmins and the thinker, Their number was small but were highly respected. Their function was to perform Yagya. The state exempted them from taxes.
(b)Krishak, They were large in numbers tilled the land, and paid land revenue equal to one-fourth of their agricultural produce
(c) Shepherd and Hunters – Shepherds raised cattle for milk but hunters killed wild animals.
(d)Traders and workers – Traders were rich and engaged in various trades. They paid handsomely to the state. Workers served other people.
Fighters – They were always engaged in fighting. The state bore
their expenses. During nights they made merry.
(f)Inspector- Inspected various departments of the state and submitted their report to the king.
(g), Ministers and Councilors – Their number was the smallest. They were wise, able and educated people and worked at higher positions in the state.
(2) The Maurya King- The king spent most of his time at the court and despensed justice. He feared for his life and did not sleep for more than two nights in a room. His bodyguards were women and rarely went out of the royal palace.
(3) Royal Palace – There were a number of royal palaces in Patliputra with extensive gardens and pools around them. Peacocks and pegeons swarmed in the courtyards and the fish moved about in the pools.
(4)The Court – Magasthanese records that Chandra Gupta Maurya kept a glorious court. Vessals of silver and gold, inlaid wooden work and sinest sparkling dresses, added to the beauty of the court. The king sat in the court in all of his finery..
(5) Royal Recreations – The emperor was fond of hunting, drew recreation from the bouts of the wrestlers, house-races and fights with wild animals.
(6) Patliputra – Magasthanese gives a detailed description of the capital city of Patliputra. He says that Patliputra was a large city standing on the confluence of rivers Ganga and Son. It had a deep moat around to save it against invasion. Six sub-committees, described earlier, looked into the local administration of the city.
· (7) The Management of the Army – He writes that Chandra Gupta Maurya’s army was large and powerful. A 30 member war-council managed its affairs. The council has been described earlier in this chapter.
Kautilya and his Arthshastra
Kautilyas, prime minister of Chandra Gupta Maurya, was an extra ordinary man. He made Chandra Gupta Maurya an emperor and master OT a large empire. His life has been discussed briefly in reference to the exploits and success of Chandra Gupta Maurya carlier in this chapter. In the following lines we shall study his famed political treatise, Arihshastra –
(1)The King – The king should be a despotic ruler but must heed
to the council of his ministers and brahmins. The welfare of his people is the chief function of a king which amounts to his own good. He advises the king to keep a large powerful army to defend against foreign invasion and keep peace within. He invokes the king to conquer others. Kingdoms to enhance his glory. The king should not distinguish between suitable or unsuitable steps taken in the direction of public welfare.
(2) Minister – The king should freely avail counsel of his ministers. The minister should be wise, sincere, experienced, loyal and beyond any reproach. In spite of this the monarch should not play in the hands of his ministers but must take decisions independently on merits. The secrets of the state should remain confined with the king and his council of his ministers.
(3) The Secret-service – Kautilya laid much stress on strengthening the secret service and the king should know all the events-small or tig. This may be possible through a well-organized service to which the king must interest himself. Kautilya favored the inclusion of women in the secret service.
(4) Provincial Administration – The king should divide the empire into provinces for efficient administration and appoint governors, as his representatives. Provinces should have districts and district villages.)
(5) Public Welfare – Kautilya impresses upon the king to perform his duties towards public welfare in all earnestness. Poverty was told as the greatest curse. He should mitigate their suffering and make their life happier.
The Legendary Story of Chandragupta Maurya from the Historical Novel of Dhumketu
This novel &ndash Chandragupta Maurya &ndash is in continuation of the preceding novel &ndash Mahamatya Chanakya (The Book review for which can be read here). In preceding novel (Part 1), Chanakya&rsquos journey from Takshashila to Pataliputra and return journey from there are covered. In between, readers get to know about Chanakya&rsquos insult in court of Dhananand and his great vow to eliminate Dhananand. Readers also get to know about Amatya Rakshas, Shaktal, Pushpagupta, Shringaradevi and many such characters in detail. Here in Part 2, Dhumketu narrates how Chanakya and Chandragupta, together, capture Pataliputra, dethrone Dhananand and establish Maurya dynasty.
Being an Aacharya of Arthashastra, Chanakya could unite local rulers of Gandhar and Punjab regions by giving them political and economical temptation but he was very well aware that he can&rsquot trust them blindly. He also knows that Magadh can&rsquot be defeated in open war by his united force so he had to plan and execute other secret options. He also had to eliminate every person coming in between Chandragupta and Pataliputra to establish the empire as per ancient wisdom depicted in Arthashastra. While reading few initial pages, we come to know how mammoth and almost impossible task this was. Perhaps this is the reason readers will be glued to this novel till the end.
This almost impossible feat of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya is not a fable but a turning point in Indian history. It is celebrated in many Indian literary works (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain) including Puranas.
Dhumketu &ndash The Author
Dhumaketu (1892-1965) is a very famous name in Gujarati literature. He has explored almost all forms of literature like Novels, Short stories, Dramas, Essays, Children literature, Philosophy, Rendering of literature of other languages into Gujarati and many more. His short stories are considered master pieces and also part of syllabus in school and universities, in Gujarat, since decades.
Another feather in his cap is his Historical Novels. He has written 29 Historical Novels, in Gujarati, which is a stupendous achievement in itself. These Historical Novels are not only limited to geography and culture of Gujarat but also cover various parts of India. The ancient most such novel goes back to
6 th Century BCE (Pre Maurya era) and the last novel covers the end of Hindu rule in Gujarat (
13 th Century CE). In between he covers Maurya, Shunga, Gupt, Chavda, Solanki (Chaulukya) and Vaghela eras of India and Gujarat. Dhumketu is perhaps the only Novelist in India who has written these many Historical Novels covering various royal dynasties.
This novel &ndash Chandragupta Maurya &ndash was first published in 1956 by &lsquoGurjar Prakashan&rsquo. Written in Gujarati language, book has 40 chapters and
280 pages. It is 5 th book in the series with Empire at Magadh as the focal point.
[Cover Page of The Novel, Modern Edition]
Since every novel is connected with the previous one, reader shouldn&rsquot read any of the novels in isolation. Covering great characters like Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya are not possible in just one novel. Dhumketu has written three novels covering life of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya. This novel is connected with the earlier one &ndash Mahamatya Chanakya &ndash which covers initial episodes of Chanakya&rsquos struggle and determination to unify India under an able ruler Chandraupt. This novel &ndash Chandragupta Maurya &ndash and the next one &ndash Samrat Chandragupta &ndash cover the remaining history of end of Nand dynasty and establishment & flourishment of Maurya dynasty under Chandragupta Maurya.
Dhumketu is known for using historical sources &ndash Books, Epigraphical sources and Literature, in his historical novels. Few such sources found in footnotes of the novel are &ndash
- Chandragupta Maurya And His Times &ndash Radhakumud Mukerji
- Writings of Jain Muni Hemachandracharya
- Writings of VA Smith
- The Art of War in Ancient India &ndash PC Chakravarti
- The Ancient Indian Coinage &ndash Vasudeva Upadhyaya
- Kathasaritsagar &ndash Somadeva
- Arthashastra &ndash Kautilya
- ChanakyaNiti &ndash Chanakya
- Mudrarakshas &ndash Vishakhadatt
- Greek Sources
Few incidents and events related to characters of this novel may also be inspired by few Jain and Buddhist sources. It looks like Dhumketu is very selective in usage of Jain and Buddhist sources as many of them have completely different narratives.
Mentioning historical sources in the historical novel is a bold and honest approach by the author. It also shows that the imaginative narratives are build on historical base. Such boldness and honesty in authors are rare even in modern era.
Content of The Novel &ndash
End of the previous novel, in this series, is the start of this novel. After escaping from Pataliputra, Chanakya returns to Takshashila and assembles all Indian local rulers &ndash Ambhi, Abhisar, Shashigupt, Malayketu (Son of Puru), Saubhutiraj etc. He gives them a dream to become free not only from the suzerainty of Yavan (Greek) dominance but also from the looming threat of powerful empire of Magadh. Chanakya decides to remove the prime Kshatrap &ndash Philip &ndash from the scene so that all the local rulers can be freed and then united force can take on with the mighty Magadh empire.
Chanakya&rsquos search of finding a person, who can kill Philip, ends with Aarshasen. He was the lord of Maskavati (Modern Hazara in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan). After the victory, Alexander has given this province to King Abhiras but choice of people was Aarshasen. Chanakya wanted to utilize the ambition of Aarshasen in his plan. He summons Aarshasen and convinces him to do this. After few days, as per the plan devised by Chanakya, Philip gets killed. How Philip killed remains a secret for others. Chanakya inspires Ambhi to immediately take the charge in blocking the movements of Yavanas in and around Takshashila. As per the advice of Chanakya, Ambhi expels many Yavanas too.
Chanakya utilizes hunger of wealth and ambition of every ruler of his union by applying sama and dana tactics. He promises lordship of entire area east to Hastinapur (Modern Delhi-Haryana) to each prominent king of the union and also takes them in confidence to not to reveal this deal with others. In one of the meetings, Chanakya declares that based on the support from these rulers only they will get the share of victory. Thus, he ends all possibilities of defiance by any of them. Chanakya also establishes Chandragupta as future Emperor of Magadh with this. Without any difficulty everybody accepts him as they are politically intoxicated by Chanakya.
Chanakya is aware that whatever is happening here will reach to Amatya Rakshas by his spies. So, he plans to create ambiguity in mind of Rakshas regarding the expedition and characters of his united force. He devices a strategy by taking Chandragupta, Malayketu, Pushpagupta and Shringaradevi in confidence. This plan is in centre of the entire strategy to fox Amatya Rakshas. Chanakya remains extremely cautious about its implementation. On other side, Amatya Rakshas also gets into action and installs his resources (military, spies, ploys to prevent/damage rival army etc.) at key spots.
As per the plan, Malayketu and Pushpagupta allow a military unit of Magadh to seize them near River Ganga. Pushpagupta explains the situation to Rakshas to regain his lost confidence. After few twists and turns, finally he wins trust of Rakshas. This entire narration is a proof of sheer political skill of Pushpagupta (Guided by Chanakya) because deceiving Amatya Rakshas was almost impossible. But on the other side, Malayketu gets trapped by Amatya Rakshas. Dialogues between both of them are perfect example of how a wolf traps a rabbit without any physical harm.
Malayketu returns to Chanakya and narrates the military preparation by Rakshas but smartly hides his deal with him. He wants to play a double game just to satisfy his ambition but Chanakya senses hidden agenda from Malayketu&rsquos body language and speaking style. Chandragupta declares Ambhi as commander of the united force in place of Malayketu. Chanakya starts monitoring both &ndash Ambhi and Malayketu &ndash to prevent any scuffle. Later on, from the timely input from Bhagurayan (His personal spy), he gets to know about the deal of Rakshas and Malayketu. Chanakya understands the double game of Malayketu and decides to cut his wings at the earliest. Chanakya meets to Helen, a Greek beautiful lady in the unit of Malayketu and get to know about her one directional love towards Chandragupta. He immediately senses the plan of Malayketu to defame Chandragupta using Helen. He starts thinking how to remove Helen from the camp.
In Pataliputra, Pushpagupta reignites the fire of samskara, earlier ignited by Chanakya, in queen Sunanada and her daughter Dharini Devi (Ref. preceding novel - Mahamatya Chanakya). Malayketu informs Chanakya about this and indirectly also conveys that whatever is happening is not hidden from him. To beat him in his own double game, Chanakya suggests to send Helen to Pataliputra as his messenger in form of a dancer, via Malayketu himself, to avoid suspicion from Rakshas (Read again). Malayketu is left with no choice but to say yes.
United alliance of Chanakya reaches near to Pataliputra. Robust fortification of Pataliputra (Ref. preceding novel &ndash Mahamatya Chanakya) forces Chandragupta to think out of the box. From here onwards, he takes the command of the war in his hand. Before commencing the war, Chandragupta gives everybody an option to clarify their stand and even allows to change the side too. Dhumketu compares this with Bhishma&rsquos act in Mahabharatam where Bhishma asks the same to his force. He also establishes his supremacy over entire force with his Kshatriya spirit. On other side, Rakshas warns his commander Bhadrashal that this war from Chandragupta is guided by Chanakya so take every step with full caution. Bhadrashal is confident on his 9000 elephants.
Chanakya and Chandragupta, outside of Pataliputra, and Pushpagupta, inside of Pataliputra, play their roles smartly. Rakshas wants to take Ambhi on his side by giving him elusive offers. He entrusts Pushpagupta to execute his plan. Chanakya and Chandragupta were waiting for this moment. Through a secret path, along with Ambhi and few guards, Pushpagupta takes Chandragupta also inside Palace of Dhananand. With the help of Shringaradevi, Pushpagupta and few selected warriors, Chandragupta captures Dhananand from his &ldquocave of gold&rdquo and put entire Nand family in confinement. Rakshas luckily escapes and reaches to Bhadrashal&rsquos camp. In early morning, Chandragupta informs Bhadrashal to surrender. Finally, with the efforts of Rakshas to save Nand family, Bhadrashal agrees to surrender. Entire Nand family is given a safe passage to go out of Pataliputra with required stuff to live in a jungle. Dharani Devi, daughter of Dhananand, denies to go and returns. She wants to marry to Chandragupta.
There, Ambhi gets trapped in the palace itself and killed by Helen in an unplanned manner. In all these, Rakshas manages to flee from the scene. Chandragupta orders to find him out. Chanting of Vedamantras by Brahmanas expel the darkness of Pataliputra. People and other officers not only accept but also celebrate this historical change and new king. Malayketu senses that sooner he may also be killed like Ambhi so one night, along with Shashigupt and others, he escapes from Pataliputra. Chanakya sends Nipunak and Bhagurayan (his personal spies) behind them.
Bhadrashal, as per his vow, ends his life by entering into River Ganga. Other important warriors are given proper treatment and wealth by Chandragupta so they easily get assimilated into a new military system. Pushpagupta becomes the commander of Magadh army. Scholars and Brahmanas delighted to see goddess of knowledge becoming free from clutches of darkness. Chanakya sends Helen back to Gandhar with proper arrangement and at the last moment, reveals that he knows that she is the daughter of seleucus, the Greek commander, who has still kept Alexander&rsquos dream alive.
Chandragupta initiates major reforms in the administration and also gets involved in it. On other side, Chanakya is trying to find Rakshas and विषकन्या (Honey trap) whom he captured earlier (Ref. preceding novel &ndash Mahamatya Chanakya). He knows that Rakshas will definitely use her against Chandragupta so he appoints Shringaradevi to protect Chandragupta from any such honey trap. Once again, he reminds Chandragupta about importance of इन्द्रियजय (Victory over senses) for a king.
To seize the venomous weapon of Rakshas, vishakanya, Chanakya plans a mega event in Pataliputra where artists across the states get an open invitation. Here, Chanakya plays the same trick which Amatya Rakshas played previously (Ref. preceding novel &ndash Mahamatya Chanakya). Vishakanya comes disguised as the dancer of Vaishali city. Bhagurayan identifies her. Alerted Chanakya send her to Malayketu&rsquos place instead of Chandragupta. Thus, he not only saves Chandragupta but also eliminates Malayketu and captures vishakanya.
Novel ends with one important aphorism inspired from Arthashastra &ndash इन्द्रियजयस्तु राज्यम् (राज्यमूलं इन्द्रियजयः).
Main characters of this novel are Chanakya, Amatya Rakshas and Chandragupta Maurya. Supporting characters are Pushpagupta, Ambhi, Malayketu and Helen. Minor characters like Bhadrashal, Nipunaka & Bhagurayan (Spies of Chanakya in form of astrologers and fortune tellers), Shringaradevi and others also play significant roles.
Chanakya is depicted as much lethal as possible in implementing his strategies and plans. Since he is chasing not only his personal dream but also want to establish dharmarajya, his approach is not soft anywhere in the novel. He is so focused that, at times, he doesn&rsquot reveal everything even to Chandragupta. His confidence on ancient treatise of Arthashastra is worth mentioning and inspiring to readers too. Most importantly, he is shown always ready with plan B. Unlike preceding novel, Chanakya surpasses Amatya Rakshas in every move. Utilizing and guiding resources without wasting time in his favor is a unique trait which readers will definitely enjoy.
Just like preceding novel, here also Amatya Rakshas exhibits same fearsome and cunning traits in stopping and trapping Chanakya&rsquos resources. His devotion towards Nand family is on display. Unlike preceding novel, here he gets foxed by not only Chanakya but also by Pushpagupta. In the climax, he successfully escapes from the scene and becomes a post war headache for Chanakya.
Unlike preceding novel, here Chandraupt Maurya assumes important role, in patches, and readers can experience his Kshatriya qualities on full display. His authoritative control over every local ruler is clearly visible all over the novel. Before the start of the war, he takes control of the army and exhibits quick actions which impress Chanakya. Even his post war actions are also impressive. It is his ability and bravery only due to which Dhananand gets captured alive. His tuning with Chanakya is simply divine.
Pushpagupta is again in supporting role but here expectation and weightage on his character is much more. In fact, it is his smartness and intelligence only which allow Chanakya to execute plan B at the right moment. Had he not confused and convinced Amatya Rakshas, Chandragupta would never had entered into the palace of Nand and seized him. He is someone who is very agile, sharp yet calm and calculative. Perhaps touch of Chanakya is the reason in ignition of his sleeping talent.
Ambhi is a cunning, self centered and an opportunist king whose sole aim is to become an undisputed ruler of Gandhar and Punjab. His jealousy towards Puru, Malayketu and Chandragupta is clearly visible in many narratives. Chanakya diligently uses Ambhi&rsquos opportunism in his own favor throughout the novel and keeps him guessing. He is depicted as a short-sighted ruler who eventually gets trapped in his own opportunism.
Malayketu is even more short-sighted warrior with childish behaviour. He becomes a football in between Rakshas and Chanakya due to his over ambitious nature. Although, in few incidents, he plays double game and shows his hidden talent. He is so much influenced by his own ambition that even if escaped alive from the clutches of Chanakya and Chandragupta, he accepts to return to Pataliputra and makes Chanakya&rsquos life easy in the climax. His first meeting with Rakshas exposes his political shallowness badly.
Helen is a daughter of Seleucus, a Greek commander of Alexander&rsquos army. She is depicted a super excited girl in love with Sandrocottus (Chandragupta) and also influenced by Indian civilization. She is the only source of शृङ्गाररस in the novel but in the end, she shows his skill as a warrior by killing Ambhi.
Bhadrashal is a commander of Nand army and depicted a true Kshatriya. His staunch belief in controlling the situation by applying strict actions makes his presence noteworthy. His self confidence and audacity make him apart from others. Bowing down to an enemy is against his nature so after surrendering to Chandragupta, he ends his life in River Ganga. Even if his character is small in the novel, it leaves a powerful impact in reader&rsquos mind.
Nipunak & Bhagurayan are small but very important characters in the novel. This spy duo is like a bridge for Chanakya joining his dream and Pataliputra. From start to end, they both play significant roles at various places in various conditions without fear. Their characters prove that spies are the eyes of a king.
Impact of ChanakyaNiti & Arthashastra &ndash
Chanakya and his works &ndash ChanakyaNiti and Arthashastra &ndash are two sides of a coin. Impact of both of these works, in form of situational quotes (Sanskrit verses), terminologies and concepts, are easily observed in this novel which make this novel authentic.
Quotes & Aphorisms
Before the start of the first chapter, Dhumketu has written two aphorisms taken from ChanakyaNiti. The first one says &ldquo&ldquoThe one is an idiot indeed, if he knows what is written in scriptures but doesn&rsquot know the ground reality&rdquo while the second aphorism says &ldquoThe intelligent has (finally) no enemy (By applying intelligence, one can win over his enemy)&rdquo. These two aphorisms are an echo of the entire novel. This is where readers should understand what they are going to experience.
At one place, Chanakya is teaching to his students and quoting few Sanskrit aphorisms. The first is शास्त्रज्ञोऽप्यलोकज्ञो मूर्खतुल्यः (The one is an idiot indeed, if he knows what is written in scriptures but doesn&rsquot know the ground reality). The second aphorism is स्वहस्तोऽपि विषदिग्धश्छेद्यः (Cut the poisonous hand, even if it is your own). Both of these quotes are from ChanakyaNiti. They are in reference of Chanakya&rsquos first success in his plan.
एरण्डमलम्ब्य कुञ्जरं न कोपयेत् (By using castor plant, an elephant can&rsquot be disturbed) is another quote taken from ChanakyaNiti and uttered by Amatya Rakshas.
At one place, Chanakya takes inspiration from his own work Arthashastra in form of one important aphorism राज्यमूलम् इन्द्रियजयः (Root of a steady state is in conquest of senses) to control his curiosity.
Terminologies & Concepts
यामतूर्य terminology is used only once in Arthashastra in the sense of modern understanding of Curfew. This is perhaps the earliest reference of curfew in Indian literature. Dhumketu has beautifully used it in one of the narrations. This shows author&rsquos in depth reading of Arthashastra.
&ldquoEnchantment born out of delusion is more effective tool in victory than military operation&rdquo says Chanakya while explaining his plan, to Chandragupta, in keeping the disintegrated Indian rulers under one roof. This is a direct application of the four-fold approach &ndash sama, dana, bheda and danda &ndash covered in Arthashastra.
&ldquoWithout conquering senses, all other conquests are meaningless&rdquo. This is directly inspired from Arthashastra&rsquos इन्द्रियजयः principle.
शून्यपाल is a term used in this novel which is also taken from Arthashastra. It means an officer with power of attorney from the emperor/king in certain policy matters.
In Arthashastra, it is advised to construct temporary structures and pathways to assist the marching army and also building traps for rival army. The same concept is taken here. Amatya Rakshas has shown doing all these as a part of preparation of war.
अमित्रदर्शन (Hostility) and सुवर्णाध्यक्ष (Head of Gold treasury) are two terminologies directly taken from Arthashastra. These terminologies play significant role in the very first meeting of Malayketu and Amatya Rakshas. In the same meeting, a reader gets to know one important principle of ancient Indian polity &ndash &ldquoA king, entered into another territory for his personal purpose, should not be killed&rdquo.
महापथ , a pathway built primarily for elephants with
20 hand unit wideness, is found in Arthashastra. This term is aptly used in one of the chapters as a supplement to one important incident.
स्कन्धावार is one of the important terminology in Arthashastra used for a military camp of a marching army. In fact, a full chapter is given by Kautilya on planning, construction, security and many other aspects of such military camp. The same concept is also used here for the marching army of united force of Chandragupta Maurya. Related terms like वप्र (Construction for security of camp), स्थान (Meeting place of royal spies), सत्री (Mobile Spy) and Female Spies are also beautifully woven in the narration. Noteworthy terminology here, taken from Arthashastra, is of trained कपोत (Pigeon) to communicate messages.
Commander of Magadh, Bhadrashal, believes in only one approach &ndash danda (दण्ड). In Arthashastra, Kautilya has mentioned that followers of Ushanas (उशनस्) believes in दण्ड only. So indirectly, Bhadrashal is shown as the follower of Ushanas branch of Arthashastra.
श्रेणी is a unit of trained warriors mentioned in Kautilya&rsquos Arthashastra. When Chandragupta put Dhananand in confinement, this term is used for the warriors of Chandragupta.
After the win, immediately Chandragupta removes two taxes &ndash Tax on rats (मूषिककर) and salt (लवणकर). Both these taxes are referred in Arthashastra. Tax on rats also appears in the preceding novel &ndash Mahamatya Chanakya.
लक्षणाध्यक्ष (Head of Gems/Metals Dept.) and his few duties are also beautifully covered in one of the narrations related to standard कार्षापण (Currency) implementation in the empire.
Literary Aspects &ndash
Language used in the novel is almost refined except for few colloquial usages. Language contains many popular and lesser known idioms. Use of figure of speech and ornated sentences at places lift the level of this novel. Situational quotes from certain powerful characters makes the reading valuable for us.
Quotes, Similes and Contrasts
On the very first page, policy of local &ldquonon united&rdquo Indian rulers is referred as &ldquoSightless&rdquo, not even &ldquoShort-sighted&rdquo. Perhaps the reason why they succumbed to Alexander.
In one of the dialogues, Chanakya compares strategic moves of Ambhi with Cheetah and says one can never know when will he move/act but whenever he does, he does it suddenly and swiftly.
While taunting to Ambhi&rsquos adharmic ambition, Chanakya says &ldquoDesire to dominate (On a specific geography) makes you a slave (of Yavanas) but it is your self respect only which can make you a king&rdquo. This is a situational quote which reader can understand while reading the relevant portion.
&ldquoA true politician can use even the dead bodies&rdquo is another bold and situational quote uttered by Chanakaya to mould Ambhi in his plan. Remember, this novel is written in 1956, during the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehu&rsquos regime.
&ldquoWise enjoys even after losing his half but unwise (by remaining stubborn) loses everything&rdquo is another quote by Chanakya while convincing Ambhi, after Philip gets killed, to give up his support to Yavanas and to act as per Chanakya&rsquos strategy.
At one place, Chanakya says &ldquoErecting victory towers (of adharmic rule) is a tradition of a non-Arya while an Arya builds lakes/ponds, temples and patronises good thoughts and poetry&rdquo. This quote has sarcasm as well as tradition too. An intelligent reader can easily understand it.
Quote on moon light is also noteworthy. &ldquoMoon light gives peace to wise people, dream to poet, intoxication to dreamer, slumber to sluggish, liveliness to lover and new sight to sages&rdquo. During the political discussion, this quote, for a while, creates a peaceful poetic sense in mind of the reader.
&ldquoDesire and ability to rule are fine but having a great dream to rule is above all. Campaign of the one with only desire is blind in nature and such a person gets destroyed easily&rdquo is another powerful quote by Chanakya on importance of a great king.
&ldquoRoyal horse of king does a paltry job at potter&rsquos house&rdquo is a translation of a popular Gujarati proverb used in the novel to communicate the irony of being in a political situation. This proverb is now rarely used in colloquial usage so modern reader may find it bit rusty. Dhumketu has used many such proverbs.
&ldquoThere are two types of people who drink poison &ndash One drink happily and the other out of compulsion. Third type of people are fools (idiots) who neither feel happiness nor sadness because they are generally sleeping&rdquo is a situational quote by dhumketu in the climax of the novel. At the same place, Dhumketu compares Chanakya&rsquos thinking of seizing vishakanya, last weapon of Rakshas, with seizure of Karna&rsquos weapons in Mahabharatam.
Sanskrit Verses, Idioms and Maxims
शठं प्रति शाठ्यम् (Tit for tat) is a famous Sanskrit idiom which Chanakya suggests while justifying his plan of killing Philip. This is in reference with the mass killing of Indians by Yavanas (Greek army) during Alexander&rsquos campaign.
Another Sanskrit idiom षट्कर्ण (Six ears) is a popular usage in Sanskrit literature to represent more than two persons in a secret talk. It indicates risk in keeping the secret. This word is rarely used in Gujarati literature but gives a beautiful touch to the narration.
A Sanskrit maxim देहली-दीपक-न्यायः (Achieving two targets at a time) is used to demonstrate the strategy of Ambhi to satisfy his ambition to become an unchallenged king of Gandhar and Punjab.
प्रथम ग्रासे मक्षिका (Hurdle in the very first attempt) is another popular Sanskrit idiom used in this novel. It is also frequently used in classical literature of many Indian languages. Another such usage is महाजनहासः न कर्त्तव्यः (Good person shouldn&rsquot be ridiculed) used along with a similar Gujarati idiom.
A Gujarati idiom translated as &ldquoCat sees the milk but not the stick&rdquo is appropriately used for depicting the successful deceit of Malayketu by Amatya Rakshas.
वृषल word used for Chandragupta, in the novel, is influenced by Mudrarakshas (मुद्राराक्षस) &ndash a famous ancient Sanskrit play of Vishakhadatt. This play is one of the important sources regarding life of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya.
Concluding Remarks &ndash
Stitching Historical sources, legends and fables into a meaningful writing is always a commendable effort. Moreover, writing on legendary characters are always a tough task considering society&rsquos attachment with them on various levels. Toughest is to recreate the era using all resources and taking the reader back to that time period. Dhumketu&rsquos ability of easily doing all these are soul to these novels.
Dhumketu&rsquos ability to create parallel characters to Chanakya is also refreshing for the reader. It avoids overdose of a single character and keeps the interest alive. At places, reader may compel to compare them while at places, reader may wonder to know their hidden traits. Even few small characters in this novel leave their mark on reader&rsquos mind which speaks volume about creativity of Dhumketu as a writer.
If you are a student of politics, administration or history, you will surely enjoy the political stunts, mind games, ancient narratives and many such impetus taken from Arthashastra and other literary and historical sources. If you are interested in language and literature, you will love the usage of idioms, figure of speech and quotes. Lucid language will definitely keep you in flow of reading.