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Chanakya Biography

Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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Chanakya was a teacher, philosopher, economist, and statesman who wrote the Indian political treatise, the ‘Arthashastra’ (Science of Politics and Economics). He played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya dynasty. 

Born in a poor Brahmin family, Chanakya was educated at Takshashila (Now in Pakistan), an ancient center of learning located in the north-western part of India. He was a highly learned person having in-depth knowledge in a variety of subjects like economics, politics, war strategies, medicine, and astrology. He began his career as a teacher, and went on to become a trusted ally of Emperor Chandragupta. Working as the emperor’s adviser, he helped Chandragupta overthrow the powerful Nanda dynasty at Pataliputra, in the Magadha region and helped Chandragupta attain new powers. Chanakya was the adviser for Chandragupta’s son Bindusara as well. In this article we have learned about Chanakya biography. 

Now let us learn more about Information about Chanakya, Life history of Chanakya.

Chanakya was a philosopher, jurist, and royal advisor. His original name was Vishnu Gupta yet he is recognized for his pen name Kautilya. He wrote ‘Arthashastra’ on the Science of Politics and Economics between the 2nd century BCE and 3rd century CE. He wrote books on many things such as ethics and statecraft. He worked as a political advisor for the famous Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta and he has been given many credentials in the expansion of the state. He later became the advisor to Chandragupta’s son Bindusara.

Childhood Days of Chanakya

Chanakya was born into a Brahmin family and was educated at Takshashila which is an ancient center for learning that is located in north-western ancient India. He was a person who had in-depth knowledge in various subjects such as politics, economics, medicine, war strategies, and astrology and he was highly learned. He began his career as a teacher and later he became the trusted ally of Emperor Chandragupta. He acted as the emperor’s counselor and advisor and helped Chandragupta in overthrowing the power Nanda dynasty at Pataliputra, in the Magadha region. He was instrumental in helping Chandragupta to consolidate his powers. 

Information About Chanakya

Chanakya was also known as Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta.

Chanakya date of birth: 350 BCE

Chanakya birth place: Takshashila (Now in Pakistan)

Chanakya religion: Brahmin

Chanakya Date of Death: 275 BCE

Life History of Chanakya

Childhood Days

Chanakya was born in a very poor Brahmin family in around 350 BC at Takshashila. His father’s name was Chanak and his mother’s name was Chaneshvari. In his childhood days, Chanakya studied the whole Vedas and learned about politics. He had a wisdom tooth. There was a common belief at that time, that having a wisdom tooth is a sign of becoming the king. His mother was scared to hear an astrologer say “he will grow up to become a king and forget her after becoming king”. At that time Chanakya broke his wisdom teeth and promised his mother that “Mother, don’t worry. I will take good care of you.”

Before the rise of the Maurya Empire, North India was under the rule of Nandas. Due to the lack of proper administrations, the Kings of Nandas empire were exploiting the people. Chanakya played a major role in removing such robbers like Dhananand and establishing the Mauryan Empire. 

Chanakya was born in 350 BC into a Brahmin family though the details of his birthplace are still unclear. According to Hemachandra, a Jain writer he was born to Chanin and his wife Chaneshvari in the Chanaka village of the Golla region on the contrary there are other sources that claim the name of Chanakya’s father was Chanak. 

He completed his education in Takshashila and grew up to be a well-read young man. It is believed that along with his knowledge in subjects like political science, economics, war strategies, astrology, and medicine, he was also familiar with the elements of Persian and Greek learning. He had full knowledge of Vedas Literature as well.

Marriage Life

After completing his education, Chanakya began to work as a teacher in nearby areas of  Takshashila, Nalanda. Chanakya had a firm belief that “A woman who is beautiful from the body only can keep you happy for one night. While a woman who is beautiful from her soul can keep you happy for a lifetime”. So he decided to marry a girl named Yashodhara in his Brahmin lineage. She was not as beautiful as him. Her black color became a joke for some people.

Once upon a time, Yashodhra decided to go to a ceremony at her brother’s house with Chanakya, everyone made fun of Chanakya’s poverty. She was unhappy with the situation, so she advised him to meet King Dhanananda and get some money as a gift.

Meeting with Dhananda

Dhanananda who was the emperor of Magadha at that time had organized a food meal for the Brahmins at Pushpapuri. Chanakya also attended the meal in the desire to receive some gifts from King Dhanananda by giving suggestions about unbroken India. But Dhanananda was a very arrogant King and he insulted Chanakya by looking at his ugly appearance and directly rejected his suggestions. 

Then Chanakya got very angry and vowed to destroy the Nanda Empire. Then Dhanananda ordered his people to arrest him. But Chanakya escaped from there in disguise. After escaping from the court of Dhanananda, Chanakya successfully hid and started living around Magadh. During this time he became friends with his rival Dhanananda’s son, Pabbata. Chanakya was able to conquer Pabbata’s mind and was able to obtain a royal ring and went to the forest. 

Chanakya used his wisdom to earn 80 crores of golden coins from that royal ring. Keeping so many golden coins safe by digging a hole in the jungle, he went to look for a person who could successfully help him finish Dhananand. Chanakya was looking for someone who could destroy the Nanda dynasty of Dhanananda from the root. At the same time, Chandragupta was seen in the eyes of Chanakya. Chanakya then gave 1000 gold coins to his foster parents and took him with them to the forest. At present Chanakya was ready with two weapons to remove Dhanananda’s head. If Chandragupta was among them, the other was Pabbata. Chanakya decided to train one among those two and make him the emperor. He decided to take a small test between them. In that test, Chandragupta successfully removed Pabbata’s head and became victorious.

The Rise of Chandragupta

Chanakya was very proud of Chandragupta who was able to win the test. Chanakya gave him rigorous military training for 7 years. Under Chanakya’s guidance, Chandragupta became a capable warrior. Chanakya always wanted to overthrow the Nanda dynasty of Dhana Nanda and establish the Maurya empire. Chandragupta formed a small army without thinking much and attacked Magadha which was the capital of the Nandas. But Chandragupta’s small army was crushed away in front of the huge army of Nandas. Chanakya’s hand burned at the beginning for making a foolish decision. Chanakya and Chandragupta began to roam in frustration after the defeat.

Revenge of Chanakya

One day Chanakya and Chandragupta were roaming in Magadha, One mother was scolding her son who burnt his hand by putting it in the middle of the hot bread. Looking at that mother exclaimed “If you put your hands directly between hot bread, it will surely burn you. Why are you acting like a stupid Chanakya, who instead of seizing the border territories, has directly attacked the capital and burned his hands? First, eat the border of the bread and then slowly put your hand in the middle, then it will not burn you”. That mother was scolding her child like this. Chanakya and Chandragupta hear it secretly. Listening to that, They realized their mistake. He regretted that it was his biggest mistake to attack the capital Pataliputra without seizing the border first. Chanakya bowed to the women who enlightened them with those words and they decided to go ahead.

Listening to the advice of Chanakya, Chandragupta attacked the borders first and started taking them under his control. Chandragupta tried to train the forest people who were roaming purposeless and included them in their army. When the army was completely ready, Chanakya decided to take out the gold coins which he had hidden in the forest and provided all the necessary goods and armor to the army. By doing this Chanakya strengthened the army but some of the smaller kings on the border did not agree to join Chandragupta’s army.

Chanakya killed such kings by poisoning girls. ( According to a popular legend mentioned in Jain texts, Chanakya used to mix small doses of poison in the food from a very early age, he had poisoned some girls with food and had transformed them into poison girls also called Vishkanya. A kiss of poison girls was enough to kill the enemy’s king. Chanakya took very smart and calculative moves and took control of all the border places which were under the leadership of Nanda.

“Thinking about the enemy in anger is of no use.” Chanakya started thinking calmly and used a new strategy to overcome the enemy. Seeing the correct time, Chandragupta attacked Magadha capital Pataliputra and successfully killed Dhanananda. After the death of Dhana Nanda, Chandragupta established the Mauryan Empire by overthrowing the Nanda dynasty. In this way, Chanakya’s dream of a united Indian empire became true. At the same time, his revenge on Dhana Nanda was also over.

Chanakya became the prime minister of Chandragupta when he became the emperor of the Maurya Empire. Chanakya created a competent cabinet for strong governance in the empire. He provided separate ministries to all the ministers. He also provided all the possible facilities for the welfare of the citizens. Chanakya also appointed female bodyguards to Chandragupta along with male bodyguards. Chandragupta Maurya became the first king to have female bodyguards in his empire. Due to concerns over Chandragupta’s life, 

Chanakya used to feed him a small amount of poison in his food since his childhood.  He used to add some poison to his meal. One day Chandragupta’s wife Durdhara mistakenly had his meal. Durdhara got into the jaws of death by eating that poisoned food. She was pregnant at that time. Watching that Chandragupta was sitting in fear of losing his wife and child, Chanakya cut off Durdhara’s womb and took out the baby from her belly. The child's body was covered with many bloodstains. That is why that child was named Bindusara.


Soon after Chandragupta, Bindusara became the new emperor of the Mauryan Empire. Chanakya also became prime minister for him. But Subandhu was jealous of Chanakya. Subandhu was an ordinary minister in Bindusara’s court. He always wished to become the Prime minister. So, he used to sharpen the sword on Chanakya. One day Subandhu was narrating his birth story to Bindusara. Bindusara became angry with Chanakya when he came to know that Chanakya was the cause of his mother’s death. Seeing the king’s anger, Chanakya decided to sacrifice everything and joined the forest near Pataliputra (Patna).

Death of Chanakya

Chanakya served as Chandragupta’s advisor and with his guidance, Chandragupta was able to defeat the generals of Alexander and helped him turn the Mauryan empire into one of the most powerful empires. Chanakya was a highly learned person who had knowledge in a wide range of topics and he wrote ‘Arthashastra’ that explored many important subjects such as military strategy, economic policy, issues of social welfare, and so on.

Chanakya died in 275 BC and the details regarding the death are wrapped in mystery. One legend says that he starved himself to death while another legend says that he died during the reign of Bindusara as a result of a political conspiracy.

After a few days, Bindusara repented that he should not have behaved so angry with Chanakya. But now it was too late. Chanakya was living like a monk in a small hut near the forest. Bindusara ordered Subandhu to go into the forest and get Chanakya back by convincing him. But Chanakya’s arrival was not at all liked by Subandhu. When he found Chanakya’s hut in the forest, He burned him alive in it. In this way, Chanakya lost his life by Subandhu’s conspiracy.

Subandhu after killing Chanakya gave a false report to the cour that “Chanakya committed suicide after facing insult”. 

Chanakya made Chandragupta the King from the street and founded the Mauryan Empire. But he was killed by the people of his own kingdom only. The old saying “The one who goes to take revenge, definitely joins the graveyard badly” became true in the case of Chanakya also. Even today also, Chanakya’s ideas, policies, and machinations have brought success to millions of people. At present, politicians, businessmen, and many people are using these Chanakya Sutras to get what they are seeking in life.

Kautilya Philosophy

Acharya Chanakya’s Arthashastra deals with various subjects including welfare, fiscal and monetary policies, war strategies, and international relations. While the ‘Neeti Shastra’ is regarded as the collection of aphorisms that were collected by him from the existing shastras. Some of the famous life lessons that he gave:

  • Never judge the future of a person by his present conditions, because time has the power to change coal into a shiny diamond.

  • A person should not be very honest. Straight trees are always cut first and honest people are screwed first.

  • Unless the enemy's weakness is known, he should always be kept on friendly terms.

  • Our bodies will decay one day, wealth is not permanent and death is always nearby. Therefore we must engage ourselves in good acts.

  • These seven should not be awakened from sleep: The serpent, the tiger, the stinging wasp, the small child, the king, the dog owned by other people, and the fool:

  • Always learn from the mistakes of others, you can't live long enough to make them all yourselves.

  • Treat your kid like a darling till the first five years. After the next five years, scold them. By the time their age turns sixteen, treat them like a friend. Your grown-up children are your best friends.

The idea proposed by Kautilya is very much relevant in politics where each state is looking to assert its power in a very different way. All the modern states and countries are giving tough competition to each other. But the problem could be solved by diplomacy suggested by Chanakya. But the idea of Chanakya remained as an influence on the nature of India and how it solves its own problem with the neighboring countries. Even today, Chanakya’s ideas, policies have brought success to millions of people. At present, politicians, businessmen, and many people are using these Chanakya Niti to get what they want in life.

FAQs on Chanakya Biography

1. How did Chanakya build Chandragupta’s immunity against poison?

According to a Jain writer, Chanakya used to add small doses of poison in the food of Emperor Chandragupta without his knowledge to build his immunity against poisoning attempts by the enemies. Since the emperor was unaware of this fact, he once shared his food with his wife Durdhara who was pregnant at that time and was just a few days away from giving birth. The poison acts very quickly and Durdhara dies within a few seconds. Chanakya cut her stomach and extracted the baby out in order to save the life of the unborn.

2. What is explained in ‘Arthashastra’ written by Chanakya?

According to Chanakya, Arthashastra is the key for a Prince in order to smoothly run the state affairs and the economy of the state. A variety of topics are discussed in the Arthashastra such as welfare policies, monetary and fiscal policies, war strategies, and international relations. It also explores the issues related to the nature of law, government, criminal and civil court systems, markets and trade, economics, ethics, nature of peace, duties, and obligations of kings, and many more.

3. Who was Chandragupta Maurya?

Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty and he is credited for setting up the first pan-Indian Empire. He with the help of his mentor Chanakya successfully set up the cast centralized empire. He brought together small fragmented kingdoms and successfully combined them into a single large empire. His reign was for around 23 years after which he renounced all the worldly pleasures and turned himself into a Jain Monk.

To learn more about Chandragupta Maurya in detail students can visit Vedantu.

4. What are the four ways of reconciliation that have been explained by Chanakya?

Four ways of reconciliation that are explained by Chanakya are listed below-

  • Sama or conciliation- This policy is helpful for the weaker states as they cannot defeat the powerful states and therefore have to be defensive and by negotiating and treaties wars can be ignored.

  • Dana or gift- In this policy, a weaker state can plead to a powerful state for donating its wealth or some parts of its own territory.

  • Danda or aggression- In this policy, weaker states are annexed on the battlefield, and in return for defeat the weaker state has to pay a ransom.

  • Bheda or sowing seeds of discord- This policy explains the divide and rule policy in which two powerful states try to destroy each other with their full strength as they cannot afford a war.

5. What are the three types of war that are explained by Chanakya?

Chanakya has explained three types of war that are listed below-

  • Silent war- This war is played without the use of an army.

  • Open war - This war is highly destructible and is played between armies of two states in one place.

  • Concealed war - In this type of war the other state is not prepared for the army attack from one state.

6. When Did Chanakya Die?

Chanakya died in 283 BC. There are many stories related to the death of Chanakya. Some say that after his retirement from Prime minister he went to the jungle and died there while some say that he died because of the conspiracy done by Subandhu, a minister in the Bindusara’s court.

7. Which Two Books Were Written By Chanakya?

Chanakya, who was also known as Kautilya or Vishnu Gupta was the chief advisor for Chandragupta Maurya during the Mauryan Empire. He wrote two books one is Arthashastra and the other one is Chanakya Niti. He has a great knowledge of political science. Chanakya Niti or Neeti Shastra is nothing but a compilation of all the principles put together in one place.

8. What are Some Life Lessons of Chanakya in English?

Some life lessons from Chanakya are:

  • Attack the enemy only at his weak points instead of engaging him at his strongholds. As it is easier to pick the hot rice from the corners of a plate than from its center.

  • Going for war and winning them is not only important, it’s about how the king or leaders treat their citizens and how they look after them.

  • Always be positive and Do good karma.

  • For great achievers, love should not be a road breaker in their path. Always stay focused on work until you achieve the goal.

  • Everyone should find their own path and should not depend on others.