Vishnugupta, Kautilya are other names of Chanakya. He was born around 350 BC and is known for his being the chief architect of Mauryan empire and writing the pioneering work in the Economics and Political Science that is Arthashastra. He is known as Indian Machiavelli in the western world, which is wrong in the sense that Chanakya worked two millenniums earlier than Machiavelli. Chanka was his father’s name and Kotil was his Gotra explaining his two names.

Chanakya was identified with Vishnugupta in a verse in his Arthashastra and also in Panchatantra of Gupta age by Vishnu Sharma. Mudrarakshasha of Vishakhadatta mentions that he was Dravid. Pali texts say that he was a Brahmin from Taxila.

  1. Strabo (a Greek Geographer) gives him the name Palibrothus.
  2. In Mudrarakshasa of Vishakhadatta he has been depicted by names Piyadamus, Vrishal, Chandrasiri & Kulihin.
  3. In Mudrarakshasa , Chandragupta has been depicted as a weak insignificant young man and Chanakya being the real ruler.
  4. Historian Sir Thomas R. Trautmann has mentioned that Chanakya was born with a complete set of teeth, which gave a sign that he would become a King. However his teeth were broken so he would rule through someone else.

Chanakya mixed poison to the food eaten by Chandragupta Maurya, now king, in order to make him immune. Unaware, Chandragupta feeds some of his food to his queen, who is in her ninth month of pregnancy. In order to save the heir to the throne, Chānakya cut the queen open and extracts the fetus, who is named Bindusara because he was touched by a drop (bindu) of blood having poison.


Kautilya’s Arthashastra was one of the great political books of the ancient world. Max Weber recognized it as “truly radical ‘Machiavellianism”, however it is wrong because Machiavelli’s The Price (Il Principe) was published in the 16th century, while Kautilya wrote Arthashastra long before birth of Jesus Christ. Despite of this Arthashastra is little known outside India.

Arthashastra is divided into 15 books:

  2. Concerning Discipline
  3. The Duties of Government Superintendents
  4. Concerning Law
  5. The Removal of Thorns
  6. The Conduct of Courtiers
  7. The Source of Sovereign States
  8. The End of the Six-Fold Policy
  9. Concerning Vices and Calamities
  10. The Work of an Invader
  11. Relating to War
  12. The Conduct of Corporations
  13. Concerning a Powerful Enemy
  14. Strategic Means to Capture a Fortress
  15. Secret Means
  16. The Plan of a Treatise


These 15 books though tagged as theoretical by many scholars, have been accepted as a source to describe the Mauryan Administration.