Kautilya


Kautilya

▪ Indian statesman and philosopher
also called  Chanakya  or  Vishnugupta 
flourished 300 BCE

      Hindu statesman and philosopher who wrote a classic treatise on polity, Artha-shastra (Artha-śāstra) (“The Science of Material Gain”), a compilation of almost everything that had been written in India up to his time regarding artha (property, economics, or material success).

      He was born into a Brahman family and received his education at Taxila (now in Pakistan). He is known to have had a knowledge of medicine and astrology, and it is believed he was familiar with elements of Greek and Persian learning introduced into India by Zoroastrians. Some authorities believe he was a Zoroastrian or at least was strongly influenced by that religion.

      Kautilya became a counselor and adviser to Chandra Gupta (reigned c. 321–c. 297), founder of the Mauryan empire of northern India, but lived by himself. He was instrumental in helping Chandra Gupta overthrow the powerful Nanda dynasty at Pataliputra, in the Magadha region.

      Kautilya's book came to be Chandra Gupta's guide. Each of its 15 sections deals with a phase of government, which Kautilya sums up as “the science of punishment.” He openly advises the development of an elaborate spy system reaching into all levels of society and encourages political and secret assassination. Lost for centuries, the book was discovered in 1905.

      Compared by many to Italian statesman and writer Niccolò Machiavelli (Machiavelli, Niccolò) and by others to Aristotle and Plato, Kautilya is alternately condemned for his ruthlessness and trickery and praised for his sound political wisdom and knowledge of human nature. All authorities agree, however, that it was mainly because of Kautilya that the Mauryan empire under Chandra Gupta and later under Ashoka (reigned c. 265–c. 238) became a model of efficient government.

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Universalium. 2010.

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