Sunday June 23, 2024

Honouring Chanakya

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
April 07, 2017

Aristotle defined political science as the study of the state. Many other philosophers including Plato, Confucius and Machiavelli also presented their theories on political science. But a visionary philosopher who belongs to our land has also provided useful insights on the subject.

The legendary philosopher, Chanakya, was born in Taxila in 371 BCE. According to historians, he is also known as Kau?ilya or Vishnugupta. He dedicated his life to proving his theories and was successful in transferring all his knowledge to the next generations in the form of a book, ‘Arthashastra’.

‘Arthashastra’, originally written in Sanskrit, has been translated into different languages, including English and Urdu. ‘Artha’ means ‘prosperity’, ‘wealth’ or ‘economic security’ while ‘shastra’ means ‘rules’ or ‘science’.

This ancient Indian political treatise, often translated as ‘the science of politics’, covers a large number of topics such as the nature of government, rules and regulations, civil and criminal court systems, ethics, economics, markets and trade, ministerial and administrative setup, diplomacy, theories on war, peace and development and duties and obligations of rulers. Hindu philosophy, economic and cultural aspects of agriculture, mineralogy, mining and metals, medicine, animal husbandry and forests and wildlife are also part of the book.

Although ‘Arthashastra’ is divided into 150 chapters on different topics, we unjustifiably state that Chanakya only taught sly tactics. The methods for spying, propaganda and acquiring information about enemy states form a small portion of his comprehensive book. Moreover, these are necessary tactics and are widely practised by almost all states, whether they belonged to Muslim caliphates or are today’s modern countries.

I would like to share some quotes from ‘Arthashastra’:

“A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are eliminated first. There is some self-interest behind every friendship....there is no friendship without self-interest”.

“Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions: Why I am doing this? What might the results be? Will I be successful? Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead”.

“Once you start working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest”.

“The biggest guru-mantra is: Never share your secrets with anybody. If you cannot keep a secret with you, do not expect the others to keep it. It will destroy you”.

“A man is great by deeds, not by birth”.

“Books are as useful to a stupid person as a mirror is to a blind person”.

Chanakya’s wisdom also assisted Chandragupta Maurya in establishing the Maurya Empire – the first ancient Indian empire. When the armies of Alexander the Great were conquering almost half the world, Chandragupta, following the valuable advice of his mentor Chanakya, defeated the Greek army with the support of smaller states.

A series of major economic and political reforms – central administration, an organised bureaucratic structure and speedy justice system – were passed in the Maurya Empire for the betterment of the public on the recommendations of ‘Arthashastra’. Chanakya’s book also provided guidelines for the development of a strong economy with particular focus on trade and agriculture. The book presented the concept of a mixed economy where the private sector and the state enterprise frequently competed side by side. The Maurya Empire also made important contributions in the fields of art and architecture. At a time when the Dark Ages were looming large, Chanakya founded a university at Taxila.   

The diplomatic enclave in New Delhi is named Chanakyapuri to acknowledge the services of Chanakya. Various Indian institutes are also named after him including Training Ship Chanakya, Chanakya National Law University and Chanakya Institute of Public Leadership.

It is regrettable that such a wise philosopher is being portrayed as a negative Brahmin character in his own country of birth. Ironically, while the people of Pakistan are being forced to disown him, the world is recognising him as a visionary philosopher. Scholars admit that ‘Arthashastra’ is still very influential, particularly to understand the political scenario and diplomatic relations between different nations.

We must understand that such intellectuals are a gift to us and their teachings based on wisdom can help people achieve success. We must feel honoured that Chanakya belonged to our land. 

I would like to propose the establishment of a world class university in Taxila to acknowledge him. The doors of the proposed International Chanakya University for political and social sciences can also be opened for foreign students. This will result in projecting a positive, prejudice-free and knowledge-friendly image of Pakistan at an international level.


The writer is a member of the National
Assembly and patron-in-chief of the
akistan Hindu Council. Twitter: @RVankwani