Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chanakya, the 'Yug Purush' and the Chanakya legend.

Please visit my previous blog: "The Genius of Chanakya, the Man of Destiny." to read about the life and times of this great man, this visionary, this 'Yug Purush'.

I am tempted to attempt a definition of the word 'Yug Purush'. The renowned American thinker, poet, author, historian, philosopher and leading transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau said, "A man is wise with the wisdom of his time only, and ignorant with its ignorance." This is true of people like us, because we are mere ordinary mortals, ordinary people. But, in every era/age (yuga), a handful of people appear amidst us once in a while, who prove to be an exception to this rule. At one level, these exceptional and extraordinary people are products of their time. But at another level they transcend their times. Their perceptions, their insights, their thoughts, their actions and their concerns are truly universal, in time and space; they are neither constrained by the circumstances of their birth nor are they limited by the ignorance of their time. They are truely incomparable. Chanakya (also known as Kautilya) is one such exceptional transcendental 'Yug Purush', who belongs to all 'Yugas'. In these times of turbulence and violence - the 'Kali Yuga' - his thinking, his teachings and his philosophy are even more relevant. I, therefore, take this as an opportunity to pay my humble tributes to this legendary polymath, this 'Yug Purush'.

Chanakya, the 'Yug Purush': Both Draupadi and Chanakya were from two different eras (yugas), yet they have left their footprints on the sands of time and their actions had far-reaching and epoch-making consequences. The events of the 'Ramayana' took place in the 'Treta Yuga', when the world was largely uncorrupted (the 'Treta Yuga' is preceded by the the 'Satya Yuga' - an age of perfect morality); while the events of the 'Mahabharata' happened much later, at the end of the 'Dvapara Yuga', the "Age of Two," when the world was far more grim and corrupt than it was during Lord Rama's time. The violent and tragic events at the end of the 'Mahabharata' mark the end of the 'Dvapara Yuga' and the beginning of the 'Kali Yuga', the worst age of the world. In some ways, the entire story of the 'Mahabharata' is an explanation of how our (current) world, the world of the 'Kali Yuga', came into being, and how things got to be as bad/difficult as they are. The 'Ramayana' has its share of suffering and even betrayal, but nothing to match the relentless hatred and vengeance of the 'Mahabharata'. The culmination of the 'Mahabharata' is the 'Battle of Kurukshetra' (Kurukshetra War) when two bands of brothers, the 'Pandavas' and the 'Kauravas', the sons of two brothers and thus cousins to one another, fight each other to death, brutally and cruelly, until the entire race is almost wiped out. The 'Mahabharata' itself ends with the death of Lord Krishna (according to the 'Puranas', this 'yuga' - 'Dvapara Yuga' - ended at the moment when Lord Krishna - an incarnation of Lord Vishnu - returned to his eternal abode of 'Vaikuntha'), and the subsequent end of his dynasty, and the ascent of the 'Pandava' brothers to heaven. It also marks the beginning of the age of 'Kali' ('Kali Yuga'), the fourth and the final age of mankind, where all the great values and noble ideas have crumbled, and mankind is heading towards the complete dissolution of righteous action, morality and virtue. It was this age that 'Chanakya' was a part of, and can be rightly referred to as a 'Yug Purush'. 'Kali Yuga' is associated with the apocalypse demon 'Kali', not be confused with the 'Goddess Kālī', as these are unrelated words in the Sanskrit language. The "Kali" of 'Kali Yuga' means, "strife, discord, quarrel, or contention." The 'Kali Yuga' is traditionally thought to last 4,32,000 Human years. According to Aryabhatta, the great mathematician-astronomer from the classical age, 'Kali Yuga' began in 3102 B.C., at the end of the 'Dvapara Yuga' that was marked by the disappearance of Lord Vishnu's Krishna Avatar. Aryabhatta's date is widely repeated in modern Hinduism. The beginning of the new 'Yuga' (era) is known as "Yugadi/Ugadi", and is celebrated every year on the first day (Paadyami) of the first month (Chaitramu) of the 12-month annual cycle. The "Ugadi" of 1999 commences the year 1921 of the 'Shalivahana' era (5101 'Kali Yuga', 1999 AD). The end of the 'Kali Yuga' is 426,899 years from 1921.

An overview of the 'Yugas': 1. 'Sat Yuga'/'Satya Yuga' ('Krita Yuga'): 1,728,000 Human years; 2. 'Treta Yuga': 1,296,000 Human years; 3. 'Dwapar Yuga': 864,000 Human years ; and 4. 'Kali Yuga': 432,000 Human years (5,110 years have passed; 426,890 years remain). 'Kali Yuga' started in 3102 B.C.; CE 2008 corresponds to 'Kali Yuga' year 5,110. Therefore, the wait for Lord Vishnu's tenth and final Maha Avatara (great incarnation) - "Kalki" - who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as the 'Kali Yuga' - continues. The name "Kalki" is often a metaphor for eternity or time. I have noticed that Jesus Christ is depicted in many places dressed in white robes and riding a white horse... but I do not think that Christ was "Kalki." Similarly, I also rule out the possibility of Bhagavan Mahavira being "Kalki." According to Hindu cosmology, the world is created, destroyed and recreated every 4,320,000 years ('Maha Yuga'). The cycles are said to repeat like the seasons, waxing and waning within a greater time-cycle of the creation and destruction of the Universe. Like the Summer, Spring, Winter and Autumn, each 'yuga' involves stages or gradual changes which the Earth and the consciousness of mankind goes through as a whole. A complete 'yuga' cycle from a high 'Golden Age' of enlightenment to a 'Dark Age' and back again is said to be caused by the Solar system's motion around a central Sun.

Modern interpretations of the "Kalki" prophecy (Wikipedia): Many modern writers have attempted to link figures from comparatively recent history to "Kalki." Given the traditional account of the 'Kali Yuga' lasting 432,000 years and having began in 3102 BCE, it makes these claims disputed. Some scholars such as Sri Yukteswar Giri and David Frawley have claimed that there are intermediate cycles within the 432,000 year cycle.
  • Pandit Ved Prakash Upadhyay has argued in his book "Kalki Autar aur Muhammad Sahib," that Prophet Muhammad completed all the prophecies of the "Kalki" avatar. The book "Muhammad in the Hindu Scriptures," claims to be based on research from all the Vedas, the Puranas and the Upanishads to claim that Prophet Muhammad was the last and final messenger.
  • The Ismaili Khojas, a Shia muslim group from Gujarat and Sindh and followers of the Aga khan, believe in the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. According to their tradition, Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad was "Kalki."
  • Some adherents of the Bahá'í Faith have interpreted the prophecies of Kalki's arrival as being references to the arrival of their messenger Bahá'u'lláh, this has played a major role in the growth of the Bahá'í Faith in India.
  • In his book, "The Aquarian Message," Samael Aun Weor claims to be the "Kalki" Avatar.
  • In their books, "The Avatar of What Is," by Carolyn Lee and "Holy Madness," by Georg Feuerstein, they identify claims that Adi Da was the "Kalki" Avatar.

While many Hindus reject the idea of 'avatars' outside of the traditional Hindu faith, some Hindus with an universalist outlook view the central figures of various non-Hindu religions as 'avatars'. Some of these religious figures include:

The Chanakya Legend: There are several legends associated with this great political and military genius. Over time myth has mingled with reality and often overtaken it; the current environment of despair feeds the legend. Perhaps the lack or the absence of inspirational and towering personalities (in the mould of Chanakya) and an abundance of 'little Einsteins' continue to feed the legend.

Thomas R. Trautmann has listed down the following elements as common to the different forms of the Chanakya legend:

  • Chanakya was born with a complete set of teeth, a sign that he would become a King, this was considered inappropriate for a Brahmin like Chanakya. Chānakya's teeth were therefore broken, and it was prophesied that he will rule through another.
  • The Nanda King (Dhana Nanda) threw Chānakya out of his Court, prompting Chānakya to swear revenge.
  • Chānakya searched for one worthy man or disciple for him to rule through. Chānakya encountered a young Chandragupta Maurya who was a born leader and displayed character, courage and leadership qualities right from his childhood.
  • Chānakya's initial attempt to overthrow the Nanda King failed, thereafter he came across a mother rebuking her child for burning himself by eating from the middle of a bun or a bowl of porridge rather than from the cooler edge. This incident served as an eye-opener for Chānakya and he realized his initial strategic error and, instead of attacking at the heart of the Nanda territory, slowly chiped away at its edges.
  • Chānakya discontinued his alliance with the Himalayan King Parvatka due to the latter's obstinacy and non-adherence to the principles of the treaty as agreed between them.
  • Chānakya enlisted the services of a fanatical weaver to rid the kingdom of rebels.
  • Chānakya used to add small quantities of poison in the food eaten by Chandragupta Maurya, now the Emperor, in order to make him immune. Unaware of this, Chandragupta feeds some of his food to his Queen, who was then in her ninth month of pregnancy. Not used to eating poisoned food, the Queen died. In order to save the unborn baby - the heir to the throne, Chānakya cut open the belly of the dead Queen and took out the baby and called/named him 'Bindusāra' because he was touched by a 'drop' ('bindu' in Sanskrit) of the poisoned blood - on his head.
  • Chānakya's political rivalry with Subandhu (a Minister under the then Emperor Bindusāra) led to his (Chanakya's) death.
  • Legend has it that once the Mauryan forces were hiding in a cave. There was no food and the soldiers were starving. They could not come out of the cave either, as there was a threat to their lives. One day, Chanakya saw an ant carrying a grain of rice, whereas, there was no sign of food or grain anywhere. Moreover, the grain of rice was cooked. Chanakya ordered the soldiers to search everywhere (for the source of the grain of rice) and they found that their enemies had been dining under the cave - somewhat similar to that of a ground floor. As soon as they discovered this, they escaped and thus were saved.
  • According to a Kashmiri version of his legend, once when a thorn had pricked Chānakya on the foot, he uprooted the tree and poured buttermilk in the roots.

Here is the link that leads to "Chanakya Neetishashtra:"

Chanakya's teachings and philosophy are very profound yet so simple. The hallmark of great science is indeed simplicity. Equations like E = mc2 or F = ma are path-breaking, simply because they are so simple. Similarly, the greatest of philosophies or knowledge or teachings are rooted in simplicity.

Note: Information gathered and photographs - courtesy Wikipedia.

Photographs: (in clockwise order)

1) A picture depicting Chanakya writing the "Chanakya Niti."

2) A Copper engraving of "Kalki" - from the late 18th century.

3) A stone plaque depicting "Kalki" - from the 18th century.


  1. Amazing amount of knowledge you have compiled here, especially the parts about Hindu mythology, and it was quite unbaised.

    "Chānakya's initial attempt to overthrow the Nanda King failed, thereafter he came across a mother scolding her child for burning himself by eating from the middle of a bun or a bowl of porridge rather than from the cooler edge. This incident served as an eye-opener for Chānakya and he realized his initial strategic error and, instead of attacking the heart of the Nanda territory, slowly chiped away at its edges. "
    I think this incident was attributed to Shivaji, an too lazy to look up though.


  2. Thanks Sujoy, for the review! Appreciate it.

    As you know, Indian history is not very well documented... hence there are a lot of overlaps. This story could well be true for Shivaji too!

    In our History textbook in school, we had the story of Alexander the Great and King Porus - where Alexander gives back Porus his kingdom (we are told) when Porus replies to his question, "How should I treat you?" - when brought in front of him as a prisoner in chains. We are told that Alexander was impressed with his answer and immediately released Porus. This story is no doubt fascinating but I am yet to find an echo of it or rather yet to find authentic historical proof of this story in some other work by a historian.

    Similarly, there are diverse/multiple views re: the death of Chanakya or the manner of his death, that is.


  3. I have also heard a very interesting quote attributed to Chanakya,
    "It is useless to argue with a fool"
    No idea, though, whether this is authentic or not.

  4. From Chanakya's teachings and philosophy this conclusion can certainly be drawn.

    Some other quotes on fools (by Chanakya) are as follows:

    1. Do not keep company with a fool for as we can see he is a two-legged beast. Like an unseen thorn he pierces the heart with his sharp words.

    2. The serpent, the King, the tiger, the stinging wasp, the small child, the dog owned by other people, and the fool: these seven ought not to be awakened from sleep.

    3. A stillborn son is superior to a foolish son endowed with a long life. The first causes grief for but a moment while the latter like a blazing fire consumes his parents in grief for life.

    4. Foolishness is indeed painful, and verily so is youth, but more painful by far than either is being obliged in another person's house.

    5. The man who remains a fool even in advanced age is really a fool, just as the Indra-Varuna fruit does not become sweet no matter how ripe it might become.

    6. There are three gems upon this earth; food, water, and pleasing words - fools (mudhas) consider pieces of rocks as gems.

  5. excellent post Roshmi. I'm a big history addict and I find such articles some of the best spends when we talk of time!
    real substance!

  6. @ Varun... Thanks a bunch for your review and encouraging words. Stay tuned!!

    Your blog makes for quite an interesting read... keep blogging!!


  7. Roshmi, Reading some of your posts were indeed a pleasure to say the least . Regarding Chanakya I think you have covered the legend very nicely.Take a look at this you might like it

  8. @ Sunil: Thanks Sunil for those encouraging words... and welcome to my blog!

    Thanks for the link. It is a clip on what is expected from teachers. Sadly... such teachers are fast becoming extinct. The quest for power, commerce and politics have changed everything. For the worse...

  9. @Roshmi, the pleasure is all mine.... i found those words from the serial so meaningful that I could not resist but upload it on you tube.

    You are right that the committed teachers are becoming an extinct spice .After doing post grad in Engineering and then in management I decided to be a teacher and one question that I always find so ridiculous to answer is "You are so well qualified then why are you teaching"? I think the question itself reflects our mindset.
    Your blog is truly informative ...keep up the good work and keep enlightening....

  10. @ Sunil: I agree with you.

    People seem to think that teaching or teachers have no 'value'. Completely forgetting the fact... that teachers are the backbone of a nation. The minds they nurture are the future of this nation.

    In ancient times... things were different. Maybe even until a few centuries ago. Teachers were most respected, they were the 'Gurus'. One who imparted knowledge and guided the students... and prepared them for this journey called life.

    Things have taken a 180 degree turn now.

    I fail to understand how reservation can be extended to teachers. They should be selected on merit alone... everything else should not matter.

    I will give you an example... something I have witnessed myself.

    There is this guy who became a lecturer at one of the premier engineering institutes of this country... due to reservation. He was asked to explain the functions of the 'float'. He said... "you don't know the meaning of float. Float means float. So, it will float." Shocking... right... ?!! I have witnessed many such instances.

    The condition of the primary and secondary education system in this country is pathetic. No minister/politician/NGO/Social worker/Philanthropist thinks it worthy of being spoken of. There is no glamour involved in it. Right... ???

  11. @ Sunil: All this... in a nation which was the seat of learning... until a few centuries ago. People all over the world would travel to this great land to imbibe knowledge. We were the best in everything - economics/maths/science/medicine/arts/warfare/fine arts/literature/crafts. You name it. We had the best of minds amongst us.

    The great and much celebrated German poet/writer/ philosopher Goethe is on record that he has been 'influenced' by Kalidas' "Meghdutam". Much is made of Goethe's works... but how many of us know about Kalidas' and/or read "Meghdutam" apart from his other works... ??? The much popular dance form of "Flamenco"... is actually a combination of India's most graceful dance form "Odissi"... and Arabian. How many of us know that or even want to... ??? Miyan Tansen could create magic with the way he rendered the 'ragas'... he could set everything on fire... by the "Rag Deepak" and bring down the rains with his rendition of the "Rag Megh Malhar". Today... nobody can do that. Why??? 'coz the complete wordings of these ragas have been a casualty of the ravages of time... due to gross neglect.

    We are more keen to read Machiavelli's "The Prince"... and overlook one of the greatest genius Chanakya.

    Even the present area of 'Chambal' was a seat of learing... many centuries ago. See what has become of it now? This decadence is destroying our nation.

    China followed borrowed processes (read: western) for decades. Result: famine, high unemployment, etc. Then they looked inwards. The results are there for all to see.

  12. Absolutely correct. We look to west for recognition or should I say for approval before deciding what is good or bad for us.Vishwa Mohan Bhatt has been playing veena for almost his complete life but we recognised his talent after he got garmmy. Our colonial menatlity has not subsided.
    Reagrding teachers, yes, best brains dont find it glamourous and I agree most pathtic aea is primary eduaction.
    Most of my writings in my blog are centered around these issues only. Do have a look sometimes if time permits.
    Regards, and people like you give me hope......

  13. @ Sunil: I agree with you, Sunilji. And I'm following your blog.

    The colonial rule in India... has been the most toxic. It has left behind a poisonous legacy and destroyed our culture/customs/traditions. Most of our prudishness and many of our social evils (which the gangs of 'sons of the soil' vow to uphold) originate from the 'colonial rule' and the British.

    We learn twisted history written by foreigners. I wonder why our books, history books and other text books... written by foreigners.

    We have reduced the greatest Emperor... to have ever walked on this planet... Chandragupta Vikramaditya... to only 'Vikram and Betal'.

    We have completely misunderstood/misinterpreted "ahimsa" or "non violence". A certain 'gentleman' was a 'means to an end'... through which the 'Imperial powers' were able to impose this shameful and distorted theory of "non violence" on us and on their other colonies. We have elevated this 'gentleman' to that of a revered saint.

  14. @ Sunil: I wonder... why Bengal was divided... and the 'leadership' of the Congress party conveniently given to this 'gentleman' and his favourites. While inconvenient folks e.g., Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ashutosh Mukherjee, etc... conveniently met their maker while in England, where they had gone to meet certain people along with a list of demands. These people were not keen or happy with those demands, btw.

    If you notice... the majority of the social reformers came from the eastern part of India... and they were reasonably successful in their endeavours too. In those days, Bengal was the hub of all activities in India and was a very large area. Consisting of present day W. Bengal, Bangladesh, Orissa. With close ties to Tripura and Assam, even Bihar and Jharkhand. Wonder why this land was the first to be 'divided' ostensibly on 'administrative' grounds...

    We need 'permission' to sing our own national song and national anthem. There is no precedence of this kind... anywhere in the world. Ever.

    How did a momentous decision such as partition, (how and when it was to be done and the transfer of 'power'... etc) taken in a mere 4-5 months... ???

    All... good questions and no answers.

  15. @ Sunil: We have completely forgotten the greats like Acharya Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, Dr. Meghnad Saha, Dr. Satyendra Nath Bose. The list is very long indeed. And includes: Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Bhaskara I, Bhaskara II, Shushruta, Kalidas, Rabindranath Tagore... they are all our unsung heros. Topping the list is the great genius Chanakya of course.

    We are a nation in thrall of matinee heros and cricket heros.

  16. I completely agree with you on every word you have written above.
    sad that "yog" had to come back patented as YOGA to gain acceptance here.Wish there were more people who thought on similar lines.
    Besides the nonchalant attitude of our genre other fact that is truly disturbing is rigidity of opinion .People have such closely held opinions that they mistakes for thoughts that are very difficult to change.Had compassionately written about it on post titled "fallacies of intellectual extremism "
    Regards and keep the fire burning...

  17. @ Sunil: I agree with you Sunilji.

    English language has originated much later... and has borrowed heavily from Sanskrit.

    So, 'Pitr' has become 'father'.

    'Matr' has become 'mother'.

    'Bhratr' became 'brother'.

    'Kumari' became 'Mary'.

    'Victavati' became 'Victoria'.

    'Agnisikha' became 'Agnezka'. And so on and so forth.

    But the West (esp. the Europeans and the Americans) would make us believe otherwise. They want us to read, learn and know... what they would like us to read, learn and know. And therefore believe.

    They are taking out patents on... hold your breath... neem, turmeric, garlic, ginger and other spices.

    They claim these grew in their lands centuries ago... and from there came to Asia including the Indian subcontinent.

    There is no class of people called Australians, Europeans or Americans. They are all settlers. The original inhabitants of these lands: the Red Indians, the Aborigines, etc are being systematically obliterated. Many clans have even become extinct.

  18. @ Sunil: America barely has a history. Their 'history' is hardly some 300/400 odd years. Infact, their 'history' is pretty much like our 'current affairs'... ! Yet they make tall claims.

    They have even patented the 'basmati rice'. The British now claim that the 'chicken tikka' originated in Scotland... ! I ask you!

    The West is even claiming that the 'yoga' is theirs. And patenting it. Infact, it was not 'yoga' but 'yog' (as you have rightly mentioned). An ancient art which came about from the rishis and sages of yore... in this very subcontinent.

    Are we able to do anything about it... ??? NO.

    We need to pause, catch our breath and reflect. Introspect collectively... as to where, why and how we have come to this. How have we reduced ourselves to our current state... when not so long ago, we were on the top of everything... ?!!

  19. Your efforts are good Roshmy........see another YUGPURUSH of Modern era on
    and send your precious comments on it..

    Rahul Kumar Singh,Political Writer