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A 1915 artistic depiction of Chanakya, the 4th century B.C.E. Indian economist, philosopher, political scientist, and royal advisor

Borrowed from Sanskrit चाणक्य (Cāṇakya). Chanakya was an Indian economist, philosopher, political scientist, and royal advisor of the 4th century B.C.E. He is traditionally identified as the person named Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta who authored the Arthashastra, a political treatise. He engineered the collapse of Magadha and put Chandragupta Maurya into power, establishing the Maurya Empire.



Chanakya (plural Chanakyas)

  1. (India) A shrewd politician or, in general, a cunning person; a Machiavelli.
    • 1908, The Theosophist, volume 29, Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, OCLC 592133811, page 722:
      But these methods of the Chāṇakyas—the Macchiavellis of India—unfortunately always carry the seeds of destruction in their bosom.
    • 2006, Rabindranath Tagore, Uma Das Gupta, editor, My Life in My Words[1], New Delhi: Penguin Viking, →ISBN:
      [T]hose who have shed their wings, who walk by thrusting a walking stick into the mud with each step are regarded as the epitome of wisdom by the Chanakyas of our society …
    • 2010, M[obashar] J[awed] Akbar, Have Pen, Will Travel: Observations of a Globetrotter, New Delhi: Lotus Collection, →ISBN:
      I can see why Jawaharlal Nehru once flirted with the idea of becoming a Chanakya, even as he laughed at himself for such fantasising. He had no time for [Niccolò] Machiavelli.
    • 2015, Ajit Sherawat, “The Siblings Settle Down”, in Born in the Second Wind, New Delhi: Srishti Publishers & Distributors, →ISBN, page 36:
      "So, are we dealing with a Chanakya here?" "Yes, but Chanakya with a difference. Whereas, the original Chanakya helped a fifteen-year-old Chandragupta fight against the injustices and inconsistencies of the world, here is one who chooses to fight with hidden weapons against an unarmed fifteen-year-old, and that too in the garb of friendship. The modern Chanakya deserves kudos for explicit bravery."
    • 2016, Kooveli Madom, “Factors Influencing Our Predicament”, in Know Your Enemy Within: Bridging Knowledge and Practice of Management, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Partridge Publishing, →ISBN:
      Existence of an enemy within is tantamount to kicking a self-goal. Chanakyas of the modern era excel in the art of intrigue, to destroy their business/political nemesis, and abet and celebrate self-goals by their opponents.

Usage notes[edit]

Chanakya usually has a more positive connotation than Machiavelli.


Further reading[edit]