Ancient Wisdom, Lasting Leadership: How Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya Together Shaped India’s History

Vatsal Jain
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
3 min readFeb 16, 2021


Image Source: The Best Picture History

Chanakya (Kautilya or Vishnugupt) is one of the greatest mentors of India — and highly underrated. Under his supervision, Chandragupta Maurya — a commoner by birth — established the Mauryan Empire. At its peak, the empire rose among the most prominent empires across the globe and perhaps the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent.

From Myanmar to Afghanistan and Kashmir to mid-Tamil Nadu, the Mauryan Empire expanded across 5 million square kilometers.

One currency, one system, one law. It was the “complete” empire!

However, Chandragupta’s bloodline did not make him a king (not a nepotism product). He was a commoner by birth.

So, how did he emerge from being a commoner to building India’s largest empire?

Chanakya and Chandragupta have the most remarkable partnership throughout the entire Indian history. And we can learn a lot from them. Scroll down to know more.

Know Your Strengths

Chanakya was the Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones reference) of India; he was not much on looks. He had accepted this fact. However, he was really dejected when the Nanda ruler ridiculed his knowledge based on his appearance. He decided to overturn an empire using his knowledge. But he figured out that he could not accomplish that on his own.

And then he met Chandragupta, the son of a king brought up by hunters. Chanakya knew that he could make a great ruler.

Now understand this. Chanakya was a strategist, and Chandragupta was a born leader. Both had different but complementary attributes. Both of them teamed up to establish the Mauryan Empire.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Chanakya assigned tasks to Chandragupta that would put him in harsh circumstances to ensure he never stops growing.

Imagine you have 2 choices in front of you:

You can stay at home all day and do nothing but watch movies or series the entire time, or you can read a novel.

Which option will you go for?

Our brain naturally turns to a convenient situation as it is beneficial in the short term; however, it does not guarantee progress. On the flip side, being uncomfortable brings you growth.

Chanakya used to add a pretty small dose of poison to Chandragupta’s meal to make him resilient to poison. And that is what vaccines do; they inject weakened viruses into our body to prepare it during the onset of the primary disease.

Extraordinary challenges bring the best out of an ordinary person.

Knowledge is Power

Chandragupta’s initial attack on the empire fell flat. He, along with Chanakya, was strolling in the village in disguise, wherein they overheard a chit-chat between a mother and her kid.

The kid had only eaten the center of a cake and left the remaining. Seeing that, the mother referred to the kid as “Chandragupta,” as even Chandragupta directly attacked the capital — Pataliputra — overlooking all the surrounding villages.

This observation, this knowledge, became their power. Also, the villagers were already annoyed by the Nanda rulers, so Maurya easily got their support.

Follow Your Dharma

We believe the term “Dharma” refers to religion. Actually, there is no such term for religion in Indian culture. Dharma simply means a purpose. The Mauryas were commoners.

Some people believe Chandragupta was a kshudra. He was well privy to the hardships of the common people. And that became his purpose, and that is what made him stand out from the previous kings. India blossomed during this period as Chanakya aimed to stabilize politics and economics while Chandragupta focused on further expanding the empire.

During the Mauryan Empire, India exported spices and silk to Europe. Other small empires were glad to be a part of the Mauryan Empire as it was more of a collaboration than a competition. India was truly steering in the right direction as everyone believed in their king, and their king believed in his purpose.

The story of Chandragupta and Chanakya teaches us that finding a Dharma, a calling, a purpose is the most paramount aspect of life. And when you truly follow your Dharma, you change not only yours but also the lives of those around you.

Chanakya’s knowledge faded in time. Many recent discoveries date back to the ancient knowledge of success and management.