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How Did Chanakya Die? A look at the popular beliefs

Updated on December 6, 2015

Chanakya aka Kautilya/ Vishnugupta is one of the the most famous and legendary personalities in ancient Indian history- A master of the Vedas, Purans; a shrwed politician and the inventor of Economics through Arthashastra and above all, a visionary and a revolutionary who cleverly caused the downfall of the abusive and cruel Dhanananda in Magadh to replace him with Chandragupta Maurya.

Many historians believe that Chanakya and Kautilya could be two different persons and that the legend of Chanakya was glorified to belittle the achievements of Chandragupta Maurya. But today’s topic is a little different.

Recently, Colors TV has been airing a serial called Chakravartin Samrat Ashoka in which the death of Chanakya appeared to be a work of imagination than an event based on history. Chanakya was seen getting stabbed by queen Charumitra, Prince Sushim, Siamak, prime minister Khalnatak and Helena. Thereafter, Chanakya got burnt alive in a hut by the miscreants.

A question has arisen afresh to a lot of people watching the serial- how did the great man die in reality? There is no specific historical evidence of his death, only a few stories. We will have look at the most popular beliefs in this regard.

  1. The first story says Chanakya, at an old age, converted to Jainism and went to the forest to starve himself to death as per the religious norm.
  2. This is the most popular story based on the writing of Hemachandra, Chanakya was assassinated by a junior minister of Magadh, called Subandhu. The story goes like this:

After Chandragupta Maurya became the king of Magadh, Chanakya served as his minister.

Secretly, Chanakya used to apply a small amount of poison in the king’s food to make him immune to all kinds to potential poisoning by his enemies. One day, without having knowledge of this fact, the king gave his food to his queen Durdhara, who was due to deliver a baby. The queen died immediately and Chanakya cut her womb open to save the child. A drop of poison had permanently turned a spot on the baby’s forehead into a blue one. This was why the baby was named Bindusar.

Following a famine in Magadh, Chandragupta Maurya became a Jain monk and gave away his kingdom to Bindusar. Under the rule of Bindusar, Chanakya continued to serve as a minister. One day, Subandhu, who hated Chanakya, told Bindusar about the story of his mother’s death. Bindusar confirmed the story from his nurses without knowing the full truth and held Chanakya responsible for his mother’s death.

Chanakya was old and after getting to know this, he retired to the forests to starve himself to death as per Jain norms.

Once Bindusar found out the full truth, he ordered Subandhu to bring back Chanakya. Subandhu instead burnt Chanakya alive.


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    • The Subjugator profile image

      Shubhro Sen 2 years ago from Howrah, West Bengal , India

      That is true. Chanakya always had said that a person like him was not supposed to die under normal circumstances.

    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 2 years ago from Bangalore

      Interesting and sad.

      Any good done unknown.

      is returned with vengeance of poison,

      under changing situation.

      - Hari

    • The Subjugator profile image

      Shubhro Sen 2 years ago from Howrah, West Bengal , India


    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      A mystery. A Bit like how Rumi's teacher died. There are so many mysteries. Beautiful and sad story. Well done. Write more. Continue ...

    • The Subjugator profile image

      Shubhro Sen 2 years ago from Howrah, West Bengal , India


    • profile image

      Surabhi Kaura 2 years ago

      Shubhro, you have articulated this article very eloquently. Chanakya’s death remains a mystery in scriptures and texts. So that was something new to know – the cause of his death.

      I really admire Chanakya. I have read many books on him and ‘Chanakya-Neeti’ was one of them. Quite influential! My Dad always tells me his stories and doctrines. Chanakya was a great economist, philanthropist, philosopher and a poet too. He was the one who prudently defeated ‘Alexander The Great’, and I commend his shlokas. His teachings still prevail today. A flamboyant Master who taught Chandragupt Maurya in conquering against the evil Kings and protecting the nation! Chandragupt Maurya was a one man army! Today, India needs not multiple Chanakayas, but one Chandragupta Maurya. Here’s my favourite quote by Chanakya:

      “One arrow may or may not kill the enemy, but a man using his sharp ‘intellect’ can destroy the King along with his whole kingdom.” Yep, ‘nough said…

      Much peace, dada. Jai Bhole!

    • The Subjugator profile image

      Shubhro Sen 2 years ago from Howrah, West Bengal , India

      That's all that could be salvaged from history.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting and informative rather short.