Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Death of Chanakya : By the son of Chandragupt

The Death of Chanakya : By the son of Chandragupt

Chanakya lived to a ripe old age and died around 283 BC and was cremated by his disciple Radhagupta who succeeded Rakshasa Katyayan (great-grand son of Prabuddha Katyayan, who attained Nirvana during the same period as Gautam Budhha) as Prime Minister of the Maurya Empire and was instrumental in backing Ashoka to the throne. There were three non-traditional belief paths in society those days, Jaina, Buddhist and Ajivaka. Ajivaka practising Chanakya brought about the downfall of the Nandas and their coterie of ministers. Later on, Chandragupta Maurya took Jainism on abdicating his throne which passed to his Son Bindusara who was an “Ajivaka”. Even Ashoka was practising “Ajivaka” who before accession to throne became Buddhist. Bindusara was born before his father ever became Emperor so the below legend is definitely not true.

 Ashoka’s daughter was married in 265 BC and his son Kunala was 18 years of age in 269 BC which means that even the princes married early, Ashoka was born 310 BC and Bindusara around 330 BC. Bindusara means one who encompasses all that is need to be known.

Later on, Ajivikism which was the official religion of the empire since the Kalinga War (261 BC) and for 14 years afterwards, declined and merged into traditional Hinduism. What has been left is a mixture of conflicting Buddhist and Jaina legends which are rejected by Sinhalese chronicles.

According to a legend which is a later jaina invention, while Chanakya served as the chief administrator of Chandragupta Maurya, he started adding small amounts of poison in Chandragupta’s food so that he would get used to it. The aim of this was to prevent the Emperor from being poisoned by enemies. One day the queen, Durdha, shared the food with the Emperor while she was pregnant. Since she was not used to eating poisoned food, she died. Chanakya decided that the baby should not die; hence he cut open the belly of the queen and took out the baby. A drop (bindu in Sanskrit) of poison had passed to the baby’s head, and hence Chanakya named him Bindusara. Bindusara would go on to become a great king and to father the greatest Mauryan Emperor since Chandragupta – Asoka.

When Bindusara became a youth, Chandragupta gave up the throne and followed the Jain saint Bhadrabahu to present day Karnataka and settled in a place known as Shravana Belagola. He lived as an ascetic for some years and died of voluntary starvation according to Jain tradition.

Chanakya meanwhile stayed as the administrator of Bindusara. Bindusara also had a minister named Subandhu who did not like Chanakya. One day he told Bindusara that Chanakya was responsible for the murder of his mother. Bindusara asked the nurses who confirmed this story and he became very angry with Chanakya.

It is said that Chanakya, on hearing that the Emperor was angry with him, thought that anyway he was at the end of his life. He donated all his wealth to the poor, widows and orphans and sat on a dung heap, prepared to die by total abstinence from food and drink. Bindusara meanwhile heard the full story of his birth from the nurses and rushed to beg forgiveness of Chanakya. But Chanakya would not change his mind. Bindusara went back and vented his fury on Subandhu, and killed him.

Chanakya after this incident, renounced food and shortly died thereafter. Bindusara revered Chanakya and the loss of his advisor was a considerable blow to him.

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