Why Indians need to know the history through Sanskrit Kavya Mudrarakshasa

Imagine watching a cricket game where two equally strong contenders are fighting for a trophy. Both the teams are playing with tactics, playing to their strength to defeat the other team. How exciting it could turn out?

Now imagine the same scenario with respect two of the greatest historic figures, one an extraordinary statesman well-versed in administrative tactics, the other who is well versed in all scriptures related to dharma, rajya, sena etc who is an authority of Sanskrit Grammer, fighting each other to be victorious in their respective motives. In common slang it’s the fight of ‘madagaja’. How interesting and intriguing this could get?

That’s what Mudrarakshasa offers us.

The game both Chanakya and Amarthya Rakshasa play to be successful in their motives forms the basic story line.

Why is it important with respect to history? Because it is the story of Chandragupta Maurya accession to throne of Magadha overthrowing the Nandas and Chanakya’s pivotal role in it.

We learn about Chanakya and Chandragupta through 5 channels, literatures of

  • Vaidika culture
  • Jainism
  • Buddhism
  • Thatastha kavya(type of kavya which only speaks facts and favors none)
  • Greek literatures.

Vaidika sources are Vishnu purana, Artha shastra,

Thatastha kavya like Gunadya’s Bruhat katha, Somadeva’s Kathasarithasagara, Vishakadatta’s Mudrarakshasa etc..

Jain literatures such as Bruhat katha sutra and Parishishta parva.

Arya manjushree mulaparva, Mahavamsa which are Buddhist literatures about Samrat Ashoka which speaks about Chanakya and Chandragupta.

Greek literary works by Courteus, Deodarus speak about Chandragupta but not directly of Chanakya.

The most important and well written commentary on Mudrarakshasa is by Dundi of Thanjavur. He derives the name of play in following ways,

  • Mudritha Rakshasa- means Amarthya was sealed from achieving his motives
  • Mudra cha rakshasasya cha- the ring(mudra, symbol) of rakshasa
  • Mudritham rakshasatvam- the ill intentions of Amarthya Rakshasa was sealed by intelligence of Chanakya.

This nataka is a depiction of Bauddhika yuddha-war of intellectuals.

As Chanakya himself explains in artha shastra,

“ayudha(weapon), can only one, visha(poison) can kill hundreds but sukshma buddhi(tactical intellect) can destroy a whole kingdom starting from a foetus still in womb of mother”.

Why Amarthya is called Rakshasa?

  • He is born in kathya gotra, which makes him a Katyayana.
  • His stern decision making made him a rakshasa(pertaining to his buddhi).

Both Chanakya and Amarthya were contemporary, both born in Magadha, Chanakya is from a place called Chanaka. Belongs to Kutala gotra which is why he is also called as Kautilya.

He was educated in Takshashila, when Greek Invasion started to destroy Takshashila, he sought attention of Nanda towards Takshashila with a a hope to save it. But Nandas were busy in aggressive expansion of kingdom with no respect to comfort of their own citizens. This angered Chanakya, who decided to teach them a lesson.

The ‘Maurya’ word is derived from Moriya(area inhibited by mayura-peacocks). Chandragupta was born to the king of Pippalavana, a place with mayura-peacocks.

Even though Nanda are mentioned to be 9 giving them name – Navanandas, many grammar experts believe Dhana Nanda-last king of Nanda empire is 9th from its founder Mahapadmananda. So Navananda is not 9 Nanda but 9th Nanda to be precise.

Nandas rule created Arajakata, and the vast Magadha kingdom started to disintegrate into smaller territories. The ego of Dhana nanda was the root if most problems in the kingdom. Chanakya being his minister experienced humiliation in his hand,which made him swear to bring downfall to Nanda.

For a brahmana, his shike(small portion of hair left behind after shaving head) is a symbol of self respect and pride. When Nanda pushed Chanakya down from a higher seat insulting him, Chanakya’s tied hairs in shike fell open. Chanakya took oath not to tie shike till he up roots Nanda.

He was roaming in search of a able successor when he came across boys playing in forest area, among them a boy was playing king. Chanakya observed his methods of clearing disputes and decided to groom him to be the next ruler of Magadha. That is how Chandragupta became Chanakya’s disciple.

Chanakya through is knowledge of alchemy had accumulated lot of wealth in form of gold coins. He paid this to many tribes as charges to fight battle with Chandragupta to defeat Nanda. He trained Chandragupta extensively in politics, shastra, economics and various field a raja must be well versed in.

With the help of these tribes, they attacked capital of Magadha. As capital city was well guarded, Chandragupta suffered defeat and both Chanakya and Chandragupta had to flee the capital. They roamed in disguise in the kingdom.

  • The famous story goes as- a lady was scolding his grandson who tried to have a morsel from middle of the plate, she said you are as foolish as that Chanakya and Chandragupta, instead of having food from edges which are cooler, you went straight away to the centre of the plate.
  • This made Chanakya realize his mistake and started gaining allies in the territorial smaller kingdoms of Magadha.

This led to his association with Parvataka. Chanakya promised half of the kingdom in return to his help. Amarthya Rakshasa was at time minister in Nanda court. He was strictly against Nandas plot to assassinate Chandragupta but he was aware of the danger of having Chanakya as a master.

Slowly but successively Chanakya and Chandragupta marched towards Pataliputra and killed dhanananda.

Now Parvataka demanded for share in kingdom. As coronation day of Chandragupta neared, Rakshasa sent a vishakanya in order to kill him. But Chanakya sensing trouble asked Parvataka to have vishakanya as his mistress. Parvataka got killed by her. Thus Chanakya eliminated first contender of Chandragupta.His friend Indusharma, who was in a disguise of a Buddhist monk Jivasiddhi played role as spy for Chanakya. He made Malayaketu son of Parvataka to flee the kingdom by saying Chanakya will kill him too if he doesn’t escape.

Virochana, brother of Parvataka now became ambitious of gaining kingdom. Meanwhile Rakshasa plotted for second time. With help of Daaruverma he had built large flower arches, and planned to make it fall on Chandragupta head when he is riding elephant to reach coronation spot. Here Chanakya after knowing this plot by Indusharma, asked Virochana to ride elephant as he is going to be a king in very near future. Thus the arch fell on him and he got killed.

Now Amarthya joined Malayaketu, and gained his trust by explaining Chanakya’s schemes. Bhagurayana, who was a confidant of Chanakya, acquired a Signet ring which belonged to Amarthya from his home in Pataliputra.

The biggest challenge in front of Chanakya was not defeating Malayaketu but it was to acquire accomplice of Amarthya Rakshasa. But if he request, Amarthya won’t agree so he played a well planned act using that mudra to tie Rakshasa with Chandragupta.

Indusharma and Bhagurayana both made Malayaketu believe that Amarthya is working for chandraguptha using that ring. And creating a false story Chanakya ordered indusharma’s death penalty for treachery, which compelled Amarthya to come to the capital to save his best friend who is a spy of Chanakya. Chanakya in exchange to indusharma’s life asked Amarthya Rakshasa to become Chandragupta’s prime Minister.

Chanakya thus converting the greatest threat to the kingdom to the wealthiest treasure for kingdom(wisdom of Amarthya) retired from active politics and finally tied his shike.


Chanakya was a strong believer in akhanda samrajya, Sarvabhoumatva of a king. The first ever lesson he taught Chandragupta was to unite all the small kingdoms under one rule. For this same reason he refused to divide kingdom for Parvataka or Malayaketu.

As the Great Sanskrit British scholar A.K.Warder in his book ‘Indian kavya literature’ writes about Mudrarakshasa,

“As long as India could produce Chanakya, her civilization flourished, defended from aggression of mlecchas. On other hand when she depended on simple, straightforward heroism and chivalry her civilization destroyed by barbarous invaders”.

This lines will haunt us because the downfall of quality of education and patriotism started with same formula, unwanted heroship granted to undeserving historic figures by our left propaganda historians.

For the bhavya bharatha to rise again we Don need kutilatha and stern decision makers like Chanakya and Amarthya.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth