Bindusara was the son of Chandragupta Maurya (founder of the Maurya Empire) and Queen Durdhara. According to a Jain work Rajavalikatha his original name was Simhasena. During his reign the Maurya Empire saw significant expansion southwards. But we are not here to discuss what history books have already told us.
Statue of Bindusara
There is a mystery over the birth of Bindusara. As the tale goes after Chandragupta Maurya became king of Magadha after defeating Nandas, his chief advisor was Chanakya. Now Chanakya feared that there would be assassination plots hatched against Chandragupta by other power hungry kings. To protect Chandragupta, Chanakya wanted to make him immune from poisoning. He added small amounts of poison in Chandragupta’s food everyday so that he would get used to it. But Chandragupta was unaware of the poison he consumed every day. One day while dining the Emperor shared his food with Queen Durdhara. She was just seven days away from delivery. The pregnant Queen who did not have poison as her staple diet started collapsing with some shrieks. Chanakya was passing by and he heard the screams. When he came inside the dining hall he found the Queen collapsing. He understood the importance of saving the child within her womb. So first of all he slit the Queen’s head so that the poison could not penetrate into her body and harm the child. Then he cut open her belly and took out the baby prince. But it seemed that one drop of poison had penetrated through and it touched the forehead of baby Bindusara. This caused a blue mark on his forehead. Thus the prince was saved.
Queen Durdhara was the mother of Bindusara
Though many scholars denounce this as a tale but references of such an event are found in many Jain works. It was a remarkable feat when we consider its timeline i.e. 320 BC.
Chanakya who knew a lot about Ayurveda helped in performing first birth by surgery
As Bindusara reached a fitting age to ascend the throne, Chandragupta in lieu of a famine took up a begging bowl and walked away to Deccan. But Chanakya remained minister and advisor to Bindusara. This was not liked by Bindusara’s minister Subandhu. Subandhu revealed to Bindusara that Chanakya had murdered the king’s mother. Hearing this Bindusara was enraged. Chanakya on the other hand gave all his possessions and wealth to poor, orphans and widows. He sat on a dung and prepared to die from fasting without any water or food. When the nurses revealed the real story to Bindusara he apologised to Chanakya.
Bindusara was angry with Subhandhu who mislead him. The king asked him to seek forgiveness from Chanakya. Though Subandhu still hated Chanakya but he agreed. When he visited Chanakya’s fastinbg spot he slipped a burning charcoal ember inside the heap of dung. With wind as its aid the fire caught and killed the man who masterminded the Mauryan Empire.
Chanakya is a widely known scholar and statesmen from ancient India. His works are still relevant in terms of economy and management. But just some time back there was a claim that Chanakya was a myth and no true personality with such skills existed. They sighted that there is no mention of Chanakya in the contemporary Greek works. Megasthenes who stayed in Chandragupta Maurya’s court for a decade and wrote Indica never mentioned Chankya anywhere. But other Indian cources claim he is a true figure and was the godfather of Emperor Chandragupta.
Chanakya: A Master Statesman
The earliest written record of Chanakya is found in the 8th century Prakrit drama Mudra Rakshasha which was written by Vishakhadatta. In this drama political activities of Chanakya but there is no details about his personal life provided. The drama is said to have been written about 1200 years after Chandragupta’s reign (but then again there is a lot of controversy over the Gupta timeline). Though the character of Chanakya has been well etched in this drama but his details such as birth, parentage, lineage, family or death is not mentioned here.
Chanakya's Works are Relevant even today
As Western records are becoming a rising need to confirm the existence of any historical figure (in this case it is absent), thus many have termed Chanakya as a myth. But many Indian texts carry details about his life. Recent speculation from some of the contemporary Jain texts shows that Chanakya was not a Hindu, he was rather a Jain by religion. There are many evidences that suggest he was a Jain. He is mentioned everywhere in Jain literature. There are also details about his life found in such literature. According to these texts Chanakya was born to Chanak who was a devout Jain. When Chanakya was born he had a teeth in his mouth. It is said when a Jain monk arrived at the doorsteps of Chanak asking for alms he predicted that the baby would one become a great King. Chanak instantly removed the teeth from baby’s mouth. Upon which the monk predicted now the baby will be a King maker. As a child he was a judicious student who had extraordinary academic capabilities. He was stubborn. When he grew young he was not a good looking boy and thus could not find any bride. Later he was married to a poor girl named Yashomati. His association and influence upon Chandragupta Maurya is known to all. Just like Chandragupta he became a Jain monk after retiring from Ministership. He died of a fire that was set in the jungle, where he was mediating with other. The jungle was set on fire by a minister of Bidusara (who was the son of Chandragupta). This fire killed the master statesman.
Chanakya was responsible for Chandragupta Maurya's Ascension to the Throne
But why is Chanakya not mentioned in Indica? There is one clear reason. May be Chanakya never belonged to Chandragupta’s period, maybe he came later. As far as we know of Chandragupta he was extremely intelligent and could have carried out the administration lonehandedly. There is a high probability that Chanakya came at a later date. His character was further elevated by the contemporary writers by making him the Godfather of Chandragupta Maurya.