Next to the heroes of the Epics or the Puraana, no name is more familiar to Indians than that of Chaanakya or, as he is otherwise known, Kautilya or Vishnu-gupta. Throughout the whole of India, nĪtis or wise sayings attributed to him, are even now taught to beginners. This nĪti literature is not confined to India, but has travelled to distant countries like Ceylon, Burma Tibet, Siam, and even to Persia and Arabia, and has found place in the literatures of those countries.
The very fact that this almost universal adoration is paid to his memory, shows that Kautilya was in his own days regarded as a master, whose worldly wisdom and foresight gained for him the veneration of his contemporaries. Their reverence was transmitted from one generation to another, and his real history having been forgotten, tradition surrounded his name with a halo of intellectual glow that marked him out for the spontaneous veneration of posterity, not only in his own country but in the world outside.
No authentic history of this remarkable man has reached us, except references to his success in diplomacy or proficiency in the Art of Government, of which he was a redoubtable exponent in the remote past. Of this, again, we have no clear details, and even when such are obtainable, they clearly transport him from the region of history proper and make him the hero of a cycle of semi-mythical legends, of which we shall give some account later on.