The King Maker
Chanakya lived about 2300 years ago, in Magadha that is Bihar today. Born in a family of educators, he was an ascetic with a vision. Chanakya's fame rests on his role as the chief advisor to Chandragupta Maurya who overthrew the ruling Nanda dynasty and laid the foundation of the great Mauryan Empire that ruled over much of the Indian subcontinent. Striving to make Chandragupta's position secure in an unstable and dangerous time, Chanakya championed a policy of realpolitik. He deployed a large network of spies, ensured testing for the king's food and shelter; averted disasters through keen detection like that of ants carrying rice through cracks in flooring. He was not averse to spreading rumors to win over an opponent to the king's side.
Behind all this was the burning desire to stir the country's ruler to sweep away the vestiges of Greek rule that remained behind Alexander's invasion and return from India. Chandragupta fulfilled these wishes of Chanakya, who then retired to the forest as hermit. Chankya compiled his precepts in the theory and practice of statecraft in a treatise called 'Arthashastra'. Its existence was known only through stray references till 1912 when the manuscript was discovered in South India. Perhaps as much as two millennia older than Machiavelli's The Prince, the treatise promotes a similarly pragmatic advise to kings on the art of ruling.