This historical novel – Samrat Chandragupta (सम्राट चन्द्रगुप्त) – is 3rd and last novel in the series of novels, on Chanakya-Chandragupta Maurya pair, written by Dhumketu. From the preceding two, first novel (Part 1) is – Mahamatya Chanakya (महामात्य चाणक्य). Analysis of the same can be read here. In Part 1, Chanakya’s journey from Takshashila to Pataliputra and return journey are covered. It focuses on Chanakya’s insult in court of Dhanananda and his great vow to eliminate entire Nanda dynasty. 2nd novel in the series (Part 2) is – Chandragupta Maurya, where Dhumketu narrates how Chanakya and Chandragupta, together, capture Pataliputra, dethrone Dhanananda and establish Maurya dynasty. Analysis of the same can be read here.
This novel, part 3, can be bifurcated in two portions –
- Events surrounding to Rakshas (Pandit Katyayana) and how he accepts to become the guiding source for Maurya empire.
- Chandragupta’s victory in the battle against Greek emperor Seleucus and expansion of Maurya empire
Dhumketu – The Author
Dhumaketu (1892-1965) is a very famous name in Gujarati literature. He has explored almost all forms of literature like Novels, Short stories, Dramas, Essays, Children literature, Philosophy, Rendering of literature of other languages into Gujarati and many more. His short stories are considered master pieces and also part of syllabus in school and universities, in Gujarat, since decades.
Another unique feather in his cap is his Historical Novels. He has written 29 Historical Novels, in Gujarati, which is a stupendous achievement in itself. These historical Novels are not only limited to geography and culture of Gujarat but also cover various parts of India. The ancient most novel goes back to ~6th Century BCE (Pre Maurya era) and the last novel covers the end of Hindu rule in Gujarat (~13th Century CE). In between he covers Maurya, Shunga, Gupta, Chavda, Solanki (Chaulukya) and Vaghela eras of India and Gujarat. Dhumketu is the only author in the world who has written numerous historical Novels covering various royal dynasties.
The Novel –
This novel – Samrat Chandragupta – was first published in 1957 by ‘Gurjar Prakashan’. Written in Gujarati language, book has 39 chapters and 294 pages.
Since every novel is connected with the previous one, reader shouldn’t read any of the novels in isolation. Covering great characters like Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya are not possible in just one novel so Dhumketu has written three novels for the same. This novel is connected with two novels – Mahamatya Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya. First novel covers initial episodes of Chanakya’s struggle and determination to unify India under an able ruler Chandragupta. Second novel covers how Chanakya-Chandragupta pair ends Nanda dynasty and establish Maurya rule at Pataliputra.
In 3rd part, this novel, Dhumketu depicts the post war events. As indicated in Introduction, capturing of Rakshas and defeating Seleucus are two primary events here. Secondary events like establishing complete suzerainty over Punjab and Gandhar by Chandragupta Maurya, marriage with Helen and abdication of throne for Bindusara are also woven beautifully.
Dhumketu is known for using historical sources – Books, Epigraphical sources and Literature – in his historical novels. Few such sources found in footnotes of the novel are,
- Mudrarakshas (Sanskrit Play) – Vishakhadatta
- Mudrarakshas (Gujarati Translation) – KH Dhruva
- Chandragupta Maurya and His Times – Radhakumud Mukerji
- Some Kshatriya Tribes of Ancient India – B. Law
- Cambridge History of India
- Arthashastra - Kautilya
- Greek Sources – Arrian, Strabo, Megasthanes, Plutarch etc.
- The Voyage of Nearchus
- Buddhist Sources – Divyavadana and others
Few incidents are inspired by medieval Jain and ancient Buddhist sources. Overall, Dhumketu is very selective in usage of Jain and Buddhist sources as many of them have completely different narratives. It is observed that Dhumketu has taken only significant portion from these legends to either build or support the narrative in the novel and didn’t use them as they are.
Mentioning historical sources in the historical novel is a bold and honest approach by the author. It shows the narratives are built on historical base. Such boldness and honesty in authors are rare even in modern era.
Content of The Novel –
Continuing from the earlier novel – Chandragupta Maurya, this novel takes off. However, there is a little time gap between these two novels. Chandragupta has become an emperor of Magadh after getting officially coronated in presence of public. Shringaradevi (शृङ्गारदेवी) and Dharinidevi (धारिणीदेवी, Daughter of Dhanananda) are his two wives now. People of Magadh have well accepted the new rule. Chanakya is busy repairing the damaged economical, social, cultural and political pillars of the empire to make it an unchallenged and the most powerful one. Seleucus’s ambition to realise the dream of Alexander is also in sight of Chanakya.
Mahamatya Rakshas (महामात्य राक्षस) is still a puzzle for Chanakya as his whereabouts are unknown. Chanakya, at any cost, want to get him on his side. His plan is to utilize the knowledge and wisdom of Rakshas for Chandragupta Maurya. He traps Chandan Das (चन्दन दास), a famous jeweller of Pataliputra and a close friend of Rakshas, and tries to convince him. Chanakya applies three approaches – sama, dana, bheda but Chandan Das doesn’t melt. At the same time, Shonottara (शोणोत्तरा, Head of security of Chandragupta) informs Chanakya that she has found out few eavesdroppers, sent from Punjab to kill Chandragupta, living in Pataliputra. Here, Dhumketu has taken support of a legend of ants going with grains to build the narrative.
On other side, Chanakya wants to take help of a female dancer – Shrirangi (श्रीरङ्गी) – to trap the remaining rulers of Punjab region. Here again, Chanakya faces stubbornness from her, like Chandan Das, but in the end Shrirangi gets convinced. Dialogues between both of them regarding knowledge/skill and tradition are literary treat for readers. Chanakya announces her as rajanartaki (राजनर्तकी). She also agrees to work as a double agent to trap Rakshas.
As expected by Chanakya, after this announcement, Rakshas himself meets to Shrirangi and seeks her help in killing Chanakya-Chandragupta pair. With the great mental effort, Shrirangi manages herself from getting overwhelmed by attractive speech of Rakshas. As per the plan of Chanakya, she agrees with Rakshas. Rakshas sends a musician Kalash (कलश) to accompany Shrirangi.
As per the plan, a dance of Shrirangi is organized for Chandragupta where Chanakya and Chandragupta create an atmosphere of distrust and friction for each other. Other characters also become part of this frictional episode without knowing that it is a ploy. As a response, Chanakya decides to stay in isolation for eight days but informs Shonottara to ensure that this news of rift must be spread in Pataliputra. This was required to trap Rakshas. Chandragupta announces to have a grand event in Pataliputra to stabilize the cultural glory lost due to Dhanananda’s rule. On other side, Rakshas gets the news of rift between Chanakya and Chandragupta from his spy Kalash. He also gets the same news from other sources of the city. Chanakya decides to reside in an isolated place which is very near to where those rented killers, sent from Punjab, are hiding (Refer entry of Shonottara). This hideout was in unchecked condition but on a strategic spot from where entire palace of Chandragupta can be blown away. Rented killers, since days, were collecting all sorts of inflammable stuff for the same. Rakshas intervenes and convince them to blow off Chanakya’s place instead of the palace of Chandragupta.
Here, spy of Chanakya – Bhagurayan (भागुरायण) – is doing his work diligently. He is also acting as a double agent between Chanakya and Rakshas. As per the plan, with smartness of Bhagurayan and Shonottara, Chanakya escapes uninjured from the place and all those rented killers get roasted in the fire alive.
Chanakya wants to eradicate all supporters of Rakshas from Punjab region so that he can finally convince him to change his devotion – from Dhanananda to Chandragupta. This is why he keeps an eye on Rakshas but doesn’t imprison him even after knowing his whereabouts afterwards. As per his instruction, Bhagurayan sows seed of doubt in mind of Rakshas that there is a hand of LaghuPaurav (लघुपौरव), ruler of Punjab, in saving the life of Chanakya from that fire. He also convinces Rakshas to kill Laghu Paurav during this grand event along with Chandragupta. As directed by Chanakya, he makes a pseudo plan and takes confidence of Rakshas to execute the same. On other side, agents of Chanakya makes a fake message to reach to Shrirangi for Rakshas. Shrirangi ensures that Rakshas believes content of this fake message – Alliance of Chanakya and LaghuPaurav to remove Chandragupta from the throne. Rakshas plans to kill LaghuPaurav to end this alliance. Chanakya also wishes the same to get rid of this thorn of Punjab. Thus, Rakshas gets trapped in the great ploy of Chanakya.
Both the double agents of Chanakya – Shrirangi in form of राजनर्तकी and Bhagurayan in form of agent of Rakshas – have a common goal. Before the grand ceremony, confuse the kings of Punjab region and create rift/distrust among them to make the plan of Chanakya successful. Shrirangi makes LaghuPaurav crazy behind her and incites him to kill Chandragupta. On other side, Chanakya entrusts one artist to make an arch at a spot of this grand event under which LaghuPaurav can be crushed at appropriate time. Everything happens as per Chanakya’s grand plan and finally LaghuPaurav gets killed instead of Chandragupta. Rakshas gets dejected. Shrirangi and Bhagurayan informs him that his friend Chandan Das is still in prison and may get killed at any time. Rakshas decides to save him at any cost. Thus, he keeps getting trapped in every move of Chanakya.
Rakshas approaches to Dhanananda and family for the final time to convince them to take part in his efforts to defeat Chanakya but indifference of Dhanananda dejects him completely. While returning, he gets to know that Chanakya has decided to hang his friend Chandan Das (Where Rakshas previously hid to save himself from the clutch of Chanakya). He knows that in spite of applying all sorts of tricks by Chanakya, Chandan Das has still not opened his mouth about him. He also comes to know about his other friend in similar lurch. This situation forces Rakshas to surrender so that he can save his friends.
Before surrendering, he visits his old house and gets back in the past. While remembering his powerful past, Rakshas starts realizing that Chanakya has proved what he said while he couldn’t do anything what he promised to Dhanananda. He laments and weeps that he has to visit his own house like a thief. On other side, Chanakya knows that Rakshas will now definitely surrenders as his false pride and ego are now melted. He senses that this is the time to win him back and convince him to provide his service to Maurya empire. He executes his plan accordingly and sends Chandragupta himself on the spot. Chandragupta declares Chandan Das free in front of Rakshas and general public of Pataliputra. Chanakya also comes there. After few dramatic events, they both finally convince Pandit Katyayan (Rakshas) to serve Maurya dynasty. Rakshas can’t believe this turn around but pleased to observe a perfect emperor in Chandragupta Maurya. Here the first portion of the novel ends.
In second portion of the novel, a messenger of Aarshasen (आर्षसेन - Care taker of Takshashila) named Tushashva (तुषाश्व) comes to Pataliputra and informs Chanakya about the possible attack of Seleucus (शैलाक्ष) from North-West India. Chanakya send Shrirangi and Bhagurayan as spies in form of a dancer and a drummer respectively.
On other side, Seleucus gets reception from local rulers of Punjab but he knows they are of little use in the war against Chandragupta Maurya. He stops near Pushkalavati (Gandhar) to chalk out a strategy. After knowing that Rakshas is now in service of Chandragupta, he understands that now only option left for him is to have an open war.
[Coin of Seleucus Nicator, Seleucid Empire]
As per the plan of Chanakya, Aarshasen invites Seleucus and other small rulers to a place (A humungous Banyan tree under which ten thousand people can sit – Megasthenes has mentioned one such big Banyan tree on Kapisha-Kamboj Highway). In honor of Seleucus, dance of Shrirangi is organized. Here, Seleucus and Aarshasen joins hands (As per Chanakya’s plan). Seleucus is desperate to have a big unit of Indian elephants to maintain suzerainty over Babylonia (Today’s region of Iraq-Syria). He asks minimum 500 elephants from Aarshasen and in return promises to make him MahaKshatrap (महाक्षत्रप) of his Indian geography.
Tushashva, being originally a Greek, wins confidence of Seleucus during this event by making him aware of Indian traditions and environment in Greek language. He shares his knowledge of Sindh and Saurashtra region of West India. Dialogues between him and Seleucus demonstrating importance of ports and water ways of ancient Gujarat (Bharuch, Khambhat etc.) during that era. He declares his wish to become a Kshatrap (क्षत्रप) of Saurashtra and Sindh under Greek leadership. Thus, he impresse Seleucus.
Seleucus knows his daughter Helen is in love with Chandragupta and India. He decides to send her as a messenger to Pataliputra. Dramatic dialogues between father and daughter give Seleucus assurance that Helen can do this job for him. Next day, Helen meets Shrirangi out of her love towards Indian Dance. After getting impressed, Shrirangi gives an India name – Shubhangi (शुभाङ्गी) to her. She couldn’t hide her attraction towards Pataliputra and Chandragupta Maurya.
As a messenger, Helen meets Chandragupta. Maurya emperor listens to her with care and responds like an emperor that without the war, Seleucus can’t go back from here but if he promises to not to return ever, by doing a treaty, then we will welcome his move. Chandragupta is fully aware that with 9000 war elephants in service of Magadh, if Seleucus is thinking about a full-fledged war then it will be a suicidal move for Greek Emperor. Helen again meets Chandragupta during night time and expresses her love towards him. Chandragupta acknowledges her love with dignity and also praises her efforts to stop the war.
Chanakya gets to know about this meeting from spy Bhagurayan and he dislikes this effort of Helen. Chanakya is very clear that now Seleucus can’t go back without a war as Magadh has upper hand. Also, this is the perfect situation to win entire Gandhar and Punjab territories. After taking go ahead from Rakshas (He is the head of 500 Ministers of Magadh), he gets Helen abducted, the Greek messenger, using his forest unit.
Along side, Seleucus also prepares for the war. As per the promise given to Seleucus, Aarshasen starts gathering quality war elephants at an appropriate spot. Tushashva portrays himself as the useful guide to Seleucus. Just a day before the war, Chanakya sends Rakshas as the ambassador (राजदूत) of Maurya empire with adequate force to the camp of Seleucus to see if Seleucus can be made ready to surrender without the war. Seleucus doesn’t understand the hidden threat in dignified words of Rakshas and rejects to give up. This makes the war inevitable.
Chandragupta easily wins the war. Seleucus army couldn’t withstand against mighty Maurya army. Also, switching side of Aarshasen on last minute proved too much for Seleucus to handle. He surrenders and give away Kandahar & Herat (Afghanistan) and Makaran (Balochistan-Iran) from his empire to Chandragupta Maurya. He also retreats from Gandhar. He has to give up his “Nicator” title. He offers his daughter Helen to Chandragupta. As a consolation, he gains 500 war elephants from Maurya empire. Return journey of victorious Chandragupta from Gandhar to Pataliputra is full of celebration at many places. Narration of these celebration events by Dhumketu recreates the ancient atmosphere in mind of reader.
[Extent of Maurya Empire in North-West India – After war with Seleucus]
Before the war, Chanakya has sent Pushpagupta to Saurashtra (Gujarat) to establish the supremacy of Maurya empire over local rulers so that after the war, Chandragupta can establish Maurya rule there with ease. Having control over the geography with the longest seashore (Gujarat) is top priority for Chanakya. He wants to eliminate any foreign attack from marine route for which control over Saurashtra is utmost important. Pushpagupta completes this task diligently. Chandragupta declares him Kshatrap of entire Gujarat.
Chandragupta and others arrive at Saurashtra. Before that, he establishes Ujjain and Takshashila as capital cities to provide security and stability to the vast Maurya empire. As a mark of arrival of the emperor, a big lake – Sudarshan Lake, a dam on it (Now part of Junagadh City of Gujarat) and many other water reservoirs get constructed to provide water for sustenance of agriculture and other activities. Thus, Chandragupta takes a big geography under his control.
Years pass. Borders of Maurya empire are now fully protected. Law and order are also established as per Dharmashastra. Foreign powers send royal ambassadors to the court of Pataliputra to maintain friendly relation with Maurya emperor. Chanakya passes a law which prohibits a person from becoming a Buddhist monk without doing arrangements for his family. He does it to make such families financially stable. Chandragupta Sabha (चन्द्रगुप्त सभा), with 500 Ministers, was allowed to assemble at any time without taking permission of the king. This is done to ensure swift actions. Chanakya put the emperor (Chandragupta) under the ambit of Dharmashastra so that, in spite of being an emperor, he can’t overrule Dharmashastra. Rakshas passes away, he was replaced by Subandhu (सुबन्धु). Bindusara (बिन्दुसार), son of Chandragupta is now ready to take over from his father.
During this time, Magadh faces a drought. Chandragupta retires and Bindusara becomes the new emperor. Chanakya also wishes for retirement but Chandragupta requests him to guide Bindusara for few more years. Chanakya agrees to the last wish of Chandragupta. One fine morning, empty handed Chandragupta, in front of all, starts walking out of his kingdom.
Main characters of this novel are Chanakya, Amatya Rakshas and Chandragupta Maurya. Supporting characters are Bhagurayan, Shrirangi, Aarshasen, Tushashva, Seleucus and Helen.
Chanakya is as usual sharp and lethal in his thoughts and actions. His control over royal sources is tremendous. His spy system is also much improved now. His relation with Chandragupta has been fantastic. In the first half of the novel, he makes use of all characters to take Rakshas in his favor. Unlike previous novels, here Chanakya controls his moves better and without a single deviation, he gets success. His domination is so powerful that in many incidents he is not only understands the moves of all the characters but he manages to change their minds as well. Dialogues between him and Rakshas are treat for readers. In second half, since he was sure of the victory over Seleucus, he is bit relaxed but not unaware of the happenings.
Amatya Rakshas, like previous novels, is shown intelligent but without full control on his thoughts and actions. This is why he gets trapped in each and every ploy of Chanakya. Since he is out of royal favor, he is left with no option other than trusting the people. Chanakya exploits his drawbacks and makes him surrenders. Rakshas is shown as someone who respects loyal friends and their friendship more than his personal goals. After agreeing to serve Chandragupta, he exhibits his skill and knowledge in few incidents. Where in first half he has parallel role to Chanakya, in second half his role is need based but dignified too. Events just before and during surrender reflects a completely different shade of his character.
In this novel, Chandragupta Maurya is an established emperor. Unlike previous novels, here his character is more matured and in commending position. In the first half, he is in supporting role to Chanakya in trapping Amatya Rakshas. After surrender of Rakshas, dialogues between him and Chandragupta exposes Chandragupta’s skill and intellect as an able emperor. Here only, for the first time, Rakshas realizes that Chandragupta is the perfect person to lead not only Magadh but entire country. In the second half, Chandragupta handles many things independently and demonstrates his skill as warrior, lover and emperor. In the end, his move to give up the royal throne at appropriate time reflects the effective teaching of Chanakya. Thus, his character is colourful and inspiring.
[Postage Stamp of Chandragupta Maurya]
Bhagurayan, just like previous novels, plays a very important role here too. His character is also more matured and effective in this novel. In fact, due to his strategies and management, Chanakya could eliminate hostile rulers of Punjab from the scene. Working as a double agent, he also traps Rakshas which is perhaps his major achievement. His swift and timely moves give Chanakya’s plans desired result. Bhagurayan has, in fact, a longer role than Chandragupta in first half of the novel. In second half, he plays small but a significant role.
Shrirangi, a devoted dancer of Pataliputra, is another important character of this novel. Chanakya’s long interaction with her, while convincing her to work as a spy, demonstrates her real character as a devoted artist and a good-hearted woman. She is someone with beauty and brain which compels Chanakya to use her as a political weapon but with full dignity. In first half, her main job is to trap Rakshas. Her dilemma while cheating Rakshas and supporting Chanakya is the highlight of her role in first half. In the second half, she is without Dilemma in handling Helen. This transformation gives an edge to her character.
Aarshasen, Tushashva, Seleucus and Helen – All these characters primarily enter in second half of the novel. Aarshasen has a limited but important role in managing the show as stated in the plot above. He is someone whom Chanakya trusts. Tushashva is also an important character, used by Chanakya to keep Seleucus in delusion. Unlike Aarshasen, he is not of Indian origin but still performs his role without any sense of distrust.
Seleucus is someone who is not as matured as Chandragupta. His decisions like using his own daughter as a messenger, rejecting peace in place of war from Chandragupta, Trusting Tushashva just because he is of Greek origin and few others proved to be the prime reasons for his defeat.
Along with Shrirangi, Helen is the second character, just like her role in the previous novel, providing शृङ्गार रस in otherwise a political saga. She is a dreamer with pure heart but also bold in her approach. Dhumketu has used highly ornated language suitable to her character and feelings.
Special mention is of Pushpagupta, an important character in first two novels who enters the story only in the end. Being a trusted and loyal warrior with great intellect, he is entrusted with a big responsibility to expand Maurya empire into Saurashtra and adjoining regions (Modern Gujarat). He completes the job without a battle. In return, he gets appointed as Governor of Gujarat.
Impact of Arthashastra –
Arthashastra is one of the most celebrated works in the field of polity. Impact of this great work, in form of situational quotes (Sanskrit verses), terminologies and concepts, is easily observed in this novel. All these give an authentic touch to this novel.
Quotes & Aphorisms
मन्त्ररक्षणे कार्यसिद्धिः (Result of the strategy depends on maintaining its secrecy). This Sanskrit quote is taken from Chanakyaniti. Chanakya uses it as a key political strategy, to abduct Helen
हस्तिप्रधानो हि विजयो राज्ञाम् (War elephant is the main source of victory for the king) and हस्तिघातिनं हन्युः (Whoever strikes a deadly blow to war elephants must be killed without second thought) – These two quotes are taken from Arthashastra to show might and importance of war elephants in decisive war between Seleucus and Chandragupta.
Chandragupta was put in ambit of Dharmashastra by Chanakya. For him, as an emperor, happiness and prosperity of his subjects are his top priority. This idea is directly taken from one popular verse of Arthashastra – प्रजासुखे सुखं राज्ञः प्रजानां च हिते हितम् | नात्मप्रियं हितं राज्ञः प्रजानां तु प्रियं हितम् ||
स्कन्धावार (Military Camp) term is used in describing the military camps of Seleucus and Chandragupta Maurya. Arthashastra of Kautilya describes construction of the same in detail (10th chapter of Arthashastra).
वप्र (A Rampart) term is used by the author to describe the fortification. Second chapter of the Arthashastra deals in detail about various types of ramparts and its construction associated with temporary and permanent fortifications.
Literary Aspects –
Language used in the novel is almost refined and ornated except few colloquial usages. Language contains many popular and lesser-known idioms. Use of figure of speech and ornated sentences at places lift the level of this novel. Situational quotes from characters makes the reading valuable for readers.
Quotes, Similes and Contrasts
First two pages of the novel are full of powerful thoughts of Chanakya which can definitely raise the tempo. “A King must make his kingdom unchallenged or else he should be ready to pay the price because a weak ruler always becomes a joke in front of strong rulers”. Further Chanakya says – Just like overuse of weapons, overdose of impractical peaceful talk is also dangerous. A strong and a stable kingdom is the only option which can control internal and external enemies. These two thoughts are setting the tempo of the novel.
At one place, Rakshas is compared with a florist who want to grow roses in the cactus. This simile is used in a positive sense with respect to his dream of erecting Nanda empire again. It emphasises his loyalty towards Dhanananda even after the defeat.
Desperation of Rakshas to defeat Chanakya is narrated beautifully using an ancient tradition – The one who can’t win in spite of his best effort, drinks poison like a nectar. For him, taking जलसमाधि is like attaining स्वर्ग.
Dhumketu is a stanch believer of the eternal truth – A terrorist must be killed without delay. The same belief is also echoed in this novel where he rejects path of Gautam Buddha for any king. “Even though the believer of Gautam Buddha says otherwise, a warrior king can’t shed off his prime responsibility which is killing of terrorists to keep his kingdom protected” is one such quote which is in line with Hindu Dharmashastras.
“Warrior thinking of saving the self can never win the battle” is a situational quote uttered by one of the characters when LaghuPaurav tries to kill Chandragupta in vain. Dhumketu’s love towards true Kshatriya spirit is eye catching here.
“All types of ashes are excellent but the best among them is of a dead body”. This spiritual quote is surprisingly attributed to Dhanananda. It depicts his meltdown from too much desire for wealth to have almost nothing.
When Rakshas tries to convince Dhanananda as a last attempt, he takes clue from post Mahabharata episode by citing Arjun that had he not used his famous bow (गाण्डिव धनुष्य) during the scuffle with Trigartas then he could have kept his bow undefeated and respectful. Thus, Dhanananda gracefully rejects to play part in any plan of Rakshas to save his left-over respect (!).
Before surrendering, Rakshas visits his house and slips into past. In connection with this episode, Bhagurayan says to Chanakya - “If a mesmerized snake can move, then only Rakshas can move”. What a simile!
Sanskrit and Gujarati Quotes/Idioms
Part 2 of the novel, talks about prominent rulers of North-West India (Punjab and surrounding) are either killed or subdued by Chanakya-Chandragupta pair. Still Chanakya thinks that the remaining lot, even if not dangerous, can bounce back due to their adharmic nature. Dhumketu has used an apt Sanskrit idiom for them – स्वभावो दूरतिक्रमः (Nature can’t be changed easily).
One Gujarati idiom – મૂંડ્યો જોગી ને સ્ત્રી સર્વભોગી, એનાં મૂળ કોણે જોયાં (Root of an ascetic and a prostitute are always unknown) – is spoken by a character when Chanakya tries to gather information of Shrirangi to utilize her in his grand plan.
A Sanskrit quote - अविवेकः परमापदां पदम् (Foolishness is the root of the disaster) is used by Dhumketu to demonstrate Chanakya’s artificial anger over Chandragupta. He says this in front of selected audience to make his plan impactful.
नृपतिः प्रथमो लोकसेवकः (Serving the people is the prime responsibility of the king) is Dhumketu’s own Sanskrit quote uttered by Dhanananda to convey Chanakya’s principle under Maurya rule.
નેવનાં પાણી મોભે ચડવાં (Direct Meaning - Rain water descending from the roof getting inside of house instead of flowing down outside. Indirect Meaning - Impossible is becoming possible), a Gujarati idiom is used to indicate that Dhanananda is now not interested in doing any effort to defeat Chanakya. Rakshas couldn’t believe to see this change in Dhanananda and uttered this idiom.
ઝેર પાએલાં બાણોથી માખીઓનો શિકાર કરવો (Direct Meaning - Trying to hunt down flies and mosquitos with poisoned arrows. Indirect Meaning – A foolish act), a Gujarati idiom is used to show mental situation of stupid sons of Dhanananda. This shows love of Dhumketu of using literary feature to convey even simple things.
છેલ્લા પાટલે બેસવું (Direct Meaning – Sitting on the last seat. Indirect Meaning – Exploit the last option, generally immoral, to fulfil the objective), a Gujarati idiom is used for Chanakya’s tactics, in connection with public hanging of Chandan Das, to leave Rakshas with no option but to surrender under the pressure of saving life of his friend.
यावच्चन्द्रदिवाकरौ (Till Sun and Moon are there in universe), a Sanskrit idiom, is used by Dhumketu in relation to one small incident. Dhumketu’s love for Sanskrit is clearly visible here that even in a small incident, he couldn’t resist using Sanskrit idiom.
Concluding Remarks –
Stitching historical sources, legends and fables into a meaningful writing is always a commendable effort. Moreover, writing on legendary characters is always a tough task considering society’s attachment with them at various levels. Toughest is to recreate the era using all resources and taking the reader back to that time period. Dhumketu’s ability to stitch together various sources is the soul of his historical novels.
Dhumketu’s ability to create parallel characters to Chanakya is also refreshing for the reader. It avoids overdose of a single character and keeps the interest alive. Even supporting characters of this novel leave their mark on reader’s mind which speaks volume about creativity of Dhumketu as a writer.
If you are a student of politics, administration or history, you will surely enjoy the political stunts, mind games, ancient narratives and the impetus taken from Arthashastra and other literary and historical sources. If you are interested in language and literature, you will love the usage of idioms, figure of speech and quotes. Lucid language will definitely keep you in flow of reading.
All the images are provided by the author.