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Two political sagas – set in two different centuries – form the plot of Ashwin Sanghi’s second novel, Chanakya’s Chant. In alternating chapters, Sanghi presents the story of two characters. One is Chanakya, well entrenched and part of common history and the other a fictional creation, Gangasagar, an impoverished Brahmin in a small town of India who learns the fine art of survival and profit from his employer and ultimately goes on to change the course of political history.
Both Chanakya and Gangasagar had the same dream – to find a leader who can rise above the petty corruption, the divisiveness and factions of local politics and bring about a united India, strong and powerful under the one, exceptional leader.
The reader is given chapters entitled ‘Present Day’ or ‘About 2300 years ago’, to make clear whom we are going to read about next. The plot is rich and varied, with many subplots adding to the twists and turns of the story. Side by side, the novel narrates every step of Chanakya’s and Gangasagar’s transformation from ordinary men to masters of intrigue and conspiracy.
The readers are privileged to watch the master plans of two exceptional minds unfold, to understand the nuances of political manipulation and are left disgusted at the complete corruption of the governments the two leaders are attempting to overthrow at different points in history.
While Chanakya was motivated by his dream of a greater, united India and a desire for revenge, his latter day counterpart finds his entire life changing once he discovers the Chanakyan chant and its power.
Chanakya is credited with freeing India from the clutches of foreign rule – Alexander the Great, to be precise. But he did not stop there – he also went on to establish one of India’s greatest dynasties, the Mauryan dynasty, with Chandragupta Maurya as the first king. Needless to say, his exceptional achievements make him a figure of much interest.
Chanakya and his teachings continue to be applicable so many years after he expounded them, and still as powerful. This is seen in the way Gangasagar uses Chanakya’s chant, 2300 years later, to make Chandini Gupta the prime minister of India. Chandini is a poor girl from the slums of Kanpur, chosen because she is intelligent and quick to understand – qualities that she will need throughout her political life.
As the book moves to its predictable end, one is aware that politics hasn’t changed much over the years. Because human beings suffer the same flaws now as they did so many centuries ago, Chanakya’s teachings can never lose their relevance to the present day circumstances is a conclusion the reader can draw.
The book also includes a link to a free mp3 download that presents the chant (which is pivotal to the book) set to music. If you like historical fiction, this book may be for you. A fast read that doesn’t tax the reader.