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Book Review: Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi

Title: Chanakya’s Chant
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Westland Ltd. (January 1st 2010)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read: Paperback
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
The year is 340 BC. A hunted, haunted Brahmin youth vows revenge for the gruesome murder of his beloved father. Cold, calculating, cruel and armed with a complete absence of accepted morals, he becomes the most powerful political strategist in Bharat and succeeds in uniting a ragged country against the invasion of the army of that demigod, Alexander the Great. Pitting the weak edges of both forces against each other, he pulls off a wicked and astonishing victory and succeeds in installing Chandragupta on the throne of the mighty Mauryan empire.

History knows him as the brilliant strategist Chanakya. Satisfied—and a little bored—by his success as a kingmaker, through the simple summoning of his gifted mind, he recedes into the shadows to write his Arthashastra, the ‘science of wealth’. But history, which exults in repeating itself, revives Chanakya two and a half millennia later, in the avatar of Gangasagar Mishra, a Brahmin teacher in smalltown India who becomes puppeteer to a host of ambitious individuals—including a certain slumchild who grows up into a beautiful and powerful woman.

Modern India happens to be just as riven as ancient Bharat by class hatred, corruption and divisive politics and this landscape is Gangasagar’s feasting ground. Can this wily pandit—who preys on greed, venality and sexual deviance—bring about another miracle of a united India? Will Chanakya’s chant work again?

My Review:

Cover: Eye-catchy!

Paper and font: Easy on the hands and eyes.

Readability, language: Easy read…

Why did I choose this book: Because of Chanakya.

In 340 BC Chanakya sets out to take revenge for his fathers death. In a revenge that spans years he thwarts Alexander, unites Kingdoms and puts Chandragupta Maurya on the throne. Having accomplished his revenge and dream he steps back to write his Arthashastra.
Ages later Gangasagar Mishra stumbles upon a chant written by Chanakya. Possessing qualities like Chanakya, he sets out to play the game of political intrigue with the objective of making his chosen disciple the Prime Minister on India.

Considering the book is about a cursed chant discovered, that is connected to Chanakya the title is quite appropriate. A copper tinted cover with a mix of ancient and modern coins is eye catchy and the blurb makes you want to read the book.

Chanakya is a known name, almost everyone has either studied about him in school or watched a story on TV. The one thing Chanakya is known for is his cunning. He is the Indian equivalent of Merlin, scheming and plotting until he put Chandragupta Maurya on the throne.
Sanghi retells the story of Chanakya with a twist – Gangasagar Mishra, the modern day Chanakya. He switches between Chanakya’s time and the present day as he draws political parallels. The plot is interesting and for a political noob like me it was an insight into what transpires behind the curtain.

The book is set in present day India and Chanakya’s time around 340 BC; both have been described well. It was a trip down memory lane re-imagining places I’d read about first in school – Takshila University, Pataliputra, Magadha, Paurus, Alexander… How I wish I could have studied at Takshila.
In the present day the story travels from small town Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh to Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi on a journey that makes a small time party a national political power.

Mainly revolving around Chanakya in old times and Gangasagar in present day, the story has a host of other characters supporting the plot. Both the protagonists go about using the people around them to achieve their goals, losing sight of the people themselves most times. Chanakya uses Suvasini, the woman he loves without remorse in furthering his grand plans. Gangasagar gets his disciple Chandini shot when he thinks it would benefit their political career.
The cunning and witty Chanakya may have been the best at the political game but he was also a cold calculating man with very few emotional attachments. Chanakya’s Chant is an insight into the man Chanakya was, and not just the political strategist.

Sanghi maintains a good pace and ties up the story well. There are of course a lot of plots and sub-plots, and sometimes you get muddled about characters but it all fits in at the end. Considering that it’s two stories running parallel, there was a lot happening and sometimes I lost track of things. But it could also just be the naive political me who missed the nuances.

When I first came across the book, I thought it was about Chanakya, so I was disappointed to find Chanakya sharing page space with Gangasagar. That said, I don’t have any other complaints about the book.

This was the first book of Ashwin Sanghi’s that I read, and it set the benchmark for his work. No wonder then that The Rozabal Line, his first book was hugely disappointing and The Krishna Key, his third was a redemption as it looks like Sanghi is getting better with each book.

Unlike The Rozabal Line and The Krishna Key, Chanakya’s Chant is a political thriller and if that’s your thing, you’ll enjoy this book.

About the Author:
Ashwin Sanghi is an entrepreneur by day, novelist by night and has all the usual qualifications of an Indian businessman. ‘The Rozabal Line’ was originally self-published in 2007 under his anagram-pseudonym—Shawn Haigins. In 2008 Westland published the book in India under his own name. Ashwin lives in Mumbai with his wife, Anushika, and his eight-year old son, Raghuvir. His website is

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