Chanakya’s Chant: Book Review

Chanakya's Chant
(Historical Fiction/Thriller by “Ashwin Sanghi” – INR 195/-)

Many moons ago, when the class tenth examinations in an average Indian school still looked like the monster of granny’s nighttime stories, History was the local goon. The dread-inspiring giant of a syllabus comprised among others the grandeur of the Mughals, the militia of the mighty Ashoka and without fail – the ruler with the grey cells – emperor of Magadha, Chandragupta Maurya. With the Board examinations now ‘optional’ and kids going to school with bloodsucking vampires, the fear of History has hugely faded out. What has not faded out is the theory of historicism. In “Chanakya’s Chant”, author and entrepreneur Ashwin Sanghi unfurls before us a labyrinthine world designed and brought to life not by the maker in the clouds above but by a modern-day Vishnugupta, better known to the non-historian as the crafty Chanakya.

Set to a time ‘about 2300 years ago’, when India – Bharat – looked very different from what it does today, the tale takes us to the land of Magadha, ruled by the corrupt Dhanananda. In his reeking reign of torture chambers and alcohol-houses, which slaughtered anyone who dared to raise his voice against the injustice, Chanakya’s learned father is sent to the top of a tree. Only the head, that is. The rage then born in the little Brahmin remains with him as he grows up into a Takshila graduate – incidentally one of the first major universities of ancient India – and eventually, the intelligent plotter who helps bring together a country fragmented under Alexander the Great’s rule. Thousands of years later, in an India that only appears ‘developing’ but is actually being eaten away from its very core, functions Gangasagar Mishra. Blessed by an omnipotent chant – a mystery integral to Chanakya and essentially the reader – Mishra is a conniving politician, well-equipped with schemes and machinations to forward his ends and those of his precious female-find-from-the-slums in the Indian Central Government scenario.

Set in a largely political backdrop, Sanghi’s narrative walks us down a deserted Pataliputra lane and feasts us to the banquet of an Indo-China external affairs meet all in the matter of a few pages. The interleaving is smooth; the visuals are stark – right in your face are the horrors of the dungeon rife with snakes and scorpions. So is the brutality of killing as a means to restore law and order. The characterization is water-tight and exceptionally well researched. Yes, the more flippant of readers may feel unnerved with the troupe of characters christened strangely. But there is enough ‘masala’ so to say, to engage most minds. The secret behind winning an ‘opinion poll’, an astrologer and his predictions all coming true, the ministers the last elections elected to the house getting away with ‘no comments’ on most issues – Sanghi touches chords where they ring best. Read best too.

Given the thickness of the book – more than 400 pages – and the notorious history-politics marriage, this may not seem inviting to all the strollers gazing at book covers. But in a read that is engrossing from start to finish, clustering it with ‘those boring’ books on History can be a mistake. Sanghi does resort to instant Glucose at places – some scenes of gore (though well written), a closet homosexual, some people that err, seem like some others. But well, we no longer live in a cloistered world. In sync with how the book unravels the mystery of the chant and thus, the mystery of Chanakya’s cult Arthashatra, it also promises, more basically, a complete and enjoyable read.

Chankya’s Chant is very strongly recommended. And just in case you were wondering, the chant is available for download. 🙂

Four Star Rating

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27 thoughts on “Chanakya’s Chant: Book Review

  1. The shorts come with a download link 🙂 I have a read Indonesian short story month. The shorts come from the net…in other word, free 🙂

    I will look carefuly for the DL link later.

  2. Apart from history textbooks, the only way I can relate to Chanakya is a serial made by chandraprakash dwiwedi in early 90’s. I still watch that serial sometimes form youtube…there are lots of things to learn from that single character and would love to read this book too..very well reviewd

    Sukanya

    • I know! I used to religiously watch that show at a time. I think there are some reruns on now… or is that another show? Chanakya is surely awe-inspiring.
      Thanks a lot Sukanya! 😀

      • No thats a another show which is on air now, I have watched few episodes..but high on melodrama..low on intelligence..the one made by Dwedi was thouroughly well researched, characters were etched perfectly..this one is not watchable enuf

        • Oh… then its similar to the treatment that rehashes of Mahabharata or Ramayana have been given in recent times. BR Chopra’s Mahabharata remains a cult classic IMHO.
          Yep, the original Chanakya show was terrific.

  3. Impressive review, deboshree. I also did an Indonesian short stories review just now.

    In his reeking reign of torture chambers and alcohol-houses, which slaughtered anyone who dared to raise his voice against the injustice

    This line assure me to find it 😉

    I400 pages is not that thick, I have read thicker books (try more than 1000pages!). i have clicked the link but I don’t where to download it 😦

    • I love reading short stories… will check out your review soon though I wonder if the book will be available here. 😦

      Ha ha, yes 400 pages is thick by no standards but there is a major chunk of audience today that swears on much less. Not many takers for ‘A Suitable Boy’ now, for instance.

      Oh there is a link on the right that says “Download Mp3 of Shakti Chant from Chanakya’s Chant”. Glad you liked the review Novroz! 😀

  4. I have read quite a few reviews of books based on Indian Historical Fiction lately. It seems quite luring. 🙂 🙂 I’ll add this book to my list.

    Very well reviewed 🙂
    Are you on a book-reading-and-reviewing spree these days???

    • It sure is luring Chhavi. And if you are into the magic of history, there’s nothing like it. 😀 Cynics may well talk about living in the future but then history is future in several ways.
      Ha ha… I have been lucky with books these past few books and have had several coming my way. Free books at your doorstep desirous of being reviewed are like a sumptuous dinner waiting to be eaten. 😀 Glad you liked this one!

  5. Blogadda is not being good ot me got No books so far 😦

    but Chanakya well I have always been very much in awe of this guy and he has impressed me as such with all that he did , his clever mind and the politics etc .. I am not sure if i will read the book maybe when i can get my hands on it .. But i did see that TV serial that use to come ..

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