What are some of the best stories about taking revenge in history or mythology or folklore or real life?


Answer by Anirudh Acharya:

The story of Chanakya taking revenge on Dhanananda.

Chanakya aka Vishnugupta/ Kautilya was the son of Chanak, a famous teacher of public policy in ancient Magadha. Chanak was an influential brahmin who vociferously opposed the bad governance of the tyrant Dhanananda, from the Nanda dynasty. For this he was gruesomely beheaded and his head was put on display for the public, as a warning to anyone who dared to oppose the king.

Chanakya realized that after this incident his stay in Magadha would not be safe and with the help of some of  his late father’s influential friends he fled to Takshashila, a university city. There he obtained mastery on a variety of topics such as economics, public policy and chemistry. Years later he returned to Magadha to confront Dhanananda and told him to change his ways. But he was humiliated and thrown out of the courtroom. Chanakya then vowed to bring down the Nanda dynasty and avenge his father and his own humiliation.

He then selected a young man, Chandragupta and trained him in the art of kingship and warfare. With the aid of Chandragupta and his army he played some brilliant politics and managed to unite, many of bickering kings of the subcontinent under one flag, to march against Dhanananda. He not only managed to destroy the Nanda dynasty but also setup a strong republic with Chandragupta as the king, that could fight off Alexander’s advancing Greek armies and setup a kingdom with good governing principles.

What I like about this story is that Chanakya does not get consumed by his desire for vengeance. He found a bigger purpose for his life, of setting up a strong republic with good governance, and his revenge became a subset of this purpose. He could have easily mounted some kind of a guerrilla attack on the king and might have managed to kill him also, but with such a course he would have destabilized the nation, making it an easy target for foreign invaders.

Instead he kept his cool and pursued his vengeance in a very responsible manner, and in so doing he became a legend. His book on public policy, Arthashaastra is a celebrated work to this day.

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