The Chant That Changed The World

Review of Chanakya’s Chant; Ashwin Sanghi; Westland Books; pp 448; Rs 195

– Shana Susan Ninan

If you love history, you’ll love this book. If you love controversial protagonists, you’ll love it. And, if you love a fast-paced, intriguing and well-plotted novel, you’ll cherish it. Ashwin Sanghi’s Chanakya’s Chant takes you on a journey across two time zones, the link being the chant which Chanakya had inscribed around 2,300 years ago.

History knows him as Chandragupta Maurya’s mentor and Magadha’s political strategist. He used the alliances and fall-outs between various kings as well as Alexander the Great to move his pieces on the board. This fiction thriller goes deeper into this Brahmin’s childhood and past, analyzing how and why he became the person he was. Simultaneously, Sanghi takes us to the present day, where Pandit Gangasagar Mishra, a lowly Kanpur Brahmin boy discovers the Chanakya’s chant and uses it to scheme up games in the Indian political scenario. You can say he’s a reincarnation of Chanakya, but more cunning and crooked to the point where he has no accepted morals and will do anything and everything to achieve his goals. People are like pawns on his chess board, just mere tokens whose lives are his to be decided.

Gangasagar will not put his hands into something whose result he does not already know. He’ll first make sure that he’ll be the ultimate triumphant in the deal – emotional or material – and only then enter into it. Chanakya’s motto that “end justifies the means” is clearly seen in his actions as well as in Gangasagar’s. While Chanakya uses his cunningness and capabilities to unite a Bharat that stretches from the Indus and the Hindu Kush mountains to Kalinga in the east, Gangasagar uses his farsightedness and astuteness to play his political games to unite India.

Gangasagar’s crafty, calculative and definitely patriotic. This maverick of a strategist takes up courses that might shock the average man or woman of his times. He trains his protégé, a slum girl, to take up powerful reins. What follows is a typical game of cat and mouse played by different politicians, all of whom are somehow controlled by Gangasagar himself. Age does not seem to mellow him. And like a Kind Cobra, the older her gets, the poisonous he is. At times, he turns out to be outright ruthless. But you gotta hi-five the author for striking up a character who you hate so much that you love him to no extent. You tend to wonder how a history teacher can be so meticulously ruthless and cunning. The reader is kept at the edge of the seat as she turns the pages of history to unfold a series of events that have devastating effects.

Just when you think you’ve found a pattern in Chanakya’s or Gangasagar’s thinking, he would’ve changed his tactics. Now that’s someone you’ve gotta be careful about – you can’t mess with someone whose mind you cannot read! Sanghi has handled characterisation beautifully – each of the characters do not come out forthright with all their features mentioned in the first half of the book. In fact, including the major characters, we find that there are intrinsic features of the characters that are revealed up to the end of the story, much to the delight of the reader.

For someone who prides in Eastern philosophy and science, this book comes as a breather to me. The military and political strategies that the great Chanakya taught and practiced are still used today. The author has used good judgment to give an arresting thriller.

Although the author admits in his acknowledgments that he has used quotes from popular portals, the overdose of certain clichéd quotes and retorts tend to irritate a little. Maybe more so because the rest of the novel looks spic and span, using words of that of the author alone.

Ashwin Sanghi’s debut novel, The Rozabal Line, was a historic thriller, too. And a controversial one at that! He continues his brilliant work in Chanakya’s Chant, weaving magic in the minds of his readers. You can also check out the haunting chant sung and performed by a band, on YouTube.

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Rating: 7.8/10 (21 votes cast)
The Chant That Changed The World, 7.8 out of 10 based on 21 ratings

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011 at 10:07 am and is filed under Fiction, Historical Thriller, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. December 12th, 2011 | Kumar says:

    This is a great review. I am a fan of Indian history books for a long time and this one is good addition for my shelf.

    Thanks for reviewing ! Peace

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