Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi

This book was always on my wishlist, but somehow did not get down to reading it, until I read The Krishna Key by the same author.

In 340 BC, a young man, Vishnugupta, vows to avenge his father’s death. He decides to call himself Chanakya – Chanak’s son from then on, and worked on his agenda of uniting Bharat and making it strong enough to withstand attacks from outside. He fulfils his vows by installing Changragupta Maurya on the throne of the Maurya Empire, using cunning, deceit, strategic planning and thinking ahead of his adversaries.

Centuries later, Gangadhar Mishra seems to be a kingmaker of epic fame, using tactics not dissimilar to those used by Chanakya. A small town boy, faced with financial difficulties after the death of his father, overcomes all the obstacles in his path to become the most important man in Indian politics. A kingmaker who holds all the strings, and manages to pull them perfectly to attain his goal. Uncannily similar to Chanakya, a few centuries ago.

It is a captivating story, pacy, entertaining, and revealing. The wheeling and dealing that go on behind the scenes, the games people play for power, the sacrifices, voluntary and involuntary, the cruelty, and the heartlessness with which people get to their goals. Power, the all important thing, nothing seems to be more important, lives, emotions,relationships everything seems to secondary. A story which seems to be an accurate portrayal of the political scene in modern India. What was even more fascinating was that it seems to have been true even during Chanakya’s time.

The book brought to life the political turmoil, and the personal agendas that helped establish the Mauryan Empire in India’s history, while drawing parallels in today’s political world. Far more interesting that the way we read all this in our history lessons, ages ago, I have to say.I loved the author’s storytelling style, in which he had both eras happening in simultaneously, in different threads, in every chapter.

The one thing I would have wished for, is that Chandni Gupta’s character had been better defined. While Gangasagar’s character in the book was well defined, I felt that Chandni’s was lacking. She felt a little hollow sometimes. Her motivations unclear. As if she were just a puppet with no mind of her own. Chanakya’s motivations seem to be quite clear, while Gangasagar, to me, just felt driven by power, nothing else. There was seemed nothing more important to him.

All in all, a very interesting read, and one that keeps your interest through out. And finally – what about the title – Chanakya’s chant? Well, you will have to read the book to find out. All I can say is that it is sure to be interesting. I also enjoyed it much more than The Krishna Key.

The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

Dr Ravi Mohan Saini, a star professor at the prestigious St Stephen’s College in New Delhi is given a seal by his old friend Anil Varshney for safe keeping. Varshney had told him that it was part of a set of 4, and would sit on a base plate, which he had locked away in a locker. In case anything happened to him, Saini would be contacted as the main signatory. The seal is the key to the secret that Krishna is said to have left for the generations later to decipher and is called the Krishna Key. The other 3 seals are with three other people.

The next thing he knows is that he is implicated in Anil Varshney’s murder. As the last person who saw him alive, and with his fingerprints all over the place, Saini looks set to be convicted. Saini manages to escape with the help of his doctoral student, Priya Ratnani. Saini realizes that he needs to uncover the mystery of the Krishna Key in order to prove that he is not the killer of his friend. As he rushes to the others who have the seal, he finds, to his horror, one by one, they all get killed and he gets even more embroiled in the mess. To add to it, there seems to be a person who believes that he is the tenth avataar of Vishnu – Kalki. Now Saini has to try to stay alive while trying to uncover the Krishna Key. All his expertise in History, Mythology and skill in connecting things, are crucial to his survival. It doesn’t help matters that Radhika(Sniffer) Singh, an ace policewoman, is trying hard to catch him and prosecute him for what she believes is his crime. It’s tough enough to escape her, without having to worry about serial killers who seem to get everywhere.

First Impression – it was pure Dan Brown in genre. Conspiracy theory abounds, linking historical facts and exposing different facts and concepts that make you wonder if everything you knew was actually not true. Fascinating read, in terms of all the revelations. So many revelations that it made my head spin, that it made me google and check it out, just as I did when I read my first Dan Brown. It came with all the twists and turns that one would expect, with trusted people turning rogue and corrupt officials that are willing to do everything for the right price.

The best part of the book were the non-stop revelations. It was a walk through history, of a different kind. Right from prediction of the exact time when the Mahabharata was fought, using the astronomical events that were mentioned in the texts, proving that Krishna was not a mythological character but a real life person, who indeed lived on this earth, linking events till the later parts of Indian history, and even world history and the other religions. It was fascinating, to read all that. At the same time,I think the storyline got kind of muddled, somewhere in the process. In the sense that while all the revelations tied up together, it was just too much of it. By the end, I felt it was more about these startling revelations/conspiracy theory than the actual story line. And the ending, for me, it was quite lame. Disappointing in the way that Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol was.

What really amazes me is the amount of research the author must have done to come up with a book like this. Research as well as a thorough knowledge of the subject that he is writing about. So many things are linked up so well, Mythology, history, possibilities of nuclear technology in the olden days, Chemistry, Symbology, it’s almost never-ending.. Even to do the research, one must have a clear idea about what one is looking for, that I believe is just amazing. And to put it all together in a story, takes talent, and for that, I have immense respect for the author.

While it was a great read, I wish the ending was more powerful. And I wish there was a little less information. I love historical books, but in this one, I felt there was a bit too much information, which after a point, started getting a little boring for me. But then, that’s probably just me. What I loved about the narrative was Krishna’s story that was narrated alongside the happenings in the story. I loved that. It came across really well, added to the flavour of the storytelling. All in all, it is still a book I would recommend. Despite the shortcomings, It’s still an interesting read, but for me, probably a one-time read, yet I would still go ahead and try to read the other books by the author.

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