Chanakya 4th century BCE was an Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor. He is traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnugupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthashastra. As such, he is considered the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India, and his work is thought of as an important precursor to classical economics. His works were lost near the end of the Gupta Empire and not rediscovered until the early twentieth century.

Chanakya assisted the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta in his rise to power. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire. Chanakya served as the chief advisor to both emperors Chandragupta and his son Bindusara.

There is little purely historical information about Chanakya: most of it comes from semi-legendary accounts. Thomas Trautmann identifies four distinct accounts of the ancient Chanakya-Chandragupta katha (legend)

In all the four versions, Chanakya feels insulted by the Nanda king, and vows to destroy him. After dethroning the Nandas, he installs Chandragupta as the new king.

The ancient Arthashastra has been traditionally attributed to Chanakya by a number of scholars. The Arthashastra identifies its author by the name Kautilya, except for one verse that refers to him by the name Vishnugupta. Kautilya is presumably the name of the author's gotra (clan). One of the earliest Sanskrit literatures to identify Chanakya with Vishnugupta explicitly was Vishnu Sharma's Panchatantra in the 3rd century BCE.

K. C. Ojha puts forward the view that the traditional identification of Vishnugupta with Kauṭilya was caused by a confusion of the text's editor and its originator. He suggests that Vishnugupta was a redactor of the original work of Kautilya. Thomas Burrow goes even further and suggests that Chanakya and Kauṭilya may have been two different people.

Chanakya was the teacher of Chandragupta Maurya. He served in the court of Chandragupta and Bindusara. According to George Modelski, Chanakya is believed to be the same as Kautilya, a Brahmin who served as Chief Minister to Chandragupta as he founded the Maurya Empire