The Mauryan Dynasty

Mauryan Dynasty of India

Chandragupta Maurya History (322 – 297 BC):

  • With the help of Chanakya, known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta, he overthrew the Nandas & established the rule of the Maurya dynasty.
  • Chandragupta is called Sandrocottus by the Greek scholars.
  • Seleucus Necater was one of the generals of Alexander and after his death, had succeeded in gaining control of most of the Asiatic provinces.
  • Chandragupta defeated him in 305 BC and was compelled to yield parts of Afghanistan to Chandragupta. There was also a marriage alliance between the two families.
  • Built a vast empire, which included not only good portions of Bihar and Bengal, but also western and north western India and the Deccan.
  • This account is given by Megasthenes (A Greek ambassador sent by Seleucus to the court of Chandragupta Maurya) in his book Indica. We also get the details from the Arthashastra of Kautilya.
  • Chandragupta adopted Jainism and went to Sravanabelagola (near Mysore) with Bhadrabahu, where he died by slow starvation.
  • Vishakhadatta wrote a drama Mudrarakshasa (describing Chandragupta’s enemy) & Debi Chandraguptam in sixth century AD.

History of Bindusara (297 – 273 BC):

  • Called Amitraghat by Greek writers.
  • Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara in 297 BC. He is said to have conquered ‘the land between the 2 seas’, i.e., the Arabian Sea & Bay of Bengal. At the time of his death, almost the entire subcontinent came under the Mauryan rule. Greek Ambassador, Deimachos visited his court.
  • History of Ashoka (269 – 232 BC):
  • Ashoka was appointed the Viceroy of Taxila and Ujjain by his father, Bindusara. He was at Ujjain when Bindusara, died. His formal coronation was delayed for four years, suggesting a disputed succession. A Buddhist literature says that he came to throne after killing his 99 brothers.
  • Regarded as one of the greatest kings of all times. He was the first ruler to maintain direct contact with people through his inscription.
  • In his inscriptions following languages have been used:
  • Brahmi, Kharoshthi, Armaic and Greek. (James Princep first deciphered the inscriptions).
  • Ashoka became the Buddhist under Upagupta.

Extent of Empire : His empire covered the whole territory from Hindukush to Bengal & extended over Afghanistan, Baluchistan & whole of India with the exception of a small area in the farthest south. Kashmir and Valleys of Nepal were also included, first empire to do so.

The Kalinga War History : (261 BC, mentioned in XIII rock edict). It changed his attitude towards life. Ashoka became a Buddhist after that.

Aspects of Ashoks’s Reign :

  • Ashok’s empire was divided into provinces with a viceroy in each province. He established Dhramshalas, hospitals and Sarais throughout his kingdom.
  • He appointed Dharma Mahapatras to propagate dharma among various social groups including women.
  • He organized a network of missionaries to preach the doctrine both in his kingdom and beyond. He sent them to Ceylon, Burma (sent his son Mahindra & daughter Sanghamitra to Ceylon) and other south-east Asian regions, notably Thailand.
  • Ashoka is called ‘Buddhashakya & Ashok’ in Maski edict and ‘Dharmasoka’ in Sarnath inscription. He was also known as ‘Devanampiya’- beloved of the gods, and ‘Piyadassi’- of pleasing appearance.

Significance of Mauryan Rule :

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  • The emblem of the Indian Republic has been adopted from the 4 – lion capital of the Ashokan pillar at Sarnath.
  • Gurukuls & Buddhist monasteries developed with royal patronage. Universities of Taxila & Banaras are the gifts of this era.
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Bhadrabahu’s Kalpa Sutra, Buddhist texts like the Katha Vatthu & Jain texts such as Bhagwati Sutra, Acharanga Sutra and Dasavakalik comprise some of the important literature of this era.

Causes of the fall of Mauryan Empire :

  • Ashoka’s patronage of Buddhism and his anti-sacrificial attitude is said to have affected the income of the Brahmins. So they developed antipathy against Ashoka.
  • Revenue from agrarian areas was not sufficient to maintain such a vast empire as booty from war was negligible.
  • Successors of Ashoka were too weak to keep together such a large centralized empire.

Note: The last Mauryan king Brihadratha was killed by Pushyamitra Shunga (Commander in Chief) in 185 BC, who started the Shunga dynasty in Magadha.