(Notes) Civil Services (Prelims) Examination : Indian History (The Maurya Empire) - Quick Revision Notes (II)

Civil Services (Prelims) Examination Special
Quick Revision Notes


The Maurya Empire (Indian History)

21. Hellenistic neighbours of Ashoka were: Antiochos II (Theos of Syria), Ptolemy II (Philadelphos of Egypt), Antigonos (Gonatas of Macedonia), Magas (of Cyrene) and Alexander (of Epirus)

22. After making deep study of Buddhist scriptures Ashoka started undertaking dharam-yatras (tours of morality) in course of which he visited the people of his country and instructed them on Dharma (morality and piety). 

23. It was during the  second royal tour that Ashoka visited the birthplace of Sakya-muni and that of a previous Buddha, and worshipped at these holy spots.

24. During Ashoka’s reign the Buddhist church underwent reorganization, with the meeting of the third Buddhist Council at Patliputra in 250 B.C.

25. The third Council of Buddhists was the final attempt of the more secretarian Buddhists, the Theravada school, to exclude both dissidents and innovators from the Buddhist Order. Also, it was at this Council that it was decided to send missionaries to various parts of the sub-continent and to make Buddhism an actively proselytizing religion— which in later centuries led to the propagation of Buddhism in south and east Asia.

26. Ashoka does not refer to the third Council of Buddhism in any of his inscriptions, indicating that he was careful to make a distinction between his personal belief in and support for Buddhism, and his duty as an emperor to remain unattached and unbiased in favour of any religion.

27. Within two years of his first tours, Ashoka requisitioned the services of important officials like Rajukas (district judges), Pradesikas (revenue officials) and Yuktas (clerks) to publish rescripts on morality and set out on tours every five years to give instruction in morality, as well as on ordinary business. Later, Ashoka appointed exclusive officials, styled Dharma- Mahamatras or high officers in-charge of religion, to do the work. Ashoka himself undertook the tours after a gap of 10 years.

28. The capitals of the Ashokan pillars bear a remarkable similarity to those of Persepolis and it is believed that these might have been sculpted by craftsmen from the north-western province. The idea of making rock-inscriptions seems to have come to Ashoka after hearing about those of Darius.

29. The Ashokan inscriptions were in local script. Those found in northwest, in the region of Peshawar, are in the Kharoshthi script (derived from Aramaic script used in Iran), near modern Kandhar, the extreme west of empire, these are in Greek and Aramaic, and elsewhere in India these are in the Brahmi script.

30. The inscriptions of Ashoka are of two kinds. The smaller group consists of declarations of the king as a lay Buddhist, to his chirch, the Buddhist Sanga. These describe his own acceptance and relationship with the Sangha. The larger group of inscriptions are known as the Major and minor Rock Edicts inscribed in rock surfaces, and the Pillar Edicts inscribed on specially erected pillars, all of which were located in places where crowds were likely to gather. These were proclamations to the public at large, explaining the idea of Dharma.

31. Dharma was aimed at building up an attitude of mind in which social responsibility, the behaviour of one person towards another, was considered of great relevance. It was a plea for the recognition of the dignity of man, and for humanistic spirit  in the activities of society.

32. Ashoka’s son Prince Mahendra visited Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) as a Buddhist missionary and convinced the ruler of the island kingdom, Devanampiya Tissa to convert to Buddhism.

33. Ashoka ruled for 37 years and died in 232 B.C. With his death a political decline set in, and soon after the empire broke up. The Ganga valley remained under Mauryas for another 50 years. The north-western areas were lost to Bactrian Greeks by about 180 B.C.

34. As per the Puranic texts, the immediate successor of Ashoka was his son Kunala. The Chronicals of Kashmir, however, mention Jalauka as the son and successor.

35. Kunalawas succeeded by his sons, one of whom, Bandhupalita, is known only in Puranas, and another, Sampadi, is mentioned by all traditional authorities. Then there was Dasratha who ruled Magadha shortly after Ashoka and has left three epigraphs in the Nagarjuni Hills in Bihar, recording the gift of caves to the Ajivikas.

36. The last king of the Maurya dynasty was Brihadratha, who was overthrown by his commanderin- chief, Pushyamitra, who laid the foundation of the Sunga dynasty.

37. The secession of Kashmir and possibly Berar from the Maurya empire is hinted at by Kalhana, the historian of Kashmir, and Kalidas, the author of the Sanskrit play, the Malavikagnimitram, respectively.

38. The Maurya period was the first time in Indian history that an empire extended from the Hindukush to the valleys of Godavari and Krishna. 39. Aremarkable feature of the period was association of a prince of the blood or an allied chieftain with the titular or real head of the government, as a co-ordinate ruler. Such a prince was called yuvaraj (crown prince). This type of rule is known as dvairajya or diarchy.

40. The early Maurya rulers had no contact with China. Infact, China was unknown to Indian epigraphy before the Nagarjunikonda inscriptions.

41. The king during the Maurya period was assisted by a council of advisers styled the Parishad or the Mantri Parishad. There were also bodies of trained officials (nikaya) who looked after the ordinary affairs of the realm.

42. In the inscriptions of Ashoka there are references to Rajukas and Pradesikas, charged with the welfare of Janapadas or country parts and Pradesas or districts. Mahamatras were charged with the administration of cities (Nagala Viyohalaka) and sundry other matters, and a host of minor officials, including clerks (Yuta), scribes (Lipikar) and reporters (Pativedaka).

43. The Arthshastra refers to the highest officers as the eighteen tirthas, the chief among them were the Mantrin (chief minister), Purohit (high priest), Yuvraja (heir-apparent) and Senapati (commander-in-chief).

44. The head of the judiciary was the king himself, but there were special tribunals of justice, headed by Mahamatras and Rajukas.

45. The protection of Chandragupta Maurya was entrusted to an amazonian bodyguard of women.

46. The fighting forces during Chandragupta’s time were under the supervision of a governning body of thirty divided into six boards of five members each.

47. The chief sources of revenue were the bhaga and the bali. The bhaga was the king’s share of the produce of the soil, which was normally fixed at one-sixth, though in special cases it was raised to one-fourth or reduced to one-eighth. Bali was an extra impost levied on special tracts for the subsistence of certain officials.

48. Taxes on the land were collected by the Agronomoi who measured the land and superintended the irrigation works.

49. In urban areas the main sources of revenue were birth and death taxes, fines and tithes on sales.

50. Arthshastra refers to certain high revenue functionaries styled the samaharti and the sannidharti.


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