Services (Prelims) Examination Special
Quick Revision Notes
Maurya Empire (Indian
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
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).
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.
During Ashokaâ€™s reign the Buddhist church underwent reorganization, with
the meeting of the third Buddhist Council at Patliputra in 250
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 religionâ€” which
in later centuries led to the propagation of Buddhism in south and east Asia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ashokaâ€™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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The early Maurya rulers had no contact with China. Infact, China was unknown
to Indian epigraphy before the Nagarjunikonda inscriptions.
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.
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).
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).
The head of the judiciary was the king himself, but there were
special tribunals of justice, headed by Mahamatras and Rajukas.
The protection of Chandragupta Maurya was entrusted to an amazonian
bodyguard of women.
The fighting forces during Chandraguptaâ€™s time were under the supervision
of a governning body of thirty divided into six boards of five members each.
The chief sources of revenue were the bhaga and the bali.
The bhaga was the kingâ€™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.
Taxes on the land were collected by the Agronomoi who measured
the land and superintended the irrigation works.
In urban areas the main sources of revenue were birth and death taxes, fines
and tithes on sales.
Arthshastra refers to certain high revenue functionaries styled the samaharti
and the sannidharti.