CAPF-AC (Assistant Commandant) Exam Study Material :
History - The Mauryan Empire
History : The Mauryan Empire
The Mauryan empire was the first and one of the greatest empires that were
established on the Indian soil. The growth of Magadha culmi nated in the
emergence, of the Mauryan Empire. Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the empire
(321 BCE), extended control as far northwest as Afghanistan and Baluchistan, and
his grandson Ashoka, arguably the most famous ruler of early India, conquered
Kalinga (present-day coastal Orissa). Chandragupta Maurya was the first ruler
who unified entire India under one political unit.
Length of reign years
191 - 183
Chandragupta Maurya (321-297 BC)
In 305 BC Chandragupta defeated Seleucus Nikator, who
surrendered a vast territory. Megasthenese was a Greek ambassador sent to the
court of Chandragupta Maurya by Seleucus.
He occupied the region north of the Narmada (d) But 305 BC saw him in the
campaign against Seleucus Nikator with the treaty of 303 B.C. concluding the war
in favour of the Mauryas. By the treaty, Chandragupta made a gift of 500
elephants to Seleucus and obtained the trans-Indus region (the territory across
Chandragupta became a Jain and went to Sravanbelgola with
Bhadrabahu, where he died by slow starvation (Sale/than). Under Chandragupta
Maurya, for the first time, the whole of northern India was united. Trade
flourished, agriculture was regulated, weights and measures were standardized
and money came into use.
The Junagarh rock inscription of Rudradaman says that a dam
on the Sudarshana lake for irrigation was constructed by Pushyagupta, a provin
cial governor of Chandragupta Maurya. Later Yavanaraja Tushapha exca vated
canals for irrigation during Ashoka's reign.
Bindusara (297-272 BC)
Bindusara extended the kingdom further and conquered the
south as far as Mysore. Bindusar asked Antiochus I of Syria to send some sweet
wine, dried figs, and a Sophist. Antiocus I sent wine and figs but politely
replied that Greek philosophers are not for sale. Bindusar patronized Ajivikus.
Bindusara, known to the Greeks as “Amitrochates” (derived
from the Sanskrit word `Amitraghata’ or slayer of foes), is said to have carried
his arms to the Deccan, extending Mauryan control in the peninsu-lar region of
India as far south as Mysore.
From Divayayadana we come to know that Bindusara appointed
his eldest son Sumana (also named Susima) as his viceroy at Taxila and Ashoka at
Ujjain. It also tells us that a revolt broke out at Taxila and when it could not
be suppressed by Susima, Ashoka was sent to restore peace.
Asoka (268-232 BC)
According to the Buddhist tradition, Asoka usurped the throne
alter killing his 99 brothers and spared Tissa, the youngest one. Radhagupta a
Minister of Bindusar helped him in fratricidal struggle.
In 1837 James Prinsep deci-phered an inscription referring to a king called
“Devanampiya Piyadas-si”. Later, many more similar inscriptions were discovered.
Initially these records could not be attributed to Asoka. But in 1915 was
discovered Maski inscription which speaks of Asoka Piyadassi.
There was a struggle for the throne among the princes on the
death of Bindusara. This war of succession accounts for the interregnum of four
years (272-268 BC), and only after securing his position on the throne, Asoka
had himself formally crowned in 268 BC.
Under Asoka. the Mauryan Empire reached its climax. For the
first time, the whole of the subcontinent, leaving out the extreme south, was
under imperial control. Asoka (ought the Kalinga war in 261 BC in the 9th years
of his coronation. The king was moved by massacre in this war and therefore
abandoned the policy of physical occupation in favour of policy of cultural
conquest. In oilier words, Bherighosha was replaced by Dhammaghosha.
Ashoka is the first king in the Indian history who has left
his records en graved on stones. The inscriptions on rocks are called Rock
Edicts, and those on Pillars, Pillar Edicts. The Ashokan inscriptions are found
in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Altogether, they appear at 47 places.
However, the name of Ashoka occurs only in copies of Minor
Rock Edict I found at three places in Karnataka and one in Madhya Pradesh.
Ashoka name is mentioned in only four places- Gurjara, Udgolan, Maski, and
The inscriptions of Ashoka were written in four different
scripts. In Af ghanistan area they were written in Greek and Aramaic languages
and scripts, and in Pakistan area, in Prakrit language and Kharosthi script.
Inscriptions from all other areas are in Prakrit language, written in Brahmi
Asoka sent missionaries to the kingdoms of the Cholas and the
Pandyas, and five States ruled by Greek kings. We also know that he sent
missionaries to Ceylon and Suvarnabhumi (Burma) and also parts of South East
According to tradition, Asoka built the city of Srinagar. The
Mauryans had closed connections with the area of modern Nepal. One of Asoka’s
daughters married a noble from Nepal. The Ceylone ruler, Tissa, modelled himself
The most important event of Asoka’s reign seems to have been
his victorious war with Kalinga (260 BC). Bhabru inscription, states that after
a period of 2 1/2 years he became an ardent supporter of Bud-dhism under the
influence of a Buddhist monk, Upagupta.
The find of Ashokan inscriptions at Girnar hills in Junagarh
district (in Gujarat) and at Sopara (Thane district, Maharashtra) shows that
these areas formed part of the Mauryan empire.
Ashoka's inscriptions have been found at Maski Yerragudi and Chitaldurga in
Karnataka. Rock Edict II and XIII of Ashoka mentions that his immediate
neighbouring states were those of Cholas, Pandyas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras.
Asoka’s Dhamma cannot be regarded as sectarian faith. Its
broad objective was to preserve the social order it ordained that people should
obey their parents, pay respect to Brahmanas and Buddhist monks and show mercy
to slave and servants.Asoka’s Dhamma was neither a new religion nor a new
philosophy. Rather it was a way of life, conduct and a set of principles to be
practised by the people at large.
The message of Dhamma was propagated in Aramaic and Greek in
the north-western borderland of the subcontinent. On the other hand, the emperor
chose to issue a large number of edicts in Prakrit in Brahmi script for areas in
the Deccan which must have been better acquainted with Dravidian languages.
The Kandahar Greek edict, the contents of which have
considerable similarities with and correspondence to REs XII and XIII, enlists
the virtues to be inculcated by people for practising Eu’sebeia, i.e. Dhamma.
Though Ashoka accepted Buddhism as his main faith, it would be wrong to think
that he forced Buddhist ideals on his subjects. He showed respect to all sects
and faiths and believed in unity among ethical and moral values of all sects.
In Rock Edict VII he says, "All sects desire both self
control and purity of mind". In Rock Edict XII he pronounces his policy of equal
respect to all religious sects more clearly. He says, that he "honours all sects
and both ascetics and laymen, with gifts and various forms of recognition."
Pillar Edict II Ashoka himself puts the question: "What is
Dhamma?" Then he enumerates the two basic attributes or constituents of Dhamma
less evil and many good deeds. He says such evils as rage, cruelty, anger, pride
and envy are to be avoided and many good deeds like kindness, liberality,
truthfulness, gentleness, self control; purity of heart, attachment to morality,
inner and outer purity etc. " are to be pursued vigorously.
While different Major Rock Edicts talk about different
aspects of the Dhamma, the Major Rock Edict XI contains an elaborate explanation
of the Dhamma. The following are the main features of the Dhamma:
Prohibition of animal sacrifices and festive gatherings (M.R.E-I),
and avoiding expensive and meaningless ceremonies and rituals (M.R.E-IX);
Efficient organisation of administration (M.R.E-VI) in
the direction of social welfare (M.R.E-II);
Consideration and non-violence to animals and courtesy to
relations (M.R.E-IV) and liberality to Brahmins, Sramanas, etc. (M.R.E-III);
Humane treatment of servants by masters and of prisoners
by the government (M.R.E-V) it also mentions the appointments of
Tolerance among all the sects (M.R.E-VII &II)
Replacement of ‘Bherighosa’ (sound of wardrums)
‘Dhammaghosa’ (sound of peace) i.e. conquest through Dhamma instead of rough
Maintenance of constant contact with the rural people
through the system of Dhammayatras (M.R.E-VIII).
Causes of Decline
The Mauryan Empire lasted a little over a century and broke
up fitly years after the death of Asoka. Slowly, the various princes of the
empire began to break away and set up independent kingdoms. In 185 BC. the
Mauryan king was overthrown by Pushyamitra Shunga, an ambitious
Commander-in-Chief of armed forces. He started the Shunga dynasty in Magadha.
The Mauryan Empire ushered in a dream that was to survive and echo again and
again in centuries to come. Some probable causes of decline of the Mauryan