Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit
Subject: History (Optional)
Topic: 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
culminated 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.
When historians began reconstructing early Indian history in
the nineteenth century, the emergence of the Mauryan Empire was regarded as a
major landmark. Also, some of the archaeological finds associated with the
Mauryas, including were con cluding stone sculpture, sidered were considered
to be examples of the spectacular art typical of empires. Asokan inscriptions
very different from that of most other rulers, suggesting that Asoka was more
powerful and industrious, as also more humble than later rulers who adopted
grandiose titles.So,we can say that there are many sources to know about the
Maryan Empire,they are:-
Secular Literary Sources
Arthasastra:It was authored by Kautilya(Chanakya or
Vishnugupta) divided into 15 Adhikarnas (parts). Of which, the first five deal
with tantra or internal administration of the state, eight deal with avapa or
its relations with neighboring stales, and the last two are miscellaneous in
character. It is the most important literary source for the Mauryas. It is a
treatise on government and economic policy. The Arthashastra gives us detailed
information about the administrative system of the Mauryan empire. The treatise
lays down various rules that should be formulated for a ruling monarch. It laid
down strategies for a well-planned state economy. The work is concerned with all
the topics that deal with the internal administration and foreign relations.
Indica: It was written by Megasthenes but it is not
available now. Megasthenes was the ambassador of Seleucus Nikator in the court
of Chandragupta Maurya. His Indica is the foremost among all the foreigners’
accounts for Mauryans. Indica has survived only as quotations in the texts of
classical Greek writers, and Latin writers. It refers to Mauryan administration,
7-caste system, absence of slavery and usury in India, etc. It has to be treated
with great caution. Megasthenes mentions a committee with six subcommittees for
coordinating military activity.
Of these, one looked after the navy, the second managed
transport and provisions, the third as responsible for foot-soldiers, the fourth
for horses, the fifth for chariots and the sixth for elephants. The activities
of the second sub-committee were rather varied: arranging for bullock carts to
carry equipment, procuring food for soldiers and fodder for animals, and
recruiting servants and artisans to look after the soldiers.
Religious Literary Sources
Puranas: They give us chronology and lists of Mauryan
Buddhist Literature: Jatakas reveal a general picture of socio-economic
conditions of Mauryan period.Digha Nikaya helps in determining the influence of
Buddhist ideas on Mauryan polity.
Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa describe the part played by Asoka in
spreading Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
Jain Literature: Parisistaparvan talks about the conversion of
Chandragupta Maurya to Jainism.
Asokan Edicts: There are 14 Major and 3 Minor Rock
Edicts, 7 Major and 3 Minor Pillar Edicts, and 3 Cave Edicts located at several
places in the Indian sub-continent. Their decipheration was done by James
Prinsep of the EICO in 1837. Majority of them are in the nature of Asoka’s
proclamations to the public at large. Three languages but four scripts were used
in these edicts (Prakrit in Brahmi in mainland India, Prakrit in Kharoshti in
the Northwest, Greek and Aramaic languages and their scripts in Afghanistan).
Other Inscriptions: Nagarjuna Hill cave Inscription of
Dasaratha, Jungadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman.
Material Remains: Potterya use of Northern Black
Polished Ware (NBPW). Wooden palaces and halls are the other material remains.
There were five major political centres in the empire the capital Patliputra and
the provincial centres of Taxila, Ujjayini, Tosali and Suvarnagiri, all
mentioned in Asokan inscriptions.
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 ampaign
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 the
Indus). 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
The Junagarh rock inscription of Rudradaman says that a dam
on the Sudarshana lake for irrigation was constructed by Pushyagupta, a
provincial governor of Chandragupta Maurya. Later Yavanaraja Tushapha
excavated 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 engraved 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
Nittur. The inscriptions of Ashoka were written in four different scripts. In
Afghanistan 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 script. 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 Asia.
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
on Asoka. 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.