(Sample Material) IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "The Mauryan Empire"

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 Kings.
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.

Archaeological Sources

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.

Click Here for UPSC Mains History Study Material

Political History

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 into use.

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

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.

Click Here for UPSC Mains History Study Material

<<Go Back To Main Page