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Overview

  • The Mauryan Empire was one of the largest empires to rule India
  • It was established in 321 BCE by Chandragupta Maurya and dissolved in 185 BCE with the death of Bhrihadrata Maurya
  • The capital of the Mauryan Empire was Pataliputra
  • The Mauryan Empire is known for the Arthasastra by Kautilya (Chanakya), the Rock Edicts of Asoka, and the Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath which today serves as the emblem of India
  • Archaeologically, the Mauryan period falls within the era of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)

Extent of the empire




The Mauryan Empire at its greatest extent under Asoka

  • The Mauryan Empire originated from the kingdom of Magadha (modern Bihar, West Bengal)
  • At its greatest, the Empire encompassed almost the entire Indian subcontinent and parts of Central Asia
  • It stretched to the north along the Himalayas, to the east into Assam, to the west into Afghanistan, and to the south up to northern Tamil Nadu/Kerala
  • The Empire did not include the Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms in the far south. Instead, these kingdoms enjoyed friendly relations with the Mauryan Empire

IMPORTANT PERSONAGES OF THE MAURYAN EMPIRE

  1. Chandragupta Maurya
    1. Born circa 340 BCE, died c. 298 BCE
    2. He was the founder of the Mauryan Empire
    3. He was known in Greek and Latin accounts as Sandrokyptos, Sandrokottos or Androcottus
    4. He established the empire by overthrowing the Nanda dynasty of Magadha under Dhana Nanda
    5. Chanakya was the Prime Minister of Chandragupta while Rakhshasa was his chief advisor
    6. Starting from Magadha, he expanded westward by defeating the Greek satrapies established by Alexander the Great.Chandragupta Maurya skillfully exploited the power disruptions in northwestern India caused by Alexander as the latter withdrew into Babylon
    7. After his conquests, the Empire stretched from Assam to Afghanistan, from Kashmir to the Deccan
    8. Chandragupta defeated the Seleucus I Nicator, the successor of Alexander in Macedonia. As part of the agreement reached later, Chandragupta married a daughter of Seleucus and in return gifted 500 war elephants
    9. Seleucus sent an ambassador to Chandragupta’s court called Megasthenes
    10. Towards the end of his life, Chandragupta embraced Jainism and migrated south with Acharya Bhadrabahu to Shravanabelgola in Karnataka
  2. Bindusara
    1. Born c. 320 BCE, died c. 272 BCE
    2. He was the successor to Chandragupta
    3. He was the son of Chandragupta and the father of Asoka
    4. He was also known as Amitraghata or Ajathasetru
    5. He expanded the Mauryan Empire south beyond the Deccan, as far south as Mysore
    6. During his reign, the Empire included all of India except Kalinga and the southern kingdoms of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas
    7. By religion he was an Ajivaka (a sect of Hinduism)
    8. The Seleucid ambassador to Bindusara’s court was Deimakos
  3. Asoka the Great


Buddhist proselytism under Asoka

    1. Born c. 304 BCE, died c. 232 BCE
    2. Successor to Bindusara
    3. Also known as Devanampriya and Priyadarshin
    4. Conquered Kalinga and added it to the Mauryan Empire.
    5. Was initially an Ajivaka but later embraced Buddhism after the conquest of Kalinga
    6. Under Asoka’s reign the Mauryan Empire included all of India except the southern kingdoms of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas
    7. Contributed immensely to the spread of Buddhism, especially in South-East Asia, Ceylon and Central Asia
    8. Asoka organized the Third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra in c. 250 BCE. It was conducted by the monk Mogaliputta-Tissa, who was also the spiritual teacher of Asoka
    9. He is known for the Asoka Chakra, the Asoka Pillars and the Lion Capital at Sarnath
    10. The Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt under king Philadelphus sent the ambassador Dionysius to the court of Asoka

  1. Chanakya
    1. Born c. 350 BCE, died c. 283 BCE
    2. Also known as Kautilya, Vishnugupta
    3. He was the advisor and trainer of Chandragupta Maurya and was instrumental in the latter’s ascent to power
    4. He later served as the Prime Minister of the Mauryan Empire under Chandragupta and his son Bindusara
    5. Author of the Arthasastra and the Nitishastra. The Arthashastra discusses monetary policies, warfare and international relations while the Nitishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life and philosophy
    6. Considered to be the pioneer of economics and political science in the world

ADMINISTRATION AND ECONOMY UNDER THE MAURYAS

Administration

  • The capital of the Mauryan Empire was Pataliputra
  • The Empire was divided into four provinces
    • Tosali (in the east)
    • Ujjain (in the west)
    • Taxila (in the north)
    • Suvarnagiri (in the south)
  • The King’s representative at the provincial level was a royal prince titled Kumara
  • The Emperor was assisted in the administration by a Council of Ministers called the Mantriparishad
  • The Mauryan Empire also had an extensive and efficient civil service that managed everything from municipal hygiene to international trade

Economy

  • Chandragupta Maurya introduced a single currency across India
  • International trade with the Greek kingdoms through the Kybher Pass was extensive
  • Exports included silk goods, textiles, spices and exotic foods

THE EDICTS OF ASOKA

About the Edicts




Map of the Edicts of Asoka

  • The Edicts of Asoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions
  • The inscriptions are found in the form of Rock Edicts, Pillar Edicts and assorted inscriptions on boulders and cave walls
  • The inscriptions are found throughout the Indian subcontinent
  • The language of the inscriptions is
    • Magadhi, using the Brahmi script (in the east)
    • Sanskrit, using the Kharosthi script (in the west)
    • One Edict in Greek
    • One Edict in Greek and Aramaic
  • The seven Pillar Edicts of Asoka are located at
    • Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh – Lion Capital
    • Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh – Lion Capital
    • Rampurva, Bihar – Bull and Lion
    • Sankassa, Uttar Pradesh – Elephant
    • Vaishali, Bihar – Lion Capital
    • Lauriya-Areraj and Lauriya-Nandangarh, Bihar – Lion Capital
  • The Edicts were decodified by British archaeologist James Prinsep in 1820-1830
  • The Lion Capital at Sarnath is currently used as the national emblem of India, while India’s national flag uses Asoka’s Chakra

Major Rock Edicts

Edict number

Edict description

I

Prohibition of animal sacrifice

II

Medical treatment of humans and animals

III

Declares liberality towards Brahmanas and Sramanas

IV

Announces that policy of Dhamma has checked lack of violence and morality

Declares Bheri Ghosha replaced by Dhamma Ghosha

V

Mentions appointment of Dhammamahamatas

VI

Mentions Mantri Parishad

VII

Religious tolerance

VIII

Mentions he went to Bodh Gaya

IX

Morality and conduct

Uselessness of ceremonies

X

Mentions that the king does not desire fame or glory

XI

Explains policy of dhamma

XII

Appeals for tolerance among religious sects

XIII

Mentions Kalinga War

Partly written in Greek

XIV

Mentions the purpose of the Rock Edicts


Minor Rock Edicts

Edict

Description

Kandahar Rock Edict

Written in Greek and Aramaic

Bhabru Inscription

Mentions Asoka’s conversion to Buddhism

Barabar Inscription

Enjoins religious tolerance

Tarai Pillars

Mention Asoka’s respect for Buddhism


Pillar Edicts

Edict number

Edict description

I

Mentions the social code

II

Mentions eye donation

III

Mentions soul and sin

IV

Mentions Rajukas

V

Mentions animal killing

VI

Mentions welfare of people

VII

Mentions Dhammamahamatas


DECLINE OF THE MAURYA EMPIRE

  • The Mauryan Empire was dissolved in c. 185 BCE with the assassination of the last ruler Bhrihadrata by his commander-in-chief Pushyamitra Sunga
  • The fall of the Mauryan Empire led to foreign invasions and the establishment of Indo-Greek kingdoms in the northwest
  • Causes of the Mauryan decline include
    • Weak successors to Asoka
    • Asoka’s pacifist policies
    • Financial crisis
    • Centralized government and bureaucracy

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