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Ancient History- Mauryan Empire (322-185) BCE (Short Notes) !!

Mauryan Empire (322-185) BCE -

  • The last of the Nanda rulers, Dhana Nanda was highly unpopular due to his oppressive tax regime.
  • Also, post-Alexander’s invasion of North-Western India, that region faced a lot of unrest from foreign powers.
  • Some of these regions came under the rule of the Seleucid Dynasty, founded by Seleucus Nicator I. He was one of the generals of Alexander the Great.
  • Chandragupta, with the help of an intelligent and politically astute Brahmin, Kautilya usurped the throne by defeating Dhana Nanda in 321 BC.

The Mauryan Empire had rulers who were famous for their reign. The table below gives the list of Mauryan Empire rulers:

Mauryan Empires – Rulers
Chandragupta Maurya(324/321- 297 B.C.)
Bindusara (297 – 272 B.C.)
Asoka(268 – 232 B.C.)

Mauryan Empire – Ashoka the Great – 14 major rock edicts

LITERARY SOURCES

KAUTILYA’S ARTHASHASTRA

  • This book in Sanskrit was written by Kautilya, a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • The manuscript of Arthashastra was first discovered by R. Sharma Sastri in 1904.
  • Arthasahtra summarises the political thoughts of Chandragupta Mauryas chief minister Kautilya, also known as Chanakya or Vishnugupta who is often compared to Italian renaissance writer Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Arthasastra contains 15 books and 180 chapters but it can be divided into 3 parts:
    • Part 1 deals with king and his council of departments of the government.
    • Part 2 deals with civil and criminal law
    • Part 3 deals with diplomacy and war.

Chanakya

2. VISAKHADATTA’S MUDRARAKSHASA

  • The Mudrarakshasa written by Visakhadatta is a drama in Sanskrit.
  • Although written during Gupta period, it describes how Chandragupta with the assistance of Kautilya overthrew the Nandas.
  • It gives a picture of the socio- economic condition in the Mauryan Empire.

3. MEGESTHENES INDICA

  • Indica is an account left by a Greek ambassador Megesthenes sent by Sellucus Nikator to the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • This book has not survived but its fragments are preserved in later Greek and Latin works of Diodorus, Strabo, Pliny and Arrian.
  • It gives details about the administration in the Mauryan Empire particularly the administration of capital city of Patliputra and also the military organisation.

4. OTHER SOURCES

  • Junagarh inscriptions of Rudradaman I attributed to the beginning of construction of Sudarsham Lake during Chandragupta’s reign.
  • Hemachandras Parishishtaparvan ( establishing Chandragupta connection with Jainism)
  • Visakhadatta’s Mudrarakshasa, Dandin’s Dashakumar Charita, Banabhatta’s Kadambari
  • Trinity of Buddhist texts give us account of Chandragupta’s life namely Mahavamsa, Milindapanho and Mahabhashya
  • Ceylonese chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa throw light on the role of Ashoka in spreading Buddhism in Sri Lanka

CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA

  • Mauryan dynasty was founded by Chandragupta Maurya with the help of his mentor CHANAKYA also called KAUTILYA or VISHNUGUPTA.
  • He at age of 25 captured Patliputra from the last ruler of Nanda dynasty, Dhanananda.
  • After firmly establishing his power in Gangetic valley, he marched to the northwest and subdued the territories up to Indus.
  • Then he moved to central India and occupied the region north of Narmada River.

Chandragupta maurya

  • In 305 BC he marched against Selukas Niketar who was Alexander’s general controlling the North-western India.
  • Chandragupta defeated him and a treaty was signed. By this treaty , Selukas Niketar ceded the trans Indus territories namely Aria, Arakosia and Gedrosia to the Mauryan empire and Megesthenes was sent to Mauryan empire as Greek ambassador.

chandragupta maurya rule

  • According to Jain texts, Chandragupta Maurya adopted Jainism towards the end of his life and went to hills of Shravana Belagola near Mysore along with other monks led by Bhadrabagu and starved himself to death(Sallekhana).

sravanabelagola memorial of emperor chandragupta maurya

BINDUSARA

  • Bindusara was called by the Greeks as Amitragatha meaning slayer of enemies
  • He is said to have conquered the Deccan up to Mysore. Taranatha, a Tibetan monk states that Bindusara conquered 16 states comprising the land between the two seas.
  • Bindusara received Deimachus as ambassador from the Syrian king Antiochus I
  • Bindusara supported the Ajivikas , a religious sect
  • He appointed his son Ashoka as governor of Ujjain

ASHOKA the Great

  • One of the greatest kings of all times and probably the first ruler to maintain direct contact with his people through his inscriptions
  • The various names of emperor was Buddhashakya and Ashoka /Maski edict) ; Dharmashoka (Sarnath inscription), Devanampiya and Piyadassi (Sri Lankan Buddhist chronicles of Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa)
  • Ashoka the great was appointed the viceroy of Taxila and Ujjain during reign of Bindusara
  • There was an interval of 4 years between accession to the throne of Ashoka the Great (273 BC) and his actual coronation (269 BC). Therefore it appears from the available evidence that there was a struggle for the throne after Bindusara’s death
  • According to the Divyavadana, Bindusara wanted his son Susima to succeed him and Ashoka the great was the choice of his ministers. Later with the help of a minister named Radhagupta and after killing 99 of his brothers Ashoka the great finally acquired the Magadha throne.
  • According to a Legend, Ashoka the great had a love marriage with his wife Mahadevi (who later became mother of Mahendra/ Mahinda and Sanghamitra the celebrated children of Ashoka the great who helped in propagation of the Buddhist religion.
  • The most important event in Ashoka the great reign was his victorious war with Kalinga in 261 BC. The effects of the war were described by Ashoka the great himself in the rock edict XIII
  • The effect of the Kalinga war was that Ashoka the great embraced Buddhism under the influence of a Buddhist monk named Upagupta ( according to Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa he was converted to Buddhism by his nephew Nigrodha)
  • He sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) who planted branch of original Bodhi tree there.
  • He organised 3rd Buddhist council at Patliputra to strengthen the sangha. It was presided by Mogalliputta Tisa
  • He appointed special officers called dharma Mahamattas to speed up the progress of dharma
  • The death of Ashoka the great in 232 BC was followed by the division of the Mauryan Empire into 2 parts- western and eastern. The western part of Mauryan Empire was ruled by Kunala (son of Ashoka the great) and eastern part of Mauryan Empire by Dasaratha (grandson of Ashoka the great). Due to the Bactrian invasions, the western part of the Mauryan empire collapsed.

BRIHADRATH

  • The Mauryan empire declined very rapidly after Ashoka the great and later kings had very short reigns
  • Mauryan dynasty came to an end when the last king, Brihadratha was killed by his military commander Pushyamitra Sunga in 187 BC

Mauryan Empire

Chanakya

  • Teacher of Chandragupta Maurya, who was also his Chief Minister.
  • He was a teacher and scholar at Taxila. Other names are Vishnugupta and Kautilya.
  • He was also a minister in the court of Bindusara.
  • He is credited to be the master strategist behind the usurping of the Nanda throne and the rise of the Mauryan Empire through his student, Chandragupta.
  • He wrote Arthashastra which is a treatise on statecraft, economics, and military strategy.
  • Arthashastra was rediscovered by R Shamasastry in 1905 after it had disappeared in the 12th century.
  • The work contains 15 books and 180 chapters. The main theme is divided into:
    1. King, Council of Ministers and Departments of the Government
    2. Civil and criminal law
    3. Diplomacy of war
  • It also contains information on trade and markets, a method to screen ministers, spies, duties of a king, ethics, social welfare, agriculture, mining, metallurgy, medicine, forests, etc.
  • Chanakya is also called ‘Indian Machiavelli”.

ART AND ARCHITECTURE OF MAURYAN EMPIRE

  • The monuments for the period of Ashoka mostly made of wood and therefore perished. The use of Stone started from the time of Ashoka.
  • Our national emblem is adopted from LION CAPITAL OF ASHOKAN PILLAR at Sarnath.
  • Mauryan art is believed to have Achaemenid/Persian influence

ART AND ARCHITECTURE OF MAURYAN EMPIRE

DECLINE OF MAURYAN EMPIRE

  • It is Said that Ashoka’s Pro Buddhist policies have antagonised the Brahmins who brought about Revolution led by Pushyamitra Sunga
  • Ashoka’s policy of nonviolence reduced the Fighting Spirit of his Army
  • Ashoka the Great’s rule was followed by 50 years of weak kings who did not retain strong central authority.
  • This eventually led to the dissolution of the Mauryan Empire.

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