Mauryan Empire

MAURYAN EMPIRE

Chandragupta Maurya (322 B.C. -297 B.C.):-

  • Founded Mauryan Empire by defeating Nandas with the help of his mentor Chankya or Kautilya.
  • In 305 BC, he marched against Selucus Nikator (Alexanders general controlling NW India) & defeated him.
  • A treaty was signed, according to which, Selucus gave Chandragupta eastern Afganisthan, Baluchistan & area west of Indus & in return Chandragupta gifted 500 elephants to Selucus & married his daughter.
  • Megasthenes was sent to Mauryan court as a Greek ambassador
  • According to Jain tradition, Chandragupta converted to Jainism and abdicated the throne in favour of Bindusara. He passed his last days at Sravanbelagola (near Mysore) where he starved himself and died.

Bindusara (297 B.C. – 272 B.C.):

  • He succeeded Chandragupta Maurya in 298 B.C.
  • He was known as “Amitragatha” → Slayer of enemies by the Greeks
  • He wrote to Antiochus I of Syria and asked for some sweet, wind, dry figs and a sophist. Antiochus sent the wind and dry figs but said that sophists were not for export.
  • According to Strabo, Antiochus sent Daimiachus as an ambassador to Bindusara’s Court.
  • He sent his son Ashoka to quell a rebellion in Taxila.
  • Bindusara appointed Ashoka as the governor of Ujjain.
  • He was follower of the Ajivika sect.

Ashoka (268 BC - 232BC):

  • After his father's death, he ascended the throne but formal coronation was delayed for 4 years. This suggested a disputed succession.
  • Mother:
    Janpadkalyani (according to Divyavadan),
    Dharma (according to Mahavamsa),
    Subhadrangi (according to Ashokavadan).
  • While going to Ujjain, he stayed in Vidisa where he met Mahadevi who became his wife.
  • Mahendra and Sanghmitra were his son and daughter.
  • All Buddhist sources mention his struggle for succession. A Buddhist text says he usurped the throne after killing his 99 brothers.
  • Chola, Pandyas, Satyaputras, Keralpurtras and Tamraparnis are mentioned as his neighbours.
  • Important years:
    9th regnal year: fought Kalinga war.
    10th regnal year: went to Bodh Gaya
    12th regnal year: went to Nigalisagar
    13th regnal year: `Dhamma' inscribed in the inscriptions
    14th regnal year: Mahamatras appointed
    17th regnal year: 3rd Buddhist Council held, continued for 9 months.
  • Shortly after Kalinga, where he seems to have been greatly influenced by Buddhist teachings, he became a lay Upasaka of Buddha.
  • Famous for dhamma, inscriptions, administration, extent of his kingdom and his benevolence (welfare works).
  • The reverberation of the war (Bheri Ghosha) was to become the reverbera-tion of the law (Dhamma Ghosha).
  • His (Hellenistic) contemporaries were Antiochus II of Syria, Ptolemy II of Egypt, Antigonas of Macedonia, Magas of Cyrene and Alexander of Epirus. 
  • He organised the third Buddhist Council in the 18th year of his reign at Patliputra after which he sent Buddhist missionaries to Ceylon and Suvarna Bhumi.
  • Asoka banned animal sacrifice, regulated the slaughter of animal for food. 
  • According to his Maski and Gujarat inscriptions he was known as Devanama Priyadarshi.
  • He was converted to Buddhism by Nigrodh but according to Divya vadana, Upagupta converted him.
  • His 14 major rock edicts enumerate his principles of Dhamma and king-ship.
  • Minor rock edicts include Kandhar rock edict (written in Greek and Ara-maic); Barabar cave inscription; Queens edict mentions Karuvaki, the mother of Tiwara; Bairat; Bhabru edict; Lampaka; Maski (Piyadassi); So-hgaura (famine); Mahasthan.
  • Asoka gave us 7 pillar edicts:
    i.   Lauriya Araraj
    ii.  Lauriya Nandan Gant
    iii. Rampurva
    iv. Nigali Sagar
    v.  Sarnath
    vi. Topara
    vii. Meerut
  • The Kalinga edict (Dahuli and Jaugada) mentions 'all men are my children'. 
  • Brihadratha, the last Mauryan ruler was killed by Pushyamitra Sunga, who founded the Sunga dynasty

Mauryan Administration

  • The Mauryans had a vast and highly centralised bureaucratic rule with the king as the fountain head of all powers. Kautilya was called the king Dharmapravartaka or promulgator of social order.
  • The highest functionaries at the centre were called Tirthas. They were the Mantri, Purohita, Senapati and Yuvraja. Besides, the two chief officers at the centre were Sannidhata (treasurer) and Samaharta (tax collector).
  • Kautilya mentions 27 Adhyaksha (Superintendents) mostly to regulate economic activities. The famous ones were : 
  • There was also a `mantriparishad' to assist the king in day to day administration.
  • As per the provincial administration, except the capital Patliputra, the whole empire was divided into four provinces controlled by a viceroy, who was either a prince or a member of the royal family.
  • Provinces were divided into districts and had three main officers. The Pradeshika was responsible for the overall administration of the district. The Rajuka looked after the revenue administration and later judicial af-fairs, particularly in rural areas were under the Pradeshika. The Yukta were probably accountants.
  • Sub district consisted of a group of villages numbering 5 to 10 and was administrated by Gopa (accountant) and Sthanika (tax collector). The village was administrated by the village headman who was responsible to the Gopa and Sthanika.
  • The administration of the capital city of Patliputra has been mentioned by Megasthenese. It was administrated by 6 boards consisting of five members each. 
  • According to Pliny, Chandragupta maintained 6,00,000 foot soldiers; 30,000 cavalry and 900 elephants.
  • According to Magasthenese, each city was administrated by 6 committees consisting of 5 members each. 

Economy

  • Land Revenue was the main source of income of the state. Peasants paid With of the produce as 'bhaga' and an extra tax tali' as tribute.
  • According to Arthashastra the land belonged to the king.
  • Besides other taxes like tindakara' (assessed on groups of villages) Tara' (levied on fruits and flower gardens), `hiranya' (paid only in cash) were also collected.
  • A striking social development was the employment of slaves in agricultural operation on a large scale.
  • The punch-marked silver coins which carry the symbol of peacock and hill and regent formed the imperial currency of the Mauryas. 

Society

  • Megathense divided Mauryan society into 7 castes viz. philosophers, farmers, soldiers, herdsmen, artisans, magistrate and councillors. He confused caste with profession.
  • He noticed the absence of slavery but this is contradicted by Indian sources.
  • The position of Shudras improved. They could now own land.