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  • From the Janapadas there emerged the 16 larger kingdoms. Out of these large kingdoms Magdha eventually emerged as the most powerful kingdom. Such as vast kingdom is known as empire. Stretching from Magadha in the east to Kandhar in the north west, to kerala in the south, Magadha under the Mauryans dynasty gave India its first empire. 
  • The Mauryan dynasty was founded by Chandra Gupta Maurya in the beginning of the fourth century BC.
  • Chandra Gupta Maurya succeeded the Nandas in 321 BC.

Rise of Magadha :

  • Chandragupta was supported by an efficient minister Chanakya who wrote the Arthashastra (a politic treatise) that formed the basis of political agenda practiced by most Hindu Sovereigns.
  • The three prominent Maurya kings were Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara and Asoka.

Sources :

  • Sources available for understanding the history of the Mauran period may be divided into two groups : Literary and archaeological.

Literary Sources :

  • By the time Mauryan rule was established in Magadh, Sanskrit had emerged as a rich Indian language.
  • Puranas : Vishnu Purana, Bhagawat Purana and Markandeya Purana help to determine the orign and chronology of Mauryan rule.
  • Arthashastra : Written by Vishnugupta describes the political economic conditions of Maurya period.
  • Harshacharita : Banabhatta, Harshavardhana’s court poet, it mentions the consipiracy hatched by Pushyamitra Sunga to eliminate the last Mauryan king, Brihadratha.

Archaeological Sources :

  • Rock and pillar edicts of the Mauryas provide considerable information regarding Mauryan rule.
  • The Girnar inscription of Rudradaman : It mentions Chandragupta and Ashoka and their governors, Pushyagupta and Tushashpa. They had constructed the Sudarashan Lake there.

The Mauryans :
    Origin of the Mauryas :

  • According to the brahmanical tradition, Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya dynasty, was born of Mura, a Shudra woman in the court of the last Nanda king. From her came the family name Maurya.

Invasion of Alexander, The Great :

  • Alexander was the king of Macedonia (Greece).
  • Alexander of Greece (327 BC) entered North-West India pursuing his chain of victories over Gandhara. He entered Punjab near Beas river where his troops got exhausted and refused to fight. Alexander left his generals behind to look after the territories and returned back with rest of his army. He died on his way back to Babylon, Iran in 323.


  • After Alexander’s retreat, Chandragupta subdued the north-west, driving out the Greeks. He was much aidded in his consquests by his Brahman adviser, called variously Kautilya, Chanakya and Vishnugupta. Chanakya - wrote the Arthashastra.
  • Chandragupta probably ascended the throne around 324 BC.
  • Soon the Greeks were again at the doors of India. Alexander’s general, Seleucus Nicator, had succeeded in gaining control of most of the Asiatic provinces.
  • About 305 BC, he was defeated by Chandragupta and was compelled to return parts of Afghanistan to Chandragupta, receiving in exchange only 500 elephants.
  • Seleucus sent an ambassador, Megasthenes, to the Mauryan court, and the envoy wrote a detailed account of India entitled Indika.
  • According to Indika and Arthashastra, the Mauryna empire had developed a highly organisd bureaucratic adminsitration, which controlled the whole economic political and social life of the state. There was peace and prosperity in his kingdom.
  • Megasthenes admired Emperor Chandragupta for his energetic administration of justice, which he presided over personally in open darbar.

Bindusara (298 -  273 BC) :

  • Bindusara succeeded his father Chandragupta and further expanded the empire.
  • Bindusara not only held the great empire intact but probably added to it in the Deccan. He was succeeded in about 273 BC, probably after four years of his death, by his son Ashoka.

    Ashoka (273 to 232 BC) :

  • Ashokan edicts are in the nature of official pronouncements of his policy, and instructions to his officers and subjects. They contain many personal touches, and the drafts were probably composed by the emperor himself.
  • Before coming to the throne, he was the viceroyof Ujjain. He was also known as ‘Devanampiya’s beloved of the gods-and ‘Piyadassi’-of pleasing appearance.

    The kalinga War :

  • Ashoka probably fought only one war-the Kalinga War. He could not forget the bloodshed and horrors of war (261 BC), and there after he changed his life by using righteousness (Dhamma Vijaya) rather than by use of force. He strongly supported the doctrine of Ahimsa.

    Ashok’s Dhamma :
    The prakrit word ‘Dhamma’ and Sanskrit word ‘Dharam’ have the same meaning. It is not a religion. It was the performance of duty.

  • To ensure that his reforms were put into effect, he inaugurated a new class of officials, the “Officers of Righteousness” (dharmamahamatras).
  • Ashoka improved the communication system of his empire by planting fruit-trees along the roads to prove shade and food, digging wells at intervals, and setting up rest-houses for weary travellers.

Spread of Buddhism :
    For promotion of this religion he sent his daughter Sangh Mitra and son to Cylon.
The Mauryan Administration : 

  • We get an account of administration through edicts and books written by Megasthenes and Chanakya.
  • In Ashoka’s times, the king was the head of the state and was assisted by ‘mantriparishad’ or council of ministers. Adhyakshas (superintends) and Uuktas (Subordinates) were officers and Pradeshikas were responsible for collection of taxes and revenue.
  • The empire was divided into provinces and the provinces were further divided into districts. Villages were the smallest units, headed by Gramika or village head. All village disputes were settled by him.

Land Revenues : 

  • Land revenues from the rural areas were appropriated in the form of crown lands (sita), land revenue (bhaga) from cultivators, taxes on orchards, ferry charges etc.
  • Different types of taxes imposed on rural population are as follows :

        Bhaga : It was the main item of revenue and levied at the rate of one-fourth to one sixth.
        Pindikara : It was a tax assessed on groups of villages and paid by headman. Often the villages were supposed to supply provisions to the royal army.
        Hiranya : A gift of affection.
Architecture : 

  • There were great architectural marvels during this time.
  • Stupa :    The stupa was the most important  monument in the architecture. It was derived from the ancient funeral mounds made of earth and brick that preserved the remains of monks and other important persons.
  • The Stupa at Sanchi (near Bhopal) known as the Great Stupa is the most popular stupa amongst all.

The Stone Pillars : 

  • The one at Sarnath near Varanasi, with four lions sitting back to back and facing all four directions called Lion capital is adopted as our National Emblem in India.
  • Army : Army was divided into six branches. They were : Cavalry (house mounting soldiers) Infantry, Chariots, Elephants, Transport and Navy.

Decline of Mauryans : 
Causes : 
    Brahmanical reaction : Several factors are listed as having brought about the decline of the Maurayn empire. Asoka’s patronage of Buddhism and his anti-sacrifical attitude is said to have affected the income of the Brahmans. They thus developed some kind of antipathy towards Asoka.

 Financial crisis : Another reason put forward is that the revenue from agrarian areas was not sufficient to maintain such a vast empire as booty from war was negligible.

    Oppressive Provincial rule : The oppressive rule of the provincial governors angered the people, and they revolted.

    Non-violent policy : It is also argued that Asoka’s non-violent policy affected the military strength of the empire. 

    Neglect of the North-West Frontier : No fortification, such as the Great Wall of China was  made against possible invaders.

    The Immediate Cause : It could have been the invasion of the Bactrian Greeks and the murder of Brihadratha by Pushyamitra Sunga.

    The Last Mauryans : The last king, according to most historians, was Brihadratha who was assassinated by his senapati, Pushyamitra, in 185-180 BC, and a new dynasty was founded by him known as the ‘Sunga dynasty’.

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