Mauryan Empire: 322B.C.-186 B.C.
One of the most important and significant dynasty that existed before Christ is the Mauryan Empire founded by Chandragupta Maurya.
Birth of Chandragupta
Chandragupta was born around 340 B.C. in Patna. It is not clear about who were his parents as different records are present. Some say both parents were Kshatriya while other says that his father was King while mother was a maid called Mura. It is also claimed that Chandragupta belonged to Assakenoi or Ashhvaka Kshatriya . No clear information is available about the childhood of Chandragupta.
Kautilya also known as Chanakya was an enemy to Nanda Dyansty. He was very intelligent and witty. He used to mix poison in Chandragupta maurya’s food as precautionary measure. He was doing this to save King from poison given by his enemies. With his intelligence and cunning mind Chanakya managed to overthrow the Nanda dynasty and made Chandragupta Maurya as the King of Mauryan Empire. The acquisition of Magadha was the first step in establishing a new kingdom. The Mauryan Dyansty spread all over India from North to South and from East to West. It extended from Afghanisthan in the east to Mynamar in west and from Jammu in the north to the Deccan plateau in the south. Chandragupta also conquered some parts of central India and brought whole of north India under Mauryan Empire.
After ruling for
nearly 25 years he became a Jain ascetic and left his throne to Bindusara.
Chandragupta retired to Shravanabelogola to follow Jainism where he believed to
have breathed his last.
Bindusara was the second Mauryan emperor. He was the son
of Chandragupta. Bindusara conquered from sea to sea and extended his dynasty.
Like his father Bindusara also kept good relations with his foreign rulers. The
contemporary Greek King had sent Deimachus to the office of the ambassador in
the court of Pataliputra. There is some controversy about how Bindusara died.
Some texts quote that he had natural death. While other say that due to
unhappiness in Royal family, he died. Bindusara wanted his elder son Sushma to
be the next King, but since he had insulted Brahmins they were against him to
be King. So Asoka, son of lower caste queen took the reign of Bindusara. All
these reasons might have made Bindusara die in 272B.C. after ruling for 30years.
Ashoka was one the greatest ruler of Mauryan Empire and a great follower of Buddhism. He is the 3rd ruler and grandson of Chandragupta Maurya. His mother was low class princess called Dharma. She was daughter of a poor Brahmin. She was very beautiful even the chief queen was jealous of her beauty. Ashoka also known as ‘Ashoka the great’ He was born in Pataliputra on 304B.C. and died on 232B.C. Born into a royal family, he was good at fighting and was very brave. Besides he was very good in hunting which is evident from his ability to kill a lion from wooden rod.
His brothers feared about him and so convinced their father to post Ashoka as a general to distant frontiers. Ashoka proved a competent general and became aware of his brothers as a rival for the throne. It is believed Ashoka killed all his brothers and became King in 272B.C. when Ashoka was 18 yrs he was sent to Ujjain as Viceroy. This is time when he met his first wife Devi who was daughter of a merchant from Vidisha. Ashoka had two children from this wedlock namely Mahendra and Sangamitra who were famous to spread Buddism.
Ashoka was called
back by Samrat to Pataliputra. He went back alone leaving his wife and children
as they belonged to merchant family not fit to be princess. After returning he
married Asandhimitra and was the chief queen.
Ashoka as King:
Ashoka was one of
the greatest rulers of Mauryan Empire. In the beginning Ashoka ruled like his
grandfather. He captured many kingdoms from north to south and east to west.
After ascending the throne in 272B.C. he had to wait for four years for
coronation in 269B.C. He was constantly at war in the beginning of his reign.
He expanded his empire across the Indian sub continent including Iran and Afghanistan
in the west and Bangladesh and Burmese in the east. Kalinga, a place which is
situated in northeast never came under the control of Chandragupta Maurya or
Bindhusara. Ashoka decided to conquer Kalinga and hence decided to lead a army
to Kalinga. Fierce battle took place between Asoka and the ruler of Kalinga.
Many soldiers died.
One of the
important wars in the history of mankind is kalinga war. This war changed Ashoka
from fighter to follower of Buddism. This war happened in the year 261 B.C. The
reason behind the kalinga war was many. During Nanda period kalinga was under
Magadh Empire and later on became an independent state. Kalinga state was very
powerful with huge army power and soldiers. Chandragupta and Bindusara tried to
conquer but could not because of its huge material prosperity due to trade
relations with Malay and Ceylon for which Ashoka could not neglect its
importance. From the account of Greek writer diodorus it is known that kalinga
people possessed the largest size elephant. Kautilya in his Arthashastra also
described the elephants of kalinga as the best in India. Other reasons for
kalinga war were that people of kalinga dominated the Indian Ocean and
controlled the overseas trade too. The land routes for internal trade from Gangetic
valley towards the Deccan were also controlled by kalinga. All these and many more led to kalinga war.
Implications of kalinga war:
A fierce war was fought between Ashoka and ruler of kalinga for many days. More than 100,000 people were killed and 1,50,00 people were taken as prisoners. There was blood shed everywhere. Kalinga had become a place of full of blood. Many wounded people were crying in pain. There were many horses, elephants died and lying on the ground. Many people who had lost their beloved were crying and mourning. Even though Asoka won the kalinga war, the bloodshed changed Ashoka. He returned to Pataliputra with heavy heart.
Ashoka was grief
stricken, he could not sleep at night as scenes of pain, bloodshed, and cries
haunted him. Even his wife Devi who was a follower of Buddhism left him.
Ashoka who was a conqueror
embraced Buddhism and started preaching Ahimsa. He devoted his rest of his life
preaching Buddhism. He preached Dhamma Vijaya. The word Dhamma is the Prakrit
version of the Sanskrit word Dharma. According to Ashoka’s Dhamma is a
philosophical entity that emphasises on the high ideals in order to lead a
successful life. The principles of Ashoka Dhamma are present in the form of
various rock edicts in Brahmi language. Ashoka appointed dharma Mahamatra who
were basically officers to spread the principles and ideologies of Buddhism
worldwide like Srilanka, Burma, South East Asia. Asoka travelled intensely
worldwide preaching the principles of Buddhism. Buddhist emperor built many
Stupas and Viharas for people. The most famous among them are the great Sanchi Stupa,
Asoka pillar at Sarnath has a four lion capital. After embracing Buddhist,
Ashoka abolished the slaughter of animals and became a vegetarian. He treated
everyone equally and with love. Ashoka sent his missionaries to various places.
Few among them are:
After ruling for
40 years with harmony, humanity, love, non-violence, Ashoka died in 232B.C. and thus
came to an end to the Mauryan Dyansty. Many rulers who came after Ashoka in
Mauryan Empire were insignificant. Kalinga
war had indeed a very great and positive impact on Ashoka.
Administration during Mauryan Empire:
The Mauryan administrative system was very efficient and monarchical. King was the supreme power. He was considered as next to God. King appointed council of ministers for his assistance. King established a well planned system of supervision and inspection. The council of ministers were known as Mantriparishad. The ministers were divided into several departments. The list is given below:
All these were directly under the control of King.
Economy during Mauryan Empire:
The economy during Mauryan Empire flourished. Industry, trade and commerce, revenue collection was very good. Agriculture was the main source of income. The Mauryan’s established a centralised government to the economic progress of the country. Rice, pluses, vegetables, fruits, spices were also produced. The state had agricultural farms, cattle farms and dairy. Water for irrigation was distributed. The famous inscriptions done by Rudradaman at Junagarh mentions that Chandragupta’s governor Pushyagupta was responsible for building a dam on Sudarshanalake near Girnar.
The other important occupation was trade. The main export was different spices, pearls, diamonds, cotton textile, Ivory works, conch shells etc. The main important trade were horse, gold, linen, etc. Trading was an important source of revenue which became a major revenue earner in the post Mauryan period. Trade was organised in merchant guilds called as Sangha’s and Srenis. The percentage of profit to merchants was fixed and excess profits went to treasury. The commodities manufactured in our country were stamped, showing at which place the goods were manufactured and import goods were stamped at toll gate. Trade routes were main highways or the navigable rivers. Sea trade was conducted both to the west and with the northern coast of Burma. Another important economy was crafts and industries. Textile workers were given due importance during Chanakya’s period. This is mentioned in his book. Cotton fabrics were made at Madhura, Aparntha, kalinga, Kashmir, Vanga, Mahisa.
The use of money became quite popular during Mauryan period. Money was not only used for trade, but also government officers were paid in cash. Silver punched coins which carried symbols of peacock formed the imperial currency of the Mauryan Empire. Brahmins, children and handicapped were exempted from paying taxes. Tax evasion was considered as a serious offence and offenders were seriously punished.
Decline in Mauryan Empire:
After Ashoka’s death no big successor came to rule. The main reason for decline is weak successors, foreign invasions, independence of the provinces, internal revolt led to the decline of Mauryan Empire. Emergence of new kingdoms like Kushan Dyansty and many more also led to the decline.