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Subjects /Indian History / Ancient History / Mauryan Dynasty (321 BC – 184 BC)

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12 Aug 2021

We will have a look at the foreign invasions, to understand how Mauryan created an empire over India.

  1. First invasion in 516 BC by Darius-I, King old Persia (present Iran), he invaded and conquered Sindh.
  2. Second invasion around 327/326 BC by Greeks.
  • In 326 BC, Greek ruler ‘Alexander the Great’ invaded India.
  • “Ambhi”, the king of Taxila, was easily defeated by Alexander.
  • After Ambhi, he defeated “Porus”. Kingdom of Porus lies in the East of Indus and west of river Ravi.
  • After defeating Porus, he reached upto river Vyas, where it was his last campaign against “Kathas-Tribe”.
  • After defeating Kathas, he went back to his nation. He did not cross river Vyas, reasons were:
    • Soldiers were out of their homelands for about 9 months, so they were homesick.
    • When Alexander was attacking India, we have a rule of Nanda dynasty, who were very powerful and had a strong army. Had Alexander crossed river Vyas and Sutlej and came eastwards, war between Alexander and Nanda ruler was inevitable.

Alexander after conquering North-Western India and some areas in Afghanistan (Kabul and Qandhar), he deputed his general “Selucus”.

Political History

The conquests of Chandragupta Maurya

·      Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the dynasty and under him the whole of northern India was united.

·      He conspired with Chanakya, the Minister of the Nandas, to overthrow the last of the Nanda kings and occupy their capital Pataliputra.

·      Chandragupta Maurya conquered both Kabul and Quandhar from Seleucus Nicator.

·      In west India, in Gujrat Chandragupta Maurya conquered Saurashtra.

·      After the conquest of Saurashtra, Chadragupta Maurya constructed “Sudarshan Lake”. Pushyagupta is said to have constructed the Sudarshan lake.

·      Sudarshan Lake: was the biggest, artificial, irrigational device in entire ancient India.

·      During later years of his life around 297 BC, Chandragupta Maurya adopted Jainism.

·      From Patliputra he adopted Jainism and migrated to Saravanbelgola, in Karnataka, where he starved himself to death.

Bindusara (297 BC – 271 BC)

·      Son of Chandragupta Maurya.

·      He conquered Deccan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh up to Karnataka.

·      He is referred as Amitrochates in the classical sources.

Ashoka (270 BC – 232 BC)

·      After Bindusara, Asoka became Mauryan King. Some dispute over succession was there between Asoka and his brothers.

·      According to Buddhist literature, Asoka was a very cruel king and was known as “ Chand Asoka” because he killed all his 99 brothers. This information came from Buddhist book ‘Divyavandana’, it was other than TriPithakas.

·      After becoming king and after the war of Kalinga (around 260 BC), Asoka adopted “Buddhism”.

·      The monk who converted Asoka into Buddhism was “Upagupta”.

·      After his conversion into Buddhism he was known as “Piyadasi

·      In the edicts of Asoka, during his reign, some brothers of Asoka were alive, whose reference was there in those edicts. For example there was reference of ‘Tivara’, one of his brother, that means he did not kill all of his brothers.

·      After becoming the king, Asoka invaded ‘Kalinga’ in 261 BC, this was the biggest war of entire ancient India. Around a lakh of people were killed on the battlefield and around 1.5 lakhs were held captive by the Mauryans.

·      After the conquest of Kalinga, Asoka’s empire became the biggest empire, area wise.

·      It extended from North (Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir) to Mysore in South Karnataka.

·      From Kabul in North-West to Bengal in East.

·      In Bengal – the famous port city “Tamralipti”, from where, Asoka sent his son ‘Mihinda’ to Ceylon (Present Sri Lanka).

·      Asoka’s son Mihinda introduced Buddhism in Ceylon.

·      Asoka was the first ruler to introduced ‘Religious Harmony’ in India.

·      After the conquest of Kalinga, Asoka introduced the Policy of “Dhamma”, features of this policy were unique and some of the features were:

§  Complete religious toleration: If anyone found violating religious harmony or instigating religious riots, they were given very strict punishment.

§  Complete social Harmony: He was first to introduced this. If anyone breached social harmony, strict punishment was given to that and it also included death penalty.

§  The policy also contained ‘Moral/Ethical’ principles.

§  Major immoral and social evil activities like gambling, prostitution, etc., were all abolished. Earlier Mauryans used to collect tax from the Prostitutes.

·      James Princep deciphered the Brahmani inscription referring to Asoka as  Devanampiya Piyadasi(Beloved of the Gods).

·      Asoka was the first king in India who propounded “Paternal Kingship” theory, means King is the father of the people of his kingdom.

·      His entire dhamma policy was written on rocks, as the paper was not invented.

·      Script appeared during Mauryans time and Asoka was the first king of India to issue written laws that everyone has to abide.

·      These were written on Rocks and Pillars and were engraved on Highways and public places.

·      ‘Dhamma Mahamatas’ were special officers appointed by Asoka to spread.

·      ‘Dhamma’ policy, they read and speak the script and law to general public.

·      Some rocks were small, called – Minor Edict/inscriptions.

§  Total number of minor edicts were: I to XIV

·      Some rocks were big and were called – Major rock Edicts.

§  Total number of major edicts were: I to XIV

·      Most important Edict:

§  XIII, Major rock edict – Major part of Dhamma was written over it.

·      Two separate rock edicts were issued by Asoka only for Kalinga Area, these were:

§  Dhauli rock edict

§  Jaugada rock edict

§  Both were Major rock edicts and both are places in Orissa now.

·      Last edict of Asoka was – 7 pillar edicts (Stone Pillar), in them 1st edict was minor rock edict and last was pillar edict.

All Asokan edicts were deciphered and read by “James Princep”. He was an officer to East India Company.

Language of Asokan edicts was “Prakrit”

Script of edicts was “Brahmi” (Direction: Left to Right)

Only 2 of the Asokan edicts were in “Kharosthi” script (Written Right to Left), for Manshera and Sahbazgarhi area, both around Indus in Pakistan.

In Afghanistan area, Asoka used a different script, these were:

Greek and Aramaic

The content

After the death of Asoka, Mauryan empire was divided between his successors.

Three independent Mauryan kingdoms emerged:

·      Jaluka - Kashmir

·      Dasaratha (Grand son) – East and South India

·      Kunala (Son), Samprati – Western India and Western Madhya Pradesh

Brihadratha: He was the last ruler of Mauryan Dynasty (184 BC)

During the Mauryan rule only Silver coin was there called “Panas”.

            Killed by his own commander – in – chief, Pushyamitra Sunga.

Economy under Mauryans


·      Janapadanivers: settlement of permanent villages and it formed the base for the State to extract taxes and the land tax formed the bulk of it.

·      Sita lands à King’s land, where his rights of possession, cultivation, mortgage and sale were superior. Sitadhyaksa was the superintendent of agriculture who supervised the cultivation works here.

·      Gahapatis and Rambhojakas: Big landowners who employed hired labourers.

·      The irrigation facility was provided by the State and th e State levied irrigation cess.

·      Sudarshana Tadaga : Dam was built by Pushyagupta near Girnar in Saurashatra.

·      Major source of revenue was Land tax. It was the backbone of the Mauryan Economy

o   It was collected at the rate of 1/6th of the produce.

o   Samaharta à highest officer in charge of assessment of lan revenue.

o   Pindakara à tax paid by peasants

o   Hiranya à tax paid by peasants in cash.

o   Balià traditional levy continued

o   Pranaya à tax given as gift of affection

Non- Agricultural Production

A substantial surplus of agricultural produce was created which was not only transformed the material basis of society, but also have rise to new social groups.

Establishment of new towns and markets. Many cities were created. As per Megasthenes, well organized administration of towns was present.

Artisans, merchants and officials of the government inhabited the towns.

Durganivesa : State founded the walled towns.

There was state monopoly in some industries and trades. For example,

Akaradhyaksan : Superintendent of mines.

Lohadyaksa : Superintendent of iron

Trade was carried on in different ways. The security provided by Mauryan rule enabled internal trade to blossom. State had the administrative control on the trade. For example,

Panyadhyaksa : Superintendent of commerce

Samsthadyaksa : officer that looked after the wrong practices of traders.

Sulkadhyaksa :  Superintendent of tolls.

Sreni : Guilds that organized craft production.

Administration under Mauryans

Central Administration

It can be classified under following heads:

1.     The King

2.     The Council of Ministers

3.     City Administration

4.     Army

5.     Espionage network

6.     Law and Justice

7.     Public Welfare

Provincial Administration

Kumara : Head of the Province. For example, Asoka was the Kumara of Taxila.

Mahmatyas : They assisted the Kumara and the council of ministers.

At village level, Gramika : officials at village level.

Decline of Mauryans

The empire was divided among several sons and thus got fragmented. This weakened the imperial control over the administration. The powerful Mahamattas supported the local rulers and led to the decline of the Mauryans.