Maurya Empire

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Mauryan Empire
322 BCE–185 BCE
Territories controlled by Maurya Empire at its maximum extent.
Territories controlled by Maurya Empire at its maximum extent.
CapitalPataliputra (Present-day Patna)
Common languagesMagadhi Prakrit and Other Prakrits)
Religion
Buddhism
Hinduism
Jainism
GovernmentAbsolute monarchy as described in the Arthashastra
Emperor 
• 320–298 BCE
Chandragupta
• 298–272 BCE
Bindusara
• 268–232 BCE
Ashoka
• 232–224 BCE
Dasharatha
• 224–215 BCE
Samprati
• 215–202 BCE
Shalishuka
• 202–195 BCE
Devavarman
• 195–187 BCE
Shatadhanvan
• 187–185 BCE
Brihadratha
Historical eraAntiquity
• Established
322 BCE
• Disestablished
185 BCE
Area
5,000,000 km2 (1,900,000 sq mi)
CurrencyPanas
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Nanda Empire
Mahajanapada
Mahameghavahana dynasty
Shunga Empire
Satavahana dynasty
Indo-Scythians

The Maurya Empire was a empire in South Asia, founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE and lasting until 185 BCE. It was centralized through the conquest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, with its capital in Pataliputra (modern Patna). The empire covered regions that are now part of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.[1]

Chandragupta Maurya, assisted by Chanakya, overthrew the Nanda Empire around 322 BCE. Expanding westward, he conquered territories left by Alexander the Great in modern-day Pakistan. By 317 BCE, the empire fully occupied the northwestern subcontinent. The Mauryan Empire also defeated Seleucus I, acquiring land west of the Indus River (modern-day Pakistan), during the Seleucid–Mauryan war.[2][3]

Etymology[change | change source]

The name "Maurya" does not occur in Ashoka's inscriptions, or the contemporary Greek accounts such as Megasthenes's Indica, but it is attested by the following sources:[4]

  • The Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman (c. 150 CE) prefixes "Maurya" to the names Chandragupta and Ashoka.[4]
  • The Puranas (c. 4th century CE or earlier) use Maurya as a dynastic appellation.{{sfn|Irfan Habib|Vivekanand JhA|
  • Tamil Sangam literature also designate them as 'moriyar' and mention them after the Nandas[5]
  • Kuntala inscription (from the town of Bandanikke, North Mysore) of 12th century AD chronologically mention Mauryya as one of the dynasties which ruled the region.[6]

According to some scholars, Kharavela' Hathigumpha inscription (2nd-1st century BC) mentions era of Maurya Empire as Muriya Kala (Mauryan era),[7] but this reading is disputed: other scholars—such as epigraphist D. C. Sircar—read the phrase as mukhiya-kala ("the principal art").[8]

According to the Buddhist tradition, the ancestors of the Maurya kings had settled in a region where peacocks (mora in Pali) were abundant. Therefore, they came to be known as "Moriyas", literally meaning, "belonging to the place of peacocks". According to another Buddhist account, these ancestors built a city called Moriya-nagara ("Moriya-city"), which was so called, because it was built with the "bricks coloured like peacocks' necks".[9]

The dynasty's connection to the peacocks, as mentioned in the Buddhist and Jain traditions, seems to be corroborated by archaeological evidence. For example, peacock figures are found on the Ashoka pillar at Nandangarh and several sculptures on the Great Stupa of Sanchi. Based on this evidence, modern scholars theorize that the peacock may have been the dynasty's emblem.[10]

Some later authors, such as Dhundhi-raja (an 18th-century commentator on the Mudrarakshasa and an annotator of the Vishnu Purana), state that the word "Maurya" is derived from Mura and the mother of the first Maurya king. However, the Puranas themselves make no mention of Mura and do not talk of any relation between the Nanda and the Maurya dynasties.[11] Dhundiraja's derivation of the word seems to be his own invention: according to the Sanskrit rules, the derivative of the feminine name Mura (IAST: Murā) would be "Maureya"; the term "Maurya" can only be derived from the masculine "Mura".[12]

Administration[change | change source]

Statuettes of the Mauryan era

The Empire was divided into four provinces, with the imperial capital at Pataliputra. From Ashokan edicts, the names of the four provincial capitals are Tosali (in the east), Ujjain (in the west), Suvarnagiri (in the south), and Taxila (in the north). The head of the provincial administration was the Kumara (royal prince), who governed the provinces as king's representative. The kumara was assisted by Mahamatyas and council of ministers. This organizational structure was reflected at the imperial level with the Emperor and his Mantriparishad (Council of Ministers).[source?]. The mauryans established a well developed coin minting system. Coins were mostly made of silver and copper. Certain gold coins were in circulation as well. The coins were widely used for trade and commerce[13]

Historians theorise that the organisation of the Empire was in line with the extensive bureaucracy described by Chanakya in the Arthashastra: a sophisticated civil service governed everything from municipal hygiene to international trade. The expansion and defense of the empire was made possible by what appears to have been one of the largest armies in the world during the Iron Age.[14] According to Megasthenes, the empire wielded a military of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots and 9,000 war elephants besides followers and attendants.[15] A vast espionage system collected intelligence for both internal and external security purposes. Having renounced offensive warfare and expansionism, Ashoka nevertheless continued to maintain this large army, to protect the Empire and instil stability and peace across West and South Asia.[source?].Even though large parts were under the control of Mauryan empire the spread of information and imperial message was limited since many parts were inaccessible and were situated far away from capital of empire.[16]

The economy of the empire has been described as, "a socialized monarchy", "a sort of state socialism", and the world's first welfare state.[17] Under the Mauryan system there was no private ownership of land as all land was owned by the king to whom tribute was paid by the by the laboring class. In return the emperor supplied the laborers with agricultural products, animals, seeds, tools, public infrastructure, and stored food in reserve for times of crisis.[17]

Local government[change | change source]

Arthashastra and Megasthenes accounts of Pataliputra describe the intricate municipal system formed by Maurya empire to govern its cities. A city counsel made up of thirty commissioners was divided into six committees or boards which governed the city. The first board fixed wages and looked after provided goods, second board made arrangement for foreign dignitaries, tourists and businessmen, third board made records and registrations, fourth looked after manufactured goods and sale of commodities, fifth board regulated trade, issued licenses and checked weights and measurements, sixth board collected sales taxes. Some cities such as Taxila had autonomy to issue their own coins. The city counsel had officers who looked after public welfare such as maintenance of roads, public buildings, markets, hospitals, educational institutions etc.[18] The official head of the village was Gramika (in towns Nagarika).[19] The city counsel also had some magisterial powers. The taking of Census was regular process in the Mauryan administration. The village officials (Gramika) and municipal officials (Nagarika) were responsible enumerating different classes of people in the Mauryan empire such as traders, agriculturists, smiths, potters, carpenters etc. and also cattle, mostly for taxation purposes.[20][better source needed] These vocations consolidated as castes, a feature of Indian society that continues to influence the Indian politics till today.

Empire Expansion[change | change source]

Conquest of the Nanda Empire[change | change source]

Historically reliable inscription details of Chandragupta's campaign against Nanda Empire are unavailable and but later written Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu texts which claim Magadha was ruled by the Nanda dynasty, which, with Chanakya's counsel, Chandragupta conquered Nanda Empire.[21][22][23] The army of Chandragupta and Chanakya first conquered the Nanda outer territories, and finally besieged the Nanda capital Pataliputra. In contrast to the easy victory in Buddhist sources, the Hindu and Jain texts state that the campaign was bitterly fought because the Nanda dynasty had a powerful and well-trained army.[24][22]

The Buddhist Mahavamsa Tika and Jain Parishishtaparvan records Chandragupta's army unsuccessfully attacking the Nanda capital. [25] Chandragupta and Chanakya then began a campaign at the frontier of the Nanda empire, gradually conquering various territories on their way to the Nanda capital.[26] He then refined his strategy by establishing garrisons in the conquered territories, and finally besieged the Nanda capital Pataliputra. There Dhana Nanda accepted defeat.[27][28] The conquest was fictionalised in Mudrarakshasa play, it contains narratives not found in other versions of the Chanakya-Chandragupta legend. Because of this difference, Thomas Trautmann suggests that most of it is fictional or legendary, without any historical basis.[29] Radha Kumud Mukherjee similarly considers Mudrakshasa play without historical basis.[30]

These legends state that the Nanda king was defeated, deposed and exiled by some accounts, while Buddhist accounts claim he was killed.[31] With the defeat of Dhana Nanda, Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya Empire.[32]

Conquest of the Eastern Seleucid Empire[change | change source]

Greek historians mentioned the result of Seleucid–Mauryan war where Seleucid Empire's eastern satrapies( Gedrosia,Arachosia, Aria, and Paropamisadae) ceded to Mauryan Empire :

" Seleucus crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of he Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. Some of these exploits were performed before the death of Antigonus and some afterward."

— Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55

" The geographical position of the tribes is as follows: along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom lies the Paropamisus mountain: then, towards the south, the Arachoti: then next, towards the south, the Gedroseni, with the other tribes that occupy the seaboard; and the Indus lies, latitudinally, alongside all these places; and of these places, in part, some that lie along the Indus are held by Indians, although they formerly belonged to the Persians. Alexander [III 'the Great' of Macedon] took these away from the Arians and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus [Chandragupta], upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange five hundred elephants. " — Strabo 15.2.9[1]

Greecian historian Pliny also quoted a passage from Megasthanes work about Chandragupta Empire boundaries:

Most geographers, in fact, do not look upon India as bounded by the river Indus, but add to it the four satrapies of the Gedrose, the Arachotë, the Aria, and the Paropamisadë, the River Cophes thus forming the extreme boundary of India. According to other writers, however, all these territories, are reckoned as belonging to the country of the Aria.

— Pliny, Natural History VI, 23[2][3]

Treaty of the Indus[change | change source]

The ancient historians Justin, Appian, and Strabo preserve the three main terms of the Treaty of the Indus:[33]

(i) Seleucus transferred to Chandragupta's kingdom the easternmost satrapies of his empire, certainly Gandhara, Parapamisadae, and the eastern parts of Gedrosia, Arachosia and Aria as far as Herat.

(ii) Chandragupta gave Seleucus 500 Indian war elephants.

(iii) The two kings were joined by some kind of marriage alliance (ἐπιγαμία οι κῆδος); most likely Chandragupta wed a female relative of Seleucus.

Conquest of the Saurashtra[change | change source]

Chandragupta conquered Southern-Western part of India. Especially his conquest over Saurashtra and Sudarshana lake construction is preseved in later Satrapian king Rudradaman inscription:

(L.8)……… for the sake of…………/ ordered to be made by the Vaishya Pushyagupta, the provincial governor of the Maurya king Chandragupta; adorned with conduits for Ashoka the Maurya by the Yavana king Tushaspha while governing; and by the conduit ordered to be made by him, constructed in a manner worthy of a king (and) seen in that breach.


—Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman[34]

Conquest of the Kalinga[change | change source]

Kalinga War plays a very important role in Mauryan history which changes a cruel Emperor Chanda-Ashoka to Priyadarshi Ashoka.

"Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi(Ashoka)conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas. "

— Ashoka, Major Rock Edict No. 13[4]

Boundaries sharing territories[change | change source]

Even though Ashoka defined the boundaries of his empire four times in various inscriptions (with same lines) but he never mentioned any inner hole or unconquered region inside his empire.This suggests that Ashoka's empire was likely contiguous, with no significant unconquered regions within its borders :

Sav[r]atravijite [De]va[nam]priyasaPriyadrashisa y[e] cha [a]mtayatha [Choda] PamdiyaSatiyaputro KeradaputroTambapamni…,

-Second Rock-Edict: Shahbazgarhi[5]

Sav[a]ta vijitsi Devanampiyas[a] Piyadasis[a] lajine ye cha amta [a]tha Choda Pam[di]yaSatiyaputo Ke[lala]putoTamba[pa]mni..

-Second Rock Edict: Kalsi[6]

sa[vatra vi]jitasi Devanapriyasa Priyadrashisarajine ye cha ataatha [Choda] Pa[mdiya] Sa[ti]ya[p]u[tra] Keralaputra [Tam]bapani..

-Second Rock Edict: Mansehra[7]

Sav[r]atravijite [De]va[nam]priyasaPriyadrashisa Ye Ca anta ataChoda, Pandiya, Satiyaputo, Ketalaputo, Tam bapanni, Antiyogonaama, Yonalaja....

-Second Rock Edict :Girnar[8]

—Translation: Everywhere in the conquered dominions of king Priyadarsin, the beloved-of the gods, and the dominions on the boarders as those of the Choda (the Colas), Pandiya (the Pandyas). Satiyaputo (The Satiyaputras) and the Ketalaputo (the Keralaputras), as far as Tamraparni, the Yavana king named Antiyogonaama (Antiyoka) and the other neighbouring kings of this king Antiyoka.

Chandragupta Maurya's rule[change | change source]

Chandragupta Maurya established the Maurya empire by overthrowing the Nanda dynasty and expanded the empire with the help of Chanakya. By 316 BC , the Maurya empire fully occupied North-Western parts of the subcontinent, defeating and conquering the governors left by Alexander the Great. Chandragupta Maurya defeated Seleucus I Nicator and gained the territories beyond Indus River.[35]

After Chandragupta Maurya, his son Bindusara started to rule from 298 BC. He was called as "Amitraghata", the sanskrit word telling that Bindusara is the "slayer of enemies". He conquered the southern parts of India. After his death, only Kalinga (modern Orissa) and parts of Tamil Nadu were left unconquered.

Silver punch mark coin of the Maurya empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd century BCE.

Golden age of the empire[change | change source]

King Ashoka, son of Bindusara, became the emperor of Mauryan Empire in 268 BC. He is one of the greatest emperor of the Indian subcontinent. Ashoka conquered Kalinga in the violent and bloody war, which is known as the Kalinga War. This is the only war fought by King Ashoka. The casualities are more than 200,000. The region of Kalinga was destroyed and looked bloodshed. This changed the mind of Ashoka. He devoted the rest of his life to 'ahinsa' and 'dharma-vijaya'. He became a Buddhist after this war. King Ashoka made many Rock edicts and Stupas in his empire. The present emblem of India was taken from one of his rock pillars. He was commonly called as Ashoka the Great.

Decline[change | change source]

After his death in 232 BC, the empire started to decline. The empire lasted just fifty years after his death. Brihadratha Maurya, the last Mauryan emperor was killed by his general Pushyamitra Sunga, who founded the Sunga Empire in 185 BC.[36]

References[change | change source]

  1. Dyson, Tim (2018). A Population History of India: From the First Modern People to the Present Day. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-882905-8.
  2. Mookerji, Radhakumud (1966). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 978-81-208-0405-0.
  3. Kosmin, Paul J. (2014-06-23). The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-72882-0.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Irfan Habib & Vivekanand Jha 2004, p. 14.
  5. Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. ISBN 9788131716779.
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  7. Epigraphia Indica Vol.20. Archaeological Survey of India. 1920. p. 80.
  8. D. C. Sircar (1968). "The Satavahanas and the Chedis". In R. C. Majumdar (ed.). The Age of Imperial Unity. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. p. 215.
  9. R. K. Mookerji 1966, p. 14.
  10. R. K. Mookerji 1966, p. 15.
  11. H. C. Raychaudhuri 1988, p. 140.
  12. R. K. Mookerji 1966, p. 8.
  13. Nath sen, Sailendra (1999). Ancient Indian History and Civilization. Routledge. p. 160. ISBN 9788122411980.
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  22. 22.0 22.1 Sen 1895, pp. 26–32.
  23. Upinder Singh 2008, p. 272.
  24. Mookerji 1988, pp. 28–33.
  25. Hemacandra 1998, pp. 175–188.
  26. Mookerji 1988, p. 33.
  27. Malalasekera 2002, p. 383.
  28. Mookerji 1988, pp. 33–34.
  29. Trautmann 1971, p. 43.
  30. Chandragupta Maurya and His Times, Radhakumud Mookerji, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1966, p.26-27 Mookerji, Radhakumud (1966). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times. ISBN 9788120804050. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  31. Mookerji 1988, p. 34.
  32. Roy 2012, p. 62.
  33. Kosmin, Paul J. (2014-06-23). The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-72882-0.
  34. "Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman", Project South Asia.Archived 23 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  35. "Mauryan Empire (Ca. 323–185 B.C.) | Essay | the Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History".
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