King Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka The Great are familiar names from India’s ancient past. They were great rulers who had quite a few things in common and one that deserves discussion. Apart from being great rulers, they can also be called great-renouncers who gave up warfare for the sake of peace in later years. Therefore, the one major similarity between the two is that they were rulers-turned-ascetics. Today, in this article, we will be talking about similarities that existed between King Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka the Great.
So, let us dive into the article without delaying a bit!
Similarities Between King Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka The Great
Rulers of the Same Dynasty
Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan empire who ruled from 324 BCE tro 293 BCE. Ashoka was his grandson who was also a ruler of the same dynasty during the period 265-238 BCE. While Chandragupta Maurya was the first major ruler, Ashoka was the third and last ruler who yielded great authority and dominance. Both of them are hailed as great kings of India’s past that find a place in discussion as well as a part of history textbooks. Chandragupta Maurya ruled Magadha (present-day Bihar) and Punjab at the onset of his journey of conquests.
Ashoka was also the ruler of Magadha as can be found from the Bhabhru edict. He mentions himself as Piyadassi laja Magadhe which means Piyadassi, the king of Magadha. Thus, both the rulers were not only members of the same dynasty but also shared the same territories under their influence.
Mothers with a humble background
Chandragupta’s mother as his father was of humble origins. The king’s mother was Mura who did not have a royal lineage. As per Mudrarakshasa, which is a Sanskrit dramatic text, we find the reference of Mura as a Vrishala or Kula-Hina that meant “not a part of a recognized clan or family”. Most of the sources, historians and commentators claim Mura to be devoid of royal blood while others tend to vary.
Similarly, Ashoka’s mother was Rani Dharma or Subhadrangi who was a girl from a Brahmin family who resided at the city of Champa near Pataliputra (Mauryan capital). According to Ashokavadana, Bindusara (Chandragupta’s son) was not initially aware of Dharma’s birth ancestry. When he came to know about her being an upper caste, she was allowed to bear him a son named Ashoka meaning “without sorrow”. Thus, both the mothers of Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka did not inherit significant wealth right from the beginning.
Struggle for power
Chandragupta Maurya was from a family of the destitutes. Chanakya, the brahman politician bought him and skilled him in military tactics and aesthetics. After receiving counsel from Chanakya, Chandragupta decided to annihilate the autocracy of the Nanda empire. With the aid of mercenary soldiers and immense public support he launched war against the rivals whose army was commanded by Bhaddasala. He employed an effective secret service as a part of his administration.
Bindusara did not like Ashoka and wanted to see his eldest son Susima as the next king. Moreover, Susima was the crown prince and the direct heir to the throne. This reduced the winning chances of Ashoka against Susima to a great extent. The ministers, however, favored Ashoka and wanted him to be the next king. Ashoka was crowned or rather he crowned himself after his father’s death. Later, he had Susima executed by throwing him in a pit full of burning charcoal. To get to the throne, he killed two of his brothers and the third and the youngest one, Vitashoka renounced rule and converted to Buddhism.
Thus, it was not a smooth transition to power for both the rulers.
Ashoka, just like Chandragupta Maurya was an able ruler. It was under his reign the empire expanded. Chandragupta’s area of rule included Bengal, North India, Afghanistan and also the central and southern India. His rule like Ashoka’s was quite extensive in Indian history. The latter’s rule nearly blanketed the entire Indian subcontinent apart from Iran.
Thus, we can say that both Ashoka and Chandragupta were administrators of a pan-Indian culture that was previously under different rulers. These two emperors successfully with their political, diplomatic and strong influences were able to unite India. They were not only capable themselves but also gained immense popularity and support from people around.
Architectural developments during their reign
The Mauryans were the patrons of art and architecture that reached its zenith between the 4th and the 2nd century BCE. The monumental erections of the Mauryan empire are regarded as the finest specimens of ancient Indian history. Most of the buildings and palaces were built of wood during Chandragupta’s rule. The best monument erected by Chandragupta Maurya was an old palace at Kumrahar. However, since wood is subjected to decay, the monuments perished.
Several architectural developments also took place during Ashoka’s period of reign. However, Ashoka was someone who thought for the first time of erecting monuments with stone. As a result, the stupas, pillars of Ashoka, colossal figures and the rock-cut caves that were made of stone were erected. Some of the Stupas he built are Sanchi Stupas, Amaravati Stupas and Gandhara stupas.
Influenced highly by great mentors
Chanakya was the guardian of Chandragupta Maurya who was great in many ways. He was originally the Prime Minister of the emperor. Chanakya’s wits knew no limit. He orchaestrated the defeat of the Nanda empire by Chandragupta Maurya. Under his intellectual advice, the Mauryan empire flourished.
Similarly, it was under the tutelage of Acharya Radhagupta, Ashoka became the Samrat (or king) of the Mauryan empire. At Radhagupta’s advice, Susima, the elder brother of Ashoka was tricked into a pit full of burning charcoal where he died a gruesome death. Radhagupt is also claimed to be a disciple of Chanakya but there is no proper evidence in this matter.
Thus, the two kings had mentors who played decisive and direct roles in influencing them immensely.
Reliance on Artha-shastra as a guide
Chanakya (or Kautilya), the philosopher and Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya composed the Arthashastra, a treatise on important subjects like state-craft, political military and Economic Affairs. This text was widely referenced by Chandragupta Maurya and successive rulers like Ashoka the great. The government of Chandragupta functioned similarly as prescribed in Arthashastra. The treatise deals with subjects like, when should rivals be assassinated and foreign powers neutralized.
With the help of Chanakya and his text, stable political, military and economic systems were put in place during Chandragupta and Ashoka’s reign. The Arthashastra encouraged both Hinduism and the Carvaka school of thought that upheld the senses to be an end in finding truth and pleasure as the sole motto of life.
The vast empire under Ashoka also flourished after he took counsel from the text. Although not a claimant to the throne he was well-adept in Arthashastra’s precepts. The treatise is still studied and its effectiveness widely discussed.
Ascetics at a later date
Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka renounced war and gave in to peace. While Chandragupta Maurya converted to Jainism, Ashoka chose Buddhism as his religion. Both the religions are based on the principles of non-violence which the emperors abided by in their later years.
Chandragupta converted to Jainism as his sage Bhadrabahu I predicted a famine that would last twelve whole years. He tried crafting solutions to deter the famine but failed to do so. Dejected by the conditions of his kingdom, he spent the remaining days in Bhadrabahu’s service at Shravanabelagola and fasted until death (Sallekhana).
Ashoka was initially a despot who inflicted cruelty against those who were not subservient to him. His major transformation occurred after he witnessed the massive deaths brought about by him in the war of Kalinga. The 13th edict mentions Ashoka filled with remorse at the sight of the countless slaughtering and grievous injuries he caused. He chose Buddhism as a propagator of peace and established the religion as a prominent school of thought.
Sufficient historical records
The historical records abound in details regarding the lives of the two emperors Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka. The mention of Chandragupta Maurya can not only be found in Hindu and Jain texts but also in Roman, Greek and Buddhist texts. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador wrote about the influential administration of the Mauryan empire under Chandragupta Maurya. Moreover, as Seleucus I Nicator and Alexander came across the Hindu king we find mentions of the latter in Greek texts.
There is sufficient depiction of Ashoka in Buddhist texts. Even Puranas mention Ashoka but the details regarding him are not enough. The depiction of Ashoka is more legendary than historical in such texts. Moreover, the edicts of Ashoka are important evidence regarding the chakravarti (world-ruler). One text that is exclusively dedicated to the emperor is the Ashokavadana.
There is not much historical record and evidence on Bindusara. However, the famed Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka had ample resources to define them and their activities.
The Final Thought!
Thus, we spotted the different ways how the king Chandragupta and Ashoka the Great were alike each other. Hopefully, it was an interesting journey for you to find out in what way grandfather Chandragupta and his grandson Ashoka had things in common. We can wind up the discussion with the fact that both the emperors will continue to be a matter of study by history enthusiasts all across the world.