Maurya Dynasty is one of the most well-known and prosperous dynasties in the illustrious Indian history. The Maurya Empire was established by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE and it lasted up until 185 BCE.
This powerful dynasty didn’t have a number of great ruler, it just had two rulers who made sure that no one in recalling the Indian history forget to mention the name of Maurya Dynasty and those two rulers are Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka the Great.
Famous Emperors of the Maurya Dynasty
1. Chandragupta Maurya (322 BCE –298 BCE)
The original and detailed facts about Chandragupta’s birth, parents, place or origin etc. are unknown and he was not a well-known figure until his rise onto power. The main brains behind the rise of Maurya Dynasty and Chandragupta was a Brahmin teacher at Takshashila (ancient University of well repute) known as Chanakya or Kauṭilya or Vishnugupt.
- Chankaya is the one who directed Chandragupta’s journey to the throne on the basis of the Arthashastra, a book he authored himself. This book has a complete set of rules and instructions in order to run a powerful and prosperous Empire.
- At the uncertain time of Alexander the Great’s death, Chandragupta hatched a plan with the help of Chanakya’s vast network of men and his plan of action.
- Chandragupta attacked Pataliputra the capital of the Magadha Empire and this was done with the men who opposed the rule of the current ruler. Chandragupta became the ruler of Magadha and the fate of the former ruler is unknown.
- After coming to power Chandragupta made almost no changes to his council, he maintained the former Prime Minister Rakshasa as his chief adviser and Chanakya became a statesman. This marked the beginning of the Maurya Empire.
- Chandragupta started expanding his kingdom and increasing his power almost as soon as he came into power by invading the current Punjab that housed the city of Taxila which was a famous trade centre for the Greeks. When the ruler of Seeucid Empire, Seleucus I Nicator tried to conquer their lost kingdom in northern India Chandragupta fought the Greeks again. The war was ended with the signing of a marital peace treaty where Chandragupta married Seleucus I Nicator’s daughter and Seleucus was given 500 elephants, this not only strengthened Chandragupta but also gave him access to much vaster territory.
Chandragupta is described as a wise and just ruler who lived a simple life despite not even knowing how to write. His rule ended when he gave up the kingdom to his son Bindusar and left the Empire to join Jains saints, it is said that he died in Shravanabelagola, Karnataka.
2. Bindusar (298 BCE –272 BCE)
- Bindusar is the son of Chandragupta Maurya and his elder wife Durdhara, though much information about Bindusar does not exist he is given the title Amitraghata (slayer of Enemies).
- Bindusar was not such an exceptional ruler but he followed the rules and administration of his father thereby making his Emperor prosperous.
- History will always identify Bindusar as the son of Chandragupta Maurya and father of Ashoka the Great.
3. Ashoka the great ( 268 BCE –232 BCE)
Ashokavardhan Maurya or Ashoka proved to a more ambitious and successful ruler that surpassed even the illustrious name of his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya to become one of or the most remembered and revered king in Indian history. He is said to be the son of Bindusar with a lady called Dharma who origins cannot be told with certainty but she is usually mentioned as a daughter of a Brahmin.
- From a very young age Ashoka proved himself worthy of the throne by supressing revolts in Ujjain and Taxila.
- Ashoka’s journey to the throne is often depicted as a bloody one as it has been said that to achieve the throne Ashoka had to assassinate his brothers. But after coming to power Ashoka proved to be an ambitious an aggressive king that established the power of the Maurya Empire in western and southern India giving a whole new meaning to the term ‘Empire’ in India.
- Other than being ambitious he was also a very knowledgeable king who supported education, architecture, art, religion etc. His main aim was the expansion of his empire he did that aggressively by conquering any kingdom that opposed his rule.
- The turning point in his life was the Kalinga war where many soldiers and civilians were killed causing a massive bloodbath and creating a sense of disgust in Ashoka. This started a new page in his life where he started to follow the teachings of Lord Buddha and started spreading his teachings.
- During his life Ashoka is said to have 3 wives Devi, Kaurvaki and Asandhimitra, there may be many more but they are not mentioned in ant texts. With his elder wife Devi, he had a daughter and son Sangamitra and Mahendra, who are said to have spread Lord Buddha’s teachings all the way to Sri Lanka.
- Ashoka is said to have passed away in Pataliputra in 232 BCE, leaving his son Dasharatha to occupy the throne.
- The administration was done in a very systematic manner by dividing the empire into four provinces Tosail, Ujjain, Suvarnagiri and Taxila that are administered by a king’s representative known as Kumara and Pataliputra is kept as the imperial capital. This division allowed the Emperor to rule in systematic manner thereby leading to prosperity.
- The extensive bureaucracy found during Maurya administration was done on the basis of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, which describes a very complex chains of command. This allowed the Emperor to rule in a sophisticated manner, and this complex bureaucracy also allowed espionage which is quite essential for politics.
- Other than this the administration was very citizen friendly, as the citizens were given fair chance and justice. The administration was quite good during Changragupta and Bindusar’s rule, but the administration of Ashoka is the most appreciated one.
- During the rule of the Maurya dynasty, for the first time South Asia saw military security and political unity, thereby allowing the economy to boom, enhanced commerce and trade that in turn lead to agricultural growth. This economy boom allowed the farmers and other citizens to pay heavy taxes that lead to poverty.
- The single currency system proposed by Chandragupta, was followed by many of his successors thereby leading to a stable state of economy.
- The international trade with East and West Asia blossomed during Ashoks’s rule and this lead to the construction of many roads, buildings etc. that eased transportation thereby removing any hurdles in easy trade. The main reason for this amazing economy is the strict by beneficial rules and instructions of the Chanakya or Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
- The economy during Ashoka’s rule is often compared to or said to be better than that of the Romans who we know is one of the prosperous kingdoms.
There were three main religions Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism during the rule of Maurya Empire.
Hinduism was not as popular as Jainism or Buddhism by they were given the freedom to practise their religion without any tax or other interferences, this can been seen in Ashoka’s court where he appointed many Hindu priests as his advisors. During this period Hinduism adapted many of the non-violence and equality teaching of Jainism and Buddhism leading to much prosperous and peaceful Empire. The Maurya Emperor who encouraged and followed Hinduism was Bindusar.
Jainism mainly spread during the rule of Chandragupta as he was one of the first Indian monarchs who took in Jainism completely. This can be seen when he renounced his throne and other material possession to join Jain monks. During this period a little rift was caused between the Hindus and the Jains as Chandragupta was said to have given much importance to Jains. Other than Chandragupta his predecessor Samrat Samprati has been inspired by the teachings of many Jain monks.
Following the Kalinga war Ashoka embraced Buddhism and its various teachings this lead him to renounce any harsher laws and rules in the Arthashastra. Other than this, Ashoka spread Buddhism as far as possible by sending his children to spread the teachings of Lord Buddha in Sri Lanka and other faraway regions. Ashoka also constructed many stupas, pillars and other architecture monuments that were inscribed with Lord Buddha’s teachings.
Architecture and Education
- Many architecture monuments built during the Maurya Dynasty can be seen even today like the Pillars of Ashoka, the rottoes of Barabar Caves, Sanchi Stupa etc. The architecture marvels show how advanced Maurya’s architects were and the carving on these structures is also quite marvellous and has sustained the wrath of time quite well.
- During Maurya Empire education was given to both men and women without any partiality. Taxila, Vikramshila and Nalanda were a few of the most thriving universities during the Maurya dynasty and Chanakya was also a professor in Taxila before he became Chandragupta’s prime minister. This system of education continued until the Mughals invaded India bringing great changes to this system.
Decline of the Maurya Empire
The main reason for the decline of the Maurya Dynasty/Empire was the weak kings who could not handle such a complex and powerful kingdom. The last king of the Maurya Dynasty was Brhadrata who ruled a kingdom that was considerable smaller than that of Ashoka. Brhadrata was assassinated by his own commander-in-chief Pusyamitra Sunga there ending and destabilising the glorious dynasty.