Chapter 6: RISE OF MAURYANS

Introduction 

Foundation of Mauryan Empire opened a new era in the history of India.


Kauntilya's Arthashastra gave a glimpse of this period. Megasthenes was a noble in the court of Selekus Nikator, a general appointed by Alexander to govern over his conquered provinces in the subcontinent.


After Nikator was defeated but Chandragupta, Megasthenes came to Chandragupta’s court. He wrote a book called “Indica”. It had detailed account of Mauryan administration.


Edicts of Ashok: the fourteen major edicts are in Pali, Prakrit language and in Brahmi and Kharoshti script.


They also give information about Ashok and Mauryan administration. 


Mauryan Kings

Chandragupta Maurya:


He was the founder of the Empire. He defeated the last Nanda king and ended the dynasty. He also defeated Alexander’s general Selekus Nikator. Nikator ceded Alexander’s conquered territories to Mauryan Empire.


Chandragupta also captured central Indian territories up to Narmada. At the end of his life he embraced Jainism moved to Shravan Belgola and starved to death.


Bindusara:


He was called the slayer of enemies. He conquered Deccan up to Mysore. He appointed Ashok as governor of Ujjain. He supported Ajivikas, a religious sect.


Ashok the Great:

He was the most powerful and famous Mauryan emperor.
He embraced Buddhism after the Kalinga war.  He appointed officers to spread Dhamma.
He convened the third Buddhist council at Patliputra. He sent his son to Sri Lanka. The southern most states of Cholas, Chera, and Pandya were borders to it but outside his Empire.


He was the first emperor to have a welfare state for the people.


Dhamma concept of Buddha was a social code. It was wider than Buddhism which Ashok treated as his personal belief. He didn’t equate Dhamma and Buddhism. His concept of Dhamma is written on the rock edicts. The edicts were written in Pali, Prakrit, and Greek and in Brahmi and Kharoshti script.


Due to weak successors and Bactrian invasions in north the Mauryan Empire collapsed. Other reasons attributed to the decline of later mauryans were administrative and political factors. 


Administration:

Mauryan was a monarchy. But the king took advice of his ministers. The kingdom had a well defined civil service.
The army was well maintained. Revenue administration imposed taxes and levies.
Civil and criminal courts were present and torture, mutilation, death were given.
Census was carried out. Village administration was well defined.
The currency of Mauryans was accepted worldwide.

Mauryan Art and Architecture:

  • The use of stone for architecture and sculptures started from this period. However only the Sanchi Stupa survives till today. Other palaces, monasteries have perished.
  • The pillars were the finest specimen of Mauryan architecture. The pillars had animals on top.
  • Stupa's were destroyed by foreign invaders.
  • Caves were given by Ashok to the Ajivikas sect. The inner walls of the caves are polished like mirrors.
  • Mauryan period saw the height of pillars, stupa architecture. Post Mauryans saw height of sculptures.
  • During Mauryan period only viharas existed after that both chaityas and viharas.


Mauryan empire during Ashok's reign


                                     Fig 1: Mauryan empire during Ashok's reign