Chapter 6: RISE OF MAURYANS
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
Edicts of Ashok: the fourteen
major edicts are in Pali, Prakrit language and in Brahmi and
They also give information about Ashok and Mauryan
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.
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.
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
Mauryan was a monarchy. But the king took
advice of his ministers. The kingdom had a well defined civil
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
- 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.
Fig 1: Mauryan empire during Ashok's reign