The Mauryan Empire

The Mauryan Empire (322 BC – 183 BC) was an Iron Age power in ancient India ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty. With its origins in the Magadha kingdom, it was one of the world’s largest empires in its time and the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent. The Mauryan Empire was known for a consistent and effective system of administration and finance that allowed for a thriving economy. The Mauryan Dynasty (322–183 BC), with no known royal pedigree, established a vast empire, the first of its kind in the ancient South Asian subcontinent. The empire was obviously carved out by a sustained policy of aggressive expansion during the reigns of its first three rulers, Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara, and Asoka. Nearly panIndian in extent, the empire was administered by a large number of functionaries, known largely from the Greek accounts, the Arthasastra and inscriptions of Asoka. Recent historiography questions the traditional view of the Mauryan Empire as a unitary state, but presents a more nuanced view of the complexities of state and imperial formations in which the ideology of Dhamma (employed by Asoka) played a crucial role. The empire witnessed the first advent of written records and stone sculpting in Indian history.

In the political history of early India the Mauryan Dynasty has a preeminent position since it established the earliest and largest empire, that lasted, although, for a relatively brief period of about 140 years. The immense power of the dynasty is best seen during the reigns of the first three rulers, Chandragupta Maurya (322 BC-297 BC), Bindusara (297 BC-273 BC) and Asoka (269 BC-232 BC). The sustained interests in the study of the Maurya Empire are ensured by the availability of diverse sources, mostly contemporary.

Mauryan Statuettes 



The founding father of the Mauryan empire was Chandragupta Maurya.
In 305 BC Chandragupta defeated Seleucus Nicator (the Greek ambassador) who surrendered a big territorial part to him,including Kabul. Afghanistan,Baluchistan and Herat also received a Greek ambassador i.e.,  Megasthenese sent by Seleucus (wrote Indica having the description of Mauryan administration,society etc.)
Chandragupta adopted Jainism and went to Sravanabelagola with Bhadrabahu where he died by starvation (Sale Khan) at Chandigiri Hill.


The son and successor of Chandragupta Maurya.
Called Amitraghat by Greek writers.i.e., slayers of foes.
Further extended the kingdom.
He asked Antiochus-I of Syria to send some sweet wine,dried figs and a sophist.Except sophist,he sent all.
He is said to have conquered ‘the land between the two seas’,i.e., the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.At the time of his death,almost the entire subcontinent came under the Maurya rule. Greek Ambassador, Daimachus visited the court,sent by Antiochus.

ASHOKA (269 BC-232 BC)

Emperor Ashoka with his Queen
The son and successor of Bindusara.It is said that he became the king by killing his 99 brothers.
When he became the king. Radhagupta a minister of Bindusara, also helped him.
Under Ashoka,the empire reached its zenith. And in the history, for the first time,the entire Indian sub-continent came under a single umbrella (except extreme Southern India).
He fought a battle known as Kalinga in 261 BC in the 8th year of his coronation,in which lakh people died.
Ashoka sent peace missionaries inside India as well as abroad.


Major Rock Edicts
Total 14 found at 8 places.Inscriptions are found in 4 scripts Brahmi,Kharoshti,Greek and Aramaik.

> Only edict written in two scripts Greek and Aramaik-Kandhar.
> Minor edict 17,Pillar Edicts 12 
> The third Buddhist council was held during his reign.
> He appointed Dhamm Mahamantra for moral and material welfare of the public.
> He constructed Sanchi Stupa at Vidisha (HP).
> Foreign visitor Dionisius visited his court.
> Mauryan empire declined in 187 BC.


Mauryan coin and seals



According to Megasthenese,the administration of the army was carried by a board of 30 officers divided into six committees,each consisting of 5 members.They were 
(5) Navy 
(6) Transport.
Though Megasthenese said that there was no slavery in India,yet according to the Indian sources,slavery was a recognized institution during Mauryans reign.
Tamralipti in the Gangetic delta was the most prosperous post on the East coast of India.
Megasthenese in his Indica has mentioned 7 castes in the Mauryan society.
Maski,Gujara,Nittur and Odegolan edicts mention the name Ashoka.
Ashokan edicts were deciphered by James Princep in 1937.
In the edicts,Ashoka generally refers to himself by the title Devanampiya Priyadarshi.
The longest among the major rock edicts is the 13th rock edict.In this edict, the war of Kalinga has been described.
The Allahabad pillars contain the inscriptions of Samundragupta and Jahangir also.



The Indo-Greeks

A number of invasions took place around 200 BC. The first to invade India were the Greeks,who were also called the Indo-Greeks or Bactrian Greeks (as they ruled Bactria).
The most famous Indo-Greek ruler was Minander (165 BC-145 BC),also known as Milind. He had his capital at Sankala (Modern Sialkot) in Punjab.
He was converted to Buddhism by Nagasena or Nagarjuna (described in Milindapanho or The Question of Milinda).
The Greeks were the first to issue gold coins in India.

The Shakas or Scythians (90 BC)

The Greeks were followed by the Shakas, who controlled a larger part of India than the Greek did.
There were 5 branches of the Shakas with their seats of power in different parts of India and Afghanistan.
A king of Ujjain,who called himself Vikramaditya defeated Shakas in 58 BC and started Vikrama Samvat.
The most famous Shaka ruler in India was Rudradaman (AD 130-AD 150).He is famous for the repairs of Sudrashana lake in Kathiawar.His inscription was the Junagarh inscription.

The Parthiians/Pahalvas (1st BC-AD1st)

Originally,they lived in Iran,invaded at the beginning of Christian era,from where they moved to India.In comparison to Greeks and Shakas,they occupied only a small portion in North-West India in the first century.
The most famous Parthian King was Gondophernes (AD 19-45),in whose reign St Thomas is said to have come to India for the propagation of Christianity.

The Kushans (AD 45)

Came from North Central Asia near China.Their empire included a good part of Central Asia,a portion of Iran,a portion of Afghanistan,Pakistan and almost the whole of North India.
Kanishka was the most famous king. He patronized the following persons.
Ashwaghosha (wrote ‘Buddhacharita’, which is the biography of Buddha and ‘Sutralankar’) Nagarjuna (wrote ‘Madhyamik Sutra’).
Vasumitra Charak (a physician,wrote ‘Sasurta’).
Kanishka was the most famous Kushan ruler. He is known in history because of 2 reasons,
(a) He started an era in AD 78,which is now known as Saka era and is used by the Government of India.
(b) He extended his whole-hearted patronage to Buddhism (held a Buddhist Council in Kashmir).
Some of the successors of Kanishka bore typical Indian names as Vasudeva.


The Shunga Dynasty (185 BC-73 BC)

Pushyamitra founded this dynasty. His dominions extended to South as far as the Narmada river and included the cities of Patliputra,Ayodhya and Vidisha.
The fifth king was Bhagabhadra,to whose court Heliodoros,the Greek ambassador visited.
A Shunga king,Agnimitra was the hero of Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitram.
This period saw the revival of Bhagnatism.
Patanjali’s classic Mahabhashya was written at this time.
Pushyamitra defeated the Bactrian,Dematrius.
Last ruler-Devabhuti.

The Kanva Dynasty (73 BC-28 BC)

The founder of this short-lived dynasty was Vasudeva,who killed the last Sunga king Devabhuti.
They were swept away by Satavahanas of the Deccan.

The Satavahanas (60 BC-AD 225)

They were the successors of the Mauryans in the Deccan and the Central India.
Important king was Gautamiputra Satakarni (AD 106-AD 130) who raised the power and the prestige of Satavahanas to greater heights.He set up his capital at Paithan on the bank of the river Godavari in Aurangabad district.
1st evidence of land grants to Brahmins was found (started by Satvahanas).
Satavahanas built Nagarjunakonda Stupa and Amaravati Stupa.


Mostly issued lead coins (apart from copper and bronze).
Acted as a bridge between the North and the South India.
Satavahana rulers called themselves Brahmins. Performed vedic rituals and worshipped Gods like Krishna, Vasudeva and others. However, they also promoted Buddhism by granting land to the monks.
The 2 common religious constructions were the Buddhist temple that was called ‘Chaitya’ and the monastries,which was called ‘Vihara’. The most famous Chaitya is that of Karle in West Deccan,others were Nasik and Kanheri.
Amravati and Nagarjunakonda were the famous stupas built in the period of Satvahanas.
Their district was called ‘Ahara’, as it was in Ashoka’s time.
Their officials were known as ‘Amayas’ and ‘Mahamatras’, as they were known in Mauryan times.


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