The most valuable account has been left by Megasthenes, ambassador of Seleukas to the
court of Chandragupta Maurya. His original work ‘Indica’ is unfortunately lost. But few
extracts from his work have been extensively found incorporated in the writings of many subsequent Greek and Roman writers.
It is the foremost among all the foreign accounts regarding the Mauryans.
He has described the different aspects of Indian life including the administration of the State, local administration, life of the king, etc.
It refers to Mauryan administration, the 7 caste system, absence of slavery and usuryin India, etc.
It contains his description of the capital city, Pataliputra, which ranges fromdescribing the business of the streets, to the peace and tranquillity
in the city’s roya
It contains the personal life of the emperor, his magnificence, splendour andgrandeur, the royal court, the administration, and the contemporary social life.
ART AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL REMAINS
Archaeological excavations have been conducted at a number of Mauryan sites. Excavationsat Kaushambi, Rajagriha, Pataliputra, Hastinapur, and Taxila have helped us to reconstructthe historical development of the period. The Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) wasthe common pottery type used throughout the Mauryan Empire with the exception of southernmost areas. Inscriptions are the most important and authentic sources of Mauryanhistory. The inscriptions have been engraved on rocks, caves, pillars, etc.Art remains include the remains of the Mauryan Stupas, Viharas, and the animal capitalssurmounting the pillars on some of which the edicts were inscribed. These remains give us aninformation about the material used at that time about the craftsmanship, about the peacefultimes, efficient administration, religion of the king and people, etc. From these stupas, pillars,caves we can see the progress of Mauryan art in different spheres like architecture, sculpture,art of polishing, engineering and art of ornamentation.
The most authentic source of Mauryan history is the epigraphical evidence. The edicts of Ashoka are the oldest, the best preserved and the most precisely dated epigraphic records of India. The edicts are inscribed on rocks, boulders, cave walls and pillars of stone.
The inscriptions were deciphered by James Princep in 1837 and identified king ‘Piyadassi’ of
the edicts with Ashoka which provided the link for the new and correct identification of Ashoka as the author of the edicts. Ashokan inscriptions are written in Brahmi and Kharoshtiscript and the language used is Prakrit. Asoka's inscriptions are of two types:
The smaller group consists of the declarations of the king as a lay Buddhist, whichdescribe his own acceptance of Buddhism and his relationship with the Sangha.
The second group of important inscriptions, described as proclamations (Sasanas),consisting of the Major and Minor Rock Edicts and the Pillar Edicts describe his famous policy of Dhamma.