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The Maurya Empire

The Maurya Empire

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Published by: bansalekansh on Oct 04, 2009
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 The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive and powerful empire in ancient India, ruledby the Mauryan dynasty from 321 to 185 BC.Originating from the kingdom of Magadha in the Indo-Gangetic plains (modern Bihar, easternUttar Pradesh and Bengal) in the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, the empire had itscapital city at Pataliputra (modern Patna). The Empire was founded in 322 BC by ChandraguptaMaurya, who had overthrown the Nanda Dynasty and rapidly expanded his power westwardsacross central and western India taking advantage of the disruptions of local powers in thewake of the withdrawal westward by Alexander the Great's Greek and Persian armies. By 320BC the empire had fully occupied Northwestern India, defeating and conquering the satraps leftby Alexander.At its greatest extent, the Empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of theHimalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it reached beyondmodern Pakistan, annexing Balochistan and much of what is now Afghanistan, including themodern Herat and Kandahar provinces. The Empire was expanded into India's central andsouthern regions by the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded a small portionof unexplored tribal and forested regions near Kalinga (modern Orissa). The Mauryan Empire was one of the largest empires to rule the Indian subcontinent. Its declinebegan fifty years after Ashoka's rule ended, and it dissolved in 185 BC with the foundation of the Sunga Dynasty in Magadha.Under Chandragupta, the Mauryan Empire conquered the trans-Indus region, which was underMacedonian rule. Chandragupta then defeated the invasion led by Seleucus I, a Greek generalfrom Alexander's army. Under Chandragupta and his successors, both internal and externaltrade, and agriculture and economic activities, all thrived and expanded across India thanks tothe creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration and security. After theKalinga War, the Empire experienced half a century of peace and security under Ashoka: Indiawas a prosperous and stable empire of great economic and military power whose politicalinfluence and trade extended across Western and Central Asia and Europe. Mauryan India alsoenjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the sciences andof knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased social and religiousrenewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism was thefoundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashokasponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia andMediterranean Europe.Chandragupta's minister Kautilya Chanakya wrote the Arthashastra, one of the greatesttreatises on economics, politics, foreign affairs, administration, military arts, war, and religionever produced in the India. Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls intothe era of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW). The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka areprimary sources of written records of the Mauryan times. The Mauryan empire is consideredone of the most significant periods in Indian history. The Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath, is theemblem of India.
Alexander set up a Greek-Macedonian garrison and satrapies (vassal states) in the trans-Indusregion of modern day Pakistan, ruled previously by kings Ambhi of Taxila and Porus of Pauravas(modern day Jhelum).
Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya
 The court of Chandragupta Maurya, especially Chanakya, played an important part in thefoundation and governance of the Maurya dynasty.Following Alexander's advance into the Punjab, a brahmin named Chanakya (real nameVishnugupt, also known as Kautilya) traveled to Magadha, a kingdom that was large andmilitarily-powerful and feared by its neighbors, but was dismissed by its king Dhana, of theNanda Dynasty. However, the prospect of battling Magadha deterred Alexander's troops fromgoing further east: he returned to Babylon, and re-deployed most of his troops west of the1
Indus river. When Alexander died in Babylon, soon after in 323 BCE, his empire fragmented,and local kings declared their independence, leaving several smaller satraps in a disunitedstate. Chandragupta Maurya deposed Dhana. The Greek generals Eudemus, and Peithon, ruleduntil around 316 BCE, when Chandragupta Maurya (with the help of Chanakya, who was nowhis advisor) surprised and defeated the Macedonians and consolidated the region under thecontrol of his new seat of power in Magadha.Chandragupta Maurya's rise to power is shrouded in mystery and controversy. On the onehand, a number of ancient Indian accounts, such as the drama Mudrarakshasa (Poem of Rakshasa - Rakshasa was the prime minister of Magadha) by Visakhadatta, describe his royalancestry and even link him with the Nanda family. A kshatriya tribe known as the Maurya's arereferred to in the earliest Buddhist texts, Mahaparinibbana Sutta. However, any conclusions arehard to make without further historical evidence. Chandragupta first emerges in Greekaccounts as "Sandrokottos". As a young man he is said to have met Alexander.[4] He is alsosaid to have met the Nanda king, angered him, and made a narrow escape.[5] Chanakya'soriginal intentions were to train a guerilla army under Chandragupta's command. TheMudrarakshasa of Visakhadutta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvatka, sometimes identified with Porus (Sir John Marshall "Taxila", p18, and al.) This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a compositeand powerful army made up of Yavanas (Greeks), Kambojas, Shakas (Scythians), Kiratas(Nepalese), Parasikas (Persians) and Bahlikas (Bactrians)[6][7][8].With the help of these frontier martial tribes from Central Asia, Chandragupta was able todefeat the Nanda/Nandin rulers of Magadha and found the powerful Maurya empire in northernIndia.
Conquest of Magadha
Chanakya encouraged Chandragupta Maurya and his army to take over the throne of Magadha.Using his intelligence network, Chandragupta gathered many young men from across Magadhaand other provinces, men upset over the corrupt and oppressive rule of king Dhana, plusresources necessary for his army to fight a long series of battles. These men included theformer general of Taxila, other accomplished students of Chanakya, the representative of KingPorus of Kakayee, his son Malayketu, and the rulers of small states.Preparing to invade Pataliputra, Maurya hatched a plan. A battle was announced and theMagadhan army was drawn from the city to a distant battlefield to engage Maurya's forces.Maurya's general and spies meanwhile bribed the corrupt general of Nanda. He also managedto create an atmosphere of civil war in the kingdom, which culminated in the death of the heirto the throne. Chanakya managed to win over popular sentiment. Ultimately Nanda resigned,handing power to Chandragupta, and went into exile and was never heard of again. Chanakyacontacted the prime minister, Rakshasas, and made him understand that his loyalty was toMagadha, not to the Magadha dynasty, insisting that he continue in office. Chanakya alsoreiterated that choosing to resist would start a war that would severely affect Magadha anddestroy the city. Rakshasa accepted Chanakya's reasoning, and Chandragupta Maurya waslegitimately installed as the new King of Magadha. Rakshasa became Chandragupta's chief advisor, and Chanakya assumed the position of an elder statesman.
Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta was again in conflict with the Greeks when Seleucus I, ruler of the SeleucidEmpire, tried to reconquer the northwestern parts of India, during a campaign in 305 BCE, butfailed. The two rulers finally concluded a peace treaty: a marital treaty (Epigamia) wasconcluded, implying either a marital alliance between the two dynastic lines or a recognition of marriage between Greeks and Indians, Chandragupta received the satrapies of Paropamisade(Kamboja and Gandhara), Arachosia (Kandhahar) and Gedrosia (Balochistan), and Seleucus Ireceived 500 war elephants that were to have a decisive role in his victory against westernHellenistic kings at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE. Diplomatic relations were established and2
several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, Deimakos and Dionysius resided at theMauryan court.Chandragupta established a strong centralized state with a complex administration atPataliputra, which, according to Megasthenes, was "surrounded by a wooden wall pierced by 64gates and 570 towers— (and) rivaled the splendors of contemporaneous Persian sites such asSusa and Ecbatana." Chandragupta's son Bindusara extended the rule of the Mauryan empiretowards southern India. He also had a Greek ambassador at his court, named Deimachus .Megasthenes describes a disciplined multitude under Chandragupta, who live simply, honestly,and do not know writing:" The Indians all live frugally, especially when in camp. They dislike a great undisciplinedmultitude, and consequently they observe good order. Theft is of very rare occurrence.Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein lay 400,000 men,found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundreddrachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws, but are ignorant of writing, andmust therefore in all the business of life trust to memory. They live, nevertheless, happilyenough, being simple in their manners and frugal. They never drink wine except at sacrifices. Their beverage is a liquor composed from rice instead of barley, and their food is principally arice-pottage." Strabo XV. i. 53-56, quoting Megasthenes[11]
Chandragupta's grandson was Ashokavardhan Maurya, better known as Ashoka the Great(ruled 273- 232 BCE).As a young prince, Ashoka was a brilliant commander who crushed revolts in Ujjain and Taxila.As monarch he was ambitious and aggressive, re-asserting the Empire's superiority in southernand western India. But it was his conquest of Kalinga which proved to be the pivotal event of his life. Although Ashoka's army succeeded in overwhelming Kalinga forces of royal soldiersand civilian units, an estimated 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the furious warfare,including over 10,000 of Ashoka's own men. Hundreds of thousands of people were adverselyaffected by the destruction and fallout of war. When he personally witnessed the devastation,Ashoka began feeling remorse, and he cried 'what have I done?'. Although the annexation of Kalinga was completed, Ashoka embraced the teachings of Gautama Buddha, and renouncedwar and violence. For a monarch in ancient times, this was an historic feat.Ashoka implemented principles of ahimsa by banning hunting and violent sports activity andending indentured and forced labor (many thousands of people in war-ravaged Kalinga hadbeen forced into hard labor and servitude). While he maintained a large and powerful army, tokeep the peace and maintain authority, Ashoka expanded friendly relations with states acrossAsia and Europe, and he sponsored Buddhist missions. He undertook a massive public worksbuilding campaign across the country. Over 40 years of peace, harmony and prosperity madeAshoka one of the most successful and famous monarchs in Indian history. He remains anidealized figure of inspiration in modern India. The Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, are found throughout the Subcontinent. Ranging from as farwest as Afghanistan and as far south as Andhra (Nellore District), Ashoka's edicts state hispolicies and accomplishments. Although predominantly written in Prakrit, two of them werewritten in Greek, and one in both Greek and Aramaic. Ashoka's edicts refer to the Greeks,Kambojas, and Gandharas as peoples forming a frontier region of his empire. They also attestto Ashoka's having sent envoys to the Greek rulers in the West as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts precisely name each of the rulers of the Hellenic world at the time such as Amtiyoko(Antiochus), Tulamaya (Ptolemy), Amtikini (Antigonos), Maka (Magas) and Alikasudaro(Alexander) as recipients of Ashoka's proselytism. The Edicts also accurately locate theirterritory "600 yojanas away" (a yojanas being about 7 miles), corresponding to the distancebetween the center of India and Greece (roughly 4,000 miles).

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