The Mauryan Empire
THE MAURYAN EMPIRE
- For the first time, the political unity was achieved in India
- history writing has also become clear from this period due to accuracy in chronology and sources
- Written in Sanskrit
- Kautilya was also called ‘Indian Machiavelli’.
- The manuscript of Arthasastra was first discovered by R. Shama Sastri in 1904
- The Arthasastra contains 15 books and 180 chapters but it can be divided into three parts:
- deals with the king and his council and the departments of government;
- civil and criminal law; and the
- third with diplomacy and war
- It is a drama in Sanskrit.
- Although written during the Gupta period, it describes how Chandragupta with the assistance of Kautilya overthrew the Nandas.
- also gives a picture on the socio-economic condition under the Mauryas.
- Megasthenes was the Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
- Indica has survived only in fragments.
- details about the Mauryan administration, particularly the administration of the capital city of Pataliputra and also the military organization.
- Certain unbelievable information provided by him has to be treated with caution
- the Puranas and the Buddhist literature such as Jatakas provide information on the Mauryas
- Ceylonese Chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa throw light on the role Asoka in spreading Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Edicts of Asoka
- inscriptions of Asoka were first deciphered by James Princep in 1837
- written in Pali language
- some places Prakrit was used.
- Brahmi script was employed for writing.
- northwestern India Asokan inscriptions were found in Karoshti script
- There are fourteen Major Rock Edicts.
- two Kalinga Edicts are found in the newly conquered territory
- major pillar Edicts were erected in important cities
- minor Rock Edicts and minor pillar Edicts.
- Edicts of Asoka deal with Asoka’s Dhamma and also instructions given to his officials.
- XIII Rock Edict gives details about his war with Kalinga.
- Pillar Edict VII gives a summary of his efforts to promote the Dhamma within his kingdom.
- Asokan inscriptions remain valuable sources for the study of Asoka and the Mauryan Empire.
POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE MAURYAS
Chandragupta Maurya (322 – 298 B.C.)
- founder of the Mauryan Empire.
- captured Pataliputra from the last ruler of the Nanda dynasty, Dhanananda
- assisted by Kautilya, who was also known as Chanakya or Vishnugupta.
- After firmly establishing his power in the Gangetic valley, he marched to the northwest and subdued the territories up to the Indus.
- moved to central India and occupied the region north of Narmada river
- d occupied the region north of Narmada river. In 305 B.C.,
- he marched against Selukas Niketar, who was Alexander’s General controlling the northwestern India.
- Chandragupta Maurya defeated him and a treaty was signed. By this treaty, Selukas Niketar ceded the trans-Indus territories – namely Aria, Arakosia and Gedrosia – to the Mauryan Empire.
- He also gave his daughter in marriage to the Mauryan prince.
- Megasthenes was sent to the Mauryan court as Greek ambassador.
- Chandragupta embraced Jainism towards the end of his life and stepped down from the throne in favour of his son Bindusara.
- he went to Sravana Belgola, near Mysore along with Jain monks led by Bhadrabhagu and starved himself to death. (Salleghana, Santara)
Bindusara (298 – 273 B.C.)
- Bindusara was called by the Greeks as “Amitragatha” meaning slayer of enemies
- said to have conquered the Deccan up to Mysore.
- Taranatha, the Tibetan monk states that Bindusara conquered 16 states comprising ‘the land between the two seas’.
- Sangam Tamil literature also confirms the Mauryan invasion of the far south
- Bindusara received Deimachus as ambassador from the Syrian king Antiochus I.
- Bindusara wrote to Antiochus I asking for sweet wine, dried figs and a sophist. The latter sent all but a sophist because the Greek law prohibited sending a sophist.
- Bindusara supported the Ajivikas, a religious sect
- Bindusara appointed his son Asoka as the governor of Ujjain.
Asoka the Great (273 – 232 B.C.)
- acted as Governor of Ujjain and also suppressed a revolt in Taxila during his father Bindusara’s reign.
- was an interval of four years between Asoka’s accession to the throne (273 B.C.) and his actual coronation (269 B.C.).
- it appears from the available evidence that there was a struggle for the throne after Bindusara’s death.
- Ceylonese Chronicles, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa state that Asoka captured power after killing his ninety nine brothers including the his elder brother Susima
- youngest brother Tissa was spared.
- according to Taranatha of Tibet, Asoka killed only six of his brothers
- most important event of Asoka’s reign was his victorious war with Kalinga in 261 B.C
- Asoka embraced Buddhism under the influence of Buddhist monk, Upagupta.
Asoka and Buddhism
- Asoka became a Sakya Upasaka (lay dsicple) and two and a half years later, a Bikshu (monk).
- He appointed special officers called Dharma Mahamatras to speed up the progress of Dhamma
- he visited the birth place of Buddha, the Lumbini Garden, near Kapilavastu.
- He also visited other holy places of Buddhism like Sarnath, Sravasti and Kusinagara.
- sent a mission to Sri Lanka under his son Mahendra and daughter Sangamitra who planted there the branch of the original Bodhi tree.
- convened the Third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra in 240 B.C. in order to strengthen the Sangha.
- presided over by Moggaliputta Tissa
Extent of Asoka’s Empire
- Asoka’s inscriptions mention the southernmost kingdoms – Cholas, Pandyas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras – as border-states.
- According to Rajatarangini, Kashmir was a part of the Mauryan Empire.
- Nepal was also within the Mauryan empire
- northwestern frontier was already demarcated by Chandragupta Maurya
- Asoka embraced Buddhism and took efforts to spread Buddhism, his policy of Dhamma was a still broad concept.
- was a way of life, a code of conduct and a set of principles to be adopted and practiced by the people at large
- Dhamma were clearly stated in his Edicts.
main features of Asoka’s Dhamma
- Service to father and mother, practice of ahimsa, love of truth, reverence to teachers and good treatment of relatives
- Prohibition of animal sacrifices and festive gath
- erings and avoiding expensive and meaningless ceremonies and rituals.
- Efficient organization of administration in the direction of social welfare and maintenance of constant contact with people through the system of Dhammayatras
- Humane treatment of servants by masters and prisoners by government officials.
- Consideration and non-violence to animals and courtesy to relations and liberality to Brahmins
- Tolerance among all the religious sects
- Conquest through Dhamma instead of through war.
- he did not equate Dhamma with Buddhist teachings.
- Buddhism remained his personal belief.
- Asoka’s death in 232 B.C. was followed by the division of the Mauryan Empire into two parts – western and eastern.
- western part was ruled by Kunala, son of Asoka and the eastern part by Dasaratha, one of the grand sons of Asoka.
- Due to the Bactrian invasions, the western part of the empire collapsed
- The eastern part was intact under Samprati successor of Dasaratha.
- The last Mauryan king was Brihatratha, who was assassinated by Pushyamitra Sunga
- Central Government
- triumph of monarchy in India
- Other systems like republics and oligarchies that were prevalent in the pre-Mauryan India had collapsed.
- It did not stand for royal absolutism.
- advocated that the king should take the advice of his ministry in running the administration
- a council of ministers called Mantriparishad assisted the king in administrative
- consisted of Purohita, Mahamantri, Senapati and Yuvaraja.
- civil servants called Amatyas to look after the day-to-day administration
- The method of selection of Amatyas was elaborately given by Kautilya
- Asoka appointed Dhamma Mahamatras to supervise the spread of Dhamma.
- Central Government
- Samharta, the chief of the Revenue Department, was in charge of the collection of all revenues of the empire
- revenues came from land, irrigation, customs, shop tax, ferry tax, forests, mines and pastures, license fee from craftsmen, and fines collected in the law courts.
- The land revenue was normally fixed as one sixth of the produce.
- Mauryan army was well organized and it was under the control of Senapati.
- salaries were paid in cash
- Kautilya refers to the salaries of different ranks of military officers
- In addition to these four wings, there were the Navy and Transport and Supply wings.
- Each wing was under the control of Adyakshas or Superintendent
Department of Commerce and Industry
- controlled the retail and wholesale prices of goods and tried to ensure their steady supply through its officers called Adyakshas.
- also controlled weights and measures, levied custom duties and regulated foreign trade.
Judicial and Police Departments
- Kautilya mentions the existence of both civil and criminal courts
- chief justice of the Supreme Court at the capital was called Dharmathikarin
- were also subordinate courts at the provincial capitals and districts under Amatyas
- fines, imprisonment, mutilation and death were given to the offenders.
- Police stations were found in all principal centres.
- Dhamma Mahamatras were asked by Asoka to take steps against unjust imprisonment.
- Census was regular
- details like their caste and occupation
- also to count the animals in each house.
- data collected were cross checked by the spies.
Provincial and Local Administration
- divided into four provinces with their capitals at Taxila, Ujjain, Suvarnagiri and Kalinga
- provincial governors were mostly appointed from the members of royal family
- The district administration was under the charge of Rajukas, whose position and functions are similar to modern collectors
- He was assisted by Yuktas or subordinate officials.
- Village administration was in the hands of Gramani and his official superior was called Gopa who was in charge of ten or fifteen villages
- Both Kautilya and Megasthanes provided the system of Municipal administration
- Arthasastra contains a full chapter on the role of Nagarika or city superintendent.
- Megasthenes refers to the six committees of five members each to look after the administration of Pataliputra. These committees looked after: 1. Industries 2. Foreigners 3. Registration of birth and deaths 4. Trade 5. Manufacture and sale of goods 6. Collection of sales tax.
Mauryan Art and Architecture
- monuments before the period of Asoka were mostly made of wood and therefore perished
- use of stone started from the time of Asoka
- His palace and monasteries and most of his stupas have disappeared
- only remaining stupa is at Sanchi.
- pillars erected by Asoka furnish the finest specimen of the Mauryan art.
- Asokan pillars with inscriptions were found in places like Delhi, Allahabad, Rummindai, Sanchi and Saranath.
- tops were crowned with figures of animals like lion, elephant and bull.
- Saranath pillar with four lions standing back to back is the most magnificent
- stupa of Sanchi It was originally built with bricks but later enlarged after the time of Asoka.
- caves presented to the Ajivikas by Asoka and his son Dasaratha remain important heritage of the Mauryas
- Their interior walls are polished like mirror.
- meant to be residences of monks
- caves at Barabar hills near Bodh Gaya are wonderful pieces of Mauryan architecture.
Causes for the Decline of the Mauryas
- Asoka’s policies and his weak successors.
- inadequate political and economic institutions to sustain such a vast empire.
- Asoka’s pro-Buddhist policies antagonized the Brahmins who brought about a revolution led by Pushyamitra Sunga.
- Asoka’s policy of non-violence reduced the fighting spirit of his army was another charge against him
- partition of empire and administrative abuses after Asoka’s reign
- Pushyamitra Sunga to drive away the Mauryan power and establish the Sunga dynasty