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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
  • Literary Sources

    • Kautilya’s Arthasastra

      • 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
    • Visakadatta’s Mudrarakshasa

      • 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’ Indica

      • 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
    • Other Literature

      • 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.
  • Archaeological Sources

    • 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

  • Extend of Mauryan 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’s Dhamma

      • 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.
    • Later Mauryas

      • 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
    • Mauryan Administration

      • Central Government
        • triumph of monarchy in India
        • Other systems like republics and oligarchies that were prevalent in the pre-Mauryan India had collapsed.
      • Kautilya administration

        • 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.
    • Revenue Department

      • 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.
    • Army

      • 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

      • 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

      • 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
    • Stupas

      • stupa of Sanchi It was originally built with bricks but later enlarged after the time of Asoka.
    • Caves

      • 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