History for IAS – Extent of Mauryan Empire

In the previous post, we saw the family tree of the Mauryan dynasty. In this post we will explore the reign of its three major rulers – Chandragupta, Bindusara and Ashoka. I have highlighted the important points that you should remember while preparing for Prelims as questions are likely to be asked on these aspects.

Source books are India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma and TMH GS Manual

Mauryan Empire (321-185 BC)

Two major source materials:

  1. Arthashastra by Kautilya or Chanakya, Chandragupta’s Prime Minister and ex-Minister of the Nandas
  2. Indica by Megasthenes, Ambassador of Seleucus Nicator at the court of Chandragupta Maurya

Mauryan Conquests

Chandragupta Maurya

  •  Founder of the Mauryan dynasty
  • Conspired with Chanakya or Kautilya, Minister of Nandas, to overthrow the last of the Nanda Kings and occupy their capital Pataliputra
  • Ascended the throne in 321 BC
  • He was a contemporary of Alexander
  • He negotiated with Seleucus Nicator, the Greek viceroy of Alexander and forced him to concede eastern Afghanistan, Baluchistan and area west of the Indus river
  • Seleucus also sent an Ambassador, Megasthenes, to the court of Chandragupta Maurya
  • Chandragupta conquered the whole of India except for present-day Tamil Nadu, Kerala and parts of northern India
  • His conquest of Saurashtra or Kathiawad in the extreme West is attested in the Junagarh rock inscription.
  • His Viceroy or Governor, Pushyagupta, constructed the famous Sudarshana lake
  • His religious leanings were towards Jainism
  • The machinations of Chanakya against Chandragupta’s enemies are described in Mudrarakshasa, a drama written by Visakhadutta in the 9th Century AD.

Bindusara

  • Son of Chandragupta. Ascended the throne in 297 BC
  • As per classical sources, he is referred to as Amitrochates and was in contact with the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus I
  • He was a follower of the Ajivika sect

Ashoka

  • He ascended the throne in 268 BC
  • After the conquest of Kalinga in present-day Orissay, during the eighth year of his reign, he felt extreme remorse at the loss of thousands of lives and renunciated war and conquest and embraced Buddhism and actively spread the policy of Dhamma throughout his empire and outside
  • His conquest of Kalinga is described in the XIIIth Rock Edict
  • The extent of his reign and his policy of Dhamma can be understood from his 14 Major Rock Edicts, 7 Pillar Edicts and some Minor Rock inscriptions

The Magadh Empire reached its greatest territorial expansion under Ashoka and included Bengal to the east, the entire India except territories of Cholas, Pandyas, Keralaputras and Satyaputras to the south. It also included present-day Afghanistan.

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