In this series of posts, we focus on different dynasties in ancient and medieval History. We will know about their geographical spread, important rulers, their achievements and contributions. In this post, we focus on the Maurya Dynasty.
Period of the Mauryas
The reign of Maurya empire is said to be from 321 BC to 181 BC. Their capital city was Pataliputra (present day Patna).
The notable Maurya rulers include:
- Chandragupta Maurya
As you can see the Mauryan empire was founded by Chandragupta in 321 BC and the last Mauryan king was Brihadratha who was killed by his General Pushyamitra Sunga in 181 BC. Thus 181 BC is taken to be the end of Mauryan dynasty.
Extent of the Mauryan Empire
By far, the Mauryan empire during Ashoka’s reign was the largest empire in Indian history, even surpassing Akbar’s territorial extent. To its west, it even included present day Afghanistan and to the east, it included present day Bhutan and Bangladesh. It covered almost the entire south India except for some parts of present day Tamil Nadu.
The map of Mauryan Empire during Ashoka’s reign is shown below:
- He overthrew the last Nanda ruler, Dhanananda
- He defeated Alexander’s Greek governor Selecus Nicator who entered into a treaty with Chandragupta and also gifted him 500 elephants
- Megasthenes was the ambassador of Selecus Nicator at Chandragupta’s court. Indica is Megasthene’s account of India and Mauryan rule during Chandragupta
- His royal advisor was Kautilya or Chankya who wrote the book Arthashastra
- He embraced Jainism and accompanied by Bhadrabahu, went to Shravanbelagola near Mysore and ended his life by undertaking Sallekhana (death by fasting)
- He was the son of Chandragupta
- The Greeks called him Amitrochates
- During his reign, Kalinga (in present day Orissa) remained unconquered
By far, the most important Maurya Emperor was Ashoka. The territorial expanse reached its greatest extent under him.
- The Ashokan rock edicts contain inscriptions that are commandments to his subjects and moral preachings
- There are 14 major rock edicts and many minor rock edicts. The 13th rock edict depicts Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism
- He converted to Buddhism following deep remorse felt over the killings in the Kalinga war. Kalinga (in Orissa) was retained by Ashoka following the war
- The 3rd Buddhist council was held in 251 BC during his reign at Pataliputra and presided over by Mogaliputta Tissa
- He sent his daughter Sanghamitra and son Mahendra on friendly mission to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on the request of Ceylonese king Devanampiya Tissa carrying with them a branch of the sacred Bodhi (Pipal) tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment
- The Cholas, Pandyas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras are mentioned in Ashokan rock inscriptions along with the people of Tamraparni (Sri Lanka)
- The Ashokan rock inscriptions are in Brahmi script and were first deciphered by James Princep in 1837
- The emblem of the modern Republic of India is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka which was originally placed atop the Ashoka pillar at Sarnath. The Ashoka Chakra or Dhamma Chakra which is a wheel with 24 spokes, depicting continuous progress, has been adopted on the national flag of India
I hope you found this description of the Mauryan empire useful. Please leave a comment below to know more about other important historical dynasties.