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Encyclopedia > Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya (ruled 322298 BC), known to the Greeks as Sandracottus, was the first emperor of the Mauryan empire. Alexander's invasion prompted Indians to develop a centralized state, and Chandragupta came to rule much of North India. As a youth he was driven into exile by his kinsman, the reigning king of Magadha. In the course of his wanderings he met Alexander the Great and, according to Plutarch (Alexander, cap. 62), encouraged him to invade the Ganges kingdom by capitalizing on the extreme unpopularity of the reigning monarch. During his exile he collected a large force of the warlike clans of the northwest frontier, and on the death of Alexander attacked the Macedonian garrisons and conquered the Punjab. He next attacked Magadha, dethroned and slew the king, his enemy, with every member of his family, and established himself on the throne in 321 BC. He increased the great army acquired from his predecessor until it reached a total of 30,000 cavalry, 9,000 elephants, and 600,000 infantry; and with this huge force he overran all northern India, establishing his empire from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal.


Chandragupta Maurya's origins are shrouded in mystery. Having been brought up by peacock tamers, he could have been of a low caste birth. According to other sources, Chandragupta Maurya was the son of a Nanda prince and a dasi called Mura. It is also possible that Chandragupta was of the Maurya tribe of Kshatriyas, a clan of Hindu kings and warriors.


He rose to power under the influence of a famed Hindu minister named Chanakya (Kautilya), also known as the Indian Machiavelli. With his assistance, Maurya overthrew the last of the Nanda kings of Magadha and captured their capital city of Pataliputra. He then turned his attention to northwestern India where a power vacuum had been left by the departure of Alexander. He conquered the lands east of the Indus River and then, moving south, took over much of what is now Central India. The way in which he carried himself and the way he ruled is in some ways similar to that of Alexander. The year 305 BC saw Chandragupta back in the northwest where Seleucus I Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of Babylonia, was threatening to begin fresh invasions. Chandragupta not only stopped his advance but forced him to a humiliating peace in 303 BC and pushed the frontier of his empire farther west into what is now Afghanistan. Apparently a settlement was reached between the two monarchs by which Seleucus exchanged territory for 500 of Chandragupta's war elephants. It included a matrimonial alliance of some kind between the two kingdoms, and Nicator's dispatch of an ambassador, Megasthenes, to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra.


The most important result of this treaty was that Chandragupta's fame spread far and wide and his empire was recognized as a great power in the western countries. The kings of Egypt and Syria sent ambassadors to the Mauryan Court.


Toward the end of his life he renounced his throne and became an ascetic under the Jain saint Bhadrabahu, ending his days in self-starvation [1].


Chandragupta Maurya's son Bindusara became the new Mauryan Emperor by inheriting an empire that included the Hindu Kush, Narmada, Vindhyas, Mysore, Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Baluchistan, and Afghanistan.


Mauryan Empire

The Mauryan empire owes its name to the house of the Mauryas, under whose rule the Indian subcontinent saw, for the first time in history, a considerable degree of political unity. The Mauryan empire was very strong and independent and lasted until 187 BC. Everything started at the Mauryan capital, Pataliputra (present day Patna), the chief city of the old kingdom of Magadha.


The economy, in all its important aspects, was controlled by the state, and mines, forests, large farms, munitions, and spinning industries were state owned and managed. The people were divided into seven endogamous groups--"philosophers", peasants, herdsmen, traders, soldiers, government officials, and councilors. The army was composed of the four traditional Indian divisions: forces mounted on elephants, on chariots, cavalry, and infantry, and tended to be large (Chandragupta's forces reputedly numbered 600,000 men). The religious life of the empire may perhaps best be characterized as pluralistic.


Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, the Ajivikas, and wandering mendicants of other types all seem to have coexisted side by side. The general religious policy of the Mauryas seems to have encouraged tolerance. Today, the Mauryan Empire is considered one of the most important periods of Indian history, a time when the region was politically united and independent. [2]


Mauryan Administration

Maurya empire was the first truly large and powerful centralized state in India. It was very efficiently governed, with tempered autocracy at the top and democracy at the city and village levels. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador at the court of Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra, had expressed his admiration for the efficient administration of the empire. His travelogue Indica is a collection of comments of other Roman and Greek travelers. Megasthenes wrote about the prosperity of the Mauryan cities, reporting that agriculture was healthy, water abundant, and mineral wealth plentiful. Speaking of the general prosperity, Megasthenes wrote, "The Indians, dressed in bright and rich colors, they liberally used ornaments and gems." He also spoke of the division of society according to occupation and the large number of religious sects and foreigners in the empire. Although only fragments of his book are available to us, his account supplements the information provided by the Arthashastra and the other literary sources about governance and social life during the Maurya period.

Preceded by:Nanda dynasty
of Magadha
Mauryan rulers
Chandragupta Maurya
Succeeded by:
Bindusara

External link

  • 1911encyclopedia.org article on Chandragupta Maurya (http://46.1911encyclopedia.org/C/CH/CHANDRAGUPTA_MAURYA.htm)

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