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The Maurya Dynasty India

  • Ancient India was ruled by the Maurya dynasty from 322–185 BCE. Originating from the kingdom of Magadha, the empire had its capital city at Patna. Chandragupta Maurya founded the Empire in 322 BCE after overthrowing the Nanda Dynasty. The empire had completely occupied Northwestern India by 316 BCE. After that Chandragupta defeated Seleucus I, a Macedonian general from Alexander's army, occupying more territory west of the Indus River.
  • The Maurya Empire was the biggest ever in the Indian subcontinent. At its peak, the empire stretched to the west into Baluchistan, to the east into Assam, to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan. The emperors Bindusara and Chandragupta expanded the Empire into India's central and southern regions. After the end of Ashoka's rule, the Empire declined for about 50 years and it dissolved in 185 BCE with the establishment of the Sunga Dynasty in Magadha.
  • Agriculture and economic activities, internal and external trade, all expanded and thrived across India under Chandragupta and his successors, due to security, administration, and the creation of a single and efficient system of finance. Under Ashoka the Empire experienced about half a century of security and peace. Mauryan India also enjoyed a period of religious transformation, social harmony, and growth of the sciences and knowledge. Ashoka spread Buddhism into Mediterranean Europe, West Asia, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.

History

Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya

  • Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya Empire with the help of Chanakya, a Brahman teacher. As per many legends, Chanakya traveled to Magadha and was insulted by its king Dhana Nanda of the Nanda Dynasty. Chanakya made a decision to take revenge and vowed to raze the Nanda Empire. After the death of Alexander in Babylon in 323 BCE, his empire fragmented.

Conquest of Magadha

  • Chanakya convinced Chandragupta Maurya to take control of the throne of Magadha. Chandragupta gathered a large number of young men from Magadha as well as other provinces and accumulated resources for his army to fight prolonged battles.
  • To invade Pataliputra, Maurya announced a battle. The Magadhan army was shifted from the city to a battlefield. Maurya's spies and Generals bribed the corrupt Generals of Nanda. He created an environment of civil war in the kingdom. Chanakya won popular sentiment. Eventually Nanda resigned, handed over power to Chandragupta, went into self imposed exile and was never heard of again. Chandragupta Maurya was installed as the new King of Magadha and Chanakya became an elder statesman.

Chandragupta Maurya

  • Chandragupta launched a campaign against the Macedonians when an attempt was made to reconquer the northwestern parts of India in 305 BCE. A marital treaty was concluded, according to which the Greeks offered their Princess for alliance and help. Chandragupta seized the satrapies of Paropamisade, Arachosia and Gedrosia, and Seleucus I got 500 war elephants to fight against western Hellenistic kings at the Battle of Ipsus. Diplomatic relations were established and a number of Greeks, such as the historian Dionysius, Deimakos and Megasthenes lived at the Mauryan court.

Bindusara

  • Bindusara was the son of Chandragupta Maurya and his queen Durdhara. As per a legend, Chandragupta's advisor Chanakya used to feed Chandragupta with small doses of poison in order to build his resistance against possible poisoning by the enemies. One day, Chandragupta who was unaware about poison, shared his food with his queen Durdhara who was 7 days away from delivery. The queen was not immune to the poison and therefore died within few minutes. To save the baby in the womb, Chanakya instantly cut open the dead queen's belly and took out the baby, but a drop of poison had already touched its head because of which baby got a permanent bluish spot (a "bindu") on his forehead. Therefore, the baby was named "Bindusara".
  • Bindusara inherited a huge empire which consisted of Eastern, Central and Northern parts of India together with parts of Baluchistan and Afghanistan. Bindusara extended this empire to Karnataka. Bindusara did not conquer the friendly Dravidian kingdoms of Cheras, the Pandyas and the Cholas.
  • Bindusara's life hasn’t been documented as nicely as that of his son Ashoka or of his father Chandragupta. The citizens of Taxila revolted two times during his rule. The maladministration of his eldest son, Suseema was the reason for the first revolt. The reason for the second revolt is not known, but Bindusara failed to suppress it in his lifetime. After his death, it was crushed by Ashoka.
  • Bindusara died in 272 BCE. His son Ashoka succeeded him.

Ashoka

  • Ashok was son of Bindusara and grandson of Chandragupta. Ashoka crushed revolts in Taxila and Ujjain. His conquest of Kalinga changed his life. Although Ashoka's army achieved success in defeating Kalinga forces, an estimated 100,000 people were killed in the fierce war, including more than 10,000 of Ashoka's own men. Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by the fallout and destruction of war. When he personally saw the destruction, Ashoka started feeling regret. Although the seizure of Kalinga was completed, Ashoka embraced Buddhism, and renounced violence and war. He sent missionaries to spread Buddhism to other countries.
  • Ashoka applied principles of ahinsa by banning violent sports and hunting activities. Although he kept a large army, to maintain authority, Ashoka developed friendly relations with states across Europe and Asia. Due to more than 40 years of prosperity, harmony and peace, Ashoka was among the most famous and successful monarchs in Indian history.


Decline

  • Weaker kings followed Ashoka by succession for 50 years. Brihadrata was the last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty.

Sunga coup (185 BCE)

  • In 185 BCE Brihadrata was assassinated by the commander-in-chief of his guard, Brahman General Pushyamitra Sunga, who then took over the throne and founded the Sunga dynasty. The assassination of Brihadrata and the rise of the Sunga Empire resulted in religious persecution of Buddhists and revival of Hinduism.