Mauryan Empire

The Mauryan Empire, which formed around 321 B.C.E. and ended in 185 B.C.E. was the first pan-Indian empire, an empire that covered most of the Indian region. The Mauryan Empire’s first leader, Chandragupta Maurya, started consolidating land as Alexander the Great’s power began to wane. After crowning himself king, Chandragupta took additional lands through force and by forming alliances. Chandragupta’s chief minister Kaustalya advised Chandragupta and contributed to the empire’s legacy. Chandragupta’s government closely resembled the government described in the Arthashastra. Bindusara, Chandragupta’s son, assumed the throne around 300 B.C.E. He kept the empire running smoothly while maintaining its lands. Bindusara’s son, Ashoka, was the third leader of the Mauryam Empire. Ashoka left his mark on history by erecting large stone pillars inscribed with edicts that he issued. After the kalinga war Ashoka reevaluated his commitment to expanding the empire and instead turned to Buddhism and its tenet of nonviolence. Many of his edicts encouraged people to give up violence and live in peace with each other-two important Buddhist principals. After Ashoka’s death, his family continued to reign, but the empire began to break apart. Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings. He was succeeded by Dasharatha Maurya, who was Ashoka’s grandson. None of Ashoka’s sons could ascend the throne after him. Mahendra, his first born, was on to spread Buddhism in the world. Kunala Maurya was blind hence couldn’t ascend the throne and Tivala, son of Kaurwaki, died even earlier than Ashoka. Another son, Jalauka, does not have much story behind him. The empire lost many territories under Dasharatha, which were later reconquered by Samprati, Kunala’s son. Post Samprati, the Mauryas slowly lost many territories. The last of the Mauryas, Brihadratha, was assassinated by his commander in chief-a man named Pushyamrita who went on to found the Shunga Dynasty-in 185 B.C.E. The Empire was divided into four provinces, with the imperial capital at Pataliputra. From Ashokan edicts, the names of the four provincial capitals are Tosali, Ujjain,Suvarnagiri, and Taxila. The head of the provincial administration was the Kumara who governed the provinces as king’s representative. The kumara was assisted by Mahamatyas and council of ministers. Coins were mostly made of silver and copper. Certain gold coins were in circulation as well. The coins were widely used for trade and commerce. Farmers were freed of tax and crop collection burdens from regional kings, paying instead to a nationally administered and strict-but-fair system of taxation as advised by the principles in the Arthashastra. Chandragupta Maurya established a single currency across India, and a network of regional governors and administrators and a civil service provided justice and security for merchants, farmers and traders. The Mauryan army wiped out many gangs of bandits, regional private armies, and powerful chieftains who sought to impose their own supremacy in small areas. Although regimental in revenue collection, Maurya also sponsored many public works and waterways to enhance productivity, while internal trade in India expanded greatly due to new-found political unity and internal peace. The Mauryan empire was an efficient and highly organized autocracy with a standing army and civil service. The decline of the Maurya Dynasty was rather rapid after the death of Ashoka. One obvious reason for it was the succession of weak kings. Another immediate cause was the partition of the Empire into two. Had not the partition taken place, the Greek invasions could have been held back giving a chance to the Mauryas to re-establish some degree of their previous power.