Mauryan Empire

Sources

Mauryan Empire – India’s First Empire

Chandragupta Maurya

The Mauryan Empire was the first largest empire in India.Chandragupta Maurya established the empire in Magadha.
Bhadrabahu,a Jain monk,took Chandragupta Maurya to the southern India
Chandragupta performed Sallekhana(Jaina ritulas in which a person fasts unto his death) in Sravanbelgola (Karnataka).

Bindusara

Real name of Bindusara was Simhasena.He was the son of Chandragupta Maurya.Greeks called Bindusara as Amitragatha, meaning`slayer of enemies ′.During Bindusara’s reign Mauryan Empire spread over large parts of India.He appointed his son Ashoka as a governor of Ujjain.After his death , Ashoka ascended the throne of Magadha.

Ashoka

Ashoka was the most famous of the Mauryan kings.He was known as ‘Devanam piya’ meaning’beloved of the gods’.

Ashoka fought the Kalinga war in 261 BC (BCE).He won the war and captured Kalinga.
The horror of war was described by the king himself in the Rock Edict XIII.

Lion capital of Ashoka

The Emblem of the Indian Republic has been adopted from the Lion capital of one of Ashokas pillars located at Sarnath.The wheel from the circular base,the Ashoka chakra is a part of the National Flag.

Chandasoka (Ashoka,the wicked) to Dhammasoka (Ashoka the ringteous)

After the battle of Kalinga,Ashoka became a Buddhist.He undertook tours ( Dharmayatras) to different parts of the country instructing people on policy of Dhamma.The meaning of Dhamma is explained in Ashoka’s – pillar Edict II
It contained the noblest ideas of humanism,forming the essence of all religions.He laid stress on

  • Compassion
  • Charity
  • Purity
  • Saintliness
  • Self-control
  • Truthfulness
  • Obedience and respect for parents, preceptors and elders.

Ashoka sent his son Mahinda and Sanghamitta to Srilanka to propagate Buddhism.He also sent missionaries to west Asia, Egypt and Eastern Europe to spread the message of Dhamma.The Dhamma – mahamattas were a new cadre of officials created by Ashoka.Their job was to spread dhamma all over the empire.Ashoka held the third Buddhist council at his capital Pataliputra.

Edicts of Ashoka

The 33 Edicts on the pillars as well as boulders and cave walls made by the Emperor Ashoka, describe in detail Ashoka’s belief in peace, righteousness, justice and his concern for the welfare of his people.The Rock Edicts II and XIII of Ashoka refer to the names of the three dynasties namely Pandyas,Cholas ,the Keralaputras and the Sathyaputras.

Mauryan Administration

Centralized administration King

  • The king was the supreme and sovereign authority of the Mauryan Empire.
  • Council of ministers known as mantriparishad assisted the King.Assembly of ministers included a Purohit,a senapathi,a Maha mantri and the Yuvaraja.
  • King had an excellent spy system.

Revenue system

  • The land was the most important source of revenue for the state.Ashokan inscription at Lumbini mentions bali and bagha as taxes collected from people.The land tax(bhaga) collected was 1/6 of the total produce.
  • Revenue from taxes on forests,mines,salt and irrigation provided additional revenue to the government.
  • Much of the state revenue was spent on paying the army,the officials of the royal government,on charities and on different public,road construction etc.

Judical system

  • The king was the head of the Judiciary.He was the highest court of appeal.
  • King appointed many judges subordinate to him.The punishments were harsh.

Military Administration

The king was the supreme commander of the army.A board of 30 members divided into six committees with five members on each,monitored

  • Navy
  • Armoury (transport and supply)
  • Infantry
  • Cavalry
  • The war chariots
  • The war elephants

Municipal Administration (cities and Towns)

  • Board of 30 members divided into six committees.Each had 5 members to manage the administration of the city.
  • Town administration was under Nagarika.He was assisted by Sthanika and Gopa.

Currency

Money was not only used for trade; even the government paid its officers in cash.
The punch marked silver coins (panas) which carry the symbols of the peacock,and the hill and crescent copper coins called Mashakas formed the imperial currency.

Trade and Urbanization

Trade flourished particularly with Greece (Hellenic) Malaya, Ceylon and Burma.The Arthashastra refers to the regions producing specialized textiles-kasi (Benares), Vanga(Bengal),Kamarupa (Assam) and Madurai in Tamilnadu

Mauryan coins

Mauryan Art and Architecture

Mauryan Art can be divided into two

Indigenous Art – statues of Yakshas and Yakshis
Royal Art. – palaces and public buildings
– Monolithic pillars
– Rock cut Architecture
– Stupas

Stupas

Sanchi near Bhopal, MP

A stupa is a semi- spherical dome like structure constructed on brick or stone.The Buddha’s relics were placed in the centre of the dome.

Monolithic pillar – Sarnath

The crowning element in this pillar is Dharma Chakra.

Monolithic pillar – Sarnath

Beginning of Rock cut Architecture

Rock – cut caves of Barabar and Nagarjuna Hills.

Lomas Rishi cave, Barabar

There are several caves to the north of Both Gaya.Three caves in Barabar hills have dedicative inscription of Ashoka. and three in Nagarjuna hills have inscriptions of Dasharaths Maurya ( grand son of Ashoka)

Reasons for the Decline of the Mauryan Empire

  • Ashoka’s successors were very weak
  • Continuous revolts in different parts of the empire.
  • Invasion by the Bactrian Greeks weakened the empire.
  • Invasion by the Bactrian Greeks weakened the empire.
  • Last Maurya ruler Brihadratha was killed by his commander Pushyamitra Sungha who established Sungha dynasty.

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