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The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive Iron

Age historical power in ancient India, ruled by the Maurya
dynasty from 322185 BCE.
Originating from the kingdom of Magadha in the IndoGangetic Plain (modern Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh) in the
eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, the empire had its
capital city at Pataliputra(Modern Patna).
The Empire was founded in 322 BCE by Chandragupta
Maurya, who had overthrown the Nanda Dynasty and
rapidly expanded his power westwards across central and
western India, taking advantage of the disruptions of local
powers in the wake of the withdrawal westward by
Alexander the Greats Hellenic armies. By 316 BCE the
empire had fully occupied Northwestern India, defeating
and conquering the satraps left by Alexander. Chandragupta
then defeated the invasion led by Seleucus I, a Macedonian
general from Alexanders army, gaining additional territory
west of the Indus River.
The Maurya Empire was one of the worlds largest empires
in its time, and the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent.
At its greatest extent, the empire stretched to the north
along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, to the east
into Assam, to the west into Balochistan and the Hindu
Kush mountains of Afghanistan.

The Empire was expanded into Indias central and southern

regions by the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but
it excluded a small portion of unexplored tribal and
forested regions near Kalinga (modern Odisha), until it was
conquered by Ashok.
It declined for about 50 years after Ashokas rule ended,
and it dissolved in 185 BCE with the foundation of the
Sunga Dynasty in Magadha.
The population of the empire has been estimated to be
about 50 60 million making the Mauryan Empire one of
the most populous empires of Antiquity. Archaeologically,
the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era
of Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW).
Rulers of Maurya Dynasty:
Chandragupt 345 298
BC(life span)

320 BC(Reign 298 BC(Reign


320 272 BC
304 232 BC
252 224 BC

298 BC
269 BC
232 BC
224 BC
215 BC
202 BC
195 BC
187 BC

272 BC
232 BC
224 BC
215 BC
202 BC
195 BC
187 BC
185 BC

Expansion of Mauryan State :

(From Left to Right): (1) Magadha state in the 5th century BCE.
(2)The Nanda Empire at its greatest extent under Dhana Nanda
323 BCE(3)The Maurya Empire when it was first founded by
Chandragupta Maurya 320 BCE, after conquering the Nanda
(4)Chandragupta extended the borders of the Maurya Empire
towards Seleucid Persia after defeating Seleucus 305 BCE.
(5)Bindusara extended the borders of the empire southward into
the Deccan Plateau 300 BCE(6)Ashoka extended into Kalinga
during the Kalinga War 265 BCE, and established superiority
over the southern kingdoms.

(1)Chandragupta Maurya: (320BCE-298BCE)

His Background:
Very little is known about Chandraguptas ancestry. What is
known is gathered from later classical Sanskrit literature,
Buddhist Sources as well as classical Greek and Latin
(a)Classical Greek and Latin Sources:
Classical Greek and Latin sources which refer to
Chandragupta by the names Sandracottos or
Plutarch in his book Parallel Lives reports
that Androcottus (Chandraupta) met with Alexander around
Takshasila in the northwest, and that he viewed the ruling
Nanda Empire in a negative light. Chandragupta is also said
to have met the Nanda king, angered him, and made a
narrow escape. According to this text, the encounter would
have happened around 326 BCE, suggesting a birth date for
Chandragupta around 340 BCE.
Plutarch and other Greco-Roman historians appreciated the
gravity of Chandragupta Mauryas conquests. Justin ( a 2nd
century AD Latin historian who lived under the Roman
Empire) describes the humble origins of Chandragupta, and
explains how he later led a popular uprising against the
Nanda king.
(b)Classical Sanskrit Sources:

Chandragupta Mauryas rise to power is shrouded in

Mudrarakshasa (The Signet of the Minister) by
Visakhadatta, describe his royal ancestry and even link him
with the Nanda family. Mudrarakshasa calls him a
Mudrarakshasa uses terms like kula-hina and Vrishala for
Chandraguptas lineage. This means that Chandragupta had
a humble origin.
The Mudrarakshasa (The Signet of the Minister) is a
historical play in Sanskrit by Vishakhadatta that narrates
the ascent of the king Chandragupta Maurya (322BC
298BC) to power in India. Mudrarakshasa is dated
variously at the late 4th century.
The Mudrarakshasa as well as the Jaina work
Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandraguptas alliance with the
Himalayan king Parvatka, sometimes identified with Porus.
(c)Buddhist Sources:
The Buddhist text the Mahavamsa calls Chandragupta a
member of a division of the(Kshatriya) clan called the
Moriya i.e. Mor clan or gotra of Jat people. The
Mahaparinibbana Sutta states that the Moriyas (Mauryas)
Mahavamshatika connects him with the Shakya clan of the
A medieval inscription represents the Maurya clan as
belonging to the solar race of Kshatriya.

Rise of Chandragupta Maurya and Foundation of Maurya

(According to Mudrarakshasa and Greek&Roman Sounces)
The Maurya Empire was founded by Chandragupta
Maurya, with help from Chanakya, a Brahmin teacher at
Takshashila. According to several legends, Chanakya
traveled to Magadha, a kingdom that was large and
militarily powerful and feared by its neighbors, but was
insulted by its king Dhana Nanda, of the Nanda Dynasty.
Chanakya swore revenge and vowed to destroy the Nanda
Chanakya encouraged Chandragupta Maurya and his army
to take over the throne of Magadha. Chanakyas original
intentions were to train a guerilla army under
Chandraguptas command. Using his intelligence network,
Chandragupta gathered many young men from across
Magadha and other provinces, men upset over the corrupt
and oppressive rule of king Dhana Nanda, plus the
resources necessary for his army to fight a long series of
Preparing to invade Pataliputra, Maurya came up with a
strategy. A battle was announced and the Magadhan army
was drawn from the city to a distant battlefield to engage
Mauryas forces. Mauryas general and spies meanwhile
bribed the corrupt general of Nanda. He also managed to
create an atmosphere of civil war in the kingdom, which
culminated in the death of the heir to the throne. Chanakya
managed to win over popular sentiment. Ultimately Nanda

resigned, handing power to Chandragupta, and went into

Chanakya contacted the prime minister, Rakshasas, and
made him understand that his loyalty was to Magadha, not
to the Nanda dynasty, insisting that he continue in
office.Rakshasa accepted Chanakyas reasoning, and
Chandragupta Maurya was legitimately installed as the new
King of Magadha. Rakshasa became Chandraguptas chief
advisor, and Chanakya assumed the position of an elder
Meanwhile, the conquering armies of Alexander the Great
refused to cross the Beas River and advance further
eastward, deterred by the prospect of battling Magadha.
Alexander returned to Babylon and re-deployed most of his
troops west of the Indus river. Soon after Alexander died in
Babylon in 323 BCE, his empire fragmented, and local
kings declared their independence, leaving several smaller
disunited satraps.
The Roman historian Justin described how Sandrocottus
(Greek version of Chandraguptas name) conquered the
northwest: After Alexanders death in 323 BCE,
Chandragupta turned his attention to Northwestern South
Asia (modern Pakistan), where he defeated the satrapies
left in place by Alexander, and may have assassinated two
of his governors, Nicanor and Philip. The satrapies he
fought may have included Eudemus, ruler in western
Punjab until his departure in 317 BCE; and Peithon, ruler

of the Greek colonies along the Indus until his departure for
Babylon in 316 BCE.

Chandragupta had defeated

Macedonian satrapies in the northwest of the Indian
subcontinent by 317 BCE.
Expansion by Chandragupta Maurya:
Megasthenes recorded the size of Chandraguptas army as
400,000 soldiers. According to Strabo: Megasthenes was
in the camp of Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), which
consisted of 400,000 men. On the other hand, Pliny, who
also drew from Megasthenes work, gives even larger
numbers of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 war
The Mauryas military strength was almost three times that
of the Nandas, and this was apparently because of a much
larger empire and thus far greater resources.

Conquest of Seleucus eastern territories:

Justin, a Greek writer, says that Chandragupta overran the
whole of India with an army of 600,000. This may or may
not be true, but Chandragupta liberated north-western India
from the thraldom of Seleucus.
Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian satrap of Alexander,
reconquered most of Alexanders former empire and put
under his own authority the eastern territories as far as
Bactria and the Indus (A/C to Appian, History of Rome),
until in 305 BCE he entered into conflict with
Seleucus appears to have fared poorly, having ceded large
territories west of the Indus to Chandragupta. Due to his
defeat, Seleucus surrendered vast territory west of the
Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern day Afghanistan,
Arachosia (modern Kandahar), Gedrosia (modern
Balochistan), Gandhara. Archaeologically, concrete
indications of Maurya rule, such as the inscriptions of the
Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandhahar in
southern Afghanistan.

extended the borders of his empire towards Seleucid Persia
after his conflict with Seleucus in 305 BCE
Treaty between Chandragupta and Seleucus and Indo-Mauryan
relationship during Maurya:
Classical sources have recorded that following treaty
between both(probably first treaty of Ancient India with
foreigner), Chandragupta and Seleucus exchanged presents.
Chandragupta married Seleucuss daughter to formalize an
alliance. In a return gesture, Chandragupta sent 500 warelephants, a military asset which would play a decisive role
at the Battle latter on. In addition to this treaty, Seleucus
dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta,
and later Deimachus to his son Bindusara, at the Maurya
court at Pataliputra. Later Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler
of Ptolemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka, is also
recorded by Pliny as having sent an ambassador named
Dionysius to the Maurya court.

Presents continued to be exchanged between the Mauryan

rulers and Greek rulers. Intensity of these contacts is
testified by the existence of a dedicated Mauryan state
department for Greek (Yavana) and Persian foreigners, or
the remains of Hellenistic pottery that can be found
throughout northern India.
On these occasions, Greek populations apparently remained
in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Mauryan
rule. Ashoka, istalled many Edicts, written in Greek.In his
edicts, Ashoka mentions that he had sent Buddhist
emissaries to Greek rulers as far as the Mediterranean
(Edict No. 13),and that he developed herbal medicine in
their territories, for the welfare of humans and animals
(Edict No. 2).
The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active
role in the propagation of Buddhism, as some of the
emissaries of Ashoka such as Dharmaraksita, or the teacher
Mahadharmaraksita, are described in Pali sources as
leading Greek (Yona, i.e., Ionian) Buddhist monks, active
in Buddhist proselytism (mentioned in Mahavamsa).
It is also thought that Greeks contributed to the sculptural
work of the Pillars of Ashoka, and more generally to the
blossoming of Mauryan art.
Jainism and Death:
According to Jain tradition, Chandragupta gave up his
throne at the beginning of the third century BC when he
was forty-two years old and became an ascetic under the

last Shrutakevali Bhadrabahu, migrating south with them

and ending his days in sallekhana (death by fasting)
according to Jain spiritual tradition at Sravan a Bel gol ain
present day Karnataka, though fifth-century inscriptions in
the area support the concept of a larger southern migration
around that time.
Chandragupta was first to take title of Devampriya and

State under Maurya:
The Mauryas organized a very elaborate system of
administration. We know about this from the account of
Megasthenes and the Arthashastra of Kautilya.
(1) Megastheness Indika:
Megasthenes (a Greek ethnographer and explorer in the
Hellenistic period) was a Greek ambassador sent by
Seleucus to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. He lived in
the Maurya capital of Pataliputra and wrote an account not
only of the administration of the city of Pataliputra but also
of the Maurya empire as a whole. Megastheness account

does not survive in full, but quotations from it occur in the

works of several subsequent Greek writers. These
fragments have been collected and published in the form of
a book entitled Indika, which throws valuable light on the
administration, society, and economy of Maurya times. His
Indica served as an important source for many later writers
such as Strabo and Arrian.
At the beginning of his Indica, he refers to the older Indians
who know about the prehistoric arrival of Dionysus and
Hercules (divine Greek Heroes) in India, which was a story
very popular amongst the Greeks during the Alexandrian
period. Particularly important are his comments on the
religions of the Indians. He mentions the devotees of
Heracles and Dionysus but he does not mention Buddhists,
something that gives support to the theory that the latter
religion was not widely known before the reign of Ashoka.
About Pataliputra:
Megasthenes describes such features as the Himalayas and
the island of Sri Lanka. He states that numerous cities
existed in India, but he considered Pataliputra to be the
most important. He calls it Palibothra. This Greek term
means a city with gates. According to him, Pataliputra was
bounded by a deep ditch and a wooden wall crowned with
570 towers, and had 64 gates which rivaled the splendors of
contemporaneous Persian sites such as Susa.. The ditch,
timber palisades, and also wooden houses have been found
in excavations.

According to Megasthenes, Pataliputra was 9.33 miles long

and 1.75 miles broad. This size tallies with that of Patna
even today, because Patna is all length with little breadth.
Given this conformity, it is possible to trust Megastheness
other statements.
About King:
Megasthenes gives a detailed description of the personal
life of Chandragupta Maurya. He led a very splendid life
and his palace was unique in its beauty. The king did not
sleep in one room for two continuous days. He did not
favor meeting the people too much.
About Administration:
Megasthenes has written a lot about the civil administration
of Chandragupta Maurya. He writes that the king was an
autocrat and he was the master of unlimited powers. He
kept himself fully aware of the main events of his empire
through his spies.
Megasthenes refers to the administration of Pataliputra, the
capital of the Mauryas. The city was administered by six
committees, each of which consisted of five
members.These committees were entrusted with sanitation,
care of foreigners, registration of birth and death, regulation
of weights and measures, and similar other functions.
The administration of the armed forces, according to
Megasthenes, was carried on by a board of thirty officers
divided into six committees, each committee consisting of

five members. It seems that each of the six wings of the

armed forces, the army, the cavalry, the elephants, the
chariots, the navy, and the transport, was assigned to the
care of a separate committee
About Indian Society:
Megasthenes describes a disciplined multitude of people
under Chandragupta, who live simply, honestly, and do not
know writing:
The Indians all live frugally, especially when in camp.
They dislike a great undisciplined multitude, and
consequently they observe good order. Theft is of very rare
occurrence. People have no written laws, and are ignorant
of writing, and must therefore in all the business of life
trust to memory. They live, nevertheless, happily enough,
being simple in their manners and frugal. They never drink
wine except at sacrifices. Their beverage is a liquor
composed from rice instead of barley, and their food is
principally a rice-pottage.
He found that slavery system was unknown to the Ancient
Indian society. He has declared all the Indians are free.
Slaves do not exist in India.Megasthenes did not travel
whole of India and so his observations may not apply to the
whole country. Perhaps, since slavery did not exist in
North-Western India, had an impact on Megasthenes and he
declared that whole of India was free from the custom of

Megasthenes observations about the non-existence of

slavery in Ancient India are not supported by available
evidences. From the Smritis or Hindu Law Books it is clear
that slavery was a recognized institution in India in the
Vedic Age.
Some scholars have tried to interpret and explain
Megasthenes as such. Slavery system in India was very
mild and most of the slaves were domestic slaves who were
treated as members of the family. Slave trade was
prohibited in the Shastras. Different injunctions were laid
down in the Shastras for the liberation of the slaves.
Megasthenes was impressed by the prevailing intellectual
mood of the time. The liberal rules of the Arthasastra for
slaves testify the liberal attitude of the society towards
He describes that Indians are divided into seven classes, a
caste system different from the one that exists today, which
shows that the caste system may to some extent be fluid
and evolving. However, it might be that, being a foreigner,
he was not adequately informed about the caste system.
Seven clases are:
1. Philosophers(sophists), which in number is inferior to the
other classes, but in dignity preeminent over all.
2. Husbandmen, who appear to be far more numerous than the
others. They devote the whole of their time to tillage;for
men of this class, being regarded as public benefactors, are
protected from all injury.

3. Shepherds(herdsmen) who neither settle in towns nor in

villages, but live in tents.They pay taxes from their animals,
4. Artisans and shopkeepers; they too perform public duties,
and pay tax on the receipts from their work, except for
those who make weapons of war and actually receive a
wage from the community.
5. Military: next to the farmers in number; they enjoy the
greatest freedom and most agreeable life. They are devoted
solely to military activities.The entire force are maintained
at the kings expense.
6. Overseers: They supervise everything that goes on in the
country and cities, and report it to the king, where the
Indians are governed by kings, or to the authorities, where
they are self-governing.
7. Councillors and Assessors, who deliberate on public affairs.
It is the smallest class, looking to number, but the most
respected, on account of the high character and wisdom of
its members.From their ranks the advisers of the king, the
treasurers, of the state, arbiters who settle disputes, generals
of the army, chief magistrates, usually belong to this class,
supervisors of agricultural works are taken.

Silver punch mark coin of

the Maurya empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd
century BCE. (2)Kautilya(Chanakya) and Arthashastra:
The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft,
public administration, economic policy and military
strategy, written in Sanskrit. It identifies its author by the
names Kaut ilya and Vishnugupta both names that are
traditionally identified with Chanakya (350283 BCE),
who was a scholar at Takshashila and the teacher and
guardian of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. (Though many
authors seems to have contributed to the Arthasastra over
the centuries.)
Megastheness account can be supplemented by the
Arthashastra of Kautilya. Although the Arthashastra was
finally compiled a few centuries after Maurya rule.
It is divided into 15 adhikarnas or sections and 180
Prakaranas or subdivisions. It has about 6,000 slokas.
It was rediscovered in 1904 by R. Shamasastry, who
published it in 1909. The first English translation was
published in 1915.
Despite the controversy over its date and authorship, its
importance lies in the fact that it gives a clear and

methodological analysis of economic

conditions of the Mauryan period.



The similarities between the administrative terms used in

the Arthashastra and in the Asokan edicts certainly suggests
that the Mauryan rulers were acquainted with this work.
Arthashastra provides useful and reliable information
regarding the social and political conditions as well as the
Mauryan administration.
1. King:
Kautilya suggests that the king should be an autocrat and he
should concentrate all powers into his own hands. He
should enjoy unrestricted authority over his realm. But at
the same time, he should give honour to the Brahmanas and
seek advice from his ministers. Thus the king though
autocrat, should exercise his authority wisely.
He should be cultured and wise. He should also be wellread so as to understand all the details of his administration.
He says that the chief cause of his fall is that the king is
inclined towards evil. He lists six evils that led to a kings
decline. They are haughtiness, lust, anger, greed, vanity and
love of pleasures. Kautilya says that the king should live in
comfort but he should not indulge in pleasures.
2. Ideals of Kingship:
The major ideal of kingship according to Kautilya is that
his own well-being lies in the well-being of his people of
only the happy subjects ensure the happiness of their

sovereign. He also says that the king should be

Chakravarti or the conqueror of different realms and
should win glory by conquering other lands.
He should protect his people from external dangers and
ensure internal peace. Kautilya maintained that the soldiers
should be imbued with the spirit of a holy war before they
march to the battlefield. According to him, all is fair in a
war waged in the interest of the country.
3. Internal strife:
Quarrels among people can be resolved by winning over
the leaders or by removing the cause of the quarrel. People
fighting among themselves help the king by their mutual
Conflicts (for power) within the royal family, on the other
hand, bring about harassment and destruction to the people
and double the exertion that is required to end such
Hence internal strife in the royal family for power is more
damaging than quarrels among their subjects.
4. Training of a future king:
Importance of self-discipline: Discipline is of two kinds
inborn and acquired. Learning imparts discipline only to
those who have the following mental facilities obedience
to a teacher, desire and ability to learn, capacity to retain
what is learnt, understanding what is learnt, reflecting on it

and ability to make inferences by deliberating on the

knowledge acquired. One who will be a king should
acquire discipline and follow it strictly in life by learning
the sciences from authoritative teachers.
The training of a prince: With improving his self-discipline,
he should always associate with learned elders, for in them
alone has discipline its firm roots.Only a king, who is wise,
disciplined, devoted to a just governing of the subjects and
conscious of the welfare of all beings, will enjoy the earth
5. About the Ministers:
Kautilya maintains that the king should appoint ministers.
King without ministers is like a one-wheeled chariot.
According to Kautilya, kings ministers should be wise and
intelligent. But the king should not become a puppet in
their hands.
He should discard their improper advise. The ministers
should work together as; a team. They should hold
meetings in privacy. He says that the king who cannot keep
his secrets cannot last long.
6. Provincial Administration:
Kautilya tells us that the kingdom was divided into several
provinces governed by the members of the royal family.
There were some smaller provinces as Saurashtra and
Kambhoj etc. administered by other officers called

The provinces were divided into districts which were again

sub-divided into villages. The chief administrator of the
district was called the SthaniK while the village headman
was called the Gopa.
7. Civic Administration:
The administration of big cities as well as the capital city of
Pataliputra was carried on very efficiently. Pataliputra was
divided into four sectors. The officer incharge of each
sector was called the Sthanik. He was assisted by junior
officers called the Gopas who looked after the welfare of
10 to 40 families.
The whole city was in the charge of another officer called
the Nagrika. There was a system of regular census.
8. Spy Organisation:
Kautilya says that the king should maintain a network of
spies who should keep him well informed about the minute
details and happenings in the country, the provinces, the
districts and the towns. The spies should keep watch on
other officials. There should be spies to ensure peace in the
According to Kautilya, women spies are more efficient than
men, so they should, in particular, be recruited as spies.
Above all the kings should send his agents in neighboring
countries to gather information of political significance.
9. Maintenance of law and order:

A conducive atmosphere is necessary for the states

economy to thrive. This requires that a states law and order
be maintained. Arthashastra specifies fines and
punishments to support strict enforcement of laws. The
science of law enforcement is also called Dandaniti.
10. Seven ways to deal with neighboring countries:
1. Sama Appeasement, non-aggression pact
2. Dana Gift, bribery
3. Bheda Divide, split, separating opposition
4. Dan d
a Strength, punishment
5. Maya Illusion, deceit
6. Upeks a Ignoring the enemy
7. Indrajala Faking military strength
11. Shipping:
Another significant information that we gather from
Kautilya is about shipping under the Mauryas. Each port
was supervised by an officer who kept vigil on ships and
ferries. Tolls were levied on traders, passenges and
fishermen. Almost all ships and boats were owned by the
12. Economic Condition:

According to Kautilya, the central government maintained

about two dozen departments of state, which controlled
social and economic activities at least in the areas that were
in proximity to the capital.
Kautilya says that poverty is a major cause of rebellions.
Hence there should be no shortage of food and money to
buy it, as it creates discontent and destroys the king.
Kautilya therefore advises the king to take steps to improve
the economic condition of his people.
Kautilya says that the chief source of income was the land
revenue in villages while the tax on the sale of goods was
the chief source in the cities.
How did Chandragupta Maurya manage to meet the
expenses of a huge army? If we rely on the Arthashastra of
Kautilya, it would appear that the state controlled almost all
the economic activities in the realm. The state brought new
land under cultivation with the aid of cultivators and shudra
labourers. The virgin land that was opened to cultivation
yielded handsome income to the state in the form of
revenue collected from the newly settled peasants. It
appears that taxes collected from the peasants varied from
one-fourth to one-sixth of the produce. Those who were
provided with irrigation facilities by the state had to pay for
In addition, in times of emergency, peasants were
compelled to raise more crops. Tolls were also levied on
commodities brought to town for sale, and they were

collected at the gate. Moreover, the state enjoyed a

monopoly in mining, sale of liquor, manufacture of arms,
etc. This naturally brought vast resources to the royal
exchequer. Chandragupta thus established a well-organized
administrative system and gave it a sound financial base.
13. Comments on vices:
Vices are corruptions due to ignorance and indiscipline; an
unlearned man does not perceive the injurious
consequences of his vices. He summarizes: subject to the
qualification that gambling is most dangerous in cases
where power is shared, the vice with the most serious
consequence is addiction to drink, followed by, lusting after
women, gambling, and lastly hunting.
(2)Bindusara(298BCE- 272BCE):
Bindusara was the son of the first Mauryan emperor
Chandragupta Maurya and his queen Durdhara. According
to the Rajavalikatha a Jain work, the original name of this
emperor was Simhasena.
Bindusara, just 22 year-old, inherited a large empire that
consisted of what is now, Northern, Central and Eastern
parts of India along with parts of Afghanistan and
Bindusaras life has not been documented as well as that of
his father Chandragupta or of his son Ashoka. Chanakya
continued to serve as prime minister during his reign.
According to the medieval Tibetan scholar Taranatha who

visited India, Chanakya helped Bindusara to destroy the

nobles and kings of the sixteen kingdoms and thus to
become absolute master of the territory between the eastern
and western oceans.
Bindusara extended this empire to the southern part of
India, as far as what is now known as Karnataka. He
brought sixteen states under the Mauryan Empire and thus
conquered almost all of the Indian peninsula (he is said to
have conquered the land between the two seas the
peninsular region between the Bay of Bengal and the
Arabian Sea).
Bindusara didnt conquer the friendly Tamil regions
(Pandya, Chera, Chola and Satyaputra). Apart from these
southern states, Kalinga (modern Odisha) was the only
kingdom in India that didnt form the part of Bindusaras
empire. It was later conquered by his son Ashoka, who
served as the viceroy of Ujjaini during his fathers reign.
The famous Tamil poet Mamulanar of the Sangam
literature also described how the Deccan Plateau was
invaded by the Maurya army.

Bindusara extended the

borders of the empire southward into the Deccan Plateau
He had a Greek ambassador at his court, named Deimachus
Strabo. Ambassadors from the Seleucid Empire (such as
Deimachus) and Egypt visited his courts. He maintained
good relations with the Hellenic World.
He was a man of wide interest and taste, since tradition had
it that he asked Antiochus I (a king of the Hellenistic
Seleucid Empire) to send him some sweet wine, dried figs
and a sophist. Antiochus wrote to him in answer, The dry
figs and the sweet wine we will send you; but it is not
lawful for a sophist to be sold in Greece.
Unlike his father Chandragupta (who at a later stage
converted to Jainism), Bindusara believed in the Ajivika
sect. Bindusaras guru Pingalavatsa (alias Janasana) was a
Brahmin of the Ajivika sect.
During his rule, the citizens of Taxila revolted twice. The
reason for the first revolt was the maladministration of
Suseema, his eldest son. The reason for the second revolt is

unknown, but Bindusara could not suppress it in his

lifetime. It was crushed by Ashoka after Bindusaras death.
Bindusara died in 272 BCE and was succeeded by his son
Ashoka the Great.
(3)Ashoka(272- 232 BCE):
Ashoka Maurya was an Indian emperor of the Maurya
Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian
subcontinent.The empires capital was Pataliputra.
When Bindusaras wife bore a son, it is from her
exclamation I am now without sorrow, that Ashoka got
his name.
The Buddhist text Divyavadana describes Ashoka putting
down a revolt due to activities of wicked ministers in Ujjain
and Taxila. This may have been an incident in Bindusaras
Bindusaras death in 272 BCE led to a war over succession.
The Dipavansa and Mahavansa refer to Ashokas killing 99
of his brothers, sparing only one, named Vitashoka or Tissa.
He came into power with the support of minister
Buddhist legends state that Ashoka was bad-tempered and
of a wicked nature. He built Ashokas Hell, an elaborate
torture chamber.

Ascending the throne, Ashoka expanded his empire over

the next eight years, from the present-day boundaries
Assam in the East to Iran in the West; from the Pamir Knot
in the north to the peninsula of southern India except for
present day Tamil Nadu and Kerala which were ruled by

As monarch he was ambitious and aggressive, re-asserting

the Empires superiority in southern and western India. But
it was his conquest of Kalinga (262261 BCE) which
proved to be the pivotal event of his life.
Kalinga war:
The Kalinga War was fought between Ashoka and the ruler
of the state of Kalinga, a feudal republic located on the
coast of the present-day Odisha and northern parts of
Andhra Pradesh. The Kalinga war, the only major war
Ashoka fought after his accession to throne,

Causes of Kalinga war:

The main reasons for invading Kalinga were both political
and economic. Since the time of Ashokas father, King
Bindusara, the Mauryan Empire based in Magadha was
following a policy of territorial expansion. Kalinga was
under Magadha control during the Nanda rule, but regained
independence with the beginning of the rule of the
Mauryas. That was considered a great setback for the
traditional policy of territorial expansion of the Magadhan
emperors and was considered to be a loss of political
prestige for the Mauryas.
Moreover since its independence Kalinga became an arch
enemy of Magadha and allied itself with Chola and Pandya
countries of South against Magadha. Thus, Ashoka invaded
Kalinga had a vast army and could be detrimental for the
security of the Maurya Empire. It was also true that due to
her commercial relation with Malay, Java and Ceylon
Kalinga had enormous material prosperity. Possibly this
had also provoked Asoka to invade Kalinga.
Aftermath of Kalinga War:
Ashokas response to the Kalinga War is recorded in the
Edicts of Ashoka. The Kalinga War prompted Ashoka to
devote the rest of his life to Ahinsa (non-violence) and to
Dharma-Vijaya (victory through Dharma). Following the
conquest of Kalinga, Ashoka ended the military expansion

of the empire, and led the empire through more than 40

years of relative peace, harmony and prosperity.
Rock Edict No.13 (Dhauli/ Tosali): Beloved-of-the-Gods,
King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after
his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were
deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many
more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been
conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong
inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and
for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels
deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas.
After 2.5 years of Kalinga war, Asoka became an enthuastic
supporter of religion of Buddha. Under its influnce he
eventually foreswore conquest y war (Bherighosa) and
replaced it with conquest by Dharma (Dhammaghosha). He
refrained from engraving his confession of remorse at any
location in Kalinga. This was replaced by the separate Rock
Edicts, which are instructios to his officers, emphasizing
need for good governance.
Nigrodha (a 5 years old buddhist monk) was responsible
for the change in Ashoka. It is said that he was converte to
Buddhism by Upagupta.
Concept of Asokas Dhamma:
The word Dhamma is the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word
Dharma. There have been attempts to define and find
equivalent English words for it, such as piety, moral
life and righteousness but scholars could not translate it

into English because it was coined and used in a specific

The best way to understand what Ashoka means by
Dhamma is to read his edicts, which were written to
explain the principles of Dhamma to the people of that time
throughout the empire.
Dhamma was not a particular religious faith or practice, or
an arbitrary formulated royal policy. it is primarily an ethic
of social conduct. Dhamma related to generalized norms of
social behavior and activities; Ashoka tried to synthesize
various social norms which were current in his time.
Dhamma was not the policy of a heretic but a system of
beliefs created out of different religious faiths.
The policy of Dhamma also included other welfare
Need of Dhamma (Dharma):
There was considered intellectual ferment around 600 B.C.
healthy rivalry was apparent among the number of sects
such as the Charvaks, Jains, Buddhists, Ajivikas etc. whose
doctrines ranged from bare materialism to determinism.
This intellectual liveliness was reflected in the elected
interests of the Mauryan rulers. It was claimed by the
Jainas that Chandragupta was supporter and there is
evidence that Bindusara favoured the Ajivikas.

Thus, the Empire of Asoka was inhabited by peoples of

many cultures who were at many levels of development.
The range of customs, beliefs, affinities, antagonisms,
tensions and harmonies were galore. The north was in close
contact with the Hellenized culture of Afganisthan and Iran.
The far south was on the threshold of a creative
efflorescence of Tamil culture. The ruler of such as Empire
required the perceptions were addressed to the public at
large. It is in these inscriptions that the king expounds his
ideas on dhamma.
Asoka aimed at creating an attitude of mind among his
subjects in which social behavior was accorded the highest
place. The ideology of dhamma can be viewed as a focus of
loyalty and as a point of convergence for the then
bewildering diversities of the Empire.
A centralized monarchy demands oneness of feeling on the
part of its people. The ethics of the dhamma was intended
to generate such a feeling.
The Mauryan Society with its heterogeneous elements and
with economic, social and religious forces working against
each other posed the threat of disruption. Asoka, therefore,
needed some binding factor to allow the economic activity
to proceed on an even keel and thereby ensure the security
of his state.
Also as the commercial classes gained economic
importance and resented the inferior social status as per the
sanctions of the Brahmins, they went over to Buddhism,

which preached social equality. Their support to the

Mauryan king was very vital for the peace and prosperity of
the Empire. Asoka thought that he could attract them by the
propagation of this dhamma by weaning them away from
too closely identifying themselves with Buddhism.
Asoka felt that the aforesaid forces of contrary pulls would
threaten the peace of the realm not in the general interest of
his Empire. Asokas dhamma therefore, was intended to
serve a practical purpose.
Interpretations of Dhamma:
The Ashokan policy of Dhamma has been the subject of
controversy and debate amongst scholars; Some have said
that Ashoka was a partisan Buddhist and have equated
Dhamma with Buddhism. It has also been suggested that it
was the original Buddhist thought that was being preached
by Ashoka as Dhamma and later on certain theological
additions were made to Buddhism. This kind of thinking is
based on some Buddhist chronicles. It is believed that the
Kalinga war was a dramatic turning point where out of
remorse for the death and destruction of war, Ashoka
decided to become Buddhist. The Buddhist records credit
him with the propagation of Buddhism in India and aboard.
There has been some discussion among historians about the
results Ashokas propagation of Dhamma. Some historians
believe that Ashokas ban of sacrifices and the favour that
he showed to Buddhism led to a Brahmanical reaction,
which in turn led to the decline of Mauryan empire. Others
believe that stopping of wars and the emphasis on non-

violence crippled the military might of the empire, leading

to its collapse after the death of Ashoka.
Ashokas Dhamma is a superb document of his essential
humanity and an answer to the socio-political needs of the
contemporaneous situation. It was not anti-Brahmanical
because respect for the Brahmans and Sarmanas is an
integral part of his Dhamma. His emphasis on non-violence
did not blind him to the needs of the state. He warned the
forest tribes that although he hates to use coercion, he may
be required to resort to force if they continued to create
trouble. By the time Ashoka stopped war, the entire Indian
sub-continent was under his control. In the south he was on
friendly terms with the Cholas and Pandyas. Sri Lanka was
an admiring ally. Thus, Ashokas decline of war came when
his empire had reached its natural boundaries. The plea for
tolerance was a wise course of action in an ethnically
diverse, religiously varied, and class divided society.
Ashokas empire was a conglomerate of diverse groups;
farmers, pastoral nomads and hunter-gatherers, there were
Greeks, Kambojas, and Bhojas and hundreds of groups
with different traditions. In this situation a plea for
tolerance was needed. Ashoka tried to transcend the
parochial cultural traditions with a board set of ethical
Asokas Moral code(Dhamma) formulated in Rock Edicts:
Major Rock Edict I prohibits of animal sacrifice and
holidays of festive gathering.

Major Rock Edict II relates to measures of social welfare. It

mentions medical treatment for men and animals,
construction of roads, wells and tree planting.
Major Rock Edict III declares that liberality towards
Brahmans and Sramanas is a virtue, and that respecting
ones parents is a good quality.
Major Rock Edict IV comments that because of the policy
of Dhamma the lack of morality and disrespect towards
Sramanas and Brahmans, violence, unseemly behaviour to
friends, relatives and others, and evils of this kind have
been checked. The killing of animals to a large extent was
also stopped.
Major Rock Edict V refers to the appointment of Dhammamahamatta for the first time in the twelfth year of his reign.
These special officers were appointed by the king to look
after the interests of all sects and religions and spread the
message of Dhamma.
Major Rock Edict VI is an instruction to Dhammamahamattas. They are told that they could bring their
reports to the king at any time. The second part of the Edict
deals with speedy administration and the transaction of
smooth business.
Major Rock Edict VII is a plea for tolerance amongst all
sects. It appears from the edict that tensions among the
sects were intense perhaps in open antagonism. The plea is
a part of the overall strategy to maintain unity.

Major Rock Edict VIII states that Dhammayatras (tours)

would be undertaken by the emperor. The earlier practice of
the emperor going out on hunting expeditions was given
up. Dhammayatras enabled the emperor to come into
contact with various sections of people in the empire.
Major Rock Edict IX attacks ceremonies performed after
birth, illness, marriage and before going on a journey. A
censure passed against ceremonies observed by wives and
mothers. Ashoka instead lays stress on practice of Dhamma
and the uselessness of ceremonies.
Major Rock Edict X denounces fame and glory and
reasserts the merits of following the policy of Dhamma.
Major Rock Edict XI is a further explanation of the policy
of Dhamma. It emphases the respect of elders, abstaining
from killing animals, and liberality towards friends.
Major Rock Edict XII is another appeal for tolerance
among sects. This edict reflects the anxiety the king felt
because of conflict between sects and carries his plea for
Major Rock Edict XIII is of paramount importance in
understanding the Ashokan policy of Dhamma. The Rock
Edict pleads for conquest by Dhamma instead of war. This
is logical culmination of the thought processes which began
from the first Rock Edict, and by conquest what is perhaps
meant is the adaptation of the policy of Dhamma by a
country, rather than its territorial control.

Major Rock Edict XIV Ashoka said, My dominions are

wide, and much has been written, and i shall cause still no
more to be written. And some of this has been stated again
and again because of the charm of certain topics and in
order that men should act accordingly.
In a monor edict, Asoka says: In Father and mother must
be obeyed; similarly respect for living creatures must be
enforced, truth must be spoken. These are the virtues of the
law of Duty (or Peity. Dhamma) which must be
practiced. Similarly, the teacher must be reverenced by the
pupil, and proper courtesy must be shown to relations.
This is the ancient standard of duty (or Piety) leads to
length of days and according to this men must act.
The three obligations of showing reverence, respecting
animal life, and telling the truth are inculcated over and
over again in the edicts.
Besides, it was meant for all Buddhists, brahmins, Jains
and Ajivikas, In the way, it was the essence of the good
principles of all religions. Also, Asoka passionately
appealed for toleration towards all religions and a reverence
for each other.
Had this dhamma got anything to do with Buddhist
principles, Asoka would have openly stated so in his edicts.
For that matter, Asoka did not incorporate any of the
fundamental tenets of Buddhist faith such as the Four
Noble Truths, the chain of casualty the sacred eight-fold
path, and the Nirvana. The omissions, also with repeated

reference to the concept of svarga or heaven (a Hindu

belief) show that his dhamma cannot be identified with
Since Asokas dhamma was not intended for the cause of
Buddhism during his dharama-yatras, he not only visited
various places of Buddhist importance, but also gave gifts
to sramanas and Brahmins. Most of all, even after
entrusting the propagation of dhamma to the Dharma
Mahamatras, Asoka continued to style himself as the
beloved of the devas, a Hindu concept, since there were no
Gods in Buddhism at that time.
Success of his Dhamma?:
Asoka specifically states that his missions were sent to
various places (Ceylon and various Western countries) and
maintains that they were all successful. It is difficult to
accept this claim. There is no authentic proof that his
missions were a success.
His policy to Dhamma failed to acheive the desired goal,
social tension continued. Taxila which had revolted earlier
in his fathers reign, was goadd to rebellion again by
ministerial oppression.
Power of official Dhammamahamattas to interfre the lives
of people increased over time. There was resentment
against officials.
None of Asokas successors continued the propagation of
dhamma. His policy did not make ay lasting impact and

may vassals declared their independence after retirement of

the king in 232BC.
Ashokas Dhamma could not survive him; as such it was
a failure. However, he was not establishing a new religion
but was trying to impress upon the society the need for
ethical and moral principles.
His policy to consolidate the empire through Dhammma
bore fruit. The Kandhar inscription spaks of the success of
his policy witht the hunters and fishermen who gave up
killing animals and took settled agricultureal life.
Was Ashoka a complete pacifist?
We actually have reason to believe that Ashoka wasnt
infact as Pacifistic or unmilitaristic as believed earlier.
Buddhist Literature seems to exaggerate Ashokas pacifism.
Various Ashoka inscriptions as well as some stray Hindu
texts indicate that the Mauryans during Ashokas time
maintained a fairly strong army, and even used it to quell
uprisings amongst tribal societies and other groups. There
are inscriptions warning against further revolts, particularly
in line with Piyadasis benevolence.
He did not gave up his imperial ambitions but modified
them in accordance with the humanitarian ethics of
Within the empire he appointed a class of officers known as
rajukas, who were vested with the authority of not only

rewarding people but also punishing thm whenever

He maintained death penalty and merely granted a stay of
execution of 3 days to men condemned to death, so that
they their minds for the next world. Though a/c to Buddhist
tradition, he abolished judicial torture but this is not stated
his edicts.
Edicts of Ashoka:

The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on

the Pillars of Ashoka as well as boulders(rocks) and cave
walls made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire
during his reign.
These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of
modern-day Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan and
represent the first tangible evidence of Buddhism.

The edicts focus on social and moral precepts rather than

specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension
of Buddhism. He also mentions his social and animal
welfare program.
The first tangible evidence of Buddhism is represented by
the rock and pillar edicts of Asoka detailing wide expansion
of Buddhism through the sponsorship of Ashoka.
According to the edicts, the extent of Buddhist proselytism
during this period reached as far as the Mediterranean, and
many Buddhist monuments were created.He names the
Greek rulers of the time, inheritors of the conquest of
Alexander, from Bactria to as far as Greece and North
Africa, displaying a clear grasp of the political situation at
the time.
The inscriptions found in the eastern part of India were
written in the Magadhi language, using the Brahmi script.
In the western part of India, the language used is closer to
Sanskrit, using the Kharoshthi script, one extract of Edict
13 in the Greek language, and one bilingual edict written in
Greek and Aramaic.
These edicts were decoded by British archeologist and
historian James Prinsep in 1837.
In these inscriptions, Ashoka refers to himself as Beloved
of the Gods (Devanampiyadasi) The identification of
Devanampiyadasi with Ashoka was confirmed by an
inscription (Minor Rock Edict) discovered in 1915 by C.
Beadon, at Maski, a village in Raichur district of

Karnataka. Another minor rock edict is found at the village

Gujarra(Girjara) in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh which
also shows the name Ashoka in addition to usual
The Edicts are divided into:
1. Pillar Edicts (major and minor)
2. Major Rock Edicts: 14 Edicts (termed 1st to 14th) and 2
separate ones found in Odisha
3. Minor Rock Inscriptions: Minor Rock Edicts, the Queens
Edict, Barabar Caves inscriptions and the Kandahar
bilingual inscription.
(1)Pillar(Stambha) Edicts(set of 7):
Ashokan pillar edict is set of 7 :
1. Pillar Edict I Asokas principle of protection to people
2. Pillar Edict II Defines dhamma as minimum of sins, many
virtues, compassion, liberality, truthfulness and purity
3. Pillar Edict III Abolishes sins of harshness, cruelty, anger,
pride etc
4. Pilar Edict IV Deals with duties of Rajuka, his officer
5. Pilar Edict V List of animals and birds which should not be
killed on some days and another list of animals which have
not to be killed at all occasions. Describes release of 25
prisionars by asoka.

6. Pilar Edict VI Dhamma Policy

7. Pilar Edict VII Works done by Asoka for Dhamma Policy .
He says that all sects desire both self control and purity of
Why a pillar edict?
All the pillars were placed at Buddhist monasteries, many
important sites from the life of the Buddha and places of
pilgrimage. Some of the columns carry inscriptions
addressed to the monks and nuns.Some were erected to
commemorate visits by Ashoka.
It is quite possible that Persian artists came to Ashokas
empire in search of work, bringing with them the form of
the pillar. which was common in Persian art. But is also
likely that Ashoka chose the pillar because it was already
an established Indian art form. In both Buddhism and
Hinduism, the pillar symbolized the axis mundi (the axis on
which the world spins).
The pillars and edicts represent the first physical evidence
of the Buddhist faith. The inscriptions assert Ashokas
Buddhism and support his desire to spread the dharma
throughout his kingdom. The edicts say nothing about the
philosophical aspects of Buddhism and scholars have
suggested that this demonstrates that Ashoka had a very
simple and nave understanding of the dharma.
Ashokas goal may not to expound on the truths of
Buddhism, but to inform the people of his reforms and

encourage them to live a moral life. The edicts, through

their strategic placement and couched in the Buddhist
dharma, serve to underscore Ashokas administrative role
and as a tolerant leader.
The pillars of Ashoka are a series of columns dispersed
throughout the northern Indian subcontinent, erected or at
least inscribed with edicts by the Mauryan king Ashoka
during his reign in the 3rd century BC. Originally, there
must have been many pillars but only nineteen survive with
inscriptions, and only six with animal capitals.
Averaging between 40 to 50 feet in height, and weighing up
to 50 tons each, the pillars were dragged or carried through
rivers, sometimes hundreds of miles, to where they were
Pillars are genrally polished.
Stone type and region:
it seems that the columns were carved in two types of
stone. Some were of the spotted red and white sandstone
from the region of Mathura, the others of buff-colored fine
grained hard sandstone usually with small black spots
quarried in the Chunar near Varanasi.
The uniformity of style in the pillar capitals suggests that
they were all sculpted by craftsmen from the same region.
Architecture of Pillar(Stambha):

The pillars have four component parts in two pieces:

(1)Shaft (2) Capital, Bell(lower part of capital),
Abacus(upper part of capital)
The three sections of the capitals are made in a single piece,
often of a different stone to that of the monolithic shaft to
which they are attached by a large metal dowel.
The shafts are always plain and smooth, circular in crosssection, slightly tapering upwards and always chiselled out
of a single piece of stone(mnolithic).
The Capital forms the topmost member of a column.
The lower parts of the capitals have the shape and
appearance of a gently arched bell formed of lotus petals.
An abacus is a flat slab forming the uppermost member or
division of the capital of a column, above the bell. Its chief
function is to provide a large supporting surface, tending to
be wider than the capital, to receive the weight (of the four
Asiatic Lion in Sarnath Pillar of Ashoka for example). The
abaci are of two types: square and plain and circular and
decorated. The crowning animals are masterpieces of
Mauryan art, shown either seated or standing, always in the
round and chiselled as a single piece with the abaci.
Presumably all or most of the other columns that now lack
them once had capitals and animals.
Pillar as stone sculpture and influence:

The six surviving animal sculptures from Ashoka pillars

form the first important group of Indian stone sculpture,
though it is thought they derive from an existing tradition
of wooden columns topped by animal sculptures in copper,
none of which have survived.
It is also possible that some of the stone pillars predate
Ashokas reign. There has been much discussion of the
extent of influence from Achaemenid Persia, where the
column capitals supporting the roofs at Persepolis have
similarities, and the rather cold, hieratic style of the
Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka especially shows obvious
Achaemenid and Sargonid influence.
Five of the pillars of Ashoka, two at Rampurva, one each at
Vaishali, Lauriya-Areraj and Lauria Nandangarh possibly
marked the course of the ancient Royal highway from
Pataliputra to the Nepal valley. Several pillars were
relocated by later Mughal Empire rulers, the animal
capitals being removed.
List of pillars(with or without inscription):
The two Chinese medieval pilgrim accounts record
sightings of several columns that have now vanished:
Faxian records six and Xuanzang fifteen, of which only
five at most can be identified with surviving pillars.
The main survivals, listed with any crowning animal
sculptures and the edicts inscribed, are as follows:

1. Sarnath, near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, four lions, Pillar

Inscription, Schism Edict:
The capital is carved out of a single block of polished
sandstone, and was always a separate piece from the
column itself. It features four Asiatic Lions standing back
to back. They are mounted on an abacus with a frieze
carrying sculptures in high relief of an elephant, a galloping
horse, a bull, and a lion, separated by intervening spoked
The capital was originally probably crowned by a Wheel
of Dharma (Dharmachakra popularly known in India as
the Ashoka Chakra), with 24 spokes, of which a few
fragments were found on the site.
Picture below, minus the inverted bell-shaped lotus flower,
has been adopted as the National Emblem of India showing
the Horse on the left and the Bull on the right of the Ashoka
Chakra in the circular base on which the four Indian lions
are seated back to back. On the far side there is an Elephant
and a Lion. The wheel Ashoka Chakra from its base has
been placed onto the centre of the National Flag of India.

The original Lion Capital.The pillar,

sometimes called the Aoka Column, is still in its original
location, but this Lion Capital is now in the Sarnath Museum,
2. Sanchi, near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, four lions, Schism

capital from Sanchis Ashokan column is

in the Sanchi museum. The stone is not the local sandstone, used
for most of the work at Sanchi. Instead, it came from Chunar

3. Rampurva, Champaran, Bihar, two columns: (a) bull, Pillar

Edicts I, II, III, IV, V, VI; (b)single lion with no edicts

4. Vaishali, Bihar, single lion, with no inscription.The location of

this pillar is contiguous to the site where a Buddhist monastery
and a sacred coronation tank stood. The lion faces north, the
direction Buddha took on his last voyage.

5. Sankissa, Uttar Pradesh, elephant capital only. It is mainly

unpolished, though the abacus is at least partly so.

6. Lauriya-Nandangarth, Champaran, Bihar, single lion, Pillar

Edicts I, II, III, IV, V, VI

7. Kandahar, Afghanistan (fragments of Pillar Edicts VII)
8. Ranigat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
9. Delhi-Meerut, Delhi ridge, Delhi (Pillar Edicts I, II, III, IV, V,
VI; moved from Meerut to Delhi by Firuz Shah Tughluq in 1356

Delhi-Meerut Pillar
10. Delhi-Topra, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi (Pillar Edicts I, II, III,
IV, V, VI, VII; moved from Topra to Delhi by Firuz Shah
Tughluq. The inscription in Brahmi script conveys the same
message as the other Ashokan Pillars erected such as code of

dharma:virtue, social cohesion and piety but with one

difference that on this pillar there is also a reference to issues
related to taxation.
11. Lauriya-Araraj, Champaran, Bihar (Pillar Edicts I, II, III, IV,
V, VI)
12. Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh (originally located at Kausambi
and probable moved to Allahabad by Jahangir; Pillar Edicts IVI, Queens Edict, Schism Edict)
13. Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh
Minor Pillar Inscriptions:
These contain inscriptions recording their dedication.
Lumbini (Rummindei), Rupandehi district, Nepal (the
upper part broke off when struck by lightning; the original
horse capital mentioned by Hsuan Tsang is missing).This
inscription talks about how King Priyadarsi (Emperor
Ashoka), Beloved of the Gods, visited this place in person
and worshipped at this spot, because the Sage of the
Sakyans Lord Buddha was born here.
Asoka exempted of Lumbini from tax.

Nigali-Sagar (or Nigliva), near Lumbini, Rupandehi

district, Nepal (originally near the Buddha Konakarnana
stupa). The inscriptions at the Nigali Sagar pillar give us
references to the repairs and expansions that took place
regarding the size of the previous stupa of Buddha called
the Konakama in 254BC, the personal visit of Emperor
Ashoka and his offerings of prayer in 249BC.The pillar
which records the enlargement of the Stupa by Ashoka,
however, has

Allahabad Pillar or Allahabad Ashoka Stambha:

In Allahabad there is a pillar with inscriptions from Ashoka
and later inscriptions attributed to Samudragupta and
Jehangir. It is clear from the inscription that the pillar was
first erected at Kaushambi, an ancient town some 30
kilometres west of Allahabad that was the capital of the
Koshala kingdom, and moved to Allahabad, presumably
under Muslim rule. The pillar is now located inside the
Allahabad Fort, also the royal palace, built during the 16th
century by Akbar.

The Ashokan inscription is in Brahmi and is dated to 232

BCE. It contains the same six edicts that can be seen on the
other pillars
(2)Major Rock Edicts(set of 14):
Ashokan Rock Edict is set of 14 (already discussed i
Dhamma of Ashoka in this chapter, but still I will describe
it here again).
1. Major Rock Edict I: Prohibits animal slaughter. Bans
festive gatherings and killings of animals. Only two
peacocks and one deer were killed in Asokas kitchen. He
wished to discontinue this practice of killing two peacocks
and one deer as well.
2. Major Rock Edict II: Provides for care for man and
animals, describes about Chola, Pandyas , Satyapura and
Keralputra Kingdoms of South India
3. Major Rock Edict III: Generosity to Brahmans. Issued after
12 years of Asokas coronation. It says that the Yuktas
(subordinate officers and Pradesikas (district Heads) along
with Rajukas (Rural officers ) shall go to the all areas of
kingdom every five years and spread the Dhamma Policy
of Asoka.
4. Major Rock Edict IV: Dhammaghosa is ideal to the
mankind and not the Bherighosa. Impact of Dhamma on
5. Major Rock Edict V: Concerns about the policy towards
slaves. He mentions in this rock edict Every Human is my

childAppointment of Dhammamahamatras is mentioned

in this edict.
6. Major Rock Edict VI: Describes Kings desire to get
informed about the conditions of the people constantly.
Talks about welfare measures.
7. Major Rock Edict VII: Requests tolerance for all religions
8. Major Rock Edict VIII: Describes Asokas first Dhamma
Yatra to Bodhgaya & Bodhi Tree.
9. Major Rock Edict IX: Condemns popular ceremonies.
Stress in ceremonies of Dhamma.
Major Rock Edict X: Condemns the desire for fame
and glory. Stresses on popularity of Dhamma.

Major Rock Edict XI: Elaborates Dhamma

Major Rock Edict XII: Directed and determined
request for tolerance among different religious sects.
Major Rock Edict XIII: Asokas victory over Kalinga .
Victory of Asokas Dhamma over Greek Kings, Antiochus,
Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas, Alexander and Cholas,
Pandyas etc. This is the Largest Edict. It mentions Kamboj,
nabhaks, Bhoja, Andhra etc.
Major Rock Edict XIV: Describes engraving of
inscriptions in different parts of country.
List of Major Rock Edicts:

Kandahar, Afghanistan (portions of Rock Edicts 12 and 13;

bilingual Greek-Aramaic)
Shahbazgarhi, Khyber
Kharosthi script)




Mansehra Rock Edicts, Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

province, Pakistan (in Kharosthi script).It describes
expansion of Buddhism and Law of Piety or dharma. The
site is located near to the Karakoram Highway on the
ancient Silk Route.
Kalsi, near Chakrata, Dehradun district, Uttarakhand
Girnar, near Junagadh, Gujarat.The edict is in Brahmi script
and it is inscribed high up on a large, domed mass of black

Ashokan Major Rock Edict,

Sopara, Thane district, Maharashtra (fragments Rock Edicts
8 and 9)

Dhauli, near Bhubaneswar, Orissa.The Rock Edicts found

here include Nos. I-X, XIV and two separate Kalinga
Edicts(i.e. not among set of 14).
(Separate edict I : Asoka declared all people are my sons.
Separate Edict II : proclamation of edicts even to a single
The rock-cut elephant above the Edicts in Dhauli is the
earliest Buddhist sculpture of Odisha. The stone elephant
shows the animals foreparts only.

Jaugada, Ganjam district, Orissa (includes Kalinga Edict,

excludes Rock Edicts 1-10 and 14). Jaugada served a
provincial Mauryan fortified capital of the newly
conquered province of Kalinga,
Sannati, Gulbarga district, Karnataka (separate Rock Edicts
1 and 2, fragments Rock Edicts 13 and 14).Edicts were
written in the Prakrit language and Brahmi script. One of
the stones the only known example of its type is of
Asoka (274232 BC) seated on his throne. It is probably
the only surviving image of Asoka.




Yerragudi, near Gooty, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh
(Both Major Rock Edicts and Minor Rock Edict are found
here).The rock edict talks about welfare of wildlife.
(Ashokan Edicts are probably first law for the welfare of
wild life animals in the entire world).
(3)Minor Rock Edicts:
Kandahar, Afghanistan
Lampaka, Afghanistan
Bahapur, Delhi
Bairat, near Jaipur, Rajasthan
Bhabru, second hill at Bairat, Rajasthan

Gujarra, near Jhansi, Datia district, Madhya Pradesh

Rupnath, on the Kaimur Hills near Jabalpur, Madhya
Panguraria, Sehore district, Madhya Pradesh
Sohgaura, Gorakhpur district, Uttar Pradesh
Sahasram, Rohtas district, Bihar
Barabar Caves, Bihar (donatory inscriptions to the Ajivika
sect by Mauryan King Dasaratha in 232 BC.)
Mahasthan, Bogra district, Bangladesh
Rajula-Mandagiri, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh
Palkigundu and Gavimath, Koppal district, Karnataka
Suvarnagiri (Kanakagiri), Koppal district, Karnataka
Brahmagiri, Chitradurga district, Karnataka
Jatinga-Rameshwara, near Brahmagiri, Karnataka
Siddapur, near Brahmagiri, Karnataka
Maski, Raichur district, Karnataka
Nittur, Bellary district, Karnataka
Udegolam, Bellary district, Karnataka

Disintegration of the Maurya Empire:

Towards the end of his reign Asokas grip over the imperial
organisation became weak. The Maurya Empire began to
decline with the death of Asoka in 232 B.C., soon after it
broke up. The evidence for the later Mauryas is very
The Puranas, besides Buddhist and Jaina literature, do
provide us with some information on the later Mauryas, but
there is no agreement among them. Even among the
Puranas, there is a lot of variance between one Puranas and
another. The one statement on which all the Puranas are in
agreement is that the dynasty lasted 137 years.
Ashokas death was followed by the division of the empire
into western and eastern halves. The western part including
the north-western province, Gandhara and Kashmir was
governed by Kunala (one of the sons of Ashoka) and then
for a while by Samprati (according to Jaina tradition he was
a grandson of Ashoka and a patron of Jainism).
It was later threatened from the north-west by the Bactrian
Greeks, to whom it was practically lost by 180 B.C. From
the south, the threat was posed by the Andhras or the
Satavahanas who later came to power in the Deccan.
The eastern part of the Maurya Empire, with its capital at
Pataliputra, came to be ruled by Dasaratha (probably one of
the grandsons of Ashoka). Dasaratha apart from being
mentioned in the Matsya Purana is also known to us from

the caves in the Nagarjuni Hills, which he dedicated to the

According to the Puranas, Dasaratha reigned for eight
years.The same sources speak of Kunala ruling for eight
years in western part. He must have died at about the same
time as Dasaratha; so that Sampriti now ruling in the west
may have successfully regained the throne at Pataliputra,
thus uniting the empire again.
This event occurred in 223 B.C. However, the empire had
probably already begun to disintegrate. Jaina sources
mention that Samprati ruled from Ujjain and Pataliputra.
After Dasaratha and Samprati came Salisuka, a prince
mentioned in the astronomical work, the Gargi Samhita, as
a wicked quarrelsome king.
The successors of Salisuka, according to the Puranas, were
Devavarman, Satamdhanus and finally Brihadratha. The
last prince was overthrown by his commander-in-chief,
Pushyamitra, who laid the foundations of a new dynasty
called Sunga dynasty.
Sungas and Kanvas: Click Here
Important causes of the fall of the Maurya Empire:
The Magadhan empire, which had been reared by
successive wars culminating in the conquest of Kalinga,
began to disintegrate after the exit of Ashoka in 232 BC.

Several causes seem to have brought about the decline and

fall of the Maurya empire.
1. Brahmanical Reaction:
Scholars have suggested that the pro-Buddhist policies of
Ashoka and the pro-Jaina policies of his successors
alienated the Brahmins and resulted in the revolt of
Pushyamitra, the founder of the Shunga dynasty.
The brahmanical reaction began as a result of Ashokas
policy. There is no doubt that Ashoka adopted a tolerant
policy and asked the people to respect even the brahmanas,
but he issued his edicts in Prakrit and not in Sanskrit. He
prohibited the killing of birds and animals, and derided
superfluous rituals performed by women.The anti-sacrifice
attitude of Buddhism adopted by Ashoka adversely affected
the incomes of brahmanas.
Further, Ashoka appointed rajukas to govern
countryside and introduce vyavaharasamata
dandasamata. This meant the same civil and criminal
for all varnas. But the Dharmashastra compiled by
brahmanas prescribed varna discrimination. Naturally
policy infuriated the brahmanas.


Some new kingdoms that arose on the ruins of the Maurya

empire were ruled by the brahmanas. The Shungas and the
Kanvas, who ruled in MP and further east on the remnants
of the Maurya empire, were brahmanas. Similarly, the
Satavahanas, who founded kingdom in the western Deccan
and Andhra, claimed to be brahmanas. These brahmana

dynasties performed Vedic sacrifices that were discarded by

View that brahminical reaction was responsible for the
decline because of the following reasons.
1. The Buddhist book Divyavadana refers to the
persecution of Buddhists by Pushyamitra Sunga.
2. Ashokas claim that he exposed the Bhudevas
(Brahmins) as false gods shows that Ashoka was not
well disposed towards Brahmins.
3. The capture of power by Pushyamitra Sunga shows
the triumph of Brahmins.
All of these three points can be challenged because:
1. The book Divyavadana cannot be relied upon since it
was during the time of Pushyamitra Sunga that the
Sanchi and Barhut stupas were completed. The
impression of the persecution of Buddhism was
probably created by Menanders invasion, since he
was a Buddhist.
2. The word bhudeva is misinterpreted because this
word is to be taken in the context of some other
phrase. The word normally means brahman a or
brahmin in classical Sanskrit, but perhaps the
context here requires it to be understood differently.
3. The victory of Pushyamitra Sunga clearly shows that
the last of the Mauryas was an incompetent ruler since

he was overthrown in the very presence of his army,

and this had nothing to do with brahminical reaction
against Ashokas patronage of Buddhism. Moreover,
the very fact that a Brahmin was the commander in
chief of the Mauryan ruler suggests that the Mauryas
and the Brahmins were cooperating.
2. Financial Crisis:
The enormous expenditure on the army and payment to the
bureaucracy created a financial crisis for the Maurya
empire. In ancient times the Mauryas maintained the largest
army and the largest regiment of officers. Despite the range
of taxes imposed on the people, it was difficult to maintain
this huge superstructure.
Ashoka made large donations to the Buddhist monks which
left the royal treasury empty. Towards the end, in order to
meet expenses, they were obliged to melt gold images.
Though these factors are one-sided and is not corroborated
by archaeological data. Excavations at sites like
Hastinapura and Sisupalgarh have shown improvement in
the material culture.
3. Oppressive Rule:
Oppressive rule in the provinces was an important cause of
the break-up of the empire. In the reign of Bindusara, the
citizens of Taxila bitterly complained against the misrule of
wicked bureaucrats (dushtamatyas). Their grievance was
redressed by the appointment of Ashoka, but when Ashoka

became emperor, a similar complaint was made by the

same city.
The Kalinga edicts show that Ashoka was much concerned
about oppression in the provinces and, therefore, asked the
mahamatras not to tyrannize the townsmen without due
cause. For this purpose he introduced rotation of officers in
Tosali (in Kalinga), Ujjain and Taxila. He himself spent 256
nights on a pilgrimage which may have helped
administrative supervision.
All this however failed to stop oppression in the outlying
provinces, and after his retirement Taxila took the earliest
opportunity to throw off the imperial yoke.
4. Vastness of the Empire:
The Maurya Empire was too vast in its extent. While
extending to the farthest corners of the Indian sub-continent
it also included territories outside the natural frontiers of
India. This vastness was itself a source of weakness rather
than of strength because of the lack of communication.
Distances were so great that the empire could not remain a
closely integrated political unit for a longer time.
No doubt, there was an elaborate system of administration
as left by Chandragupta and Asoka. But the whole
machinery worked under the direction of the centre. The
highly centralized character of the government suffered
from a grave defect. It depended on the king for all major
policies. As the king was the pivot of the whole machinery,

the success of the administration depended on his

If the king was strong, the centre was strong. If he was
weak, the centre became weak. Once the centre became
weak, the administration of the distant provinces also
became weak. In the days of the later Mauryas this is what
exactly happened. The weak centre under a weak king
could not govern the vast empire. As a result, the Maurya
administration collapsed and the empire began to
5. New Knowledge in the Outlying Areas:
We may recall that Magadha owed its expansion to certain
basic material advantages. Once the knowledge of the use
of these elements of culture spread to central India, the
Deccan, and Kalinga as a result of the expansion of the
Magadhan empire, the Gangetic basin, which formed the
heart of the empire, lost its special advantage. The regular
use of iron tools and weapons in the peripheral provinces
coincided with the decline and fall of the Maurya empire.
On the basis of the material culture acquired from
Magadha, new kingdoms could be founded and developed.
This explains the rise of the Shungas and Kanvas in central
India, of the Chetis in Kalinga, and of the Satavahanas in
the Deccan.
6. Neglect of the North-West Frontier and the Great Wall of

Since Ashoka was primarily preoccupied with missionary

activities at home and abroad, he was unable to pay
attention to safeguarding the passes through the northwestern frontier. This had become necessary in view of the
movement of tribes in Central Asia in the third century BC.
The Scythians were in a state of constant flux. A nomadic
people principally reliant on the use of the horse, they
posed a serious danger to the settled empires in China and
The Chinese ruler Shih Huang Ti (247-10 BC) constructed
the Great Wall of China in about 220 BC to shield his
empire against the attacks of the Scythians, but Ashoka
took no such measures. Naturally, when the Scythians made
a push towards India, they forced the Parthians, the Shakas,
and the Greeks to move towards this subcontinent. The
Greeks had set up a kingdom in north Afghanistan which
was known as Bactria, and they were the first to invade
India in 206 BC. This was followed by a series of invasions
that continued till the beginning of the Christian era.
7. Internal Revolt:
A further and immediate cause was the partition of the
empire into two, the eastern part under Dasaratha and the
western part under Kunala. Had the partition not taken
place, the Greek invasions of the north-west could have
been held back for a while, giving the Mauryas a chance to
re-establish some degree of their previous power. The
partition of the empire disrupted the various services as

When the Maurya rule was weakening and the empire was
breaking up within the half century after Asokas death,
there finally came a death blow to it by an internal revolt.
This revolt was led by the chief of the Maurya army,
General Pushyamitra in about 185 B.C. when the Maurya
King Brihadratha ruled in Magadha.
It was a military coup detal. General Pushyamitra was a
Brahmin. The Puranas state that Pushyamitra the Senapati
will rule the kingdom by assassinating his own master.
Bana, the famous author of Harsha-Charita describes the
incident saying that Pushyamitra held a parade of the army
to which he invited the King to witness, and thus created an
occasion to kill him on the spot with the support of the
The Shungas ruled in Pataliputra and central India. They
performed several Vedic sacrifices to mark the revival of
the brahmanical way of life, and are said to have persecuted
the Buddhists. They were succeeded by the Kanvas who
were also brahmanas.
(8)Ashokas Pacifist Policy:
Asokas pacifist policies were responsible for undermining
the strength of the empire.
Ashokas emphasis on nonviolence for weakening the
empire and its military strength.(Though there is nothing in
the Ashokan inscriptions to suggest demobilization of the
army. Similarly capital punishment continued)

(9Most Fundamentsl Reasons:

o The decline of the Mauryan empire cannot be
satisfactorily explained by referring to Military
inactivity, Brahmin resentment, popular uprising or
economic pressure. The causes of the decline were
more fundamental.
o The organization of administration, and the conception
of the state or the nation, were of great significance in
the causes of the decline of the Mauryas. The Mauryan
administration was of an extremely centralized
character which necessitated a king of considerable
personal ability.In such a situation the weakening of
the central control leads automatically to a weakening
of the administration. With the death of Ashoka and
the uneven quality of his successors, there was a
weakening at the centre, particularly after the division
of the empire.
o Also, it should be borne in mind that all the officials
owed their loyalty to the king and not to the State.
This meant that a change of king could result in
change of officials leading to the demoralization of the
officers. Mauryas had no system of ensuring the
continuation of well-planned bureaucracy.
o Since Mauryan Empire was its extreme centralization
and the virtual monopoly of all powers by the king,
there was a total absence of any advisory institution
representing public opinion. That is why the Mauryas
depended greatly on the espionage system. Added to

this lack of representative institutions there was no

distinction between the executive and the judiciary of
the government. An incapable king may use the
officers either for purposes of oppression or fail to use
it for good purpose.
o The Mauryan state derived its revenues from taxing a
variety of resources which would have to grow and
expand so that the administrative apparatus of the state
could be maintained.Unfortunately the Mauryas made
no attempt to expand the revenue potential or to
restructure and reorganise the resources. This inherent
weakness of the Mauryan economy when coupled
with other factors led to the collapse of the Mauryan
o Other factors of importance that contributed to the
decline and lack of national unity were the ownership
of land and inequality of economic levels. Land could
frequently change hands. Fertility wise the region of
the Ganges was more prosperous than northern
Deccan. Mauryan administration was not fully tuned
to meet the existing disparities in economic activity.
Had the southern region been more developed, the
empire could have witnessed economic homogeneity.
o Also the people of the sub-continent were not of
uniform cultural level. The sophisticated cities and the
trade centers were a great contrast to the isolated
village communities. All these differences naturally
led to the economic and political structures being

different from region to region. It is also a fact that

even the languages spoken were varied.
o Hence, the causes of the decline of the Mauryan
empire must, in large part, be attributed to top heavy
administration where authority was entirely in the
hands of a few persons while national consciousness
was unknown.