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Maurya Empire

Introduction

1. Mauryan dynasty ruled Ancient India from 322 to 185 BCE.

2. The Empire was founded in 322 BCE by Chandragupta Maurya, who was son of a Nanda Dynasty prince and a Shudra woman name Mura. Chandragupta 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 Great's Greek and Persian armies.

3. By 320 BCE the empire had fully occupied Northwestern India, defeating and conquering the satraps left by Alexander.

4. At its greatest extent, the empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it conquered beyond modern Pakistan, annexing Khorasan, Balochistan, south eastern parts of Iran and much of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat and Kandahar provinces.

5. The Empire was expanded into India's 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 Ashoka.

6. Its decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, and it dissolved in 185 BCE with the foundation of the Sunga Dynasty in Magadha.

7. Under Chandragupta, the Mauryan Empire conquered the trans-Indus region, which was under Macedonian rule.

8. Chandragupta then defeated the invasion led by Seleucus I, a Greek general from Alexander's army.

9. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced half a century of peace and security under Ashoka.

10. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism has been said to have been the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Mediterranean Europe.

11. 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 the time.

Chandragupta Maurya's Reign

Megasthenes1. Chandragupta campaigned against the Macedonians when Seleucus I Nicator, in the process of creating the Seleucid Empire out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great, tried to reconquer the northwestern parts of India in 305 BCE.

2. Seleucus failed (Seleucid–Mauryan war), the two rulers finally concluded a peace treaty: a marital treaty (Epigamia) was concluded, in which the Greeks offered their Princess for alliance and help from him.

3. Chandragupta snatched the satrapies of Paropamisade (Kamboja and Gandhara), Arachosia (Kandhahar) and Gedrosia (Balochistan), and Seleucus I received 500 war elephants that were to have a decisive role in his victory against western Hellenistic kings at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE.

4. Diplomatic relations were established and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, Deimakos and Dionysius resided at the Mauryan court.

5. Chandragupta established a strong centralized state with a complex administration at Pataliputra, which, according to Megasthenes, was "surrounded by a wooden wall pierced by 64 gates and 570 towers— (and) rivaled the splendors of contemporaneous Persian sites such as Susa and Ecbatana."

6. Chandragupta's son Bindusara extended the rule of the Mauryan empire towards southern India. He also had a Greek ambassador at his court, named Deimachus.

Bindusara's Reign

1. Bindusara was the son of the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya and his queen Durdhara.

2. During his reign, the empire expanded southwards.

3. 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 Baluchistan.

4. 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.

5. Bindusara didn't conquer the friendly Dravidian kingdoms of the Cholas, ruled by King Ilamcetcenni, the Pandyas, and Cheras.

6. Apart from these southern states, Kalinga (modern Odisha) was the only kingdom in India that didn't form the part of Bindusara's empire. It was later conquered by his son Ashoka, who served as the viceroy of Ujjaini during his father's reign.

7. Chanakya continued to serve as prime minister during his reign. 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."

8. 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 Bindusara's death.

9. Ambassadors from the Seleucid Empire (such as Deimachus) and Egypt visited his courts. He maintained good relations with the Hellenic World.

10. Unlike his father Chandragupta (who was a follower of Jainism), Bindusara believed in the Ajivika sect.

11. Bindusara died in 272 BCE and was succeeded by his son Ashoka the Great.

Ashoka's Reign (273- 232 BCE)

1. Chandragupta's grandson i.e., Bindusara's son was Ashokavardhan Maurya who was also known as Ashoka or Ashoka The Great

2. As a young prince, Ashoka was a brilliant commander who crushed revolts in Ujjain and Taxila.

3. As monarch he was ambitious and aggressive, re-asserting the Empire's superiority in southern and western India.

4. But it was his conquest of Kalinga (262-261 BCE) which proved to be the pivotal event of his life. Although Ashoka's army succeeded in overwhelming Kalinga forces of royal soldiers and civilian units, an estimated 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the furious warfare, including over 10,000 of Ashoka's own men. Hundreds of thousands of people were adversely affected by the destruction and fallout of war. When he personally witnessed the devastation, Ashoka began feeling remorse. Although the annexation of Kalinga was completed, Ashoka embraced the teachings of Buddhism, and renounced war and violence. He sent out missionaries to travel around Asia and spread Buddhism to other countries.

5. Over 40 years of peace, harmony and prosperity made Ashoka one of the most successful and famous monarchs in Indian history.

Decline of Empire

1. Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings.

2. Brihadrata, the last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty, held territories that had shrunk considerably from the time of emperor Ashoka, although he still upheld the Buddhist faith.

3. Brihadrata was assassinated in 185 BCE during a military parade, by the commander-in-chief of his guard, Pusyamitra Sunga, who then took over the throne and established the Sunga dynasty.

Read History Part 8 : Gupta Dynasty

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