Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev

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Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.)


Sources of information about Mauryas

Literary sources

  1. Kautilya’s ‘Arthasastra’
  2. Megasthenese’s ‘Indica’
  3. Visakha Datta’s ‘Mudra Rakshasa’: although it was written during Gupta Period, it describes how Chandragupta Maurya get Chanakya’s assistance to overthrow the Nandas.
  4. Puranas
  5. Buddhist text Jatakas potrays a general picture of socio-economic conditions of Mauryan Period.
  6. Buddhist chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa describe the part played by Ashoka in spreadin Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
  7. Tibetan Buddhist text Divyavadana gives information about Ashoka and his efforts to spread Buddhism


Archaeological Sources

  1. Punch mark coins
  2. Wooden palace of Chandragupta Maurya
  3. Northen Black Polished Ware (NBPW)
  4. Ashokan Edicts and Inscriptions: There are Rock Edicts, Pillar Edicts and Cave inscriptions located at several places in the Indian sub-continent.
  5. Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman
  6. Sohgaura Copper Plate Inscription in Gorakhpur district
  7. Mahasthan Inscription in Bogara district of Bangladesh.
  8. Inscription from Taxila informs about the officer name Romeodeto

 Ashokan Edicts

Ashokan inscriptions were unearthed from 45 places. They are 150 in number. They are expressed in 181 versions.

All pillar edicts are carved out of Chunar hills and from there they were dispatched at different places.

Language of Edicts

The inscriptions are mostly in Prakrit language and Brahmi script. In North western region they are written in Prakrit language and Khroshti and Aramaic script.

In Afghanistan they are written in Aramaic script and Greek language.

At Sabhazgarhi and Manshera the script is Khroshti

At Kandhar, the edicts found are bilingual.

At Yerraguddi, the minor rock edict has been recorded in Boustrophedon.

I.  Rock Edicts 


II. Pillar Edicts


III.  Cave Edicts


Contents of Major Rock Edict

  1. Prohibition of animal sacrifices & festive gatherings.
  2. Measures of social welfare, medical mission sent everywhere.
  3. Respect to Brahamanas. Mention about Yukta, Rajjuka and Pradeshika
  4. Courtesy to relatives, elders, consideration for animals.
  5. Appointment of Dhamma Mahamatras & their duties.
  6. Need for efficient organization of administration (orders to Dhamma Mahamatras).
  7. Need for tolerance among all religious sects. “All sects dwell in peace”.
  8. System of Dhamma-yatras.
  9. Attack on meaningless ceremonies & rituals.
  10. Conquest through Dhamma instead of war.
  11. Explanation of Dhamma-policy.
  12. Appeal for tolerance among all religious sects.
  13. Kalinga war, mention five contemporary Hellenic (Greek) kings.
  14. Inspiration to spend religious life.
  15. 1st separate Rock edict at Dhauli talks about “All subjects are my children”.{/niftybox}


Origin of the Mauryas

  • Buddhist text describe them as Kshatriyas, according to Mahaparinirvan Sutra Mauryas were Kshatriyas of Pipalvhan. They were also associated with the Mora tribe associated with peacock tamers.
  • According to Jaina texts Mauryas were neither of higher nor of lower origin
  • The Puranas and Bhramanic literature describe them as Shudras.
  • ‘Mudrakshasa’ of Vishakhadatta uses the terms like Vrishal or Kulhina
  • Justin describes Chandragupta only as a man of humble origin.
  • The Junagarh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman (150 AD) has some indirect evidence, which suggest that the Mauryas may have been of Vaishya origin.

Chandragupta Maurya (322–298 B.C.)

  • Chandragupta dethroned the last Nanda ruler Dhananand, he first captured the region of North West
  • Apianus tells us that in 305 BC, Chandragupta Maurya defeated Selecus Nikator at the bank of river Indus, who surrendered a vast territory including Aria (heart), Arachosia (Kandhar), Gedrosia (Baluchistan) & Paropanisade (Kabul), in return for 500 elephants.
  • After the treaty with Selecus Nikator, the boundary of empire reached up-to Hindukush.
  • Megasthenese was a Greek ambassador sent to the court of Chandragupta Maurya by Selecus Nikator.
  • Chandragupta adopted Jainism and went to Chandragiri Hill, Sravanbelgola (Karnataka) with Bhadrabahu, where he died by slow starvation.
  • Under Chandragupta Maurya, for the first time, the whole of Northern India was united.

Bindusara: (298 –273 B.C.)

  • Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded by his son Bindusara.
  • He is known by different names like Madrasar, Simhasena and Amitrochates
  • According to Smith and Lama Taraknath, Bindusara conquered the land between the two seas.
  • King of Syria Antiochus I sent his ambassador Diamakus to the court of Bindusar. Antiochus I asked for sweet wine, dried figs and a sophist. Wine and figs were sent but sophists were not.
  • Bindusara patronized Ajivika sect.
  • Pingalvastava was the astrologer in the court of Bindusar.


  • The names of Ashoka from different sources are as:
Maski minor rock edict.
Devanampriyas Ashoka Rajas
Gurjara minor rock edict
Raja Ashoka   
Nittur minor rock edict
Raja Ashoka Dewanampiya 
Udegolum minor rock edict
Piyadassi Raja Magadh
Bhabru-Bairat minor rock edict
Piyadassi Raja    
Barabar cave inscription
Kandhar major rock edict
Ashoka Maurya
Rudradaman’s Junagarh rock edict
Ashoka Vardhan   


  • According to Buddhist tradition, Ashoka usurped the throne after killing his 99 brothers and spared Tissa, the youngest one.
  • This war of succession accounts for interregnum of four years (273-269 BC), and only after securing his position on the throne, Ashoka had himself formally crowned in 269 BC.
  • Radhagupta a minister of Bindusara helped him in fratricidal struggle and capture throne
  • Fa-Haien called him Chanda Ashoka
  • Puranas calls him Ashokavardhan
  • In Puranas Ashoka is mentioned as any other ordinary king
  • According to Huien Tsang, Ashoka founded Srinagar
  • The queens of Ashoka were Assandhimitta, Kaurvaki and Padmavati. Devi was his first love but she never got the status of queen.
  • Under Ashoka, the Mauryan Empire reached its climax. For the first time, the whole of the sub-continent, leaving out the extreme south, was under imperial control.
  • Ashoka fought the Kalinga war in 261 BC in 9th years of his coronation. The King was moved by massacre in this war and therefore abandoned the policy of physical occupation in favour of policy of cultural conquest.
  • According to the Ashokan rock edict the Bherighosa was replaced by Dhammaghosa.
  • Ashoka sent missionaries to the kingdoms of the Cholas and the Pandyas, and five states ruled by Greek kings (Antiochus II, Syrina; Alexander, Epirus). We also know that he sent missionaries to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Suvarnbhumi (Burna) and also parts of South-East Asia.

Ashokan Dhamma         

  • Ashoka’s Dhamma was different from Buddhism. Dhamma propagated the tenets of tolerance as well as moral and ethical conducts.
  • Its broad objective was to preserve the social order as with the expansion of Mauryan Empire the population had become heterogeneous, diverse and multi-racial.
  • It ordained that people should obey their parents, pay respect to Brahmanas and Buddhist monks and show mercy to slaves and servants.
  • He held that if people behaved well they would attain Swarga (heaven).


Later Mauryas (232 – 185 B.C.) 

  • The Mauryan dynasty lasted for about 137 years.
  • The three Mauryan rulers ruled for 90 years and later Mauryas for only 47 years
  • Ashoka’s death was followed by the division of the Mauryan Empire into two parts-Western and Eastern.
  • The Western part came to be ruled by Kunala and then by Samprati for a short while.
  • Eastern part came to be ruled by Dasaratha.
  • The last Mauryan ruler, Brihadratha, was assassinated in 185 BC by his commender-in-chief, Pushyamitra Sunga, who established his own Sunga dynasty.

Mauryan administration

  • The Mauryan government was a centralized bureaucracy with king as fountainhead of all the powers.  However, he was assisted by the council of ministers i.e. mantri parishad.
  • The Mauryan administration was highly centralized, the officer’s even up to the lowest level were appointed by the centre and these officers were accountable to the centre. 
  • According to Kautilya/ Chanakya, there are 7 elements of states (Saptanga theory)- Raja (the king), Amatya (the secretaries), Janapada (territory), Durg (fort), Kosha (the treasure), Sena (Army) and Mitra (Friend).
  • The state during this period actively took part, as well as regulates the trade and commerce.
  • The officers were paid salary in cash.

Important Officials during Mauryan period

In 2nd, 3rd and 4th Major Rock Edicts of Ashoka, there are references of officers. Arthashastra and Indica also throw light on the officers in Mauryan age. These texts mention about 18 tireths (ministers) and 23 (adhyakshas) heads.

The 3rd Major Rock edict of Ashoka mentions three officers i.e. Yukta, Rajjuka and Pradeshika. The list of important officials is as:

Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev
Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev
Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev
Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev
Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev
Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev


Provincial administration 

The empire was divided into five provinces:

Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev
Mauryan Age (322– 185 B.C.) UPSC Notes | EduRev


Local and Municipal Administration

  • The provinces were divided into districts which were known as Vish or Ahara
  • The three officials mentioned in Ashokan edicts i.e. Yukta, Rajjuka and Pradeshika were associated with the district administration
  • The Gramika was the head of village
  • Nagaraka was the chief officer responsible for the law and order in the city.
  • Kautilya devotes a full chapter to the rules of the Nagarak i.e. city superintendent. His chief duty was maintenance of law and order.
  • The municipal administration of the cities was excellent during Mauryan period.
  • Megasthenese gives an account of the committee system of administering the municipalities in the cities. There were 6 committees of five members each.
  • The functions of these six committees were:
  1. Industrial Arts
  2. Entertainment of Foreigners
  3. Registration of Births & Deaths
  4. Trade & Commerce
  5. Public sale of manufactured goods
  6. Collection of taxes on the articles sold


  • The most striking feature of Mauryan administration was maintenance of a huge army.
  • Kautilya permitted all the four varnas to serve in the army
  • According to Pinly, Mauryas maintained an army of six lakh soldiers.
  • Mauryans also maintained a Navy.
  • In the Mauryan period, there were two types of Gudhapurushas (detectives) – Sansthan (stationary) and Sanchari (wandering).


  • State took active participation in economy
  • Shudras were involved in agriculture for the first time
  • Crown land was called Sita
  • There were provisions for irrigation by the state
  • The normal taxation rate was one sixth of the produce
  • The weight and measures were regulated by the states
  • Tolls were also levied on commodities brought to town for sale and they were collected at gate.
  • The state enjoyed monopoly in mining, forest, salt, sale of liquor, manufacture of arms etc.
  • Sohgaura (Gorakhpur district, U.P.) copper plate inscription & Mahasthana (Bogara district, Bangladesh) inscription deal with the relief measures to be adopted during a famine.


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