- Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya dynasty. His origin uncertain. Either from a shudra woman in Nanda court or from a kshatriya clan near Gorakhpur, as mentioned in some Buddhist texts.
- Took advantage of growing weakness and unpopularity of Nandas and overthrew them with help from Chanakya (Kautilya).
- Conquered NW India from Seleucus (Greek). Obtained eastern Afg, Baluchistan and area west of Indus.
- Mauryan rule extended from this to Bihar, Orissa and many parts of Bengal in the east and everywhere except Kerala and TN in the south.
- Known from accounts of Chanakya and Megasthenes (ambassador of Seleucus), who wrote Indica.
Administration under Chandragupta Maurya
- Devised an elaborate system of administration.
- Centralized power- King aided by wise councilmen. Kingdom divided into provinces, each under a prince from the royal dynasty.
- Patliputra, Kaushambi, Ujjain and Taila most imp cities. Patliputra administration carried out by 6 committees - sanitation, regulation of weights, registration of foreigners etc. Several weights have been found in Bihar.
- Nearly two dozen state departments regulated socio-economic activities in the kingdom.
- Mauryans maintained a huge standing army and a considerably large navy. Its expenses were managed because state controlled all economic activities.
- Virgin land was brought into cultivation by allotting it to shudras and labourers.
- Tolls were levied, tax on irrigation, monopoly in mining, arms manufacturing etc.
It is said he was so cruel he killed his 99 brothers to ascend to the throne. Accounts about him are full of fictions and cannot be trusted. His son, Ashoka became the most important ruler of Mauryan dynasty.
Ashoka and his policies
- He was the first king to speak directly to people through his inscriptions.
- They were engraved on rocks, polished pillars, caves. 44 royal orders in Prakrit (Brahmi script), Prakrit (Kharosthi script in NW India) and Aramaic (Greek script and language in Afg.) Placed on ancient highways.
- After Kalinga war, he abandoned physical occupation (bherighosh) in favour of cultural occupation (dhammaghosh).
- Appealed tribals and frontier kingdoms to repose faith in him and follow Dhamma.
- He conquered regions ideologically instead of forcefully. However, not a total pacifist. He threatened tribals who did not follow Dhamma.
- Rajukas (administration of justice) were appointed to reward people for good behaviour and punish them for bad.
- Buddhist council was convened under Ashok’s brother or during Ashoka’s rule. Missionaries were sent to SL and central asia to convert people there.
- Dharmamahamatras (Officers) for propagating religion. Forbade slaughter of certain animals and birds, disapproved of rituals, ordained that brahmanas and monks should be respected.
- Ashok’s dhamma allowed for maintenance of social order.
- Under pacifist rule, Ashok unified the country through one dhamma, one language and practically one script. Followed a tolerant religious policy.
- Maintained a huge army but urged neighbours and successors to give up the policy of aggression and conquest.
- His viceroys declared themselves independent after his descent and powerful neighbours invaded NW part of the empire by 232 BC.
- Assertion of absolutism was a natural culmination of policy of annexation.
- State virtually controlled all aspects of the subjects’ lives.
- The State required a large bureaucracy for this. Mauryas thus had the largest bureaucracy in their times. This was aided by an efficient mechanism of espionage.
- Important functionaries - tirthas
crown-prince = yuvraj, Minister = mantri, high priest = purohit, commander = senapati,
- Enormous income gap between highest and lowest classes of government servants.
- State appointed 27 adhyakshas (superintendents) to regulate economic activities of the state.