Learn About the Mauryan Empire in India (2023)

The Mauryan Empire (324–185 BCE), based in the Gangetic plains of India and with its capital city at Pataliputra (modern Patna), was one of many small political dynasties of the early historic period whose development included the original growth of urban centers, coinage, writing, and eventually, Buddhism. Under the leadership of Ashoka, the Mauryan Dynasty expanded to include most of the Indian subcontinent, the first empire to do so.

Described in some texts as a model of efficient economic management, Maurya's wealth was established in land and sea trade with China and Sumatra to the east, Ceylon to the south, and Persia and the Mediterranean to the west. International trade networks in goods such as silks, textiles, brocades, rugs, perfumes, precious stones, ivory, and gold were exchanged within India on roads tied into the Silk Road, and also through a thriving merchant navy.

King List/Chronology

There are several sources of information about the Mauryan dynasty, both in India and in the Greek and Roman records of their Mediterranean trading partners. These records agree on the names and reigns of five leaders between 324 and 185 BCE.

  • Chandragupta Maurya 324–300 BCE
  • Bindusara 300–272 BCE
  • Asoka 272–233 BCE
  • Dasaratha 232–224
  • Brihadratha (assassinated in 185 BCE)

Founding

The origins of the Mauryan dynasty are somewhat mysterious, leading scholars to suggest that the dynastic founder was likely of a non-royal background. Chandragupta Maurya established the dynasty in the last quarter of the 4th century BCE (circa 324–321 BCE) after Alexander the Great had left Punjab and the northwestern parts of the continent (circa 325 BCE).

Alexander himself was only in India between 327–325 BCE, after which he returned to Babylon, leaving several governors in his place. Chandragupta ousted the leader of the small Nanda Dynasty polity ruling the Ganges Valley at the time, whose leader Dhana Nanda was known as Agrammes/Xandrems in Greek classical texts. Then, by 316 BCE, he also had removed most of the Greek governors, expanding the Mauryan realm to the northwest frontier of the continent.

Alexander's General Seleucus

In 301 BCE, Chandragupta battled Seleucus, Alexander's successor and the Greek governor who controlled the eastern sector of Alexander's territories. A treaty was signed to resolve the dispute, and the Mauryans received Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan), Paraopanisade (Kabul), and Gedrosia (Baluchistan). Seleucus received 500 war elephants in exchange.

(Video) The History of the Mauryan Empire in India

In 300 BCE, Chandragupta's son Bindusara inherited the kingdom. He is mentioned in Greek accounts as Allitrokhates/Amitrokhates, which likely refers to his epithet "amitraghata" or "slayer of foes". Although Bindusara did not add to the empire's real estate, he did maintain friendly and solid trade relationships with the west.

Asoka, Beloved of the Gods

The most famous and successful of the Mauryan emperors was Bindusara's son Asoka, also spelled Ashoka, and known as Devanampiya Piyadasi ("the beloved of the gods and of beautiful looks"). He inherited the Mauryan kingdom in 272 BCE. Asoka was considered a brilliant commander who crushed several small revolts and began an expansion project. In a series of terrible battles, he expanded the empire to include most of the Indian subcontinent, although how much control he maintained after the conquering is debated in scholarly circles.

In 261 BCE, Asoka conquered Kalinga (present day Odisha), in an act of terrible violence. In an inscription known as the 13th Major Rock Edict (see full translation), Asoka had carved:

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, 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 Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas.

At its height under Asoka, the Mauryan empire included land from Afghanistan in the north to Karnataka in the south, from Kathiawad in the west to northern Bangladesh in the east.

Inscriptions

Much of what we know of the Mauryans comes from Mediterranean sources: although the Indian sources never mention Alexander the Great, the Greeks and Romans certainly knew of Asoka and wrote of the Mauryan empire. The Romans such as Pliny and Tiberius were particularly unhappy with the huge drain on resources required to pay for Roman imports from and through India. In addition, Asoka left written records, in the form of inscriptions on native bedrock or on movable pillars. They are the earliest inscriptions in South Asia.

These inscriptions are found in more than 30 places. Most of them were written in a type of Magadhi, which may have been Ashoka's official court language. Others were written in Greek, Aramaic, Kharosthi, and a version of Sanskrit, depending on their location. They include Major Rock Edicts at sites located on the bordering regions of his realm, Pillar Edicts in the Indo-Gangetic valley, and Minor Rock Edicts distributed all over the realm. The subjects of the inscriptions were not region-specific but instead consist of repetitive copies of texts attributed to Asoka.

(Video) Maurya Dynasty | Ancient History of India | UPSC CSE 2020/2021 | Byomkesh Meher

In the eastern Ganges, especially near the India-Nepal border that was the heartland of the Mauryan Empire, and the reported birthplace of the Buddha, highly polished monolithic sandstone cylinders are carved with Asoka's scripts. These are relatively rare—only a dozen are known to survive—but some are more than 13 meters (43 feet) tall.

Unlike most Persian inscriptions, Asoka's are not focused on the aggrandizement of the leader, but rather convey royal activities in support of the then-nascent religion of Buddhism, the religion that Asoka embraced after the disasters at Kalinga.

Buddhism and the Mauryan Empire

Prior to Asoka's conversion, he, like his father and grandfather, was a follower of the Upanishads and philosophical Hinduism, but after experiencing the horrors of Kalinga, Asoka began to support the then fairly esoteric ritual religion of Buddhism, adhering to his own personal dhamma (dharma). Although Asoka himself called it a conversion, some scholars argue that Buddhism at this time was a reform movement within the Hindu religion.

Asoka's idea of Buddhism included absolute allegiance to the king as well as a cessation of violence and hunting. Asoka's subjects were to minimize sin, do meritorious deeds, be kind, liberal, truthful, pure, and grateful. They were to avoid fierceness, cruelty, anger, jealousy, and pride. "Do seemly behavior to your parents and teachers," he cajoled from his inscriptions, and "be kind to your slaves and servants." "Avoid sectarian differences and promote the essence of all religious ideas." (as paraphrased in Chakravarti)

In addition to the inscriptions, Asoka convened the Third Buddhist Counciland sponsored the construction of some 84,000 brick and stone stupas honoring the Buddha. He built the Mauryan Maya Devi Temple on the foundations of an earlier Buddhist temple and sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka to spread the doctrine of dhamma.

But Was it a State?

Scholars are strongly divided as to how much control Asoka had over the regions he conquered. Often the limits of the Mauryan empire are determined by the locations of his inscriptions.

(Video) Ep. 1 Rise of Chandragupta and Chanakya (History of Ancient India - Mauryan Empire)

Known political centers of the Mauryan Empire include the capital city of Pataliputra (Patna in Bihar state), and four other regional centers at Tosali (Dhauli, Odisha), Takshasila (Taxila, in Pakistan), Ujjayini (Ujjain, in Madhya Pradesh) and Suvanergiri (Andhra Pradesh). Each of these was ruled by princes of the royal blood. Other regions were said to be maintained by other, non-royal people, including Manemadesa in Madhya Pradesh, and Kathiawad in western India.

But Asoka also wrote of known but unconquered regions in south India (Cholas, Pandyas, Satyputras, Keralaputras) and Sri Lanka (Tambapamni). The most telling evidence for some scholars is the rapid disintegration of the empire after Ashoka's death.

Collapse of the Mauryan Dynasty

After 40 years in power, Ashoka died in the invasion by Bactrian Greeks at the end of the 3rd c BCE. Most of the empire disintegrated at that time. His son Dasaratha ruled next, but only briefly, and according to the Sanskrit Puranic texts, there were a number of short-term leaders. The last Maurya ruler, Brihadratha, was killed by his commander-in-chief, who founded a new dynasty, less than 50 years after Ashoka's death.

Primary Historical Sources

  • Megasthenes, who as the Seleucid envoy to Patna wrote a description of Maurya, the original of which is lost but several pieces are excerpted by the Greeks historians Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, and Arrian
  • The Arthasastra of Kautilya, which is a compilation treatise on Indian statecraft. One of the authors was Chanakya, or Kautilya, who served as chief minister in Chandragupta's court
  • Asoka's inscriptions on rock surfaces and pillars

Fast Facts

Name:Mauryan Empire

Dates: 324–185 BCE

Location: Gangetic plains of India.At its largest, the empire stretched fromAfghanistan in the north to Karnataka in the south, and from Kathiawad in the west to northern Bangladesh in the east.

(Video) The Largest Empire of Ancient India | Mauryan Empire

Capital: Pataliputra (modern Patna)

Estimated population: 181 million

Key locations:Tosali (Dhauli, Odisha), Takshasila (Taxila, in Pakistan), Ujjayini (Ujjain, in Madhya Pradesh) and Suvanergiri (Andhra Pradesh)

Notable leaders: Established by Chandragupta Maurya,Asoka(Ashoka, Devanampiya Piyadasi)

Economy: Land and sea trade based

Legacy: First dynasty to rule over most of India. Helped popularize and expand Buddhism as a major world religion.

(Video) Different Languages of the Mauryan Empire.

Sources

FAQs

What is the Mauryan Empire famous for in India? ›

It lasted from about 321 to 185 bce and was the first empire to encompass most of the Indian subcontinent. The Mauryan empire was an efficient and highly organized autocracy with a standing army and civil service.

How was India during Mauryan Empire? ›

The Maurya Empire's political unity and internal peace encouraged the expansion of trade in India. During Ashoka's reign, government oversaw the building of major roadways, and the Mauryan international network of trade expanded. India's exports to places like Bactria and Persia included silk, textiles, and spices.

Who were the 3 most important leaders of Mauryan Empire? ›

The Mauryas were a dynasty consisting of three important rulers - Chandragupta, his son Bindusara, and Bindusara's son Ashoka. Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, ruled for 25 years from 321 B.C.E to 298 B.C.E.

How do we get information about the Mauryan Empire? ›

The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath is the national emblem of the Republic of India.

Why is Mauryan Empire important? ›

These are one of the last remaining relics from the Mauryan Empire. The Mauryan Empire, which formed around 321 B.C.E. and ended in 185 B.C.E., was the first pan-Indian empire, an empire that covered most of the Indian region. It spanned across central and northern India as well as over parts of modern-day Iran.

Which is the greatest empire in India? ›

The Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE) unified most of the Indian subcontinent into one state, and was the largest empire ever to exist on the Indian subcontinent. At its greatest extent, the Mauryan Empire stretched to the north up to the natural boundaries of the Himalayas and to the east into what is now Assam.

Who is the famous Mauryan ruler? ›

Chandragupta, also spelled Chandra Gupta, also called Chandragupta Maurya or Maurya, (died c. 297 bce, Shravanbelagola, India), founder of the Mauryan dynasty (reigned c. 321–c. 297 bce) and the first emperor to unify most of India under one administration.

What are the features of Mauryan Empire? ›

The important features of Mauryan administration : the empire was divided into four provinces (Ujjain, Taxila, Kalinga and Suvarnagiri) and Pataliputra was the center of administration. These provinces were further divided into smaller units and were administered accordingly under Rajukas, Nagarika and Gopa.

Who destroyed the Maurya Empire? ›

The Maurya empire was finally destroyed by Pushyamitra Shunga in 185 BC. Although a brahmana, he was a general of the last Maurya ruler called Brihadratha. He is said to have killed Brihadratha in public and forcibly usurped the throne of Pataliputra. The Shungas ruled in Pataliputra and central India.

Why did the Mauryan empire fall? ›

One obvious reason for it was the succession of weak kings. Another immediate cause was the partition of the Empire into two. Had not the partition taken place, the Greek invasions could have been held back giving a chance to the Mauryas to re-establish some degree of their previous power.

Who killed the last Mauryan king? ›

… the last of the Mauryas, Brihadratha, was assassinated by his Brahman commander in chief, Pushyamitra, who founded the Shunga dynasty.

Who is the strongest king in India? ›

1. Chandragupta Maurya. Founder of the Maurya dynasty in ancient India, Chandragupta Maurya reigned from 321 BCE–298 BCE.

Which religion did the Maurya Empire support? ›

The Mauryan Empire Religion

Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism were all important religions to the people of the empire. The founder of the Mauryan dynasty Emperor Chandragupta was a Hindu but became a Jain monk later in life after he abdicated the throne in favor of his son.

What language did the Mauryan Empire speak? ›

Detailed Solution. The correct answer is option 2) i.e. ​Pali. The Mauryan kingdom was founded by Chandragupta Maurya.

What is capital of Maurya Empire? ›

Pataliputra was the capital of the Mauryan empire.

What was the greatest achievement of the Mauryan Empire? ›

Among the greatest achievements of the Mauryan Empire was the creation of a stable economy and trade network. This was accomplished by conquering several new territories and bringing their elites into the administration.

Who Ruled India after Mauryan Empire? ›

After the Maurya Empire came to an end, India remained divided for nearly 600 years. During that time, Buddhism spread throughout India and the popularity of Hinduism declined. Around AD 320 the Gupta Dynasty took over India, once again bringing unity and prosperity to the region.

Why is Mauryan Empire said to be the first empire? ›

Answer: because this period saw great discoveries buildings etc.

Who Ruled India first? ›

Chandragupta Maurya (324-297 BCE)

But what we do know for sure is that he ruled at a pivotal point in the subcontinent's history. The country was then divided into multiple 'states', but a 'low born' Chandragupta became the first emperor to unify them into one big empire and found the Maurya dynasty.

Who came first in India? ›

The first successful voyage to India was by Vasco da Gama in 1498, when after sailing around the Cape of Good Hope he arrived in Calicut, now in Kerala.

Who invaded India first? ›

The first group to invade India were the Aryans, who came out of the north in about 1500 BC. The Aryans brought with them strong cultural traditions that, miraculously, still remain in force today.

Who was the most powerful Mauryan ruler? ›

Ashoka was the most famous Mauryan ruler. He was the first ruler to use inscriptions to convey his message to the people. The majority of Ashoka's inscriptions were in Prakrit and were written in Brahmi script.

How was the Mauryan Empire Divided? ›

The Mauryan Empire was divided into four provinces with the imperial capital at Pataliputra. From Ashokan Edicts, the name of the four provincial capitals were Tosali (in the east), Ujjain in the west, Suvarnagiri (in the south), and Taxila (in the north).

What was the most important feature of the Mauryan administration? ›

The most important feature of the Mauryan administration was the presence of vast, numerous powers of the bureaucracy.

What is the timeline of Mauryan Empire? ›

321 BCE – 181 BCE]

What is significant about the Maurya family? ›

What is significant about the Maurya family? They were the first to unite the kingdoms of India.

Who Ruled India most years? ›

The power of the Cholas

From a study of the annals of Indic studies, it is quite clear that the Imperial Cholas of south India claim the record for being the longest ruling dynasty in Indian history. It is undoubtedly also one of the grandest empires that the country has ever seen.

Which empire was bigger Mauryan or Mughal? ›

Maurya Empire

It was the biggest and earliest empire in the, which was established by an Indian dynasty. The Maurya Empire began in 250 B.C.E and occupied an area of approximately 5,000,000 square kilometers.It emerged as a result of a combination of states in the northern India that created one state.

What is the conclusion of Mauryan Empire? ›

After Bindusar his sons fought for the throne for quite a long time and finally Ashoka the great was successful. Ashoka was a known leader but later his attitude became a hindrance and the Mauryan empire lost its position after Ashoka's decline.

How Chandragupta Maurya died? ›

Who killed the last modern ruler? ›

The last Mauryan ruler Brihadratha was killed by his general Pushyamitra Sunga in 185 BC.

Who founded Magadha empire? ›

Magadha is situated in modern Bihar. Jarasandha, who was a descendant of Brihadratha, founded the empire in Magadha. Both are talked about in the Mahabharata.

Who is No 1 warrior in India? ›

1. Shivaji Maharaj. The fact that no Indian can mention his name without adding the word “Maharaj” must tell you something about his greatness.

Who is the No 1 king in the world? ›

Genghis Khan (1162-1227)

No list of top kings in the world is completed without Genghis Khan perched on top. Originally named as Temujin from Borjigin, he was born into the Khan tribe. His father was murdered when he was at a pretty young age.

Who is first king of world? ›

Meet the world's first emperor. King Sargon of Akkad—who legend says was destined to rule—established the world's first empire more than 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.

What is Mauryan culture? ›

Its king was head of state and also led the military and judiciary. He ruled over an efficient bureaucratic system with many government divisions. It was a culture with a single currency, one where both the state and individuals could own businesses and be engaged in commerce.

What type of government was the Mauryan empire? ›

The Maurya Empire was ruled by an absolute monarchy. Although the ruler had a council of advisors, the final authority rested with the emperor.

Who all ruled India? ›

India: Rulers
  • Maurya, ancient Indian dynasty (c. ...
  • Asoka, Indian emperor (c.273–c.232 B.C.) of the Maurya dynasty.
  • Harsha, Indian emperor (606–47)
  • Prithvi Raj, ruler of the Chauan dynasty of N. ...
  • Mughal, Muslim empire in India (1526–1857)
  • Babur, founder of the Mughal empire of India (1494–1530)

Who has ruled India? ›

British Empire (1858 and 1947 AD) Pala Empire (750-1174 CE) Kushan Empire (30-375 AD) Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1414 AD)

Which is oldest dynasty in India? ›

The correct answer is Maurya. Mauryan dynasty is the oldest dynasty. It was founded by Chandragupta Maurya, which existed in the subcontinent of India during 325 – 185 BCE. Gupta Empire founded by Sri Gupta.

Is Mauryan and Gupta same? ›

No, the Gupta and Maurya dynasties are different from each other in terms of the era they ruled and the size of their respective empires. The Mauryan Empire existed in the B.C era while the Gupta Empire in the A.D era.

Why is the Mauryan Empire said to be the first empire of India? ›

Answer: The mauryan principles were directly taken from Nanda principles and few changes were made.. Prime Minister Rakshasa who was a peime minister to Nanda was also made the prime minister to Chandra Gupta Maurya. Mauryan Empire was the first well known empire of the Indian subcontinent, not India.

Who is the strongest king in India? ›

1. Chandragupta Maurya. Founder of the Maurya dynasty in ancient India, Chandragupta Maurya reigned from 321 BCE–298 BCE.

Which king has biggest empire in India? ›

Chandragupta Maurya established the Mauryan dynasty which is the largest empire in Indian history.

Who is the greatest king in Indian history? ›

To discover even more about history's greatest rulers Subscribe to All About History today and save up to 56% on the cover price!
  1. Ajatasatru (512-461 BCE) ...
  2. Chandragupta Maurya (340-298 BCE) ...
  3. Ashoka (304-232 BCE) ...
  4. Samudragupta (315-380) ...
  5. Pulakesi II (610-642) ...
  6. Raja Raja Chola I (947-1014) ...
  7. Krishnadevaraya (1471-1529)
21 Sept 2016

Who defeated Mauryan Empire? ›

The Maurya empire was finally destroyed by Pushyamitra Shunga in 185 BC. Although a brahmana, he was a general of the last Maurya ruler called Brihadratha. He is said to have killed Brihadratha in public and forcibly usurped the throne of Pataliputra.

What are the features of Mauryan Empire? ›

The important features of Mauryan administration : the empire was divided into four provinces (Ujjain, Taxila, Kalinga and Suvarnagiri) and Pataliputra was the center of administration. These provinces were further divided into smaller units and were administered accordingly under Rajukas, Nagarika and Gopa.

Who was the greatest ruler of the Maurya dynasty? ›

Ashoka was the most famous Mauryan ruler. He was the first ruler to use inscriptions to convey his message to the people. The majority of Ashoka's inscriptions were in Prakrit and were written in Brahmi script.

Who is No 1 warrior in India? ›

1. Shivaji Maharaj. The fact that no Indian can mention his name without adding the word “Maharaj” must tell you something about his greatness.

Who is the No 1 king in the world? ›

Genghis Khan (1162-1227)

No list of top kings in the world is completed without Genghis Khan perched on top. Originally named as Temujin from Borjigin, he was born into the Khan tribe. His father was murdered when he was at a pretty young age.

Who is first king of world? ›

Meet the world's first emperor. King Sargon of Akkad—who legend says was destined to rule—established the world's first empire more than 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.

Which empire is strongest? ›

Empires at their greatest extent
EmpireMaximum land area
Million km2Million sq mi
British Empire35.513.71
Mongol Empire24.09.27
Russian Empire22.88.80
90 more rows

Which country ruled India first? ›

British Raj
India
Viceroy
1858–1862 (first)Charles Canning
• 1947 (last)Louis Mountbatten
Secretary of State
31 more rows

Why did the Mauryan Empire fall? ›

One obvious reason for it was the succession of weak kings. Another immediate cause was the partition of the Empire into two. Had not the partition taken place, the Greek invasions could have been held back giving a chance to the Mauryas to re-establish some degree of their previous power.

Who is current king of India? ›

Currently, Maharaja Gaj Singh lives in the Umaid Bhawan Palace, with his wife, two kids and their spouses.

Who is the bravest King of India? ›

However, through his capable rule his kingdom turned into one of the greatest power of Northern India in early sixteenth century.
...
Rana Sanga
Coronation1508 CE
PredecessorRana Raimal
SuccessorRatan Singh II
Born1482 CE Chittor, Mewar
13 more rows

Who is the first woman ruler in India? ›

Razia Sultana was the first woman Sultanate of India, and ruled the court of Delhi from the end of 1236 to 1240. The only ever woman to do so, she defied all odds to occupy the throne, including overcoming conflicts over her gender and her slave ancestry.

Videos

1. Mauryan Period | Sources and Origin | Part 1 | Ancient History of India
(Shreyas Badiye)
2. Mauryan Empire Story - Dynasties of Ancient India | History for Kids | Educational Videos by Mocomi
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3. Ashoka the Great - Rise of the Mauryan Empire Documentary
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4. COMPLETE STUDY OF MAURYAN EMPIRE ( ANCIENT INDIA )
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5. Maurya Empire | History of India in English | Indian History | History of India Documentary
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6. Samrat Ashoka the Great - Maurya Empire | Kalinga War. Ancient History of India
(StudyIQ IAS)
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