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Magadhan and Mauryan Soldiers

Magadhan and Mauryan Soldiers


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The Mauryan Empire Military

Chandragupta governed a true monarchical imperial state. The king ruled with the help of a small body of elder statesmen, the mantri-parisad, that functioned as advisors. These included the great councilor, or mantrin the purohita, or chief priest the treasurer, or sannidhatr the chief tax collector, samahartr the minister of military affairs, sandhivigrahika the senapati, or chief military advisor or general and the chief secretary, or mahaksapatalika. Below this council, the state was governed on a day-to-day basis through powerful individuals, called superintendents, who oversaw various government departments. The military system itself was controlled by high-ranking civilian superintendents who oversaw the operations of state armories, where all military equipment and weapons were manufactured, as well as supply depots, cavalry, elephants, chariot corps, and infantry, including provisions, training, and general combat readiness. According to Megasthenes, the Seleucid ambassador to Ashoka’s court, the imperial army was run by a committee of thirty of these superintendents, while each branch or department-infantry, cavalry, elephants, chariots, navy, commissariat, and so on-was run by a committee of five men. It is likely that these committees reported directly to the chief military man, the senapati, who then reported to the king.

There were six types of troops in the Mauryan imperial army: the ksatriya, or troops of the hereditary warrior class who formed the spine of the professional army mercenaries and freebooters hired as individuals seeking military adventure troops provided by corporations or guilds troops supplied by subordinate allies deserters from the enemy and wild forest and hill tribesmen used in the same manner as the French and British used Native American tribes in their wars in North America. The troops of the corporations are little understood and may have been units maintained by guilds to guard their caravan routes and trade stations. Such units were later found in the armies of medieval Europe. The imperial armies were not conscript armies. In Vedic times, war fighting was the responsibility of all members of the tribe. By the time of the Mauryas, whatever sort of conscription had once existed earlier had disappeared, and the imperial armies comprised professional warrior aristocrats and other professionals fed, equipped, trained, paid, and otherwise maintained at great cost to the state.

The Mauryan army was quite large. Classical sources (Pliny) state that the size of the army of the last Nanda king was 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, 2,000 chariots, and 3,000 elephants when it was overwhelmed by Chandragupta’s force of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants. When Alexander confronted Porus on the banks of the Hydaspes, he faced an army of 30,000 foot, 4,000 cavalry, 300 chariots, and 200 war elephants, an army of considerable size to be deployed by a minor king of a minor state in the Jhelum region. Less than a year later, Alexander confronted the army of the Malavas state, another minor regional entity, and faced an army of 80,000 well-equipped infantry, 10,000 cavalry, and 800 chariots. Even accounting for the exaggeration common in ancient accounts, it is by no means unlikely that these armies were this large. The population of India during this period was somewhere between 120,000,000 and 180,000,000 people. Even excluding the lower social orders, the Mauryan empire possessed an enormous manpower pool. Moreover, India was rich in gold and metals and the skills to produce weapons in great quantities in state armories. The Ganges plain and other areas farther north were excellent for breeding mounts for the cavalry. Whatever the true size of the imperial armies, they are all recorded as smaller than those said to have existed during the later medieval and Muslim periods of Indian history.

The tactical organization of the Mauryan army may have been influenced somewhat by the Chinese innovation of combining several combat arms within a single tactical unit and training it to fight together, employing their arms in concert. Indian armies of this period had within them a basic unit called the patti, a mixed platoon comprising one elephant carrying three archers or spearman and a mahout, three horse cavalrymen armed with javelins, round buckler, and spear, and five infantry soldiers armed with shield and broadsword or bow. This twelve-man unit when assembled in three units formed a senamukha, or “company.” Three of these formed together comprised a gulma, or “battalion.” Units were added in multiples of three, forming an aksauhini, or “army,” comprised of 21,870 patti. Sources also speak of military units formed around multiples of ten, and there were no doubt units of single arms that could be employed individually or in concert with other arms. The Arthasastra mentions a unit called the samavyuha, or “battle array,” that was about the size of a Roman legion (5,000 men). This unit comprised five subunits joined together, each subunit containing 45 chariots, 45 elephants, 225 cavalry, and 675 infantrymen each. It goes without saying that managing such units in battle required a high degree of tactical sophistication.

The military equipment of the Mauryan imperial army was essentially the same as it had been for the previous 500 years. The Indian bow was made of bamboo and was between five and six feet long and fi red a long cane arrow with a metal or bone tip. Nearchus, the Cretan chronicler who accompanied Alexander into India, noted that the bowman had to rest the bow on the ground and steady it with his left foot in order to draw it full length. The arrow fi red from the bamboo bow could penetrate any armor. At the Hydaspes the battle took place over muddy ground, which prevented the archers from steadying their bows in this manner, rendering them useless. The composite bow, or sarnga, was also used but probably far less so and not by cavalry. When Alexander’s Asian cavalry archers at the Hydaspes attacked the Indian cavalry with bow and arrow, the Indian cavalry took heavy losses and had no means of returning fi re. It is unlikely that the Indian cavalry ever became proficient with the bow, relying completely on the lance and javelin, the weapons of light cavalry. If the Mauryan army possessed heavy cavalry, they appear to have done so in small numbers.

Infantrymen carried a long, narrow shield made of raw ox hide stretched over a wooden or wicker frame that protected almost the entire body, unlike the small round buckler carried by the cavalry. Armed with spear, bow, and javelin, the infantry tended mostly to be of the light variety. Heavy infantry carried the nistrimsa, or long, two-handed slashing sword, while others were armed with iron maces, dagger axes, battle axes, and clubs. A special long lance, the tomara, was carried by infantry mounted on the backs of elephants and was used to counter any enemy infantry that had fought its way through the elephant’s infantry screen to attack the animal itself. What evidence we have suggests that from Vedic times until the coming of the Greeks, only slight use was made of body armor, and most of that was of the leather or textile variety. With Alexander’s invasion, however, the use of metal and lamellar armor became more widespread, as did the use of scale plate armor for horses and elephants. The helmet did not come into wide use until well after the Common Era, and for most of the ancient period the Indian soldier relied mostly on the thick folds of his turban to protect his head.

By the Mauryan period the Indians possessed most of the ancient world’s siege and artillery equipment, including catapults, ballistas, battering rams, and other siege engines. A distinguishing characteristic of Indian siege and artillery practice was a heavy reliance on incendiary devices, such as fire arrows, pitch pots, and fireballs. There was even a manual instructing how to equip birds and monkeys with the ability to carry fire inside buildings and onto rooftops. This was not surprising in a country whose military fortifications and buildings were made mostly of wood. Fire was such a constant threat to Indian towns that thousands of water containers and buckets were required to be kept full and placed outside dwellings at all times to extinguish fi res. All citizens were required by law to assist in fighting fi res, and it was required that people sleep in the room nearest the street exit to escape fi re more easily and to be quickly available to help in fighting them. So serious was the concern for fi re that the punishment for arson was death by burning alive.

The Arthasastra declares that a good army can march two yojanas a day and that a bad army can only manage one. This is a rate of march for an effective army of about ten miles a day, considerably below what the armies of the Near East could manage during the same period. It is likely that the Mauryan army followed the old Vedic practice of agreeing with the enemy as to the location of a battlefield in advance. Under these conditions, tactical surprise was likely to have been a rare event. Much of the advice offered by the Arthasastra, at least from the tactical perspective, seems to be of the same variety as that proffered by Sun-Tsu, more a set of maxims designed to make the commander think than a set of rules to be applied in certain circumstances. That is why, to the Western mind, such maxims often appear obvious. Hints of a tactical system appear, however, in the suggestion that whether the attack is from the center, right, or left, it should always be led by the strongest troops. The weakest troops are to be kept in reserve. But the reserve is very important. The king should always station himself with the reserve to exploit any enemy failure, and a king should “never fight without a reserve.”

FURTHER READING Basham, A. L. The Wonder That Was India: A Study of the History and Culture of the Indian Sub-continent Before the Coming of the Muslims. New York: Grove Press, 1959. Bhatia, H. S. Vedic and Aryan India. Delhi: Deep and Deep, 2001. Bradford, Alfred S. With Arrow, Sword, and Spear: A History of Warfare in the Ancient World. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001. The Cambridge History of India. Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 1968. Dikshitar, V. R. Ramachandra. War in Ancient India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987. Jackson, A. V. Williams. History of India. London: Grolier Society, 1906. Prasad, S. N., ed. Historical Perspectives of Warfare in India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2002. Sandhu, Gurcharn Singh. A Military History of Ancient India. Delhi: Vision Books, 2000. Singh, Sarva Daman. Ancient Indian Warfare. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1997. Smith, Vincent Arthur. The Oxford History of India. 3rd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958. Thapar, Romila. A History of India. Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1966.


Contents

The name "Maurya" does not occur in Ashoka's inscriptions, or the contemporary Greek accounts such as Megasthenes's Indica, but it is attested by the following sources: [36]

  • The Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman (c. 150 CE) prefixes "Maurya" to the names Chandragupta and Ashoka. [36]
  • The Puranas (c. 4th century CE or earlier) use Maurya as a dynastic appellation. [36]
  • The Buddhist texts state that Chandragupta belonged to the "Moriya" clan of the Shakyas, the tribe to which Gautama Buddha belonged. [36]
  • The Jain texts state that Chandragupta was the son of a royal superintendent of peacocks (mayura-poshaka). [36] also designate them as 'moriyar' and mention them after the Nandas[37] inscription (from the town of Bandanikke, North Mysore ) of 12th century AD chronologically mention Mauryya as one of the dynasties which ruled the region. [38]

According to some scholars, Kharavela's Hathigumpha inscription (2nd-1st century BC) mentions era of Maurya Empire as Muriya Kala (Mauryan era), [39] but this reading is disputed: other scholars—such as epigraphist D. C. Sircar—read the phrase as mukhiya-kala ("the principal art"). [40]

According to the Buddhist tradition, the ancestors of the Maurya kings had settled in a region where peacocks (mora in Pali) were abundant. Therefore, they came to be known as "Moriyas", literally, "belonging to the place of peacocks". According to another Buddhist account, these ancestors built a city called Moriya-nagara ("Moriya-city"), which was so called, because it was built with the "bricks coloured like peacocks' necks". [41]

The dynasty's connection to the peacocks, as mentioned in the Buddhist and Jain traditions, seems to be corroborated by archaeological evidence. For example, peacock figures are found on the Ashoka pillar at Nandangarh and several sculptures on the Great Stupa of Sanchi. Based on this evidence, modern scholars theorize that the peacock may have been the dynasty's emblem. [42]

Some later authors, such as Dhundiraja (a commentator on the Mudrarakshasa) and an annotator of the Vishnu Purana, state that the word "Maurya" is derived from Mura and the mother of the first Maurya king. However, the Puranas themselves make no mention of Mura and do not talk of any relation between the Nanda and the Maurya dynasties. [43] Dhundiraja's derivation of the word seems to be his own invention: according to the Sanskrit rules, the derivative of the feminine name Mura (IAST: Murā) would be "Maureya" the term "Maurya" can only be derived from the masculine "Mura". [44]

Founding

Prior to the Maurya Empire, the Nanda Empire ruled over most of the Indian Subcontinent. The Nanda Empire was a large, militaristic, and economically powerful empire due to conquering the Mahajanapadas. According to several legends, Chanakya travelled to Pataliputra, Magadha, the capital of the Nanda Empire where Chanakya worked for the Nandas as a minister. However, Chanakya was insulted by the Emperor Dhana Nanda, of the Nanda dynasty and Chanakya swore revenge and vowed to destroy the Nanda Empire. [45] He had to flee in order to save his life and went to Taxila, a notable center of learning, to work as a teacher. On one of his travels, Chanakya witnessed some young men playing a rural game practicing a pitched battle. He was impressed by the young Chandragupta and saw royal qualities in him as someone fit to rule.

Meanwhile, Alexander the Great was leading his Indian campaigns and ventured into Punjab. His army mutinied at the Beas River and refused to advance further eastward when confronted by another army. 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 into independent kingdoms led by his generals. [46]

The Maurya Empire was established in the Greater Punjab region under the leadership of Chandragupta Maurya and his mentor Chanakya. Chandragupta was taken to Taxila by Chanakya and was tutored about statecraft and governing. Requiring an army Chandragupta recruited and annexed local military republics such as the Yaudheyas that had resisted Alexanders Empire. The Mauryan army quickly rose to become the prominent regional power in the North West of the Indian Subcontinent. The Mauryan army then conquered the satraps established by the Macedonians. [47] Ancient Greek historians Nearchus, Onesictrius and Aristobolus have provided lot of information about the Mauryan empire. [48] The Greek generals Eudemus and Peithon ruled in the Indus Valley until around 317 BCE, when Chandragupta Maurya (with the help of Chanakya, who was now his advisor) fought and drove out the Greek governors, and subsequently brought the Indus Valley under the control of his new seat of power in Magadha. [27]

Chandragupta Maurya's ancestry is shrouded in mystery and controversy. On one hand, a number of ancient Indian accounts, such as the drama Mudrarakshasa (Signet ring of RakshasaRakshasa was the prime minister of Magadha) by Vishakhadatta, describe his royal ancestry and even link him with the Nanda family. A kshatriya clan known as the Mauryas are referred to in the earliest Buddhist texts, Mahaparinibbana Sutta. However, any conclusions are hard to make without further historical evidence. Chandragupta first emerges in Greek accounts as "Sandrokottos". As a young man he is said to have met Alexander. [49] Chanakya is said to have met the Nanda king, angered him, and made a narrow escape. [50]

Conquest of Magadha

Chanakya encouraged Chandragupta Maurya and his army to take over the throne of Magadha. 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 battles. These men included the former general of Taxila, accomplished students of Chanakya, the representative of King Parvataka, his son Malayaketu, and the rulers of small states. The Macedonians (described as Yona or Yavana in Indian sources) may then have participated, together with other groups, in the armed uprising of Chandragupta Maurya against the Nanda dynasty. [52] [53] The Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadutta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvataka, often identified with Porus, [54] [55] although this identification is not accepted by all historians. [56] This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a composite and powerful army made up of Yavanas (Greeks), Kambojas, Shakas (Scythians), Kiratas (Himalayans), Parasikas (Persians) and Bahlikas (Bactrians) who took Pataliputra (also called Kusumapura, "The City of Flowers"): [57]

Kusumapura was besieged from every direction by the forces of Parvata and Chandragupta: Shakas, Yavanas, Kiratas, Kambojas, Parasikas, Bahlikas and others, assembled on the advice of Chanakya

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 with Maurya's forces. Maurya's 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 exile and was never heard of again. 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. Chanakya also reiterated that choosing to resist would start a war that would severely affect Magadha and destroy the city. Rakshasa accepted Chanakya's reasoning, and Chandragupta Maurya was legitimately installed as the new King of Magadha. Rakshasa became Chandragupta's chief advisor, and Chanakya assumed the position of an elder statesman.

Chandragupta Maurya

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, Chandragupta led a series of campaigns in 305 BCE to take satrapies in the Indus Valley and northwest India. [59] When Alexander's remaining forces were routed, returning westwards, Seleucus I Nicator fought to defend these territories. Not many details of the campaigns are known from ancient sources. Seleucus was defeated and retreated into the mountainous region of Afghanistan. [60]

The two rulers concluded a peace treaty in 303 BCE, including a marital alliance. Under its terms, Chandragupta received the satrapies of Paropamisadae (Kamboja and Gandhara) and Arachosia (Kandhahar) and Gedrosia (Balochistan). Seleucus I received the 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. Diplomatic relations were established and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, Deimakos and Dionysius resided at the Mauryan court. [61]

Megasthenes in particular was a notable Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya. [62] According to Arrian, ambassador Megasthenes (c. 350 – c. 290 BCE) lived in Arachosia and travelled to Pataliputra. [63] Megasthenes' description of Mauryan society as freedom-loving gave Seleucus a means to avoid invasion, however, underlying Seleucus' decision was the improbability of success. In later years, Seleucus' successors maintained diplomatic relations with the Empire based on similar accounts from returning travellers. [59]

Chandragupta established a strong centralised state with an administration at Pataliputra, which, according to Megasthenes, was "surrounded by a wooden wall pierced by 64 gates and 570 towers". Aelian, although not expressly quoting Megasthenes nor mentioning Pataliputra, described Indian palaces as superior in splendor to Persia's Susa or Ecbatana. [64] The architecture of the city seems to have had many similarities with Persian cities of the period. [65]

Chandragupta's son Bindusara extended the rule of the Mauryan empire towards southern India. The famous Tamil poet Mamulanar of the Sangam literature described how areas south of the Deccan Plateau which comprised Tamil country was invaded by the Maurya army using troops from Karnataka. Mamulanar states that Vadugar (people who resided in Andhra-Karnataka regions immediately to the north of Tamil Nadu) formed the vanguard of the Mauryan army. [37] [66] He also had a Greek ambassador at his court, named Deimachus. [67] According to Plutarch, Chandragupta Maurya subdued all of India, and Justin also observed that Chandragupta Maurya was "in possession of India". These accounts are corroborated by Tamil sangam literature which mentions about Mauryan invasion with their south Indian allies and defeat of their rivals at Podiyil hill in Tirunelveli district in present-day Tamil Nadu. [68] [69]

Chandragupta renounced his throne and followed Jain teacher Bhadrabahu. [70] [71] [72] He is said to have lived as an ascetic at Shravanabelagola for several years before fasting to death, as per the Jain practice of sallekhana. [73]

Bindusara

Bindusara was born to Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan Empire. This is attested by several sources, including the various Puranas and the Mahavamsa. [74] [ full citation needed ] He is attested by the Buddhist texts such as Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa ("Bindusaro") the Jain texts such as Parishishta-Parvan as well as the Hindu texts such as Vishnu Purana ("Vindusara"). [75] [76] According to the 12th century Jain writer Hemachandra's Parishishta-Parvan, the name of Bindusara's mother was Durdhara. [77] Some Greek sources also mention him by the name "Amitrochates" or its variations. [78] [79]

Historian Upinder Singh estimates that Bindusara ascended the throne around 297 BCE. [66] Bindusara, just 22 years 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. 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 did not conquer the friendly Tamil kingdoms of the Cholas, ruled by King Ilamcetcenni, the Pandyas, and Cheras. Apart from these southern states, Kalinga (modern Odisha) was the only kingdom in India that did not form part of Bindusara's empire. [80] It was later conquered by his son Ashoka, who served as the viceroy of Ujjaini during his father's reign, which highlights the importance of the town. [81] [82]

Bindusara's 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". [83] During his rule, the citizens of Taxila revolted twice. The reason for the first revolt was the maladministration of Susima, 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. [84]

Bindusara maintained friendly diplomatic relations with the Hellenic world. Deimachus was the ambassador of Seleucid emperor Antiochus I at Bindusara's court. [85] Diodorus states that the king of Palibothra (Pataliputra, the Mauryan capital) welcomed a Greek author, Iambulus. This king is usually identified as Bindusara. [85] Pliny states that the Egyptian king Philadelphus sent an envoy named Dionysius to India. [86] [87] According to Sailendra Nath Sen, this appears to have happened during Bindusara's reign. [85]

Unlike his father Chandragupta (who at a later stage converted to Jainism), Bindusara believed in the Ajivika sect. Bindusara's guru Pingalavatsa (Janasana) was a Brahmin [88] of the Ajivika sect. Bindusara's wife, Queen Subhadrangi (Queen Dharma/ Aggamahesi) was a Brahmin [89] also of the Ajivika sect from Champa (present Bhagalpur district). Bindusara is credited with giving several grants to Brahmin monasteries (Brahmana-bhatto). [90]

Historical evidence suggests that Bindusara died in the 270s BCE. According to Upinder Singh, Bindusara died around 273 BCE. [66] Alain Daniélou believes that he died around 274 BCE. [83] Sailendra Nath Sen believes that he died around 273–272 BCE, and that his death was followed by a four-year struggle of succession, after which his son Ashoka became the emperor in 269–268 BCE. [85] According to the Mahavamsa, Bindusara reigned for 28 years. [91] The Vayu Purana, which names Chandragupta's successor as "Bhadrasara", states that he ruled for 25 years. [92]

Ashoka

As a young prince, Ashoka ( r . 272–232 BCE) was a brilliant commander who crushed revolts in Ujjain and Takshashila. As monarch he was ambitious and aggressive, re-asserting the Empire's superiority in southern and western India. But it was his conquest of Kalinga (262–261 BCE) which proved to be the pivotal event of his life. Ashoka used Kalinga to project power over a large region by building a fortification there and securing it as a possession. [93] 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. [ citation needed ]

Ashoka implemented principles of ahimsa by banning hunting and violent sports activity and ending indentured and forced labor (many thousands of people in war-ravaged Kalinga had been forced into hard labour and servitude). While he maintained a large and powerful army, to keep the peace and maintain authority, Ashoka expanded friendly relations with states across Asia and Europe, and he sponsored Buddhist missions. He undertook a massive public works building campaign across the country. Over 40 years of peace, harmony and prosperity made Ashoka one of the most successful and famous monarchs in Indian history. He remains an idealized figure of inspiration in modern India. [ citation needed ]

The Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, are found throughout the Subcontinent. Ranging from as far west as Afghanistan and as far south as Andhra (Nellore District), Ashoka's edicts state his policies and accomplishments. Although predominantly written in Prakrit, two of them were written in Greek, and one in both Greek and Aramaic. Ashoka's edicts refer to the Greeks, Kambojas, and Gandharas as peoples forming a frontier region of his empire. They also attest to Ashoka's having sent envoys to the Greek rulers in the West as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts precisely name each of the rulers of the Hellenic world at the time such as Amtiyoko (Antiochus), Tulamaya (Ptolemy), Amtikini (Antigonos), Maka (Magas) and Alikasudaro (Alexander) as recipients of Ashoka's proselytism. [ citation needed ] The Edicts also accurately locate their territory "600 yojanas away" (a yojanas being about 7 miles), corresponding to the distance between the center of India and Greece (roughly 4,000 miles). [94]

Decline

Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings. He was succeeded by Dasharatha Maurya, who was Ashoka's grandson. None of Ashoka's sons could ascend the throne after him. Mahendra, his first born, was on to spread Buddhism in the world. Kunala Maurya was blind hence couldn't ascend the throne and Tivala, son of Kaurwaki, died even earlier than Ashoka. Another son, Jalauka, does not have much story behind him.

The empire lost many territories under Dasharatha, which were later reconquered by Samprati, Kunala's son. Post Samprati, the Mauryas slowly lost many territories. In 180 BCE, Brihadratha Maurya, was killed by his general Pushyamitra Shunga in a military parade without any heir. Hence, the great Maurya empire finally ended, giving rise to the Shunga Empire.

Reasons advanced for the decline include the succession of weak kings after Aśoka Maurya, the partition of the empire into two, the growing independence of some areas within the empire, such as that ruled by Sophagasenus, a top-heavy administration where authority was entirely in the hands of a few persons, an absence of any national consciousness, [95] the pure scale of the empire making it unwieldy, and invasion by the Greco-Bactrian Empire.

Some historians, such as H. C. Raychaudhuri, have argued that Ashoka's pacifism undermined the "military backbone" of the Maurya empire. Others, such as Romila Thapar, have suggested that the extent and impact of his pacifism have been "grossly exaggerated". [96]

Shunga coup (185 BCE)

Buddhist records such as the Ashokavadana write that the assassination of Brihadratha and the rise of the Shunga empire led to a wave of religious persecution for Buddhists, [97] and a resurgence of Hinduism. According to Sir John Marshall, [98] Pushyamitra may have been the main author of the persecutions, although later Shunga kings seem to have been more supportive of Buddhism. Other historians, such as Etienne Lamotte [99] and Romila Thapar, [100] among others, have argued that archaeological evidence in favour of the allegations of persecution of Buddhists are lacking, and that the extent and magnitude of the atrocities have been exaggerated.

Establishment of the Indo-Greek Kingdom (180 BCE)

The fall of the Mauryas left the Khyber Pass unguarded, and a wave of foreign invasion followed. The Greco-Bactrian king, Demetrius, capitalized on the break-up, and he conquered southern Afghanistan and parts of northwestern India around 180 BCE, forming the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks would maintain holdings on the trans-Indus region, and make forays into central India, for about a century. Under them, Buddhism flourished, and one of their kings, Menander, became a famous figure of Buddhism he was to establish a new capital of Sagala, the modern city of Sialkot. However, the extent of their domains and the lengths of their rule are subject to much debate. Numismatic evidence indicates that they retained holdings in the subcontinent right up to the birth of Christ. Although the extent of their successes against indigenous powers such as the Shungas, Satavahanas, and Kalingas are unclear, what is clear is that Scythian tribes, renamed Indo-Scythians, brought about the demise of the Indo-Greeks from around 70 BCE and retained lands in the trans-Indus, the region of Mathura, and Gujarat. [ citation needed ]

Megasthenes mentions military command consisting of six boards of five members each, (i) Navy (ii) military transport (iii) Infantry (iv) Cavalry with Catapults (v) Chariot divisions and (vi) Elephants. [101]

The Empire was divided into four provinces, with the imperial capital at Pataliputra. From Ashokan edicts, the names of the four provincial capitals are Tosali (in the east), Ujjain (in the west), Suvarnagiri (in the south), and Taxila (in the north). The head of the provincial administration was the Kumara (royal prince), who governed the provinces as king's representative. The kumara was assisted by Mahamatyas and council of ministers. This organizational structure was reflected at the imperial level with the Emperor and his Mantriparishad (Council of Ministers). [ citation needed ] . The mauryans established a well developed coin minting system. Coins were mostly made of silver and copper. Certain gold coins were in circulation as well. The coins were widely used for trade and commerce [102]

Historians theorise that the organisation of the Empire was in line with the extensive bureaucracy described by Kautilya in the Arthashastra: a sophisticated civil service governed everything from municipal hygiene to international trade. The expansion and defense of the empire was made possible by what appears to have been one of the largest armies in the world during the Iron Age. [103] According to Megasthenes, the empire wielded a military of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots and 9,000 war elephants besides followers and attendants. [104] A vast espionage system collected intelligence for both internal and external security purposes. Having renounced offensive warfare and expansionism, Ashoka nevertheless continued to maintain this large army, to protect the Empire and instil stability and peace across West and South Asia. [ citation needed ] .Even though large parts were under the control of Mauryan empire the spread of information and imperial message was limited since many parts were inaccessible and were situated far away from capital of empire. [105]

Local government

Arthashastra and Megasthenes accounts of Pataliputra describe the intricate municipal system formed by Maurya empire to govern its cities. A city counsel made up of thirty commissioners was divided into six committees or boards which governed the city. The first board fixed wages and looked after provided goods, second board made arrangement for foreign dignitaries, tourists and businessmen, third board made records and registrations, fourth looked after manufactured goods and sale of commodities, fifth board regulated trade, issued licenses and checked weights and measurements, sixth board collected sales taxes. Some cities such as Taxila had autonomy to issue their own coins. The city counsel had officers who looked after public welfare such as maintenance of roads, public buildings, markets, hospitals, educational institutions etc. [106] The official head of the village was Gramika (in towns Nagarika). [107] The city counsel also had some magisterial powers.

For the first time in South Asia, political unity and military security allowed for a common economic system and enhanced trade and commerce, with increased agricultural productivity. The previous situation involving hundreds of kingdoms, many small armies, powerful regional chieftains, and internecine warfare, gave way to a disciplined central authority. Farmers were freed of tax and crop collection burdens from regional kings, paying instead to a nationally administered and strict-but-fair system of taxation as advised by the principles in the Arthashastra. Chandragupta Maurya established a single currency across India, and a network of regional governors and administrators and a civil service provided justice and security for merchants, farmers and traders. The Mauryan army wiped out many gangs of bandits, regional private armies, and powerful chieftains who sought to impose their own supremacy in small areas. Although regimental in revenue collection, Maurya also sponsored many public works and waterways to enhance productivity, while internal trade in India expanded greatly due to new-found political unity and internal peace. [ citation needed ]

Under the Indo-Greek friendship treaty, and during Ashoka's reign, an international network of trade expanded. The Khyber Pass, on the modern boundary of Pakistan and Afghanistan, became a strategically important port of trade and intercourse with the outside world. Greek states and Hellenic kingdoms in West Asia became important trade partners of India. Trade also extended through the Malay peninsula into Southeast Asia. India's exports included silk goods and textiles, spices and exotic foods. The external world came across new scientific knowledge and technology with expanding trade with the Mauryan Empire. Ashoka also sponsored the construction of thousands of roads, waterways, canals, hospitals, rest-houses and other public works. The easing of many over-rigorous administrative practices, including those regarding taxation and crop collection, helped increase productivity and economic activity across the Empire. [ citation needed ]

In many ways, the economic situation in the Mauryan Empire is analogous to the Roman Empire of several centuries later. Both had extensive trade connections and both had organizations similar to corporations. While Rome had organizational entities which were largely used for public state-driven projects, Mauryan India had numerous private commercial entities. These existed purely for private commerce and developed before the Mauryan Empire itself. [108]

Hoard of mostly Mauryan coins.

Silver punch mark coin of the Maurya empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd century BCE. [ citation needed ]

Mauryan coin with arched hill symbol on reverse. [ citation needed ]

Mauryan Empire coin. Circa late 4th-2nd century BCE. [ citation needed ]

Mauryan Empire, Emperor Salisuka or later. Circa 207-194 BCE. [109]

In the early period of empire Hinduism was an important religion. [110] The Mauryans favored all dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Minor religious sects such as ajivikas also received patronage.

Jainism

Chandragupta Maurya followed Jainism after retiring, when he renounced his throne and material possessions to join a wandering group of Jain monks. Chandragupta was a disciple of the Jain monk Acharya Bhadrabahu. It is said that in his last days, he observed the rigorous but self-purifying Jain ritual of santhara (fast unto death), at Shravana Belgola in Karnataka. [111] [72] [112] [71] Samprati, the grandson of Ashoka, also patronized Jainism. Samprati was influenced by the teachings of Jain monks like Suhastin and he is said to have built 125,000 derasars across India. [113] Some of them are still found in the towns of Ahmedabad, Viramgam, Ujjain, and Palitana. [ citation needed ] It is also said that just like Ashoka, Samprati sent messengers and preachers to Greece, Persia and the Middle East for the spread of Jainism, but, to date, no research has been done in this area. [114] [115]

Thus, Jainism became a vital force under the Mauryan Rule. Chandragupta and Samprati are credited for the spread of Jainism in South India. Hundreds of thousands of temples and stupas are said to have been erected during their reigns

Buddhism

Magadha, the centre of the empire, was also the birthplace of Buddhism. Ashoka initially practised Hinduism [ citation needed ] but later followed Buddhism following the Kalinga War, he renounced expansionism and aggression, and the harsher injunctions of the Arthashastra on the use of force, intensive policing, and ruthless measures for tax collection and against rebels. Ashoka sent a mission led by his son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka, whose king Tissa was so charmed with Buddhist ideals that he adopted them himself and made Buddhism the state religion. Ashoka sent many Buddhist missions to West Asia, Greece and South East Asia, and commissioned the construction of monasteries and schools, as well as the publication of Buddhist literature across the empire. He is believed to have built as many as 84,000 stupas across India, such as Sanchi and Mahabodhi Temple, and he increased the popularity of Buddhism in Afghanistan, Thailand and North Asia including Siberia. Ashoka helped convene the Third Buddhist Council of India's and South Asia's Buddhist orders near his capital, a council that undertook much work of reform and expansion of the Buddhist religion. Indian merchants embraced Buddhism and played a large role in spreading the religion across the Mauryan Empire. [116]

The greatest monument of this period, executed in the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, was the old palace at Paliputra, modern Kumhrar in Patna. Excavations have unearthed the remains of the palace, which is thought to have been an group of several buildings, the most important of which was an immense pillared hall supported on a high substratum of timbers. The pillars were set in regular rows, thus dividing the hall into a number of smaller square bays. The number of columns is 80, each about 7 meters high. According to the eyewitness account of Megasthenes, the palace was chiefly constructed of timber, and was considered to exceed in splendour and magnificence the palaces of Susa and Ecbatana, its gilded pillars being adorned with golden vines and silver birds. The buildings stood in an extensive park studded with fish ponds and furnished with a great variety of ornamental trees and shrubs. [117] [ better source needed ] Kauṭilya's Arthashastra also gives the method of palace construction from this period. Later fragments of stone pillars, including one nearly complete, with their round tapering shafts and smooth polish, indicate that Ashoka was responsible for the construction of the stone columns which replaced the earlier wooden ones. [ citation needed ]

During the Ashokan period, stonework was of a highly diversified order and comprised lofty free-standing pillars, railings of stupas, lion thrones and other colossal figures. The use of stone had reached such great perfection during this time that even small fragments of stone art were given a high lustrous polish resembling fine enamel. This period marked the beginning of the Buddhist school of architecture. Ashoka was responsible for the construction of several stupas, which were large domes and bearing symbols of Buddha. The most important ones are located at Sanchi, Bharhut, Amaravati, Bodhgaya and Nagarjunakonda. The most widespread examples of Mauryan architecture are the Ashoka pillars and carved edicts of Ashoka, often exquisitely decorated, with more than 40 spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. [118] [ better source needed ]

The peacock was a dynastic symbol of Mauryans, as depicted by Ashoka's pillars at Nandangarh and Sanchi Stupa. [42]

Remains of the Ashokan Pillar in polished stone (right of the Southern Gateway).

Remains of the shaft of the pillar of Ashoka, under a shed near the Southern Gateway.

Pillar and its inscription (the "Schism Edict") upon discovery.

The protection of animals in India was advocated by the time of the Maurya dynasty being the first empire to provide a unified political entity in India, the attitude of the Mauryas towards forests, their denizens, and fauna in general is of interest. [121]

The Mauryas firstly looked at forests as resources. For them, the most important forest product was the elephant. Military might in those times depended not only upon horses and men but also battle-elephants these played a role in the defeat of Seleucus, one of Alexander's former generals. The Mauryas sought to preserve supplies of elephants since it was cheaper and took less time to catch, tame and train wild elephants than to raise them. Kautilya's Arthashastra contains not only maxims on ancient statecraft, but also unambiguously specifies the responsibilities of officials such as the Protector of the Elephant Forests. [122]

On the border of the forest, he should establish a forest for elephants guarded by foresters. The Office of the Chief Elephant Forester should with the help of guards protect the elephants in any terrain. The slaying of an elephant is punishable by death.

The Mauryas also designated separate forests to protect supplies of timber, as well as lions and tigers for skins. Elsewhere the Protector of Animals also worked to eliminate thieves, tigers and other predators to render the woods safe for grazing cattle. [ citation needed ]

The Mauryas valued certain forest tracts in strategic or economic terms and instituted curbs and control measures over them. They regarded all forest tribes with distrust and controlled them with bribery and political subjugation. They employed some of them, the food-gatherers or aranyaca to guard borders and trap animals. The sometimes tense and conflict-ridden relationship nevertheless enabled the Mauryas to guard their vast empire. [123]

When Ashoka embraced Buddhism in the latter part of his reign, he brought about significant changes in his style of governance, which included providing protection to fauna, and even relinquished the royal hunt. He was the first ruler in history [ failed verification ] to advocate conservation measures for wildlife and even had rules inscribed in stone edicts. The edicts proclaim that many followed the king's example in giving up the slaughter of animals one of them proudly states: [123]

Our king killed very few animals.

However, the edicts of Ashoka reflect more the desire of rulers than actual events the mention of a 100 'panas' (coins) fine for poaching deer in royal hunting preserves shows that rule-breakers did exist. The legal restrictions conflicted with the practices freely exercised by the common people in hunting, felling, fishing and setting fires in forests. [123]

Foundation of the Empire

Relations with the Hellenistic world may have started from the very beginning of the Maurya Empire. Plutarch reports that Chandragupta Maurya met with Alexander the Great, probably around Taxila in the northwest: [124]

Sandrocottus, when he was a stripling, saw Alexander himself, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of the country, since its king was hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth.

Reconquest of the Northwest (c. 317–316 BCE)

Chandragupta ultimately occupied Northwestern India, in the territories formerly ruled by the Greeks, where he fought the satraps (described as "Prefects" in Western sources) left in place after Alexander (Justin), among whom may have been Eudemus, ruler in the western Punjab until his departure in 317 BCE or Peithon, son of Agenor, ruler of the Greek colonies along the Indus until his departure for Babylon in 316 BCE. [ citation needed ]

India, after the death of Alexander, had assassinated his prefects, as if shaking the burden of servitude. The author of this liberation was Sandracottos, but he had transformed liberation in servitude after victory, since, after taking the throne, he himself oppressed the very people he has liberated from foreign domination.

Later, as he was preparing war against the prefects of Alexander, a huge wild elephant went to him and took him on his back as if tame, and he became a remarkable fighter and war leader. Having thus acquired royal power, Sandracottos possessed India at the time Seleucos was preparing future glory.

Conflict and alliance with Seleucus (305 BCE)

Seleucus I Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of the Asian portion of Alexander's former empire, conquered and put under his own authority eastern territories as far as Bactria and the Indus (Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55), until in 305 BCE he entered into a confrontation with Emperor Chandragupta:

Always lying in wait for the neighbouring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he [Seleucus] acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus.

Though no accounts of the conflict remain, it is clear that Seleucus fared poorly against the Indian Emperor as he failed to conquer any territory, and in fact was forced to surrender much that was already his. Regardless, Seleucus and Chandragupta ultimately reached a settlement and through a treaty sealed in 305 BCE, Seleucus, according to Strabo, ceded a number of territories to Chandragupta, including eastern Afghanistan and Balochistan. [ citation needed ]

Marriage alliance

Chandragupta and Seleucus concluded a peace treaty and a marriage alliance in 303 BCE. Chandragupta received vast territories and in a return gave Seleucus 500 war elephants, [129] [130] [131] [132] [133] a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE. [134] In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Mauryan court at Pataliputra (modern Patna in Bihar). Later, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka, is also recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court. [135] [ better source needed ]

Mainstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received vast territory west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern-day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan. [136] [137] Archaeologically, concrete indications of Mauryan rule, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

He (Seleucus) crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship.

After having made a treaty with him (Sandrakotos) and put in order the Orient situation, Seleucos went to war against Antigonus.

The treaty on "Epigamia" implies lawful marriage between Greeks and Indians was recognized at the State level, although it is unclear whether it occurred among dynastic rulers or common people, or both. [ citation needed ]

Exchange of presents

Classical sources have also recorded that following their treaty, Chandragupta and Seleucus exchanged presents, such as when Chandragupta sent various aphrodisiacs to Seleucus: [78]

And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters [as to make people more amorous]. And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love.

His son Bindusara 'Amitraghata' (Slayer of Enemies) also is recorded in Classical sources as having exchanged presents with Antiochus I: [78]

But dried figs were so very much sought after by all men (for really, as Aristophanes says, "There's really nothing nicer than dried figs"), that even Amitrochates, the king of the Indians, wrote to Antiochus, entreating him (it is Hegesander who tells this story) to buy and send him some sweet wine, and some dried figs, and a sophist and that 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.

Greek population in India

An influential and large Greek population was present in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Ashoka's rule, possibly remnants of Alexander's conquests in the Indus Valley region. In the Rock Edicts of Ashoka, some of them inscribed in Greek, Ashoka states that the Greeks within his dominion were converted to Buddhism:

Here in the king's dominion among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dharma.

Now, in times past (officers) called Mahamatras of morality did not exist before. Mahdmatras of morality were appointed by me (when I had been) anointed thirteen years. These are occupied with all sects in establishing morality, in promoting morality, and for the welfare and happiness of those who are devoted to morality (even) among the Greeks, Kambojas and Gandharas, and whatever other western borderers (of mine there are).

Fragments of Edict 13 have been found in Greek, and a full Edict, written in both Greek and Aramaic, has been discovered in Kandahar. It is said to be written in excellent Classical Greek, using sophisticated philosophical terms. In this Edict, Ashoka uses the word Eusebeia ("Piety") as the Greek translation for the ubiquitous "Dharma" of his other Edicts written in Prakrit: [ non-primary source needed ]

Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (Ashoka) made known (the doctrine of) Piety (εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily.

Buddhist missions to the West (c. 250 BCE)

Map of the Buddhist missions during the reign of Ashoka.

Territories "conquered by the Dharma" according to Major Rock Edict No. 13 of Ashoka (260–218 BCE). [141] [142]

Also, in the Edicts of Ashoka, Ashoka mentions the Hellenistic kings of the period as recipients of his Buddhist proselytism, although no Western historical record of this event remains:

The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400–9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni (Sri Lanka).

Ashoka also encouraged the development of herbal medicine, for men and animals, in their territories:

Everywhere within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi's [Ashoka's] domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos, everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals.

The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the spread of Buddhism, as some of the emissaries of Ashoka, such as Dharmaraksita, are described in Pali sources as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism (the Mahavamsa, XII [143] [ non-primary source needed ] ).

Subhagasena and Antiochos III (206 BCE)

Sophagasenus was an Indian Mauryan ruler of the 3rd century BCE, described in ancient Greek sources, and named Subhagasena or Subhashasena in Prakrit. His name is mentioned in the list of Mauryan princes, [ citation needed ] and also in the list of the Yadava dynasty, as a descendant of Pradyumna. He may have been a grandson of Ashoka, or Kunala, the son of Ashoka. He ruled an area south of the Hindu Kush, possibly in Gandhara. Antiochos III, the Seleucid king, after having made peace with Euthydemus in Bactria, went to India in 206 BCE and is said to have renewed his friendship with the Indian king there:

He (Antiochus) crossed the Caucasus and descended into India renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus the king of the Indians received more elephants, until he had a hundred and fifty altogether and having once more provisioned his troops, set out again personally with his army: leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus the duty of taking home the treasure which this king had agreed to hand over to him.

  • 322 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya founded the Mauryan Empire by defeating the Nanda Dynasty.
  • 317–316 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya conquers the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent.
  • 305–303 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya gains territory from the Seleucid Empire.
  • 298–269 BCE: Reign of Bindusara, Chandragupta's son. He conquers parts of Deccan, southern India.
  • 269–232 BCE: The Mauryan Empire reaches its height under Ashoka, Chandragupta's grandson.
  • 261 BCE: Ashoka conquers the kingdom of Kalinga.
  • 250 BCE: Ashoka builds Buddhist stupas and erects pillars bearing inscriptions.
  • 184 BCE: The empire collapses when Brihadratha, the last emperor, is killed by Pushyamitra Shunga, a Mauryan general and the founder of the Shunga Empire.

According to Vicarasreni of Merutunga, Mauryans rose to power in 312 BC. [144]


Contents

The name "Maurya" does not occur in Ashoka's inscriptions, or the contemporary Greek accounts such as Megasthenes's Indica, but it is attested by the following sources: [36]

  • The Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman (c. 150 CE) prefixes "Maurya" to the names Chandragupta and Ashoka. [36]
  • The Puranas (c. 4th century CE or earlier) use Maurya as a dynastic appellation. [36]
  • The Buddhist texts state that Chandragupta belonged to the "Moriya" clan of the Shakyas, the tribe to which Gautama Buddha belonged. [36]
  • The Jain texts state that Chandragupta was the son of a royal superintendent of peacocks (mayura-poshaka). [36] also designate them as 'moriyar' and mention them after the Nandas[37] inscription (from the town of Bandanikke, North Mysore ) of 12th century AD chronologically mention Mauryya as one of the dynasties which ruled the region. [38]

According to some scholars, Kharavela's Hathigumpha inscription (2nd-1st century BC) mentions era of Maurya Empire as Muriya Kala (Mauryan era), [39] but this reading is disputed: other scholars—such as epigraphist D. C. Sircar—read the phrase as mukhiya-kala ("the principal art"). [40]

According to the Buddhist tradition, the ancestors of the Maurya kings had settled in a region where peacocks (mora in Pali) were abundant. Therefore, they came to be known as "Moriyas", literally, "belonging to the place of peacocks". According to another Buddhist account, these ancestors built a city called Moriya-nagara ("Moriya-city"), which was so called, because it was built with the "bricks coloured like peacocks' necks". [41]

The dynasty's connection to the peacocks, as mentioned in the Buddhist and Jain traditions, seems to be corroborated by archaeological evidence. For example, peacock figures are found on the Ashoka pillar at Nandangarh and several sculptures on the Great Stupa of Sanchi. Based on this evidence, modern scholars theorize that the peacock may have been the dynasty's emblem. [42]

Some later authors, such as Dhundiraja (a commentator on the Mudrarakshasa) and an annotator of the Vishnu Purana, state that the word "Maurya" is derived from Mura and the mother of the first Maurya king. However, the Puranas themselves make no mention of Mura and do not talk of any relation between the Nanda and the Maurya dynasties. [43] Dhundiraja's derivation of the word seems to be his own invention: according to the Sanskrit rules, the derivative of the feminine name Mura (IAST: Murā) would be "Maureya" the term "Maurya" can only be derived from the masculine "Mura". [44]

Founding

Prior to the Maurya Empire, the Nanda Empire ruled over most of the Indian Subcontinent. The Nanda Empire was a large, militaristic, and economically powerful empire due to conquering the Mahajanapadas. According to several legends, Chanakya travelled to Pataliputra, Magadha, the capital of the Nanda Empire where Chanakya worked for the Nandas as a minister. However, Chanakya was insulted by the Emperor Dhana Nanda, of the Nanda dynasty and Chanakya swore revenge and vowed to destroy the Nanda Empire. [45] He had to flee in order to save his life and went to Taxila, a notable center of learning, to work as a teacher. On one of his travels, Chanakya witnessed some young men playing a rural game practicing a pitched battle. He was impressed by the young Chandragupta and saw royal qualities in him as someone fit to rule.

Meanwhile, Alexander the Great was leading his Indian campaigns and ventured into Punjab. His army mutinied at the Beas River and refused to advance further eastward when confronted by another army. 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 into independent kingdoms led by his generals. [46]

The Maurya Empire was established in the Greater Punjab region under the leadership of Chandragupta Maurya and his mentor Chanakya. Chandragupta was taken to Taxila by Chanakya and was tutored about statecraft and governing. Requiring an army Chandragupta recruited and annexed local military republics such as the Yaudheyas that had resisted Alexanders Empire. The Mauryan army quickly rose to become the prominent regional power in the North West of the Indian Subcontinent. The Mauryan army then conquered the satraps established by the Macedonians. [47] Ancient Greek historians Nearchus, Onesictrius and Aristobolus have provided lot of information about the Mauryan empire. [48] The Greek generals Eudemus and Peithon ruled in the Indus Valley until around 317 BCE, when Chandragupta Maurya (with the help of Chanakya, who was now his advisor) fought and drove out the Greek governors, and subsequently brought the Indus Valley under the control of his new seat of power in Magadha. [27]

Chandragupta Maurya's ancestry is shrouded in mystery and controversy. On one hand, a number of ancient Indian accounts, such as the drama Mudrarakshasa (Signet ring of RakshasaRakshasa was the prime minister of Magadha) by Vishakhadatta, describe his royal ancestry and even link him with the Nanda family. A kshatriya clan known as the Mauryas are referred to in the earliest Buddhist texts, Mahaparinibbana Sutta. However, any conclusions are hard to make without further historical evidence. Chandragupta first emerges in Greek accounts as "Sandrokottos". As a young man he is said to have met Alexander. [49] Chanakya is said to have met the Nanda king, angered him, and made a narrow escape. [50]

Conquest of Magadha

Chanakya encouraged Chandragupta Maurya and his army to take over the throne of Magadha. 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 battles. These men included the former general of Taxila, accomplished students of Chanakya, the representative of King Parvataka, his son Malayaketu, and the rulers of small states. The Macedonians (described as Yona or Yavana in Indian sources) may then have participated, together with other groups, in the armed uprising of Chandragupta Maurya against the Nanda dynasty. [52] [53] The Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadutta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvataka, often identified with Porus, [54] [55] although this identification is not accepted by all historians. [56] This Himalayan alliance gave Chandragupta a composite and powerful army made up of Yavanas (Greeks), Kambojas, Shakas (Scythians), Kiratas (Himalayans), Parasikas (Persians) and Bahlikas (Bactrians) who took Pataliputra (also called Kusumapura, "The City of Flowers"): [57]

Kusumapura was besieged from every direction by the forces of Parvata and Chandragupta: Shakas, Yavanas, Kiratas, Kambojas, Parasikas, Bahlikas and others, assembled on the advice of Chanakya

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 with Maurya's forces. Maurya's 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 exile and was never heard of again. 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. Chanakya also reiterated that choosing to resist would start a war that would severely affect Magadha and destroy the city. Rakshasa accepted Chanakya's reasoning, and Chandragupta Maurya was legitimately installed as the new King of Magadha. Rakshasa became Chandragupta's chief advisor, and Chanakya assumed the position of an elder statesman.

Chandragupta Maurya

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, Chandragupta led a series of campaigns in 305 BCE to take satrapies in the Indus Valley and northwest India. [59] When Alexander's remaining forces were routed, returning westwards, Seleucus I Nicator fought to defend these territories. Not many details of the campaigns are known from ancient sources. Seleucus was defeated and retreated into the mountainous region of Afghanistan. [60]

The two rulers concluded a peace treaty in 303 BCE, including a marital alliance. Under its terms, Chandragupta received the satrapies of Paropamisadae (Kamboja and Gandhara) and Arachosia (Kandhahar) and Gedrosia (Balochistan). Seleucus I received the 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. Diplomatic relations were established and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, Deimakos and Dionysius resided at the Mauryan court. [61]

Megasthenes in particular was a notable Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya. [62] According to Arrian, ambassador Megasthenes (c. 350 – c. 290 BCE) lived in Arachosia and travelled to Pataliputra. [63] Megasthenes' description of Mauryan society as freedom-loving gave Seleucus a means to avoid invasion, however, underlying Seleucus' decision was the improbability of success. In later years, Seleucus' successors maintained diplomatic relations with the Empire based on similar accounts from returning travellers. [59]

Chandragupta established a strong centralised state with an administration at Pataliputra, which, according to Megasthenes, was "surrounded by a wooden wall pierced by 64 gates and 570 towers". Aelian, although not expressly quoting Megasthenes nor mentioning Pataliputra, described Indian palaces as superior in splendor to Persia's Susa or Ecbatana. [64] The architecture of the city seems to have had many similarities with Persian cities of the period. [65]

Chandragupta's son Bindusara extended the rule of the Mauryan empire towards southern India. The famous Tamil poet Mamulanar of the Sangam literature described how areas south of the Deccan Plateau which comprised Tamil country was invaded by the Maurya army using troops from Karnataka. Mamulanar states that Vadugar (people who resided in Andhra-Karnataka regions immediately to the north of Tamil Nadu) formed the vanguard of the Mauryan army. [37] [66] He also had a Greek ambassador at his court, named Deimachus. [67] According to Plutarch, Chandragupta Maurya subdued all of India, and Justin also observed that Chandragupta Maurya was "in possession of India". These accounts are corroborated by Tamil sangam literature which mentions about Mauryan invasion with their south Indian allies and defeat of their rivals at Podiyil hill in Tirunelveli district in present-day Tamil Nadu. [68] [69]

Chandragupta renounced his throne and followed Jain teacher Bhadrabahu. [70] [71] [72] He is said to have lived as an ascetic at Shravanabelagola for several years before fasting to death, as per the Jain practice of sallekhana. [73]

Bindusara

Bindusara was born to Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan Empire. This is attested by several sources, including the various Puranas and the Mahavamsa. [74] [ full citation needed ] He is attested by the Buddhist texts such as Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa ("Bindusaro") the Jain texts such as Parishishta-Parvan as well as the Hindu texts such as Vishnu Purana ("Vindusara"). [75] [76] According to the 12th century Jain writer Hemachandra's Parishishta-Parvan, the name of Bindusara's mother was Durdhara. [77] Some Greek sources also mention him by the name "Amitrochates" or its variations. [78] [79]

Historian Upinder Singh estimates that Bindusara ascended the throne around 297 BCE. [66] Bindusara, just 22 years 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. 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 did not conquer the friendly Tamil kingdoms of the Cholas, ruled by King Ilamcetcenni, the Pandyas, and Cheras. Apart from these southern states, Kalinga (modern Odisha) was the only kingdom in India that did not form part of Bindusara's empire. [80] It was later conquered by his son Ashoka, who served as the viceroy of Ujjaini during his father's reign, which highlights the importance of the town. [81] [82]

Bindusara's 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". [83] During his rule, the citizens of Taxila revolted twice. The reason for the first revolt was the maladministration of Susima, 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. [84]

Bindusara maintained friendly diplomatic relations with the Hellenic world. Deimachus was the ambassador of Seleucid emperor Antiochus I at Bindusara's court. [85] Diodorus states that the king of Palibothra (Pataliputra, the Mauryan capital) welcomed a Greek author, Iambulus. This king is usually identified as Bindusara. [85] Pliny states that the Egyptian king Philadelphus sent an envoy named Dionysius to India. [86] [87] According to Sailendra Nath Sen, this appears to have happened during Bindusara's reign. [85]

Unlike his father Chandragupta (who at a later stage converted to Jainism), Bindusara believed in the Ajivika sect. Bindusara's guru Pingalavatsa (Janasana) was a Brahmin [88] of the Ajivika sect. Bindusara's wife, Queen Subhadrangi (Queen Dharma/ Aggamahesi) was a Brahmin [89] also of the Ajivika sect from Champa (present Bhagalpur district). Bindusara is credited with giving several grants to Brahmin monasteries (Brahmana-bhatto). [90]

Historical evidence suggests that Bindusara died in the 270s BCE. According to Upinder Singh, Bindusara died around 273 BCE. [66] Alain Daniélou believes that he died around 274 BCE. [83] Sailendra Nath Sen believes that he died around 273–272 BCE, and that his death was followed by a four-year struggle of succession, after which his son Ashoka became the emperor in 269–268 BCE. [85] According to the Mahavamsa, Bindusara reigned for 28 years. [91] The Vayu Purana, which names Chandragupta's successor as "Bhadrasara", states that he ruled for 25 years. [92]

Ashoka

As a young prince, Ashoka ( r . 272–232 BCE) was a brilliant commander who crushed revolts in Ujjain and Takshashila. As monarch he was ambitious and aggressive, re-asserting the Empire's superiority in southern and western India. But it was his conquest of Kalinga (262–261 BCE) which proved to be the pivotal event of his life. Ashoka used Kalinga to project power over a large region by building a fortification there and securing it as a possession. [93] 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. [ citation needed ]

Ashoka implemented principles of ahimsa by banning hunting and violent sports activity and ending indentured and forced labor (many thousands of people in war-ravaged Kalinga had been forced into hard labour and servitude). While he maintained a large and powerful army, to keep the peace and maintain authority, Ashoka expanded friendly relations with states across Asia and Europe, and he sponsored Buddhist missions. He undertook a massive public works building campaign across the country. Over 40 years of peace, harmony and prosperity made Ashoka one of the most successful and famous monarchs in Indian history. He remains an idealized figure of inspiration in modern India. [ citation needed ]

The Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, are found throughout the Subcontinent. Ranging from as far west as Afghanistan and as far south as Andhra (Nellore District), Ashoka's edicts state his policies and accomplishments. Although predominantly written in Prakrit, two of them were written in Greek, and one in both Greek and Aramaic. Ashoka's edicts refer to the Greeks, Kambojas, and Gandharas as peoples forming a frontier region of his empire. They also attest to Ashoka's having sent envoys to the Greek rulers in the West as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts precisely name each of the rulers of the Hellenic world at the time such as Amtiyoko (Antiochus), Tulamaya (Ptolemy), Amtikini (Antigonos), Maka (Magas) and Alikasudaro (Alexander) as recipients of Ashoka's proselytism. [ citation needed ] The Edicts also accurately locate their territory "600 yojanas away" (a yojanas being about 7 miles), corresponding to the distance between the center of India and Greece (roughly 4,000 miles). [94]

Decline

Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings. He was succeeded by Dasharatha Maurya, who was Ashoka's grandson. None of Ashoka's sons could ascend the throne after him. Mahendra, his first born, was on to spread Buddhism in the world. Kunala Maurya was blind hence couldn't ascend the throne and Tivala, son of Kaurwaki, died even earlier than Ashoka. Another son, Jalauka, does not have much story behind him.

The empire lost many territories under Dasharatha, which were later reconquered by Samprati, Kunala's son. Post Samprati, the Mauryas slowly lost many territories. In 180 BCE, Brihadratha Maurya, was killed by his general Pushyamitra Shunga in a military parade without any heir. Hence, the great Maurya empire finally ended, giving rise to the Shunga Empire.

Reasons advanced for the decline include the succession of weak kings after Aśoka Maurya, the partition of the empire into two, the growing independence of some areas within the empire, such as that ruled by Sophagasenus, a top-heavy administration where authority was entirely in the hands of a few persons, an absence of any national consciousness, [95] the pure scale of the empire making it unwieldy, and invasion by the Greco-Bactrian Empire.

Some historians, such as H. C. Raychaudhuri, have argued that Ashoka's pacifism undermined the "military backbone" of the Maurya empire. Others, such as Romila Thapar, have suggested that the extent and impact of his pacifism have been "grossly exaggerated". [96]

Shunga coup (185 BCE)

Buddhist records such as the Ashokavadana write that the assassination of Brihadratha and the rise of the Shunga empire led to a wave of religious persecution for Buddhists, [97] and a resurgence of Hinduism. According to Sir John Marshall, [98] Pushyamitra may have been the main author of the persecutions, although later Shunga kings seem to have been more supportive of Buddhism. Other historians, such as Etienne Lamotte [99] and Romila Thapar, [100] among others, have argued that archaeological evidence in favour of the allegations of persecution of Buddhists are lacking, and that the extent and magnitude of the atrocities have been exaggerated.

Establishment of the Indo-Greek Kingdom (180 BCE)

The fall of the Mauryas left the Khyber Pass unguarded, and a wave of foreign invasion followed. The Greco-Bactrian king, Demetrius, capitalized on the break-up, and he conquered southern Afghanistan and parts of northwestern India around 180 BCE, forming the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks would maintain holdings on the trans-Indus region, and make forays into central India, for about a century. Under them, Buddhism flourished, and one of their kings, Menander, became a famous figure of Buddhism he was to establish a new capital of Sagala, the modern city of Sialkot. However, the extent of their domains and the lengths of their rule are subject to much debate. Numismatic evidence indicates that they retained holdings in the subcontinent right up to the birth of Christ. Although the extent of their successes against indigenous powers such as the Shungas, Satavahanas, and Kalingas are unclear, what is clear is that Scythian tribes, renamed Indo-Scythians, brought about the demise of the Indo-Greeks from around 70 BCE and retained lands in the trans-Indus, the region of Mathura, and Gujarat. [ citation needed ]

Megasthenes mentions military command consisting of six boards of five members each, (i) Navy (ii) military transport (iii) Infantry (iv) Cavalry with Catapults (v) Chariot divisions and (vi) Elephants. [101]

The Empire was divided into four provinces, with the imperial capital at Pataliputra. From Ashokan edicts, the names of the four provincial capitals are Tosali (in the east), Ujjain (in the west), Suvarnagiri (in the south), and Taxila (in the north). The head of the provincial administration was the Kumara (royal prince), who governed the provinces as king's representative. The kumara was assisted by Mahamatyas and council of ministers. This organizational structure was reflected at the imperial level with the Emperor and his Mantriparishad (Council of Ministers). [ citation needed ] . The mauryans established a well developed coin minting system. Coins were mostly made of silver and copper. Certain gold coins were in circulation as well. The coins were widely used for trade and commerce [102]

Historians theorise that the organisation of the Empire was in line with the extensive bureaucracy described by Kautilya in the Arthashastra: a sophisticated civil service governed everything from municipal hygiene to international trade. The expansion and defense of the empire was made possible by what appears to have been one of the largest armies in the world during the Iron Age. [103] According to Megasthenes, the empire wielded a military of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots and 9,000 war elephants besides followers and attendants. [104] A vast espionage system collected intelligence for both internal and external security purposes. Having renounced offensive warfare and expansionism, Ashoka nevertheless continued to maintain this large army, to protect the Empire and instil stability and peace across West and South Asia. [ citation needed ] .Even though large parts were under the control of Mauryan empire the spread of information and imperial message was limited since many parts were inaccessible and were situated far away from capital of empire. [105]

Local government

Arthashastra and Megasthenes accounts of Pataliputra describe the intricate municipal system formed by Maurya empire to govern its cities. A city counsel made up of thirty commissioners was divided into six committees or boards which governed the city. The first board fixed wages and looked after provided goods, second board made arrangement for foreign dignitaries, tourists and businessmen, third board made records and registrations, fourth looked after manufactured goods and sale of commodities, fifth board regulated trade, issued licenses and checked weights and measurements, sixth board collected sales taxes. Some cities such as Taxila had autonomy to issue their own coins. The city counsel had officers who looked after public welfare such as maintenance of roads, public buildings, markets, hospitals, educational institutions etc. [106] The official head of the village was Gramika (in towns Nagarika). [107] The city counsel also had some magisterial powers.

For the first time in South Asia, political unity and military security allowed for a common economic system and enhanced trade and commerce, with increased agricultural productivity. The previous situation involving hundreds of kingdoms, many small armies, powerful regional chieftains, and internecine warfare, gave way to a disciplined central authority. Farmers were freed of tax and crop collection burdens from regional kings, paying instead to a nationally administered and strict-but-fair system of taxation as advised by the principles in the Arthashastra. Chandragupta Maurya established a single currency across India, and a network of regional governors and administrators and a civil service provided justice and security for merchants, farmers and traders. The Mauryan army wiped out many gangs of bandits, regional private armies, and powerful chieftains who sought to impose their own supremacy in small areas. Although regimental in revenue collection, Maurya also sponsored many public works and waterways to enhance productivity, while internal trade in India expanded greatly due to new-found political unity and internal peace. [ citation needed ]

Under the Indo-Greek friendship treaty, and during Ashoka's reign, an international network of trade expanded. The Khyber Pass, on the modern boundary of Pakistan and Afghanistan, became a strategically important port of trade and intercourse with the outside world. Greek states and Hellenic kingdoms in West Asia became important trade partners of India. Trade also extended through the Malay peninsula into Southeast Asia. India's exports included silk goods and textiles, spices and exotic foods. The external world came across new scientific knowledge and technology with expanding trade with the Mauryan Empire. Ashoka also sponsored the construction of thousands of roads, waterways, canals, hospitals, rest-houses and other public works. The easing of many over-rigorous administrative practices, including those regarding taxation and crop collection, helped increase productivity and economic activity across the Empire. [ citation needed ]

In many ways, the economic situation in the Mauryan Empire is analogous to the Roman Empire of several centuries later. Both had extensive trade connections and both had organizations similar to corporations. While Rome had organizational entities which were largely used for public state-driven projects, Mauryan India had numerous private commercial entities. These existed purely for private commerce and developed before the Mauryan Empire itself. [108]

Hoard of mostly Mauryan coins.

Silver punch mark coin of the Maurya empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant. 3rd century BCE. [ citation needed ]

Mauryan coin with arched hill symbol on reverse. [ citation needed ]

Mauryan Empire coin. Circa late 4th-2nd century BCE. [ citation needed ]

Mauryan Empire, Emperor Salisuka or later. Circa 207-194 BCE. [109]

In the early period of empire Hinduism was an important religion. [110] The Mauryans favored all dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Minor religious sects such as ajivikas also received patronage.

Jainism

Chandragupta Maurya followed Jainism after retiring, when he renounced his throne and material possessions to join a wandering group of Jain monks. Chandragupta was a disciple of the Jain monk Acharya Bhadrabahu. It is said that in his last days, he observed the rigorous but self-purifying Jain ritual of santhara (fast unto death), at Shravana Belgola in Karnataka. [111] [72] [112] [71] Samprati, the grandson of Ashoka, also patronized Jainism. Samprati was influenced by the teachings of Jain monks like Suhastin and he is said to have built 125,000 derasars across India. [113] Some of them are still found in the towns of Ahmedabad, Viramgam, Ujjain, and Palitana. [ citation needed ] It is also said that just like Ashoka, Samprati sent messengers and preachers to Greece, Persia and the Middle East for the spread of Jainism, but, to date, no research has been done in this area. [114] [115]

Thus, Jainism became a vital force under the Mauryan Rule. Chandragupta and Samprati are credited for the spread of Jainism in South India. Hundreds of thousands of temples and stupas are said to have been erected during their reigns

Buddhism

Magadha, the centre of the empire, was also the birthplace of Buddhism. Ashoka initially practised Hinduism [ citation needed ] but later followed Buddhism following the Kalinga War, he renounced expansionism and aggression, and the harsher injunctions of the Arthashastra on the use of force, intensive policing, and ruthless measures for tax collection and against rebels. Ashoka sent a mission led by his son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka, whose king Tissa was so charmed with Buddhist ideals that he adopted them himself and made Buddhism the state religion. Ashoka sent many Buddhist missions to West Asia, Greece and South East Asia, and commissioned the construction of monasteries and schools, as well as the publication of Buddhist literature across the empire. He is believed to have built as many as 84,000 stupas across India, such as Sanchi and Mahabodhi Temple, and he increased the popularity of Buddhism in Afghanistan, Thailand and North Asia including Siberia. Ashoka helped convene the Third Buddhist Council of India's and South Asia's Buddhist orders near his capital, a council that undertook much work of reform and expansion of the Buddhist religion. Indian merchants embraced Buddhism and played a large role in spreading the religion across the Mauryan Empire. [116]

The greatest monument of this period, executed in the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, was the old palace at Paliputra, modern Kumhrar in Patna. Excavations have unearthed the remains of the palace, which is thought to have been an group of several buildings, the most important of which was an immense pillared hall supported on a high substratum of timbers. The pillars were set in regular rows, thus dividing the hall into a number of smaller square bays. The number of columns is 80, each about 7 meters high. According to the eyewitness account of Megasthenes, the palace was chiefly constructed of timber, and was considered to exceed in splendour and magnificence the palaces of Susa and Ecbatana, its gilded pillars being adorned with golden vines and silver birds. The buildings stood in an extensive park studded with fish ponds and furnished with a great variety of ornamental trees and shrubs. [117] [ better source needed ] Kauṭilya's Arthashastra also gives the method of palace construction from this period. Later fragments of stone pillars, including one nearly complete, with their round tapering shafts and smooth polish, indicate that Ashoka was responsible for the construction of the stone columns which replaced the earlier wooden ones. [ citation needed ]

During the Ashokan period, stonework was of a highly diversified order and comprised lofty free-standing pillars, railings of stupas, lion thrones and other colossal figures. The use of stone had reached such great perfection during this time that even small fragments of stone art were given a high lustrous polish resembling fine enamel. This period marked the beginning of the Buddhist school of architecture. Ashoka was responsible for the construction of several stupas, which were large domes and bearing symbols of Buddha. The most important ones are located at Sanchi, Bharhut, Amaravati, Bodhgaya and Nagarjunakonda. The most widespread examples of Mauryan architecture are the Ashoka pillars and carved edicts of Ashoka, often exquisitely decorated, with more than 40 spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. [118] [ better source needed ]

The peacock was a dynastic symbol of Mauryans, as depicted by Ashoka's pillars at Nandangarh and Sanchi Stupa. [42]

Remains of the Ashokan Pillar in polished stone (right of the Southern Gateway).

Remains of the shaft of the pillar of Ashoka, under a shed near the Southern Gateway.

Pillar and its inscription (the "Schism Edict") upon discovery.

The protection of animals in India was advocated by the time of the Maurya dynasty being the first empire to provide a unified political entity in India, the attitude of the Mauryas towards forests, their denizens, and fauna in general is of interest. [121]

The Mauryas firstly looked at forests as resources. For them, the most important forest product was the elephant. Military might in those times depended not only upon horses and men but also battle-elephants these played a role in the defeat of Seleucus, one of Alexander's former generals. The Mauryas sought to preserve supplies of elephants since it was cheaper and took less time to catch, tame and train wild elephants than to raise them. Kautilya's Arthashastra contains not only maxims on ancient statecraft, but also unambiguously specifies the responsibilities of officials such as the Protector of the Elephant Forests. [122]

On the border of the forest, he should establish a forest for elephants guarded by foresters. The Office of the Chief Elephant Forester should with the help of guards protect the elephants in any terrain. The slaying of an elephant is punishable by death.

The Mauryas also designated separate forests to protect supplies of timber, as well as lions and tigers for skins. Elsewhere the Protector of Animals also worked to eliminate thieves, tigers and other predators to render the woods safe for grazing cattle. [ citation needed ]

The Mauryas valued certain forest tracts in strategic or economic terms and instituted curbs and control measures over them. They regarded all forest tribes with distrust and controlled them with bribery and political subjugation. They employed some of them, the food-gatherers or aranyaca to guard borders and trap animals. The sometimes tense and conflict-ridden relationship nevertheless enabled the Mauryas to guard their vast empire. [123]

When Ashoka embraced Buddhism in the latter part of his reign, he brought about significant changes in his style of governance, which included providing protection to fauna, and even relinquished the royal hunt. He was the first ruler in history [ failed verification ] to advocate conservation measures for wildlife and even had rules inscribed in stone edicts. The edicts proclaim that many followed the king's example in giving up the slaughter of animals one of them proudly states: [123]

Our king killed very few animals.

However, the edicts of Ashoka reflect more the desire of rulers than actual events the mention of a 100 'panas' (coins) fine for poaching deer in royal hunting preserves shows that rule-breakers did exist. The legal restrictions conflicted with the practices freely exercised by the common people in hunting, felling, fishing and setting fires in forests. [123]

Foundation of the Empire

Relations with the Hellenistic world may have started from the very beginning of the Maurya Empire. Plutarch reports that Chandragupta Maurya met with Alexander the Great, probably around Taxila in the northwest: [124]

Sandrocottus, when he was a stripling, saw Alexander himself, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of the country, since its king was hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth.

Reconquest of the Northwest (c. 317–316 BCE)

Chandragupta ultimately occupied Northwestern India, in the territories formerly ruled by the Greeks, where he fought the satraps (described as "Prefects" in Western sources) left in place after Alexander (Justin), among whom may have been Eudemus, ruler in the western Punjab until his departure in 317 BCE or Peithon, son of Agenor, ruler of the Greek colonies along the Indus until his departure for Babylon in 316 BCE. [ citation needed ]

India, after the death of Alexander, had assassinated his prefects, as if shaking the burden of servitude. The author of this liberation was Sandracottos, but he had transformed liberation in servitude after victory, since, after taking the throne, he himself oppressed the very people he has liberated from foreign domination.

Later, as he was preparing war against the prefects of Alexander, a huge wild elephant went to him and took him on his back as if tame, and he became a remarkable fighter and war leader. Having thus acquired royal power, Sandracottos possessed India at the time Seleucos was preparing future glory.

Conflict and alliance with Seleucus (305 BCE)

Seleucus I Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of the Asian portion of Alexander's former empire, conquered and put under his own authority eastern territories as far as Bactria and the Indus (Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55), until in 305 BCE he entered into a confrontation with Emperor Chandragupta:

Always lying in wait for the neighbouring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he [Seleucus] acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus.

Though no accounts of the conflict remain, it is clear that Seleucus fared poorly against the Indian Emperor as he failed to conquer any territory, and in fact was forced to surrender much that was already his. Regardless, Seleucus and Chandragupta ultimately reached a settlement and through a treaty sealed in 305 BCE, Seleucus, according to Strabo, ceded a number of territories to Chandragupta, including eastern Afghanistan and Balochistan. [ citation needed ]

Marriage alliance

Chandragupta and Seleucus concluded a peace treaty and a marriage alliance in 303 BCE. Chandragupta received vast territories and in a return gave Seleucus 500 war elephants, [129] [130] [131] [132] [133] a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE. [134] In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Mauryan court at Pataliputra (modern Patna in Bihar). Later, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka, is also recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court. [135] [ better source needed ]

Mainstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received vast territory west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern-day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan. [136] [137] Archaeologically, concrete indications of Mauryan rule, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

He (Seleucus) crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship.

After having made a treaty with him (Sandrakotos) and put in order the Orient situation, Seleucos went to war against Antigonus.

The treaty on "Epigamia" implies lawful marriage between Greeks and Indians was recognized at the State level, although it is unclear whether it occurred among dynastic rulers or common people, or both. [ citation needed ]

Exchange of presents

Classical sources have also recorded that following their treaty, Chandragupta and Seleucus exchanged presents, such as when Chandragupta sent various aphrodisiacs to Seleucus: [78]

And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters [as to make people more amorous]. And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love.

His son Bindusara 'Amitraghata' (Slayer of Enemies) also is recorded in Classical sources as having exchanged presents with Antiochus I: [78]

But dried figs were so very much sought after by all men (for really, as Aristophanes says, "There's really nothing nicer than dried figs"), that even Amitrochates, the king of the Indians, wrote to Antiochus, entreating him (it is Hegesander who tells this story) to buy and send him some sweet wine, and some dried figs, and a sophist and that 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.

Greek population in India

An influential and large Greek population was present in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Ashoka's rule, possibly remnants of Alexander's conquests in the Indus Valley region. In the Rock Edicts of Ashoka, some of them inscribed in Greek, Ashoka states that the Greeks within his dominion were converted to Buddhism:

Here in the king's dominion among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dharma.

Now, in times past (officers) called Mahamatras of morality did not exist before. Mahdmatras of morality were appointed by me (when I had been) anointed thirteen years. These are occupied with all sects in establishing morality, in promoting morality, and for the welfare and happiness of those who are devoted to morality (even) among the Greeks, Kambojas and Gandharas, and whatever other western borderers (of mine there are).

Fragments of Edict 13 have been found in Greek, and a full Edict, written in both Greek and Aramaic, has been discovered in Kandahar. It is said to be written in excellent Classical Greek, using sophisticated philosophical terms. In this Edict, Ashoka uses the word Eusebeia ("Piety") as the Greek translation for the ubiquitous "Dharma" of his other Edicts written in Prakrit: [ non-primary source needed ]

Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (Ashoka) made known (the doctrine of) Piety (εὐσέβεια, Eusebeia) to men and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily.

Buddhist missions to the West (c. 250 BCE)

Map of the Buddhist missions during the reign of Ashoka.

Territories "conquered by the Dharma" according to Major Rock Edict No. 13 of Ashoka (260–218 BCE). [141] [142]

Also, in the Edicts of Ashoka, Ashoka mentions the Hellenistic kings of the period as recipients of his Buddhist proselytism, although no Western historical record of this event remains:

The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400–9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni (Sri Lanka).

Ashoka also encouraged the development of herbal medicine, for men and animals, in their territories:

Everywhere within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi's [Ashoka's] domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos, everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals.

The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the spread of Buddhism, as some of the emissaries of Ashoka, such as Dharmaraksita, are described in Pali sources as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism (the Mahavamsa, XII [143] [ non-primary source needed ] ).

Subhagasena and Antiochos III (206 BCE)

Sophagasenus was an Indian Mauryan ruler of the 3rd century BCE, described in ancient Greek sources, and named Subhagasena or Subhashasena in Prakrit. His name is mentioned in the list of Mauryan princes, [ citation needed ] and also in the list of the Yadava dynasty, as a descendant of Pradyumna. He may have been a grandson of Ashoka, or Kunala, the son of Ashoka. He ruled an area south of the Hindu Kush, possibly in Gandhara. Antiochos III, the Seleucid king, after having made peace with Euthydemus in Bactria, went to India in 206 BCE and is said to have renewed his friendship with the Indian king there:

He (Antiochus) crossed the Caucasus and descended into India renewed his friendship with Sophagasenus the king of the Indians received more elephants, until he had a hundred and fifty altogether and having once more provisioned his troops, set out again personally with his army: leaving Androsthenes of Cyzicus the duty of taking home the treasure which this king had agreed to hand over to him.

  • 322 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya founded the Mauryan Empire by defeating the Nanda Dynasty.
  • 317–316 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya conquers the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent.
  • 305–303 BCE: Chandragupta Maurya gains territory from the Seleucid Empire.
  • 298–269 BCE: Reign of Bindusara, Chandragupta's son. He conquers parts of Deccan, southern India.
  • 269–232 BCE: The Mauryan Empire reaches its height under Ashoka, Chandragupta's grandson.
  • 261 BCE: Ashoka conquers the kingdom of Kalinga.
  • 250 BCE: Ashoka builds Buddhist stupas and erects pillars bearing inscriptions.
  • 184 BCE: The empire collapses when Brihadratha, the last emperor, is killed by Pushyamitra Shunga, a Mauryan general and the founder of the Shunga Empire.

According to Vicarasreni of Merutunga, Mauryans rose to power in 312 BC. [144]


Magadhan and Mauryan Soldiers - History

By Srinidhi Murthy and Vijita Mukherjee

The Kalinga War was fought between the Mauryan Empire of Magadha and the independent and prosperous state of Kalinga. It was a turning point in the life of Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Dynasty. The terrible outcome of the war made him question the price of his victory and its worth.

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar | Script: Meena Talim

Background

Kalinga was a prosperous nation with artistically skilled and peaceful people. It was under the Nanda Empire until 321 BCE. With important ports for trade and a strong navy, Kalinga controlled its coastline and played a crucial role in the trading world of the Bay of Bengal. The king of Kalinga was referred to as ‘Mahodadhi Pati’ or ‘the lord of the ocean’ by the poet Kalidasa in one of his works. The Mauryan Empire perceived Kalinga as a threat because Kalinga could interrupt communications between Patliputra, the Mauryan capital and its possessions in the central Indian peninsula. Emperor Ashoka sent a message to the King of Kalinga asking him to submit to his overlordship, but the king was in no mood to bow to this authority.

The War

Ashoka led a huge army against Kalinga in a historic battle in 261 BCE. Since it was the first major war after he acceded the throne, Ashoka was eager to win at all costs. However, it surprised him to find that the soldiers and the people of Kalinga fought with great valour to safeguard their independence.

The King of Kalinga himself commanded his army on the battlefield, but his limited forces were no match for the vast Magadhan army. After a gruesome battle, victory ultimately favoured the Mauryan Empire. There was a huge loss of man and material due to the war of Kalinga. 150,000 soldiers were taken as prisoners by Asoka, 100,000 were slain, and many others died later because of their injuries. It is said that an equal number of soldiers from the army of Magadha were killed as well.

Aftermath

Ashoka, who had set his heart on this victory over Kalinga was unprepared for the destruction caused by it. The scene of the war presented a heart-wrenching sight. The whole area was filled with the corpses of soldiers from both sides. The wounded soldiers, who escaped death groaned in severe pain. Orphaned children and widows mourned the loss of their near and dear ones. People looked listless and filled with despair, unable to recover from the damage this rampage had inflicted on their lives.

Change of Heart

Ashoka felt he was solely responsible for the destruction caused by this war. He embraced ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence The Kalinga War prompted Ashoka, to devote the rest of his life to ahimsa ie. non-violence and ended further military expansion of the empire. The next era of his rule was filled with harmony, prosperity and peace.

Read the full story of Ashoka in our title Ashoka, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Flipkart, Amazon, and other major e-tailers.


Wars and Expansion under the Shaishunagas and Nandas

The first king, Shishunaga(c. late 5th century BCE), continued the forward policy by absorbing Avanti, thereby ending its dynastic rule of the Pradyotas (which were not heard of again in Indian history). This victory handed to Shishunaga the territories of Madhyadesha, Malwa and many others in North and Central India, and removed the only serious enemy it had at the time.

The last ruler of this dynasty was murdered, and with no credible succession to take place, a new king called Mahapadma Nanda took over about the middle of the fourth century BCE, ushering the reign of the last dynasty before the Mauryans took over the reigns of power in Magadha.

“War over the Buddha’s Relics”. Significance: It shows a siege in progress, during the period of Ajatashatru (though it does not show any of his wars): it is a visual aid to understanding the warfare of the period (5th century BCE)—siege warfare in particular. Location: South Gate (rear bottom architrave), Stupa no.1, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India. / Photo by Dharma, Wikimedia Commons

Pali works refer to Mahapadma as Ugrasena because of his huge army. His conquests enabled Magadha to stretch its boundaries much further (Koshala was annexed), with the result that by the time of Dhanananda (329 – 322/21 BCE), the last ruler of the dynasty, the kingdom possessed a vast treasure, and an army numbering 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 3,000 elephants, as according to the Roman hostorian Curtius (1st century CE).

Dhanananda was a contemporary of Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BCE), who invaded India in 326 BCE, and was known to the Greeks as Xandrames or Agrammes. It was the knowledge of this Magadhan might that had added to the despair of the already war-weary Macedonian troops in India’s north-west, forcing them, among other reasons, not to press further into India.

Magadha’s expansion was to resume under the Mauryas, after Chandragupta Maurya (322/21 – 297 BCE) overthrew Dhanananda. The Kingdom of Magadha thus laid the foundation of India’s first subcontinental empire.


Contents

Both Indian and Greco-Roman traditions characterise the dynasty's founder as of low birth. [3] According to Greek historian Diodorus (1st century BCE), Porus told Alexander that the contemporary Nanda king was thought to be the son of a barber. [4] Roman historian Curtius (1st century CE) adds that according to Porus, this barber became the former queen's paramour thanks to his attractive looks, treacherously assassinated the then king, usurped the supreme authority by pretending to act as a guardian for the then princes, and later killed the princes. [4] [5]

The Jain tradition, as recorded in the Avashyaka Sutra and Parishishta-parvan, corroborates the Greco-Roman accounts, stating that the first Nanda king was the son of a barber. [6] [7] [8] According to the 12th century text Parishishta-parvan, the mother of the first Nanda king was a courtesan. However, the text also states that the daughter of the last Nanda king married Chandragupta, because it was customary for Kshatriya girls to choose their husbands thus, it implies that the Nanda king claimed to be a Kshatriya, that is, a member of the warrior class. [6]

The Puranas name the dynasty's founder as Mahapadma, and claim that he was the son of the Shaishunaga king Mahanandin. However, even these texts hint at the low birth of the Nandas, when they state that Mahapadma's mother belonged to the Shudra class, the lowest of the varnas. [8]

Since the claim of the barber ancestry of the dynasty's founder is attested by two different traditions—Greco-Roman and Jain, it appears to be more reliable than the Puranic claim of Shaishunaga ancestry. [9]

The Buddhist tradition calls the Nandas "of unknown lineage" (annata-kula). According to Mahavamsa, the dynasty's founder was Ugrasena, who was originally "a man of the frontier": he fell into the hands of a gang of robbers, and later became their leader. [10] He later ousted the sons of the Shaishunaga king Kalashoka (or Kakavarna). [5]

K. N. Panikkar suggested that the Nandas were the sole Kshatriyas in India "at the time of the Mauryas" and M. N. Srinivas suggested that the "other Kshatriya castes have come into existence through a process of caste mobility from among the lower castes". [11] : 177

There is little unanimity among the ancient sources regarding the total duration of the Nanda reign or their regnal period. [12] For example, the Matsya Purana assigns 88 years to the rule of the first Nanda king alone, [9] while some scripts of the Vayu Purana state the total duration of the Nanda rule as 40 years. The 16th century Buddhist scholar Taranatha assigns 29 years to the Nandas. [13]

It is difficult to assign precise date for the Nanda and other early dynasties of Magadha. [14] Historians Irfan Habib and Vivekanand Jha date the Nanda rule from c. 344–322 BCE, relying on the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition which states that the Nandas ruled for 22 years. [7] Historian Upinder Singh dates the Nanda rule from 364/345 BCE to 324 BCE, based on the assumption that Gautama Buddha died in c. 486 BCE. [14]

According to another theory, based on astronomical calculations, the first Nanda king ascended the throne in 424 BCE. Proponents of this theory also interpret the Hathigumpha inscription to mean that "Nandaraja" (the Nanda king) flourished in year 103 of the Mahavira Era, that is, in 424 BCE. [15]

The 14th century Jain writer Merutunga, in his Vichara-shreni, states that king Chandra Pradyota of Avanti died on the same night as the Jain leader Mahavira. He was succeeded by his son Palaka, who ruled for 60 years. After that, the Nandas rose to power at Pataliputra and captured the Avanti capital Ujjayini. The Nanda rule, spanning the reigns of nine kings, lasted for 155 years, after which the Mauryas came to power. According to the Shvetambara Jain tradition, Mahavira died in 527 BCE, which would mean that the Nanda rule—according to Merutunga's writings—lasted from 467 BCE to 312 BCE. According to historian R. C. Majumdar, while all the chronological details provided by Merutunga cannot be accepted without corroborative evidence, they cannot be dismissed as entirely unreliable unless contradicted by more reliable sources. [16]

The Buddhist, Jain, and Puranic traditions all state that there were 9 Nanda kings, [10] but the sources differ considerably on the names of these kings. [7]

According to the Greco-Roman accounts, the Nanda rule spanned two generations. [3] For example, the Roman historian Curtius (1st century CE) suggests that the dynasty's founder was a barber-turned-king, and that his son was the dynasty's last king, who was overthrown by Chandragupta. [4] The Greek accounts name only one Nanda king—Agrammes or Xandrames—who was a contemporary of Alexander. "Agrammes" may be a Greek transcription of the Sanskrit word "Augrasainya" (literally "son or descendant of Ugrasena", Ugrasena being the name of the dynasty's founder according to the Buddhist tradition). [7] [5]

The Puranas, compiled in India in c. 4th century CE (but probably based on earlier sources), also state that the Nandas ruled for two generations. [3] According to the Puranic tradition, the dynasty's founder was Mahapadma: the Matsya Purana assigns him an incredibly long reign of 88 years, while the Vayu Purana mentions the length of his reign as only 28 years. [9] The Puranas further state that Mahapadma's 8 sons ruled in succession after him for a total of 12 years, but name only one of these sons: Sukalpa. [8] A Vayu Purana script names him as "Sahalya", which apparently corresponds to the "Sahalin" mentioned in the Buddhist text Divyavadana. [12] Dhundiraja, a commentator on the Vishnu Purana, names one of the Nanda kings as Sarvatha-siddhi, and states that his son was Maurya, whose son was Chandragupta Maurya. [14] However, the Puranas themselves do not talk of any relation between the Nanda and the Maurya dynasties. [17]

According to the Sri Lankan Buddhist text Mahavamsa, written in Pali language, there were 9 Nanda kings – they were brothers who ruled in succession, for a total of 22 years. [7] These nine kings were: [14] [7]

  1. Ugra-sena (Uggasena in Pali)
  2. Panduka
  3. Pandugati
  4. Bhuta-pala
  5. Rashtra-pala
  6. Govishanaka
  7. Dasha-siddhaka
  8. Kaivarta

The Nanda capital was located at Pataliputra (near present-day Patna) in the Magadha region of eastern India. This is confirmed by the Buddhist and Jain traditions, as well as the Sanskrit play Mudrarakshasa. The Puranas also connect the Nandas to the Shaishunaga dynasty, which ruled in the Magadha region. The Greek accounts state that Agrammes (identified as a Nanda king) was the ruler of the Gangaridai (the Ganges valley) and the Prasii (probably a transcription of the Sanskrit word prachyas, literally "easterners"). According to the later writer Megasthenes (c. 300 BCE), Pataliputra (Greek: Palibothra) was located in the country of the Prasii, which further confirms that Pataliputra was the Nanda capital. [7]

The Nanda empire appears to have stretched from present-day Punjab in the west to Odisha in the east. [18] An analysis of various historical sources – including the ancient Greek accounts, the Puranas, and the Hathigumpha inscription – suggests that the Nandas controlled eastern India, the Ganges valley, and at least a part of Kalinga. [19] It is also highly probable that they controlled the Avanti region in Central India, which made it possible for their successor Chandragupta Maurya to conquer present-day Gujarat western India. [20] According to the Jain tradition, the Nanda minister subjugated the entire country up to the coastal areas. [21]

The Puranas state that the Nanda king Mahapadma destroyed the Kshatriyas, and attained undisputed sovereignty. [22] The Kshatriyas said to have been exterminated by him include Maithalas, Kasheyas, Ikshvakus, Panchalas, Shurasenas, Kurus, Haihayas, Vitihotras, Kalingas, and Ashmakas. [21]

  • The Maithala (literally, "of Mithila") territory was located to the north of Magadha, on the border of present-day Nepal and northern Bihar. This region had come under the control of Magadha during the reign of the 5th century BCE king Ajatashatru. The Nandas probably subjugated the local chieftains, who may have retained some degree of independence from Magadha. [23]
  • The Kasheyas were the residents of the area around Kashi, that is, present-day Varanasi. According to the Puranas, a Shaishunaga prince was appointed to govern Kashi, which suggests that this region was under Shaishunaga control. The Nandas may have captured it from a successor of the Shaishunaga prince. [21]
  • The Ikshvakus ruled the historical Kosala region of present-day Uttar Pradesh, and had come into conflict with the Magadha kingdom during the reign of Ajatashatru. Their history after the reign of Virudhaka is obscure. A passage of the 11th century story-collection Kathasaritsagara refers to the Nanda camp (kataka) in the Ayodhya town of the Kosala region. This suggests that the Nanda king went on a military campaign to Kosala. [21]
  • The Panchalas occupied the Ganges valley to the north-west of the Kosala region, and there are no records of their conflict with the Magadha monarchs before the Nanda period. Therefore, it appears that the Nandas subjugated them. [21] According to the Greek accounts, Alexander expected to face king Agrammes (identified as a Nanda king) if he advanced eastwards from the Punjab region. This suggests that the Nanda territory extended up to the Ganges river in the present-day western Uttar Pradesh. [7]
  • The Shurasenas ruled the area around Mathura. The Greek accounts suggest that they were subordinates to the king of the Prasii, that is, the Nanda king. [23]
  • The Kuru territory, which included the sacred site of Kurukshetra, was located to the west of the Panchala territory. [24] The Greek records suggest that the king of Gangaridai and Prasii controlled this region, which may be taken as corrorobrative evidence for the Nanda conquest of the Kuru territory. [23]
  • The Haihayas ruled the Narmada valley in central India, with their capital at Mahishmati. [25] The Nanda control over this territory does not seem improbable, given that their predecessors – the Shaishunagas – are said to have subjugated the rulers of Avanti in central India (according to the Puranas), and their successors – the Mauryas – are known to have ruled over Central India. [26]
  • The Vitihotras, according to the Puranas, were closely associated with the Haihayas. Their sovereignty is said to have ended before the rise of the Pradyota dynasty in Avanti, far earlier than the Nandas and the Shaishunagas came to power. However, a passage in the Bhavishyanukirtana of the Puranas suggests that the Vitihotras were contemporaries of the Shaishunagas. It is possible that the Shaishunagas restored a Pradyota prince as a subordinate ruler, after defeating the Pradyotas. The Nandas may have defeated this Vitihotra ruler. [23] The Jain writers describe the Nandas as the successors of Palaka, the son of king Pradyota. [27]
  • The Kalingas occupied the coastal territory in present-day Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. [26] The Nanda control of this region is corroborated by the Hathigumpha inscription of the later king Kharavela (c. 1st or 2nd century BCE). [7] The inscription states that "Nanda-raja" (the Nanda king) had excavated a canal in Kalinga, and had taken a Jain idol from Kalinga. [14] According to the inscription, this canal had been dug "ti-vasa-sata" years ago: the term is variously interpreted as "three hundred" or "one hundred and three". [28]
  • The Ashmakas occupied the Godavari valley in the Deccan region. [26] According to one theory, Nanded in this region was originally called "Nau Nand Dehra" (abode of the nine Nandas), which may be considered as evidence of the Nanda control of this area. However, there is no concrete evidence that the Nanda rule extended to the south of the Vindhya range. [14][26]

The Amaravathi hoard of Punch marked coins have revealed imperial standard coins dating back to the Nandas besides other dynasties of Magadha, including the Mauryas but it is not certain when this region was annexed by the Magadhan rulers. [29]

Some Kuntala country (North Mysore) inscriptions suggest that the Nandas also ruled it, which included a part of present-day Karnataka in southern India. However, these inscriptions are relatively late (c. 1200 CE), and therefore, cannot be considered as reliable in this context. The Magadha empire included parts of southern India during the reign of the Mauryas – the successors of the Nandas – but there is no satisfactory account of how they came to control this area. [27] For example, an inscription discovered at Bandanikke states:

the Kuntala country (which included the north-western parts of Mysore and the southern parts of the Bombay Presidency) was ruled by the nava-Nanda, Gupta-kula, Mauryya kings then the Rattas ruled it : after whom were the Chalukyas then the Kalachuryya family and after them the (Hoysala) Ballalas.

Alexander the Great invaded north-western India at the time of Agrammes or Xandrames, [7] whom modern historians generally identify as the last Nanda king – Dhana Nanda. [30] In the summer of 326 BCE, Alexander's army reached the Beas River (Greek: Hyphasis), beyond which the Nanda territory was located. [31]

According to Curtius, Alexander learned that Agrammes had 200,000 infantry 20,000 cavalry 3000 elephants and 2,000 four-horse chariots. [7] [14] Diodorus gives the number of elephants as 4,000. [32] Plutarch inflates these numbers significantly, except the infantry: [33] according to him, the Nanda force included 200,000 infantry 80,000 cavalry 6,000 elephants and 8,000 chariots. [34] It is possible that the numbers reported to Alexander had been exaggerated by the local Indian population, who had the incentive to mislead the invaders. [31]

The Nanda army did not have the opportunity to face Alexander, whose soldiers mutinied at the Beas River, refusing to go any further in the east. Alexander's soldiers had first started to agitate to return to their homeland at Hecatompylos in 330 BCE, and the stiff resistance that they had met in north-western India in the subsequent years had demoralised them. They mutinied, when faced with the prospect of facing the powerful Nanda army, forcing Alexander to withdraw from India. [35]

Little information survives on the Nanda administration today. [36] The Puranas describe the Nanda king as ekarat ("single ruler"), which suggests that the Nanda empire was an integrated monarchy rather than a group of virtually independent feudal states. [37] However, the Greek accounts suggest the presence of a more federated system of governance. For example, Arrian mentions that the land beyond the Beas River was governed by "the aristocracy, who exercised their authority with justice and moderation." The Greek accounts mention the Gangaridai and the Prasii separately, although suggesting that these two were ruled by a common sovereign. Historian H. C. Raychaudhuri theorises that the Nandas held centralised control over their core territories in present-day Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, but allowed considerable autonomy in the frontier parts of their empire. [36] This is suggested by Buddhist legends, which state Chandragupta was unable to defeat the Nandas when he attacked their capital but was successful against them when he gradually conquered the frontier regions of their empire. [38]

The Nanda kings appear to have strengthened the Magadha kingdom ruled by their Haryanka and Shaishunaga predecessors, creating the first great empire of northern India in the process. Historians have put forward various theories to explain the political success of these dynasties of Magadha. Pataliputra, the capital of Magadha, was naturally protected because of its location at the junction of the Ganges and the Son rivers. The Ganges and its tributaries connected the kingdom with important trade routes. It had fertile soil and access to lumber and elephants of the adjacent areas. Some historians have suggested that Magadha was relatively free from the Brahmanical orthodoxy, which may have played a role in its political success however, it is difficult to assess the veracity of this claim. D. D. Kosambi theorised that Magadha's monopoly over iron ore mines played a major role in its imperial expansion, but historian Upinder Singh has disputed this theory, pointing out that Magadha did not have a monopoly over these mines, and the iron mining in the historical Magadha region started much later. Singh, however, notes that the adjoining Chota Nagpur Plateau was rich in many minerals and other raw materials, and access to these would have been an asset for Magadha. [14]

Ministers and scholars Edit

According to the Jain tradition, Kalpaka was the minister of the first Nanda king. He became a minister reluctantly, but after assuming the office, he encouraged the king to adopt an aggressive expansionist policy. The Jain texts suggest that the ministerial offices of the Nanda Empire were hereditary. For example, after the death of Shakatala, a minister of the last Nanda king, his position was offered to his son Sthulabhadra when Sthulabhadra refused the offer, Shakatala's second son Shriyaka was appointed as the minister. [14]

The Brihatkatha tradition claims that under the Nanda rule, the city of Pataliputra not only became the abode of the goddess of material prosperity (Lakshmi), but also of the goddess of learning (Sarasvati). According to this tradition, notable grammarians such as Varsha, Upavarsha, Panini, Katyayana, Vararuchi, and Vyadi lived during the Nanda period. [39] While much of this account is unreliable folklore, it is probable that some of the grammarians who preceded Patanjali lived during the Nanda period. [40]

Wealth Edit

Several historical sources refer to the great wealth of the Nandas. According to the Mahavamsa, the last Nanda king was a treasure-hoarder, and amassed wealth worth 80 kotis (800 million). He buried these treasures in the bed of the Ganges river. He acquired further wealth by levying taxes on all sorts of objects, including skins, gums, trees, and stones. [41]

A verse by the Tamil poet Mamulanar refers to "the untold wealth of the Nandas", which was "swept away and submerged later on by the floods of the Ganges". [42] Another interpretation of this verse states this wealth was hidden in the waters of the Ganges. The 7th-century Chinese traveller Xuanzang mentions the "five treasures of king Nanda's seven precious substances". [41]

Greek writer Xenophon, in his Cyropaedia (4th century BCE), mentions that the king of India was very wealthy, and aspired to arbitrate in the disputes between the kingdoms of West Asia. Although Xenophon's book describes the events of the 6th century BCE (the period of Cyrus the Great), historian H. C. Raychaudhuri speculates that the writer's image of the Indian king may be based on the contemporary Nanda king. [43]

The Kashika, a commentary on Panini's grammar, mentions Nandopakramani manani – a measuring standard introduced by the Nandas. This may be a reference to their introduction of a new currency system and punch-marked coins, which may have been responsible for much of their wealth. A hoard of coins found at the site of ancient Pataliputra probably belongs to the Nanda period. [44]

The Nanda Empire's population included adherents of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. [2] The Nandas and the Mauryas appear to have patronised the religions originating in the Greater Magadha region, namely Jainism, Ajivikism, and Buddhism. [18] However, the rulers of the empire never engaged in conversion of their subjects to other religions [18] and there is no evidence that these rulers discriminated against any contemporary religion. [45]

In the pre-Nanda period, the Vedic Brahmanism was supported by several smaller kings, who patronised the Brahmin priests. The declining power of these kings under the more centralised Nanda and Maurya rule appears to have deprived the Brahmins of their patrons, resulting in the gradual decline of the traditional Vedic society. [46]

The Jain tradition suggests that several Nanda ministers were inclined towards Jainism. When Shakatala, a minister of the last Nanda king, died, his son Sthulabhadra refused to inherit his father's office, and instead became a Jain monk. Sthulabhadra's brother Shriyaka accepted the post. [14]


Rise of the Magadha Empire | Indian History

In this article we will discuss about the rise of the Magadha empire during the 6th century B.C.

Magadha had to contend for political pre-eminence with the monarchical states of Kashi, Kosala and Vatsa. Besides, the republican confederacy of the Vrijis was also a strong contender. The struggle between them continued for about a century and. Ultimately, Magadha emerged victorious and established itself as the supreme power.

Bimbisara (544-493 B.C.):

The rise of Magadha started with the accession of Bimbisara to its throne. He was a contemporary of Mahatma Buddha. Dr Bhandarkar has expressed the view that Bimbisara belonged to the Great Naga dynasty and was originally the commander-in-chief, probably of the Vajjis who once held sway over Magadha and, ultimately, succeeded in crowning himself as the king.

But the Buddhist- texts give a different version. According to Asvaghosha’s Buddhacharita, he belonged to Haryanka-kula and Mahavamsa refers that his father appointed him as king at the age of fifteen. Mahavamsa does not state the name of his father but according to other sources, he was named Bhattiya or Mahapadma.

Bimbisara ruled for nearly forty-nine years. Its capital was Rajagriha. He was a man of determination and political foresight who realized the importance of a large kingdom and decided to make Magadha such a state. He pursued his ambition both by wars of conquest and a policy of matrimonial alliances.

It has been said that he had five hundred wives. One may not agree with this number but it is certain that he entered into dynastic relations based on marriage with several important royal families of his time which helped him much in his political career.

His first wife was a sister of Prasenajit, the king of Kosala who gave him a part of the kingdom of Kasi in dowry. His second wife was Chellana, daughter of the Lichchhavi king, Chetaka who was the most important feudatory chief of the republican state of the Vrijis with its capital of Vaisali.

Another wife of his was Vasavi, princess of the kingdom of Vaideh and yet another, was Khema daughter of the king of Madra (Central Punjab). These marriage alliances definitely enhanced his prestige besides helping him in the extension of his territories.

He was a successful diplomat as well. He maintained friendly relations not only with nearby strong states but also with distant powers. He sent his famous physician, Jivaka, to the neighbouring state of Avanti when its ruler, Chanda Pradyota fell ill and was, thus, able to maintain good relations with him. All this must have helped him in pursuing his policy for the extension of his kingdom.

Bimbisara conquered the state of Anga. It was, probably, his only conquest but a very important one. Anga was a big and prosperous state at that time and its conquest marked the beginning of the greatness of Magadha. Bimbisara’s father was defeated by Brahadatta. king of Anga. Probably, it was to avenge this defeat that Bimbisara attacked Anga and succeeded in conquering it.

Bimbisara, for the first time, laid down the foundation of an efficient administration in Magadha. He constructed several canals and roads, appointed several new officers for administrative purposes and arranged for the regular collection of revenue.

It helped him in increasing his financial resources and military strength. It is said that the kingdom of Magadha had 80,000 villages at that time. Bimbisara proved to be an able ruler who recognized the necessity of an efficient administration.

There were several ministers who helped the king in administration. They were chosen on merit and their advice was generally not ignored. Besides, there were different officers who were divided into different categories according to the nature of their work. The executive or administrative officers were called Sambbatakas, the judicial officers Voharikas and the military officers Senanayakas.

However, the basic units of administration were villages. Each village was under the jurisdiction of a headman who was responsible for the collection of taxes and handing them over to the other officials of the state. Theoretically, the land belonged to the king though nobody was displaced from the land till he paid 1/6th of the produce, which was regarded the king’s share.

Mostly Sudras worked as cultivators though they w ere not masters of the land. They were engaged as labourers. This had lowered their status. Therefore, a new class of Sudras, that is untouchables, came to be recognized during this period.

Bimbisara was very much tolerant in religious affairs. He revered both Jainism and Buddhism equally. Therefore, both the Jainas and the Buddhists claimed Bimbisara as their follower.

Bimbisara was killed by his own son Ajatasatru (Kunika). But the Jainas and the Buddhists have expressed different opinions regarding the episode of his death. According to Jaina texts Ajatasatru imprisoned his father but felt guilty afterwards and when he went to let him off, Bimbisara himself took poison out of fear and died.

The Buddhist texts claim that Ajatasatru himself killed his father and he confessed this fact to the Buddha. Whatever might be the actual fact, it is certain that Ajatasatm was responsible for the death of his father and ascended his throne after him.

Ajatasatru (493-462 B.C.):

Ajatasatru continued his father’s policy of expansion through military conquests. First, a fierce struggle started between Magadha and Kosala. Prasenajit’s sister who was the wife of Bimbisara died of grief at the death of her husband. Prasenajit could not tolerate it and asked Ajatasatru to return back Kasi which was given in dowry to Bimbisara.

When it was refused by Ajatasatru, a protracted war began between Magadha and Kosala. The war remained indecisive for a long time but ultimately Prasenajit agreed to give Kasi to Ajatasatru and also gave his daughter Vajira in marriage to him, which proves that the outcome of war, finally, went in favour of Magadha.

However, the foundation of the political supremacy of Magadha was laid by Ajatasatru by defeating the strong confederacy of Vriji. The confederacy which dominated Eastern India included 36 republican states, viz., 9 Mallaki, 9 Lichchhavi and 18 gana-rajyas of Kasi and Kosala. Various reasons have been assigned for this conflict between these two powers. The generally held belief that Padmavati, wife of Ajatasatru, incited him for this conflict seems to be less satisfactory.

Jaina-texts state that two brothers of Ajatasatru, Halla and Vehalla, fled to Vaisal, the capital of the Lichchhavis, with the state-elephant of Magadha and a precious necklace given to ‘hem by their father Bimbisara. The Lichchhavis refused to return the fugitives to Ajatasatru and therefore, he declared war against them.

According to Buddhist-texts, the bone of contention between the two powers was a new-found jewel-mine. Both had agreed to share equally the jewels of the mine but Lichchhavis violated this agreement and so the war was declared by Magadha.

These might be the immediate causes of the war but the basic cause seems to be different. The real issue was that Magadha could not be the supreme power in Eastern India unless this powerful confederacy was defeated. It was realised by both sides.

That is why not only the Lichchhavis but the entire Vriji confederacy including the chiefs of Kasi and Kosala united themselves against Magadha. Dr D.N. Jha has given another reason of this conflict. He has opined that both the states claimed their rule over the river Ganges and the right to collect trade-tax from there. This led to their conflict.

The conflict between Magadha and the confederacy continued for sixteen years (484-468 B.C.). Ajatasatru made all sorts of preparations for it. To be near the theatre of war, he built up a new fort near the bank of the Ganges, which later on gave rise to the famous city of Pataliputra and the future capital of Magadha. Ajatasatm also realised that he could not gain victory against such a powerful confederacy unless its inner unity was destroyed.

Therefore, he sent one of his ministers, Vassakara, to sow seeds of dissension amongst the members of the confederacy. Vassakara remained there for three years and proved quite successful in his mission. The political and social unity of the Vrijis was broken. Besides, Magadha was able to produce two new weapons of war.

One was the Mahasilakantaka which was used to throw heavy pieces of stone on enemy from a distance. The other was the Rathamusala, a chariot with knives and cutting edges fixed on to it and a place under cover for the charioteer. Thus, after preparing himself diplomatically and militarily, Ajatasatru attacked the Vrijis and finally won. This victory gave Magadha an unchallenged supremacy over East India.

The success of Ajatasatru aroused the hostility of king Chanda Pradvota of Avanti who started making preparations to attack Magadha. But it was Ajatasatru who strengthened his fortifications and took various other measures to defend his boundaries and succeeded. Pradvota could not attack Magadha. Thus, Ajatasatru was successful in further extending the boundaries of his kingdom and in laying the foundations of the greatness of Magadha.

Ajatasatru was of liberal religious opinions. Jaina-texts represent him as a Jain and Buddhist-texts as a Buddhist Ajatasatru. probably , was first inclined to Jainism but later on he became a devotee of the Buddha. The first General Council of the Buddhists was held under his patronage near Rajagriha. It is also believed that he built several Buddhist Chaityas.

The Successors of Ajatasatru (462-430 B.C.):

Ajatasatm was succeeded by his son Udayabhadra. The rivalry between Magadha and Avanti continued during his time but Udayabhadra succeeded in defeating Palaka, the then ruler of Avanti several times. It is believed that Palaka then engaged a hired assassin to kill Udayabhadra who murdered him when he was listening to the discourse of a religious teacher. Udayabhadra was a Jaina. He built a town called Kusumapura and a Jain Chaityagriha inside it.

Udayabhadra was succeeded by Anurudha, Munda and Nagadasaka respec­tively. None of them proved himself capable of ruling and according to Buddhist- texts each of them was a parricide. It created dissatisfaction among their subjects and therefore, one of the ministers of the last king, Sisunaga succeeded in overthrowing his rule and established the rule of a new dynasty.

Sisunaga and His Successors (430-364 B.C.):

Sisunaga had gained respect under the weak successors of Ajatasatru and, probably, became the ruler of Magadha with the consent of the people. He proved to be a capable ruler and extended the territories of Magadha. The neighbouring rival state of Avanti, Vatsa and Kosala were defeated by him and their territories annexed to Magadha. Thus, he also contributed to the greatness of Magadha.

Sisunaga was succeeded by his son Kalasoka or Kakavarna. He made Pataliputra the capital of Magadha. The second Buddhist General Council was held during his time at Vaisali. Kalasoka was murdered because of a palace conspiracy and, probably, his murderer was the founder of the Nanda dynasty.

However, Mahavamsa says that the ten sons of Kalasoka ruled for ten years after him. Probably, the princes were allowed to rule nominally for these years to cover the guilt of the murder of their father. But, ultimately, all of them were killed and a new dynasty of kings started its rule over Magadha.

The Nanda Dynasty (364-324 B.C.):

There is a difference of opinion with regard to the first Nanda ruler and his progeny. The Puranas call him Mahapadma while Mahabodhivamsa describes his name as Ugrasena. The Jain-texts describe him as the son of a barber while Puranas refer to him as ‘the son of a king by a Sudra-woman.’ Yet, it is certain that the founder of the Nanda dynasty was a Sudra.

According to Puranas, Mahapadma Nanda destroyed all Kshatriya rulers. The kingdoms of Aikshvakus, Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Sursenas etc., were defeated and their territories were annexed to Magadha. There are a few evidences which suggest that the Nandas ruled over the southern part of Bombay and north-western part of Mysore. The evidences are not conclusive.

Yet it is certain that the Nandas succeeded in establishing a great empire or rather the first one in the real sense which covered the greater part of northern India and also part of the South. And the credit for it goes primarily to the first ruler of this dynasty, Mahapadma Nanda.

He completed the work which was started by Bimbisara, made Magadha the most extensive and powerful kingdom in India and ushered in the age of the Empire in this country. It is accepted by all that n ne rulers of the Nanda dynasty ruled over Magadha.

However, while the Puranas state that the first Nanda was the father of the other eight Nandas, the Buddhist-texts take all the Nandas as brothers. Very little is known about the history of the Nandas after Mahapadma Nanda except the last ruler, nicknamed Dhana Nanda (the worshipper of Mammon).

He was a contemporary of Alexander and his empire seems to have extended up to the frontiers of Punjab. He was a powerful king and kept a large army. But he was cruel and miserly. He accumulated fabulous wealth at the expense of his subjects by means of excessive taxation and exactions.

Therefore, he was unpopular among his subjects. Another cause of his unpopularity must have been that he was a Sudra by caste. Chandra Gupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, took advantage of his unpopularity and mis-government, succeeded in killing him and captured the throne of Magadha.

The Causes of the Rise of Magadha:

The kingdom of Magadha started its rise to pre-eminence during the period of Bimbisara and finally became the first great empire in India by the time of the Nandas. Various ambitious and powerful rulers of different successive dynasties contributed to its rise.

But certain other geographical, economic and cultural factors also contributed to its rise. There were certain permanent factors which enabled it to rise to zenith of political greatness more than once. It remained the seat of power for many successive empires in India.

Magadha occupied a strategic position of geographical importance. The river Ganges and its tributaries Son, Gandak and Gagra served as admirable means for defence, communication and trade. The older capital Rajagriha was protected by seven hills and the later one Pataliputara being at the junction of the Ganges and the Son had natural means of defence.

The natural facilities of communication and trade both with North India and the sea helped it in its economic prosperity. The land of Magadha was also fertile which yielded rich harvests. Therefore, land taxes could be kept high which proved to be regular and substantial sources of income to the state without which the maintenance of a big army could not be possible and the empire could neither be built up nor consolidated.

The taxes Bali and Bhag had now become compulsory and the peasants had no choice but to pay them. The state imposed further taxes on labour and peasants and collected good money by trade-tax as well.

Because of increased financial resources, Magadh was the first state in north India to keep a standing army and Bimbisara the first such ruler. Besides, while neighbouring forests provided timber for building and elephants for the army, its own iron-ore deposits made profitable the manufacture of better implements and weapons and a profitable trade in iron.

Magadh was again the first state in India which manufactured better arms and equipment of war made of iron. All this helped in making Magadha an economically prosperous and militarily strong state which helped in its rise.

Culturally, Magadha, being in the East, was a place where a balanced synthesis between the Aryan and the non-Aryan cultures took place. The Brahamanic culture could not claim dominance in Magadha because by the time it reached there it had lost much of its strength and therefore, liberal traditions in religion and society could be maintained in Magadha.

Prof H.C. Ravchaudhari writes “In their realm Brahmanas could fraternize with Vratyas, Kshatriyas could admit plebian (Sudra) girls to their harem, blue-blooded aristocrats could be done to death or otherwise deprived of the throne to make room for the child of a ‘Nagar-Sobhini’ and a barber could aspire to imperial dignity.”

Jainism and Buddhism both of which took their birth within the territories of Magadha were, probably, the results of these liberal traditions and they participated in further enhancing these traditions “It (Magadha),” writes Prof H.C. Ravchaudhari, “played a part in the evolution of universal religion as it did in the foundation of a pan-Indian empire. ” Liberal traditions, particularly a sense of social equality and catholicity of religious ideas, further strengthened by Jainism and Buddhism, also contributed to the building of a strong empire in Magadha.

Dr Radha Kumud Mookerji writes, “The laxity of social restrictions imposed by the orthodox Brahmanical culture and universal aspect of Buddhism and Jainism which found a congenial home in the Magadha must have considerably widened the political outlook of this region and contributed to make it the nucleus of a mighty empire.”

The administrative system of Magadha, wherein the state was ruled by a hereditary monarch who had the opportunity to enhance his financial and military resources, was also one of the causes of its rise. The powers of the king had increased under monarchical-state. In the previous tribal-system, the king got only a part of the booty of the war. In the new system, he could keep it all for himself.

The kings now, besides Bali, started collecting other taxes as well like Bhaga and Kara. They extorted money from their subjects by several illegal means also. All that made different states financially strong which enabled kings to maintain standing armies. Bimbisara of Magadha was the first king among monarchical states of that time who kept a standing army and there is no doubt that it certainly, helped in the rise of Magadha.

The various powerful rulers of different dynasties contributed to the rise of Magadha. The foundation of the Magadha empire was laid down by Bimbisara and Ajatasatru. Both were ambitious rulers and extended the boundaries of Magadha both by war and diplomacy. “The accounts of the reign of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru” writes Dr A.L. Basham. “give evidence of a definite policy, aimed at the control of as much of the course of the Ganges as possible.”

Dr Basham also points out that the idea of a big empire was picked up by Bimbisara and Ajatasatru from the example of Cyrus, the Great of Persia, who had become a ruler only sixteen years earlier than Bimbisara in Magadha and succeeded in building up Persia as the seat of one of the greatest empires of the world. He writes, “It is hardly likely that the kings of Magadha w ere ignorant of what was happening in the North-West. We believe that their expansionist policy was in part inspired by the example of Persians.”

The contention of Dr Basham definitely has practical wisdom but it is also a fact that Indian rulers had no compulsion to look to any foreign country for the ideal of an imperial kingdom. Rajasuya and Asvamedha ceremonies were performed by Indian rulers for the extension of their empires right from the later Vedic age onwards. After Ajatasatru, Sisunaga pursued the policy of empire-building and succeeded.

Then came the Nandas who, finally, succeeded in establishing the first great empire in India. The Nanda rulers were Shudras. They were despotic rulers, who oppressed their subjects and collected enormous wealth in the state-treasury. Their rule, therefore, was unpopular which led to their weakness and contributed towards the downfall of their empire. Yet, the Nandas have their importance in Indian history.

They created a most extensive empire in India and left it to their successors, the Mauryas in a position when it was extremely prosperous and militarily strong so that the Mauryas became powerful enough to turn the foreigners, the Greeks, out of India and also succeeded in completing the task began by Bimbisara and Ajatasatru of consolidating India in a big empire.

Besides, the Nandas participated in weakening the caste-system during their time. Dr R.K. Mookerji writes: “The 5th and the 6th centuries B.C. hold out strange phenomenon before us. Kshatriya Chiefs founding popular religious sects which menaced Vedic religion and Shudra leaders establishing a big empire in Aryavarta on the ruins of Kshatriya kingdoms.”

Thus, the ambitious rulers of Magadha, its geographical location, fertility of its land, its minerals and forests and. thereby, its economic prosperity and liberal cultural traditions of the people of Magadha helped in its rise and in making it the first imperial power of India.


The rise of magadha and alexander's invasion

In the beginning of the 6 th century B.C., the northern India consisted of a large number of independent kingdoms. Some of them had monarchical forms of government, while some others were republics. While there was a concentration of monarchies on the Gangetic plain, the republics were scattered in the foothills of the Himalayas and in northwestern India. Some of the republics consisted of only one tribe like the Sakyas, Licchavis and Mallas. In the republics, the power of decision in all matters of state vested with the Public Assembly which was composed of the tribal representatives or heads of families. All decisions were by a majority vote.

The Buddhist literature Anguttara Nikaya gives a list of sixteen great kingdoms called 'Sixteen Mahajanapadas'. They were Anga, Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Matsya, Surasena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoja. The Jain texts also contain references to the existence of sixteen kingdoms. In course of time, the small and weak kingdoms either submitted to the stronger rulers or gradually got eliminated. Finally in the mid 6 th century B.C., only four kingdoms - Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala and Magadha survived.

The Vatsa kingdom was situated on the banks of the river Yamuna. Its capital was Kausambi near modern Allahabad. Its most popular ruler was Udayana. He strengthened his position by entering into matrimonial alliances with Avanti, Anga and Magadha. After his death, Vatsa was annexed to the Avanti kingdom.

The capital of Avanti was Ujjain. The most important ruler of this kingdom was Pradyota. He became powerful by marrying Vasavadatta, the daughter of Udayana. He patronized Buddhism. The successors of Pradyota were weak and later this kingdom was taken over by the rulers of Magadha.

Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala. King Prasenajit was its famous ruler. He was highly educated. His position was further strengthened by the matrimonial alliance with Magadha. His sister was married to Bimbisara and Kasi was given to her as dowry. Subsequently there was a dispute with Ajatasatru. After the end of the conflict, Prasenajit married the daughter of Bimbisara. After the death of this powerful king, Kosala became part of the Magadha.

Of all the kingdoms of north India, Magadha emerged powerful and prosperous. It became the nerve centre of political activity in north India. Magadha was endowed by nature with certain geographical and strategic advantages. These made her to rise to imperial greatness. Her strategic position between the upper and lower part of the Gangetic valley was a great advantage. It had a fertile soil. The iron ores in the hills near Rajgir and copper and iron deposits near Gaya added to its natural assets. Her location at the centre of the highways of trade of those days contributed to her wealth. Rajagriha was the capital of Magadha. During the reign of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru, the prosperity of Magadha reached its zenith.

Bimbisara (546 - 494 B.C.)

Bimbisara belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He consolidated his position by matrimonial alliances. His first matrimonial alliance was with the ruling family of Kosala. He married Kosaladevi, sister of Prasenajit. He was given the Kasi region as dowry which yielded large revenue. Bimbisara married Chellana, a princess of the Licchavi family of Vaisali. This matrimonial alliance secured for him the safety of the northern frontier. Moreover, it facilitated the expansion of Magadha northwards to the borders of Nepal. He also married Khema of the royal house of Madra in central Punjab. Bimbisara also undertook many expeditions and added more territories to his empire. He defeated Brahmadatta of Anga and annexed that kingdom. He maintained friendly relations with Avanti. He had also efficiently reorganized the administration of his kingdom.

Bimbisara was a contemporary of both Vardhamana Mahavira and Gautama Buddha. However, both religions claim him as their supporter and devotee. He seems to have made numerous gifts to the Buddhist Sangha.

Ajatasatru (494 - 462 B.C.)

The reign of Ajatasatru was remarkable for his military conquests. He fought against Kosala and Vaisali. His won a great success against a formidable confederacy led by the Lichchavis of Vaisali. This had increased his power and prestige. This war lasted for about sixteen years. It was at this time that Ajatasatru realised the strategic importance of the small village, Pataligrama (future Pataliputra). He fortified it to serve as a convenient base of operations against Vaisali.

Buddhists and Jains both claim that Ajatasatru was a follower of their religion. But it is generally believed that in the beginning he was a follower of Jainism and subsequently embraced Buddhism. He is said to have met Gautama Buddha. This scene is also depicted in the sculptures of Barhut. According to the Mahavamsa, he constructed several chaityas and viharas. He was also instrumental in convening the First Buddhist Council at Rajagriha soon after the death of the Buddha.

The immediate successor of Ajatasatru was Udayin. He laid the foundation of the new capital at Pataliputra situated at the confluence of the two rivers, the Ganges and the Son. Later it became famous as the imperial capital of the Mauryas. Udayin's successors were weak rulers and hence Magadha was captured by Saisunaga. Thus the Haryanka dynasty came to an end and the Saisunaga dynasty came to power.

The genealogy and chronology of the Saisunagas are not clear. Saisunaga defeated the king of Avanti which was made part of the Magadhan Empire. After Saisunaga, the mighty empire began to collapse. His successor was Kakavarman or Kalasoka. During his reign the second Buddhist Council was held at Vaisali. Kalasoka was killed by the founder of the Nanda dynasty.

The fame of Magadha scaled new heights under the Nanda dynasty. Their conquests went beyond the boundaries of the Gangetic basin and in North India they carved a well-knit and vast empire.

Mahapadma Nanda was a powerful ruler of the Nanda dynasty. He uprooted the kshatriya dynasties in north India and assumed the title ekarat. The Puranas speak of the extensive conquests made by Mahapadma. The Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela of Kalinga refers to the conquest of Kalinga by the Nandas. Many historians believe that a considerable portion of the Deccan was also under the control of the Nandas. Therefore, Mahapadma Nanda may be regarded as a great empire builder.

According to the Buddhist tradition, Mahapadma Nanda ruled about ten years. He was succeeded by his eight sons, who ruled successively. The last Nanda ruler was Dhana Nanda. He kept the Magadhan empire intact and possessed a powerful army and enormous wealth. The fabulous wealth of the Nandas is also mentioned by several sources. The enormous wealth of the Nandas is also referred to in the Tamil Sangam work Ahananuru by the poet Mamulanar. The flourishing state of agriculture in the Nanda dominions and the general prosperity of the country must have brought to the royal treasury enormous revenue. The oppressive way of tax collection by Dhana Nanda was resented by the people. Taking advantage of this, Chandragupta Maurya and Kautilya initiated a popular movement against the Nanda rule. It was during this time that Alexander invaded India.


Status of Women in Magadhan Mauryan Society | With Sculptures & Jewels

I was reading about the Ma uryan Empire & came across few snippets which made me make a post on the position of women in that period. Overall, i got an impression that they held high status in the society and the ir condition had not deteriorated as it happened in the later ancient period and medieval ages. This pos t may not be the last word on this topic. It is a collection of the interesting points which i collected during m y reading. S culptures and jewels from various museum collections have been included.

M ostly Greek, and some Indian accounts of this period are quoted in this post. The topics discussed are :
- Marriage System & Dowry
- Conditions when a wife could divorce a husband
- Education of Women
- Women Warriors in Military
- Practice of Widow Burning
- Courtesans
- Prostitutes


Marriage & Dowry :

Megasthenese who came to India and stayed in court of Chandragupta Maurya mentions that Indians' marriage is marked by a gift of "a yoke of oxen" . It is amazing to see that this kind of marriage is one of the forms of marriages which is mentioned in the Dharma-sastras and repeated by Manu. It is called "Arsha" form of marriage in which the bridegroom gives a cow and bull or both to the father of daughter and after that, the father gets his daughter married to the man. Its the reverse of the present day dowry system.

According to another Greek writer, Nearchus, who wrote about India and Persian Gulf and was a naval commander of A lexander, - "Indians marry without giving or taking dowries. As soon as daughters attain marriageable age, they are exposed to public and married to the victor in a boxing or wrestling or running or someone who excels in manly exercise." The closest resemblance to this is ceremony of Swayamvara, where the most suitable man is chosen to be married to a woman, by arranging a sort of competition.


Red Sand Stone Female Medallion from Bharhut Stupa Railing. It seems the lady is getting ready and is holding a mirror in her hand.
Now, at the Indian Museum, Kolkata. 2nd Century BCE

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The bracelet with double 'S' repeat design is cut from thick sheet gold with a beaded border on either side. The square hinged clasp with a circular hollow in the middle that must have held a gem, now missing and surrounded with leaf.
Found in Taxila. 1st century BCE. Size : 5 X 4.2 cms.
Now in National Museum, Delhi

Grounds to leave a husband :

It was a time when the child marriage custom was not known, the system of marrying women only after attaining the age of maturity was prevalent. Manu says : "A maiden, though married / of marriageable age, should stop in her father's house and should NEVER give herself to a man devoid of good qualities. "

Though, remaining unmarried was considered a not so good step. But here also a sort of independence was given to the women. Almost all the Smriti Sastras of the period are unanimous in concluding that : "A girl of marriageable age should not remain unmarried and it was a sin for her father if that happened he should try to search a good groom for her but if that does not happens within a period of 3 months to 3 years after that the girl is free to choose her husband as she wants."

In his Arthashastra, Chanakya permits re-marriage of women, if - "her husband is dead, or he becomes an ascetic, or he has gone abroad, or the woman keeps waiting for her husband for a considerable period of time" . Chanakya further adds : " If the husband is of bad character, or has become a traitor to the king, or he is likely to endanger the life of his wife, or has lost virility, his wife is free to abondon him." Divorce on the ground of ill-feeling was also was possible by mutual consent but not at the will of one party alone. In such matters, Chanakya places women and men on almost equal footing.


The pieces are part of a waist girdle comprising three horizontal rows of four fishes made of thin sheet gold stamped with a design of fish scales. Holes are pierced in their mouth and tails for the cords to pass through.
From Taxila, 1st century BCE. Length 13.7 cms. Height 3 cms
Now at the National Museum, Delhi

There were highly educated women who held positions of great honor and standing in the society and household. We know of 2 classes of women scholars :
a. Brahamavadini - lifelong students of sacred texts
b. Sadyovaha - who continued studies till their marriage

The scholar Panini mentions women students of Vedic Shakhas. Katyayana refers to women teachers called Upadhayayis. Patanjali tells us about the women scholars who made a detailed study of the Mimansa philosophy. Buddhist and Jain texts are not far behind. They tell us about the women scholars of the of Brahmavadini class who remained unmarried lifelong and pursued studies.


Flat gold disc pendant of crescent shape pierced on the upper two ends, the surface along the outline with two rows of gold dots worked in repouss.
From Mauryan Era, Found at Taxila, 300 BCE . Diameter 3.7 cms
Now at the National Museum, New Delhi

Reverse of the flat gold disc pendant of crescent shape pierced on the upper two ends, the surface along the outline with two rows of gold dots worked in repouss.
From Mauryan Era, Found at Taxila, 300 BCE . Diamter 3.7 cms
Now at the National Museum, New Delhi

In addition to dance, music, painting, women received training in military warfare too. Patanjali mentions about the female spear-bearers. A more clear evidence is given by the Greek ambassador Megasthenese, who tells us about - "the women soldiers who rode horses, commanded elephants, ran the chariots, and were always armed as if ready to go into the war-field."

Arthashastra of Chanakya says that - "after getting up from bed, the king shall be received by the troop of women armed with bow-arrow, etc." The Bharhut stupa shows a woman riding a horse and carrying the royal standard, as shown below.

Women rulers in ancient India are not unknown. According to Megasthenese, the country of Pandyan rulers was governed by women. This is not wrong, because South India was matriarchal, to an extent.

In view of the testimony of Greek writers regarding the prevalence of this practice in Punjab, the possibility has to be conceded that the practice of Sati was in vogue during this period. It is possible that the practice, was confined to the warrior class, as Onesicritus says, and the other Indo-Germanic parallels suggests. It is held by some that the practice was encouraged by the examples of the Scythians who ruled in India during this period and among whom the custom of burning the wife of a chief along with the remains of her husband was quite common.

In spite of the barbarous nature of the custom, it is interesting to note that sometimes it was not only an absolutely voluntary choice, but one that was made by the wife with eager delight. The testimony of the Greek writers leaves no doubt on the point. When the leader of an Indian contingent died in battle in Iran, in 316 BCE, both his wives were eager to immolate themselves on his funeral pyre. The Macedonian and Greek generals prevented the elder wife, who was with child, and gave permission to the younger. What followed may be described in the words of the Greek writer, Diodorus, as follows :

"The elder wife went away lamenting, with the band about her head rent, and tearing her hair, as if tidings of some great disaster had been brought her and the other departed, exultant at her victory, to the pyre, crowned with fillets by the women who belonged to her, and decked out splendidly as for a wedding. She was escorted by her kinsfolk who chanted a song in praise of her virtue. When she came near to the pyre, she took off her adornments and distributed them to her familiars and friends, leaving a memorial of herself, as it were, to those who had loved her. Her adornments consisted of a multitude of rings on her hands, set with precious gems of diverse colours, about her head golden stars not a few, variegated with different sorts of stones, and about her neck a multitude of necklaces, each a little larger than the one above it. In conclusion, she said farewell to her familiars and was helped by her brother onto the pyre, and there, to the admiration of the crowd which had gathered together for the spectacle, she ended her life in heroic fashion. Before the pyre was kindled, the whole army in battle array marched round it thrice. She meanwhile lay down beside her husband, and as the fire seized her no sound of weakness escaped her lips. The spectators were moved, some to pity and some to exuberant praise. But some of the Greeks present found fault with such customs as savage and inhumane."

This vivid account recalls the description of similar scenes by eye-witnesses in modern age. It is, however, permissible to assume that, as in later days, every case of Sati was not voluntary. Aristobulus learnt on inquiry that the widow sometimes became a Sati of her own desire, and that those who refused to do so lived under general contempt. This undoubtedly implies that the public encouragement to the practice accelerated its growth. At the same time we must remember that the practice is not sanctioned either by the Dharma-sutras or by the Smritis of this period.


The jeweled necklace is made of flat disc-shaped beads. The gold beads are interspersed with cylindrical and round gold beads and small gold spacers and a semi-circular bead at one end as a terminal. The gold beads are interspersed with turquoise beads.
From Mohenjodaro,Indus Valley. C. 3000 BCE
Now at the National Museum, Delhi

The ear-ring combines sheet gold and granulation of crescent form the piece is hollow, with an inverted bud-shaped pendant suspended from it. This is attached to a moveable ring embossed with gold granules. The clasp in the form of a double- crescent pattern is ornamented with decorative details. The pendent drops are covered with fine granulation with clusters of gold granules at the end. The hollow crescent forms are filled with a solid lac or pitch.
From Taxila. 1st Century BCE. Hand made. 7 X 4.1 cms.
Now at the National Museum


No discussion of the position of women would be complete without reference to a class of courtesans who enjoyed a social standing not accorded to them anywhere else in the world, except, perhaps in ancient Greece. The great prestige attached to this class of women appears vividly from the story of Amrapali in the Vinaya Texts of the period. She was a daughter of a rich citizen of Amrapali. Many suitors, including princes, having sought her hand, her father brought the matter to the notice of the Licchavvi gana and it was discussed by the Assembly. When the members saw Amrapali, they decided that she was a stri-ratna (jewel of a woman), and so, we are told, according to the convention already laid down, she was not to be married to anybody Amrapali agreed to lead the life of a nagarvadhu , but asked for five privileges which were granted.

King Bimbisara, 'engaged in conversation on good topics with his ministers,' asked them what sort of courtesan each of them had seen. Being told that Amrapali was exceedingly charming and accomplished in all the sixty-four arts. Bimbisara decided to visit her at Vaishali, even though the Lichchhavis were hostile . His son by her enjoyed a high position in court. The Pali Vinaya Texts tell us that a merchant, after having described the charms of Amrapali of Vaisali to king Bimbisara, requested him 'to install a courtesan' in Rajagriha, and this was done.

When Gautama Buddha visited a locality in the neighbourhood of Vaishali, Amrapali paid a visit to him with a number of magnificent vehicles. She sat down near him and, having heard his discourse, invited him and his companions to take their meal at her house the next day. The Buddha agreed, and refused the invitation of the Lichchhavis which almost immediately followed. "Amrapali," said the Lichchhavis, "give up this meal to us for a hundred thousand." "My Lords," replied Amrapali, "were you to offer all Vaishali with its subject territory, I would not give up this meal."

After the meal Buddha again gladdened the courtesan Amrapali by his religious discourse, and she presented a park, named after her, to the Buddha.

It would appear from what has been said above that the courtesans as a class were not held in odium, and neither great kings nor renowned religious teachers looked down upon them. Some of them were highly accomplished and, in point of culture and standing, resembled the Hetairai of Athens.


Amrapali, the famous courtesan, greets Gautam Buddha : Buddha while visiting Vaishali stayed at Amrapalli's mango grove. She invited Buddha for a meal which he accepted. She later donated the mangrove to his order. She accepted the Buddhist way, and remained an active supporter of the Buddhist order.
Courtesy : Wikimedia Commons


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A circular (moulded) terracota plaque showing a man holding the hands of a drunken lady. The lady standing on left side of the man holds the wine jar while the other standing on the right holds one legs of the intoxicated lady. There is a cot in the back ground.
Found at Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. 2nd century BCE. 11 X 9.5 cms
Now at the Allahabad Museum


Prostitutes :

Arthashastra of Chanakya also says the same - "A prostitute, noted for her beauty, youth, and accomplishments, was to be appointed superintendent of prostitutes on a salary of 1000 panas (per annum ), together with a rival prostitute on hall that salary. Detailed rules are laid down for regulating the profession, and two days' earning every month had to be paid to the State."

The prostitutes had to attend court and were regularly employed in the royal household on a big salary. They held the royal umbrella, golden pitcher and fan, and attended upon the king seated on litter, throne, or chariot. They were also employed in the store-house, kitchen, bathroom, and the ladies quarters of the king.

As to the accomplishments of prostitutes, Chanakya tells us that "those who teach prostitutes, female slaves and actresses, arts such as singing, dancing, acting, writing, painting, playing on the instruments like lyre, pipe and drum, reading the thoughts of others, manufacture of scents and garlands, shampooing, and the art of attracting and captivating the mind of others, shall be endowed with maintenance from the State."


Watch the video: Buddha and Ashoka: Crash Course World History #6 (July 2022).


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