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Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 BC) was the first emperor of the Mauryan empire. Alexander's invasion prompted Indians to develop a centralised state. Chandragupta came to rule much of North India. He rose to power under the influence of a minister named Chanakya, and with his assistance, overthrew the last of the Nanda kings of Magadha and captured their capital city of Pataliputa. He then turned his attention to northwestern India where a power vacuum had been left by the departure of Alexander. The way in which he carried himself and the way he ruled seems like a mirror image of Alexander. He conquered the lands east of the Indus and then, moving south, took over much of what is now Central India.

Chandragupta Maurya's origins are shrouded in mystery. Having been brought up by peacock tamers, he could be of low caste birth. According to other sources, Chandragupta Maurya was the son of a Nanda prince and a dasi called Mura. It is also possible that Chandragupta was of the Maurya tribe of Kshatriyas.

Chandragupta Maurya established the Mauryan empire with the help Chanakya (Kautilya), who is also known as the Indian Machiavelli. It is said that Chanakya met Chandragupta in the Vindhya forest, after being insulted by the Nanda king. Meghasthenes, a Greek traveller visited India at this time and although only fragments of his travelogue Indica are available to us, his account supplements the information provided by the Arthashastra and the other literary sources about governance and social life during the Maurya period.

The year 305 BC saw him Chandragupta back in the Northwest, where Seleucus I Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of Babylonia, was threatening fresh invasions. Chandragupta not only stopped his advance but pushed the frontier farther west into what is now Afghanistan. This showed how powerful Chandragupta really was. Apparently a settlement was reached between the two monarchs. It included a matrimonial alliance of some kind between Chandragupta and Seleucus and the latter's dispatch of an ambassador, Megasthenes, to the Maury court at Pataliputra.

The most important result of this treaty was that Chandragupta's fame spread far and wide and his empire was recognised as a great power in the western countries. The kings of Egypt and Syria sent ambassadors to the Mauryan Court.

Toward the end of his life he renounced his throne and became an ascetic under the Jain saint Bhadrabahu, ending his days in self-starvation [1].

Chandragupta Maurya's son Bindusara became the new Mauryan Emperor by inheriting an empire that included the Hindu Kush, Narmada, Vindhyas, Mysore, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Baluchistan and Afghanistan.

Mauryan Empire

The Mauryan empire owes its name to the house of the Mauryas, under whose rule the Indian subcontinent saw, for the first time in history, a considerable degree of political unity. The empire lasted until 187 BC. The Mauryan empire was very strong and independent because it had some kind of political unity. Everything starts at the Mauryan capital. The Mauryan capital was at Pataliputra (present day Patna), the chief city of the old kingdom of Magadha.

The economy, in all its important aspects, was controlled by the state, and mines, forests, large farms, munitions, and spinning industries were state owned and managed. The people were divided into seven endogamous groups--"philosophers", peasants, herdsmen, traders, soldiers, government officials, and councilors. The army was composed of the four traditional Indian divisions: forces mounted on elephants, on chariots, cavalry, and infantry, and tended to be large (Chandragupta's forces reputedly numbered 600,000 men). The religious life of the empire may perhaps best be characterized as pluralistic.

Brahamanism, Buddhism, Jainism, the Ajivikas, and wandering mendicants of other types all seem to have coexisted side by side. The general religious policy of the Mauryas was to encourage tolerance. In modern times the Maurya Empire is remembered as one of the golden ages of Indian history, a time when the country was united and independent. [2]

Mauryan Administration

Maurya empire was the first really large and powerful centralised state in India. It was very well governed, with tempered autocracy at the top and democracy at the city and village levels. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador at the court of Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra, had expressed his admiration for the efficient administration of the empire. His book Indica is a collection of comments of other Roman and Greek travelers, and Megasthenes wrote about the prosperity of the Mauryan cities. He further reported that agriculture was healthy, water abundant and mineral wealth was in plenty. Speaking of the general prosperity, Megasthenes wrote, "the Indians, dressed in bright and rich colors, they liberally used ornaments and gems." He also spoke of the division of society according to occupation and the large number of religious sects and foreigners in the empire.