He described how Chandragupta Maurya with the help of Kautilya overthrew Nandas
Gives socio – economic picture of condition in maurya empire.
Megasthene was a Greek ambassador in court of Chandragupta Maurya.
He lived in the maurya empire capital, Pataliputra.
The Greeks referred to the Indians’ worship of Lord Krishna and addressed him as Dionysus and Herakles/Hercules.
He portrayed Indians as honest and having great character and moral values
His book is survived in fragments & provides detail about
Particularly of capital city (Patliputra)
Buddhist texts Mahavamsa, Milindapanho, and Mahabhashya give us an account of Chadragupta’slife
Dipavamsa, Ashokavadana, Divyavadana and as well asthe Mahavamsa, give us an account of Ashoka
Ceylonese chronicles “Dipavamsa & Mahavamsa” throw light on Ashoka’sroleinspreadingBuddhism in Sri Lanka
The Vamsatthapakasini is a 10th century commentary on the legend of Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya, as well as reference to the southwardexpansionof the maurya empire.
Chandragupta Maurya (321-297 BC)
Chandragupta Maurya founded Maurya Empire by defeating Nandas with the help of Kautilya.
Chandragupta Maurya first established himself in Punjab.
Then he moved eastwards, until he gained control over the Magadha region.
In 305 BC, he marched against Selucus Nikator (Alexanders general controlling NW India) & defeated him.
A treaty was signed, according to which, Selucus gave Chandragupta Maurya eastern Afganisthan, Baluchistan & area west of Indus.
In return Chandragupta Maurya gifted 500 elephants to Selucus & married his daughter.
Seleucus sent an ambassador to the Maurya empire court, Megasthenes who wrote the Indica
Greek writer Justin (Who wrote epitome) called Chandragupta Maurya as “Sandrocottus”
Chandragupta Maurya led a policy of expansion and brought under one control almost the whole of present India barring a few places like Kalinga and the extreme South.
Chandragupta Maurya adopted Jainism and went to the hills of Shravana Belagola near Mysore with Bhadrabahu
He committed Sallekhana (death by slow starvation).
Bindusara (297-272 BC)
Greeks writers address Bindusara as Amitrochates (destroyer of foes)
Mahabhasya refer to him as Amitraghat (killer of enemies)
Bindusara conquered ‘the land between the two seas’, the Arabian sea and the Bay of Bengal
According to Strabo, Antiochus (Syrian king) sent Deimachus as an ambassador to Bindusara’s court.
Pliny mentions that King Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt sent one Dionysius as an ambassador to India.
Bindusara appointed Ashoka as the governor of Ujjain
He was interested in Ajivika sect
Almost the entire sub-continent as far south as Karnataka, was under Maurya dynasty rule in the time of Bindusara.
Ashoka (268 – 232 BC)
After death of Bindusara in 273 BC, there was a four-year succession conflict.
According to Divyavadana, Bindusara wanted his son Susima to succeed him
Later, with the help of a minister named Radhagupta, and after killing 99 brothers, Ashoka finally acquired the Magadha throne
Thus, after four years, came his formal consecration in 268BC
His empire covered the whole territory from Hindukush to Bengal
It was extended over Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and the whole of India including Kashmir and the valleys of Nepal
Only a small area in the far south which, according to rock edict 13, were inhabited by the Cholas and Pandyas
Victorious war with Kalinga was the most important event of Ashoka’s reign
Effect of Kalinga war on Ashoka has been described by Ashoka himself in rock edict 13
Ashoka embraced Buddhism under buddhist monk “Upagupta / Mogaliputra Tissa”
He abandoned the policy of physical conquest in favor of policy of cultural conquest
Appointed a class of administrative officers known as “Rajukas” vested with the power of rewarding & punishing people
Set up a very high ideal for himself as PaternalKingship (Father of all)
The Maurya empire declined rapidly after Ashoka
The empire became weak and fragmented
Maurya dynasty came to an end when the last king, Brihadratha, waskilled by his military commander, PushyamitraSunga, in 185 BC.
Samrat Ashoka & Buddhism
Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism was gradual not immediate
It constituted Dhamma yatras to Sarnath, Bodhh Gaya etc.
He appointed special officers called DhammaMahamantras to propagate Dhamma
Ashoka sent his son Mahendra & daughter Sangamitra to Srilanka
They planted branches of original Bodhi tree there
Ashoka convened 3rd Buddhist council at Patliputra to strengthen sangha
Ashoka’s dhamma was to preserve the socialorder & held that if people behaved well they would achieve heaven.
He never said they would attain Nirvana which was the primary aim of Buddhism.
Samrat Ashoka bannedanimalsacrifice, regulated the slaughter of animals for food
He establisheddharmashalas, hospitals, and sarais throughout his kingdom.
According to the edicts, the extent of Buddhism during the period of samrat Ashoka reached as far as the Mediterranean.
Inscriptions or Edicts of Ashoka
Edicts of Ashoka was decoded by JamesPrinsep in 1838.
The inscriptions found in the central and eastern part of India were written in
MagadhiPrakrit using the Brahmiscript
Prakrit using the Kharoshthiscript
Greek and Aramaic were used in the northwest
There are total 33inscriptions and are primarily classified into
Major Rock Edicts
Minor Rock Edicts
Separate Rock Edicts
Major Pillar Edicts
Minor Pillar Edicts
Pillar edicts were mostly inscribed in the latter parts of his reign
Pillar edicts were on well-polishedsandstonemonolithicpillars
Edicts of Ashoka do not contain the Eight-Fold Path, the Four Noble Truths, and the goal of Nibbana.
His dhamma was aimed at creating an attitude of mind having primacy of ethical behaviour and the recognition of the dignity of human life.
Major Rock Edicts of Ashoka – Fourteen
Declared prohibition of animalsacrifice
Medical treatment of human and animals
Planting beneficial medicinal herbs and roots, fruits, and the digging of wells
Mentions Pradeshikas, Rajukas, and Yuktas and their need for going on tours of inspection every five years as part of their other duties, preaching dhamma, and also adopting liberal attitude towards Brahmanas and Shramanas
BheriGhosha (war drum) replaced by DhammaGhosha and King Ashoka attached greatest value to this duty
Appointment of Dhamma Mahamattas, a special cadre of officials entrusted to spread dhamma within the kingdom
Mantri parishad and officers like Pulisani and Pativedakas (reporters)
Religious tolerance amongst all sects and welfare measures for public not only in his own kingdom but also in the neighbouring kingdoms of Cholas, Pandyas, and that of Antiochus in the north-west.
Royal pleasure tours (Vihara-yatras) replaced by dhammatours (dhammayatras).
Ashoka himself went to Sambodhi at Bodhgaya.
Criticism of the uselessness of various ceremonies, instead lays stress on dhamma and moral conduct
King desires no more fame or glory
Announces that the gift of dhamma being the best gift of all gifts and the Policy of Dhamma is the best policy to follow.
Dhamma included giving respect to elders, and good behaviour towards slaves.
Mention of Ithijika Mahamatta (mahamattas in charge of women’s welfare) and appeals for not only tolerance amongst sects, but also for people to honour and understand the dhamma of others
The Kalinga war changed his attitude and Ashoka, who was the worshipper of Shiva, turned towards Buddhism.
In this inscription Ashoka called himself as Priyadarshi
Digvijay was replaced by Dhamma Vijay
The war drum (Bheri Ghosha) became law (Dhamma Ghosha)
Mention of victory by dhamma on his neighbors like Antiochus, Cholas and Pandyas.
Purpose of rock edicts was described
Locations of Major Rock Edicts
The Major Rock Edicts of Ashoka are inscribed on large rocks
The Kandahar version in Greek, written on a stone plaque belonging to a building.
The Major Edicts are located on the frontiersof the territory controlled by Ashoka
Locations are as following
Kandahar, Afghanistan – Greek Edicts
Yerragudi, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh
Dhauli, Khordha district, Odisha
Jaugada, Ganjam district, Odisha
Khalsi, Dehradun District, Uttarakhand
Sopara, Palghar district, Maharashtra
Sannati, Gulbarga, Karnataka
Pillar edicts of Ashoka have been found at Lauriya-Araraj, Lauriya Nandangarh, Rampurva, Nigali Sagar, Sarnath, Topra, and Meerut.
Two pillars, one from Topra and the other from Meerut, wereshiftedtoDelhi by FerozShahTughlaq.
Pillars without inscriptions are the bull capital pillar at Rampurva, the pillar with the lion capital at Vaishali, and the Kolam pillar, which is also without a capital
First Pillar Edict – Social code
Second Pillar Edict – Describes dhamma
Third Pillar Edict – Soul and sin
Fourth Pillar Edict – Rajukas
Fifth Pillar Edict – known as the Delhi-Topra pillar edict, it features prohibitions regarding animal killing
Sixth Pillar Edict – Welfare of people
Seventh Pillar Edict – Dhamma Mahamattas
Other Relevant Inscriptions and Important Edicts
Kosam/Queen’s Edict / Kausambi or Schism Edict
Ashoka warns members of the Sangha against causing division in the ranks
Samudragupta’s inscription is on this edict itself
Jahangir was probably responsible for its removal to the fort at Allahabad
GirnarRockInscription of Rudradaman – Kathiawar
Mentions the Sudarshan Lake was constructed in the time of Chandragupta Maurya.
It was done by Pushyagupta, a rashtriya (provincial governor) of Saurashtra
Bilingual Greek, Aramaic inscription
Nigali Sagar Inscription – Nepal
To record the first enlargement of stupa and later Ashoka’s visit to the site
RummindeiInscription – Nepal
To commemorate the birthplace of the Buddha
Ashoka visited Lumbini, worshipped here and gave tax concessions to the villagers.
Sannati Inscription – Karnataka
Site of all 14 Major Rock Edicts as well as two separate Kalinga edicts.
KalingaEdict – Bhauli and Jaugada
Mentions “All men are my children”
Saugaura Copper Plate Inscription
Inscription of Chandragupta Maurya
Mentions relief measures adopted during famine in Magadha
Minor Rock Edict I
Indicates that Ashoka turned towards Buddhism gradually and not suddenly
Minor Rock Edict III
Ashoka greets the Sangha, professes his deep faith in the Buddha, dhamma, and Sangha
Brahmagiri – Minor Rock Edicts I and II
Talk about local Administration
Inscriptions at Shahbazgarhi and Mansehra written in Kharosthi script
Impact of Ashoka’s Rule
Unificationof the country
He bound the whole country together by one dhamma, one language, and one script of Brahmi
Spreadoftolerance and respect
Made gifts to non-Buddhist sects as well, such as, donating Barbara caves to Ajivika ascetics
Between Indian states, and between India and the outer world too.
Ashoka is considered the first global cultural ambassador of India.
Policyofpeace and non-aggression
Monarchy was supported by Kautilya however he did not stand for royal absolutism & advocated king to take advice of his ministry in running the administration
Maurya empire had a vast and highly centralisedbureaucratic rule with king as the fountainhead of all powers
Ashoka claimed paternal despotism rather than divine rule.
Ashoka’sempire was probably dividedintoprovinces with a viceroy in each province.
A council of ministers called Mantriparishad assisted the king in administration matters (COM consisted of Purohit, Mahamantri, Senapati & Yuvraj )
Civil servants known as “amatyas” were appointed to look after day to day administration & their selection method was given by Kautilya
“Samharta”, the chief of revenue department was incharge of collection of all revenues of the department
“Sannidhata”, Chief custodian of state treasury & store house
Commerce & Industry
Commerce & industry (Custom duties, Foreign affairs, Weight & measure etc) was controlled by officers known as “Adhyakshas”
Judicial chief justice of Supreme Court at capital in maurya empire was known as “Dharmadhikari”
Subordinate courts were under Amatyas & jails under appointed officers
Provincial & Local Administration
Apart from Magadha with its capital at Pataliputra, maurya empire was divided into 4 other provinces with capitals at:
Uttarapatha – Taxila
Eastern India – Tosali
Avantiratha – Ujjain
Dakshinpatha – Suvarnagiri
Kalinga – Tasali / Dhauli
During Ashoka’s reign, a 5thprovince of Kalinga was added.
The head of the provincial administration was viceroy
Provincial governors were appointed from the royal family
District administration was “Rajukas”, who in turn were assisted by “Yuktas” or subordinate officials
Village administration was in hand of “Gramani “ & his official supervisors called “Gopa” (Head of 10 -15 villages)
The city administration of Pataliputra was conducted by 6 committees of 5 members each
Vital statistics – birth and death registration
Trade, commerce and market regulations
Art & Architecture
Use of stone to make monuments started in time of Ashoka