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The Mauryan Empire (320-180 B.C.)

Significance of Mauryan Age

  • A new era was opened in Indian History after the establishment of Mauryan Empire. It was very first time in history that whole India was politically united. In addition, from this period history writing became clear because of accuracy in chronology and sources. Along with this indigenous and foreign literary sources were available in ample form. This empire left records in a large number to write the history of this period.
  • Also, some important archaeological findings associated with Mauryan Empire were stone sculptures; a tremendous example of typical Mauryan art. Some scholars suggest that message on Ashoka inscription was entirely different from most other rulers which is a symbol of powerful and industrious Ashoka and also he was humble more than other (later) rulers who adopted grand titles. So it’s not surprising that leaders of the nation regarded him as an inspiring figure.


1)Literary Sources

          a)Kautilya’s Arthasastra

          b)Megasthene’s ‘Indica’


         d)Visakha datta’s ‘Mudra Rakshasa’

2)Archaeological Sources

      a)Ashokan Edicts and inscriptions

     b)Material remains

     c)other inscriptions

Founder of Mauryan Empire

Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of mauryan empire,which overthrew the Nandas. He founded his dynasty in Magadha around 320 B.C. His son bindhusara (300-273 B.C.) succeeded him and annexed the south up to Mysore.

Extent of Mauryan Empire

Chandragupta Maurya expelled Greeks from Punjab and sindh and brought under his rule the whole of north india from Patliputra to Hindukush mountains in the northwest and to Narmada in the south. it included Kabul,Herat,Kandahar,Baluchistan,Punjab,U.P.,Bihar,Bengal,Gujrat and Kathiawar. Bindusara,son of Chandragupta Maurya,extended the empire up to Mysore.

Mauryan Administration

1)Central Administration

  • The King: The Mauryan government was a centralised bureaucracy of which the nucleus was the King.
  • The Mantri Parishad: The king was assisted by Mantri Parishad,whose members included:-
  • The Yuvraja(the crown price).
  • The Purohita(chied priest).
  • The Senapati(commander in chief).
  • A few other ministers

2) Provincial Administration:

Uttarapatha(northern province)Taxila
Avantirashtra(western province)Ujjain
Prachi(eastern province and central province)Patliputra
Kalinga(eastern province)Toshali
Dakshinaptha(southern province)Suvarnagiri

3)Municipal Administration

  • Kautilya devotes a full chapter to the rules of the Nagarak (city superintendent). His chief duty was maintenance of law and order.
  • Megasthenese account of the system: 6committees of five members each, and their functions;
  • Industrial Art
  • Entertainment of Foreigners
  • Registration of Birth and Deaths
  • Trade and Commerce
  • Public sale of manufactured goods
  • Collection of taxes on the articles sold (1/10th purchase peice).

4)Military Administration

  • The most striking feature of mauryan administration was the maintenance of a huge army.they also maintained a navy.
  • According to Megasthenese the administration of army was carried by a board of 30 officers divided into 6 committee, each committee consisting of 5 members.they are :-
  • Infantry
  • Cavalry
  • Elephants
  • Chariots
  • Navy
  • Transport

Economy of Mauryan Empire

  • The state controlled almost all economics activities.
  • Tax collected from peasants varied from ¼ to 1/6 of the total produce.
  • The state also provided irrigation facilities(setubandha) and charged water-tax.
  • The punched marked coins were the common units of transactions.
  • The state enjoyed monopoly in mining, forest, salt, sale of liquor, manufacture of arms etc.
  • IMPORTANT PORTS-: Bharukachch/Bharoch and Supara (western coast), Tamralipti in Bengal (Eastern Coast).

Society of Mauryan Empire

  • Kautilya/Chanakya/Vishnugupta is not rigid on the varna system as the earlier smriti writers.
  • Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’ looked upon the shudras as an Aryan community which is distinguished from Malechha or non-Aryan Community.
  • Magasthenese states that Indian society was divided into 7 classes:
  • Philosophers
  • Farmers
  • Soldiers
  • Herdsmen
  • Artisans
  • Magistrates
  • Councillors
  • Women occupied a high position and freedom in the Mauryan Society. According to kautilya ,women were permitted to have a divorce or remarry. Womens were employed as personal body-guards of the king ,spies and in other diverse jobs.

Art of Mauryan Empire

  • Anand coomarswamy classified Mauryan Art into two groups:
  • Royal/Court Art: The Royal Palace of Chandragupta Maurya (Kumharar,Patna) and city of Patliputra,Ashokan Pillars, Caves,Stupas etc.
  • Folk/Popular Art:
  • Figure Sculpture of Yaksha-Yakshini etc.
  • Terracotta objects
  • Inscribed stone portrait of Emperor Ashok/Broken relief sculpture of emperor Ashok(Kanaganhalli, Karnataka).
  • Four lion capital at Sarnath and Sanchi. Lioned capital of Sarnath was adopted as ‘National Emblem’ of india on 26 Jan.,1950.
  • The Mauryas introduced stone masonry on large scale during Ashoka.
  • The Stupas were built throughout the empire to enshrine the relics of Buddha. Of these,the most famous are at Sanchi and Bharhuta.
  • A carved elephant at Dhauli and engraved elephant at Kalsi.

The Mauryan Dynasty

  • Chandragupta Maurya (320-300 B.C.)
  • Bindusra (300-273 B.C.)
  • Ashoka (273-232 B.C.)
  • Dasaratha Kunala (232-226 B.C.)
  • Samprathi (226-215 B.C.)
  • Salishoka (215-202 B.C.)
  • Devama (202-195 B.C.)
  • Sudhanva (195-191 B.C.)
  • Brihadratha (191-180 B.C.)

Causes of Decline of Mauryan Empire

  • Weak successors,oppression by officials in outlying areas leading to revolt,policy of Ahimsa that weakened military feelings,vastness of empire and wars caused the decile of the Mauryan Empire. The empire broke up 50 years after the death of Ashoka (273-232 B.C.).
  • Another reason put forward is that the revenue from agrarian areas was not sufficient to maintain such vast empire as booty from war was negligible.
  • The immediate cause could have been the invasion of the Bactrian Greeks and the murder of the Brihadratha by Pushyamitra Sunga.