Chandragupta Maurya





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Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire, the greatest among Indian emperors. Under the mentorship of Arya Chanakya, he ended the despotic rule of Dhana Nanda, and later brutally defeated and pushed back the Greeks under Seleucus Nicator to the borders of present day Iran.

One of the greatest emperors of India - Chandragupta Maurya, uprooted the despotic rule of Dhana Nanda from royal stone and created the vast empire spanning almost all of the Undivided India (Akhand Bharat). India's boundaries reached till Iran during Chandragupta's reign. Chandragupta studied at Takshashila University - the most renowned University of that time. His teacher, Arya Chanakya guided Chandragupta throughout his life. Chandragupta Maurya defeated Seleucus I Nicator - the Greek, who couldn't invade India due to strong resistance from the natives. [ref]


According to the Mahavansautika, the Moriyas were a branch of the Sakyas and were so called because, when driven by the attack of the Kosalan prince Virudhaka, they left their original home and settled in a place which abounded in mayura or peacocks. When king Nanda extended his conquests, the Moriyas too must fiave shared the fate of other clans and monarchies. In fact, we are told by the Mahavansa^tika that Chandragupta's father, whose name unfortunately is not mentioned, was the chief of the Moriya clan and was killed by a powerful Raja, presumably Nanda. [ref]

Although some sources reveal that Chandragupta belonged to more humbler origins. The date of his birth must have been about 345 B. C as, at the time of Alexander's Indian campaigns in 325 B. C., he was only a boy, probably not more than 20 years of age. According to Megasthenes' account, as it has survived in Greek texts that quote him, states that Alexander the Great and Chandragupta met.

Justin, a Latin writer, who lived under Roman Empire, mentions few miraculous incidents that involved Chandragupta and presents these legends as omens and portents of his fate. In the first incident, when Chandragupta was asleep after having escaped from Nandrum, a big lion came up to him, licked him, and then left. In the second incident, when Chandragupta was readying for war with Alexander's generals, a huge wild elephant approached him and offered itself to be his steed.

According to the classical writers, Chandragupta had visited Alexander in the Punjab, and greatly offended him. In his wrath Alexander gave orders to kill Chandragupta, who somehow effected his escape and was later encouraged by various miracles to aspire to sovereignty.

Association with Chanakya

The Buddhist and Hindu sources present different versions of how Chandragupta met Chanakya. Broadly, they mention young Chandragupta creating a mock game of a royal court that he and his cowherd friends played near Vinjha forest. Chanakya saw him give orders to the others, bought him from the hunter, and adopted Chandragupta.[ref]

Chanakya took him away to his native city of Takshashila (Taxila). There he gave him a thorough education in all the arts and sciences to fit him for his appointed task. That task was not an easy one. It was to liberate the country from alien domination and also to rid the country of the tyranny of the Nanda king who had insulted Chanakya. Kautilya in his Arthashastra gives expression to the national hatred of foreign rule. He points out how a foreign conqueror drains the country of its wealth (apavdhayati), and squeezes out of it as much as possible by exaction and taxation (karshayati). [ref]

Struggle against foreign powers

While Alexander was carrying fire and sword through the length and breadth of the Punjab, the emperor Dhana Nanda was ruling over the rest of Northern India. Alexander had hitherto conquered only minor Indian tribes and states piecemeal and the Greek writers were more impressed by the strength of their individual opposition than that of any other opponent of Alexander, not excluding the great Achaemenian monarch. [ref]

The Mudrarfikshasa as well as the Jain work Parisisktaparvan refers to Chandraguptas alliance with the Himalayan king Parvataka. This Himalayan alliance gave to Chandragupta a composite army made up of Sakas, Yavanas, Kiratas, Kambojas, Parasikas and Balhlkas, as stated in the Mudrarakshasa.

Since the Greeks were invaders of the country, Indian people were unsatisfied with the foreign rule. Unrest was springing up at every centre of the foreign rule. Kandahar rebelled under an Indian chief. The Assakenoi killed the Greek satrap Nicanor. Then followed the assassination, in 325 B.C., of Philippus who, as the Kshatrap in the Upper Sindhu Valley. [ref]



According to an ancient text Mahavamsa Tika, Chandragupta and his teacher Chanakya raised an army by recruiting soldiers from many places which were plotting rebellion against foreign rule after the Chandragupta completed his education at Takshashila. Chanakya made Chandragupta the leader of the army. Another ancient text Parishishtaparvan states that this army was raised by Chanakya with coins he minted and an alliance formed with Parvataka. [ref]

Chandragupta then attacked the Magadha and conquered it. Great details of what is known about the conquest of Chandragupta comes from accounts written long after the war itself. Ancient historian, Plutarch (AD 46 AD 120) gives an account of many parts of the conquest in detail. Estimates of the number of soldiers involved are based in part on ancient Roman sources. Plutarch estimates that Chandragupta's army would later number 600,000 by the time it had subdued all of India, an estimate also given by Pliny. Pliny and Plutarch also estimated the Nanda Army strength in the east as 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots, and 6,000 war elephants. These estimates were based in part of the earlier work of the Seleucid ambassador to the Maurya, Megasthenes. [ref]


Arthashastra - An excellent treatise written by the great philosopher Arya Chanakya describes the administration of Mauryan Empire at that time in detail.

The civil administration of  Chandragupta was equally efficient. The method of city administration prevailing at the time may first be described. The head of the city affairs, according to Kautilya, was the Paura Vyavaharika who was one of the high officers of state. [ref]

There was a regular municipal commission, which also consisted of six boards, each composed of five members. [ref]

Although, great details about the administration of the empire comes from the Arthashastra. Chapter two of the book describes the Duties of Government Superintendents. It has following chapters describing the duties of the government superintendents. [ref]

(Although it contains 36 chapters in total, only main chapters are listed below) -

  • Superintendent of Gold
  • Superintendent of storehouse
  • Superintendent of commerce
  • Superintendent of forest produce
  • Superintendent of Armoury
  • Superintendent of tolls
  • Superintendent of weaving
  • Superintendent of agriculture
  • Superintendent of ships
  • Superintendent of cows
  • Superintendent of horses
  • Superintendent of elephants
  • Superintendent of chariots
  • Superintendent of passports
  • Superintendent of city and others

Last days

According to the a few texts dated about 800 years after his death, Chandragupta abdicated his throne and became a Jain monk. He travelled away from his empire to South India and committed sallekhana or fasting to death in Shrevanabelgola. [ref]

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