CHAPTER-18 : The Maurya Age

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Chandragupta Maurya: Founder of the Mauryan Empire

  • Founder:Chandragupta Maurya (c. 340 – 295 BCE)
  • Rise to Power:
    • Overthrew Nanda Dynasty with advisor Chanakya (Kautilya)
    • Defeated Greek Seleucus Nicator in northwest India
  • Empire:Established vast Maurya Empire spanning most of India (except Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and parts of northeast)
    • Included Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, western/northwest India, and the Deccan
  • Subjugation:Conquered republics (samghas) considered threats to the empire’s growth

Chandragupta Maurya’s Administration

  • Sources:Megasthenes’s Indica & Kautilya’s Arthashastra
  • Centralized Power:Chandragupta Maurya as the absolute ruler
  • Provincial Administration:
    • Empire divided into provinces governed by royal princes
    • Further division into smaller units for rural & urban administration
  • Major Cities:Pataliputra (capital), Kaushambi, Ujjain, Taxila

Pataliputra (Patna):

  • Described by Megasthenes as “Palibothra” (city with gates)
  • Defenses: Deep ditch, wooden wall with towers & gates
  • Size: 9.33 miles long, 1.75 miles wide
  • Administration: Six committees (5 members each) for sanitation, foreigners, records, etc.

Central Government:

  • Over two dozen departments managing social & economic activities


  • Massive army:
    • 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 9,000 elephants (according to Pliny)
    • 8,000 chariots (according to another source)
    • Possible navy
  • Administration by a board of 30 officers (divided into committees)


  • 1/4 to 1/6 of produce from peasants
  • Additional taxes for irrigation & emergencies
  • Tolls on goods sold in towns
  • State monopolies (mining, liquor, arms)

Ashoka the Great (268 – 232 BCE)


  • Ashoka’s inscriptions (39 in total) categorized by location and content
  • Buddhist traditions

Early Reign & The Kalinga War:

  • Ascended throne after Bindusara (Chandragupta Maurya’s son)
  • Fought only one major war – Kalinga War (261 BCE)
  • Devastating war with high casualties (100,000+ deaths)
  • Deep remorse over bloodshed led Ashoka to abandon war

Dhamma (Dharma) & Empire Administration:

  • Adopted policy of “Dhammavijaya” (righteous conquest) – spreading moral order
  • Replaced military conquest with cultural influence
  • Ashoka’s edicts (“Dhammalipis”) preached:
    • Non-violence (ahimsa)
    • Respect for elders & religious figures
    • Kindness to animals
    • Social harmony
  • “Dhamma Mahamatras” appointed to propagate Dhamma
  • “Rajukas” – officials for administration & justice

Religious Policy:

  • Converted to Buddhism after Kalinga War (according to tradition)
  • Promoted Buddhism but tolerated other religions (Brahmanism, etc.)
  • Sponsored Buddhist missions within & beyond the empire (Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia)
  • Possibly held the 3rd Buddhist Council

Impact & Legacy:

  • Unified India politically & culturally (one Dhamma, language, script – Brahmi)
  • Promoted peace, non-aggression, and cultural exchange
  • Limited lasting impact – successors didn’t follow his pacifist policies
  • Remembered as a “missionary ruler” and a champion of Dhamma

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