The Mauryan Period
(322 BC – 185 BC)
CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA (322 – 297 BC):
- With the help of Chanakya, known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta, he overthrew the Nandas & established the rule of the Maurya dynasty.
- He belonged to Moora tribe as his mother was a Moora
- Chandragupta was called Sandrocottus by the Greek scholars.
· Seleucus Necater, one of the generals of Alexander death, had succeeded in gaining control of most of the Asia after death of Alexander. Chandragupta defeated him in 305 BC and according to the treaty that followed the battle, Chandragupta married Halena who was daughter of Selucus and got the control of Hairat, Kandhar and Kabul.
· Built a vast empire, which included not only good portions of Bihar and Bengal, but also western and north western India and the Deccan.
- The accounts were given by Megasthenes (A Greek ambassador sent by Seleucus to the court of Chandragupta Maurya) in his book Indica and from the Arthashastra of Kautilya.
- Chandragupta adopted Jainism and went to Sravanabelagola (near Mysore) with Bhadrabahu, where he died by slow starvation.
- Vishakhadatta wrote a drama Mudrarakshasa (describing Chandragupta’s enemy) & Debi Chandraguptam in sixth century AD.
BINDUSARA (297 – 273 BC):
· Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara in 297 BC.
- He was called as Amitraghat (slayer of enemy).
· Greeks call him Amitocratus and Jain scriptures call him as ‘Simhasena’ and Puranas call him as Madrsara.
· According to Pliny,Bindusara received an embassy from Egypt.
- He is said to have conquered ‘the land between the 2 seas’, i.e., the Arabian Sea & Bay of Bengal.
· Although ChandraGupta Maurya was a Jain,Bindusara belonged to ‘Ajeevika’sect.
· At the time of his death, almost the entire subcontinent came under the Mauryan rule.
- Greek Ambassador, Deimachos visited his court.
ASHOKA (269 – 232 BC)
- Ashoka was appointed the Viceroy of Taxila and Ujjain by his father, Bindusara. He was at Ujjain when Bindusara, died. His formal coronation was delayed for four years, suggesting a disputed succession.
· He usurped the throne against the wishes of Bindusara and killed his 98 brothers but spared one named as Tissa.
· According to Smt. Romila Thapar,life of Ashoka can be divided into 3 parts:
o KamAsoka (When he was involved in indulgence and pleasure.)
o KandAsoka (When he was uncommonly barbaric and ruthless and he not only killed his 98 brothers and 300 ladies of his harem (who were burnt alive).Battle of Kalinga was also fought.
o DhamAsoka(when he embraced Buddhism and started following the path of non-voilence.)
· According to’ Rajatarangini’ authored by ‘Kalhana’, Ashoka was a follower of lord Shiva and on the banks of River Jhelum, he founded a new city of Srinagar.
· Regarded as one of the greatest kings of all times, he was the first ruler to maintain direct contact with people through his inscription.
· In his inscriptions following languages have been used: Brahmi, Kharoshthi, Armaic and Greek. (James Princep first deciphered the inscriptions).
- Ashoka became the Buddhist under Upagupta.
Extent of Empire
His empire covered the whole territory from Hindukush to Bengal & extended over Afghanistan, Baluchistan & whole of India with the exception of a small area in the farthest south. Kashmir and Valleys of Nepal were also included.
The Kalinga War History: (261 BC, mentioned in XIII rock edict) changed his attitude towards life and he became a Buddhist after that.
Aspects of Ashoks’s Reign
- Ashoka’s empire was divided into provinces with a viceroy in each province. He established Dhramshalas, hospitals and Sarais throughout his kingdom.
- He appointed Dharma Mahapatras to propagate dharma among various social groups including women.
- He organized a network of missionaries to preach the doctrine both in his kingdom and beyond. He sent them to Ceylon, Burma (sent his son Mahindra & daughter Sanghamitra to Ceylon) and other south-east Asian regions, notably Thailand.
- Ashoka is called ‘Buddhashakya & Ashok’ in Maski edict and ‘Dharmasoka’ in Sarnath inscription.
- He was also known as ‘Devanampiya’- beloved of the gods, and ‘Piyadassi’- of pleasing appearance.
SIGNIFICANCE OF MAURYAN RULE:
- The emblem of the Indian Republic has been adopted from the 4 – lion capital of the Ashokan pillar at Sarnath.
- Gurukuls & Buddhist monasteries developed with royal patronage.
- Universities of Taxila & Banaras are the gifts of this era.
- Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Bhadrabahu’s Kalpa Sutra, Buddhist texts like the Katha Vatthu & Jain texts such as Bhagwati Sutra, Acharanga Sutra and Dasavakalik comprise some of the important literature of this era.
FALL OF MAURYAN EMPIRE:
- Ashoka’s patronage of Buddhism and his anti-sacrificial attitude is said to have affected the income of the Brahmins. So they developed antipathy against Ashoka.
- Revenue from agrarian areas was not sufficient to maintain such a vast empire as booty from war was negligible.
- Successors of Ashoka were too weak to keep together such a large centralized empire.
Important coins of Mauryan period were:
· Pana is most common silver.
· Mashak is copper coin where as Suvarna was gold coin.
· Kakini was a smaller unit of copper coin.
· The last Mauryan king Brihadratha was killed by Pushyamitra Shunga (Commander in Chief) in 185 BC, who started the Shunga dynasty in Magadha.
THE SUNGA DYNASTY: (185 BC – 73 BC)
- Pushyamitra founded this dynasty. His dominions extended to South as far as the Narmada River & included cities of Pataliputra, Ayodhya & Vidisha (capital).
- He performed two Ashwamedha sacrifices.
- He also defeated the Bactrian king, Dematrius.
- The fifth king was Bhagabhadra, to whose court Heliodoros, the Greek ambassador visited.
- A Shunga king, Agnimitra was the hero of Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitram.
- They were basically Brahmins.
- This period saw the revival of Bhagvatism.
- Patanjali’s classic Mahabhashya was written at this time.
THE KANVA DYNASTY: (73 BC – 28 BC; capital - patliputra)
- The founder of this short-lived dynasty was Vasudeva, who killed the last Sunga king, Devabhuti.
- They were swept away by Satavahanas of the Deccan.
THE CHETIS OF KALINGA
- The Hathigumpha inscription (near Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa) of Kharavela, the third ruler of the dynasty, gives information about the Chetis.
- Kharavela pushed his kingdom beyond the Godavari in the South.
- He was a follower of Jainism and patronized it to a great extent.
THE SATAVAHANAS OR THE ANDHRAS: (60 BC – 225 AD)
- They were the successors of the Mauryans in the Deccan & the central India.
- Simuka is regarded as the founder of this dynasty.
- The most important king was Gautamiputra Satakarni (AD 106 – 130) who raised the power and prestige of Satavahanas to greater heights. He set up his capital at Paithan on the Godavari in Aurangabad distt.
Important aspects of Satavahanas :
- Mostly issued lead coins (apart from copper and bronze).
- Acted as a bridge between North and South India.
- Satavahanas rulers called themselves Brahmans. Performed Vedic rituals and worshipped gods like Krishna, Vasudeva and others. However, they also promoted Buddhism by granting land to the monks.
- The two common religious constructions were the Buddhist temple that was called ‘Chaitya’ & the monasteries, which was called ‘Vihara’. The most famous Chaitya is that of Karle in W. Deccan.
- Started the practice of granting tax free villages to brahmanas & Buddhist monks.
- The official language was Prakrit & the script was Brahmi, as in Ashokan times. One Prakrit text called Gathasattasai is attributed to a Satavahana king called Hala.
(1 AD – 3 AD)
- Their capital was Madurai.
- First mentioned by Megasthenes, who says that their kingdom was famous for pearls and was ruled by a woman.
- The Pandya kings profited from trade with the Roman Empire and sent embassies to the Roman emperor Augus.
- The kingdom was called Cholamandalam or Coromondal. The chief centre was Uraiyur, a place famous for cotton trade. Capital was Kaveripattanam/Puhar.
- A Chola king named Elara conquered SriLanka & ruled it over for 50 years.
- Karikala was their famous king.
- Main source of wealth was trade in cotton cloth. They also maintained an efficient navy.
- Their capital was Vanji (also called Kerala country).
- It owed its importance to trade with the Romans. The Romans set up two regiments there to protect their interests.
- Fought against the Cholas about 150 AD.
- Greatest king was Senguttuvan, the Red Chera.
- All the gathered information is based on Sangam literature. Sangam was a college or assembly of Tamil poets held probably under Royal Patronage (esp. Pandyas)
- Sangam age corresponds to the post-Maurya and the pre-Gupta period.
- Three Sangamas were held:
- The first Sangam was held at Madurai but its work has not survived. Its chairman was Agastya.
- The second Sangam was held at Kapatpuram. Its chairman was Tolkappiyar (author of Tolkappium).
- The third Sangam was held at Madurai. Its chairman was Nakkirar. It was the third Sangam from which covers the entire corpus of Sangam literature.
- Silappadikaram by llano Adigal (story of a married couple) and Manimekalai by Sattanar are the famous epics of this time.
- Other books are Tolkappium by Tolkappiyar, Jivikachintamani by Tirutakkdewar and Kural (called the ‘fifth veda’ or ‘the Bible of the Tamil Land’) by Tiruvalluvar.
- The chief local god was Murugan, who was also called Subramaniya.
- ‘Pariyars’ – agricultural laborers who used to work in animal skin.
- Civil and military offices held by vellalas (rich peasants).
- The ruling class was called “Arasar”.
- Captains of the army were given the title ENADI in formal functions.