Today India is a peace-loving nation but our ancient history has been as bloody as Romans, Greeks, Persians or any other ancient world. The Maurya Empire tells us the saga of our bloody past. The empire thrived and grew to power and prominence during the Iron Age and became one of the largest empires in the entire world during that era. Let us today learn 30 interesting Maurya Empire facts that are no less fascinating that the tales of the Persian or the Greeks!
Interesting Maurya Empire Facts: 1-15
1. Ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty from 322 BCE to 185 BCE, the Maurya Empire thrived and grew to power during the Iron Age.
2. The empire originated in Indian Subcontinent’s eastern side from kingdom of Magadha.
3. Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the empire. He overthrew the Nanda Dynasty to establish Mauryan supremacy in 322 BCE.
4. The ancient Magadha is today’s modern Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
5. With Chandragupta Maurya taking control of Magadha, the Maurya Empire started a phase of rapid expansion and expanded westwards through central and western India.
6. By 320 BCE, Maurya Empire covered entire Northwestern India. This rapid expansion was possible because Alexander the Great left with his armies towards west and this led to conflicts within local powers.
7. Alexander left satraps (province governors) and Chandragupta managed to defeat them easily.
8. Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded by his son Bindusara who expanded the Maurya Empire to the Southern regions of the Indian Subcontinent.
9. However, some of the friendly kingdoms were not annexed to the Mauryan Empire which included Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas.
10. Both Chandragupta and Bindusara failed to annex Kalinga (modern Odisha). However, Bindusara’s son Ashoka the Great annexed Kalinga, establishing Mauryan rule throughout Indian Subcontinent with Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas still remaining independent friendly states.
11. At its height, the Maurya Empire became one of the largest empires of the world and the largest ever in India.
12. If calculated with modern demographics, the Maurya Empire went all the way to the natural boundaries of Himalayas in North and up to Assam and into Bangladesh in East. To the West, the empire expanded way beyond modern Pakistan in Balochistan and went up to southeastern tip of Iran. Much of Afghanistan including Kandahar and Herat were also under Maurya Empire. To the South, the Maurya Empire went up to modern Karnataka but did not cover the southern tip of Indian Subcontinent that belonged to the friendlies Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas but they accepted the supremacy of the Maurya Empire.
14. As we said at the very beginning, the Maurya Empire tells us the story of our bloody past, it can be very well-guessed that the empire was not built out of peace talks. Chanakya, a Takshashila-based Brahmin teacher was insulted by Dhana Nanda, the ruler of Nanda Dynasty. Humiliated, Chanakya swore to destroy Nanda Dynasty.
15. Chanakya met Chandragupta and together they formed an army consisting of Vahlik, Kamboja, Kirata, Yavana (Greek) and Shaka soldiers.
Interesting Maurya Empire Facts: 16-30
16. It is also being said that Chanakya and Chandragupta also built an alliance with Parvataka – the Himalayan King (often identified with Porus).
17. Together they managed to overthrow Dhana Nanda of Nanda Dynasty and Chandragupta Maurya rose to power, taking control of Magadha.
18. After Chandragupta Maurya was installed as the new ruler, he campaigned against Macedonians and moved westwards.
19. One of the generals of Alexander’s army known as Seleucus I was attempting to build Seleucid Empire and wanted to reconquer India’s northwestern part. This led to Seleucid-Mauryan war in 305 BCE which eventually ended in a peace treaty and an alliance was built.
20. Out of this alliance, Chandragupta took over the satrapies (provinces) of Gedrosia (Balochistan), Arachosia (Kandhahar) and Paropamisade (Gandhara and Kamboja) and in return, gave Seleucus 500 war elephants that helped Seleucus to defeat the Hellenistic kings in 301 BCE at Battle of Ipsus.
21. Maurya Empire under Chandragupta Maurya established diplomatic relationships with many Greeks and Greek historians like Dionysius, Deimakos and Megasthenes started residing in Mauryan court.
22. The administrative center of the capital of Maurya Empire was established at Patuliputra (modern Patna). The grandeur of Patuliputra is described by Megasthenes as: “surrounded by a wooden wall pierced by 64 gates and 570 towers— (and) rivaled the splendors of contemporaneous Persian sites such as Susa and Ecbatana.”
23. Chanakya, who was also known as Kautilya, assumed the role of elder statesman while Rakshasas (a former minister of Nanda Dynasty’s Dhana Nanda) became the chief advisor of Chandragupta Maurya.
24. Chandragupta’s son Bindusara became the next emperor at the age of 22 and extended Maurya Empire to the southern part of India and conquered up to modern Karnataka but failed to capture Kalinga.
25. Chanakya and Chandragupta together laid foundations of a centralized administration. Chanakya wrote Arthashastra which laid down the foundations of fiscal and monetary policies, international relations, welfare and war strategies. Arthashastra (meaning Economics) was a political treatise of ancient India and is considered to be a precursor of modern world’s Classical Economics.
26. After Chandragupta and Bindusara, the Mauryan throne came to Ashoka, who was known as the most ruthless Mauryan king during his early days as the emperor. Ashoka was determined to capture Kalinga that his father failed to annex.
27. Ashoka led a massive army to Kalinga that led to one of the bloodiest battles of entire Mauryan period. Kalinga was eventually annexed to Mauryan Empire but so devastating were the consequence of the battle that Ashoka was given the name Chand Ashoka. Ashoka saw the aftermath and was so filled with remorse that he decided to become a Buddhist and ended military conquests of Maurya Empire. Following 40 years were a period of peace, harmony, economic growth and prosperity.
28. After Ashoka the Great, the decline of Maurya Empire started because the emperors that ascended the throne were weak and the Mauryan Empire formally ended in 185 BCE when the then Mauryan Emperor Brihadratha Maurya was murdered by his own commander-in-chief (senapati) Pusyamitra Sunga who established the Sunga Dynasty.
29. The Maurya Empire was India’s first centralized power. The entire empire was divided into districts or administrative zones with hierarchical officials. These officials were responsible for maintaining army, collecting taxes, implementing irrigation projects and as well as maintaining law and order. The Maurya Empire was extremely efficient in administration. Measures and weights were standardized by Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya. All trades were regulated by states. Sanitation, famine relief – everything was properly implemented and maintained.
30. If Mauryan administration was worth praising, so was the Mauryan army. The military might of Mauryan Empire was undeniably respectable. During its time, Maurya Empire had one of the largest armies in entire world with 750,000 soldiers and 9,000 war elephants. The army was extremely well-trained and used different formations at battlefields. Some of the most prominent formations were Padma Vyuha (Lotus Formation), Garuda Vyuha (Eagle Formation), Suchi Vyuha (Needle Formation), Chayana Vyuha (Hawk Formation), Mala Vyuha (Garland Formation), Karuncha Vyuha (Heron Formation), Makara Vyuha (Fish Formation), Kurma Vyuha (Turtle Formation), Trishula Vyuha (Trident Formation) and Chakra Vyuha (Discus or Wheel Formation).
Well, that concludes the basic Maurya Empire facts. There are many more which can be found in different sources of history but they are too detailed to be included in a facts list. If you wish to add a few points to this list, you can do so through the comments section. We will love to learn more!
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