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Mauryan Empire – Chandragupta & Bindusara

Mauryan Empire

  • Contemporary accounts by Greek historians show that Chandragupta was a youth living in Taxila when Alexander invaded India.
  • Greek historians have recorded his name as “Sandrakottus” or “Sandrakoptus”, which are evidently modified forms of Chandragupta.
  • Inspired by Alexander, Chandragupta led a revolt against the Nandas years later and overthrew them.
  • Chandragupta achieved it either by inciting the people to rise against an unpopular monarch, or by soliciting their support in overthrowing an unpopular king.
  • Chandragupta established the Mauryan Empire and became its first emperor in 321 BCE.
  • We know from the Junagadh rock inscription (referred to earlier) that Chandragupta had expanded his empire westward as far as Gujarat.
  • One of his great achievements, according to local accounts, was that he waged war against the Greek prefects (military officials) left behind by Alexander and destroyed them, so that the way was cleared to carry out his ambitious plan of expanding the territories.
  • Another major event of his reign was the war against Seleucus, who was one of Alexander’s generals.
  • After the death of Alexander, Seleucus had established his kingdom extending up to Punjab.
  • Chandragupta defeated him in a battle some time before 301 BCE and drove him out of the Punjab region.
  • The final agreement between the two was probably not too acrimonious, since Chandragupta gave Seleucus 500 war elephants, and Seleucus sent an ambassador to Chandragupta’s court.
  • This ambassador was Megasthenes, and we owe much of the information that we have about Chandragupta to Indica, the account written by Megasthenes.
  • The original of this work is lost, but many Greek historians had reproduced parts of his account describing the court of Chandragupta and his administration.


  • Chandragupta was obviously a great ruler who had to reinvent a strong administrative apparatus to govern his extensive kingdom. (The system of governance and polity is discussed in the next section.)
  • Chandragupta was ably advised and aided by Chanakya, known for political manoeuvring, in governing his empire.
  • Contemporary Jain and Buddhist texts hardly have any mention of Chanakya.
  • But popular oral tradition ascribes the greatness of Chandragupta and his reign to the wisdom and genius of Chanakya.
  • Chanakya, also known as Kautilya and Vishnugupta, was a Brahmin and a sworn adversary of the Nandas.
  • He is credited with having devised the strategy for overthrowing the Chandragupta (modern representation) Nandas and helping Chandragupta to become the emperor of Magadha.
  • He is celebrated as the author of the Arthasastra, a treatise on political strategy and governance.
  • His intrigues and brilliant strategy to subvert the intended invasion of Magadha is the theme of the play, Mudrarakshasa.


  • Chandragupta’s son Bindusara succeeded him as emperor in 297 BCE in a peaceful and natural transition.
  • We do not know what happened to Chandragupta.
  • He probably renounced the world.
  • According to the Jain tradition, Chandragupta spent his last years as an ascetic in Chandragiri, near Sravanabelagola, in Karnataka.
  • Bindusara was clearly a capable ruler and continued his father’s tradition of close interaction with the Greek states of West Asia.
  • He continued to be advised by Chanakya and other capable ministers.
  • His sons were appointed as viceroys of the different provinces of the empire.
  • We do not know much about his military exploits, but the empire passed intact to his son, Ashoka.
  • Bindusara ruled for 25 years, and he must have died in 272 BCE.
  • Ashoka was not his chosen successor, and the fact that he came to the throne only four years later in 268 BCE would indicate that there was a struggle between the sons of Bindusara for the succession.
  • Ashoka had been the viceroy of Taxila when he put down a revolt against the local officials by the people of Taxila, and was later the viceroy of Ujjain, the capital of Avanti, a major city and commercial centre.
  • As emperor, he is credited with building the monumental structures that have been excavated in the site of Pataliputra.
  • He continued the tradition of close interaction with the Greek states in West Asia, and there was mutual exchange of emissaries from both sides.

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