Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 19

BY: SUN STAFF

Mauryan Single Lion capital at Vaishali


Apr 26, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.


Northeastern India - The Gangetic Plains and Deccan

The Maurya Empire

"The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive historical power during the Iron Age of ancient India. The Maurya dynasty ruled from 322–185 B.C. Originating from the kingdom of Magadha in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (modern Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh) on the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, the empire had its capital city at Pataliputra (modern Patna).

The Maurya Empire was founded in 322 B.C. by Chandragupta Maurya, who had overthrown the Nanda Dynasty. Rapidly expanding his power westwards across central and western India, Maurya took advantage of the disruptions of local powers in the wake of the withdrawal westward by Alexander the Great's Hellenic armies. By 316 B.C. the empire had fully occupied Northwestern India, defeating and conquering the Satraps left by Alexander. Chandragupta then defeated the invasion led by Seleucus I, a Macedonian general from Alexander's army, thus gaining additional territory west of the Indus River.

The Maurya Empire was one of the largest empires of the world in its time, and one of the largest on the Indian subcontinent. At its greatest extent, the empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, to the east into Assam, west into Balochistan (southwest Pakistan and south east Iran), and to the Hindu Kush mountains of what is now Afghanistan. The population of the Mauryan Empire has been estimated at about 50 to 60 million.

The Empire later expanded into India's central and southern regions under the hand of emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded a small portion of unexplored tribal and forested regions near Kalinga (modern Odisha), until it was conquered by Ashoka. The Maurya's declined for about 50 years after Ashoka's rule ended, and the remnants of the empire dissolved in 185 B.C. with the foundation of the Sunga Dynasty in Magadha.


Maurya coin depicting Lord Balarama holding plough and conch (lower right)
3rd-2nd Century B.C., British Museum


Under Chandragupta and his successors, internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activities all thrived and expanded across India. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of peace and security under Ashoka. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony and religious peace, attributed to Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism. Later on, Mauryan leader Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism marked a reign of social and political peace and non-violence in India.

The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath has become the national emblem of India."


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