The Maurya empire, an Iron Age historical power reigned the Indian subcontinent from 322 BC to 185 BC. The weaknesses of the last Nanda ruler of Magadha Empire paved the way for Chandragupta Maurya to establish his kingdom in Magadha. He overthrew the last Magadha king with the help of Chanakya and laid the foundation of Maurya Empire. Chanakya, also known as Kautilya was the political adviser and teacher of Chandragupta Maurya. It is said that Dhana Nanda, the last ruler of Magadha Empire once insulted Chanakya. As a repercussion of this, Kautilya advised Chandragupta to usurp the Nanda dynasty.
The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive power in ancient India. It originated in the Indo-Gangetic plain in the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent. The capital of Maurya Empire was in Pataliputra(modern Patna) of present Bihar. Later on the area of Chandragupta’s kingdom expanded rapidly westward across central and eastern India. The empire stretched to the north along the Himalayas, to the east into Assam, to the west into Baluchistan and into the Hindu Kush mountains.
Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya dynasty. His name came to be known as Maurya because he was born of Mura, a shudra women. Mura was a worker in the court of the Nandas. However earlier buddhist traditions speak of the Mauryas as the ruling class of the republic of Pipphalivana in Gorakhpur.
Around 322 BC, Chanakya visited the Magadha kingdom, but the then king of Magadha, Dhana Nanda insulted him. In order to take revenge Kautilya advised Chandragupta to snatch the kingdom from Dhana Nanda. Using the advantage of oppressive and corrupt rule of Dhana Nanda, Chandragupta overthrew Dhana and took over the throne of Magadha. This was the start of the historical empire of the Mauryas. With Chanakya’s help and guidance Chandragupta expanded his kingdom westward across central and western India within a very short time.
It is worth-mentioning here that during the rise of Chandragupta, another great leader of that time Alexander the Great withdrew his army from the west. This led to some kind of disruption in local power. Taking this as an advantage Chandragupta left no stone unturned to expand his kingdom. By 320 BC, he occupied the Northwestern India along with the satraps left by Alexander.
Chandragupta liberated north-western India from Seleucus. He fought a war with the Greek and came out victorious. To bring peace in the region both the leaders reconciled with a peace treaty. Chandragupta received the daughter of Seleucus for marriage , 500 elephants, eastern Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and the areas west of the Indus from Seleucus. Selucus also sent Megasthenes as his ambassador to the court of Chandragupta.
Thus Chandragupta built a vast empire that includes areas of Bihar, Odisha, Bengal , parts of north-eastern India, western and north-western India, areas of the south, and the Deccan. The Maurya’s ruled over virtually the entire subcontinent.
Chandragupta’s political organization
Chandragupta was an autocratic king by nature. However, he is said to be a king with ideals in Arthashastra of Kautilya. According to Arthashastra , he stated that in the happiness of his subjects lay his happiness and in their troubles lay his troubles. A council of members noted for wisdom used to assist him in decision making.
The empire was divided into a number of provinces. The provinces were further divided into smaller units. A prince was assigned to rule each such provinces. The capital of the Mauryas, Pataliputra was administered by six committees. The central government controlled about 24 departments, which controlled the social and economic activities of the state. Chandragupta had a huge army. It is said that he maintained about 600,000 foot soldiers, 30,000 cavalrymen, 9000 elephants and 8000 chariots.
In 298 BCE Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded by his son Bindusara.