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In 322 BC, a young nobleman and great warrior, called Chandragupta Maurya, overthrew the foreign governors installed in western India by Alexander the Great. Chandragupta and his successors then formed the Mauryan Empire, by uniting almost the whole of India, Afghanistan, and what is now Pakistan, as one great nation for the first time.
The empire reached its height under its greatest ruler – Chandragupta Grandson, Asoka, who introduced Buddhism in India.
Origins of the Empire:-
When Alexander and a battle-weary army took over what is now Punjab, his conquest lasted only a few years.
From a base of Pataliputra, Chandragupta seized the neighboring kingdom of Magadha and pushed westward through Alexander’s lands in Punjab.
Governing the Empire:-
The Mauryan government was well organized. A civil service dealt with births and deaths, immigration, manufacturing, industrial arts, trade, and tax Collection. A justice system prescribed severe punishment for lawbreakers. Governor’s administered each reign.
The two emperors that came before Ashoka held the system together with an army of 700000 men and a secret police force, that spent spies all over the Empire.
In 261 BC, Asoka conquered the Southern state of Kalinga. Thousands of people were killed during the Battle, and this slaughter so shocked Asoka that it turned him against violence forever.
He converted to Buddhism and devoted his life to governing peacefully. The Empire reached its peak under Asoka’s rule.
Edicts of Asoka:-
Asoka had many of his edicts (sayings) inscribed on rocks, in caves, and on pillars that were specially built all over India. These inscriptions advise a life of toleration, non-Violence, simplicity, and vegetarianism.
They describe the emperor, who once wrote that “All men are my children”, as striving for the well-being of his subjects.
Asoka used an idea called “dharma” (the principle of right-thinking), instead of conquest, to hold his empire together.
He encouraged a policy of religious tolerance among his nobles and Civil Servants, and this policy helped him to unite an empire that contained people of different religious beliefs.
Buddhism in the Mauryan Empire:-
Buddhism became a major religion during the Mauryan period, and many craftworkers began to create beautiful religious items, particularly from steatite.
These include reliquaries(containers for sacred relics), and symbols that were central to Buddhist ideas, such as the Wheel of Law. The spokes of the Wheel symbolize rays of Light, or enlightenment, shinning from the Buddha.
Asoka sponsored the building of many Buddhist shrines or stupas. These were places of pilgrimage for Buddhists, and the carvings inside them inspired prayer and mediation. Most have been rebuilt, but the entrance gates of Great Stupas at Sanchi are from the Mauryan Period.
Timeline of Mauryan Empire:-
322 BC:- Chandragupta Maurya found the Mauryan Empire.
301-269 BC:- Reign of Bindusara, Chandragupta’s son. He conquest parts of the Deccan, southern India.
269-232 BC:- The Mauryan Empire reaches its height under Asoka, Chandragupta’s grandson.
261 BC:- Asoka conquered the Kingdom of Kalinga.
250 BC:- Asoka builds Buddhist Stupas and erects pillars bearing an inscription.
184 BC:- The empire collapses when Brihadnatha, the last Emperor, is killed by a rival dynasty.