Maurya Dynasty – History Notes – History English notes

Maurya Dynasty

The Mauryan Dynasty was founded by Chandragupta Maurya who was the king from 321 to 298 B.C. The other important rulers of this dynasty were Bindusara and Ashoka.

Chandragupta Maurya :

  •  He is also known as “ Sandrokottos” or “Androkottos”. Chandragupta dethroned the last Nanda ruler  Dhana Nanda and occupied Patliputra in 322 BC .
  • He killed  Dhanananda and became the king with the help of a man named Kautilya(Chanakya), With the help of Chanakya he became the king of Magadha.
  • Pataliputra became his capital. In 305 BC , Chandragupta Maurya  defeated Seleucus Nicator who became his friend later. Nicator also sent an ambassador Megasthenes to Chandragupta’s court.
  • Accounts of Megasthenes are found in a book written by him called Indika. Chandragupta was the empire builder of Mauryan Empire.
  • He introduced an organised revenue system . He divided the empire into four provinces. Trade flourished ,agriculture was regulated.
  • During his last days, Chandragupta migrated to  Chandragiri Hill ,Sharavanabelagola (Karnataka) with a Jain scholar and performed Santhara or Sallekhan i.e. fast to death.

Kautilya’s Arthashastra

  • Kautilya Arthashastra mentions 18 Tirthas(head posts) and 28 Adhyakshas.
  • These helped in managing the empire.
  • Mantri (Prime Minister) and Chief Priest were the important posts in the empire and it is believed that Chanakya (Kautilya) held both the posts during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya and Bindusara.
  • Bhaga was one of the most important tax collected .
  • Hiranya was cash only tax .
  • Pranaya was the tax collected during emergency period .
  • The coins used were made of silver, copper or bronze and were called Karshapana or Pana.


  •  Megasthenes mentioned that there were 7 classes in India.
  • These were Philosophers, craftsmen, soldiers, inspectors, counsellors & chauffeurs.
  • The state collects 1/4th of the produce as revenue . Pataliputra was 16-18 km long and 323.5 km wide.

The Province Capitals were:-

  • North  – Taxila
  • South –  Suvarnagiri
  • East  –  Tosali
  • West  –  Ujjain

According to Kautilya, the elements of the state are:-

  1. The King
  2. Minister
  3. Country
  4. Treasury
  5. Fort
  6. Army
  7. Ally

The arthashastra mentions the important functionaries known as MAHAPATRA or TIRTHAS. These are:-

  1. YUVARAJA:    Crown prince
  2. SENAPATI:   Commander-in-Chief
  3. MANTRIPARISHAD ADHYAKSHA: Head of the council of Ministers
  4. MANTRIN:    Minister
  5. PUROHITA:    Chaplain
  6. DAUVARIKA:   Palace usher
  7. ANTARVAMSIKA:   Officer of the Royal Harem
  8. PRASASTA;    Minister in charge of Encampment
  9. SAMAHARTA:   Chief Revenue collector
  10. SANNIDHATA:   Controller of Stores
  11. NAYAKA:    Commandant
  12. PRADESTA:    Magistrate
  13. KARMANTIKA:   Chief Architect
  14. DANDA PALA:   Chief Army officer
  15. DURGA PALA:   Officer-in-charge of Fort
  16. ANTAPALA:    Officer-in-charge of Frontier post
  17. ATAVIKA:    Chief of the Forest tribe


  • Bindusara was the son of Chandragupta Maurya and Queen Durdhara.
  • According to a Jain work Rajavalikatha, his original name was Simhasena.
  • During his reign the Maurya Empire saw significant expansion southwards.
  • He was also known as” Amitraghata” or “Amitrakottos” (Greek term meaning killer of enemies) .
  • He was a follower of Ajivika sect.  Deimachus, Ambassador from Seleucid Empire, came to India during his reign.
  • He was sent by Antiochus I  of Syria.


  •  King Asoka, the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty, has come to be regarded as one of the most exemplary rulers in world history.
  • He  became the third king of the Mauryan dynasty after the death of his father, Bindusara.
  • His given name was Ashoka but he assumed the title Devanampiya Piyadasi which means “Beloved-of-the-Gods, He Who Looks on with Affection.”  In 262 B.C., eight years after his coronation, Asoka’s fought Kalinga War and conquered Kalinga, a country that roughly corresponds to the modern state of Orissa.
  • The loss of life caused by battle, reprisals, deportations and the turmoil that always exists in the aftermath of war so horrified Ashoka that it brought about a complete change in his personality.
  • After the war Ashoka dedicated the rest of his life trying to apply Buddhist principles to the administration of his vast empire.  Received help from Upagupta in his conversion to Buddhism.
  • A crucial part to play in helping Buddhism to spread both throughout India & abroad and probably built the first major Buddhist monuments.
  •  Bodh Gaya in his 10th year of coronation and Lumbini in his 20th Year of coronation.  Ashoka’s edicts (medium used by kings to converse with his people) were of different types like major rock, minor rock, pillar rock, cave rock.  Languages used were Prakrit, Greek, and Aramaic and the Scripts used were Brahmi, Kharosthi, Greek


Major Rock Edicts 
  •  There are 14 Major Rock Edicts from 8 places.
  • The Language used is Prakrit and the script used is Kharosthi and Brahmi(The oldest form of Devnagiri).
  • Places, where rock edicts are – Kalsi, Uttarakhand; Sopara, Maharashtra; Girnar, Gujarat; Yerragudi, Andhra Pradesh; Dhauli, Orissa; Jaugada, Orissa.
  • First edict – Ashoka gives the message of non-violence & not to waste money on useless social ceremonies.
  • Ninth edict – In this also Ashoka instructs his subjects not to waste money on social ceremonies.
  • The second edict – instructed his physicians to visit far-fledged areas and cure people and animals and also to grow more plants.
  • Seventh edict – Ashoka gives the message of religious tolerance. Repeat in the twelfth edict.
  • Thirteenth edict – Ashoka mentions the details of the Kalinga War.These are: Antiochus II Theos of Syria, Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt, Magas of Cyrene, Alexander II of Epirus and Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedonia.
Pillar Rock Edicts :
  • There are 11 pillars.
  • In India and Nepal Sites where these pillars have been found are Inside
  • Feroz Shah Kotla,
  • Delhi (was originally in Meerut); Delhi’s Ridge, near Delhi University;
  • Topra, Haryana (later shifted to Delhi);
  • Allahabad, U.P (originally at Kosambi);
  • Lauriya-Areraj, Bihar; Lauriya-Nandangarh, Bihar; Sankissa, Rampurva; Sarnath; Sanchi; Nilgriva.
  • Pillars
    • We find the message of ‘Dham’ (Dharma) in these pillars.
    • These Ashokan pillars were all Sandstone pillars. The sandstone was from Chunar, UP.   Pillars are all Monolithic structures (from a single rock).
    • The capital part was from a different stone and mounted onto the pillar. These were usually animal figures. The Lion Capital found in both Sanchi and Sarnath became our national emblem. Other animals are Horse, Elephant and bull. Horse signifies Buddha leaving home on his horse – Kanthaka; Elephant is in reference to the dream that Buddha’s mother had about conceiving a white elephant.  Bull refers to the zodiac sign of Buddha which was Tauras.  Dham is a Pali word. It is Dharma in Sanskrit and means Established Social Order. It was only a Code of Conduct. Messages given by Ashoka in his Dham are:


Religious tolerance 


Respect towards elders

To implement Dham, Ashoka appointed a new officer called Dhamma Mahamantra.

  1. Minor Rock Edicts 
  • 15 rocks found in different parts of India.
  • Some places where Minor Rock Edicts are: Maski, Raichur district in Karnataka; Brahmagiri, Karnataka; Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh; Nettur, Andhra Pradesh  Only at these four places Ashoka has used his name. In all other places he used his title – “Devanam Piyadasi”

Mauryan Art  

Two groups of Mauryan art: Royal Art and Folk Art

  • Royal Art: The Royal Palaces of Chandragupta Maurya and city of Patliputra, Ashokan Pillar, Stupas.etc
  •  Sanchi Stupa: It was built by King Ashoka . It is near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. It was made of mud, bricks and stone. The central chamber of all stupas are generally with relics of Buddha or any other Buddhist monks . The topmost part of a stupa in called ‘Harmika’ .
  •  Pillar of Ashoka: It was an important piece of Mauryan Art and was a monolith structure. It was about 50 feet tall and weighed about 50 tonnes.
  • Folk Art :Figure Sculpture of Yaksha-Yakshini,Terracotta objects,Inscribed stone portrait of Emperor Ashok. The most important in folk art is pottery. It is called “Northern Black Polished Ware”

Decline of Mauryan Empire 

  • Ashoka was followed by weak kings which led to the downfall of the empire.
  • Brihadrata was the last ruler of Mauryan dynasty .
  • He was killed by the commander In chief of his guard Pusyamitra Sunga who then established the Sunga dynasty.
  • The arrival of foreign rulers like the Indo-Greeks and others were also factors in the decline.
  • Spread of knowledge and technology making several rulers less dependent on the Mauryan Empire was another major factor.

POST MAURYAN PERIOD  (2nd century BC to 3rd century AD)

Indo- Greeks:

  • This refers to the period after Mauryans and before Guptas.
  • Influx and influence of foreigners Indo – Greeks also known as Bactrians (Originally Greek by origin but settled in Bactria) Demetrius was one of its first kings to attack India.
  • First to introduce gold coins and first to inscribe dates on coins.
  • The most famous Indo –Greek ruler was Menander also known as Milinda.
  • The concept of 7 days in a week was given by the Indo – Greeks.
  • They developed structural art famously known as Gandhara School of Art. The others during this time were Mathura School of Art and Amaravati School of Art .


  • They are also known as Scythians, were Central Asian tribe.
  • They regularly attacked South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • These type of tribes were known in ancient times as barbaric. One of their headquarters was Ujjain (MP). The Junagarh inscription in Gujarat which is attributed to King Rudradaman is the first-ever inscription written in chaste Sanskrit  . He is famous not only for his military conquests but also for his public works


  • They were also are known as Pahlavas.
  • They were basically Iranians and came to India in 1st century AD . Famous Parthian king was Gondaphernes  . St. Thomas is said to have come India for the propagation of Christianity.


  • They also are known as the Yuchi tribe.
  • They came in 1st century AD and had their empire from the western part of China to Afghanistan, Kashmir and all the way till Allahabad. Peshawar and Mathura were their headquarters  Kujul Kadhphises, Vema Kadphises and Kanishka were their great kings who came to India.
  • Charaka, a great medical scientist is believed to have been in Kanishka’s court. He wrote the first scientific book on medicine in India called Charaka Samhita.  They introduced the tradition of Devkul (worshipping the ancestors) and stirrups which made horse riding safer and more comfortable. They introduced trousers, overcoats, leather shoes, hats etc. Hippalus ,a great sailor discovered the monsoon sea-route to India from West Asia.


  • They are also known as Andhras. This dynasty was founded by Simuka in 1st century BC .
  • Other Famous kings are Pulomavi, Gautamiputra and Satakarni.
  • The official language was Prakrit. According to archaeological sources, Satavahanas were the first in India to give land grants and they gave it to the priest class.  They introduced lead coins and promoted trade & commerce.


  • They occupied the portion of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • The capital of Cheras was Vanjji. The greatest Chera king was Senguttuvan or Red Chera.
  • It is said that he invaded the north and even crossed the Ganges. He was also the founder of Pattini cult related to the worship of the goddess of chastity Kannagi.


  • The Chola kingdom called as Cholamandalam was situated to the North-East of Pennar and Vellar river.
  • Their greatest king was Karikala who founded Puhar and constructed 160Km of embarkment along the Kaveri river with the help of 12000 Sri Lanka slaves


  • The earliest known Pandyan ruler was Mudukudumi. The greatest Pandya king, nendujelian accused Kovalan of theft. As a result, the city of Madurai was laid under a curse by Kannagi(Kovalan’s wife)


  • The Sangama Dynasty was founded by Harihara I and Bukka. Bukka’s successor, Harihara II, continued Bukka’s campaign through southern India and managed to take control of coastal Andhra between Nellore and Kalinga and conquer the Addanki and Srisailam areas as well as most of the territory between the peninsula to the south of the Krishna River.
  • Harihara II also managed to conquer many Indian ports such as that of Goa, Chaul, and Dabhol. After Harihara II died the throne was in conflict between Virupaksha Raya, Bukka Raya II, and Deva Raya of which Deva Raya eventually would come out as the victor. During his reign, Deva Raya managed to successfully control the vast amount of territory in the empire.  The kings after Deva Raya, on the other hand, did not manage to do anything significant at all for the kingdom. This was until Deva Raya II, who would bring about the golden age of the Sangama Dynasty.

Tamil Sangams 

  • The Tamil Sangams were assemblies of Tamil scholars and poets.
  • The word Sangam has its mention in the sense of an ‘academy’ in several Tamil literary works like Tevaram, Thiruvilayadal puranam, periyapuranam, and Irayanar Ahaporul.
  • The earliest extant works of Tamil literature date back to the period between 300 BCE and 200 CE and deal with love, war, governance, trade, and bereavement.
  • The literature of this period has been referred to as The Sangam literature and the period in which these works were composed is referred to as the Sangam period, alluding to the legends.
  • Although the term Sangam literature is applied to the corpus of the earliest known Tamil literature

Maurya Dynasty source

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