Mauryan empire: Part-II

March 1, 2018

For Mauryan empire: Part-I (click here)

For Mauryan empire: Part-III (click here)



Mandala Theory: (refer to the above picture)


Vijigishu is the state which aims to conquer.

Ari: whose territory is contiguous to the vijigishu and hence is the enemy of the vijigishu 

Mitra: who territory is contiguous to ari and hence, it is enemy of ari but ally for vijigishu

Madhyama is the mediator state, between ari and vijigishuParshanigraha is the rear-enemy for vijigishu

Akaranda is the rear-ally for vijigishu

Parshanigrahasara is the ally of the rearward enemy.

Akarandasara is the ally of the rearward friend.

Udasina is the neutral state between parshanigraha (rear-enemy) and mitra (ally)



Shad-Gunya siddhanta or Six Policies:

  1. Sandhi: Making a peace treaty. It should be adopted if one is weaker than the enemy.

  2. Vigraha: Hostility. It should be followed if one is stronger than enemy.

  3. Asana: Keeping quiet. If the powers of both kings are similar.

  4. Yana: Marching on military expedition. If one is much stronger than enemy.

  5. Samashraya: Seeking shelter with another king or in a fort. If one is very weak.

  6. Dvaidhibhava: Sandhi with one king and Vigraha with another. If one can fight the enemy with the help of an ally.


Kinds of Conquerors:

  1. Asuravijayin:

    1. He is demonic.

    2. He seizes the land, riches, sons, and wives of the enemy and kills him.

  2. Lobhavijayin:

    1. Motivated by greed for land and riches.

  3. Dharmavijayin:

    1. Righteous conqueror, who makes conquest out of a desire for glory and is satisfied with mere submission.

In the Arthashastra, military conquest was an important activity of the state and righteous conquest was its most noble form. However, for Ashoka, on the other hand, dhamma-vijaya was based on a renunciation of the military conquest.


II. Megasthenes Indica:

  1. Megasthenes was the representative of Seleucus Nikator at the court of Chandragupta Maurya.

  2. He describes Pataliputra as being surrounded by a wooden wall with towers and openings for shooting arrows, beyond which was a moat.

  3. He divided the Indian people into seven strata-

    1. Philosophers

    2. Farmers

    3. Herdsmen and Hunters

    4. Artisans and Traders.

    5. Soldiers

    6. Overseers

    7. Kings's counsellors.

  4. There was endogamy and hereditary occupation in India.

  5. On Administration:

    1. There were six committees of five members each, in charge of the following aspects:

      1. Industrial Arts.

      2. The entertainment and surveillance of foreigners.

      3. Maintaining records of births and deaths.

      4. Trade and Commerce (Inspecting weights and measures etc.)

      5. Supervising the public sale of goods.

      6. Collection of taxes on merchandise sold in the market.

  6. All land was owned by King. (However, this was incorrect).

Mauryas contained diplomats from other countries as well.

  1. Magesthenes was the ambassador of Seleucus Nikator.

  2. Deimachus was the ambassador of Antiochus, king of Syria.


III. Ashoka's Inscriptions: Ashoka's inscriptions have also been found at Kandahar, Afghanistan.


IV. Archaeological and Numismatic Evidences.

An analysis of Arthashastra and Indica:


The Arthashastra mentions wage labour, bonded labour and slave labour. The term karmakara refers to a person who works in return for wages. The Arthashastra refers to some kind of corporate organisation (sangha) of workers which interfaced with employers. Magesthenes lauds Indian society for not having slaves. Arthashastra, on the other hand, has a very detailed discussion on dasas (slaves) and ahityas (those pledged to creditors when contracting a debt). Kautilya also mentions that if a dasi bore her master a son, then she shall be freed from enslavement and the child was considered the father's legitimate son. The Arthashastra mentions a significant hardening of the Brahmanical position on untouchability.

Decline of the empire:


The Mauryan empire declined rapidly after Ashoka. The Mauryan dynasty came to an end when the last king, Brihadratha, was killed by his military commander Pushyamitra, who founded the Shunga dynasty in c. 187 BCE.


  1. Lack of strong centralised authority

    1. Only one of the later Mauryas, Dasharatha is known to have issued inscriptions.

  2. An invasion by Bactrian Greeks further weakened the empire.

  3. Ashoka has been both blamed and exonerated for the decline of the empire.

    1. Anti-Brahmana policies of Ashoka

    2. Patronage extended to the heterodox sects by the Mauryas.

    3. Ashoka's ban on the animal sacrifice may have annoyed the Brahmanas, whose sustenance depended upon the sacrifices.

    4. The appointment of dhamma-mahatmas may have struck at the Brahmana's prestige as custodians of social morality.

    5. Ashoka's pacifist policy has also been seen as responsible for the decline of the Maurya empire. Ashoka's pragmatism is reflected in the fact that he did not disband the army and did not abolish capital punishment and was quite capable of giving stern warnings to tribal communities.

All empires rely on the mechanisms of integration and control over territory, resources and people. These mechanisms include military force, administrative infrastructure and ideology. In the context of Mauryas, given the vast contours of the empire, all three must have been strained to their utmost.


The Maurya period saw the establishment of the first subcontinental empire. Such a large empire required new strategies of governance.


The Maurya period is known for the empire building as for king Ashoka, who renounced all military ambition and exerted himself relentlessly to promote the cause of dhamma.


The imperial power of the Mauryas was visible in the monumental stone sculpture and structures, and important beginnings were made in rock-cut and stupa architecture. There are also artefacts that reflect popular aesthetic and religious beliefs. The social and economic processes of agrarian expansion and urbanisation of the preceding centuries continued under Maurya rule, and there was further growth in cities, trade and the money economy.


To be continued...


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