|1st Mauryan Emperor|
|Reign||c. 321 – c. 297 BCE|
|Coronation||c. 321 BCE|
|Born||c. 340 BCE|
Chandragupta Maurya (reign: c. 321 – c. 297 BCE) was the founder of the Maurya Empire in ancient India. He built one of the largest-ever empires on the Indian subcontinent and then, according to Jain sources, he renounced it all and became a monk. Historical Jain texts claim Chandragupta followed Jainism by first renouncing his wealth and power, going away with Jaina monks, and performing a ritual of peacefully welcoming death by fasting.[note 1] Chandragupta's life and accomplishments are described in ancient Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek texts, but the details vary significantly from those in the Jain texts. Megasthenes served as a Greek ambassador in his court for four years.
Chandragupta, with the counsel of his Chief Minister Chanakya (the Brahmin also known as Kautilya), created a new empire, applied the principles of statecraft, built a large army and continued expanding the boundaries of his empire. Greek rulers such as Seleucus I Nicator avoided war with him, entered into a marriage alliance instead, and retreated into Persia. Chandragupta's empire almost spanned the Indian subcontinent, except the southernmost regions (now Tamil Nadu and Kerala) and Kalinga (now Odisha). After unifying much of India, Chandragupta and Chanakya passed a series of major economic and political reforms. Chandragupta established a strong central administration from Pataliputra (now Patna). Chandragupta's India had an efficient, highly organised structure. The empire built infrastructure such as irrigation, temples, mines and roads, leading to a strong economy. During Chandragupta's reign and that of his dynasty, many religions thrived in India, with Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivika gaining prominence along with the Brahmanism traditions. A memorial to Chandragupta Maurya exists on Chandragiri hill in Shravanabelagola, Karnakata.
- 1 Names and titles
- 2 Ancestry
- 3 Early life
- 4 Building the empire
- 5 Rule, succession, and death
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Names and titles
The king's epithets mentioned in the Sanskrit play Mudrarakshasa include "Chanda-siri" (Chandra-shri), "Piadamsana" (Priya-darshana), and Vrishala. Piadamsana is similar to Piyadasi, an epithet of his grandson Ashoka. The word "Vrishala" is used in Indian epics and law books to refer to non-orthodox people. According to one theory, it may be derived from the Greek royal title Basileus, but there is no concrete evidence of this: the Indian sources apply it to several non-royals, especially wandering teachers and ascetics.
Various sources provide different accounts of Chandragupta's ancestry and early life.
The Buddhist tradition recorded in Mahavamsa and other texts describes Chandragupta as of noble Kshatriya origin. He was a scion of the Moriya clan, which was a branch of the Shakya clan of Gautama Buddha. The Moriyas were forced to leave their ancestral kingdom after an invasion by the Kosala king Vidudabha, and settled in a region known for its peacocks. They came to be called "Moriyas" after the peacocks ("mora" in Pali language). The Maha-bodhi-vamsa names the Moriya capital as Moriya-nagara, and the Digha-Nikaya names the region as Pipphali-vana. A variation of this legend, mentioned in the Burmese texts, attributes the foundation of Moriya-nagara to princes of Vaishali, who had escaped a massacre by Adzatathat (presumably Ajatashatru).
The Sanskrit drama Mudrarakshasa uses the terms "Vrishala" and "Kula-hina" to describe Chandragupta. The word "Vrishala" means the "son of a Shudra". Based on this, some scholars have theorized that Chandragupta came from a Shudra background. However, historian R. K. Mookerji opposes this theory, arguing that in the play, the term "Vrishala" is used as a slur only by Chandragupta's enemies; another passage in the play uses "Vrishala" to mean "the best of kings", and in several sentences in the play, it is used as a term of endearment by Chanakya. Mookerji also argues that the term "Kula-hina" is used in the play to mean that Chandragupta came from a humble background, but not a family of "low or degraded" lineage. Mookerji also points out that the Mudrarakshasa is a much later source, and therefore, should be considered as less reliable. For example, unlike the earlier sources (such as the Puranas), which brand the Nandas as of low-status birth, the Mudrarakshasa claims that the Nandas were "of illustrious lineage".
Dhundiraja, an 18th-century commentator on the Mudrarakshasa, claims that Chandragupta was the son of Maurya, a prince. Maurya was the son of king Saravatha-siddhi by his junior queen Mura, who was the daughter of a "Vrishala", that is, a Shudra. The nine Nanda kings were also sons of Saravatha-siddhi, but by his senior queen Sunanda, who was of Kshatriya origin. Saravatha-siddhi chose Maurya over his Nanda sons to lead the kingdom's army, but the Nanda sons murdered Maurya and all his sons except Chandragupta, who managed to escape and became an enemy of the Nandas.
In some Puranic texts, the Mauryas are described as mostly Shudras and unrighteous (shudra-prayastv-odharmikah). The Markandeya Purana goes on to brand them Asuras. Such negative portrayals may be attributed to the Mauryan kings' inclination towards Buddhism and Jainism.
None of the ancient texts mention when Chandragupta was born. Since Plutarch states that he was a young man when he supposedly saw Alexander during the latter's invasion of India (c. 326-325 BCE), he must have been born after c. 350 BCE.
According to the Sinhalese Buddhist tradition, Chandragupta's father - who was the chief of the Moriya clan - was killed in a battle, when his mother was pregnant. His mother escaped to the Puppha-pura (Pushpa-pura, literally "flower city") city escorted by her brothers. This city is identified with Pataliputra, which was also known as Kusuma-pura (also meaning "flower city"). For his safety, Chandragupta's maternal uncles moved him to a cow-pen, where he was brought up by a cowherd. When Chandragupta grew up, the cowherd sold him to a hunter, who employed him to tend cattle.
Roman historian Justin refers to Chandragupta's encounters with "a lion of enormous size" and "a wild elephant". According to historian H. C. Raychaudhuri, this suggests that Justin was aware of the Buddhist legends, which mention Chandragupta's association with a hunter.
Meeting with Chanakya (Kautilya)
According to the Buddhist tradition, Chanakya was a native of Taxila ("Takkasila"), and came to Pataliputra in pursuit of learning. Dhana Nanda, the reigning Nanda king of Pataliputra insulted him for his ugly physical appearance. Chanakya then swore to destroy the Nanda dynasty. Subsequently, he happened to see Chandragupta, who would play king with other boys as his subordinates. As part of this game, Chandragupta would hold mock courts, where he would administer justice. Chanakya saw him at one of these mock courts, and impressed by his leadership qualities, bought him by paying his hunter foster-father 1,000 karshapanas (coins). He took Chandragupta to Taxila, which was renowned as a seat of learning, and gave the boy an all-round education for 8-9 years.
The Mudrarakshasa also states that Chanakya swore to destroy the Nanda dynasty after he felt insulted by the king.
According to Greco-Roman writers Justin and Plutarch, in his youth, Chandragupta saw Alexander, who campaigned in the Punjab region, where Taxila is located. According to Justin, Chandragupta offended Alexander; the Greek king ordered him to be killed as a result, but he escaped. Plutarch, in his Life of Alexander, states that Chandragupta ("Androcottus") would often say in later times that Alexander "narrowly missed" conquering the Nanda kingdom, whose ruler was "hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth".
Building the empire
According to the Buddhist text Mahavamsa tika, Chandragupta and his guru Chanakya began recruiting an army after he completed his studies at Taxila. This was a period of wars; Alexander the Great had invaded the north-west subcontinent from Caucasus Indicus (now called the Hindu Kush mountain range). Alexander and the Greeks abandoned further campaigns of expansion in 325 BCE and retreated to Babylon, leaving a legacy of Indian subcontinent regions ruled by new Greek governors and local rulers. A supply of warriors was in place, and Chandragupta and Chanakya built alliances with local rulers and a small mercenary army of their own. By 323 BCE, within two years of Alexander's retreat, this newly formed group had defeated some of the Greek-ruled cities in the north-west subcontinent. Each victory led to an expanded army and territory. Chanakya provided the strategy and Chandragupta the execution, and they began expanding eastwards towards Magadha (Gangetic plains).
Eastward expansion and the end of Nanda empire
Historically reliable details of Chandragupta's campaign into Pataliputra are unavailable and legends written centuries later are inconsistent. According to Buddhist texts such as Milindapanha, Magadha was ruled by the evil Nanda dynasty, which, with Chanakya's counsel, Chandragupta easily conquered to restore dhamma. According to Hindu and Jain records, the campaign was bitterly fought because the Nanda dynasty had a well-trained, powerful army. Chandragupta and Chanakya built alliances and a formidable army of their own first.
The Mudrarakshasa of Vishakhadatta and the Jain work Parishishtaparvan state that Chandragupta allied with a Himalayan king called Parvatka. According to the Chandraguptakatha, Chandragupta and Chanakya were initially rebuffed by the Nanda forces. In the ensuing war, Chandragupta fought against Bhadrasala, the commander of Dhana Nanda's armies. He eventually defeated Bhadrasala and Dhana Nanda in a series of battles that culminated in the siege of the capital city Pataliputra and the conquest of the Nanda Empire around 322 BCE. With the end of the Nanda dynasty and possessing the resources of the Gangetic plains, Chandragupta used Chanakya's strategies. To expand and consolidate an empire, Chandragupta may have allied with the King of Simhapura in Rajputana and King of Kalinga (modern day Odisha) Gajapati.
The conquest was fictionalised in Mudrarakshasa, a political drama in Sanskrit by Vishakadatta composed 600 years later – probably between 300 CE and 700 CE. In another work, Questions of Milinda, Bhaddasala is named as a Nanda general during the conquest. Plutarch and Pliny the Elder estimated that Chandragupta's army would later number 600,000 by the time it had subdued all of India, Pliny and Plutarch also estimated the Nanda Army strength in the east as 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots, and 6,000 war elephants. These estimates were based in part on the earlier work of Megasthenes, the Seleucid ambassador to the Maurya. In the Mudrarakshasa, Chandragupta is said to have first acquired Punjab and then allied with a local king named Parvatka under the advice of Chanakya, and advanced upon the Nanda Empire. Chandragupta laid siege to Kusumapura (now Patna), the capital of Magadha, with the help of mercenaries from areas already conquered and by deploying guerrilla warfare methods. P. K. Bhattacharyya states that the empire was built by a gradual conquest of provinces after the initial consolidation of Magadha.
|Territorial evolution of the Mauryan Empire|
Conquest of Seleucid north-west regions
After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, Chandragupta and his Brahmin counsellor and chief minister Chanakya began their empire building in the north-western Indian subcontinent (modern-day Pakistan). Alexander had left satrapies (described as "prefects" in classical Western sources) in place in 324 BCE. Chandragupta's mercenaries may have assassinated two of his governors, Nicanor and Philip. The satrapies he fought probably included Eudemus – who left the territory in 317 BCE; and Peithon, who governed cities near the Indus River until he left for Babylon in 316 BCE. About 500 years later, the Roman historian Justin described how "wild lions and elephants" instinctively revered Chandragupta and how he conquered the north-west:
While he (Sandrocottus [Chandragupta]) was lying asleep, after his fatigue, a lion of great size having come up to him, licked off with his tongue the sweat that was running from him, and after gently waking him, left him. Being first prompted by this prodigy to conceive hopes of royal dignity, he drew together a band of robbers, and solicited the Indians to support his new sovereignty. Some time after, as he was going to war with the generals of Alexander, a wild elephant of great bulk presented itself before him of its own accord, and, as if tamed down to gentleness, took him on its back, and became his guide in the war, and conspicuous in fields of battle. Sandrocottus, having thus acquired a throne, was in possession of India, when Seleucus was laying the foundations of his future greatness; who, after making a league with him, and settling his affairs in the east, proceeded to join in the war against Antigonus. As soon as the forces, therefore, of all the confederates were united, a battle was fought, in which Antigonus was slain, and his son Demetrius put to flight.
War and marriage alliance with Seleucus
Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian general of Alexander who in 312 BCE established the Seleucid Kingdom with its capital at Babylon, reconquered most of Alexander's former empire in Asia and put the eastern territories as far as Bactria and the Indus under his own authority  In 305 BCE he entered into conflict with Chandragupta (in Greek Sandrocottus):
Always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapuria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus. He crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. Some of these exploits were performed before the death of Antigonus and some afterward.
According to R. C. Majumdar and D. D. Kosambi, Seleucus appears to have fared poorly, having ceded large territories west of the Indus to Chandragupta. The Maurya Empire added Arachosia (Kandahar), Gedrosia (Balochistan), and Paropamisadae ( Gandhara).[a]
The Indians occupy in part some of the countries situated along the Indus, which formerly belonged to the Persians: Alexander deprived the Ariani of them, and established there settlements of his own. But Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus in consequence of a marriage contract (Epigamia, Greek: Ἐπιγαμία), and received in return five hundred elephants.
The details of the engagement treaty are not known. The extensive sources available on Seleucus never mention an Indian princess so it is thought the marital alliance went the other way, with Chandragupta or his son Bindusara marrying a Seleucid princess in accordance with the contemporaneous Greek practice of forming dynastic alliances. An Indian Puranic source, the Pratisarga Parva of the Bhavishya Purana, described the marriage of Chandragupta to a Greek ("Yavana") princess, daughter of Seleucus. The source accurately describes early Mauryan genealogy:
Chandragupta married with a daughter of Suluva, the Yavana king of Pausasa. Thus, he mixed the Buddhists and the Yavanas. He ruled for 60 years. From him, Vindusara was born and ruled for the same number of years as his father. His son was Ashoka.
In a return gesture, Chandragupta sent 500 war elephants, which played a key role in the victory of Seleucus at the Battle of Ipsus. In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador Megasthenes to Chandragupta and later Antiochos sent Deimakos to his son Bindusara] at the Maurya court at Patna.
According to Greek sources, the two rulers maintained friendly relations and continued exchanging presents. Classical sources state that following their treaty, Chandragupta sent various aphrodisiacs to Seleucus:
And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters as to make people more amorous. And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus; which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love. Athenaeus of Naucratis, "The deipnosophists" Book I, chapter 32 
After annexing Seleucus' provinces west of the Indus river, Chandragupta had a vast empire extending across the northern Indian sub-continent from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Chandragupta then began expanding his empire southwards beyond the barrier of the Vindhya Range and into the Deccan Plateau. By the time his conquests were complete, Chandragupta's empire extended over most of the subcontinent. A "Moriya" war in south is referred three times in the Tamil work Ahananuru and once in Purananuru. According to these texts, Moriya army chariots cut through rocks. It is unclear whether the texts refer to Chandragupta Maurya or the Moriyas in the Deccan region in the 5th century CE.
Chandragupta's army was large, well trained and paid directly by the state as suggested by his counsellor Chanakya. It was estimated at hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Greek accounts. For example, his army is mentioned to have 400,000 soldiers, according to Strabo, "Megasthenes was in the camp of Sandrocottus, which consisted of 400,000 men". Pliny the Elder, who also drew from Megasthenes' work, reported numbers of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 war elephants. Mudrarakshasa mentions that Chandragupta's army consisted of Sakas, Yavanas (Greeks), Kiratas, Kambojas, Parasikas, and Bahlikas.
Rule, succession, and death
Chandragupta Maurya applied the statecraft and economic policies described in Chanakya's text Arthashastra. There are varying accounts in the historic, legendary and hagiographic literature of various Indian religions about Chandragupta but Allchin and Erdosy, these claims are suspect. They add that the evidence is not limited to texts and includes those discovered at archeological sites, epigraphy in the centuries that followed, and the numismatic data. They wrote, "one cannot but be struck by the many close correspondences between the (Hindu) Arthashastra and the two other major sources the (Buddhist) Asokan inscriptions and (Greek) Megasthenes text". The Maurya rule was a structured administration; Chandragupta had a council of ministers (amatya). The empire was organised into territories (janapada), centres of regional power were protected with forts (durga), and state operations were funded with treasury (kosa).
Ancient epigraphical evidence suggests Chandragupta Maurya, under counsel from Chanakya, started and completed many irrigation reservoirs and networks across the Indian subcontinent to ensure food supplies for the civilian population and the army, a practice continued by his dynastic successors. Regional prosperity in agriculture was one of the required duties of his state officials. Rudradaman inscriptions found in Gujarat mention that 400 yers later, it repaired and enlarged the irrigation infrastructure built by Chandragupta and enhanced by Asoka. Chandragupta's state also started mines, manufacturing centres, and networks for trading goods. His rule developed land routes for transporting goods across the Indian subcontinent. Disfavouring water transport, Chandragupta expanded "roads suitable for carts", preferring these over narrow tracks suitable for only pack animals.
According to Kaushik Roy, the Maurya dynasty rulers beginning with Chandragupta were "great road builders". The Greek ambassador Megasthenes credited this tradition to Chandragupta with the completion of a thousand-mile-long highway connecting Chandragupta's capital Pataliputra in Bihar to Taxila in the north-west where he studied. The other major strategic road infrastructure credited to this tradition spread from Pataliputra in various directions, connecting it with Nepal, Kapilavastu, Dehradun, Mirzapur, Odisha, Andhra and Karnataka. According to Roy, this network boosted trade and commerce, and helped move armies rapidly and efficiently.
Chandragupta and Chanakya seeded weapon manufacturing centres, and kept them a state monopoly of the state. The state, however, encouraged competing private parties to operate mines and supply these centres. They considered economic prosperity essential to the pursuit of dharma (morality), adopting a policy of avoiding war with diplomacy yet continuously preparing the army for war to defend its interests and other ideas in the Arthashastra.
Arts and architecture
The evidence of arts and architecture during Chandragupta's time is mostly limited to texts such as those by Megasthenes and Kautilya's Arthashastra. The edict inscriptions and carvings on monumental pillars are attributed to his grandson Ashoka. The texts imply the existence of cities, public works, and prosperous architecture but the historicity of these is in question.
Archeological discoveries in the modern age, such as Didarganj Yakshi discovered in 1917 buried beneath the banks of the River Ganges suggest exceptional artisanal accomplishment. The site has been dated to the 3rd century BCE by many scholars but later dates such as 2nd century BCE and the Kushan era (1st-4th century CE) have also been proposed. The competing theories state that the art linked to Chandragupta Maurya's dynasty was learnt from the Greeks and West Asia in the years Alexander the Great waged war; and that these artifacts belong to an older indigenous Indian tradition. According to Frederick Asher, "we cannot pretend to have definitive answers; and perhaps, as with most art, we must recognize that there is no single answer or explanation".
After Chandragupta's renunciation, he was succeeded as the Mauryan emperor by his son Bindusara, who maintained friendly relations with Greek governors in Asia and Egypt. Later, Bindusara's son Ashoka became one of the most influential rulers in India's history due to his extension of the empire to the entire Indian subcontinent and his role in the worldwide propagation of Buddhism.
Renunciation and death
According to Jain accounts written more than 1,200 years later, such as those in Brihakathā kośa (931 CE) of Harishena, Bhadrabāhu charita (1450 CE) of Ratnanandi, Munivaṃsa bhyudaya (1680 CE) and Rajavali kathe, Chandragupta renounced his throne and followed Jain teacher Bhadrabahu to south India. He is said to have lived as an ascetic at Shravanabelagola for several years before fasting to death as per the Jain practice of sallekhana.
Along with texts, several Jain monumental inscriptions dating from the 7th–15th century refer to Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta together. While this evidence is very late and anachronistic, there is no evidence to disprove the idea that Chandragupta converted to Jainism in his later life. Mookerji quotes Vincent Smith and concludes that Chandragupta's conversion to Jainism provides adequate explanation of abdication and sudden exit at a relatively young age and at the height of his power. The hill on which Chandragupta is stated to have performed asceticism is now known as Chandragiri hill; a temple named Chandragupta basadi is sited there.
The Hindu texts acknowledge the close relationship between the Jain community in Pataliputra and the royal court, and that Chanakya – the champion of Brahmanism – employed Jains as his emissaries. This also indirectly confirms the possible influence of Jain thought on Chandragupta.
According to Kaushik Roy, Chandragupta renounced his wealth and power, crowned his son as his successor about 298 BCE, and died about 297 BCE.
In popular culture
- D. L. Roy wrote a Bengali drama named Chandragupta based on the life of Chandragupta. The story of the play is loosely borrowed from the Puranas and the Greek history.
- Chanakya's role in the formation of the Maurya Empire is the essence of a historical/spiritual novel The Courtesan and the Sadhu by Dr. Mysore N. Prakash.
- The story of Chanakya and Chandragupta was made into a film in Telugu in 1977 titled Chanakya Chandragupta. Akkineni Nageswara Rao played the role of Chanakya, while N. T. Rama Rao portrayed Chandragupta.
- The television series Chanakya is an account of the life and times of Chanakya, based on the play "Mudra Rakshasa" (The Signet Ring of "Rakshasa").
- In 2011, a television series called Chandragupta Maurya was telecast on Imagine TV in which the titular role was played by Rushiraj Pawar & Ashish Sharma.
- In 2016, television series Chandra Nandini, a fictionalized version of Chandragupta and fictional character Nandini's romance saga. In real life, Chandragupta married only twice, first to Durdhara who died while giving birth to Bindusara and 17 years after his wife's death to Helen, daughter of Seleucus I Nicator in a peace treaty. Fictional Nandini as per show is described as daughter of Mahapadma Nanda which is completely untrue as there exists no evidence in any historical texts. The role of Chandragupta Maurya is played by actor Rajat Tokas 
- In 2018, a television series called Chandragupta Maurya portrays the life of Chandragupta Maurya, where the titular role is played by Kartikey Malviya, and the role of Chanakya is played by Tarun Khanna (actor).
- The Indian Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp honouring Chandragupta Maurya in 2001.
- He is a leader of the Indian civilization in the Civilization VI expansion Rise and Fall.
- Old Jaina texts report that Chandragupta was a follower of that religion and ended his life in Karnataka by fasting unto death. If this report is true, Chandragupta may have started the conquest of the Deccan.
- Aria (modern Herat) "has been wrongly included in the list of ceded satrapies by some scholars ... on the basis of wrong assessments of the passage of Strabo ... and a statement by Pliny". Seleucus "must ... have held Aria", and furthermore, his "son Antiochos was active there fifteen years later". (Grainger, John D. 1990, 2014. Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom. Routledge. p. 109).
- R. K. Mookerji 1966, p. 40 image:"A smaller hill at Sravana Belgola is called Chandragiri, because Chandragupta lived and performed his penance there. On the same hill is [...] an ancient temple called Chandragupta-Basti, because it was erected by Chandragupta [according to Jain tradition]. Moreover, the facade of this basti or temple which is in the form of a perforated screen, contains 90 sculptured scenes depicting events in the lives of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta."
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