Maurya was an ancient Indian dynasty. It was founded by Chandragupta Maurya in c.325–c.183 BC when he conquered the Magadha kingdom and established his capital at Pataliputra (now Patna). His son, Bindusara and his grandson, Ashoka were the most notable ruler of ancient India. The most significant feature of the empire is that for the first time in history Ashoka brought nearly all India, together with Afghanistan, under one administration. Mauryan culture represents the first great flowering of Indian civilization, which cannot to be equaled until the coming of the Gupta dynasty.
The historical knowledge of Mauryan age has been collected on the account of Megasthenes, the Arthashastra of Kautilya and the inscriptions of Ashoka. Archaeology has produced evidence of a definite contrast in the cultural levels of different regions of Mauryan Empire. The Mauryans brought about administrative unity, encouraged the construction of roads, popularized alphabetic writing, expanded coin currency, propagated a lingua franca and finally provided common moral bases especially in Ashoka’s reign to support the edifice of administration. But these features in no way point to homogeneity of life within the empire. The administration that was originally based on bureaucracy devised by Kautaliya degenerated into a paternal form of government in the time of Ashoka. Even administrative unity broke down after Ashoka’s death and brought about the end of the empire. However the empire held together different areas in varying stages of cultural developments.
The Indus region maintained its tribal organization along with pastoral form of life and new agricultural pattern of irrigated lands whereas the Ganges valley had evolved a caste-ridden society by absorbing the tribes into a graded society meant to serve the rising monarchies. The South during the period had vastly differing societies. The pattern of Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings. Brhadrata was the last ruler of the Mauryan ruled territories that had shrunk considerably from the time of emperor Ashoka. Nevertheless, he was still upholding the Buddhist faith. After Brhadrata’s assassination in 185 BC, the Sunga empire came to power which led to a wave of persecution of Buddhists, and a resurgence of Hinduism. The fall of the Mauryas left the Khyber unguarded and a wave of foreign invasions followed.
This article was last updated on Monday, Jan 03, 2005