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The Extent of Mauryan Chandragupta's Empire

Updated on February 24, 2016

Jain Svetambara Tirthankara in Meditation Seated


king Chandragupta




He spent his last days in religious meditation and ended his life by fasting unto death

The rise of territorial monarchies was the most important features of the political life of the Later Vedic Period. By the 6th century BC., were sixteen major territorial states in northern India. They have been described as Mahajanapadas or `great states' in the Buddhist and Jain literature. The majority of them were hereditary monarchies, the rest were tribal republics. Besides the great states, there were a large number of smaller monarchies and republics dotting the landscape of northern India. The rulers of the larger states were becoming ambitious. They had started the process of building large territorial empires by conquering other states.

The large states of Avanti (in western Madhya Pradesh), Vatsa (in southern – eastern Uttar Pradesh) and Magadha) in south Bihar) were the principal. Rivals in the struggle for imperial supremacy.

Extent of Chandragupta's empire

References in ancient Pali and Tamil literature and locations of the inscription of his grandson Ashoka prove that the empire of Chandragupta extended from the Himalayas foothills in the north to central Karnataka in the south and from the Arabian Sea in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east. Thus, for the first time in the history of the country a pan – Indian empire was created. It brought the distant regions of the country under one political system. Central control of the empire introduced a uniform system of administration throughout its length and breadth. As Ashoka's inscriptions show, a common language was used for the administration in all its provinces. Such a practice would have greatly facilitated communication between different regions of the country and strengthened political and cultural unification.

End of Chandragupta's Reign

Chandragupta ruled for a period of twenty – four years. According to a Jain tradition, he then handed over his kingdom to his son Bindusara and retired to Shravanabelagola, a famous pilgrimage centre in Karnataka, along with his spiritual teacher Bhadrabahu who was a Jain monk. There he spent his last days in religious meditation and ended his life by fasting unto death which is considered the ideal way to die for Jain ascetics.

Ashoka’s Inclination to Peace


asoka was the third ruler


Kunala (Kunal) – Son of Ashoka


Causes of the Downfall of the Mauryan empire

Ashoka's high ethical outlook gave him a new conception of royal duties. He set before himself the loftiest idea that ever inspired a king. In one of his edicts he says, `my country people are my children. Every kind of welfare and happiness both in this and the next world, so do I desire for all men.'. Thus Ashoka's ideal of kingship was based on the welfare of his subjects in the widest sense of the term, embracing both material and moral good. Inspired by that ideal he introduced changes in his administration to humanize it and make it welfare – oriented.

After Ashoka, the Mauryan empire started declining. The successors of Ashoka were weak and incompetent and so were unable to stem the tide of disruption. Secondly, the pacifist policy followed by Ashoka had also weakened the military preparedness of the state. After the Kalinga war, Ashoka gave up the aggressive militarism of his forefathers and devoted himself to the propagation of the Law of piety. The attention of the administrative and military officers was thus diverted from their primary duties to the propagation of Dharma. The resources of the state were used on a very large scale for building monasteries, stupas and other monuments. As the final resources of a state are not inexhaustible, such activities would have led to paucity of funds for military and administrative activities.

Furthermore, the Mauryan empire was the first attempt in Indian history to impose a centralized and uniform administration on the far flung regions of the country.

The rulers and the people of the different regions had no sense of loyalty to the ruling dynasty. Revolts in the provinces had occurred even during the reigns of Bindusara and Ashoka. Ashoka's successors failed to check the breaking away of the distant provinces from the empire.


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