Short Essay on the Conquests of Chandragupta Maurya

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The details of Chandragupta’s con­quests are not available to us. It is even not definitely known whether he first captured Magadha from the Nandas or overthrew the Greek rule from the North-West. However, from the Jain and Greek sources it appears that Chandragupta first liberated Punjab from the Greeks.

Alexander’s sudden death in distant Babylon in 323 B.C., followed by confusion in his empire, provided ideal opportunity to Chandragupta to give a death-blow to the Greek rule in India. Justin’s following statement con­firms the above assumption: “India, after the death of Alexander, had shaken, as it were, the yoke of servitude from its neck and put his Gover­nors to death. The architect of this liberation was Sandrocottus (Chandragupta).”

After liberating the North-West and Punjab from the Greek rule, Chandragupta directed his attention to the conquest of Magadha from the Nandas. Unfortunately, not many details are available on this important event.

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The Jain work Parisisthapan’an describes that Chanakya made Chandragupta enter into an alliance with a neigh­bouring king Parvataka and the allied armies be­sieged Pataliputra and forced Nandas to capitulate.

The Nanda King was spared his life and permitted to leave Pataliputra with his family and as much treasure as he could carry off in a single chariot. The Sanskrit drama Mudrarak­shasa centres on Chanakya’s “battle of in­trigues” for the conquest of Magadha.

The Buddhist work Milinda-panho, describing the tale of war between the contending forces of the Mauryas and Nandas, mentions that the Nanda Army was led by its General Bhaddasala. In view of these conflicting accounts, it is reasonable to believe that after defeating the Nandas, Chandragupta coronated himself as the ruler of Magadha.

He further extended his empire by fresh conquests, of which only a glimpse is given in the following statement of Plutarch: “Not long afterwards, Androcottus who had by that time mounted the throne, presented Seleucus with 500 elephants and overran and subdued the whole of India with an army of 600,000.” The throne in this statement refers to the sovereignty of the Punjab and the Nanda Empire which Chandragupta had acquired by his conquests.

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War with Seleucus (304 B.C.):

The above state­ment further refers to war between Chandragupta and Seleucus, one of the generals of Alexander, who secured for himself the throne of Babylon after the death of Alexander. In or about 304-5 B.C., he planned for the recovery of the Indian conquests of Alexander. Taking the route along the Kabul River, he crossed the Indus.

But the expedition proved abortive and ended in an al­liance. By the terms of the treaty, Seleucus ceded to Chandragupta the Satrapies of Arachosia (Kandahar) and the Paropanisade (Kabul), together with portions of Aria (Herat) and Gedrosia (Baluchistan). Chandragupta on his part cemented this alliance by making a present to Seleucus of 500 war-elephants.

There is a sugges­tion by Appian that there was a marriage alliance between the two kings so that Seleucus became either the father-in-law or the son-in-law of Chandragupta. Seleucus further confirmed this alliance by sending Megasthenes as an ambas­sador to the Mauryan court.

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Conquest of Western and South India:

Chandragupta’s further conquests in Western and South India are known to us through indirect evidences. The Girnar Rock Inscription of Rudradaman of about 150 A.D. mentions the construction of a dam or reservoir for irrigation by Pushyagupta, the provincial Governor (Rashtriya) of Chandragupta over the province of Anarta and Saurashtra (Gujarat).

Thus this part of Western India was included in the Mauryan Empire though there is no further evidence to show how it was annexed. The location of Asoka’s Rock Edict at Sopara (Surparaka of Pali texts) in the modern district of Thane in Maharashtra shows that Chandragupta further extended his conquest of Western India beyond the boundaries of Saurashtra into Konkan, where Sopara was located.

Chandragupta’s conquest of South India is first proved by the findspots of Asoka’s Inscriptions in South India. Secondly, Asoka in his Rock Edicts II and XIII mentions his borders or immediate neighbouring states like that of the Cholas, Pan- dyas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras.

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Since Asoka did not make any other conquest except that of Kalinga or his father Bindusara made any con­quests, the conquest of South India must have been made by Chandragupta.

This assumption is further supported by the unanimous Jain tradi­tions that Chandragupta in his old age abdicated the throne and retired to Sravanbelgola in Kar- nataka with his teacher, the Jain saint Bhadrabahu. He lived at Sravanbelgola where some local Inscriptions still perpetuate his memory. The hill where he lived is still known as Chandragiri.

Chandragupta Maurya was succeeded by his son Bindusara. If Jain tradition is to be believed the name of his mother was Durdhara. The Greek historian Athenacus calls him Amitrochates (Sanskrit Amitraghata ‘Slayer of Foes’ or Amitrakhada ‘Devourer of Foes’).

We do not know how he got the title of ‘Amitrochates’. Greek historians say little about the internal affairs of Chandragupta ruled over his extensive empire from the famous metropolis of Pataliputra, known to the Greek and Latin writers as Palibothra, Palibotra and Palimbothra. The care of the metropolis was entrusted to a Corporation of 30 members.

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The Greek sources, the Kautilya’s Ar­thasashtra, etc. provide a detailed account of the administration of the Maurya empire under Chandragupta, which will be discussed a little later. According to the chronology of the Mauryas given in the Puranas, Chandragupta ruled for 24 years and his rule ended in either B.C. 301-300 or 298-97.

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