Brief notes on the life and conquests of Chandragupta Maurya

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In the 4th century B.C. for the first time India came to be united under one political umbrella.

The Pioneer of the task was Chandragupta Maurya of Maurya dynasty of Magadha.

So the rise of the Mauiyas in 4th century B.C. was an epoch making event in the history of India. With Chandragupta Maurya India get up from her age long slumber and entered into a new life.

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The origin of the Mauryas is shrouded in mystery. Conflicting views are there on this master. According to Vayu Puran and Vishnu Purana Chandragupta Maurya after whom the dynasty has been named was the son of Mura.

One of the wives of the king Nanda. Vishakhadutta refers to Chandragupta Maurya as “Vrishala, Kulahina Mauryaputra”. In this drama Mudrarakshyasa.

This Drama refers to him as Mauryaputra or the son of Mura, the daughter of a Sudra. But the theory of Sudra origin has not been accepted by the scholars.

The Buddhist Text Mahaparinirvana Sutta is the most authentic and Ancient Canoncial Text of the Buddhists. It describes the Moriyas as a ruling Kshatriya clan of Pipphalivana in the Gorakhpore district, in the region of Nepalese Tarai.

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The Ceylonese chronicle Mahavamsa describes Chandragupta Maurya as belonging to the Kshatriyaclan of Moriya. Mahabodhivamsa, Digha Nikaya, Divyavadana equally point to t Kshatriya origin of the Mauryas.

The Jaina work Parisishtaparvan mentions that Chandragupta born of a woman who was the daughter of the chief of a village of Pitamers or Peacock breeders.

According to the Greek historian Justin Chandragupta Maurya had a humble origin. Historian Plutarch refers to non- sudra origin of Chandragupta.

Early life of Chandragupta Maurya and his rise to power:

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The early life of Chandragupta Maurya was spent amidst family misfortunes. According to Buddhist tradition his father was a chief of the Moriyan clan.

He was killed in a battle. His widowed mother took shelter in Pataliputra, where she gave birth to Chandragupta Maurya in 345 B.C.

The young Chandragupta was reaned among cowherds and hunters. One day, while young Chandragupta was playing a mock royal court with his village playmates, Kautilya happened to pass by that way.

Being impressed by the dignity of bearing and potentiality of the boy; Chanakya purchased him on the spot from his adopted father, the cowhered, by paying 1000 karshapanas (coins).

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Kautilya then took him to the city of Taxila and gave him through education in humanities, arts, crafts and military science, in order to equip him properly for the future royal office.

Chanakya or Kautilya had come to Pataliputra for higher recognition. But he was insulted by the King Dhana Nanda for his ugly appearance and uncouth manners which wounded his feelings deeply, Chanakya’s vanity and personal diginity was so much affected that he took a vow for revenge.

According to Plutarch, Chandragupta Maurya worked as a soldier in Magadhan army in his young days. Gradually he rose to the rank of a general.

But one day he incurred the displeasure of Dhana Nanda for resisting his authority. Dhana Nanda ordered to kill him, so Chandragupta Maurya escaped to Punjab and there he met Alexander.

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He made him an appeal in invade Magadha. But his bold and brave conduct annoyed Alexander who ordered for his arrest and execution, so he fled to Vindhyas, where he met Chanakya.

Then both Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya considered the Nanda King as their common enemy and hatched out a plot to overthrow him from the Magadhan throne.

Towards 326 B.C. or 325 B.C. Chandragupta Maurya came to the flash light of politics. It was Chanaky a’s Machiavellian brain that worked for the rise of Chandragupta Maurya to power.

He was the friend, philosopher and guide of Chandragupta, it was the favourable time for Chandragupta Maurya to carry on his plan, because there was no political stability in North-West. India after Alexander’s departure and the oppressive Nanda- rule was not liked by the people.

Chandragupta Maurya raised a big fighting force with men from fin the heroic tribes of the north-west and the Punjab, as well as from the fallen republican states of those areas.

The Drama Mudrarakshasa also mentions that the army raised by Chandragupta Maurya included various tribes. After this Chandragupta Maurya embarked upon his career of conquest.

His conquests may be divided into four phases :

(i) Liberation of Punjab.

(ii) Overthrow of the Nandas.

(iii) The War with Seleucus.

(iv) Other conquests.

There is keen controversy among scholars as to the question whether Chandragupta Maurya first liberated the North-Western India or first he overthrow the Nandas, Greek historian Justin has referred to the fact that Chandragupta Murya raised an army and “Solicited the Indians to overthrow the existing government.” But from his account nothing is known exactly about the existing government.

He has not mentioned clearly about the existing government which he meant either the Greeks or the Nandas. Dr. Thomas has suggested that Chandragupta at first liberated Punjab by, destroying the Macedonia government He then captured the Magadhan throne by overthrowing the reigning Nanda king Dr. R.K. Mukherjee has also suggested that the war of liberation from the Greek rule preceded the overthrow of the Nandas of Magadha. But Dr. H.C. Ray Choudhury do not agree with the above view.

He refers that Chandragupta Maurya first overthrow the Nandas and then took steps to liberate Punjab. Whatever it may be Chandragupta Maurya was the first emperor to liberate India from foreign yoke and united it into an empire.

War of Liberation against the Greeks :

It was the prime, duty of Chandragupta to liberate North-West India from the yoke of the Greeks. R.K. Mukherjee writes, “Chandragupta’s youthful imagination was already fired by the spectacle of a foreign invasion of his -fatherland in progress before his very eyes….

Thus his immediate imperative task was the liberation of his country from the yoke of his subjugation”. After tire death of Alexander in 323 B.C. at Babylone, there started political unrest within the Greek empire. The Greek generals indulged in mutual quarrels. And this made the position of the Greeks very weak in India.

The discontent of the natives of North-Western India against the Greeks was proved even when Alexander was alive because they had assassinated two Greek Governors namely Nicanor and Philip.

Greek historian Justin refers that, “India after the death of Alexander had shaken, as it were the yoke of servitude from its neck and out his Governors to death.

The author of this liberation was Sandrocottus (Chandragupta). Chandragupta conquered Sind from the Macedonians at first. Sind was then a part of Alexander’s empire.

It became easy on the part of Chandragupta to conquer Sind when the Governor of Sind has been transfered and as such the post was lying vacant. Using lower Sind region as the base of his operation. Chandragupta conquered the whole of Sind by 321 B.C.

After conquering Sind, Chandragupta wanted to conquer Punjab. The situation in Punjab was favourable for him. By that time the power of Ambi of Taxila was in decadence.

The formidable King Porus had already been assassinated by a Greek general named Eudemus, who had also fled from India. So with ease, Chandragupta conquered the Eastern Punjab up to the river Jhelum.

Marching further towards the west as far as the river Indus he subjugated the land between the Jhelum and the Indus. This Indus river remained as the Northern boundary of the Magadhan empire under Chandragupta. Thus Chandragupta liberated the North-Western frontier of India from the Macedonian occupation.

Overthrow of the Nandas :

After of the occupation of the Punjab Chandragupta Maurya diverted his attention towards the overthrow of the Nanda rule. King Dhana Nanda was very un popular with his subjects, but he was powerful king. He had also ample wealth in his possession and a formidable army.

The Buddhist and the Jain traditions refer that Chandragupta failed in his initial attempts to overthrow the Nandas due to defects of strategy. According to Mahavamsa Tika, Chandragupta committed the blunder of making a direct attack on the heart of Nanda capital, without taking care to post garrisons in his rear.

He was outflanked, sorrounded and defeated by Nanda army. Then Chandragupta ractified his defects and took the proper course of action in his second attack. He began from the frontier after guarded his rear. He then besieged Pataliputra and killed Dhana Nanda.

According to the Jaina writer Hemachandra, Dhana Nanda was defeated but was not killed. He was allowed to leave Pataliputra with his two wives and one daughter and as much luggage as he could carry in a single Chariot.

The Buddhist text Milinda Panho refers that a battle was fought between Chandragupta’s army and the Nanda army under its general Bhaddasala. And Chandragupta routed his opponents and won the laurel.

The victory made Chandragupta Maurya the master of the Magadhan Empire. In 320 B.C, Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne of Magadha. He added Punjab and Sind to the newly conquered Magadhan Empire.

The war with Seleucus Nikator:

After the death of Alexander his general Seleucus made himself master of the Western and Central Asia. He was very ambitious and planned to recover the Indian conquests of Alexander which had been snatched away by Chandragupta.

But nothing has been mentioned by the Greek writers regarding the details of the war between Saleucus and Chandragupta. Anyway Saleucus was defeated and compelled to sign the treaty of subordinate alliance. He was forced to cede Arachosia, Paropanisadee, Aria and Gedrosia.

These territories correspond to Harat, Kandahar, Kabul and Baluchistan. In turn Chandragupta Maurya presented a gift of 500 war elephants to Saleucus. Chandragupta also married the daughter of Saleucus. As a mark of gratitude Saleucus sent Greek Ambassador Megasthenes to the court of Chandragupta.

Megasthenes was famous for his book ‘Indika.’ R.K. Mukherji writes “Chandragupta was able to add another glorious feather to his cap. He extended his empire beyond the frontiers of India up to the borders of Persia’. Now the Maurya empire extended as far as Persia in the north-west after the annexation of the above four territories.

Other Conquests :

Conquest of Western India :

Chandragupta Maurya became the master of the tract of land stretching from Magadha and Bengal in the East to the Hindukush mountain in the northwest. Plutarch remarks that with an army of “six hundred thousand men Chandragupta overran and subdued all India”.

In the Western India Chandragupta Maurya conquered and annexed the province of Saurashtra or Kathiawar. This fact is proved by the Girnar Rock Inscription of King Rudradaman I. Chandragupta’s High Commissioner in Saurashtra was Pushyagupta.

Pushyagputa had constructed the lake Sudarshana. Chandragupta Maurya also annexed the neighbouring province of Avanti (Malwa) and made its capital Ujjain, the seat of Maurya viceroyalty. Ashoka’s inscription at Sopra in the Thana district refers to the conquest of a part of Maharashtra which can be identified with Konkan region of Maharashtra.

Conquest of the South :

Chandragupta Maurya had extended the Mauiyan empire in the South up to Mysore. From the Rock Edicts XIII and II it is known that Ashoka’s empire in the South extend upto Mysore and Nellore. Ashoka had only Kalinga War to his credit and Bindusara had not conquered, any part of India.

So it was Chandragupta Maurya who had completed the conquest of the South. The Jain tradition refers to the fact that Chandragupta Maurya during his old age became a Jain and migrated to a place called Sravana Belgola in Mysore where he practiced his penance.

The inscriptions and monuments found at Mysore testify the fact that Mysore was a part of Chandragupta’s, empire. Some of the inscriptions and monuments also refer to the name of Chandragupta Muni who was no other person than Chandragupta Maurya.

The Ashokan Edicts discovered from Chitaldrug districts of Mysore support the Jain tradition that Mysore was included within the empire of Chandragupta Maurya.

Extent of Empire:

“Thus, Chandragupta Maurya became the Raja Chakravati and made the ideal of the political unification or India a very real one.” His empire extended up to the borders of Persia in the North – West, Bihar in the East, up to sea near Saurashtra in the West and Chitaldrug district in Mysore and the Nellore district of Madras in the South with ‘ Pataliputra as its capital. R.K. Mookherji writes that, “Chandragupta undoubtedly ruled over a vast empire.”

According to Pluatarch and Justin the whole of India had come under the possession Chandragupta Maurya. V. A. Smith writes, “In the course of some eighteen years Chandragupta had expelled the Macedonian garrisons from the Punjab and Sind, repulsed and humbled Saleueus, the conqueror and established himself as undisputed supreme lord of at least all Northern India and a part of Ariana.

These achievements fairly entitle him to rank among the greatest and most successful kings known to history”. P.L. Bhargava writes “Chandragupta was undoubtedly the mightiest ruler of his time and one of the most lustrous stars in the firmament of monarchy.”

Chandragupta Maurya died in 298 B.C. after a reign of 24 years.

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