Short notes on Relations of the Mauryas with Other Powers

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Chandragupta’s conquests and expansion of the empire were marked by a policy of defeating the rulers of Greek settlements in the north-west and gaining new trade routes. Thus, an aggressive policy of war and subjugation was followed, and hostile regions nearby were subdued.

Control of central India and the Deccan was achieved. Many view the war in Kalinga as marking an end to this expan­sionist phase of the Mauryas. With the end of the Kalinga war, a phase of consolidation seems to have started.

It is relevant to note that there are no references to any major war involving Asoka after the Kalinga conquest. Friendly relations were estab­lished with many kingdoms. The Greek kings sent ambassadors to the Mauryan court. Megasthenes was one such official ambassador (to Chandragupta’s court in Pataliputra).

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Probably Daimachus was the Seleucid ambassador to the Mauryan court. Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt also sent an envoy, Dionysius. It has been suggested that relations between Chandragupta and the Greek Seleucus were firm.

Chandragupta probably married a daughter of Seleucus and is said to have sent him a gift of drugs. An account of Athenacus (a Greek writer of third century ad) mentions Bindusara’s friendly relations with his Hellenistic contemporaries.

The king ap­pears to have requested Antiochus Soter, who came after Seleucus, to send him sweet wine, dried figs and a sophist. Diodorus’ statement that Iambulous, a Greek author, was cordially received by the King of Palibothra (Pataliputra) has been noted. This king is identified as Bindusara.

Historians note that Asoka had close relations with the western rulers. Asoka mentions five rulers in his rock edict (Major Rock Edict XIII)-Antiyoka (Antiochus II of Syria), Antikini (Antigonas of Macedonia), Turmaya (Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt), Maka (Magas of Ceylon), and Aliksudaro (Alexander of Epirus).

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He says he has gained victory through Dhamma on all his frontiers where these kings reigned. Tibetan tradition refers to Asoka’s visit to Khotan (about 236 bc). It is also recorded that the kingdom of Khotan was inhabited by the Chinese and the Indians during Asoka’s rule. It is possible that Dhamma missions were sent by Asoka to Khotan.

Nearer home, Asoka appears to have had close connections with Nepal (part of it could have been in Asoka’s empire). The southern kingdoms (the Cholas and Pandyas are mentioned by Asoka) were possibly not wholly antagonistic to Asoka.

There is a view that these kingdoms accepted Asoka as the nominal sovereign without becoming a part of his empire. The 13th Major Rock Edict has the king stating that he has gained victory by Dhamma in the south over the Cholas and Pandyas and as far as Ceylon.

Ceylon appears to have been a friendly neighbour to Asoka’s kingdom. Contacts between ancient India and Ceylon are mentioned in Ceylonese chronicles. Missions to propagate Dhamma were sent in the 14th year of Asoka’s reign as the king states so in a rock edict.

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Mahindra later arrived in Ceylon and is believed to have played a significant role in spreading Buddhism in Ceylon.

According to some, he persuaded the king of Ceylon, Tissa, to become a Buddhist. Tissa was probably on close terms with Asoka even before Mahindra’s arrival. Trading fa­cilities existed between the two kingdoms.

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