Short notes on the Later Mauryas

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The Mauryan dynasty could no longer be a strong, political force after Asoka’s death in about 236 bc. The disintegration of the Mauryas over the next half- century was rapid. The Puranas give a list of nine or ten successors of Asoka over a period of 137 years.

It is believed that the last of the Mauryan kings was killed by the founder of the Shunga dynasty, Pushyamitra, in about 184 bc.

Details of Asoka’s successors are garnered from various sources like the Puranas, the Avdanas, the Jain accounts and the narratives of individuals such as Bana, the Sanskrit prose writer who adorned the court of Harshavardhana.

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The details of the later Mauryan kings and the period of their reigns are confusing- the Puranas give a conflicting list.

The immediate successor of Asoka was his grandson Dasaratha-the son of Suyasas (possibly an epithet of Kunala)-according to Matsya Purana. The Vishnu Purana mentions Suyasas as Asoka’s successor. But ‘Suyasas’ is taken to be another name of Kunala and Kunala, according to Buddhist legends, was rendered blind.

Three inscriptions on cave walls on Nagaijuni hills, Bihar, are assigned to Dasaratha who probably dedicated them to the Ajivikas. He gave himself the title of devanam-priya- title associated with the Mauryas.

After Dasaratha, his son, Samprati took over the throne according to Puranic accounts. Jain sources say he was the grandson, and not the great-grandson, of Asoka. He became a Jain under the guidance of Suhastin, a Jaina monk, and Jaina records credit him with propagation of the Jaina faith.

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Samprati had his capitals at Ujjain and Pataliputra, according to Jaina accounts. It is to be noted that Jaina monuments erected by anonymous builders in places such as Kathiawar and Rajputana are believed to be the works of Samprati.

Samprati’s son, Salisuka, is mentioned as the fourth successor of Asoka in the Vishnu Purana and him, probably, ruled for 13 years.

He is mentioned as an unjust, cruel ruler by the Yuga Purana of the Gargi-Samhita. Towards the end of his reign (about 206 bc), the Seleucid army under Antiochus III is said to have crossed the Indian frontiers.

Devadharman (or Somasarman) succeeded Salisuka. The Mauryan king after Devadharman, was first his son, Satadhanvan, and then Brihadratha, according to the Puranas. These three kings ruled for a period of 22 years. The Puranas mention that

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Brihadratha was put to death by Pushyamitra. But even before this event, the Mauryan downfall had begun. On the north-west, Bactria under Euthydemus and Demetrius had declared independence by about 197 bc.

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