Maurya Empire
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Maurya Empire

History of India

Maurya Empire
Ashoka the Great was the 3rd Priyadarśin (Emperor) of the Mauryan Empire in India. ©HistoryMaps
322 BCE Jan 1 - 185 BCE

Maurya Empire

Patna, Bihar, India

The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive ancient Indian Iron Age historical power in South Asia based in Magadha, having been founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE, and existing in loose-knit fashion until 185 BCE. The Maurya Empire was centralized by the conquest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, and its capital city was located at Pataliputra (modern Patna). Outside this imperial center, the empire's geographical extent was dependent on the loyalty of military commanders who controlled the armed cities sprinkling it. During Ashoka's rule (ca. 268–232 BCE) the empire briefly controlled the major urban hubs and arteries of the Indian subcontinent excepting the deep south. It declined for about 50 years after Ashoka's rule, and dissolved in 185 BCE with the assassination of Brihadratha by Pushyamitra Shunga and foundation of the Shunga Empire in Magadha.


Chandragupta Maurya raised an army, with the assistance of Chanakya, author of Arthasastra, and overthrew the Nanda Empire in c. 322 BCE. Chandragupta rapidly expanded his power westwards across central and western India by conquering the satraps left by Alexander the Great, and by 317 BCE the empire had fully occupied northwestern India. The Mauryan Empire then defeated Seleucus I, a diadochus and founder of the Seleucid Empire, during the Seleucid–Mauryan war, thus acquiring territory west of the Indus River.


Under the Mauryas, internal and external trade, agriculture, and economic activities thrived and expanded across South Asia due to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration, and security. The Maurya dynasty built a precursor of the Grand Trunk Road from Patliputra to Taxila. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of centralized rule under Ashoka. Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism and sponsorship of Buddhist missionaries allowed for the expansion of that faith into Sri Lanka, northwest India, and Central Asia.


The population of South Asia during the Mauryan period has been estimated to be between 15 and 30 million. The empire's period of dominion was marked by exceptional creativity in art, architecture, inscriptions and produced texts, but also by the consolidation of caste in the Gangetic plain, and the declining rights of women in the mainstream Indo-Aryan speaking regions of India. The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath is the national emblem of the Republic of India.

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