Bindusara was the second Mauryan emperor (320 BC – 272 BC, Ruled 298 BC–272 BC) after Chandragupta Maurya. During his reign, the empire expanded southwards. He had two well-known sons, Susima and Ashoka, who were the viceroys of Takshashila andUjjain. The Greeks called him Amitrochates or Allitrochades – the Greek transliteration for the Sanskrit word ‘Amitraghata’ (Slayer of enemies). He was also called ‘Ajatashatru’ (Man with no enemies) in Sanskrit (not to be confused with Ajatashatru who ruledMagadha empire 491 BC – 461 BC and was son of King Bimbisara). He also went by the title Deva-nampriya.

Early Life of Bindusara

Bindusara was the son of the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya and his queen Durdhara. According to the Rajavalikatha a Jain work, the original name of this emperor was Simhasena. According to a legend mentioned in the Jain texts, Chandragupta’s Guru and advisor Chanakya used to feed the emperor with small doses of poison to build his immunity against possible poisoning attempts by the enemies.  One day, Chandragupta not knowing about poison, shared his food with his pregnant wife queen Durdhara who was 7 days away from delivery. The queen not immune to the poison collapsed and died within few minutes. Chanakya entered the room the very time she collapsed, and in order to save the child in the womb, he immediately cut open the dead queen’s belly and took the baby out, by that time a drop of poison had already reached the baby and touched its head due to which child got a permanent blueish spot (a “bindu”) on his forehead. Thus, the newborn was named “Bindusara”.

Bindusara, just 22 year-old, inherited a large empire that consisted of what is now, Northern, Central and Eastern parts of India along with parts of Afghanistan and Baluchistan. Bindusara extended this empire to the southern part of India, as far as what is now known as Karnataka. He brought sixteen states under the Mauryan Empire and thus conquered almost all of the Indian peninsula (he is said to have conquered the ‘land between the two seas’ – the peninsular region between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea). Bindusara didn’t conquer the friendly Dravidian kingdoms of the Cholas, ruled by King Ilamcetcenni, the Pandyas, and Cheras. Apart from these southern states, Kalinga (the modern Orissa) was the only kingdom in India that didn’t form the part of Bindusara’s empire. It was later conquered by his son Ashoka, who served as the viceroy of Ujjaini during his father’s reign.

Bindusara’s life has not been documented as well as that of his father Chandragupta or of his son Ashoka. Chanakya continued to serve as prime minister during his reign. According to the mediaeval Tibetan scholar Taranatha who visited India, Chanakya helped Bindusara “to destroy the nobles and kings of the sixteen kingdoms and thus to become absolute master of the territory between the eastern and western oceans.” During his rule, the citizens of Taxila revolted twice. The reason for the first revolt was themaladministration of Suseema, his eldest son. The reason for the second revolt is unknown, but Bindusara could not suppress it in his lifetime. It was crushed by Ashoka after Bindusara’s death.

Ambassadors from the Seleucid Empire (such as Deimachus) and Egypt visited his courts. He maintained good relations with the Hellenic World.

Unlike his father Chandragupta (who was a Hindu in major part of his life and followed Jainism in older days), Bindusara believed in the Ajivika sect. Bindusara’s guru Pingalavatsa (alias Janasana) was a Brahmin of the Ajivika sect. Bindusara’s wife, Queen Subhadrangi (alias Queen Aggamahesi) was a Brahmin  also of the Ajivika sect from Champa (present Bhagalpur district). Bindusara is accredited with giving several grants to Brahmin monasteries (Brahmana-bhatto).

Bindusara died in 272 BC (some records say 268 BC) and was succeeded by his son Ashoka the Great.

Bindusara’s Empire

Bindusara extended his empire further as far as south Mysore. He conquered sixteen states and extended the empire from sea to sea. The empire included the whole of Indiaexcept the region of Kalinga (modern Orissa) and the Tamil kingdoms of the south. Kalinga was conquered by Bindusara’s son Ashoka.

Early Tamil poets speak of Mauryan chariots thundering across the land, their white pennants brilliant in the sunshine. The Mauryas are spoken by the Sanga Era literature as “Vamba Moriyas”. Bindusara campaigned in the Deccan, extending the Mauryan empire in the peninsula to as far as Mysore. He is said to have conquered ‘the land between the two seas’, presumably the Arabian sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Bindusara’s death

Bindusara’s death in 273 BC led to a civil war over succession. According to Divyavandana, Bindusara wanted Susima to succeed him but Asoka was supported by his father’s ministers. A minister named Radhagupta seems to have played an important role in this succession. One of the Asokavandana states that Asoka managed to become the Emperor by getting rid of the legitimate heir to the throne, by tricking him into entering a pit filled with live coals.

Dipavansa and Mahavansa refer to Asoka killing 99 of his brothers, sparing only one, named Tissa. Although there is no clear proof about this incident. The coronation of Asoka only happened in 269 BCE, four years after his succession to the throne.