Chandragupta Maurya (Born 340 BC, Ruled 320 BC– 298 BC)
Chandragupta Maurya (Born 340 BC, Ruled 320 BC– 298 BC) was the founder of the Maurya Empire. He succeeded in conquering almost all of the Indian subcontinent and is considered the first unifier of India as well as its first genuine emperor. In foreign Greek and Latin accounts, Chandragupta is known as Sandrokyptos Sandrokottos or Androcottus.
Prior to Chandragupta’s consolidation of power, small regional kingdoms dominated the northwestern subcontinent, while the Nanda Dynasty dominated the middle and lower basin of the Ganges. After Chandragupta’s conquests, the Maurya Empire extended fromBengal and Assam in the east, to Afghanistan and Balochistan,some part of the eastern and south-east Iran in the west, to Kashmirand Nepal in the north, and to the Deccan Plateau in the south.
Tradition holds that Chandragupta abdicated his throne to become a Digambara Jain monk and led such an ascetic life that he starved himself to death. He was succeeded by his son in 298 BC.
Chandragupta’s achievements, which ranged from conquering Macedonian satrapies in the northwest and conquering the Nanda Empireby the time he was only about 20 years old, to achieving an alliance with Seleucus I Nicator and establishing centralized rule throughout South Asia, remain some of the most celebrated in the history of India. Over two thousand years later, the accomplishments of Chandragupta stand out in the history of South Asia.
Conflicting Views about His Lineage
Chandra Gupta Maurya was born in 340 BC. However, there is not much information about his ancestry. Some of the historians believe that he was an illegitimate child of a Nanda prince and his maid, Mura. Others believe that Chandragupta belonged to Moriyas, a Kshatriya (warrior) clan of a little ancient republic of Pippalivana, situated between Rummindei (Nepali Tarai) and Kasia (Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh). Two other views are that he belonged either to the Muras (or Mors) or to the Kshatriyas of the Indo-Scythian lineage. Last but not the least, it is also claimed that Chandragupta Maurya belonged to the Assakenoi or Ashvaka Kshatriya clan of Swat/Kunar valley.
There is not much information about the childhood days of King Chandragupta Maurya. As per the traditional records, Chanakya, a teacher at Takshila University, found him in the Magadha kingdom. Thereafter, Chanakya brought Chandragupta to Takshila, where he took him under his guidance. Further reports state that Chandragupta once met Alexander the Great and told him on his face that the ruling of the Nanda Empire was faulty.
A major part of the credit for the building of the Maurya Empire goes to Chanakya. He was a teacher at the Takshila University when Alexander started invading India. Since the King of Takshila and Gandhara had surrendered to Alexander, Chanakya sought help from other kings to unite and fight against him. Porus (Parvateshwar), a king of Punjab, challenged Alexander at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. However, he got defeated in the battle. Chanakya also sought help from Dhana Nanda, the ruler of Nanda Empire, but was refused. After this incident, he started instilling the idea of building an empire that could fight against foreign invasion into his disciple, Chandragupta. Chanakya became his chief adviser or prime minister.
Chandragupta Maurya defeated the Macedonian satrapies in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent in 317 BC. Thereafter, he turned his attention towards Northwestern India. Chandragupta allied with the Himalayan king Parvatka and launched an attack against Dhana Nanda of the Nanda Empire. The battle ended around 321 BC, with the siege of the capital city of Kusumapura and the conquest of the Nanda Empire. Thus was born the powerful Maurya Empire in Northern India.
Conquest of Seleucus’ Eastern Territories
After the conflict with Seleucus in 305 BC, Emperor Chandragupta Maurya extended his empire towards Seleucid Persia. Through a treaty sealed in 305 BC, Seleucus gave up the country around the Indus River to Chandragupta, including the Hindu Kush, present day Afghanistan and the Balochistan province of Persia. In return, he received five hundred war elephants, increasing his military strength.
After annexing the eastern Persian provinces Seleucus, Chandragupta’s empire stretched across the northern parts of Southern Asia, from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Thereafter, began his conquests in south, beyond the Vindhya Range and into the Deccan Plateau. Most of the Southern Asia got united under the rule of Chandragupta Maurya.
It is believed that in the last days of his life, King Chandragupta Maurya gave up his throne and adopted asceticism under the Jain saint, Bhadrabahu Swami. He breathed his last in 298 BC at Shravanabelagola (in present day Karnataka), ending his days of self-starvation. A small temple marks the cave (called Bhadrabahu Cave) where he died.
Chandragupta Maurya’s son Bindusara succeeded him to the throne. He gave birth to Asoka, who went on to become one of the most powerful kings of the Indian subcontinent.