Founder of Mauryan Empire
Chandragupta Maurya (321-298BC)
The Mauryan dynasty was founded by Chandragupta Maurya (at the age of 25). He took advantage of the growing weakness and unpopularity of the Nandas in the last days of their rule. With the help of Chanakya, he overthrew the last Nanda ruler Dhanananda and established the rule of the Mauryan Dynasty.
In 305 BC, Chandragupta moved towards North-West for a campaign against Seleucus Nicator, which ended with a treaty of 303 BC, in favour of the Mauryas. Chandragupta gave 500 elephants to Selecus and in return, Seleucus gave him Eastern Afghanistan, Baluchistan and the areas West of Indus. There was also a matrimonial alliance between Seleucus and Chandragupta.
Chandragupta thus, built up a vast empire, which included not only Bihar, portions of Orissa and Bengal, but also Western and North-Western India and the Deccan. Chandragupta went to South India with Bhadrabahu, the Jaina saint. At Shravanabelagola, he spent the rest of his life and died in the orthodox Jaina way by slow starvation.
Of all the Secular literary sources on the history of the Mauryas , the single most important source is the Arthashastra written by Kautilya. This is a treatise on statecraft and public administration. It is divided into 15 adikaranas (sections) and 180 prakaranas (chapters). It is written in prose as well as in verse (in Sanskrit).
A full treasury is a guarantee of the prosperity of the State’, argued Kautilya also gave an elaborate description of various aspects of espionage. The Arthashastra also refers to troops recruited from all the four Varnas. It also devoted 3 chapters to the laws concerning marriage.
Observations of Megasthenes
Megasthenes was the ambassador of Seleucus Nicator in the Court of Chandragupta Maurya. He lived in India from 304 BC to 299 BC. He compiled his account about the Mauryan Empire in his book Indica, the book is not available in original form, but some of its references are given by Strabo and Diodorus. The reference of Megasthenes throw light Maurya era. He observed the following.
• The King was at the pivot of the administration structure. He employed s large number of spices.
• Laws were severe and the crimes were rare.
• He described the administration of the capital city by 6 boards, each with 5 men, in charge of Crafts and Industry, Trade and commerce, tax collection, foreigners, Collection of statistical Information and Public Works.
• He described the Mauryan Military as having infantry, cavalry, chariots, elephants, navy and a commissariat.
• About the non-existence of slavery and money lending.
• According to his observation, famine never occurred in India.
• He recognized seven castes in the Indian Society. These were philosopher, farmers, herdsmen/shepherd, traders and artisans, warriors, overseas, councilors and assessors.