Causes of the fall of the Maurya Empire
From the time of Bimbisara to the Kalinga war the history of India was the story of the expansion of Magadha from tiny state in South Bihar to a gigantic Empire, extending from the foot of the Hindukush to the borders of the Tamil Country. After the Kalinga war ensued a period of stagnation at the end of which the process is reversed. Under the rule of Ashoka it reached at its peak. But after the death of Ashoka, the empire gradually dwindled down in extent till it sank to the position from which Bimbisara and his successors had raised it. Historians gave may reasons for the fall of the Maurya Empire.
Causes of the Fall of the Maurya Empire
Due to the Ashokan policy of nonviolence, he prevented killing of birds and animals and derided superfluous rituals performed by the women. This directly affected the status and income of the Brahmins. Also Asoka made same civil and criminal laws for all varnas. This again violated Brahmin’s high position in varna system and they stopped getting any special treatments in laws and punishments. Naturally these policies infuriated the Brahmanas.
The maintenance of the huge army and bureaucracy required good financial support. Even though having good taxation system maintaining this huge superstructure is difficult for a long time. Also Ashoka made large donations to the Buddhist monk which left the royal treasury empty.
Vastness of the Empire and Centralized Administration
Mauryan empire covered almost all Indian subcontinent and also some areas of current Afghanistan. Area covered by empire was so great and all control was in hands of king, this make communication difficult in urgent situations. Such vast empire needs strong administration to keep them closely integrated. Chandragupta, Bindusara and Ashoka were great rulers with strong administration abilities but their successors were weak and they failed to maintain such a great empire.
Ashoka’s religious policy and ignorance of importance of Brahmin, led a great dissatisfaction in Brahmins and other people who were are strictly followers of Vedic Dharma and varna system. This dissatisfaction laid roots for the revolt. At last Pushyamitra Shunga army General who was a brahmin revolted against Mauryan king Brihadratha. He killed him and put an end to the great Maurayan Dynasty.
New knowledge in outlaying area
Magadha owed its expansion to certain material advantages like use of iron tools and weapons. As a result of the expansion of the Magadha empire, the knowledge of iron tools and weapons spread across the other continents like Deccan and Kalinga. Use of iron became common through all empire and Magadha lost its advantage. With use of the new materials new kingdoms can be easily founded and developed. This explains rise of the Shungas and Kanva empire, Chetis in Kalinga and Satavahana in Deccan.
Ashoka was primarily preoccupied with missionary activities in homeland and abroad. He did not paid great attention for the guarding empire borders. During the third century BC, the Scythians were in a state of constant flux. They posed a serious danger for the settled empire in China and India. The Chinese ruler Shih Huang Ti constructed the great wall of China to safeguard his homeland against foreign invasion. Whereas Ashoka didn’t take such a measure. Naturally when Scythians made a push towards India, they forced Parthians , the Sakas and the Greeks to move towards this subcontinent. Finally Greeks were invaded Indian during 206 BC and this followed by the series of foreign invasions till the beginning of the 1st century BC. After the death of Ashoka there were no such a strong ruler in Magadha and they failed to protect their borders.