Chandragupta was the founder of the Maurya dynasty. He was the first king who ruled over the extended India from 321–297 BCE, an India greater than British India. The boundaries of his empire lay far beyond the frontiers modern India along the borders of Persia. He was the first king in the Indian history who extended his empire beyond the barriers of the Vindhyas and united north and south India. Chandragupta was not only a great solider and conqueror but also a great administrator.
Origin- Who was Chandragupta?
Historians made many assumptions about origin of the Chandra Gupta.
- Was he Dhana Nanda’s son by equally low-caste queen Mura, grandson of keeper of peacocks?
- Was he a Kshatriya descended from surviving Sakyas? They settled in Champaran in eastern Magadha famous for its peacocks.
- Could he have been the son of the chieftain of a hill-town named Moriyanaga ‘peacock mountain’?
According to the Bramical tradition, he was born to Shudra woman named Mura in the court of Nandas. According to the Buddhist tradition Maurya were the ruling clan of the republican state of Pipphalivana(Which probably lay between Rummindei in the Nepalese Tarai and Kasia in the Gorakhpur district). However widely accepted story was Chandragupta was orphaned at an early age and was raised by a shudra family. His adopted family was the framer and keeper of peacocks, so his name attributed as ‘Maurya’.
Way to Power
According to the legends, Chanakya was looking for someone to overthrow Nanda Empire. During his visit to Magadha, Chandragupta spotted by him while playing with his friends. Chanakya impressed by his leadership skills and brought him to the Taxila for further study and training.
After finishing his training, he put Chanakya’s teaching into practice and soon became commander of a band of mercenaries. First he offered his services to Bessos, satrap of Bactria. After that he joined advancing army of Alexander. Alexander knew him as Sisikottos – Shashigupta – Indian mercenary and leader of cavalry.
Chandragupta played important role in Alexander’s subjugation of his own mountain people and helped them to conquer his former homeland. He further justified Alexander’s faith in him by bringing king Porus over to Alexander’s side. Chandragupta stayed in his side until Alexander left the Indus valley. In 324 BCE Alexander began a retreat to Greece, leaving a legacy of Indian subcontinent regions ruled by new Greek governors and local rulers.
Chandragupta united local tribes and formed alliance with king Parvataka of Himavatkuta, probably Kashmir. A supply of warriors was already in place. The future emperor and his teacher chose to build alliances with local rulers and a small mercenary army of their own. Chanakya also identified talent for future administration. By 323 BCE, within a year of Alexander’s retreat, this newly formed group had defeated some of the Greek-ruled cities in the northwest subcontinent. With the strategy of Chankya, Chandragupta began to expand territory eastward towards Magadha. Each victory led to expand an army and territory.
According to the Buddhist texts, Chandragupta easily conquered Magadha and restored Dharma. According to the The Mudrarakshasa of Vishakhadatta as well as the Jain work he fought series of battles with Dhana Nanda , culminating in the siege of the capital city Pataliputra.
Around 322 BCE, Chandragupta finally defeated Dhana Nanda, put to end Nanda empire and Established Maurya Empire.
Journey for building a great Empire
After the death of the ally Pravataka, Chandragupta became undisputed master of northern India with a vast standing army. He absorbed his ally’s territories to the north and acquired further kingdom to the south of the Vindhya mountain range. By the time his conquests were complete, Chandragupta’s empire extended over most of the Indian subcontinent.
Around 312 BCE Seleucus I Nicator became new ruler of Babylon and Persia started to reconquer Alexander’s lost territories, east of the Indus. Chandragupta launched counter attack and drove Seleucus back across the Indus and deep into his own lands. To resolve this conflict and for the future relation they signed unequal peace treaty. The treaty required Seleucus to give up Gandhara south of the Hindukush Mountain range, including what is now modern Kabul, Ghazi, Kandahar, Herat and Baluchistan. In return Chandragupta gave him 500 war elephants with their drivers. Last part of the treaty was to marry Seleucus’s daughter.
The Mauryan Empire would eventually extended from Bangladesh to Afghanistan, and incorporate most of the Indian subcontinent. This was the first time in the Indian history that large part of Indian subcontinent were united.
How powerful Chandragupta was?
Chandragupta maintained 600,000 foot soldiers, 30000 cavalrymen and 9000 elephants. Another source state that Maurya maintained 8000 chariots. In addition to these they also maintained navy.
The administration of the armed forces according to the Megasthenes, was carried by the board of thirty officers divided in to six committees. Each committee consist of five members. These six committee were responsible for looking after each of the six wings of the armed forces -the army, the cavalry , the elephants, the chariots, the navy and the armed forces. The maurya’s military strength was almost three times that of Nandas.
How did Chandragupta manage to meet requirements of such huge army?
Answers laid in the development of the iron tools. The newly developed tools were used to cleared the forests. The state brought this opened land under the cultivation with the help of the cultivators and Shudra laborers. The virgin lands yielded handsome income to the state. The taxes collected from peasants were vary from one-fourth to one-sixth, Also they have to paid extra tax for irrigation facility.
In addition to these peasants were compelled to produce more crops in case of emergency. Moreover the state enjoyed a monopoly in mining and metallurgy, sale of liquor, manufacture of arms. In case of mining the state controlled everything from processing to refining. These naturally brought vast resources to the royal exchequer.
According to the Megathethes, administration was very smoothly running by the cadre of civil service officers. These officers were similar in their duties and responsibilities as the current Indian Civil Services established after two thousand years.
Every city was administrated by thirty civil officers, divided into five sections. Each section responsible for specific task ranging from taxation to looking after strangers. Similar groups administrated the provinces. All civil officers were drawn from the Brahaman caste, who served as priests but also provided an inner elite of counselors. From them are chosen their rulers, governors of provinces, deputies, treasurers, generals, admirals, controllers of expenditure and superintendents of agriculture.
Chandragupta was also known as “great road builder”. Megasthenes credited him for building thousand mile long highway connecting Pataliputra to Taxila. Others highways also build to connect Pataliputra in all directions, connecting it to Nepal, Kapilavastu, Kalsi (now Dehradun), Sasaram (now Mirzapur), Kalinga (now Odisha), Andhra and Karnataka. These highways not only increased trade and commerce but also useful for moving army rapidly than ever before.
Chandragupta also credited for starting mining, centers produce goods and building a network for trading these goods. Highways were played great role for transition of these goods.
Succession and Death
According to the Jain texts, transition of throne from Chandragupta to his son Bindusara gone very smooth. Influenced by the Jain saint Bhadrabahu, Chandragupta passed the throne to his son and renounced his wealth and power. He migrated to south, where he ended his life by the self-starvation (In Jainism this process called Sallekhana – Giving up mortal body by gradually reducing intake of food).
His achievements and place in history
King Chandragupta’s achievement was to unite northern and central India under one royal umbrella and centralized government run by a professional civil service. With law and order came improved communications, better trading links, the growth of a urban centers and development of a monetary economy. All of which helped the mercantile castes to grow and prosper while reducing the authority of the Brahamans.
He was the first king who gives India for the first time a continuous history as well as a unified history, a history affecting India as a whole, and as a unit, in the place of merely histories involving only particular peoples and regions of India. After the fall of Ashoka (grandson of Chandragupta) India was again split up into multiple of smaller states and kingdoms, each having its own history.