BiographyChandragupta Maurya Biography

Chandragupta Maurya Biography

Chandragupta Maurya, who was also known to the Greeks by the name Sandrakottos or Sandrokottos, holds the distinction of being the founding figure and inaugural ruler of the Maurya Dynasty. He is credited with the monumental task of establishing the very first pan-Indian empire. His journey towards this achievement was facilitated by his mentor and later minister, Chanakya (or Kautilya), whose comprehensive insights into governance, culture, military strategies, and economics are meticulously documented in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

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    The Mauryan Dynasty, under the visionary leadership of Chandragupta Maurya, came into being in the year 322 BC. In an impressive feat, he managed to defeat the last Nanda ruler, with the invaluable guidance of Kautilya, ultimately giving rise to the Mauryan empire. Chandragupta, alongside the subsequent Mauryan rulers Bindusara and Ashoka, significantly elevated the Mauryan empire’s stature and left an indelible mark on ancient India. Together, they successfully exerted control over the entire northern expanse of India, encompassing the fertile Gangetic valley, thus accomplishing a remarkable feat of political unification.

    Prior to the Mauryans’ ascent, India had been under the dominion of a republican and oligarchical form of government, which was subsequently replaced by a centralized monarchy. Pataliputra, known today as Patna and situated in present-day Bihar, was chosen as the capital of the burgeoning Mauryan empire.

    The life and achievements of Chandragupta Maurya have been chronicled in various ancient texts from diverse traditions, including Greek, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain sources. While these accounts offer insights into his life, it’s important to note that the details contained within them often vary significantly.

    In this biography of Chandragupta, we will delve into the early life of this remarkable figure, his role as a ruler in the Mauryan empire, and the key events surrounding his passing. Beyond political unification, the Mauryan empire made substantial contributions to literature, art, and architecture, further enriching the cultural tapestry of ancient India.

    Chandragupta Maurya History: Early Life

    Chandragupta, also known as Chandra Gupta, and sometimes referred to as Chandragupta Maurya or Maurya, passed away around 297 BCE in Shravanbelagola, India. He holds the distinction of being the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, reigning from approximately 321 to 297 BCE. Chandragupta achieved a remarkable feat by unifying most of India under a single administration during his rule. His reign is celebrated for rescuing the nation from mismanagement and liberating it from foreign rule. Towards the end of his life, he undertook a fast unto death as a poignant expression of sorrow for his famine-stricken subjects.

    Chandragupta’s early life was marked by adversity. He was born into a family that had fallen into destitution following his father’s demise, who was the leader of the Mauryas, in a border skirmish. Orphaned and vulnerable, he was entrusted to a cowherd who raised him as his own son. Later, he found himself in the service of a cattle-herding hunter. However, fate took an intriguing turn when a Brahman politician named Kautilya, also known as Chanakya, purchased him.

    Under Kautilya’s guidance, Chandragupta embarked on a transformative journey. He was taken to Taxila, which is now located in Pakistan, where he received an education encompassing military strategies and the fine arts. A remarkable legend surrounds his encounter with Alexander the Great, during which, it is said, a lion gently awakened him by licking his body while he slept. This event kindled his aspirations for royal authority.

    Acting upon Kautilya’s counsel, Chandragupta began amassing a force of mercenary soldiers and garnered the support of the public. His pursuit culminated in a fierce battle that brought an end to the autocratic rule of the Nanda dynasty, led by their formidable commander-in-chief, Bhaddasala.

    Chandragupta Maurya Family Tree

    Chandragupta, the ancient emperor, had multiple consorts, although the Chandragupta Maurya Wife only one whose name is known to us is Durdhara. And Chandragupta Maurya Son name was Bindusara. Legends suggest that Prime Minister Chanakya, concerned about Chandragupta’s safety from potential poisonings by enemies, gradually exposed the emperor to small amounts of poison to build up his tolerance. Tragically, Chandragupta unknowingly shared food with his pregnant wife Durdhara, who eventually passed away due to the poison. In a desperate bid to save their child, Chanakya performed an emergency operation to deliver their full-term baby, Bindusara. While the infant survived, a trace of the poisoned blood from his mother touched his forehead, giving him the name Bindusara, inspired by the blue “Bindu” or mark.

    Unfortunately, we have limited knowledge about Chandragupta’s other wives and children. Bindusara, his son, is often remembered more for being the father of one of India’s most renowned monarchs, Ashoka the Great, than for his own reign as an emperor.

    Chandragupta Maurya Empire

    Chandragupta’s military conquests and the extent of his empire remain somewhat elusive in historical records. Our understanding relies heavily on deductions drawn from accounts provided by Greek and Roman historians, as well as Indian religious texts penned many centuries after his passing.

    According to these sources, Chandragupta’s empire in the North-West encompassed regions that Seleucus I Nicator, a Greek ruler, ceded to him. These territories comprised areas of modern-day Afghanistan, including Kabul, Kandahar, Taxila, and Gandhara. It’s worth noting that his grandson Ashoka left notable inscriptions, such as the Kandahar rock edict, in Greek and Aramaic languages within these domains.

    Moving towards the west, evidence of Chandragupta’s rule over present-day Gujarat is supported by Ashoka’s inscriptions in Junagadh. Approximately four centuries later, Rudradaman added a more extensive inscription on the same rock, dating to around the mid-second century. In this inscription, Rudradaman mentions that the Sudarshana lake in the region was established during Chandragupta’s reign, overseen by his governor Vaishya Pushyagupta, and modifications were made during Ashoka’s rule under Tushaspha. Additionally, the inscription indicates Mauryan control over the Malwa region in Central India, positioned between Gujarat and Pataliputra.

    However, the details of Chandragupta’s other potential conquests, particularly in the Deccan region of southern India, remain uncertain. When his grandson Ashoka assumed power around 268 BCE, the empire had expanded as far south as present-day Karnataka. Consequently, it is challenging to attribute the southern conquests definitively to either Chandragupta or his son Bindusara. Some sources suggest that Chandragupta may have initiated these southern expansions, with the Jain tradition even proposing that he concluded his life as a renunciate in Karnataka.

    Chandragupta Maurya Rule

    After consolidating control over a significant portion of India, Chandragupta, alongside his trusted advisor Chanakya, implemented a series of substantial economic and political reforms. Chandragupta, who governed from Pataliputra (now Patna), established a robust central administration inspired by Chanakya’s treatise, the Arthashastra. Despite variations in historical, legendary, and religious accounts of Chandragupta’s rule, there are intriguing parallels between the Hindu Arthashastra, Buddhist Asokan inscriptions, and Greek Megasthenes’ writings, as noted by Allchin and Erdosy.

    Under Maurya’s rule, a well-organized administrative system emerged. Chandragupta had a council of ministers (amatya), with Chanakya serving as his chief minister. The empire was divided into territories (janapada), each fortified with strongholds (durga), while state operations were funded through the treasury (kosa). Strabo, writing some 300 years after Chandragupta’s reign, provided insights into his rule, mentioning councils for justice matters, tax collection on trade, and regular Vedic sacrifices, Brahmanical rituals, and grand festivals featuring processions of elephants and horses. Crime rates remained low due to diligent city inspections by his officers.

    Megasthenes detailed three parallel administrative structures during Chandragupta’s rule. One managed rural affairs, overseeing irrigation, land ownership records, tool supply, hunting, forestry laws, and dispute resolution. Another handled urban matters, including trade, merchant activities, foreign visitors, ports, roads, temples, markets, and industries, while also ensuring tax collection and standardizing weights and measures. The third body supervised the military, covering training, weapons supply, and soldier needs.

    Chanakya was deeply concerned about Chandragupta’s safety, implementing elaborate measures to thwart assassination attempts. To confuse potential conspirators, Chandragupta frequently changed his sleeping quarters. He left his palace primarily for specific purposes like military campaigns, court proceedings, religious rituals, celebrations, and hunting expeditions. During festivities, he received ample protection, and during hunts, he was accompanied by female guards, seen as less likely to participate in coup plots. These precautions may have stemmed from the historical context of the Nanda king’s rise to power through assassination.

    Throughout Chandragupta’s reign and the subsequent Maurya dynasty, India was a thriving center for multiple religions, including Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivika, and various folk traditions.

    Chandragupta Maurya: Influence of Chanakya

    The accounts of how Chandragupta met Chanakya differ between Buddhist and Hindu sources. In general, they describe a young Chandragupta who devised a pretend royal court game near Vinjha forest with his shepherd friends. In this game, he gave orders to others, which caught the attention of Chanakya. Chanakya then bought Chandragupta from a hunter and took him under his wing.

    Subsequently, Chanakya enrolled Chandragupta at Taxila, where he received an education in various subjects such as the Vedas, military tactics, law, and other teachings. After their time at Taxila, Chandragupta and Chanakya relocated to Pataliputra, the capital of the Magadha kingdom, known for its educational significance.

    In the Hindu tradition, they encountered Nanda, while Buddhist sources mention Dhana Nanda. Chandragupta eventually became a commander in the Nanda army, but according to some accounts, he either offended or was offended by the Nanda king. This led to his escape and collaboration with Chanakya to rebel against the Nanda dynasty.

    The Roman text by Justin includes a couple of intriguing incidents involving Chandragupta. In one, a lion approached him while he was asleep, and in another, a massive wild elephant offered itself as his steed, both seen as omens of his destiny.

    According to the Buddhist Mahavamsa Tika, Chandragupta and Chanakya raised an army after Chandragupta completed his education at Taxila. They gathered soldiers from various places. The Digambara Jain text Parishishtaparvan suggests that Chanakya minted coins and formed an alliance with Parvataka to build this army.

    While some early translators interpreted Justin’s text as referring to a “body of robbers,” it may actually mean mercenary soldiers, hunters, or robbers, according to later interpretations.

    The Buddhist Mahavamsa Tika and Jain Parishishtaparvan mention that Chandragupta’s army attempted to attack the Nanda capital but was unsuccessful. Consequently, Chandragupta and Chanakya initiated a campaign along the Nanda empire’s frontier, gradually conquering territories on their path to Pataliputra. There, Dhana Nanda either accepted defeat and was killed (according to Buddhist accounts) or was deposed and exiled (according to Hindu accounts).

    Conquest of the Nanda Empire

    The ancient Greco-Roman writer Plutarch, in his biography of Alexander the Great, mentioned that the Nanda king was widely disliked. Plutarch suggested that if Alexander had chosen to, he could have easily conquered India. Later on, after Alexander concluded his campaign and departed, Chandragupta, with the guidance of his adviser Chanakya, led his army to seize the Nanda capital, Pataliputra, around 322 BCE.

    Unfortunately, we lack historically reliable details of Chandragupta’s campaign into Pataliputra, and the legends that were written centuries later are inconsistent. According to Buddhist texts like Milindapanha, Magadha was under the rule of the Nanda dynasty, and Chandragupta, with Chanakya’s assistance, conquered it in order to restore dhamma or righteous rule. Chandragupta’s army, under Chanakya’s guidance, began by capturing the Nanda’s outer territories before advancing on Pataliputra.

    In contrast, Hindu and Jain texts present a different perspective, suggesting that the campaign was fiercely contested because the Nanda dynasty possessed a formidable and well-trained army. The conquest of Magadha is dramatized in the play “Mudrarakshasa,” where Chandragupta is depicted as first gaining control of Punjab and forming an alliance with a local king named Parvatka, all under Chanakya’s counsel. Chandragupta’s siege of Kusumapura (now known as Patna), the capital of Magadha, involved guerrilla warfare tactics and the support of mercenaries from conquered regions.

    Historian P. K. Bhattacharyya posits that the empire’s formation involved a gradual conquest of various provinces after initially consolidating Magadha. According to the Digambara Jain version by Hemachandra, Chandragupta’s progress was halted by a Nanda town that refused to surrender. To overcome this obstacle, Chanakya disguised himself as a mendicant and discovered seven mother goddesses (saptamatrika) in the town, which he believed were protecting its inhabitants. Seeking the mendicant’s advice on how to lift the army’s blockade, the townspeople unwittingly removed the protective goddesses, resulting in an easy victory for Chandragupta’s alliance with Parvataka. Together, they overran the Nanda kingdom and attacked Pataliputra with an “immeasurable army.” Due to a depleted treasury, dwindling resources, and inadequate intelligence, the Nanda king ultimately faced defeat.

    Chandragupta Maurya: War with the Greeks

    Chandragupta Maurya engaged in a conflict with Seleucus I Nicator, who was the successor of Alexander the Great in the eastern regions. Chandragupta’s primary aim was to reduce Greek influence in the area while expanding his own dominion and strengthening his power. This war ultimately came to a conclusion in the year 301 BCE when a peace agreement was reached.

    As a result of this conflict, Chandragupta acquired several territories. He gained control over Arachosia, which corresponds to modern-day Kandahar in Afghanistan, Gedrosia, located in southern Baluchistan in present-day Pakistan, and Paro Amisadai, an area situated between Afghanistan and the Indian Subcontinent.

    As part of the peace settlement, the Greeks were granted 500 elephants, and a matrimonial alliance was established between Chandragupta Maurya and the Greek faction.

    Chandragupta Maurya Death

    The exact details of Chandragupta Maurya’s death, including the date and year, remain uncertain and a topic of ongoing debate.

    1. In his later years, Chandragupta is believed to have embraced Jainism, a practice supported by historical records and general consensus.
    2. Inscriptions from the 5th to 15th centuries CE found in Karnataka refer to Chandragupta’s association with the Jain saint Bhadrabahu.
    3. Chandragupta likely abdicated his throne, adopted an ascetic lifestyle, and accompanied Bhadrabahu to Karnataka, where he ultimately passed away through a form of fasting unto death known as sallekhana in Shravanabelagola.
    4. Chandragupta Maurya governed the Mauryan empire for a span of 24 years, after which he passed the reins of power to his son Bindusara, who was succeeded by the illustrious Ashok the Great.
    5. In his fifties, Chandragupta developed a deep interest in Jainism, a profoundly ascetic belief system. His spiritual guide was the Jain saint Bhadrabahu. In the year 298 BCE, the emperor made the momentous decision to relinquish his rule, entrusting it to his son Bindusara. Following this, he embarked on a journey southward, taking up residence in a cave at Shravanabelogola, which is now located in Karnataka. There, Chandragupta engaged in intense meditation, refraining from food and drink for five weeks until he passed away due to self-imposed starvation, adhering to the practice of sallekhana or santhara.

    FAQs on Chandragupta Maurya Biography

    Who was Chandragupta Maurya?

    Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire, a prominent ancient Indian dynasty. He ruled from approximately 322 to 298 BCE and is known for unifying much of the Indian subcontinent.

    Who was the son of Chandragupta Maurya?

    Chandragupta Maurya's son was Bindusara, who succeeded him as the emperor of the Mauryan Empire.

    : Who killed Chandragupta Maurya?

    There is no historical record of Chandragupta Maurya being killed by someone. He is believed to have passed away due to self-imposed starvation while practicing the Jain ritual of sallekhana.

    Why is Chandragupta Maurya so famous?

    nowned for founding the Mauryan Empire, one of the largest and most powerful empires in ancient India. His reign marked a significant period of unity and prosperity in the Indian subcontinent.

    vWho is older, Ashoka or Chandragupta Maurya?

    Chandragupta Maurya was older than Ashoka. Chandragupta was Ashoka's grandfather, and he ruled before Ashoka ascended to the throne.

    How many wives did Chandragupta have?

    Chandragupta Maurya had two primary wives mentioned in historical records: Durdhara and Helena. Durdhara was his first wife, and Helena was the Greek princess he married after Alexander the Great's conquests in India.

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