Rise of the Mauryans and their Historical Sources

4th century English writers like Justin, Strabo, Plutarch, and Arien Wrote about Military strength of the Mauryan Empire

Rise of the Mauryans and their Sources

4th century English writers like Justin, Strabo, Plutarch, and Arien Wrote about Military strength of the Mauryan Empire. It is stated that Mauryans had 1 lacks plus infantry, 9000 elephantry, 6000 cavalry, 8000 chariotry.

Parisistaparvan(12th cent AD) wrote about famine in Magadha and Sallekhana practices

Buddhist sources have been found from ceylon(Srilanka)

Lama Taranatha wrote history of Tibet(Buddhsist sources)

Megasthenes wrote Indica and added some controversial statements like

  • He said there was no slavary in India

  • There are no famines in India

  • There are seven castes in India

  • He saw some people who had 3 eyes(might have confused with tilak of Veerashaivaites) on the banks of Yamuna River

Epigraphy in India

First inscriptions in India(record writings on stones)- Ashoka

Ashokas inscriptions are called as EDICTS

He issued 3 types of edicts

  1. Rock Edicts (Major roks +Minor Rocks)

  2. Pillar Edicts

  3. Cave Edicts

Ashoka used the Prakruth Language (Jains used Prakruth while Pali was spoken by Buddhist) in the edicts while script written was Brahmi

Only in 2 places Ashoka used Greek and Aramic language and used Kharosthi script in north west India (Mansehra and Shahbaz Giri today Pakistan)

Brahmi script goes from Left to Right while in Kharosthi it goes from Right to Left


In 1837 British Civil servant named James Prinsep finally decoded the 2500 year old Brahmi script and finally came to know about Ashoka Inscription and his Legacy

Themes in inscription

  • Ashoka as a king

  • Ashoka as a Buddhist

In all the inscriptions Ashoka’s title is found but not the name of the Ashoka (Devanampiya and Piyadasi)

Only in four inscriptions ashoka’s name is found in ( Maski, Nittur ,Gujjar and piklihal/Brahmagiri) inscriptions

Major Rocks Edicts

13th MRE says the Ashoka realized after the Kalinga War and started practicing Dhamma

After killing 1 lakh people ,A five year old boy (Nigrotha) a Buddhist Monk came to Ashoka and insulted Ashoka and after that he realized and stated non violence and also stopped vihara yatra and no more Bherigosha(dance before war)

Dhamman sharanam gachhami and Buddham sharanam Gachhami and sangham saranam Gacchami found in Babbu minor rock(Bengal) Edict

HG Wells, he says that Ashoka is a moon in the Galaxy of stars

Pillar Edicts

  1. Ramapurva pillar Bihar

  2. Rummindei pillar Nepal(info about Taxes)

  3. Saranath pillar UP

  4. Lauriya Nandangarh Pillar Bihar

Note : on every pillar there’s a carving of animal on pillar depicting the symbol of capital cities for example on Sarnath pillar we find 4 roaring lions

Cave edicts

Ashoka issued 4 caves at BARABAR (Bihar) and gifted it to Ajivikas as a token of Secularism

Ashoka’s grandson Dasharath also donated 4 caves to Ajivikas at Nagarjuni (Bihar)

Numismatic Sources

Mouryans minted pure silver coins called karshapanas and also minted gold coins called Tola but they were not pure gold coins and historians rejected it.

Financial year started in Ashada Month.

Symbols on the coins were Peacock, Hills, Tree, Birds etc

Rulers of Mouryan empire

  1. Chandragupta Mourya (321-297 BC)

  2. Bindusara ( 298-272 BC)

  3. Ashoka (268-232 BC)

Chandra Gupta Mourya (CGM)

Puranas says that he is a shudra as he did not adopted Brahmanism(just a theory), and Jains texts say that he is kshatriya because he adopted Jainism(another theory), there is no clarity on the birth of Chandra Gupta Mourya, some texts says that insulted by Nandas , Chanakya made an oath that he will raise a shudra and make him rule the entire India and he will be the reason for the downfall of mighty Nandas who were also shudras.

And buddhist never spoke about him as ne never patronized the Buddhist

  • His Prime minister was Koutilya, they were a Deadly combination in the indian history

  • He fought with Greeks (Selecus Niktater) and defeated him and married his Daughter Helena and received Sindh, Balochistan and Kabul in return CGM gave 500 elephants

  • He was called Sandra Cotus by greeks

  • Selucus Niktator sent megasthenes was ambassador to Pataliputra

  • First highway constructed by CGM (Pataliputra to Taxila GT Road), Ujjain to kanyakumari(incomplete)

  • CGM captured saurashtra

  • His governor Pushya Gupta he built Sudarshana Lake in Gujarat

  • His state was first welfare state and first paternal state

  • Bhadrabahu made him convert to Jainism in his last year and settled at Shravanabelagola

  • He gave his throne to his son Bindusara , attained Sallekhana and died on Chandragiri mountains


  • He has black spots on his body

  • He has the title Amitraghata (slayer of Enemies) Greeks used to call him Amitracates

  • He is known as a heavy Drinker(other Drunkard emperor was saleem-Jahangir) and enjoyed his life to the fullest and known to have 100 sons and eldest son was Sushima and third son was Ashoka(Governor of Ujjain)

  • Chanakya made sure that whoever become the governor of Taxila, will be the next King, so Ashoka made numerous plots to become the governor of Taxila and finally after killing all his brothers except one brother Thisya he became the King

  • He sent two Greek ambassadors Deimachus and Dionysius to bring Wine, figgs, and philosophers for entertainment but greek philosophers were not interested to share knowledge with him so they didn’t came

  • He adopted Ajivika Religion

About Ashoka , we will publish about him in a separate article.