Chandragupta Maurya (reign c. 321 to c.293 BC) was the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty at Patliputra. With the help of Chanakya, he overthrew the Nanda Dynasty. His vast empire included Bihar, Bengal, Deccan, parts of current Tamil Nadu and parts of North East India, Eastern Afghanistan, Baluchistan and area west of Indus river. With this extent of his empire, he is considered to be the first great king to have unified India politically.
About Family of Chandragupta Maurya
There is no single theory about the ancestry of Chandragupta. It has been mentioned in puranas that Chandragupta was a son of last Nanda Monarch Dhanananda from his Shudra concubine Mura and that is why is name is Maurya.
This account has been rejected as well as accepted by scholars. As per the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, Chandragupta was a scion of Moriya Clan, which was branch of Sakyas Khatriyas of an ancient little republic of Pippalivana located between Rummindei in the Nepali Terai and Kasia in the Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh. These Kshatriyas had received a share in the relics of Buddha. Some other traditions link his ancestry to peacock tamers which earned him the Maurya epithet.
One thing on which all scholars agree is that he was from a “humble” background. Chandragupta is mentioned in the Greek texts as Sandrokyptos, Sandrokottos and Androcottus.
Against there are several stories regarding the early age of Chandragupta. One theory says that Chandragupta served the Nanda Army as a General or Senapati. He, instigated by Vishnugupta or Chanakya revolted against his master but his revolt failed. Vishnugupta, a Brahmin was insulted by Dhanananda by breaching a social etiquette. When the revolt failed, both of them fled to safety.
The Mahavamsa writes that Chandragupta while concealed in a woman’s hut overheard the woman scolding her child, who in the act of eating had burnt his fingers by beginning from the center of the bread. She scolded the child and taught him that hot bread should not be touched from the center and it should be broken in pieces from the corners. Chandragupta learnt from this story and transferred himself to the North West.
Traditional accounts also mention a story, that Vishnugupta was a teacher at the Taxila University. He found one day that Chandragupta was playing with children and he delivered justice among the boys, one of who was acting a criminal. Vishnugupta was impressed by his sense of justice. He took the boy to the king, who impressed by his intelligence ordered to be trained at Taxila University. But in the same event the king insulted Chanakya by breaching the etiquette and forced him out. To take revenge Chanakya groomed the young Chandragupta at Taxila University.
Some scholars say that he met Alexander when he was a young boy.
Conquests and Empire
When Alexander died in Babylon, soon after in 323 BC, his empire fragmented, and local kings declared their independence, leaving several smaller satraps in a disunited state. First of all, Chandragupta liberated north western pats from the Greek Governors and Satraps appointed by Alexander. He defeated Eudemus, and Peithon, who were ruling the north-western parts of Indian subcontinent until around 316BC. He also surprised and defeated the Macedonians and consolidated the region under the control of his new seat of power in Magadha.
Chandragupta Maurya deposed Dhanananda with the help of Chanakya. He was also supported by many young men from Magadha who were upset over the corrupt and oppressive rule of king Dhanananda. These men included the former General of Taxila, other students of Chanakya, the representative of King Porus of Kakayee, his son Malayketu, and the rulers of small states.
Chanakya through diplomacy aligned Chandragupta with a neighbouring king Parvataka and the combined army dethroned the Nandas and seized the Magadha. However, at the end of the war, Nandas were spared their life and let run with as much treasure as much a chariot can carry.
Chandragupta’s war with Selucus
After death of Alexander, Selucus, one of the generals of Alexander became his successor. He launched a campaign against India in 304 BC to recapture the territories won by Alexander. He crossed Indus but his mission failed and an alliance with Chandragupta ended the mission. By this treaty, Selucus returned the Arachosia (Kandahar), Paropanisade (Kabul), Aria (Herat) and Gedrsoia (Baluchistan) to Chandragupta. The alliance was cemented by Chandragupta by giving 500 war elephants to Selucus. Selucus sent Megasthenes to Chandragupta’s Court. Possibly, there was a marital alliance in which son/ daughter of one was married to daughter / son of other.
Other conquests of Chandragupta
We know about Chandragupta’s empire from the rock edicts and inscriptions of Asoka and other rulers. The Girnar Rock Inscription gives an indication that his empire was expanded to the borders of modern Gujarat & Saurastra. In south India we find Asoka’s inscriptions and edicts, however, there are no evidences that Asoka or Bindusara conquered these areas. However, some sources say that Bindusara won the southern areas. So scholars agree that the parts of South India were conquered by either Chandragupta or Bindusara.
Although Nandas are known to be first empire builders of India, Chandragupta Maurya is considered to be first genuine emperor, who unified a large part of Indian subcontinent politically.
Last Days of Chandragupta Maurya
In the later years of his life Chandragupta abdicated his throne in favor of his son Bindusara. He became a disciple of Bhadrabahu, a Jain saint. Chandragupta Maurya is believed to have spent his last days at Shravanabelagola. He is believed to have died by practicing Santhara.