Maurya Empire: A Detailed Summary

Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya Dynasty. Here is the summary of the Maurya Empire which is very useful for the competitive examinations like UPSC-prelims, SSC, State Services, NDA, CDS, and Railways etc.
Updated: Feb 6, 2017 18:00 IST

Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya Dynasty. There is an ambiguity on the origin of the Maurya for example Brahmanical tradition states that they are born of Mura, a shudra woman in the court of Nandas; according to the Buddhist tradition, they are from Kshatriya clan called Mauryas living in the region of Gorakhpur adjoining the Nepalese terai.


Timeline of important Maurya Rulers


Span of Rule

Chandragupta Maurya

321- 297 BC


297- 272 BC


272-232 BC


252 – 224 BC


224- 215 BC


215- 202 BC


202- 195 BC


195- 187 BC


187- 185 BC

Sources of Mauryas Age

  • Buddhist Texts: Jatakas, Divyavadana and Ashokavadana
  • Srilankan Text, Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa
  • Puranas
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra (Politico-economy or Statecraft)
  • Indica (Megasthenes)
  • Vishakhadatta’s Mudrarakshasa (Account of how Nandas overthrown by Chandragupta Mauryas in Sanskrit)
  • Somadeva’s Kathasaritasagara, Kshemendra’s Brihadkatha Manjari and Kalhana’s Rajtrangaini

Ashokan Inscriptions

Inscription is bases of the reconstructed history of Ashoka which are classified into: Major Rock Edicts; Minor Rock Edicts; Separate Rock Edicts; Major Pillar Edicts; and Minor pillar Edicts

  • These inscriptions are found in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In these inscriptions, Ashoka refers to himself as “Devanampiya piyadasi” which means dear to God”.
  • The name of Ashoka occurs only in copies of a Minor Rock Edicts I found at the three places in Karnataka and at one in Madhya Pradesh.
  • They appeared in Aramaic language and Kharoshthi Script in north-western part of the sub-continent. In Afganistan, they were written in both Aramaic and Greek Scripts and languages.

Mauryas Polity and Administration

  • The Brahmanical law-books again and again that the King should be guided by the laws laids down in the Dharmashastras and by the customs prevalent in the country.
  • According to the Kautilya's Arthashashtra, Mauryas was the monarchical democracy, but the sole authority vested under the king to make law and that it derived from four sources:  Dharma (sacred law), Vyavhara (evidence), Charita (history and custom) and Rajasasana (edicts of the king).
  • Arthashastra represents a system of civil, criminal and mercantile law.
  • To control all spheres of life, it was vast bureaucracy.
  • The administrative mechanism was backed by an elaborate system of espionage.
  • The highest functionaries were minister (mantrin), high priest (purohita), commander-in-chief (Senapati), and Crown Prince (Yuvraj) who received as much as 48 thousands panas (pana being a silver coin equal to three-fourths of a tola).

Economic Regulations of Maurya Empire

  • Arthashastra of Kautilya states that that the state appointed 27 superintended (Adhyakshas) to regulate the economic activities.
  • Agriculture was the prime occupation. Hence, irrigation was given importance. Water reservoirs and dams were built and water for irrigation was distributed and measured.
  • Industry was organised into guilds. Jesthaka was the chief of the guild.
  • Chief source of income was land tax (1/4th to 1/6th) and tax levied on trade etc.
  • Brahmans, children and handicapped were exempted from the taxes.
  • Sita was the income from the King’s own land.
  • Pana and Masika were the punch marked coins of silver and copper respectively. Kakini was 1/4th of that Masika.

Society and Culture in Maurya Empire

  • There were seven caste systems according to the Megasthenese – Philosophers, farmers, soldiers, herdsmen, artisans, magistrates and councillors.
  • Concept of Joint Family was popular. Widows had a very honourable place in the society.
  • Varna System was functioned as desired by the priestly class.

Art and Architecture in Maurya Empire

  • Introduced stone masonry on wide scale.
  • Ashokan Pillars had a capital on the top which was adorned with animal figurines. The main animal figurines were of horses, bulls, elephants and lions.
  • The Maurya artisans were also practiced the hewing out caves from rocks for monks to live in. For example- Barabar Caves at a distance of 30 km from Gaya.
  • Yaksha and Yakshini figures have been found from Mathura, Pawaya and patna that shows a female holding a chowrie in her hand.

Causes of the fall of the Maurya Empire

  • Brahmanical Reaction: The tolerance policy of Ashoka developed some kind of antipathy because animals and birds sacrifice, and women derided superfluous ritual performed affected the income of the brahamanas. New Kingdoms like Shungas, Kanvas etc ruled by Brahamanas arose to ruined the empire.
  • Financial Crisis: The enormous expenditure on the army and payment to bureaucracy created a financial crisis for the empire.
  • Oppressive Rule in the province was an important cause of the break-up of the empire.
  • New Knowledge in the Outlying Areas: Mauraya rule owned its expansion to certain basic material advantages and this causes the rise of new kingdoms like Shungas, Kanvas, Chetis and Satvahanas.
  • Neglected the North-West Frontier and the Great Wall of China: Maurya ruler could not pay attention to the passage on the north-west frontier. This is the only reason, Scythians made a push towards India they forced the Parthians, the Shakas and the Greeks to move towards India. The Chinese ruler Shih Huang Ti (247-210 BC) constructed wall i.e. Great Wall of China to shield his empire from alien attack especially from Scythians.

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