Chandragupta Maurya

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For other uses, see Chandragupta.
Chandragupta Maurya

Statue of Chandragupta Maurya

Statue of Chandragupta Maurya, Laxminarayan Temple
1st Mauryan emperor
Reign c.324 – c.297 BCE[1]
Predecessor Dhana Nanda of the Nanda Empire
Successor Bindusara
Born 340 BCE
Pataliputra (now in Bihar)
Died 297 BCE (aged 41–42)[1]
Shravanabelagola, Karnataka[2]
Spouse Durdhara and a daughter of Seleucus I Nicator
Issue Bindusara
Greek Sandrokottos
Dynasty Maurya
Maurya Kings (322 BCE 180 BCE)
Chandragupta (322–297 BCE)
Bindusara (297–272/268 BCE)
Ashoka (272/268–232 BCE)
Dasharatha (232–224 BCE)
Samprati (224–215 BCE)
Shalishuka (215–202 BCE)
Devavarman (202–195 BCE)
Shatadhanvan (195–187 BCE)
Brihadratha (187–180 BCE)
(Shunga Empire)
(180–149 BCE)

Chandragupta Maurya (IAST: Candragupta Maurya, r.321 297 BCE) was the founder of the Maurya Empire and the first emperor to unify north and south west of present-day India into one state. He ruled from 324 BCE until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favour of his son, Bindusara, in 297 BCE.[1][3][4]

Chandragupta Maurya was a pivotal figure in the history of India. Prior to his consolidation of power, most of the Indian subcontinent was divided into mahajanapadas, while the Nanda Empire dominated the Indo-Gangetic Plain.[5] Chandragupta succeeded in conquering and subjugating almost all of the Indian subcontinent by the end of his reign,[nb 1] except Tamil Nadu (Chera, Early Cholas and Early Pandyan Kingdom) and modern-day Odisha (Kalinga). His empire extended from Bengal in the east to Aria or Herat in the west (now called Afghanistan and Balochistan), to the Himalayas and Kashmir in the north, and to the Deccan Plateau in the south.[6] It was the largest empire yet seen in Indian history.[7][8]

In Greek and Latin accounts, Chandragupta is known as Sandrokottos and Androcottus.[9] He became well known in the Hellenistic world for conquering Alexander the Great's easternmost satrapies, and for defeating the most powerful of Alexander's successors, Seleucus I Nicator, in battle. He freed India from Greek rule by 323 BC.[6] Chandragupta subsequently married Seleucus' daughter to formalise an alliance and established a policy of friendship with the Hellenistic kingdoms, which stimulated India's trade and contact with the western world. The Greek diplomat Megasthenes, who visited the Maurya capital Pataliputra, is an important source of Maurya history.

After unifying much of India, Chandragupta and his chief advisor Chanakya passed a series of major economic and political reforms. He established a strong central administration patterned after Chanakya's text on politics, the Arthashastra. Chandragupta's India was characterised by an efficient and highly organised bureaucratic structure with a large civil service. Due to its unified structure, the empire developed a strong economy, with internal and external trade thriving and agriculture flourishing. In both art and architecture, the Maurya Empire made important contributions, deriving some of its inspiration from the culture of the Achaemenid Empire and the Hellenistic world.[10] Chandragupta's reign was a time of great social and religious reform in India. Buddhism and Jainism became increasingly prominent. According to Jain accounts, Chandragupta abdicated his throne in favour of his son Bindusara, embraced Jainism, and followed Bhadrabahu and other monks to South India. He is said to have ended his life at Shravanabelagola (in present-day Karnataka) through Sallekhana.


The sources which describe the life of Chandragupta Maurya includes Jain, Buddhist, Brahmanical, Latin and Greek sources. Jain sources are Bhadrabahu's Kalpasutra and Hemachandra's Parisishtaparvan. Brahmanical sources are Puranas, Chanakya's Arthashastra, Vishakhadatta's Mudrarakshasa, Somadeva's Kathasaritsagara and Kshemendra's Brihatkathamanjari. Buddhist sources are Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Mahavamsa tika and Mahabodhivamsa.[11]

Early life

Very little is known about Chandragupta's youth and ancestry. What is known is gathered from later classical Sanskrit literature, as well as classical Greek and Latin sources which refer to Chandragupta by the names "Sandrokottos" or "Androcottus".[9][12]

Many Indian literary traditions connect him with the Nanda Dynasty in modern-day Bihar in eastern India. More than half a millennium later, the Sanskrit drama Mudrarakshasa calls him a "Nandanvaya", i.e. the descendant of Nanda.[13] Chandragupta was born into a family left destitute by the death of his father, chief of the migrant Mauryas, in a border fray.[14] Mudrarakshasa uses terms like kula-hina and Vrishala for Chandragupta's lineage.[15] According to Bharatendu Harishchandra's translation of the play, his father was the Nanda king Mahananda and his mother was a barber's wife named Mora, hence the surname Maurya.[16][17] This reinforces Justin's contention that Chandragupta had a humble origin.[18] On the other hand, the same play describes the Nandas as of Prathita-kula, i.e. illustrious, lineage.[18]

The Buddhist text, the Mahavamsa, calls Chandragupta a member of a division of the (Kshatriya) clan called the Moriya.[19][20] The Mahaparinibbana Sutta states that the Moriyas (Mauryas) belonged to the Kshatriya community of Pippalivana i.e. possibly Pipli on the outskirts of Kurukshetra.[20] These traditions indicate that Chandragupta came from a Kshatriya lineage. The Mahavamshatika connects him with the Shakya clan of the Buddha, a clan which also belongs to the race of Ādityas.[21]

In Buddhist tradition, Chandragupta Maurya was a member of the Kshatriyas and that his son, Bindusara, and grandson, the famous Buddhist Ashoka, were of Kshatriya lineage, perhaps of the Sakya line. (The Sakya line of Kshatriyas is considered to be the lineage of Gautama Buddha, and Ashoka billed himself as "Buddhi Sakya" in one of his inscriptions.) [22]

Puranas too depict Chandragupta from a Kshatriya lineage.[23]

Jain text Parisishtaparvan talks of Chandragupta's mother as a daughter of village chieftian who were rearers of royal peacocks.[20]

Plutarch reports that he met with Alexander the Great in Punjab,[24] and that he viewed the ruling Nanda Empire in a negative light:

Androcottus, when he was a stripling, saw Alexander himself, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of the country, since its king was hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth.
Plutarch, Parallel Lives: Life of Alexander 62.9

According to this text, the encounter would have happened around 326 BCE,[25] suggesting a birth date for Chandragupta around 340 BCE. Plutarch and other Greco-Roman historians appreciated the gravity of Chandragupta Maurya's conquests. Justin describes the humble origins of Chandragupta, and explains how he later led a popular uprising against the Nanda king.[26]

Chandragupta completed his education in Taxila university.[27]

Foundation of the Maurya Empire

Further information: Magadha and Maurya Empire
Silver punch mark coin of the Maurya empire, with symbols of wheel and elephant (3rd century BCE)

Chandragupta Maurya lead a war of independence from Greek rule around 325 BC and achieved victory around 323 BC.[28] After that, he, along with Chanakya, gathered an army from Punjab and started invading Magadha on the frontiers.[29]

Nanda army

The Nanda Empire at its greatest extent under Dhana Nanda circa 323 BCE
Main article: Nanda Empire

According to Plutarch, at the time of the Battle of the Hydaspes, the Nanda Empire's army numbered 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots, and 6,000 war elephants, which discouraged Alexander's men and prevented their further progress into India:

As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at‑arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants. And there was no boasting in these reports. For Androcottus, who reigned there not long afterwards, made a present to Seleucus of five hundred elephants, and with an army of six hundred thousand men overran and subdued all India.
Plutarch, Parallel Lives, "Life of Alexander" 62.1-4

In order to defeat the powerful Nanda army, Chandragupta needed to raise a formidable army of his own.[30]

Conquest of the Nanda Empire

Chanakya had trained and guided Chandragupta and together they planned the destruction of Dhana Nanda. The Mudrarakshasa of Vishakhadatta as well as the Jain work Parishishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvatka, sometimes identified with Porus.[31]

It is noted in the Chandraguptakatha that Chandragupta and Chanakya were initially rebuffed by the Nanda forces. Regardless, in the ensuing war, Chandragupta faced off against Bhadrasala, the commander of Dhana Nanda's armies.[32] He was eventually able to defeat Bhadrasala and Dhana Nanda in a series of battles, culminating in the siege of the capital city Pataliputra[26] and the conquest of the Nanda Empire around 322 BCE,[26] thus founding the powerful Maurya Empire in Northern India by the time he was about 20 years old.


Conquest of Macedonian territories in India

Chandragupta had defeated the remaining Macedonian satrapies in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent by 317 BCE.

After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, Chandragupta turned his attention to Northwestern South Asia (modern Pakistan), where he defeated the satrapies (described as "prefects" in classical Western sources) left in place by Alexander (according to Justin), and may have assassinated two of his governors, Nicanor and Philip.[4][26] The satrapies he fought may have included Eudemus, ruler in western Punjab until his departure in 317 BCE; and Peithon, ruler of the Greek colonies along the Indus River until his departure for Babylon in 316 BCE. The Roman historian Justin described how Sandrocottus (the Greek version of Chandragupta's name) conquered the northwest:

Some time after, as he was going to war with the generals of Alexander, a wild elephant of great bulk presented itself before him of its own accord, and, as if tamed down to gentleness, took him on its back, and became his guide in the war, and conspicuous in fields of battle. Sandrocottus, having thus acquired a throne, was in possession of India, when Seleucus was laying the foundations of his future greatness; who, after making a league with him, and settling his affairs in the east, proceeded to join in the war against Antigonus. As soon as the forces, therefore, of all the confederates were united, a battle was fought, in which Antigonus was slain, and his son Demetrius put to flight.
Justin, Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, XV.4.19

Conquest of Seleucus' eastern territories

"Chandra Gupta Maurya entertains his bride from Babylon": a conjectural interpretation of the "marriage agreement" between the Seleucids and Chandragupta Maurya, related by Appian.[33]
Silver coin of Seleucus I Nicator, who fought Chandragupta Maurya, and later made an alliance with him.
Chandragupta extended the borders of his empire towards Seleucid Persia after his conflict with Seleucus c. 305 BCE.

Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian general of Alexander, who after Alexander's death, in 312 BCE, established the Seleucid Kingdom with capital Babylon, reconquered most of Alexander's former empire in Asia and put under his own authority the eastern territories as far as Bactria and the Indus (Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55),[34] and in 305 BCE he entered into conflict with Chandragupta (in Greek Sandrocottus):

Always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus. He crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. Some of these exploits were performed before the death of Antigonus and some afterward.
Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55

The exact details of engagement are not known. As noted by scholars such as R. C. Majumdar and D. D. Kosambi, Seleucus appears to have fared poorly, having ceded large territories west of the Indus to Chandragupta. Due to his defeat, Seleucus surrendered Arachosia (modern Kandahar), Gedrosia (modern Balochistan), Paropamisadae (or Gandhara).[35][36][lower-alpha 1]

Mainstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received vast territory west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan.[38][39] Archaeologically, concrete indications of Maurya rule, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandhahar in southern Afghanistan.

After having made a peace treaty with him [Sandrakotos] and put in order the Orient situation, Seleucos went to war against Antigonus.
Junianus Justinus, Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, XV.4.15

Per Strabo, in Geography, Chandragupta married Seleucus's daughter to formalize the peace treaty.[40] In a return gesture, Chandragupta sent 500 war-elephants,[40][36][41][42][43][44][45] a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 302 BCE. In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Antiochos sent Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Maurya court at Pataliputra (modern Patna in Bihar state).[46] Later Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka the Great, is also recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Maurya court.[46][47]

Classical sources have also recorded that following their treaty, Chandragupta and Seleucus exchanged presents, such as when Chandragupta sent various aphrodisiacs to Seleucus:

And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters [as to make people more amorous]. And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus; which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love.

Southern conquest

After annexing Seleucus' eastern Persian provinces, Chandragupta had a vast empire extending across the northern parts of Indian Sub-continent, from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Chandragupta then began expanding his empire further south beyond the barrier of the Vindhya Range and into the Deccan Plateau except the Tamil regions (Pandya, Chera, Chola and Satyaputra) and Kalinga (modern day Odisha).[26] The famous Tamil poet Mamulanar of the Sangam literature also described how the Deccan Plateau was invaded by the Maurya army.[1] By the time his conquests were complete, Chandragupta had succeeded in unifying most of Southern Asia including Malwa and Gujarat.[48]

The Maurya conquest of south is referred in Tamil works Ahananuru and Purananuru.[49]


Megasthenes later recorded the size of Chandragupta's army as 400,000 soldiers, according to Strabo:

Megasthenes was in the camp of Sandrocottus, which consisted of 400,000 men.

On the other hand, Pliny, who also drew from Megasthenes' work, gives even larger numbers of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 war elephants:

But the Prasii surpass in power and glory every other people, not only in this quarter, but one may say in all India, their capital Palibothra, a very large and wealthy city, after which some call the people itself the Palibothri,--nay even the whole tract along the Ganges. Their king has in his pay a standing army of 600,000-foot-soldiers, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants: whence may be formed some conjecture as to the vastness of his resources.

Mudrarakshasa mentions that Chandragupta's army consisted of Sakas, Yavanas (Greeks), Kiratas, Kambojas, Parasikas and Bahlikas. Those opposing him included Chitravarma of Kuluta, Simhananda of Malaya, Pushkaraksha of Kashmira, Sindhusena of Saindhava and Meghakhya of Parasikas.[50]

Jainism and death

According to numerous Jain accounts such as those in Brihakathā kośa (931 CE) of Harishena, Bhadrabāhu charita (1450 CE) of Ratnanandi, Munivaṃsa bhyudaya (1680 CE) and Rajavali kathe, Chandragupta became an ardent follower of Jainism in his later years, renounced his throne, and followed Digambara monks led by Bhadrabahu to south India.[2] He is said to have lived as an ascetic at Shravanabelagola for several years before starving himself to death, as per Jain practice of sallekhana. These accounts are also supported by present-day names of local features near Shravanabelagola, and several inscriptions dating from 7th-15th century that refer to Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta in conjunction. Historians such as Vincent Smith and R. K. Mookerji consider the accounts unproven but plausible as they explain the sudden disappearance of Chandragupta from the throne at a young age.[51][52][53][54]

Regarding the inscriptions describing the relation of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya, Radha Kumud Mookerji writes

The oldest inscription of about 600 AD associated "the pair (yugma), Bhadrabahu along with Chandragupta Muni." Two inscriptions of about 900 AD on the Kaveri near Seringapatam describe the summit of a hill called Chandragiri as marked by the footprints of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta munipati. A Shravanabelagola inscription of 1129 mentions Bhadrabahu "Shrutakevali", and Chandragupta who acquired such merit that he was worshipped by the forest deities. Another inscription of 1163 similarly couples and describes them. A third inscription of the year 1432 speaks of Yatindra Bhadrabahu, and his disciple Chandragupta, the fame of whose penance spread into other words.[2]

The hill on which he practiced his penance is known as Chandragiri hill and a temple was built by him named Chandragupta basadi.[2]


Main article: Maurya Empire

After Chandragupta's renunciation, his son Bindusara succeeded as the Maurya Emperor. He maintained friendly relations with Greek governors in Asia and Egypt. Bindusara's son Ashoka became one of the most influential rulers in India's history due to his extension of the Empire to the entire Indian subcontinent as well as his role in the worldwide propagation of Buddhism.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chandragupta Maurya.


  1. The conquest of the Deccan is a matter of conjecture. Either Chandragupta or his son and successor Bindusara established Maurya rule over southern parts of India, except the Tamil regions. Old Jaina tets report that Chandragupta was a follower of that religion and ended his life in Karnataka by fasting unto death. If this report is true, Chandragupta may have started the conquest of the Deccan.[3]
  1. Aria (modern Herat) "has been wrongly included in the list of ceded satrapies by some scholars [...] on the basis of wrong assessments of the passage of Strabo [...] and a statement by Pliny."[37] Seleucus "must [...] have held Aria", and furthermore, his "son Antiochos was active there fifteen years later." (Grainger, John D. 1990, 2014. Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom. Routledge. p. 109).


  1. 1 2 3 4 Upinder Singh 2016, p. 331.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Mookerji 1988, p. 40.
  3. 1 2 Kulke & Rothermund 2004, p. 59-65.
  4. 1 2 Boesche 2003, p. 9-37.
  5. Sastri 1988, p. 26.
  6. 1 2 Mookerji 1988, p. 2.
  7. Vaughn, Bruce (2004). "Indian Geopolitics, the United States and Evolving Correlates of Power in Asia". Geopolitics. 9 (2): 440–459 [442]. doi:10.1080/14650040490442944.
  8. Goetz, H. (1955). "Early Indian Sculptures from Nepal". Artibus Asiae. 18 (1): 61–74. doi:10.2307/3248838. JSTOR 3248838.
  9. 1 2 Thapar 2004, p. 177.
  10. Sen, S. N. (1999). Ancient Indian History And Civilization. New Age International. p. 165. ISBN 978-8122411980.
  11. Mookerji 1988, p. 4.
  12. Mookerji 1988, p. 3.
  13. Mookerji 1988, p. 12.
  14. "Chandragupta". Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  15. Mookerji 1988, p. 10.
  16. Harishchandra, Bhartendu. Mudrarakshas Hindi Bharatendu Harischandra 1925. p. 10.
  17. Mookerji 1988, p. 9.
  18. 1 2 Mookerji 1988, p. 11.
  19. Mahavamsa: the great chronicle of Ceylon, translated by Geiger, Wilhelm, 1856-1943; Bode, Mabel Haynes
  20. 1 2 3 Mookerji 1988, p. 14.
  21. "optional indian history ancient india". Retrieved 2016-02-20.
  22. "Chandragupta Maurya". Retrieved 2016-02-20.
  23. Mookerji 1988, p. 8.
  24. Sastri 1988, p. 14.
  25. Sastri 1988, p. 12.
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 Mookerji 1988, p. 6.
  27. Mookerji 1988, p. 17.
  28. Mookerji 1988, p. 32.
  29. Mookerji 1988, p. 33.
  30. Mookerji 1988, p. 28-33.
  31. John Marshall Taxila, p. 18, and al.
  32. Sastri 1988, p. 25.
  33. History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55
  34. Mookerji 1988, p. 36.
  35. Mookerji 1988, p. 36-37.
  36. 1 2 Majumdar 2003, p. 105.
  37. Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, p. 594.
  38. Vincent A. Smith (1998). Ashoka. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-1303-1.
  39. Walter Eugene, Clark (1919). "The Importance of Hellenism from the Point of View of Indic-Philology". Classical Philology. 14 (4): 297–313. doi:10.1086/360246.
  40. 1 2 Mookerji 1988, p. 37.
  41. Ancient India, (Kachroo ,p.196)
  42. The Imperial Gazetteer of India, (Hunter,p.167)
  43. The evolution of man and society, (Darlington ,p.223)
  44. Tarn, W. W. (1940). "Two Notes on Seleucid History: 1. Seleucus' 500 Elephants, 2. Tarmita". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 60: 84–94. doi:10.2307/626263. JSTOR 626263.
  45. Partha Sarathi Bose (2003). Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy. Gotham Books. ISBN 1-59240-053-1.
  46. 1 2 Mookerji 1988, p. 38.
  47. "Pliny the Elder, The Natural History (eds. John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A.)".
  48. Sastri 1988, p. 18.
  49. Mookerji 1988, p. 41.
  50. Mookerji 1988, p. 27.
  51. Mookerji 1988, pp. 39-41.
  52. Thapar 2004, p. 178.
  53. Kulke & Rothermund 2004, pp. 64-65.
  54. Samuel 2010, pp. 60.
  55. The Courtesan and the Sadhu, A Novel about Maya, Dharma, and God, October 2008, Dharma Vision LLC., ISBN 978-0-9818237-0-6, Library of Congress Control Number: 2008934274
  56. "Chanakya Chandragupta (1977)". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-02-20.
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Further reading

Preceded by
Nanda Empire
Mauryan Emperor
322–298 BC
Succeeded by
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