Chandragupta Maurya – Hindu Warriors


Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya Empire and the first emperor to unify most of Greater India into one state. He ruled from 324 BCE until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favour of his son, Bindusara, in 297 BCE.

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. Chandragupta succeeded in conquering and subjugating almost all of the Indian subcontinent by the end of his reign, except Tamil Nadu (Chera, Early Cholas and Early Pandyan Kingdom) and modern-day Odisha (Kalinga). His empire extended from Bengal in the east to Afghanistan and Balochistan in the west, to the Himalayas and Kashmir in the north, and to the Deccan Plateau in the south. It was the largest empire yet seen in Indian history.

1.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 “Sandracottos” or “Andracottus”.

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 (Act IV). Chandragupta was born into a family left destitute by the death of his father, chief of the migrant Mauryas, in a border fray. Mudrarakshasa uses terms like kula-hina and Vrishala for Chandragupta’s lineage. 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. This reinforces Justin’s contention that Chandragupta had a humble origin. On the other hand, the same play describes the Nandas as of Prathita-kula, i.e. illustrious, lineage. The Buddhist text the Mahavamsa calls Chandragupta a member of a division of the(Kshatriya) clan called the Moriya. The Mahaparinibbana Sutta states that the Moriyas (Mauryas) belonged to the Kshatriya community of Pippalivana i.e. possibly Pipli on the outskirts of Kurukshetra. 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 Adityas.

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 Maurya billed himself as “Buddhi Sakya” in one of his inscriptions.)Plutarch reports that he met with Alexander the Great in Punjab, 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.

2.Foundation of the Maurya Empire
Chandragupta Maurya, with the help of Chanakya, defeated the Magadha king and the army of the Chandravanshi clan. Following his victory, the defeated generals of Alexander settled in Gandhara (the Kamboja kingdom), today’s Afghanistan. At the time of Alexander’s invasion, Chanakya was a teacher in Takshasila. The king of Takshasila and Gandhara, Ambhi (also known as Taxiles), made a peace treaty with Alexander. Chanakya, however, planned to defeat the foreign invasion and sought help from other kings to unite and fight Alexander. Parvateshwara (Porus), a king of Punjab, was the only local king who was able to challenge Alexander at the Battle of the Hydaspes River, but he was defeated.Chanakya then went further east to Magadha, to seek the help of Dhana Nanda, who ruled the vast Nanda Empire which extended from Bihar and Bengal in the east to Punjab and Sindh in the west, but Dhana Nanda refused to help him. After this incident, Chanakya began to persuade his disciple Chandragupta of the need to build an empire that could protect Indian territories from foreign invasion.

3.Nanda army
The Nanda Empire at its greatest extent under Dhana Nanda circa 323 BCE.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.In order to defeat the powerful Nanda army, Chandragupta needed to raise a formidable army of his own.[20]

4.Conquest of the Nanda Empire
Chandragupta’s empire when he founded it c. 320 BCE, by the time he was about 20 years old.Chanakya had trained and guided Chandragupta and together they planned the destruction of Dhana Nanda. The Mudrarakshasa
of Visakhadutta as well as the Jain work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta’s alliance with the Himalayan king
Parvatka, sometimes identified with Porus.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. He was eventually able to defeat Bhadrasala and Dhana Nanda in a series of battles, culminating in the siege of the capital city Pataliputra and the conquest of the Nanda Empire around 322 BCE, thus founding the powerful Maurya Empire in Northern India by the time he was about 20 years old.

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.

6.Jainism and death
According to numerous Jain accounts such as those in Brihakathā kośa (931 CE), Bhadrabāhu charita (1450 CE), Munivaṃsa bhyudaya (1680 CE) etc., Rajavali kathe, Chandragupta became an ardent follower of Jainism in his later years, renounced his throne, and followed Jain monks led by Bhadrabahu to south India. 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.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *